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Letters from a Soldier

Nov. 1862 - Mar. 1863


Stephen T. Buckson, Fourth Regiment of Delaware volunteers, of the State of Delaware, born in Kent County, aged 33 years; 5 feet, 5 1/2 inches; dark complexion, grey eyes, black hair, and by occupation carpenter, having joined the company on its original organization at Wilmington, Delaware, and enrolled in it at the muster into the service of the United States at Leipsic, on the 13th day of June, 1862 as a recruit by Col. A.H. Grimshaw.

As you can see Stephen joined the Union Army of volunteers, he originally was serving in the Middle Department in Baltimore and eventually became part of the Army of the Potomac. This is the first letter that remained:

Stephen's wifes' name was Harriet Ann Muncy Buckson

Camp Seward, November 23, 1862

Dear Wife,

I take this opportunity to inform you that I am well and hope these few lines will find you all the same. We are still here in the same place but we do not know how long we shall stay here. We may be ordered to the front pretty soon but we all believe that if Burnsides takes Richmond that the war will soon end. The news here is that he is now in Richmond and lost 60 thousand men. Tell Loviena that James Marvel is in our company. He has been sick in the hospital but is well and is going to stay with us until he can go to his regiment. Fred Waganer was here too - we had a first rate dinner today on opossom. There is plenty game here but we do not got much. I have been around in the country and it is all laid waste. The woods are all cut down and houses torn down and land laid waste. It is horrible to think that so many lives and so much property is all ready destroyed by this wicked rebellion and it is more so to see it. A person has no idea at the destruction. There is 7 forts in sight of our camp and there is earth works thrown up in front 40 miles long so that if Jackson was to give up the hope of keeping Burnsides out of Richmond it would no be any use for him to come this way. Some thinks that it will make him mad and he would try to take Washington. I would like to know what is the reason you do not answer my letters. I have sent 2 before this. I expect you have got one letter from the relief society. It is to send you so much money every week. I do not know when we shall get paid off. I want to know how you are getting along and how much you get from the society. If you do not want to answer my letters let me know it, as I am in the enemy's land and parted from you, one who I prize more than life and may never see anymore on earth. I would like to hear from you but I feel that God is my strength and I believe that I shall get home if I do not weep- not for me for I intend by the grace of God to meet you in Heaven. Try and let me know what is going on tell Johnny that I do not forget him. No more at present, but still remain your true and loving husband.

directions, Camp Seward, Virginia, Near Washington, D.C.
4th regt. Del. Vol. Company G


Gen. Burnside
General Ambrose Burnside

McClellan was replaced (by Lincoln) on November 7, 1862 with General Burnside. He started a campaign against the Confederate Capital Richmond by way of Fredericksburg. The Federal Army of the Potomac arrived on the bank of the Rappahannock River, across from Fredericksburg on November 17th with approximately 115,000 soldiers. There were only a few Confederate soldiers to challenge them. Movement was delayed for seventeen days while waiting for the supplies to build a pontoon bridge across the river, giving Lee time to send in more troops.


John. T. Buckson was born Dec. 11, 1854 in Little Creek, Delaware.

In December of 1862, the regiment was placed in the Army of Virginia. There was one addtional letter from December 17, 1862 from Camp Vermont, Virginia between these two. Stephen had been on picket and also went to Mount Vernon and saw Washingtons' coffin. He apparently had sent a few things home. He did not mention the Battle of Fredericksburg. I have added Paragraph breaks for easier reading although none were indicated.

Camp Gilpin, Jan. 11th, 1863.

Dear Wife,

I take this opportunity of informing you that I am well at present and hope that these few lines will find you all the same. I received your letter from Dover and was glad to hear from you. I have sent another letter before this that you have not answered and now I send another and you will get no more until you answer this. You say you felt uneasy about me. You get more letters from me than I do from you. I am always glad to hear from you and to answer your Letters. I hope that you will not see any trouble about my welfare for as I have said before we are well provided for. I am glad that you are getting along so well.

We expect to get paid off this month. I have everything that I need but post stamps and everything to make me happy except the presence of those I love and some of your grumbling letters. You know as well as I do that I did not leave you with the intention of letting you suffer. I think more of myself than that and you know it. I felt it my duty to serve my country and you will see the day that you will be glad of it. I told you in the last letter that I received your presents. I do not believe that you have to live alone long after you move for I believe that the war will soon be over. The negroes are all free and they are putting them in the service and making them do all the hard work cutting wood and building fortifications. There is already several regiments in the field and they are coming over fast. It is going to weaken the south more than anything else that could be done. They will have to till their land theirselves and their soldiers are deserting and coming in to our lines every day, and they look very hard, half clothed and half starved. The troops on the other side of the river made a reconnoissance within 12 miles of Richmond last week and captured about 10 thousand dollars worth of rebel property.

You say you have no desire to live but I do hope to see better days, but if it should be the will of God that we should never meet on earth let us live so that we may meet in Heaven where there is no more parting. You say that you have no one to care for you. You ought not to talk that way for I assure you that I do care for you and I think it is enough for me to be parted from you without your talking so cold to me. I did not think that one like you could serve me so while I am trying to uphold the free institutions which our fore-fathers fought and died to uphold. You know that I had rather be at home with you but my country calls me away. It is to our credit not to desert if we never get any pay. We are not fighting for negroes but our country and if you are a mind to listen to peace men like Samuel Moore do it, just such men are worse than the devil himself. Now I do not want to hear such stuff.

Tell Mrs. Burnet that Jimmy is well. We are all well. I caught a lot of oysters yesterday. We had preaching here this morning. We have a regimental church here and we have all joined it and I am still striving to serve the Lord and I feel the benefit of religion more than ever. If often gives me more pleasure than anything else. I have a hope of meeting with those that have gone before. Let us put our trust in God. He has been our friend and never will forsake us. We think it likely that we shall stay here all the time if we do we ought to be thankful if we never see no worse times than we have we shall be blessed. I believe the Lord provides let us therefore trust Him. I have taken some verses from the Smyrna Times that I believe were written by Brother Chatham on the death of Sally. If he did not I think if very appropriate. I want you to write soon and let me know all about how you are getting along and the times are. I have just been taking a walk along the river and out in the country and it is the nicest place that I have ever seen, and I was thinking that while I was enjoying myself you was grieving over me for fear that I was suffering. Now do not trouble yourself. If I could know that you was happy I should be perfectly happy. I hope the next letter I get from you that you will be better contented. I hope you will try to be. Direct your letter as before. No more at present but still remain yours truly and ever faithfuly husband until death,


Burnside & Officers

General Ambrose Burnside with Officers

While Burnside waited for his supplies, Lee had gathered 75,000 men in Fredericksburg commanded by Stonewall Jackson, A.P. Hill and James Longstreet. The men doing picket along the river during this time were close enough to carry on conversations and trade supplies with little boats that they floated across the river to one another.

On December 13, 1862, Burnside crossed the Rappahannock to fight the Battle of Fredericksburg. The Commander was George Meade with Joshua Chamberlain and Joseph Hooker. Lee's men were stretched along a six and one half mile line, well fortified.

Fredericksburg ruins

Fredericksburg ruins, December 11, 1862, from Union bombardment across the river

A stone wall and sunken road, that ran along the base of Marye's Heights, proved an effective cover for the confederates. After fierce fighting, Burnside finally withdrew back across the river. The Union had lost 12,600 men, the Confederates, 5,300.

The Army of the Potomac was encamped at Falmouth, Virgina in early January 1863. Conditions were poor. Burnside marched the Army north long the river to try to attack the Conferderates' on the left. But due to heavy rain and mud, he halted his "Mud March." A short time later, Lincoln replaced Burnside with Joseph Hooker.


Sallie Buckson was born Jul. 31, 1858 and died Nov. 3, 1862, age 4, in Little Creek, Delaware. Harriet and Stephen had previously lost 2 infant daughters. Harriet was 6 months pregnant at the time.


Camp Gilpin, Feb. 7th, 1863.

Dear Wife,

I received your letter of the 3rd, and was glad to hear from you. I am well at present and hope these few lines will find you the same. I have just written to you and sent you 45 dollars by our preacher to Wilmington and then Sally Maclary is to bring it to you. I want you to let me know if you get it. You say you have a great deal to tell me but you are afraid. I do not think you need to fear. You need not write anything that would get us in trouble. Tell Johnny that I have not shaved yet, and I am as fat as a hog. I never had my health better in my life. You would laugh to hear the women talk down here. They say dat are niga caud me a lia and when they get ready to do anything they say I got right dam reddy to to to de cornel (colonel) to git a pas to go ober dare but I had no cunner (canoe). No more at present, but still remain, your true and loving husband, until death,

We have just heard that Thomas Reeves is dead.



Union Campsite

The Army of the Potomac spent the Winter regrouping around Falmouth, Virginia, north of Fredericksburg. Stephen was assigned to the Department of Virginia. Camp Gilpin was located at Gloucester Point, Virginia, across the York River from Yorktown.

March 16th, 1863
Gloucester Point, Camp Gilpin

Dear Wife,

I take this opportunity of informing you that I am well and hope these few lines will find you the same. I received your letter of the 13th and was glad to hear from you. We have a good deal of rain here but it is not very cold and we have the nicest place here I ever seen. It is dry as soon as it is done raining. We have good dry tents with floors in them and are fixed up very nice. There is very few sick. There is but 3 or 4 in the hospital. Some have colds from being on picket that does not take care of themselves.

I am glad that you are always so willing to forgive and to put your trust in God. I do pray for you so let us still put our trust in God and he will never leave nor forsake us. He has kept us this long and will keep us to the end. You must see Mr. Buck and tell him he must fix up the house and fence or let you have it done if you have got no hen house you had better get some on to fix up one. I with you believe with you that the war will be over before next winter for the rebs has got nothing hardly to live on and I hear that they are fighting with one another and that there is a peace committee in Richmond, and is kept secret but it will soon be published in the papers. Now I pray to God it may be, so give my best respects to your mother and father and all the rest of our friends, and to Johnny and tell him to be a good boy. I have not shaved nor do not intend to until I come home. It is natural that we should want to see each other, but let us make the sacrifice with a willing mind for God will make all things right. If there is no school you must not let Johnny run about too much and learn him at home.

The name of our Fort is Fort Keyes, and it is strongly foritified. There is about 2000 men on this side of the river and 2 batterys and on York side there is 6 or 8000 men. The whole town is a fort by the name of Yorktown and is strongly fortified. Some 300 large cannon and there is 3 gun boats here. The rebs has a bad show here. Our fort is right alongside our camp so we have to strike tents so they can shoot over them. We was called out last night but went back to bed without a fight. It is reported that there is some rebs outside the lines to stop our men from cutting wood, but we have sent 3 companies out to guard them and we have got some cavalry scouts out and you need not be alarmed for they cannot take us by surprise, and there is not force enough to do anything else for we can drive back a field full of them with that fort and by God's help which I believe we have, and it is better than cannons.

(balance missing)


Fort Keyes was commanded by Major General Erasmus D. Keyes of the Fourth Army Corps, under commanding Major General John A. Dix at the Headquarters in Fort Monroe at Suffolk.
Erasmus Keyes

Erasmus D. Keyes

Throughout March there were small skirmishes throughout the area as the main objective by the Union was to hold that area from their enemy.

On March 31, 1863 President Lincoln wrote a Proclamation revoking the previously protected rights of the inhabitants of Virginia lying west of the Alleghany Mountains, as they might maintain a loyal adhesion of the Union.

He now stated that Virginia (except the 48 counties designated as West Virginia) was in a state of insurrection against the United States. Therefore, ". . . all cotton, tobacco, and other products, and all other goods and chattels, wares and merchandise . . . together with the vessel or vehicle conveying the same, be forfeited to the United States."

Next Letters-4/1863 - 6/1863

There are many places to collect information on the Civil War. Since I am in the Washington, D.C. area, I have the great advantage of the Government Archives, in additional to any books that can be found.

But for now, I would like to mention that most of Matthew Bradys' images of the Civil War are in the Public Domain, and can be found at the National Archives Picture Division in Tacoma Park, Maryland, or the Library of Congress, just to mention a few. All of the battlefields that Stephen Buckson mentions are also within the general Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

Much of the history written here is from various sources, the regimental history of the Fourth Delaware Regiment is from The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion and also from Institute for Civil War Research thanks to Mr. J.F. Walter.

Institute for Civil War Research
J. F. Walter
7913 67th Drive
Middle Village, NY 11379

National Archives

Library of Congress

National Park Service

U.S. Civil War Facts Sheets

National Civil War Association

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