These two letters were written by Capt. Garrett Vanderveer (1836-1864) of Co. A, 115th New York Infantry, to his brother, Albert Vanderveer (1841-1929), a physician serving as Surgeon in the 66th New York Regiment.
The first letter was written from Camp Tyler, in Chicago, Illinois, while the regiment was awaiting exchange after having been paroled when it was among the 12,000 men surrendered at Harpers Ferry, Va. on 15 September 1862. They remained there until 20 November 1862 (4 days after writing this letter), when they moved to Washington, D.C., and were exchanged at Annapolis, and then went to Hilton Head, South Carolina on 23 January 1863. The Regiment left for Florida on 5 February 1863 and occupied Jacksonville on February 7th. Part of Gen. Seymour’s ill-fated Florida expedition, they fought at the Battle of Olustee on 20 February 1864, where Capt. Vanderveer was mortally wounded while “gallantly cheering on his men.” He was shot in the thigh and through the right lung; he died of his wounds on 24 February 1864.
Garrett and Albert were the sons of Abram Harris Vanderveer (1804-1888) and Sarah Martin (1808-1864) Montgomery county, New York. Garrett was a coal merchant by occupation.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Camp in Horse Stables
November 16, 1862
Your neglected letter is about to be answered. I have got in the habit of neglecting answers to several who have addressed me within the last month, but hereafter, as the Washington dispatches say, a forward [movement] may confidently be expected; in plain English, I won’t do so any more. Ab (I will use that abbreviation in talking to you), I am well and tolerably well satisfied, have enough money to get home which I hope I shall be able to do about 4 weeks hence, enough to eat, a comfortable place to sleep, and my mind since the recovery of Maggie and the removal of McClellan is again becoming quiet, you may be one of Mac’s idolaters, but I am not. He has been tested by the only means which we have in this war, and that is results. They condemn, [and] so do I. It won’t make any difference; he may be called on again in less than a month to take his old position. I hope not, as I should then be discouraged. We have but few capable of taking the responsibilities connected with his recent position, and he certainly was not one. Good luck to Burnside and may the Press just leave him alone entirely until he has had a fair chance. I think J. C. Fremont will have more sympathy since the departure of McC., but enough of this.
How do you do? Have you plenty to eat, lots of money? Do they pay you regular and how much? We have not seen any paymaster yet, and none of the Line Officers have received their Commissions, so there is no chance for any monish of Uncle Samuel which is disagreeable. Money melts in camp here as if subjected to the flames of H–l, but we get along. I spend about as much as I earn and altogether there is not as wide a difference in the positions of Private & Capt. as I imagined.
I see by this morning’s paper that there has been an exchange of all prisoners except those taken at Harpers Ferry. What the Devil does it mean? If they mean to add still another insult by mustering us out, they will find recruiting uphill work in the 15th Senatorial District N.Y. Our prospect of going to New York for Winter Quarters was quite favorable at one time, but by some means has been squelched, and I think we shall be compelled to stay in Qrs. not fit for the slaves of our Southern Brethren, but we will obey. Our Governor and Thurlow Weed were to go to Washington this past week and make a last effort, which you will probably hear the result of before we do. I received a letter from Jane this week breathing love and solicitude for which I feel grateful. She has named her Boy after you which is right and proper as you will probably I trust and hope never do anything of which he need feel ashamed.
The sanitary condition of our men is not improving. We have not as many sick, but the Fevers assume a low malignant Typhoid type, which carries them off very fast, and what seems unaccountable to me, the strongest are the first to succumb. I never want to be sick in Hospital. Esther & some others sent us a box of clothing for the Hospital with which the Surgeon was very much pleased.
Albert, answer this immediately if the Washington papers say Morgan’s mission is unsuccessful, and I will be pleased.
Gar. Van Derveer
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Beaufort, South Carolina
August 14th 1863
Dearly & Well Beloved,
I still live & am happy to inform you that your effusion of Aug. 1st has this moment been received & read with sincere feelings of pleasure, for several reasons, one that you are safe & sound in mind & limb, another that you have not forgotten the fact that you have a brother in South Carolina’s sultry clime. Only last night, I was complaining to the folks at home that Ab, Es, Pashe & Mart had entirely ignored me & I had come to the conclusion I had bored them a little too much in writing & asking them to do that same, but all that I said about you, my dear M. D., I solemnly renounce & hope that when this meets your eye & you have deciphered its meaning, you will figuratively—if not literally—lay down the scalpel & with pen, ink & a good stock of determination & paper, scribe for my benefit an account of your wanderings from Aug. 1st to date.
As for the One Hundred & Bully Fifteenth, it remains much the same as at last accounts, only a little more so. The Colonel is not discharged, nor will anything be done in the matter until Charleston’s doom is known, as all that can do anything in this Dept. are used in that place. The Board before which he was to have appeared, has been badly used; 2 of the number comprising a majority were wounded and have gone North, and General [Quincy Adams] Gillmore will probably not take much action with him until a more convenient season. Our Regt., on account of Commanding Officer, is stationed at this Post to do the necessary hospital work of the Army in the Field, & the Post Guard duty of the place. Not very honorary, but much safer than charging batteries on Morris Island. The Colonel Commanding has a great deal to answer for in regard to the status of this Regiment. I would say just what I think if I desired, but military law says I must not, & I will not even to you. Suffice between you & me that I have (in common with several others) no rights the Colonel considers himself bound to respect & as I am only a Captain, I am in a measure powerless, but thank God, if we both live, there will be a good time coming. I have given up all ideas of promotion while he is in command, but think I will not quit the service just yet, unless my health will not allow me so to do.
I have read with a great deal of pleasure (not wholly unmixed with regrets) of the doings of your gallant Army on the 1st days of July; all that this Rebellion required at that time was the annihilation of Lee’s Army & we should have seen the complete subjugation of the Confederate Government. Let us hope you may yet be able to accomplish, although I doubt if Meade ever gets the wary Lee in as tight a place as he had him at that time. You had very sharp work, I have no doubt, & were not as fresh as the Rebs, who had not travelled as fast or far.
I assure you, Albert, that Gillmore’s operations on Morris Island are not to be considered of slight moment, for he will, if my judgment does not woefully deceive, make the welkin ring ere long, louder than it did after either Gettysburg or Vicksburg. Strict orders are issued to permeate through all, officers, privates & civilians, not to write at present anything connected with the department—military, & of course we can hear but little, & that little under the order, we don’t feel as if we ought to say anything about, but this much I can say, that all are in the most hopeful mind of a successful termination of the expedition.
The Sanitary condition of the Regiment continues bad, & although we are not losing so many by death, we lose the services of a great many new ones all the time by fresh attacks & when a man gets down sick, he does not return to duty again; at least that is the experience of my Company. I have had, of a Co. of 76, 2 discharged, 4 sent North to be transferred—I suppose—if they are fit, to the Invalid Corps, 4 died of fever, 1 by accident, & at present date, 9 in General Hospital, not one of which will return, although some have been there over 2 months, & 9 marked Quarters by the Surgeon. There you have a fair example of our health. The most of the Co’s have lost more by death. A man that gets down very low here cannot possibly recover, & the Physicians, I am glad to learn, are shipping them North as fast as possible. I myself, although I am around and do duty every 2 or 3 days feeling very well most of the time, am confident I shall not attain health & strength until I am allowed to go home for a short time.
I don’t know whether this will go out in the Steamer or not, but whenever it does come, do me the favor to notice its arrival as soon as possible. Where was your Regt. raised, what is the material of Officers & men, & give me morning report of the condition &c. I had letters from loved ones 2 days ago with dates of 4th inst. All well & doing well. May they continue so to do likewise, the Doctor likewise.
— Gar [Garret]