1863: Ezra Alphonso Wilson to Belle Spangle

This letter was written by Sergeant Ezra Alphonso Wilson (1842-1897) of Co. D, 148th New York Infantry.

Twenty year-old Ezra A. Wilson initially enlisted at Waterloo on 20 August 1862 as the 4th sergeant in Co. I, 126th New York Infantry, but deserted three days later. According to his enlistment record in the 126th, Ezra was born at Orleans, New York and was a shoemaker by trade, like his father. He was described as standing 5′ 7.5″ tall, with brown eyes, black hair, and a “swarthy” complexion. I believe that after his signing on with the 126th NY, Ezra decided to enlist instead in the 148th Infantry, joining with his 18 year-old younger brother in Co. H. That regiment was also mustered in at Waterloo just a few days later (28 August). Ezra survived the war, but his brother did not. Charles was killed in action at Cold Harbor on 3 June 1864. Prior to his enlistment, Charles worked as a “canaler.”

Ezra and Charles were the sons of Fortescue Warrington Wilson (1816-1862) and Hannah Lee Wilson (b. 1822) of Rose, Wayne county, New York, where the Wilson family was enumerated in the 1850 US Census. Ezra was eight years old at the time of the census and the oldest of the children; the others being Charles P. Wilson (age 5), and Emmy Wilson (age 2). Ezra’s father was a native of New York State and a shoemaker by trade; his mother an emigrant from England.

Curiously, in the 1860 US Census, the Wilson family appears to have been residing in Fairfax, Virginia; Ezra’s father (Fontescue) was identified as a “shoemaker” by trade. Ezra’s father also served in the Civil War. He enlisted at Castleton, New York, on 1 October 1861 as a private in Co. C, 105th New York. According to pension records, Fontescue died on 10 August 1862—just before both Ezra and Charles enlisted.

Ezra wrote the letter to Isabella Spangle (1848-1930), the daughter of Zachariah and Lavinia (Hipolite) Spangle of Ontario county, New York. Belle was married twice; first to Daniel Boswell (1833-1901), and second to Ogden Case (1848-1930).


Portsmouth, Va.
June 5th 1863

Friend Belle,

I once more take my pen in hand to write a few lines to you. I am well at present and am in hopes that these few lines will find you the same. My wrist is perfectly well now. Tell your father that I am very much obliged to him for his good opinion of my wife and also hope that you will have no occasion to think different of her. She is not handsome but what she lacks in beauty, she makes up in goodness.

I will try and get your ring done by the time I write again so that I can send it to you and if I can find a place in Norfolk or Portsmouth, I will get it plated for you. I guess that you will soon get tired of wearing it for I think that it will keep you busy cleaning it. But you shall have one and try it and then you will know.

You say that G____ says he is a going to write but keeps putting it off. I shall not write to him any more, I tell you that, and when I say a thing I am generally as good as my word. Write whenever it suits you to do so Belle, and be assured that I shall always be happy to hear from you whenever you choose to write. I hope that you will have a fine time this summer and enjoy yourself finely.

It is very fine weather down here, I tell you. We have had peas and they are about all gone unless it is a few patches of later peas that just beginning to get fit to eat. And we also have new potatoes and we have had strawberries nearly a month and there is lots of cherries.

But it is nearly time for guard mounting and I will close hoping to hear from you soon again. Give my love to all enquiring friends and please accept it yourself. Tell you mother that I shall be happy to hear from her at any time. Please excuse all mistakes and very poor writing.

Yours sincerely, — Sergt. E. A. Wilson, 148th Regt. N. Y. S. Volunteers, Co. D

To Miss Belle Spangle


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