These three letters were written by Elmore Dane (1827-1910) of Company F, 26th Massachusetts Infantry. He was the son of Benjamin Dane (1788-1867) and Lydia Brown (1789-1862). Elmore was married to Sophia Hardy, the daughter of Micajah and Susan (Bailey) Hardy, who was born in West Andover in 1823. Sophia was married first to Henry Cochran but he died in 1844 leaving her with two children: George Henry Cochran (b. 1841), and Sophia Augusta (“Gusta”) Cochran (b. 1844). The Danes had three children of their own: Marie Antoinette (“Netty”) (b. 1853), Eliza Ann (b. 1855), and Lucy Jane (b. 1860). Prior to the war, Elmore Dane’s occupation was shoemaker. He served from September 1861 until August 1865.
The Danes resided in Andover near the railroad tracks in a house built about 1850 by Gideon Woodcock.
Several of Dane’s letters are housed in the Library at Baton Rouge University. The earliest letter, written in New Orleans, Louisiana, during the Federal occupation, comments on local social and economic conditions and remarks on food prices. Letters (1863-1864) written while Dane was stationed in the Teche Country of Louisiana comment on wages received from the Army, the improvement of his family’s standard of living, and social and economic conditions of the Teche Country. The University of California at Santa Barbara also has two letters written by Dane in its collection.
The first letter is a description of the fight at Paschola [Ponchatoula, La.] which occurred on 13 September 1862. An official despatch detailing the action by Gen. George Strong is included below. Dane’s letter is quoted in Wikipedia: see Battle of Ponchatoula.
HEADQUARTERS, DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF, NEW-ORLEANS, Sept. 24, 1862.
Maj.-Gen. B.F. Butler, Commanding Department of the Gulf.
GENERAL: Pursuant to your orders of the 13th inst., I embarked on the afternoon of that day on board the steamer Ceres at Lakeport, with three companies of the Twelfth Regiment Maine Volunteers, commanded respectively by Capts. THORNTON, FARRINGTON and WINTER, and one company, Capt. PICKERING’s, of the Twenty-sixth Massachusetts Regiment. I had previously sent one hundred men of the Thirteenth Connecticut Regiment on board the gunboat New London, whose commander, Capt. READ, had kindly consented to cooperate with me.
The object in view was to surprise the village of Ponchatoula, the headquarters of the rebel General JEFF. THOMPSON, forty-eight miles north of the city, on the line of the Jackson Railroad. To that end the New London was to land her men at Manchac bridge, whence at daybreak next morning they were to drive the enemy that might be found there northwards to Ponchatoula, while the remainder of the force, having found the way fifteen miles up the Tangipahoa in the night, were to land and march six miles westward and capture Ponchatoula in season to secure those of the enemy who had been driven up from Pass Manchac.
The attempt at surprise failed, for not only was the New London unable to get over the bar into Manchac Pass in the darkness, but the Ceres, too large for the easy navigation of the narrow and winding Tangipahoa, failed in each of the two succeeding nights to reach her destination on that river in season to admit of our gaining Ponchatoula before daylight.
I resolved, therefore, to go with that steamer to Manchac Bridge, and did so on the morning of the 15th. From that point, Capt. WINTER was sent with his company southward, to make the destruction of the railroad on Manchac Island complete, which duty he thoroughly performed. Capt. PICKERING’s company was left to guard the steamer, and the companies of Capts. THORNTON and FARRINGTON began a forced march of ten miles upon Ponchatoula. A locomotive one mile below the village gave notice of our approach, (which could not be concealed,) and ran northward, giving the alarm at the village and thence to Camp More for reinforcements.
We met, on entering Ponchatoula, a discharge of canister, at 70 yards, from a light battery, in charging which Capt. THORNTON fell severely wounded. His company, then, under Lieut. HIGHT, reinforced Capt. FARRINGTON’s platoon on the enemy’s right, while Lieut. COON, with the second platoon of that company took a position, under partial cover, on the left of the enemy’s line.
From these positions our men poured in so deliberate and destructive a fire that the enemy was driven from the field, the artillery galloping away, followed by the infantry, on a road through the forest, in a northwesterly direction. We then set fire to a train of upwards of twenty cars, laden with cotton, sugar, molasses, &c., and took the papers from the pose and the telegraph office, destroying the apparatus in the latter, and Gen. JEFF. THOMPSON’s sword, spurs, bridle, &c., from his quarters in the hotel. The sword was presented to him by the so-called “Memphis patriots.”
A written document was obtained which showed the rebel force at that point to consist of three hundred troops of the Tenth Arkansas Regiment, one company of the Home Guards, and one company of artillery with six pieces. I had, however, received reliable information that the enemy’s force was only two hundred infantry and no artillery. The reinforcements had taken place at a subsequent date. Our force engaged amounted to but one hundred and twelve men. We left of killed, wounded and missing (exclusive of those who have just come in — among the last the gallant Capt. THORNTON,) ten men at Ponchatoula.
Surgeon AVERY, of the Ninth Connecticut Volunteers, with his attendants, voluntarily remained with our wounded, but the former has since returned. We brought in eleven men more or less severely wounded. One fatal case of sun-stroke occurred on board the steamer.
Our return from Ponchatoula was necessarily along the railroad, through a swamp, and on which there is no cover for troops, and it was therefore impossible to bring off those of our men who were most severely wounded, as they would be exposed for a long distance to the fire of the rebel artillery, which, with horses attached, would be brought back upon the line of the road as soon as we should have left the village. The artillery did so return at the signal of the inhabitants; but, though actively served, did us no harm.
Surgeon AVERY reports twenty of the enemy killed. Capts. THORNTON and FARRINGTON, and the officers and men of their respective commands, though nearly exhausted by the march, two miles of which was over an open trestle-work, in the heat of the day, behaved nobly in the fight. Capts. PICKERING and WINTER, after a very rapid march, for which they are entitled to much credit, came up after we had left the village, covered our rear and assisted in bringing in the wounded. Lieuts. MARTIN, ALLEN and FINEGASS, and Commander BUCHANAN, United States Navy, who accompanied the expedition, rendered important services, and their gallantry during the action deserves special mention. I have the honor to be, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
— GEO. C. STRONG, Acting General.”
[Note: This first letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published here by express consent.]
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
New Orleans, [Louisiana]
September 16, 1862
I received a letter from you today and was very glad to hear from you and the family. I know you must have a hard time of it in taking care of the children. I fear little Sis will have a hard time of it. I do not fear on account of the cough but it is the after cough that sets in on the turn of the whooping cough. But you must keep up good courage and not get sick in worrying about me.
My health is good. I was never better except I am tired after our forced march of 11 miles and back and fighting a battle. Out of 125 men, 40 were killed, wounded, and missing—almost 50 percent of our number. We were kept as a reserved corps and came up just in time to save the rest of the party from all being taken prisoners. We kept the enemy from out-flanking them and covered their retreat. The fight took place at Paschola [Ponchatoula, La.]. We went up the Manchac river to the Jackson and New Orleans Railroad and marched up the road. It was a bad defeat for us. We had no artillery and the Rebels were 1500 strong with 5 pieces of artillery. We were obliged to leave our dead on the field and the wounded in the hospital with the doctor and assistants as prisoners in the Rebels’ hands as prisoners. It was a hard jaunt and well nigh cost us all imprisonment. But you must excuse me for not writing a long letter for I am tired and weary.
The handkerchief you sent me in the box was just the thing I wanted and the footings too. Many thanks to you for such favors. I hope you will get the last four months pay by next month, The paymaster is ready to pay us off whenever the officers are ready to have us paid. Once in awhile I think I should like some of your nice butter and &c. but it is no use in wishing so I shall be contented and try and enjoy myself the best I can and you must do the same. You must not worry about me and I shall not worry about you at home. What is the use of borrowing trouble? It comes fast enough anyway.
You speak about [Jefferson W.] Raymond. ¹ I saw a sergeant of Co. D [and] I asked him how Raymond was. He replied he supposed he was very low and would not live till morning. He is now dead—poor man. He lay still so long his food would not digest and chronic diarrhea carried him off. His wife must feel very bad when she hears the intelligence but this is the fortune of war and we must submit to its fate. We ought to feel thankful, dear wife, to think it is so well with us as it is. Many more die of sickness than of bullets from the enemy. Be of good cheer, dear wife, and keep up good courage and don’t despair. I hope to be spared to see you again.
One more died in the hospital from our company last night. His name was Dennis Golden. ² He belonged in Boston. We also lost one yesterday—Corp. Lewis. ³ He was from Boston. Golden was unmarried but Lewis was married and had three children. Lewis died in the field or rather on the retreat from the battlefield. This makes 3 from Co. F that have gone to rest.
Give my love to all the folks and neighbors—especially to Father’s folks and Mr. Nick’s folks and Mr. Brown’s folks and to everybody. My love to the children and to you, dearest wife. Tell Mason we shall be very happy to see him out here again. Love to you and most sincerely yours, — E. Dane
¹ Jefferson W. Raymond was a private in Co. D, 26th Mass. Infantry. He was a 28 year-old machinist from Andover. He died on 13 September 1862 at New Orleans.
² Dennis Golden was an 18 year-old farmer when he enlisted on 11 October 1861. He died of disease on 14 September 1862 at New Orleans, La.
³ Corp. Samuel Lewis was a 28 year-old painter from Boston. He died of disease on 16 September 1862.
Elmore was among the veterans who re-enlisted on 5 January 1864 — earning a bonus and a thirty-day furlough. The following paragraph from a regimental history gives the regiment’s movements just before and after the aforementioned furlough.
26th Massachusetts Infantry. On the 25th of February the regiment reached New Orleans and took up its quarters in the Alabama Cotton Press, where it remained until March 22d, when the re-enlisted members embarked on steamship “Cahawba,” and proceeded to New York, which place was reached on the 1st day of April, 1864, after a rough voyage of nine days. April 1st, at 4 o’clock, left New York on steamer “Empire State,” and reached Boston at 12 o’clock, M.; left Boston immediately and arrived at Lowell at 4 o’clock P.M. Here they received thirty days’ furlough till May 4, 1864, when the regiment assembled at Beach Street barracks. On the 5th, went into camp at Readville, where it remained until May 11th, when it proceeded to New York. The regiment immediately embarked on steamship “Cahawba,” and proceeded to New Orleans, La., where it arrived after a pleasant voyage of nine days.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
May 5, 1864
Here we are in camp and are to remain here until we are paid off and that will not be until after the regiment has been got together. There are only 19 now in camp & are sergeants & 3 corporals. We are all promised a short furlough to go home for 24 hours. We arrived at Beach Street Barracks about ½ past nine o’clock. We started about 3 and a ½ o’clock for this camp where we arrived about ¼ past 4 p.m. It was rather a disagreeable night. The die is cast and it is useless to cry for spilt milk so I shall try and make myself comfortable and leave the event with higher authority. I have not learned how far it is from here to Andover but I will do my best to ascertain and let you know which is the cheapest and shortest route you can come to Boston and then go to the Providence Depot which is at the southwest corner of the common. You can there take the cars for Readville. Our quarters are but a little ways from the depot in Readville. We are on the left hand side of the railroad and the farther side of the barracks. You cannot help finding us. We have very good quarters and are as well provided for as well as can be expected.
I expect Galen [Richard Galen Dane] has gone out with the 30 Regiment but am not certain. Sgt. [Ephraim Nason] Nickerson is going down to the Island tomorrow to get our recruits. I hope he has not gone for his wife [Abigail] will feel so bad. I certainly shall feel bad for her for we shall all be disappointed by not having his company, but I shall know by tomorrow night. Tell Lydia not to be discouraged but keep a stiff upper lip and look on the bright side of the matter. It is much better to go willingly than to be drafted. Encourage her all you can, dear wife, for you know how to pity her. I will write to her as soon as I can ascertain about him.
My health is very good and were it not for thinking I should get along very well it is much harder parting now then it was before. I hope there will be some sort of wind up this summer of this unnatural warfare. All seem to be more despondent than they were the first time out. I hope you will write as soon as you can for I feel very anxious to hear from you and to hear how you are getting on.
And dear love, please accept my most sincere love and thanks for all those kind favors that I have found in my haversack. They come in very handy for as we are on the move, we shall find them very handy to fill an empty belly. But I must close this letter this evening. Nicks [Nickerson] has written to his wife this morning and I hope one of you will get a letter by tomorrow evening. I suppose he will write again in the morning or after 10 o’clock this evening. We hope you will be able to come and see us and get your money.
Give my love to George and Gusta. Kiss the babies for me and may heaven’s kindly smiles rest upon them. Give my love to the friends and neighbors. I shall write again soon. Ever your loving partner, — E. Dane
At the time letter three was written, the 26th Massachusetts was in camp at Carrolton, Louisiana, having arrived there from New Orleans on 22 March 1864. The day following this letter, the 26th Mass. moved to Morganza. Louisiana, where it was attached to the 1st Brigade, 2d Division, 19th Army Corps in the Department of the Gulf. They returned to New Orleans on 3 July 1864 and then were transported back to the Eastern Theatre of the War.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Camp Lewis, Carrolton, La.
June 7, 1864
I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and I hope this letter will find you the same. The humer troubles me in my feet but my health is good. Galon’s health is good. Give my best respect to Father and to Mr. Brown’s folks and to all the neighbors and my best respects to you.
We expect to move this week up the [Mississippi] river. The boys have had their fortune told and said they were coming home in eighteen hundred and sixty-five. Keep up good courage, dear wife. I think I shall be at home next year if nothing happens. Don’t worry about me, dearest wife, for I shall take care of myself the best I can and you must do the same.
Tell Gusta to write. Tell George to write about home. You, dear wife, tell Mrs. Brown that I found a flag in a woman’s bosom the other day and I had some fun with her but I got the flag from her. But I had to feel on her. That suited me and I should like to find another one. What do you think of that, dear wife? I feel quite smart once in awhile. I wish I was at home. You would think so. Write as soon as you get this and let me know all about home and the news. Tell Netty to write to Pa Pa and Eliza Ann to write to Pa Pa and little Jane to be a good girl. Tell Gusta I don’t think that Boston will come again for he said that she had a beau when he came up before. She was up to Mr. Brown’s and Charley came home with her. Boston said it was her beau and he [thought] it was no use for him to come again. Tell Gusta that Boston is writing to his girl in Lawrence. Tell Gusta she must look up another one and write to me.
Dear wife, when you write a letter, put in a blank sheet of paper and a postage stamp and I will answer them when I get them. You must write as often as you can and I will do the same. Do write once a week, dearest, ad I will do the same.
We have got to do infant[ry] duty awhile. Probably next fall we shall get our horses and we shall be mounted. Some have been mounted already but they don’t catch me in that service, I tell you. I look out for that. Don’t you worry about me; I take care of myself. I am thinking what a good time I will have when I get home.
Dear wife, this is my last sheet of paper. Tell Lydia that I will take good care of Galon as [best] I can. He has not had any rheumatism since he came out here. He is on guard today.
Dear wife, give my best respects to all the folks. tell the children that Pa Pa will come home by and by and they must be good girls and Pa Pa will give them something when he comes home. Tell Gusta she must send me her miniature and dearest, you must send me yours too. I must close this time. Write as often as you can. I pray that we may meet again. May heaven bless you and protect you from all dangers. Kiss the children for me. Goodbye.
— E. Dane