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Cornelius Van Vorst, ca.1620; 
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Document Analysis
Please click the following link to print out the "Chart for Documents." After you have a paper copy of the chart please read the following 10 letters and complete the chart.
Letter from Benjamin's Manuscript
Prompt students to carefully read the letter to prepare appropriate and historically relevant conclusions. Use the following site as a guide. U.S. National Archives & Records Administration
Manuscript Group 670
Serven-Winters Family
(Paterson, New Jersey)
My dear mother I now take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well and presently hoping these few lines will find you the same. I say that I am well but I have got a very sore finger but otherwise I am well it is only a fester but it is very painful. You want to know if I want to draw my money no I don't want it drawed but I am out of tobacco and other little necessary articles and its uncertain when we will draw our monthly pay perhaps not until our time expires and I often feel hungry and have not got a cent to purchase anything with apples are 3 to 5 cents a piece tobacco 5 cents a paper that I used to buy for 3 cents in Paterson you say you will send me a broiled chicken don't do that mother it will be 3 or 4 days and perhaps more before it reaches me and then it will be spoiled butter is 35 cents a pound and I am very fond of it and I should like to have you send me down a pound or two. Some good apples and cake and chestnuts if you have got them. I want sour apples I would like to have quite some cake and a pie if it is not to much trouble for you to get it for me and send me down a few more postage stamps I was delighted with those you sent me I bought some tobacco with some of them. I hope you are well at ease in your mind dear mother the only thing that troubles me is that I have horrible dreams in the night about you I sometimes dream that I am cutting your throat and at other times I dream you are crying and then I wake up in unutterable agony and feel most dreadful for a few minutes until I can fully realize that it was but a dream over two months of the time has already expired and spring will soon return again and then I will return to see my dear kind mother again to leave her no ore until I die perhaps it will be settled before spring and then I will return home tell father...(letter ends)
Benjamin
Philadelphia Friday 23rd
Dear Father and Mother,

I just received your kind and welcome letter informing me that you had sent me 3 or 4 letters one containing three dollars none of which I have received...I have been begging and praying for a little money "I was out of patience and thought you had forgotten me altogether because you did not write" you must draw me five dollars from Newark I want you to write me and give me the full particulars as soon as you receive this when you wrote the letter with the three dollars in it how long ago and when you sent it and if you have a dollar or two to spare send it maybe it will reach me. I want it very bad. I have not got a cent and no way to get it. I could not even write to you but the ladies in the Hospitle gives us a sheet of paper and an envelope once a week and sometimes I am not present when they come around with it and then I lose"you spoke of Anthonys funeral I thought he was buried long ago, he died about twenty feet from where I laid and he was dead before I knew it. I want to know about Oliver's foot and how he came to cut it...
Please write soon.
Benjamin
Falmouth VA May 2nd 186?
My Dear Sister,

We are on the move again. "camp on the 28th April in the midst of a drizzling rainstorm and our Division crossing a river about a mile below Fredericksburg the same night" The firing has been ? today but not much damage to our men..

Last Sunday evening my ? took fire and in putting it on I burned my hand quite badly. My right hand is nearly well but my left will probably be disabled for a month or two. It bothers me considerably especially in riding as I can scarcely hold my horse with one hand. I bought a fine horse a few days ago from "Uncle Sam" for $125 was offered $150 for...

I will try and write again soon - Aaron
1/2 mile from Baton Rouge September 11th 1884
Dear Cousin,

I suppose you think I have forgotten you but you would in that case be mistaken. Since I wrote you I have been spending about three weeks of my time among the "rebs" at Clinton LW"under circumstances we received one meal per day and a very small one of that consisting of a piece of corn bread and meat. There are a number of Union people at Clinton who sent all they can spare in the way of eatables to us had it not been for them I do not know what we should have done. We left Doyal's Plantation on the fourth of the month and are now stationed near Baton Rouge the capital of Louisiana. I think that this is more healthy location than Doyal's Plantation. Our pickets and those of the rebels are very near each other they are constantly firing and almost everyday our pickets are attacked in force. Our regiment has been ordered not to support the pickets on the Port Hudson road. I have been quite healthy so far but have had a few attacks of ______ fever. About half our regiment are sick most all are trouble with fever... We have a great deal of sickness in the regiment our three surgeons are very sick"But I never was in better health or spirits...
- Alonzo
Camp of 2nd ______ White Oak Church VA February 4, 1863
My Dear Sister,

As usual I have nothing to write but I must attempt to answer your letter of 26 ____.

I intended to see Henry before I wrote to you again but the road being very bad, weather cold, and business pressing I have not had an opportunity.

If you make a practice of receiving three letters a day you have beat me, as lately I have considered myself fortunate if I received as many in a week.

When I get the old work of last year finished up I shall have but very little work compared with last year...

We have had very cold weather for the last few days and although motivating it is decidedly cold yet, with signs of snow before morning.

You ask about my health. It is excellent and has been since we left the peninsula.

When in camp we generally have service on Sunday afternoon, and a prayer meeting in the evening when the weather will permit". There was no meeting tonight probably on account of the cold.

...The tent is so cold I can scarcely hold the pen.

Remember me ______ Hastily Your aff Bro, - Aaron
Excerpt from the Diary of Henry Whitney

...Tonight a little sore from yesterday which affected me more on account of my taking but little exercise lately. It is now about 8 o'clock and I am sitting here at the desk, which is a clothing box set up on the side and covered with a rubber blanket. The tallow candle stands on a little pine board and does very well for a light. On one side of me is a bright warm fire of soft coal and in the corner beyond two of the boys are sitting on the boxes of clothing and one is telling the others about some battle that he saw when he was with General Averill and the old 8th at whose yell the rebs would "get up an run just as fast as" their legs could carry them. According to his account it must have been the most brilliant battles of the whole war and every man of them should be promoted immediately. The one that is telling it has seen some of the war. He was our first recruit...
...On looking up I see before me on the windowsill the big loaf of bread from which I ate at supper. The darkey has stuck a fork in it to lift it up to show me that he has not taken it in his hands. I suppose he has put it there because I was sitting before the box where we kept it and he did not want to stop my writing. If the guard outside has not had his supper I presume he would like to smash the window and get hold of something to eat being it is plainly exposed to view...
...I am a little sleepy and so will stop this nonsense. I don't know if this writing is going to do any good except to use up paper for I don't know I shall ever want to read it again and I pity any one else that has to...
Camp of 2nd Regt. Near Harrison's Landing July 11th 1862
My Dear Sister,

Your 4th of July letter was received on the 8th and I take the first spare moment to answer it. As much of our clothing now lost in the Seven Days Battle the Quarter Masters have all they want to do to put the troops in ____ again.

You have already read an account of our week of fighting. I can give you no description of it. It was a perfect storm of shots and shells, and bullets nearby all the time. Of course I was engaged with our wagon train and consequently was favored with nothing but shell but they dropped pretty thick sometimes, but fortunately no great damage was done to our train although some did not favor so well.

We are now resting and recruiting as rapidly as this terribly hot weather will allow.

I saw some fearful sights such as I never wish to see again. Among our men the sight was sometimes terrible, but the way the enemy were cut up was sickening. They were crazy with whiskey in which gunpowder had been dissolved and moved up regiment after regiment only to be cut down by hundreds. I hope that your next letter may bring better news in regard to the health of Aunt Maria's father.

I was grieved but not greatly at the death of uncle Jared as it has been long expected. When you see Aunt Betsy remember me to her.

Here is a call and I must stop.

In Haste Your Aff Bro -Aaron
March 6/64
My Dear Sister,

I had almost given up the idea of writing any more letters as it has seemed impossible to find the time but now our company have all left and there is prospect of peace and quiet for a day at least.

I find three or four letters in my pocket from _______ received since I last wrote to you"On Friday evening just as we were about to retire making calculations on a good time for the next day as a party of friends from Jersey were expected we were surprised by an order to be ready to move at 8 o'clock the next morning with six days rations.

Although the order didn't exactly ____ us we had nothing to do but obeyand at the appointed time were ready. We started about 9 o'clock and taking an easy moved to or nearly to ____ city and halting for the night.

...Started again at 8 o'clock on Sunday morning and after a march of about nine miles from Maddison Court House to which placed our Brigade pushed on expecting some resistance in fording the river"we made the entire distance of 24 miles in daylight. I had every empty wagon filled with lame and tired men. I can assure you we were all glad enough to get back to warm tents and a day bed again and a glass of grog and put us in good humor.

This ended our raid. Not a very interesting account I know but it will serve to give you an idea as to how I have spending my time.

At present the weather is fine as Spring weather can well be, but it may rain before night...

...St Valentine did not notice me at all this year and Leap Year too at that. I feel I am doomed to live a bachelor unless some of the above girls cometo the rescue.

I am pleased to know that Bette takes such a lively interest in my welfare, but don't let her give way to her feelings too much. Above all tell her not to cry, as tears were never made for those eyes of hers. Besides if handkerchiefs are as scarce as they are here crying must be a very inconvenient amusement...

...I enclose a sample of the last picture I had taken. If you find some good looking, sweet young lady not over thirty present it to her and say, "please exchange."

On Tuesday morning it continued to rain and kept it up all day. About noon we heard firing in front again, which proved to be General Custer fighting his way back through a force of rebel cavalry who had got in his rear.

Just before dark he came into town in good order but men and homes nearly worn out and covered with mud...

...I didn't know that postage stamps were so scarce in Opheleton, but I don't want you to go out again. Don't use your money for that purpose, as I'll furnish all you want. I enclose $2 and when that is gone let me know I have more left.

Write Again soon Your aff Bro - Aaron
Camp Near New Baltimore November 12/62
My Dear Sister,

It is about time your letter of 28th Oct. was answered as tonight received two more letters
from Plainfield...

I have nothing in the shape of news to write. We are still at New Baltimore but ready to march at two minutes notice. I should prefer to keep moving while the fine weather lasts and our roads are passable but I see we are waiting for some good reasons.

The nights are getting to be uncomfortably cool and try the temper and quality of the men, especially of those who have just joined us and not yet immured to the hardships of life in the field. For my own part I manage to keep perfectly comfortable so far. However, I have one great advantage as I am not obliged to carry my own bed and bedding on my back and can therefore manage to have an extra blanket when night comes.

I am now writing at my old desk in the office at Brigade Head Quarters. Stopped in for a chat, but as the clerks are busy, concluded to write a few lines to you.

We are now fairly into Virginia and obliged to come down to regular Army rations. No more fresh bread, butter, milk, eggs...

The people in this vicinity are nearly all of the strongest kind and most of them don't hesitate to affirm it"I sent a wagon out five miles beyond our lives today for corn. Of course a strong guard acquired it and it has just returned all safe.

I will answer the other letters soon.

Remember me when you eat that Thanksgiving dinner.

In Haste Your aff Bro, - Aaron
February 7/64
My Dear Sister,

Your letter of 1st was received day before yesterday. I rather looked for another from you tonight but it didn't come. Letters have been a scarce article with me since my return but I suppose it is my own fault as I have about a dozen unanswered ones in my pocket. I have been to busy to think of writing for the last few days but the hurry is over now or will be by tomorrow night if nothing new happens.

I have just seen Henry, since I last wrote you but expect to go down in a day or two. I heard from him a day or two ago, at which time he was reported well.

It is some time since I have heard from Amie but was greatly surprised to learn that she is not allowed to write. I intend to write to her tonight if I have time.

You must have had a gay time at the Donation but I guess Ms. Dow knows what is best for children when she brought you home and sent you to bed early.

When I take charge of the school when this war is over I'll have a Donation party once a week and a serenade every evening. Won't that be gay?

In my next letter I may be able to give you an item or two of news if you don't hear it before"The Army have been engaged with the enemy for parts of the days. We can hear the games distinctly.

The particulars have not been made public as yet...

We had quite an arrival a day or two ago. A company nearly a hundred men came on form Boonton and vicinity. I am acquainted with nearly all the men and officers.

Write again as soon as you can as your letters always receive a healthy welcome.

Hastily Your Aff Bro, - Aaron
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