Letters and Diary by Uncle Gus
(written with indelible purple pencil)
Seymour Augustus Wilcox was the oldest of six brothers, four of whom had enlisted earlier in the war. Gus was 33 when he joined up, leaving his wife, Electa, with two small children and a farm to run.
His brother, Hiram, had died of Scarlet Fever soon after enlisting in 1862. Brothers Isaiah, Edwin, and Melbourn had each been wounded in battle. Gus must have decided it was time for him to do his part.
In September of 1864, Gus joined the 188th New York Infantry where he was described on the roll as being 5 feet 11½ inches tall with blue eyes and brown hair, occupation "mechanic" (he had a sawmill as well as a small farm). He fell ill while still in recruitment camp which wasn't far from his home. The first partial letter that has survived was written then.
Dunkirk, October 27/84.
Dear Companion, i am agoing to try to scratch a few lines to you today. i feel first much to thank God that i am granted strength to do so. i feel much disapointed that i have not heard from you since you left here. i fear you are not well is the reaason but i hope and pray God that you and the Children are well X now consirning myself i think i am gaining fast. i went out into the kitchen yesterday and i looked into the glass, i was scared i did not see much else but eyes and whiskers, (page missing) ... morning and got back at night. Electa it is giting late and i shall have to close. i hope you will understand this scribling. except this from your unworthy husband A Wilcox
Next are diary entries from 1865
Thursday,March 2, Wrote a letter to my wife and mailed it at Baltimore... started from Baltimore at 5 PM took the georgeanne boat. rainy and very foggy
Friday 3, Arive to fortris Monroe (abo)ut 7 AM at noon we took the James Brady boat for City point, rainy and thick fog, could not run a part of the night.
Saturday 4, arive to city point at 3 AM laid in the wharf until day lite and then marched to distribution camp. received hardtack. warm and ver(y) muddy
Sunday 5 mostly clear but cool wind. about 1000 soldiers arive here for the army of the Potomac which is now laying near Petersburg.
Monday 6 mostly clear and sun. took the cars(train) for my ridgment on Haches Creek about 20 miles from City point. arive here at 7 in the evening, joined Co. H
Tuesday 7 warm and clear, spring birds here and grass beginning to grow. commenced to build a shanty, my first work in the army.
Wedensday 8 verry rainy and warm.. got verry wet working at our shanty. C.M.Mann and D.O.Seamans and H.Smith is my mates. rote a letter to my wife.
Thursday 9 raining and the cricks very high. worked at our Shanty
Friday 10 some cooler cleared up in the afternoon. the wind in the north. moved into our shanty. we had formerly slept in a cloth tent on the ground.
Saturday 11 clear and cool nites. wrote a letter to my wife and asked her to send me a box of eatibles. quite sick to day with the dierea(diarrhea).
Sunday 12 Still clear and cool. went and see seth Simmers about a mild (mile) from camp. feel quite sick today could not eat supper.
Monday 13 Clear and warm i feel some better today. write a letter to Melvin my brother.
Tuesday 14 warm and look like rain at night. got my gun today. out on grand revue about 12 thousand soldiers to gether. a grand sight
Wedensday 15 Cloudy, south wind. wrote a letter to my wife. This 7th core (corps) have orders for a march and 60 rounds of cattrages (cartridges).....went out on picket at 4 oclock stand 1 hour in 4
Thursday 16 some rayney and very high south wind. still on picket. My (post) is on Hackes crick battle ground was fought about the first of February. come in off picket at ---PM
Friday 17 still hight wind but clear. my dierea is quite bad
Saturday 18 clear and high, dry south wind. a little better today. out on general inspection. write a letter to my wife
Sunday 19 Clear and verry pleasant. went to meeting in the afternoon, and in the evening to prayer meeting.
Monday 20 Clear and verry warm in the morning. we had drill in the afternoon, general inspection in the evening. feel quite well today
Tuesday 21 warm and some rain south wind. 2 hour drill in the morning. Wrote a letter to my wife and one to Brother Edwin at Washington.
Wedensday 22 quite clear and cool with high west wind. went on camp gard at 7oclock on 2 hour and off 4. Walk a beet(beat) of 4 rods garding guns belonging to other camp gards while they were off duty.
Thursday 23 Come off camp gard at 7oclock. mostly clear and a verry high west wind. it blowed many of our tents down and many trees were upset.
Friday 24 Cloudy and cool, west wind, washed my underware.
Saturday 25 Cool and cloudy. at 6 in the morning marching orders. we lay on our arms all day in hatches run fort. heavy fireing all day about 2 miles off.
Sunday 26 mostly clear and cool. came into camp about noon. orders to pack up to atack the rebs at night. All packed up by 6.
Monday 27 Clear and cool. we are yet in camp. i wrote a letter to my wife. an insptecion and revue in the afternoon.
Tuesday 28 Clear and cool we are yet in camp.. wrote a letter to my wife. still in camp tonight.
March 28/65 Co.H 188 Ridg. NY Vols
Dear Companion Electa, i am still in camp. i wrote you yesterday morning in a hurry expecting to start away in a few minutes and we are here yet about 4 oclock PM and now it is quite certain that we will leave here in the course of the night and we learn that we are asigned to Sheroden's command. he is the most of his time on raids so I expect we shall have a goodeal of hard marching to do. it is thought that he calculates to go into north Carolina to cut some of the south side railroads. (that is south of Richmond). i am afraid i cannot stand it to march much, but they say whare there is a will there is a way and if i start i must keep up or i may be gobbled up by the rebs.
my dierea still hangs on to me and if i travel much, my feet swell quite bad but they say that they have more and better rations than they do here but God is my helper i shall do the best i can. the doctor thinks i am healthy enough. my face looks full and red most allways you know, and the doctor goes by the looks of a fellow. my flesh is not very good yet. i can dent it on my feet and legs nearly as i could when i was at home. but some of the men here say they have been just like me and to go on a march it has cured them up. it may work so with me
i dread the warm weather the most i wish my over coat was at home, but i need it about every nite for the nites are cool. have you got that bundle i sent you from Elmira or have you got the 30 dollar check they were to send you at home but not gitting any letter from you i hardly know what to say about anything. it seems a grait(great) while since i heard from home i watch the mail close i tell you but have not quite dispaired yet for i shall keep writing yet a while. i learn that they have had a great freshlet up that way and perhaps that is the reason i do not git any mail i tell you i am glad i have come acrost Norman O. Wheeler for we visit to gether a great deal and i have found Augustus Adams here to and leanard Farington. we will be close together all the time. Well Electa, i stoped rite here to git supper (it is most dark) i will tell you what i had, boiled potatos and onions fried some pork, had some coffee and soft bread. i tell you they feed us well now just before a march. i am sorry i was so fast about having you to send me a box of eatibles. i hope you have not sent it. they say Shermon will have such a large army that he cannot march verry fast but the probibility is that he will have a good deal of fitering(maybe fighting?) to do, but the Lord being my helper i shall do the best i can for i should not be treated as some are here, hardly for my life, that sculk out. i suppose you will heare about this battle here quicker than i could inform you. however the gen(eral) report is that the joneyes lost killed and wounded about 3 thousand and prisoners about 27 thousand and our loss about 8 hundred killed wounded and missing. i hope to git a letter from you before we start. Electa i have most seven months in. keep good cheere and trust in God and pray for me let our prayers be united that we may be his indeed. i hope you are all well. i want to heare from all of our neighbors. my best wishes to all. it is dark now so i will close for this time. Goodnight. AW
Wednesday 29 Clear and warm.. 5 AM left camp, marched towards south side railroad, about 6PM came up with the rebs. had a littel fight and took their first line of works some prisoners. our rigt 188 loss 3 killed, 5 wounded, 8 missing
Thursday 30 verry rainy. laid on our arms all night in line of battle all day. 2 wounded by sharp shooters in 188 rigt. quite sick. heavy fighting near the welch road.
Friday 31 Some rain and high wind. laid in the woods all night. sent to the rear in the morning unfit for duty. recd 3 letters 1 from s Bozard with 4 dollars. heavy fighting all day. our army lost quite heavy. sent a letter to my wife.