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Corporal Samuel C. Hanscomís Letters Home

Co A 1863-1865

Sam Hanscom fell with nine others at Aldie.  His family received these first three letters from the front after the death of their son. Nine letters from their living son follow.

Our thanks to Bruce MacAlpine, who transcribed and submitted these from the original letters in his collection (with punctuation added and some spelling corrected).  Bruce asks that any additional information on Hanscom be emailed to him at

Washington July 25th 1864

Respected Lady,

I trust that you will pardon a stranger for addressing you a few lines when you learn the painful duty that I have to perform which is to announce to you the death of your noble and patriotic son who was shot in a guerilla fight on the near Aldie, Va. I had hoped that an abler pen than mine had informed you of his fate on this but learning today that it had been neglected I opened your letter to learn the address. Ah little did you think when you penned those words of hope and council for his comfort and benefit that when it reached him his eyes would be dim in death.
But he died like a true patriot and hero. He lived but a few hours after receiving the fatal shot but was conscious of his approaching end and re--------- or willingness to die for his country. We who had come with him from the peaceful shores of California to help our country in her hour of trial and need and had served beside him for a year and a half were much grieved at his loss. For our prolonged acquaintance had brought us to love and respect him. For Samuel was a noble boy. But a fatal rebel bullet took him from us and we can only honor and respect his memory and emulate his example. Please excuse this hasty scroll I would write you more of the particulars but for want of time. So adieu for the present from:

John Winship Co A 2nd Mass Cav.

On the march from Charleston Va August 9th 1864

Elizabeth Hanscom,

I received your letter of July 21st some days since but have had no opportunity to answer until now. I am very sorry for I know your anxiety. Your son was killed near Aldie, Va. by Mosbyís men along with several of his companions. He was shot through the head he lived but a few hours and had every care that the circumstances would allow. He was buried near Little River Church VA near where he fell. I know of no way you could retrieve his body as he lies within the enemy lines. He received the usual burial of those who fall in the field. I do not think his grave is in any way designated such things however worthy the soldier or gratifying to his friends at times is impossible. I have his bible, a l--------- and some of his keepsakes that I gathered up after writing you at Falls Church but we were ordered away so sudden that I placed them with the A. property which is now stored in Washington. I will send them to you the first opportunity. I am very sorry I could not answer before but I have been in the saddle 30 days steady. The regiment has lost heavily this summer - but we in command must bear our loss- and for our great personal and national sacrifice hope for a sure reward -hoping and trusting we may all meet again. I remainYour friend

H.G. Burlingham
Lt. Co A 2nd Mass Cav

Clouds Mills, Va June 8th 1865


While laying at Falls Church Va. Your son and myself camped together, when he went out on that unfortunate raid, he left in my charge, his effects, at the time of his death. His watch, money, etc. the rebels took from his person. I should have sent his other effects to you but the invasion of Washington by Early than taking place we were ordered to the front and as all company baggage had to be stored I sent his personal property with the rest. After the campaign in the valley we went into winter quarters at Camp Russell Shenendoah Valley Ėour blankets were then sent to us. I procured Samís and sent it to you-also his jacket- via Adamís Express 3 days ago. We recíd the rest of the Co. baggage and I hasten to send to you the rest viz Ė a dagueratype, his bible, sewing kit, on receipt of which I wish you would write and inform me . You can direct Ė Ca A 2nd Mass Cav Washington DC. We expect to be mustered out of the service soon and on arrival in Mass any information that I can give you in regard to your son will be with pleasure.I remain Yours or Most Obedient Servant

Chas H Powers
Co A. 2nd Mass Cav.
Camped near Clouds Mill VA

The following are letters that Sam wrote home leading up to the time of his death:
Centerville August 15 1863

Dear Parents

We are in a new camp again you see, we got here yesterday after three days on the road one day of which was spent in short chase after Mosby and some of his gang. We run them about twenty miles but did not succeed in catching them. They camped within a mile of us the night before but we did not know it til seven oíclock in the morning when two suttlers came in that he had just robbed of their teams and wagons. In ten minutes after there was forty of us started after them and although the day was a hot one we went on a smart trot and sometimes on a gallop. We had a white man who was raised in the country for a guide and we soon came on his track and pushed him so hard that he had to leave the wagons and gone on as fast as he could without them. As he had two hours the start on us he reached his hiding place before we could overtake him. The guide said it was no use to go farther and so we hotted a couple of horses and then started back and got to camp about twelve oíclock at nite. Three or four of our horses gave out on the trip but we helped ourselves to any we could find on the road and got back with more than we started with. Then next day we started for this place but took round-about way and about dark came to a lot of wagons that Mosby had taken a few days before and had him frightened away before he had time to go through them. As we have been on short rations for two days of course we helped ourselves and took away all we could and will live well for a few days. We have again camp here and the most of our regiment is here. It is the first time we have been with them. But I have some work to do about my tent I must close I received your letter of the 12 last nite. Give my love to all.

Sam Hansom

Gloucester Point July 1863

Dear Parents

I write to you once more to let you know that I am well. We are settled here in camp again and it seems likely that we shall stay here for some time. Most all of the troops have gone away from here during the last weak. I believe they have gone to Washington to help bag Lee but I here that Lee has gone on his way rejoycing. He seems to have the nack of marching all around the army of the Potomac and fighting them when he likes. I hear they are trying Charlestown again I hope they will fetch it this time. There seems to be a great deal of trouble in New York about the draft. I hope that it will be put down without delay if they have to hang the whole crowd of roughs that are making the trouble.

I am getting tired of laying here in camp again and hope we will join our regiment soon. Gen. Foster came to Yorktown last week and he is going to review this battalion today and I must go get ready. I have not got any letter or paper this last week but I must close. Give my love to all. Rite as often as possible.

Sam Hansom

Centerville August 30 1863

I received your letter of the 25th and was glad to hear from you and to hear that you are all well. I am in first rate health and there is not much sickness in any of the camps about here. The nites are getting quite cool and we begin to want our blankets, which we left in Washington. We have spent the last week hunting Mosby as usual without much success. Last Saturday twenty five men of this regiment went to Washington with 100 condemned horses and started back on Monday with as many new ones when about half way through they were attacked by Mosby with 60 men. They were taken by surprise but fought as well as they could under the circumstances. Each man had three horses hitched to his saddle and when the rebs charged in among them nearly all were dismounted by the horses getting tangled and thrown but some of the boys got together at an old house close by and emptied their pistols among them and then made their escape as best they could. The rebs got most of the horses and seven or eight prisoners and left four of their number dead and one wounded in the road. The wounded one was brought in to camp but has since died. Of our men two were killed and one wounded through the stomach he is not expected to recover. 10 of the men belonged to this company and the rest to the Cal. Bat.

One of the killed and the wounded one belong to this Co. As soon as this news got to camp the whole regiment started in pursuit and we chased them for three days but only got a few prisoners but they say that Mosby was severely wounded in the scrape and we have heard since that he is not expected to live but we cannot find where he is. I hope he got his dose. I receive my papers regularly every week. I wish you would send me some more stamps as I am most out. Give my love to all hands.

Sam Hanscom

Centerville Sept 6th 1863

Dear Parents,

I have not received any letter from you this week and suppose that it has been delayed on the road. We have been doing the same old round of duty as usual only we have not been out on account this week we have not heard anything of Mosby lately. Only that he is dead but that needs confirming there is no doubt that he is badly wounded the other day and may be dead. Our man that was wounded died three days ago. That makes five men that have gone in since we have been in the war and some have been discharged and others transferred to other companies so that we donít muster more than seventy five for duty. Cap Rumery is to be promoted to major and Cap Washburn is to have command of this company. Our horses are in bad condition and with the hundred that Mosby got from us leaves nearly half of the riders dismounted. I am in good health and so are most of the regiment. The weather is getting quite cool and comfortable but the flies are so thick here in the tent that I canít rite any more, give my love to all hands. 

Sam Hanscom

Centerville Sept 20th 1863

Dear Parents,

I will write you a few lines to let you know that I am well. I received your letter of the 15th the other day and was glad to hear from you and to hear that you were all well.

I have just come in from a two day scout in the mountains around Leesburgh we captured three graybacks and had several little spats with small parties and some hard runs after them but it is almost impossible to catch them among the hills. They have so many hiding places. The 3rd Bat of this regiment has gone to Md. In command of Capt Rumery acting major and I hear that he had skirmished the other day and got rather the worst of it but we have not heard any particulars of it. I hear that we are going to join him soon. The weather is getting very cool and we have had--------in the last week. I get the journal every week. My love to all.

Sam Hanscom

Fairfax October 8th 1863

Dear Parents,

I will rite you a few lines this evening to let you know that I am well it has been longer than usual since I have written but I have been out on a scout nearly all the time since my last letter. When we came in we found the camp had been moved to this place. That was on Monday and since that time I have been busy fixing for winter quarters and this evening is the first chance I have had to rite. We had a very good time on our croose although we went rather hungry some times after our squad had been out a week searching in vain for guerillas. The whole brigade came out and brought our horses to us and we went as far as snickers gap but did not meet any force of rebs although there was some three hundred on the mountain but they scattered as soon as they saw us and they would not stand to fight an equal number so the colonel ordered us to scatter among the hills in small parties and we had some fine chases after them. We stayed all day but did not catch but two of them as soon as they find they are hard pushed they will surrender without trouble. They don't want to fight but rob trains is their game. I donít know whether we will stay here this winter or not but hope we will for it is a pleasant place. You spoke about socks in your letter I have plenty that I draw from the quartermaster and they are very good ones but I must close for it is getting late. Give my love to all.

Sam Hanscom

Vienna April 15th 1864

Dear Parents,

I will write you a few lines to let you know that I am well. I received your letter last night and was glad to hear from you. I wrote you last Sunday. You must have received the letter before this. I received the box it was about ten days on the road and some of the pies were spoiled but the rest of the things were in good condition and went first rate. We are having pleasant weather now and it begins to look like spring. They have moved our picket line out to Difficult Run some two miles in advance of where we have been this winter and I think by the appearance we shall stop here some time yet. We get no news from the front now but if it holds good weather for a week or two I think we will hear from them. But I will close. Give my love to all.

Sam Hanscom

Vienna April 23rd 1864

Dear Parents,

I will write you a few lines to let you know that I am well. I received your letter of the 10th last Thursday but have had no time to answer it till today. We have been out on a scout nearly all the week around Leesburg and have taken a number of prisoners and killed two and wounded three too bad to be moved one of the prisoners is a captain. He was engaged in conscripting and gathering up all the forage he could find in the country. We had one man killed and three wounded shot while on p(artol?) in Leesburg. Last night the rebs returned our visit and attacked the picket reserves of the 16th NY wounded one man and went off with sixteen of their horses. The news got into camp about sunrise and they routed out this company to hunt down the rebs as Col Lowell took command and in less than ten minutes we were after them. Out about three miles we came upon the track of a small squad and the col. sent ten of us after them with orders to go to a certain place and if we did not find them to return to camp. We went as far as we could through the pine woods without any ----. The rebs had scattered in different directions and when we came out on the road there were only six ahead of us. An old man at work near the road told us they were half an hour ahead of us but I think he was a reb. We had got as far as our orders permitted so we went a little farther and then came back to camp. The other party has not come in yet. I hope they will catch some of the rebs. We are having warm weather now and it begins to look like spring. The peach trees are in bloom but I must close. Give my love to all.

Sam Hanscom

Falls Church June 18th 1864

Dear Parents,

I received your letter of the 8th two or three days ago and thought I would not answer til today. We have been out to the battlefields of the Wilderness and have been gone for seven days. The place is rightly named for it is a wilderness of all kinds of timber for miles around. We crossed the Raphanock at the US ford and went to Chancelerville and from there we took the plank road into the wilderness and now we could see some signs of the battle. The trees were spotted with bullets and we saw very many places were the dead had been buried. When we had gone a mile we came to where the fight had been the hottest. The rebs had rifle pits on both sides of the road and there must have been some hard fighting to have taken them and here the dead lay numbered thickly on both sides of the road blue and gray about equal. The trees were specked with bullets and none above eight feet from the ground so they must have shot well. here we found three or four teams belonging to ci------- they were loaded with stuff they had picked up on the battleground. The men said they lived fifteen miles away I presume they belong to ----. They were in good business with the buzzards robbing the dead. There were six of us in advance and we went through them for their dinner. It was ham and bisquits and butter and made us a good meal and we needed it. Our business was to recapture a lot of our wounded that the rebs had taken about five miles into the wilderness. We came to a number of tents with the reb flag flying over them but there was only thirty or forty rebel wounded there too bad to be moved our wounded had been taken away the day before and were on the way to some rebel prison. From this place we turned to the right and went across on to the pike distance of five miles to a place called Locus Grove. Here we found a little patch of clear ground and a lot more hospital tents. There were forty two of our wounded here and about forty more had died. Most of the wounded had a leg off two or three hit in the body. There was one of our sergents and two reb sergents in charge of the hospitals. Both the reb doctors were drunk when we got there and had quite a lot of rifle whiskey on hand still. The boys were glad to see us and were gladder still when we told them we were going to take them away. We loaded them into the ambulances and came back to Chancelerville on the pike. This road is where the hard fighting was done on the 6th of May and the dead were laying in the road and on both sides of it. We camped that night between Chancelerville and the river and started for home the next morning. The journal has stopped coming and I donít want it anymore.†Give my love to all.

Sam Hanscom