Guide to the Jabez N. Smith Papers, RG 295

Listed by:  Paul Martin, Michaelle Nelson
Date:  October 2001

Date Span:  1862 - 1865

Size of Collection: 95 items

Biographical Sketch:  Smith served as a private in Company I, 35th Massachusetts Infantry, during the Civil War.

Scope / Content:  Letters from Smith to his family, posted from Camp Nelson, KY, on his way to Atlanta, GA; and from North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, DC.  He discusses his life in the military and illuminates issues in morale, communication difficulties, military medical treatments, and general attitudes of his times.  He also addresses the problems he anticipated in returning to civilian (i.e., "normal") life after his service experiences.  Also includes a number of letter fragments, and three letters from Smith's sister, Olive, as well as some genealogical documents of the Smith and Nye families.


Folder 1.    April 1862   (2), Transcripts 

Apr. 16, 1862.  Warrenton Junction, VA. Smith to father.  Though only 40 miles from Washington, DC, and only 2 miles from the railroad station, mail service has been very poor.  Food has been surprisingly scarce.  The Battle of Pittsburgh (Shiloh) was at least not a loss.  He thinks Gen. McClellan will soon prevail.  His unit had a review, but has not been practicing much.

Apr. 20, 1862.  Warrenton Junction.  Smith to father.  He has received 3 letters, including one dated 13 April.  He has written to officer’s commission.  He has received 2 month’s pay.  They are a “Home Guard” unit, attached to Gen. Bank’s division.  He thinks Gen. McClellan’s plans will gain a great victory.

Apr. 27, 1862.  Warrenton Junction, Va.  Smith to father.  Weather has improved, but the land is damp and swampy.  Gen. McClellan is moving slowly, in order to reduce loss of lives.  He expects Yorktown to fall.  His unit may be sent to another region, or reorganized.

Folder 2.   April 1862 (3),   Originals of above.

Folder 3. August 1862 (2)

Aug. 26, 1862.  Camp Casey.  Smith to parents.  His unit arrived in Washington 2 days earlier and marched 10 miles across the Potomac.  It was hot and dusty, and many soldiers fell out along the way.  He did all right.  The land they marched over is not “worth fighting for.”

Aug. 31, 1862.  Arlington Heights, VA.  Smith to parents.  His unit moved nearer Washington, and is detailed to guard the long bridge over the Potomac.  Nearly 4,000 head of cattle were driven across the bridge to keep them from the Rebels.  Many troops have crossed the bridge to go reinforce Gen. Pope.  He heard that Gen. Jackson surrendered with 7,000 troops.

Folder 4.  September 1862 (5)

Sept. 5, 1862.  Arlington Heights, VA.  Smith to parents.  His unit has been digging rifle pits planned for 4 miles, or maybe up to 10 miles.  He visited the 13th Regiment and saw some friends.  They had been whipped badly, and they said Gen. McDowell was a traitor and should be shot.  He told his parents that newspaper accounts of military actions are not accurate.

Sept. 8, 1862.  Leaseborough. Smith to Parents.  His unit marched through Washington for a few miles.  He thinks they are now in Gen. Burnside’s division.

Sept. 9, 1862.  Brookville.  Smith to parents.  About 10 regiments have passed by.  His unit marched 10 miles today.

Sept. 20, 1862.  Porterstown, MD.  Smith to parents.  The unit was in 2 rifle battles.  He has been in the hospital.  Many officers were wounded, including the lst Lt. The Rebels had many losses and were driven across the river.  Heavy cannon fire four miles away occurred this morning.

Sept. 21, 1862.  Antietam, MD.  Smith to parents.  He is still in the hospital, but getting around helping with the wounded.  He is about 3 miles from the battle ground at Antietam Bridge.

Folder 5. October 1862 (5)

Oct. 1, 1862.  Antietam.  Smith to parents.  He is now out of the hospital and on guard duty.  President Lincoln visited the camp recently.  A person from home is coming to pick up a soldier’s body.  25 ambulances full of wounded just passed by.  He needs some stamps.  It is washing day and he must do some of his clothes.  He thinks the troops may moved to Harpers Ferry.

Oct. 6, 1862.  Pleasant Valley, VA.  Smith to parents.  This is a continuation of the Oct. 1 letter.  Sutlers are charging high prices, such as $1.20 for 2 pounds of butter.  He hasn’t had a chance to get this and the earlier letter sent out.  He thinks a Mr. Poplit will carry it home.  He asks for a knife/fork/spoon all-in-one combo to carry in his pocket.

Oct. 18, 1862.  Pleasant Valley, VA.  Smith to parents.  The valley is full of union soldiers, near Harper’s Ferry.  He needs a knapsack, but he was not one of the 20 men is his unit that got new ones.  He had a recent sick spell and was given medicine for it.

Oct. 27, 1862.  Knoxville, Tenn.  Smith to parents.  His regiment was under marching orders, but Smith and the other sick men were sent by train to Knoxville.  He has heard that all sick men and stragglers may be sent back to Harper’s Ferry.  He would like a furlough home, but thinks it will be impossible.

Oct. 30, 1862.  Knoxville, Smith to parents.  He is still in the hospital.  He has received no mail from home since a letter dated Oct. 3.  Some patients were sent to Washington, D.C.  He expects to be well soon, and he has a good doctor.

Folder 6.  November 1862 (4).

Nov. 7, 1862.  Knoxville. Smith to Parents.  He was moved the day before to a heated tent area near the hospital, due to overcrowding.  He has Diarrhea.  The regiment is 50 miles away, and advancing.  He needs some money in small denominations, for it is hard to get Massachusetts notes changed here.  It is snowing hard now.

Nov. 8, 1862.  Knoxville.  Smith to parents.  Don’t send the money he requested in yesterday’s letter.  He is to be sent back to Harper’s Ferry.  Yesterday he had been in the army 3 months, but it seems like 6 months.  The snow is about 3 inches deep and has stopped.

Nov. 13, 1862.  Alexandria, VA.  Smith to parents.  He was sent to Harper’s Ferry, but after that was ordered to Alexandria.  There he his in a tent hospital area.  He still needs money from home, for he as received no pay for a long time.  The regiment was paid while he was absent in the hospital, and he was not paid.

Nov. 22, 1862.  Alexandria.  Smith to parents.  He his in a convalescent camp.  He borrowed three cent to send this letter. He still needs money and would like to be sent a box of food from home.  He also needs boots, socks, underwear, and gloves.

Folder 7. December 1862 (5)

Dec. 1, 1862.  Alexandria.  Smith to parents.   A letter form home dated Nov. 18 was  received today.  The post office seems disorganized, for he also received letters in as little as 2 days.  There are five men in his tent.  They have no wood for the stove.

Dec. 8, 1862.  Alexandria.  Smith to parents.  He got a letter from home dated 27 Nov.  Some of the letters from home are being delayed for reasons he doesn’t understand.  Putting on the name of regiment’s colonel seems to delay the letters.  He heard the convalescent camp would soon be broken up.  The sicker men were sent to hospitals today.  Two of his friends are hoping for a discharge due to poor physical condition.  He has not received a box from home.

Dec. 10, 1862.  Alexandria.  Smith to parents.  It seems the camp will not be broken up, so he will remain for now.  He still has no box from home.

Dec. 16 + 19, 1862.  Dumfries, VA.  Smith to father.  He is now under Gen. Slocum, and has marched through Hillsborough, Leesburgh, Gum Swamp, and Fairfax court house.  He needs money as he has not yet been paid.  They are supposedly part of 130,000 troops following Gen. Sigel.  He would like to receive a sharp knife and some writing material and stamps.  In a postscript of Dec. 19 he says they are encamped at  Fairfax station.  A blank page book is needed that can fit in his overcoat pocket, and with a good lead pencil and an inside pocket to hold letters.

Dec. 30, 1862.  New Convalescent camp near camp Whipple.  Smith to mother.  They have spent 3 days moving at night and pitching tents at night.   Pennsylvania troops always moved to locations where tents were ready and waiting.  He tried to get paid at Washington, but did not have a proper required certificate by a doctor.  While there he visited another hospital where he was given a Christmas dinner.  He is trying to locate his knapsack from storage, and still needs money from home.

Folder 8.  January 1863. (1)

Jan. 28,  1863.  Convalescent Hospital.  Smith to parents.  He has received their letter, and was glad to hear from home.  He is not sure how to respond to their comment that his letters are short.  It is snowing hard, and roads are nearly impassable.  His quarters are good.  He will try to write more often.

Folder 9. February 1863. (1)

Feb. 18, 1863.  Convalescent Hospital. Smith to parents.  He has not heard from them, but will not wait any longer.  They are moving into another barracks.  Snow storms continue and roads are bad.  He expects to rejoin the regiment soon.

Folder 10. March 1863. (6)

Mar. 2, 1863.  Lincoln Hospital, Washington, D.C.  Smith to mother.  He is okay except  for headaches.  The hospital is 1 mile from the capital.  A sister of charity is in each ward to give medicines.  She gave him a pair of socks also.

Mar. 8, 1863.  Lincoln Hospital.  Smith to mother.  He thinks he is much better now.  The doctor is first rate.  He hopes to receive two months pay soon and will sent it home.  Maybe he will soon rejoin his regiment.

Mar. 16, 1863.  Lincoln Hospital.  Smith to mother.  It is snowing again.  He received three newspapers from her.  He is getting lonesome and sick of being in the hospital.  He asks her to put “ward 12” in addressing her letters to him.

Mar. 19, 1863.  Lincoln Hospital.  Smith to mother.  He expects to leave the hospital to rejoin the regiment tomorrow.  He sent $25.00 to her by express today.  He received 6 letters today dated from Oct. 30, 1862 to Mar.1, 1863. 

Mar. 24, 1863.  Lincoln General Hospital, Washington, D.C.  Smith to mother.  He is now in a different hospital that has the name Lincoln, so the address must include “General” in the name.  He has not received any of her letters for some time.  He received a letter of Feb. 25 from the convalescent hospital today.

Mar. 26. 1863.   Lincoln General Hospital.  Smith to mother.  His headaches continue, which sometimes make it hard to read or write.  50 New York men are to be sent from the hospital tomorrow.  He say there are soldiers here worse off than himself, so he doesn’t expect to get a furlough or discharge.

Folder 11. April 1863. (4)

Apr. 2, 1863.  Lincoln Hospital, Washington, D.C.  Smith to mother.  He again went to see the paymaster but was not paid. He has heard that persons like himself will not be discharged for health reasons, but will be detailed to work in hospitals.

Apr. 14, 1863.  Lincoln Hospital.  Smith to sister.  He has been put on guard duty every other day.  He would rather go back to his regiment.  All surrounding units and guards went to the front.

Apr. 18, 1863.  Lincoln Hospital.  Smith to mother.  He is still on guard duty, but would rather go back to his regiment.  His photographs is on the way home by Adams Express.

Apr 24, 1863.  Lincoln Hospital.  Smith to mother.  He has been told that he his detached from his regiment and must serve his time out here.  His guard duty times are 2 hours on and 4 hours off.  He needs a dollar, and hasn’t been paid yet.

Folder 12. May 1863. (2)

May 20, 1863.  Lincoln hospital.  Smith to mother.  He received some pay yesterday, but it did not include back pay.  Two Negro regiment are near the hospital, and they shake their hats at the rebels in the local prison.  He hopes his father will not endanger his health due to overwork.

May 29, 1863.  Lincoln Hospital.  Smith to mother.  He expects to be kept at the hospital.  Two Massachusetts units are helping to guard the capital.

Folder 13. July 1863. (2)

July 16, 1863.  Lincoln Hospital.  Smith to mother.  He has delayed writing for lack of news.  Some local units were alerted to go to New York to put down the draft riots.  The hospital surgeon want to keep Smith and his guards as long as possible at the hospital.  Mail has been delayed because a bridge was destroyed between Washington and Baltimore.

July 27, 1863.  Lincoln Hospital.  Smith to mother.  He admits it is hard to write to his mother due to lack of anything interesting involving his routine.  He hopes to get 4 months back pay soon.  Rumors are that members of the invalid corps will replace him and the hospital guards.  He has picked a water bucket full of blackberries.

Folder 14. August 1863 (3)

Aug. 4, 1863.  Lincoln Hospital.  Smith to mother.  He has been on guard duty every day for a week after payday.  Many soldiers went on a spree, got in trouble, spent all their money and left the guard force short handed.  An invalid corps unit is expected soon, and he may leave.  He saw a big review of 12 artillery units yesterday.

Aug. 17, 1863.  Lincoln Hospital.  Smith to mother.   He is sorry to hear his father is sick.  No change in status has happened, and he is still on guard duty.

Aug. 29, 1863.  Lincoln Hospital.  Smith to mother.  He was told last week that he would be gone the next day, but is still here.  A fence is being built around the hospital.

Folder 15. September 1863 (5)

Sept. 4, 1863.  Lincoln Hospital.  Smith to sister.  Soldiers are being sorted to determine who will return to regiments, and who will be put in the invalid corps.  Some in the latter case have missing limbs.  He is now off guard duty  and will leave soon.

Sept 7, 1863.  Cincinnati.  Smith to mother.  It took 36 hours to come here by train.  He was paid, and expects to go next to Louisville, KY, but doesn’t know where his regiment is.

Sept. 20, 1863.  Louisville, KY.  Smith to mother.  He got here by mail boat.  He is waiting to be sent to his regiment.

Sept. 24, 1863.  Lexington, KY.  Smith to mother.  He was glad to leave Louisville, but was delayed here by a derailed train engine.  2000 rebel prisoners come through Lexington two days ago.  About 40 of them have now enlisted in the union army, claiming they were originally forced to join the rebel army.  Local slaves are now working for the Union Army on the railroad.

Sept. 29, 1863.  Camp Nelson, KY. Smith to mother.  He is not yet with his regiment.  A recent battle involving Gen. Rosecrans was a loss according to the newspapers.  The New York 51st regiment is here, and some of its companies have less than 10 men left.  Local men and women are selling eggs, butter, and cooked chickens to soldiers.

Folder 16. October 1863 (3)

Oct. 13, 1863.  Camp Nelson, KY. Smith to mother.   He hasn’t received any mail from home since arriving here.  He went to the post office today also with no luck.  His tent has 15 men in it, and they built a stone fireplace for it.  The camp is near Hickman Bridge, KY.

Oct. 20, 1863.  Convalescent Camp near Hickman Bridge, KY.  Smith to mother.  He still hasn’t received mail from home, and thinks maybe it has gone to the regiment, but he is not there yet.  Some members of his regiment just came in to be put in the invalid corps.  He will go to the regiment if possible to search for mail from home.

Oct. 25, 1863.  Convalescent Camp, KY.  Smith to mother.  Still no mail from home for a month now.  They were aroused last night to repel a guerilla raid, went a mile to get guns and ammunition, then went to the bridge until seven o’clock in the morning, but saw nobody.  Meanwhile about 12 miles away some 60 rebels burned much US property including the stagecoach to Lexington.  They were wearing union army uniforms.  He needs pair of gloves.

Folder 17. November 1863 (2)

Nov. 1, 1863.  Camp Nelson, KY.  Smith to sister.  He is about to start for Knoxville, TN, with a caravan of 75 mule-drawn wagons.  It will take 15 to 20 days.  He still has no mail from home.

Nov. 11, 1863.  Barboursville, KY.  Smith to mother.  He has not traveled 60 miles as part of 150 mule-team wagons, each having 8-10 mules per wagon.  The roads are terrible.  They are 30 miles from Cumberland Gap. It is very hard work.

Folder 18. December 1863 (1)

Dec. 16, 1863.  Camp Misery.  Smith to parents.  He has received some mail from home and a box of good things.  The boots, shirts, coffee, and pies were greatly appreciated.  The mail also was very welcome.

Folder 19. February 1864 (1)

Feb. 14, 1864.  Kingston, TN,  Smith to parents.  He has been constantly moving, doing many different things.  His group was detailed by Gen Foster to haul lumber to build a bridge; to thresh wheat for the army; and to forage corn for the army’s use.  The wagons go wherever sent, and he never knows where until orders are received.

Folder 20. March 1864 (4)

March 1, 1864.  Lancaster, KY.  Smith to mother. He arrived here the day before.  His group drove livestock from Kingston, TN, to Camp Nelson and disposed of it there.  His camp is fifteen miles from Camp Nelson.  A new mule train is supposed to be outfitted for them soon.

Mar. 13, 1864.  Lancaster, KY. Smith to mother.  He is still used as a teamster.  Eight rebel deserters joined his unit, and one is a preacher.  He was last paid in Washington, D.C., and is out of stamps, and also needs steel pins.

Mar. 23, 1864.  Near Lancaster, KY.  Smith to mother.  This letter is also being sent without a stamp.  The captain is expected back tomorrow to five them their next assignment.  No mail has reached him since his letter of March 13.

Mar. 31, 1864.  Camp near Paris, KY.  Smith to mother.  They are now in a cattle fairgrounds, and are a waiting new teams.  He still hasn’t been paid.  He has heard that the 9th Corps has gone to Washington.

Folder 21. April 1864 (5)

Apr. 7, 1864.  Paris, KY.  Smith to mother.  He is now cook for a mess of eight soldiers and he is now making fresh bread to replace hard tack.  The 9th Corps passed by last week and he still wonders where they went.  He hopes to get a furlough, but some of his unit went home on unauthorized “French” leave.

Apr. 11, 1864.  Paris, KY.  Smith to mother.  He received her letter with stamps and Massachusetts money, which he is sending back because only greenbacks are accepted locally.  His health and weight are good.  He is still hoping to get paid and to be given a furlough.

Apr. 12, 1864.  Paris, KY.  Smith to mother.  Orders came today for the group to start tomorrow for Camp Nelson to fit out a train of pack mules.  He has not received her package.

Apr. 16, 1864.  Camp Nelson, KY.  Smith to mother.  When the train of mules is ready, it will start for Knoxville.  He is still a cook, but not a good one.  Several regiments are at this camp.  He asks if she has read about the Fort Pillow Massacre.

Apr. 24, 1864.  Point Burnside, KY.  Smith to mother.  He has been a the blacksmith’s shop getting mules shod.  The weather and roads are better.  They hope to reach Knoxville by May 3rd.

Folder 22. May 1864 (3)

May 4, 1864.  Camp near Loudon, TN.  Smith to mother.  They arrived at Knoxville on May 2nd after a hard trip.  Each mule carried 2 sacks of corn weighing 120 pounds each.  The next day they took six mules each and started for Cleveland, TN some 70 miles away.  There they are to fit out another mule train, and head for the army.

May 22, 1864.  Army of the Cumberland (40 miles from Atlanta).  Smith to mother.  His mule train has been very busy since leaving Cleveland, supplying ammunition to the army.  They stay very close behind the army and have been exposed to rebel shells.

May 30, 1864.  Army of the Cumberland.  Smith to mother.  They are enroute to Atlanta, GA.  The army is facing tough stands by the Rebels, who are fighting very hard before falling back.  The army is ransacking all captured towns and destroying much property.

Folder 23. September 1864 (1)

Sept. 24, 1864.  Decatur, GA.  Smith to mother.  He has signed his payroll, which stated he would be paid from Sept. 1862, which would be incorrect.  They are fitting out another train.  Rations are good and he is in good health.  The army captured several hundred bushels of wheat from an old Rebel near Jonesboro.  It was then ground into flour, and plenty of fresh soft bread is now available.

Folder 24. October 1864 (1)

Oct. 27, 1864.  Cedar Bluff, AL.  Smith to mother.  He has been on the move since leaving Atlanta on Oct. 1st  in Georgia.  They have been through Marietta, Kingston, Resaca, Rome, Sumterville, and arrived in Alabama on 20 Oct.  They have been chasing Gen Hood, and using the produce of the countryside for rations.

Folder 25. January 1865 (3)

Jan. 11, 1865.  Chattanooga, TN.  Smith to mother.  They are preparing to leave here for Eastport, MS, via Huntsville, AL. by rail.  The pack train has 150 wagons with 6 mules each to load on rail cars.  Rations were cut to his men after the corps departed.

Jan. 21, 1865.  Louisville, KY.  Smith to mother.  He arrived here the previous day after a tiring three day trips on rail cars.  They are to continue on to Washington, D.C.  He got paid $321.49, and expressed $300 of it home to his parents for their use.  He is crossing the Ohio River by boat.

Jan. 27, 1865.  Baltimore, MD.  Smith to mother.  He has just arrived here by railroad.  The cars were packed full it was very tiresome.  He and many others have colds.

Folder 26. February 1865 (2)

Feb. 3, 1865.  Washington, DC. Smith to mother.  They arrived here on Jan. 28th and are encamped near Lincoln Hospital.  There is a corral nearby, and they are working hard breaking in wild mules.  He still has a bad cold.  He hopes the parents received the money he sent from Louisville.  The corps is nearby and will probably march soon.

Feb. 21, 1865.  Soldiers Rest, Washington, DC.  Smith to parents.  They had been living in tents in cold weather in discomfort, but are now near the B + O depot.  Many of his friends are now in Lincoln Hospital.  Many Rebel deserters are coming into Washington daily, and they all seem to feel that the war is nearly over.

Folder 27. March 1865 (2)

Mar. 3, 1865.  Soldiers Rest, Washington, DC.  Smith to parents.  Things are livelier than normal due to the coming inauguration of Lincoln.  They went to the dock to load a boat, but it was across the river loading coal.  He isn’t sure what the future will be.

Mar. 17, 1865.  21st Street, Washington, DC.  Smith to parents. They are mainly working with handling supplies to be sent to the Corps.  The union forces seem to be doing well against Gen. Lee.

Folder 28. April 1865 (3)

Apr. 5, 1865.  Alexandria, VA. Smith to sister.  Everyone in Washington was excited by news of the fall of Richmond.   The capitol  and most of the city was illuminated.  Many wounded soldiers are still being unloaded here for hospitals, and hard fighting is still going on.  His mule train is being loaded to go to North Carolina.

Apr. 14, 1865.  Goldsboro, NC.  Smith to parents.  He left on a steamer from Alexandria on 7 April, arrived at Morehead City, NC, on 11 April.  They unloaded on 12 April and headed to Goldsboro.  In the harbor at Morehead some 50 union ships celebrated the victory over Gen Lee.  His unit may depart Goldsboro on 15 April for Raleigh.

Apr. 27, 1865.  Raleigh, NC.  Smith to mother.  His troops left Goldsboro on 22 April and took 4 days to cover bad roads through swampy land to Raleigh.  He received some letters dated back in January.  Everyone is sad about Pres. Lincoln’s death. Guards had to be posted to prevent soldiers from burning the town.  Deserters are coming in from Gen. Johnson’s army.  He has just heard that Gen. Johnson surrendered.

Folder 29.  May 1865 (3)

May 5, 1865.  Camp near Alexandria, VA.  Smith to mother.  He has rejoined his regiment and is happy to do so. Leaving Raleigh on 29 April, he traveled through Newbern, Fort Monroe, City Point and to Alexandria.  Few men he knew remain in his original company.  Most are German-speaking recruits.  Sherman’s troops are marching back from NC. 

May 16, 1865.  Near Alexandria, VA.  Smith to mother.  Not much is being done in camp except drills and reviews.  He is on guard duty once a week.  Everything seems to be in preparation for a grand review in the capitol.  One night every tent had candle on top, illuminating the whole camp.  Then all the regiments were out in line with a lighted candle in every rifle.  It was quite a sight.  He hopes to be home soon, but may not want to be a farmer any more.

May 29, 1865.  Alexandria, VA.  Smith to sister.  He admits to his sister that he is finding it difficult to write home while waiting for decisions on the future.  One division is to go home tomorrow.  The grand review was very good, but tiring.  His unit marched over a pontoon bridge to and from the review. He and a friend went to see Mount Vernon.


Folder 30. Jabez Smith letter fragments, 1862-1865. (5)

The most interesting of these is a hand-drawn diagram of Lincoln Hospital, Washington, DC.

Folder 31. Smith Family Letters and Nye Family genealogy (6)

Three letters are by Jabez Smith’s sister Olive.  Two others are undated.  The NYE genealogy shows how the Smith family married into the NYE family.

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