Guide to the O. H. Seymour Papers, RG 306

Listed by:  Dwayne Cox
Date:  9-28-1999

Date Span:  1863

Size of Collection: 15 items

Biographical Sketch:  Seymour served as chaplain of the 157th New York Infantry during the Civil War.

Scope / Content:  Letters from Seymour to his brother from various points in Virginia during the Spring and Summer of 1863.


Feb/Mar., 1863.  Seymour to Brother. Camp N.Y. Volunteers.  He Reports on his travel and activities after leaving home for military duty.  This included stops at Albany, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Va., and finally reporting to camp two miles from Acquia Creek. He visited person he knew, and got acquainted in camp as the new chaplain.

Mar.22, 1863.  Seymour to Brother. Camp, Stafford Court House, Va.  It is Sabbath day, and describes all the activities.  He can hear outside his tent.  He has established a bible class for Sabbath, and a prayer meeting for Wednesday nights.  It is raining too hard to conduct an open service today.  He visits soldiers in the hospitals, and had a funeral service.  He is in charge of a well kept soldier’s cemetery near the camp.

Apr. 20, 1863.  Seymour to brother.  Camp near Stafford Court House, Va.  He has been conducting services regularly.  He recently held services for soldiers on picket duty two miles from camp.  He has a good rain poncho, and plenty of blankets.  Wood is provided for he and the Colonel for two dollars a week.  They had received orders to pack up and march, but it was cancelled.  He had plenty of reading materials, but asks his brother to send postage stamps.

May 15, 1863.  Seymour to Brother.  Stafford Court House, VA.  He has been very busy.  One day he rode twenty miles visiting regiment division hospital, and artillery battery, and officiated at a funeral service.  He talked to a union surgeon captured and just released by the rebels.  He said the rebels are still in high spirits, and willing to fight hard.  They are taking green back dollars from dead union soldiers on battlefields, and buying things with them.  He is sorry Richmond was not captured.

May 19, 1863.  Seymour to Brother.  He just returned from a four-day leave of absence in Washington, D.C.  He mentions many people he met there.  At camp a stack of rifles fell over him, and the bayonets cut his uniform pant badly.  He needs a replacement uniform badly.  He must visit the boys in the hospitals at Washington again soon.

May 25, 1863.  Seymour to brother.  Stafford Court House, Va.  Some private financial matters are discussed.  The division and corps hospitals  are at brooks station one and a half miles away, and he visits there daily.  Some two hundred soldiers are to be transferred to Washington today.  Two died during the night.

June 5, 1863.  Seymour to Lon.  Hospital, Camac Woods, Pa.  He has been in this hospital with severe dysentery for several days.  He also has had high fever and Neuralgia pain in the head and shoulder.  He hopes to recover soon, and hopes his new uniform pants will arrive by then.

June 10, 1863.  Seymour to Brother.  Officer’s hospital, Camac Woods, Pa.  ( This letter is faded and nearly unreadable).   He is still in the hospital and hopes to leave soon.  He hopes Gen. Hooker will give Gen. Lee an angry big kick.  Some rebel prisoners here seem to thin nobody her has ever been to the war.

June 19, 1863.  Seymour to Lon.  Some Hospital, PA.   He acknowledges receiving a package of letters from folks at home.  It is raining, muddy, and he hopes to visit his regiment soon.  He is getting lonesome. 

June 22, 1865.  Seymour to Lon.  Same Hospital, PA.  He is sorry to be away from his Regiment so long, especially since they have been in battle.  He thinks he may be discharged from the hospital tonight.  Maybe Vicksburg will fall soon, and Lee will suffer a defeat.

July 5, 1863.  Seymour to brother.  Frederick city, MD.  He is out of the hospital, but had a bad fever two days ago.  He is feeling better, and needs to be with the regiment.  There is a large military hospital here, and many wounded from Gettysburg have arrived.

July 10, 1863.  Seymour to brother.  Camp Near Antietam.  He is finally back with the regiment.  Yesterday he left Frederick and walked, rode different ambulances, wagons, and walked over south mountain to find his regiment.  It was decimated from battle, The Lt. Colonel is missing, and the major is now in charge.  Today the regimetn marched several miles and expects more fighting soon.

July 22, 1863.  Seymour to brother.  Camp near Goose Creek, VA.  Last mail received by his unit was July 17.  The regiment is resting after chasing Lee, fighting at Gettysburg, and chasing Lee after Gettysburg without success.  The regiment now numbers about 200.  Food is better now.  Newspaper reporters are as thick as locusts in a plague in Egypt.

Aug. 8, 1863.  Seymour to Brother.  Steamer on the Potomac.  His unit received orders to march two days ago, and is now in the 1st division, 2nd Brigade, commanded by Gen. Gordan.  After some starts and stops, the division was loaded on steamers and sent toward Fort Monroe, Va.  It is very crowded aboard with soldiers, baggage, and horses.  At the end of the letter, they had just arrived at Fort Monroe.  Future destinations or plans for the regiment were not known.

Notes on Content

All of Seymour’s letters are to his brother (Lon).  They reflect a man of education, religious beliefs, and concern for others.  He appears to have taken his duties as a military chaplain very seriously, which was not a universal trait for Civil war chaplains.  He was conscientious in visiting wounded soldiers in army hospitals, and when confined to a hospital himself, was impatient to return to his regiment.  Since the letters only cover about six months, it is unknown what his subsequent army service was.  The letters do give insight into the activities and views of a civil war chaplain.

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