Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Paul Whipple and the 7th New Hampshire: Letter from H. W. Baker - duty at St. Augustine, Fla. 1862-1863

Battle flags of the 7th NH, 1865.
 Captain Paul Whipple and the 
Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers
in the War of the Rebellion*

September 15, 1862 - May 10, 1863
Duty in St. Augustine, Fla.
A letter signed "H.W. Baker Lt. 7th New Hampshire Infantry."  Baker would be killed later that year during the assault on Fort Wagner.

It reads in part: 
  St. Augustine, Florida, February 18, 1863...
 "....I, too, glory in being a Yankee, and glory in proclaiming it here, where the very word is detested...I see them here, eating the bread of charity and that charity coming from government that they have disowned, a government that their husbands, sons, brothers, and lovers are now in arms against - do it unblushingly and clamor about their rights!! Every mouthful ought to choke them.
Yankee though I be, I would grow my finger nails for a dinner, sooner than accept it of a man that I hated as they profess to hate us....We only garrison this old town, hel 'Old Abe' reposses Fort Marion and prevent this post being a use to Secession....More than 100 of our men have died since the Regt. was organized. The climate works noiselessly but its victims are as sure as those claimed by the bullet...We have built entrenchments to prevent a rebel dash from that direction as there are prowling bands of guerillas between us and the St. Johns. They sometimes show themselves on the otherside of the river, or on the Jacksonville wall, but they are sneaking scoundrels, used more to keep up the reign of terror in the country back of us, than with any design to operate against us. The country is very favorable for their operations...Occasionally there are patches of tolerably fertile soil on these are settled a race of people calling themselves white - a race peculiar to the South and called by the cotton lords 'Crackers' - by the negroes 'poor white trash.' They are poor, ignorant and chiefly vicious. They work but little some own a few negroes, they raise corn, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, cattle, horses and hogs. The livestock (excepting the negroes) runs at large in the woods...Since we have been here, there has been three companies of these guerillas in this region, sometimes between us and the St. Johns, at others hovering about the vicinity of Jacksonville. Once a week, a gunboat goes up the river, to prevent batteries being built along its shores. These fellows have a wholesome respect for the Gunboats, when they show themselves these valiant horseman 'skeddadle' for the back country to come back when the boat is gone..."
The letter was sold at auction in 2006. 
Baker's entry from Henry Little's Roster of the Seventh:
"Baker, Henry W. Co. E: b. Loudon; age 37; res. Boscawell; enl Nov. 7, '61, as Pri.; app. 2 Lt. nov. 12, '61 must. in Nov. 12, '61, as 2 Lt.; killed July 18, '63, Ft. Wagner, S.C."
Of the Battle of Fort Wagner, Little mentions Baker here:
"Five officers fell before reaching the moat which surrounded the work. Of the line, Captain Brown and Lieutenants Cate, Baker, Bennett, and Bryant, fell dead on or near the works. Captain Leavitt lived until he reached Charleston. Captain House died of his wounds in October, and Lieutenants Davis and Worcester died on board transports, after they were exchanged. All other wounded officers recovered. It is an historical fact that in this assault the Seventh New Hampshire lost more officers than any other regiment in any one engagement during the war" (Little, pg. 126).

*Title taken from Henry F. W. Little's regimental history The Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion. Seventh New Hampshire Veterans Association, Concord, N. H., 1896.