With the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Salem Heights in May 2013, it seems especially fitting to share excerpts from Frank’s correspondence with Fannie, his “Own Dear Wify,” in this issue’s encounter with the tangled skein.

As a brief reminder before we proceed, Francis Bloodgood Hall – Frank – was born in New York City on November 16, 1827, the son of Nathaniel Nye Hall and Margaret Bloodgood.  Frank grew up in Schenectady, attended Albany Academy, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Union College in 1852.  Frank graduated from the Princeton Theological Seminary in May of 1856, the same month he married Frances Delord Webb – Fannie.  Following an extended European honeymoon, Frank briefly served as pastor of the Rockwell’s Falls Presbyterian Church in Luzerne.  By late 1862 he was serving as chaplain in the 16th New York Volunteer Regiment.  It is at this point that these letters begin.

 Willard’s Hotel, Washington, DC

December 3, 1862

Own Dear Dear Fannie Fan,

Hubby is here safely.  I sent a telegraph last evening at about 7 o’clock saying all [is] well.  When I left you John hurried down to the cars reaching there just in time.  At first I could not get a seat, so I camped out in the aisle, setting on my bag.  But soon a gentleman left his seat to go into the sleeping car and I took his.  I felt pretty tired so I was right glad to get it.  Reached New York about ½ past five or six, went right down to Astor house, took breakfast and tried to get a poncho but no stores open.  So left for Washington at seven.  Very pleasant baggage men.  Checked my box right away when I told him it was my saddle and charged me no freight; checked it through…

I had been looking at him for some time, preparing to speak to him under that supposing, asking him if he had seen Gen. Webb on the train or something of that kind.  When he turned round to me and asked me what I thought of the President’s message (that I had just finished reading).  So, that broke the ice and we were together nearly all the way to Washington and last evening for some time in the sitting room.  He is related to Secretary Torrey and old George Beech.

Well, I went up to Fred Seward’s [Frederick Seward, Frank Hall’s Union College classmate and son of Secretary of State William Seward, was serving as Assistant Secretary of State] right after tea.  But first I must say the soldiers began to be visible at about Harve where they cross the Susquehannock and there the Connecticut 18th are stationed.  Then all along a soldier here and there along the road.  Camp fires, tents &c.  The Relay House looked quite natural as we passed and then at Annapolis Junction were the NY Seventh.

 Willard’s Hotel, Washington, DC

December 3, 1862

 Own Dear Wify,

I am expecting to leave here tomorrow morning at 8 o’clock and reach Falmouth at about 10 o’clock.  The boat leaves at 8 and at 9 o’clock.  I was not ready in time to go off today.

I went down to the foot of 6th Street at about 2 o’clock to find out how I was to go and found a boat (not a government boat) just ready to go down as far as Alexandria and supposing that it might expedite matters and as the fare was only 25 cents, I went down hoping to catch the Aquia Creek boat or something that might be going.  However, I gained nothing but the sail and the sail hook, as far as regards progress, but it seemed quite providential in one respect.  Coming back I saw a man looking at me and soon he came up the ladder and addresses me.  It was Quarter Master Delancy of the 118th Regiment from Plattsburgh.  He told me his Regiment was at [the] chain bridge, about 5 miles above Washington.  The Regiment with my Luzerne men in [it].  Since I had nothing to do I determined to go up and see them all.  I left my saddle box down at the wharf in care of the government agent, so as to be ready for the 8 o’clock boat and then returned to Willard’s and had dinner and met Col. Roberts there, or rather Brig. Gen. Roberts.  He seemed glad to see me, asked after you and wanted me to go and see Mrs. Roberts, but I told him I was going out to see the 118. So immediately after dinner I went up to the Provost Marshall’s office to get a pass, but one in the office told me as the regiment was on this side of the river I would not need a pass.  So I went to Georgetown and thence by a one horse wagon and darkie to the chain bridge where I found that the 118th was on the other side of the river and that I would need a pass.  I had with me my pass as Chaplain to headquarters at Falmouth. I produced that and asked for a guard which was at once given me, two soldiers escorting me up [to] headquarters called Fort Ethan Allen, on the sacred soil of Virginia.  I was soon in the camp of the 118th

I saw Dr Moore and Col Kerne and Guinness and Jimmy Taylor.  Oh how glad the two latter were to see me and so was Dr. Moore.  His tent was really delightful.  It looked like an old fashioned room with an old fashioned fire place of huge proportions and a huge fire in it.  They were in winter quarters.  The Dr. tells me they are waiting for me, he thinks.

I went over also to the camp of the 169th, to see Chaplain Eaton, the son of our old Methodist Minister at Luzerne and oh how glad he was to see me too.  We acted as if it was quite a treat to see somebody.  I enclose the pass I received while at headquarters there, to return over the chain bridge to Washington tonight…

In the bridge they have two doors they can shut with musket holes or loop holes to fire through and at the other end they have two cannon looking hard nearby so as to sweep right through the whole length of the bridge if needful…

Guinness is orderly of the 118 and is being made a tent.  You would be surprised to see how nicely these fellows are living.  Little canvas houses and most of them with enormous old fashioned birch fireplaces in them.  Oh what a beautiful night it has been, clear moonlight.  I would love to have wify to have seen all with hubby.  I enjoyed it.  And all things have gone so finely.  All things seem to fit I so nicely.  Met people just in right time and right people &c…

 Friday Morning, December 5, 1862

I started from Willard’s at about ½ past seven in company with a youth Mr. Woods (a son of Bradford R. Woods of Albany) who was going on to a station just beyond Aquia Creek landing to meet some relative in the army.  A.M. arrived at the foot of 6th Street.  It was not long to find the general tent.  Zepher glided off with us over the Potomac on the way to the mouth of Aquia Creek.  We soon past Fort Washington and near Mt Vernon and we went on past the many points of interest.  Till at about eleven o’clock we reached Aquia Creek landing.  We saw many of the old burned posts remaining from the bon fire the rebels made of the wharf.  And also we saw the gun bits laying about and the dock covered with government spares and contrabands.

It was not long before we were close along the wharf and stewards formed their lines to receive us about in the same way as some of their brothers had seen us off at the Washington dock.  After waiting in vain to have some one take my things off I at last obtained the contrabands to pick up my saddle box and we skedaddled off for nearly a quarter of a mile to be in time to get them onto the train that was about starting.  There seemed to be the wildest confusion and at last my box was safely deposited on the top of some pork barrels in an open truck and myself mounted on top of it.  There were not passenger cars just freight cars and trucks and everyone had to look out for himself.

Soon we started off, regiment after regiment encamped along the road and in about an hour and a half reached Falmouth, from which I could just see the steeples of Fredericksburg over the hill.  I longed to go up to the top of the hill and look down on the city but there was not time as the train was going right back.

On account of the difficulty of finding out anything I had gone too far.  The dispatcher waited for me a few minutes to get my things on again and then we return[ed] with one car as far as the bridge just south of the 15th NY regiment…I hurried the box off as soon as possible and met a young officer who told me the 16th was in motion with Franklin’s Division and that they had passed down towards Belle Plain.  His corporal sent with four men to get my box and valise on the wagon train but it was too late so I had to leave the things in charge of the officer who proved to be Captain Ketchum, a son of Hiram Ketchum of NY.

Then barely started out on foot and then his first soldiering began.  It was soldiers and camp and squadrons of cavalry all over and oh what desolation.  The whole country cut up and such roads.  I hurried on past trains and regiments and sometimes passing things where lines of men stopping on either side of the road.  I asked many questions but few could tell me anything.  But at last I heard definitely that the 16th were in the advance of the column and so on I went after them…

Then, I wandered through the different regiments, asking where the 16th NY was and after being misdirected several times, at length when I had gone nearly ¾ of a mile and further, I reached the point, for I stepped up to a camp fire in front of a marque and asked an officer standing there if this was the 16th Regiment.  When he replied yes and then I asked where I could find Major [Frank] Palmer, when to my surprise the officer extended his hand and said “Why Mr. Hall, how do you do.”  It was the Major himself.  He immediately introduced me to the other officers…We sat down together round the fire and talked over the events of the day till quite late, and my relation to all became, I may say, immediately very pleasant…

Well to return now to the morning of the 6th, the day after our first night on Belle Plain.  Early in the morning, I went to Dr. Crandall’s tent and asked him to let me take his horse old Zollicoffer.  We had seen a horse in a stable on the way over and I thought I would go back before breakfast and see if it was worth anything and buy it if it was and it could be bought.  I had a splendid ride, my first on old Zollicoffer…

At breakfast I happened to ask Dr. Crandall, (not supposing that he would sell his horse), happened to ask him what he valued him at.  When he said he valued him at $150, I told him at once that I would give him that price for him when to my surprise, a few days afterwards he consented to sell him to me.  He said he would not have sold him out of the regiment.

It is a great black horse with strong legs and easy gate and very fully quite sound and about 6 years old.  Just what I want and it seems as if God has very surely provided for me.  The horse can outrun any thing in the regiment, is accustomed to the battlefield, don’t wind among the cannon and shells, as he well showed shortly after and is finely trained, reins very well and my rig out, they tell me is complete.

Well after my ride of the sixth I took breakfast and soon we moved down further and camped nearer the landing and the Major built a fire place and that night Pliny Moore, Lieutenant barney and myself slept spoon fashion under blankets and upon cedar boughs in the middle of the Colonel’s tent.  The Colonel Drilled us before going to sleep with orders “prepare to spoon.”  “Spoon &c &c.”  All turning over at the word…

Monday, I went round with papers sent for the regiment and also took a ride on the Major’s horse, with Colonel Seaver and Dr. Crandall and the adjutant over to General Franklin’s head quarters and saw Colonel Seaver mustered in as [a] full Colonel of the regiment that day in the evening.  That day, the 8th, Dr. Crandall concluded to sell me his horse and so I took old Zollicoffer into my possession…

 

Lightly edited by John Krueger