March 1864


Leaves unit, takes civilian job at 22nd Army Corps headquarters with significant increase in pay.

Headquarters Department of Washington,
Washington, D. C., March 4, 1864

Dear Annie,

Copy_of_March204201864-1I told you not to write me until you should hear from me again. Now I am sorry for it for I have been brute enough not to write as I promised, but you must excuse me. I have had a busy time of it, since I wrote you last month. I have succeeded in getting detached at Headquarters, Department of Washington, and here I am O.K. a Citizen once more, and a salary of 85 dollars per month –better than $13, I fancy.

Copy_of_March204201864-2I waited until I could inform you of this, and therefore you will excuse me. Now my dear, you must write to me at once if you ain’t so mad, but I pray you ain’t. I hope you will make it up, that’s a good Annie. There. I am forgiven.

In my next, I shall give you particulars. [I’m in] too much of a confounded hurry just now. The mail is just leaving. My respects to Miss Phillips & Harry Evans.

Copy_of_March204201864-3My love to you 1,00,000,0000

Address to me [at] Headquarters, Department of Washington, Washington, D. C.

Good Bye Annie

Write soon to William

P. S. The Soldier’s Uniform is “not” Citizen Once More!!! (Feather Beds,) and Hot muffins for breakfast and Buck Wheat Cakes


Describes life of leisure working as a civilian in Washington for military department, attends Sanitary Fair at Patent Office, influx of recruits raise optimism in Washington.

Headquarters Department of Washington,
Washington, D. C., March 10, 1864

Dear Mrs. Richards,

March2010201864-1Since I wrote you last, things have changed with Phillips, of which, you are no doubt acquainted, so, I shall only remark that I am free once more, and very happy. I am under the impression that “this is the winter of my discontent” & “grim visaged war hath smoothed his wrinkled front,” (I heard Booth get that off in contempt, but I felt “totherway.”) ♠

I will now try and give you the programme for the day, as I have it now. At 7 a.m. [is] breakfast bell, but which is not obeyed ‘till 8, or ½ past. Next comes the morning paper & a cigar, feet elevated in true “Yankee Style.” Then [I make] for the office at 10 a.m. [At] 12 [noon] lunch. 4 p.m. business over. 5 p.m. dinner, [and] then the evening spent promiscuously, but not wickedly. Surely the horrors of war are “non.”

The General ♣ coming is loved by us all, (and the women folks, for he is the handsomest officer of the army). He is a gentleman every inch of him.

March2010201864-2I was to [the] Sanitary Fair ♥ held at the Patent Office, night before last, and tried the Wheel of Fortune, and was lucky enough to get nothing, but there was no standing the inviting look of the young lady that had charge of the “macheen,” so I tried again, to fail, for merely a look of droll sympathy from her. The fair is a success, I believe. No less than 2 or 3,000 visitors daily go there, fee 25 cents. Besides the income of that never satisfied Wheel of Fortune & Raffle dice, I should say there were over 40 stands, all presided over by a trio of “the Graces.” The hall is decorated by Rebel & Union banners & Battle flags — tattered and torn — & muskets, bayonets, & swords, are arranged around in the most beautiful devise; and with the “mottos” music, & pretty saleswomen you can’t help be patriotic.

March2010201864-3I enclose you a card, which caused me to feel like crying for the poor little dears. There is something so pathetic about the picture, and poetry accompanying it. I shall contribute one of these days some others for the Album. I have the hope of again seeing you before the year is out. [William] Davis will be home on furlough soon (ain’t I kind to let [your daughter] Susie know of it, so as to — well, another time.) I hope he will enjoy himself, I would.

March2010201864-4We do business here in grand style. A corps of over 50,000 “enlisted” recruits come down & report here, an average of 700 per day. The army is stronger for the coming campaign than ever it was so cheer up. The old Union is safe, and the “Rebs” are going to catch pepper next month. Everything is hopeful. I hope to hear from you very soon, it does me good to have a letter from you, for I regard you as my best & dearest friends.

The old Union is safe, and the “Rebs” are going to catch pepper next month.

My love to you & Mr. Richards & Nettie and Susie & Jennie and Mr. Roberts.

Good bye, my dear Mrs. Richards and God bless you all.

I am, yours very truly, — William B. Phillips


♠ Though Edwin Booth, the more famous of the Booth family of actors, may have been the one to contemptuously utter this famous line from Richard III, it is recorded that John Wilkes Booth appeared as King Richard in a production of Richard III at Ford’s Theatre in Washington on 2 November, 7 November, and 13 November 1863. William Phillips was known to be stationed at Fort Bunker Hill during this timeframe as his good friend William Davis wrote in early November that Phillips was aggressively seeking a furlough from his commanding officer.

♣ On March 9, 1864 (the day before this letter was written), President Lincoln promoted U. S. Grant to the newly revived rank of Lieutenant General and on March 10 was made General in Chief of the Armies of the United States, taking over the strategic direction of the Federal war effort. Grant’s plan was simple. He appointed General Sherman to take his old job in command of the Federal armies in the Western Theater, and ordered them to advance against the Confederate Army of Tennessee defending Atlanta. Grant would accompany General Meade in a “never look back” campaign against Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia defending Richmond.

♥ The Sanitary Fair was held at the Patent Office for the benefit of the Christian Commission and District Volunteers. President and Mrs. Lincoln attended the closing ceremonies of the Fair on Friday, 18 March 1864.

Scene from Sanitary Fair held in Brooklyn in 1864

Scene from Sanitary Fair held in Brooklyn in 1864




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