Harry F. Evans writes to his cousin Annie Richards. The USS Susquehanna tows the Monitor Monadnock out of New York Harbor.
Harry F. Evans was a cousin of Annie Richards. Although the name of the seaman pictured at right is not written on the carte-de-visite, it is most likely that of Harry Evans. Clearly Harry came from the Scranton area which is where the image was taken. It is likely he was born in Wales. He may have served early in the Civil War aboard the Cumbria in the gulf coast and then later joined the crew of the USS Susquehanna.
USS Frigate Susquehanna ♠
East River, New York
November 9, 1864
Dear Annie ,
Having made another grand flourish on the coast from Fortress Monroe to this place, I considered it my duty to advise you of it. Orders were received Sunday last from the Flagship [USS Malvern], Rear Admiral Porter ♣ [commanding,] to prepare for sea. We had only then changed our blue jumpers and [were] about repairing to the berth deck to listen to the chaplain ♥ — who the boys call “Holy Joe” — when the order was given to secure the Battery and “up anchor,” which was done in 45 minutes. Busy time that!
We took the Monitor Monadnock in tow and proceeded to sea. We had to lay at Sandy Hook for 10 hours having encountered a heavy fog. We were sadly disappointed in our anticipation of the scenes at the polls. ♦ However, we put our delay to interest. We lowered several boats and went fishing. Our luck was bad. Our mess made out a fine dinner, though small. We are twenty in the mess, and each carried a pleasing countenance after the treat. But now, it is over, and we have to feel satisfied with Salt Horse and Hard Tack, which rarely produces smiles & satisfaction. The bum boat † is expected every moment, and those that possess a moderate purse will ‘ere long find it shallow. But no bum boat will be able to make me look sick.
If you answer this soon, I am going to disclose a secret in my next letter that I am certain will tickle you. Remember me with love to all, trusting to your indulgence. I remain, in haste, your fond cousin, — Harry F. Evans
You will please excuse this hasty note. Please inform me of H. D. Jone’s whereabouts, if you know. Also, the “Schooley Battery Boys.”
LETTER 33 NOTES
♠ The USS Susquehanna was launched April 5, 1850. She served in the Mediterranean Squadron from 1856-1858 and 1860-1861 and then was part of the Atlantic Blockading Squadron in 1861. She participated in the capture of Hatteras Inlet August 28-29, the bombardment and occupation of Port Royal, S.C. on November 7, 1861. She served in the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron from 1862 to 1863. She was part of the fleet that attacked Sewell’s Point on May 8, 1862. After being out of commission from May 1863 to July 1864, she again joined the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron until the end of the war. She was part of a failed attack on Fort Fisher, NC, December 24-25, 1864. She also participated in the attack on Fort Fisher January 13-15, 1865. Following the end of the Civil War, the USS Susquehanna sailed for Brazil and operated on the Atlantic coast of South America until returning home and decommissioning on 30 June 1866. Recommissioned on 2 November 1866, the ship ended her active service as flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron. She was decommissioned January 14, 1868.
Side-wheel steamer; First-class sloop made of wood.
Rate, rig, etc: First; bark.
Length 257 feet; beam 45 feet; depth 26 feet
Draft: Loaded, 20′ 6″; light, 18′
Speed: Maximum, 12.5 knots; average 8 knots
Battery: June 8, 1863: 2 150-pdr. Parrot rifles, 12 IX-inch Dahlgren smooth bore, 1 12-pdr rifle; August 4, 1864: add 1 12-pdr rifle; January 13, 1865: 2 100-pdr Parrott rifles, 12 IX-inch Dahlgren smooth bore; March 31, 1865: Similar to August 4, 1864; December 31, 1865: 2 XI-inch Dahlgren smooth bore, 12 IX-inch Dahlgren smooth bore, 1 30-pdr Parrot rifle, 2 12-pdr rifles.
♣ Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter commanded the Mississippi River Squadron during the Vicksburg Campaign in 1862-3, and during the Red River Campaign in 1864. He commanded the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron in 1864 and took part in the capture of Fort Fisher in January 1865. The picture at right shows Rear Admiral Porter standing on the deck of his flagship USS Malvern.
♥ The chaplain on the USS Susquehanna in January 1865 was a Baptist named John D. Beugless (1836-1887). He sought and received his appointment as chaplain to 2d Regiment of Rhode Island Volunteers in 1863. He was wounded in the arm at the Battle of the Wilderness on 5 May 1864 and was mustered out on 17 June 1864. He received his commission as a Navy Chaplain on 2 July 1864. “Holy Joe” has been used to refer to a military chaplain since at least the Civil War.
♦ The USS Susquehanna did not make it back to port in New York City until the day following the Presidential Election on 8 November 1864 in which incumbent Abraham Lincoln defeated the Democratic candidate, George McClellan. Riots were expected to occur in New York City but the elections were surprisingly peaceful.
† According to an 1811 dictionary, a bum boat was a small “boat attending ships to retail greens, drams, &c., and commonly rowed by a woman; a kind of floating chandler’s shop.”
Thomas Richards congratulates William on being paroled from Confederate prison camp, informs him of attempts to communicate with him while imprisoned and also to send money, encourages him to return home as soon as possible.
Hyde Park, [Pennsylvania]
March 11, 1865
It is with the greatest pleasure that I write to acknowledge the receipt of your letter which came to hand last night informing me that you had been paroled and [are] once more, as you say, in “God’s land.”
I can well believe you, at seeing the old flag and being released, that your emotions were such as but few ever experience. God grant that you [will] never be in their hands again. The last I heard from you was dated November 12 which I received about a month ago. I immediately answered it and sent you $20 in gold at your request, but I do not suppose you got it as Sherman soon after moved that way.
We are all well here as when you last saw us, and all anxious to see you and bear a hand at bringing you around again. So come as soon as you can. [William] Davis is here at Eynous N___ and is very happy to hear from his old chum. He wrote to you many times but I presume the letters were miscarried.
Give my best respects to D. Garhert and Thomas Evans. ♠ I sent T. Evans’ letter to his wife last night. She is well but has not heard from him in a long time and had almost given him up for dead.
As I expect to see you here soon, I will not enlarge so goodbye. Come on as soon as you can and let us have a grip of your fist ever more.
From your friend, — D. T. Richards and the whole family
LETTER 34 NOTES
♠ Thomas Evans was a member of Company H, 2d Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery. He was born in Wales in 1839. Prior to the war, he resided in Plymouth, Luzerne, Pennsylvania and labored as a miner.
Harry F. Evans writes to his cousin Annie Richards. Apologizes for offending Annie in previous correspondence, introduces her to a shipmate who is anxious for a “cheerful correspondent.”
USS Frigate Susquehanna
Brooklyn, New York
March 12, 1865
I can write but little this time. I sometimes think that the severity of my last to you has made matters worse for me. I can only conjecture, but I hope I am wrong. At least I would be obliged to you for an explanation as my doubts increase daily through the long silence. If I spoke rudely or immodestly through my letter, I cast myself at your feet humbly for pardon, with the assurance of utter innocence. Nothing that could tend to harrow your feelings was ever entertained in my mind, much less communicate it. If I have said anything of the kind, I will charge my pen with the offence which must have written what my mind nir dictated. My defense is weak, I must admit. But since my recollection is so murky, what can I do? Well, I will exercise patience and wait your reply which may clear up the whole affair and leave me in the sunshine.
I would like to hear that old blind guitarist again, wouldn’t you? But I hope the next time we go together. My funds will be increased. Didn’t I look sheepish that evening when those specimens of the Black art was presented for sale by the amiable Miss Price, our Preceptress? Our Lady Carver’s furs came very useful to play with at that moment. Well, I had to resort to something to avoid the plate. Never mind Annie. We’ll drown the reflections in a sleighride some day and will try in the future to avoid attending such places unprovided with the needful. – So much.
You challenged twenty more correspondents through your last to me – at least I understood so. I have found you one – a countryman at that and a shipmate of mine. Will you allow me to introduce him to you through my lines, feeling assured you will never regret it? He has begged of me to make him acquainted with some of my friends. The same is of nothing more than [his] desire for a cheerful correspondent. I hope you will gratify him with a line through me. By way of introduction, he has adopted the South America plan of offering a small gift to commence with.
The gift is a Lithograph engraving of the bombardment of “Fort Fisher” which I trust you will accept merely as a gift. He is a thorough seaman and holds a No. 1 Petty Officer ♣ in this ship, which position he has reached by promotion from seaman. He possesses good qualities and exercises moral habits. His education has been acquired in a cock-pit of an English Man-of-war where he has had the honour of service twelve years – and most of that period in national strife. He has participated in many bloody battles in the Russian, China wars, & the present Rebellion. Miss Mary Ann Morgan will give you the picture, but knows nothing of you and it.
[My shipmate’s name is] David Jones – 24 years, height 5 ft. 11 in.
Please excuse the scribbling. I will do better the next time. Write soon as we expect to leave soon. About the 30th inst., it is rumored that we will go on a Brazil station.
LETTER 35 NOTES
♣ The rank of Chief Petty Officer did not become effective until 1893. Prior to that, it was known as No. 1 Petty Officer.
William B. Phillips informs Annie Richards of his whereabouts and activities since being paroled, mentions his impending discharge and possible employment opportunity. Gains US Citizenship.
Office of Commissary General of Prisoners
Washington, D. C. April 9, 1865
My Dear Annie,
I arrived at Philadelphia yesterday morning and had the great pleasure of meeting Will [Davis] & [your sister] Sue. They left though unawares to me. I was sorry for that. Will you please mention that to them.
I left Philadelphia at 1 P.M. for Annapolis, but at Wilmington I met my old friend Mr. Baker of Philadelphia who made me proceed here, and here I arrived at 8 P. M yesterday. Here I have met some very dear old friends and I am all right and enjoying myself.
This morning I saw the Major in [regard to discharges] and by all appearances [and] I believe there will be no need to go to Annapolis, Maryland. He told me he would give me an order to go to Major Vincent, A. A .G., U.S.A., ♠ and there at about 11 A.M., I expect to be made a Citizen of these United States.
I can’t say Annie dear when I shall come to Hyde Park – maybe in a week or two – but you can expect a letter from [W.] P. every 2 or 3 days.
I saw an old friend of mine this morning, in this office, and he tells me that I am sure of employment here, at $1200 or $1400 per Annum, if I will succeed. I shall stay in Washington for the present but don’t be alarmed. I was coming to see you, and then dear Annie we can have things fixed. Then I hope that my dear Annie and me will be happy in each other’s love. About Wednesday I shall write you again.
Please address Headquarters, Department of Washington.
Write soon, dear. Adieu, Yours till death — William
Excuse a bad pen, and [my] hurry.
LETTER 36 NOTES
♠ Major Thomas McCurdy Vincent (1832-1909) graduated from the US Military Academy in 1853. After the Battle of Bull Run, he took a position as a staff member of the Adjutant General’s Office at the War Department in Washington, D.C. in charge of recruiting volunteer troops to serve during the Civil War. Later in the war, he was placed in charge of the “Muster-out” process.
He had a long post-war career working in Washington D. C. as a staff officer in the Assistant Adjutant-General’s office handling everything from pension claims to granting of Medals of Honor.
William B. Phillips describes his return to Wales and hometown reception by family and friends, mentions his plans for visiting relatives during the coming weeks, and finally closes by asking Annie to marry him when he returns to Pennsylvania.
Cwmavon, near Taibach
May 27, 1865
My Dear Annie,
You will be kind enough to excuse me for not writing to you at once on arriving home, and delaying two weeks. I thought that in delaying a little, I could give you more news, and that I would feel better, for since I am home my health has been very poorly indeed, owing, I suppose to the fact of traveling so much. My dear, I am happy to tell you that since Monday last I am gaining very rapidly indeed and hope when I am back in Hyde Park to let you see a hale, red cheeked young man, fresh from the country.
I arrived home on Friday two weeks yesterday, and of course I was received with the greatest joy. As soon as it became known that I arrived in the place, the street up to our house was perfectly crammed with people, and I could with difficulty reach the house. When I arrived in the house, my mother fell on my neck, and my sisters had hold of my arms, and all of us crying, which lasted as much as ten minutes. My poor mother & father were besides themselves with joy [and] so were my sisters. And [ever] since then until today, I am constantly meeting some dear old friends and we have a talk about old times. Then I must say of my adventures in America, and you ought to see the crowd gaping. I am a regular lion with them; but I am getting tired of it, and wish I was back again.
I start from Liverpool 5 weeks from next Wednesday, and hope to make Hyde Park in 7 weeks from next Wednesday. I have been to the seaside, my dear Annie, and the shells there are very scarce, but I am going to my uncle’s [home] ♠ in Pembrey next Monday week, and shall secure some for you. I expect staying there a fortnight. I leave for Aberdere next Tuesday. I will stay there a week or less. I missed my uncle in Liverpool by one day only. That was too bad. Ere this reaches you, you will have seen him, and please give him my love.
The young folks who were my companions when I was here before are now all married, which, bye the bye, must be my fate shortly with my dear Annie, if I can get your consent. I flatter myself you love me as I love you, and knowing each other now 3 years, I suppose if we stay a courting we won’t make the matter better. So I am going to “pop the question.” It is very simple, but I ask it with all the solemnity due it, and here it is — Will you become my wife? I have here promised you my hand, and hope to receive a favorable answer. I leave the arrangements as to time and place in your hands, but hope that you will not make it long, say within 4 months from now. I shall wait impatiently for an answer, and hope you won’t delay. Any particulars, or arrangements you may wish to make I shall be happy to conform to them, and hope if you have the least suggestion you would wish to communicate, that you would not hesitate the least in letting me know them.
You can let Maggie in the secret, but, my dear, do as you please. I hope now you will send me an answer without delay, and then I leave for America, as soon as received and then? and then? for a glorious old time. Dear Annie, you see that so far as I am concerned the book of fate decides you shall be Mrs. Phillips, and I hope you are not disgusted with the name. I hope, my dear Annie, and future little wife, you will meet all my advances with a response, and that our aim shall be always to make each other happy. I promise you my best endeavors and hope they will receive your best attention and regards.
I don’t know as to what [work] I will have to do when I arrive in Hyde Park again. I saw Mr. Allbright ♣ of the Delaware Lackawanna Coal Company and he promised me work on my return. Anyhow I borrow no trouble on that head.
I hope you will be quick in answering this letter as I shall leave as soon as I receive it. My dear, give my love to your parents, and fix things the best you can. My love to Mr. and Mrs. Richards and Nettie. Also to William and Sue and Mary Williams. God bless you dear Annie. I send you my love and many kisses.
I am, dearest, your true love, — William
Kisses and Puzzle
LETTER 37 NOTES
♠ William Phillip’s mother, Ann, was born in Pembrey, Carmarthenshire, Wales, so this uncle was probably his mother’s brother. Unfortunately, we don’t yet know his mother’s surname.
♣ Probably Joseph J. Albright, born in 1811 in Pennsylvania. Mr. Albright lived in Scranton and worked as a “Coal Agent” according to the 1860 U.S. Census.
Harry F. Evans admonishes Bill for not writing, describes activities of Brazilian Squadron, shore leave in Rio de Janeiro, whole crew drinking at St. Catherine’s Island, anticipates coming home before long.
Flag Ship Susquehanna
U.S. Squadron on the Coast of Brazil ♠
November 14, 1865
William B. Phillips, Hyde Park
I presume you will not be surprised at this since you know where I am &c. My friends in Hyde Park have all had the opportunity of knowing my whereabouts, but it seems of no avail as far as to expect an answer to any of them. You was also attended to while lying in New York but I willingly pardon you after taking in consideration your short stay in town and the undoubted encroachments of some “gwir ieuainc” ♣ on your rights, which had a better claim to your attention than your humble servant. However, time enough have elapsed since then for matters to resume their shapes and nothing but one of your good old fashioned letters can satisfy me – a rival to the one I received while at the Seminary – a little storehouse of news.
I have very little news for you. We are lying back on our dig here. The hub-bub of organizing expeditions are played, the news of victory and defeat is no more, stirring times have ceased, the events of the day within the limits of the bulwark are all we know of. There are several vessels of nearly all nations lying here peaceably with us. The Brazilians are all alive in war business. They turn out Rams and paper built monitors, now and then, but meaner, weaker looking concerns I never seen. But the Dego persuades himself ahead of Naps, Bulls, or Yanks in the line, probably because they never felt a kick from an Erickson or an Armstrong. ♥
We have had a few liberties since coming on the station. The last – a forty-eighter – was a lightener. Bill, I have acquired enough of the lingua to squeeze through the dense crowd and a bender was the result. A fair nation fulfilled a most satisfactory engagement. Had a stroll as far as the tunnel twenty miles in the country, overstaid leave a few hours, came aboard about 110 degrees in the shade – hot, William – minus cap, overshirt, or shoes. My last in Rio, I guess.
One of our shipmates came aboard today after being in prison nearly three months for attempting to part the jugular of an English Marine when on leave. He was acquitted after a long trial. [There were] thirteen evidences against him, not a single one in favor. Forty-eight jurors sat in his case and the whole had to agree. It looks mysterious. Justice is in a rather low state in Brazil, I think. If one of the jurors had held out against him, ten years in the chain gang would have been his lot. Ugh. Well, what next.
We are preparing for a trip [down the coast] to Montevideo as soon as the ship is coaled. The Admiral [Goden] is going to Buenos Ayres and other places. By the time we get back here, the [USS] Brooklyn will probably be waiting us and the welcome homeward bound will bring about a change.
My friend Graeber and the Solomon of all Soloman’s shall know it. Hey, by the great ghost of Cromwell, if there is any good in Lager, I intend knowing it. Then I shall have such a dry fever settled in me by that time that I shall consider a keg [of beer] but softening the rust. So clar de track g’hals. We have made one cruise to St. Catherine’s [off the coast of Brazil] since coming here. We were put through a ten day’s steady drill. “Augadente” ♦ was the favorite drink. In fact, [it was] the only drink. Dead shot at fifty rods – officers and men alike. The Admiral even got rolling. The Bombproof was at one time crowded. In short, we had a Donnybrook Fair on board that lasted our stay there.
How about our old companion-in-arms Miss M. R.? Lle mae y lleill? Cymar gar William, phaid o wilor twll gor noodd rhag ofan dy gail dy rhwige. My friend David Jones will probably be home before me by the store ship “Supply.” If you meet him and acquaint yourself to him, I’ll guarantee a bender on the strength of it. George Hughes is well and desires to be remembered to his friends. The ship’s company are in excellent health and good spirits, especially since the brass band is aboard. By the way, we can boast of having the best band of Rio – lately engaged in the orchestra of the Emperor’s Theatre. Though only twelve in number, they play the finest music. Something very different to Caer Salem that you once ventured on to entertain the evening party at the Winan Cottage, and in which you acquitted yourself admirably on that occasion, and which would always attract my attention before a Corps of Pignieurius.
But enough at present. The mail is about closing and I have to be brief. Bear my respects to the old folks – Mr. and Mrs. Richards and family, and don’t forget the duckey’s Ann and Susan. Remember me to our friend, the machinist, whom cognomen you can guess. And all the young damsels. I am in no humour for writing – more for growling. And I sometimes wish it even fashionable to growl for I would certainly accomplish something then. So you see, rib ticklers are out of the question. Excuse roughness Bill. Accept my warmest wishes and consider me, as ever, your unflinching Chum, — Harry F. Evans
P.S. If you answer this, will you please make enquiries about my friend Benjamin Harris that went to England with Mr. Howell and tell me where he is, &c. Enquire of Ed Anthony. I presume you are acquainted. Yours, — Hank F.
LETTER 38 NOTES
♠ The American Navy had a fleet of ships off the coast of Brazil during this time to protect its trade interests with this and other important South American countries. A war (1865-70) between Paraguay and and the allied countries of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay resulted in the bloodiest conflict in Latin-American history.
♣ The Welsh expression “gwir ieuainc” means “true young.” Harry is saving that he understands that William may not have written to him because Annie Richards, William’s intended bride, had a greater claim to his time than he did.
♥ John Ericcson was an ironclad ship builder, most famous for designing the USS Monitor. William Armstrong designed powerful breach-loading rifled guns for armored vessels.
♦ Aguardiente is the Spanish generic name for alcoholic drinks between 40 and 45 percent alcohol, meaning “fiery water”, or, literally “burning water” (as it “burns” the throat of the drinker). It is distilled from molasses, infused with anise and additional sugarcane juice after distillation.