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Havens Letter: August 10 1864

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Creator: Edwin R. Havens
Subjects: Civil War, 1861-1865
Date: August 10, 1864
Format: Image/jpg
Original Format: Document
Collection Number: LC00016 – Havens Family Papers, Box 1, Folder 25
Language: English
Rights Management: Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by Michigan State University and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.
Contributing Institution: Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections
Relation: LC00016 – Havens Family Papers, Box 1, Folder 25
Contributor: MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Havens Letter: August 10 1864 , Page: 1

Havens Letter: August 10 1864
Havens Letter: August 10 1864

Geisboro Point. Md..
August 10th 1864

Well. Nell,
We’re here at last
and I suppose are now in a
civilized neighborhood; something
new to a fellow that has’nt seen
any such a thing in thirteen
months.. Now I’ll tell you
when and how we got here..
Sunday morning last we got
orders to commence loading
our wagons which deed we
accomplished in about ten
hours work. making it about
six P.M. when we got through
At Eight. we had orders to com
mence loading our animals
We loaded two vessels by twelve
midnight. myself and squad
Havens Letter: August 10 1864 , Page: 2

Havens Letter: August 10 1864
Havens Letter: August 10 1864

taking the second boat together
with some forty others and
seventy five mules and fifty
horses.. We left the warf at
daylight Monday morning. and
commenced.. our journey
Down to Washington. to see old
Abraham’s daughter. “Well
we had a pleasant journey and
arrived here yesterday afternoon
about five oclock.. We were ship
ped on board the Utica which
I think was an old Hudson river
steamer of the largest capacity..
She was over two hundred feet
long and when new was a splen
did and passenger and freight boat
with two cabins. They furnished
us nothing but water. and that
was in casks that had never
been refilled since they first
commenced transporting troops
Havens Letter: August 10 1864 , Page: 3

Havens Letter: August 10 1864
Havens Letter: August 10 1864

in the government service
We slept on decks “soldiers cant
bear to. sleep under a roof.. you –
know.. and ate our hard tack
and pork.. Coffee could be had
by hiring the cook of the boat to
boil it for us. the consequence of
all being that we came into
port last night hungry as bears and
dry as codfish.. and glad to set
foot on terra firma again..
The distance from City Point
here is about 290 miles and I
should think is about equally
divided between the James river.
Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac..
Having been hard at work all
Sunday and getting only about
three hours sleep that night I was
a little sleepy in the morning.
and after we had got a few miles
below Fort. Powhattan I went into
Havens Letter: August 10 1864 , Page: 4

Havens Letter: August 10 1864
Havens Letter: August 10 1864

the forecastle and lopped down
and slept to within a few miles
of New Port News. Fort Powhattan
was not quite so large as I thought it
was when near it two months ago
but is a very strong one and occupies
a very commanded position near
the river which at that point is very
narrow and the channels runs very
close to the shore on which the fort is sit
uated.. A few miles below that is another
small fort on the north side of the
river occupying a position very
nearly similar to Fort Powhattan
Below that the river averages more
than a mile in width till you
get to Newport News.. Below this com
mences the Hampton roads which
extend to the bay.. Newport News you
remember two years ago was strongly
fortified and occupied in great force
by Yankees. Now nothing remains but
the deserted ruins of the works a small
boat landing, a score of houses and
a small force as a garrison. Near the
bank is a large burying ground
of soldiers. the white head boards
marking the last resting place
of many a blue jacket. On the oppo
site shore a little below is Sewalls
Point occupied at the same time
by the rebels. Just above Sewalls.
point is the mouth of Norfolk river
and we could se the shipping
and spires of Norfolk City
Havens Letter: August 10 1864 , Page: 5

Havens Letter: August 10 1864
Havens Letter: August 10 1864

Near here you will remember
was the scene of the Merrimacks
exploits when she sank the cum
berland and her mate and got
shipped by the Monitor.. It is
a beautiful scene that is presented
to the view as you round the point
at Newport News and enter the Hamp
ton Roads.. The bay is about three
miles in width and five miles long
(this is my estimation. make your own
allowances) and directly in front
of you is the Rip. Raps to the left
Fortress Monroe the village of Hampton
the Virginia military Institute, a very
imposing building now occupied
as a hospital and surrounded
by a perfect city of camps and
a beautiful country around it
while on the right is a long line
of sand beach stretching out nearly
Havens Letter: August 10 1864 , Page: 6

Havens Letter: August 10 1864
Havens Letter: August 10 1864

[illegible in original] to the Rip Raps and almost
inclosing the bay and a barren
shore from Sewall’s point to the
Chesapeake.. I dont remember now
having seen a house in the whole
distance. There has always been
a great deal said about the Rip
Raps which you know is a military
prison.. and I had always felt
a strong desire to see it. but now hav
ing seen it feel no desire whatever to
ever become an inmate of its
walls.. It is a small barren. naked
island in the mouth of the James
situated in a direct line almost,
between the point on which Fortress
Monroe is built and the long sand
point spoken of.. It covers about one
acre of ground on which a very
strong fort is being built. There
is no danger of any one ever es
caping from confinement
Havens Letter: August 10 1864 , Page: 7

Havens Letter: August 10 1864
Havens Letter: August 10 1864

there for after getting outside
the walls he then has two miles
to swim before he can reach
Fortress Monroe and much farther
before beaching the other shore and
few men would be apt to make
the attempt.. When completed
this fort will command the passage
on the right bank of the river. and
will prove a very valuable auxiliary
to Fortress Monroe. One tier of guns
is already mounted. There has been
so many descriptions given of Fortress
Monroe. and its strengths and extent
has become so well known all over
the country that any description I
could give of it would be worse than
useless.. I will say this however. that
although I considered that I had
a good idea of its size strength
and appearance. I found all to
fade away when I came to see it
in reality. One must see it to
Havens Letter: August 10 1864 , Page: 8

Havens Letter: August 10 1864
Havens Letter: August 10 1864

appreciate it.. It continues great
size and strength with beauty in
every point. and resembles some
beautiful and extensive park
surrounded by a strong and beauti
ful wall. The numbers and size of
the little bulldogs that look at you
from the top of its walls are not
the least attractive or beautfiul
features it possesses I can assure you..
Anchored under its guns was a
large man of war frigate pierced for
thirty [illegible in original] guns on each side. Every
thing looking as neat and tidy as
could be and with the Cross of Great
Britain flying from her peak..
She did look saucy enough I tell
you and sat on the water with all
of old Englands pride.. But a little to
d
the left of her lay a little leaden colore
vessel here decks not reaching up to the
gun deck of the british frigate by some
distance and less than two thirds as
long with not more than ten
guns on her that would have blown
Mr Britisher out of the water in less
than half an hour. because she carried
some of Uncle Sam’s. little playthings
that hurl two hundred pounders
even when in fun. To the right
and a little in advance lay
our own steam frigate Minnesota
carrying five or ten more guns
than Johnny Bull. although about
of the same calibre and a little
farther was another little gunboat
Havens Letter: August 10 1864 , Page: 9

Havens Letter: August 10 1864
Havens Letter: August 10 1864

We have not
yet unloaded
our wagons
but may do
so tonight
or tomorrow
when we shall
as soon as
possible start
for Harpers
Ferry. So I
have been told

Write Soon
Love to All
Ed

[End]

The first gunboat mentioned
was of the same size as the Kear
sarge and carried about the same
metal and being manned by
“Hearts of true blue” was a match
for England’s proudest..
The ride up the bay was a
pleasant one and was made in the
most beautiful part of the day
from 2 P M to Sundown. We were
not out of sight of land at any
time. The Va. shore being always in
sight from deck. Great schools of
herring were going down the bay
and the boys amused themselves
by shooting at them with revolvers
and carbines, while lobsters suffered
terribly. These lobsters are none of
your river fish such as we call lobsters
at home. but whoppers. May of them
I dare say weighting nearly two
pounds
Havens Letter: August 10 1864 , Page: 10

Havens Letter: August 10 1864
Havens Letter: August 10 1864

Our boys killed several of them
but, of course, could not get any of
them while the boat was in motion
But the most sport was to be found
in watching the porpoises or Seapigs
playing in the water. They tried
shooting them but it was no go
I cant tell you the exact shape
of one of them. All I know is that
they looked very much like a
yearling shoat bounding through
a field of corn about last hoeing
time. We entered the mouth
of the Potomac about midnight.
and as the captain did not consider
it safe to go farther anchored till
daylight again. The morning
was foggy, and although the sun
was very hot. the fog did not rise
until after. noon. By that time
we had passed the mouth of
Acquia Creek and lost a sight
Havens Letter: August 10 1864 , Page: 11

Havens Letter: August 10 1864
Havens Letter: August 10 1864

of the old works there. We
knew that we must soon pass
Mount Vernon and all eyes were
eager to get a view of it. We obtained
but a very poor view of it: as it does
not present a very good one from
the river. and the fog dimmed the
sight considerable. Yet we saw
enough to beleive it to be a beautiful
place. You have seen many a view
of it in. print and can form as good
an idea of it as I could give you.
A short distance above it and
on the Maryland shore is Fort
Washington a well built fort
and mounting an immense
number of guns many of them
of the largest metal.. It commands
the river for three or four miles
and seems almost impregnable.
A mile or two above on the same
shore is Fort Foote some smaller
and mounting fewer guns but yet
Havens Letter: August 10 1864 , Page: 12

Havens Letter: August 10 1864
Havens Letter: August 10 1864

strongly built and commanding
the river from both ways for miles.
Next we came to Alexandria, and at
last reached “Govesberry” point and camped
We are just south of the branch of the Potomac
coming from Md. and emptying into it
just below the Navy Yard. and there is a
question in my mind as to whether we are
in Md. or D.C. You can look on the map
and satisfy yourself. We are under the
guns of fort Lickles and near Camp
Stoneman so you see that although
in a civilized country we are yet surroun
ded by military customs and under
military rule. It is a pretty place and
I am enjoying myself hugely We can
look on Washigton on one hand and
Alexandria on the other. and strange
to say I feel no desire to to go either places
Washington at this distance seems to be
the same old sink hole of iniquity that
it was sixteen months ago. The old Capitol
looms up as imposing and beautiful as
ever. The dome stripped of the scaffolding
that surrounded it then. and surmounted
by the great lantern and statue of liberty
Washington’s monument seems to be com
pleted.while I can point out the Smith
sonian Institute and other buildings
that I visited while there. Directly opposite
to us, is Gen Lee’s old plantation. Arlington
Heights but Arlington House cannot be seen
from here. The Highths are now used as a
home for Contrabands There are large stables
capable of stabling ten or twelve thousand horses
and are well planned and well furnished
with every thing for their comfort
There are barracks also for a large num
ber of men but they are now unoccupied
The cavalry has gone to the front,
Where is that
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