These thirteen Civil War era letters — which I call The Bowdoinham Letters — were all addressed to one or more members of the John and Seraphina Brown family of Bowdoinham, Maine. Most are addressed to their daughter, Mary Bartlett Brown (b. 1838), and she and her descendants should probably be credited with preserving them.
The first four letter in the collection were written by Pvt. Bainbridge P. Brown (1836-1878), the 2nd eldest (surviving) son of John Brown (1801-1885) and Seraphina Dezealous Brown (1803-1873). Bainbridge served in Company D, 3rd Maine Infantry. His four letters include:
“The usual time is now spent in drilling,” datelined Camp Howard, Va., 22 October 1861
“Peddlers are swarming around the camp,” datelined Camp Howard, Va., 14 November 1861
“A picture lovely in the extreme,” datelined Camp Howard, Va., 8 December 1861
“I want to have a finger in the pie too,” datelined Camp Howard, Va., 23 February 1862
The next five letters were written by Sgt. Edward (“Ned”) Wiggin, Jr., the son of Edward Wiggin, Sr. (1800-1875) and Lettice Maxwell Brown (1804-1893). Ned wrote all five letters to his cousin, Mary Brown. Their mothers were the children of Loyalist Brown (1774-1830) and Lettice Maxwell (1780-1873). Ned served in 6th Maine Battery and rose in rank to lieutenant and eventually captain of the battery. His five letters include:
“On a stormy Sunday in camp,” datelined Camp Augusta, Me., 16 March 1862
“A regular cure for sore eyes,” datelined Portland, Me., 21 March 1862
“Our whereabouts and howabouts,” datelined Fort Buffalo, Va., 17 April 1862
“The blow crushes many fond hopes,” datelined Fort Buffalo, Va., 4 May 1862
“We shall live in the saddle after this,” datelined Washington D. C., 4 June 1862
The next two letters were written by Alonzo K. Chase (1842-1916) and his brother Sanford Crosby Chase (1845-1891) of Lexington, Maine. They were the sons of Rufus Chase (1796-1877) and Susan Crosby (1807-1885). Neither Alonzo or Sanford served in the military during the Civil War to my knowledge. Late in the war, they appear to have found employment as civilian contractors for the war department. Their letters are addressed to their mother and their connection to the Brown family, if any, is not yet known. Their letters include:
The last two letters were written by Davis Norton Abbott (1842-1930) of Lexington, Maine, to Alonzo and Sanford’s mother. Davis was related to the Chase family through the Crosby family. He was the son of Richard Wing Abbott (1812-1853) and Susanna Wade (1818-1880). He appears to have been employed as a civilian contractor employee of the war department like his relatives Alonzo and Sanford. Abbott’s two letters include:
Provenance: From an Alexandria, VA private collection.
Raymond H. Fogler Library, University of Maine.
Box 280 f 59 (Chase) Alonzo. Letters, 1864-1865. 9 items. Holographs signed, with envelopes addressed to Mrs. Rufus Chase, Lexington, Maine.
Box 280 f 60 Chase, Sanford C. Letters, 1864-1865. 5 items.