About this Letter

This is a letter from Willard M. Seldon to his cousin John Green describes his experiences as a private in the 85th New York Infantry during the American Civil War. Willard writes from a camp located on Meridian Hills, near Washington D.C., from where he has a stunning view of the surrounding countryside, including the city of Georgetown and the Potomac River. He mentions that he and his fellow soldiers are prepared to meet the Confederate forces, and notes that the troops are good at shooting iron.

Willard’s time at the camp was brief as his regiment was soon ordered to march. He mentions that he had not heard from his father in three months, and requests that his cousin direct any future letters to his new location, W.M.S. Washington D.C. 85th Reg. N.Y. Co. H. He also mentions that his friend Lucius Campbell is eager to hear from John.

The researcher’s notes provide further background information on Willard and his experiences. Willard was born in 1843 in New York and enlisted as a farmer in September 1861. Sadly, he was killed in action during the Battle of Fair Oaks in 1862. The 85th New York Infantry, known as the Plymouth Pilgrims, was made up of troops from New York and was organized in 1862. The regiment was captured by Confederate forces in Plymouth, North Carolina, in 1864 and became renowned for its bravery during several battles.

Letter Transcript

Cousin John — I recieved your letter of the 1th and was real glad to hear from you I am well and so is (Orville?) he is well and as tough as as bear. I have not heard from Father since I have been here wish is almost 3 months. I am now in camped on Meridian Hills 2  miles from Washington (see researcher’s note below) and as I have said that we was on a hill and we have a splendid view of the country around us.

The city of Georgetown and the beautiful city of Washington and that noble river the Potomac lies in plain view as it winds its way in grandeur along the picturesque landscape and in its banks as far as you can see.

My eyes rest on a place where rebel pickets very often come. It is in the sacred soil of Virginia it is where Colonel Ellsworth was killed so you can see that if we was put in motion that in one day we should meet the foe. John our Army are the Austrian Rebels and they are good at shooting iron. I have been out shooting today and by the by I do not want you to direct your letters in care of Colonel Davis for he has resigned.

Direct to (?) W.M.S. Washington D.C. 85th Reg. N.Y. Co. H, is all that you want to do all of the regiments in our Brigade has march and it is said that we shall go before the end of the week and I guess that we shall you must write a longer letter the next time you write to me I was glad to hear from you but you, did not cover half a sheet of paper. John I just been to roll call and it is now half past 8 and I will have to extinguish the • light; so I shall have to halt without ? before long. .-I. suppose that you are enjoying yourself this winter and I have got to stay here and do as best I can but I must right face and shout as I was before are have lots of fun.

You must know Lucius Campbell says that if you will write to him he will answer it. My time is now gone and so good evening. This – your cousin, Willard M. Seldon. John Green.

Reasearcher’s Notes: I believe that the camp that Willard Seldon is speaking was on Kalorama Heights, about 2 ½ miles from downtown Washington to a newly constructed series of buildings on the campus of Columbian College along the 14th Street Road. The camp was atop an eminence known as Meridian Hill and provided views of the yet-unfinished US Capitol Building. The camp spread out along the east and west sides of 14th Street atop the heights. The camp had been laid out by Colonel William Watts Hart Davis of the 104th Pennsylvania and the construction of the barracks buildings by Lieutenant James M. Carver of Company C. These barracks and the massive military hospital that later occupied the site were named in honor of Lieutenant Carver taking on the name Carver Barracks. I will continue to explore this as time permits. Original SOURCE:

Willard Seldon mustered in as a private, Co. H. for the 85th New York Infantry. Willard was born in 1843 in NY, the son of Joseph & Almeda (Wheeler) Selden. He Enlisted on September 2, 1861, at Hallsport, NY. Willard was an 18-year-old Farmer from Willing, NY. After his capture, he was returned to the ranks. Transferred January 1, 62 to Co. H. Killed May 31, 1862, at Fair Oaks, VA. Also borne as Millard M. SELDON and Millard M. SEEDEN.

The 85th New York Infantry, sometimes called the “Plymouth Pilgrims,” was a regiment of Union soldiers. The troops who made up the regiment, mainly from the state of New York, were organized in 1862. The 85th New York Infantry was captured by Confederate forces at Plymouth, North Carolina, on April 20, 1864, hence the unit’s moniker “Plymouth Pilgrims.” The regiment was captured and imprisoned in various Confederate prison camps until the war’s end when they were either exchanged or freed. It was renowned for its valiant efforts during the Battles of New Bern, Fort Fisher, and Plymouth.

In this letter, there has been a question about the name of the person who Willard indicates he is doing well and so is (Orville?) The person who is also doing well is Oscar B. Seldon. Oscar mustered in as a private, Co. I. Oscar was born in 1845 in Allegany Co., NY, son of Joseph & Almeda (Wheeler) Selden. He enlisted on 10 November 1861 at Belmont, NY, as an 18-year-old Farmer from Willing, NY. He re-enlisted on 1 January 64 at Plymouth, NC. Wounded and captured on 20 April 64 at Plymouth, NC. Paroled and discharged for Disability on 11 June 65 at Camp Parole Hospital, near Annapolis, MD. Oscar died in 1909. He was buried in Hallsport Union Cemetery, Wellsville, NY. The headstone is Also borne as SHELDON and SELDON.

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