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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Arthur Stone, 34th Massachusetts

Arthur M. Stone was born in 1844 and in the years leading up to the Civil War worked as a bootmaker in Spencer, Massachusetts. He joined Company E, 34th Massachusetts Infantry, July 19, 1862, serving with the 34th for the entire war and mustering out June 16, 1865. After the war he lived in Worcester, Mass., and died June 14, 1912.

Stone is one of those soldiers that historians absolutely love in that he wrote home often. In fact, he was likely one of, if not the most prolific letter writer in the entire regiment. And his handwriting is absolutely perfect. Somehow, Stone's letters have become scattered - often they show up singularly or in small collections on internet auction sites. Perhaps the largest grouping of his letters is at Auburn University which has some 40+ of his letters to his mother, Mrs. Martha L. Stone, dating from throughout the entire war. Overall, Stone's writings contain a great deal of information about military affairs under his immediate observation. Perhaps because of his attention to detail and his excellent penmanship (compare his with, say Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws or Col. William Tibbits, 21st New York Cavalry), he seems to have been detached as a clerk often. He was serving just such a role with the "Office of Subsistence" at Harpers Ferry while the rest of his regiment marched up the Valley with Franz Sigel in late April and early May 1864. Yet his letters from that time period, though they do not directly concern Sigel's field army, they do give the perspective of a rear-echelon observer of the campaign, and also address some of the preparations which were made to guard the rear after Sigel all but stripped the department bare of garrison troops.

Several years ago, I was able to purchase one of Stone's letters on ebay. Dated April 29, 1864, it was written literally on the eve of what would later be known as the New Market Campaign. Below is the text of that letter, which contains some interesting observations of some of the rumors circulating about the purpose of Sigel's movements (spelling and punctuation are per Stone's original).

Office of Subsistence
Harpers Ferry, Va. April 29th, '64

My Dear Mother

After some days I at last have received a letter from you. I had been looking for one from you for some few days and was a little on the anxious seat but to-day brought the long wished messenger. I do not know as I have anything particular foew news to write with the exception that for the last wee the forces in this department have all been congregating at Martinsburg day before yesterday they had a large review there. General Sigel reviewed them and this morning the forces all started away from there for a trip down the valley. The force numbers about 20 or 25 thousand Infantry, Artillery & Cavalry and I think before many days pass you will here of something being done up in this direction perhaps this what anyone might call contraband news that I am writing for everything has been kept very quiet about it our regiment is among the number and it will be something very strange if they do not see some very warm work before they return back here again if they ever do come back it is reported around here that they are to make a junction with the Army of Potomac after they have accomplished their object. General Sigel takes command of the forces in person. Sometime when I think of it I think that I wish I was with the boys for if they get into a fight I should like to share the glory with them and at other times I think I am rather better off here where I am than I should be marching and I am surely less exposed than I should be with them and I suppose you will think that is one very great object at this present time and for your sake and my own together I do not know but that I am glad to be here. Though I cannot help feeling a little ambitious that because we have never done any fighting to show that we can fight and I should like to help do it.

I presume that you have heard before this of the sudden death of Emory Adams of our company he is a nephew of Mrs. Sampsons and was one of the smartest and best boys in our company he was a very nice scholar indeed he was intending to go to college after he got out of the Army but poor fellow he is gone. I was up to Martinsburg two days before he died and went into the hospital to see him he was quite sick then I shook hands with him and bid him good bye when I came away but did not think then but what I should see him again he has allways studied a great deal since he has been out here and carried his books around with him.

You asked in your letter if it was 15 feet of the bridge that theytook up or the planks it is the planks they take them up and lay them cross-ways on the bridge and form a kind of breastwork of them so that if the rebels should attempt to cross they would make rather a dear job of it.

Please remind Wm Cummins [sp?] when you see him of his promise to write me and tell him I am looking for a letter from him every day tell him he must not think of waiting until after he is married before he writes me. I believe I have written about every thing that I can think of for this time. Give my love to all enquiring Friends and accept the love of your Son Arthur.

P.S. I think by the way you directed your last letter you was trying to pattern after my capital M was you not dont you think they are very fancy?

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