|Unit History Project|
Joseph E. Shaw Collection
Head Qrs Birney’s Brigade
Dear Gus, Ed, George, Mother, Mr. Russell, Lucinda, Julia, James, Henry, Gustus, Migene and the “little” devil,
Here I am, after a two days and three nights ride on the water of the Potomac & Chesapeake Bay, camped in a house, formerly occupied & owned by ex-president Tyler on the banks of Hampton Creek and opposite the town or village of Hampton which was burned by the Rebels some time ago. But to give you an idea of what has transpired I must commence at the beginning. In my last letter to you I spoke about having received marching orders, well we did not get off until Monday March 17th when we started for Alexandria. We (that is my Regiment) embarked onboard the Steamboat John A Warner. We Our Division formerly commanded by Gen. Heintzelman, now by Gen. C. S. Hamilton embarked on board of different boats among which were the Elan City, Pioneer, Champion of North America & the John A Warner. I of course went with General & Staff and we occupied the Ladies Cabin of the Warner and had very comfortable times. We reached Fortress Monroe Wednesday afternoon but could not disembark until this (Thursday) morning. Fortress Monroe is beyond any fortification I have yet seen around Washington in fact it beats everything I have seen in the way of forts. It is built of strong granite walls about 20 feet high and is surrounded on all sides by a deep moat over 50 feet wide. I did not have a chance to examine it except from the outside so I can not describe it very explicitly. We are now camped about two miles from the Fortress on the Hampton Creek. The Staff & myself occupy the house formerly owned by President Tyler. It is a large & well built establishment and was occupied when we took possession of it by about forty families of “Contrabands” who were burnt out in the burning of Hampton. Hampton is exactly opposite us and presents a sad spectacle. It is nothing now but a mass of ruins. I intend to go over to it tomorrow if I have the time, and inspect it and I will send in my report in my next letter. I think very likely we will move off again in a few days but I can not (?) where – I think very likely though that we will go in vessels. I am well and getting along first rate so you must not feel anxious on my account. The General made me turn my gun in the other day so I think by that that I will not be in any battles unless I go in as aide de camp to the General. I suppose Gus is getting better every day. Tell him he must get well before I come home for I shall want to drill him in the bayonet exercise & etc. I saw the floating battery “Monitor” and it looks just like what has been said of it – “A Cheese box on a raft”. Enclosed you will find a sketch of it which will give you an idea of its appearance. Its deck is almost on a level with the water and when there are any common size waves they wash her from stem to stern. Give my love to all the folks and answer as soon as possible. Have you received my other letters which I have sent you before this. Direct your letter to J. E. Shaw Brig. Clerk Birney’s Brigade Hamilton’s Division Washington D. C.
With love to all
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History