Two Letters from Harry Ward,
Second Lieutenant, 143rd NYVI

On August 1, 2000, Elisabeth (Lisa) A. Stitt of Middletown, New York, sent me transcriptions of two letters that were written by her great-granduncle, Harry Ward. Her great-grandmother's eldest sister, Mary Palmer, was married to Harry Ward. Mary died before the start of the war, and so when Harry went off to enlist, his boys stayed with the Palmer family in Liberty, New York. The letters were written to Lisa's great-grandmother, who was a younger sister of Harry's deceased wife.

Additional notes written by Lisa appear at the end of the file, following the second letter.

Camp 143 Regt. Bridgeport, Ala.
April 14th 1864

Sister Katey

I recd your kind and unlooked for letter to-day. I could not reconcile myself in the belief that a letter of such composition & good writing could have come from a girl of your age. Your name at the bottom of the letter is sufficient evidence and I submit. The weather here of late has been quite changeable rainy weather is all the go the trees are out in leaf and everything wears a green aspect & spring with its beautious garment is everywhere arrayed before us. You stated in your letter W.J. Gerow had been to see the folks & tell you of hardships endured by soldiers. Our real hardships had not commenced when poor Bill was stricken down by sickness & had to leave us at Bridgeport. Our advance from here last fall was the beginning of untold sufferings & privations. Our beleaguered troops at Chattanooga last fall were in a state of starvation when we arrived in the Valley & fought that short but bloody night affray which drove the Rebels under Longstreet from his position and secured to us the River by which we could obtain our supplies, although very limited as my letters of last winter testified too, we are now enjoying comparatively speaking a rest, but how long we know not, well camp life’s a dull life, active service in the field with the booming of cannon & singing of bullets is a life that wears away the dull monotony of a soldier—and time flies as if by magic, enough of this strain, the trains near-by us are passing hourly bearing with them plenty of food for southern powder & ball which manny poor fellows as had to succumb to such is war, in about another month will be fought the greatest battles of the war, as the north & sough both are training every nerve for the coming conflict and terrible will be the slaughter on both sides. 50,000 rebs stand readdy to confront us at Dalton at our approach which will be shortly, well Katey if you could see the young misses(?) here I’m sure you would turn up your nose for such a filthy woe begone looking set I never saw ignorant as the cattle making up & living together-hogs calves & dogs in the same hut. I would not have believed this did I not see this daily, so much for southern chivalry. I send you Leslies paper-with a ring for Lilly made out of a shell found in the Tenessee R as soon as I can get some shells I will make some rings & send you, Dell Carrier is sitting in my cabouse reading a paper-we spend many pleasant hours together—all we lac to make our gatherings more social is the feminine class & of those we are sadly in need we have to cook wash clothes & make beds which require no shakeing. I just heard from Jerry Crary that Gill Clements is dead. I’m sorry for he was a pretty good fellow. I hope Mary will soon get better as well as Lilly. I must now conclude. My love to you, mother, Amanda, Little Fred, Richard and Father.

From Harry

Tell Dick to write & write again yourself

The preceding letter was saved in its original envelope, postmarked Nashville, April 18. It is addressed as follows:

Miss Katey Palmer
Liberty Falls
Sullivan Co.
New York

 

Camp Near Goldsboro North Carolina
March 29th 1865

Dear Sisters Katey & Amanda

rec’d a letter from you yesterday dated Feby 13th & was happy to hear from those whom I have great respect for. You spoke about me sending you my Photograph. I would gladly send you some could I have them taken, but you know we are kept constantly in the field which makes it impossible. Our stay here is but of short duration. Rumour has it 10 days. They are clothing us as fast as possible. I will give you a short detail of our journey of between 5. & 600 miles in an enemy’s country travelling over & wading through immense swamps. Day & night, some portions of the country is nothing but quicksands which we had to corduroy to prevent our wagons from sinking out of sight, our advance skirmished with the enemy most of the way up to the 16th of March when we ran upon the Rebel Genl Harder with about 30,000 men. My Brigade was sent in to relieve Genl Kilpatrick’s command who could not dislodge them. Our orders were to charge which we did driving them about 2 miles capturing & killing a great many. Our loss was severe in officers. Major Higgins shot through the leg. Col. Watkins struck with a grape shot. Lieut. Hardenburg killed. with several non commissioned & privates killed and wounded our Regt was opposed to the first South Carolina Infantry who contested the ground stubbornly. The Rebels fell back in the night leaving five of their men on Picket which we captured. Our next fight took place on Sunday 19 about noon our Division was busily curduroying the Road for the amunition train to pass over. When we Recd orders to hurry forward as quickly as possible as the combined Rebel army under Buregard & Johnson was opposing the 14th corps who were in the advance. We had scarcely come up when the 14th Corps broke & came running back in great disorder—having been flanked on their left, great consternation could be seen amongst the generals. Sherman, Slocum, Williams & Davis were close on hand our Brigade was ordered to crop an open lot & form on the edge of the woods where the 14th Corps broke. We crop the lot, forlorn hope as it was & just as we enter the woods was fired into on the left flank killing & wounding sever. Col Watkins, brave man as he is, formed us quickly in the line facing the enemy both ways & opened a murderous fire which we kept up for 6 hours resisting 5 different charges of the enemy. The welkin rang with cheers as we successfully repulsed these Villians. Opposed to us were the First S.C. Infantry in front & 1st S.C. Heavey Artillery, as Infantry, on our left flank, these regiments were almost annihilated as we fought behind for the first time some hastily constructed works. In passing over the battle field next day a horrible sight presented itself to my view. Men torn to pieces & riddled with bullets—the 82nd Ohio Rgt of our Brigade broke on our right & Col. Watkins drew his sword & rallied them back again into their works. Capt. Decker opened cartridges for me while I loaded & fired my rifle was so hot I could not bear my hands on it. We were relieved by the 2nd Brigade about 8 p.m. tired & weary having double quicked considerable before we entered the fight, our casualties were slight. Dear Sisters I havent time to give you a detail of our journey it would take several sheets of riting paper. I’m keeping a correct Diary which you’ll be glad to hear from should I live to come home.

Lieut Brown was killed the other day on a foraging expedition by Rebel Cavalry he was assigned to our Compy. I recd a letter from Eben & Maria yesterday written Jan 26th, she says Lilly is well. I long to see you all again. I think there has to be a great Battle fought ere long between the combined armies of both sides. I have no doubt of its results. I send you a paper with a piece of muslin I sent a package while at Savannah but have not heard from it. I sent a letter at Robertsville & one at Fayetteville. Nearly all the Towns in South Carolina were burnt by us & the inhabitants are left perfectly destitute. I recd a Picture of my departed Mary it made me feel very sad when I looked at it, it is so much like her, Amanda you must be careful you are not very healthy. I trust my boys are good & try to learn. I don’t think we will draw any pay here. If you want anything let me know and I will try & send it. My best wishes to Father & Mother and all the children.

From Harry direct as before

my health was never better

The following notes were made by Elisabeth Stitt and accompanied the transcriptions of the letters when she sent them to me:

A handwritten note on the back of the envelope indicates that these letters are from Harry Ward. Harry Ward was the widower of Kittie’s eldest sister, Mary (1835-1861). According to available records, Harry’s wife, Mary, daughter of Hunter E. Palmer, died a year before he went off to war. He remained close to the Palmers.

Despite the way they are addressed, these letters were to Kittie May Palmer (1853-1917). There was a Katie Palmer born in 1847, but she died in infancy “Katie” appears to be his nickname for Kittie, perhaps because her mother, Catherine Jennings Palmer also went by “Kitty”. Daughter Kittie would go on to marry Henry Smith VanKeuren in 1878. Amanda (1841-1917) was another sister of Kittie’s. Amanda later married John Walker Kerr.

“Eben and Maria” were Kittie’s brother-in-law and sister, Ebenezer and Maria Purdy. “Lilly” was Harry’s daughter, Lillian, born in 1860. The mention of “my boys” in the second letter is a reference to the Harry Ward’s sons. One son, Charles, appears in the 1870 census with Harry, living with the Palmer family. The second son has not yet been confirmed or identified. On file with the original letters are a pair of confederate notes for 100 and 20 dollars, apparent souvenirs of Harry Ward’s wartime experiences brought back for his young sister-in-law.

According to census information, Henry/Harry Ward was born in England. I am still researching when he immigrated to the United States, and who his parents were.


March 7, 2001, I received another email from Elisabeth (Lisa) Stitt, with additional information about Harry Ward. The content of that email follows:
RE: http://skaneateles.org/143_inf/wardltrs.html
Just following up on the letters I sent you from Harry Ward to his young sisters-in-law.  I now know a little bit more about him.  Following is an outline of his family:

Descendants of Harry Ward

1 [1] Harry Ward b: Abt. 1832 England d: September 01, 1898 Craigville, Blooming Grove Township, Orange Co, NY

. +Mary Palmer b: September 21, 1831 Ossining, NY d: June 21, 1864 m: September 04, 1852

.. 2 Davis C. Ward b: Abt. 1853

.. 2 Charles Ward b: 1856

.. 2 Lillian H. Ward b: Abt. January 1860 d: September 24, 1894 Croton, Westchester Co, NY

...... +Charles E. Anderson

*2nd Wife of [1] Harry Ward:

. +Harriet Matilda Horton b: September 1847 d: September 03, 1907 m: April 12, 1868 by Rev. B.N. Lewis, ME Church, Bloomingburg, NY

.. 2 Harry W. Ward b: Abt. 1869

.. 2 Benjamin Ward b: Abt. 1873

.. 2 Jerome Ward b: Abt. 1879

.. 2 Emma Louisa Ward b: January 05, 1892

Evidently, Harry was so heart-broken by the death of his wife, Mary, that two months later he enlisted and went off to war, leaving his children with his in-laws.  He suffered from a severe case of what sounds like dysentery in 1863, and then swamp fever in 1865...after which he was discharged.  He suffered the affects of these illnesses the rest of his life, to the point that he applied for a disability pension in the 1880s.

In 1868, he remarried, to Harriet Matilda Horton, and settled in Craigville, a hamlet in the Town of Blooming Grove, Orange Co, NY.  He died in 1898.

Feel free to use whatever might be useful or helpful, and contact me if you need additional information--I'm glad to share it if I have it.

All the best,

Lisa Stitt


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Kenneth Jennings Wooster
27 Abdallah Avenue
Cortland, NY 13045-3302
(607) 753-3558
File created: August 1, 2000.
File modified: March 7, 2001; April 26, 2003.