William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan
Finding aid for
Albert G. Martin Papers, 1863-1884
James S. Schoff Civil War CollectionFinding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, May 1992
Albert G. Martin papers
Martin, Albert G., b. ca. 1845
Albert Martin, a Canadian citizen, enlisted in the 16th New York Cavalry at the age of 18. His letters home during the Civil War describe skirmishes with Mosby's Rangers and the frequent desertions from his regiment, as well as his stay in Belle Island Prison.
The material is in English.
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
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The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
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Albert G. Martin Papers, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
Martin, Albert G., b. ca.1845
Rank : Private
Regiment : 16th New York Cavalry Regiment. Co. B (1863-1865)
Service : 1863 May-?
When the Martin family moved from Ontario, Canada, in 1863, it seemed unlikely that their 18-year old son, Albert, would enlist in the army. In May, however, Albert rashly ran off to Plattsburg, N.Y., and enlisted in Company B of the 16th New York Cavalry. Despite feeling considerable remorse at abandoning his parents, and despite desperately regretting his decision to enlist, Albert accompanied his regiment to the seat of war in Virginia, where his unit found itself in a hostile countryside largely controlled by Mosby's Partisan Rangers.
The 16th N.Y. Cavalry did not become one of the more illustrious units in the Union army. At one point, two months after the regiment was mustered in, Company B had been reduced from 100 effectives to only 48, losing most of these men through desertion. Many deserters, Martin noted, were men who had a habit of enlisting in order to claim bounty money, and then simply skipping out on their obligations. In a different vein, the war with Mosby seems particularly to have affected the men of the regiment, with Martin and his comrades becoming as brutal and callous as the guerrillas. In one incident with Mosby's rangers, Martin coolly recorded of his company: "after a short Fight they licked them taking eight Prisoners and they finished there breakfast and then they took the Prisoners and tied them to the trees and shot them on the spot they dont allway shoot the Prisoners but do some times for they deserve it they aint Fighting for the South only for Plunder" (1863 August 12).
Martin's service with the 16th continued through the summer of 1863, but on October 1st, in a small skirmish at Lewinsville, Va., Martin and nine others were recorded as missing in action. In November, Martin finally wrote to his mother to inform her of his capture and his good treatment at Belle Isle Prison in Richmond, but from this point onward, Martin disappears from the record. In a letter written in 1884, probably in relation to a pension application, Martin's mother seems to imply that Albert died in the service. However, she is not listed in the state records as a pension recipient for that year.
Collection Scope and Content Note
Albert Martin's letters provide an interesting point of view on the Civil War. The anguish expressed in the first three of his letters is particularly moving, as he attempted to come to grips with the feeling that he had abandoned his mother and to console her and let her know that he intended to behave as a moral man. While in the service, Martin provides two very good, though brief, descriptions of scrapes with Mosby's Rangers, and his reactions to the desertions in his regiment and his thoughts on the war are of interest because they represent the views of a Canadian citizen, rather than a native New Yorker. Finally, the single letter written from Belle Isle stands in stark contrast to the miserable impressions of the prison found in other Union soldiers' letters: "I cant complain of the useage for we get used vary well here all is a fellow cant run about as much is if he was in his own Lines" (1863 November 6).
- United States. Army--Recruiting, enlistment, etc.
- United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Desertions.
- Confederate States of America. Army. Virginia Cavalry Battalion, 43rd.
- Soldiers--Conduct of life.
- Belle Isle Prison.
Additional Descriptive Data
Belle Isle Prison.Bounties, Military.Confederate States of America. Army. Mosby's Rangers.Executions and executioners.Fairfax, Va., Skirmish near, 1863.Foraging.Guerrillas--Virginia.
Marches--Maryland.Martin family.Morale--Confederate States of America.Mosby, John Singleton, 1833-1916.
- 1863 August 12
- 1863 September 2
Prisoners of War.Soldiers--Conduct of life.Soldiers--Confederate States of America.United States. Army--Enlistment.United States. Army--Officers.United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Desertions.
- 1863 August 12
- 1863 September 2