James K. Hale papers  1862-1865
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Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of 28 letters written by James K. Hale, which he sent to his brother George Hale while serving in the Union Army during the Civil War. The letters cover the entire existence of the 106th New York Volunteers and document the movements and viewpoints of a soldier in this regiment. Little personal information was offered outside of discussions of health and comments that he had received letters from Rosina.

In the letters, Hale openly discussed his superior officers, his interactions with other regiments, daily troop movements and battles, army life, and life in a field hospital. In a letter from October 1862, he mentioned that "Mulligan’s regiment are a hard lot of men." In December 1862, he described secondhand reports of a skirmish at Winchester, resulting in 7 prisoners and 12 Union deaths. In a particularly interesting letter from February 2, 1863, Hale expressed a bleak outlook for the outcome of the war, based on the Union's failures in the major battles thus far. Another item from August 1863 contains a vivid description of skirmishing at Manassas in late July 1863.

Hale wrote letters from November 22, 1863, and after from the Central Park Hospital in New York City, after he was shot with a musket ball in the ankle. He remained, however, in good spirits and health: "It is nothing but a flesh wound." While letters from this period record typical life in an army hospital, Hale noted some interesting details. For instance, in a December 28, 1863, letter, he described surgeons "putting on an artificial jaw on a man which is a great thing if they can make it work." He returned to his regiment in late March 1864. In his letter of June 19, 1863, Hale briefly commented on the siege of Petersburg happening in the background and ruminated on the merits of McClellan versus those of Grant. He praised the new Union leadership:

"…the men have great confidence in both Grant and Mead[.] They both keep close along in the front. I do not think Gen Butler has shown himself to be the greatest Gen. that ever was[.] I think he will do better for military Gov than he will for Gen. We have had three Brigade commanders wounded in our Brigade and our corps commander was killed[.] there has been a great many officers killed and wounded which is done by the sharpshooters in trees and other places" (June 19, 1864).

Hale wrote about other Union generals and discussed the merits and drawbacks of their battle strategies. In later letters, he described the progress of the 106th New York toward Richmond and looked forward to the end of the war. The last dated letter of May 21 [1865], briefly describes the reactions of soldiers to Lincoln’s assassination. "Even a greater portion of the South consider it an act beneath the dignity of any true man..."

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