Guide to the Nelson Cross Letters, 1861-1864

Collection number: MS 299
Size: (1 folder) (0.01 cu.ft.)

About Nelson Cross (1824-1897)

Lt. Col. Nelson Cross was born in Lancaster, N.H., and lived in Brooklyn New York by 1860. He was married to Mary (Whetten) Cross (1832-1911) and they had one daughter, Amy Cross (1856-1939). Nelson Cross was the half brother of Edward Cross, who commanded the 5th New Hampshire until his death in July 1863. Nelson survived the war, returning first to New York City and then to Dorchester, MA.

About the Nelson Cross Letters (1861-1864)

Cross's letters to his wife Mary commence with his mustering into the 67th Long Island Volunteers/67th New York Infantry. They progress through the war, often with vivid descriptions of battles fought and commentary on fellow military personnel and marketing schemes for his inventions. They document his many brushes with death (including from a spider bite) and the steps he took to lead his regiment through the war as safely as possible. He frequently mentions visiting with his half brother Edward whose company was stationed nearby, but the letters contemporary to Edward's death are not included here. Nelson Cross was mustered out of service July 4th, 1864.

Additional materials from Nelson Cross are housed at the Brooklyn Historical Society in New York. The letters and papers of Edward Cross are housed here at the University of New Hampshire. For a detailed history of the 67th New York Infantry, click here.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

This collection is open.

Copyright Notice

Contents of this collection are governed by U.S. copyright law. For questions about publication or reproduction rights, contact Special Collections staff.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Nelson Cross Letters, 1861-1864, MS 299, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.

Acquisitions Information

Gift of Ashley Miller, 10/2018.

Nelson Cross Papers, 1844-1872 (1722.234) at the Brooklyn Historical Society

MC 79 Edward Cross Papers, 1860-1871, at Milne Special Collections and Archives, UNH.

Separated Material

It is not known how these letters were separated from the main bulk of his collection currently held in New York.

Collection Arrangement

Arrangement is chronological.

Collection Contents

1861:

  • 1861, June 25 (1 letter): Written from Camp Plymouth shortly after the company was founded in May/June 1861. Describes size and discipline of regiment, and the process of mustering in soldiers and officers. "Our enemies have fallen about us like dragons gnashing their teeth." In a postscript, he reminds Mary to tell Amy where her toys are stored.

1862:

  • 1862, February 27 (1 letter): Written from camp in Washington D.C. Describes a leave of absence during which he traveled back to New York City and found the family's possessions had all been unpacked and were being used in the house of the owner of the moving/storage company, "that miserable humbug." Collects his things, moves them to a safer location, and arrives back in Washington just in time to leave with the regiment the next morning - until the order is changed and they are simply to present for inspection.
  • 1862, March (2 letters): 16th: Campaigning in Virginia without tents in awful weather; Col. Adams sick in Wash. so Cross in charge; Confederate capture of Manassas; speculates on the company's future; demotion of General McClellan; sending money home. 29th: Written from ship at Fortress Monroe, Hampton Virginia. Watching Confederate troops across the bay; description of U.S.S. Monitor and the Battle of the Ironclads; news of health/departures within the regiment.
  • 1862, April (3 letters): 6th: From camp near Warwick Courthouse, Virginia. Devastation of Hampton VA; camping in the rain; attacks by Confederates near Yorktown VA; marching through fields and being shelled; trying to figure out how to send the letter home. 8th: Warwick Courthouse. Skirmishes with Confederates, "A shell too, occasionally crashes through the wood like mad cutting off large trees and bursting with a whang that makes one feel slightly uncomfortable"; staying in a slave cabin with enslaved African-Americans; homesickness. 19th: Camp Winfield Scott near Warwick Court House. Visiting other regiments; wounded soldiers in the 67th; philosophical musings on the war; ordering chairs to sell within his regiment.
  • 1862, May (4 letters): 2nd, “Head Quarters, 1st Reg. ? Vols”. Money matters; close encounters with Confederate fire; a temporary cease-fire during which the two sides socialize before returning to fighting. 8th, Williamsburg Va.: Siege and capture of Williamsburg; horrors of war. 18th, Baltimore Cross Roads: Now in command of the regiment; Edward Cross and his regiment nearby; weather too hot for a New Englander. 30th, Camp at Seven Pines: outnumbered by opposing forces; thinks Gens. McClellan and McDowell unfit to lead given lack of strategy in Battle of Williamsburg; death, disease, bad food in the army; advance towards Richmond.
  • 1862, June (4 letters): 2nd, near Seven Pines Va.: Long description of the Battle of Seven Pines, written in the present tense in a dark, messy scrawl of words going several directions on the page. 5th, near Richmond Va.: Battle of Seven Pines/Fair Oaks; Edward injured and taken to West Point to recover; horrendous death toll on both sides; Nelson himself unharmed. 10th, near Fair Oaks: further description of Battle of Seven Pines/Fair Oaks; selling the chairs he patented to the army. 14th, near Fair Oaks: Mary’s aunt in the area nursing wounded soldiers; 2nd New Hampshire camped nearby resting from burying Confederate dead; heavy losses in the 67th NY.
  • 1862, July (3 letters). 4th, Camp on James’ River: Long detailed account of fighting June 25th-29th?. 17th, Harrison's Landing Va.: Building and advancing front lines; Gen. Pope's appointment & Gen. McClellan's dishonesty and unfitness to lead; praise for Billy (Nelson's horse); dishonorable discharge of Major deZeng (sp?); Newspaper Mary sent lost in mail.
  • 1862, October (2 letters). 11th, Hagerstown, Md.: Col. Adams resigns and Nelson takes his place leading regiment; money matters. 25th, Indian Spring, Md.: Asks for hood and chess set; wishes McClellan as smart as Robert E. Lee; feels Lincoln lacking in leadership; wonders how they will survive the coming winter.
  • 1862, November (4 letters). 12th, near New Baltimore Va.: Blinded for over a week by a spider bite over the eye, recovers with difficulty; McClellan replaced. 14th, Battlefield of Fredericksburg: Late at night Nelson describes the bloody battle fought the day before and believes that that the red aurora portend even greater losses the next day; writes a last message to Mary and Amy as he fully expects to die in the morning. 22nd, Strafford Court House Va.: Recovering from spider bite; Regiment attaches to 1st Brigade. 30th, same place: Sight fully returned; "it is thought that a great battle is impending in the neighborhood of Fredericksburg"; becomes "President of a Division Court Marshall"; describes camp and Thanksgiving; regiment not paid since June.
  • 1862, December (2 letters). 10th, Rappahannock, Va.: Regiment paid; Receives a stove for warmth; News of army promotions among families Mary knows. 17th, near Fredericksburg: Edward Cross wounded for the 3rd time; Briefly describes battle; sends home photos he's taken.

1863:

  • 1863, May (2 letters). 4th, Head Quarters of 1st Long Island Volunteers: Reassures Mary that he is alive; sends her dried flowers. 11th, White Oak Church, Falmouth, Va.: Describes the gruesome charge of forts at Fredericksburg; Enjoys his new tent; Does not expect to be out of the army soon; Is glad Mary has moved.
  • 1863, October 24th, Warrenton, Va. Mary & Amy’s visit to Boston; Chair patents and sales.
  • 1863, November 12th, Culpepper, Va. Describes a battle; Gives advice on Mary’s boarding situation.

1864:

  • 1864, Dec. 10th, New York. Nelson is out of the army and trying to find a place for the family to live in New York City; Wallet is stolen with $150.
Collection

Formats

Letters & Postcards