Sunday, February 22, 2015

To the West Woods: The Correspondence of Henry Ropes, 20th Massachusetts, Entry 11

This is the eleventh entry in the correspondence of Lieutenant Henry Ropes to his family between September 3 and October 5, 1862. Ropes was a Second Lieutenant in Company K of the 20th Massachusetts, Dana’s Brigade, Sedgwick’s Division, II Corps.

Camp 20th Regiment Bolivar
Heights, Va. September 23d 1862.
My dear John.

I answered your two last letters and have only to tell you that we marched here yesterday and forded the river. Sumner’s Corps is here and he in command.

I enclose a letter for Mary Ann⁠ [1]. I have sent home by Mr. Folsom⁠[2] who was kind enough to take charge of it, a bundle containing my heavy revolver, cartridge boxes, ammunition &c., some books I have done with, some private papers, a knife, &c. Please have “Barchester Towers”[3] bound, if you think it is worth it, and “Bleak House⁠”[4] too, when I send home the other volumes which Herbert⁠ [5] is now-reading.

Detail from "View of the camps of the Army of the Potomac,
on Bolivar Heights, near Harper's Ferry, after the 
battle of Antietam." Edwin Forbes (1839-1895)
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. 
Please have new plates put in the knife and send it to me when you have a chance. Let the pistol be cleaned, oiled and put away and the fixed ammunition kept for it. Give the private letters to Mary Ann to put in my box. As I know you like to keep some relics of a battle field, I send a piece of shell, and grape shot I picked up. It will give you some idea of what sort of a buzzing we had about our ears. Please tell me if you ever got my Buffalo skin I sent home last spring. I have forgotten whether or not it went safely.

Please send me by mail $6._ in U.S. Ones, and $4._ in postage stamp change. I have nothing smaller than $5._ and find great trouble in making change. Charge the $10._ to my account. By the way, can you not tell me roughly about how much you have charged to me? I feel sure I must have a considerable balance on hand, but would very much like to know how much.

We ought to be paid every day now, and when we are, I shall send home another $100._ Herbert is very much obliged to you for attending to a tent for him. I advised him to wait till mine came, and see how he liked it, but he read my description and felt sure it would answer. I hope it is of white Rubber, that is if both are equally strong. Very likely you will find some light lantern all made which will be quite as light and compact as the one I described. If so, buy it instead.

If the tent is what I expect it will be, it will be invaluable. Especially at this season, it is important to keep dry at night. The rubber coat will be very useful, I know. I hope the boots will not give you trouble. If Rice has saved my measure, it is all right. Do not let the soles be of extravagant thickness, as was formerly the fashion for “Army Shoes.”⁠[6]

I have not seen the 2d. Mass. since we were at Rockland⁠,[7] but hope, if we are near them again, to get acquainted with Capt. Morse⁠.[8] The 2d. Is now at Sandy Hook, about 6 miles from here, across the river.

I am at present quite lame from a boil which has selected a very unfortunate position. It is exactly on the cord or tendon which connects the extremity of the heel with the calf of the leg. It is very small, however, and will no doubt be well in a couple of days.
You never tell me how business matters and the estates are getting on, and whether the general affairs of the family are in a flourishing state. Please do tell me.

I suppose you no have quite an income from law. Write soon.

Your affectionate brother

P.S. The Colonel’s man, George, desires respects.⁠

Source Note

The source for Henry Ropes’ correspondence is the three volume transcription of Ropes outbound correspondence to his father, mother, and his brother, John C. Ropes. The original transcription can be found at the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library.

Henry Ropes was killed at Gettysburg on July 3 and from that point on, John C. Ropes undertook a life-long pursuit to memorialize his brother’s life and the regiment’s history. The transcription volumes are the center piece of John C. Ropes work and his legacy. Each of the three transcribed volumes are organized chronologically: Volume 1 is Henry Ropes’ correspondence to his father and mother, and Volume 2 and 3 to his brother, John C. Ropes. For more on the Ropes correspondence, see Richard F. Miller’s excellent essay on historical bibliography at pages 495-499 in his superlative study on the 20th Massachusetts in Richard F. Miller, Harvard’s Civil War: A History of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (Hanover and London: University Press of New England, 2005). Any errors in transcribing and annotating the selected correspondence are mine.


1 Ropes’ sister Mary Ann Ropes (b 1842)
2 This is probably Charles Walker Folsom, Quartermaster of the 20th Massachusetts. Richard F. Miller, Harvard's Civil War: A History of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (Lebanon, N.H., University Press of New England, 2005), pp. 11-12.
3 Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers (1857).
4 Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1852-53).
5 Lt. Herbert Cowpland Mason (1840-1884), Harvard College, 1862.
See Henry Ropes to John C. Ropes, September 3, 1862 posted on this blog.
7 Probably Rockville, Maryland.
8 Lt. Charles Fessenden Morse (1839-1926), Harvard (1858) served as Captain of Company B, 2nd Massachusetts.
9 Colonel William Raymond Lee (1807-1891). “George” is probably an aide to Lee.

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