Saturday, June 6, 2015

To the West Woods: The Correspondence of Henry Ropes, 20th Massachusetts, Entry 14

This is the fourteenth entry in the correspondence of Lieutenant Henry Ropes to his family between September 3 and October 15, 1862. Ropes was a Second Lieutenant in Company K of the 20th Massachusetts, Dana’s Brigade, Sedgwick’s Division, II Corps.

Head Quarters, 3d Brigade
Bolivar Heights, Va.
October 6, 1862.
My dear Father⁠[1].

I received last night by Express the two boxes you sent on by Lt. Abbot⁠[2] to Harrison’s Landing, and the bundle of fly netting. The damage to the contents of the boxes was less than I had expected, considering they had been so long on the way and had been carried
Bolivar Heights (detail): "The heights covered with
tents and troops." Thaddeus Lowe's balloon in the
distance. Library of Congress, 

Prints and Photographs Division (click to enlarge)
once to Harrison’s Landing and then back, and been exposed to so great heat. The box of Ale was broken, and two bottles taken out and one broken, but I thought it very fortunate that I got 9 bottles safe out of 12. In the other box the Lemons of course were rotten. One bottle of Cherry Cordial was broken, and the top of the Ginger preserve was loos, so the liquid part of the contents of the jar had soaked into about everything that would absorb it. The shirts can easily be washed, and nothing was spoiled but the Sedulity Powders, which I do not now need. The ginger bread was quite dry, but of course rather stale. The rest of the Cordial, the Brandy, Bitters, Syrup, Sugar, Tea, Figs &c. &c. were all safe and in good condition and are most acceptable. I assure you I shall use them all most carefully and shall greatly enjoy them. I expect the other things by Express in a day or two.

Mrs. Lee
[3] is here now at Head Quarters with the Colonel, ⁠[4] and to-day is to dine here at the Mess.

It is cool to-day, and windy, and seems quite like Autumn. There is nothing stirring, and no prospect of a move, and everybody is getting settled down into as comfortable quarters as they can get.

I enclose a note for Mrs. Dr. Jeffries,⁠
 ⁠[5] thanking her for her kind present of Ginger preserve. It is in perfect condition, very nice indeed.

Your affectionate son


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 William Ropes resided at 92 Beacon Street, Boston. His son, John C. Ropes also resided here. Boston Directory Embracing the City Record, General Directory of the Citizens and A Business Directory (Boston: Adams, Sampson & Co., 1861), p. 383.
2 Lt. Henry Livermore Abbott (1842-1864).
3 Helen Maria Armory Lee (1812-1893).
4 Colonel William Raymond Lee (1807-1891) commanded the 20th Massachusetts.
5 Ann Jeffries (b. 1802), wife of Dr. John Jeffries, Jr. (1796-1876) , a physician residing at 15 Chestnut Street in Boston’s Sixth Ward (Suffolk). U.S. Census, Massachusetts, 1860); Boston Directory Embracing the City Record, General Directory of the Citizens and A Business Directory (Boston: Adams, Sampson & Co., 1861), p. 241.

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