Sunday, June 7, 2015

To the West Woods: The Correspondence of Henry Ropes, 20th Massachusetts, Entry 15

This is the fifteenth and final 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.

Camp 20th October 15, 1862 
My dear Father.

I am trying to induce John[1] to remain a day or two longer, and have no doubt I shall succeed. He unfortunately left his valise in Washington and ought to wait here till it is sent to him. I have now
Bolivar Heights (detail). Library of Congress, 
Prints and Photographs Division (click to enlarge)
returned to the Regiment, as Lt. Milton
[2] of the Staff (whose place I took) has got home from Boston, and I can make John perfectly comfortable here. I think he really owes me a visit of 2 weeks at least, and hope he will stay. His eyes will be much benefitted by the rest and change of occupation &c. We went day before yesterday to Antietam, and saw the whole field. We passed the night at Keedysville very comfortably. Robby Lee went with us, and he and John have secured quantities of bullets, shells, &c for relics.

You asked me about letters miscarrying. A thief has been discovered here, at Genl. Howard’s⁠[3] Head Quarters, who has for some time robbed the mails. I hope all letters will in future go safely. Best love to all. Have received no letters for 2 days. John will probably visit John Gray⁠[4] and the 2d. Regiment [5] to-day.

Your affectionate son


Source Note

The source for Henry Ropes’ correspondence that constitutes this and the following items in this series is the three volume transcription of Ropes outbound correspondence to his father, mother, and his brother, John C. Ropes. 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 centerpiece of John C. Ropes work and his legacy. Each of the three hand-written 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 John C. Ropes, his brother.

2 Lt. William F. Milton.

3 Brig. Gen. Oliver O. Howard.

4 This was probably John Chipman Gray (1839-1915). A graduate of Harvard Law School and friend of the Ropes family, he would enlist in the 41st Massachusetts on October 7, 1862. After the war, Gray would form with John C. Ropes the law firm of Ropes & Gray. Roland Gray, John Chipman Gray (Boston: privately printed, 1907), p. 8.

5 Second Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Gordon’s Brigade, Williams’ Division, XII Corps.

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