Something about Harlan Page Martin

These letters were written by Harlan Page Martin (1845-1923), the son of Stephen Martin (1810-1857) and Amarilla Ingalls (1815-1903) of Granville, Washington County, New York. Other members of the Martin household included Harlan’s siblings: Mason Pierce Martin (b. 1847), Amia Louisa Martin (b. 1850), and Charles Hughs Martin (b. 1852). Two older and siblings had previously died young. These were Onedine Augusta Martin (1841-1844) and Richard M. J. Martin (1844-1848).

How Harlan might have looked
How Harlan might have looked

In the letters, Harlan frequently refers to his grandmother who was Abigail L. (Baker) Ingalls (b. 1788), the widow of Reuben Ingalls (1786-1848). Harlan wrote all of these letters to his widowed mother, Amarilla (Ingalls) Martin, who re-married in 1867 to Samuel Hall — a blacksmith and farmer from Hartford, New York.

Harlan was married in 1867 to Flavana A. Whitcomb (1840-19xx), the daughter of Flynn Whitcomb and Mary Martin of Hartford, New York. Prior to the war, Harlan was a farmer. In 1880, Harlan resided in Truckee, California where he was employed as a logger. In 1910 he was living in Butte, California, and employed as a lumber manufacturer. Late in life he resided in Sacramento where he died in 1923.

A collection of some 60 letters written by Harlan P. Martin to his mother during the Civil War were sold at auction recently and these were subsequently sold off one by one or in small lots. From the letters we learn that Harlan also kept diaries of his wartime experiences but I have not found any mention of these in google searches.

The Collection of 60+ letters written by Harlan Page Martin during the Civil War
The Collection of 60+ letters written by Harlan Page Martin during the Civil War
Harlan's Service Record
Harlan’s Service Record
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An old slouch hat

A good war-date Union soldier’s letter, 4pp. 8vo., written by Pvt. Harlan P. Martin, Co. E, 123rd New York Vols., Stafford Court House, Va., Mar. 19, 1863 to his mother:

Camp near Stafford Court House, Va.
Thursday, March 19th 1863

Dear Mother,

Yours of the 8th inst. came to hand safe & sound and I was very glad to hear from you. I am well at present. Since we moved to our new camp, there has been very little sickness in the regiment. It was never better.

General Joe Hooker
General Joe Hooker

Our Division was reviewed today by General Hooker. I was disappointed in his looks. He did not look a bit as I thought he would. He looks like some old farmer or deacon. He looks as if he had been out sucking blood where they have killed cattle. He rode a nice white horse and rode like the wind. He was not dressed over and above well but very plain. He was not dressed as well or half as gaudy as some of our brigadier generals. He wore an old slouch hat and rest to correspond.

You said that a telegraph dispatch had come to Hartford that our regiment had been cut to pieces by rebel cavalry. Now it is all news to me. In the first place, I did not ]know] that the telegraph run through to Hartford. Pray [tell me] when was it done. In the second place, I never saw a wild rebel in my life — that is, a free one. To be sure I have seen prisoners, but that is all. We have been routed out a number of nights by the long roll but nothing has happened beyond that to wear our domestic happiness. But I suppose before long — a few weeks at the least — that we will have to face the batteries at Fredericksburg. There is nothing of interest transpiring at present.

The weather is very fair now and the ground is fast drying up. I wrote you a letter about a week ago. I got the pills. Why didn’t you send the Ledgers? I wish you [to] send me 25 cts worth of stamps and some 1 cent stamps also. I wish you would send two or three more fish hooks. I have heard nothing of either Ed or Billy Warner since they left.

Sunday, March 22nd

I just come in off from picket this morning and had rather a rough time of it as it snowed and rained all the time. There is nothing new — only it stormed the two past days with a fall of about two inches of snow. The pills don’t seem to do me any good. I have taken nearly the whole of them. I believe it is the itch I have got and I wished you would make me some itch ointment and send it to me as soon as you get this without any delay. A little will do and you can send it in a newspaper.

We heard today by a fellow in the Granville company that Ed and Billy [Warner] was caught. ¹ He just got home from there on a furlough. Pete’s time was up last night but he has not got back yet. ² What is Aleck driving at now-a-days? Does Andover [?] make his appearance around? Tell John that I want him to write. I must draw to a close. Write soon and write the news. So farewell.

— Harlan P. Martin


¹ Edmund Warner enlisted at age 35 in August 1862 at Granville as a private in Co. K. He deserted on 22 January 1863. William H. Warner enlisted at age 22 in August 1862 at Hartford as a private in Co. E. He deserted on 22 January 1863 near Dumfries, Virginia.

² This was probably Peter Boushe who enlisted at age 25 at Hartford as a private in Co. E.

They will give Old Bragg some trouble

A good war-date Union soldier’s letter, 4pp. 8vo., written by Pvt. Harlan P. Martin, Co. E, 123rd New York Vols., Bridgeport, Ala., Nov. 21, 1863 to his mother:

Camp at Bridgeport, Alabama
Saturday, November 21st, 1863

Dear Mother,

The long looked for “Box” has come at last. It arrived here at its destination yesterday. “Thank the Lord” my boots and other things came all right. My boots fit me very well and I guess they may wear well but I would rather have given him another dollar and had him put good leather in the legs than the slimy stuff that will squish right down. Russell [?] has done his last work for me. How much did it cost for sending them? The vest suits me very well. How much did it cost? The gloves suit me. The suspenders were rather short but will do very well.

I wrote you a letter 8 or 10 days ago and sent 12 dollars in it. I was expecting that five dollars that I sent after and only kept two. I sent after $5 over a month ago but I suppose it is coming the route. ____ _____ mail comes around by Northern Ireland. It is curious but true as it is curious that I can get an answer from letters a great deal quicker when I don’t send after anything than when I do. But never mind.

I expect there will be a big fight come off up here at Chattanooga within two weeks. General Sherman’s men from the Army of the Mississippi have been arriving at this place and are going on to the front. They have most all crossed the river and gone up to the front. They have been three days crossing. They number somewhere about 10,000 men. I guess they will give Old Bragg some trouble when they get there.

The men are deserting from Bragg’s army very fast and it must have a very demoralizing effect on the rest of the army. Squads of deserters come in from the front under guard almost daily and very often some find their way into this place and give themselves up to the Provost Marshal without being arrested. I think this fight will tell the story if the rebels are defeated. Things look very encouraging.

I want you should send me a few more stamps and some 2 cent ones. I want you should get me another blank book and send as near like the last one as you can get. There is prospects of our still staying quite awhile. We have a great deal of duty to do, but like it better than to be at the front. The boys are all well. I am on guard and it is time I was going. Write soon. So goodnight.

— H. P. Martin
Co. E, 123rd New York Volunteers
1st Brigade, 1st Division, 12th Army Corps
Nashville, Tennessee

Everything is quiet

A good war-date Union soldier’s letter, 4pp. 8vo., written by Pvt. Harlan P. Martin, Co. E, 123rd New York Vols., Estill Springs, Tenn., April 5, [1864] to his mother:

Estill Springs, Tennessee
Tuesday, April 5th [1864]

Dear Mother,

I received your letter of the 22nd March day before yesterday and as I had wrote to Mason the day before, I thought I would wait a couple of days before answering it. I received the 3 Ledgers you sent last and I sent my diary which I suppose you have got by this time. There has been some talk of our moving from here before long to the front, but there is but little talk about it now. But I think we will leave here before long, but then it is all surmising. We don’t know anything about it. There is nothing new with us at present and everything is quiet. A great many troops are enroute from Nashville to the front now. There has quite a number of regiments passed within the last few days. Two regiments passed down this forenoon. They are veteran regiments and the railroad is so pressed they cannot get transportation.

It has been very rainy for the last ten days and sold too. But I reckon it will be warmer soon.

Companies A, K have come back from McMinnville road and are with the regiment. One of Co. A boys was married while up there. His name was Baker. ¹ John Daicy ² is First Lieutenant now and I suppose H. P. Waite ³ will soon be (if he is not now) 2nd Lt. I heard something about Waite’s sisters writing to the Colonel to have him promoted but I never knew whether there was any truth in it or not.

What was that Harrington girls first name that Ellis Brown married? and where did she live? I sent Mase and Charley a book yesterday. I want you to send me 25 cts worth of postage stamps more as I am out again, or will be before I can get them. When does my term for the Ledger expire?

What is Bill Martin doing this summer? Does Leroy manage any different than what he used to or mind his own business better than he did?

I wish if you could get me a coarse comb and send it in the papers. How would I have to direct a letter to Hiram Draper? I have a notion of writing to him before long. I have not been down to the regiment now for a month but I guess I shall have to go down tomorrow to get me some tobacco and writing paper. My money is nearly gone but I expect we will get paid before long. They owe us over three months pay now and there is talk of our being paid before long. How does Mason make it go farming? I can think of no more at present and so will draw my letter to a close. Give my love to Grandmother and the children. Write soon. So goodbye.

— H. P. Martin
Co. E, 123rd N. Y. Vols.
1st Brigade, 1st Division, 12th Army Corps
Estill Springs via Nashville, Tennessee


¹ There were several soldiers in the 123rd New York Infantry named Baker but only one from Co. A, which was John W. Baker who enlisted at age 18 in September 1862 at Greenwich to serve three years. He deserted on 26 April 1864 at Elk River Railroad Bridge, Tennessee.

² John H. Daicy enlisted at age 25 on August 13, 1862, at Hartford, to serve three years and mustered in as a private in Co. E on August 19, 1862. He was promoted to 1st Sergeant on September 4, 1862, to 2nd Lieutenent on November 11, 1863, and to 1st Lieutenant on March 29, 1864. He was wounded in action on July 30, 1864, at Peach Tree Creek, Georgia, and died of his wounds on July 22, 1864. Buried in the Old Hartford Cemetery in Hartford, Washington County, New York.

³ Harlan P. Waite enlisted at age 25 in July 1862 at Hartford as a private. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant on 6 May 1864 and to First Lieutenant on 12 January 1865.

The cannon have been booming

A good war-date Union soldier’s letter, 4pp. 8vo., written by Pvt. Harlan P. Martin, Co. E, 123rd New York Vols., “In the field near Marietta, Georgia, June 14, 1864” to his mother:

In the field near Marietta, Georgia
Tuesday, June 14th 1864

Dear Mother,

As I had time today, I thought I would write you a few lines in answer to your letter of May 20th which I received a few days ago, We have moved but a little ways from where we were when I wrote you before. We are still in line of battle and we expect to be engaged every day which I don’t think can be put off much longer. The last 3 days it has rained almost incessantly which of course stopped all movements but today it has cleared up and came off fine and I suppose we will have pretty hot weather for awhile. The cannon have been booming very briskly all the morning off on our left and I guess they are fighting some. The report is that McPherson fought them yesterday on the left and drove them 4 miles and took Marietta. I don’t know whether there is any truth in it. I think a battle will come off in a few days here and it probably would have come off before if it had not been for the weather. The sooner it is through with, the better I believe.

The cars run down to us now. We can hear their whistle every little while so I guess there is no danger of starving although they deal us out pretty scant rations. We could eat more if we could get it.

We are all anxious to hear the news from Virginia but is scarce. We can get a paper. I wish you would send me a Washington County paper once in a while. It seems as if you might come across one once in a while and send it. Any county paper you come across.

The 93rd Regiment, I suppose, got cut up pretty bad. They have had some terrible fighting there.

There was 2 Ledgers I did not get. I get the single Ledger and handkerchief. I believe I wrote for a blank book. I have one filled ready to send as soon as I can get a chance. We are now about 25 miles of Atlanta. One battle, I think, will decide the thing. This is the only place [Joseph E.] Johnston can make a stand this side of there, and if we are successful here, we will reach Atlanta without much more trouble. I hope this summer winds up the fighting.

Who lives in your house? Write soon and give my love to Grandmother and the rest. How long is Grandmother going to stay with you? Goodbye.

— H. P. Martin
Co. E, 123rd N. Y. Vols.
1st Brigade, 1st Division, 20th Army Corps
Nashville, Tennessee

P. S. I want you to enclose one dollar in the letter to Harpers and send it right away. Enclose a dollar, seal it up, and send it. I have no envelope to send it. Direct on to Harper & Brothers, Publishers, Franklin Square, New York.

The spires and steeples of Atlanta

A good war-date Union soldier’s letter, 4pp. 8vo., written by Pvt. Harlan P. Martin, Co. E, 123rd New York Vols., “In the field near Marietta, Georgia, July 8, 1864” to his mother:

Headquarters, 1st Div. Supply Train
In the field near Marietta, Ga.
Friday, July 8th 1864

Dear Mother,

We are still in the vicinity of Marietta but south of there this time. The cars come to Marietta now and we get rations there. We are near the Chattahoochee River now. The line on the left is to the river. I understand our corps has breastworks this side of the river in front of us. The regiment has not been in a fight since I wrote you last. The Rebels evacuated their works on Kennesaw Mountain and along the whole line the night of the 2nd of July and fell back about 4 miles. Our troops followed them the morning of the 3rd and came up with them in their works. There was cannonading and heavy skirmishing all the afternoon of the 3rd and on the morning of the 4th. It was found they had gone again, leaving 3 or 4 lines of strong breastworks. They followed them up then to where they are now and threw up breastworks. I was up to the regiment yesterday and it was talked there we would stop along here 2 or 3 weeks. Whether there is anything in it is hard to tell. I would not be surprised if we would stay some time here and again if we would be off again in a day or two.

Our train is about 2 miles back from the Division encamped. From some parts of our line they can see the spires and steeples of Atlanta so you can judge how near we are to the Gate City. There has been a good many stragglers and deserters picked up from [Joseph E.] Johnston’s [Army] since he fell back. I heard an officer say we had taken more prisoners than we would in a good battle. We are encamped near an orchard so we get plenty of apples and we have apple sauce all the time. It would be a good thing if the whole army could get all the green stuff they want to eat. No green fruit or vegetables — nothing but Hard Tack, Pork, & Coffee have given the men more or less the scurvy or something like it. The blackberries are just getting ripe now and in a few days we will have plenty of them.

The weather is very hot but we have nothing to do and can keep in the shade. we get along very well. But if we have to march and stir around in the sun much, we feel the effect of hot weather in full force then. One thing to our advantage, we have splendid water and have had wherever we have been in Georgia. We have hot days and nights is cool enough so that a woolen blanket is comfortable over you.

I received your letter of the 28th of June yesterday with the two dollars and postage stamps in it and also the papers you sent — one Ledger/Tribune, a Newburgh Journal, and Whitehall paper. You take the Tribune so send that along as often as you can conveniently and a county paper whenever you can [get] one. The Ledger run out in ugust and I shall not send for it again unless you want to take it. The Colonel we have heard was dead but we don’t know for certain. I can think of no more at present. Write soon. So goodbye.

— H. P. Martin
Co. E, 123rd New York Vols.
1st Brigade, 1st Division, 20th Army Corps
via Chattanooga, Tennessee

A played out thing

Pvt. Harlan P. Martin, Co. E, 123rd New York Vols., datelined this letter to his mother from Raleigh, N. C. Saturday, April 15, 1865:

Raleigh, North Carolina
Saturday, April 18th 1865

Dear Mother,

As the mail goes out today, I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know where we were. We left Goldsboro the 10th inst. and reached here Thursday afternoon making the trip (53 miles) in four days. Johnston evacuated the place on our approach and retreated towards Hillsboro and Greensboro. Our regiment lead the advance from Goldsboro the first day and had some sharp work [known as the skirmish of Aiken’s Creek, April 10, 1865] with the rebel Wade Hampton’s Cavalry, losing one man killed and three wounded from the regiment. The one that was killed belonged to Co K from Granville. His name was William Tooley. ¹ None of our company was hurt. We met their videttes about 7 miles out from Goldsboro. Our regiment was immediately deployed as skirmishers and advanced, driving them back very easily till we came to a large swamp with a number of streams running through it. Here the rebs had tore the plank up from the bridge and we had to charge across on the stringers of the bridge and then plunge into the water waist deep and drive them out. Coming across the bridge, they had a raking fire on us and the only wonder was they did not kill more. We were about 2 hours in the water nearly waste deep but when we got them out on to dry land, we paid them off some, killing 2 and wounding 8 of them. After this, they made but little opposition to our advance. I suppose their infantry is at Hillsboro 40 miles west of here where they gave out they would make a stand, or at Greensboro 82 miles west.

We have heard of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to Gen. Grant and the talk is that Sherman, Sheridan, & Stanley are making their way to us and all predict the speedy destruction of Johnston’s Army, but the idea is whether they will fight us or not again. It would and does seem folly for them to try to do it, but they are soldiers and if ordered to fight, will do it. But with no chance of success, a great many think they will give up. But I believe we will [have] to fight them yet.

I suppose we will cut loose from communications here. Mounted foragers have been detailed again and we move in the morning, I believe.

The Capitol at Raleigh in 1865
The Capitol at Raleigh in 1865

Raleigh — the capitol of the State of North Carolina — is one of the finest of Southern cities and goes ahead of any I have seen yet. The Capitol is a large and splendid building. They also have many fine public buildings & splendid churches. 2 of them are almost equal in height to Trinity Church in New York City. Very few citizens left on our approach. All seem well satisfied and pleased with the change of rulers and take the Confederacy as a played out thing. The editor of the Raleigh Standard stayed here and are to continue the printing of their paper. They are Union men and their office has been mobbed by Confederate soldiers 2 or 3 times.

Near where we are encamped at the edge of the city is an Insane Asylum filled with insane patients. It is a splendid building built of stone. To the main building is attached 2 wings where the patients are kept. Each wing is 320 feet long and about 75 feet wide. The main building is 80 wide making an aggregate of 720 feet long. In one wing is kept male and the [other female] patients. The building is 4 story from the ground. We are not allowed to go inside but from the outside we can see them looking through the iron grates at us and we looking at them. Some are crazy as loons; others appear half rational and others quite rational. Anyhow, they are pitiable objects.

It may be some time before we get around to communications again and I don’t know for certain as we are to cut loose. It depends probably a good deal how things shape themselves. But I want you to write anyhow. On the South Carolina campaign, you never wrote till we had got through and by the time I got your letter we were ready to start again.

Give my love to Grandmother and the rest. So goodbye.

— H. Page Martin
Co. E, 123rd New York Volunteers
1st Brigade, 1st Division, 20th Army Corps
Army of Georgia


¹ “The spring of 1864 was unseasonably rainy and wet in the Carolinas and movement for the Union Army, both on and off-road, was extremely difficult. The campaign was made even more challenging by the fact that almost every bridge in their path had been destroyed by the Confederates, and each crossing was most often opposed by enemy forces. On the road between Goldsboro and Chesterfield, N.C., the crossing of Moccasin Creek was no different. The creek flowed in two branches at this point (as it does today) and the water reached far beyond its banks, covering the surrounding fields to knee-depth. While the 123rd NYV was successful in making this crossing, and brushing aside the Confederate forces in front of them, they suffered several wounded and one soldier killed in action. This unfortunate soul — the last to die in the war from the 123rd NYV and possibly from all of Sherman’s Army — was Granville’s William A. Tooley, 24 years old, survivor of capture at Chancellorsville, and brother of Horace, who was killed in 1864 at the battle of New Hope Church. Moccasin Creek/Swamp – Vicinity of the 10 April, 1865 skirmish, between the 123rd NY Volunteers and Confederate troops, where William Tooley became the last soldier killed from the “Washington County Regiment,” and possibly of Sherman’s entire Army. This location is within the current town limits of Princeton, NC, along what is now highway NC-1007 (Brogden Road).” [Source: Granville in the Civil War by Col. Edward Fish, Sr.]