Civil War letter returned to Lyndeborough

LYNDEBOROUGH – On a cold January night 150 years ago, a lonely soldier writes home to his father in Lyndeborough to tell him of his day-to-day life with the 16th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry.

We can only image his father treasured that letter. The letter survived all these years and was recently found and returned home to Lyndeborough.

Walter Holland, who is captain of the Lafayette Artillery Company, always has his eye out for items of interest related to the artillery company’s history, its past members and the Civil War. He was excited when he read a description of the letter on eBay and noticed the names were local boys who fought in the Civil War. He quickly bid on the letter.

“I bought it for the town and the artillery. It is now a permanent part of Lafayette Artillery Company’s archives. Many of the names mentioned in the letter were members of the artillery company,” Holland said.

The letter was handwritten in period pencil by then 21-year-old Pvt. George T. Jones, of Company G, to his father Samuel Jones. The time was the Civil War and young Jones was a Union soldier. The letter is dated Jan. 4, 1863, but postmarked from New Orleans on Jan. 8 with a three cent stamp and just addressed to Samuel Jones, Lyndeborough, NH with no street address. The envelope is an official 16th New Hampshire Regiment Volunteer stationary with the regiment’s logo that includes American flags, a cannon and cannon balls plus a drum.

Pvt. Jones appears to want to keep in touch with his family back home because at the closing of his letter, he asks his father to write often and send more paper. He hoped some of his many letters arrive home.

A few people from Lyndeborough were in the 16th New Hampshire Regiment and many died and didn’t make it back home and buried in foreign cemeteries. Listed on Civil War monument in South Cemetery are the names of the men who died in the Civil War and members of the Lafayette Artillery who fought. The Lafayette Artillery Company does three rifle salutes every Memorial Day at the Civil War Monument in South Cemetery and the Dr. Alfred Holt memorial stone in Center Cemetery.

Reading this piece of history conjures images of Pvt. Jones sitting by the light of a campfire or candle at Camp Parapet in Louisiana with pencil in hand, writing the letter. As always, the weather was mentioned and Camp Parapet had its first frost the previous night and he asked if it was cold back in Lyndeborough.

In the letter, Jones wrote about other Lyndeborough men. He wrote about a 13-mile trip visiting Dr. Alfred F. Holt accompanied by Andy Holt while on leave. The Holt men were brothers. The next day, Dr. Holt was promoted to first surgeon and rode to tell them the news and he also relayed that Dr. Holt is “heart sick of the war” and wished the war was over. Jones wrote all the Lyndeborough boys are well except William Steel and Nathan Harris but didn’t go into details. Mentioned was John Butler’s near escape from pieces of flying shells while on picket duty two miles upriver from their camp.

The letter continued on Jan. 5 and went into details of military drills and company movements.

“It’s a piece of local history and I think more people should know about it,” Holland said.

George T. Jones enlisted on Sept. 6, 1862, in Lyndeborough at the age of 21. He was promoted to sergeant and discharged on Aug. 20, 1863. After the war he moved to West Boylston, Mass. He died on Dec. 7, 1909. His name, along with his father, Samuel, is listed on the Civil War Monument at South Cemetery and Samuel Jones is buried in Center Cemetery.

Dr. Alfred Holt went on to become surgeon of the Texas Regiment and left being a doctor to become commander at the time. “Image a farm boy from Lyndeborough, New Hampshire, commanding a unit of the Texas Calvary Troopers,” Holland said.

Over the past few years, the Lafayette Artillery Company also found an 1864 sword used by 1st Sgt. John Gage, a Civil War drum painted with a United States flag and Lafayette Artillery Company written on it, plus an ambrotype of John Hartshorn, who also has a cannon in his honor at Monument Park in Lyndeborough. All were brought back to Lyndeborough, except the company’s flag due to the high cost at an auction house and were outbid.

Holland would like any information on the whereabouts of George T. Jones’ family or any of the men mentioned in the letter so they can have a copy of the letter. Holland can be reached at 654-2480.

Holland and the Lafayette Artillery Company will observe Veteran’s Day on Monday, Nov. 11, at 11 a.m. at Center Hall in Lyndeborough. All veterans and their families, residents and Scouts are invited to join them. Their 1844 Civil War cannon will be fired three times by honored veterans. Refreshments will be served after.