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  • Civil War Letter from Andrew Mortimer Sleght, 1st New York Mounted Rifles. “I Begin to Wonder What We Are Fighting For” / SOLD

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    Civil War Letter from Andrew Mortimer Sleght, 1st New York Mounted Rifles. “I Begin to Wonder What We Are Fighting For” - Inventory Number: DOC 278 / SOLD

    Six-page letter written by Andrew Mortimer (“Mort”) Sleght (1838-1904), who enlisted on August 4, 1862, in the 1st New York Mounted Rifles. At the time of his enlistment, he was described as a 5 ½’ tall. Grey-eyed, light complected farmer. The letter includes the original envelope addressed to Mort’s friend Albert Paul of Ontario County, New York.


    Camp Suffolk (Virginia]

    May 21, 1863

    Friend Albert,

    I write you a few lines to let you know that I am alive and well and still make Virginia my home. And for all that I can seem it will be my home for the next two years. I have been thinking that I would wait until I got to Richmond before I wrote to you, but I have about come to the conclusion if I wait until that time, I shan't write to many of my friends. I can't see that our Army is any nearer to Richmond than when I left home, and I can't see as Hooker has accomplished any more than Burnside did. As near as I can hear, he lost as many men. It is enough to make one's blood cold to see the number of men that are losing their life this spring and for what? Is it for to save the government, or to liberate the Negroes? I begin to wonder what we are fighting for. If we are fighting to save the government, we shall have to have a set of officers that two of them can agree with each other.

    The most that is done at Suffolk is to court martial officers for some trifling thing. There is entirely too much selfishness amongst our offices to get along with this war very fast. In the fight that we had here at Suffolk, if our generals had followed up the Rebels when they was retreating, we might have taken double of the prisoners that we did, But Old Major General John J.] Peck was such a granny that he was afraid to send out the forces to follow them. We took a good many prisoners as it was. We might have taken half their artillery for when we went to Black Water we could see where they had to pry the cannons out of the mud holes. It is enough to discourage the soldiers to see what work our officers make. We have not got but a few officers that is as good as the Rebels or at least we get out-generaled about every time that we fight with them.

    General Grant seems to be the only one that is a doing anything now and it is a chance if he don't get whipped yet for it is our luck. You may think that I am getting sick of the army but I am not. But I want to have something done that will crush this rebellion—not continue it for years and throw mens lives away and then accomplish nothing. I wrote to Gib Peck last week. I have not got an answer to it yet. I should like to see the boys that went from the Hill but we are a good ways apart and for all that I can see, we shall remain so for a good while yet. Our forces have moved towards Black Water. They are within six miles of Black Water Bridge. Our company went where they are this morning. My horse is sick so I did not go with them, but I shall join them in a few days.

    I tell you, Bert, that a soldier's life is a hard one to live for if I should get one night's sleep without being disturbed, it would make a fellow sick. The infantry don't have as hard times as the cavalry does but we have the advantage of them on the march, We have just got our rifles. It makes a good load for a fellow to carry. Our [single shot .52 Spencer carbine] rifles will shoot one mile. They are about three feet long and weigh ten pounds. Our sabers and revolvers weigh sixteen pounds so you can see what our load is. I will tell you, Bert, that soldiering is not farming by a good deal. It is a good while since I went up to the Hill of a Saturday night and I guess it will be a good while before we shall see those times again. I have some gay old times with the secesh girls, They get mad enough at a fellow to scratch his eyes out but them I like to see them get mad for they look so handsome when they are mad.

    I must close my letter. Give my respects to your Father and Mother. From your friend-

    Corp. Mort Sleght


    Mortimer Sleight

    Residence was not listed; 24 years old.

    Enlisted on 8/4/1862 at Richmond, NY as a Private.

    On 8/23/1862 he mustered into "K" Co. NY 1st Mounted Rifles

    He was Mustered Out on 7/7/1865 at Washington, DC


    * Corpl 11/16/1862

    * Sergt 5/8/1864


    First Mounted Rifles.-Cols., Charles C. Dodge, Benjamin F. Onderdonk, Edwin V. Sumner; Lieut.-Cols., Benjamin F. Onderdonk, Alexander G. Patton, James N. Wheelan; Majs., William H. Schieffelon, Henry Terwilliger, James N. Wheelan, Minott A. Pruyn, Charles C. Dodge, Alexander G. Patton, Edgar A. Hamilton.

    This regiment from the state at large was organized at New York city.  The companies were mustered into the U. S. service for three years as follows:  A and B at Fort Monroe, Va., July 30, 1861; C and D at Newburg, Sept. 18 and Oct. 16, 1861; E, F, G and H at New York city, in June, July and Aug., 1862; and I, K, L and M in Aug. and Sept., 1862.

    On July 17, 1864, it received by transfer 270 men of the 16th N. Y. artillery.  The original members, except veterans, were mustered out at the expiration of their term of service and in.  July, 1865, the regiment was consolidated into a battalion of seven companies, commanded by Col. Sumner; to complete the reorganization of the regiment, it was consolidated with the 3d N. Y. cavalry, which constituted companies B, F, H, I and L of the new organization.

    The first two companies left the state in July, 1861; C and D in Dec., 1861; E, F, G and H in Aug. 1862; and I, K, L and M in Sept., 1862.  It served until 1864 with the 7th and 4th corps, principally at Fortress Monroe, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Williamsburg and Yorktown, Va., taking part in over 50 battles and skirmishes, but sustaining no severe losses, its heaviest casualties being at Scott's mills, Va., in May, 1863, when 28 were killed, wounded and missing.

    The regiment was ordered to join Wistar's division, 18th corps in Jan., 1864, with which it was engaged at New Kent Court House and Bottom's bridge.  During the rest of its active service it was principally with the cavalry division of the Army of the James, one detachment acting as escort at headquarters, and Cos. H and D with the 10th corps from June to Aug. 1864.

    In the operations against Petersburg and Richmond in May, 1864, it sustained a loss of 13, and during the siege was often in action, but met with no large losses, its total casualties amounting to, 43 killed, wounded and missing.  It was active at the final assault on Petersburg, April 2, and saw its last fighting at Murfree's depot, Somerton and Jackson, N. C.

    The final record of the regiment will be found under the head of the 4th provisional cavalry.  The losses of the regiment during service were 2 officers and 30 men killed and mortally wounded; 3 officers and 125 men died of disease and other causes, a total of 165.


     Inventory Number: DOC 278 / SOLD