Sherman Stiles Leavenworth, 18, a farmer, was five feet, ten inches tall with hazel-colored eyes. He enlisted as a private in Company B, 56th Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, at Newburgh, New York, on August 17, 1861, to serve three years.
Company B, 56th Regiment was stationed in Washington D.C. with the 10th Legion, 56th Regiment which defended the capital until March of 1862.
December 6, 1861
I got the dinner yesterday that you sent me. The chicken was first rate and so was the cake.
We went down to Washington yesterday. We was in the reception room of Uncle Abe’s house. I never thought thare could be as nice a room as that was. We were in the Smithsonian Institute. I seen more sights in thare than I ever seen before.
The fellows that I tent with is Samuel Bardsley, James Lewis, John McCabe, John Lavermire. Samuel Bardsley is my next best friend to George Eldred. He is an Englishman, but he is honest and he don’t brag any like most all others of his country.
I weigh 151 pounds with all my clothes on without my equipment on. It has not snowed any here yet. It is a nice warm day here today. I will send you a breast pin with the picture of McClelland on it.
Washington, December 20, 1861
I have found out where James Sergeant is. He is in the 87th Regiment Co. C. He came down to our camp yesterday. I did not expect to see him. He has been sick, so I understand him to say, for about two weeks in the hospital, but he is better now. His regiment is going in the same brigade that ours is.
Thare is strong talk in the papers here that England is going to pitch into the north. If she does, I think she will get enough of it. Thare has been talk so I have heard of enlisting more men so if the British interfere, we will have men enough to send to Canada to fight them there.
If Atwell gets a chance to enlist, he better not, for they can swear volunteers in as regulars for 5 years if they are a mind to. Thare has been talk of this regiment being regulars. If George goes in as one, I think I shall, but I think it is a great chance if they do. I expect it is a great consolation to the Tories if there is any prospects of the British helping the south.
Aunt Sal’s folks and old Mr. Wilson are tickled half to death about it I suppose. Write what Isaac Bradley is about and whether he has got his house built yet or not.
I got your first letter since I commenced this one.
James is camped about a quarter of a mile from here. I am going to write him a letter tomorrow. Thare is a regiment of Lancers that drill about on 1/2 of a mile from here. Their weapons are lanced about 15 foot long.
Our captain told us this morning that we was going down to Pensacola in about two weeks. We have to go through with skirmish drills now days—that is learn to fight in squads of four or more laying down to fire, turning over on our backs to load. It is darned hard work. You have to go double quick so much but I can stand it well anough.
You said you would like to be down to Washington to see some of the nice sights. You had better keep out of the army to see them.
If you was down here, you would not have any fresh pork or any other good things. I have got so used to camp life that I like it first rate.
Sherman S. Leavenworth