A Guide to the Moses M. Ordway letters, 1863-1865 Ordway, Moses M., letters, 1863-1865 51499

A Guide to the Moses M. Ordway letters, 1863-1865

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Accession Number 51499


Library of Virginia

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Processed by: Trenton Hizer

The Library of Virginia
Accession Number
Moses M. Ordway letters, 1863-1865
36 pages and 1 folder
Moses M. Ordway

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Moses M. Ordway letters, 1863-1865. Accession 51499. Personal papers collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Raynors' Historical Collectible Auctions, Burlington, North Carolina

Biographical Information

Moses M. Ordway was born April 11, 1843, in West Newbury, Essex County, Massachusetts, to Moses M. Ordway (1811-1893) and Irene B. Newton Ordway (1818-1884). When the Civil War began, Ordway enlisted in Company I, 40th Massachusetts Infantry on 14 August 1862 and was mustered in on 31 August 1862. He was promoted to sergeant-major 6 January 1865 and was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant 29 May 1865, however, he was not mustered into service as a lieutenant. Ordway mustered out as a sergeant-major 16 June 1865 along with the rest of the non-commissioned staff of the company. Ordway returned to Essex County and worked as a carriage trimmer. He married Sarah R. Currier (1847-1878) and they had two children. Ordway later relocated to Knox County, Maine, where he had three children with Emma M. Heath (ca. 1856-1935) before marrying her on 14 November 1892. Ordway died in Knox County 18 November 1892. He was buried in Union Cemetery in Amesbury, Essex County, Massachusetts.

Scope and Content

Letters, 1863-1865, from Moses M. Ordway (1843-1892) of Company I, 40th Massachusetts Infantry, serving in the Union army in Virginia, to his brother Francis Moody Ordway (1839-1912) of Essex County, Massachusetts regarding his military service, military campaigns, fighting between the two armies, casualties, and the draft. He offers his analysis and opinion on the fighting and on officers.

Contents List

Folder 1
Letter, 11 January 1863, from Miner's [Minor's] Hill, Arlington and Fairfax Counties, Virginia, commenting on a drafted Maryland regiment; the secessionist loyalty of the owner of the hill who had guided Union troops; the layout of the Union troops around the hill; and possible future of Orway's regiment.
Folder 1
Letter, 3 May 1863, from West Point, Virginia, detailing his regiment's travel from Norfolk, Virginia, to West Point to set up a depot; noting the destruction of the wharves and railroad line by Confederate forces; commenting on the scenery; describing the confiscation of livestock; and remarking on fighting near West Point, at Suffolk, Virginia; and at Chancellorsville.
Folder 1
Letter, 2 June 1863, from Yorktown, Virginia, regarding the regiment's retreat from White House, New Kent County, Virginia, to Yorktown upon receiving a report that a large number of Confederate troops were on the move, and commenting General George B. McClellan's style of fighting during the Peninsular Campaign in 1862.
Folder 1
Letter, 4 July 1863, from New Kent County, Virginia, near White House, Virginia, describing fighting at Baltimore Cross Roads, New Kent County, in which Ordway and the 40th Massachusetts Infantry participated.
Folder 1
Letter, 27 July 1863, from Fauquier County, Virginia, mentioning the men's hatred for the division commander General George Gordon, discussing the national draft and its effect in Massachusetts, and commenting on the size of his and other regiments. He also talks about the battle of Gettysburg and how the Union army had the Confederate army under General Robert E. Lee in a tight spot, but left a hole big enough for the enemy to escape.
Folder 1
Letter, 21 August 1864, from Petersburg, Virginia, during the siege of that city. Ordway talks about the fighting on the front and notes that he just missed being shot in the leg when he sat down to write his letter.
Folder 1
Letter, 30 October 1864, from Chapin's [Chaffin's] Farm, Henrico County, Virginia, describing the corps' move to Chaffin's Farm and bluff, noting the closeness to Richmond, Virginia, and adding that there was a fight with Confederate forces at Fair Oaks. He notes that weather during the fight was rainy and cold and he felt "used up." Ordway adds that he and another soldier fell asleep in a house behind enemy lines, but rejoined their company the next morning.
Folder 1
Letter, 10 November 1864, from Chapin's [Chaffin's] Farm, commenting on the regiment's rations; mentioning the upcoming election between Abraham Lincoln and George B. McClellan and noting that some soldiers were supporting McClellan; and mentioning the birth of a baby.
Folder 1
Letter, 19-20th November 1864, from Chapin's [Chaffin's] Farm, describing the huts the soldiers have for themselves; commenting on Abraham Lincoln's reelection; stating that some soldiers from the 40th Regiment have been working on the canal at Dutch Gap on the James River; and mentioning personal and social news.
Folder 1
Letter, 11 December 1864, from Chapin's [Chaffin's] Farm, noting that the regiment has built cabins, but don't use them too much as they are out in the field a lot. He adds that it is rainy and muddy.
Folder 2
Letter, 1 February 1865, from Chapin's [Chaffin's] Farm, noting word that the division he is in might be moved to Wilmington, North Carolina; stating that Confederate ironclads had shelled the Union troops at the farm; mentioning the weather; and commenting on social and personal news.
Folder 2
Letter, 23 February 1865, from Chapin's [Chaffin's] Farm, stating that Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina, have fallen; commenting on the exchange of prisoners near Dutch Gap on the James River, noting that many of the Union returnees can barely walk and are nearly naked. He adds that his regiment has been barred for competing for best regiment since it usually won. Ordway states that he is sending money from his pay.
Folder 2
Letter, 9 March 1865, from Fort Monroe, describing a raid on the country around Fredericksburg, Virginia, stating that they captured lots of tobacco and some prisoners.
Folder 2
Letter, 16-18 March 1865, from White House, New Kent County, Virginia, describing raids that he was on up the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers. He notes that the regiment saw many pretty girls at Fredericksburg and confiscated a lot of tobacco on the Rappahannock raid, and that they regiment confiscated chickens and honey and burned property on the Patomac raid. They returned to White House to set up a base for the arrival of General Philip Sheridan and his cavalry. Also sent along a 25 cent South Carolina note.
Folder 2
Letter, 28-29 March 1865, from Spring Hill, (Henrico County?), stating that they have advanced to a location near Harrison's Landing on the James Riverand that he has walked over some of the old battlefields from the 7 Days' Battles. He states that they are waiting for Sheridan and have been using horses captured by the cavalry in the Shenandoah Valley for transporting equipment and supplies. Ordway states that General William Sherman is in a difficult spot and that General Ulysses S. Grant will do something to help him. Ordway is also sending money from his pay.
Folder 2
Letter, 8 April 1865, from Richmond, Virginia, commenting on the regiment's duties in Richmond; noting that the Richmond Whig is now a good Union newspaper; stating that higher-ups are coming to the city; and describing Richmond.
Folder 2
Letter, 27 April 1865, from Manchester, Virginia, noting his regiment's duties in Manchester and in Richmond; stating that he's has heard of General Joseph Johnston's surrender and is waiting to hear about General Edmund Kirby Smith's surrender; commenting that the soldiers are getting restless to move on; stating that he might be back home in August; saying that he has seen a large military cemetery; asking his brother to send him some boots; and adding other personal and social news.
Folder 2
Letter, 7 May 1865, from Richmond, Virginia, stating that his regiment might stay in Richmond until the entire army has passed through. He also asks about some boots his brother is sending.