13 July 1861: “We are going to get our pay to day up to the first of June. We could not wait much longer as we are out of paper, ink, &c.”

Item description: Letter, 13 July 1861, from William Ray Wells, private in the 12th New York Infantry Regiment (“Onondaga Regiment”), to his family. Wells writes about receiving his pay, mentions a Union victory in West Virginia, and comments on family business.

Item citation: From folder 2 of the William Ray Wells Papers #2960-z, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

8 o clock A.M.

Camp Onon.

Little Falls July 13 1861

Dear Friends,

I wrote and sent you a letter yesterday in which I wrote I had not heard from you since just before the 4th. I made a mistake. Your letter is dated the 5th. I have not heard from any of you since I think you have written and it has been miscarried. I am in hopes to get a letter from you this morning. The mail has just gone and will be back in about 2 hours. We are going to get our pay to day up to the first of June. We could not wait much longer as we are out of paper, ink, &c. and have had to use from Capt. untill he is nearly out. We get about 13 dollars this time I believe. I am going to send that to Alicia by Mr. Jenkins if I can. We did not move our tents but about 50 rods. we are still on the Maryland side. We are camped in a very gloomy and lonesome spot. There was an alarm yesterday that the rebels were planting a battery about a mile and a half up the river (north) we were given ammunition and ordered to be ready to march at a moment’s warning. It was found to be Union men. Senator Seward was here last night and gave the Col. orders to be ready to follow up at any time. He said Gen. McClelen had put to flight a party of rebels in Western Virginia and had taken a large quantity of tents, &c. and the Union men were now going to follow it up and sweep them from Virginia. He was loudly cheered and the Col. told us we should get our guns to day but if we had to advance before they came we could fight with our bayonets. And not trust to firing for the guns were as apt to kill at one and as at the other. But wherever we are the letters are to be directed the same as heretofore and the mail carrier will have to come here to (Wash.) after them as they cannot trust them (letters) to go farther south. I cannot send this till tomorrow morning when I will finish it.


July 14 6 o clock.

I will now try and finish writing this letter it has got all crumpled up by laying it away yesterday. But we cannot have things just as we would wish it here. I expected certain ly to get a letter from you yesterday but was disapointed. I hear that Salena is again deranged. I am very sorry indeed. it must be a sad trial to Lucy. Our Co. has not been paid yet, they will finish paying this morning. They paid C Co.’s after 4 o clock last night. If Mr. Jenkins does not go home soon I will keep the money for Alicia untill I come home which will be in less than a month and not trust it by letter. Excuse me for not writing more as I wish to send this this morning. When you write again write a (good long letter) and write more about yourselves how you are all getting along and what doing, &c. Write as soon as rec.d. give my love to all from your affectionate son and brother.


When I get my pay I will get some better paper, &c.

More about William Ray Wells:


– 21 years of age at time of enlistment

– Enlisted on Apr 30 1861 at Tully, NY as Private

Mustering information:

– Enlisted into I Company, 12th Infantry (New York) on May 13 1861

– Killed while serving in 12th Infantry (New York) on Aug 30 1862 at 2nd Bull Run, VA

[Click here to learn more about the 12th NY Infantry Regiment.]

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