11 April 1864: “Sea sickness must be felt to be described, so different from everything else, so harmless, and yet making one feel so intensely wretched.”

Item Description:  Multi-day letter dated 11 April 1864 from Jonathan L. Whitaker to his wife, Julia A. Wells Whitaker.  In this letter Jonathan writes to his wife from off the coast of North Carolina about travelling by ship to Beaufort, S.C.  Jonathan describes in great detail his voyage on the ship, sea sickness, meals, and travelling with a Colored Regiment.  Jonathan L. Whitaker, from Orange County, N.Y., was a physician serving as a United States Army surgeon at a hospital at Chester, Pa., and with the 26th United States Colored Troops near Beaufort, S.C. 11April1864111April18642Item Citation:  Letter dated 11 April 1864, found in Folder 2 of the Jonathan Lewis Whitaker Papers, #3674-z, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item Transcription:

Off the Coast of North Carolina, April 11th 1864
on board ship “City of Richmond.”

My dear Wife

I find it hard to pass the weary hours away. So I will endeavor to put my thought on paper from day to day for your perusal. We are having, for me, a long sea voyage. We got on board (as I told you in my letter yesterday) Friday night, and will not get off they say before Wednesday morning, making 4 days & 5 nights on board ship and all the time sick at that. I did hope that I would not be sick this time, but I have been ever since I started, yet not so deathly sick as I was before, just sick enough to feel very uncomfortable. I did not vomit any until this morning, when after eating my breakfast I went out and threw it up immediately, and now though the vessel rocks so I can scarcely write it does not affect me as bad as it did before. Sea sickness must be felt to be described, so different from everything else, so harmless, and yet making one feel so intensely wretched. It takes three boats to carry our Regiment, & as there is another Colored Regiment with us there are six boats in all. I am on this boat with the sick & the Colonel & 4 companies, 3 companies with the Lieut Colonel and Dr. Uglow are on the “Virginia” while 3 companies with the Major are on the “Sailor.” The “Virginia” we have not seen or heard from since we started, The “Sailor” is sometimes in sight. We stopped at Fortress Monroe where I sent the letter from yesterday morning, & I got a chance to go on shore a few moments, I saw at once we were a good ways south. Grass was growing, flowers were blooming, bees were bidding, & everything looked like spring. I wonder how it will look when we get three times as far south? Pleasant enough no doubt, but not so pleasant my dear but a little choice company might make it far pleasanter. We are running down today entirely out of sight of land and the waves roll & the vessel rocks enough to scare one who was not used to it, but I begin to feel quite safe, though too sick to enjoy the ride. I saw by chance before I left Annapolis, our old friend Sister Tyler. She was much surprised to see me there & inquire about wifey & babies. I told her part, but not all of course. She was very sorry on your account I had to go to the field, & was very glad she left Chester before the Rebels came there. O! how glad I will be when this sickening ride is over. One has to pay for his meals & can’t eat them or if he does eat them he throws them overboard to the fishes, and all the time feeling as though as though your stomach was coming up out of your mouth. I can write no more today. Tomorrow I will try again.

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