1861: Freeman Foster, Jr. to Freeman Foster

USS Mississippi in 1863

USS Mississippi in 1863

This letter was written by Freeman Foster, Jr. (1835-1888), a 26-year-old Boston stonecutter. Freeman was the son of Freeman Foster (1807-1900) and Nancy Spaulding Ingalls (1809-1888). Freeman, Jr. enlisted into the U.S. Navy on 18 May 1861 at Boston as a Musician and was discharged on 23 June 1862. He served on three different ships: the SS Ohio, the USS Mississippi, and the USS North Carolina.

Freeman, Jr. married Lucinda Jane Wellman (1833-1902) in 1858. Together they had at least four children. An obituary for Freeman published in the 26 April 1888 Boston Herald says that he was a prominent citizen of Wollaston and a senior partner in the Kimball Shoe Manufacturing Company of Boston. He died of gastric fever leaving a wife and three children.

At the time this letter was written in September 1861, Freeman was serving on board the USS Mississippi in the Gulf of Mexico near Ship Island.


Sunday Sept. 8th, 1861

Dear Father,

As I feel rather lonesome today, I thought I would write. This morning was the warmest that I have seen, until about 10 when there sprung up a nice cool breeze & there is now signs of rain.

We have been to quarters & meeting & now have nothing to do the rest of the day. Every Sunday all hands dress up & at about ten we muster on deck. The Capt. [and] 1st Lieut. comes round and inspects the men, then the bell tolls for meeting. We all gather aft on the quarterdeck. Part of the band plays two psalm tunes & the Capt. reads a few verses & makes a prayer & then we are sent forward. I am sick enough of it Sundays. I would give considerable to be at home & go to church & hear the singing. Although I am getting more used to the life, still I never can get so as to like it much.

Night before last we weighed our anchor and went out to see what sail it was that we had seen standing south. We came up to her about 8 o’clock and found it to be the Vincennes from Pensicola bound to the southwest pass of the Mississippi [River]. Alvarus sent me a note by one of the officers that came aboard. He said he was well and had heard from home Aug. 13th. I answered it back. One of the sailors told me that A. was master at arms. I guess that he will make a good one too. I wish he was in our ship. We have an Irishman for our Master at Arms, and everything don’t go as it would with a Yankee. He has to put all prisoners in confinement & has the charge of the berth deck. The Sailor said they liked their Capt. very much. He is the same man that shipped us in Boston.

We saw a sail one day last week that we took for the Vincennes but it was the Preble they say. We expect a lot of vessels here soon & we need them too. With the glass they can see the tops of some vessels masts up the bay & they think they are loading with cotton, & that some night a steamer will tow them outside. We shall keep a sharp lookout for them.

We cruised all night, night before last, & came back to anchor at noon yesterday. The steamers are very busy running to New Orleans from Mobile & they go like the wind to but if they come within reach of our guns, they had better say their prayers. When we started the other night, there was two of them outside, & the men thought we were going to give them chase, and the way our boats were hauled up & the anchor too was a caution. We did stand towards them but they run in shore like scared dogs.

While I am writing, the Orderly Sergeant is reading a paper (Aug. 15th) saying that France & England are going to break our blockade. What do you think of it? I think it is all gammon. I guess there are some Rebels near home that get up such stories.

They say now that our mail will not be here before the last of the week. You will not get this before the last of the month. I will close now for perhaps I shall have some news to write before I send.

Sept. 9th – Dear Father,

The steamer Connecticut came in last night about 9. I did not get any letters and I suppose the Water Witch brought her mail while we were at quarters. One of our quarter gunners got shot through the leg by his revolver being accidentally discharged. One of the Masters Mates was going past him and hit his sword against the lock of the revolver. The ball passed between the 2 bones of the leg and went clean through and buried itself in the deck. He will get over it before long I guess.

There is 3 Masters Mates or Middles come aboard of us, and some of our lieutenants (I don’t know who) are going home to take charge of some gun boats. There is all sorts of rumors here as usual after a vessel comes in. They say that the Sumter (Privateer) is taken and that they are going to attack Pensacola Navy Yard tomorrow. I do not give any credence to either. Another, the papers say, that France & England are going to break our blockade. I do not believe that either. Whatever does happen, we shall not know it much before hand but I do think that if it can be done, we will be sent somewhere to repair her bottom for there is no mistake but that she leaks where she run on the reefs at RW. They pump her out night & morning.

I shall not get a chance to send this for a week yet & it will be between 4 & 5 months since I enlisted by the time you get this. I will write more before the steamer gets back. I do not expect any more letters before the last of the month. One of the Masters Mates showed me a letter he got last night. It was directed Naval Lyceum Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York, U. S. Frigate Mississippi and his letter come direct & I guess you had better direct yours so. Tell James as I forgot to in her her letter.


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