"Dear Sister," a letter from Pvt. W.H.H. Rideout, 13th Mass., Feb. 1863

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John Hartwell

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“What a handsome manly looking soldier he was.
He could cut us all out when the girls were about,
and alas, did so frequently.” (recalled a Co. B comrade)​

Pvt William Henry Harrison Rideout, Co. B, 13th Massachusetts, writes from Washington, D.C., to his “sister,” Lydia Anne Waymouth of Braintree, Mass. Rideout actually had no sister of that name, and their exact relationship is a bit of a mystery. He had been taken prisoner at Second Manassas, but exchanged by Dec. 29, 1862, when War Dept. Special Order No. 494 placed him on detached duty with the Quartermaster Department in Washington.

[spelling etc as per the original]

Washington D.C.,
February 25th, 1863​

Dear Sister​
Yours of the 20th was rec. with much pleasure & I hasten to give it an early answer but it will neccessaryly be short for the one I sent you monday contained all the news.​
I am sorry You entertain the idea that Lillie S. (as I call Her) or rather that is the way She sign’s Her name) is a friend of mine for You are sadly mistaken, She was once I suppose, but she can never be again, (not if I know myself & I think I do.​
You say You thought I placed more confidence in You than to think You would tell her. I did, until I received the news that You were friends again & then I was dum founded & knew not what to think. I was never more astonished at any thing in my life & if I were with You I could explain Myself a little more definately, by saying that some day she will disdain to look at You, I know Lydia Stedman almost as well as I know Myself & I know what her opinion is of You.​
I am extremely sorry to hear You think of leaving Your native land & going to so distant a country [California] as the one You named, for I hardly know what I should do if I were to part forever with one I so much love, (& especially my Sister) I am in hopes Your father will change his mind & not go, but if He does not & You must leave Me, The worst wish I have, is that You may live happy in Your new home & never meet a worse friend than Your brother W.H.H. R​
You spoke in Your letter of having some idea of paying a visit to this city. I think that would be a grand idea for I should be most happy to see You when You come You had better come with Annie, she thinks of coming & poor company would be better than none.​
My roommate Mr Worcester has gone to Boston on a little visit, to see his Parents & his intended. He thinks of going back to the army to accept a commission & is anxious to have me go with him. He is going to call on my Parents Thursday or Friday so if You are down You may see him. He is a pretty boy & a fine young man. I miss him very much, for I have had to sleep alone since He went, but to night I have a bed fellow one of Clerks named A. Supplee. He has been in bed for the last half hour singing like a canary Bird & He says if I don't stop writing & come to bed He will throw something (unmentionable) at me. He says if the letter I am writing is to my Sister or My Lady to throw in a kiss for Him.​
since Sunday We have had delightful weather & the snow has nearly all disappeared. last evening I went to Canterbury Hall but did not stop a great length of time, for I had the blues & felt sick, so I came home & went to bed, but not to sleep, for there was a Band of Music seranading, a few doors below where I board & kept me awake for nearly two hours. I lay listening to the sweet music & thinking of the dear ones at home​
You will please excuse all mistakes & the looks of the writing for I have written this under serious disadvantages My finger is so sore I can hardly write & my friend in bed has kept me talking ever since I commenced.​
Hopeing to hear from You soon & as often as You can make it convenient.​

I am Your most affect. Brother
W.H.H.R.

The excellent website of 13th Mass.org, contains more of pvt Rideout’s lively correspondence with the mysterious Lydia, and others.
 
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