1862 Civil War letter soldier 85th NY State Volunteer, near Suffolk VA

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Albert Henry Bancroft (1840-1864) enlisted at Bristol NY on 26 September 1861, at the age of 21. On October 7th 1861 he mustered into "B" Co. NY 85th Infantry as a private and later was made corporal. He was taken prisoner at the Battle of Plymouth in North Carolina, on 20 April 1864, and imprisoned at Andersonville (Georgia) where he died on 11 August 1864.

Camp near Suffolk, Va.  November 3rd, 1862
Dear Sister Myra,
Yours of the 23rd arrived in due time and I was glad to hear that you were well. I am as well as usual at present. Last week we were out on a reconnaissance to Blackwater there were 6,000 infantry, 15,00 Cavalry;
6 pieces of artillery. We started Thursday about 3 o’clock and marched till near morning going over 20 miles, and some were sent forward with artillery and shelled the Rebels some but I have not learned the particulars yet in the morning at sunrise and arrived at camp about midnight some tired but otherwise well. The Boys got all the poultry, sheep, pigs & potatoes, apple jack, and whatever else they wanted. The Rebs will not want many such visits to leave them rather poor although it was against orders to take things from them. One wench was flying around getting what she could for the Boys. She said she was glad to see the Union soldiers. She hated the Rebs. They were [ ] to her but it filled her full of laughs to see us. but she would catch it when we went away but she did not care,they have disposed of most of their movable property and nearly all of the whites are in the army so the country presents rather a desolate appearance. The negroes were busy picking the corn and digging their potatoes and seemed to be industrious. The soil is nearly all light sand and in the roads where there is much travel, the sand is 3 or 4 inches deep making it very hard walking. Our way was mostly through woods of tall pines filled in with a thick growth of underbrush almost impassable with here and there a cow path extending perhaps for miles making it nice for //
small bands that are acquainted with the country to hide in and waylay the careless or stragglers. This is the country we are trying to drive an armed force out of. Not an armed mob but a skillful and well-generaled army, determined to fight to the last man. And then to look at our own idle army, it seems as though we might as well hang up the fiddle and go home.  But here we are and we might as well make the best of it and fight when we get the chance...
From your brother, A. H. Bancroft Army of Invasion (?)

Mailed to “Miss A.E. Bancroft Canandaigua Ontario CO, NY Care of William Casort”. Postmarked ‘NORFOLK  NOV 4 1862 VA’ on three-cent Washington stamp.

One large piece of paper written on both sides.

Some rust spots. Paper fold into 12. Couple small holes on folds. Envelope torn, stained, creased.

12 ¼” x 8"

Albert kept a diary during the war; see “Diary of Corporal of Co. B., Eighty-fifth regiment, N. Y. S. V.” published in the Fifth annual report of the New York state Bureau of military statistics, 1868, p. 575-612.]


The 85th New York Volunteer Infantry was an infantry regiment in the Union Army during the American Civil War. It was organized at Elmira, New York beginning in August 1861 and mustered in for three-years service on December 2, 1861 under the command of Colonel Uriah L. Davis.

The regiment was attached to 3rd Brigade, Casey's Division, Army of the Potomac, to March 1862. 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, IV Corps, Army of the Potomac, to June 1862. 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, IV Corps, to September 1862. Wessell's Brigade, Division at Suffolk, VII Corps, Department of Virginia, to December 1862.

Duty in the defenses of Washington, D.C., until March 1862. Advance on Manassas, Va., March 10-15. Moved to the Peninsula, Va., March 28. Siege of Yorktown April 5-May 4. Reconnaissance toward Lee's Mills April 29. Battle of Williamsburg May 5. Reconnaissance to Bottom's Bridge May 20-23. Seven Pines, Savage Station and Chickahominy May 24. Reconnaissance to Seven Pines May 24-27. Battle of Seven Pines May 31-June 1. New Market Road June 8. Seven days before Richmond June 25-July 1. Bottom's Bridge June 27-28. White Oak Swamp June 30. Malvern Hill July 1. At Harrison's Landing until August 16. Moved to Fort Monroe August 16-23, then to Suffolk, Va., September 18, and duty there until December. Reconnaissance to Franklin October 3. Blackwater October 9, 26, 29 and 30. Franklin October 31. Zuni November 18.