An Orphan’s War – Part 1

Substitute conscript William E. Mott arrived at Cedar Run on August 11th, 1863. He was not extraordinary in any way. Mott was of average appearance—five-five, fair complexion, brown hair—and his service with in Company F, Fourteenth Connecticut would be unexceptional. Nonetheless, his story is a most compelling one, and it will require at least three posts to tell. Mott described how he became a soldier to the U. S. Pension Office in a series of letters written nearly fifty years after his enlistment.

“Dear Sir In regard about my certificate of my Berth, it will be Doubtfull if I can find eny statment ove my Bearth when I was Bornd ore where I was Bornd at but I think I herd my Mother say that I was in N.Y. city have sent on to see if it was on the Regster The first I remembr living was Wickford R.I. soon after we moved to Fairhaven Mass Mother died there when I was 8 years old and soon after Father died, the six children scattered two Brothers and one Sister I have not seen sence then tryed find them when I come out of the army but could not so you can see how I am fix and I think you will find houndreds of Soulders will be in the same fix.

“As I wer in R.I. State Reform School at Proverdence city R.I. James M. Talcot Superendent of the School at that time 1863 had A friend N. H. Luomes (Rev. Nathaniel H. Lewis) was Drafted A Hartford conn and they hird me to go as A subtuttet for him at $5.00 A month for three years, after I come out the army I was hired to work in the shoe shop at the school.

” In regard about my age from the school at Proverdence city R.I. I know I wer older than they clame I am. As I wer Perfect stranger to the Judge and court at New Port R.I. I clamed I was pass 18 years old at that time 1861 but the Judge thort I was not so old, so he must have put my age down lest so to get me in the school as I wer not known at New Port R.I. as I had jest come from New Bedford Mass, my mother dided when I was 8 years old as I had no home or eny one to look after me they sent me to the school.

“When I Listed 1863 I was pass 19 going on 20 when I Listed at Hartford I am not sure Whether I gived my age or the Officer From the school as the Officer come up with me to take me back to the school if I did not pass I did not have eny thing to say as I wer pushed in to tak another man place N. H. Loumes (Lewis) A Preacher as he was drafted. As there was no fight in him I was taken out R I in Conn. I cant see how it was don. I never got A dollar when Listed but was to $5 a munt when I come home but if I had got killed as soon as I got to the front I suppose he would never had to pay eny thing I think I was put in the army cheep dont you think so cant you find out my age by my Army Discriptive List I suppose I will have to stand in the school age as I cant do eny thing better co F 14 conn co D 2 conn H.A. W E Mott.”

Note: The above is from background material included in The Diary of a Dead Man, 1862-1864, the unedited diary and letters of Private Ira Pettit, compiled by J. P. Ray. Mott was instrumental in preserving Pettit’s diary for Pettit’s parents.

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