Warren Mather enlisted in the 6th Vermont Volunteer Infantry Regiment on July 23, 1863, because he felt it duty-bound ‘to come out and not to whine about it.’ Born in 1836, he worked as a blacksmith. He married Ellen ‘Nellie’ Thompson on April 1, 1860 in Bridgewater, Vt.
He’d gotten drafted from Plymouth, Vt., and he decided against hiring a substitute or paying $300 to get out of serving. He enlisted on July 22, 1863. Then he saw action in Virginia, which he described as facing miney balls, grape shot and shells and seeing men killed and wounded all around him. ‘I have got used to it now,’ he wrote.
He told Nell he’d rather be lucky than rich. Warren Mather wasn’t lucky. On Oct. 19, 1864, he got shot in the left leg during the Battle of Cedar Creek. Doctors amputated his leg up to the thigh. After his transfer to the Jarvis Hospital in Baltimore, he seemed to recover. But gangrene set in and he died on Dec. 16, 1864.
Warren Mather Writes
On June 6, 1864, he wrote this letter to Nell:
Camp in the Field
Near Cold Harbor Va. June 6th
My Dear Dear Wife,
I have just got another letter from you dated the 31. Oh Nell how happy it makes me to get a letter from you. I got 2 yesterday 3 in all. I guess that is all you have sent me.
Far from home in Virginia, Warren Mather viewed letters from his wife as precious.
I am so glad you are a going to write often. Do, just as often as you can want to. We have just been relieved and moved back to the rear of the lines, about a half a mile. 3 regiments have been detailed to work on a fort. Grant is a going to try and Seige the rebs out of this place if he can. We can’t drive them out. We have flanked them all the way from the Wilderness but that is played out now. They are too near richmond. They don’t want to go any nearer and that is just where we want to get them. If we can seige them out of there or starve them out, I think this campaign will end the war. The man that lives through it will be a lucky man. I would rather be lucky than rich.
We are camped in a Pine grove, it is cool and pleasant. We all feel a little easier now we have got out of range of them miney balls. For a while the rebs throu a shell over once in a while, but that is all right if they don’t come to near. I thot I would write a short line before I had to go to work so it would go out tonight. I shall write every chance I have, any way that aint very often. I know it will do you so much good to hear from me and know how I am. The old skin is comming off from my toes so they don’t pain me hardley any now.
Mather had seen battle, and he described his emotions about it. And he assured his wife of his contentment most of the time.
Nell, I am very happy most of the time. It makes anyone feel a little rough when we have to stand rite up and face miney balls and shells and grape shot and see men kiled and wounded all around you, but I have got used to it now so I don’t mind so much about it as I did. There is a kind of dread at first but after you get into it you won’t think of any thing but our duty, that is to peg it into them as fast as you can.
Yes Sis you was right when you said I would suffer so much but some way I did not dread it at all. I felt as if it was my duty to come out and not whine about it at all, and I am glad I did come. It will be a great lesson to me and one that will never be forgotten by me. I only think of the comforts that I enjoyed at home and did not apresciate them, was not satisfied with a good living and good wife and happy home. But a man don’t know when he is well off as at least I did not, but I ain’t finding falt at all. I take everything patiently and feel satisfied with my lot. I am willing to stand my hand with the rest, eat what is furnished me and fight where the rest do and to put my life in the care of God and feel that all will be well at last.
…Our company was broken up and put into different companies in this regt. We are all privates every one of us. It is all the same to me, I wouldent give a snap for a corparal’s place here, they have more duty to do than the privates here. Porter has just got a letter from his wife. She has gone home to Troy N.Y. If you want to writ to her direct to J.H. Grandy, Northern Hotell, Troy N.Y. Write soon, send me a dollar or 2 just as you are a mind to. Just enough to get some tobaco with. There ain’t no sutler here, the teamsters sell it, Navy plugs for 3 dollars a plug. The rebs made another charge last night. I guess they will get off it after a while, there is thousands of union troops here. Brigadier General [Lewis A.] Grant commands the Brigade. 6th Reg. 6th army Corps 2nd Brigade 2nd Division bulky Neill commands Division.
Write often and be happy Darling pet
Good bye Dear Wife, I will write as soon as I can again. You can’t send me anything now, only what you send by a letter
This story updated in 2022.
With thanks to Vermont in the Civil War.