In the third instalment of letters from James Fleming of Antrim (Find Part 1 here and Part 2 here), we join the young Irish officer of the 9th New York “Hawkins’ Zouaves” at Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina. These three letters span November 1861 to January 1862. In the first of them James talks of his many countrymen in the 9th- ‘Americans at heart’- and tells his mother how the landscape reminds him of the coast of Larne. The second deals with his prospects of dying in the conflict, although James assures his mother that ‘the ball is not made yet to take my life’. The last of the series recounts the warmth of the weather even in winter, as James clearly grows weary of life at Hatteras and longs to move on.
Camp Wool Hatteras Inlet
Novb 18th 1861
Lieut Jas H Flemming
9th Regt of N Y Zouaves
My Dear Father Mother
I received your last letter of Sept which gave me great pleasure to receive also to hear that you are all well as thank God this leaves me at present in good health as I have stood this climate very well as its very trying on the health as the most of our officers are sick and a great many of our men but we have got orders to keep ourselves in readiness to start by the next beat but where our destination will be is yet a secret but will be able to let you know before I send this letter. I believe that we will rejoin our Brigade again at New Port News under General Phelps as our boys calls him Dady our Regiment is comprised of young men from 17 years to 25 I may say not one older all fine young fellows. When we left New Port News the General P. Said that he would let them have the 7th & 2nd & through them in the 1st if they would only let him keep his boys that is what he calls us but they thought there was work to do and so the 9th had to go, you mention that you do not see our regiment mentioned in any of the papers. I will send you a paper by the next boat if it mentions us as we are called the Crack Regiment of the Volunteers which I believe we are but I am only afraid that we will not have a chance of showing the world what the 9th can do. Recollect Dr Mother that they are not all Americans by birth, as I have a great many of my own countrymen only Americans at heart which we find in this struggle to be the real men. There was a great naval expedition past here for a few days ago composed of about 80 gun boats and 18,000 men they have taken one very strong place, Beaufort, and are at present bombarding Charleston if you recollect that is where the fighting commenced Fort Sumter Charleston Harbour. We are waiting patiently to hear of them being successful if they can so the half of the fighting will be over as we have only them to whip them on the Potomic which will end the fights. Dear Mother you mention in your last about them opening letters etc, such is not the case I have got all your papers letters etc which I think you sent. They open Boxes sent to the men to prevent them from getting liquor and they are opened by a man appointed out of the Regt for that purpose, but I think that they are wise particular in forwarding letters & papers more than they were before the war so you need not be afraid to send me anything in the way of papers as it gives me great pleasure to receive anything in the shape of papers from home. I sent you a paper by the last boat which I hope you got tho do not allow any letters or communications of any kind to go south nor none from the south here, but I hope that the communication will be open soon again. I said I would let you know where we are going by this letter but we have not changed our camp yet but will during next week.
Dear Mother I have nothing of any consequence to write this mail but I hope I will have something of more importance to write in my next. I got Anny’s letter and would have replyed by this mail but have not much time tell her I will write her a long letter soon and am glad to hear the family are so well. I hope she makes a kind Mammy to the young Rankins give her my warmest respects and a kiss to each of the children also to her sister and mother not forgetting old Mrs Rankin & sister also any of the old friends in Larne. I am very glad to hear that Alex & Nancy are getting along so well give them my best respects. as I sit here writing when I lift my head & look out the Pamlico Sound meets my view reminding me of the old coast at Larne but then there’s another object which meets my gaze which I would not see at Larne, that is our camp & muskets stacked along our Company that looks rather warlike, and then the sound of distant guns lets you know of something going on only wishing to join in the strife at the taking of Beaufort the other day we heard the reposts of the cannon all day long & that is about 50 miles from where we are camped. They say its a great sight to see them bombarding one of these places. The Rebels are getting a little frightened at the yankies as they call us as if our correspondents lets us know how they are getting along we will have a grand [illegible] shortly which I hope it will be about Christmas as I am always fond of shooting about that time and think New Years Day [illegible] place here for visiting and so we expect to spend our New Years Day in either Charleston Baltimore or some camp southern city.
Dear Mother I must now conclude hoping to hear from you soon again, and if its God will that anything should occur to me you will get word of it right away but I hope with the grace of God to come through this with flying colours but intend doing my duty to the last. Give my kind love to my Brothers I will write Harry in a few days. I got a letter from Malcolm & write by the next mail & was glad to hear that they were well. Kind love to Father & yourself & may God Bless you all & the sincere prayer of your son
Jany 7th 1862
My Dear Father & Mother
I received your letter the morning of 11th Decb which gives me great comfort to know that you are all well as thank god this leaves me at present enjoying good health our regiment is still encamped at this place and likely to be for some time as yet and so you make your mind quite easy concerning me while I remain on this island as there will never be any fighting here there is nothing of any consequence going on at present our army is advancing as I mentioned in my last which I wrote about 2 weeks ago. We may have to leave this place on a forward movement which we are longing for as the army at present is getting quite impatient and only longing to drive the enemy out of the field which we can do I think with very little loss on our side. I will write a few lines to Jas Kelly as soon as I have time as I am glad that he is to be found assisting to defend his adopted Country. I have wrote Anny by the same post and stated that I was writing to you. I have first got a letter from Mary Ann by the same mail which fetched yours. She states that they are all well she said that she had wrote to you some time shortly which I hope you have received at this time. I have received two boxes of underclothes etc from her. I always write to her for anything of that sort Dr mother you want to know what I have done with my clothes & books. My clothes I sold the most of and my books I gave away I fetched one suit of clothes out with me and you would have had a laugh at me trying to get them on me they would not look at fiting me so I had to throw them aside. I believe that Mary Ann got some of my things which she keeps to my return. Dr mother give my kind love to my Brothers when you see them tell them to always write me & I will answer when I have time. I am glad that my Father is so stout and always able to run about as I hope that the time is not far distant when I will have the pleasure of seeing you all and also Mary Ann may accompany me home but in the present disturbed state of the Country the safest plan is to help to see her righted again which I hope will be before a great time. Dr mother if its Gods will that I should fall I will do so doing my duty which I hope will be a consolation for you to think that it was not the assasins stall or the murderers ball which will reach me at a time perhaps when I am not thinking of the like as I can say that upon the field I dread not death as I think if I had any choice give me the field fighting for my Country as I think I will never be shot in the back at any rate, as this is only mere supposition on my part as I think that the ball is not made yet to take my life or yet to scar any body. For now I must conclude kind love to my uncle as I hear that he is still with you write soon from your affectionate son
Jas H Flemming
Jany 29th 1862
My Dear Father Mother
I send you a few lines of this boat as I may not have a chance of writing for 2 or 3 weeks again hoping this will find you all enjoying that great Blessing good health as thank God this leaves me at present as healthy and well as ever I was. I wrote you by the last mail which I hope you have got before this time. You can see by my address that I am still on Hatteras but I sincerely hope that we will have the pleasure of leaving here before long. Always address my letters the same as usual. You can see its now about the worst of the winter season with you and here I am about in my pants & shirt and always quite warm the only things that we have to dread here is the heavy dew that fall during the nights but thank goodness they have never had any effect on me for so far.
Dr mother give my kind love to my Brothers as I am expecting some letters from them soon. I hope that they are all enjoying good health and succeeding in all their undertakings tell Harry to write soon & let me know how Andy & he has succeeded during last summer or if they made any thing by the ferries and how Malcolm is getting along I am expecting a letter every mail from him but I suppose that he is like Alex has not time to write. I had a letter from Mary Ann they are all well. I must soon finish with kind love to all. How’s Thos & Nancy getting along. I am sorry that he is not succeeding better than what he has done but I hope that he will improve yet. How is my uncle getting along I suppose that he is still stoping with you. I wrote a long letter to Anny by the last mail at the same time I wrote yours I hope that she got it alright.
Dear Mother I wrote you this note some 10 days ago but our mail was stopped and as it goes out this morning I embrace the opportunity of sending this as I hope sincerely that another letter from home will not find one on Hatteras as I am tired of it. I must soon finish with kind love to my friends and may God bless you and father.
In the prayer of your
Son James (1)
(1) Louise Brown Transcription
*The next letters will join James in March 1862, when he has finally moved on from Hatteras to Roanoke Island. Note that some punctuation has been added to the letters above for ease of reading. Sincere thanks are due to Louise Brown for sharing these letters of her ancestor, which she has also transcribed, with readers of Irish in the American Civil War.
*I am grateful to Michael Zatarga, a researcher of the 9th New York, for drawing my attention to Swedish-born Charles Johnson’s The Long Roll, from which the image of Camp Wool is drawn. The account makes frequent mention of Fleming, who Johnson was fond of.