I think another piece of bone is working its way out.


Fort Johnson James Island, SC
July 15, 1865

Dear Sister Ella,
Yours of June 13th was cheerfully welcomed a short time ago.  I was rejoiced to learn of the general good health of our family.  I have not been very well for two weeks past, but am better now (at times).  My shoulder is quite painful.  I think another piece of bone is working its way out.  I suspect the regiment will be ordered to Texas.  At least such is the rumor.  I suppose we will go from there to Mexico.  I think I had rather go there than remain here.

Lieut Durfee was married last week to a Charleston girl.  I have seen his wife, you need not be surprised if you hear soon that I have done the same, for it is general among the officers here.  I am much obliged for the P Stamps, although there had a supply come to the PO before yours reached me.

I am still in command of my company as there is no officer with me.  My time is mostly occupied with company books and papers.  I think of getting a leave of absence about next Sept or Oct.  I shall come then if possible.  I don’t suppose I can though unless I am superseded in a Co Commander.  
How is Luke this summer?  Is he at home or keeping house away?  My love to him and family.  Tell him to kiss the baby for me!  What do you say the boys name is?  I don’t understand why there is so many troops going to Texas.  We have the idea here that it is for the purpose of driving “Mr. French” from Mexico.  My regards to the Macombers and all inquiring friends, and accept this from accept this from your,
Soldier Brother,
A.B. Ashley 

Albert Bartlett Ashley was born in Lakeville, Massachusetts in 1838.  Before the outbreak of the Civil War he was a sailor and mate on a merchant ship.  When the guns opened, he stuck with his professional choice and enlisted in the Navy in May of 1861.  He was assigned to the Steam Frigate USS Mississippi.  While Ashley served on the Mississippi, the ship participated in the blockade and captured a number of enemy ships.  The ship's (and Ashley's) most important service came in April of 1862, when, as a member of Admiral Farragut's Fleet, the USS Mississippi helped to capture the largest city and port in the South, New Orleans.  In fact, along with the USS Pensacola, the Mississippi was the heaviest ship to enter the MS River up until that time.

In June of '62, Ashley was discharged at the expiration of his term of service, but his duty was far from over.  He re-enlisted with the 3rd Massachusetts Infantry and served with that unit for nearly a year in North Carolina, rising to the rank of Sergeant.  At the expiration of his term of service, he re-enlisted again, this time with the 4th Massachusetts Cavalry and at the rank of 1st Sergeant.  He served with the 4th through the battles of Gainsboro, Honey Hill and Pocotaligo in South Carolina.  

After all his hard service, he was finally commissioned 2nd Lieutenant of the 21st United States Colored Troops in March of 1865.  The unit performed garrison duty at Fort Johnson on Morris Island, South Carolina, just outside of Charleston.  It is from this location that he writes the above letter.  As you can read above, Lt. Ashley is clearly either wounded, or suffered an accident of some kind as he tells his sister pieces of the bone are working their way out.  Unfortunately no details of this episode have been found.  Ashley was later commissioned Captain, but never mustered as such.  In October of 1865 he married Janette Miller of Dedham, MA in Hilton Head, SC.  Eventually they would have both a daughter and son.  He was finally honorably discharged in April of 1866.

After the war he was appointed Light Keeper of the Bay Point, Port Royal Harbor Light.  He then was a police officer for a short time before being appointed Manager and eventually Consulting Manager of coal mines in Indiana and Illinois until 1892.  He was also a circuit lecturer for the Grand Masonic Lodge.  After a life full of adventure and accomplishment, Albert Bartlett Ashley passed away in 1916 and was laid to rest in Spring Lake, Michigan.  


  1. Towards the end of his life, Albert B. Ashley ran a resort called Ashley Heights on Spring Lake in Michigan as a finale to his busy career. My grandfather, John Albert Ashley, fondly recalled growing up there with his Ashley grandparents, who helped his widowed mother raise him and his sister. My family has several other letters that Albert wrote during the Civil War, including a couple more from Charleston, S.C. like the letter shown here. Thanks very much for featuring this letter and his biography on this website.

    My grandfather passed down a short story that I'll share here - he was told that when his Gpa Ashley returned home from the Civil War, he arrived with a copy of the South Carolina Act of Secession on one shoulder, and a kitten on the other. In 2007, a cousin of mine auctioned this copy via Christie's for $46,600, so I guess there was something to this story.

    If I may ask, where is the original letter pictured on this page now?


    P.S. By the way, here are the details of Albert's shoulder injury, as quoted from a letter written to his sister Ella, from Charleston, S.C., on February 28th, 1865:

    "I have enjoyed the best of health during this winters campaign until 5 days ago I had the misfortune to be thrown from my horse and again breaking my left shoulder. We had been scouting the country for miles around, in advance of the Army - and had reached Ashley River - took a peep across - and was returning to camp late in the evening over a bad road at a very rapid pace, when my horse struck an old stump and pitched him headlong. I did not have any surgical aid until yesterday, when I had the good luck to have it set, grately [sic] to my relief, for it was very painful. I am still with the Battalion but not doing duty - and shall not go to any hospital unless the cavalry moves into the country, which will not be very probable until my shoulder is again well, for both men & horses want rest."

    1. Dave,
      Thank you kindly for sharing all this wonderful information. It is my pleasure to be able to share the stories of these soldiers whenever I get the opportunity. All the letters and images on this page are from my personal collection. I have the original letter.

      Thanks so much for sharing the information on his homecoming and for the information explaining how he hurt his shoulder. To me this kind of a message is better than Christmas morning because it's another mystery solved. Thank you very much for your willingness to share the story of your ancestor!
      Best Regards,


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