First Battle of Kinston, N.C., Collection, 1862-1863

Manuscript Collection #1222

  • Descriptive Summary
    Title: First Battle of Kinston, N.C., Collection
    Creator: Kinsley, Alfred Howard
    Kinsley, Thomas
    Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
    Language: English
    Abstract: Letters (20 November 1862 – 20 January 1863) from two brothers -- Alfred Howard Kinsley of Co. H, of the 45th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Militia) and Thomas Kinsley, serving in Co. A, -- from Camp Amory on the Trent River, North Carolina, to Edward Wilkinson Kinsley, a Boston merchant, Abolitionist, Government agent and military recruiter, who was probably their relative, and primarily concerning their service in Brig. Gen. John G. Foster’s Expedition to Goldsboro, NC, including the First Battle of Kinston and the Battle of Whitehall, NC, 13 – 14, 16 December 1862. Autograph letters signed.
    Extent: 0.05 Cubic feet, 2 archival folders; 7 items; 9 p, Correspondence
  • Description

    Collection of 7 Civil War letters, 20 November 1862–22 January 1863, written by brothers Alfred Howard Kinsley (5 letters) and Thomas Kinsley (2 letters) to their relative, Edward Wilkinson Kinsley, a noted abolitionist, merchant, and agent for the State of Massachusetts. The letters are arranged in two folders—folder a: Alfred Howard Kinsley and folder b: Thomas Kinsley.

    The letters primarily concern their early civil war experiences in North Carolina. Alfred enlisted as a private on 16 September 1862 and Thomas enlisted as a private a day earlier. They were mustered in together on 26 September 1862. The letters originate from Camp Amory on the Trent in New Bern, N.C., between November 1862 and January 1863. The letters primarily concern Gen. Foster’s Goldsboro Expedition (12–21 December) including the First Battle of Kinston, N.C., (13–14 December) and the Battle of Whitehall (16 December). The letters also discuss the brothers’ day to day lives and their friends during the war.

    The autograph letters signed are fragile and stained but in excellent condition considering their age and the conditions under which they were written. Several are slightly torn. All the letters written in pencil; several show signs of having been glued to a scrapbook or backing paper; several are stained; several need conservation; Most of the letters are legible but letter 1.b.2 is illegible in places due to erosion of the pencil lines.

    Folder a: Alfred Kinsley

    Letter 1.a.1: 6 December 1862: Alfred Kinsley writes to "Dear Brother" [Edward W. Kinsley that he has not received package; in God forsaken country; all the boys send regards, mentions Charlie Ingram, Hosnell Rhodes, and Taylor; fine weather; all in good spirits and "longing for a fight"; few cowards in the regiment; Captain Oliver W. Peabody, commander of Co. H., is the "best man" in the unit; his replacement Capt. Lewis W. Tappan, Jr. and other officers also good men; Co. C gone to Morehead City; Co G to Fort Macon which leaves us only light company in battalion drill; we are the color company; Lt. Col. Peabody offered to lend me reading material; thanks Kate [probably Edward’s wife Calista Adelaide Billings Kinsley] for bandages and camphor bags, saved him from sickness.

    Letter 1.a.2: 21 December 1862: Alfred Kinsley writes to “Dear Edward" [Edward W. Kinsley] thanking him for sending cigars, other things spoiled; just arrived home from "our expedition" [Foster's Expedition]; it was a "complete success"; is "awful lame" after march; Co. H lost the most men at Battle of Kinston, 1 killed outright and 2 mortally wounded, including Charles Ingram but not permitted to visit him in hospital; already had four killed from Co. H; regiment lost 12–14 killed, 20 wounded; Sgt. Theodore Parkman, color sergeant was killed the next day at Whitehall, about 10 miles from Kinston on way to Goldsborough (sic); Tom [Kinsley] and Ralph well; Tom sends love to you and Kate.

    Letter 1.a.3: 25 December 1862: Alfred Kinsley writes to "Dear Ed" [Edward W. Kinsley] that he will send a list of killed when gets paper; Capt. Tappan will write to you and enclose letter to Ingram's wife; wish you, Kate and Addie and all the folks a "Merry Christmas"; thanks for good things you sent; thought of home all day and wish to be there; received your letter through 2nd Lt. Benjamin H. Ticknor of Co. G; "I think war matters look dark"; trusts they will soon "be brighter"; "expedition done every thing that was expected; all our men are good stuff; there is no back down to the 45th; they have won a good name and I thank God I am one of the number"; says in confidence that Capt. Tappan was a "coward" and went to the rear at Kinston; 2nd Lt. Alfred Winsor of Co. H is brave man; Tappan is very kind to me; thinks there will be another expedition soon; thinks this war "a most wicked one"; soldiers still suffering; some had bullets removed more than a week after being wounded; won't complain; having beautiful weather; when do you move to your new home in Rutland St.?; hopes to visit you and Kate; has a "nice large boil" on his left hand lanced today; Dolph [Pvt. Rudolphus K. Howard, Co. A] is well and sends regards; Chaplain Andrew S. Stone is a brave and good man; Col. Peabody "tough as a nut . . . no back down there"; Col. Charles R. Codman the same; "Capt. [Joseph M.] Churchill [Co. B] and Capt. [Thomas B.] Wales [Jr., Co. E] are two (sic)".

    Letter 1.a.4: 10 January 1863: Alfred Kinsley writes to "Dear Ed" [Edward W. Kinsley] that he has received his letter by Mr. Johnson; the good things all in Newbern (sic); all packed up ready to march; rainy season has arrived; still trying to get Ingram's body to send home but did not have enough time; must be expensive for the government; two spies have been captured here within two days by the 51st Regiment; will get "death for there (sic) trouble"; sees "stuff" in the paper about Col. Codman; papers all like Lt. Col. best; discusses soldiers' opinions of other officers; have sent home a draft to you through Col. Peabody; $10 is for Tom; $10 is for Willie Chadwick and $20 for me I want to hold and if I am killed give it to Mary and Aunt Rhoda; "but I am not going to get killed".

    Letter 1.a.5: 22 January 1863: Alfred Kinsley writes to "Dear Brother"[Edward W. Kinsley] that the 45th Regiment is off on another expedition tomorrow to an unknown destination; we are ready; repeats instructions for disposal of the money order he had sent.

    Folder b: Thomas Kinsley

    Letter 1.b.1: 20–21 November 1862: Thomas Kinsley writes to "Dear Brother" [Edward W. Kinsley] that it is very stormy and not being on drill today, thought I would write; inspected by Maj. Gen. Foster and staff yesterday and were "complimented very highly"; Dolph [Pvt. Rudolphus K. Howard, Co. A] is busy oiling the guns; 43rd Regiment encamped nearby and last night a party from the 45th "went over and serenaded [2nd] Lieut. [James] Schouler [Co. D]; Mr. [Pvt. George F.] Woodman [Co. A] left for Newbern (sic) this morning to get some tools to fix the guns which got rusty during the passage; Col. Peabody drilled the company this morning as skirmishers; send some postage stamps and a few dollars in shin plasters; all the boys are well and wish to be remembered to you; four men from the company go out on picket duty tomorrow; I expect to be detailed next; love to Kate and all the folks.

    Letter 1.b.2: 24 December 1862: Thomas Kinsley writes to "Dear Edward" [Edward W. Kinsley] that we returned from expedition last Sunday but was too tired to write until now; the 45th has been in two "very hard fights"; the first engagement with the "rebels" was at Kingston (sic); "we fought them for about two hours in a swamp standing in black mud above our hips"; it was there that Charles Ingram and Elbridge Graves were shot; Graves you know was a Newburyport boy and has been my chum "ever since Woodman left"; he was shot in the left lung; he lived through the night but died the next morning; we buried him near the hospital under an elm tree; 25th chapter of Corinthians beginning at the 20th verse was read; solemn ceremony; he struck up the tune "Ye Christian Heroes" a few minutes before going into the fight; whole company was singing with him; Capt. [George P.] Denny [Co. A] wrote to his mother this morning; I have been helping to pack his knapsack; Ingraham was shot through the bowels and Woodman has the ball; he was buried near Graves; his last words were "God Bless My Wife"; returned to battlefield after the fight and saw horrible sights; was short of food and had to take rations from the dead; were cheered by the other regiments when we marched into Kingston (sic); "Bully for the Massachusetts"; the 23rd [Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment Militia] (Col. John Kurtz) "fought like tigers"; Capt. Denny is a "perfect hero"; I tore my pants "nearly off me" during the fight; Turkey you sent at Thanksgiving was spoiled but the bread and ham were good.

  • Biographical / Historical Note

    The First Battle of Kinston Collection consists in letters from two brothers, Alfred Howard Kinsley and Thomas Kinsley, who were serving in the 45th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (also known as the Boston Cadets) 1862 – 1863, to Edward Wilkinson Kinsley, probably a relative, who was a Boston merchant, Abolitionist leader, Massachusetts government agent and military recruiter. Edward was not in the military but was active in recruiting and supporting several African American regiments, including the 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, during the Civil War.

    Both Alfred and Thomas refer to Edward as “Dear Brother” as well as “Edward” or “Dear Ed.” They convey regards to several of Edward’s family members. The letters also reveal Edward to be a conduit for news, food, and supplies to the two brothers and other men in the regiment, but do not explicitly describe their relationship.

    Alfred Howard Kinsley (1838 – 1912) was a Springfield, Massachusetts, gunsmith. He enlisted in the 45th Massachusetts as a private on 16 September 1862. He was twenty-four. He was mustered into Co. H on 26 September 1862. He mustered out, having been promoted to sergeant, on 7 July 1863, at Readville, MA. On 5 October 1863, he was commissioned as a 1st lieutenant in Co. E of Massachusetts 2nd Heavy Artillery; he was discharged for disability on 29 December 1864. He died September 5, 1912, in Boston, MA.

    Thomas Kinsley (1843 – 1916) a nineteen-year-old salesman from Boston, MA, enlisted as a private on 15 September 1862, and was mustered into Co. A on 26 September 1862. He was mustered out as a private at Readville, MA, on July 7, 1863. Thomas died on 11 April 1916.

    Edward Wilkinson Kinsley (1829 – 1891), the recipient of the letters, was 33 years old in 1862 and never served in the military. It appears from the content of the letters that he was related to the two brothers but whether he was a brother, cousin, or uncle is uncertain. Edward was too young to be their father. The most prominent of the three Kinsleys, Edward was a Boston merchant, Abolitionist, and agent for the State of Massachusetts. He played a significant role in recruiting and obtaining fair pay and treatment for the enlisted Black soldiers in the 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and in recruiting Black soldiers into other Union regiments in Massachusetts and North Carolina. His services to the Union were so significant that Edward W. Kinsley Post 113 of the Grand Army of the Republic, a U. S. Army veterans’ volunteer organization, was named for him despite the fact that he never served in uniform. A wool dealer in the Boston firm of Horswell, Kinsley, and French, Kinsley produced a series of written reminiscences about his Civil War experiences. At least three collections of his papers including correspondence with his brothers are available in several other repositories. See also related collections, below.

    Source: American Civil War Research Database, Historical Data Systems, Inc.

    The 45th Massachusetts Volunteer Militia Regiment was recruited in the late summer and early fall of 1862 for nine months service. Most of the men had been members of the Boston Cadets Regiment since its recruitment in the spring of 1862. Most of the companies in the regiment were mustered into service on 26 September 1862. After training, the regiment then traveled by steamboat, to North Carolina, where it arrived at Beaufort, on 12 November 1862, and then travelled by rail to New Bern, N.C., where it joined the brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. Thomas Jonathan Coffin Amory (1830 – 1864). Amory’s Brigade was part of the division commanded by Maj. Gen. John G. Foster (1823 – 1874). The 45th Massachusetts Volunteers established their headquarters, called “Camp Amory”, on the banks of the Trent River near Fort Gaston. The brothers wrote all their letters at this location.

    On 12 December the regiment set out with General Foster's expedition to Goldsboro, N.C., reaching Kinston on 14 December, where the regiment lost fifteen men killed and forty-three men wounded in battle with Confederate Army forces. At Whitehall on 16 December the regiment lost four men killed and sixteen men wounded in battle with the Confederates, and finally arrived in Goldsboro on 17 December where the regiment did not see action. Then the soldiers marched back to New Bern arriving on 21 December.

    Source: American Civil War Research Database, Historical Data Systems, Inc.

    The Battle of Kinston was fought on 13 – 14 December 1862. It was the most significant Confederate opposition to Brig. Gen. John G. Foster advance on Goldsboro. The defending Confederates were commanded by Brig. Gen. Nathan G. "Shank" Evans (1824 – 1868). On 12 December, the Union approached Kinston from New Bern. The next morning the army reached Southwest Creek and crossed it. They held their position close to the bridge overnight. The Union attack resumed the next day. Evans ordered the bridge burned. Foster's men extinguished the flames on the bridge and crossed on the partially destroyed span. Once across the river, Foster entered Kinston and sent a request for Evans's surrender, which was refused. The Union forces camped near Kinston that night and re-crossed the river the following morning to resume their advance. Foster lost about 160 killed and wounded in the fight. Confederate casualties were 125 killed and wounded and 400 captured, and Kinston was thoroughly looted by the Federal troops during their passage through the town.

    Source: NCPedia

  • Administrative Information
    Accessions Information

    August 7, 2013, 0.05 cubic feet; Collection includes seven letters (November 20, 1862-January 12, 1863) written by brothers Thomas Kinsley of Co. A and Alfred Kinsley of Co. H of the Massachusetts 45th Infantry during the Civil War. Alfred Kinsley enlisted as a sergeant on September 16, 1862, and Thomas enlisted as a private the day before. Their letters originate from Camp Amory on the Trent at New Bern, N.C. The main focus of their letters is the First Battle of Kinston, N.C., which took place on December 13 and 14, 1862. Purchased from Denning House Antiquarian Books & Manuscripts of Lancaster, PA.

    Acquisition Information

    Purchased from Denning House Antiquarian Books & Manuscripts of Lancaster, PA

    Access Restrictions

    No restrictions

    Copyright Notice

    Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

    Preferred Citation

    First Battle of Kinston, N.C., Collection (#1222), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA

    Processing Information

    Processed by Christina Isaacs 22 April 2014; Revised by Jonathan Dembo, 23 June 2014

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