Francis Wayland Adams was born in Brookfield, Massachusetts, on 18 February 1840, to Daniel E. and Lucy (Hastings) Adams and he died in 1930. After graduating from Amherst College, he enlisted in the 51st Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry on 20 October 1862, obtained the rank of 1st lieutenant with Co. B, and resigned 25 January 1863. After his Civil War service, he was a principal at Lawrence Academy in Falmouth, Mass., for two years and then studied medicine and obtained his medical degree in 1868 from Harvard. He practiced medicine in Hartford, Connecticut, Royalston, Massachusetts, and Fishkill, New York. He also served in the Massachusetts Legislature in 1883. He married Fannie Russell Chanse of Royalston, Massachusetts, on 26 June 1872, and they had two children, Robert W. Adams and Mabel Winifred Adams.
Sources: Amherst College Biographical Record of the Class of 1862; The Catalogue of the Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity (1910); and WikiTree.
The letters primarily concern Adams' early Civil War experiences in North Carolina, particularly his time stationed in New Bern, N.C. and the battles of Kinston on the 13th and 14th of December 1862 and the Battle of White Hall on the 15th and 16th of December 1862.
The 51st Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was organized at Worcester, MA between 25 September and 30 October 1862. The unit moved to Boston between 25 - 30 November whereupon they embarked for New Bern to take part in General John G. Foster’s Goldsboro Expedition (10 - 19 December 1862). During the Goldsboro Expedition the 51st Massachusetts engaged in the battles of Kinston, White Hall and Goldsboro. After being transferred out of North Carolina on 24 June 1863 they saw duty in Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia before being mustered out on 27 July 1863.
The 43rd Regiment Massachusetts Vounteer Infantry was organized at Springfield between 25 September and 30 October 1862. They embarked for New Bern from Boston and formed part of General Foster’s forces during his Goldsboro expedition. The 43rd Massachusetts arrived at New Bern before taking part in the Battle of Kinston on 13th and 14th December and the Battle of White Hall on 15th and 16th December. The regiment took part in operations throughout Maryland and Virginia before being mustered out of service on 29 July 1863.
General Ambrose Burnside was born in 1824 and died in 1881. He was a major general in the Union Army. Burnside was promoted to major general of volunteers after his success with the North Carolina Expeditionary force in March of 1862. After the battle of Antietam on 17 September 1862 he was made commander of the Army of the Potomac. Burnside suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Fredericksburg but later defeated General James L. Longstreet and maintained Union control of Knoxville, Tennessee. Burnside also participated in the Overland Campaign and the Battle of the Crater before resigning his commission in April of 1865. After the war Burnside was elected governor of Rhode Island in 1866, serving three one-year terms before representing Rhode Island in the U.S. Senate. Burnside never completed his second term however as a year into it he died of heart disease on 13 September 1881.
General Foster’s goal during the Goldsboro Expedition was to destroy the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad at Goldsborough, N.C. and thus prevent movement of Confederate troops and supplies defending against Union forces. Foster led the expedition from the occupied town of New Bern, North Carolina into the interior of North Carolina between 11 - 19 December 1862. He met heavy Confederate resistance along the way at Kinston, White Hall and Goldsboro.
The Battle of Kinston was fought on 13 - 14 December 1862 when General Foster’s troops en route to Goldsboro met Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Nathan G. “Shank” Evans (1824-1868). The Union forces reached Kinston on December 12th from New Bern before crossing the Southwest Creek the next day and camping close to the bridge. Two regiments forced a crossing of the creek driving back a North Carolina Regiment holding the position and forcing Evans to withdraw all of his forces to a defensive line two miles the bridge crossing the Neuse at Kinston. The Union forces resumed their attack the following day when Evans ordered the bridge burned. The Union forces were able to extinguish the flames and cross the partially burned bridge and enter Kinston. Confederate casualties numbered 125 killed and wounded and 400 captured while General Foster lost 160 killed and wounded in the battle. The battle of Kinston resulted in a Union victory; as Foster wrecked the railroad bridge at Goldsboro, damage the C.S.S. Neuse but did fail to capture Wilmington.
The Battle of White Hall, N.C. was fought on 15 - 16 December 1862. The Confederate forces were under the command of Brig. Gen. B.H. Robertson (1827-1910) when Union Calvary reached White Hall. Shortly before Fosters forces arrived, the Confederates had crossed over the bridge spanning the Neuse River, set it on fire, and took up defensive positions. Foster’s Calvary rolled barrels of pitch to the riverbank and set them on fire in an attempt to burn the Confederate positions while Union artillery fired upon the frame of the Confederate ironclad CSS Neuse. The cavalrymen then burned the village and returned to camp. The next day Union forces under General Foster resumed their attack the next day hoping to fool the Confederates into believing they were crossing the river while the rest of the troops maneuvered past White Hall and attacked a railroad trestle four miles south of Goldsboro. The fighting lasted until sunset with General Foster failing to reach the railroad trestle. General Foster’s army was almost completely gone by 16 December. General Foster withdrew on 18 December traveling back through White Hall to New Bern. The results of the Battle of White Hall were inconclusive, with both sides claiming victory.
Source: http://ncpedia.org/White Hall-battle