OVERVIEW OF PETER L. DUMONT CIVIL WAR LETTERS
Dates of letters: January 17, 1862 - April 29, 1964
Approximately 100 letters from our great-great-great grandfather Peter L. Dumont to his wife Clarinda in Utica NY sent from encampments during service in the Army of the Potomac.
Peter fought in the Battle of Fredericksburg, was wounded and captured at the Battle of Chancellorsville, lived through "Mud March" and confinement at Libby Prison, and was listed as "missing in action" at the Battle of the Wilderness.
Letters were passed down through Clarinda’s daughter Ida through the maternal side of our family to our mother Ida in a cardboard box labeled by Clarinda’s daughter Ida with a pencil note. They were difficult to organize because many pages were separated and undated, but are now matched and transcribed with the assistance of Keith Swaney and Fred Bassett of the NYS Education Department’s Library and Archives. Letters and artifacts were donated to Library and Museum in November 2014.
Peter’s last letter is dated six days from his disappearance/death in the Battle of the Wilderness.
Letters indicate mixed feelings about pride and sense of duty in serving country versus fear and loneliness. They include vivid descriptions of camp life, battles, and Libby Prison. There are original sketches and short poems, much romantic prose, and references to home life in or around Utica NY.
An additional 20 letters were from his time at home or were from family members attempting to determine his status and obtain pension payments following his disappearance.
Peter and Clarinda's two children, Ida and William, are frequently mentioned in the letters and addressed as his "little lambs". Letters were passed down by Ida through maternal side of the family to our grandmother, Ida Reed Bradley, and mother, Ida Bradley Clapp.
Facts based on research and highlights from letters:
146th Regiment, Company A of the NY Volunteers serving in the Army of the Potomac
May also be referred to as Halleck Infantry, Fifth Oneida, and Garrard's Tigers
1861: Utica City Directory lists Peter L. Dumont as a "laborer" at 21 Varick St.
Summer: Letters during summer to his wife who was visiting out of town discussed home life, family financial problems, and the draft
8/22: Enlisted at Utica, age 27, Occupation "moulder", born Seward NY
10/10: Mustered in at Utica
10/12 - 11/05: Arlington Heights, action "in the defense of Washington"
11/06 - 11/21: Camp at Falmouth
12/11 - 12/12: Battle of Fredericksburgh
12/17/62 - 4/27/63: Falmouth. Letters describe battlefield, picket duty, camp living conditions, talking with "rebel prisoners", treatment of deceased soldiers, behavior of officers and General Warren, deserters, personal illness, money. Mentions Fletcher Dimbly for the first time; notes that he and Fletch are too busy to get into the barber business as planned. Fletch cut Peter's hair and he saw gray hairs for the first time. See subsequent references to Fletch.
5/1 - 5/3: Wounded and captured at Battle of Chancellorsville
5/4 - 5/7: March to and confinement at Libby Prison in Richmond. Descriptions of battle, men killed in mudslide during march (later known as the "Mud March"), holding hands with Fletch to keep from fallings, conditions and food at Libby Prison. Sketch made while in Libby Prison.
5/? - 5/17: Paroled by Confederates, shipped to parole Camp at Annapolis with 1200 men in ocean steamer S.R. Spaulding
5/22 - 9/?: Convalescent Camp at Ft. Barnard, Alexandria. Missed action of his regiment at Gettysburgh. Numerous and dramatic attempts to obtain a furlough home to see Clarinda in Utica. Receives furlough approval after he returns to his Regiment when it is too late to go, and never sees her and the children again.
10/9 - 10/22: Action near Warrenton
11/7: Battle of Rappahanock Station
12/13/63 - 5/64: Warrenton, numerous skirmishes, guard duty
4/29: Last letter written by Peter
5/1: Per Brainard's Regimental History, Lt. Froeligh of Co. H. asked Fletcher Dimbly to cut the Lieutenant's hair short so the surgeon would be able to get to the wound that he thought he was going to get in battle. Lt. Froeligh was killed a few days later in the Battle of the Wilderness by a gunshot wound to the forehead.
5/5: Peter missing in action at the Battle of the Wilderness. This is a fascinating and tragic battle in a heavily wooded area, in which many Union soldiers were killed by enemy in hand to hand combat and by friendly fire, or deserted.
June to September: listed as "prisoner" in muster roles
7/3: Letter to Dear Sir (probably Clarinda’s attorney) signed "Clara Barton" (probably by a representative) confirming Peter's death. Subsequent copies of documents signed by Clarinda and her family and friends in efforts to obtain pension for her and the children
7/16: Company A musters out. Peter's tent-mate Joseph Corragan (who he wrote about in the letters) is one of only 12 privates who lives to muster out, due to the many battles that this company participated in.
3/23: Clarinda’s first pension payment is documented
New York State Library Archives Finding Aid Notes
Peter L. Dumont
2 boxes (0.50 cubic ft.)
Open to research
Gift: Diana McCarthy, Slingerlands, N.Y., November 2014
Fred Bassett, Senior Librarian, Manuscripts and Special Collections, January-April, 2015
Peter Lewis Dumont was born about 1837, the son of Lewis and Sabrina Dumont, who may have been living in Schoharie County at the time. Public records indicate the Dumont family had taken up residence in Utica, New York by 1855. Peter L. Dumont was married about 1858 to Clarinda Myers, the daughter of Henry and Elisabeth Myers of Whitestown (Oneida County), New York. They resided in Utica, New York, and had two children: Ida Elizabeth (b. 1859) and William (b. 1862). Peter appears to have been employed as a molder with the firm Hart and Dagwell based on inferences to the firm found in his letters. The Utica City Directory for 1861 lists Dumont’s occupation as laborer and shows him residing at 21 Varick Street.
During the Civil War, Peter Dumont enlisted for three years’ service with the 146th New York Regiment of Infantry on August 22, 1862. He was mustered in as a private with Company A, on October 10, 1862. He was promoted to sergeant on January 31, 1863, according to his letter of that date. His regiment was involved in major battles at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, Virginia. At the latter, Dumont was taken prisoner and subsequently confined to Libby Prison for several days before being released and paroled, first an Annapolis, Maryland, and later at Convalescence Camp at Alexandria, Virginia. He rejoined his regiment about October 5, 1863 according to information found in his letter of October 8, 1863, which was written at a camp near Culpeper, Virginia. In October and November 1863 the 146th Regiment participated in battles and campaigns at Bristoe, Rappahannock Station, and Mine Run, Virginia. The 146th Infantry encamped near Warrenton, Virginia from late December 1863 until the end of April 1864. On May 5, 1864, the regiment was engaged in the battle at the Wilderness, where Dumont went missing in action and later was presumed to have been killed.
Scope and Content Note:
These papers consist chiefly of letters Peter L. Dumont sent to his wife Clarinda Dumont in regards to his experiences of military service during the Civil War. Dumont articulately discusses battles and skirmishes, camp life, disease, horrors of war, picket duty, troop movements and the rigors of marching, and military strategy. Letters of special interest include those written around December 1862, which detail the Battle of Fredericksburg; and those of May 1863, which detail the Battle of Chancellorsville. In particular, the letter of May 17, 1863 indicates he was captured in battle on May 1st, and then marched to Richmond, where he was confined at Libby Prison from May 8 to 13, before being released. His letters indicate he was detained until early October at special parole camps, first at Annapolis, Maryland, and later, at Camp Convalescent near Alexandria, Virginia.
After Dumont rejoined his regiment in early October 1863, letters written during the following two months detail troop movements and occasional skirmishes with Confederate forces in the vicinity of Culpepper, Warrenton, Kelley’s Ford, and Rapidan River in Virginia. In particular, his letter of November 9th, 1863 discusses a recent battle that appears to have taken place by the Rappahannock River: “ the Rebs lost a great Number in killed & wounded & we took about 22 hundred prisoners besides driveing [sic] them into the River & drowning a good many of them & 9 pieces of artillery.”
Dumont’s letters of December 1863 indicate they were encamped near Bealton Station, Virginia, until they moved to a camp near Warrenton Junction, Virginia, just before the end of the year. They would remain encamped near Warrenton, which appears as “Warrington” in most letters, until the end of April 1864. His letters conclude with the letter of April 29, 1864, in which he anticipates being sent into battle, but hopes he would see another day to write again.
Besides military matters, Dumont’s letters reveal mixed feelings about pride and sense of duty in serving country versus intense fear and loneliness. Homesickness, worries about money, concerns about the health and wellbeing of his family were also mentioned frequently along with concerns about his own health and imminent possibility of death.
Altogether, there are approximately 120 letters of which most were written in ink and a few written in pencil. Several were written on illustrated stationary and a few feature pen and ink sketches by Dumont himself that depict scenes of camp, battles, and Libby Prison. Occasionally the letters included short poems and romantic prose that were written by Dumont. He did not master spelling, but in general Dumont’s letters are quite legible and well written.
The papers also include three letters sent to Clarinda Dumont in 1865 regarding the circumstances of her husband’s death, including a letter from the Office of Correspondence with the Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army that was signed by Clara Barton.
Other materials include photographic portraits of Peter L. Dumont, Clarinda, and daughter Ida, taken about 1860; a Holy Bible that is significant for the annotations and sketches found on pastedowns and free endpapers. The sketches, drawn by Peter Dumont, depict the exterior of the Libby Prison building, and soldiers lounging inside a prison cell.
Before the papers of Peter L. Dumont were donated to this repository in November 2014, they were passed down through five successive generations of descendants beginning with Ida Elizabeth Dumont Cummins, the daughter of Peter L. and Clarinda Dumont.
At the time of the donation, there were six pieces that were described as fragments or undated letters. Upon further review by the curator and the donor of the letters, five of these pieces were paired with other letters that were found to be incomplete. These pairings are noted in the inventory list. Otherwise, the letters have been kept in the same order as received from the donor.
The donation also included an oil painting on canvas depicting two Union Army Officers on horseback leading troops through mountain terrain. Although the work is unsigned, it has been attributed to Peter L. Dumont. This item is housed in the New York State Museum
Transcriptions and digital scans of the letters are available online courtesy of Diana and Brian McCarthy, the donors of the letters and ancillary artifacts. Biographical, genealogical, and related historical information on the life and career of Peter L. Dumont is also available on their website: