|Henry Howard Prestonís Experiences
Were Similar to Many Civil War Soldiers
Henry Howard Preston, son of Medina and Glorian (Cartwright)
Preston, joined the 6th New York Calvary when he was 16 years old. He followed
General Sheridan on his famous 20 mile ride from Winchester to Cedar Creek.
At Appomattox he received a wound to the ankle which never healed. He was
born in 1845 and died in 1919. He was Assessor, Superintendent of
Highways, and one of the founders of the Library. In 1902 he was elected
Sheriff of Suffolk County, and he lived in Riverhead during his term as
sheriff. He believed in ěprogressî and was the first owner of an automobile
in Riverhead. He was married to Asenath W. Congdon who lived from 1844
to 1912. He is buried in the Presbyterian Church cemetery.
Following are excerpts from letters he wrote home.
On, February 4, 1862 from York, Pennsylvania, Preston
wrote his father: ěReceived your letter the other moring and was very glad
to here from you. The government payed us some last week. They owe me about
20 dollars now. I want to send you about 10 dollars give it to you I mean,
I think I had not better send it all at once so I will not send you but
5.00 dollars this time. Then when you answer this letter I will send you
ěYou asked me if Page is in Camp. Why yes certainly.
We were both on guard Sunday together so on last Sunday he has not been
very well since we have been here.
ěThere has been a law passed not to pay the Cavalry
but 13 dollars a month. Then they keep back 1/2 the regulations say. Then
we have to buy a good many things for our comfort. We want our shirts and
gloves and such things. I have ow bought the second pair or gauntletts
or gloves as you might call them. They are buckskin gloves with long wrists
to them about 6 inches long. They cost about 1.25 to 2.00. You see handling
a sabre so much they soon wear out. There are regular riding gloves but
we do not have much riding to do now. Our new barracks are pretty comfortable.
I tell you I [am] growing as fat as a hog. I weight about 140 now for I
was weighed yesterday....Page send his best respects to you and all.î
On Friday, March 6, 1863, he wrote his parents from
Yorktown, Virginia: ěI received your letter tonight also the box. Nothing
affords me so much pleasure as to get a letter from home. I am well and
in good health so that I have gained 6 lbs weight in 1 week. What do you
think of that. I am now inside of the fort at Yorktown. I am acting Orderly
for Colonel West, chief of Artillery Ordnance on General Keyes (?) staff...
I like him very much...I have to go out riding when he goes out; and carry
dispatches to regiments when to march and when to open fire on the enemy
... That is the principle of it. ...
ěI have lived to see another birthday. You spoke
sometime ago about promotion. I suppose I could, as at least I know I could,
get promoted if I should get drunk every other day or as often as the officers
does. But that I cannot do. I was not brought up a drunkard and I never
will be. There has beent imes that I have been compelled to drink liquor
and that was when we was up in front of Richmond last summer. Had it not
been for brandy that was dealt out to the men not one, hardly could of
survived the campaign. The campaign was the first time I ever tasted (?)
of liquor was after I slept out all night in a hard rain strorm. We were
all stiff in the morning we had no shelter at all. The Lieutenant Col.
Who is a church member and a church temperance man went an drawed liquor
from the Commissary. Had it not been for that, half of the command would
of never survived. I think I have seen some very hard times so that I think
that when I get home I will know enough to stay there.
ěI do not see as the war is any nearer to a close
than it was when I enlisted. I am tired of this war. It is not a just war.
If I had known as much when I enlisted as I do now I should of never come
out. I can assure you, for I think that the south have a cause to fight.
They are fighting for their houses and firesides. Which is more than we
are doing. Itís the abolitionists that cause all this trouble.... ě He
agrees that it is unwise to run away and then tells his parents about witnessing
an execution of two deserters from Battery H, First Pennsylvania