Item Description: Continuation of a multi-day letter that started on 11 April 1864. In this letter, dated 12 April 1864, Jonathan L. Whitaker writes to his wife, Julia A. Wells Whitaker, while travelling down the coast of South Carolina. As he passes by Fort Sumpter, Jonathan notes that he sincerely hopes that “before this short summer is over, the stars and stripes may proudly wave above them [Fort Sumpter and the city of Charleston, S.C.], and peace and plenty reign…”. Jonathan L. Whitaker, from Orange County, N.Y., was a physician serving as a United States Army surgeon at a hospital at Chester, Pa., and with the 26th United States Colored Troops near Beaufort, S.C. Item Citation: Letter dated 12 April 1864, found in Folder 2 of the Jonathan Lewis Whitaker Papers, #3674-z, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Off the coast of South Carolina, April 12th, 1864, 2, P.M.
I am happy to say that I feel first rate today, as well as the rest of the officers. We cleared off the dinner table today in a hurry, 16 of us, & nearly all had not eat a comfortable mea for 3 days. The sea is quite smooth today which accounts for our feeling better. We are still out of sight of land, & have seen nothing of the other ships since we saw the “Sailor” night before last. We had quite a scare last night or rather 3 o’clock this morning, those of us who happened to be awake. We were fired upon by a strange vessel three times & ordered to lay too. We stopped of course while the other vessel did the same & sent a boat on board of us. After finding out who & what we were we were allowed to go on without being disturbed. It was one of the blockading vessels on the watch for rebel ships, & not being able to tell us in the night, it was their duty to do as they did. For a short time of course we did not know but she might be a rebel ship in which case we would have been in a bad fix, as our vessel is not armed. There is no danger however from rebel ships in these waters, I should suppose. We got below North Carolina before daylight this morning and are now going down the coast of South Carolina. We are still about 90 miles from Hilton Head our destination, Where we expect to get early tomorrow morning. About Sundown tonight we expect to pass in sight of the City of Charleston and Fort Sumpter, those two celebrated objects which have been familiar to us ever since the war broke out. It will be a great satisfaction to me to look upon these places even though they are still crowned by the flag of treason and Rebellion. I sincerely hope however that before this short summer is over, the stars and stripes may proudly wave above them, and peace and plenty reign throughout our great country, and those who are now necessarily absent from home and friends, may have the privileged opportunity of returning to them, no more to be separated on account of war. Time passes rather slowly on the ship, nothing to do so we read, play chess, cards, (not me the latter you know) etc. We have had a great change in the weather the last 24 hours. It is very warm. I have pulled off my jacket, which I have worn steadily since I left Rikers Island, but I could not stand it on here. We have had no fires yesterday or today. If it is so warm here on the waters it must be much more so on the land. I am now farther, much farther, from home that I ever was before 900 miles, am getting you see to be quite a traveler, & the only drawback to my enjoyment is the impossibility of having you with me, not for my comfort altogether, but for your satisfaction. For otherwise than the seasickness I know full well how you would be pleased with the trip. And then you would be able to pick oranges for yourself off the trees which I know you like better that paying for them. I am thinking though we shall have a hard time with the heat, not being used to it. But it is all in the distance as yet and we can guess nothing about it until we come to it. Tomorrow I will write more.