Letters of Private Daniel O'Connor, US Marine Corp. He was aboard the USS Cumberland on March 8, 1862.
These are in the possession of Jack Connor, grandson of the writer. A copy is in the Personal Papers Section, Marine Corps Historical Society.
The letters have almost no capital letters and no punctuation. I have indicated where I believe the sentence boundaries are.
Also see an April 24, 1861, letter about the events of April 19-20 at Gosport Navy Yard.
AWAY DOWN SOUTH IN DIXIE! [Letterhead]
Head-quarters Washington Co. C
March 13th 1862
I hope you got my letter dated the 9th when i wrote to you after
the hattres fight[.] i told you we used to splice the main
brace after firing a while[.] that was what i call Gentlemans
fiting but our fight on the 8th at Newport news we had not time to
splice legs[.] at 2 OClock in the afternoon the fight
commenced & continued untill 3 OClock
at said time the Cumberland sunk by the Merrimack driving a hole through her that you could haul your body through with her prow right on the staboard bough[.] none of our shots did not have any afect on her[.] she came about 50 yards of us before she fired a shell & every shell she fired killed some wan[.] i was first loder of the cabin Guns & i being always in the portholes i had a chance to see every shel she fired[.] she fired percussion shel that exploded when they struck.[.] she came a long side twice & you could hear them cheer but you could not see them & hear them laugh which was agravating to us in that perdicament[.] they lored their traps over their guns in consiquence of our marines shooting a couple of their men[.] 1 of the said men was Captain of her[.] our captain was on a court of enquiry on board the flag ship & Leutenant Morris our first Leutenant took command & acted well[.] when the sesesh officer asked him to surrender he refused saying no & dam you you coward you have made a slaughter house of the ship we will sink with our colours first[.] sink it is said sesesh[.] borders were called a way but it was no go[.] we could not board her[.] you could not step on the quarter deck with out walking through blood[.] mens legs in wan place arms in a nother & pieces of sculs in a nother[.] the poor fellows that were wounded all got drowned[.] there was 14 marines killed & drowned[.] 150 in all including our chaplin & 1 masters mate out of 375[.] when she was going down the first leutenant said all hands save your selfs[.] the ship was turning over then[.] as i was passing one of the guns she struck me on the sholder & knocked me down[.] all the guns was running in[.] i picked me self up as quick as possible & got out the porthole just as the water was concussing[.] when i got out on the side i took my coat off & was in the act of taking my shoes off when i found my self up to my neck in the water[.] i would not trust to the boats[.] there was so many getting in to them i taught they would go down[.] so i struck out for shore[.] i would have made it if i would not get crampped[.] when i got half way i was picked up by an old friend & took me in to his boat[.] my left arm hung dead & i could not use it after the nock i got[.] 1 of the Mass 2nd regt Co H took me in to his tent & gave me clothes & some hot
[the rest of the letter is missing]
Washington D. C. March 27th 62
I came out of the hospital on the 25th & the Colnell gave me a squad of recruits to drill[.] they were a fine looking lot of fellows in fact to good for food for southern powder[.] I took the musket from one of them to show him some motions but I could not do anything with my left arm[.] the colnell told me I could stay here & drill recruits for the remainder of my enlistment which is 2 years & 5 months but that I would not agree to[.] the doctor told me it will take some time for my arm to come round but it will get all right yet & said I must keep quiet[.] I dont think he will allow the colnell to give me a furlow[.] I forgot to tell you James McCamon is among the missing[.] the young man I told you of in my letter from fortress monroe belonged to masschussets[.] his name was humphry a recruit we got in boston[.] he was about 19 years old[.] he got killed by a shell that passed within 6 inches of my head in through the port hole & struck him near the breast killing him in about 2 minutes[.] it exploded within a yard of our gun killing some saliors[.] some of the marines lifted him out of the way[.] he said connor tell miss fisher I died brave death she lives in woburn O my father & died when I was sitting on the side[.] before I left the ship I heard some cursing some praying & some giving a wild hollow laugh in the last agonies of death which is dridfull to relate[.] one of the men wrote to humphrys father[.] I would have written to him if I knew his directions[.] I asked the captain of the gun to give me the second shot at the merrimack & he did[.] so I put a sollid shot 105 pound weight in to the gun my self she was about 45 yards distance then I had a fair sight & I pulled the lockstring my self & struck her I saw it strike her & knock a streak of fire out of her[.] I said in my own mind she was the devil & it glanced off[.] I said to wan of the fellows John bull will have to build a new navy[.] Charleys regiment the 9th Mass is in fairfax some 60 or 70 miles from washington[.] here is a piece of Pastry I have sent you & Secetry wells compliment[.] we expect to get setled with on the first of April[.] a nother shell knocked the blood out of my nose as it passed me[.] they were so near us they sent all of them in through the ports & I being first loder I was standing in the port holes to load the guns[.] I am the only wan of the old first loders that came clare[.] I hope ellen & Mother are well
your brother Daniel Oconnor
Direct for Daniel Oconnor Marine barracks Washington D. C.
Sargent brown is well & sends his respects to you