Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Civil War Letter of William Caw of Scotia

This photograph of William Caw, taken ca. 1861, appeared in the Schenectady Union-Star newspaper on April 30, 1912. From Caw family file.

"It's a long story, youngster; so tell me when to quit when you get tired," said William G. Caw as he was interviewed about his Civil War service for a 1912 article that appeared in the Schenectady Union-Star newspaper. "In the fall of '61 Abram Cramer and myself made up our minds that the salvation of the country depended on us, so we took French leave of our homes at Scotia . . . we walked to a station called The Branch (now Ballston Lake) and there we took the cars, finally landing in Saratoga Springs. There we enlisted for Company H for three years, and we were sure then that the Union's fate rested in safe hands."

Caw mustered in as Corporal of Company H, 77th Regiment, New York Volunteers, on October 17, 1861, at the age of 19. He was promoted to Sergeant in 1863 and re-enlisted as a veteran in 1864. He was wounded in action at Spotsylvania, Virginia, in May of 1864. He was promoted First Sergeant, Company D, in November of 1864, and mustered in as Second Lieutenant of Company B in January of 1865. He mustered out with the rest of his company on June 27, 1865.

It was during his service as a second lieutenant that Caw wrote a letter to E.Z. Carpenter, also of the Scotia/Glenville area, while Caw's company was on provost duty in Danville, Virginia.

2 pages of letter from William Caw to E.Z. Carpenter, dated May 5, 1865 (Mil 480).

Below is a transcription of the letter in its entirety. All original spelling, capitalization, and punctuation has been maintained. The original letter is part of the military documents category of our historic manuscripts collection and is numbered Mil 480.

Danville, Va.
May 5th 1865
E.Z. Carpenter

Dear Sir

I received your Letter some time ago and as I have not had much spare time I could not answer it befor this Ult. I saw Job [likely Job Carpenter, brother of E.Z. Carpenter] as we was going through the 2nd Corps on our way to this Place. he is well but is pretty poor.

We marched from Burksville to Danville in 4 Days & 4 hours and the Distance is 100 miles. oh how we did Hopp it down, but all things must have an End and when we got to this City we was about as tired a Lot of men as you Could find. I think Gen Wright was just trying our metel in the marching line. We got in as advance Guard (that is our Brigade) we are doing Provost Duty it is Easy but we have to go on pretty often.

The Rebels did not Distroy any thing of any account, and they left an immense Quantity of Government Property. The cars were all in Runing order and we sent a Train of cars into Greensboro the Head Quarters of Johnsons Army. Col Selkirk went and awoke Gen Beauregard and the next day Beau-d took him to Johnsons Head Quarters the Rebels were Guarding the Town and the Colonel was halted by the Rebel Sentry but when the Colonel told him that he was a Yankee they Passed him by with the Remark that they had no Orders to Stop Federl Officers.

The Rebel Soldiers are more willing to give up the Ship then those men that Have Stayed at home this is an awful Secesh Place but but they are a beginning to find out that the Yanks are men & not a Parcel of Ruffians as they have bin made to beleive all along. Why some of the whit folks thought we were agoing to Kill them all. One white woman worked herself up to Such an Excitement that She gave up the Gost and was Layed under the Sod. the female Portion of this City keep mighty Dark we Very seldom See one of them on the Street, but a Negro that I was talking to the other Day Say they look at us through the Curtains. I Expect our Regiment will be ordered to New York Some time this month to get mustered out. I would like to get Home by the 4th Day of July or 1st of Augt with many Regards to you all I Remain as Ever

Wm Caw
Lieut Co B Batt.n 77th
NYS Vols

Drawing of Caw, a builder and sheriff,
that appeared in Just For Fun, a collection
of caricatures of prominent Schenectady
men that was published ca. 1910.
After the war ended, Caw returned to Scotia and began work as a carpenter, builder, and contractor. He moved to Schenectady and became one of the largest building contractors in the city; he was responsible for the supervision of the building of the Van Curler Opera House, the Union Street school at the corner of Union and College Streets, the original Wallace Company building, and the Scotia Baptist Church, among many others. Caw also served as assessor for the city in 1894 and served as sheriff of Schenectady County from 1896-1898. He was also active in the Horsfall Post of the G.A.R., the Schenectady Building Loan and Savings Organization, St. George's masonic lodge, the Mohawk Club, and the Emmanuel Baptist Church. He died on April 20, 1919, at the age of 76. He is buried in Vale Cemetery.

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