I posted this a few years ago, with individual letters appearing on the 150th Anniversary of the days that they were written. These letters are from my Great, Great, Great Grandfather Cornelius D. Westbrook to his wife, Harriet Brooks Bellows during his participation in the American Civil War as an officer in the 120th Regiment of New York Volunteers.
The letters were passed down through my mother’s family, and were transcribed by my father, Gary M. Ingersoll. Somehow between the time that these letters were posted individually and now, they have disappeared. Given a couple of recent requests, I am going to post them again as individual posts, as each takes a bit of reformatting. I will do this as a series that comes out as close to daily as possible though until I get to the end of his involvement in the war (when he was wounded at Gettysburg).
This post includes the dedication and introductory comment that my father included in his original compilation.
As a personal aside, the dedication to Poppy is to my Grandmother. One of the stories that she told me when I was growing up that caught my fascination most (though she and Jack, my Grandfather lived through many interesting times) was her memory of being a seven year old and knitting socks to send to our troops fighting overseas in 1917. As today marks the 98th anniversary of the end of that war, this strikes me as a nice synchronicity and a reason to mention a bit of her story.
Rob Stewart-Ingersoll, November 11, 2016
C. D. Westbrook
Gary M. Ingersoll, Ph.D.
In Memory of Poppy
Gary M. Ingersoll
Revised: June, 1998
On the pages that follow are transcribed two sets of letters written by Cornelius Depuy (pronounced Depew) Westbrook of Kingston, Ulster County, New York to his wife Harriet Brooks Bellows, originally of Northumberland, New Hampshire. The first set was written prior to the Civil War. During that time Cornelius Westbrook was a surveyor for a variety of railroads. The second set was written while he served in the Civil War. Westbrook was a Lieutenant Colonel, initially second in command and later in command of the 120th Regiment, New York State. His military career was terminated when he was seriously wounded at Gettysburg. He was, however, present at some of the major battles in the latter part of 1862 and early 1863. His letters document some observations and frustrations. As such they paint a picture of the individual as well as the war.
Cornelius D. Westbrook was born on 13 January 1823, the son of the Rev. Cornelius D. Westbrook and Sarah Van Gaasbeek Beekman. Westbrook worked, prior to the Civil War, as an engineer and surveyor in New York and in Wisconsin. At the beginning of the War, Westbrook was mustered into the 20th Regiment of New York Volunteers as an engineer and later was appointed Lieutenant Colonel in the 120th Regiment of New York Volunteers. He served with the 120th through Gettysburg. Medical technology of the time precluded the removal of the bullets from the wounds he received and the result may have been that the lead ultimately caused a degree of psychopathology. In 1903, Colonel Westbrook awoke and thought he was fighting the Battle of Gettysburg once again and fired about 20 shots at a phantom enemy from his bedroom window. He died 24 September 1905.
In transcribing these letters, I have avoided editorializing in any way beyond hazarding guesses as to what Westbrook wrote. In some cases transcription was impossible and I have noted the gaps by ***. Commas and apostrophes would have been welcome but Westbrook apparently conserved them with a stern vigor. In a few instances, I thought it beneficial to clarify settings or define words (for some, these definitions may seem trite, to them I apologize). When I did so I used footnotes. I also include a limited number of letters from others to Westbrook, or about him, that were in the set. Additionally, I was able to confirm many of the names using C. Van Santvoord’s (1894) The One Hundred and Twentieth Regiment. I was also able to clarify some pieces of the puzzle through the U. S. War Department’s (1888) The War of the Rebellion: A compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I. When referring to that series of volumes I will describe the source as the Official Records.
One last point. The title is taken from Cornelius Westbrook himself. In most instances, he signed his name “Yours affectionately, C. D Westbrook” or, shortened, “Yours afftly”. (Even to his young daughter Kate, he signs “Your affectionate father, C. D Westbrook”). The punctuation is no mistake, it was his style. (The D and W were joined).
From the Civil War Years (1862 – 1864)
Headquarters 120th Regt
Camp between Forts Marcy &
Allen Va August 31st 1862
My dear wife
I wrote to you from the Depot at Washington on the morning after our arrival. Shortly afterwards our Regiment marched across the Long Bridge, and along the Turnpike to Fairfax C. H. for a couple of miles or more where we camped near Hunters Chapel. After laying out the Camp & attending to matters until late in the afternoon, I returned to Washington arriving there just after dark. After supper I went up to the Railroad Depot to find some baggage & men left behind in the morning, and did not get back to the Hotel until after 10 oclock, when I found myself too tired even to write. It was noon the next day when my business was finally disposed of & the trains of men & baggage started when the arrival of the Quartermaster again gave me a load of business in procuring the regimental teams supplies of provisions & forage which did not terminate until after 10 oclock that evening and it was again noon the next day before I was started on the return trip to the Camp. I found part of our train at the Long Bridge at Gen Casey’s Headquarters & there learned that our regiment had been ordered during the night in the vicinity of the Chain Bridge some ten miles distant. I put the spurs into my horse & in less than half an hour crossed the Chain Bridge about 7 miles distant & soon afterwards found our regiment. By‑the‑by after the ride I dont think very many would buy my horse. The strength & mind that he exhibited I have never seen equalled.
The Colonel had been sick when I left the regiment, and after the fatigue of the march commenced in the night & terminated about half an hour before my arrival, exhibited so much illness that with the advice of the Surgeon he returned late in the afternoon to Georgetown. Of course my hands were full again that afternoon, part of the night & the next day. Immense gatherings of troops were all around in taking the positions assigned them in the line of battle. We were ahead of the most of them & were allowed to select our position between the two forts, an opportunity which I immediately improved by putting the regiment in its present location on a nice camping ground & excellent position, with which we are so well pleased, that were it not for the want of a suitable drill ground we should have no inclination to change it.
During the whole of yesterday the distant cannonading showed that a severe battle was going on. We were notified & prepared for any emergency.
Today it is comparatively quiet & we hear that Jackson has been defeated & his army surrendered. However this may be I have not, nor have had the slightest apprehension that he would be able to force our lines.
Today it has been raining hard, and my time among other things has been occupied in preparing a shelter for the horses. After supper this evening the first opportunity has presented itself for writing.
My health has been excellent since our arrival in Washington & I never felt myself more at home than in my present duties. Everything is satisfactory to me & I believe the regiment is doing well in every respect. My love to Mother & Mary & the children. I remain
C D Westbrook
 Kate Elvira Westbrook: B: 11 April 1853
Charles Bellows Westbrook: B: 30 April 1856
Cornelius Depuy Westbrook: B: 15 May 1860