These letters were written by Pvt. William A. Bartlett (1831-1897) who enlisted in Co. D, 37th Massachusetts Infantry during the American Civil War. William was the son of David Bartlett (1805-1836) and Cordelia Morey (1808-18xx). William married Alida Priscilla Fish (1829-1898) on 29 March 1854 in Westhampton, Massachusetts. Together they had at least five children: Clarence Alton Bartlett (1856-1929), Ida C. Bartlett (1857-1883), Mary A. Bartlett (1860-1915), Carrie M. Bartlett (1862-19xx), and Charles Watson Bartlett (1865-19xx).
Bartlett was above the median age for enlistees in the American Civil War and his age and health seems to have limited his ability to perform the full duty he desired. He complained of pain in his arm which seems not to have been caused by his duties as a soldier but possibly an old complaint — rheumatism. If he served in battle with his comrades of the 37th Massachusetts, he did not speak of it in any of these twelve letters. When his regiment was ordered to New York City in July 1863 to restore order during the draft riots, he did not accompany them, preferring instead to remain on a special detail that afforded him light duty at the Corps headquarters.
From the letters we learn that he was sent to a hospital in Washington D. C. prior to the end of 1863 and in the spring of 1864 he was still awaiting his discharge from the Veteran Reserve Corps. His military records state that he was mustered out of the service on 15 April 1864.
At the time of his enlistment, he gave his occupation as a carpenter. In the 1870 U. S. Census, he also gave his occupation as a carpenter. In the 1880 U. S. Census, however, no occupation is given for the 48-year old veteran who seems to have been an invalid “at home.” William and his wife Alida made their home in Blandford, Hampden county, Massachusetts after the war.