A short biography of Augustus Alonzo Hoit — or Alonzo Augustus Hoyt

This post is titled a “Short Biography…” because I have had no luck finding any published biography for the author of these letters. In fact, just discovering basic information about him has proven to be difficult because of the various spellings of his name. His scanty military records are (mostly) under the name Augustus Alonzo Hoit. However, census and family records seem to refer to him most generally as Alonzo Augustus Hoyt (1825-Aft1900). As near as I can determine, Alonzo was born in Vermont (probably Woodbury, VT) to a couple that divorced not long after his birth. His mother, I’m certain, was Anna (True) Hoyt (1804-1884). His father’s identity, however, remains a mystery. Alonzo’s mother remarried to John Blanchard (1799-1865) on 18 September 1827 in Cabot, Washington Co., Vermont, and relocated to Conneaut, Ashtabula County, Ohio, prior to the Civil War where the family earned a living by farming.

Initially I assumed that Alonzo’s father had died prior to his mother’s remarriage, as was usually the case. However, a letter in this collection leads me to believe that Alonzo’s biological father was yet alive and that his parents must have divorced — pretty rare but happened occasionally in the early 1800s. In that letter (22 August 1862), Alonzo states that he has heard from his father, residing in Campton in 1862. I presume this was Campton, Grafton County, New Hampshire, which is some 100 miles from Woodbury, Vermont. His father must have remarried for Alonzo says that his father’s daughter — “Mary,” born in 1839 or 1840 — corresponded with him occasionally and had just recently (spring 1861) married a “Mr. Keniston.” There were families by that name in Campton but I have not been able to learn who he was. Alonzo does not speak of his father with much reverence and his obvious dislike for those who favor strong drink suggests to me that he thought his father a drunkard. To add weight to that theory, Alonzo wrote that his father had opened a “stand” in the village which usually implies a “liquor stand.”

John Blanchard and Anna (Alonzo’s mother) had at least 8 children — 5 sons and 3 daughters — who were all half-siblings of Alonzo. None of these daughters were named Mary and none of them married a Mr. Keniston, by the way, in case you were thinking that Alonzo was referring to his step-father as his “father” in the 22 August 1862 letter. The two youngest sons — E. Jasper Blanchard (1844-1910) and Albert E. Blanchard (1845-1935) — are mentioned in Hoyt’s letter of 10 September 1862. Jasper served with the 2nd Ohio Battery and Albert served in Co. E, 29th Ohio Infantry.

Alonzo was married in Brattleboro, Vermont, on 4 August 1849 to Rebecca P. Guptill, the oldest daughter of Curtis Guptill (1804-1888) and Belinda Libby (1807-1881).

In 1860, Alonzo was enumerated in Gouldsboro, Hancock County, Maine [under the name Hoyt] and his occupation was given as “seaman” which explains his commentary on the Union Navy. The census tells us he was born in Vermont about 1825. He was married to Rebecca P., born about 1830 in Maine. They had five children at that time: Guptill A. (b. 1851), Augustus T. (b. 1853), Anna J. (b. 1855), Lillian E. (b. 1857), and Mary E. (b. 1859). Residing in an adjacent household were Alonzo’s in-laws, Curtis and Belinda (Libby) Guptill.

1860 Census, Gouldsboro, Hancock, Maine
1860 Census, Gouldsboro, Hancock, Maine

In 1870, Alonzo A. Hoyt (age 45) is enumerated in Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida, and his occupation is given as “carpenter.” Residing in the household with him was his wife Rebecca (age 40), and his children Alonzo D. (age 19), Augustus T. (age 17), Annie G. (age 15), Mary E. (age 11), Leon A. (age 3, born in Florida), and Charles C. (3 mo., born in Georgia).

In 1871, Alonzo A. Hoyt is listed in the Jacksonville City Directory with his occupation given as “Cabinet Maker.”

In 1876, Alonzo A. Hoyt is listed in the Jacksonville City Directory with his occupation given as “Clerk.”

In 1880, Alonzo A. Hoyte (age 55) is enumerated in Conneaut Township, Ashtabula County, Ohio in the household of his mother, Anna T. Blanchard (age 76).

During the Civil War, Alonzo was commissioned an officer in Co. G, 8th Maine Infantry on 7 September 1861. He was promoted to full Captain on 15 June 1863 when he mustered out of the 8th Maine and into Co. A, U. S. Colored Troops, 34th Infantry. He was promoted to Major on 1 March 1865 and mustered out of the service on 28 February 1866. Nothing more could be found pertaining to his war record.

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Pulaski is as good as taken

Savannah River
March 5th 1862

Dear wife,

I have just received your of Feb. 17th and was very glad to hear from home once more. I returned on Saturday evening without having been able to do much in the way of “spreading” ourselves. The rebels did not see fit to come nearer to us than about two miles, and although we sent a great many shot and shells about their steamers, the distance was too great to admit of their doing much damage.

About one o’clock last Saturday morning the rebels made an attempt to plant a battery near us among the tall reeds, but we discovered them in good season and gave them a few shells which drove them off in a hurry. We expect that [Fort] Pulaski will be taken soon and then we shall make an advance on Savannah. We would advance now but Gen. Sherman so scattered our forces that we cannot do it with out the aid of the gunboats. Pulaski is as good as taken already for we have completely cut off the communication from the city, and the fort is poorly supplied with water and ammunition. The rebels have five or six heavily armed steamers within sight and it affords great satisfaction to look at them, knowing that they must soon fall into our hands or be destroyed for there is no possible way for them to escape.

While I was on Bird Island, some of my men picked up a raft of lumber containing between six and seven thousand feet of first-rate hard pine boards. When I left the island, the Major in command of the works asked me for one of my men to take charge of his boat, and as the man wished to remain, I consented to let him stay a few days. Some time during the next day, something was discovered floating down the river directly towards our battery which is situated on the upper end of the island. The men all concluded the floating object to be some sort of an “infernal machine” coming to destroy them and the battery. They watched it for some time with considerable anxiety but at last the young man above referred to lost all patience with them and suddenly sprang into his boat and called for his crew, saying that he would go the damned thing if it blew him to hell. This crew immediately followed and in less than fifteen minutes young Stevens had reached the fearful object and found it to be an immense raft of lumber and worth about 3,000 dollars. With the assistance of three or four other boats, the raft was towed to the “landing” where it was safely secured and will be of great service to us.

I have forwarded you a check for $175.00. I want you to get it cashed as soon as convenient and pay all our debts. It affords me a great satisfaction to know that our farm is paid for. As soon as you can, you had better purchase two webs for sheeting, for cotton goods are increasing in value rapidly. Don’t stop short of two webs for you will need them before the price is less than it is now.

I have made out my pay rolls for another payment but it is not certain when we shall be paid. But when I am paid, I think that I can send you a check for $200.00 dollars or more. I want you to give the cattle and sheep a good allowance of oats or corn meal so that they may be fat in the spring.

I am sorry for Abby. She will have a hard time of it and you must assist her all you can. She deserves our sympathy and you know a “friend in need is a friend indeed.” Enclosed you will find some flowers for Abby. I have some more which I will send to you soon.

Yours in love, — Alonzo

Direct as usual.

Map of Savannah River showing Fort Pulaski surrounded by Union battery's.
Map of Savannah River showing Fort Pulaski surrounded by Union batteries.

Rather risky business

Headquarters Detachment 8th Regiment Maine Vols.
Hogues Point, Daufuskie Island, South Carolina
April 28, 1862

Dear wife,

I received your letter in due season. I think that all your letters have reached me though they were delayed a long time. Everything remains about the same as when I wrote last except that I have another company of men with me. I am still in command of the post, but expect to leave tomorrow morning for Tybee Island. I was in hope to remain here some time longer for we are very pleasantly situated. We have plenty of fish, clams, oysters, crabs and blackberries. Only think of having blackberries in April. We have any quantity of roses and other flowers and and in a short time, plums and figs will be ripe.

The boys are very loathe to leave for they like this place amazingly. I have not had time to take a sketch of my headquarters but I will tell you all about it when I see you.

It was ascertained a few days ago that Bull Island, situated 1½ miles from here, was occupied by rebel pickets. That evening about 10 o’clock, I took a boat and fifteen men and proceeded to Bull Creek where we were joined by Lieut. Col. [Ephraim W.] Woodman with two boats and 20 men. We then rowed up near the island where the other boat laid to while I kept on, passing near the shore and ordered the boat run on to the beach, which was done very quickly. I then jumped out of the boat and ran up to the top of the bank but could see nothing wrong, but still supposed the rebels to be near us. I then called for half of my men and was soon joined by Emerson and 2 men. We cruised all around among the trees and houses without being molested. The houses — 10 or 12 in number — were all deserted and if there were any rebels on the island, they took good care to keep out of sight. It was rather risky business but there was no flinching among the “boys.” Emerson kept close by me and I can vouch for his courage. The other boats did not land and after we were satisfied that the rebels had gone, we embarked and started for home where we arrived before morning. There was probably no real danger in landing, but that was to be proved and I was perfectly satisfied with the conduct of the boys.

I have not time to write more at present for we are to leave tonight instead of tomorrow. Direct as usual.

Yours in love, — Alonzo

Plant the peas in rich soil.

April 17, I sent you $200 by Express.

Till they are thoroughly whipped

Tybee Island, Georgia
May 9th 1862

Dear wife,

About one week ago I received your letter dated April 22 and today I received one dated April 13th so you see that the mails are rather irregular. Our Lieut. Col. has resigned and gone home, several officers have obtained furloughs, but I shall not be able to obtain a furlough on account of the ill health of my 1st Lieut. He is trying to obtain one, but it is not certain that he will succeed. If he does not succeed he declares that he will resign his commission. My health was never better and if it were not for the fleas, I should like Tybee very much.

We are now engaged in putting our mortars and big guns on ship-board, as we have no further use for them here. It is not known when we shall make a move nor where we shall love to. We could take Savannah but that would enable the rebels to send the forty or fifty thousand troops which are assembled there to some other place. It is rumored that Yorktown has fallen into our hands, but we have had so many rumors that we do not place much confidence in rumors.

Gen. Egbert L. Viele
Gen. Egbert L. Viele

I can scarcely believe that driving the rebels from Virginia will end the war. I hope that the Government will not enter into any compromise with the rebels nor make peace with them till they are thoroughly whipped. We are not in Gen. [Egbert Ludovicus] Viele‘s Brigade now. Gen. Viele has gone to New York and we are under the command of Gen. [Quincy Adams] Gillmore, though Gen. [Henry Washington] Benham commands the division, and Gen. Hunter the district, Gen. Sherman having been recalled. Our regiment stands high in the estimation of all the generals here. It is called the best regiment in the division. It is very difficult for us to get correct news except from the papers and they are generally two weeks behind time, so that you can tell what is going on around us better than we can.

In regard to the barn, I think it had better be got ready for raising and let it remain in that condition till further orders. I want shingles enough to cover it — walls and all — besides enough to cover the roof of a shed 33 feet long and 15 feet wide. I want the boards and planks to be laid up with sticks between them. Lumber is much cheaper now than it will be again, I think.

Gen. Quincy Adams Gillmore
Gen. Quincy Adams Gillmore

Those calves should be put on to Marsh Point as soon as the feed is good. I don’t think that Old Red is farrow. I want you to keep me well posted in regard to the cattle and sheep. It is not best to sell any hay this spring for we shall want to keep more stock another winter. April 17th I sent you $200 by Express and have two months’ pay due me. I did not pay for my watch this time and have $45.00 in my hands which I am keeping for two of my men who are not capable of taking care of it themselves. Part of the money which I sent you belonged to them and I don’t mean to pay them very soon unless they will send it home for they would soon spend it for whiskey. I should like to hang all liquor dealers this side of the North Pole.

Tell William that Emerson is getting altogether ahead of him in every respect. I want the boys to study their arithmetic thoroughly this summer. They ought to get a lesson in it every day. I hope to be able to obtain a furlough next fall. I want you to dress Luna and Mary in good style so that they can go to meeting or any other place looking as well as any other children in town. I will bring you a silk dress when I come home. If you buy a fine dress in Gouldsboro, you will get cheated for there never was a decent silk dress sold there yet, nor of any other kind either.

I want all the ground between the old ground and the brook broken up and planted with something. It should be cross-plowed before planting. I want the old ground plowed and seeded down to herds grass. It will require a half bushel of seed at least. If you want a garden, have it made on new ground. I have written a pretty long letter for me and I want you to write me all the news. How do Abby and Lida get along? Wonder if Hyde thinks of buying our hill or the D. Young place. How is Haydes’ big calf and cow? I think that I shall be able to stay at home some time after the war is ended.

I can write no more at present so goodbye.

Yours in love, — Alonzo

You had better have your likeness taken and the children’s also, and send copies of them to me. I have postage stamps in abundance.

Jeff Davis is not a fool

Beaufort, South Carolina
August 22, 1862

My dear wife,

As I have a little spare time, I think that I may as well improve it in writing you a few lines. I have no particular news to write so I must “make up” a letter. Brown has been tried by Court Martial but the decision has not been made public. It is supposed, however, that he will be cashiered.

View from the Landing at Beaufort, South Carolina
View from the Landing at Beaufort, South Carolina

Last night one of my sergeants attended a “negro meeting” in company with a few men belonging to the 6th Connecticut Vols. and as they had been drinking whiskey rather freely, they thought to show their smartness by breaking in doors and windows of the meeting house and by kicking up a row generally. The sergeant was arrested and will probably be tried by a Court Martial. If he is found guilty, I hope that he will be punished to the full extent of the law. The sergeant (George J. Card) is quite young and smart, and I have tried to make a man of him, but it is of no use — it can’t be done.

I have not received a letter from Ohio very lately, but get letters from Campton now and then. My father says that he is doing well — that he owns a “stand” in the village, and that he is in better circumstances than he ever was before. His daughter Mary, 22 years of age, was married about 15 months ago to a Mr. Keniston. Mary does most of the writing, and, though a poor writer, she is a pretty good speller, and is pretty good in grammar. I don’t think that she has got much of a “man” for a husband.

We have delightful weather — very much like September weather — not quite cold enough for frost. The fact is, the very hot weather is over with and the climate at this season of the year is very healthy.

The rebels don’t trouble at all and we are having fine times. We are, however, getting out of patience with “somebody” on account of the long continuance of the war. One million men is not enough to put down the rebellion. We need two and a half millions of effective men and we must have them or knock under, or — which is the same thing — compromise with the rebels. One million of good troops put into the field early last summer would have cleaned out every traitor in the South, but things have changed since then. I wish you and everybody else to just bear in mind that the South can easily bring into the field one and a half millions of “white troops,” and that their slaves are of greater service to them than an additional million of white troops. How then are we to conquer the rebellion with less than two and half millions of effective men? I hope that the people of the North will soon get their eyes open to the fact that Jeff Davis is not a fool, nor never was, and that the sooner we put into the field a sufficient number of men to put down the rebellion, the better it will be for the North.

The people of the North are not more than half awake. The army would gladly fight equal numbers or even superior numbers, but men do not like to fight when there is no prospect of success, and the prospect is not very encouraging with our present number of men in the field.

We need — and must have — a much stronger navy. The papers make a great talk about our having 300 naval vessels, and I suppose that we have that number, but more than three-fifths of them are “purchased vessels” and totally unfit for the “service.” We ought to have 100 monitors on a much larger scale — say about 400 feet long — that will make their 20 knots per hour. Our gunboats are slower than an old scow, and of course, not just the thing we want. It won’t do to be slow in war times.

I suppose that by the time this reaches you, haying will be over. I want to know how many tons of hay we shall have, and all about things in general. How are the cattle and sheep? You have never told me whether all the ground between the old ground and the brook was plowed or not. I judge that it is not plowed by the quantity of potatoes planted. If it is not plowed, it must be plowed early this fall. Is that old log there yet? If it is, it should be removed at once. You will think that this is not much of a love letter but I can’t write a love letter till I get one from you.

If we were sure of staying here two or three months longer, I should want to have you come out here, but we are liable to move at any time so that it would be very inconvenient for you to come. It will be impossible for me to get a furlough on account of the lateness of the season. Well, I suppose we must grin and bear it, but I should like to spend one week at home at least. I don’t think that you would get much rest — day or night. But I suppose you would be full of objections, as of old, but I should not pay much attention to them, but advance in column, closed in mass, and take the fortress by storm. I think that I understand my tactics better than I used to, I don’t believe in protracted sieges. I shall await your answer to my other letter with great impatience.

It is getting late and I must close. write often and write good long letters.

Yours in love, — Alonzo

Quit begging & go to fighting

Port Royal Ferry, South Carolina
September 10th 1862

Dear wife,

I received an old letter from you last Friday. It was dated August 7 or 9th. I have already your letter of August 23. There has nothing of interest transpired in this section since I wrote to you.

We get rather gloomy accounts from the North but it is not certain that they are reliable. I fear, however, that they are too true. We had a report last night that 50,000 rebels had crossed over into Maryland. The people of the North had better quit begging and go to fighting. It is the only way that the rebellion can be conquered. Unparalleled ignorance or knavery — or both — has prevailed at Washington. Results thus far go to prove it, and whatever may happen in future can not prove the contrary, but may prove that our statesmen (?) are capable of learning, and then again, it may not. Results will tell. We don’t like the idea of being kept out here doing nothing, but we can do nothing with our small force except hold what we have got. Our “folks” at the North do not seem to realize what sort of a foe we have to deal with, but they will learn after awhile. But perhaps not till the rebels have lugged off Bunker Hill Monument or have turned the free states into slaves states.

The rebels are very near us here and our boys have all had a few shots at them. Today I paid a visit to some of our pickets who were having a pretty good time firing across the river at the rebels. The pickets were in the habit of resting their muskets in the fork of a live oak tree so as to get good aim, and as I had my rifle with me, I thought I would try my luck. So I placed my rifle in the fork of the tree but before I could get ready to fire, one of the rebs let go at me, send[ing] the ball into the tree through which I was aiming. He made the best shot that has been made by any reb since we have been here. I returned the fire but without effect, as the rebels jumped behind the trees as soon as they saw the smoke of my rifle. They soon came out, however, and we gave them a volley which caused them to beat a hasty retreat from their post. During the day we caused quite a large number of the rebel pickets to vacate their posts, but we cannot tell whether we killed any or not. I am in hopes that we shall get reinforcements soon so that we can make a move somewhere. I am tired of staying in one place so long.

I received a letter from Ruth a few days ago containing a letter from Albert [Blanchard]. He is in the 29th Ohio Vols. now in Virginia. The regiment is reduced from 925 to 125. Albert has been in quite a number of battles and has had rather a hard time of it. [His brother] Jasper is somewhere on the Mississippi River but has not seen so much fighting as Albert has.

I think you had better fatten “Old Red” and buy a young cow. You will need considerable meat this winter, so you had better kill Old Red and save all the sheep, and buy 6 or 7 more if we have hay enough. We ought to keep 15 eve sheep this winter if possible. Where are the steers this summer and how do they look? How many ewe sheep and lambs have we now?

It is strange that we do not get paid off. We have nearly five months’ pay due us and there is no money in the regiment. I don’t know how you will manage to get along but I guess my credit is good for awhile. I want the roof of the barn painted with coal tar this fall and I also want to have the trimmings painted yellow. They should receive two coats of paint and all the doors the same. Don’t have any paint used about the barn but French Yellow except on the roof.

You had better engage someone to get out the underpinning for the new house this fall. Remember the house is to be 28 X 36 feet with a piazza 18 feet long in front. I don’t know what width the piazza ought to be but I suppose 8 feet wide would be about right so that we should want 8 feet of underpinning for each end of the piazza, but none where the house comes in contact with the old house. I don’t know that I can give you any more directions in regard to the underpinning. I shall probably be at home in the spring if not before, but the underpinning and all the materials should be got out this fall and next winter, and everything should be done by the job as far as practicable.

I want Guptill to study figures and nothing else. Unless he first learns arithmetic, he will never have any depth to him. He will get a slight smattering of everything that will not be of any benefit to him or anyone else. He must not study Geography at present. He can learn that at any time. I want him to go to Brunswick. He will find a teacher there who understands the business.

There is no news to write so I will close, hoping to hear from you soon.

Yours in love, — Alonzo