• Civil War Recruitment Poster

  • Letter from Forest Little to his parents

  • Civil War Union Flag

About the Letters 

Envelope of one of Forrest's letters to his parents

This collection includes 23 letters (September 1861- July 1862) from Forrest Little (1843-1862) of Crown Point, Essex County, New York, to his parents, Henry and Amanda Little. Forrest enlisted in Company F of the Fifth Vermont Volunteers at Middlebury, Vermont, on September 6, 1861. His letters begin shortly after his arrival at Camp Griffin in northern Virginia, and they continue as he trained for, then participated in, the Army of the Potomac's Peninsula Campaign led by General George McClellan. Forrest survived the battles of Lee's Mills, Williamsburg, and Savage Station, but at the end of the campaign he died of typhoid fever at Harrison's Landing, Virginia on July 23, 1862.

The collection also includes a letter from Forrest Little's cousin "Cath," dated July 17, 1862. In 2009, Tom Simms of Mount Holly, NJ also forwarded a letter from Captain E.S. Stowell (Forrest's Captain) to add to this exhibit. It is herewith added to the list of letters, with grateful acknowledgement.

These simple letters give a sense of the everyday life of a Union soldier, depicting the rigors of camp life and, once the campaign begins, the drama of battle. Forrest reports to his parents about conditions at camp, rumors of troop movements, and news about other local soldiers. After arriving on the Yorktown Peninsula, Forrest's letters give a vivid account of the hardships of marching and the severe losses experienced by the Fifth Vermont. Once he takes part in the fighting, Forrest's youthful confidence gives way to more sober description of the horrors of war.

This website includes transcriptions of Forrest Little's letters and his cousin's letter, as well as images of the originals. It also includes an article on Forrest Little and the Fifth Vermont Volunteers in the Army of the Potomac entitled "Father I done my duty" by Professor Carl Guarneri of the Saint Mary's College of California history department. Further information on people and places mentioned in Forrest's letters are available through the link to People, Places and Events.

The letters were given to Saint Mary's College on October 30, 1995 by Francis and Mary van der Linden of Los Alamitos, California. The letters are transcribed just the way Forrest wrote them originally, highlighting his lack of punctuation, poor spelling, and extra spaces inserted between sentences. The transcriptions were done by Carl Guarneri (professor of history) and Zephyr Snyder, (SMC class of 2002). Scans of the letters were completed by Sarah Vital, (reference and instruction librarian) and the Web site organized and coded by Sue Birkenseer (reference and instruction librarian).  The entire Forrest Little collection, including the article and related materials, was published on the Saint Mary's College of California site in 2007.

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Saint Mary's College of California
1928 Saint Mary's Road
Moraga, CA 94575
(925) 631-4000
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