In January, 1865 with the Civil War heading into its fourth year, Asa Mather was in Virginia – far from his home in Fair Haven, Vermont – and hoping for peace.
Asa and his brothers Warren and Emmet served in the 6th Vermont Infantry, an active unit that saw combat in Maryland, Gettysburg, Penn. and Petersburg, Virginia. Warren was killed in the fighting in December of 1864, and by January Asa believed the war was winding down, but not fast enough.
With the Second Battle of Fort Fisher, the Union successfully isolated the South from sources of supplies in Europe, setting up even more hardship for its troops, who were already lacking food and supplies. In a letter home to his sister-in-law Nell, Asa tells of how the men on both sides are hoping for a conclusion:
“Nell, you would won’t know me now I am so fleshy and lazy that I can’t get around only once a week. We have just got our dress coats from Washington that we had last winter and I can’t hardly get mine on. We have not had hard times for the last two months.
“Everything is very quiet here now. There has not been any firing on the lines for some time. Our breast works and the Rebs are about one half mile apart. The picket lines are in front and very near each other and when we got the news of the capture of Fort Fisher there was an order issued for every officer in command of the line to use every effort he could to let the Johnnies know it. So at two o’clock, every man was ready to tell them. It commenced on the left of the line and run along for miles. Every man hollered as loud as he could, Johnnies, Fort Fisher is captured.
“Then the Rebs says, ‘Yanks did you know peace was declared?’ and they kept talking to each other in this way until day light. There are a great many comes in our lines every night and I tell you they look hard up. They have very poor clothes and are very ragged and hungry. I dont think the war will last much longer yet it may last another summer.”
Asa Mather entered the army as a private and left as a second lieutenant.
For more of the Mathers letters, visit Vermont in the Civil War.