Photo of the Week


“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck

Civil War Portrait, 1964

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian 

Elisha Wells Civil War Portrait, 1864. (Image from the Elisha Wells Civil War Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives.)

Elisha Wells (1830-1895) of Aquebogue married Maria Skillman Hudson, and together they had eleven children. During the Civil War, Elisha was a private of Capt. Hubbard E. Tuthill’s Co. 7, 2nd Regiment of Conn., Heavy Artillery Volunteers. He enrolled on February 5, 1864 – at age 33 and with seven children – to serve three years during the Civil War, and was discharged on August 18, 1865. Our library collection includes dozens of letters that he wrote to his wife and family while he was away at war (one of which is transcribed here). Elisha, a Riverhead farmer and a one-time Riverhead Postmaster (1870), is buried in the Riverhead Cemetery.


Fort Williams
Near Alexandria, Virginia
April 3, 1864

Dear Maria,

I now take the opportunity to inform you that I am in the land of the living yet, and in the enjoyment of good health as good as ever I enjoyed in my life…. The last time I wrote to you I said I thought that we should not have to leave Fort Williams, but that is now somewhat changed. Some two or three regiments have gone to the front and several more have got to go. Among those gone was the 15th New York – they were stationed at Fort Lyons about 1/2 mile to the south of us. They went away last Sunday. They refused to go at first and drew up in battle line. Then the 5th Pennsylvania bucktails encamped close to the city were called upon to take the fort; they marched up to the fort, 2,400 of them, when the New Yorkers thought best to obey orders as they could not have held the fort….

I suppose you know that General [Ulysses S.] Grant was in command of the whole force of the U.S. The soldiers are going South every day to reinforce [General George] Meade for the purpose of the taking of Richmond. Grant is there himself. The Army of the South is in the charge of General [George H.] Thomas. You may expect to hear of some fighting bye and bye. I should like to be at the taking of Richmond; however, there will probably be a great many lives lost in this spring campaign. I expect to stick to it; I believe I am in the right, and I believe the North will conquer the rebels and give them their desserts for they are as bad as the savages. They have been hanging some of our soldiers, maybe you read in the papers. Don’t trouble yourself about me. I can stand my hand with any of them….

My love to all inquiring friends.

From your husband,
E. Wells




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