Welcome home, Willie!

“…if I do get home alive I shall expect to see you in Hartford to see us when we land & when I come out to Manchester on the cars I shall expect to see you standing on the platform at Buckland with a little note for me with some little love message in it…”

Cpl. William L. Norton letter to Jennie E. Annis, March 25, 1863, MS 100767. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, Connecticut.

Corporal William L. “Willie” Norton, Company B, 10th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, missed his sweetheart. Jennie E. Annis was home in Buckland (Manchester), Connecticut.  Willie was fighting in the South with the Union Army. Recently CHS acquired two letters written by Willie to Jennie. The first was written in March 1863 from Island St. Helena, South Carolina,  and the second was written from Seabrook Island, South Carolina in July 1863.

In March Willie wrote about the snakes and lizards living on the island, as well as an alligator that was recently shot. He missed Jennie, and having lost her photograph, requested a new one.  As indicated by the excerpt above, Willie longed for his homecoming. Additionally, Willie reminds Jennie to send him the results of the gubernatorial election.

When Willie wrote on July 6, 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg had ended three days earlier. “We have heard,” he wrote, “that [the Confederate troops] are within 15 miles of Philadelphia & that when the rebs advanced on Harrisburg the militia run without firing a gun! Shame on them.” He was obviously unaware of the entire story. He still missed Jennie, and continued to lament the loss of her photograph.

We do not know if Jennie was waiting at the Buckland platform, but Willie did return home to her. They married, and are listed on the 1880 census in Northampton, Massachusetts. When the letters returned to Connecticut last month they joined another item in the CHS collection, a history of Company B, 10th Regiment written by William L. Norton (MS 88894). Penned in 1884, the history contains extracts of letters from the Civil War years, including the two letters just acquired.

William L. Norton and Jennie E. Annis Norton are both buried at Buckland Cemetery in Manchester, Connecticut. She died in 1885 at age 44. Willie lived until 1921, dying at age 79.

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