Henry Clay Ward was born in 1842 in Onondaga County, New York, the son of Horatio G. (b. 1812) and Alvira or Elmira (b. 1822) .
Massachussetts native Horatio married New Yorker Alvira, probably in New York, and by 1850 Horatio was working as a carpenter and living with his wife and two children in Geddes, Onondaga County, New York where Henry C. attended school. By 1860 Horatio and presumably his family, were living on a farm in Ada, Kent County.
Henry stood 5’9” with hazel eyes, black hair and a dark complexion and was a 19-year-old farmer probably living in Ada or perhaps in Grand Rapids when he enlisted in Company A, on February 26, 182, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, and was mustered the same day. (He was possibly related to Lemuel of Company E; both of whom were born in Onondaga County, New York.) Henry was sent to Detroit where he awaited transportation to Virginia and to the Third Michigan infantry. On March 8, he wrote home to “dear father and mother.”
I take the pen in hand to try and see if I write. We got to Detroit Tuesday night a little after dark and marched a mile and a half to the barracks. We have good barracks here. We have not got our uniform et nor have not drilled any yet. We marched down town yesterday to be inspected. There was not any of us thrown out. About going to Jackson I cannot tell for certain yet. I asked the captain yesterday and he said he could not let me go this week, but that he would before we go away. He thinks we shall stay here 3 or 4 weeks. But I guess we shall go when we are ordered. The other gang had just gone to Washington the day before we got here. I hope we shall not stay here a great while unless we drill. I wrote a letter to Huldah [his sister?] Wednesday, the next morning after we got here. The man that carries the mail done to the office said he carried down some mail for a boy to his mother by the name of Henry and he went with the gang that went Monday. I don’t know who it can be. We have not any of us had a chance to get down town yet but I guess we shall get a chance to go after we get our uniform. We have not any of us been on guard yet but shall have to be tomorrow I guess. There is about eighty or 90 men in the [barracks?] now in all. There are 2 barracks here that are used and two that are not done yet and five or 6 others building. We have not done any thing yet but chop a little wood and lay around. We shall send our clothes home as soon as we get our uniforms and can get a chance to get down and look around some before we go away. There is so much noise I cannot think of any more to write this scribbling. We were all glad we were not thrown out. I enjoy myself here first rate and I guess the others do too. This is all. I will [not] try to write any more this time I guess.
We are all well and enjoy ourselves good. Give my respects to all the neighbors and receive this from your affectionate son, Henry C. Ward.
PS In directing letters here you can direct them to Detroit Detroit Barracks Mich 3 Mich Infantry. Write soon
Four days later, March 12, he wrote his sister Huldah from Detroit.
I take my pen in hand to see what I can write. I received your letter this morning and was glad to hear that you were all well and that you was enjoying yourself and that you arrived safe home. I also received a letter from Christopher and will try and answer it if I get time. I cannot find out exactly when we shall go from here but I guess it will be tomorrow or next day. The officers will not tell when the barracks are getting [orders and] some [hope] to leave. I was in hopes that I could come out and see you all but shall not be able to go if we go as soon as that. I asked the Captain and he said he would let me have a pass to go before we went from here. He said then we should stay here 3 or 4 weeks and I thought I should get a chance to come. I am sorry it is so for I should like to have come first rate but it can’t be helped now. I had 4 pictures taken, one in a good-sized case and one in a small case and two without cases. I expected to have some taken here in my uniform but could not get a chance to get down town. They have not given many passes. George and William got a pass this morning while I was on guard and I was too late or I would [have] went down and had my pictures taken today and sent to you. If we do not go before Friday I may get a chance yet. I have written home twice but have not received an answer yet. I wrote home soon after I got here and then I found out that we were going sooner than I expected and I wrote another when I sent my clothes. William received a letter from John’s folks is all we have heard from home but shall probably have some before we go from here. We shall all of us be ready to go anytime. We have not drilled any to speak of since we have been here and it is rather dry business. There was some more men come from the Rapids last night but not any that we know. Our Regiment is on the move. I do not know whether we shall go to the Regiment or not. We have got our uniform; our overcoats are a dark blue and our pants are a dark blue and we have caps.
I want [?] to have my pictures taken to Washington if we ever get there and send them back to you.
I cannot think of any more this time. There is a good deal of noise here and I guess I may as well stop this scribbling for this time and try and better it next time so please excuse this from your affectionate brother. You can do as you are a mind to about writing to me. If you write here I guess the letters will follow. I shall write again as soon as I get to a stopping place so as you can tell where to direct your letters. I shall be glad to hear from all of you as often as you can find time to write. Tell George to write and I will try to write to him. This is all I think of now so good by from your brother Henry C. Ward.
PS I got George’s letter last night and glad to hear from you all. I was going to answer Cs letter today but I do not know as I shall have time for we got our orders last night that we go tonight and I shall have to be getting my things ready for a start tonight. I shall write as we get to a stopping place. I cannot write any more today for I have got to go on guard again so I will stop scribbling and receive this from your brother Henry C. Ward.
Henry was soon shipped to Virginia and by March 25, he was at Fortress Monroe, when he wrote to his father and mother back in Michigan.
Dear Father and Mother,
I sit down to write you a few lines to let you know how I am getting along. I am feeling very well this morning. Perhaps you may think that I am in a hurry to write but I do not know how long it [we] shall stay here and I did not know as I should get a chance to send one as well after we move from here which I think will be before a great while. Some say in about 10 days. I think as soon as the troops all get here. There is between 75 and 100 thousand between here and the fort most of which will probably move together. We do not know where as this is all kept secret. I do not know as this letter will go any farther than the fort till after this expedition is over but I will write it and it may go farther. If not you will probably get it some time. Have you received the letter I wrote you on the boat after I started from Washington? We were two days and two nights coming to the fort. We saw Mount Vernon from the boat; it is a very handsome place. We saw some of the rebels’ earthworks but they had all left. The fortress is a nice thing and can be held very easily. The Union gun is there them that has seen it says it is a nice gun. We were encamped in the first place about 2 miles from the fort. Yesterday we moved about 2 miles farther. The village of Hampton lies close to our camp most of which the rebels burned before they left. It must have been a pleasant place. It was built mostly of brick. The ruins look bad.
I received a letter from Huldah before I left Detroit which I answered before I left there. I wrote to her again. I also received one from George and one from Chris which I have not answered yet but shall as soon as I get time. There were 8 or 10 runaway negroes come into camp this morning. I believe they come from Richmond. The rebel pickets are not a great ways from here. Some of the boys around say they saw some of them. Father spoke about my being vaccinated. We have not any of us been yet. I waited for the rest of the boys and we kept putting it off and we went from Detroit before we expected to, some of the others that came with us were vaccinated in Detroit and their arms were sore. It bothered them to carry their knapsack and they caught cold which makes it very bad so I do not hardly know whether it is best to have it done [it]. We had ought to have had it done before we left home and it would have [been] well by this time.
We have not got our tents so it is not quite so good getting along as it would be if we had them. I like soldiering full as well as I expected I should. We have been on the move so it has not been quite so well for us as though we were camped. The rest of the boys [are] well. Emery Moon is having the ague a little and I heard that our colonel was sick. In directing letters to me you can direct them Co. A 3rd Regt. Mich Inf Washington DC. That is the way Mr. Moon [Wilbur or Emery] has directed and I guess they will follow as they know there where our Regiment is. I have not been around camp much since we moved this time. When we were at the other camp I went down to the water and got a few fresh oysters to eat. The negroes got the[m] and open them and sell them for 25 cents a quart. It is very pleasant country through here but I think it will show the effects of the war a great while. The fences are all pulled down and used for wood and the shade trees which are cedars are all cut down to get the boughs for beds. I found a good many boys here that I was acquainted with. You must excuse this scribbling with a lead pencil as I had no pen and ink handy and if you can not read it just throw it in the fire so I will stop as I think I have wrote enough so please receive this from your affectionate son Henry C. Ward.
I will write the directions again as you may not make it out in the other place it is Co A 3rd Regt Mich Inft Washington DC
Write soon and do not wait and I will write as often as I can think of anything to write so good by
Mr. Moon just said 3 men from the New York 38[th] were just taken prisoner by the rebels. They were out about 100 yards after some wood and some cavalry come on and took them.
By April 13 Henry was still with the regiment when it was in a camp in the woods near Yorktown, Virginia, and he took the opportunity to write home to his family.
Dear father and mother,
I received your letter today and as I had a few leisure moments to spare I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know how I was getting along. I don’t know but some of the boys when they wrote and said that I was sick. There was a few days before we moved from Hampton that I was not very well and on the march I was not very well but I did not have to carry my knapsack so I got along very well but I had enough to carry. It was the first day we went very slow stopping every few moments but the next day we went fast enough to make it all up. We started from Hampton Friday the 4[th] and got to our camping ground Saturday night and stayed there till Thursday when we moved back a mile or so in the woods as we were in sight of the rebels and they could all our moves and we were in range of their guns. We have a good place here for a camp all but the water which is not very good. We have not seen any thing of the rebels yet although we have been called out twice. The first time we were called up about 12 o’clock at night and stood in the ranks a little while and hearing nothing we went back to bed and have not heard anything else till day before yesterday the long roll beat and we were out in a hurry and went out and back 2 times and then we got our supper and went to sleep and that is the last we have heard. I expect there will be a move made here before a great while when the artillery all gets here and when Gen. McClellan gets things ready. I think if he does not manage this thing right he will not stand as high as a military man as he does now. And I think if the rebels get whipped here it will about use them up in their part. I saw the Gen. As we [were] on the march. He is a young man and a smart-looking man. You wrote that John Sumner was sick he has been with the brigade since we landed at the fortress and I guess he is well now. I received a letter from Austin last night and have answered it today. They were all well there when he wrote. I also received one from Huldah and one from Chris with another from Huldah enclosed. I think I will answer Huldah’s as she said she was going home before long. My letters all come in a heap. There is others that I promised to write to and I guess they think I am not going to write to them. Tell Mr. Daniels folks that I will try and write to them as soon as I can get time. I do not know how much time I shall have now. Tell them to write and not wait for me and I will write the first chance I get. We have a balloon here that has been up several times to look over on to the rebels and the rebels had a balloon up today. Enclosed you will find 2 secesh cards that I got out of a secesh house where Moon and I went after some milk. He got quite a number. The rest of the boys send their respects. John is waiting for a letter from some one. William has been to the hospital 2 or three days but is back here again. George is well with the exception of a cold. I guess after a little we shall get used to it. William wrote to John’s folks a few days ago and I wrote a little in it. . . . If you can read this you can do better than I think you can. If not you must throw it in the stove. Receive this from your affectionate son, Henry C. Ward. Write soon
He also wrote to his sister Huldah the same day, April 13.
I received your letter today and also one from Chris with one from you enclosed saying that if I answered it I should direct it there. I also received one from home saying that they were all well and I got one from Austin last night both of which I had answered and I though that I would answer yours while the fit is on. I expect it will make me sick but I guess I shall have to risk it. Tell Chris and George that I will answer theirs the first chance I get. We have not drilled any since we came from Hampton [Virginia]. There is no chance here in the woods. You wanted to know what arms I had. I have nothing but a gun. I also have a cartridge [box] and a haversack and a knapsack, which makes all I want to carry. There was a few days before we left Hampton that I was not very well and I got some medicine and I am now feeling very well. On the march the wagon carried my knapsack also Mr. Moon’s and we went to a secesh house and got some milk to drink and it tasted good. We also got a few cards. I have sent two home and I will send you one and I guess I will send one to Austin. We were two days on the road. The first day we stopped every little while but the next day we went fast enough to make it all up. The mud was very deep in some places so deep and sticky that I had to stop once or twice and get hold of my boot straps as I should have lost my boots sure. We got here Saturday night and were in sight of the rebels. We lay there a few days but we were in range of their guns and they could see all our moves so we moved about a mile or so back in the woods. We have a very good place for a camp, plenty of wood but the water is not very good. I do [not] use any more water than I can help. We have not had any fighting yet but we have been called out twice but it did not amount to anything. The first time we were called up about midnight and stood around a little while and then went back to our tents and went to sleep. The next time we were called out in the afternoon and double-quicked out of the woods twice and then come back just as we were all getting savage and eat our supper and then went to sleep and that is the last we have heard from them. I heard cannon today in the direction of the Fortress. Things that we boys buy here are rather dear; eggs are only 40 cents a doz and butter 35, cheese 25, sugar 25 so a person cannot afford to a great deal. I have about 2 dollars left.
We have not had any pay yet. . . . I was in hopes I should get some so as to send that to you but if I can not get it I shall have to stand it. This is all this time. Give my respects to the rest of the rest of the folks and tell them to write.
On May 6 from a camp in the field Henry wrote home to his family.
Dear father and mother and sister,
As I had a few moments to spare I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know how I am getting along. We are getting along rather fast just now. We started from our camp Sunday afternoon and have marched pretty fast chasing the rebels. They left Yorktown Sunday and retreated leaving their forts and quite a number of tents and a good many cannon. And our men have been after them ever since. Last night there was a fight and quite a fight it was. There was a good many men lost on both sides. Our regiment went out to support a battery and did not happen to get into a fight. I did not go out for I got rather tired but today am feeling first rate. Today the rebels have left a very strong place at Yorktown and I think they must begin to think that their cause is rather hopeless. And this morning they have left the place where the fight was last night and there is a large force of cavalry and infantry after them. We have marched a few miles and I guess we shall stay here for the night and then will probably march after them.
I received Huldah’s letter yesterday while we were on the march. It rained all day yesterday and the mud in some places was almost knee-deep which made it hard marching. I shall have to write a short letter this time and in an awful hurry so you must excuse the writing. I rather think if we have good success here I think the war will soon be to an end. It has been said in camp that Richmond was taken but one cannot tell anything about what you hear. But I hope it is so. Will write you again as soon as I can get a chance and answer the questions then. So receive this from your son and brother. Henry C. Ward. Write soon.
On May 18 from Cumberland Landing Henry wrote home to his family.
Dear Father and mother and sister,
I received your letter today and was glad to hear from you all and as I had time to spare I thought I would answer it. I received a letter from Huldah the day we were on the road to Williamsburg and answered it the next day but I had to write it in such a hurry if you could make it out you would do better than I expected you would. I have had another from Austin which I answered about the fight at Yorktown. There was not much fight about it but they gave us a good chase through the mud to Williamsburg where they gave our side a pretty good fight but we were a little too much for them. It was a hard fight. They were in a slashing and our men had to come out in plain sight. You have heard as much about the number of men lost on both sides as we have here for all we know about it we get from the papers. I know there were a great many dead lying on the field when we came over it the next day. The next day early in the morning they left and we are after them slow. Most of the troops are ahead of us and we have been lying here 2 days at the landing. And I expect the next move we make we shall go about 10miles which will be near where the rebels have made another stand but if they do not stand better there than they did at Yorktown we shall have some more chasing to do. I have seen a good many prisoners and deserters and they look rather hard. The rebels had a very strong place at Yorktown and it would have cost a good many lives to have taken it. They also had some strong forts at Williamsburg. The rebels must have had a hard road to retreat on for some of their wagons were left in the mud up to the hub. The inhabitants along the road said that they were badly scattered when they retreated and even goes to show that they were somewhat in a hurry. I hope they will make a stand this side of Richmond so we shall have to go any farther south. We have seen a good many hundred acres of wheat up about knee high but it was not quite so high when our troops had all gone over it for it made very good pasture for cattle and horses and I saw corn up about 4 inches. All I have seen of Virginia so far I like first rate and I should like a farm here. Most of it lies very level and is good soil. I have not received Clark’s letter yet but you can tell him I will write to him before long if I can get a chance. For the last 2 weeks I have not had time to write anybody unless I had to hurry pretty fast. I can not tell how long we shall stay here but I will write again when we get into another camp. I have not received any pay yet nor do I know when I shall. It was said last pay day that we should be paid again the 15th but it has not come yet. I borrowed 3 dollars of Wilber [Moon] and I guess that will last me till we get some. I shall send all I can spare home and I think I had better send it by express. It will cost about 75 cents but I think it will be in the best way. When you write tell me what you think about it. I suppose it will have to be sent to the Rapids.
And from a camp in the woods on May 29 Henry wrote home to his “dear mother father and mother.”
I received your letter last night . . . and was glad to hear that you were all well. I also received one from Mr. Daniels and one from Benj Colla [?] dated the 22nd which said that there had been a frost which had killed the fruit. We had not had any letters in a number of days as we were on the move. We are in about 12 miles of Richmond. W are not allowed to write anything about the war so I will not have anything to say about it. We have a nice place here in the woods for a camp but cannot tell how long we stay for a soldier never knows when he has to travel nor how far he has to go. About the warm weather here we have not had many warm days here yet although we feel the heat when we are on the march for out clothes are rather thick. But we do not have any too many when night comes. The most of our regiment have sent their knapsacks back to the rear and all I carry now is 1 blanket and one half of a shelter tent and an oil cloth and provisions which makes about enough to carry my portfolio and change of clothes were in my knapsack and I sent it in such a hurry that I did not keep any of them out. But I guess I shall get it again if not I do not care much. I am feeling the best now that I have felt since I enlisted with the exception of the headache which bothers me some but I have got used to it so I do not mind it much unless it is hot and we are marching. If we get our pay pretty soon I shally get a hat which I think will be better than a cap. About sending me money you need not do it for I have some left yet. I borrowed 2 dollars of Mr. Moon and I think we shall have our pay before long. The rest of the boys are all well but John. He went to the hospital this morning. He was not able to march but I think he will be around in a little while. Our division genera’s name is Kearney, our brigade general is Berry and the Colonel is Champlain. About sending papers; they would come but you need not send any unless it comes handy. Tell mr. Daniels folks that I will answer their letter soon. About the war being over I think it will last a while yet although if our army has good success here I think it will end it in Virginia. What success did Pa have in getting that money for Uncle George? He has never said anything about it. Tell him he must not work too hard to get sick. I am writing this in my lap on a sack of hard crackers so you must excuse this. About sending stamps you need not unless you have a plenty for I have enough to last me quite a while. I hope we shall be home in time to get some _____ give my respects to all. I do not care about coming back till I see the thing through I am well good by [please excuse the] poor writing and receive this from your brother and affectionate son Henry C. Ward.
Henry was killed in action on May 31, 1862, at Fair Oaks, Virginia, and presumably among the unknown soldiers buried at Seven Pines National Cemetery.
His parents were living on a farm in Ada, Kent County in 1870 (his father owned $2000 worth of real estate). In 1886 his mother Almira was living in Michigan when she applied for and received a pension (no. 230331). In 1888 Horatio was living in Michigan when he applied for and received a pension (nos. 372338 and 247556 respectively).