Soldier Profile - Bates, Delavan

Full Name: Bates, Delavan
Home State: New York
Allegiance: Union
Unit/Service Branch: 121st Infantry
Delavan Bates was my great, great uncle. He was raised on a farm near Otsego, New York. Following the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, he joined the 121st New York Volunteers in the Union Army. He participated in virtually all the important battles of the Civil War, including Gettysburg, Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg (where he was taken prisoner), and was regularly promoted until he became a Brevet Brigadier General atthe end of the war. Notably, Bates served as Colonel of the 30th United States Colored Troops. In this capacity he was wounded in the head on July 30, 1864 while leading a charge at the famous "Battle of the Crater" near Petersburg, Virginia. His heroism on that day earned him a Congressional Medal of Honor.

At the end of the war, Bates tried his hand as a merchant and storekeeper in Salisbury, North Carolina. He later returned to New York where he married Lana Ann Green on January 2, 1870 in West Richmondville. He died on April 18, 1902 [correction: December 19, 1918] leaving five children.

Delavan Bates wrote regularly to his father, Alpheus, and the following 77 letters comprise what remains of that correspondence. The letters indicate that Bates was better educated than most of his peers and portray him as a committed, pragmatic and somewhat stoic soldier. His commentary ranges from dispassionate observations on the suffering and tedium produced by war to eloquent personal vignettes and brotherly admonishments directed to his twin younger sisters, Valerie and Valetta. Interestingly for such an educated man, he routinely employed two different spellings in signing his name.

For those who wish to appreciate Bates' personal accounts within the larger context of the war itself, I heartily recommend Bruce Catton's historical books on this great struggle, particularly A Stillness at Appomattox.

William S. Saint
Nairobi, Kenya
April, 1988

Letters Written by Bates, Delavan
Letter May 13th, 1865 - Goldsboro, NC
Letter April 16th, 1865 - Raleigh, NC
Letter March 26th, 1865 - Faisons Station, NC
Letter March 12th, 1865 - Wilmington, NC
Letter February 24th, 1865 - Cape Fear River six miles from Wilmington, NC
Letter January 29th, 1865 - Chaffins Farm, VA
Letter January 15th, 1865 - Headquarters Detachment
Letter November 20th, 1864 - Near Peebles House, VA
Letter November 13th, 1864 - Near Peebles House, VA
Letter October 28th, 1864 - Near Petersburg
Letter July 16th, 1864 - Camp 30th U.S.C.T.
Letter May 26th, 1864 - ear Mattapany (?) River, VA
Letter May 16th, 1864 - Chancellorsville, VA
Letter November 8th, 1863 - Rappahannock Station
Letter October 15th, 1863 - Camp 121st N.Y. Volunteers
Letter September 21st, 1863 - Camp 121st N.Y. Volunteers
Letter August 31st, 1863 - Camp 121st N.Y. Volunteers
Letter July 4th, 1863 - Bivouac near Gettysburg
Letter June 17th, 1863 - Fairfax Station
Letter May 26th, 1863 - Alexandria, VA
Letter May 25th, 1863 - Annapolis, MD
Letter February 14th, 1863 - Near White Oak Church, VA
Letter December 22nd, 1862 - Camp near Falmouth, VA
Letter November 27th, 1862 - Hagerstown, MD
Letter October 29th, 1862 - Hospital Camp near Burksville
Letter September 22nd, 1862 - Near Williamsport, MD
Letter August 21st, 1862 - Camp Schuyler, Mohawk