William “Henry” Jordan of Coventry enlisted on 11 August 1862 as a private in Co. K, 7th Rhode Island Infantry to serve three years. Serving with him in Co. K was his older brother, John Jordon, and in Co. E, his brother-in-law, Wilbur T. Greene.
Henry was a pious soldier. Most of his letters are laced with gratitude to his Savior for shielding him from danger. In fact, he attributed his good fortune in obtaining details or detached service from his regiment to God’s intervention — relieving him from toting a gun and placing him at a safe distance from the battlefields. Throughout all of 1864 and 1865, while the 7th Rhode Island Infantry faced some of its most dangerous engagements, Henry served first in the commissary of his brigade headquarters, and later in the quartermaster’s department of the 2nd Division of Burnside’s Ninth Corps. The majority of this time was spent as a cook for a small mess of officers or, in the last year, as the personal cook of Capt. John K. Cilley, assistant quartermaster in the Ninth Corps.
And though Henry did not share much of the battlefield experience of his comrades in the 7th Rhode Island, his letters reveal much of what he did see — the carnage and devastation of war, the execution of deserters, and the logistical challenges of moving a war machine through enemy territory. His duties also enabled him sufficient time to write lengthy letters with more detail than is often found in the average soldier’s letters.
Henry survived the war and returned to his wife, Sophia, whom he married while on furlough in February 1864. Together they built a life for themselves after the war in Kent county, Rhode Island.