Willis A. Bradley

“Willis”, “Will”

Willis Alva Bradley was born on the 24th of November, 1835, to Edmond and Laura Bradley of Hamden, New Haven, Connecticut as the second child in a line of seven, and grew up on his father’s farm.

When he was 24, he married Mary Elizabeth Steele. In 1861, when the Civil War began, he was working as a gunsmith and decided to wait to enlist. Then, in late 1862 the 20th Connecticut was being formed, and he was given the rank of Sergeant, working directly under, and with, Cecil. They became good friends and bunkmates during the war.

Cecil wrote to Caroline in October of 1862:

Go over to Basil Munson’s peach orchard, select a place about in the center, take two blankets, fasten them at the top over a pole in this way, making a place about large enough for two dogs to crawl into – look in and you will see Willis and me doubled up with portfolios on our knees trying to write to our sweethearts far away, and you [will] have a very good picture of our situation.

At some point, it looks like Willis was demoted to Private. After the war, he returned home to his wife to pick up civilian life where he left off and became a fish dealer. Unfortunately, his wife passed away when she was only 40 years old, in 1979. Ten years later, Willis remarried to a certain “Annabelle”.

When he was 67 years old, in 1902, Willis passed away in New Canaan, Fairfield, Connecticut, and was buried there with a headstone that simply read “Veteran, Civil War, Willis Bradley, Died 1902”.


In these letters:

  1. Date Author Description
  2. 1863-03-22
    • Cecil Burleigh
    • This letter is primarily about what is happening at home in Connecticut, but Cecil does mention the possibility of moving shortly and what role the 20th Connecticut might play.
  3. 1863-03-08
    • Cecil Burleigh
    • Lamentations of being separated from his wife and home, a visit to Mt. Vernon, and O’Brien’s Pillow.
  4. 1863-02-12
    • Caroline Burleigh
    • A letter primarily about the difficulty of shipping boxes to the soldiers and the contents of a box she sent.
  5. 1863-02-08
    • Caroline Burleigh
    • In this interesting letter, Caroline writes an adorable account of Louise, a letter from Austin, the rising costs of fabric, and much more.
  6. 1863-02-01
    • Caroline Burleigh
    • Caroline writes a lengthy letter about the state of the war, their baby, her headaches, her low view of Austin, and lots more.
  7. 1863-02-01
    • Cecil Burleigh
    • Cecil writes about a visit from Mr. Bristol, the untimely death of a captain, their child, and why he chose to fight in the Civil War.
  8. 1863-01-27
    • Cecil Burleigh
    • Cecil responds to two of Caroline’s letters and speaks of justification for the war and slavery.
  9. 1863-01-17
    • Cecil Burleigh
    • Cecil writes a quick letter to Caroline, apologizing for deceiving her, informing her of their marching orders, and the health of the boys.
  10. 1863-01-11
    • Caroline Burleigh
    • In this long letter, Caroline complains about the Army having reviews on the sabbath, writes about their daughter, Christmas and New Years, a chicken-killing episode, and some matter of dispute between her and Cecil.
  11. 1862-12-24
    • Cecil Burleigh
    • In this letter, written on Christmas Eve, Cecil is quite depressed with the current state of the war. He speaks about the ever present nature of sickness, how difficult the last march was, how they are suffering from a lack of food, building new cabins for winter, and getting arrested for leaving camp without a pass.
  12. 1862-11-11
    • Cecil Burleigh
    • A letter from Cecil, telling Caroline about their efforts to build huts for living in, Burnside being placed in charge of the army, and the ineptitude of their own Colonel Ross.
  13. 1862-11-08
    • Cecil Burleigh
    • Cecil writes a two-part letter, the first part written on the 8th which discusses the continued movements of the 20th Connecticut, the chance of getting enough leave to return home for a visit, and the locals in the area. The second part, written on the 10th, quickly notifies Caroline of the continued movements of the regiment.
  14. 1862-10-22
    • Cecil Burleigh
    • Cecil writes about receiving a box of edibles from home, McClellan’s inability to get into a fight, and building log huts. In a lengthy P.S. he addresses the rations and the weather.
  15. 1862-10-21
    • Cecil Burleigh
    • Cecil complains about Col. Ross requiring the sick men to attend the inspection, thanks Caroline for sending a box, speaks about Harpers Ferry and the battle there, and writes of other business.
  16. 1862-10-05
    • Cecil Burleigh
    • Cecil writes about his camping situation, the lack of good food, and his dislike for playing cards.
  17. 1862-10-01
    • Cecil Burleigh
    • Cecil writes a quick note to let Caroline know about his trip from Washington to Frederick, Maryland. He speaks of traveling in cattle cars and the beautiful scenery.
  18. 1862-09-30
    • Caroline Burleigh
    • Caroline writes about how she wishes the army would let sick men go home on furlough, and speaks of visiting with neighbors.
  19. 1862-09-25
    • Cecil Burleigh
    • Cecil writes about shipping his pistol and several other items home, being sick with a cold, and then gives Caroline directions for sending a care box.
  20. 1862-09-21
    • Cecil Burleigh
    • Letter from Cecil Burleigh discussing business, camp life of a new recruit, and reassuring his wife.