1862-63: Jenny (Niles) Low & Nathaniel Low, Jr. Letters


Capt. Nathaniel Low, Jr. photographed at Norfolk, Va. (1865); CDV courtesy of Dave Morin, The Yankee Volunteer

Two of these letters were written by Jenny (Niles) Low (1842-1892) to her husband, Capt. Nathaniel (“Nat”) Low, Jr. (1838-1890) while he served in the 11th New Hampshire Regiment. Jenny (“Jen”) was the daughter of Daniel Niles (1799-1889)—an “Expressman” from Canada—and his wife Phebe Damon of Dover, Strafford county, New Hampshire.

The other five letters were written by Capt. Nathaniel Low, Jr. to his wife. He was born in Dover; received his education in the schools of that city, and in 1861 was appointed post-master there, which position he resigned to enter the service. Through his efforts largely, Company K was raised, of which he was commissioned captain September 4, 1862. He resigned his commission October 11, 1862, in just one month after the regiment left the state, and returned to Dover; but in a short time was re-commissioned as captain of Company K, and returned to the regiment. He participated in the Mississippi campaign, and during the winter of 1863-64 was on duty in Kentucky… While the regiment was at Annapolis, Captain Low was promoted to captain and Assistant Quartermaster, US Volunteers, and received his commission June 16, 1864. He was assigned to the Naval Brigade as chief quartermaster; then to Fortress Monroe in charge of water transportation; and, after Lee’s surrender, to Norfolk where he engaged in breaking up the depot of supplies and selling the government property. [Regimental History, p. 186-187]


Capt. Low & his wife Jen, courtesy of N. H. Historical Society

[Note: The two letters written by Jenny (Niles) Low are from the private collection of Matthew Wilmot. The letter dated 18 November 1862 by Capt. Low is from the private collection of Jim Doncaster. Both are published by express consent.]


Letter 1

This letter was written by Capt. Nathaniel Low, Jr. a month before the Battle of Fredericksburg. In it he complains about all the marching the his regiment has been doing.

8 Miles from Fredericksburg, [Virginia]
November 18th 1862
4 o’clock p. m.

My own dear wife,

I have been trying to send a letter for two days to you. Frank Vittum’s man has just come into camp & is going to return to Washington tomorrow so I must improve the chance and write to my little dear. It is a week today since I joined the regiment & I can truly say it has been the toughest week of my life. We have done nothing but march, march, march, eat nothing but hard tack and half of the time not enough of that. We have just pitched our tents now after a forced march of 12 miles and I am just about killed out. Lieut. [B. Frank] Rackley is disgusted & has just handed in his resignation which I hope will not be accepted as I can ill afford to have him go.

Four of the boys have deserted. It is bad enough to be a line officer & as for a private, I would rather see a friend of mine go into his grave than enlist for they are used shamefully.

I am afraid, Jennie, that you will think by the tone of my letters that i have got the blues. I have not but only the mads.

Please excuse my short letter for I am almost tired to death & my head aches as if it would crack. Jennie, I think of you always and long for the time to wag round for me to return to you—-never, no never, to leave you again. From your affectionate husband, — Nat Low, Jr.


Letter 2

This letter was written by Capt. Nathaniel Low, Jr. a week after the Battle of Fredericksburg. He tells his wife that the memory of her and of her inspiring words gave him courage to face the carnage on the slopes of Marye’s Heights.

Camp of Gen. Ferrero Brigade
Falmouth, Va.
December 20, 1862
Saturday, A. M. 10 o’clock

My Own Dear Wife,

Good morning. It is bitter cold. I have just finished my breakfast. You see by the time we eat at fashionable hours. I was out part of last night with my company playing possum on the rebel pickets. The pontoon bridge had been taken up & the planks were laying round on this side of the river so we were ordered to creep down silently, each man shoulder a plank & leave, which we done in good shape without any loss.

After our return last night, I built up a rousing fire in our fire place, heated some water, & fixed up a nice hot whiskey, took out the letter of Aunt Jane’s that I had received during the day, read it for the fourth time, sat & sat and thought of you dear, [and then] made up my mind fully that a married man has no business in the army. What do you think, Jen?

I see by the papers that there is good sleighing East, which seems curious as there is no snow here & some of the time the weather will be too warm to wear an overcoat. But the trouble is this morning to get overcoats enough on.


Capt. Amos B. Shattuck

It is a week ago that we had the big battle. God grant that I may never see another day like it. It will be a day never to be forgotten by those engaged. It is called the bloody fight of the war. I don’t think you were out of my mind for a whole hour during the day. I remember when we were making a charge in the face of the rebel cannons, their fire was deadly. It was mowing our ranks down. The chances looked black for our lives. The men began to falter. It was then I remembered what you wrote—“Nat, be brave.” I jumped forward, waved my sword, told the boys to follow or be branded as cowards & I believe if I say it myself, Company K got to the front first & stayed there. Anyway Major [Evarts Worchester] Farr says Co. K is the fighting company.

We hear that our lamented, brave Capt. [Amos Blanchard] Shattuck is to be buried tomorrow at Manchester with Masonic honors. Poor Shattuck. I can’t help thinking of him.

Jen, I long to see you but when I do go home, if we won’t enjoy ourselves & make Rome howl, then I lose my guess. My regards to Mr. & Mrs. Peirce. With much love. Your affectionate husband, — Nat Low, Jr.

Letter 3

This letter was written by Capt. Nathaniel Low, Jr. three days before the regiment moved from Falmouth to Newport News where they remained until late March. Nat tells his wife that his furlough has been postponed and he doesn’t know when he will see her again. 

Camp of Gen. Ferrero Brigade
Near Falmouth, Va.
February 7th 1863

My own dear wife,

The weather today is splendid & everything is helter skelter. I have just been out all alone thinking of you, Jennie, & many a stray tear has stole its way down (if they are no already doing so). I really believe this is the most bitter disappointment I ever had in my life. The 2nd Brigade will take the cars this afternoon for Acquia Creek. Then we take transports for God knows where. Some say North Carolina, some Texas, & some New Orleans. The fact is none of us know where we are going. Anyway, I hope we shall have a safe & speedy voyage. I never dreaded anything any more in my life.

Tonight you will expect to meet me & I know you also will be sadly disappointed. We that were to have furloughs are told that as soon as we arrive at our place of destination, we shall have them, but I now put no faith in what anyone tells me here. One thing is now certain, Jennie, I shall seize the first chance to be with you for good.

I wrote yesterday to you that I had handed in my resignation. In my more cool moments, I saw at once that a resignation tendered when we were on the eve of a march would be called cowardice so I withdrew it—not that I cared as far as I was privately concerned what they thought as long as I knew better. But Jen, I never want you to hear any such stuff (nor our grandchildren you know).

Jennie, you said in your last letter you was afraid I had not perfect confidence in you as I wrote to you to keep on your dig. Well now, Mrs. Muffy, let me tell you that I have. Do you believe, Jen, I could truly love you as I do? No sir, if I had not. Why I said that, Jen, is just this: you know how the gossiping people of Dover talk if they can only get the slightest chance. I did not & do not wish them even to talk about my Jennie—not that I think, Jen, you would ever give people a chance to talk if you knew it. But you can’t guess how much slander I hear about some of the soger’s wives at home. Enough of such stuff with you dear.

Well, my dear, I suppose it is no use for me to show myself a baby (I really believe I am though) but Jen, the fact is I love you dearly & the highest aim of my life will be to make you happy & comfortable. I don’t know how soon I will be able to write to you again. Maybe in a few days & again not for a month. And then again I am in hopes to be with you before that time. No matter how it is, dear, I shall always love you better than life itself.

Hoping I shall be with you soon, with lots of love, I am my dear your affectionate husband, — Nat Low, Jr.

P. S. Private business. There is a note in the Strafford Bank against me for $175.00 in favor of Jones & Chamberlain for a devlish house. You pay it, Jen, when it is due. Ask Mr. Tufts & say nary a word.

I have a very bad cold. Hope the sea breeze will cure it. I hate to say goodbye. — Nat


Letter 4

Encampment 9th Army Corps
Newport News, Va.
February 20th 1863

My own dear wife,

The rain has at last stopped & the sun is out warm so we can lay round on the ground and sun in fine style. I have been drawing new tents for my men this morning & now they are pitching them. They are in great glee to get out of their little dog tents & have new wedge tents. We shall have a gay looking camp. I wish you could see it.

I was in hopes to have heard by last night’s mail the amount stolen from the Dover P. O., but nary a letter did I get.

I had a call this A.M. from Parson [Edward M.] Gushee. ¹ He is going to Norfolk tomorrow on a spree I suppose. A number of our officers went today expecting to have an old style bust. I was urged very hard to go with them but told them having a wife, I reckoned I would save my greenbacks so as to be able to settle down on a small patch of ground after this rebellion was squelched.

I was surprised to hear how cold it was in Dover last Saturday. Here it was so warm that an overcoat was uncomfortable. I shall slip over this winter without knowing that it is winter without I go home. It looks to me like we might lay here a month or two but one can’t tell as no knowing but that also we might get orders to start tomorrow as I have often remarked. Jen, nothing is sartin in war.

Remember me to my relatives. Tell Mother the pride of her heart still lives. My regards also old lady if you please to your Aunt Mrs. Niles & with lots of love for you, my dear, I am your affectionate husband, — Nat

¹ Rev. Edward Manning Gushee (1836-1917) married Lydia Low (b. 1836), Nate’s older sister, on 8 June 1864 at Dover, New Hampshire. Edward was an Episcopalian chaplain in the 9th New Hampshire during the Civil War.


Letter 5

Addressed to Capt. Nathaniel Low, Jr., 2d Brigade, 2d Division, 9th Army Corps, Cincinnati, Ohio, or Elsewhere

Boston [Massachusetts]
May 1, 1863
Friday P.M. 4½ o’clock

My dear Husband,

I wonder if you remember one year ago this evening? Echo answers yes! Altho’ it was not my privilege then to address you by the above endearing, noble title. Yet it was my peculiar privilege to steal & take away captive (tho’ unintentional) that rebellious heart belonging to your dear self (another). At the time I could not account for the happiness I experienced that evening; but now I can very readily. It was because two congenial minds met & we now behold the result—friendship, kindly regard, in due time pure undying love. What a happy result, it is not?

I received your two last letters about noon. They of course went to Dover; Uncle brought them back.

My regards & thanks are due Lieut. [John Kelly] Cilley for his photograph which now adorns my picture gallery. He’s welcome to my own, tho’ I am not aware how he got it. I shall send you two or more when I return to Dover—that is, if you wish. Thanks for the last one you sent me of Dr. [john C. W.] Moore—very pretty man. Is he married? Nat, get all the military photographs you can [and] send to me, won’t you? ja! ha! ha!

Oh dear, well it is strange what a fascinating life a soldier’s is in spite of the hardships. Just what I expected. Want to defer your coming home until fall, don’t you? hi! ho! hum! “Sich is life.” Let’s see, guess I will travel this summer. Nat, you are very, very kind to say you will come “any time I say the word, even if it is next week.” However, you think I won’t say it, don’t you dear? Well I’m sure I don’t wish you were under arrest to be tried & perhaps dishonorably dismissed from the Army. No, I want my husband to come with honor written upon his manly brow—in such a manner that I & everybody else will look up to him with love & respect & I may say pride.

The report this evening is that Gen. Hooker has crossed the [Rappahannock] river, surprised & taken four hundred Rebs. I say hurrah for Hooker or “any other man” who will capture a Reb.

Won’t you, Lieut. Cilley, or Dr. [Jonathan Smith] Ross come in to tea? I have been trying my hand at making griddle cakes, floating islands, cold tongue &c. Mother’s girl is not the best of cooks & I thought I would see what I could do. Mrs. Tuttle thinks I will do to go to keeping house. At least I was successful for once in my life.

Dear Nat, I wish I could see you. Tonight, just one hour later, you & I started out to go from the chapel over to American Falls. If you remember, it rained a little so you went to the Post Office & procured an umbrella. Was it not gay? I little imagined in one year I should be a wife of eight months—anyway, not yours. What did you think about it? However, I am rejoiced that it is as it is. And I believe you, my darling, are satisfied.

We are having delightful weather—warm & pleasant.

Dear Nat, I often–very often—think of all those pleasant drives we used to take together. How very often we used to go. I used to feel rather condemned sometimes for going. I declare it will be too bad for you to stay away from me this summer now that we can go & have a perfect right to enjoy each other’s society, don’t you think so, darling?

Nat, my own darling husband, I shall leave it entirely to your own better judgement to decide whether you come home next June, July, or September. One thing, I shall feel sad enough when Alex, Sarah, & Mrs. Wm. Low come here & all are there but you. And do you think you can stand the warm weather?

If peace could only be declared in one year, I should be willing, I think—perhaps even wish you to see the affair settled. But do you really think it probable? Alas, for me, I do not—or rather I fear not. And then if you were to lose a leg or an arm as you say, who would thank you for it? Why no one. I should much rather have a whole “hus” but then I should love you as now, better than life.

Wouldn’t it be a glorious sight to see Co. K marching through the streets of Dover? I’m quite sure it would be a glad sight to all. I very well remember the day you took the company to Concord in the [ ] every movement of ours was watched. I suppose you remember of having a bouquet presented to you & then the lunch at F[rank] Vittum’s—also the leave-taking. Oh! dear it almost makes me boo! hoo! to think of it.

How I should admire to peep into your camp, see you, what you are  up to, &c. Some mischief doubtless. You always were a rogue, I know, but I hear it reported around in the “higher circles” that I have succeeded in taming you down to a steady old gent. ha! ha! Nat, there is one thing which is very certain—I love you, which is a brand new assertion for me to make to you & want to see you most wretchedly. I do now & no mistake.

How is our friend, Dr. Ross? I think you wrote me he was in ill health, did you not? I hope to hear from you tomorrow as it is always pleasant to get a kind word Saturday to feast on Sunday, isn’t it? I think it probable I may return to Dover the last of next week. Mother is much better & wishes to be remembered to you. Etta also sends love.  Hagen sends something more substantial which is a paper, now & then. I have nearly arrived at the terminus of my paper & will be under the painful necessity of closing tho’ I could write much longer.

Regards to all. A kiss & all the love of my big heart, I remain yours faithfully, — Jen N. Low


Letter 6

Boston [Massachusetts]
May 3, 1863

My dear Nat,

I suppose you have managed to face the day pleasantly yet I hope properly. I should think you would make it convenient to attend church one half of the day at least & I think it would set a better example than racing horses with the gay & getting lamed. It is very strange a person so strong—& a great horseman too—should be unable to manage a horse. I think you informed me you had been to the village & was on your way home.

Aha! Well I suppose you would like to stop out there until September but really, I don’t know about letting you. Southern gals are usually very attractive. I would give a good deal if you were only here tonight for I feel terribly blue & heartsick altho’ it has been a pleasant day without & within. I have been out to church this afternoon & evening.

The fact is it fairly makes me jealous to see others so happy while I know I might & ought to be the same & should if you were only with me. I wonder if the time ever will come when you will be home for good. But why do I wonder? Of course it will.

Mother is much better & I think I may go to Dover the last of this or the first of next week.

Monday evening. It looks very much like rain. I hope it won’t storm for I think it very gloomy here in the city during a storm.

Well, I should think you, Dr. Ross, & Dr. Moore together ought to be bright enough to get a furlough on account of your lamed leg. Why do you not go about limping & complaining? You could come home & walk about with a cane tho’ I suppose it wouldn’t do considering how you lamed it. I hope it is entirely well by this time.

I see by the papers that Hooker’s Army is doing great work. I only wish they could accomplish something that would settle this war.

When do you think you will be home? Hey! I must close now & write to your mother & Lydia. With love, I am your faithful little lone wife, — Jen Low

Excuse brevity &c. Remember, “with all thy faults, I love thee still.” — Jen


Letter 7

Huffman House
Lancaster, Kentucky
May 21, 1863, 2 o’clock P.M.

My Own Dear Wife,

Our court has finished its work for the day & I have just finished eating a pretty good dinner. The sun comes down very warm so I have retired to my room to write to the little gal that I love and live for. After writing this epistle & another one to Jerry Smith, I shall take a bath & then a quiet snooze until tea time.


Boston Advertisement, May 1863

I rode up to camp last night after the mail got in & was exceeding glad to receive your good letter written May 14th (No. 28). And so marm you have been out flirting & attending (seven mile mirrors ¹) with a widower, Pretty business for a married lady whose husband is in the Army. You soon expecting to be a widow, no doubt entered into all arrangements. Too bad of you Jen. You need make no bargains, my dear, for it will be a long time yet before you can get rid of your present husband.

My little dear, you say I can never know how much you love me. Why you little goose, I always thought you loved me too well & sometimes worry when I think how very unworthy I am of your good, pure love. But Jen, the idea of your worrying so much about me is too bad. I have told you a hundred times not to. It don’t do the least good & you will just worry your pretty little self into an old woman.

You ask if I will be home this summer. Yes! Yes! Yes sir! I see by the tone of your letters that you are getting the idea into that little thick head of yours that I am growing quite in love with the Army. Now the truth is sister Jane, that every day I dislike it more & more. Nothing but a strong sense of duty to my country makes me remain in the service an hour longer (perhaps I might add & a desire to get all out of debts & commence the world anew with a fair, open prospect ahead). If I should stay in the service until September, I could get all out of debt besides having enough clear capital to go into business with. And then there is another side to it which I have made my mind to quite fully—that being shot at & taking army hardships is a very foolish thing for money simply. But thank God my heart and soul is in the success of our arms & restoring the government by force of arms or anything else that will give the South a lesson that their children yet unborn will never forget. But I love you, my dear, better than everything else & I shall be with you (this is P. T. only between us, in two months—perhaps less time). Then, after being at home, if it looks as if every man should fight & every man should go, no one will pitch in sooner than myself.

I suppose you have got back to Dover now. When you write to your parents, my kind regards, if you please to them, to your brother Hazen, and sister Etta. With all my love for you, Jen, I am your affectionate husband, — Nat. Low, Jr.

P. S. The few lines in your letter marked (Private) telling me to mind my eye & walk the crack, I thank you for it & have thus far my dear, & shall still do so, Tell your old lady what I now make for a rule to do nothing that I would be ashamed to have my little wife know all about, — Nat

Excuse this paper. It is court martial paper & all I have here at hand. Parson [Edward M] Gushee ² called on me last night at my room. He seemed to be in a pleasant state of mind & health.

¹ The Seven Mile Mirror was a panorama of the border scenery between the United States and Canada from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of the Saint Lawrence. It was executed by William Burr in 1850 and promoted by Josiah Perham. Tickets to the panorama were sold for $1 per person as a benefit for soldiers at the Melodian Theatre in Boston in May 1863. The Commercial Bulletin (Boston) announced on Saturday, May 23, 1863, that a fire at the Melodian had caused some slight damage to the panorama, however, which suspended the enterprise for a time.

² Rev. Edward Manning Gushee (1836-1917) married Lydia Low (b. 1836), Nate’s older sister, on 8 June 1864 at Dover, New Hampshire. Edward was an Episcopalian chaplain in the 9th New Hampshire during the Civil War.

1864: Jesse S. Taylor to John C. Breckinridge

This unusual letter was written by Jesse S. Taylor (1820-1888), a lawyer from Brandenburg, Meade county, Kentucky. Jesse was the oldest son of John Hayden Taylor (1798-1846) and Hannah Shacklett of Meade county, Kentucky. He was married to Sophia Harlan (b. 1831) and had four young daughters at the time the Civil War erupted in 1861. By 1880, Taylor was living in Morganfield, Union county, Kentucky, where he died in 1888.

Other Taylor siblings included Jacob Taylor (b. 1825) who served as a surgeon for the Confederacy; Ben Taylor (b. 1829)—a private in Co. F, 1st KY Cav.; Daniel B. Taylor (b. 1839)—Capt. of Co. F, 1st KY Cav.; and Mahlon Taylor (b. 1842)—a sergeant in Co. F, 1st KY Cav.

Taylor wrote the letter to Major Gen. John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky seeking “some little appointment” in the CSA government as a reward for his steadfast support to the Confederate cause that had resulted in the sacrifice of his home, business and family.

[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent.]


Fairburn, Campbell county, Georgia
June 30, 1864

General Breckinridge
Dear Sir,

I hope the circumstances under which I write will be sufficient apology for my troubling you at this particular time. I only regret that I had not made a similar application two years ago to the one I will make in this. But relying on my own efforts, I thought I would be able to raise men sufficient to have enabled me to have acquired some little in the field, but was disappointed in this from the fact that the section of of Kentucky that I lived in (I lived in Meade county) was from the first under Yankee rule. Notwithstanding, I have made several efforts to effect my purpose. I aided in the summer of 1862 in raising a good company [Co. F] of men which one of my brothers [Capt. Daniel B. Taylor] has command of and which has been ever since doing good service in the 1st Kentucky Cavalry. I then procured authority to raise a regiment of cavalry [and] would have succeeded could General Bragg have remained in the state some little longer. While there my section of the state was entirely cut off from the army. His presence in the state relieved no portion of southwestern Kentucky. I came out with our army but hearing of the Union Home Guards firing on my wife and children and driving them from their home, I returned into southern Kentucky in the winter of 1862-3 so soon as spring opened went again into my section of the state to again try to organize men, but by this time there was such a reign of terror I saw no chance to effect my object.


Gen. Jeremiah Tilford Boyle

Their Home Guard, headed by Judge Stuart, hearing of my return sent immediately to Louisville, got themselves reinforced, and gave me many chances to show my generalship. They drove the woods, searched houses &c. for weeks. I lay in the woods some four months, not eating or sleeping in a house, succeeding one dozen times [avoiding capture]. At one time they surrounded me [and] fired on me, but I charged the weakest point in their line and made my escape. General [Jeremiah Tilford] Boyle had given it out in speeches that he regarded me the most dangerous man left in the state and he had ordered me shot on sight. I thought I would take advantage of his alarm and prepare a treaty so I wrote to him if he would, under his own hand, write me that he would give me a pass through his lines, I would report to him. He immediately complied with my request. I went to Louisville, got my papers, and left for the South in the 1st day of August last.

The truth is I have been doing all in my power from the beginning for our cause. I have sacrificed a good comfortable home and business and I might say my family—one that I love as much as ever man loved a wife and children. In all, I have aided in sending out three companies but at different times. I have four brothers in the service. Myself and family have all served the cause as best we could without regard to interest and now would it be too much for me to ask the favor of you to aid me in procuring some little appointment which I leave for you to select. You might procure me an appointment in the subsistence department under the late act. My health has not been good for twelve months but can do anything within my qualifications that I can have some little control of my location.

I do not know that you have much knowledge of me. I do not think it amiss for me to state that I am the only man in my county that ever made a speech for the South. Indeed, I might say I had the battle to fight in 1856 for several counties around me when many that are good and prominent southern men at this time were against us and we made about as heavy gains in my section as in any portion of Kentucky. I—believing the crisis was near at hand—done all in my power since 1856 to build up and sustain southern sentiment. I now wish my friends to place me in some position so that if fortune should enable us again to enter Kentucky, that I may still be able to have and use some influence there.

For reference, I will refer you to General [Joseph Horace] Lewis, Col. [Martin Hardin] Cofer, Major [Richard] Hawes, Honorable George W. Triplett. I will state that Boyle proposed in his letter to me to take my family and go to any state I might select but that I should not remain in Kentucky. He treated me very kindly. I hold his letter at this time. Counting those who have fallen in battle, I have some forty or fifty blood relations in the Army of the South. The mails are so irregular, I hardly know where to request you to direct your reply to this. I will say, however, direct to me care of Captain Daniel B. Taylor’s Company F, 1st Kentucky Cavalry, Wheeler’s Corps.

Hoping to hear from you as soon as convenient, I am—General—with regard, your friend—Jesse S. Taylor



1861: Erastus Fuller to George Stanwood Fuller, Jr.

This letter was written by 31 year-old Erastus Fuller (1830-1915), the son of David Fuller (1795-1871) and Mary Esther Drue (1798-1877) of Gardiner, Kennebec county, Maine. In 1861, less than a month after the firing on Fort Sumter, Erastus was working as a carpenter in Oquawka, Illinois. He was married to his first wife, Elizabeth Merry (1831-1867), and we learn from the letter that they had an infant son—possibly still unnamed, though we know from burial records it was named Elmer Erastus Fuller (1861-1862).

Erastus wrote the letter to his 1st cousin, George Stanwood Fuller, Jr. (1835-1913) of Hallowell, Kennebec county, Maine. George was the son of George S. Fuller (1807-1878) and Hannah Stanwood Lord (1809-1901).


Oquawka, Illinios
April 28, 1861

Cousin George,

I received yours of 21st yesterday. Was right glad to hear from you once more. If you had not written, I should have sent you a blank to fill for me. I find that [   ] folks to write. I went one to my folks and then in two weeks after I received a letter from them. I forgive you for your negligence but mind next time.

We are all well. Lizzie has gone out to one of the neighbors to make a short call for the first time since the young son come. She is right smart (if you please). The boy is a fine fellow. I can tell he looks a good deal like Lizzie Flora but has dark blue eyes & light hair. All of our cousins are well.

J[ohn] M. Fuller’s son William [Henry Harrison Fuller] ¹ has gone to help defend his country. He is about as smart a cousin as we have. There was 40 of our brave boys started for Cairo last Tuesday. Times are getting warm here. Everyone is for the Union. If anyone is for the South, they have to look out for their neck. There was a man in town a week ago thought it was the Democrats & Republicans that was fighting. He being a Democrat thought he had some friends here so he just went in on his muscle and soon had to leave or fare worse. If he had not gone, he would probably [have] got a small bone that runs up his back broken.

We have 4 companies formed of 60 men each drilling 3 times a week. Your humble servant is 2nd Lieut. in one company and will probably be promoted. If there is a call for more troops, we shall go with 150 men and if we have to shoot, we shoot to kill.

There may be excitement there in Hallowell [but] you are not so near the field of action as we are here. There is any quantity of provision in this state. If it was not for the war, it] would go to feed the South. But as it is, Illinois will keep it for her own use or for the U. S. and it is reported the South intends taking some of it. It will be a sorry job for them. If it was not for my business, I would just be off in short order. Business looked quite favorable this spring [but] just as soon as Sumter was taken, it struck like a heavy frost in a thrifty garden. Nothing of any importance [is] going on—only war.

Elisha is in Young America 14 miles from here. Len is farming. He is in good spirits.

Tell Frank I will send the jacket as soon as possible. I suppose that is what he wants it for the jacket.

If Gordines has the coop, I hope he never will trouble me but I expect he will if I should be lucky to get anything together. There is not much hopes of it now. Excuse this poor writing. I don’t feel much like writing. I feel more like hauling on a rope to string up a few of those traitors. Let us have a government if we have to fight as our grandfathers did, what would the old veterans say if they could come back (Liberty or Death).

From Erast

Let us hear from you afore soon.

¹ William Henry Harrison Fuller served briefly in a 3 months organization early in the war and then returned to Oquawka to help organize Co. G of the 84th Illinois Infantry in which he served as 1st Lieutenant from September 1862 to May 1864.


1862: George M. Gibbs to Mary (Andres) Troy

This letter was written by Rev. George M. Gibbs (1814-1885), an Old School Presbyterian minister residing near Clinton, North Carolina. He wrote the letter to his friend Mrs. Mary (Andres) Troy (1824-Af1880), the wife of teacher, Robert Edward Troy (1816-1862), whom we learn from the letter was in very poor health (he died the following month). In 1860, the Troys were enumerated in Lumberton, Robeson county, North Carolina. At that time they only had one son residing in the household—Alexander Troy, age 14.

The letter reveals a desire on the part of Mrs. Troy to board her son with Rev. Gibbs in Clinton while he attends the Clinton Academy in the fall of 1862. In response, Gibbs tells her that due to her past kindnesses to him, he cannot refuse to board her son but that the fee will need to be at least $15 per month due primarily to the food shortages brought on by the Civil War. A history of the Clinton Academy states that it was established in 1826 but that it had changed its name to the Clinton Female Institute in 1858. There is no mention of it taking males again though they may have made an exception during the Civil War when schools struggled to keep their doors open. I assume that the son Mrs. Troy hoped to send to the academy was her son Alexander though, now 16, was almost old enough to join the Confederate army. If he did attend the academy, it must have only been for one year because in March 1864, Alexander enlisted as a private in Co. C, NC Heavy Artillery, and then transferred to Co. E., 8th North Carolina Infantry as their 1st Sergeant.


Addressed to Mrs Mary Troy, Westbrooks P. O., Bladen county, North Carolina

Clinton [North Carolina]
September 3, 1862

Dear Friend,

Your favor of 25 ulto. came to hand a day or two ago and not forgetting your kindness & hospitality (while living in Lumberton) to a Missionary, I was truly glad to hear from you. But indeed very sorry to learn of the feeble health of my good brother Troy. My prayer is that He who doth all things well will in His mercy, spare his life & raise him up again for further usefulness in His service and for the comfort of his dear family. I should have answered your letter sooner but as our school has just commenced, it required a little time to ascertain the price of board &c. These dreadful war times it is a difficult matter to get along. And provisions of every kind are so high that almost every one is afraid to take in boarders.

The price of board has necessarily gone up so high that it will very materially injure our school. Last session we could get board at $10 per month. This [year] it is from 15 to $20 and but few persons willing to risk it at that for fear they may not be able to get what is necessary even at the now high prices. For example, flour is now $22 per barrel, corn $1 to 1¼ per bushel, bacon 35 to 40 cents & scarce at that, beef 14 to 15 cents per lb. & other things in the same proportion except sugar & coffee which are out of the question, as they are not to be had. We shall be obliged to use rye for coffee & honey for sugar.

These things we can’t help & we all know that while a family has from necessity to put up with these things, persons who board out & pay high prices too expect something better which at these times cannot be had. These things cause even those who are disposed to take boarders to hesitate, knowing that they cannot accommodate as they wish to do.

We had not determined to take boarders although we have had some applications, but I do not feel as if under the circumstances I can refuse your son provided he will be willing to put up with our very plain fare. We live just one mile from the village & 1½ from the academy. I find it necessary for both the moral & intellectual training of boys to have tolerably stringent rules—especially for those who board with me. Not permitting them to run about the village, especially after night. My own sons being bound by the same rule, of course. We cannot board for less than $15 per month. It can be had for the same in the village. We are not sure that we will be safe even at that price. I know those who have to pay it will think it very high & it will deter many but it is the best under the circumstances that we can do. Should you think proper to send your son, I will do the best I can for him in every respect.

Please present my kindest regards to your afflicted husband. I wish it was in my power to visit him in his affliction. May the Lord in mercy sanctify it to him and enable him by grace to bear his affliction with Christian submission, and prepare him & his dear family also for whatever he may have in store for them. These afflictions arise not from the dust, and if as the apostle says, they are evidences of a Father’s love, let us not repine at them, but in the exercise of faith, look to Him for sustaining grace, for His promise to His children is, “As thy day is, so shall my strength be unto thee.” That the Lord who has seen fit to afflict, ,ay sustain & comfort you all is the prayer of your friend & brother in Christ, — G. M. Gibbs

P. S. I had forgotten to state that if called home in consequence of sickness, a reduction will be made for the time lost.

1862: David J. Orne to Family

This letter was written by David J. Orne (1838-1915), the son of James Orne (1807-1890) and Thirza Ann Bean (1812-1858). At the time of the 1860 US Census, David was employed as a hired hand on the farm of Alonzo Howland in Clinton, Worcester county, Massachusetts. In May 1861 when he enlisted in the service of his country, he was working as a machinist in Sutton, Vermont.

David enlisted as a private in Co. D, 2nd Massachusetts Infantry (May 1861). He was taken prisoner on 25 May 1862 at Winchester and returned to duty 6 months later. His health declined later in the war and he was absent from the regiment in a hospital when mustered out in late May 1864 after three years’ service.


Charles Waud’s landscape of Charlestown, [West] Virginia in March 1862 showing the camp of the 2nd Massachusetts at far left.


2d Regiment Massachusetts Vols.
Gen. Banks’ Division
Charlestown, Virginia
March 2, 1862

Dear Brother and Sister,

As you probably know before this that we have moved, I thought you would like to know where we are. Well, I will tell you where I am. I now am in the office of the Independence Democrat writing to you in sight of where Old John Brown was hung. My health is good. We left Frederick and came to Harpers Ferry in the cars. They have built a flat [pontoon] bridge across the Potomac so we marched across it. They put it across in 8 hours so they can drive 8-horse teams across it. That is building bridges in a hurry. It is 400 yards across the river.


From 3 March 1862 Boston Herald

We stayed in Harpers Ferry over night, then our regiment was sent to take this place. Two companies of Michigan horsemen came in front, my company next, then the rest of the regiment in the rear, then Capt. Tomes and his battery next, then the 3rd regiment of Wisconsin volunteers, and then Captain Best and his battery brought up the rear. Col. Gordon was in command. We moved very careful till we got within sight of Charlestown. Then we rushed upon the town. The rebel cavalry that was there fled with all their might and got away with only the loss of two men & two horses. Our loss was nothing. We also caught two teams loaded with flour—30 barrels—and 12 horses. We stood guard all night. ¹

Gen. McClellan and Gen. Banks came up the Sunday afternoon we got there. Gen. McClellan saluted us and looked round and went back and sent reinforcements to us so our force is about 20,000 now. There is not a grown man, woman, or child in Charlestown, Va.

This paper that I am writing on I took from a [  ] rebel book that we found. We are beginning to have fun now. This kind of life I begin to like. We are having some excitement now that is worth having. The first night we stayed here we laid on our arms all night so when the rebels drove in our pickets we would rush out and be ready to pepper them. But they did not come so you see we are not going to [fight here] as I wrote to you awhile ago and I am glad of it. I understand that we are going to move still further into the enemy’s country soon and we are going in front again and I hope it is so for then we shall have another good time. Don’t you wish you was here too? If you was, you would have all the fun you wanted mixed with danger and excitement—that’s what suits me.

I have been to meeting today in the courthouse where John Brown was tried and I should like to have Old [Gov. Henry A.] Wise re-try him. I think as he would not like. I think it would be good enough for him to hang him up without judge or jury.

I have just been down to the door to stand guard and the slaves have come in from the country and the guard will let them in but will not let them out and they are tickled almost to death about it. They say old master will not lick them no more and I for one hope so for their sake. The prison that Old John Brown was in—we have taken it for to keep these same ones that stood guard over him are under guard in the same place that he was and under the same charge that he was under and that is all they made by it.

We took the [newspaper] type that we found in our quarters and threw it outdoors and told everyone that went by to take it home and set it and we would print it for them but we worked the press so hard that we tore it all to pieces so I guess we shall not finish the job. The officers laughed when they saw it done. In the top of the building there was a theatre and we took the scenery to carpet our floor with and they make a pretty carpet. They are  landscape paintings—or most of them are.

Our cavalry have come in and they have taken two prisoners—one private and one officer (a captain). That is the way we are doing it up now. There, I guess this will do for this time. W. Hide is well. If you get tired before you can read this, just rest awhile and then finish it. Now write soon as you get this. Write all the news for I do not get any Massachusetts papers so I don’t get any Massachusetts news. Cynthia says she would like to come down to Massachusetts to live. If you want her to come, I will send the money to her to come with in May. I want to finish up things in Vermont first if I am alive. I think I shall be home within 6 months for secession is about played out, I think.

Goodbye for this time. — D. J. Orne

¹ The regimental history (page 67) describes this “reconnoissance” towards Charlestown as follows: “The Second [Mass.], the 3rd Wisconsin, five squadrons of Michigan cavalry, and two sections of artillery, were put on the road under command of Colonel Gordon. The cavalry, with Colonel Gordon at the head, drove in the rebel videttes, and dashed into Charlestown at full speed. The regiment entered to the music of ‘John Brown’s body’….Suddenly General McClellan appeared and turned the reconnoissance into an occupation. It was the first sight of that general; and, as his glance took in the line drawn up to receive him, he won their hearts.”


1863: George A. Phillips to Henry Simmons

This letter was written by George A. Phillips (1840-1864) of the 85th New York Infantry. George enlisted as a musician on 26 September 1861 at Bristol, to serve three years in Co. B. He was sent to ranks as a private at some point, however. His military record indicates he was captured in action with many others of his regiment on 20 April 1864 at Plymouth, NC, and that he died of chronic diarrhea on July 1864, while a prisoner at Andersonville, GA.


George’s Birdseye view of Fort Anderson on the Neuse River near Newbern, NC

George’s letter describes the bombardment of Fort Anderson (“a.k.a. “Deep Gully”)—a Union constructed earthwork on the north bank of the Neuse river opposite New Bern. On the afternoon of 13 March 1863, Maj. General D. H. Hill’s men overran a Union outpost at Deep Gully, eight miles southwest of New Bern. The next morning, Brig. Gen. James J. Pettigrew’s cannons opened fire on both Fort Anderson and Union gunboats in the river. But the Confederates could neither significantly damage the fort nor drive off the gunboats, which bombarded them from far out on the river. Accordingly, Pettigrew abandoned the attempt and retired along the same route on which he had advanced. Because Pettigrew’s success was essential to the operation, Hill had no choice but to withdraw.

George wrote the letter to his friend, Henry Pettis Simmons, Jr. (1848-1935), the son of Henry P. Simmons, Sr. (1818-1883) and Julia A. Drake (1818-1906) of Bristol, Ontario county, New York.


Newbern [North Carolina]
March 15, 1863

Friend Simmons!

I received yours of the 18th of last yesterday over in the camp of the 92 New York. We went over there in the A.M. to support them. They were attacked at daylight yesterday morning with 16 or 18 pieces of artillery supported by a brigade of infantry & two squadrons of cavalry. Nothing but the artillery engaged them, however. The 92nd are on the other side of the Neuce [river]. They went over there some 5 or 6 weeks ago & have been building a fort [Fort Anderson] or rather a sort of redoubt of about this form [sketch] enclosing perhaps two or more acres. Their camp is inside. They have about finished it but had no guns mounted. The “rebs” shelled them about 3 or 4 hours, summoning them under a flag of truce to surrender four different times & were politely refused each time by the Colonel commanding. The men sheltered themselves behind their works & let the “rebs” “pelt away” & “pelt away” they did, completely riddling their camp but hurting nobody except two slightly wounded. We are nearly opposite their camp & a few of the “rebs” shot reached us. We could see the river in the rear of their camp in a complete foam from the shower of iron hail poured into it from the rebs batteries.

About the time we started to reinforce the 92nd, the gunboats—three or four of them—had got good range on them & were piling the “dutch ovens” in them so fast that they “dug out” with their usual haste. We went across in two old scows propelled by poles & expected a warm time in landing but were very agreeably disappointed, there being no rebs in sight then except a few scattering ones around a house just in the rear of where the rebs’ lines were. They left one piece of their artillery on the field—or rather the wreck of it—it having burnt & blowed all to pieces.

From a prisoner who gave himself up we learned that our shell from one of our gunboats killed two of them & wounded 16 others. The 92nd didn’t fire a shot—the rebs being just out of range. Gen. ]John G.] Foster came over in the P.M. & had a boat howitzer landed & mounted & in the evening sent over a field howitzer. We stayed overnight expecting another attack but were again disappointed; & this morning went out scouting 3 or 4 miles but saw nothing but one man whom we brought back with us. We came back this afternoon.

There is quite a force on this side of the river & skirmishing has been going on since Friday afternoon but no regular engagement has taken place yet. We have been trying to draw them down within reach of our line of works but as yet they have been to short for that. Various wild rumors are floating through the place to which you know tis not safe to rely on so I shall not give you any of them. And besides, you will get a full account of all our doings as soon & perhaps sooner from the papers than from me—and more correct than I can give them to you. I have no other news to tell you that I think of now. Till yesterday everything has been as dull as could be in the way of outside excitements, but as a Company we have enjoyed ourselves pretty well since we moved into these barracks.

We were paid off the day before we moved here & about the first thing the boys did was to “throw in” & buy a pair of boxing gloves & a fiddle for me to play on. There has not been one half dozen evenings except Mondays but what the boys have had me playing for them to dance.

Yes, I have a little news to tell you. The Capt. [William W. Clark] arrived here last Friday morning & Col. [Jonathan] Belknap the fore part of last week. He is in command of our brigade now as Gen. Hunt has gone north. I tell you, it “sets him up awful.” The Captain’s health is not very good & he was quite sick yesterday but feels a good deal better today. He says Lieut. [Spencer] Martin started for Moshuyton some 10 or 12 days ago to see something about his furlough business which if it was not attended would dismiss him from the service. I did not understand how the matter was so will not undertake to tell you. We feared at first that we were going to lose him. But the officers say he will be reinstated & will come back “all right.”

I am glad you are enjoying yourself so well & I think we are enjoying ourselves nearly as well—all but the females to dance with. Some of Co. F’s boys tried & succeeded very well to obviate that drawback to our enjoyment by dressing in some dresses got from the wenches. The first I saw of them I thought for quite a little while that they were the regimental washerwomen. But on closer inspection, I saw one of them was Frank Wilcox, another Harvey McIntire, & the other two I don’t remember what their names are. I’ll bet t’would have made you laugh as heartily as it did me to see them put on all the airs of ladies & were as virtuous as the most virtuous maidens in the country & would not let their partners put their hands near their bosoms.

Will this answer as a letter, Hank? I guess you will have to call it one or else do without one till I write again. I’m too damn sleepy to feel much like writing but take this opportunity for fear I will not have better before the mail leaves for the month. I expect every moment the order will come to be ready to march at a moment’s notice, but am in hope not till we have had a night’s rest.

Give my love to all who inquire & tell Adelia that tis two months since I heard from her or her folks & that I shall write again soon even if I did write the last letter. The company is unusually healthy. Parm Lewis ¹ is the only one that reports [sick] now I believe. Write as soon as convenient, Henry, & remember me ever as your friend, — George A. P.

Zeph[aniah W. Gooding] ² says tell Henry he will write in a few days. He got one from you with the same mail mine came.

¹ Parmer W. Lewis—Age, 21 years. Enlisted, August 21, 1861, at Canadice, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. B, August 30, 1861; re-enlisted as a veteran, January 1, 1864; captured in action, April 20, 1864, at Plymouth, NC; died of disease, August 9, 1864, while prisoner of war at Andersonville, GA.

² Zephaniah W. Gooding —Age, 21 years. Enlisted, October 8, 1861, at Bristol, to serve three years; mustered in as corporal, Co. B, October 16, 1861; promoted sergeant, Sep- tember 1, 1862; returned to ranks, no date; re-enlisted as a veteran, January 1, 1864; captured in action, April 20, 1864, at Pymouth, NC; paroled, March 3, 1865, at Wilmington, NC; mustered out, August 18, 1865, at Rochester, NY.

1862: Oliver Waldo West to Sarah Stilson

Though unsigned and probably missing a page, I believe this letter to have been written by Lt. Oliver Waldo West (1842-1889) of Co. K, 130th New York Infantry. This regiment was converted to cavalry in August 1863 and called the 19th New York Cavalry. Later it was renamed the 1st New York Volunteer Dragoons. At the time this letter was written, the 130th New York Infantry was attached to Spinola’s Brigade at Suffolk, Virginia, engaged largely in building up the defenses of that village.


Envelope from 1862-3

Oliver was the son of Perry West (1816-1908) and Melissa Carpenter (1812-1885) of North Dansville, Livingston county, New York. He was the Editor of the Livingston Democrat newspaper when he enlisted as a private in Co. K on 31 July 1862. He was quickly promoted to First Sergeant on 3 September 1862 and five weeks later, promoted to 2d Lieutenant. Fortuitously, when the 1st Lieutenant of Co. K resigned on 24 November 1862, Oliver was promoted once again to take his place. Oliver was captured on 7 May 1864 at Todd’s Tavern, Virginia, and exchanged in late April 1865 at Wilmington, N. C., mustering out of the service not long afterward.

Why do I believe this letter was penned by Lt. Oliver West? There are several letters under the title “Sarah Stilson Correspondence” housed at the Hesburg Libraries, Rare Books & Special Collections, University of Notre Dame, many of them written by Lt. West to Sarah Stilson before and during the Civil War. Digital images of Lt. West’s letters are available on line and not only do they look to be in the same hand, they contain many of the same expressions and characteristics. The content is consistent as well, including the defense of Dr. Kneeland, the regimental surgeon [see West’s letter of 31 December 1862].

According to the Hesburg Libraries’ Website, “Oliver Waldo West (b. 1842), a young newspaper editor (and future lawyer) from North Dansville, Livingston County, whom Stilson had met at a teachers’ institute in 1860…The letters exchanged by West and Stilson (16 written by West, 11 by Stilson) are long, lively, and opinionated—often, it would seem, provocatively so. While much of the content is personal news, recounted at length, with frequent touches of humor, the letters are also very much a dialogue, an exchange of ideas and feelings about both contemporary affairs and the broader life of the mind. There is a good deal of commentary on literature; both West and Stilson had a weakness for verse. There is also a good deal of verbal sparring, not least about gender relations.”


[Camp near Suffolk, Va.] ¹
[5 November 1862]

….and it was a good thing on the whole as I know in my own case. Although I was oh so tired, weary, footsore, and stiff legged, yet, if we rested 5 or ten minutes and I reclined against the fence or lay right down on the ground (as ¾ of them did, with my rolled blanket for temporary pillow), when the brigade was ordered again, “Forward March” I would be so stiff that I could scarcely move my legs till I got warmed up a little so it was better to toil on, move out and almost ready to drop down with fatigue as one was than to stop often, get chilled through, and stiffened up.

When we arrived within a mile or two of our camp, a little after midnight Friday night, I do declare that if we had been ordered to about face and march back, I don’t believe, hardly, I could have gone over 40 rods without falling out by the wayside as many a tired and sleepy soldier did as it was. But the hope of soon getting home (i.e. into camp quarters) kept us up and we dragged ourselves along into our camp here, staggered into our tents, and dropped down on our beds and rested. Oh! how good it was [ ]! The bed you lay yourself for nightly though never so [   ] and civilized in structure and style, is not so welcome and sweet to you as when our rude camp [  ] to us in the sun all hours of last Saturday morning. For a day or two after we returned, one could tell a “Blackwater Man” almost as as far as he could see him by his halting, limping gait. Coming back, I wore my rubber overcoat and carried strung over my shoulder with the ends tied, my blanket rolled up, besides my loaded haversack and canteen, and my sword belted around my waist and my revolver on the belt. Oh rheumatics—how my shoulders did ache some of the times. It seemed as though I should sink under them. But I kept up. And my case, you must remember, was not exceptional. Hundreds felt as I did. What made it worse for me * was that that was the first “duty” I had done since my sick spell that I referred to in my last. I had been lying still for a couple of weeks and then starting right off on a forced march of 46 or 50 miles naturally used me rather roughly. But I wasn’t going to stay behind in camp on the plea of sickness as long as I could start with my regiment.

It is late. Goodnight.

Thursday morning [November 6, 1862]. I have to take charge of party of fatigue men—choppers—down to Fort Halleck today, and so I cannot finish this now. I will try and get it into the mail tomorrow. It is raining, windy, and nasty today generally. I presume it is cold and snowing up North. But I will put on my rubber overcoat, buckle on my sword, and “trade in.”

Bon jour, mon amie

Thursday night, Nov. 6 [1862]

Well I have returned from my fatigue expedition safe. I had charge of all the men detailed from our regiment and should have also commanded those from the 132nd New York if they had been sent on to my left. Lt. Mc Ardle, Chief Engineer of this Division, sent now over to me soon after & arrived on my ground, in reference to the direction he wanted us to chop and that if the rest were sent over there, I should set them at work, so and so. But the 132nd are a set of unruly devils and got on the ground an hour after we did and quit an hour earlier so they only went into the outer edge next to the railroad track and I farther into the swamp only attended to my own men. Fort Halleck is erected on the left or northern side of the railroad track as you face towards Norfolk and we entered the forest on the south side, after passing the fort 70 or 100 rods. There, extending in nearly a semi-circle south of the fort, lie over 500 acres of forest which are to be chopped and left lying in all ways as obstructions to an enemy and they when so cut will be worth over 100,000 men for any army of the enemy approaching us from the south , southwest, or southeast would require legions of sappers and miners to clear a way through such formidable and impenetrable abatis. A considerable space has already been leveled and standing on a tall stump or fallen trunk there was a pleasant sort of strange excitement in seeing—surrounded as I was with the wilderness—tall, large trees fall crashing away the branches of their fellows and reach the earth with a thundering reverberation, shaking the foundation beneath us.

Where my men were chopping today, it was swampy ground and the further one penetrates into this thick, [   ], low forest, the damper and more swampy and marshy the ground becomes till by and by the very depths of the Dismal Swamp surround you in all its gloomy perfections, the outskirts of it where we were all sufficiently suggestive.

Today is the first time I have ever been out on fatigue since I entered the army and therefore I was entitled to my side of whiskey, Do you want to know whether I took it or not? Find the counterpart to this * star. You will find the answer.

I guess I must, as soon as I can, devote one letter (to you of course and) to a notice for your edification of the forts they are building around Suffolk. Maj. Gen. [John James] Peck certainly seems to intend rendering this place impregnable. And if digging and chopping can make a place impregnable, this should be so [   ] degrees.


Benjamin T. Kneeland, Surgeon of 130th NY Inf.

I remember you spoke of the heartlessness of Dr. [Benjamin T.] Kneeland and in my epistolary fragment I said a little in reply. Although he has a very rough and rude manner and expression, yet I can hardly think him as devoid of heart as you represent for on both our marches ² towards the Blackwater, he often dismounted to let tired or sick men ride, or relieved a weary soldier by taking his gun or overcoat and blanket, or all together. When we halted in the field Friday noon, he was one of the last to come in, on foot, gun on shoulder, having let some soldier ride his horse. Then his untiring efforts to get a decent and comfortable building for hospital purposes do not show want of heart. Only 7 have yet died out of our regiment—one today from Co. I [named William J. Wright], 2 [from] Co. A, [and] 4 [from] Co. E. ³

There are several regiments encamped over across the road from us. Lately they have had funerals and buried their comrades about five rods from the road. As we pass up to the city, we can see them, one after the other perpendicular to the road and parallel. Some with rude head boards, some not. Oh, it looked sad. A military funeral at home for one who died far away in the service is imposing and effective—especially in the city. But when one dies in camp and his comrades go through with the simple but suggestive burial ceremonies—marching…

¹ The camp of the 130th New York Regiment was located on the Edenton road east of Suffolk near the Great Dismal Swamp. This camp proved to be too unhealthy and early in December 1862 the camp was relocated to 1 mile west of Suffolk near the South Quay Bridge over the Nansemond river.

² The first march toward the Blackwater occurred on 3 October 1862. It was a hurried march of about 50 miles with no losses by the 130th New York. The second march was begun on 30 October and ended on 1 November 1862. The second march is the one described in this letter.

³ The seven members of the 130th New York Infantry that had died on or before 6 November 1862 when this letter was written included: Orson Kenyon of Co. E (18 Sep ’62), Stephen Clark of Co. E (26 Sep ’62), Phineas Simmons of Co. A (24 Oct ’62), Orville Hinman of Co. A (26 Oct ’62), Edwin Slocum of Co. A (29 Oct ’62), Addison Caldwell of Co. F (4 Nov ’62), and William Wright of Co. I (5 Nov ’62). And eighth member died before day’s end on 6 November 1862—Albion Bentley of Co. D (6 Nov ’62).


1863-64: Pocket Journal of Alexander M. S. Dunn, Co. A, 53rd Ohio Volunteers


Recruiting Poster & unidentified member of 53rd OVI

These diaries were written by Alexander McCloud Stevly Dunn (1843-1927) while serving in Co. A, 53rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) during the American Civil War. Alexander (or “Aleck”) was the son of Andrew Dunn (b. 1805) and his first wife, Sarah Wilson, who married in 1835 in County Tyrone, Ireland. In 1843, they emigrated to the United States, Andrew’s wife well along in a pregnancy that culminated in Aleck’s birth “at sea.” The Dunn family settled in Allegheny City near Pittsburg where Aleck was raised.


Margaret Ellen (Teeters) Dunn in later years

By the time Aleck was 16, he had married a woman named Margaret Ellen Teeters (1841-1926)—two years his senior. They set up housekeeping in Camp Creek township, Pike county, in south-central Ohio, some ten miles north of the Ohio river. It was from this location where Aleck, with his older brother Robert J. Dunn, enlisted in the 53rd OVI. Within two months of their departure from Ohio, the 53rd OVI found themselves in their first major battle at Pittsburg Landing—better known as Shiloh—where they had 7 killed and 39 wounded. Their next major campaign started in the spring of 1863 after a year’s service, which is where the diaries begin.

There are three separate diaries that span the period from early June 1863 until a few days after Aleck was wounded on 30 August 1864 while skirmishing near Atlanta. His cryptic diary entry that day read: “Drove the rebels. Got wounded. Shot in the right knee on the skirmish line at 3 o’clock. Same night. Leg cut off.”

Presumably Aleck was sent home not long afterwards and was discharged from the service. In the 1870 US Census he was still on his farm in Pike county, not far from his brother Robert’s farm. By 1880, however, Aleck and Margaret had moved to South Webster Village in Scioto county where Aleck became the proprietor of a hotel that he kept for the next couple of decades. In 1900, he was still in Scioto county but gave his occupation as a Pension agent—perhaps helping other veterans and their families receive the pensions they deserved for their service. Aleck died in 1927.

For the readers’ convenience, I have posted Aleck’s diary in dark blue font and I, where I thought it helped, also posted excerpts from the regimental history by John K. Duke (published in 1900) in light grey font.


The Vicksburg Campaign & Siege of Jackson, Mississippi

The 53rd Ohio left La Grange and arrived in Moscow, Tennessee, on March 14, 1863. They found the city in flames and the residents impoverished. Together with the 70th Ohio and Bouden’s battery, the 53rd occupied the town and settled in for three weeks.


Left Moscow June 6 [1863]
Left Memphis June 7
Got on the boat [June] 8th
Got off the boat [June 11th] and went into camp 15 miles up the Yazoo river at Haine’s Bluff

14 June 1863—pleasant day. Went and killed a beef.

15 June 1865—cloudy and looks like rain. Working on breastworks on Haine’s Bluff. Raining.

16 June 1863—laying in the tent. Wrote a letter. Rain in the afternoon. The regiment is out. Went a fishing & did not get a bite.

17 June 1863—laying in camp and taking medicine. Cloudy and rainy. Some troops landed here today.

18 June 1863—fine day. Laying in camp. Wrote a letter home. Nothing going on today.

19 June 1863—fine day. Working on the breastworks. Very warm.

20 June 1863—fine day. Laying in camp reading the testament.


Alexander M.S. Dunn’s well-worn Bible carried throughout the war

21 June 1863—fine day and nothing going on. Read the testament and laying in the tent.

22 June 1863—fine day. Got marching orders. Start at 12 o’clock tonight with three days rations.

23 June 1863—fine day. Marched today out near Big Black river.

24 June 1863—fine day. Marched 25 miles to Big Black [river] and back again. The men very tired and sore.

25 June 1863—fine day. On guard at headquarters.

26 June 1863—on guard at headquarters. Got relieved.

27 June 1863—one shower of rain today. Very warm. Laying in camp. Had four calls per day.

28 June 1863—fine day. Went a blackberry hunting in the afternoon and got a bucket full. Reading in the testament in the forenoon. Read seven chapters.

29 June 1863—fine day. The regiment got paid today two month’s pay.

30 June 1863—very warm. Laying in camp reading the testament and other books. The boys spending money fast and not getting much for it.


1 July 1863—fine day. Laying in camp and writing letters.

2 July 1863—fine day. Chopped down timber. Very warm.

3 July 1863—fine day. Very warm. Fixed up our bunks in the evening. Looks like new. Moved our camp.

4 July 1863—Camp Neeley. Got orders to march. Start at 4 o’clock in the evening. Marched within one mile of Big Black river and camped in a cornfield. Marched 10 miles.

[On July 4th, we were under marching orders for Black River. The march was principally after night, owing to the intense heat which prevailed. When we reached Black River our brigade was in the advance. When nearing what had been a ferry we were met with sharp firing from the enemy; we swung into line of battle and returned the compliment vigorously. How to cross and dislodge the enemy was a puzzle to Colonel W. S. Jones, who was temporarily in command of the brigade. The pontoon bridge was miles to our rear, so it was expedient that some mode of crossing be improvised. The first thought was to plunge in and ford the stream but the cool judgement and executive ability of Colonel Jones taught him that it might not be a fordable stream. In the meantime the rebel skirmishers were making it hot for us….[the ferryboat was found and made serviceable to transport the troops across]. Pg. 106-7]

5 July 1863—fine day. Marched nearer to Big Black and got in line of battle ready to fight at any minute. Detailed to stand guard at headquarters.  W. S. Jones [Wells S. Jones] Col. and the name of the house is Jones. Deployed as skirmishers and advanced to the river and laid all night in the [battle] line.

6 July 1863—fine day. Got relieved off picket ad crossed Big Black river and skirmished. Now in camp and very tired and wet with sweat.

7 July 1863—fine day. Orders to march at 4 o’clock p.m. Marched 5 miles. Now it is thundering and raining hard and we are stuck in it.

8 July 1863—fine day. After the hard rain, the boys is all very wet and fixing up to march. We are now near Jackson.

9 July 1863—marching orders came to start at three o’clock p.m. Marched 6 miles and camped in a pig meadow.

[On July 9th, as we were advancing, we met General Sherman army corps coming from Vicksburg to join with us at Jackson. On the evening of the 9th, when within about four miles of Jackson, a brisk cannonading was opened upon us. This caused a halt for the night. The 9th army corps, General Burnside commanding, came up during the night. Pg. 108]

10 July 1863—marching orders to start at 6 o’clock. Now has started. Throwed out as skirmishers. Skirmished through a big corn field and nearly [   ] out. It is very warm. No grub at all, Now positioned near the enemy. Started to skirmish at 2 o’clock driving the enemy before us. Now in camp. Raised the flag on the college in the evening. Very heavy firing in front.

[On the 10th our division moved out to the left of Jackson, and within sight of the enemy’s skirmish line. Between us and the enemy’s fortifications there was a stretch of at least two miles of open field. Our line of battle was formed with the 53rd and the 70th Ohio in front; the remainder of the division to move in columns in our rear…. As we moved forward we drove the enemy’s skirmishers… Steadily we moved on and were meeting with opposition, but not more severe than we had frequently encountered, if as much so. We had just concluded that the army was retreating, and that we were perhaps fighting a division or two covering the retreat, when to our consternation, we were saluted with a roar of musketry and a fusilade of shot and shell from their cannons which let us know without a moment’s warning that out thoughts as to evacuation were a delusion. But steadily we pressed on, contending for every inch of ground until night closed in upon the scene. We camped in line of battle, just where we halted. Not much sleep was indulged in, however, as the batteries from the enemy’s fortifications shelled us throughout the night. All night we were like ducks dodging thunder. Pg. 109]

11 July 1863—fighting and skirmishing with the rebels. Laying under fire of the rebel batteries. Three of our men get wounded and their names are M. P. Doston [Dodds?], J. H. Dosten [Dodds?], and B[enjamin] H. Hammond. 

[On July 11th, as daylight ushered in the Sabbath morning, they opened the battle with artillery fire which was terrific and effective. This had a tendency to disorganize our line to a limited extent. While under this fire two inexperienced Indiana regiments broke in full retreat, but were checked and returned to their proper place in line of battle before any further demoralization set in. The position occupied by the 53rd was particularly hot, and the firing was destructive. During the hottest of the morning’s fight, one company of the regiment was moved out in front and deployed as skirmishers not to exceed four hundred yards from the enemy’s line of fortifications. The shelling from the enemy’s guns that day will never be effaced from the memory of those present. Pg. 110]

12 July 1863—hear skirmishing this morning in front. Fine day. Have to keep on our [  ] day and night. Cannonading commenced at 7 o’clock and last one hour and then stopped. The rebels still shelled. Some skirmishing. Still fighting.

13 July 1863—heavy skirmishing in front. One man got killed in the 70th [Ohio[ Regiment with a shell in camp. The rebels shelled our pickets. Cloudy day. Looks like rain in the evening. Our sick boys came to the regiment today. Got a letter from Josh Simmons.

14 July 1863—fine day. Heavy skirmishing in the front. Noon, a flag of truce went in today. Firing is ceased until 4 o’clock. Now 5 o’clock. Cannonading has commenced and skirmishing.

[July 14th. The cannonading this morning was not so brisk, but on the skirmish line there was constant firing, and at times so pronounced as to partake of the form of battle. During the afternoon a flag of truce came into our lines, requesting an armistice for four hours; we to bury the dead and care for the wounded within our lines; the enemy to do likewise. This was agreed to… During this four hours of intermission of battle, our boys and the Johnnie rebs met at the skirmish line upon the most cordial terms and traded and exchanged not only compliments but coffee, salt and the like, with our enemy for tobacco. Pg. 110]

15 July 1863—cloudy and war. Heavy skirmishing in front. Some cannonading going on. The boys is all in camp waiting with notions for fight to come.

[July 15. Tremendous cannonading and the roar of musketry continued throughout the day, but, so far as our part of the army was concerned, was not so disastrous. They seemed for the last day or two to be over-shooting us; but a limited number were killed or wounded during the day. Pg. 111]

16 July 1863—orders came at 3 o’clock a.m. to get ready to march. We got ready and marched to the rifle pits in front and got in them. Stay to 9 o’clock a.m. and got relieved and went back to join the brigade. When we landed in camp, fighting commenced with the pickets. Our men drove the rebs with some loss. I don’t know whether the rebels killed and losses is greater than ours or not. Now in camp one mile from the pickets. Perhaps we will get to stay over night but it is doubtful for this is the second time that we had camped here now. I found the knives in the [  ].

[At about 2 a.m. of the 16th we commenced maneuvering, changing positions and reforming lines as we expected at attack or charge from the enemy… We were disappointed, however, in an attack, and we learned afterwards that the enemy was then making preparations for retreat. During the afternoon, two regiments of our troops attempted to storm a position of the rebel’s fortifications, and such cannonading and roar of musketry followed that it almost shook the heavens. Pg. 111]

17 July 1863—fine day. Jackson is evacuated. Marching orders came to start at 12 o’clock. Started at two. Now tearing up the railroad. Tore up some mills. Now in camp. Looks like rain. The boys is all tired. Killed a little pig in the evening and had it for supper. It was very sweet.

[During the afternoon our brigade moved out along the line of the Mississippi Central Railroad. Our business was to tear up and burn several miles of the road… It rained very hard during the night but notwithstanding that fact, the heavens for miles around were illuminated by the burning of the city of Jackson. Pg. 112]

18 July 1863—cloudy day. Working on the railroad, Tore up two miles and burnt the depot on the road. Now in camp eating corn. Moved back one mile and camped for the night in a nice grove. Detailed for guard at the colonel’s tent.

[July 18th. We had just completed our mission on the railroad, having destroyed some twenty miles together with station houses, one hundred bales of cotton, and one flour mill, and were now retracing our steps to Jackson. Pg. 112]

19 July 1863—fine day. Marched from the camp up the railroad back to camp near Jackson and camped for the night. Orders came to be ready to march in the morning at 6 a.m.

[July 19th, our regiment marched to Jackson. Pg. 113]

20 July 1863—clear and hot. Camped two miles from town. Started at 6 a.m. and marched through Jackson to Pearl river and went in swimming. the whole brigade went to wash. Had a good sleep and feel well. Received five letters—four from my wife, one from sister Martha. 

21 July 1863—fine day. Laying in camp in the forenoon. In the afternoon went two miles after corn. Got the corn and had a fine supper.

22 July 1863—cloudy and hot. Laying in camp. Cooking today. Marching orders came to march on the 23rd towards Vicksburg. Start at 3 o’clock a.m. In the evening looks like rain. Thunder and lightning today.

23 July 1863—cloudy and hot. Marched. Came 10 miles to a town called Clinton and camped in the woods. Stacked arms in an open field across the road from our camp. Got fresh meat for supper. Killed a hog. The boys is all in good heart. Looks like rain. Thunder and lightning. Perhaps it will rain soon.

24 July 1863—dry and hot. Marching. Came 14 miles and we camped in the woods on the left side of the road. The boys is very tired and fell out of ranks and sat behind. Hard marching is done.

25 July 1863—clear and hot. Marched six miles. Crossed Big Black river and camped in the woods. Went in camp at 10 o’clock p.m.

26 July 1863—laying in camp. Went to the river and took a swim. I read some in the testament. Raining in the evening very hard. Some of the boys out for corn and some for meat. C[yrus] Steward for corn, J[ames] Y. Maxwell & E[lijah] Carter foraging and the rest cooking and catching water.

27 July 1863—raining in the morning. Clear in the afternoon. Moved our camp and got our knapsacks & some of the tents. Carrying boards and fixing up our quarters. received a letter form home.

Between Campaigns at Camp Sherman on Black River in Mississippi

28 July 1863—rained in the evening. On picket, Got very wet. Two miles from camp. Our tents came out and although sick man, R. A. [   ] came to us. Wrote letters—one home, one to Martha.

29 July 1863—fine day. Clear and hot. Got relieved off picket and paid a debt. The boys is all in good heart.

30 July 1863—fine day. Laying in camp. Washed my clothes and fixed a place to hang the haversacks and canteens. Went after corn a mile and got some. Wrote a letter to Eliza. The boys is all in fine spirits.

31 July 1863—fine day. Laying in camp and carrying board and put up a table. I fixed up the bunks. Detailed in the afternoon to dig a drain along side of the tents. Went after night for a load of boards. Peaches for supper.


1 August 1863—fine day. Rained in the afternoon. Laying in camp. Got three letters. Wrote Jane. Got one from home, 1 from Mary, 1 from Sam McCracken. Cleaned up our quarters for our mess. On picket. J[ames] Y. Maxwell, L[ycurgus] Mechliny, M[oses] P. Dawson. Three sold to razors.

2 August 1863—fine day. Rained in the evening. Went and cut a bee tree and got some honey. Madde up our tent ready for a inspection today. Looking for Grant to come. Ready to fall in at any time. No general came. Dress parade in the evening—the first for a long time.

3 August 1863—fine day. Detailed to clean up the camp. Went down to go in a swimming and did not go in. The boys is all merry.

4 August 1863—fine day. Went after peaches four miles. Got as many as three could carry. Came in and had some. E[lijah] Carter and M[oses] P. Dawson was my partners. A fine shower of rain fell on our way back. Small shower fell in the evening.

5 August 1863-–fine day. Hunted for a mule to go a foraging after peaches but did not get one. Laid in camp all day. Read several chapters in the testament. Dress parade in the evening. Wrote a letter home.

6 August 1863—showers of rain in the afternoon. Laying in camp reading the testaments. Read several chapters. Went to hear preacher in the evening. A fine sermon was preached. Some of the mess our foraging—E[lijah] Carter, C[yrus] Steward, M[oses] P. Dawson is the three. Came back and had some.

7 August 1863—showers of rain fell today. Laying in camp reading the testament. Went to meeting in the evening. Feel very mean today. Don’t know how to put in the time.

8 August 1863—fine day. Laying in camp reading the testament. After dinner, took a nap. Preaching in the evening rather prayer meeting. E[lijah] Carter and L[ycurgus] Mechliny is out after peaches and got some. Received a letter from home and wrote one home on the Lord’s day. Wrote one home. Came to the conclusion to quit tobacco.

9 August 1863—Sunday. Fine day. On picket. Cut myself in the right leg on picket down the river. Four of our mess on. J[ames] Y. Maxwell, L[ycurgus] Mechliny, [Moses] P. Dawson.

10 August 1863—Monday. Fine day. Got relieved from picket in the morning. Nothing goes on in camp. My leg is sore but  don’t appear to be getting worse. Preaching in the evening.

11 August 1863—Tuesday. Fine day. Laying in camp. Nothing going on. Read several chapters in the testament. Dress parade in the evening. Did not get out, My leg is sore. Went to prayer meeting this evening.

12 August 1863—Wednesday. Shower of rain in the afternoon. Went out after peaches 6 miles. Got some. Nothing strange going on. E[lijah] Carter was my partner out on the scout.

13 August 1863—shower of rain in the afternoon. Detailed for picket. Went out to the post and was not needed. Got my toe mashed and then came to camp. Nothing strange going on in camp. Read some in the testament.

14 August 1863—Friday. Fine day. Went after peaches three miles. Got some. Sold some. Thunder and it appeared like rain. The boys all well. [   ] has got the ague. Got one foot poisoned—the right foot.

15 August 1863—Saturday. Fine day. Laying in camp reading the testament and papers. Shared the mess in the evening. Drilled in the morning. Very strict orders given to stay in camp. Got sore feet—one poisoned.

16 August 1863—clear in the forenoon. Showers in the afternoon. Laying in camp reading the testament. Received a letter from Mary Brooke.

17 August 1863—Monday. Fine day. Laying in camp. the company drilled in the morning and evening. Did not drill. My feet is poisoned. Hard for me to walk. Read several chapters in the testament. Wrote two letters—one home, one to M. G. Brooks. Shower of rain in the evening.

18 August 1863—Tuesday. Clear in the forenoon. Shower in the afternoon. Laying in the camp reading the testament. 

19 August 1863—Wednesday. Fine day. Laying in camp reading and sleeping. Feel lazy. On dress parade in the evening.

20 August 1863—Thursday. Cloudy and showers all day. Laying in camp reading and smoking and laying around. A fine shower in the evening.

21 August 1863—Friday. Laying in camp. read some in the testament. Received a letter from home.

22 August 1863—Saturday. Fine day. Detailed for camp guard. Read some in the testament & in the news.

23 August 1863—Sunday. Fine day. Got relieved of guard. Wrote a letter home. Read some in the testament. After dinner, took a nap. Feeling well. Can’t complain in the least.

24 August 1863—Monday. Fine day. Laying in camp. Battalion drill in the morning. Company drill in the evening. Read some in books and papers. Went to the commissary and bought a ham that was pretty near rotten. Dress parade this evening.

25 August 1863—Tuesday. Fine day. Cool and cloudy. Drilled Battalion in the morning & company. In the evening, dress parade. Read some and passed the day as well as I could.

26 August 1863—Wednesday. Fine day. Drilled company drill. In the evening, dress parade. Nothing strange going on today. Two of our boys is going to start home in the morning on sick furloughs.

27 August 1863—Thursday. Fine day. Detailed on fatigue duty. One of our mess, J[ohn] H. Darlin left for home this morning. Laying in camp after cleaning off some ground around the quartermasters. read some in papers.

28 August 1863—Friday. Drilled in the morning. Commenced rain at 10 a.m. Wrote a letter  home. Read a chapter in the bible laying in the tent. Rained all evening. Now it is night. Still looks like rain. Ceased raining awhile between 12 o’clock and 6 p.m.

29 August 1863—Saturday. Fine day. Laying in camp. Had a scuffle with E[lijah] Carter near some but little. Some of the boys out on picket.

30 August 1863—Monday. Fine day. Had inspection of arms in the morning. Read some in the bible. Took a fine sleep.

31 August 1863—Monday. Fine day. Went a foraging after cotton. Got 200 bales and as many water melons as I could eat. On our way back, got fired into by guerrillas. We soon answered them with our fire. Got back at dark. Went out five miles. Received a letter from home.

[From August 9th to 30th, 1863 we remained in camp doing but little or no duty. Sickness prevailed to a great extent, and we lost three men in our regiment by death. Pg. 114]


Purported to be dominos owned by Dunn and carried with him


1 September 1863—Tuesday. Fine day. Wrote a letter home. Got paid. Got one hundred and four dollars. sent 5 in a letter home.

2 September 1863—Wednesday. Fine day. Detailed for picket. On post with E[lijah] Carter, M[oses] P. Dawson, R[obert] J. Dunn, and Corporal A[lexander] B. McBride.

3 September 1863—Thursday. Fine day. Got relieved off picket. Fixing up our camp. got it in pretty nice order. This is a new camp. Lent fifteen dollars to A[lexander] B. McBride.

4 September 1863—Friday. Fine day. General review in the afternoon by Sherman. Nothing going on in the forenoon. Review at 3 p.m.

5 September 1863—Saturday. Fine day. Laying in camp. Nothing going on. Today wrote a letter to Mary.

6 September 1863—Sunday. Fine day. Detailed for picket and went to post and came back. Review at 3 p.m. Received two letters from home.

7 September 1863—Monday. Fine day. Detailed for picket. Started at 7 a.m. and did not get on post till 12 a.m. Wrote a letter home.

8 September 1863—Tuesday. Fine day. Got released at 8 a.m. Nothing going on of any importance.

9 September 1863—Wednesday. Fine day. Detailed on fatigue duty. Worked down near the river bottom leveling the ground. Review at 3 p.m. Did not go on.

10 September 1863—Thursday. Fine day. Went over to the 70th [Ohio] regiment. Nothing going on today. The furloughed men came back. C. Dodds, C. W. Rodman.

11 September 1863—Friday. Fine day. General review at 3 p.m. got back after night. Nothing going on. Sent 50 dollars to my wife. Get a letter from home.

12 September 1863—Saturday. Fine day. Laying in camp. Wrote a letter home. No strange news today.

13 September 1863—Sunday. Fine day. Laying in camp. Preaching at 10 a.m. read some in the bible. Dress parade in the evening.

14 September 1863—Monday. Fine day. Company drill in the morning from 6 to seven. Battalion drill at 3 p.m. Very hot. Looks like rain. Cloudy. No rain today.

15 September 1863—Tuesday. Fine day. Detailed on camp guard. Standing at the colonel’s headquarters.

16 September 1863—Wednesday. Fine day. Got relieved at 8 a.m. Inspection at 10 a.m. Got news about Little Rock falling.

17 September 1863—Thursday. Cloudy. Fine shower of rain fell. Review at 3 p.m. Drilled. Got back at dark.

18 September 1863—Friday. Fine day. Went after grapes & got as many as we wanted. Went outside of the pickets a mile or better. General review at 3 p.m.

19 September 1863—Saturday. Cloudy and cold. Very chilly cool wind. Nothing going on. Wrote a letter home. Read some in the bible.

20 September 1863—Sunday. Detailed for picket on furthest from the camp. Acting corporal. Fine day. Got a letter from home.

21 September 1863—Monday. Fine day. Got relieved at 7 a.m. Wrote a letter home. Took a nap. Report that the rebels is advancing on this place.

22 September 1863—Tuesday. Fine day. Laying in camp. Helped to put up a swing in the [ ].

23 September 1863—Wednesday. Fine day. Got a letter from home. Review at 3 p.m. The boys all busy a reading [about] Morgan’s Raid.

24 September 1863—Thursday. Fine day. Went down to see about running a race with a horse. Nothing strange going on.

25 September 1863—Friday. Fine day. Wrote a letter home. General review and drill at 3 p.m. Got back after night.

26 September 1863—Saturday. Fine day. Detailed on camp guard. Standing at headquarters. Orders to get our clothes ready to march. Wash them and be ready to start at once. received a letter from home. The sick is all sent away to the railroad. Get a letter from A. D. Teeters.

27 September 1863—Sunday. Fine day. Orders to march to Branchville. Started at 11 o’clock a.m. Marched 8 miles and camped at a church six miles from Branchville. Received a letter from Mary Brooke.

28 September 1863—Monday. Orders to start at 5 o’clock a.m. Marched six miles to Branchville. Some rebels in our rear but none in front. Had a big mess of sweet potato for dinner. Marched back two miles on this side of the church and then camped there 12 in the night. Commenced raining at 2 a.m.

29 September 1863—Tuesday. Rain commenced at 2 a.m. Started for camp at 1 p.m. Got into camp at daylight and rested to 10 a.m. and started for Vicksburg. Marched 8 miles and camped for the night. Still raining and all wet but done the best that we could.

30 September 1863—still raining. Started to march at daylight. Got to Vicksburg at 11 a.m. Went into camp waiting on the boats. Expect to come in the morning. Still raining. 


1 October 1863—cloudy and cold. Laying [in camp] waiting for a boat. Clear in the afternoon.

2 October 1863—Friday. Fine day No boat. Get tired waiting for one. Nothing going on. Detailed on camp guard.

3 October 1863—fine day. Got relieved at daylight. No boat yet. The boys is all well. Four of our regiment started up the river out of our brigade.

4 October 1863—Sunday. Fine day. Putting the wagons on the boat. The regiment got on at last at 2 p.m. Left Vicksburg at 7 p.m. The boat caught on fire at 9 p.m. Continental boat.

5 October 1863—Monday. Fine day on the boat. Getting along fine.

6 October 1863—Tuesday. Fine day. Past Napoleon [Arkansas] and the mouth of the Arkansas river in the morning. The boat making good headway. The wind is high. Get to Helena at 8 o’clock in the night and tied up to morning. Too dark to cross the bar. The river low. Detailed on guard.

7 October 1863–Wednesday. High wind. Left Helena at daylight. Get over the landing fine. Stopped for to get wood. The boat anchored at 11 in the night. Got relieved in the evening of guard. 

8 October 1863—Thursday. Fine day. Got to Memphis at ten o’clock. Get off and started in the fort and had to go back on the boat and went to town. Went in camp back of town.

9 October 1863—Friday. Fine day. Laying in camp. Went to town in the afternoon. Wrote a letter home.

10 October 1863—Saturday. Fine day. Laying in camp. Wrote two letters—one home and one to M. G. Brooke. Nothing going on. F. Killson came to see me.

11 October 1863—Sunday. Fine day. Started from Memphis at 2 o’clock and marched to Germantown 15  miles and camped for the night. Went in camp at 6 o’clock.

12 October 1863—Monday. Fine day. Left camp at 5 o’lock a.m. Marched to Mount Pleasant 19 miles and camped in an open field. Had plenty of hog for supper. One of Co. got shot in the head but not killed.

[Mathew S. Lyons, a member of Co. F, 53rd OVI, received a terrible wound during the day….a mińie ball in the left brow… Pg. 115]

13 October 1863—rain in the afternoon. Marched 20 miles. Camped on Wolf river. Detached on picket. Orders to start at 6 in the morning. Killed a hog for dinner. Camped on Wolf River. 

14 October 1863—Wednesday. Fine day. cloudy. Started to march about 6 a.m. Got released off picket at 6. Marched 15 miles. Camped near creek. Came through La Grange.

15 October 1863—Thursday. Cloudy and the sun shines a little. Marched 14 miles to Pocahontas and camped for the night. Hard marching. Very windy. Now twenty miles from Corinth.

16 October 1863—Friday. Fine day. Started to march at 7 o’clock. Marched 15 miles. Camp near Shewalew [?] in a open field. The roads is bad—muddy. Crossed the ____ river & two _____.

17 October 1863—Saturday. Fine day. Started to march at 7 a.m. Marched through Corinth 14 miles and camped three miles from [   ]. Signed the pay roll to get paid. Got paid 26 dollars. Heavy rain commenced at dark. Rained hard. Received two letters from home.

18 October 1863—Sunday. Fine day. Clear. Orders to start to march at 8 a.m. Orders countermanded. Start in the morning at 5 a.m. One of our furloughed men came back. F. Anderson.

19 October 1863—Monday. Fine day. Started to march at 6 a.m. Marched one mile. Stopped an hour or more and got into the wagons. Came to a village and camped for the night. Came 7 miles.

20 October 1863—Tuesday. Fine day. Started from Landale at 6 a.m. Marched to Burnsville and stopped for dinner. Started after a hour’s rest. Marched to Iuka. Now in camp. Marched 16 miles. The boys in good spirits. Some bother with our knapsacks hunting them. Found mine and all is right.

The Chattanooga & Knoxville Campaign


21 October 1863—raining in the forenoon. Working at the division commissary. The whole regiment is at work and on guard at Iuka. Got 3.00 dollars expressed home. Got relieved of duty.

22 October 1863—cloudy and cool. Detailed on duty at the Quartermaster’s Department helping to load wagons. Move to our camp on the other side of town. Wrote a letter home. Got through at 12 p.m.

23 October 1863—raining and cold. Orders to march to Eastport. Marched 8 miles. Now in camp at Eastport on the hill on the Tennessee river. Hard marching—muddy.

[On the 23rd we resumed our march to Eastport on the Tennessee River and crossed the river under guard of gunboats, which had been dispatched here to protect our crossing. Just as this point some of our officers rejoined the regiment from their furlough, fresh and with many a loving message from the large hearted, loyal people of the North. (pg 116)]

24 October 1863—cloudy and cool. Went three miles up Bear Creek and killed a sheep and brought it to camp. Had some for dinner. On picket the company is on. Our mess is down at the east side of town in a house. Fine times we have.

27 October 1863—fine day, Started to march at 8 a.m. Crossed the river all night. Had a fine mess of honey for dinner. Moved our camp from the river to [a camp] three miles from the Tennessee river. Marched three miles. Killed a hog in town. Took it out of the pen. Got a letter [    ].

30 October 1863—Friday. Commenced raining at 7 a.m. Washed two shirts. Got them dried before the rain came on. Rained all day. Nothing goes on. Helped to take a bee gum. Got stung several times.

[On the 30th we reached Florence, Alabama. pg. 116]


2 November 1863—Monday. Left Florence at 8 a.m. Marched 16 miles to [   ] Springs, crossed Shoal’s Creek, seven miles from Florence. Now in camp. Killed a hog for supper and got some cabbage and a mess of honey.

[On November 2nd we crossed Shoal’s Creek, marching through a beautiful country abounding in springs and forage, all of which we greeted with a “thank God,” and did ample justice to each. pg. 116]

3 November 1863—Tuesday. Started to march at six o’clock a.m. Crossed a stream—don’t know the name—passed Rodgersville. Now in camp in an open field. As usual, got a hog. March 15 miles.

[On the 3rd we led the advance upon the line of march, and after marching 12 miles went into camp for the night. pg. 116]

4 November 1863-–Wednesday. Fine day. Started to march at 6. Came through a village by the name of Bethel. Now in camp at Prospect. Marched 20 miles. The boys is all tired and I am tired and sore.

[On the 4th we continued our march through streams and over mountains, not camping until 10 p.m.]

5 November 1863—Thursday. Rained. Left Prospect at 7. Marched 6 miles. Waded a clear creek and camped in an open field. Got a hog and other things and some rabbit.

[Marched at 6 a.m. on the 5th. Rained all day. We forded Ritching Creek, waist deep, going into camp at noon. pg. 116]

6 November 1863—Friday. Fine day. Marched 8 miles and camped at a stream. Got two geese for supper.

[On the 6th we took up our line of march at 11 a.m. and camped ear Elkton for the night. pg. 117]

7 November 1863—Saturday. Fine day. Marched 11 miles and camped three miles and a half from Fayetteville. Went to get some bees and got stung in the face several times. Sold 1.00. Crossed Swam Creek.

[On the 7th we marched ten miles and camped at 3 p.m. [pg. 117]

8 November 1863—Sunday. Fine day. March 6 miles to Fayetteville. Camped on the [Elk] river 2 miles from town.

[November 8 was Sunday…we marched through Fayetteville, a town of about 2,000 inhabitants. We crossed Elk River here on a magnificent stone bridge, and camped at 12 m. pg. 117]

9 November 1863—Monday. Laid over at Fayetteville. Went to the creek and killed a hog. The weather is cool. The day is clear.

[On November the 9th we…rested, remaining in camp throughout the day. pg. 117]

10 November 1863—Tuesday. Fine day. Started to march at 6. Marched 10 miles to Solomon [?] and camped.

[On the 10th we took up our line of march at 8 a.m., marching 20 miles. Out hardtack was exhausted and no supply train near. The troops, however, were in excellent cheer and condition. pg. 117]

11 November 1863—Wednesday. Started to march at 6. Marched 12 miles to Decherd. Came through Winchester. Crossed Bolens fork or river.

[No bread for breakfast on the 11th, but we marched eleven miles, passing through Winchester and camping in view of the Cumberland Mountains. pg. 117]

12 November 1863—Thursday. Fine day. Orders to start at 6 a.m. Started at 7. Marched across a large hill and came 7 miles. Camped in the woods after dark.

[On the 12th we marched at 9 a.m., crossing a chain of the Cumberland Mountains near Cowan’s Station. There was no forage for beasts and in consequence a large number of mules died from starvation and over-work. It was not unusual to see trees as high as the animals could reach, barked and eaten for food. To a casual observer, our movement through this particular pass would have seemed to be impossible; yet, inspired by patriotism and love of home, we surmounted every obstacle and slowly pressed on. Night overtook us in the pass and we camped in the road… The pass [behind us] was strewn with broken wagons, caissons, camp equipage and dead mules. pg. 117-8]

13 November 1863—Friday. Fine day. Came over the mountains, March 7 miles. Camped in an open field near a mansion. Went a foraging and got nothing.

14 November 1863—Saturday. Left camp near Andrew’s Station at 6. Marched 7 miles and camped for the night and drawed lamb. Our company went on picket back to the rear.

[It began to rain about 5 o’clock on the morning of the 14th. We took up our line of march at daylight, reaching Andrew’s Station at 9 a.m. We crossed the State line into Alabama and camped four miles from Stevenson. pg. 118]

15 November 1863—Sunday. Fine day. Marched 14 miles. Camped near Bridgeport. Came through Stevensonville. Received a letter from home.

[On Sunday, the 15th, we continued our march, passing through Stevenson and camping one mile from Bridgeport. pg. 118]

16 November 1863—clear and cloudy. Laid in camp at Bridgeport. Wrote a letter and shaved. Wrote letter home. Drawed a pair of shoes. Orders to be read to start at sunrise.

[Throughout the 16th we remained quiet. pg. 118]

17 November 1863—Tuesday. Fine day. Started marching at 6. Marched 20 [miles] and camped in the woods. Got in camp at 8 p.m. The boys is tired. Crossed the Tennessee River and Battle Creek.

[On the 17th we moved at daylight, crossing the Tennessee River at Bridgeport on pontoons. We rested at Nickajack Cave where saltpeter was manufactured for the rebel arms, and camped near Trenton, Ga., after a hard day’s march of twenty-three miles. pg. 118]

18 November 1863—Wednesday. Fine day. Marched four miles to Trenton, stopped and shelled the woods. Fired some 8 or 10 shots with the cannon. I was looking for a fight but there has none been yet. We camped for the night at Trenton all night. Can see the rebel smoke at their camps.

[On the 18th we marched at 6 a.m., forming in line of battle as we neared Trenton. At 11 a.m. our batteries were shelling the woods in our front, dislodging the enemy and also causing demoralization and horror among the innocent women and children in the village. The 53rd was among the first regiments to enter the town and expel the enemy. At night the cam-fires of the enemy upon Lookout Mountain were plainly visible. pg. 118-9]

19 November 1863—Thursday. Fine day. Went out on a scout four miles down the valley and seen some rebels on the hill. Got back at 8 p.m. in camp.

[On the 19th the 53rd Ohio and the 97th Indiana were ordered to reconnoiter as far as Lookout Mountain to ascertain the obstruction, if any, and, as far as possible, gain some idea of the forces in our front. In our movements we were compelled to ford creeks waist deep several times. But few shots were fired at us, and those without serious effect. We returned to camp at 9 p.m.. when several of our boys, supperless and drenched to the skin, were detailed for picket for the night. pg. 119]

20 November 1863—Friday. Rained in the evening. Put up shanty. Went in the night after chickens and did not get none.

[On the 20th we remained in camp during the day. It began to rain early in the evening, and rained all night. pg. 119]

21 November 1863—Saturday. Rained near all day. Left Trenton at 7 o’clock, marched 10 miles and camped. Made mush for breakfast. We are out of rations. Pretty scarce times.

[The rain continued on the 21st but we broke camp at 7 a.m. and marching all day in the rain, camped near Lookout Mountain. our pickets and the enemy’s were only about forty rods apart. No tents, no rations, no sleep! pg. 119]

22 November 1863—Sunday. Fine day. Started to march a.m. P.M. marched 8 miles, crossed the [Tennessee] river. Camped in an open field. Got in camp at 8 p.m. Got a letter from home.

[Sunday, November 22, …orders were received to have 100 rounds of cartridges and three days rations issued to the men. We commenced marching at 1 p.m. over rough country, crossing the Tennessee river at Chattanooga on pontoons, and camped for the night near the river. pg. 119]

23 November 1863—Monday. Looks like rain. Heavy skirmishing going on. Cannonading in front. Laid in camp in an open field back of town.

[On the 23rd we remained in camp all day. Heavy cannonading was heard in our front. pg. 119]

24 November 1863—Tuesday. Raining. Crossed the river and advanced one mile. The rebels ad some little skirmishing. Our company is skirmishing. Got relieved after dark and came to camp. Had the throw up breastworks. Worked near all night. Ate up lamb. The boys all tired and hungry.

[At 6 a.m. on the morning of the 24th we moved out of camp, reaching the river at 7 a.m. There was fighting on the opposite side of the river. The troops were crossed upon pontoons. The pioneers were busy constructing a bridge across Chickamauga Creek. Three miles from Chattanooga our brigade was ferried across the river in pontoons. Brisk cannonading was heard all along Gen. Hooker’s line. A battery of our own division opened out briskly as we marched out and took position upon a hill near Mission Ridge. Our line was shelled to some extent in response, but a twenty-pounder was run out upon the line and soon silenced the enemy’s guns. As night settled down upon us, we abandoned our guns and took to the spade, pick and ax, and built fortification in full view of the enemy’s camp fire. pg. 120]

25 November 1863—Wednesday. Fine day. The fight is going on. Our brigade is kept back. In the afternoon went & supported a battery. Got along fine. 

[A general engagement opened early the 25th all along the line. At nine a.m. the First and Second Brigades engaged the enemy. The wounded were carried back in large numbers, including quite a number of field officers, General Corse being of the number. Our line was advanced and gained the railroad. The 53rd was detailed to support a battery and received its full share of shot and shell. The Third Brigade, of which the 53rd was a part, suffered severely and lost several men in battle and a considerable number were also taken prisoners of war. Later in the day a general advance was ordered all along the line and Lookout and Mission Ridge were taken. We returned from the support of the battery late at night and went into camp. pg. 120]


Battle of Missionary Ridge

26 November 1863—Thursday. Fine day. After the rebels. They are on full retreat. Marched 12 miles. Got some prisoners. Had a fine time. Got some corn meal and chickens for supper. Started at daylight. Got in camp in the woods at 8 o’clock at night.

27 November 1863—cloudy and cool. Still after the retreating rebels. Stopped at Graysville and took dinner. Got a letter from home. Camped all night at Graysville. Commenced raining at dark.

[As we continued our pursuit of Bragg, everything along the line indicated heavy fighting. Reaching Graysville on the Western Atlantic Railway, we camped for the night. The prisoners and wounded were brought in all night long. The total number of prisoners corralled during the night near the camp was 500. pg. 121]

28 November 1863—still raining. Quit at 12 M. Our regiment went to tear up the railroad. Our company is left to guard the camp. Got a letter from home. Orders came to march in the morning.

[On the morning of the 28th, we engaged in the pastime of burning a mill and a machine shop at Graysville. We then marched out on the railroad leading to Ringgold, tore up the track for several miles, burning the ties and capturing some cars. …Then pushed on to Graysville to which place our brigade returned and camped for the night. It was very cold, so much so that the boys could not rest, they were compelled to move about to keep up the circulation. pg. 121]

29 November 1863—Cool. Started to march at 7. Marched through a town [Cheneway?]. Marched 15 miles. Went in camp after dark in an open field. We are scarce of grub. Camped near Cleveland.

[On Sunday, November 29th, we marched 21 miles upon empty stomachs, there being no rations. We camped for the night one mile from Cleveland. pg. 121]

30 November 1863—the wind is cold. Tore up some of the railroads before we started to march. Left Cleveland at 10 o’clock. Marched 11 miles near to Charleston and camped in an open field. Out of grub and don’t know where to get any.

[On November 30th our wing of the army marched to Salton, destroying the railroad as it proceeded. This section of Tennessee was extra good. The population was fairly loyal. We camped near Charleston. We were still without hardtack. pg. 121]


1 December 1863—wind cold. Marched 16 miles. Came through Charleston. Crossed the high walled river at Charleston. Camped near Athens. Came through Riceville six miles from Athens. Got into camp at 9 o’clock p.m.  I was detailed to forage. Got some corn meal and flour.

[Early on the morning of December 1st, The Tennessee valley resounded with huzzahs from the Yankee throats at the glimpse of our wagon train. Many a one with tears in his eyes, reverently looked up and thanked the God of battles for the kindness, hardtack, coffee, etc., included. The rations were issued, breakfast was had, after which, at 11 a.m., the army proceeded upon the line of march… We passed through Charleston and Calhoun. The Hiawatha River divides this town. Continuing our march, we passed through Riceville and camped, after marching sixteen miles during the day. pg. 122]

2 December 1863—fine day. Wind cool. Left Athens at six a.m. Came past a town next named (never knew name). Marched 20 miles. Camped at Philadelphia. Got into camp at 7 in the night.

[On the morning of December 2nd we passed through Athens… This was a town of considerable dimensions, with good public buildings, churches, and school houses. A short distance from the town we came upon a force of the enemy’s cavalry and had a brisk skirmish… We passed through the town of Sweet Water and camped near Philadelphia, Tennessee, after having marched 20 miles. Pg. 122]

3 December 1863—fine day. Marched 10 miles to the Tennessee river and camped. Water hard. Wait to cross. Came through. Killed hog today. Crossed the river. Our company had to dig roads to 11 o’clock at night. Got a letter from home.

[On the morning of the 3rd we passed through Philadelphia. The town was noted for its large springs, affording sufficient water power for manufacturing purposes. Our army proceeded on to Morgantown, crossing the Holston River after night. We went into camp after having marched 10 miles. Pg. 122]

4 December 1863—fine day. Detailed to make roads at the river. Laying over at the river. Moved our camp out in the woods.

[On the morning of the 4th we moved out about one mile and camped. The remainder of the day was occupied in bridging the river. To assist us in bridge-building we were compelled to tear down some fine residences. We are now plainly in sight of Smokey Mountain and Blue Ridge. Pg. 122]

5 December 1863—fine day. Left Morgan at 5 a.m. Marched 18 miles to Maysville and camped. The boys is all tired.

[We marched at daylight on the 5th, passing through Marysville, Blount county. The women in the village were intensely loyal, shouting, weeping, and praying at our approach. After having marched eighteen miles we went into camp. Pg. 122]

6 December 1863—fine day. Laid over at Marysville.

[December 6th was Sunday…and was observed as a day of rest, save and except that the boys took occasion to wash clothes and body… Pg. 123]

7 December 1863—fine day. Orders to march at 7 a.m. Marched 18 miles and camped near Morgantown. We are on the backtrack.

[On the morning of the 7th there was rejoicing in our camp, for news was received that Longstreet, at the approach of our advance, had silently folded his tent during the night and was retreating southward, thus relieving Burnside at Knoxville… This campaign having relieved the siege of Knoxville…General Sherman decided that it was best for our army to retrace its steps and return to Chattanooga, which we did almost over the same route. Upon our first day’s march toward Chattanooga, we made eighteen miles and camped near Morgantown. Pg. 123]

8 December 1863—cool. Rained in the afternoon. Left Morgan[town] at 6 a.m. Marched 12 miles and camped in the woods. Killed a hog.

[On the morning of the 8th we crossed the river at Morgantown, marching ten miles and camped. Pg. 123]

9 December 1863—fine day. Started to march at 9. Marched 10 miles and camped at Madisonville. Got eleven chickens for breakfast cooking in a big kettle.

[On the 9th we marched ten miles to madisonville and camped. Pg. 123]

10 December 1863—fine day. Left Madisonville at 9 o’clock. Marched 15 miles and camped at Athens.

[On the 10th we proceeded on our line of march and moved some fourteen miles, camping at Athens. Pg. 123]

11 December 1863—fine day. Went out a foraging and got some honey [and] two chickens. Got our dinner. In the country, shot at a mark. Was away from camp 4 miles. The regiment laid over at Athens today.

[The next day, the 11th, we remained in camp and rested. Pg. 123]

12 December 1863—rained in the afternoon. Moved our camp to the other side of town and put up bunks.

[On the 12th we broke camp early and moved but a short distance and camped. Pg. 123]

13 December 1863—rained in the morning. Cloudy all day. Went out and killed two hogs and wounded 3. Fetched one in and left the rest. Read some in the testament tonight.

[During the 13th we remained quiet. Pg. 123]

14 December 1863—Left Athens at 7. Came through Riceville. Marched 15 miles and camped at Charleston. Went out and killed a hog.

[Early on the morning of the 14th, we took up our line of march and proceeded some 15 miles, camping for the night at Charleston. Pg. 123]

15 December 1863—left Charleston at 7 and crossed the Hiawassee river at Charleston. Came thru Cleveland. Camped two miles from that town in the woods. Our company went on picket. Went out a foraging and got nothing.

[During the 15th, we passed the 11th Army Corps, marched ten miles and camped near Cleveland. Pg. 123]

16 December 1863—left Cleveland. Marched through [____ville] and marched 18 miles. Hard rain before we went in camp. Camped in the woods 10 miles from Chattanooga. Very wet.

[On the morning of the 16th we got up drenched with rain and marched fourteen miles, soaked to the hide; and did not go into camp, owing to the bad roads and weather, until 9 p.m. Pg. 123]

17 December 1863—orders to start at daylight. Marched 10 miles and camped three miles from Chattanooga. Went to town and got drunk on the way. Treated in town.

[Near nightfall of December 17th we camped near Chattanooga. All of our regiment…did not reach camp until during the day on the 19th… The march from Memphis to Mission Ridge and Knoxville and back to Bridgeport was the longest consecutive march of a large body of troops during the Civil War. The part of it in East Tennessee was of unequaled severity. They marched some 100 miles in five days. Pg. 124-5]

18 December 1863—fine day. Windy and cool. Marched 11 miles. Came through Chattanooga. Camped at the forks of the C. and Trenton Road. Hard times to get wood and grub for the first three days rations.

19 December 1863—marched 25 miles to Bridgeport and went into camp. Got four letters; one from home, one from Liza, one M. Brook, one from [Ball?].

20 December 1863—Sunday. Laid in camp. Wrote a letter home. Went down to the depot. Got one pound of cheese. Paid 50 cents. Moved our camp in the rise and signed for clothes.

21 December 1863—fine day. Laying in camp. Wrote a letter to Eliza. Drawed clothes— overcoat, socks, hat. Washed my clothes in he night. 

22 December 1863—fine day. Wrote a letter to J. Ball. Signed the pay roles. Laying in camp. No strange moves today.

[Until December 22nd we remained in camp with nothing occurring worthy of note. Pg 127]

23 December 1863—laid over. Went to the depot. Got paid 26 dollars. Orders to march the next morning at 8 o’clock. Camped in the woods.

[On the night of the 23rd of December…we were called up at the hour of midnight and paid, the first time for several months. Pg. 127]

24 December 1863—started to march at 8 o’clock. Marched 10 miles and camped at Stevenson in an open field. Went after night and stole a tent from another regiment. Went to town and got drunk.

[During the day of the 24th we moved our camp to Stevenson. It was a cheerless Christmas eve to most of us. Pay day had not reached us in time for our remittance to cheer and brighten the hearts of our loved ones at the North, but the outgoing mail carried hundreds of dollars northward. Pg. 127]


The Alabama House in Stevenson, Alabama—perhaps this is where Dunn “got drunk” on Christmas Eve 1863

25 December 1863—Christmas. Cloudy and cool. Detailed to draw grub at division headquarters. Bought a pocket book. Price $1.25. Rain in the evening.

26 December 1863—raining. Left Stevenson. Marched 17 miles. Camped at Scottsboro. Went out a foraging. Got nothing.

[December 26th we marched some 17 miles to Scottsboro, Alabama, and took up our winter quarters. Pg. 127]

27 December 1863—showers of rain. Went a foraging. Got two hams. Went two miles. Laid off camp part of the day. Sent off a little treasure.

[On the morning of the 27th the rain was descending by the bucketful and we had no shelter. Notwithstanding this downpour we laid off our camp. It rained continuously throughout the day. The wagon trains came up, but our blankets and provisions were saturated. From the 26th to the 31st we were engaged in building our winter quarters. Our camp lay at the base of the mountain along the Memphis & Charleston Railroad. The mountain was covered with a growth of cedar and this we utilized for our winter quarters and for firewood. Pg. 128]

Home on Furlough & Between Campaigns

1 March 1864—at home on a furlough. At the fire enjoying myself as well as I can by talking to the old woman.

2 March 1864—still at home. My furlough is up today but I don’t mind of going back on account of sickness.

3 March 1864—still at home enjoying myself as well as I can sporting with the old woman and the girls.

4 March 1864—still at home sporting and putting in the time as well as I can and as comfortable as possible.

5 March 1864—still at home. Took my wife a visiting to uncle Joseph Gray and stayed there all night. Went after my boots. Got a pair at Aberdeen. Paid $7.60 for them at A. J. Mitchell’s.

6 March 1864—started to Dick’s on a visit [with] my wife and Aunt. Stayed there all day. Went home in the evening. Had a fine buggy ride.

7 March 1864—thinking of starting to camp. Started at 3 o’clock in the evening. Fetched two recruits [Kilgore brothers] with me. Got on the boat at 8 o’clock. Hated to leave home very bad. In fact, I would rather stayed.

8 March 1864—now at Cincinnati. Went through town hunting a mustering officer. Could not find any. Had to take my men out to camp to get them sworn in. the boys was glad to see me and I them.

9 March 1864—Camp Dennison, Ohio. Laying in the barracks and running around some but don’t feel right. Got the diarrhea and studying about home. Wrote two letters—one home.

10 March 1864—Camp Dennison. Raining and muddy running around. Putting the time in the best way I can. Still got home on my mind. I diarrhea is some better. Drove off the [   ].

11 March 1864—Camp Dennison. Running around putting the time in the best way I can. Writing and reading. J. K. [John Kilgore] & Jo. K. [Joseph Kilgore] got mustered into the service. Cold and cloudy.

12 March 1864—Camp Dennison. Running around. Wrote a letter. House clean and warm. Feel very lazy. Tired of this place.

13 March 1864—Camp Dennison. Cold and cloudy. on camp guard around the barracks. Looks like it wold snow.

14 March 1864—got relieved off guard at 10 o’clock. Orders to be ready to march in a minute’s warning.

15 March 1864—left Camp Dennison. Went to Cincinnati. Stayed there  to after dinner. Got on a boat [   ] and went to Louisville. Cold weather.

16 March 1864—Louisville, Ky. Got off the boat. Stayed in the barracks to saving. Went to the depot to get on the cars and had to come back to quarters and stay all night. Cold.

17 March 1864—Left Louisville at 3 o’clock on the cars. Rode all night. Cold and the cars crowded. The boys is all funning.

18 March 1864—Nashville. Got off the cars at the8 o’clock. Went in a yard to stay. We can get [   ].

19 March 1864—Nashville. Laying around nodding and putting the time in the best way I can. Wrote a letter. Have fine day. Cool wind.

20 March 1864—Nashville. Went to church. Read some and laid around. Put the time in the best way I could. Cool wind. Sunshine.

21 March 1864—Nashville. Running around putting the time in the best I can. Cool wind. Sunshine.

22 March 1864—Left Nashville at 3 o’clock. Marched 6 miles and camped in the woods. Hard marching on the pike. Fine weather.

23 March 1864—Started to march at seven. Marched 15 miles and camped in a field along side of the pike. Fine weather. The boys all has sore feet. Dusty.

24 March 1864—Marched 15 miles and camped at Columbia. Crossed Duck river at the town. The boys all has got sore feet.

25 March 1864—Left Columbia, Tennessee. Marched 15 miles to Linnville and camped. Sore feet and tired [   ]. Came off picket at daylight.

26 March 1864—Left Linnville and came through Pulaski. Marched 8 miles and camp in the woods at the side of the pike. My feet is lame.

27 March 1864—Left camp, crossed Elk River at Elkin in the wagons. Marched 7 miles and camped. Tired. 

28 March 1864—Left camp at 6. Marched 23 miles to Huntsville. Went through the town and camped one mile from town on the side of the hill. Tired and sore. Route hard and mean all day.

29 March 1864—Huntsville, Alabama. The regiment started to Scottsboro on the cars. Left three companies — A, B, & F to guard a train of wagons. Start in the morning. Cool and cloudy.

30 March 1864—Huntsville, Alabama. Laying around. Intended to start with the train but put it off to morning. Read some in the testament. Fine day. Wrote one letter to home.

31 March 1864—Left Huntsville. Guarding a wagon train in the afternoon. Was rear guard. Came 17 miles and camped. Bad roads—muddy and hills and swamps. This month is put in in a good way.


1 April 1864—Left camp. Cloudy. Got on the railroad and went ahead of the teams. Marched 24 miles. Camped by ourself in an old still house. Six of us. Cloudy and raining.

2 April 1864—Left our old house and came to Scottsboro. Got five letters. Wrote one home. Got four from home. Came three miles in ahead of the teams. A long train. Fine day. Sunshine.

[On our return from the veteran furlough to Scottsboro we had little or no duty, excepting that of guard duty, and that principally guarding the railroad extending southward from Louisville, Ky., to Nashville, Tenn., and from Nashville to Chattanooga. It was an almost broken line of troops. Pg. 131]

3 April 1864—Scottsboro, Alabama. Fine day. Wrote a letter to G. W. Bader [?]. Inspection of arms at 10 o’clock. Nothing going on at present. Read several chapters in the testament.

4 April 1864—Scottsboro, Alabama. Cloudy and misting. Wrote all day. Detailed on guard duty a foraging ahead of the train part of the time. Read some in the testament. Wrote a letter to S. T.

5 April 1864—Scottsboro, Alabama. Got relieved off guard and detailed on fatigue duty. Wrote a letter home. Clouds and cool. Fixed our tent some. Wrote a letter to T. Lowell [?]

6 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Fine day. Cooking for the mess. Nothing strange going on [  ].

7 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Fine day. Wrote a letter to A. W. Greg [?]. Battalion drill in the forenoon and company drill in the afternoon.

8 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Cloudy. Sprinkling rain. Washed some clothes. Wrote a letter to P. Dunn [?]. Read some in the testament.

9 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Battalion drill in the forenoon. General review in the afternoon. Cloudy and raining. Some writing songs.

10 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. On camp guard. Fine day. Cool wind. Wrote a letter home. Read some in the testament.

11 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Got relieved off camp guard. Fixed our tent. Put up bunks. Find day. Drilled in the afternoon (co.).

12 April 1864—Cloudy & sprinkling. Wrote a letter to A. S. T.  Helped to dig a grave. Went to the [    ]. Again cooked.

13 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Fine day. Warm. Battalion drill in the forenoon. No drill in the afternoon. Read some in the testament. One of our mess taken to the hospital. E. C. [Elijah] Carter]

14 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Fine day. Wrote a letter home. Battalion drill forenoon. The brigade was brought out to Colonel to make his farewell speech. Fine day. 

15 April 1864—Cool and cloudy. On camp guard duty. [?] Tent in the same fix.

16 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Get relieved of camp guard. Detailed on picket on the railroad. East cool breeze. Sun shining. Sprinkling rain. Feel sleepy.

17 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Got relieved of picket. Came to camp. Raining in the evening. Heard a sermon preached. Read some in the testament.

18 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Wrote a letter to J. T[eeters].

19 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Got a letter from home. On detailed duty cleaning up the headquarters. Cooked. Drilled company. Fine day.

20 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Wrote a letter home. Helped to get timber to make church benches. On dress parade. Fine day. Nothing strange going on. The boys is in good health.

21 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Got a letter from G. W. B.  Wrote one to the same. Battalion drill in the forenoon. Co. [drill] in the afternoon. Raining in the afternoon.

22 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala.  Got a letter from home. Wrote a letter home. Fine day. Washed some clothes. Went to preaching at dark at the 99th Indiana.

23 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Detailed on picket. Went on General Review first and then on picket. On post No. 2. Cloudy. Looks like rain.

24 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala.  Fine day. Went to preaching at 2 p.m. Got relieved [  ] in the morning. Preaching at dar. Dress parade.

25 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Fine day. Warm. Took a walk on top of the hill. J. Y. [Maxwell] in with me. The [regimental] quartermaster [Lt. Edward G. Morrison] is dead. Preaching at dark.

26 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Got two shirts. One letter from home. Wrote a letter home. Preaching in the evening. Read four or five chapters in the testament.

27 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Excused of duty. Detailed to hep put up a shade around the church. Read some in the testament. Preaching in the evening.

28 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Got orders to be ready to march at a minute’s warning. Wrote a letter home. Did fix up our knapsacks but did not start cooking today. Preaching this evening.

29 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Wrote a letter to J. B. D.  Fine day. Orders to start to march at six in the morning.

30 April 1864—Scottsboro, Ala. Wrote a letter home and one to my sis E[liza]. Ordered to be ready to march at 6 a.m. in the morning.

The Atlanta Campaign


1 May 1864—[Sunday] Started to march. Left Scottsboro at 7 o’clock. Marched 10 miles and camped in the woods. Got two letters—one from A. S. T. [and] one from sister Eliza. Went to preaching in the evening.

2 May 1864—Camp near Stevenson. Marched 10 miles. Went into camp in an open field.

3 May 1864—Left camp at 7 o’clock. Marched 14 miles. Crossed the Tennessee river. Camped 2 miles from Stevenson in an open field.

4 May 1864—Left camp at 8 o’clock. Marched 12 miles. Crossed Running Water. Camp near Running water. feet sore and tired. Camped at White Sides. Starving on half rations.

5 May 1864—Chattanooga, Tenn. Left White Sides at 7 o’clock. Marched 15 miles and camped in Lookout V. near Mission Ridge. Got two letters—one from home [and] one from S. T.  The boys is tired and hungry. Out of grub.

6 May 1864—Gravelly Springs. Georgia. Marched 10 miles. Got three letters—one from home, one from A. B., [and] one [from] A. G.  Warm and dusty.

7 May 1864—Left camp. Marched 10 miles. Marched to 1 o’clock at night and camped in a cornfield. Tired. Marched slow. No signs of the rebels yet.

8 May 1864—Camp near Villa____. Marched 12 miles. Came through Gordon’s Gap. Warm. Marched southeast. Dusty. The boys is wearied some. E[lijah] Carter, John Darling & I went and killed a calf in the corn-brake.

9 May 1864—Camped near the railroad. Marched 8 miles looking for the rebels, hearing the firing in front. There was a skirmish on this ground.

10 May 1864—Camp near the railroad. On picket. The company is out. Raining some. Tore up the old letters. Skirmishing in front. On post north of camp. Expecting the big fight. Out of rations—very hungry. Rained hard at night.

11 May 1864—Got relieved of picket at 9 o’clock. Went on the left of the division and had to come back to the brigade. Went after dark. Helped to get a box of crackers. Hungry.

12 May 1864—Left the old division. Got transferred to the Second Division. Advanced our line. Now on the right and rested.

[About this time our regiment was transferred from the 4th Division, 15th A.C. to Morgan L. Smith, 2nd Division, 15th A.C., Lightburn’s 2nd Brigade. Pg. 133]

13 May 1864—Out on the skirmish line. The regiment fighting. Drove the rebels. Got five men wounded [in the] company, none killed as I have heard. Heavy skirmishing. Regiment lost [in] wounded 38.

[The 53rd [Ohio] was upon the extreme right of the Army of the Tennessee; its right flank resting near the Oostanaulu River. We stayed under fire for some time in line of battle, while our skirmishers were advancing, feeling of the enemy’s line. When the command rang out, “Forward! Guide right! March!” the battle [of Resaca] was on. In our advance we were exposed to the fire of the enemy in front and right flank from a stockade across the Odstanaulu. The muderous flank fire killed only a few, but wounded many… In moving forward the 53rd and 37th Ohio Regiments were halted at the edge of the field, while the remainder of the corps was being lined up to our line of battle. [Sitting ducks, the regiments] moved forward and drove the [rebel] skirmishers from their position in front of us and took it ourselves… We held our ground and remained there until the night. For four long hours we were under a galling fire and suffered severely; our men going down all around us, and a constant stream being carried to the rear for treatment. We withdrew a short distance under cover of darkness and lay upon our arms all night; but in full view of the enemy’s camps. Pg. 135]

14 May 1864—Charged the rebels works. and took them. Heavy fighting in the evening on the skirmish line. Out for all night. No fighting after nine o’clock p.m.

[Heavy skirmishing commenced at 4 a.m. the morning of the 14th. Companies E and K of the 53rd were upon the skirmish line under command of Captain Galloway. About noon the captain received instructions to advance the line of skirmishers which we did and to within about 100 yards of the skirmish line of the enemy. It was ordered that our brigade, with that of Giles A. Smith, should charge the rebel fortifications at 4 p.m. It was also understood that at the proper signal, the skirmishers were to pour into the rebel line in their front…. The brigades moved “double quick” and with a yell and with such a deafening roar of musketry that commands were useless…we soon drove the enemy from their line of fortifications, occupying them with a shout and Old Glory planted upon the works. The fighting and firing was kept up until 6 p.m.  but we had gained our position and their works, and in full view of Resaca. Our losses were heavy. Pg. 135]

15 May 1864—Got relieved of the skirmish line. Laid in the rifle pit all day. Skirmishing going on along the line.


Inside the Rebel Works at Resaca

16 May 1864—Near Resaca. Went into the town. The rebels left last night and this morning marched 5 miles after the rebels. Got our knapsacks. The enemy is in full retreat. Got two letters—one from home [and] one [from J. Teeters.

[on Sunday, May 16th, the fighting was continued; our batteries shelling their works. Our regiment, however, did not do much. On the 16th we were relieved by the 37th Ohio for rest and needed sleep. The enemy evacuated their forts during the night; their rear guard firing the bridges…. We then passed on to Resaca…. We took a large number of prisoners. In their haste, they had left their dead unburied upon the field. Pg. 135-6]

17 May 1864—Started to march at six. Marched 8 miles skirmishing with the rebels. Got in line of battle. Some prisoners taken in front. Camped 12 miles from Rome. Heavy fighting on our left. The boys is all tired [and] wants rest.

[On Tuesday, May 17th, we were pursuing the enemy in the direction of Rome, skirmishing as we went…. Heavy fighting was going on to our left. We camped late at night. Pg. 136]

18 May 1864—Camp in the works on the left of the [   ]. Rode in the waggons. Wrote a letter home. Marched 5 miles and camped on a hill. Left with the Battalion. The rest went on.

[We remained in camp quiet during Wednesday, the 18th, until 2 p.m. and then moved, passing through Adairsville. The march was continued through the night and until 4 a.m. Pg. 136]

19 May 1864—Started to march at 5 o’clock. Hard marching to pass the [wagon] train with the battalion. March 10 miles. Camped near Kingston. Fighting in front. The rebels is still on the retreat. Fine day. Tired and dirty. Helped to skin a hog.

[At 6 a.m. on the 19th, we were again upon the line of march and finally camped within two miles of Kingston. There was heavy skirmishing throughout the day. Pg. 136]

20 May 1864—Kingston, Georgia on picket. Wrote a letter home. Got relieved at dark. Laying around a few days to rest and recruit up. The cars is running to this place. The first train came this morning.

[On the 20th, we remained quiet all day. The railroad trains came up from Chattanooga with supplies. Pg. 136]

21 May 1864—Kingston. Fine day. Wrote three letters—one to M. D., [   ]. Laying in camp. Went in a swimming. Took a good wash. Got a letter from home.

22 May 1864—Kingston. Fine day. Wrote three letters. Read one chapter in the testament. Went over to the 70th Ohio Regiment. Warm today. Rumor that we will leave in the morning.

23 May 1864—Camp at [Kingston]. Got a letter from Eliza V. Left Kingston at 7 o’clock. Marched 15 miles and camped in a bottom on a creek. Got the diarrhea and headache. Very near gave out. The boys is all tired, warm, and dusty.

[On the 23rd, we moved at 6 a.m. and continued our march until we had gone some 20 miles and then camped. Pg. 136]

24 May 1864—Marched 8 miles. Came through village named [Vanworth]. Camped in the woods. Came through Vanworth—a small village. Heavy rain in the evening. Had fresh beef.

25 May 1864—Left camp, marched 8 miles. My birthday—21 years old. Sick. Taking medicine. Had to fall to the rear. Fighting on our left.

[On the 25th we marched at 8 a.m., and went into camp after marching ten miles. There was heavy cannonading on our left. As sundown or soon after, wile in camp, we were summoned to assemble and ordered to move and re-inforce General Thomas. We marched until 11 o’clock and again camped. Pg. 136-7]

26 May 1864—Dallas [Georgia]. Fine day. Advanced our line to Dallas. Marched through [town], taken by surprise with the rebels. Heavy skirmishing in front. [I was] sick [and] left in the rear to carry buckets and keep up as near as possible. [Marched] near 4 miles.

[Thursday, the 26th, we marched at 9 a.m. There was skirmishing in our front. We were then advancing on Dallas. The maneuvering in our approach to and capture of the town was magnificent… We steadily advanced, driving the enemy in our front, passed through Dallas…but a short distance beyond the village…we were soon under a brisk fire. We immediately swung into line of battle and were hotly engaged… The 53rd was in the advance, as usual, received the first shock of battle and suffered correspondingly. We held our own until late at night; slowly but surely advancing—the enemy just as stubbornly retreating. Pg. 137]

27 March 1864—Near Dallas. Fine day. Heavy skirmishing on the line. Sick but with the company. The company came off the skirmish line at 10 [o’clock]. Some cannonading.

[On the 27th, at 4 a.m. the fighting was on, and it continued throughout the day. We were exposed and suffered severely. We formed a line of battle across the Dallas and Marietta Railroad. The 53rd was at an angle in the line. We were further advanced than any part of the line on either side, and lay in a semi-circle at this road. Pg. 137]

28 May 1864—Dallas. Fine day. Laying in the rear of the regiment. Sick. The rebels charged on our lines and got repulsed with a heavy loss. 5 killed and wounded out of our regiment. Our sick sent to the division hospital. Got to the hospital at 11 o’clock at night.

29 May 1864—Hospital moved east of Dallas. The sick rode in a wagon. Was tired when we got out. The rebels made a charge on our men. Got repulsed. Read some in the testament. Laid down tired and weary.

[Sunday, May 29th was principally occupied with skirmishing, cannonading and burying the dead—our own in separate graves with wooden head-stones…Usually the enemy’s dead were buried in trenches, ranging from ten to fifty in each. Pg. 141]

30 May 1864—Hospital. Getting better. Read some in the testament. Taking medicine—pills and salts. Heavy skirmishing in front.

31 May 1864—Feel some better. Worked a little pulling weeds, cleaning up ground for a hospital. Some tired. Heavy skirmishing in front. Wounded still coming in out of all regiments. This ends this month at hard times.


1 June 1864—Hospital. Sick. Taking [pills?]. Have to take six tonight between sunset & sunrise. Moved the hospital on better ground. left of the road. Worked some pulling weeds cleaning off ground to set tents for the wounded.

2 June 1864—Hospital. Still laying around. Sick. Feeling some better today. Rained hard. Got some wet. Hain’t to take any medicine this day. Glad of that. Heavy skirmishing on the lines.

3 June 1864—Hospital. Feel some worse. Troubled with pain in the head. Bones aches. Rained some showers. Wrote a letter home. Skirmishing going on in front.

4 June 1864—Hospital. Feel about as usual. Bones aching. Pain in the head. Had oyster supper for dinner. Eat hearty of the soup. Few crackers. Some showers of rain. Cloudy and cool. Moved in the tent. Tent full. Wrote two letters—one to E.V. and one to J. B.

5 June 1864—Hospital left for to march to the railroad. The rebels is evacuated here. Rode in a wagon, Hard way to carry sick about. Take no medicine today. Feel as usual. Came 10 miles and camped in a field. 

6 June 1864—Acworth, Georgia. Got here at 12 a.m. Feel very sick. A headache. Came 7 miles. Took a walk though too tired and weak.

[On the 6th we march at 6 a.m. going some seven miles and camped to the east of Acworth. We had been out of provisions for twenty-four hours… Our trains came up late at night and rations were issued to us. Pg. 142]

7 June 1864—Acworth. Feel some better. Still at the hospital. Got a letter. Wrote 3 letters and commenced the 4th. Feel weak. Been walking about some. Went to the regiment and back. Made me tired. Got letter from G. W. B. & from home.

8 June 1864—Acworth. Left the hospital ad came to the regiment. Got no grub. Hungry. The 17th Corps came up. The company on picket. Wrote a letter to D. Bean.

9 June 1864—Acworth. Got orders to march at 6. Did not start. Wrote a letter to A. Gray. Feel worse. Took a dose of salts. No grub. Fine day.

diarypg10 June 1864—Camp near Big Shanty Station. Marched 5 miles. Some skirmishing with the rebels in front. Formed our line. Putting up breastworks in the woods. Feel some better. Marched in ranks. Hard haul.

[On the 10th, we marched to Big Shanty Station and took our position for the night and threw up fortifications. Pg. 142]

11 June 1864—Big Shanty Station. Some skirmishing in front. Orders to be ready to march at a minute’s warning. Rained hard in showers. Got our breastworks up.

[Saturday morning the 11th, it was raining. The railroad came up in the evening. Pg. 143]

12 June 1864—Big Shanty Station. Wrote two letters. Wet day & wet laying in our huts. Went out to spy around. Seen nothing. Skirmished [  ].

13 June 1864—Camp near Big Shanty. Moved to the front. There is a line in front of us. Wet day. Drawed grub. Got a letter from home of the 2nd. Went to the division commissary and got some meat & crackers.

14 June 1864—Camp near Big Shanty. Wrote a letter home. Inspection of arms. Some skirmishing in front. Talk of making a charge. Got a letter from home. Wrote a letter home.

15 June 1864—Camp near Big Shanty. Moved on the left. Heavy cannonading going on. Drew rations. Can see the rebs.

16 June 1864—Camp near Big Shanty. Wrote a letter home. Heavy skirmishing in front. The rebels shelling us. Our division moved to the right 1 mile. Went in the rifle pits. Relieved the 17th Corps.

[On the 16th there was heavy skirmishing and we marched to the right to support General Osterhaus… At dark we relieved a regiment of the 17th Army Corps, taking their place in the fortifications. Pg. 143]

17 June 1864—Big shanty. Laying in the rifle pits. Heavy skirmishing in front. Heavy cannonading. Went back for beef. Came when the firing was the hardest. Made a [   ]. Raining hard.

[The enemy opened fire upon us early on the morning of the 17th. We were compelled to keep close to the ditch, as the shot and shell were flying thick and fast. After our batteries got into position, they soon silenced those of our enemy. We made a feint and with a yell started upon a charge, giving our enemy plenty of grape and canister, which together with the roar of musketry, created consternation in their ranks, but accomplished nothing. P. 143]

18 June 1864—Big Shanty. Wet day. Still on the line in the rifle pits. Went back after [  ]. Skirmishing generally in this place.

19 June 1864—Went out on the skirmish line and went into the rebels works. Drove some rebels on the mountain. West day. Rebels is shelling us. Killed 1 man. Drawed grub—3 days rations.

[On Sunday, the 19th, the enemy retired to Kenesaw Mountain leaving the pass between Kenesaw and Lost Mountain open. From their mountain position they opened up a murderous fire. We made an advance on their works while it was raining in torrents…. We took lodgment at the foot of the mountain and had control of the pass. Pg. 144]

20 June 1864—Lost Mountain near Big Shandy. Heavy cannonading all along the line. Raining in the evening. Looking for the rebels to make a break here. Got into little shanties.

21 June 1864—Lost Mountain. Heavy cannonading on the right. Rained hard. Went on picket on reserve, 5 companies out of our regiment. Went over to the 70 Ohio.

[It was still raining the 21st. The enemy are fortified on the mountain. Five of our companies were on picket and it still rained in torrents. One of Company C’s men was wounded. Pg. 144]

22 June 1864—Lost Mountain. Got relieved of picket at 5 p.m. Heavy cannonading. Shells flying over us from both sides. No man hurt as I know. Nice day. Sun shining. Warm.

23 June 1864—Lost Mountain. Wrote a letter home. Heavy cannonading. Fine day. Heavy skirmishing in the evening. Warm day. Cloudy. Looks like rain. Last night had to get in line [   ]. Got a letter from sis.

[On the 23rd the force upon the mountain opened with all the artillery they had, but as our line was near the foot of the mountain, the shot and shells flew over and beyond us. Pg. 145]

24 June 1864—Lost Mountain. Wrote a letter to Mary. Went out on the skirmish line about 5. Rains from 2 to 6. Got relieved at dark. Got a letter.

25 June 1864—Kennesaw Mountain. Wrote a letter home and  started another. Fine day—hot. Heavy skirmishing on the line.

26 June 1864—Kennesaw Mountain. Orders to march. Wrote a letter to A. S. T. Fine day—hot. Orders to march at dark. Don’t know where. Supposed to be on the right. Read some in the testament. Started at dark. Marched 1½ [miles] to right. Got there at 12.

[On the night of the 26th we received orders to march to the right of the army. We marched around on the rear of the Army of the Cumberland and went into camp late at night. Pg. 145]


Battle of Kennesaw Mountain on 27 June 1864

27 June 1864—Kennesaw Mountain. Orders to pile knapsacks. Then [  ] was on hand charged the rebs works [and] carried the first line. Our company on skirmish line. Got relieved at night. Our loss heavy—killed and wound 65.

ken[On the 27th, was informed that General Sherman’s old division, of which we were a part, would unsling knapsacks and prepare to assault the rebel line at the right of Kennesaw Mountain. The second brigade was formed in two lines, the 53rd on the right of the front line. It was supported on the second line by Colonel Parry of the 47th Ohio. When we got ready to make the charge, we passed through the line of the Army of the Cumberland and over their works and down through an open field into a thickly wooded bottom; all the time being under fire of the rebel artillery from Kennesaw Mountain, and their line of battle and the line in rifle pits at the far edge of the woods. The advance through this brush was slow and difficult, and was made at great loss to our men…. ordered the men to take the rifle pits. They were manned by the 63rd Georgia Regiment and seemed to have as many men in them as we had. But we charged and in a hand-to-hand fight took the rifle pits… We took about a company…of the rebels as prisoners. Pg. 146]

28 June 1864—Kennesaw Mountain. Got out of bed, eat breakfast. Orders to march at a minute’s warning. Went back to the rear. Resting today. Went and took a wash. Feel some better after washing. Cannonading going on and skirmishing.

29 June 1864—Kennesaw Mountain. Laying in camp. Went over [   ] to the 70th [Ohio]. Wrote a letter home. Cool. Looks like rain. Heavy cannonading and skirmishing.

30 June 1864—Kennesaw Mountain. Quiet laying in camp. wrote a letter. Got one. Went and viewed the rebels works on the right. They was cut up. Not much skirmishing today.


1 July 1864—Kennesaw Mountain. All pretty quiet tonight. Today not much fighting going on. Wrote a letter to J. B. T.  Went on a visit to the 70th [Ohio]. Fine day. Warm & clear.

[On July 1st nothing occurred worthy of note excepting an artillery duel throughout almost the entire day. Pg. 147]

2 July 1864—Left Kennesaw Mountain. Ordered to march at 4 o’clock. Marched 10 miles to the extreme right. Hot marching. Got a letter from home. Rained in the evening. Looking for the rebs to make a charge.

[On the 2nd, at sunrise, we took the roadd and marched seven miles, passed the 4th, 14th, and 20th Corps, relieving the 23rd Corps upon the extreme right, leaving Kennesaw Mountain in our rear. We spent the night erecting earthworks. Pg. 147]

3 July 1864—Borden’s Mill. Hot. We made a charge. Drove the reels. Our loss 28 wounded. Tired. Got relieved and we went back to the works. Co. rested.

[July 3rd, we moved one mile in advance of our works and then the shot and shell were too much for us and we retreated half a mile to escape the shelling. We reformed and advanced again across the field under a terrific fire, our men falling by the score. Again we raised the yell, and this time gained their works. The 53rd, 30th, and 54th Ohio regiments bore the brunt of this engagement. The 53rd lost 36 killed and wounded, and was relieved after night by the 16th Army Corps… Pg 147]

4 July 1864—Rough Mill, Ga. Wrote a letter home. 16th Corps made a charge. Marched 2 miles. Throwed up works southeast of the mill. Skirmishing in front. Cannonading light. Took a wash at the mill under the fall of the dam.

5 July 1864—Wrote a letter. The 16th Corps charged the rebels. Drove them. Marched 2 miles. Supported the 16th. Throwed up breastworks southeast of the mill on a rise. Hot weather. Took a bath by the mill.

6 July 1864—Camp near Chattahoochie river. Warm. Laid over. Cannonading going on three miles from the river. Looking for orders to march ever minute. Staid [?].

7 July 1864—Camp near Chattahoochie river. Wrote a letter home no. 2. Laid over. Warm and dry. Cannonading going on in front and skirmishing. No signs of moving. Dress parade in the evening once back from under fire in the rear.

8 July 1864—Near Chattahoochie. Orders to march at 12. Orders countermanded. March at 4 p.m. Marched 3 miles, took our position on the line [with] skirmishers in the front. Now we have had a few days rest in the rear, we must go again.

9 July 1864–2 miles of Chattahoochie river. Moved our camp a short distance. Throwed up breastworks. Warm weather.

10 July 1864—Chatttahoochie river. The rebs left their works [and] crossed the river. Orders to be ready to march at minute’s warning. Did not move. Went to see the rebels works there in the evening. Cool today.

11 July 1864—Chattahoochie river. Marched 6 miles to the right. Went on picket. Company went into camp beside the road on the left side. Got three letters. Wrote some. Two of the mess out—T. Meckling and I.

12 July 1864— Got relieved of picket at 5. Orders to march at 5. Marched 7 miles. Camped near Marietta. Wrote two letters. orders to march at 2 in the morning. Tired out. Warm.

13 July 1864—Marietta. Started to march at 2 a.m. Marched 8 miles and stopped to stay till 5 p.m. Started to march 5 p.m. to the factory. Hot and tired. The name of the factory is Roswell’s. 3 miles from river.

14 July 1864—Roswwell, Ga. Marched from the town, crossed the Chattahoochie river, went in camp near the river. Marched 2½ miles. Warm. Heavy rain at dark. Got our shanties fixed up in time. Getting ready to put up H.

15 July 1864—Near Roswell. Threw up breastworks. Got a letter. Went to the Chattahoochie river and washed shirts, socks, body. Warm working on the works.

16 July 1864—Roswell, Detailed to work on the works. Still laying near camp awaiting orders. Went over to the 70th [Ohio] Awful hot today.

17 July 1864—-Roswell. Marched 8 miles. Camped in the woods. Left the river at 6 a.m. Warm. Some skirmishing in front. Went into camp at 12. Clear out a [  ] line.

18 July 1864—10 miles from Roswell. Marched 8 miles. Took the A & M Railroad. Tore up [   ]. Got a letter from home. Cool & pleasant.

19 July 1864—Decatur. Took possession of the railroad, tore up and burnt same. Marched 8 miles. Camped near Decatur at the edge of town. Skirmishing going on & cannonading in front. dress hog for supper. Apples and onions. Quite a [?].

20 July 1864—Decatur. Started to march. Advanced our lines. Drove the enemy 3 miles. Heavy skirmishing. Warm day. 2 miles of Atlanta. Cannonading heavy. Went on the skirmish line, A. B. & K companies. Fixed up works to [   ] behind. Rebs keeping up a heavy [fire?]

21 July 1864—Camp near Atlanta. Still on the line skirmishing. Advanced our lines. Got relieved at dark. Heavy rain in the evening. Got some wet.

22 July 1864—Camp near Atlanta. The rebels fell back. Our lines advanced. Heavy fight in the evening. Rebels charged and drove us. We reclaimed the works and batteries back. Rebels repulsed all along the lines. Rebels got the worst of it.

23 July 1864—Near Atlanta in front. Skirmishing going on. Looking for the rebels to charge our lines. Carried a fire by frame house in our front. Had to stay at the works all day. Our losses are 22 killed, wounded 19, prisoners 21, total 41.

24 July 1864—Near Atlanta in front. Looking for the rebels to attack us every minute but did not come. Fixed the breastworks. Put in a new row of pickets. Skirmishing in front.

25 July 1864—Near Atlanta. Laying in front looking for the rebels to attack us every minute but did not come. Some cannonading. Tired of laying around.

26 July 1864—Laying near Atlanta. Received two letters…warm and clear.

27 July 1864—marched to the right. Camped in an open field. Tired….

28 July 1864—heavy battle. Got put on the skirmish line. Advanced our lines on the rebs and drove them in. They charged and drove us a piece before battle commenced. Put [?] and held our ground. Repulsed the rebs. Lost no men. Very tired and sore.

29 July 1864—-Camp on the battleground. Looking for the rebels to try to come charging. There is other troops now in front of us. Got a letter from sister. I wrote one too. Near Atlanta. Went over the field. Seen dead rebels.

30 July 1864—Near Atlanta. Fixed to take other troops places in the front lines. 14th Army Corps…

31 July 1864—Near Atlanta, Ga. Laying in the ditches. Ordered to keep on our niggers. Wrote a letter home. Got up a panic or to what the rebels was come fell into line [  ] no rebs came. Rained near all day. This is three months that we have put in on this campaign and o signs of it being over. During the three months, charged on the rebel works 3 times & recaptured 2 … and had several battles, skirmishing near all the time. This is a hard campaign on the soldiers and weary.


1 August 1864—Near Atlanta. West of town laying in the ditches. Wrote a letter for [Elijah] Carter. Went in the evening and worked in some works. King for the rebels to charge on us. Some skirmishing going on.

2 August 1864—Near Atlanta. Moved our line up to the skirmish line—the works that we throwed up last night. Skirmishing going on along the line. Fixed the works . Wrote a letter home. Hot two.

3 August 1864—Near Atlanta. The skirmish advanced. Got driven in.  Our company went out on the skirmish line [and] drove the rebs. Held the ground. Got hit on the arm. Got relieved at 11 o’clock.

4 August 1864—near Atlanta. Laying in the ditches waiting for the rebels to charge on us. Got into line several times. The rebs shelled some. Hit the ranks once.

5 August 1864—near Atlanta west laying in the ditches. Skirmishing going on in line. Our company in trenches. Wrote a letter home. Warm and cloudy. Went to the rear to see the 70th Ohio. Some cannonading going on.

6 August 1864—near Atlanta west, laying on the line. Heavy cannonading in the evening. Could not hear nothing but cannon and shell this afternoon. Some skirmishing going on.

7 August 1864—Near Atlanta laying in front. Went over to throw up works on the skirmish line. Warm and cloudy. Some cannonading going on and skirmishing. Sunday some stiller. The cannon not so much fighting. Rebs in sight.

8 August 1864—Near Atlanta. Laying in the front lines. Went at 7 o’clock out to the skirmish line. Throwed up breastworks.. Going to move out in the morning. Rained hard. Sheltered under our gum blankets but some leaks.

9 August 1864—Near Atlanta in front. Moved up a quarter of a mile in sight of the rebs. Put up some shelter. Throwed up works. 

10 August 1864—Near Atlanta laying in the front lines. Working on the [breast]works. Got pretty good works throwed up. Detailed to go on picket. Went on picket. Cloudy. The rebs shelled us. Some hot.

11 August 1864—near Atlanta on front. Wrote a letter home. Came off picket in the night. Sick. Feel some better. Taking medicine. Capt. Daily got killed. D. Lawson wounded. Got a letter from L. W. B. Warm. Heavy skirmishing afternoon. 

12 August 1864—near Atlanta. In front. Started a letter home. Sick. Taking medicine. Heavy skirmishing going on. 

13 August 1864—Near Atlanta. Laying in front. Wrote a letter. Sick. taking medicine. W[illiam] Waldron got killed. Advanced. Took some prisoners.

14 August 1864—Near Atlanta in front. Sick. Taking medicine. Some skirmishing going on. Cannonading. Got up a panic that the rebs was coming but they did not come. Read some in the testament. Warm.

15 August 1864—near Atlanta in front. Got a letter from home. Sick. taking medicine. Skirmishing in front all along the line. Warm. Looks like rain.

16 August 1864—West of Atlanta in front. Wrote a letter home. Warm, The rebs shelling hit the works one or twice. No harm done. Skirmishing along the lines.

17 August 1864—West Atlanta in front. Skirmishing going on, The rebs shelling us. No harm done. Hit the works but did not hurt. No one on guard at headquarters. Showered between 10 and 12.

18 August 1864—West of Atlanta in front. Drawed grub. Helped to carry food. Wrote 2. One in forenoon. After noon, charge on the right. Can’t tell what success.

19 August 1864—West Atlanta in front. Made a faint. [Do] not know what success. Rained in the evening. Roused us out of our beds Cover placed. Water high. Heavy rain. Skirmishing all along the line. Heavy Cannonading.

20 August 1864—West Atlanta in front. Went on the skirmish line at 7½. Rained a very heavy shower. wrote a letter home. Got two recruits. A[ndrew] Lawson [and] [William] Wartenbee. 

21 August 1864—West Atlanta in front. Was on picket. Got relieved at [ ] o’clock. Got a letter from home…

22 August 1864—West Atlanta in front. Wrote a letter home and wrote one for E[lijah] Carter. Skirmishing in and all along the line. Stay close to the works. I got two  [ ].

23 August 1864—Near Atlanta in front. Got a mess of recruits. J. McMurray. Skirmishing all along the lines. Was on guard at headquarters. I stood two hours. Rebs shelling heavy and fast.

24 August 1864—West Atlanta in front. Skirmishing all along the line. Heavy cannonading. Ordered to go on picket. We are [   ] and dog tired laying around.

25 August 1864—West Atlanta front line. Got a letter from home. Wrote a letter. Very warm. Dry. Clear. Was going to move back. Did not go. Two more recruits. H[ugh] A[dams] and A. D.

26 August 1864—West Atlanta front lines. Wrote a letter. Moved off the lines. Marched all night to the right. Marched 10 miles. Tired. Sleepy. The rebs shelled us when we went to leave the lines. The boys stopped & slept.

27 August 1864—West Atlanta. Marched all last night. Tired and sleepy. Went into camp at 12. Went on picket in a big bottom. Sleeping…

30Aug6428 August 1864—West Atlanta. Marching. Came off picket. Sleepy. Marched to the railroad 8 miles. Went out on a scout 1½ [miles[ in front. Find some rebs. Did not get to shoot at them.before night. We got in tired.

29 August 1864—West Atlanta. Marched 10 miles and camped. Tired. Drove the rebel cavalry. Ration cars plenty eat a good fill up. Cook the mess. All sick but we have the things to carry.

30 August 1864—West Atlanta. Marched. Drove the rebels. Got wounded. Shot in the right knee on the skirmish line at 3 o’clock. Same night. Leg cut off.

31 August 1864—West Atlanta. Hospital moved. Hauled in the ambulance about 5 miles. Put up tents. Laid on the ruts to I was sore. The grub that I had to eat was hard tack. Rest well. No pain with my wound. So this ends the month of August. Hard times I have seen in this [month].

1 September 1864—Hospital near the rebels lines. The rebels advance on our men. Got in sight. Had to move the hospital out of range of the cannons. One shell came through the tent. Moved 1 and ½ miles.

[End of diary]

1863: Francis Julius Deemer to Tillie C. Deemer

This letter was written by Francis (“Frank”) J. Deemer (1838-1915) who enlisted In August 1862 at Scranton, PA to serve nine months in Co. K, 132nd Pennsylvania Infantry. Frank was promoted to Sergt. Major on 24 January 1863. He survived his tour of duty with the 132nd PA and went on to serve as 1st Lt. in Co. G, 187th Pennsylvania.

This letter was written just days before the Battle of Chancellorsville in which Deemer’s regiment was held in reserve for the first two days but was active at the front on May 3 and 4, losing about 50 men killed and wounded. On May 14, the regiment’s term expired and they were mustered out.

In his letter, Frank mentions receiving badges from his sister. These were probably home-made Corps Badges as were introduced by Gen. Joe Hooker, commander of the Army of the Potomac. The 132nd Pennsylvania was in the 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Division of the 2d Corps. Their badge would have been a blue trefoil.


Camp near Falmouth, Virginia
April 15th 1863

Dear Sister,

I received yours with the badges enclosed yesterday. One I kept for myself; the other I gave to Hix___. We are both thankful for them.

I have no time to write much now as we expect to march tomorrow morning, Where we are going to I cannot tell. Perhaps to Richmond. Before we get there, however, we will have to do some pretty hard fighting. About 15 or 20,000 cavalry left the army early yesterday morning and went up the river. They no doubt intend to make a crossing and assisted with the infantry &c. try to turn the Rebels left. We are left to cross the river and drive the Rebs in front. This will be a dangerous as well as a hard task to perform but I think we are equal to it. Should we cross here, we will lose a great many men as the Rebs have rifle pits and breastworks that extend for miles back into the country. I hope to get through it all safe and do not think of getting killed.

You appear to have changed your opinion about Emma Goby. What is your reason for it? You also ask me whether or not I’m engaged. I can’t tell you just now but will say that I am not engaged to Emma. That was canceled some time ago. I hope she has been and always will be as happy as I have since then. I received a letter from her more that six weeks ago and to judge from the tenor of it, I would think she was not as well in mind as she might be. I did not answer it for which I’m very sorry. If you see her, tell her that I’ve had scarcely any time to write and that she must excuse me for neglecting to answer her letter. She has an old silver dollar of mine which I wish you would get and keep for me. I gave to her almost five years ago to keep for me.

I answered John’s letter last week but not Mother’s and do not think I will have time previous to our move but will write the first opportunity.

With love to all, I remain your affectionate brother, — Frank


1863-4: Henry P. Chard to John C. Stevens

These eleven letters were written by Henry P. Chard (1844-1864), the son of Philadelphian William Chard. In 1850, the Chard family resided in Washington, Burlington county, New Jersey.

Chard served in the quartermaster’s department in a civilian capacity during the American Civil War, first as supervisor for military work parties at Giesboro Point’s Union cavalry barracks and stables. Later in an unidentified position, Chard served on two Union navy vessels as a member of the quartermaster department. In April 1864, the USS Althea (originally the Alfred A. Wotkyns) was commissioned into the Federal navy’s river service for duty in Grant’s Overland Campaign. The vessel served successfully throughout 1864 until she was sunk near Mobile, AL, in April 1865. In mid-1864, Chard was transferred to the Barque Mary Emma.

Harry died in late December 1864 in Philadelphia in his 21st year. His cryptic obituary notice published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger on 31 December states that he died “trusting in Jesus.”

The letters were all addressed to his friend, John C. Stevens, a Philadelphia carpenter who resided at 938 Hutchinson Street in 1863.


Wartime photo of stables at the Giesboro Cavalry Depot (Library of Congress)


Giesboro Point
December 14th 1863

Friend John,

I suppose you would like to know something about me and what I am doing. I am situated at this place which is about two miles below Washington and am at work here. I guess I will stay about six months for I am getting good wages and plenty of fun but not quite as much as we had on Friday nights at Frankford road and York with the social.

I would like to know how you are making out there with sister Usuris. I wish you would let me know how S. W. G. is making out. I hope she has got a nice partner for W. S.

When you go over to the Temple on Wednesday night, remember me to all the members and tell them I hope they will succeed in getting the Regalia they are so anxious about. Remember me to all the brothers and sisters at the social.

John, I have been thinking over what you told me about my future hopes and I am trying to do what is right. Remember me to all inquiring friends and let me know what is going on when you write. I do not want you to run away with any of the social ladies while I am away but wait until I come home and we will talk over matters at Frankford road and Adams while they are passing.

I am getting tired writing so I will close. Excuse the pencil writing for ink is scarce and writing tables scarce yet. My table is a pine board on a pile of hay in the bunk of a soldier’s barracks with about 200 men in it — some reading the Bible, some playing cards &c.

No more at present but remain yours in friendship, — Harry Chard

Write soon and address to Quartermaster Department, Giesboro Point, Washington D. C., Care of Capt. David F. Brown


Giesboro Point
December 23, 1863

Friend John,

I received your very welcome letter dated the 19th this evening and it does my heart good to hear from you and to have such good advice from you, and I shall try to act upon it. It surprises me to hear that you did not know I had left Richmond. I am a kind of an underboss here. I came on with a young man named Fogg that I got acquainted with. He has a rich uncle in Washington and he got us in. The fun is in the Barracks where we sleep. There is six of us here who have from 20 to 25 men and they do make a terrible fuss tonight. They flew at the Superintendent of the mess house and would have hurt him but he drew a revolver on him and that settled it.

I should like to be to the festival in New Years but I can’t do it for last Sunday I had to call my gang out to work and work all day. I have heard from M. Lange long ago. This is a great country down here where you cannot do anything without being locked up.

I was very glad to hear that our S. S. & W. T. of H. & T. is getting along so well.

I tell you it is a great trial for a Templar down here for all hands are drunk tonight getting ready for Christmas.

When you get this letter, I wish you would go over to our house and tell Sallie to send me some more postage stamps for I lost all of mine yesterday through the negligence of the watchman. I will now close for it is getting late. I now say good night. My best respects to all my friends and write soon for I am anxious to hear more from you. Direct as before.

Friend — Harry P. Chard


Giesboro Point
January 3rd 1863

Friend John,

Your very welcome letter came duly to hand and I was glad to hear that you are well. I am well at present with the exception of a bad cold. I am trying to put all my trust in God, the giver  of every good and perfect gift but I find that in my own strength I am weak and when temptation beset me, I fail. But I hope the time is coming when I will become a good Christian. I hope you will pray for me for I try to pray for myself. I would like to have been home when the Golden Rule & F. paid a visit to the Mount Vernon for I expect you had a nice time of it. I expect you had a nice time at the Wingo hockings supper on New Year’s night.

Today is one of the finest Sundays we have had since I came down here. The sun ish shining bright and everything has a cheerful look. What would you think of me going to California? There is a report out that there is a squad going after horses and if the report is true, I am going to go and see something of the world. I have not got anymore news to tell you so I will have to draw my letter to a close. I have not heard from home for two weeks nor have I received any stamps so I have a great deal of trouble in sending letters. I wish you would tell my folks so.

God be with us all, now and forever. Remember me to all my friends and to the W. F. of H & T & S. F.

Yours in Friendship, — Harry P. Chard

Write soon.


Giesboro Point
March 9th 1864

Friend Stevens,

I received your very welcome letter and was very glad to hear that you are well. I am also very glad to hear that you received the two dollars for I was very much afraid of being expelled which I should have hated. I am very sorry to hear that A. MacGregor has again taken his old path to ruin but I hope that he will be reclaimed again.

I am very glad to hear that Temperance has another pillar for it needs it. Sellers has joined the Temple and that Richard Rila__ is going to be initiated, You say that you sent me a letter and wanted to know whether I sent a comic valentine to a person living on Frankford Road. No, John, I did not send a Valentine to anybody since I have been on this Point. Neither did I receive your letter and I thought it very strange that you did not write. I thought you had forgotten me entirely.

I am well at present and if nothing happens more than I know of, I will be home about the first of April for I can’t live where we kill about a handful of grey backs (body lice) a day. I can tell you we are overrun with them. There is about four hundred dirty Irish lying in a large bunk room next to ours and they got crummy and the grey backs crawled through and run us out of our beds so that we can hardly sleep in them. We have had a great time here with a parcel of drunken men tonight because we would not give them their supper. Mr. Eddie had to go for a guard who came with loaded muskets. The men are now fighting in their bunk room and do make a great noise, but it [is] all the effects of that body and soul destroyer rum.

As it is now getting late, I will have to close with my best wishes and prayers for you and all other friends. Remember me to all inquiring friends. Write soon. — Harry P. Chard


Giesboro Point
April 9, 1864

Friend John,

41ERJ9BQKMLI arrived here safe and sound yesterday morning after running around Washington three or four hours for a pass. I found the tug and have got along first rate and like it very well. Andrew [G.] Room who enlisted in [the Col. Charles H] Collis’ Zouaves ¹ is dead. His father came on with me after his body. Alexandria is the same old place.

As I have no news of any account, I will draw to a close with my best wishes for all the family. Remember me to the W. T. of H. & T., also S. T. when you go over. Write soon.

Yours in Friendship, — H. R. Chard

Address: Harry P. Chard, Steam Tug A. A. Wotkyns, ² Alexandria, Va., Care of Capt. Bowen, Harbor Master

¹ Col. Charles H. Collis — an Irish immigrant who settled in Philadelphia — was the commander of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry. Andrew G. Room (1843-1864) enlisted in Co. C.   He was the son of Nathan Davis Room (1818-1890). He was killed at Brandy Station on 6 April 1864. According to Find-A-Grave, Andrew was buried in the Culpeper National Cemetery in Culpeper county, Virginia. Their interment records indicate that Pvt. Room was originally buried in “M. Wood’s, Brandy Station, Va.”

² The Alfred A. Wotkyns — a screw tug — was purchased at New York on 9 December 1863 and fitted out by Secor and Co., Jersey City, New Jersey, and placed under the command of Acting Ensign J. Boyle. She was assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and served in the James River as a tug, temporary torpedo boat, and tender to the ironclads. She departed Hampton Roads 28 July 1864 and joined the West Gulf Blockading Squadron at Mobile in August 1864 under hte name Althea.


Belle Plains, Virginia
May 23rd 1864

Friend John,

You must excuse me for not writing sooner as I have not had time. Ever since we came back, they have kept us busy day and night. Sometime we would have to turn out four or five times through the night and carry dispatches. And now we are ordered off. Nobody knows were but all judge up the Rappahannock river to Fredericksburg. Yesterday we were sent to this place and tonight we move again and I expect we will see some fun before we get back for it is reported that the U. S. Steamer Eclipse was blown up by a torpedo on the Rappahannock two days ago and all on board killed so I guess we will get a dose of them and the guerrillas on the river as it is reported there is plenty of them about but our gun boats are trying to drive them away before we go. I wish you would remember me to the S. F. and also to the W. T. of H & T and all enquiring friends. My respects to your Father and Mother. As it is getting dark, I will close with my prayers to God for strength and wisdom.

Write soon and address H. P. chard, steam tug A. A. Wotkyns, Alexandria, Va., Care of Capt. Bowen, Harbor Master

And I will get it.



Alexandria [Virginia]
June 7th [1864]

Friend John,

I received your ever welcome letter and would have answered it before but being on that expedition and only getting back yesterday, I had no chance. Instead of going up the Rappahannock river, we went up the Pamunkey [river] to the White House and we had a glorious time. We seen one old greyback on the shore but he did not fire at us because we had some bluecoats with us.

Enclosed you will find two dollars which I wish you would give to Mr. Allen for me. I am glad the social also the Temple are doing well.

As I have no news, I must close with my respects to all enquiring friends. My respects to your Father & Mother.

Yours in F. L. & F. — H. P. Chard

Write soon.


Alexandria [Virginia]
June 23 [1864]

Friend John,

I received your welcome letter and was very glad to hear from you. I hear the Social is making out well and I am glad of it. You talk about Dauphin St. I say, “How are you Huntington Street?” There is no news of importance except there is a great many wounded coming in from the front but I am glad to say I don’t see anybody I know. As my hand is very sore with a boil, I will have to close with my prayer to God to watch over us and lead us safely to Heaven. Remember me to all inquiring friends. Also to your F. L. & F.

— H. P. Chard


Fortress Monroe
July 9th [1864]

Friend John,

Yours of the 5th came to hand duly and I was very glad to hear that you and all [were] well. I am also very glad that you enjoyed yourself so well on the Fourth of July. I enjoyed myself very well. I have been laying here about a week but expect to go up the river in a few days. You did not say anything about the W. T. if H & F or the S. T.

You want to know when I changed my position. I done it about two weeks ago. You also want to know when I am coming home. I cannot tell when I will come for it is so uncertain now. I will like to know how Huntington Street also Dauphin. I don’t know. Have you been over on York Street lately? If so, let me know all the news.

As I have to go ashore now I will close with my prayers to God for strength and guidance. Remember me to all inquiring friends. Also to your Father & Mother. Write soon.

Yours in F. L. & F, — H. P. Chard


Washington [D. C. ]
August 19th 1864

Friend John,

I received your ever welcome letter and was glad to hear from you. I would have answered it before but I have been so busy that I could not. I have just returned from Fortress Monroe where I went on business the 17th. You say Richmond is the same old place. I would like to come and see it. I tried my hand to get home when I lay in Baltimore but could not so now I do not expect to get hoe soon. When you get those letters, send them on to Fort Monroe. I am glad to hear that the W __ also the social are doing well. You say that Dauphin St. look pale & worried. Why did you not ask her what it was about. I hope tat you have not forsaken her? If you have, it will certainly kill her.

I had a nice time in Baltimore. I hunted for two days & nights for a Temple but could not find one but I know there must be some there as there is no news. I will close with my prayers to God for us. Remember me to your Father & Mother to all inquiring friends. I hope you will not forget to pray for me that I may be kept in the right path.

Yours &c. in F. L. & T. — H. P. C.


H. P. Chard
Barge Mary & Emma
Washington D. C.
Care of Capt. Allen, A. Q. M.


Washington [D. C.]
September 1st [1864]

Friend John,

Yours of the 29th inst. came duly to hand and I was glad to hear that all is well. I am still laying at the wharf foot of Sixth Street light and waiting like Macawber for something to turn up. Everything is dull as can be and Washington is the meanest city in the whole Union. No sport except drinking rum and gambling which is poor business at the best. Talk about coming home soon. I don’t think of getting home for three months yet if I do then. I suppose that you are not sorry that Dauphin Street has moved up to Richmond or would you rather Huntingdon Street would move up for convenience sake. I suppose you would. I heard from the Social yesterday. They are all well and increasing fast. How do you people feel in Richmond about the draft? The weather is getting very pleasant now days and nights are not so warm and close as they was.

Did you hear about L. Bailey’s boat being blowed up at City Point in the late explosion? But neither he nor his wife were hurt but the boat was a total loss. It belonged to Pickup in Ann Street.

As I have no news, I will draw to a close so remember me to all enquiring friends. Also to your Father & Mother. May God watch over us and keep us from sin.

Yours in L. P. & F. — H. P. Chard


1861: Christopher Myers to Harriet (Myers) Johnson

This letter was written by Christopher (“Chris”) Myers (1840-1925), the son of Joshua Myers (1810-1880) and Jane Penoyar (1810-1856) of Lyons, Wayne county, New York. Joshua later remarried and moved to Camden, Hillsdale county, Michigan. Chris wrote the letter to his sister, Harriet (Myers) Johnson (1834-1915), the wife of Aldis Johnson (1821-1898). In 1860, the couple had two children — Edwin (1852-1928) and Louisa (b. 1859).

A biographical sketch for Christopher appears on Find-A-Grave which I quote:

Christopher Myers was born in Camden township, Hillsdale county, Michigan, on December 16, 1840, about two months after the arrival in this county of his parents and his three older sisters. He was reared on the woodland farm on the very verge of civilization, on which they had pitched their tent and begun to make a new home. His opportunities for attending school were few and it was far between them, as all the available strength and spirit of the family were needed for work on the farm while the season lasted. So, growing to manhood amid the scenes of natural beauty of southern Michigan, and free from the blandishments and seductive pleasures of social life, he developed a strong physique and a healthy love of home and freedom, which took in the whole country as the object of its devotion. It was no surprise to his friends, therefore, that when armed resistance threatened the existence of the Federal Union, he was one of the early volunteers.

On August 12, 1861, when he was not yet of legal age, he enlisted in Co. C, Seventh Michigan Infantry, and soon afterward was in the field as a part of the Army of the Potomac. His regiment was in the very thickest of the fighting during the first two years of the war, and took part in 27 engagements, among the most important being those at Yorktown, Fair Oaks, the James, where for seven days, there was almost continual battle and much of it desperate, Second Bull Run, South Mountain and Antietam. At the terrible battle of Antietam he was shot through the thigh and for four weeks thereafter was in the hospital, and then, in November, 1862, he was discharged from the service on account of the disability thus incurred. He returned home but was an invalid for several months, and unable to do continued work of any kind. Recovering his health, he reenlisted on December 12, 1863, becoming a member of Co. K, Twenty-Seventh Michigan Infantry, in which he then served to the close of the war. With this command he participated in many engagements, the most noted being the battle of the Wilderness. After this contest he was detailed for service in the commissary department for about three months, then returned to his company and took part in the capture of Fort Mahoney, being at the very front in the charge and one of the first men to get within the fort. His company also fired the first shot at the battle of Petersburg, After the capture of that city his regiment was a part of the force that followed General Lee until his surrender. Mr. Myers was under fire almost every day for months, being at the front for three years.

At the close of the war he went to Washington, took part in the Grand Review of the army, then returned to his Camden township home and settled on a farm of forty acres which he had bought during the war. Here he lived for a period of thirty years. He still owns the farm but has it now in the hands of a tenant, having retired from active pursuits. On January I, 1866, he was married to Miss Hannah Louesa Pound, a native of Wayne County, N. Y., the daughter of Addison T. and Chloe (Gurnee) Pound, the former a native of Ontario County and the latter of Cayuga County, N. Y. They moved to Hillsdale County in 1856 and bought a farm in Camden township on which they lived until death, the mother passing away in November, 1888, and the father in November, 1900. Mr. and Mrs. Meyers have one child, their daughter, Chloe, wife of S. E. Haughey, of Camden. Mr. Myers belongs to the Masonic fraternity, holding his membership in Lodge No. 245 at Camden, and is also connected with the Order of the Eastern Star, the Grand Army of the Republic and the Patrons of Husbandry.

In politics he has been a Republican from the dawn of his manhood, casting his first vote for Lincoln for president. He has been actively interested in the development of his township and county, and has taken a prominent part in various enterprises looking to this end. As a wise and useful citizen, who never shirks his duty in reference to public or private responsibilities, he is widely known and highly esteemed. (Source: Compendium of history and biography of Hillsdale County, Michigan Elon G. Reynolds, editor)


Addressed to Mrs. Harriet Johnson, North West P. O., Williams county, Ohio

November 6th 1861

Dear Sister,

It is with much pleasure that I take my pen in hand to let you know that I am well at present and I hope that these few lines will find you the same. I got your letter last night and I was glad to hear from you, I tell you. I heard from Bill and Walt and Carlis and Tom and I was glad to hear from them [too]. When you get this letter, you must write to them and let them know how I am.

We are encamped in the same place that we was when I wrote before and we don’t know anything about when there will be any fighting. Don’t you say that [your son] Edwin  says that he would like to see his uncle and I would like to see him as well as he would me. I don’t know when I will get home  again but we have enough to eat and we have lots of fun.

From Chris Myers to Harriet Johnson

November 6, 1861

Dear brothers and sisters,

It is with much pleasure that I take my pen in hand to let you know that I am well at present. I hope that these few lines will find you the same.

Steven, you must when you get this letter, you must write to Bill and Walt and let them know how I am. Clair [Clarissa], you must take good care of Rebecca. Chat [Charity], you must take good care of your side and Nancy dad [?]. You have got my clothes and my likeness. I sent it to all of you to look at.

From Chris to Alden Johnson

Other Envelopes sent by Christopher Myers to his sister Harriet Johnson but without letters.

1864-65: Diary of Josiah Joshua Shuman


Josiah Joshua Shuman in civilian attire (probably post-war)

This daily diary was kept by Josiah Joshua Shuman (1837-1926) during his service in the Union army during the Civil War. Josiah was the son of Benjamin Shuman (1799-1870) and Mariah Wallace (1802-1885) of Mowersville, Pennsylvania. Josiah was a 25 year-old school teacher in Washington, Pennsylvania, when he registered for the draft in June 1863. He subsequently enlisted on 13 September 1864 in Co. I, 198th Pennsylvania Infantry as a private. National Park Service records indicate Josiah was wounded in fighting near the White Oak Swamp, Virginia, and “unaccounted for” on 31 March 1865. If true, his wounds were insufficient to preclude his remaining with the regiment as his own diary will attest.

After the war, Josiah returned to Pennsylvania where he resumed teaching school. In 1870, he was teaching in Lurgan, Franklin county, Pennsylvania. Three years later, Josiah married Annis Rebecca Uhler (1849-1926) of Chambersburg and together they had at least nine children.

Josiah’s younger brother, Simon Shuman (1842-1864), was not fortunate in his military service. Simon — a plasterer from Lurgan, Pennsylvania — was drafted in 1863 and mustered into Company D of the 148th Pennsylvania on 28 August. On-line family records indicate that Simon was captured and died at Andersonville Prison in 1864. See — 1863: Simon Shuman to George H. Mowery

[Editor’s Note: This diary transcription was submitted to me for publication by descendants of Josiah J. Shuman hoping that it may prove useful to historians and that it may lead them to the discovery of the original diary which was once held by a relative. See notes below the diary.]


August 1864
30 — Left home Aug 30th to enlist in army.


Col. Horatio G. Sickel

31 — Enlisted in the 198 Reg. under Col. [Horatio Gates] Sickel at Philadelphia. Entered Camp Cadualader.

September 1864
18 — Left the same.
19 — Left Baltimore. Arrived at Washington.
21 — Left Washington.
22 — Arrived at City Point.
23 — Left City Point. Arrived at Bermuda Hundred.
24 — Left Bermuda Hundred. Arrived at City Point. Left City point. Arrived at Weldon Rail Road.
25 — Encampt.
26 — Drill in camp.
27 — ” ” ”
28 — On picket for first time. First head louse caught and killed. A member of Co. H. shot himself through the foot.
29 — Still on picket. Weather fair. Picket drawn in at 3. o’clock. 198 Reg. expected to leave any hour, having everything in readiness.
30 — Moved in line of battle toward the Danville R. R. Took a line of breastworks & 3 forts.

October 1864
1 — Threw up and improved the works.
2 — Moved in line of battle again, but the day closed without being engaged. Threw up
entrenchments in evening.
3 — Lying behind the breastworks & improving them.
4 — Still in the works doing nothing, in the evening marched [?] of a mile to the rear &
5 — Improving tents & drilling.
6 — Drill in camp. The 21st Reg. left our corps to be mounted.
7 — Policed the streets of our camp.
8 — Rec’d orders to march, but in the evening they were countermanded.
9 — Preaching & dress parade.
10 — Drill in camp.
11 — Election held. 26 votes cast in Co. I, 23 of which were Republican & 3 Democratic.
12 — Drill 12th & 13th both.
14 — Drill & a deserter shot for deserting to Rebel ranks, captured by the same camp from which he deserted.
15 — General inspection.
16 — Visited Joseph Taylor & while being away, our Brig. moved the right in the rear of the
17 — Improving our streets & tents. Secretary of War expected but did not come.
18 — General Meade & Staff rode along the lines.
19 — Practiced skirmish drill for the first time.
20 — Skirmish drill.
21 — Drill.
22 — W[alker] R. Bittner sent to the Hospital.
23 — Inspection morning. Preaching at 2 o’clock & dress parade in the evening.
27 — Started on a march to the left of our line and returned on 28th. From Oct. 28 till Nov. 8. Nothing of importance done in camp, drill &c.

November 1864
8 — Election held, 47 votes cast in Co. I, 27 for Lincoln & 20 for Little Mac.
9 — Ordered to put up winter quarters.
10 — Ordered out on picket.
11 — Still on picket duty.
12 — ” ” ” ”
13 — Relieved.
14 — Putting up tents.
15 — General inspection
16 — Company drill.
17 — Policing streets & quarter inspection.
18 — Building 2nd Lieutenant’s tent, but did not complete it.
19 — Raining. Nothing done but regular camp duty.
20 — Raining.
21 — ”
22 — Morning sky clear and sun shining clear. Evening cloudy.
23 — Clear but cold. Captain’s tent began to be built but not finished. Orders read at head of companies concerning the one day’s ration system.
24 — Thanksgiving Day. President’s Proclamation read to Reg. on dress parade by the Chaplain.
25 — Camp drill &c.
26 — Drill & Captain’s tent nearly finished.
27 — Company inspection. Visit paid us by John Breckenridge & Wise.
28 — Detailed for picket.
29 — All quiet on the picket line. Division review.
30 — Still on picket. Weather fair.

December 1864
1 — Relieved of picket duty.
2 — Brigade drill.
3 — No drill, but dress parade.
4 — Company inspection. Brigade dress parade in the evening.
5 — Brigade drill. Preparations being made for a move.
6 — Moved from camp & marched some 3 or 4 miles & tented in the wilderness for the night.
7 — Marched at 6 o’clock & reached the Nottoway R. about 4 P. M. Took supper & slept till
about 2 A. M.
8 — We then crossed the river on the pontoons & marched till daybreak, when we stopped to make coffee, being detained one hour. Passed Sussex C. H. about 9 o’clock A.M. Dec. 8th, 1864, & marched till within one mile of the Weldon R. R. There we stopped and took
supper at 6 o’clock & supported the party which were tearing up the roads on the skirmish
line till 12 o’clock then retired.
9 — Started again & went towards Hicks Ford until about 2 o’clock P. M. where we stopped to tear up the R. R. Worked at that about 2 hours, and then went into the camp for the night.
10 — Packed up again at dawn of day and marched back by a different route till within 2 miles of Sussex C. H. & encamped again for the night.
11 — Started again at dawn and passed the C. H. and crossed the Nottoway R. & encamped again for the night.
12 — Started again at break of day and marched back to the place where we encamped on the night of the 6th. Reached the place about 2 o’clock. We then pitched tents & made ourselves as comfortable as possible.
13 — Having no orders to move, we lay in our camp & rested ourselves.
14 & 15th — doing nothing.
16 — Preparing for inspection.
17 — General inspection.
18 — Sunday―line struck for our camp.
19 — On picket.
20 — ” ”
21 — ” ”
22 — Relieved of picket duty. Returned to camp & commenced building the tents of our new camp.
23 — Building tents. Col. [Horatio G.] Sickel returned from his 20-day furlough.
24 — Building tents.
25 — Christmas. Some of the men worked till 3 o’clock when the axes were turned in. Preaching at 3 P. M.
26 — Building tents.
27 — Church commenced.
28 — Building tents.
29 —  ”  ”
30 — Doing nothing.
31 — Weather unfavorable for tent building. Raining & snowing all day, camp guard called out at night to stop the men from firing off their pieces.

January 1865
1 — Weather clear & cold with a little snow on the ground.
2 — Church building resumed & the Parsonage began.
3 — Building church & Chaplain tent. Shift of snow fell in the evening.
4 — Still at church & tent. Snow all melted away during the day, sun shining bright.
5 — Working at the church and chaplain’s tent. The body of the Rebel Captain removed from the middle of our lines to their own by orders of Gen. Grant.
6 — James B. Slaymaker left our shanty to drive an ambulance. Heavy rain in P. M.
7 — Weather clear. Great house roofed. Street policed. Chaplain’s tent roofed, floor put in.
8 — Company inspection. Preaching at 2 o’clock P. M. Dress parade at 4 P. M.
9 — Chaplain’s tent finished. Brig. dress parade.
10 — Nothing done in the way of working.
11 — Paving streets commenced. Building church.
12 — Working at church & Pavements.
13 — Putting seats in church.
14 — Church finished & boots received from V. Kriner, Waynesboro, Franklin Co., Penna.
15 — Church dedicated. Sermon preached from the 1st verse of the 122nd Psalm. Also preaching in the evening, sermon preached by Chaplain 189 P. V.
16 — general inspection of arms & quarters.
17 — Paving our streets.
18 — On guard duty.
19 — Washed shirt and drawers in the morning, and were stolen in the evening. Batallion Drill.
20 — Police duty in morning. Batallion Drill in evening.
21 — Did nothing in the way of camp duty. Rec’d a book from the library viz. Pioneer Boy
22 — Preaching in afternoon.
23 — Reported at Fort Stevenson and returned the book & rec’d another― Chambers Papers for the People vol. 3.
24 — Toothache all day & experienced an unsuccessful attempt to draw the tooth.
25 — Visit paid us by Cyrus Hazelet & Joseph Taylor. Batallion Drill in evening.
26 — On guard duty.
27 — The whole Reg. called out in afternoon to do police duty.
28 — On police duty. Batallion Drill in evening.
29 — Sunday. Company inspection in morn. Preaching in afternoon. Dress parade in eve. W[alker] R. Bittner returned to the Reg. from Hospital.
30 — Company drill in morn. Detailed to work at the Asst. Surgeon’s tent.
31 — Company drill in morn. Batallion Drill in evening.

February 1865
1 — [no entry]
2 — On guard duty.
3 — Washing & Batallion Drill.
4 — On Fatigue duty putting floor in guard house. Rec’d orders to march with 4 day’s rations.
5 — Started on our march at 6 o’clock & marched towards the South Side R. R. After marching some 12 or 15 miles, we encamped for the night.
6 — But as the Rebs seemed to threaten our flank we retraced our steps starting at 12 or 1
o’clock and marched back about 5 or 6 miles. Halting at day dawn on the morn of the 6th at
Hatcher’s Run where we remained until 4 o’clock when we were marched into a fight with
the rebs and drove them into their works. The engagement closing with our Brig. at
sundown, although the fight was kept up with them till after dark. Our Brig. remained in line of battle all that night and…
7 — on the morning of the 7th were again advanced to support the skirmishers line. The skirmishers firing ceasing in a short time we went back to the run again leaving the artillery & cavalry to take care of the rebs in our front.
8 — Still at the same place all being quiet along the lines.
9 — At the same place. Commenced to build a fort on the north side of the Hatcher’s run.
10 — Detailed on picket duty, the regiment remaining at the works.
11 — Picket line drawn in.
12 — Still on picket. One reb citizen brought in.
13 — Relieved of picket duty.
14 — Putting up shanty.
15 — On fatigue putting up abatises.
16 — Working at shanties.
17 — Inspection of arms.
18 — Finished out shanty.
19 — Sunday. Rested. Dress parade in evening. J[ohn] M. Shearer started home on furlough.
20 — On picket duty.
21 — ” ” ”
22 — Relieved of picket duty. Brig. review at 2 o’clock P. M. Visit paid us by Joseph Taylor.
23 — Wrote a letter to J. J. Miller & David Barnhart.
24 — Improving our tent. Dress parade.
25 — Wrote a letter to William Mowery.
26 — Sunday inspection. Dress parade in evening. Signed the payroll.
27 — Rec’d 4 month pay & first instalment of the Gov. Bounty.
28 — Mustered for two month more pay. C[harles] W. Taylor left for home on furlough.

March 1865
1 — On fatigue
2 — Did nothing.
3 — Got an Ambrotype taken
4 — Policed the Company streets.
5 — Company inspection.
6 — On picket. J[ohn] M. Shearer returned from home.
7 — On picket. 12 rebs came in on our line.
8 — Relieved of picket.
9 — Wrote 4 letters.
10 — Did nothing.
11 — Visited by C[yrus] Hazelet.
12 — Dress parade in evening.
13 — Policed the street and company drill in the forenoon & Brig. Drill in afternoon.
14 — Skirmish drill in forenoon & Corps review in afternoon. Rec’d orders to be ready to move. Sutler left late in evening.
15 — S[amuel] Sentman left camp for home on furlough. Sent our surplus baggage to City Point.
16 — Company drill in forenoon. Corps review in afternoon.
17 — C[hales] W. Taylor returned from home. Horse race in evening.
18 — Majority of company on fatigue duty. Dress parade in evening.
19 — Inspection in morning.
20 — On fatigue duty in morn. Division review in afternoon & dress parade in evening.
21 — Company drill in forenoon & afternoon.
22 — Company drill in forenoon & Batallion Drill in afternoon.
23 — General inspection.
24 — Company drill.
25 — Our lines attacked by the rebs. 1st Div. called out early in the morning & was on the reserve all day but not engaged [with] rebs. [Robert] Harvey [of] Co. I wounded. Came back to our quarters about nine o’clock at night. Fort Stedman.
26 — Rec’d orders to be ready to move at a moments notice. On picket. Relieved in the evening by the 2nd Corps.
27 — Still in camp ready to move. Batallion Drill in afternoon.
28 — Still in camp ready to move.
29 — Moved off in the direction of the South Side R. R. Met the enemy in the evening and had a fight with them. J[ohn] M. Shearer wounded.
30 — Lay [bivouacked] on the battle field all day.
31 — Moved in toward the front and were in line of battle all day. In the evening retook the
ground which the 3rd Div. lost in the morning. Lt. [A. A.] Pomeroy & N[oah] H. Shearer killed.

April 1865
1 — Started in the morning and moved to the left of the line and met Gen. Sheridan’s Cavalry about noon. In the evening marched to the front and aided in capturing a line of reb works and a lot of prisoners. Five Forks.
2 — Started about 11 o’clock marched to the South Side R. R. Finding no enemy we marched toward Petersburg & encamped for the night about 9 or 10 mi south of Petersburg.
3 — Marched all day toward the Danville R. R.
4 — Continued our march toward the Danville and reached it about dark & commenced
fortifying ourselves.
5 — Lay in the works all day.
6 — Started on our march toward the Appomattox C. H. Encamped for the night at 1/2 past 8 o’clock.
7 — Marched again at 6 o’clock and reached Prince Edward C. H. at 9 o’clock P. M. and
encamped for the night.
8 — Continued our march after the Rebs. Stopped at midnight nothing of interest having
transpired during the day.
9 — Marched at 4 o’clock & reached the Appomattox about 10 o’clock when and where the Rebs were entirely surrounded by the Union Troops & Gen Lee Surrendered his whole forces consisting of 35,000 troops.
10 — Encamped at Appomattox.
11 — Moved ½ mi to the east and encamped.
12 — Marched out to receive the rebs arms and then came back to camp.
13 — Laying in camp doing nothing.
14 — ” ” ” ” ”
15 — Moved at 1 o’clock toward Berksville. Encamped in the woods for the night.
16 — Easter Sunday. Started at 6 o’clock and marched to Farmersville. Distance 17 miles.
17 — Started at 8 o’clock from Farmersville & marched about 4 miles beyond Berksville &
encamped in the wilderness.
18 — Established a temporary camp.
19 — In Camp.
20 — Moved toward Berksville till 4 o’clock.
21 — Marched at 6 o’clock. Marched till about 3 o’clock.
22 — Started at 11 o’clock & marched 1 1/2 miles & encamped at White Oak Hospital.
23 — Laying in camp.
24 — Laying in camp. On guard duty at night.
25 — Order read to the Reg. relating to the badge to be worn for the death of Pres. Lincoln.
26 — Still in camp doing nothing.
27 — ” ” ” ” ”
28 — Gen. inspection of arms.
29 — S[amuel] H. Witter started home on furlough.
30 — Mustered in for two more months pay.

May 1865
1 — Marched at 6 o’clock & stopped for the night within 6 miles of Petersburg.
2 — Orders to move. Drew 3 days rations.
3 — Moved through Petersburg and encamped for the Manchester.
4 — Moved about 8 miles nearer Manchester & encamped.
5 — Packed at 9 o’clock but orders being countermanded, we pitched tents & remained in camp till 9 o’clock on the 6th.
6 — Marched in review through Richmond and reached Hanover C. H. about 8 o’clock P. M. having marched 18 miles in the afternoon.
7 — Started at 11 o’clock and marched across the Chickahominy R. Went into camp about
sundown. (Pamunkey)
8 — Moved off at 6 A. M. & marched across the Mattaponi R. about sundown & encamped for the night.
9 — Marched at 5½ o’clock. Passed through Bowling Green in morning & crossed the
Rappahannock at 4½ o’clock. P. M. Encamped 1½ miles N. of Ford’g.
10 — Started at about 7 o’clock and passed Stafford C. H. Crossed Aquia Creek. Camped about sundown.
11 — Moved at 6 A. M. Crossed Occoquan Rover on pontoons in evening. Went into camp about 9 o’clock.
12 — Marched at 6. Passed Fairfax C. H. about 7 A. M. Reached Arlington Heights about 4 P. M.
13 — Lay in camp.
14 — ” ” ”
15 — Changed the location of the camp.
16 — Laying in camp.
17 — In camp doing nothing.
18 — ” ” ” ”
19 — S[amuel] H. Witter returned from furlough.
20 — Turned in our ammunition & received our surplus baggage.
21 — Laying in camp doing nothing.
22 — General Presentation inspection.
23 — Grand Review of the Army of the Potomac.
24 — Gen. Sherman’s Army Review.
25 — Still in camp. General’s Illimination in evening.
26 — Rec’d our Muster Out Rolls.
27 — Doing nothing.
28 — Camping inspection. Dress parade in evening.
29 — Doing nothing.
30 — ”
31 — 185 Reg N. Y. V. left our Brig. for home.

June 1865
1 — Made out the muster out rolls.
2 — Doing nothing.
3 — Escorted Brig Gen. Pearson & the 155th Reg. P. V. to the Long Bridge. Mustered out of
service after which orders came to make out a new set of Muster Rolls for the transferred
men. Finished the 2nd of Rolls about midnight.
4 — Rolls finished & Transferred men. Mustered out.
5 — Broke camp at 5 o’clock and marched to Washington. Took transportation to Philadelphia and at 5 o’clock in evening and Baltimore 9 o’clock P. M.
6 — Arrived at Philadelphia. 9 o’clock A. M. June 6th. Eat breakfast at Cooper’s Institute.
7 — Nothing doing in camp.
8 — Turned in our Government Property.
9 — Doing nothing.
10 — Review in the city but Co. I did not go.
11 — Doing nothing.
12 — Discharged, paid off, & started for home.
13 — Arrived at home.

Message from Submitter of Diary:

My father, Frederick Gale Shuman (now  deceased),  was intensely interested in his family genealogy and before his death was able to amass a number of records and materials about Josiah and Simon Shuman — brothers — who fought for the Union during the Civil War. My sister and I have taken up our dad’s research to try to extend what he found. I am intensely interested and excited to have seen the Simon Shuman letter, as it is one that we had not known existed.

I have a transcript of a diary written by Josiah that he kept during his stint in the Union Army. The original resided with my father’s aunt, and I do not know its present whereabouts; but my father transcribed it back in the 1980s, and I copied and posted it recently on my Ancestry.com page. I would be VERY interested to share other letters and artifacts I have from the Shuman family and to communicate with anyone who can share similar information with me. If you are interested, please e-mail me — deb[dot]shuman@icloud.com — and thank you for helping to preserve the memories of our ancestors.

1862: Lester Bishop Filley to Hila (Corey) Filley


Capt. Frank M. Posey of Co. A, 61st Illinois Infantry

This letter was written by Lester Bishop Filley (1829-1887), the son of Lester Filley (1791-1859) and Corinthia Twinning (1793-1838) of Massachusetts. In the 1860 U.S. Census, Lester and his wife Hila A. Corey (1837-1911) are enumerated as residents of Macoupin County, Illinois. Lester and Hila were married on 26 March 1854 in Jerseyville, Illinois. Their children (in 1860) were Cora (b. 1855) and Dora (b. 1859). By June 1862, when this letter was written, another daughter — named Elizabeth (“Libbie”) — had been born.

At age 33, Lester enlisted in Co. D, 61st Illinois Infantry on 22 March 1862. At the time of his enlistment, he was described as standing 5’4″ tall, with dark hair, gray eyes, and a light complexion. His occupation was recorded as “merchant.” Lester served with the 61st Illinois from 5 February 1862 until he was discharged for disability on 22 March 1863 (another source says 2 May 1864).

To read Filley’s account of the Battle of Shiloh, see Lester B. Filley.


Bethel, Tennessee
June 13, 1862

My Dear Wife,

I am better now. I was sick, very sick, when I last wrote you. I was then on Owl Creek. Last Sunday I was brought here on a bed in an ambulance. I have gained slowly till yesterday I had a set back — puking & purging run – run me down. I was crazy for a few hours but Capt. [John Henry] Reddish — who has done for me all he could — put [a] mustard plaster on my bowels and brought  me out. I am better now but weak. Can not sit up long at a time or walk.

The regiment has just received orders to take 4 days rations in their haversacks and march tomorrow. we don’t know where. I shall go if they can take me in the ambulance. If not, shall remain here till they send for me. I will not go into a army hospital but will follow the regiment or they must send me home. It is supposed we are going to Jackson, Tennessee to summer. If so, I shall ask for a furlough as soon as I think I can get one.

I have not had a letter from you since the one about Wick Post. When shall I get another? Write often. Direct thus: L. B. Filley, 61st Ills. Vol, in the field, Tennesee. I will write as often as I can but as long as I am as weak as I have been for the last week, it will not be often.

We have very pleasant weather — very cold nights. I sleep under two blankets and have suffered some nights at that. The days are hot but I have seen no very hot days yet likeIllinois hot. If I was well and could get out & visit the Secesh friends here, get some milk, bread, & fish a little, I could enjoy myself. But I have to stay in quarters now for over two weeks.

How comes on the baby? Write all about her. Also Baby No. 2 — Dora. I suppose I must not call her baby now. What would I give to see her. Tell her Pa loves her down in Tennessee. And Cora, how much pleasure it will give me when I come home to have sit by my side and read to me. I hope she has got so she can read anything by this time. I know she goes to school every day. I hope she learns fast, minds her teacher, and is a good girl.

Now wife, how are you getting along? Hard enough, I suppose. Oh that we could once more be happy. Will that day ever come? I have the blues often even in this far off land.

Did you get the $60 I sent by Express to John T. Williams. I have not received the balance that is due me yet and no prospect of do so at present. I will send more as fast as I get it. Now write. Write often and long.

Kiss the girls for me. Accept a big one for yourself. I am too weak to write more. Goodbye, — Lester

1862: John Amsden to Friend


How John might have looked

This letter was written by 48 year-old John Amsden (1814-1875), the son of Ira Amsden (1783-1862) and Minerva Bond (1792-1872) of Conway, Franklin County, Massachusetts. John was married to Sarah Jane Wilder (1821-18xx) of Greenfield, Massachusetts, in October 1842 in Conway, Franklin County, Massachusetts. In the 1860 Census, just prior to the Civil War, John was enumerated in Hinsdale, Cheshire County, New Hampshire with his wife “Jane” and daughter Sarah (age 14). His occupation was recorded as “teamster.”

Military records indicate that John enlisted as a private in Co. A, 14th New Hampshire Infantry in August 1862 at the age 0f 44. His birthdate was in September 1814 so he was actually nearly 48 years old when he enlisted. John served with the regiment until 6 June 1864 when he was transferred to Co. G, Veteran Reserve Corps where he remained until his discharge at Washington D.C. in June 1865.

The circumstances surrounding the separation of John Amsden and his wife after the war are unknown. In the 1870 Census, John was enumerated in the household of Simeon Tyrell of Blandford, Hampden County, Massachusetts. His occupation was given as “lumber dealer.” Neither wife nor child are enumerated with him.  Five years later when he died in Ashfield, Massachusetts, he was buried next to his parents graves in Conway. Pension records indicate, however, that his widow filed for a pension based upon her husband’s service in June 1880.

This letter was written from the camp of the 14th New Hampshire on Adder Hill, atop a bluff overlooking Lock 21 on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal about 20 miles from Washington D. C. where they remained from October 25 until 13 November, 1862. Amsden datelines his letter “Mudy Crick” which was actually Muddy Branch, a tributary of the Potomac River.


Muddy Creek
November 1st 1862

Friend Aurora,

By permission, allow me to write you a few lines as a friend. My health is very good and has been since I left home and hope you are enjoying the same. I find this war life a complete slave’s life. When we left Concord, we moved direct to Washington. There we stopped three or four days [at a camp on East Capitol Hill] and then started for the place we now are at. This place is situated on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal about twenty miles from Washington on the Potomac River and we think we may take up our winter quarters here. There is plenty of rebels on the opposite side of the river. We see small squads of them almost every day.

There was a pretty smart fight yesterday and the day before in the vicinity of Harpers Ferry, we think, as we heard a continual roar of cannon and smaller arms and the rumor this morning is that the fight was between McClellan and Lee and McClellan drove Lee back four or miles miles. ¹ We have not got the facilities for getting the earliest war news that you have. I think you could post us upon the war matters better than we can you so I will stop.

I hope when you get this imperfect scribble you will sit down and write me a good long letter. There is nothing that does me so much good as to hear from my friends that I left behind. It seems almost like I was having an interview wit them as I used to at their pleasant homes. I received a letter from your dear sister Eulalia the other day and was very thankful that she took the trouble to write. Ask her if she will not write me again soon.

I am now sitting on a stump and writing in the top of my cap which I think an enviable position to what some of us have but we are determined to make the best of our lot. If I could just call in to your hospitable home and spend a few hours as happily as I have done, I would give almost anything. By the way, Eulalia writes you are making repairs. I wonder if there is going to be a wedding there soon. If so, I hope it will be for the good of all concerned. When you make your choice of a partner for life, use your very best judgement as you will find that to be the crowning act of your life. For fear that you may think I am writing advice, I will stop where I am.

Please give my love to your Father and Mother, Elulalia, and all enquiring friends. Tell your Father to write me. I should be very happy to have him do so and do not fail to write yourself and please write often. Do not wait for me to write as we have not the time nor conveniences for writing. If you should go over to Hinsdale, I hope you will call on my wife and Sarah. Give my love to Mr. Gold. Tell him to write me.

Eulalia writes that you had a Sabbath School celebration at Whiteheads Hall. Did you have a good time? I hope you did. I would liked to have been there but our celebrations are of a different stamp. I have not seen but one white woman since I came to this place but there is plenty of black ones here. They come around the camp as thick as bees with milk, pies, apples, &c. We have to pay 10 cts per quart for milk, 25 cts for pies that your hogs would turn their noses up at, apples 3 for 5 cts such as you would make into cider, and other things in proportion.

By the time you get here, you will be tired [reading] and [so] I will close. Excuse the numerous errors. Again, allow me to urge you to write often. So goodbye.

Yours in haste, — John Amsden

N. B. Please direct your letters to John Amsden, Washington, D. C.

14th NHVols. Co. A

¹ The cannonading John heard was from the vicinity of Philomont in Loudon county, Virginia—about 25 miles to the west. The guns were those of Confederate artillery officer John Pelham attached to Jeb Stuart’s Cavalry as they attempted to intercede in the march of McClellan’s army up the east side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. After considerable prodding by Lincoln, it was McClellan’s scheme to engage Lee’s army before they could return to the vicinity of Richmond from their Maryland Campaign but McClellan seemed to be in no hurry. As a consequence, Lee’s army returned safely to the south side of the Rappahannock river. McClellan was replaced as commander of the Army of the Potomac on 5 November 1862.


1864: Henry Langdon Potter to Quartermaster

This letter was written by Henry Langdon Potter (1828-1907) who was commissioned as Lieutenant Colonel of the 71st New York Infantry on July 18, 1861, and rose to Colonel and commander of the regiment, being promoted on 1 May 1863. He was wounded three times during his service. In June 1862, at Burnt Chimneys, near Fair Oaks (VA) he was wounded in the left leg below the knee. He was wounded again at Bristoe Station (VA) in August 1862 when a musketball shattered the bones of his left wrist. And finally,  on 1 July 1863 while in command of his regiment on the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg, he was wounded a third time. In December 1863, he was dismissed for the service as being unfit for field duty due, presumably, to his injuries and chronic health issues.

In his book, Curmudgeons, Drunkards, and Out-right Fools: Courts Martial of Civil War Union Colonels, Thomas P. Lowry provides significant detail regarding the court martial of Potter in March 1862. In that trial, numerous charges were levied against Potter that suggested he had a serious drinking problem which led to irrational behavior. Due to extensive conflicting testimony presented at his trial, Potter was found guilty on only some of the charges and he was suspended from command for 15 days and docked his pay for thirty days.


345 East 49th Street
New York City
Jany. 26th [1864]

Dear Quarter Master,

Your letter of 23d came today. You do not write me if you got the letter I wrote to Major [Thomas] Rafferty or not — or anything about my horses — or about the Gen. Orders O. P. commencing with 105 and the index for 1863. I want them complete and nice clean ones to bind.

I did not hear from Aaron Brewer in Washington in reference to the War Department Orders yet. About the ordnance returns, I am sure that the vouchers &c. were all sent, and they must have been lost in the Depts. tho’ retained copies are in Washington so that I can not make up duplicates at present. Let the papers be carefully preserved until I give further directions. Say to the Adjutant that I have his two letters and will answer them soon when not so very busy.


Joseph Hopkins Twichell was the chaplain of the 71st New York

I have not seen the chaplain yet. That brazier ought not to be allowed to come inside the regiment again, and it is lucky for him that I am not there.

About the bitter feeling in the regiment and your remark that “some that should have worked for me &c. have taken advantage &c., to make it worse &c.” I care but little. I have no idea to whom you allude, except it be Rafferty and we all know his double facedness of old. As he is expecting some favor of me, I wish to know his record since I am absent. In fact, there are all of them more in want — or likely to be in want — of favors from me than I am from them, and I wish to know the exact record that I may settle all accounts. I have done too much for them and now will not do a thing more except to reward the faithful or in return for services of considerations.

As for leaving the regiment for the Invalid Corps — should I get the appointment in the Invalid Corps — which is very uncertain — should this regiment be filled up — I shall decline the Invalid Corps appointment and stick to the regiment. Should the regiment not be filled up, then I shall — if appointed in the Invalid Corps — get permission to see my regiment out of service next July before giving it up. So that any in the regiment who think I will not have an opportunity to settle with them in full for any of this bitter feelings or anything else, will find themselves much mistaken.

And about that sword, I shall look upon it to be a privilege or a favor to any of them to be allowed to make up this deficiency, and I wish every one to have the chance offered to them, and I wish to know who declines that I may know who is who — and get a list from the adjutant of those who subscribed before and the amounts. I hope you will soon have it attended to — as Mr. Wakeman spoke to me about it a few days since, he wants it off his hands.

I shall make up this money after the 1st myself anyhow, though am short as the devil.

I wish you to write me all about the officers — who is to be depended upon and who not. I have been without much information from them since I left — that is, that I could rely upon. How does [Thomas] Rafferty and [William H.] Elwood get on? It seems that it was Elwood (or Lt. Col. [William R.] Brewster) who wrote the letter that put a stop to Rafferty’s promotion. Have you seen [Thomas] Leigh yet? If not, I would do so for the sword’s sake of no other — also Mr. Blair. Write me all the news — send all the orders and tell the horse &c. &c. and have matters attended to as soon as possible.

Write me how the sutler makes it go and all about matters. I have no news to write. Am busy yet at the house.

Any letter not of value or not containing valuable papers — send to me here. 345 East 49th Street. Put it on plainly.

Any documents of value — box 2556 N. Y. P. O. as I am not down town every day. Give me all the news next time.

Yours sincerely, — H. L. Potter

Let me know what the officers have to complain of and what they are bitter about. Let my intentions in reference to leaving the regiment and about the Invalid Corps be known.

1862-64: George W. Peckham to Family


The 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery undergoing Inspection of Arms

These letters were written by George Washington Peckham, Jr. (1843-1878), the son of George Washington Peckham, Sr. (1800-1856) and Eliza Barker (1804-1870) of Middletown, Rhode Island.

George first enlisted on 5 October 1861 in Co. C, 3rd Rhode Island Artillery. This unit was organized in Providence in the fall of 1861 but was disbanded in December 1861 and its members were transferred into the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery. George was discharged at Hilton Head, South Carolina, on 19 January 1864.The following day he re-enlisted and was finally discharged as a corporal at Richmond, Virginia, on 9 June 1865.

See also — 1862: Edward Nelson Steere to James B. Coman  Edward Steere also served in the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery and also wrote several letters from Camp Stephen Olney on Hilton Head.


Camp Stephen Olney, Hilton Head, South Carolina
December 15, 1862

Dear Brother,

I am well at present and hope these few lines will find you and all in good health. I received your letter the 11th and am much obliged to you for your blowing up. The boys are all well except William Smith. He is in the hospital yet. I think he will get his discharge. Isaiah came out today. Edward Maguire has got his discharge and gone home. I had a letter from [brother] Leander the other day. He wrote that he was well.

We have taken our battery to pieces to paint. We are short of forage yet and go out to graze twice a day. We have different weather here from what you have there. Sometimes it is warm enough to be round with your jacket off; then it is cold enough to freeze. We have had ice here all day and that is more than we had last winter. The boys were round sewating with their jackets off today.

Lee wrote that he guesses he should send a box. Tell Mother if it is not too much trouble, I should like her to send me one. I don’t care if it’s being as large as the other one. I don’t want any clothing this time. I want some black pepper — that is most gone, some thick envelopes, one or two thick combs, and the rest eatables. Son’t send anything that will spoil. I will pay for the box and the freight of it. Don’t put anything in the box warm for it is apt to spoil. As I cannot think of more to write, I must close. Give my love to all enquiring friends.

From your brother, — George W. Peckham


Washington D. C.
April 12, 1864

Dear Sister,

I now sit down to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and where I am.

We left Providence last Thursday afternoon for New York, arriving in New York Friday morning. Stayed in New York until Saturday afternoon when we left for Baltimore. Arriving at Baltimore Sunday. Left Baltimore yesterday for Washington. Arrived here at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I went up to Uncle Gideon [Barker]’s while I was in Providence and took dinner. I gave Hatty one of my pictures. ¹ I suppose you have got them by this time. Tell Patience their apples are not all gone yet but are going fast. I eat the last cake in Baltimore. We are waiting here in the barracks for the regiment to come on. How long we will stay, I do not know. If I had stayed in New York Saturday night, I would have been in Rhody Island Sunday. Some of the boys went back as it was.

We had quite a pleasant time coming on having no guard on the boys all the way from Washington to Rhode Island. When we got here all they had to do, if they was left, was to show their furlough and get transportation on it. Did not cost them a cent.

The boys are all well and in good spirits. You must make this answer at present. Give my love to all enquiring friends.

From your brother, — George W. P.

¹ Harriet (“Hatty”) E. Barker, born 1848, was George’s cousin, the daughter of Gideon Barker (1819-1883) and Sarah Cornell (b. 1829) of Providence, Rhode Island.


In the Field before Petersburg, VA
September 14, 1864
Dear Sister,

I now sit down to answer your kind letter which I received on the 11th — also two papers — and was glad to hear from you. I am well at present and hope this will find you and all in good health. Our artillery in front of Petersburg fired a salute in honor of Atlanta being taken. They were not very particular about the kind of ammunition they used. About it being blank cartridges. But socked the shells right over to them. It made me think of the time I was on James Island when the Johnnies fired a salute in honor of Jeff Davis at the time he took his seat. The first thing we knew of it was Mister Shell coming over. Not only one shell but shells — the first thing in the morning at that.

Our artillery are playing on Petersburg today quite lively. We have got a mortar back here that does some tall climbing once in awhile. Not the mortar, but the shells. Petersburg is not much of a city but it takes a good many men to keep it from running away. Some on this side. What the Johnnies have got on their side, I don’t know.

Tell Leander to take one of those pictures when Joel gets them. You can have one for Cousin Julia but mind and not take all of them. I want two of them for my own use, as the Captain says in his orders on the quartermaster for rations.

Well, sis, I suppose you have read nonsense enough do I will close. There is not much news so goodbye. From your brother, — George W. P.

Write Soon.


Headquarters Battery C
Signal Hill, Va.
Sunday, November 20th 1864

Dear Sister,

I now sit down to answer your kind letter received yesterday morning and was glad to hear from you. I am well at present and hope this will find you and A.L.L. in good health. I have not enlisted yet but am thinking of that $1,400 bounty.

Yesterday was a rainy day in Old Virginia. Rained all night and bids fair to rain all day today. As we are in good quarters, we don’t mind it much. Our horses are out in it which makes it bad for us drivers. The Johnnies are trying our lines most every night now but have not made out much yet. The attack is mostly up by Dutch Gap.

Tell mother not to forget her promise now she has got her teeth. Tell her not to trouble herself about paying those notes. She is welcome to the use of the money as long as she wants it. Tell Joel not to forget to send me Brother John Bond than this year. Eliza you must excuse my letters if they are short. There is no news to write except war news and you get that in the papers. I suppose Joel will be a carpenter before a great while. He is getting the start of me.

I would like to be home with you this winter but I suppose I have got to soldier it awhile longer yet. I close with my love to all from your brother and well wisher, — G. W. P.

Write soon.




1863-64: Alphonso F. Smith to cousins


Allen Benson of Co C wearing the uniform of the 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery

These letters were written by Alphonso F. Smith (1839-18xx), the son of Philetus Smith (1798-1879) and Susan ____ (1807-Aft1850) of Sudbury, Rutland County, Vermont. His siblings were Lodoiska Smith (1836), Charles E. Smith (1842), and Adaline E. Smith (1847).

Alphonso (or Alphonzo) Smith was mustered into the 11th Vermont Infantry but the name of the regiment was changed to heavy artillery on 10 December 1862 while on duty in Washington D. C. The regiment was assigned to garrison duty within the defences of Washington, occupying Forts Slocum, Totten, and Stevens. It remained at Washington until May 12, 1864, when it moved, 1,500 strong, to join the Army of the Potomac. Although nominally a heavy artillery regiment, it served as infantry, the only difference being in its larger organization; it had 12 companies of 150 men each, with a captain and four lieutenants for each company, forming three battalions with a major for each. The regiment arrived at the front on May 15th, when it was assigned to the Vermont Brigade, and two days later it went into action near Spotsylvania. On June 1st, Major Fleming’s Battalion was engaged in the storming of Cold Harbor, with a loss of 13 killed and 107 wounded. In the affair at the Weldon Railroad, June 23d, the regiment lost 9 killed, 36 wounded, and 257 captured or missing, the captured men belonging to Fleming’s Battalion. It was next engaged in Sheridan’s campaign in the Shenandoah Valley, where Lieutenant Colonel Chamberlin fell mortally wounded in the fight at Charlestown. At the Opequon, the regiment lost 8 killed, 85 wounded, and 6 missing; and at Cedar Creek, 13 killed, 74 wounded, and 20 missing. Returning to Petersburg, it was engaged in the final and victorious assault, with a loss of 5 killed and 45 wounded.

Alphonso enlisted in Co. C as a private in August 1862. He was promoted to corporal in August 1863, and to sergeant in January 1864. Unfortunately he did not live to return home to his beloved “grand state of Vermont.” He died of disease on 6 August 1864.

Two fellow members of Co. C, 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery are mentioned frequently in these letters. They are Melvin (“Melve”) D. Walker and Franklin (“Frank”) D. Smith of Benson, Vermont. Melvin was discharged for disability in April 1864, just before the regiment was pulled from the defenses of Washington D. C. to participate on the Overland Campaign of 1864.



Fort Stevens in Washington D.C.

Fort Stevens
July 5th, 1863

I received your very welcome letter in due time and was glad to hear from you that you & all the friends was well. I hd begun to think that you had forgotten [me] as you had such a cousin; please don’t be negligent about writing as a soldier likes to know he isn’t forgotten at home. Please don’t think I am finding fault as I am not in the least.

You speak of being at meeting the day you wrote me & wondered if I had. I will tell you how I passed the day. We had inspection of arms & accoutrements at 9 o’clock. About noon we got news that a Brigade of Rebel cavalry was within 6 miles of us which was a fact. They captured a train of 150 wagons & 900 mules that belonged to General Pleasanton’s Cavalry (federal). ¹ They passed along & encamped about 5 miles from us for the night. There isn’t but 4 companies here to garrison this fort. We slept on our arms that night in the fort & have most of the time since they left the next day across the Potomac. We have to work now fortifying & strengthening the forts so that is the way we passed the day on which you wrote to me.

This is Sabbath day on which people assemble to their respective places of worship but how different it is in the army; no meetings — at least not very often, and now today our company is out cropping & at work on the fort but we don’t work Sundays unless it is absolutely necessary. We have been expecting [an] attack here every night but I guess the rebs won’t bother us here as it is very strongly fortified here. I guess this will not interest you much so I will change the subject.

Oh, about our dancing, our partners are of the masculine gender instead of those women of color. No indeed, I would not condescend to speak to such. I received a letter from G. W. Hill a lost time since & he said that the friends was all well. I wrote to cousin Henry a few days ago. I was surprised to hear that Martha was married. There is a fellow in our company that knows her husband well. I pity you Anne if you are as lazy as you tell.

My head aches so I can’t write so I guess I will draw this dry mess to a close. Oh, about the 4th [of July], how and where did you spend the day? I stayed in camp all day. Give my love to Uncle Abner & Francis & Aunt & all the cousins. Share a part yourself.

This from your cousin, — Fon

(Write soon & all the news.)

¹ This is a reference to Jeb Stuart’s capture of Union supply wagons and mules “within sight of Washington” near the end of June 1863 while he was moving independently from Lee’s command prior to the Battle of Gettysburg. The exact number of wagons and mules captured isn’t known but these figures clearly originate with Meigs’ dispatch wherein he complained of the failure to properly protect the wagon train with armed escorts.


Fort Stevens, D. C.
October 23, 1863

Dear Couz,

Having nothing in particular to do this evening, I thought I would improve the time by writing you and let you know that yours of October 5th came to hand in due time. I was glad to hear from you & should [have] answered it ere this but for the want to time. I am well and growing fleshy every day. I weigh 180 lbs. now.

About those fine looking ladies I spoke of in my last, I don’t think they are loyal and presume they are for the Union but have never asked them as to that. I don’t believe they would secede but don’t know as I never asked them nor wouldn’t dare to. You know Charles isn’t so bashful I hear, naughty boy. Now I shall have to dance in the pigs trough according to the old saying — I guess he has been very lonesome since I left home.

I received a letter from mother yesterday stating that I had a new sister. I wish them much joy certainly — all things are for the best. Jim has ceased calling on Addie a long time ago. It won’t do to believe all your news these stirring times, you know (anything but a Haven I say). I guess she heeded a brother’s advice. Jim will show himself a Haven yet. What a pity he is absent from home so much. His mother must feel very bad.

Please tell me what the news is that is stirring up in Vermont. I surely wrote you the ____ truth. It is true I have several correspondents but I write to one as often as another the same as I do to you. Don’t laugh for it is so. Ha. Ha. I expect the next I hear that you have changed your name to that of some nice fellow. But that is the way of all the world. I suppose you are enjoying life now as Sarah & Melvin are at home with you. I should like to call in some of these fine moonshiney nights. I think I should enjoy it much but that can’t be for the present.

Tell Sarah & Melvin to write to me. Where is Alvira. I haven’t heard a word about her since I left home. We haven’t got our new barracks done yet but nearly so — all but the windows & doors. Our company have been practicing on firing to today at target practice. I made 6 shots — 3 solid shots and 3 spherical base shells. I hit the target 3 times at the distance of 7/8ths of a mile — 24 lb. gun. I guess this won’t interest you much so will close.

Remember me to Alvira & all the friends. Should be pleased to receive a line from her. I will answer it. Please write soon & all the news. Give my regards to your people. Accept this with the regard of your couz, — Corpl. Alphonso

To Couz Mina


Fort Stevens, D. C.
November 15th, 1863

Dear Cousin Elmina,

As it is a very rainy day and therefore prevents us from having inspection, it leaves me a little time which I ill improve by answering your welcome letter of November 8th which came to hand in due time. I was glad to hear you all was well. I am quite well nowadays. I too wish that I had no great sin than writing to a friend on the Sabbath day. I know that I do, couz, but how can I help myself is a greater question I often ask myself. Surrounded by nearly all sorts of company as a soldier is, I take care of myself  the best I can & leave the rest to Him who judgeth all things well.

Well, couz, this is a long rainy day but is going to clear off I guess for it seems to be growing lighter than it was. Our regiment was paid off last week with those very acceptable greenbacks which never come amiss. Perhaps I shall enter a pleasant parlor when I get home, but you are fixing up yours so nice. Sets me to thinking that perhaps it means something. How is it couz? If Chas. has got the start of me, I am not in the least discouraged for there is time enough yet I reckon. Tell Elvira that I suppose it belongs to me to write first according to rules of etiquette. But being old friends so ought not be particular. If I can get time, I will write her soon. I have several correspondents and but little time to write.

Noe couz, don’t wait to see how I make out as you might possibly live an old maid. When? How I detest an old maid. Can get along with an old batchelor. I wasn’t made aware you was a very old girl. If that is so, what are all the rest? Can’t see it myself.

I received a letter from [sister] Lodoiska a few days ago. She wrote that Mossifs had bought them a farm. I am glad he has bought him a good home. It will be so much more pleasant to him alone. They have got a good place and L. thinks she shall take lots of comfort when they get moved though they don’t move until next spring.

Well Couz, it has stopped raining and the sun has come out bright as ever. Melvin is well as usual. Frank also. Frank got a letter from William the other day. He was well but is on guard tomorrow. Hope it will be a good day. I was on patrol last Thursday & night and we was in a piece of woods and we scared a possum up a tree. I took off my overcoat & climbed the tree and struck him on the head with a club & killed him. We had a fine time over it.

The bugle is blowing the supper call & I must close soon. Give my regards to all enquiring friends. Tell Uncle Artemus that we must soon have orders. Write soon, all of you. My love to all.

This from your couz, — Corporal Alphonso

To Elmina of Bangtown



Fort Stevens, D. C.
April 9th 1864

My Cousin Mina,

I now take my pen in hand to address a few lines to you and let you know that I have got back to my company again safe and feeling first rate. I got here last Sunday afternoon. Found the boys all well as usual. Melve is better, I think, than when I left him to go home. Mr. [William T.] Walker is here and is waiting patiently for Melvin’s discharge to come around. It has been sent in & it’s time now for it to come back to Melvin but hadn’t last night. Mr. Walker is over to the hospital now but expect him over here tonight as he stays here with Frank nights.

Oh dear Mina, if I knew how to be lonesome I would get on a streak tonight. It commenced raining about ten o’clock this A.M. and it rains very hard now. It reminds me of the time we marched down to Kalorama Heights one year ago this present month. I haven’t done anything this afternoon on account of this rain and my thoughts have turned back to times now past and gone forever. I thought I should see you again before I left Vermont but it wasn’t possible for me as I had to start a day or two sooner than I had expected. I never shall be sorry that I got a furlough and went home. I had a very pleasant time — in fact, never enjoyed myself better. I don’t know what I shall do when Melve goes home as we have always been together through all sorts of weather. But I can’t wish him to stay here as he now is. Mr. Walker is getting homesick so quick though I don’t blame him, not being used to such a noise and no one at home to see to things as he would.

I guess that we will have to take the field now soon as we are wanted to go as a reserve artillery regiment to General Sedgwick’s Corps and I think that we will have to go. Our officers think so too. I rather hate to leave this place because I have got used to it. But I am ready to go when & wherever the company goes for all that. Well Couz, what are you busying yourself about this rainy, lonesome weather? Can’t step outdoors without loosing your shoes there on the clay. I meant to Mina of had a good long talk with you before I came back but will have to wait now until this cruel war is over as for anything I can see now.

Frank [Smith] is on picket tonight. What a terrible time to be out all night in this storm. It fairly makes me shudder to hear it beat against the window as I am writing this. It is roll call time so I shall have to close. Remember me to Uncles and all the cousins and all enquiring friends. Please write soon and all the news. Accept this with love from your Couz, — Sargt. A. F. Smith


Camp in the Field, Va.
June 8th 1864

Kind, unforgotten Cousin Mina,

Cheerfully I improve this the first opportunity to answer your very kind letter of the 15th inst. which came to hand in due time & I should [have] answered ere this but for the want of time. I was very glad to hear that all the friends was well. I am tough as a whip as yet.

I tell you, Mina, we are soldiering now in reality. While we lat at the fort, we only played soldiering. Last night we slept all night which is the first night that we have slept within 12 days. We have had to dig rifle pits every night to protect us from the enemy during the day as we advanced our lines every night under cover of darkness. Ever since the last day of May, we have lain under fire of the Johnnies until yesterday morning when we were relieved from the front. We, I mean our battalion when I say we, Companies C, D, E, & F went to the rear about ¾ mile to draw rations & rest a little which all so much needed. I have had several very narrow calls for my head but my time had not come to be hit yet & I trust it won’t. But the Johnnies are very careless in shooting — would as soon hit a fellow as not. Loss in our company so far is one killed & seven wounded.

Charles B. Chase was killed by a piece of shell while we lay on the ground on our faces supporting a battery. He lay within six feet of me. The shell burst just in front of us & one piece struck him in the forehead & killed him instantly. He never made a struggle. ¹

Our captain is sick & has gone to Washington. I don’t believe he will stay in the company long but don’t know. Oh Mina, you can’t imagine what a spectacle the battlefield presents after a hard fought battle & I am glad you can’t. But it’s awful to witness. God knows that I never wish to see another such sight as I have seen. I pray to God that He will spare my life & return me to my native home in the grand state of Vermont. I often think of the pleasant hours passed in company of my friends & long to be with them again.


Gen. U.S. Grant — “a fine looking man — no mistake” (AFS)

I think Gen. Grant is bound & will wipe out this accursed rebellion this summer. The eyes of the whole world most are resting upon him at this time. I see him every day or two most. He is a fine looking man — no mistake. Our army & Lee’s are not over ½ mile apart looking each other in the face. Both armies strongly fortified. There is a movement on foot now which will shake their foundations some before many days. We have some men at work which certainly know their business. Yesterday I was sitting in my shelter tent & a fellow came up & called me by name & who it was I couldn’t tell for the life of me. Finally it crossed through my noodle who it was — G. W. Hill. ² We had a fine chat & he went back to his company who is stationed about one mile from where we are. He is well — looks much better than he used to. He wished to be remembered to all the friends.

I will have to close soon. Enclosed you will find my picture. It’s not a very good one but it’s the only one I now have. I shall expect yours [in return]. I don’t know when I can write any more as I haven’t only one envelope. Can’t get anymore here, stamps, nor nothing else. But I am in hopes to get out of the Wilderness before long. Give my respects to all the friends remembering me to Uncle & &C. &c. Accept this & excuse all mistakes for they are many.

From your cousin, — Alphonso

¹ Charles B. Chase was killed in action on 1 June 1864 which would have been at Cold Harbor, Virginia.

² Pvt. George W. Hill served in Company E, 3rd Battery, Vermont Light Artillery. He was killed in action near Petersburg on 22 June 1864 — just a couple of weeks after chatting with Alphonse.


Camp in the Field 4 miles south of Petersburg, Va.
June 26th 1864

Dear Couz. Mina,

I seat myself with pen in hand this pleasant Sabbath morning to answer your kind favor of the 19th inst. which came to hand this morning. I was glad to hear that all the friends was well. I am well as usual excepting a lame side caused by carrying our Lieut. [Merritt H.] Sherman off the skirmish line after he was shot. He was a large man — weighed most 200 pounds and I strained myself all over & I am quite sore ____.


Lt. Merritt H. Sherman, Co. C, 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery — His body was carried from the battlefield by Smith & two others

I will have to tell you about the awful time I had that day. It was the 23rd inst. Lt. Sherman & 40 men from our company were detailed for pickets. I was one of them. We advanced our line in the afternoon, net the Rebs skirmish line, drove them back three times. Finally they through negligence of somebody not giving us proper support, we was flanked on the right & left. We had to retire with the loss of 3 killed & seven wounded out of the 40 and 4 are missing — supposed taken prisoners. Myself & two others carried Lt. Sherman ¾ of a mile about. He was shot through the forehead which killed him almost instantly. His only last word were, “Carry me off.” I was but a few steps from him when he was shot. I don’t believe I should felt much worse if it had been my own brother. He was 22 years & 20 days old. I think his remains will be sent home to Clarendon, Vermont. ¹

I don’t see why I wasn’t shot a hundred times that afternoon. The bullets flew around me like hailstones. I do sincerely thank God [for] protecting me from harm. I lost my company that night & finally stayed with Nathaniel Bucklin of the 5th Vermont. I heard the next day that my company was all taken prisoners but in the afternoon they all came in from the front all right. I tell you Couz, I wouldn’t [have] been more pleased to see my own brothers than I was to see my old company coming in. They all supposed me dead until I came up where they were. Soon as they saw me, all the boys got hold of me to shuck me around as though I was an only brother & I was equally as glad to see them.

There was 321 in killed, wounded, & missing in our regiment that day. I don’t know what as this will interest you much but I haven’t anything else to write — only that I am well. So you must excuse a poor letter from me. Wish that I had better news o write. We have lost quite heavy. All the boys are well from that vicinity. It seems by your letter that you haven’t received an answer to your other two. Now I answered it the 8th of this month but our letters don’t go home in 3 or 4 days after they are mailed. Yours was mailed the 21st & I got it this morning. We haven’t done anything for 2 days now. I don’t see how we are allowed to [go] to that Haven of rest prepared for those ___ love & follow His commandments. May your & J’s all be prepared for that time which surely will come to all.

I am glad Melvin is getting along so well. I wish he would write to me. I suppose his Father is very busy building now. Melvin was lucky getting his discharge when he did. I haven’t heard from him in several days & I am anxious to hear. I don’t think of anything more this time. Please excuse this poorly written letter. I will try to do better next time. Remember me to all enquiring friends & write soon. Accept this love from your couz, — Alphonso

¹ In the morning of the 23d Capt. Walker sent out 140 men to the picket line, under command of First Lieutenant Henry Chase of company E, a good officer, with whom were Lieutenants Sherman of company C, Bedell of company D, and O. R. Lee of company M. In the afternoon this line was advanced half a mile, when it’s left was uncovered by the failure of the skirmishers on the left of it to advance and make connection. The line was attacked soon after. The men, having piled rails for their protection, repulsed two attacks, and held their ground till they were flanked and had to withdraw in haste. Lieutenant Merritt H. Sherman was killed.  Lieutenant Sherman was a young officer of high patriotism and promise. He was a native of Danby, and was a member of the sophomore class in the Wesleyan University at Middletown, Conn., at the time of his enlistment. While at home in the summer of 1862, he enlisted as a private in the Eleventh, saying that he thought it “a shame for a strong young man to be poring over Latin and Greek when his country needed him.” His fine personal character, aptness and fidelity soon attracted attention, and he was promoted through the non-commissioned grades, to the second lieutenancy of his company. He was a thoroughly efficient officer, so careful that, as one of his comrades said, “nobody ever expected a mistake from Sherman,” yet cool and gallant in action. Barely of age when he sealed his service with his blood, he left behind him the example of a life of Christian principle and true manhood.


1864: William J. Mitchell to Parents


How William might have looked

This letter was written by 29 year-old William J. Mitchell (1835-Aft1910), the son of John Mitchell (1807-1882) and Margaret Johnston (1799-1885) of Armstrong Township, Indiana County, Pennsylvania.

William served as a musician in Co. I, 39th Pennsylvania Infantry from 1861 to 1864 and then reenlisted as a veteran and was transferred to Co. K, 191st Pennsylvania for the remainder of the war — also as a musician. In the letter, he mentions tenting with John H. Stutz and Cyrenus F. Rockwell who also served as musicians in the same regiments. Moses Mitchell — probably a cousin — also served in these regiments, though not as a musician. At the time his letter was written, just after these men returned from veterans furlough, they were still members of the 39th Pennsylvania. They were transferred to the 191st Pennsylvania on May 31, 1864.

William mentions two siblings in the letter — Samuel Mitchell (1828-1874) and Mary Mitchell (1840-After1880). Samuel married Eliza Shadle (1830-1928) in October 1851 and had at least four children by the time his letter was written.

It appears that William eventually became a minister; in 1910 he was enumerated in Lexington, Johnson County, Kansas.

[Note: The letter is signed “your affectionate son Will” without any other indication as to the author’s identity and there is no regimental affiliation mentioned or an accompanying envelope. I have determined the author’s identity from clues in the letter.]


1850 Census in Armstrong Township, Indiana Co., PA


Manassas Junction, Virginia
March 28th 1864

Dear Father and Mother,

Your kind letter of the 24th inst. came to hand today. I was glad to hear from you, and learn of your welfare, and also glad to hear that Samuel’s children were getting well.

Since I last wrote you, we left Harrisburg (15th inst.), came on to Washington the same day. I had a very pleasant time visiting schools that afternoon. The teachers and scholars were very glad to see me. In the evening I visited several families with whom I had become acquainted last Spring while we were in the city, and with the young folks (girls of course) attended a rehearsal of concert performances of one of the Female Grammar Schools of the city.  The performances of the evening were very good. They had many patriotic airs. There are four families (Methodists) in the city with whom I have become very well acquainted. They are very nice families. They requested me, whenever I come to the city, to make their houses, for the time being, my home. Don’t you think that they are kind?

Well, next morning we took boat for Alexandria. Here we had to lie over until the next day for transportation. I got a pass and went to see Joseph Fulton. He was very well and very glad to see me and hear from home. I had quite a pleasant visit with him.

Next morning we took the cars for Manassas Junction where we arrived in safety about noon of same day. We found everything as we had left them. The boys were well and glad to see us back again with them, and it seemed home-like to get back to the regiment. We were sent to Brigade Headquarters to do duty. We had to build “shanties” and were busy for several days, but we are in our new houses now & “we’re gay and happy still.”

Since our arrival, there was been some heavy cannonading towards the front, but all is quiet now. We were under arms for 36 hours expecting a Rebel raid, but they didn’t come. All is quiet now. A scouting party of 250 will start from here in about an hour (10 at night) to hunt up [John Singleton] Mosby. Many troops go to the front daily.

We had quite a snowstorm here about a week ago. It is very pleasant now, but there is the appearance of a storm abrewing.

What do you think of Father Abraham’s late call for 200,000 more troops?

Send me a pamphlet I had intended to bring along with me entitled, “Women of America” or some such name. What did you think of my pictures? What is Armstrong Township doing in regard to filling up their quota for the late call? Did you deliver those pictures and what did they think of them?

I heard of Gettie McCoy’s death a few days ago. I was sorry. Gettie was certainly a fine girl. I hope she is gone to a better world than this. I sincerely empathize with the family. I had forgotten, I believe I have written you since before this since our arrival here. However, it makes no particular difference. Telling some of the same things twice will do no harm. What Co. is Kesner Mitchell in? How is Nixon Coulter? ¹ I send in this some photographs. What do they think of my Album?

Write soon and give all the news. Give my regards to all. I have some more nice pictures which I will send home in a few weeks. Has that microscope come to hand yet? Nary one of our company got married whole at home. Moses is tenting with me, Stuntz, and Rockwell. ² He is well & he wrote Mr. McClelland in regard to his money, etc.

Write soon giving all the news. So now farewell for the present.

From your affectionate son, — Will

Mary, I have not room for anything for you this time. By-bye, — will.

Send me those photographs that I ordered at Indiana [Pennsylvania]

¹ James Nixon Coulter (1839-1865) was the 25 year-old son of Samuel and Sarah Coulter of Young Township, Indiana County, Pennsylvania. Nixon served in Co. G, 63rd Pennsylvania Infantry. He died of disease on 9 April 1865.

² Cyrenus F. Rockwell (1840-1865) was taken prisoner at the Battle of Fredericksburg on 13 December 1862 and later paroled to rejoin the regiment. He died on 7 February 1865. His parents were Lyman K. Rockwell (1811-1891) and Miranda Willard (1808-1885).

1865: Austin Doras Fenn to Relatives


Austin D. Fenn in 1880s

This letter was written by Corporal Austin Doras Fenn (1837-1897) of Co. H, 10th Vermont Infantry.

In the 1850 Census, Austin was enumerated in Arcadia, Wayne County, New York, in the household of 30 year-old Anna M. Fenn, presumably his mother. A younger brother named Joseph H. Fenn is also enumerated. In 1860, Austin’s younger brother Joseph is enumerated in the household of Ezekiel Peck (b. 1802) of Richmond, Cheshire County, New Hampshire, who must have been a relative.

In July 1860, Austin married Julia Elizabeth Woodcock in Weston, Vermont. After mustering out of 10th VT regiment in late June 1865, he went back to Vermont and later homesteaded in Kansas where he die of a stroke in 1897.


Camp at Bailey’s Cross Roads near Washington
June 3rd 1865
Co. H, 10th Vt. Regt.

Dear old women,

I will now try and write a few lines to you to let you know how I am getting along and where I am. We are now close to Washington — within 3½ miles. we got here yesterday. The weather has been very hot the past three days. We had a hard march of it from Richmond on account of the rain. We waded through mud and water to our knees 10 miles one day, and two days we didn’t move at all. Our trains were stuck in the mud and a great many mules broke down. The day we got in made 10 days we were on the road instead of eight and there is times when we could have marched it easier in six. ¹

We are a little expecting a Review in Washington before we are mustered out. We was reviewed as we passed through Richmond by General Halleck. I don’t think we shall stay here but a little while — perhaps 10 days. We will be mustered out here, and paid and discharged in the State.

The President has ordered that the soldiers mustered out shall have their guns to carry home. I am very much pleased about that for I think a great deal of the old firelock I carry now. It carries right to the spot and many a good shot I have had with it. It was new when I took it. It has a bullet mark on it and some other marks since I took it. All those that have longer than up to the 1st of October to serve are not going to be discharged now. Freeman Hale and Rufus Kirk will have to stay. Free[man] makes a baby of himself because he can’t go with the regiment. He goes with his head down and his face is as long as your arm. Kirk is much worried about it because he can’t go. Asked me if I didn’t think they would let his boy take his place when his time was out. I asked him what did he enlist for if he couldn’t stay his time in times of peace. I guess he will find it will take some figuring to get his boy in his place. Besides, I don’t believe the officers will bother with it.

I strained a cord in my leg below the knee jumping ditches the day we marched in the rain and it was very lame and is swelled some now but is getting better. My health is good but I am thin as a hatchet as are the rest of this Corps. The end 8th and 9th and 24th Corps are fat enough; we have marched over 425 miles this spring.

I received your letter mailed May 2nd the night before we got in — the only mail we got on the march. Glad to hear you was well and that the colt was turned out and everything doing so well generally. Try and get along a little while longer and I guess I will get around. Be careful about saying anything that might make any trouble with Foster Peck’s folks for it Etta likes [it] there, it would be very disagreeable to her to have slang going back and too by her ears. After all, I don’t like the way they spoke (that is) if she went up there she could have a home with them no longer. But perhaps for Henrietta’s interest, it would be better to let it go all still.

I am glad to hear Melvin goes to school. I hope he will like [it] and learn well. I am in hopes to get a letter from you tonight and would love to see the money sent for it. I will wait for the mail before I finish.

I didn’t send this letter last night because I didn’t get the one I was expecting from you. I hope to get one from you tonight. It is very hot here today and we are short of rations which makes it a little unpleasant just now. There is good chances to buy cakes, pies or bread but it is so very long since we have been paid that none have money except a few lucky ones that have money that came from home. We shall draw soft bread no doubt today. I hate to go hungry after a hard time as we have had. I have hard tack enough for today but many have none and hard bread will not satisfy hunger like soft bread. No doubt you have sent me that two dollars before this and I shall look for it tonight when the mail comes. We will not be paid until we are discharged so I have made up my mind to have three dollars more sent as we may get in places on the route home that I shall need it. If you have not got it, borrow it and I will pay it soon as I get home. I will send this soon as the mail comes. Answer this soon as possible. It won’t be lost if we should be on the road home. It will follow the regiment. The mail has come but no letter tonight.

We have drawed a lot of rations and are all right. I think this regiment may get mustered out the last of this week. We shall have to stop at some place in Vermont to get our pay and discharge papers. If we have to stop longer than two or three days, I shall come home on a pass and not wait. You need not send me the 3 dollars if you have the two I sent for. My health is good and I hope I shall be there to do my own haying. I don’t expect I could do very great days work to start with. Soldiering don’t strengthen a man’s arms but it does his legs.

Bye Bye for this time. — Austin Fenn
Co. H, 10th Vt. Regt.

¹ Edwin C. Hall of Co. G, 10th Vermont described the same review in Richmond and march to Washington D. C. in his memoirs:

Those not able to march had been provided with a shorter route by steamer, and some who were not really able, chose the foot route from choice. Early on the morning of May 24th, the 6th Corps formed line of march on Main St. in the city of Richmond and waited the bugle sound to march. During the hours of waiting, however, the boys gave an exemplification of “how to forge on an enemy” and many were the barrels of beer rolled out into the streets and boxes of cigars passed around before we started and when at length the bugle did sound and the head of the column started and the veterans marched down the street and up past the state house to the inspiring music of the Union –none but the most bitter rebel could find fault with the hilariousness which seemed to reign supreme.

12 miles was our record the first day out of Richmond and we camped near Hanover Court House. That night it rained and so continued the following day, so that by the time we had reached Polecat River its waters were so high that we had to remain on the southern bank one day before we could get across. From there we made slow progress to Fredericksburg, and by the time we arrived there our “eight days rations” with which we had started from Richmond were “sadly demoralized” to say the least — and no enemy to draw from — not even a stray “razorback.” I have often heard it remarked that there was more ‘red tape’ on that march from Richmond to Washington, after the war was over, than any other time during the whole war — but I don’t believe it. I think it arose from just one order that was issued the morning that we were to march through Fredericksburg viz: “No hats to be worn through the streets of Fredericksburg.” It so happened that after reaching Danville and finding that the war was really over, the ‘file’ and some of the ‘rank’ of the Army had become possessed of straw hats, wool hats, and other hats calculated to keep the hot southern sun from tanning their fair complexions and until now, they had worn them without molestation. But now, the edict had come and to enforce it, a guard had been placed at the crossing of a stonewall in the suburbs of the city. Some heard the edict of the guards and donned their regulation caps. Others heard it and doffed their hats and passed on bare headed for the very good reason that they had left their regulation caps behind, thinking they would have no more use for them. Gaily they all paraded through the streets of Fredericksburg. Joyfully they passed beyond — over the pontoons and toiled up the steeps of the heights beyond — their faces sheltered from the scorching sun by their favorite hat. But the sunset gained and a halt made — then joy transformed into sorrow. Our adjutant came down the lines and stopped at each head of Company, gave orders “Every man who has a hat report at the head of the column immediately.” I don’t recollect how many hats were cast at the feet of Col. Darion but one wide-brimmed soft hat that came from Vermont only a few weeks before was reluctantly left among the number and the owner thereafter was forced to march bare headed in the scorching sun until Major [J. A.] Salisbury took pity on the unfortunate and bought him one — not half as good. Major Salisbury was the hero that hot day for he saved many a victim of that ‘red tape’ order from being sunstruck by furnishing them with some kind of head covering — by the way — I should like to know what became of all those hats.

The next day was the hardest day’s march of all. We were passing through that part of the country where nature had failed to embellish it with variegated foliage becoming to the season, save an endless show of laurel and sage brush, and where architecture could not be found.

We made 30 miles that day — most of our 8 days rations had disappeared and it was a hungry crowd that crossed Wolf Run Creek and on through for miles of dense forest to Fairfax Station where we expected a fresh supply of hard tack and salt pork, but as none had arrived we pressed on and went into camp for the night at Fairfax Court House. Too tired for looking after any rations, we dropped on the ground and slept.

About midnight, we were aroused by the announcement that there was fresh beef to be issued and to turn out and help get it to camp, which was done and much of it eaten raw because we were too tired to cook it.

The next day we started at sun up on the final march in the field. We had been 10 days from Richmond with 8 days rations of hard tack, salt pork, and coffee on which to subsist. We were far from disheartened but rather weak in the knees — and who would not be? — the stoutest, ablest men that exist could hardly do more and little wonder that with the few day’s rest we got at our Camp at Hall’s Hill, Va. that so many as did endured the tramp of the Grand Review at Washington when we had been on the march almost continually for 24 hours.

All things considered, our marches after the surrender were as great a test of the physical endurance of men as any which preceded it.

1862: Loring Harmon Larrabee to William F. Larrabee


A detachment of the 6th Maine Infantry

This letter was written by Loring Harmon Larrabee (1839-1865), the son of William Pellam Larrabee (1811-1895) and Cynthia J. [   ] (1815-18xx) of Dover, Piscataquis, Maine. He wrote the letter to his brother, William F. Larrabee (1842-18xx).

Loring [or Lorin] was 22 years old when he enlisted in Co. A, 6th Maine Infantry in July 1861. He was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps on 15 February 1864 and he died on 5 October 1865.

Loring was married to Harriet M. Cole (1839-1898) and their only daughter Annie M. Larrabee died as an infant. Pension records indicate that Loring contracted chronic diarrhea in the early summer of 1862 in the Chickahominy Swamp and suffered from illness until he was eventually hospitalized at Hampton, Virginia. Owing to his disabilities, he was transferred to the Invalid Corps (the Veteran Reserve Corps) in February 1864 and subsequently contracted typhoid fever (“of malarial type”). His wife’s initial pension application was rejected upon the ground that the fatal disease was contracted after his discharge. This decision was later overturned after an appeal.

Loring wrote the letter to his brother, William F. Larrabee, who later served in Co. I, 22nd Maine Infantry. William survived the war but suffered from chronic health problems the remainder of his life.


Addressed to Mr. William F. Larrabee, Dover, Maine

Camp No. 7 in the woods near Yorktown
April 11th 1862

Dear Brother,

The last letter that I wrote you was at Camp No. 4, April 2nd. I sent it with a Frank Leslie [Illustrated Newspaper]. I have not heard from you yet. We have not had any mail at all for over one week but are expecting one tomorrow. I understand that we shall have a chance to send out letters tomorrow. I have got no stamps but thinking you be glad to hear how we are getting along, I will write a few lines anyway & let it go if it will go. Some say that Franklin is not good now. I don’t know how that is, I am sure.

The 4th we left Camp 4 and drove the Rebels from their batteries and camped there that night after a good march that day. They burned their barracks or a part of them when they left. We found Rebel letters & papers there & if I had time, I should like to write you some of their accounts. We took one prisoner there.

The next day we marched forward & took three prisoners & camped in these woods that night. The 7th Maine lost a number of men that day & night. The Rebels fired shells in the woods where we were. Some burst & some did not. We got one that fell in our camp close by the color line where our guns were stacked.

The country is low and flat and full of water — bad about camping. We have to move our camp about every day & it rains about every other day. Last Sunday our regiment & the 5th Wisconsin went out under Gen. Hancock. That day our regiment won a big name. We had quite a smart skirmish & had three men wounded. We killed & wounded quite a number of them. The 5th Wisconsin did not stand the fire & the General put us into it. We stood our ground & drove Rebels. ¹

Day before yesterday our regiment had another brisk brush. We wounded a good many of them enemy & they only wounded one for us — Co. G’s men. He was shot through the neck & will not live long the doctor says. We were out-numbered but our powder was dry & a good part of the Rebels guns did not go. It rained hard all of the time. The General has given us the right of the brigade for our good conduct while under fire.


14th Alabama in 1861

Oh! Will, we took four prisoners last Sunday [April 6] & I was one that guarded them into camp. We marched them in in front of the regiment. They belonged to the 14th Alabama Regiment. We have took more prisoners than any regiment here. We got a good deal of information from the prisoners and went right under the Rebel forts & found three.

Gen. McClellan was here to see us today. We have had to march & skirmish from daylight till after dark everyday — rain or shine. Yesterday the General moved us back one mile to give us a chance to rest but we have to stand picket & build roads here. For three days we had nothing to eat but fresh meat — no bread at all. We would shoot down cattle, hogs &c. & frizzle it in the fire & cook it the best we could, put on a little salt, & eat it & drink cold water. We get enough now & shall hereafter, I think.

We are all well and have not had a man hurt in this company yet. It is evening & I am writing by the fire. We are in [Erasmus D.] Keyes’ [IV] Corp. The army here is getting ready to take a very hard place for the enemy have got a line of forts from York River to James River. I will write again in a day or two if I get time. Write often. Direct to Fortress Monroe or Washington either. — L

Write just as soon as you get this for we don’t know a thing that is going on in other parts of the army. Get no papers at all.

¹ On April 6, 1862, men from the 6th Maine Infantry and 5th Wisconsin Infantry, under the command of Brig. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, performed reconnaissance around Dam Number One, where Magruder had widened the Warwick to create a water obstacle nearby. They drove off the Confederate pickets and took some prisoners. Hancock considered this area a weak spot in the line, but orders from McClellan prevented any exploitation. Keyes, deceived by Magruder’s theatrical troop movements, believed that the Warwick Line fortifications could not be carried by assault and so informed McClellan.


1862: William Henry Harrison Smutz to Parents

This letter was written by Pvt. William Henry Harrison Smutz (1840-1864) who enlisted at age 21 in Co. D, 62nd Ohio Infantry in October 1861. He was promoted to Corporal in December 1862. He died of wounds received in the Battle of Darbytown Road on 13 October 1864.

William was the youngest of at least ten children born to Christian Smutz (1795-1873) and Esther Gardner (1798-1888) of Richland, Fairfield County, Ohio.

This letter was written from Stephenson’s Depot near Winchester, Virginia, just one week before the First Battle of Kernstown in which the 62nd Ohio saw its first action. This was the opening battle of what would come to be called Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign. The 62nd Ohio, led by Col. Frank Pond, served in Tyler’s Third Brigade of Shield’s First Division in Major General Nathaniel Banks’ Fifth Corp.



Head Quarters 62nd Ohio Reg. O. Vols.
Stephenson’s Depot, [near Winchester] Frederick Co., Va.
March 15th 1862

Dear Parents,

We have made a big move. We left Camp Kimball ¹ on the 10th inst. on the cars. We came down the railroad to Back Creek and laid there 2 days and nights on the cars. We had good times there. We then run out the road to where the track was tore up. It had been torn up for 4 miles but they were laying it down as fast as they could with two sets of hands. There we left the train — our baggage, that is — our tents and heavy things — put on our knapsacks and started for Martinsburg. We got there on the evening of the 13th and found half of the town flying Union colors from their windows and the other half in mourning for the dead heroes of the rattlesnake banner. We laid down that night two miles this side of Martinsburg.

Yesterday morning we started and walked 15 miles to this place. We are now 17 miles from Martinsburg and 5 miles from Winchester. We stopped here and the most of the men are camped in the woods but I took up my quarters in this building which has been a dry goods store, depot, and post office. I am now writing on the clerk’s desk and using paper out of the daily ledger.

Old [Stonewall] Jackson has left Winchester and [Nathaniel] Banks is after him all the while. They are about half way between Winchester and Strasburg and Banks is pouring it into them. We can hear the cannonading nearly all the time we have been here. They have been reinforced somewhat from Strasburg but I don’t think they will make any stand before they get to that place and by that time I hope the Old 62nd will get up with them.

There [was] a battle fought at this place. There is 1 Union soldier’s and 6 Secesh graves here and some horses lying around. ² There was 10 negro contraband came into camp last night. The officers just naturally adopted them. [Lt. Coulson D.] Rissler did not take any. Capt. [Benjamin A. Thomas] and [Lt. John M] Davis are not well yet.

Well, I must say goodbye. Your son, — W. H.H. Smutz

¹ A diary kept by Pvt. Thomas H. Gibbons of Co. E, 62nd Ohio Infantry recounts the regiment’s movements upon leaving Camp Kimball: 

We established Camp Kimball… [March 14] — camped on the ground where General Banks engaged the rebels during his first march towards Winchester. Our company was quartered in a house…[March 17] — we marched 3 miles towards Winchester without any assigned reason for doing so. About this time General Shields took Command of us. He had 18 thousand men…[March 18] — joined the rest of Shields force at Winchester. The entire force was 8,000 infantry, 700 cavalry, and 24 pieces of artillery…When we was within 3 or 4 miles of Cedar Creek, we saw a dense smoke raising in front which proved to be a wooden bridge on fire — the rebs thought to deter our advance by burning the bridge. But our advance was on them before they got it completed and a right smart skirmish ensued resulting in the loss of several men on each side….[March 19] — crossed the creek on a temporary bridge made out of rails and the remains of the old bridge…to the edge of Strasburg and we halted while the advance felt around a little to see if there was any graybacks in that part but it wasn’t long until the rebs opened a masked battery on them but done no harm. Our artillery was pushed in front and we were brought up for support…that was one of our first fights…[battle of Kenrstown, [March 22] — we received orders to march to Winchester and when we got there the skirmishing was going on during the afternoon the weather had cleared off. The result was fifty rebels killed and wounded about 25 of our men besides General Shields, he was wounded in the arm.


Thomas H. Gibbons’ CDV and diary

² There was a small cavalry skirmish at Stephenson’s Depot [known variously as Stephenson’s Station or Stevens’ Station] on March 11, 1862 between the First Maryland (or “Coles”) Cavalry and Turner Ashby’s 7th Virginia Cavalry. The First Maryland Cavalry was attached to Williams’ Brigade. Ashby’s Cavalry withdrew and Coles Cavalry entered Winchester the following day.


A Union flag flies over the public square in Martinburg, Virginia. During the course of the war, the town changed hands between Confederate and Union forces thirty-seven times.

1862: Lucius E. Holcomb to Friend


Pvt. Alvah Granniss served in Co. B, 1st Connecticut Cavalry. His letters mention several encounters with bushwackers around Moorefield, Va. He thought the women there were “surly as blazes.”

Pvt. Lucius E. Holcomb (1843-1862) of Simsbury, Connecticut. Co. A, 1st Connecticut Cavalry. Lucius appears  to have been orphaned at an early age. At age 7, he was enumerated in the 1850 Census in the boarding house run by Rosanna Bawn (age 34) in Simsbury — possibly a relative.

The Connecticut Cavalry was originally organized as a battalion of four companies, one from each congressional district in the State. The call for it was issued October 1, 1861, and on the 23d it assembled at Camp Tyler, West Meriden, with full ranks. It remained here on drill and discipline until February 20, 1862, when, under command of Major Judson M. Lyon, it proceeded to Wheeling, Va., arriving on the 24th. March 27th it was assigned to the brigade of General Robert Cumming Schenck and ordered to Moorefield, Va. [now W.V.] — the county seat of Hardy county — to fight guerillas. It was very active here, covering the ground with its scouting parties for many miles up and down the South Potomac valley, and penetrating into almost every recess of the mountains on either hand.

Early in May the brigade moved up the valley, and was present on the 8th at the battle of McDowell. The battalion covered the rear of our army as it fell back, repulsing an attack by Ashby’s cavalry near Franklin on the 11th. Jackson having driven Banks from Strasburgh across the Potomac, our army, under Fremont, hastened to intercept him. The battalion led the advance over the mountains. At daylight, May 30th, it met and repulsed the enemy’s cavalry at Wardensville. June 1st, at dusk, it overtook and charged Jackson’s rear at Strasburgh, and in the pursuit of him up the valley was constantly in the advance. It joined in the sharp cavalry fight near Harrisonburg, June 6th, where the rebel General Ashby was killed, and in Fremont’s battle at Cross Keys, two days later. On the 9th it made a dash to save the bridge at Port Republic, but too late for success. The army now retired down the valley, and on July 10th crossed the mountains to Sperryville.

The 1st Connecticut Cavalry would go on to have a storied career at Gettysburg and elsewhere (see Riding for Uncle Sam or Whirlwind & Storm) but Sperryville was the end of the line for young Lucius Holcomb who died of typhoid fever in the regimental hospital at Sperryville on 30 July 1862 at the age of 19.

Alvah H. Granniss of Co. B mentions several encounters with bushwhackers around Moorefield, Virginia, and interactions with Southern civilians, particularly the women who he describes as “the worst you ever see” and “surly as blazes.”


Officers of the 1st Connecticut Cavalry


Camp Durfee, ¹ Virginia
April 1, 1862

Dear Friend,

Arian [?], I received your letter the other day just as we were leaving Wheeling [Virginia]. We took the cars and came to New Creek and stayed overnight there and then we mounted our horses and came to Moorefield. We are right across the [South Branch] Potomac River from the village. There is one regiment [82nd Ohio] ² here with us and two cannons. ³

There was a few cavalry here the other day and there five of the rebels [were] taken prisoners. They crossed the river and put the stars and stripes on the courthouse. The southerners used to use the court house for their troops. The rebels are very saucy here. There has been about one hundred of them taken. There has been twelve taken in one night. There was two brought in yesterday. We were in camp in [an] old cornfield last Saturday night but we had no tents but what the skies afforded us and it thundered and lightened like everything. It rained hard, and Sunday we saddled and started again. We had 31 miles to go then.

This paper looks rather hard but I hope you will excuse. Tis wrote in an old cabin beside the fence. It composes seven rails with some old hay thrown over it and the horse right beside it. I like it very much here here. It is very nice land here. It is something like our meadows at home and plenty of corn and wheat. The corn cost husking. There is fields about thirty acres in them covered with it. The wheat costs carrying to mill. There was some beef that costs dressing 57 head, 5 hogs and 280 head of sheep.

We are at camp on an old secessionist’s [farm]. He offered one thousand dollars for [us] not to camp on his farm. Then they made him take the oath of allegiance and took the farm for bonds. We have our horses saddled nights and our arms on ready at the word and the 82nd Ohio, they do the same. They keep a picket out about a mile. The reason that we have to keep our horses saddled all night is because they expect that General [Stonewall] Jackson has to retreat from Manassas [and] that he has to come this way.

I have not much news to write so please direct your letters to New Creek for we cannot have them come here. There is someone detailed to go after the mail and a guard with him. Our boys want to have a fight [with] some of them scoundrels.

You wanted to know what Co, I belong to, It is Co. A. So I must bid you goodbye for now. I send you one of my pictures.

From your friend, — Lucius E. Holcomb

Direct your letters to New Creek, Virginia


Bradford R. Durfee

¹ Lt. Col. Bradford R. Durfee of the 82nd Ohio Infantry — a former lawyer of Marion County, Ohio — was in command of the Union troops at Moorefield, Va. He died in the military service on 22 February 1863.

² A letter written on 23 March 1862 by Charles F. Engle of Co. K, 82nd Ohio Infantry states that his regiment arrived at Moorefield on 23 March after a 5-day march and one day on the train. “Last Tuesday,” he wrote, “we traveled by train from Grafton to New Creek, then we had to go on foot. We marched from 10 AM until 2 PM, then we rested the remainder of the day….On the way we took 45 horned cattle and 135 sheep from the Rebels plus 10 wagons…There were about 500 Rebels here but upon our arrival they took off.” [Charles’ letters were written in German and transcribed by Darla Anhorn Lee]

³ I believe the battery was from Co. K, 1st Ohio Light artillery.


1862: Col. Joseph Rowe Smith to Gen. Joseph R. Smith

This letter was written by Col. Joseph Rowe Smith , Jr. (1831-1911), the son of Joseph Rowe Smith, Sr. (1802-1868), an 1823 graduate of the Military Academy and a former US Army Brigadier General.


Joseph R. Smith, Sr.

Joseph Rowe Smith, Jr. graduated from the University of Michigan in 1848 followed by a degree in medicine from the University of Buffalo. He entered the army in 1854 and served with distinction in Indian campaigns. During the Civil War he served as an Assistant Surgeon in 1861. In May 1861, he and his fellow medical staffers were captured by Confederate troops while working at an army hospital in San Antonio, Texas. After he was paroled, he returned to the District of Columbia, and was placed in charge of the hospital at Georgetown where this letter was written, just prior to his appointment as chief assistant to Dr. William Alexander Hammond in the Surgeon General’s Office.

By a General Order from President Lincoln in February 1865 he became Surgeon General and Medical Director of the U.S. Army. Junior was twice breveted, once for meritorious service and once for superior ability and excellent management of his department. He retired from service as a Brigadier General in 1895 and died in 1911 at the age of 79.

Joseph’s younger brother, Henry Warren Smith (1836-1869), served as an Assistant Adjutant General during the Civil War. He was appointed as a Lieutenant in the 3rd Cavalry and died a Brevet Lieutenant Colonel at Fort Stanton, New Mexico, in 1869.

Joseph’s younger brother, Horace H. Smith (1845-1922) is mentioned in the letter. There were two Horace H. Smith’s from New York State that served in the Civil War — one was in the 34th New York and the other was in the 76th. Both regiments were engaged during the Peninsula Campaign in Virginia.

Joseph was married to Claramond (“Clara”) Colquhoun Cleeman (1834-1905), the oldest daughter of Gustavus B. C. Cleeman. The couple had two children but both died young.


July 4th [1862]

My dear father,

We are still anxiously watching for every item of intelligence from the desperate and unequal contest at Richmond. The suspense has been fearful and its relief so slow owing to the non-publication of the official dispatches. I have seen officers from the earlier days of the conflict. The fight has been fearful and every hour almost brings me additional names of my friends perished on the field of battle. Of one thing there is no doubt whatever — our soldiers have displayed the coolest courage under the most desperate circumstances, and that alone has saved the army from impending destruction, for they have been completely overwhelmed.

McClellan has been calling and calling for reinforcements and in vain. While such men as Fremont and Shields and Banks and McDowell have been amusing themselves in the vicinity of Washington to make political capital, amusing themselves by running away from an inferior opposing army, the wants of McClellan have been unrelieved — his cried unheard — and in my opinion the responsibility of every life and every loss in the last battle rests on the unworthy head of Mr. Secretary Stanton. It would not be well for him if a revolutionary hanging mood would seize upon the people.

I feared Horace was killed but yesterday a gentleman called on me and left this note which I enclose to you. So it is my believe that he is still safe. Just as I received the note, I received also a telegraph from O. H. Drew, Burlington, Iowa, inquiring about Horace to which I replied immediately. So I suppose Carrie must be there and will feel somewhat relieved. I would have written to her had I known her address. Pamelia had better transmit the note to her.

I enclose you also a communication from the Surgeon General with accompanying enclosure which will explain themselves. I have just learnt today that my duties are to be changed. I am detailed to relieve Dr. Edwards on duty in the Surgeon General’s Office, and as a member of the Medical Examining Board. I am apprehensive that my time will be even more fully occupied than it has been hitherto. I am very busy now making arrangements to turn over my property to whoever will relieve me. [   ] went down to Fortress Monroe day before yesterday. He has no idea where Gen’l. Casey will be. Cousin Kenny Patterson, Ann, Cora, and Julia Tumer left yesterday so we are alone in our house for he first time since we have been housekeeping. I wish you could come and make us a visit.

Clara unites with me in much love to you all. Ever your affectionate son, — J. R. S.

Col. J. R. Smith, U.S.A. F&S

P.S. Send me transportation accounts and I can get you a little [   ] transportation your last summer journey here. — J. R. S.

1862-64: William H. Wilt to Samuel Stiffler


How William might have looked

These two letters were written by William H. Wilt (1844-1910) of Co. G, 48th Indiana Infantry to his cousin, Samuel Stiffler. William was the son David Wilt (1814-1860) and Anna Stiffler (1822-1888) of Kosciusko County, Indiana.

William H. Wilt of Leesburg enlisted on Jan 16 1862 as a private. He reenlisted on 15 January 1864 as a veteran volunteer and was mustered out of the service on 15 July 1865 at Louisville, Kentucky. After the war, he married (1868) to Martha Madden (1842-1879) and later moved to Nappanee, Marshall County, Indiana.


Camp Brown, Mississippi
May 18, 1862

Dear Cousin,

I take my pen in hand to inform you that we are all well and hope these few lines may find you the same. Samuel, I received your letter last week and was glad to hear that you was well. Samuel, we are now in Mississippi. We are after “Old Beauregard.” We have got him about holed up. We are a looking for a fight every day.

Samuel, our men had a little fight last week but I didn’t get to fire a gun. Our regiment was back on the reserve. It made me so damn mad that I wouldn’t shit for 2 days but I think this week will tell the tale.

Samuel, I haven’t much war news to write till this battle is over. You can hear more at home than I can write. Samuel, I just heard some good news. General Polk said we would all get home in 2 months from now.

Samuel, we are on the corner of 4 states — that is Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. It is warmer here today that I ever seen it.

Samuel, I must close for I am getting tired of writing. Samuel, write soon. Give my best respects to the gals.

— William Wilt to Samuel Stiffler

Direct [to] Hamburg, Tennessee, 48th Regiment Indiana Volunteers, Co. G, in care of Capt. R. Man


Huntsville, Alabama
May the 14th 1864

Dear Cousin,

I received your welcome letter and I was glad to hear from you and hear that you was well. I am tolerably well excepting a sore hand and my face is broke out a little. I thought first I was getting the smallpox but it happened to not be so and I am very glad it haint.

We are still in Huntsville, Alabama, and I expect we will stay here this summer. We have fixed up summer quarters. We are provost guards here in the city and we have all the fun we want. There is a theatre here every night and we can go in and it don’t cost us guards anything.

Samuel, I wish you would have come along with me. I don’t believe you would have ever rued it for I don’t think we will ever get in another fight. We have bully news here today. We heard that Old Grant was just more than whipping the rebs and has taken 3 lines of their breastworks at Richmond. General Sherman is fighting at Tunnel Hill. Today the cars just come in from there and they brought the news that Sherman had Old Johnston surrounded. I think he will flax it to him.

Well, I shan’t write any more news. You will hear it before you get this. But I want to know why you Union folks — as you call yourselves — don’t get at them Copperheads and clean them out. I want to know whether you are a feared or what is the reason. There is a day when the soldiers will get back and if they don’t dry right up, there will be some of them killed.

Well, I haven’t much to write this time [so] I will bring my letter to a close. Write as soon as this comes to hand.

Yours truly, — William H. Wilt

Direct as follows.

1862: Mary Elizabeth Barnes to Ira Adams


Lizzie in later years

This letter was written by Mary Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Barnes (1843-1924), the daughter of Hiram Barnes and Elizabeth Sheldon of Ripon, Wisconsin. At the time, Lizzie was attending the Female Seminary in Rockford, Illinois. She wrote the letter to her close friend Ira Adams (1840-1862) of Co. K, 1st Wisconsin Cavalry. Ira was from Ripon, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. Ira enlisted on 1 Sep 1861 and died of disease at Helena, Arkansas on 23 September 1862. He was the son of John Adams (1814-1883) and Calista Ann Adams (1813-1867).

Lizzie Barnes wrote the letter in response to the following letter she received from Ira Barnes from the Guard House at Camp Harvey in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

1st Regiment Wisconsin Cavalry
Camp Harvey
March 12th 1862
Guard House

My Dear Friend,

Hard times in general, I take this opportunity to inform you that you are corresponding with a guard house subject. Much in camp life is idle, is considered disgraceful. I do not wish to hurt any reflections on my own character, but I consider it my duty to inform you of my position. 1st, His Excellency, Governor Harvey considering the elections of officers in the company void, he ordered a new election, which was held on Saturday 8th inst and I was defeated for majority by a combined force of office seekers.


Ira’s letter to Lizzie

The Regiment being under marching order, I considered it necessary for me to go to Mill for my things which I left there when last in Mill. We intended to leave on Tuesday, and were making every preparation for it. I started for the Major’s tent for a pass to go to Mill, stating to him the circumstances and he denied me. Such vexed me all the more. I obtained a pass to go down town. I proceeded immediately to the depot to take the cars. On arriving there, I found a guard stationed there to keep soldiers from deserting. The sergeant stepped up to me and asked me if I intended to take the train. I answered in the affirmative. He asked me to show my pass, I answered that my pocket book was the only pass I had. The engineer soon whistled and I was aboard for mill. There were a great many persons at the depot for the Colonel was expected and of course they all see me off. Captain Eggleston being there saw me take the cars and wishing to do me a favor and elevate himself in the estimation of the Major reported me as a deserter. The Major being greatly surprised, mounted his horse and started in great haste for the telegraph office. He sent a dispatch to Mill to the police that there was a deserter on the train and to arrest him and put him in irons and bring back to camp, but fortunately for me I was aware of the telegraph line from the North to Mill and when the cars stopped, I was careful where I went. I saw a police at the depot when I stepped off the cars and my suspicions were alarmed. I kept a little shy and soon the police telegraphed back that the deserted was not on the train. That created a considerable excitement in camp.

My business done in the city of bricks on Monday afternoon, I started for camp in company with Mrs. Potts from Ripon on her way to bid her husband good bye. On arriving at Kenosha I started for camp and before getting there I met Sgt. Gould and two soldiers with their sabers buckled on. I halted and asked them if they were after me. They replied that they were. I gave myself up and went with them to the major’s tent. He ordered me to my tent and considered myself under an arrest. I obeyed the order and proceeded to my tent. The boys came flocking in to see the returned deserter and I had a considerable of shaking hands to do. I then started for the major’s tent again, wishing to see Lagrange. He being absent, Maj. Pomeroy presided. I had not been in the tent long before he came up to me with the dignity of Prince Napoleon and said that he did not meet any deserters in his tent and I will oblige him very much if I would leave. I saluted him with all the grace imaginable and left the tent.

I had not gone far before the officer of the day saluted me and bid me halt. I obliged the command, and he approached and read an order from Major Pomeroy ordering him to put me in the guard house for an attempt to escape, insubordination in camp. He expressed great sympathy for me and said that he did not like to do so but he must obey his superior officers. I told him I was at his service and would go without any trouble although had there been an order issued to take me out and put me up for a target — it would not hurt me as much. And neverless here I am, and there has been an order issued for my release by order of Col. Daniels, who has just arrived from Washington. Thus ends the ceremony.

You must excuse bad writing and spelling for writing in Guard House where there are prisoners and the room filled with smoke and sitting on a bunch of hay with my valise in my lap to write the history is not very convenient. I shall leave the Regiment in a few days for good and something of an idea of enlisting in the regular army for five years to go to Colorado Territory but I have not fully determined. I want you to write and let me know what you think of it. I do not think that this Regiment will go away. We are ordered to be ready to leave on Saturday next, but I think that it is doubtful of our going at all. Capt. Eggleston has relieved Lt. O’Neill. Also Sgt. Burbank’s is thrown out and Sgt. Porter. In fact, there is a general break up. You wished me to write long letters but I think that this is too long but I wanted to give you a plain statement of the facts in the case and I want you to write and let me know what you think of it.

Write as soon as you receive this, for fear I may not be here. Your True Friend — Ira Adams

After Ira’s death in the service, Lizzie dated and later married (1868) to Stanton Fordice, Jr. (1845-1928).


Addressed to Lieut. Ira Adams, Co. K, Camp Harvey, Kenosha, Wisconsin

Rockford [Illinois]
March 13 [1862]

My dearest friend,

Your letter written in the “Guard House” I just received. I was very sorry indeed to hear of your misfortunes. I feared you would have trouble for you know you were always so venturesome. But I am not [going] to reprimand you now. I think you will come out all right in the end — at least I hope so.

About your entering the regular service, you must so as you think best. It seems like a long time to look forward five years to be separated from you, yet if you think it is your duty or the best thing you can do, I should bid you “God Speed” and wait patiently your return. I cannot judge for you what is right. That can only be decided between your conscience and God.

I send you what I had written before I received your last. You need not read it all unless you are in the Guard House with nothing else to do to pass away the time.

What does the Colonel have to say since his return? About the same as before he left? All gas, or at least full of blow & brass? What did you do that made Major [Henry] Pomeroy accuse you of occasioning insurrection? What did the Colonel say when he found you under arrest?

I thought when I took your letter this morning now I have a real nice long letter but the delight vanished when I found you had met with such a misfortune. I am real glad you wrote me all about [it]. Please do so on all occasions. If you are successful, I want to know it so to rejoice with you. If you meet with adversity, I want to sympathize with you.

Write immediately as I shall be more anxious now that you are in trouble. Did the Major Lagrange appear angry with you? Give my respects to all your friends that remain true to you. Now do not fail to write and tell me all the news relating to you or the regiment — but yourself in particular.

Your true & devoted friend, — Mary Eliza

I hardly know what to say about your re-enlisting. Can you free yourself from this company honorably? You have put your hand to the plough. Do not look back, but go ahead. The retiring bell has rung. Good night. How I wish you were here so I could see you. — Mary



1863-4: John Elliott to Family


How John might have looked

These two letters were written by John Elliott (1840-1924), the son of Gardner G. Elliott (1801-1870) and Maria Elliott (1810-1878) of Dale, Spencer County, Indiana. John served in Co. E, 25th Indiana Infantry. He was with the regiment from the time of their enlistment in August 1861 until they were mustered out three years later in August 1864.

The 25th Indiana Regiment was organized at Evansville on 17 July 1861 and was mustered into three years service in August. It left the state Aug. 26, and was in camp at St. Louis until Sept. 14, moving from there to Jefferson City and thence to Georgetown. It marched to Springfield with Fremont’s forces and back to Otterville, 240 miles, in 16 days. It remained in the vicinity of Otterville until December, when it moved with Pope’s division south of Warrensburg, forming part of the force that captured 1,300 of the enemy at Blackwater. The 25th guarded the prisoners to St. Louis and went into Benton Barracks until Feb. 2, 1862. It was sent with the expedition against Fort Donelson and joined in the first attack, losing 16 killed and 80 wounded. It was part of the force which stormed and captured the outer works the next day and occupied the fort after its surrender. It left for Pittsburg landing on Mar. 5, reaching there on the 18th, and in the battle of Shiloh, lost 27 killed and 122 wounded.

For a good history of the remainder of the regiment’s service, see This Mighty Scourge by Michael Noirot. See also the Biography and Letters of Private Joseph Saverton of Co. C, 25th Indiana Infantry. See also 1861: John W. Ingram to Nancy Ingram — a letter  written by John W. Ingram of Ohio, Spencer County, Indiana who served in Co. K, 25th Indiana Infantry.


Addressed to Mrs. Mariah Elliott, Dale, Spencer County, Indiana
Postmarked Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis, Tennessee
September the 12th, 1863

Dear Mother,

Your letter was rather short but right to the point. It gives me the greatest pleasure imaginable to receive a letter from you couched in such words as the one I received today. It breaths words of affection for me such as mothers can only feel for their sons in the army. I am now separated from you by a distance of fifteen or two thousand miles surrounded by temptations of all description which you think I would not heed or turn from the path of duty I have laid down as the only one I can follow with the consciousness of being in the way my mother should wish me to go.

You ask me to forgive you for asking if I gambles. You only acted as a mother should and I would be more than a brute to be offended at my mother for telling me my duty. No, I thank you for it and shall be happy to receive all the advice you wish to give, and if within my power, I will follow it to the best of my knowledge. You can rest assured that I shall never do anything I would be ashamed for you to hear. On the contrary, I will be faithful to the trust you have reposed in me and when I get home, you will see the same John with the exception of being a little more sober than I used to be. When I was at home, I was always full of fun. Don’t you recall how I used to pinch you just for fun. I can always see you sitting by the window serving while the devilish John slips up behind your chair and pinches you on the arm. “You John, just quit yourself! You almost pinched a piece out of my arm.”

I recollect all about my mischievous tricks how mad Ann used to get at me and wish I was dead. But she could not be blamed; it was indeed aggravating to be pinched and pulled around the room. You need not expect anymore pinching from me. I am a getting too old to indulge in any of my favorite amusements that I followed at home. Not very amusing to me, you will say to yourself. Perhaps you thought I was offended at Ann. Not a bit of it. She could not offend me by writing anything she chose to me. I admire her noble heart and wish I was like in action, deed, and worth. I would, perhaps, had a good education and been occupying a position that would [have] enabled me to procure a home for you all and you would not of had to work and drudge as you do now. But I can but home that time will rectify all past suffering and you will be enabled to raise a good crop of tobacco and live happy and contented till I get home. The labor of the poor and honest will be rewarded, I am sure.

Life to me since I have been in the army at one time at least was very bitter and that was the time I was sick so long. Shoulder straps compelled me to help throw up breastworks on our advance onto Corinth when I was so weak I could not throw a shovel full of dirt six feet high to save my life. At the same time I had an excuse from the doctor excusing me from doing all duty, [yet] the hard-hearted devil — I can call him nothing else — compelled me to march with me knapsack from Shiloh to La Grange [and] from there to Holly Springs and back. I wished while on that march that death would end my sufferings but it was not granted. He undertook to make me march from La Grange to Holly Springs  after that I started and went about one hundred yards and give out. The doctor came along and asked me what was the matter. I told him I was sick. He told me to put my things in the ambulance till we got to town and he would send me to the hospital. The regiment stopped to rest in the edge of La Grange and I walked up to where the Captain was standing. He spoke to me in this fashion, “What are you straggling along behind for? Why don’t you stay in the ranks?” I told him I was sick. “Hell and damnation!” says he, “You are always playing off.” I could hardly resist the impulse to tell him just what I thought of him. The doctor came up and spoke to him and told him it was no use to try to make me keep up. He said I was too weak as my thin and cadaverous looks fully testified. “Well,” says he, “you know best.” And without more ado, he strutted off. ¹

I went to the hospital at La Grange [November 1862] and I will never forget the kind old doctor. He is now major of the regiment. I refrain from giving the officer’s name. He is not with the company now. I will tell you sometime.

Since he left, I have enjoyed myself as well as I would wish to. We all have our trials in this world and we should never despair. The darkest hour is just before day, as it has proven in my case and may be so in yours. We soldiers could tell things that you would hardly believe — nevertheless true.

Well, I will close. Write soon. From your affectionate son, — John Elliott

¹ Pvt. Elliott does not name the “hard-hearted devil” who served as his captain but the captain of Co. E at the time was William N. Walker (1831-1876) of Rockport, Indiana. He was the captain from 23 October 1861 until he reigned 23 January 1864.


Decatur, Alabama
June the 20th, 1864

Dear Sister [Samantha],

As I had nothing to do, I concluded after studying all the forenoon about it to occupy the remainder of the day in the pleasant task of writing you a few lines. We have very gratifying new from Grant’s army but it all comes from these newspaper correspondents and they lie so often I don’t know hardly whether to believe it or not. They report Grant’s army across the James River and in possession of Petersburg. I don’t believe much I see in the papers unless Grant’s or Secretary Stanton’s names is signed at the bottom of it.Germany has been taken by the Dutch, Paris by the French all robbed without a fight and expect some stirring news from Ganderville and Snakeville on the Tollapoosa River where the tadpoles and alligators had a fight a few days ago. The tadpoles fought to keep from being devoured by their hungry assailants and succeeded after losing three or four thousand tads in repulsing the enemy with great slaughter — enough to make them laugh, wasn’t it, see how the bloodthirsty alligators got up and skedaddled for their homes in the lake. I have written all I know about the tadpole affair. I will try and write something sensible.

When I received your letters I thought perhaps I could [   ] all of them in one letter but found after trying it to be a fruitless attempt. If you want a black ring, I can make you one. I have an old pair of boots on hand. I can take a piece of one and make you one but I fear it won’t answer the purpose as well as kennel coal. I won’t make it. There is none of the latter article here. You needn’t think I am joking about it. I am very serious. Get that way by spells when one of the boys tells a hard tale on anyone, he generally asks him if he is in earnest about it. If he says yes, well I am glad of it. I don’ take any such jokes.

The most of the boys [in the company] are nicknamed. Mine is Pointer [     ] because I was the best rabbit hunter in the company. There at Grand Junction, me and two or three others — Jarvis Taylor was one of them — killed as many rabbits as our mess could eat. I would like to have a horse very well but you haven’t told me what kind of a one you wanted. Is it a hobby horse, showing horse, or such a horse as they generally use about a farm for plowing. Please write and let me know if it is the latter. I guess I can accommodate you. The government has a lot of condemned horses for sale at Nashville but I would have to prop them up to keep them on their feet. When you hear I am on my way home, send a good team to Grandview to haul the horse and I will be there to help put him in the wagon.

Joe is someone I don’t know but presume he is some new comer from the loyal states of dixie. There is plenty of them comes into our lines. Two or three came in this morning and not a day passes but three or four comes in direct from the reb’s army and sometimes as high as 25 come in one squad. They are generally very ignorant. Once in awhile one comes in that has brains enough to know to which side he belongs and what he was fighting for [but] he is an exception that is rarely met with. You know the old saying it seems to be the sole aim of women from the cradle till they get to be old maids to secure a husband and when they get him grumble because he is not as perfect as they hoped but if you wish to get married the quicker the better. You are just the age to think about nothing else but marrying. Get Sinclair if you can. If you can’t, get some other numskull. I ask your pardon. I think Benny is a very nice little fellow and looked splendid when I saw him in Missouri in his brass coat and blue buttons. He has got assurance enough to succeed in anything he undertakes and will make a capital husband for the school marm. Not telling he may be a Lieutenant General before this war is over and supersede Grant. For my part, I expect to dance in the hog trough and keep bachelor’s hall for my own benefit till the boys get home. I don’t like to take advantage of anyone in the army. Find taking their girl from them unless he was present and opposed me. Then the biggest and best man could take the prize. So you see if I wait till they get home, I am doomed to live a bachelor the remainder of my life. There are some so much better looking than I am that my chance will be rather slim.

I have talked my brain considerable in writing this. If it pleases you, my object in writing it will be accomplished. On praying grounds and in love with solemn [  ], you meant 19 is old enough for anyone that wishes to marry, but if I can get married, I want to marry a rich widow with plenty of gold — whether in teeth or not. No difference — gold is gold. So did and cold hard to get and hard to hold. I shall certainly gold your wedding provided all parties are willing and no celestial hindrance. I never knew what is wasted go up the flue till one day on board of a steamer boat bound for New Albany with Bickner and staff, George Whitaker had was sucked into the flue of his pipe and went up and come out at the top and went into the river that gave me some idea of what was meant by going up disappear entirely or kick the bucket.

I will be at home in less than three weeks if all reports are true. I can then tell you all about army slang and everything else I know when I get in a taking humor. I can write answers to your letters from now till my time is out but shall request you to answer them. If you don’t, I never will for you as long as I stay in the army. Give my love to all and tell Aunt I haven’t received a letter from her in answer to one I wrote some time ago. Write soon.

Your affectionate brother, — John Elliott

Don’t forget to give Will and Mary my love and best respects and also Little John for me…

1864: Aunt America to Hattie

The content of this letter indicates that it was written from Boonville, Cooper County, Missouri on 3 November 1864. The author addressed the letter to “Hattie” and signed it “your Aunt America.” The author also informs us that she is the mother of a young girl named “Lillie” and that she earns income as a school teacher. In spite of all these clues, I have not yet been able to verify the identify of the correspondents from census records

The letter relates the hardships faced by the residents of Cooper and Pettis Counties during the war when residents from the border counties sought refuge in their counties. These refugees suffered from inadequate food and shelter. The author also mentions the recent raid on Boonville by rebel guerrillas led by Bloody Bill Anderson who met up with Gen. Price’s army in Boonville on 6 October 1864. The rebels robbed stores in Boonville and stole horses from the vicinity as they recruited men in central Missouri to advance on Kansas City [Battle of Westport].


Boonville [Missouri]
November 3rd [1864]

Dear Hattie,

Your kind letter came to hand a few days ago and I hasten to answer. I was much pleased to hear from you all, and very glad to get that nice photograph. I think it is very good though not quite so good as one sis has in a case. I think the one sis has flatters you a good deal. Tell Lizzie I still keep looking for hers and a letter from her too.

Since I wrote to her we have had quite a time with the Rebs here. They came in and took all they wanted from stores and all the horses they wanted & left at their leisure, though were pursued the next day by the militia at at rather a slow pace, but finally made their escape how or where I know not though we have not heard of them since. Bro. Bell was in today. They are all well out there. Also at bro. Johns.

I am kept quite busy all the time with my school. Have just as much as I can do and but little time for writing, visiting, or anything else. But I presume it is best for me to keep busy. My mind is then occupied with my duties and not so much time for trouble.

Lilly has been very sick the last ten days with scarlet fever; I had to give up my school last week to tend to her. But she is now most well, and yesterday I resumed my place in the schoolroom.

I have not heard from sister Eliza very lately but were all well when I heard last. They are having much trouble all through their country and ours is filled with refugees from the border counties. Many must starve this winter, I fear. Indeed, I don’t know what is to become of a majority of them. Some are now living in tents up above Sedalia that can’t find houses  to go in. Some of the very best citizens of those counties have been driven off without anything scarcely. Some of our best ministers driven from home and living in old shanties scarcely fit for stables. god only knows what will become of us as a people. I presume it is not quite so bad with you as with us.

But it is now getting quite late and I must close. All are asleep but myself and I do not feel very well and ought to be asleep, but I get so little time to write that I thought I would write to you tonight anyhow.

Give my love to Lizzie and the little ones and to Mr. C., to Eliza and James. Make them all send me their photographs. write to me soon. Tell Lizzie I am still looking for a letter from her. I was about to forget to tell you we have had two snows and quite cold weather.

Good night from your Aunt America

1861: John Albert Yeckley to Josephine Shoemaker

This letter was written by Pvt. John Albert Yeckley (1837-1909), Co. E, 28th New York Infantry. John enlisted at the age of 20 on 25 April 1861 at Canandaigua to serve two years. He served as the brigade teamster from March 1863 until he mustered out of the regiment on 2 June 1863 at Albany.

John Albert Yeckley, Jr. was the son of John Albert Yeckley (1799-1838) and Catherine Hershey (1804-18xx) of Perry City, Wyoming County, New York. In 1860, John Yeckley was working as a farmhand in Gorham, Ontario County, New York. He wrote this letter to Josephine Shoemaker (1845-1906) whom he would later marry in Rochester, New York (1863).

The 28th New York — the “Niagara Rifles” — was composed of five  companies from Niagara county, two from Orleans county, one from Ontario, one from Genesee and one from Sullivan, and was mustered into the U. S. service for two years on May 22, 1861, at Albany. A month was spent in camp at Camp Morgan and on June 25, the regiment left the state for Washington. It was assigned on July 7 to Butterfield’s brigade, Keim’s division of Gen. Patterson’s force, which it joined at Martinsburg, W. Va. Camp was occupied at Berlin until Aug. 20 when the regiment left Berlin and encamped near Darnestown; October 20th, left Darnestown and encamped at Muddy Branch. From this point it was ordered in the movement which resulted in the affair at Balls’ Bluff. It reached Edward’s Ferry on the 22d, too late to take part in the battle.


Muddy Branch, Maryland
November 15th 1861

Friend Josephine,

I received your letter last Friday but have not answered it because I have been waiting for Jim to come back. He has been at Darnstown taking care of the Capt. He was here yesterday & I gave him his letter & picture but he did not say anything about writing so I thought I might as well write now as anytime.

Our boys that are here are all enjoying tolerable good health. I had a letter from Walt the other day. He is getting along first rate. He will probably soon be in camp with us. One of our company died in Baltimore on the 12th. I had a letter from Dan Dixon the other day giving a full account of Slab City & the dance. I think they they must have had a nice time by his tell.

We are [having] very pleasant times here. The weather has been pleasant so far, but it is raining today & is rather cold. We are encamped in a pine woods so there is not much wind can touch us.

Tell Alice that I presume Jim will send that picture soon as he gets back to camp for there is a man only a few rods from here that takes them very good. Can’t say whether I will get any or not. Time will tell. Jim & I have got the promise of a furlough sometime this winter but they won’t give anyone a furlough now. It seems to be the opinion of the officers that we will go further south before long.

There is nothing of interest occurring here. we have sham fights every day. It is fine fun & good exercise but the boys get in earnest sometimes & go in on their nerve for a real one. We had one yesterday [in which], after we had shot away all our ammunition, they charged bayonet on us. One man got shot with a wad & hurt pretty bad & some four or five got cut pretty bad with bayonet.

I don’t know of anything more to write today for my head is thick as a beetle. Write on the receipt of this & don’t think I will tire reading long letters. write often. That letter that you directed wrong has not come to my hands yet. Give my love to all enquiring friends & believe me your friend & well wisher.

— J. A. Y.

P. S. You must not think strange if this paper is not very clear for it [is] about as clean as my hands. I have been cleaning my gun & have not washed them.

1862: Jacob Miller Seibert to Christian Seibert

This letter was written by Jacob Miller Seibert (1843-1922) of Co. F, 93rd Pennsylvania. He enlisted in October 1861, was promoted to adjutant on 1 August 1864, and was discharged on 8 March 1865 for wounds received at Opequan, Virginia, on 19 September 1864.

Jacob was the son of Christian Seibert (1812-1911) and Mary Ann Miller (1811-1900) of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.


Head Quarters Camp Winfield Scott
Stationed at Warwick Creek, Warwick County, Virginia
[Sunday] April 20th 1862

Dear Father & All,

It has pleased God to spare me to enjoy the rest and quietude of another Sabbath. Although we have no Divine Service to attend, nor friends to visit, we will try to pass the Holy Day not altogether unobserved. Early this morning my attention was attracted by the booming of cannons and the firing of muskets, & it is believed that an attack has been made by the enemy as Sunday morning is the time they generally make a forward move, but at the end are generally repulsed.

We are stationed at a very important place and more than 1,000 yards from the enemy’s fortifications but it is not known by them or they would undoubtedly shell us out. They have thrown shells over but done no harm. The ½ of them do not explode.

On Thursday evening [17 April] at 10 o’clock we were routed out & marched to the above named creek where we were in line of battle all night & at daybreak we were moved back into the woods about 40 yards where we lay till 10 A.M. No attack was supposed to be made after that hour & we again returned to camp & the same day we were again ordered to move.

There has been quite an excitement in camp the past week about the Rebel steamer Merrimac. at one time it was rumored that she was sunk, then again that she had run the blockade & was on the bay, but neither of them proved true.

We did not receive any mail since the 20th of March — now one month ago. The letters that come to Washington were not orders to Fortress Monroe until last week. We expect them in a few days. When we come down here the cattle were running wild & whenever we get hungry for fresh beef, we would go out in the woods & shoot a steer. We have for a house some 20 window shutters that we got at a sash factory.

The houses from Fortress Monroe to this place are all deserted & most of them burned down. We built five small forts last week. Since I wrote the above, a rumor come to camp that the Rebels had left their forts opposite our camp but such rumors are not credited. Last night [19 April] at 10 o’clock a rapid firing of musketry commenced and continued about 15 minutes. They were firing at will & it sounded like a machine gun after the [end of letter missing]

1861: David Sidney Seibert to Parents


David S. Seibert (“taken immediately after my return from Rebeldom where I was a prisoner for 11 months.”)

This letter was written by Pvt. David S. Seibert (1841-1905) of Co. I, 15th Pennsylvania Infantry (a 3-month regiment). David was the son of Christian Seibert (181201911) and his wife Mary Ann Miller (1811-1900) of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.

The regiment was mustered in on 20 April 1861. Those serving in Co. I were recruited at Bellefonte, Centre County, Pennsylvania.

The letter was written just a couple days prior to the 2 July 1861 Battle of Hoke’s Run (also known as the Battle of Falling Waters) in which the regiment participated and during which David and several other members of Company I were captured by Col. Ashby’s Cavalry.

During the battle, Confederate cavalry forces under Colonel Ashby, dressed in blue blouses, and having the general appearance of Union troops, emerged from a thick wood in the direction of Falling Waters. They rode leisurely forward and halted at a fence. The skirmishers, mistaking them for their own cavalry, obeyed the order of Colonel Ashby to “let down the fence.” No sooner was this done, than the rebel leader, followed by some forty of his men, rode into the field, surrounded the unsuspecting party, shot down the First Sergeant, and demanded the surrender of the entire body, consisting of the Second Lieutenant, John B. Hutchinson, and thirty-four men. Before they had time to fire, or hardly to comprehend their situation, David and the others found themselves in the clutches of the enemy. This occurred in the Stumpy Hollow portion of the battlefield.

Siebert also served in the 15th Pennsylvania Infantry (Co. I), 48th PA Militia, as a sutler in the 93rd PA Infantry. U. S. Signal Corps.

According to David’s own account, he spent 11 months in 3 different prisons — initially in Libby Prison and Castle Thunder in Richmond, second in New Orleans (October 1861 to February 1862), and third in Salisbury, North Carolina (February 1862 to 30 May 1862). He was released on 3 June 1862.

David later served in the U. S. Signal Corps.


Camp Newton near Sharpsburg, Maryland
June 30, 1861

Dear Father & Mother & All,

With pleasure I endeavor to write to you. I am confident a few lines of our camp will be read with pleasure. I concluded to let you know how we pass away our time here. After the reveille is played in the morning — which is at 5 o’clock — the roll is then called & have to drill a little or merely go through the manual and inspection of arms. Guard mounting at 9 o’clock. Drill at ten o’clock & dress parade at five o’clock P.M. That is all the drill we get now.

Our regiments are constantly moved from one place to another since we left Camp Patterson where I wrote to you, encamped three times — namely Camp Negley at Hagerstown, Camp Porter 12 miles south from Hagerstown & 12 miles from Harpers Ferry near the Potomac River, and again moved from there about 2 miles west. Nothing particular to communicate at the present. We have not had a fight but the Confederate troops are just opposite the river that is in Virginia. The Potomac is the line.

I was on picket the other night & could easy hear their drum beating. The troops at Williamsport — about 4 miles from our camp — had some kind of a brush on last Monday night. They shot over the river, fired into a Secessionist’s house and struck all to pieces (that is a cannon shot). The troops are well stationed all along.

Last Sunday forenoon we had Divine Service in our camp conducted by a Episcopal preacher. Quite a number of citizens were present then. We have a preacher in our brigade. He follows us. We will again have Divine Worship today in our camp which is a nice woods and a healthy place.


David S. Seibert in his Signal Corps uniform (1864)

We are to get new uniforms again before long & also learn by the officers to have our discharge on the 15 of July and send back to Harrisburg. We are all well & sincerely hope these few lines will find you in the same state. I must draw to a close for this time. Please send me about 6 or 8 post stamps.

A couple of spies captured by our men are now under guard in camp here. A few men were also shot by our own men while being out on picket. It was done accidentally. On half sleep it is a dangerous thing to be on picket duty. No more for this time. Please answer this immediately for I am anxious to hear from home. Hay making is almost over here. The grain is almost fit to cut. corn looks very nice.

From your son, — D. S. Seibert

Address D.S.S., Bakersville, Washington County, Maryland, Camp Newton, Company I, 15th Regt. P.V., Care of Capt. F. W. Hess

1865: Isaiah Goodin to Charles Manley Hill


William May of 4th N.C. Jr. Reserves

This letter was written by 17 year-old Isaiah Goodin (1846-1908), Company D, 1st North Carolina Junior Reserves. From the letter we learn that the Goodin’s regiment had just returned to Kinston, North Carolina, from the vicinity of Coleraine where they expected to meet the Yankees, only to find that they had withdrawn. The return march to Kinston was by way of Goldsboro.

The Junior Reserves were generally used for guarding bridges, etc., but towards the end of the war, as North Carolina became a more active battleground, the Junior Reserves saw combat. They helped defend Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, on December 25, 1864, and fought in the battles of Kinston, or Wyse Fork (March 8–10, 1865), and Bentonville (March 18–21, 1865).

In Confederate military records, Isaiah appears as “J. Goodwin” of Co. D, 1st North Carolina Junior Reserves. He enlisted 8 November 1864 at Camp Holms by Col. Mallett. The 1st North Carolina Junior Reserves was formed by the consolidation of the 1st (Broadfoot’s) and 6th Battalions, and Captain John A. Manning’s Company, North Carolina Junior Reserves. Isaiah’s military record indicates that he was transferred to a hospital on 11 January 1865 but by this letter we know that he had returned to his regiment in February.

Isaiah is enumerated in the 1850 US Census in the household of his grandparents, Isham Goodin (1782) and Elizabeth Beevers (1784-Bef1860) in Iredell County. I believe his mother was Elizabeth (“Lucy”) Goodin (b. 1826) but I don’t know who the father was.

[Note: There is a Find-A-Grave marker for Pvt. “I. N. Goodwin” — the son of Jesse B. Goodwin and Frances Brody Brasfield of Wake County — in the Maplewood Cemetery in Durham, North Carolina which attributes his service to Co. D., 1st North Carolina Jr. Reserve. It is my opinion that that the newly erected tombstone is an error. This soldier’s original tombstone states simply, “I. N. Goodwin, N.C. — a faithful confederate soldier” without giving his regiment. The soldier buried in this grave grew up in Wake County, North Carolina, and was enumerated there in the 1850 & 1860 Census records while the Isaiah Goodin [Gooden, Gooding] who wrote this letter was enumerated in Iredell County along with all of the other people mentioned in his letter.]

Isaiah wrote the letter to his friend, Charles Manley (“Man”) Hill (1848-1912) of Iredell County, North Carolina. Man was the son of Milas Wilson Hill (1809-1899) and Prudence Lydia King (1821-1899).


1860 Census — District on Yadkin River, Iredell County, North Carolina — showing Isaiah Goodin and his brother Henderson Fraley Goodin in Margaret Goodin’s household (isn’t clear which, if any, of the women living in the same household was their mother). The Holland family farm was adjacent the Goodin Farm.


Head Quarters Co. D, 1st Battalion, North Carolina Junior Reserves
Camp near Kinston
February 15th 1865

Mr. C. M. Hill
Dear Sir,

I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am still in the land of the living and I hope that these few lines will find you enjoying the same pleasure. I have nothing very interesting to write to you at the present time. I can inform you that we are camped near Kinston in the woods.I tell you, we have a bully time. We draw cornmeal and pork. We draw tolerable plenty to eat now but when we are a marching, we don’t get  enough. We have just come from Coleraine. We marched 60 miles in two days. You may guess we was sorta tired at night. We had our muskets and cartridge boxes, knapsacks, and 3 days rations to carry.

We went in sight of the Yankee breastworks and the Yankees fired their cannons twice at us and we retreated back but the Yankees would not follow us. If we could get them away from their gunboats, we would a give them the best we had in our shop. I am very well satisfied they did not come out. They might a killed some of us and that would not a been so funny. Man, there ain’t no fun in staying in the army, I tell you, and you had better stay out as long as you can.

Rece received a letter from you last night. You said you was a going to school at Old Rocky Branch. I recon you have a good old time with the girls. I would like to be at home and go to. I want you to write and tell me what girls goes and whether Tom Holland ¹ and Tom Moore ² and Frail ³ goes or not. Man, I want you to tell me how Tom Holland keeps out of the army. I think he is 17 years old. I don’t blame him for keeping out. Tell him to keep out just as long as he can.

You said somebody throwed down Cruses fence the other night. I recon that old Patsy just read you school boys out. Man, does them little Norton’s go to McHargue’s yet? Tell Ruben I said now was the excepted time.

I will bring my few ill-composed lines to a close for this time by asking you to write soon as this comes to hand. I want you to write all the news. Direct your letter to Isaiah Goodin, Co. D, 1st Battalion North Carolina Jr. Reserve. Camp near Kinston, N.C.

— Isaiah Goodin to C. M. Hill

Excuse bad writing and spelling for I have nothing to write on but my cartridge box. So write soon if you please, sir.


Thomas Holland and wife Nancy in Arkansas (1870s)

¹ Thomas Moore Holland was born near Statesville, Iredell County, North Carolina on 29 November 1848. He was the son of William Joseph Holland (1812-1900) and Sarah N. Moore (1816-1909). In the 1860 Census, the Holland family was enumerated “On Yadkin River” in Iredell County. Not long after the Civil War, the Holland family relocated to Benton County, Arkansas. Thomas was married in 1870 to Nancy P. Kerr (1849-1880).

² Thomas William Moore (1848-1922) was probably a cousin of Thomas Holland’s who also grew up in Statesville, Iredell County, North Carolina. He also settled in Benton County, Arkansas, after the Civil War. He married Mary Susan Lewis (1862-1934).

³ Henderson Fraley Goodin (1848-1929) was Isaiah’s younger brother. They are enumerated in the household of Margaret “Gooden” age 40 “On Yadkin River” in Iredell County, North Carolina in 1860. Their mother was most likely Elizabeth Goodin (b. 1826).

1864: Franklin Moore to Sarah Moore


Uniform of the Veteran Reserve Corps

This letter was written by Pvt. Franklin (“Frank”) Moore of Co. A, 15th Veteran Reserve Corps. Frank formerly served as a sergeant in Co. C, 92nd Ohio Infantry until he was reduced in rank and later transferred to the Invalid Corps (renamed Veteran Reserve Corps) on 24 November 1863. The cause of Frank’s inability to continue duty with the 92nd Ohio is unknown but in this letter he complains of a weakness in one of his legs. [Note: See comment below regarding soldier’s possible identity]

In general, the Veteran Reserve Corps were put to work guarding Confederate prisoners as well as serving provost duty and guarding railroads — any duty that did not require extensive physical exercise.

In this letter, written from Camp Douglas — a prison camp for Confederate prisoners, Frank tells his wife of the 4th of July celebration held at the camp in 1864. The prison  guards were being supplied, at the time, by men from the 8th and 15th Veteran Reserve Corps. Between the two corps, there were approximately 1,000 men to guard as many as 8,000 Confederate prisoners.


Camp Douglas in 1864


Camp Douglas, Illinois
July 4th 1864

Dear Wife,

I seat myself this pleasant evening to answer your kind letter that came to hand last week. It found me in good health and I hope these few lines may find you the same.

Sarah, this is the fourth [of July] and a pleasant time I have had. I was on grand review and grand dress parade. Two regiments was all in line of battle and we had a foot race and a pig chase. All the fancy people from the city was in camp today. Sarah, I cannot tell you all in this letter. I will tell all when I come home. We had 2 pieces of artillery ¹ in camp and they was fired about 100 shots and I am very tired. I have been on my feet all day and my leg is about played out.

Sarah, you spoke about Vine writing to me that she was a going to get married and it is a failure. Tell Vine I think she is a coward. She is afraid to get in bed with a man. Tell her that she is too nice to do the like and her man is the same — too nice to sleep both in one bed. I will put her through when I come home.

Sarah, I will close for the present hoping to hear from you soon. I will answer Mary’s few lines.

Sister Mary,

With pleasure I seat myself to answer your short letter that came in Sarah’s last one. Mary, I have but little time to write this time but I will say this — I was pleased to hear from you and when you write again, write more than you did in your last. Mary, I want you to be ready to get married when I come home. Mary, please excuse these few lines and I will tell all when I come. Tell Lib that I want her to write to me and tell me all the news and when she is a going to get a man.

I will close for this time hoping to hear from you all soon and often. No more but remain yours, — Frank Moore

Mrs. Sarah Moore and Sisters Vine and Mary and Lib and all the rest.

I send my love to all. Goodbye. — F. Moore

¹ The 24th Independent Battery was garrisoned at Camp Douglas at the time of this letter.

1863: Joseph Foster Andrews to Ella Andrews


Col. Alfred Duffie commanded the 1st R.I. Cavalry

This letter was written by 46 year-old Lt. Joseph Foster Andrews (1817-1888) who served in the First Regiment New England Volunteer Cavalry — a regiment composed of troopers from both New Hampshire as well as Rhode Island. The name of the regiment was changed to the First Rhode Island Cavalry in late March 1862, much to the angst of the New Hampshire volunteers. In January, Companies (“Troops”) I, K, L, and M, First Rhode Island Cavalry, were permanently detached and designated as New Hampshire cavalry companies. Andrews was serving in Troop M at the time of this letter in August 1863.

The following comes from the company roster:

Andrews, Joseph F. Co. M; b. New Boston (NH); age 44; res. Nashua; app. 1 Lt. Dec. 3, ’61; must. in Dec. 24, ’61; app. Q.M. 3 Batt’l., Jan. 1, ’62; captured Oct. 31, ’62 at Mountville, Va.; parolled ’62; assigned to Co. M, as 1 Lt; app. Major Mar. 18, ’64; must. out July 15, ’65. Died June 29, ’88, Nashua.

Joseph was the son of Benjamin Andrews (1792-18xx) and Mary Hogg Cochran (1796-1839). He married Sarah Almeda Barnes (1821-1890) in 1844. He wrote this letter to his daughter Ella J. Andrews (b. 1846).


Thoroughfare Gap, Virginia
August 9th 1863

My Dear Daughter Ella,

I received your kind letter last evening and as I was somewhat tired, I concluded that I would have more time to answer it tomorrow but before tomorrow came we had marching orders for to be ready to move at 5 this morning. So we have marched from Warrenton 9 miles, arrived here about 10 A.M., and pitched our tents just in season for _____ and inspection at 5 P.M. We have just returned from it. We are on the west side of the Gap. The 2 divisions of cavalry are here — 1st Rhode Island, 2nd New York, 4th New York, and 6th Ohio, 2nd Rhode Island Battery, 6th New York Battery. The 1st & 3rd Division of Cavalry are across the Rappahannock. The 6th Corps is at and near Warrington, 11th at Catlett Station, 12th at Sulphur Springs. Part of our cavalry — or our division — are at Centerville. I don’t expect that we shall be allowed to stay here very long. Capt. [Arnold] Wyman and some 8 others from our regiment are going home after conscripts. Sergt. [Alvin] Eaton is one of the number. They are ordered to Connecticut but probably will be home. They all agree to start soon so I am writing as fast as I can so that he can take it as far as he goes then put in in the mail. I did not know that he was a going but a few minutes ago.

My health is very comfortable. We had some boiled corn for dinner and apple sauce which made our hard tack relish quite well. I had some cucumber for supper with our coffee. I wish I had more time so I could write you more and something that would be more interesting.

The Nashua boys are all well. Meghan [?] is at Centerville. I heard from him yesterday.

It is quite warm here these days. ____ were as wet as though they had been in the water all over in the water, when we got here, but we have not had quite as hard days work as we had one year ago today at the Cedar Mountain fight.

Edwin is with me — takes care of my horses and does our cooking.

I must come to a close now so to have it ready. Give my love to all and to yourself. Write me soon.

Your affectionate father, — J. F. Andrews

1863-64: James Henry Estes to his Family


James Henry Estes (1870s)

These two letters were written by Pvt. James Henry Estes (1842-1921) of Co. C, 118th New York Infantry. He enlisted at age 19 in August 1862 at Keene, New York. He was wounded in the neck at Cold Harbor in June 1864, and mustered out with the company in June 1865 at Richmond, Virginia. His company enlistment papers record that he had black eyes, brown hair, a light complexion, and stood 5 ft. 11 inches tall. He gave “farmer” as his occupation at the time of enlistment.

James H. Estes was the son of Otis Estes (1814-1892) and Rhoda Ann Merrill (1817-1888) of Keene Valley, Essex County, New York. James returned to Keene after the war and in 1876 married Elizabeth B. Lee (b. 1852).

The first letter was written by Estes from the encampment of the 118th New York Infantry one mile from Suffolk, Virginia, in April 1863. The second letter was written from the regiment’s encampment located seven miles from the landing at Bermuda Hundred where the regiment was held in reserve after suffering severe losses at the Battle of Drury’s Bluff a few days earlier. Estes mentions the wounding of Capt. Livingston (shoulder, leg and foot severely) of Company F in the battle.

James’ description of his symptoms (periodic “shakes”) suggests he was suffering from malaria.

See also:

Estes family. Papers, 1856-1916.
Primarily consists of Civil War letters of James Henry Estes concerning his health, weather, local men in the Regiment, prices, camp life, the hanging of Dr. Wright of Norfolk, battles, and marches, 1862-1865, and the Civil War letters of Shubael Merrill discussing his health, hospital stays, and other camp news. Other items include family letters, 1856-1916, and the marriage certificate of James Henry Estes and Elizabeth B. Lee, 1876.
2 cubic ft.
Located at the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh. Feinberg Library, Special Collections, Plattsburgh, NY.


Near Suffolk, Va.
April 22, 1863

Dear Sister,

I now seat myself to answer your kind letter. I am well and in the best of spirits. Hope this will find you the same.

We are now in front of the rebels where we can see the smoke of the shells as they burst. We left our old camp at Washington at daylight on the morning of 20th and went onboard of the Steamer Utica. At ten o’clock we started down the Potomac. We anchored that near the mouth of the Potomac where we lay until the next morning when we started again and were soon out on the Chesapeake Bay. The sea was very rough and the old boat would rock like a cradle, and the boys soon began to rush to the sides of the boat and heave up Jonah—myself with the rest. I was sick pretty much all day and it was about the meanest sickness I ever had. We were now in salt water and I took a jolly good wash in it.

We passed Fortress Monroe about four o’clock in the afternoon. It is a strong-looking place. We thought we were going to stop there and were some surprised when we passed by. We passed on towards Norfolk, by the mouth of James River. We see where the Cumberland was sunk. Next we turned up the Elizabeth River. Old rebel works are to be seen all along the shore on both sides of the river. We see where the old Merrimac was blown up. There is a sign put up to show where it was sunk.

We got off from the boat at Norfolk and unslung our knapsacks at seven o’clock. We staid there till 12 o’clock, when we got aboard of some cars and started for Suffolk. They were platform cars with nothing at all on the sides to hang on to. We were packed on as tight as possible. A slight jerk sideways would have thrown two hundred off. We arrived at Norfolk about half past one and stopped there till 9 o’clock this morning, when we marched out about a mile and stacked our arms and are taking our comfort, expecting to have to fight before long. We are in first rate spirits.

The gunboats and sharp shooters are playing upon the rebels some. Uncle S. did not come with us. He was left at one of the hospitals. I presume he will get his discharge.

I am glad that you get along so well with sickness. Hope you will not have any worse times. We are without any tents and don’t know how soon we shall get any. We are going to soldiering now in good earnest.

Tell father and mother not to worry about me. I shall write again in a few days. Alson came and saw us the day before we started. He had no money and I let him have two dollars and told him to send it home when he had it to spare. That leaves me with only two dollars. That will do me for a while. I hope father will get the money and things all right which I sent home. Well Orphena, you will have to take up with a short letter this time, but I will write a long one by and by. My love to father and mother and all the rest. There is some mail going on and I must stop. So good-by. — James H. Estes


Camp Burnham, Second Brigade, First Division, 18th Army Corps
Near Appomattox River
May 23rd 1864

Dear Mother,

Once more am I permitted to write a few lines to you. I came to the regiment the 19th of this month. I mentioned in my other letter my arrival at Bermuda Hundred the 17th. I stayed in the Distribution camp until the 19th. I found the regiment about 7 miles from the landing.


Capt. Robert Wilson Livingston

You have undoubtedly read e’re this of our forces retreating and of the loss our regiment had [in the Battle of Drury’s Bluff on the 16th of May]. I was very sorry to hear of so many noble fellows going from the 118th all at once. There is 181 killed, wounded and missing and Captain [Robert Wilson] Livingston is severely wounded. There wasn’t much loss in our company [compared] to what there was in some — two killed and six wounded besides the captain and one of the killed was killed [by] a shot from one of the recruits in the company who was fooling with his gun. The same shot wounded another man. Zopher [C.] Rich received a slight wound in the head.¹

I have not got a gun yet since I came to the regiment and there is not much need of my having one until my health is better. I have been having the shakes again since I left the hospital. I am getting over them now. Yesterday was my day to shake but I missed the shake and hope I shall not have anymore while I am a soldier.

There has been some noise here since I came to the regiment. The rebs attacked our pickets twice during the first night I was here. There was pretty sharp firing for awhile both times. The regiment were ordered out both times but soon were dismissed for the firing did not last long either time. I took another man’s gun and straps and fell in with the rest. Though if there was any fighting going on, that I would be with the company.

We are getting a strong line of breastworks built up now and are strengthening it everyday. Troops are camped all along in rear of these works. Our brigade is a little further in the rear than the others, it being a reserve of the brigade for the present. The rebels attack our lines once in awhile as though they were coming right over us but somehow they don’t get over us yet.

There was a good deal of fighting going on here the 20th. The 118th [Regiment] were sent out to protect a working party who were building a fort. I was out with them until noon when I came into camp. They were not where there was any danger from the rebs, although we were where we could see the whole performance. I tell you, it looked rather cruel to see the men standing out there in the open field with the shells bursting around them and every few minutes some of them falling — either killed or wounded. It made me feel as though I did not care to be in their places. Our folks drove the rebels and then up pretty badly.²

There was no firing to speak of the 21st and our folks mistrusted there would be something up before the next morning so they made preparations accordingly and sure enough, about midnight they made a furious attack. Our troops were ready for them and gave them a warm reception and drove them back in about half an hour without much loss on our side. The report is though that the rebs were terribly cut up. ³

It has been pretty quiet here since. It is believed that the railroad between Petersburg and Richmond is repaired so they can run cars on it for we can hear them whistle every little while in that direction.

My sheet is full and I will close for tonight.

— James H. Estes

¹ The battle casualties sustained by the 118th New York Infantry at Drury’s Bluff on 16 May 1864 are listed in the book, “Three Years with the Adirondack Regiment: 118th New York Volunteers Infantry” by John Lovell Cunningham. In Company C, the killed were Eli F. Arnold and Erastus W. Leavitt. The wounded were Norman H. Arnold, slight; John S. Owens, breast; Sergeant Artemas W. Fay, slight; George H. Kent, severely’ Zopher C. Rich, slight; Joseph LaMay, shoulder. Missing: Captain James H. Pierce. Company records do not indicate which of the two soldiers killed were actually shot by the recruit; both are listed as “killed in action.”

² In Cunningham’s book, he states that the fighting on 20 May 1864 occurred on General Ames’ front and a part of General Terry’s where the advance rifle pits were captured in the morning and a “sharp fight ensued to regain them” — unsuccessfully on Ames’ front. On Terry’s front the works were regained but with a severe loss on both sides.

³ Estes’ account of the fighting on Sunday, May 22, differs from that recorded in the regimental history by Cunningham. Estes says the rebels attacked just after midnight on the 22nd and that the fighting lasted only a half hour. Cunningham states that the “morning service” was disrupted (10 o’clock) .


1862: William Litchfield to sister Maria


How William might have looked

These letters were written by 36 year-old William Litchfield (1826-1905), the son of Meshack [or Meshek] Litchfield (1778-1846) and Temperance Stoddard (1795-1846) of Scituate, Plymouth County, Massachusetts. William was married in December 1846 to Irene Martha Wheelwright (1829-1910).

William was a 35 year-old shoemaker and the father of at least four children when he enlisted in Co. F, 32nd Massachusetts Infantry in February 1862. The regiment was garrisoned at Fort Warren in Boston Harbor until late May 1862 when they were called in haste to Washington D. C.  From his letters we learn that William was hospitalized at the Fairfax Seminary Hospital in November 1862. There is another letter that appears to have been written in Rhode Island possibly in 1863 or 1864 as it mentions the draft. He appears to have been employed as a cook and still in the service. Military records indicate he served until 9 April 1865.


Camp Alexander, ¹ Washington [D. C.]
Thirty-second [Massachusetts], Company F
June 1st, [1862]

Mr. & Mrs. Bates,

I thought I [would] write you a few lines to let you know where I be. We left Fort Warren [Boston Harbor] in a hurry. The captain came in a hurry and said ___ was cut all up and we must get ready right off and ___ so we packed up and started last Monday. We left in the cars, went to Fall River, then went in a steamer. We arrived in New York [actually Jersey City] in the morning, then went to Philadelphia and had supper at [the] United States [Hotel] dining room. Then we marched through Philadelphia.

Then we loaded our rifles, then started for Baltimore. We expected to get stoned but we didn’t. The next morning we was in Baltimore and ate breakfast. Then we started for Washington and got there at night. The next morning, went in a camp one mile and a half from the Capitol [be]side the Potomac River. I went in swimming there today. It is well fortified here. Cross the river is Maryland. Next place is a fort is where the rebel be.

Tell mam I ain’t dead yet. Here would be a good place to carry on trade. Here would be a good place to sell milk ten cents a quart.

Georg__ Bates, if you can read this, you can do well. So goodbye. — William Litchfield

¹ Camp Alexander was near the Washington Navy Yard. The encampment of the 32nd Massachusetts was on a high bluff overlooking the eastern branch of the Potomac River. The regiment spent four weeks at this location before moving across the river to Alexandria, Virginia on 24 June 1862.


Cohassett [Massachusetts]
October 20 [1862]


I thought I would write a few lines to let you know that you have got a letter sent today with ten dollars so you can come home. You write soon as you get this and let me know how you are and if you get the money.

— Martha

I send all things for you to write quick.

[reverse side of letter]

Fairfax Seminary Hospital near Alexandria, Virginia
November 1, 1862

Dear Sister Maria,

I want you to send me one dollar to buy something to eat.

I also want you to go and see Irene and tell her to draw $5 out of the Bank and pay you the $1 and send me the rest. I do not understand the letter on the other side of this sheet. Was there any money sent to me or was there not? I did not get it if there was. The letter reads as though ten dollars was sent to me. Send me the money right off.

Direct your letter as the above is headed. — Wm. Litchfield


Fairfax Seminary Hospital near Alexandria, Va.

Fairfax Seminary Hospital near Alexandria, Virginia
November 4, 1862

Dear Sister Maria,

Since I wrote you to send me five dollars, I have received a letter from my wife saying that she had sent me by Express eight dollars, which I got yesterday at Alexandria. So I shall not want anymore money now. Tell my wife that I have received that $8.00 by Express. I went to Alexandria and back 2 miles each way a foot but was pretty tired.

We are having fine weather here but occasionally a little frost in the morning. I will now close for this time.

Your affectionate brother, — William Litchfield

by John G. Lamb ¹

¹ John G. Lamb also served in Co. F, 32nd Massachusetts Infantry. His penmanship was much better than William’s.


October the 25 [1863? 1864?]
Portsgrove, Rhode Island

Sister Maria,

I received your letter. I didn’t know but you was all dead, but you still live and boiling pumpkins for the hogs and I still stay here mixing dough for the soldiers. And there was three went a sail[ing] yesterday up to Bristol and they came back and tipped over the boat and two was drowned. They saved one.

Tis very cold today and chilly. There has been [a] good many visitors here this fall with their silks on. They get their dresses all over [the] floor.

You say you have made some cider and I shall stop in if I come home next month but I don’t know about coming through valley. Perhaps the thunder will break out just the time I get along. She may jump at me once and I escaped that time.

Why don’t Silas write and give me the news? I tore up the other letter. I had seven dollars stole from me. I left it under my bed in my trouser pocket whilst I gone to meeting when I go out. Now I carry it in my pocket all the time.

There ain’t but 8 hundred here now. They are going to draft again. I should think they had called enough. So I guess I shall venture to come through the valley if I get a pass. So try to keep up till half past seven.

— William Litchfield


1864: Charles H. Howland to Bernard G. Farrar


Bernard G. Farrar, Jr.

This letter was written by Charles H. Howland (1828-18xx), a native of Massachusetts, who was a merchant in St. Louis prior to the Civil War, and  a member of the Republican Part — or “Radicals” as they called came to be called. Charles served in the States Legislature 1862-1864 and earned a seat in the state senate in 1864. Charles maintained his pro-Union sympathies throughout the war and suffered personal loss for his loyalty in the land of guerillas. [See insert article]

In this letter Charles invites Col. Bernard Gaines Farrar (1831-1916) to share with him in confidence any mistreatment by military officials while in command of colored troops (6th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery). He was the commander of forces near Vidalia, Louisiana, at the time of this letter in November 1863.


Vicksburg, Mississippi
November 23, 1864

Col. B. G. Farrar
Vidalia, La.


Two years ago I was elected Rep. to Legislature from St. Louis County by the “Radicals.” Not content with two years service, the “Radicals” have insisted on a renewal by sending me at the last election to the State Senate.

Col. Kent informs me that you have not been properly treated by certain parties in military command and as it is the bounden duty of the “Radicals” to see that their soldiers are not imposed upon in any manner, I am anxious to know all the facts, and if possible see that you have ample justice done to you. We will have the “radical” influence brought to bear in your favor at Jefferson City if anything can be done for you.

Please communicate freely and confidently with me. Let me know the exact state of affairs. I shall be in Vicksburg for a fortnight to come before my return. Command my services freely & fully.

Truly your friend, — Chas. H. Howland

Address C. H. Howland, Box No 28, Vicksburg


9May1864Plain Dealer

Cleveland Plain Dealer 9 May 1864

1864-65: Lucy Ann (Skinner) Rivenburg to Minerva Adgate


How Lucy Ann might have looked

These two letters were written by Lucy Ann (Skinner) Rivenburg (1812-1872), the second wife of Alonzo Rivenburg (1820-1898) of Albany, New York. His first wife was Louise Hunter (1820-1858). Lucy Ann was the daughter of Gideon and Mary (“Polly”) Skinner of Vernon, Oneida County, New York. Her first husband was named Crocker; he died before 1850.

In the 1860 Census, Lucy Ann and Alonzo were enumerated in Vernon, Oneida County, New York. Also appearing in the household were Lorenzo (age 12), Edward (age 7), and Edwin Crocker (age 13). Alonzo’s occupation was recorded as farmer. In the 1870 Census, Lucy Ann and Alonzo were enumerated in Manlius, Onondaga County, New York. Alonzo’s occupation was recorded as farmer.

Lucy Ann wrote the letters to her cousin, Minerva Cornelia (Arthur) Adgate (1804-1887), the second wife of Deacon Daniel Hawley Adgate of Chesterfield, Essex County, New York.

In both letters, Lucy her cousin of the difficulties they have encountered with Union soldiers living nearby in barracks that were constructed on their farm “not more than a hundred rods” (@ 550 yards) from their house.


Albany [New York]
November 2nd 1864

My dear friends,

Your letter of May 1st was received and I thought I should answer it immediately but procrastination is the thief of time and so it has been with me in writing to you this morning. In looking over my drawer, I found your last letter. In looking at the date, I was surprised at the length of time — May 1st and 13th. I said I shall write to Minerva today so for once I am as good as my word.

I am all alone this afternoon. Mr. Rivenburg has gone to Syracuse. He has been gone 3 days. Expect him home this evening. Our little son Eddy goes to school. He goes in the morning [and] does not come home till evening. I miss him and his company. Maria and her husband [Lorenzo Rivenburg] made us a visit last summer. We would like to have had you here at that time. We about made up our minds to make you a short visit but she was taken with sore eyes. It was in that smoky weather so she returned home sooner than she calculated.

Minerva, I have made a mistake. Your last letter was August 8th. I took up the letter, only looked at the date, but I just looked again [and] found my mistake. In regard to Betsey’s Post Office address, I do not understand what it means. If I read your letter correct Mrs. Elvia P. — I thought her husband’s name was William H. Phailor. Is her husband dead and she married again? Will you explain this to me in your next. I let Maria see your letter. She could not think what it meant without her husband was dead and she married again.

Tis very near election. We are having some very exciting times in Albany. The majority are democrats yet we think Uncle Abe will be elected. Time will determine. I hope God will save our country from ruin and put an end to this cruel war. We had a letter from our son in Nashville. ¹ He was well but says he is tired of the war. We expect him home this winter on a furlough. We shall be glad to see him.

The barracks are on our farm not more than a hundred rods from our house. There has been over soldiers there for the last month. They steal everything they can lay their hands on. They dug about 2 acres of potatoes and burned about 1 hundred rod of fence. The first day they were like so many hungry wolves. Last week one regiment left for Elmira. We do not have so much trouble with them now.

Our friends in Vernon are all well. We are in usual health.

That affair of our neighbor in Vernon that I mentioned to you when I lived there is not settled yet. It is in law. Mrs. Foot and her daughter (for that is their names) is not expected to live. It is thought they have the consumption. I suppose it has caused them a great deal of anxiety. It is believed there is a wrong existing with them they do not seem to prosper. They were one of the first families in Vernon. How it will be settled. I do not now. I hope justly. I intended to have visited you in September but I could not leave home. I think it will be doubtful.

I have not received your photograph yet. You must not be so particular. If I can see Minerva, I shall not mind about the teeth. My love to your husband and daughters and a share for yourself. Now write soon. Don’t wait as long as I have. You will not, will you?

From your cousin, — L.A. Rivenburg

¹ Lorenzo Rivenburg (1846-1890) was Alonzo’s oldest son by his first marriage. Lorenzo enlisted as a private in Detroit at age 18 in Battery E, 1st Michigan Light Artillery. That Battery was in garrison duty at Nashville when this letter was written. Later he transferred to Battery M and with them in garrison duty at Cumberland Gap, Tennessee until 10 May 1865. He married Elizabeth Hatheway (1850-1937). He is buried in Oriskany Falls, Oneida County, NY.


Albany [New York]
February 12, 1865

My dear friends,

I did not think I should be so tardy in replying to your truly welcome letter. My only excuse is that oft repeated one — procrastination. I can assure you, it gives me great pleasure. It contributes much to my happiness to receive letters from you. I think of you a great deal. How much I should like to see you and your family. I hope if God spares our lives another year, we shall see each other. What could give me more pleasure? Nothing prevented this last fall but the multiplicity of cares after the soldiers came to the barracks. We took 9 of the officers’ wives to board — not because we wanted to do it. We could not very well get by it. They stayed 3 weeks. I can assure you I was glad when it was got along with, yet they were very pleasant ladies. They were mostly from Boston and vicinity and from Vermont,  one from New Hampshire. Their husbands spent most of their evenings here. One captain from Rhode Island — a single man — we had lively times until they left the barracks. Some of them were wanting something almost every hour of the day. We were willing to let them have all we could spare if they would not take it without asking for it.

There is only the Invalid Corps left there now, excepting some new recruits who have lately come in for safekeeping. Two were shot last Friday for desertion. I heard the report of their guns. Mr. Rivenburg came in and told me what was the matter. One was shot a few rods from the house. He fell dead in a moment.

I saw in the paper the other day of an anticipated raid of the Rebels through your region of country. I hope it has been prevented by having it known in town.

Next day is the day for drafting in Albany. It makes many sad hearts. We have but one son at home — Edward, my husband’s youngest son 12 years [old]. My son Edwin is in Westfield to school. He is 18 years. He is at the age that he can be drafted but I pray God it it can be consistent with His will to spare him, but his life is no better than thousands of others who have gone to defend our country and liberty. I pray God to prepare me for all He shall see fit to call me to pass through. It is a cruel war. It makes many sad hearts.

I have just returned from Vernon. I was absent 3 weeks. Maria is well and all the other friends. Had a pleasant visit. We talked about you. Maria says if nothing prevents next summer, she shall come to Albany and we shall make you a visit. My brother [in-law] Lorenzo [Rivenburg] is growing very deaf. It is very hard to converse with him. He has got a very pleasant situation. His wife’s health is very good.

Perhaps you would like to hear from that affair of our neighbor, Mr. Foot. It is in law yet, to be decided in March but sad to tell. Mrs. Foot and her daughter are numbered with the dead. There was but a few hours difference in their deaths. The affair moved them out of the world. They went down like an avalanche. They have gone to a just God who will do no injustice. They were both members of the church in Vernon. Her daughter was 22 years, expecting soon to be married. God has taken the affair into His hands or it appears some striking providences has taken place. Where will be the end, I cannot tell.

Give my best regards to your husband and daughter. Hoping soon to hear from you. Do not wait so long. We are having very cold weather — very cold. I don’t think of anything that will be interesting to you more than I have written. Mr. Rivenburg sends much love. Thinks he would like to see you and Mr. Adgate. Oh Minerva, I do want your picture — teeth or not teach. I am waiting patiently for them. I suppose it will be useless for me to say anything about you and Mr. Adgate coming to Albany. I think you would if you could consistently.

So my dear friends, I must bid you goodnight and may kind angels protect you from every ill is the wish of your friend and cousin, — Lucy Ann Rivenburg

P.S. Maria is getting a set of teeth. She had her old ones extracted while I was there. Had a letter from our son [Lorenzo] in the army. He is at Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. He is well. He has never been in active service. Never been in battle. Write soon, — L. A. R.

1862-4: Maurice Leyden to Margaret L. Garrigues


Lt. Maurice Leyden

This letter was written by Maurice Leyden (1836-1906), the son of Michael Leyden (1809-1901) and Catharine Carhart (1813-1889).  Maurice enlisted in June 1861 at the age of 22 in the 3rd New York Cavalry. He was commissioned a 2d Lieutenant in Co. B in July 1861, a 1st Lieutenant in Co. C in June 1863, and Captain of Co. B in April 1865.  He was taken a prisoner of war at Darbytown Road near Richmond on 7 October 1864 and confined at Libby Prison in Richmond, Danville, Va. & Salisbury, N. C. After his release from prison, he was transferred to Co. B, 1st New York Mounted Rifles until he resigned in July 1865.

After the war, Maurice served variously as the president of the American Dental Association, the Rochester Savings and Loan Association, the Davis & Leyden dental equipment manufacturing company, Monroe County Clerk, first secretary of the Rochester Title Insurance Company and as supervisor of Rochester’s 8th Ward.

Maurice married Margaret Leora Garrigues (1841-1928) in 1865. She was one of fifteen women who registered to vote with Susan B. Anthony in the November 1872 election.


Field desk belonging to Maurice Leyden during the Civil War


Headquarters Co. B, 3rd New York Cavalry
Camp near Newbern, North Carolina
September 6th 1862

My dear friend Maggie,

Your very kind letter of August 29th came safe to hand. I was glad to hear from you although I began to think you were not intending to write me again. It seemed a long time since I heard from you, but I find consolation in the old saying, “Better late than never.”

I am pleased to learn that you are having a pleasant time at Syracuse. I think you were wise to accept Mary’s invitation. You ask if I remember our ride to Mesina Springs. I do very well — a pleasant ride it was. I also remember that “Pride did not take a fall.” I think you must have been in great danger — more so than I ever was, or any soldier, even before the cannon’s mouth — but a miss is as good as a mile.

When I wrote you last our company was acting as bodyguard to [Military] Governor [Edward W.] Stanly, but we are now in the field again and have been for about four weeks. Our Company occupy the advance post on the road to Kinston.

I have been out twice within two weeks to meet Flags of Truce and once this week with a Flag of Truce. Those I went to receive brought in ladies and men from the North who had been unable to get home until now. The one I went out with took three ladies — Southern — who had been visiting at the North, and this was the first opportunity they could get to return to their homes. So you will see that I have had good opportunities to meet the enemy on friendly terms, as well as hostile. I always prefer to meet them on the latter — it affords me much more pleasure. I talked freely with the rebel officers. Those I have chanced to meet from time to time have always appeared very friendly, and acknowledge that we have always treated them well when they met us under a Flag of Truce. But some of our officers say that when they have been out with Flags of Truce, they have not only been insulted by the rebel officers whom they met but by the very ladies they had been escorting and protecting on their way to their friends. I say ladies as there has been no men allowed to pass our lines under any circumstances. Some, not all, of these ladies would be very polite to our officers and men until they came in sight of their rebel friends, and then their insults and abuse has been almost intolerable.

There was a man who came in from the rebels lines in our camp this morning. He made his escape last night and informed us that a strong force of the enemy were coming down to attack us to[day] or tonight some time. I have strengthened our picquet and am on the look out. I do not propose to be surprised. Capt. [John F.] Moschell & Lt. [John] Ebbs being in town sick, I am left alone with our company and two companies of infantry. I only hope that the enemy will attack us and try to cut us off. I should like very much to see the game played although our force is not very strong here. I think they would be obliged to fight some before they could take our post and pass into Newbern. Should they come, I will fight my company until the last — even at the sacrifice of having one half cut to pieces before I would give up. I think it high time we began to avenge some of the wrongs that have been imposed upon us.

Since our regt came to North Carolina we have suffered much. It is the only cavalry in this department and we have had rebel cavalry, infantry and guerrilla bands to contend with all the time. I will not write you more this afternoon but wait until morning. I may have some news for you.

Sunday morning. As I was in my saddle all night, you must not expect me to write much. After I sent my report in to Gen. Foster last evening, he sent out at ten o’clock P.M. three companies of infantry to reinforce us and form an ambuscade which we did, but we had our labor for our pains. [The] secesh did not make us their intended visit but we cannot tell what moment they will. The rebels say that they will occupy Newbern as winter quarters. If the reports are true that I hear today as to our army in Virginia, I should not be surprised if they did. We only have here in all about five thousand troops. I should like to know what the people of the North and our government are thinking about.

You ask me if I am not glad that I did not wait to be drafted. Did I not tell you once on a time that I should never suffer myself to be drafted. I will answer by saying that I am glad to think I did not wait to be drafted — and more than that, I did not wait for bribery, or as some may choose to call it, extra bounty. I will not say more on this subject as I may be too severe.

Say to Aunt Maggie that I am much obliged to her for those few lines. I shall ever be thankful for small favors and large ones in proportion. I am sorry to hear that she hurt herself. I hope she is now better. Remember me to Em, Anna, and all your folks in Rochester. Also to your friends in Syracuse. Write soon and accept much love.

I am truly yours, — Maurice


Maurice’s Service Record



Bivouac near Point of Rocks, Virginia
May 31st 1864

My darling Maggie,

I should have written you last Sunday if but a few lines had I known when Sunday came. But really I knew nothing about it. That day — like many others — came and passed without my knowledge. It was not until yesterday that I was aware of the fact that a Sunday had passed and I had not written a single word to my “Little Pet.” Now you must not think strange of all this and I know you will not when some day I tell you my excuse.

When I was writing you last — I forget what day it was — I mentioned that aright was then going on at our right [and] that I was in hopes they would not disturb me until I had finished writing you. Well they did give me an invitation to “fall in” my company and be ready for action. Therefore, I was obliged to finish my letter to you in haste. The fight did not amount to much after all. A shell came over from the “rebs” killing one officer and wounding six men.

mix-3cav 3

Col. Simon H. Mix

The line of “earth works” which our division of cavalry have to hold are about three miles in length. The First Brigade, composed of the 3d N. Y. Cav. and the 1st D. C. Cavalry, commanded by Col. [Simon H.] Mix ¹ have the right of the line. Gen’l [Augustus Valentine] Kautz has now attached to his command the 1st N. Y. Mounted Rifles [and] the 1st and 2nd US Colored Cavalry. Each regiment and each company have a certain proportion of the “works” to hold. They are bivouacked in rear of and about two rods from the edge of the ditch opposite their allotted place. We have nothing but “shelter-tents” with us and in fact just as little of everything as we can possibly get along with — and less too.

We have several batteries of artillery with us. They are stationed at the most important positions along the line — one on the right and left of our brigade. I can see from where I now write [them] throwing shell at the enemy who are in plain sight. This kind of amusement is so common an everyday occurrence that we think nothing of it. In fact, it is nothing unusual for this battery to play on to each other for hours at a time — day and night.

We had a “right smart” fight yesterday afternoon. The enemy opened the ball, but it resulted in their being driven back and one of their guns broken in pieces by a solid shot from one of ours. The picquets fire more or less at each other both day and night. Our horses are about two miles from here at Point of Rocks — a landing on the Appomattox River. A detail from each company of one man to ten horses [is] in charge of them. We are only dismounted temporally — the exigencies of the service requiring it, and to let our horses recruit from the very severe effects on them of our two last raids. I have no objection to being dismounted so long as we have no marching to do and can remain behind “breastworks.” It’s a good idea to have something before you to stop bullets — something cavalry men do not usually have. I could hear the bands of the “rebs” last evening playing Dixie.

Severe fighting was going on across the James River yesterday. We could hear the cannonading all day. It has just commenced again this morning 7½ o’clock — quite too early. I think they should wait until 9 o’clock and then have an hour at noon for rest, refreshments &c. Quit for the day at 5 o’clock P.M.

Well I have written all that I can think of. Yes, I guess more than you wished I had. If it is the best I could do, you will say. But you must remember that when I write you now, it is at very great disadvantages. In the first place, I must use a pencil. I have a pen, but can not carry ink with me very well. No table — no desk — and sometimes not even a bit of board. Again, it is with difficulty that I can get the time to write you however much I may wish to, As I have no convenient way to carry envelopes and paper, I must trust to luck and take my chances on getting any. I am determined to fill up this sheet of paper as it cost me the whole of five cents. I guess you will think so at my desperate attempt to write something when in reality I have not succeeded in writing anything. Well here is nonsense enough. Now for something else.

How are you and how have you been? In fact, how are all your folks and the friends in Rochester? Also those in the “Old City of Salt.” I have not heard from any of them in a long, long while. What has become of Mary and my adopted mother?

It is a mystery to me how Mr. Hetfield and our folks should have heard that I was sick in a hospital. When we left Portsmouth, several of our officers were left behind sick and Lt. [James W.] Ring of B Co. was one of the number. But I had no such good luck as to be sick on that occasion. And to tell you the truth, had I been sick on that occasion, I should have gone even if I were to break down on the way.

What say you? I think of sending to you for safe keeping the letters I now have with me that you have written of late. Should anything happen, you know that someone might come in possession of them who would have no business to read or ever see them. I mention this and will do as you may think best. The letters which we write to each other are of more interest to us perhaps than they would, or should be, to anyone else. At least I can speak from personal experience. Perhaps I should not have thought of this precaution were it not for what I saw on one of our raids. Some of our men went in to a house and, as was usual the case, the occupants had gone to the woods when they saw us coming. The first thing looked for was any paper that might give us valuable information. In the search some man found a package of letters which proved to be “love letters” and in fact all the correspondence that might have passed between the man and his wife previous to their marriage. As soon as this gentleman — for he really was — discovered what they were, he at once burned them to prevent others who might get them from reading that which they had no right to. I thought this very honorable in this man and am sorry that there are many who would never have done as he did.

Hoping to hear from you very soon, I will now bid you an affectionate goodbye. With much love and kisses.

Yours forever, — Maurice

¹ Col. Simon H. Mix organized and led the Third New York Cavalry. On June 15, 1864, Col. Mix was killed leading a cavalry charge before Petersburg, Va., and was buried on the battlefield.


1863: Robert M. Campbell to Margaret Elizabeth Campbell


Correspondence of Capt. Campbell’s sold on internet with his CDV

This letter was written by Robert M. Campbell (1839-1902), the son of Mungo Dick Campbell (1809-1894) and Mary Ann Mabon (1816-1894) of Monmouth, Warren County, Illinois. Robert enlisted in Co. F, 17th Illinois Infantry as a corporal in May 1861. He was with the regiment in the battles at Forts Henry and Donelson, at Shiloh, and the siege of Corinth. He was promoted to sergeant for meritorious service at Fort Donelson and was promoted again to Color Sergeant of the regiment in late March 1863.

In August 1863, he was recommended for appointment and commissioned Captain of Co. F, 8th Louisiana (African Descent) which was reorganized and made part of the 47th USCT in March 1864. He was wounded in the left foot in the Battle of Yazoo City in March 1864 and in the siege and capture of Fort Blakely in April 1865. After the cessation of hostilities, Campbell was Provost Marshal in Alexandria, Louisiana until mustered out January 5, 1866, after almost five years of continuous active service.

Following the war, Robert resided in Peoria, Illinois and was the  Assistant Postmaster of that City for eighteen years. He was married to Miss Effie G. Babcock, 30 November 1871. Campbell was active in the GAR and died in Peoria in 1932.

Robert wrote the letter to his sister, Margaret Elizabeth Campbell (1846-1936. She never married and is buried in Little York, Warren County, Illinois. Robert’s older brother, James Shield Campbell (1836-1863), served in the Civil War also. He was mustered in as orderly sergeant of Co. C, 83rd Illinois Infantry in July 1862. While stationed at Fort Donelson in February 1863, nine companies of this regiment together with Company “C,” 2d Illinois Light Artillery, and one company of Cavalry, were attacked by the combined forces of Confederate General Forrest and Wheeler, numbering 5,000 men. The battle lasted from 1:00 P. M. to 8:00 P. M., when the enemy was compelled to retire with the loss of some 800 killed and wounded. Early in the engagement, Company “C” to which Campbell was First Sergeant, was ordered to support a piece of artillery and in changing position, Campbell was shot through the breast and killed instantly.


Camp 8th Louisiana Regt. of A. D. [African Descent]
Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana
October 11th 1863

Miss Maggie E. Campbell
Dear Sister,

I was agreeably surprised yesterday morning when Charles Emery, Lieut. commanding the artillery at this place came to my tent and handed me a letter telling me that a “Mr. Smith” from our town had handed it to him as the boat stopped the night before. I was very sorry he did not stop and stay awhile but Emery told me Mrs. Smith was with him and that Mr. Smith was going home on the next boat going up the river. I hope he will stop with me as he goes up. I have some little things I would like to send home with him but as only a few of the boats stop here and the landing is below our camp, do not expect to see him.

Your letter was the first I had received for some time. We are getting in a manner no mail at all but I must be careful about complaining about other people not writing when I have not written a letter for a week. But it was because I have been so busy for the last week. I could not get anytime to write letters. To give you a little idea of what we have been doing, I will commence and give you a few items of what we have done commencing with Monday 5th — Company drill in morning; Battalion drill in afternoon. Made out Returns of Deceased Soldiers for the last Quarter ending September 30th.

Tuesday 6th — Drew new tents for the men and took down the old tents, cleaned off, came and had to show the boys how to fix up their new tents. We drew “wedge tents” ( “Λ”) and had lumber enough to raise the tents two feet from the ground and board them up.

Wednesday 7th — Cleaned up quarters and had a review by Brig. Gen. Jas. L. Kiernan, commander of this post. ¹ Thursday 8th — Moved the officer’s tents and cleaned up camp in good shape, had inspection of arms at 4 P.M. I received an order for the Gen’l ordering me as one of a “Board of Survey” to examine certain boxes of clothing received from our quartermaster which had been opened and some of the articles stolen. We counted some of the boxes that evening.

Friday 9th — We met and examined the remainder of the goods and drew clothing for the men and issue it to them. Saturday — The Lieutenant’s both on duty and I not having time to drill the company, it did not go out at drill call. The Col. [Hiram Scofield] came round and gave me his compliments in language not contained in the English Grammar, and ordered the sergeants to take the men out and drill for two hours. I just let him blow till he got cool. Then he went off and the company went out and drilled. I have had such an awful bad cold and cough all week I could not drill anything. But still I am busy every day — have writing enough now to keep me all the spare time I get for two weeks.

Sabbath (today) had company inspection at 10, inspection of quarters at 2. The Col. [Scofield] complimented me for having the company and quarters in good shape, clean and neat. The mother of one of my company came in today and brought in a little White girl about 8 years of age. She wanted to come in to see me (I was at their house one day). She is a smart little girl. Her parents are poor and she has not had that treatment and learning little girls of the North receive. She was great company for us today. Several of the officers had her round buying candy &c. for her. She stayed and ate dinner with us.

Children of the North do not have any idea of the advantages they have over those of the South — especially the poor class. I have been around through all this section of country and have not saw a single school house in the parish except at Lake Providence. There is one old dilapidated house and save the three churches in Providence, have only saw one church and it is 4 miles west of “Bayou Macon” — about 25 miles from here and in the heart of a vast, wild, almost deserted country now and is open and [in] fact, going to ruin.

The rich planters either send all their children away some place North or to some town to school them or hire some Northern man or Northern school marm to teach them at home and the poor — for want of “common schools” — have to let their children grow up the same as the Negroes without an education, save what they can pick up. Such has been the custom for years in this great Southern country where cotton has been King for so long, but where U. S. Grant is now on the throne and the once downtrodden African now halts his subdued master and escorts him through to headquarters (when he wants to get protection for his little remaining property) with a file of bayonets. Mag, I think you could get a subject for an essay, but perhaps such a subject would offend some of your Southern Sympathizing students (not friends).

Well, now it is 10 P.M. and I am coughing so I can scarcely write so I will halt for tonight. Good night, — Bob

Monday morn. 6 A.M. before breakfast, Oct 12.

Well Al Crawford ² has got a commission has he. I think it is injurious to the Colored service to give civilians command of a company, for there is no man that has never been a soldier himself that can command a company as well as an old soldier for he has to learn himself, then learn the men. I know good soldiers could be procured to command all the Negroes in the U.S. and if a commission is valuable to anyone who in the name of common sense should be rewarded if not the soldiery. Now ain’t that so.

I had a long letter from Warry Runge a few days ago. Have not answered it yet but will soon. Breakfast ready.

You got the blue ribbon at the fair? Who made the quilt? Tell Libb I’ll answer her letter soon. Got the pen alright but have got used to steel pens now and use them. I think the young folks (don’t know as that is proper — to call them all young) are doing a good business marrying. I guess all my friends and acquaintances will be married when I get home. But it’s all right. I am happy I have no one waiting for me now.

Well, I must close this and go to work. Have plenty to do all week. Can’t John write? Excuse this huge sheet and poor writing and answer soon. My love to all the girls and compliments to everyone with much love for all.

I remain your affectionate brother, — Robt. M. Campbell, Capt. 8th U.S.Colored Regt. of Louisiana

P. S. I think my cough is some better today but it is pretty bad yet. — Bob


James Lawler Kiernan

¹ James Lawler Kiernan (1837-1869) served as a surgeon with the 69th New York Militia at the Battle of First Bull Run, then Surgeon with the 6th Missouri Volunteer Infantry. He was severely wounded at the Battle at Port Gibson in Mississippi and left for dead in a swamp. He was captured but Confederate troops, but escaped. He was appointed Brigadier General of Volunteers by President Abraham Lincoln on August 1, 1863 and put in charge of the post at Milliken’s Bend. but resigned on February 3, 1864 because of poor health. After the war he was appointed United States Consular to China. 

² Albert Galloway Crawford (1835-18xx), the son of James Constance Crawford (1806-1895) and Esther Sloan (1810-1882), graduated from Monmouth College in 1861. He taught school after graduation but resigned to enter the army. After going to Cincinnati and taking the examination for a commission in the Volunteer Army, he was appointed Captain of Co. H, 4th USCT. He was wounded in the left thigh near Petersburg on 10 July 1864 and taken to a hospital at Annapolis, Md. He was furloughed and later given a disability discharge.


Capt. Albert Crawford at right

Oct. 23, 1865, he was married to Mary Burroughs of Monmouth. In the same year he was elected County Surveyor of Warren County, which position he resigned to go to Clinton, Missouri. He held several county offices at Clinton at different times, and also held a position as civil engineer various railroads. He died at his father’s home near Clinton, Missouri, June 14, 1878, at the age of 42 leaving besides his wife, two young daughters.

1861: Joseph S. Lipe to Margaret (Brawley) Lipe


How Joseph might have looked

This letter was written by 39 year-old Joseph Lipe (1822-1862) who enlisted as a private in Co. I, 7th North Carolina Infantry (Confederate) in 1861. He was promoted to corporal in April 1862. During the Battle of Gaines Mill, Joseph was  critically wounded (gut shot) on 27 Jun 1862 and died in the St. Charles Hospital in Richmond on 2 Jul 1862. The St. Charles Hospital (former St. Charles Hotel) was also known as General Hospital #8.

Joseph was the son of Elias J. Lipe (1796-1876) and Ann Cossey (1801-1846). Elias and Ann raised fourteen children and five of their sons enlisted in the Confederate service. They were Corporal James McCree Lipp, who died of wounds received in the Battle of New Bern, North Carolina, 1862; Corporal Joseph S. Lipe; Pvt. George L. D. Lipp, who died in 1862, place unknown; Pvt. Abram A. Lipe, who died of typhoid fever in 1863 at Richmond, Virginia; and Pvt. William L. Lipe, who was wounded at Gettsburg, in 1863.

Joseph married Margaret Rebecca Brawley (1825-1900) in Iredell County, North Carolina, in 1843 and together they had at least ten children before Joseph enlisted. A farmer, Joseph owned three slaves according to the 1860 slave schedules.

In the book, Blood at my Doorstep, author Brenda Chambers McKean wrote: “In Iredell County, when Joseph Lipe descided to enlist, he wrote down a contract with his neighbors. He asked them to ‘aid Margaret and the children.’ His neighbors also promised to aid his family in their farming operations.” [See also: Ken Brotherton, A Civil War Tragedy: the Lipe Family. Davidson, N.C., Howard and Broughton Printers.]

The 7th North Carolina Infantry was mustered into serviceon 21 August 1861. By September 1861, the 7th Reg. had moved twice more and eventually found itself at Fort Burgwyn on the Neuse River on Bogue Island. In October, the unit moved once again to Carolina City eventually going into winter quarters at Shepherdsville, NC.


November the 29th [1861]
Carolina City Camp
Argyle, North Carolina

My dear wife,

I now seat myself to write you a few lines to let you know that I am tolerable well at this time. I have had a bad headache for a day or two but I am in hopes that it is nothing more than a bad cold. I took a blue mass pill last night and I don’t feel any better today. It may be that I am taking the fever but I hope I ain’t. If I do, I will let you know. There has ten men died in the hospital since last Friday the 22nd and several more very low.

Margaret, I am in the hospital yet but I will know a Monday whether I will stay or not. I sent word by John Miller that I wanted you to send my overcoat for I need it. I don’t know when I will get one. Some of our company has got overcoats and all that I have seen are very good coats and if I can get a better one that I have, I can send it home. And if you hain’t sent it before Joseph Blackwelder come back, you can send it by him. I want you to be sure and send it.

The regiment is going to move about ten miles nearer home right on the side of the railroad at a place called Sheppardsville to put up tents for winter. I don’t see no sign of peace for Old Abe has ordered out two hundred thousand more men and if he wants, he can order out as many more as he wants. I do wish that he would do something.

They have got to making salt down here. I seen some of the salt today and is a pretty salt as I ever saw. It is white and fine and very strong.

Saturday morning, 30th of November [1861]


I will finish my letter this morning by saying to you that I am better. I took some more medicine last night and I feel a great deal better this morning. I have not had any fever but I thought I would take some medicine in time and it might keep off a spell of fever.

There is nothing new here. We get to see some of our old friends occasionally and that revives us very much.

Margaret, I will tell you that Aunt Milly sent me some provisions by Lee Westmoreland and I have plenty of bread and butter and collards and potatoes yet. I have not eat any of my peaches yet but I have to get some pies made and have some made and if I get in for a regular cook, I can store them myself. And if I didn’t get in for a cook, I will go to the camp for I would not be a nurse for fifty dollars a month. But I would rather be a cook than to be at camp for I would not have to stand guard and I would be in a house. I will write to you the next time about it. Write soon.

— J. S. Lipe