1863: Noyes S. Lee to Mother

How Noyes might have looked

How Noyes might have looked

This letter was written by 18 year-old Pvt. Noyes S. Lee (1845-1914) of Company B, 123rd Ohio Infantry. The regiment was organized at Monroeville, Ohio and mustered into service on 24 September 1862. They were part of General Milroy’s command at Winchester, Virginia from March until June 1863. In the Battle of Winchester, the regiment was surrendered by Col. Ely on 15 June 1863 and they were exchanged in August 1863.

Noyes was the son of Barton B. Lee (1811-1856) and Henrietta Lee Steele (1808-1869).  Noye’s father left New York State and emigrated to lowa, then to Missouri, and at length to Oregon Territory where Noyes was born. In 1846, upon the discovery of gold, Barton emigrated from Oregon to California, and in November of that year entered extensively into business at Sutter’s Fort, as one of the members of the firm of Priest, Lee & Co. He died in Sacramento in 1856.

After the war, Noyes returned to Ohio and eventually married May Shirkey in 1897.


Winchester [Virginia]
April 5, 1863

Dear Mother,

I received your letter tonight. I was glad to hear from you. I am well and in good health.

That pillow that I had in Monroeville I left to brother Robby. I left a good coat there too. Tell David if he is a mind to go and get it, he may have it. It is a good coat.

I wrote to Todd but I never heard from him.

It snowed here last night. We was out to general inspection. Yesterday General [Robert Huston] Milroy got a sword given to him that cost $250 dollars. I tell you that it was nice. ¹

I have to go on picket every five days. Our captain has got to be major now.

Tell David to write to me. I wish you [would] send me a paper once in awhile. Tell Elmore to write too.

We are 30 miles from where John Brown was hung. We expect to be paid off this month but I don’t know for certain. If we are, I will send some home. I got a letter from Milo. All the folks was well.

Well, I must bring my letter to a close so good bye.

Noyes S. Lee

Direct to Winchester.

Robert H. Milroy

Robert H. Milroy

¹ The officers of the division collected money for the purchase of an elaborate sword for Milroy on 4 April 1863 as a symbol of their admiration for him and in recognition of his promotion to Major General. The sword was manufactured by Jerre McLene of Indianapolis. The ceremony began with a parade through Winchester and ended on a plain northeast of town where a grand review of the entire division. The inscription on the sword read: “To Gen. Tobert H. Milroy, A true Patriot and Hero. A man who loves his country and race, A soldier who acts fearlessly and promptly, A chieftain to honor and follow.” The honor of presenting the sword was given to Col. W. H. Ball of the 122nd Ohio. The sword was cherished by Milroy and was buried with him in 1890.


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