This letter was written by Catherine Marietta (“Met”) Roth (1839-1881) to her brother George Washington Roth (1842-1861). George enlisted in Co. H, 78th Pennsylvania Infantry on 12 October 1861 only to die two months later at Camp Nolan in Hardin County, Kentucky.
They were the children of Lewis Rother (1812-1886) and Lydia Beighley (1810-1898) of Prospect, Butler County, Pennsylvania. Also mentioned in the letter is George’s twin sister, Louisa (“Lou”) Sidney Roth (1842-1874). Not mentioned — though he was very close to George — was their older brother, Henry Warren Roth, then in seminary school in Pittsburgh. A biography of Henry’s life states that he drove his younger brother off to Zelienople by horse carriage where “George continued on to Camp Orr near Kittanning, Pennsylvania. Two weeks later, George was in Camp Wilkins, Pittsburgh (Oct. 14), and on the 18th, was on a boat far down the Ohio with his regiment. By the 29th, George was in Hardin Co., Kentucky. Meanwhile, in November, Henry lectured and preached in Birmingham, Pennsylvania, and began Hebrew studies at the seminary in Alleghany (Nov. 27).
“On December 3rd, Henry received news that George was ill and started off to see him. Three days later, he found his brother in camp and stayed with him. Henry preached to Captain William S. Jack’s † Company H on December 8th. Four days later, on December 12, Henry wrote an entry in his journal: “George died in Christ.” That week (December 16th) he headed home to inform his family of George’s death.”
On December 12, 1861, the young Henry Warren Roth wrote the first stanza of a poem about his nineteen-year-old brother, George . . .
On his rough cot he lay in the hospital tent
away from the kiss of his mother,
And the gleam of the low-burning candles had lent
To his dreams the dear face of his brother.
But it was not a dream for his brother stood there
O’er that weak, wasted form was he crying
And that thin, bony hand did he clasp with a prayer,
And kiss for the soldier-boy dying.
Addressed to George W. Roth, Camp Nevin, Co, H, 78th Pa. Regt., Nolin P. O., Hardon County, Ky.
Postmarked Prospect [Butler] Pennsylvania
November 10th 1861
My Dearest Brother,
Your last was received last Friday and since that I have sent you two papers. Our festival came off on Friday, Nearly $50 were raised there. I had some roasted chickens. If you were here you should have anything you want. “Sturgeons” included. The old Shanghai rooster ¹ is dead. We suppose that he died a natural death. Aunt Susie had her wood chopping and quilting Monday. Everything was going on smoothly when the Rev. Beard told Aunt that if we had any “cutting up” he would have her session and the rest of the members expelled. He gained no friends by his impudence.
Mr. Sweitzerbarth is visiting about here now & peddling almanacs. He was here Wednesday night and he expects to be back next Monday when Papa will take him to Butler. Fred Elwinger was here today to invite us to Akin’s quilting. I do not want to go at all but perhaps it is better that we should.
Jim Marshall talks of applying for our school. (We have no teacher yet.) How do you think that he will do?
I commenced this Saturday evening but we took a notion to bake some pies and could not finish it. Lou made a tart for you but we had to eat it to keep it from spoiling. Mr. Sweitzerbarth was here last night and this morning. Papa and he went to Butler. Mother gave him some dried apples and he was very much pleased.
Emma Irwin wrote me a long letter last week. She sends her kind regards to you. She wishes to be engaged in a hospital and is ready to go. All that is wanting is her father’s consent, and this she thinks he cannot refuse. Liz Breedon was at home a couple of weeks ago but I did not see her. Andy McCullough was at Elizabeth last week. Miss Irwin says that she and Liz are at variance and she says that she has added her to the list of “proved false.”
How do you spend the time when not drilling? Tell me all about it for I have no idea. Mrs. Greer heard from Mr. Greer lately and he is not able to be up for more than five minutes at a time.
Newt [Newton] Kennedy is at home. He was one of the three-month men. George, did you know that Coulter Mccandless has fallen in love with our Lou. Isn’t it funny? I wrote to Will Scott last week. Mr. Scott wonders if you see anything of Thomas. I heard him wish that some Union force would take Henry. We heard that Fred’s brother, Dan Wickly was captured, that he is a secessionist.
George, I hope that when we meet again that we will be kinder to each other than we have ever been. My faith is strong and I believe that God will preserve you and make you a true Christian if you ask Him. May He guide you. Goodbye dear Dordy and write soon to Lou and me. Yours affectionately, — Met
¹ Shanghai roosters were noted for being long-legged and scrawny.
† Captain William S. Jack of Co. H died of wounds received at the Battle of Stone’s River on 5 February 1863.