This unsigned (or partial) letter was written by a soldier serving in Co. C, 37th Indiana Infantry. Most of the men who served in Company C came from Jennings County in southeast Indiana.
The regiment organized and drilled at Lawrenceburg, Indiana. On the 19th of October 1861, while at Camp Dearborn, they received orders to move to Louisville and then to the mouth of the Salt River. After remaining there a few weeks, they moved to Elizabethtown, Kentucky where they encamped at Camp Haycraft. From there they moved on to Camp Washington and then to Bacon Creek, Kentucky where they spent the latter half of December, January, and the first part of February. Camp Washington was a temporary Union encampment located at Helm Place (home of Kentucky Governor John LaRue Helm) one mile north of Elizabethtown along the Louisville & Nashville turnpike. During December 1861 there were 10,000 men at this camp before they were moved to Bacon Creek.
We learn that the author of this letter contracted the measles while at Camp Dearborn but survived to accompany his regiment to Kentucky. We also learn that he didn’t think much of the nursing he’d received in the service: “I am not much afraid for the Secesh bullets — all dread is getting sick for I tell you, James, a sick man is poorly taken care of.”
Jacob Fitzgerald Goltry also served in Company C, 37th Indiana Infantry. His letters may be found at: The Civil War Letters of Jacob Fitzgerald Goltry.
December the 16th 1861
Hardin County, Kentucky
I take the present opportunity of writing you a few lines to inform you that I am well at present and I sincerely hope that these few lines may find you well.
James, I will write a little concerning our march from Camp Haycraft to the present place of occupation. Our regiment left the last named camp on the 9th of this month at about 9 o’clock. Our company — that is Co. C — did not go with the regiment. We had to go in the rear of the wagons as guards and we did not get started until about 4 o’clock P.M. so you know the regiment got a good deal the start of us. We marched until about ten o’clock in the night, the mud coming in places half way up to our knees. So we gave up the idea of overtaking the regiment and laid down for the night. As our tents were with the regiment, we had nothing but the canopy of heaven for shelter. Nevertheless, we slept soundly for we were very much fatigued.
We slept until morning without molestation. At daylight we took up our line of march. we had not gone far when we found our company wagon stalled in the mud so we halted and made some coffee and ate a hearty breakfast which consisted of crackers, coffee, and cold beef. After we were through with our repast, we helped our teamster out of the mud with his wagon and again took up our line of march and soon came up with our regiment. They had already selected their place of encampment and were pitching their tents. The place they chose was on a ridge in a very dense forest. The undergrowth was so thick, you could not discover our camp unless you was within 50 yards of it but it looks different now — we have felled a good many trees and cut away the undergrowth. At first it looked like a thicket or copse.
The 18th Ohio and the 19th Illinois are encamped close by us. We are in one brigade. We send out picket guard every three days and the other two regiments the same so there are pickets out all the time.
James, I cannot tell you how long we may stay. There have been rumors today that we will leave in a short time. James, I would like to see you again. The last time I saw you was at camp Dearborn. I was in a critical condition then, as you will remember. I had the measles. James, I am glad to inform you that I have regained my proper strength again. I enjoy myself very well. I am not much afraid for the Secesh bullets — all dread is getting sick for I tell you, James, a sick man is poorly taken care of.
James, I hope I will see this war over and we we will see some good times again and if it is my lot to fall in the defense of our country, I can but perish as many a better man has done.