This letter was written by Mary Elizabeth (Prall) Given (1841-1910), the wife of Joshua Lamborn Given (1835-1922) — referred to as “J. L.” in this letter. Mary was the daughter of Ellis F. Prall (1811-Aft1880) and Sarah F. ____ (1813-Aft1880) of Sadsbury Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Joshua was the oldest son of William Given (1813-1862) and Lydia Ann Lamborn (1814-1886) of Fermanagh Township, Juanita County, Pennsylvania.
Mary and Joshua were married in 1861 and we learn that they had an infant son named Elwood who was teething when this letter was written in November 1862.
Joshua served as a corporal in Wrigley’s Independent Company C Acting Engineers, Pennsylvania Volunteers. He enlisted on 12 August 1862 and mustered out of the service on 20 June 1865 at Harper’s Ferry. It was composed of skilled artizans, comprising in its ranks a party of sailors, of blacksmiths, and of carpenters, and among its non-commissioned officers accomplished draftsmen and mathematicians. For the transportation of its out-fit of tools, forges, machinery, and material, six army wagons were required. The men were armed with short earbines, which were kept constantly slung across the back, even when at work.
Soon after its organization, the Company was transferred to Washington, where it reported to General Barnard, and was assigned to duty upon the fortifications on the Virginia shore, under the immediate command of General Whipple. While on duty here, six miles of defenses, stretching from Chain Bridge southward to Fort Albany, near Alexandria, besides detached works, were constructed. Into these defenses General Pope’s army retired after the second battle of Bull Run, and found ample protection behind their well planned and elaborately constructed folds. The advance rebel cavalry, after pushing on and penetrating as far as the Leesburg Road, was stopped by the fire of the artillery from behind the epaulement, into which field batteries could wheel and completely rake every approach and ravine.
After the battle of Antietam, the Company joined the army at Harper’s Ferry, and in the advance through Loudon Valley, re-built a number of bridges along the turnpike, which had been destroyed by the enemy on his retreat. On reaching Lovettsville, it was ordered back to Harper’s Ferry, to re-build the suspension bridge across the Shenandoah River at that point, and to construct defensive works on Maryland Heights.
Mary mentions her brother Lewis. This was Lewis M. Prall (1843-1869) of the 30 Pennsylvania Infantry (1st Pennsylvania Reserves) who enlisted in July 1861. Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
Lost Creek Valley
Juniata County, Pennsylvania
November 6th 1862
Dear Mother, Pap & Mollie,
This is a raw cold day and winter weather is threatening us, unprepared as we are in the way of thin underclothing and bad shoes, etc. so we have set next week as the time to return home if the weather is good and nothing happens to prevent us. Aunt Richie has a very bad cold, is hoarse, and her shoes are bad. I think she wants to get home. It is very pleasant to be here and although they say “don’t go home” — “I don’t think you need rush” — and “I don’t see anything to hinder you from staying till spring” yet perhaps we had better come before it gets to cold to take the baby in an open-topped wagon as far as Mifflin. I have not seen a carriage since I came here. I will not tell you any particular day to look for us for this reason. Was I to set a day now, against that day comes, it might not be fit to take the baby out, and if we have a nice day to go from here to Mifflin, why if is not so fair against we get there we have not far to go.
Last evening we eat our 18th chicken since we came here at George Howers. ¹ It is no rarity. After we came home, they caught a goose but we tried to prevail on them not to kill it. I do not know if we did or not. We expect the two Mrs. Christy’s here to spend this afternoon with us and if we have the goose, perhaps I will send you a piece of the breast in this letter if it is right dry.
The people out here are so sociable. We have been several places and at a quilting. One rich lady told me while ever I visited Mother I was to visit her — or something like that. There! flannel cakes getting made in the kitchen. Elwood is sleeping in the cradle. He slobbered a good bit yesterday. I think his teeth trouble him. I think his upper gum was swelled some time go but no teeth are through it yet. His hair has grown very much so as to have quite a high top knot. He sat at breakfast this morning with us in Howel’s high chair between his grandfather and grandmother and had a little tin plate.
Benjamin Byers ² caught a bear week before last in a trap. He has had the yellow intermittent fever. You did not tell us about Mifflin’s visit to the army nor how Napoleon was.
I received your letter and its contents last Saturday night; also one from J. L. which makes the fifth from him since I have been here. He said he was well and stout, had not received a letter from me for three weeks. They had not got their mail from Washington. He headed his letter from Camp near Lovettsville, Loudoun County, Va.
He had visited the battlefield about 5 miles from where they were encamped — South Mountain Battlefield — Isaac [B.] & William [W.] Fraim accompanying him. When near the place they overtook a lame man who had a shawl on, and a cane in his hand. He said he was what we called a rebel, that he was going to the battlefield to see the place where he was wounded. He was taken prisoner. He showed them the place where he fell and where his two comrades were shot — one each side of him. They saw the blood on the stones where they fell. Then the rebel said they got whipped bad. J. L. saw caps lying all over the ground [with] blood on them. They went a little further and he showed them where his Col. was shot. His horse was lying there. The trees were scarred with bullets very much. The coats & shirts were lying in every direction. They came to a rebel grave and his feet were sticking out and another his sides, but the Union soldiers were buried nicely. They had head & foot boards to them with their names on them. The rebels were buried a hundred in a grave.
J. L. is under [Brigadier General Amiel Weeks] Whipple who he is told has command of fifty thousand troops [in the third division, III Corps].
I expect I would have written to brother Lewis while I was out here had I known his address. Papa got a letter from the boys last Friday night. They were well but there were a good many sick in the regiment of the fever and ague, or if not just in the regiment, some place where they knew of it. Papa is done threshing; had 1587 bushels wheat and over 200 bushels oats, but the potatoes are not very plenty. I did not want you to clean house before I came home, if I live to get there. Where about does Aunt Maria live from the railroad? We would like to stop there a little while if it suits while we are in Lancaster.
One of our visitors came and instead of the goose, they wasted three more chickens. Henry was out coon hunting last night and there is a quarter of one down on the porch to be wasted which was caught last night.
Friday morning. Elwood is sleeping. He knows where to look for the pussy and can clap his hands and pull away when he does not want to go.
Tis very cold out. We are about or perhaps more than ½ a degree further north than you are. Papa said this morning there was snow in the air, I believe.
Morris Kirk was drafted, and his intended — a Miss [Mary Jane] Longaker, a lawyer’s daughter — has been at Uncle Timothy’s. Some thought they would be married before he went away. ³
Is there any truth in G. Zahn and J. Parlon being deserters? I dreamed of Maggie R. last night. Though I had written to L. and did not mention her name, and when I went into the room she went to, after hearing my letter read, I found she was or had been crying. You did not tell me how Gillespie’s are getting along, nor if E. Shuler had moved. The gunies are making such a noise. There are 28 of them.
I saw a woman last week that papa married in huckleberry time. Please write for next mail if you conveniently and rightfully can; and do not neglect to tell me where Aunt Maria Mason lives. If you cannot direct me, tell me the name of the alley or street. And also where the stocking store is. I do not want you to go to any trouble more than is necessary on account of us coming home. Aunt R. had a bad cold. Wants to get home, I guess. Said she expected we have staid long enough against next week.
Love to all, very affectionately, — M. E. Given
I would put money in to pay postage or return answer, but have no change less nor larger than 25 cts. Elwood has awakened and is crying.
¹ George Hower (1825-1905) was enumerated in Fermanagh Township, Juniata County, Pennsylvaniain 1860. He is buried in Westminster Presbyterian (Mifflintown) Cemetery, Juniata County, Pennsylvania.
² Benjamin Franklin Byers (1836-1910) was the son of Robert Henry Byers (1794-1870) and Nancy Elizabeth Leonard (1802-1856). He resided in Beale, Juniata County, Pennsylvania.
³ Morris C. Kirk and Mary Jane Longaker were not married until 1 January 1865 at Eagleville, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.