This letter was written by 21 year-old Samuel Cotter Kirkpatrick (1841-1911), the son of James Gilliam Kirkpatrick, Jr. and Caroline Newman of Grant County, Wisconsin. Samuel married Caroline Mary Ritchey (1843-1926), while on veteran’s furlough during the Civil War, at the United States Hotel in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, 16 April 1864.
Samuel C. Kirkpatrick served with Company E, 11th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War. He enrolled 11 September 1861 at Mineral Point as a corporal and was discharged at Indianola, Texas, 13 February 1864 as a sergeant. He re-enlisted on the same date in the same place and served until discharged at Mobile, Alabama, 4 September 1865.
During the war, he was wounded in the left ear at Port Gibson, Mississippi, about 1 May 1863 and also wounded in a charge at Big Black River when struck by a piece of shell (shrapnel) in the left breast, 17 May 1863. He also claimed in his post-war pension application that he had suffered a total loss of smell while guarding a forage train in extreme heat about 30 June 1862.
His Civil War papers describe him as 6 feet (one calls the height 6 feet 3 3/4 inches), his complexion as fair (another calls him dark), with grey eyes (another paper says hazel), and light colored hair (another paper says brown hair). His age is given as 19 and his occupation that of farmer.
After the war he lived variously at Belmont, Wisconsin; Lima, Wisconsin; Cass County, Nebraska; Denver, Colorado; and finally back in Platteville, Wisconsin.
A transcript of all of Kirkpatrick’s Civil War letters is archived at the Wisconsin Historical Society Library and Archives.
Addressed to Mr. James G. Kirkpatrick, Washburn, Grant County, Wisconsin
Camped in Belview Valley near Pilot Knob, Missouri
February 27th 1863
Dear Father and Mother, brother & sisters,
It is with pleasure that I sit down this evening to drop you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hearty. It has been some time since I tried to address you on account of marching. We left West Plains the 8th of February and arrived here the 20th. We had a very hard march on quarter rations and the flint was so bad that it cut our shoes to pieces. Lots of the boys marched barefooted and our teams had but little forage for the fact it was not in the country. [John S.] Marmaduke‘s troops had been over the country and swept everything before them.
I expect you wonder why we did not go through to Little Rock. All the reason that I know was that the fleet could do nothing at White River and if we had went through to Little Rock, we could not get any supplies and that was what we depended upon. ¹ When the news came that we was a going back to the Knob, there was some loud cheering. We are back in our old range and we feel almost as good as if we was at home. Our camp is 4 miles from the Knob. There is ten men allowed a day to go down to town out of a company. The boys is making the good old bourbon suffer.
I was down to town yesterday. It looked quite natural. There is nothing like having transportation handy for a army here. We have plenty to eat and lots of clothing. We draw soft bread now and lots of good hams — everything plenty both to eat and to wear.
When we got here, our teams was completely played out — dead mules on all sides of the road. It was nothing to see 3 or 4 in one muddle dead together. We had to press all the mules and horses and oxen of the citizens all along the road. Since the 14 of January up to 20th of this month, we have had very rough times but the men stood it mighty well. The men in our regiment is healthier now than ever they have been yet. We have only two men that is excused from guard on account of being sick and that is Frank Enlow and Abraham. They are both complaining. I think Frank is sick but Abraham — I can’t tell much about him. He eats hearty all the time [yet] he complains of being weak in the back.
I got two letters from you this week — one dated February the 4th, and the other February the 16th. I was glad to hear of you all being well. No more of this. I will write soon again. This is a very poor letter for the reason that I did not have any time to write. I will do better next time. So goodbye. Give my best respects to all inquiring friends. We was paid off at West Plaines and as I wrote before, I sent you $40 dollars which you can get by calling at Mineral Point at William T. Henry’s.
— Samuel C. Kirkpatrick
¹ A Union expedition up the White River surprised and overwhelmed the Confederate forces at Fort Hindman but the gunboats were unable to go further upriver due to low water and Little Rock was momentarily saved from falling under Union control.