This letter was written by 39 year-old Zenas Beach (1825–1898) — an American farmer, soldier, and politician. Zenas was born in White County, Illinois. He moved to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin Territory in 1846 and then to the town of Eastman, Wisconsin, in 1853 where he was a farmer. In 1846, Beach served in the United States Army during the Mexican–American War. Then during the American Civil War, Beach served in the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment as a first lieutenant until he resigned his commission in June 1862.
In 1875, Beach served in the Wisconsin State Assembly as a Republican. He died in the Town of Eastman, Wisconsin.
The letter was written to James Harvey Greene (1833-1890) who moved to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, prior to the Civil War where he was the editor of the Prairie Du Chien Leader newspaper. During the Civil War, Greene served as Captain of Co. F in the 8th Wisconsin Infantry.
1864: From Ex=Lt. Beach, Co. F, 8th Wis. about death of Ellis
Batavia, Crawford Co., Wisconsin
March the 1st 1864
I take the opportunity of writing you a line in regard to the death of Sergeant Edward Ellis of your company who started home on a furlough and got as far as Chicago and could get no farther when he wrote home for someone to come for him. I went & when I got there, he had been dead four days.
He arrived at the soldier’s home in Chicago on the 15th day of February and died on the 16th February at 8 o’clock P.M. His friends would like to have the necessary papers to draw his backpay and bounty.
I enquired of the head man at the soldier’s home whether he even made any official report to captain of company to which soldier’s belonged who died under his charge. He said that he did not so I thought I would write you this letter.
I have had considerable affliction in my family since I came home. I lost one of my children and all of the others have been sick but we are all well at present. I have had a good deal of trouble with Copperheads and otherwise since I came home. It is not so dangerous as it is disagreeable fighting Copperheads but I believe that I had rather fight the Rebels in the South than those miserable fire in the rear Copperheads of the North. But the draft is making them squirm.
It is getting dark and I must close hoping that this will find you and the Boys all well. Write if you have time and let me know how you are getting along. So no more at present but remain yours as ever.
— Zenas Beach