1861: George Crosby Russell to Anna M. (Haskell) Crosby

George Crosby Russell

George Crosby Russell

These two letters were written by George Crosby Russell (1827-1912) who served with the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry Regiment as Regimental Quartermaster. He joined the regiment on 6 November 1861 and was mustered out in April 1862 [See: Letter dated April 1862]. Both letters are addressed to his wife Anna Marie (Haskell) Crosby (1831-1913) in December 1861.

These two letters were purchased in a lot that included two images. Though neither are identified, the individual tintype is presumed to be George C. Russell. It is encased in a paper sleeve (original to the tintype) which is embossed with a patriotic eagle, flag and cannons motif and tastefully hand-colored. The second image is a circa 1900-1910 photograph showing what appear to be four old veterans with one holding the flag. I assume one of these men is George C. Russell. The letters and the images came inside the 1862 cover envelope that were acquired from a family estate in Tippecanoe County, Indiana.

1862 Envelope

1862 Envelope


Milwaukee [Wisconsin]
December 2d 1861

Dear Anna,

I wrote you on Friday relative to Horace taking Rock and the buggy to Milwaukee. Today I have been talking with Doct. [William H.] Brisbane, ¹ our chaplain, who also has a horse at Madison which he wants to get to Milwaukee. He thinks he will go to Madison tomorrow and put his horse with mine provided he can get a set of double harnesses and drive them through.

If he should come and wish to do so, it will save Horace the trouble. I write you tonight as he will leave in the noon train and I will not have time to write tomorrow. Doct. Brisbane will probably call to make arrangements to that effect.

I received your letter and will write you tomorrow eve if I can about it.

I see Col. Jones ² is in Madison. I hope you will avoid seeing him as he has already been the cause of much sorrow to us. I do not want you to ever speak to him again or treat him with any civility. He has already forfeited all claims to any such treatment at our hands and if I leave home, I do not want to feel that he will be constantly following you up, and if you have any love or respect for me, you would spurn him as a viper.

This of course is entirely under your control. You will by your conduct show how much you regard your own reputation and that of your family. I leave it with you to keep yourself from blame and take care of your husband’s honor.

Patriotic Letterhead of Letter Two

Patriotic Letterhead of Letter Two


Second Wisconsin Cavalry Regiment
Head-Quarters, Camp Washburn
Milwaukee, December 8th 1861

Dear Anna,

I received your letter last evening and was glad to hear from you and that you were well. I enclose you a draft on the State Bank for $20.00 with which you can pay Mary and what you can of other bills which you think you can. You will need some of it yourself, I suppose, but be as sparing as you can with it as I shall have to be at a great expense this winter and it will be a long while, I expect, before the government will give me any money. I will try and send Attwell some money this week if it is among the things that is possible.

Rock arrived last last eve all safe and sound and looks quite natural. I am glad he is here as I can make good use of him. I expect to go to my new boarding house tomorrow and will make inquiries about H__ and about what time she can take you. When I learn this, I can then write you what to do which will answer many of your questions. As to the piano, if Mrs. Palmer will spare us a room in the house for the furniture for the use of the piano and they will take good care of it, it might be as well to let them have the use of it. Otherwise, Mary Burwell, I know, would take care of it and I would as soon let her use it as have it boxed up. This, of course, you will not say to anyone.

In regard to your meeting the Col., I am sorry you have met him. If he should call at he house, say to him he must excuse you and leave him at once and go to Mary Burwell’s and stay until he is gone. If you have any regard for me or your own reputation, do as I tell you. As for having him coming to my house or having you see him during my absence, I will not suffer it and if it is persisted in, I shall withdraw from my family and once happy home. As you regard me, regard my wishes in this matter as he has forfeited all claims on us as a friend in the course he has pursued. Now do not deceive me in this matter as it is important to you. It looks to me as though he had come to Madison knowing that I am away and thus will construe it in the same way. Therefore, act firmly in the commencement and rid yourself of that annoyance — id annoyance it is to you. Of course if you seek his society, then you will act otherwise.

When I think of this, it makes me feel blue and I feel like cursing the cause of all this unhappiness. I had hoped we had rid ourselves of this viper but he seems destined to pursue me — or you rather. For the sake of your own happiness if not mine, do not ever allow yourself to be in his company again. You had better offend him than be the target of scandal he shoots her arrows at.

I love my family but this is enough to turn a better man than myself from his loves. This is a painful theme for me and ought to be to you, and if you feel as I do, you would avoid all occasions of remarks as you should the fire. I will say no  more upon this unpleasant subject to me, believing that your sense of propriety will dictate to you the proper course for you to pursue and that you will with no unflinching purpose follow it.

Say to [Charles M.] Palmer that we will be ready for him any time after this week. I want to see him in here and if he has any difficulty about keeping his men, he had better make arrangements to bring them into camp. He can write me and I will post him up. We have 4 companies in camp and the 5th comes in tomorrow. We have had a tedious week — the last one I am inhales we are not to have another like it this week. I think under any kind of weather this week we can be ready for 2 more companies after the 5th.

I am anxious to see you and Georgie and have you here and will see how I can arrange for you to come. Horace had better come in and help you pack up when we know definitively. I would not make any more further planning until I can inform you for a certainty which will be in a few days at most. I will try to come home before we break up [camp] if I can but do not know as I can.

Kiss Georgie for me. I miss him very much, I can assure you. Dear little fellow, take good care of hi. Tell him papa wants to see him and when he comes here there is a little boy about his age that he can play with.

A kiss your yourself. Act wisely and discreetly and by so doing you will gain the love of your affectionate, — George

P. S. Mr. Morrison will perhaps be kind enough to take the draft to the Bank and get it cashed.

¹ Dr. William Henry Brisbane (1803-1878) was a South Carolina slaveholder who turned abolitionist, moved north, and freed his slaves. He came to Wisconsin in 1853, settled in the town of Arena, and served as chaplain of the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry in the Civil War.

² The only Col. Jones that I am aware of in Madison, Wisconsin in December 1861 was Kyler K. Jones of Quincy, Illinois, who organized the 15th Wisconsin Infantry. That regiment left the state in March 1862 about the time that Col. Jones was relieved of command.

Early 20th Century Photograph of Civil War Veterans; George C. Russell is probably one of them.

Early 20th Century Photograph of Civil War Veterans; George C. Russell is probably one of them.


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