1862: Unknown Soldier to Mary

Patriotic Letterhead

Patriotic Letterhead

This incomplete and unsigned letter (without envelope) was written by a Union soldier in September 1862. His letter suggests that he had only been soldiering (“sholgern”) a short time though he liked it “first rate.” He gives no clue in his letter as to where he wrote the letter from or as to the identity of his regiment.

Though his spelling is poor (“i can read beter than i can rite”), the soldier mentions two names of individuals I can decipher from the vicinity of his home (see footnotes) that lead me to believe he was from Honey Brook Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. My hunch is that he was a private in the 124th Pennsylvania; recruited from Chester County and organized at Harrisburg in early August 1862. They were “9 Months” men, raised in response to the President’s urgent call for more men, and were quickly dispatched to Washington D. C. on 12 August 1862 where they were placed in defense of the nation’s capitol. They remained there until 7 September (3 days after this letter was written) when they were marched to Rockville, Maryland and attached to the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 11th Army Corps. Though illy prepared, they were recruited just in time to participate in the Maryland Campaign and to take part in the Battle of Antietam on 17 September 1862.

The seven companies recruited in Chester County of the 124th Pennsylvania Infantry were A, C. E, F, G, I & K.


September the 4, 1862

I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well at present and I hope this scribbler’s lines will find you in the same state  of health and all the rest of the family. I am in great spirits today and I like soldiering first rate so far. I have been unwell this week but I feel pretty well today.

I was out on a patrol today and I seen some of the Waynesborough’s fellows and was glad to see them and they was glad to see me. And I saw your brother and [had] a long chat with him. He has been unwell for some time. He says that he is getting better.

I saw James Uvern [Irwin?] and Josey M. and Franklin Bender ¹ and Josey Use and Edward Larnes and they all tell me that if they were at home, the war might go for them. They are very sick of it but they can’t get away from here very easy or else they would all come home to see you all. But we will all be home when the war is over if we live to come. Don’t look for us yet awhile, if you please.

Miss Mary, I haint got much to write this time. I will inform you that this company is pretty hearty yet hungry as wolves. I could eat a piece of horse almost every time.

I think that I must quit or I will spoil you. So good night and write soon. And write a good long one for I like [to] read letters for I can’t write very good. I can read better than I can write. Tell Abner Coffroad ² if he don’t answer my letter pretty soon, I will come up to see…

¹ Frank Bender (1830-18xx) resided in Honeybrook Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Anthony and Harriet ( ) Bender.

² Abner G. Coffroad (1835-1904) resided his entire life in Honeybrook Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Jacob and Susanna (Eshelman) Coffroad.


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