These three letters were written by Philip T. Zeigler (1842-1899), the son of Philip Zeigler (1806-1871) and Anna Eliza Troup (1816-1864) of Newport, Perry County, Pennsylvania. [Note: Philip Zeigler, Sr. was born near Gettysburg; readers may recognize the name, “Ziegler’s Grove” as a landmark on the battlefield. The family name is sometimes spelled Ziegler.]
Philip’s siblings included Daniel L. Zeigler (1836-1902) [he married Martha Ellen Beatty], Mary Jane Zeigler (1839-1879) [she married Rev. Jeremiah Mark Carvell], Julian (“Julie”) Zeigler (1840-1920) [she married Abraham Frederick Keim], William Henry (“Harry”) Zeigler (1849-1919) and three more who all died young.
For some inexplicable reason, in August 1862, Philip enlisted in Company H, 118th Ohio Infantry, where he served three years. Why he did not join a Pennsylvania regiment remains a mystery. It is clear that he is the same Philip Zeigler from Perry County (PA), however, because of recognizable surnames mentioned in his letters associated with Newport, Pennsylvania. Additionally, he suggests in one of his letters that he is the only soldier that can’t benefit from sharing letters from home like the other boys in his company.
The 118th Ohio Infantry was organized at Lima, Mansfield, and Cincinnati, Ohio August through September 1862 and mustered in at Cincinnati for three years service under the command of Colonel Samuel R. Mott. They were ordered to Kentucky and assigned to duty as guard along Kentucky Central Railroad from Buston’s Station to Paris, Ky., September 1862 to August 1863. A detachment of the regiment was involved in a skirmish at Paris, Ky., July 29, 1863. Later, they participated in Burnside’s Campaign in eastern Tennessee August 16-October 17, 1863.
After the war, Philip returned to Perry County and married Annie J. Oren (1849-1912). They had one child named Charles, born 1869. Philip lived out his days in Newport, Perry County, PA, and is buried there with his wife.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
November 27, 1862
My Dear Sister,
I will now write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope you are all the same. Dear Julie, I have not got my picture taken yet but I intend to get it taken as soon as I can and send it home to you that you may all see your kind brother who left home the 2nd day of April last. I have taken quite a journey all alone by myself. I have got friends every place I go. Bravery and honesty and good countenance will take a man just wherever he wants to go — I found that out. I have not got any enemy in the regiment. If I have, it is unknown to me. I enjoy myself wherever I be. But much do I wish that I were at home this night. Oh, it would be glory to me and to you all to sit up to Father’s & Mother’s table to partake of the good things set before us.
Well, I must give you a small history of our living. We eat on the ground [for] we have no table to sit up to nor no soft bread to eat [and] no butter to spread. We have got dry crackers to eat, meat, beans, rice, and potatoes plenty, and also coffee and sugar. Our crackers [hardtack] are five inches square and one half inch thick. I have got some crackers that I could not break with my hands so I would edge one up against a stone and take another stone and sledge it to pieces. It went mighty awkward to me at first but I have got used to them. I can sit down and break one to pieces without ever thinking of home but with all this, it is very wholesome bread. When it is broken up and soaked in coffee, it don’t eat bad. As long as we have plenty, there is no dangers of us starving. We have got plenty of good warm clothing to wear.
Well, Julie, I think I will close by sending my love to you all. Direct as before. — P. T. Zeigler
Answer soon and let me know particularly the proceedings of the little gal left behind me.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Camp Robinson, Kentucky
January the 14th 1863
Dear Sister Julia,
I seat myself down this morning to answer your most welcome letter which I received last evening just about dusk. I was very glad to hear from you. Your kind letter found me in good health as this still leaves me the same this morning and I do sincerely hope that these few lines may find you all the same.
Well, Julie, you said that you had all wrote to me and got no answer. I dare say, sister Julie, I have answered every letter prompt that came from home. I have not got a letter since I left home that remains unanswered and if they all wrote to me that you mentioned in your letter, they have got some stopping place before they reach me.
Well Julia, you thought that perhaps because you got no letter that I was out of paper and envelopes but there is lots of paper and envelopes here. We have got a store close to camp that we can get all the paper that we want.
Well Julia, we have got quite a wet and muddy time here for the last two weeks/ Went went out to drill this morning and it commenced to rain so we were marched back to camp. It is just more than raining now.
Our winter here is pretty much like your winter in Old Perry but not as cold. When it is not raining here, it is very pretty and warm through the daytime, but at night it is sometimes awful cold.
Well now, for something else. You wanted to know whether I found out how to soften my biscuits. I have. It wasn’t long after I wrote to you about the hard crackers until I found it out. Well, it is not quite the same way that you said — that Bill Miles said — but the way I work them is to soak them in cold water and then dry them at the fire. They get tolerable like. Well, as for that, it is very kind of you to tell me. I would of liked very much to of saw friend Bill Miles before he went home but if you write to him, send him my best respects and well wishes and tell him that I am well and enjoying good health and in good spirits. And also give my love to Miss Lida Hanes and Woods’ gals and all the rest of the young Ladies.
I wonder whether Martha Woods ever thinks of the time that she fell in the culvert and skinned her leg coming from Oliver T. Keim party — I believe that was the time. I know that Bill Miles fell in for one and if I don’t mistake, Martha fell in the same night. If you have forgot, [our brother] Harry will know.
Well now, for something else. I got a letter from M. J. Troup and she asked me whether I remembered the night that her and Theodore was at our house and you and I went along with them to the bridge. I remember that time a most damned well. If you remember, I left a most a hell of a big fart. I felt awful cheap but that is dead and gone and I am kicking yet down in Kentucky.
Well Julie, I must close for this time but don’t forget to write and back your letters in haste and then they will not lay over any place along the road. Well Julia, those two postage stamps that you sent to me come very good to me for I was just out. Well now, I close. Goodbye, dear sister Julia. Don’t forget to write to your brother, — Philip T. Zeigler
I intend to direct this letter in haste and see whether it will lay along the road or not. Oh yes, if Father has wrote me a letter three weeks ago, I have not got it. Tell him.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Camp near Paris, Kentucky
June the 25th 1863
Brother Henry [W. H. Zeigler]
I seat myself down with much pleasure to drop you a few lines as I have not heard from you or any of the rest of the family for several weeks so I thought I would write a few lines today as I haven’t anything else to do. I came to the conclusion that I would write and let you know how I am getting along. I am well and hearty and hope that these few lines may find you the same and all the rest.
Well, I suppose that you have got a big time at home as it is haymaking now and pretty near harvest. I would like to be at home to help you this harvest. I would like nothing better than to go into the grain field or hay field and commence to work. But it is as it is. I ain’t there and that is what’s the matter.
Well now, for something else, I want you to write soon and to tell me all the particulars and how you and father are getting along with your hay and grain but I don’t suppose that the grain is fit to cut back there yet. I suppose that the hands is pretty scarce in Old Perry since this last call was made for volunteers. It will weaken the farmers considerable but I hope that they won’t take you for poor father will have too much to do there all alone and a soldier requires a man with a constitution like a horse and probably you could not stand it. I have stood it remarkable since I have been out. I have layed on the ground pretty near a year now and have not been in the hospital yet and only been sick once and that was the ague. I soon got that cured up and now I am as sound as ever.
I am jolly and full of fun where a many a boy of my age and as much a home boy as I used to be would twine away and fret about home and think of his good times he used to know and the gal he left behind me, and a great many more things would come into his mind that would make him homesick. But that is not the way with me. I am of a independent and bold and daring heart — care for nothing of that kind just so’s I know that they are all well at home and so’s I can get a letter once and a while, I am satisfied. But there is nothing that is of so much interest to me as to get a letter from home for that is all the way that we can hear from one and an other is by mail and all the fault I find is that you don’t write often enough. It is not with me like it is with the other boys of the company. They are pretty near all from one place and when one gets a letter, the rest can hear from home just as well as if they had got one themselves. But I can not hear from home through any of the rest of the boys. They can hear from home pretty near everyday, but I can’t. I sometimes get a letter once a week and sometimes once in two weeks, and sometimes not for a month. I would like to hear from home once a week if not oftener. I will answer every letter that comes and be glad to hear from you all.
There is enough of you at home to send me a letter every week. There is brother (Dan) and brother (J. Dan.) and (Mollie) and (Julia) and yourself. Why don’t you write oftener? You could write one every week yourself — some of the best news and fun of all kind.
Well, I suppose I would better close for this time or I will weary your patience reading this scribbled up letter. I have wrote more in this letter than I expected to when I commenced but take time and read it. There is a great deal of scribbling in this letter but of not much account so I will close for this time. Write soon. Don’t forget. Give my love to all the pretty Gals that make enquiry about me. Yours truly, — P. T. Zeigler