This letter was written by Lt. Richard Lawrence Howard (1824-1903) who served as chaplain of the 124 Illinois Infantry. Richard was the son of Anson Miner Howard (1799-1856) and Bersheba Lucina Lawrence (1800-1887).
In 1860, Richard was enumerated in Burton, Adams County, Illinois with his wife Clara (b. 1833), and his son George (b. 1855) and Lawrence B. (b. 1859). Richard’s occupation was given as a Free Baptist Clergyman. The census tells us he had previously resided in Missouri where both of his sons were born.
Richard wrote the letter to his brother George Henry Howard (1829-1907) of Moniteau, Missouri.
By 1880, Richard L. Howard had relocated to Bangor, Maine.
July 5, 1865
Dear Bro. George,
Here we are yet. And here we may remain for several days, if not weeks. But O, that the time might be shortened. And whew! but it is hot. Nights as well as days are up to fever heat & “so on up” as Mrs. Quigley said by Falstaff. I can’t sleep. I did some lofty tossing last night. And it is perfectly astonishing how much a man can sweat & live. But I eat well. Thanks for that. Not even this bitter, prejudiced, disloyal city, with its “deadline’s bones and & manner of uncleanliness” has turned my stomach yet. My loyal & moral self is shockingly outraged & sometimes my faith fails, but my appetite is vigorous.
Yesterday was the 4th. Did you know it? Well we had a Committee of Arrangements appointed, part military & a larger part civic, & were to have a great time. A citizen was to speak & the Pres. divine was to pray. I was to read the Declaration of Independence & the Prov. Brigade was to turn out with our Generals, the Masons, Odd Fellows, Fire Companies & citizens generally were to put in an appearance &c. Well, the Military came out in the broiling sun, to the infinite disgust of the boys, & a Col. of the Fire Company representing loyal Montgomery. The rest of the citizens were non est. Not a flag was displayed on the line of the march [through town to Robert’s Grove] & the she-rebs peeped from half-open doors & through blinds at the Yankees. The clergyman [Dr. Petrie] failed — I hope in common charity he is sick — & another [Rev. Johnson] had to be called upon for the occasion. I read as well as I could, and I have heard that was at least tolerable. And then the Hon. Judge [Benjamin Franklin] Saffold fizzled. He did not rise to half the altitude of a school boy. How shamed we were. He explored past ages & ignored the living, stirring, thrilling present. He killed Warren at Lexington & buried somebody on Cape Cod & [then] sat down.¹
As a necessity, we had to have a 2d 4th in the “hundred & two dozen [124th]” last night. So we invited down the “eighty-one sters” & went in. Col. [John H.] Howe made a rousing speech. We sang several songs & I paid my bitter respects to Montgomery & rebs everywhere, & my feeble tribute of genuine respect to the day & the many yet to come, for which the evening should help to fit us. I had to free my mind or “burst.” I reckon I never was so terribly earnest & unbridled. I probably lost all the laurels I won by the morning’s reading in the severe truths of the speech, but who cares? I am not beholden to Montgomery. I don’t expect to marry, run for office, or buy land down here.
To conclude, the soldiers & “colored persuasion” went home good natured, feeling that we had had a 4th after all. How do you like our doings? Of course I was nervous last night, but I should have slept if it had not been for the heat, for I had a clear conscience. I am listless today. I wish the wind would blow, or somebody would get mad, just for a change.
There are only 67 days more of our military pilgrimage left — if we have to dole it all out — & that is some comfort. Home never looked so lovely to me as it does now. And I am terribly anxious. Clara & the dear boys were well on the 13th of June. How you are, I can’t guess for it is so very long since I have heard from you. I expect though you are tending baby occasionally. I trust we shall have a mail today. It is a week since we had any.
I am enjoying myself very well in my religious duties. On Sunday I spoke in my regiment from Proverbs 4.23. At night I preached for the 6th Minnesota again. In the afternoon, I followed Chaplin [William H.] Carner of the 81st in a short exhortation in the African Methodist Church. Tonight is prayer meeting. But though I love to work, I would like to have the field changed. It is nearly 18 months since I saw Clara. Do you know that is a long time. I do. I almost believe you had better direct to Barry [Illinois] after this. I wish I knew. No, try the regiment again at a venture. I may stop it on my way. I hope to get a letter from Marian before we leave here.
Give my love to all. I think of you so very often & with a loving heart.
May God bless you in all things & enrich your hearts by his grace.
Your brother, — R. L. Howard
¹ In his book entitled, History of the 124th Illinois Infantry Volunteers, Richard L. Howard humorously embellishes on the story of this 4th of July Celebration in Montgomery, Alabama. He described Judge Benjamin Franklin Saffold’s speech as “the veriest trash possible” — full of historical inaccuracies betraying his ignorance and insulting his audience.