These two letters were written by 50+ year-old Frederick Newton Barger (1813-1902) of Concord, Champaign County, Ohio. A history of the county claims Barger to be “one of our leading mechanics, and has the reputation of being one of the finest gunsmiths in the country. He resides near the eastern part of [Concord] township, where he is always ready to treat his friends to one of the tunes of ‘old lang syne.'” Frederick was married to Sarah Ann Strayer (1818-1895) in November 1840.
Barger wrote the letter to his acquaintance, Joseph Mast Maitland (1838-1918), the son of James Madison Maitland (1815-1864) and Anna Mast (1813-1896) of Salem, Champaign County, Ohio. Joseph served in Company G of the 95th Ohio Infantry. Joseph was married to Arabella (“Belle”) Wharton (1844-1916) in 1867.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Addressed to J. M. Maitland, Co. G, 95th Ohio Infantry Vols., Memphis, Tenn.
Champaign County, Ohio
June 12th 1864
Sunday at home
To my dear young friend at Camp near Memphis, Tennessee,
In answer to yours of 30th ult., I received on 4th inst. your most welcome and kind epistle which gave me much satisfaction to hear that you are alive and enjoying good health, though sorry to think and know that it is the truth, I have so many dear friends and relatives that are living and dying to sustain our liberty & so many relatives but not friends of mine here opposing the administration of putting down this unholy rebellion. Some of them say slavery is a divine institution. Others say I don’t feel it my duty to help put down rebellion, & some say we have no government. They won’t submit to Lincoln’s Administration &c., and I think this helps to keep up the war. But then we hear from Gen. Grant and all the armies in front of the most glorious victories on Earth in almost every battle. The general opinion is that the rebellion is fast tumbling down and cannot long survive. God grant to hasten the time with as little life and bloodshed as thou suit best, and that we may become a Nation of people — and better people — & that we live to the honor and glory of Him whom all honor belongs. Well do I feel and sympathize with you and the family in their bereavements. I feel like you when my dear friends has been called away from me — that it was hard to say, “Thy will be done.” I could write more on the subject but enough at present.
I haven’t heard from your mother’s family since you have. The N. G. Regt. of Champaign Co. is now at Washington. The regg. from Logan Co. was there also about two weeks ago. They had, I believe, orders to march to Alexandria to go aboard of a vessel but for what point they don’t know.
Well I don’t know what to write. We are all enjoying tolerable health and getting along about as usual. I am working very hard repairing father’s house at present. Will get done this week [if] nothing happens to hinder.
We are having very dry weather at this time. The corn is very short. In the clay ground, it looks like it was dying and if it don’t rain soon, can’t make anything. We had quite a frost this morning — the ground so dry. We hope [it] has done no harm. The wheat crop looks like [it will] not be more than half a crop — some fields nothing, some tolerable well, and some plowed up — a great deal of the latter in all the western states been done, sown in spring wheat and other spring crops.
The health of the people are very good generally. As to squirrels, they are plenty but I don’t pleasure in it like we did. I have killed a few messes. I have so much other business on hand I have but little time. When I get in the woods and think of our past sport and wonder if we will ever be permitted to get those privileges again. Things begin to look gloomy and the hunt goes off without much sport. And hands is very scarce; I have more than usual to do.
The friends are all glad to hear from you and sends their love to you and would like to see you . I understand that T. J. B. Hough is on his way home from the N. G.’s. He had got as far as Cumberland, Maryland. N. G.’s are very much missed in our vicinity — more so than at any time during the war of any call. Some localities have their hands and business going on as if there was no war.
Now is a time of great speculation with some people. The war may wage and Lincoln’s hirelings all killed off. It is all joy to them when they hear of our disasters. I suppose enough of this epistle. If I knew what to write, I would write more. I had no letter at hand is why I write on this. Please excuse bad composition and spelling and I will come to a close at present. Nothing more but pray that you and all our noble band will soon return home with the laurels of victory, peace, and union forever.
I remain as ever your sincere friend & well-wisher, — F. N. Barger
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Addressed to Mr. J. M. Maitland, Lock Box 304, Memphis, Tennessee
Champaign County, Ohio
May 7, 1865
To my dear old friend, Jas. M.,
I once more take my pen in my old, rather nervous hand to inform you that we are all well at present, hoping these few lines may reach & find you enjoying good health. For those and all other blessings, we are thankful to the most high and ruler of the universe.
We have had great reason to rejoice over the downfall of the so-called Confederacy. It is wrong to rejoice over the downfall of people, but this is a just fall, and had no claim to anything else but fall beyond resurrection. Just look at the mourning all over our land and nation brought about by the cursed hell-deserving rebellion. Ought it not to fall? I would say tear on, tear on. Finish the work Father Abraham undertook to do. Though we have to mourn the loss of a nation’s preserver, we have still confidence in the machinery running engineered by our most worthy Andrew Johnson that it grind out and mete out justice to each and everyone. They see the handwriting on the wall. Jeff [Davis] and his accomplices are moving. I see in yesterday’s paper there is one million dollars offered for him & his cabinet. Jeff is implicated in the assassin[ation] of Abraham. Oh, that they may receive their just rewards here at last.
Some went so far as to fire large guns on receipt of the news & death of Lincoln. The report is like that of small cannon but I am glad to learn that there is and are being cared for by the proper authority a goodly number. May they be brought to a knowledge of the truth that they are not to rule supreme. Enough of them.
We may say we have an early spring which is in some respects. The woods is quite green — everything forward but the season is very wet and rainy and [we] have had the highest waters I ever seen, and done the most damage to fences, washed lands, &c. There is but very little corn planted yet and what is planted is not going to grow. I planted two acres last Thursday. I don’t know how it will do yet.
Squirrels is said to be plenty. I must look after them some this week. I don’t think I have killed one for 6 months. I shot three old crows a few days ago. They would rob our hen nests. All such transgressors ought to be served likewise so I say.
My eyes is failing so that I have to do a good deal by guess. Now about the shotgun. If you can get a good one — caliber about 16 or 17 is about the right size — I want a good finish, nothing extra fine. The one I had was good enough finish. I would like some finer quality of locks. The main think is the barrels and not much scatter. I need not say anymore about the gun. You know what I want. If you can get it, bring it along. I have money ready on that job.
You can see by the way I write I have not much to write. I hope you will all be home soon and honorably crowned with victory & peace.
Well, Jo, I think nearly everybody is well but old friend Joseph Neer ¹ is probably in his last spell of sickness. David C. Neer and Miss Ann Chance ² has concluded their negotiation by uniting in the holy bonds of matrimony. Spring is the time to plow & plant — may they have an abundant crop.
This is a splendid evening. I must close and take a walk. Write soon. Give me the news. I will try and do better in my next. Excuse all that is bad about this. Yours truly, — F. N. Barger
¹ Joseph Franklin Neer (1804-1869) must have recovered to live four more years.
² David C. Neer (1836-1918) married Annie Maria Chance (1847-1876) in 1865. Annie was the daughter of James Chance (1796-1862) and Deborah Osborn (1804-1870) of Champaign County, Ohio. David was the son of Joseph Franklin Neer (1804-1869) and Margaret Susan Monroe (1819-1880).