This letter was written by 38 year-old Henry Spohn (1824-1905), the son of Henrich Spohn (1789-1863) and Hannah Flicker of Berks County, Pennsylvania. Henry wrote the letter to his wife, Elizabeth Ganger (1830-1876), his son Jacob Ganger Spohn (1849-1907), and daughter Catharine Ganger Spohn (1851-1891).
Henry was among the men of Berks County who were drafted to serve in the military for nine months by the State of Pennsylvania. He served in Co. C, 167th Pennsylvania Infantry from November 1862 to August 1863. He wrote this letter from Suffolk, Virginia, where the 167th Pennsylvania had been encamped since December 1862, engaged in strengthening fortifications around the city. He makes reference to the Battle of Blackwater [Battle of Deserted House] in which his regiment was engaged the previous month. Unfortunate circumstances caught the unseasoned men of the 167th Pennsylvania — carrying old 1832 smoothbore muskets — at a disadvantage. Their retreat in confusion prompted rumors that they had “skeedadled” — rumors that trickled all the way back home to Berks County. Henry’s sending a “correct description” of the battle home to his father was probably an attempt to try to set the record straight and restore the honor to the regiment.
Addressed to Elizabeth Spohn, Spangsville Post Office, Berks County, Pennsylvania
February 21st 1863
My dear family,
Yours from the 15th is at hand and I am well pleased to hear from you that you are all well. I too enjoy perfect health at present time.
I am glad to hear that you have exchanged words of friendship with J. Weiser and that he is alive yet. Well I hope he may see the end of this rebellion so that he may return home and see his friends. And further I am glad that you have received that draft that you can see the fortifications around this place. But I would sooner see you here about a week at this place to see all that is going on here. With words I could not explain it to you.
We had a good week of it this week for it rained all along for three days and now we have spring-like weather. It is warm enough no to dig and plant. And further, we all received new pants, plows, and stockings. But my pants that I got first are just as good as new. Yet I have now more than I can hardly carry if we get on a good march. But I have thought of sending some of my clothing home if it gets warm enough so I can do without.
As yet we have received no pay from Uncle Sam, but I think it is time that we are paid, that those dear ones at home had something to live of. As for us, we have enough to eat if we are saving with our rations. But it requires a loaf of bread extra for me every week and so it does the most of us — but it only cost 10 cents a loaf — but my appetite did not fail yet since I am in camp — but I must say it is not half as bad as it was where I boarded and worked last summer and you can judge where that was.
And I give my love to you, my wife, for your kindness and for sending me that money. I hope you will be rewarded some day for it if I ever see the day that I can come home again.
I will now close by remaining your true father, — Henry Spohn
It is likely that you have not seen the news about the Battle of Blackwater and enclosed you will find the correct information concerning that affair.
Yours truly, — Henry Spohn
I have not heard where my father is going in spring so please and tell me in your next.
Lewis & Henry are well and so are all the rest in our company.
This small thing is a cotton seed in this letter.