1863: Freeman Stanton Dunklee to Lyman Dunklee

Artist's rendering of soldier in the 36th Illinois Infantry

Artist’s rendering of soldier in the 36th Illinois Infantry

This letter was written by 23 year-old Freeman Stanton Dunklee (1840-1931) to his parents — Lyman Dunklee (1806-1889) and Elmeda Messer (1815-1887) of Dundee, Kane County, Illinois. Before the war, Freeman attended the Elgin Academy. Freeman was married in November, 1864 to Mary Emma Woodward (1845-1899).

Freeman enlisted in Co. A (The “Elgin Union Grays”), 36th Illinois Infantry in September 1861. [A regimental history published in 1876 by Bennett & Haigh gave Freeman’s name as “Dunkler.”] As far as we know, Freeman was with the regiment through all of its engagements up until the Battle of Stone River in which several members of his company were killed and an even larger number wounded — Freeman being one of them. Freeman’s letter lets us know that he received his wound in the thigh which he called his “glorious star.” Freeman was hospitalized in Murfreesboro after the battle. He was eventually transferred into the Veteran Reserve Corps until his three year enlistment was up.


Addressed to Mr. Lyman Dunklee, Dundee, Kane County, Illinois

Prison Hospital
Nashville, Tennessee
October 25, 1863

Dear Parents,

This morning I received your kind letter of the 18th. Was very glad indeed to see it and hope more may succeed it soon. It found me in good health and fine spirits. I was somewhat surprised to hear of the change affairs have taken but if all parties concerned are satisfied, I’m glad & hope it may prove beneficial to all. One thing sure if you let the place to the care of another, you will not have to work as hard as if you and [brother] Charles tried to till it. I hope it will prove easier to both of you.

I hope you can reduce the interest in some way. I am satisfied that rather than to have you pay it, Hunt will make quite a deduction, but you understand him too well to need advice on that school. Then the clerk says they will come and see me if I ever get home? Oh! I wish I was at home now if that is the case, but a letter now and then must answer instead of a visit.

I have been to see Hiram today. He has failed since last Sunday. He looks bad and I know he feels bad. Do write to him. It will do him good. Direct the letters to my box 575 or 199 and I will forward them to him. He thinks of going to the hospital where he will not be obliged to live in a tent and be exposed to all the bad weather, of which “by the way” we have a plenty here. I would get him into this hospital but this [is] expressly for prisoners.

When we (for Dan ¹ was with me) came from the convalescent camp, we came by Fort Negley. The 105th Illinois is camped there and I went to see my old friend “Warren [M.] Sayer.” Found him well and looking just the same was when I saw him last 3 years ago. Had a short but sweet visit with him. I’m from home and among strangers but it is almost impossible for me togo anywhere without seeing someone I know. At the convalescent camp we saw one of the boys who was at the hospital at Murfreesboro with us last winter. He is one of the gang that use to have so much fun in the hospital when the Dr. was going to throw the boot jack at us if we didn’t keep still.

You hope I’ll keep in this place. Well I have been around enough to know how to let well enough alone. Everyday convinces me that I have got a good place and if I don’t keep it, I will not be to blame.

It is nearly one month since we left St. Louis and I can hardly tell where the time has gone to, but let it hasten on for it will soon bring me out of the service and that time will be hailed with much joy by me if by no more. But if they are looking forward so soon to that time for a visit, they will be quite anxious before I get back.

I have not heard directly from Milton [Townsend] since he left here but today I had a letter from Sherwood of Co. A and he said they passed through Stevenson on the 21st so they must be there by this time. Lou Householder was taken prisoner when that train was captured a few weeks ago and is here in Nashville. I have seen him once. He has very sore eyes but otherwise looks well. I don’t know whether he will be sent north on his parole or not.

I still keep my diary and have got a new book to keep it in and it is too bad to cut it in pieces so I’ll write often and send the book when I get it full. Won’t that do as well?

I wish you would give me the details of letting the farm. Who finds seed & when it is divided, and if you keep the part where you live. Did Charles take the buggy? What did he do with the farming tools or wagon? Is Elmeda still at Harvey’s?

What do you think up there of “Old Rosie” being removed? We feel like children who have lost their mother and now see their father taken away by the police. But I suppose the government is afraid he will win more glories and laurels than he will be able to carry home, and so he may for I have seen hundred — nay, even thousands of privates & subordinate officers get so many of these glories tho’ they never left the field. There was 41 of our regiment in that fix at Stone River and some 18 or 20 at the last battle of Chicamauga. For my part, I have my “glorious star” stuck on my thigh and am satisfied. But I never did soldier for glory & am now farther from it than ever. It may prove for the best to remove him [Rosecrans] but “I can’t see it.”

It is said that on the other side Bragg is to be removed because he did not “overcome” Rosie and we remove Rosie because he did not gobble Bragg, and so it goes. Neither side know what they are about. Perhaps you think I am getting coppery but I deny the charge. While I will admit an increase of brass, my “cheek” still remains hard, my determination strong, and my weight 125, so I think I can “stand the storm, it won’t be long” till the 10 months will pass away and goodbye soldiering.

Well! Well! I must close with all respect to you and all inquiring friends & clerks. I remain your wandering planet, — Freeman

Direct as before. Dan ¹ send regards.

Father, your impression in regard to my never going back to active service still holds true. — F. S. D.

¹ Daniel B. Hoxie was a private in Co. A, 36th Illinois Infantry with Freeman Dunklee.

Transcribed below is another Dunklee letter provided courtesy of Jason Abraham (see comment below). It was written from Camp Rollam Missouri in late October 1861. The 36th Illinois remained at Camp Rolla until January 1862 when the Army of Southwest Missouri began the Pea Ridge campaign:

Camp Rolla [Missouri]
October 27 [1861]

Dear Father & Mother,

I am glad of the privilege to address you this pleasant Sabbath morning although I am deprived of the pleasure of seeing you face to face. I am enjoying good health and hope this will find the friends in Barrington [Illinois] the same. You must excuse my scribbling for I have been favored with plenty of letters and have some half a dozen to answer & am in a hurry. Milton is well as are all the Barrington boys. He is writing by my side now and Ed Nute is in the tent engaged the same way.

I am sorry that you (father) had to leave Harveys but I presume you find as much to do as you are able to do at home. I would be glad to help do some of the fall’s work. I received a letter from you and Elmeda Thursday and one from her & Elizabeth last night. You wished to know if the correspondence was liable to be cut off. I would say I think not so long as we stay here but when we move, I cannot say anything about it. Still we may not move this winter and we may go in two weeks.

The cavalry of the Iowa 13th which brought in the prisoners which I spoke of in Edward’s letter have started on another scout. Our cavalry came into camp yesterday morning; they were left in St. Louis when we came.

You wished to know how I fared and I know not what to say. Compared to some living I have had, it is hard. And again compared to some other, it is tip top. There is one thing sure — if I never see harder times than I do now, I will never starve. We have cofee twice a day, bread and pork or fresh beef for breakfast. Bean soup & bread for dinner and fresh beef or bacon and bread, sometimes slapjacks and molasses for supper. This is when we stay in camp but I have been up to the fort to work for the last 4 days and am to work 5 days more, and I take a loaf of bread, a piece of meat and boil it on the end of a stick for my dinner. It is a mile from camp and I have to take my dinner.

You may think it strange that I work at the fort. I will explain. They wished 4 from our company to go and dig for which they draw extra pay (25 or 40 cts per day, I don’t know which). They detailed them and one of the boys, after working one day, wsa sick of his bargain and said if I would take his place, I should have his day’s work, and as I was in need of a pair of gloves for which I don’t wish to make a draw from my regular wages, I thought it was a good chance. We have to work 10 days, nothing less, and as much more  as we please. But I assure you that I don’t have any picks or shovels.

Yesterday they took the prisoners out to work and I worked with two of them all day. They seemed willing to work and one seemed in good spirits; the other was homesick. He said if he owned the State of South Carolina, he would give it to go home. I told him he should have stayed when he was there. He said he was not to blame for being a prisoner. I told him that old tray was caught in bad company and was punished with them. They were a band of robbers going around giving the men the choice to join their ranks or die, helping themselves to property and committing depredations upon the women of the darkies dye.


“1 black, wool hat turned up on one side with a plume, an eagle, and a bugle with a letter “A” on it.”

I will give you a list of our clothes — 1 cap, 1 tall, black wool hat turned up on one side with a plume, an eagle, a bugle and a letter “A” on it. 2 woolen shirts, 1 blouse, __ fatigue, 1 dress coat, cut like a small boy’s short coat of a deep blue, firm cloth, 1 overcoat — sky blue, cut with a straight body [and] long tails reaching to the boots and a cape coming to the elbows. It compares with fathers old grey coat that I used to make so much fun of. 2 pairs pants — sky blue, 2 pairs drawers, 1 pair shoes, 2 pairs socks, 1 blanket (double) and they say we are to have an india rubber blanket.

It is reported that we will get our pay in a few days. If we do, I will send it home but I will write before I send it.

I write to Charles as soon as I get time and give a description of the country and fort &c. Water is rather scarce. We have a spring about a ½ a mile from camp where we get our water. It is a barrel in the ground and we dip it up with a dipper. We have messed off and our mess of 23 give a cook 75 cts per month each and furnish wood and water. He is a good cook & fixes up a number of things which we would not have if we were together. We have been in the habit of trading our surplus of coffee or meat for potatoes, cabbage, or apples and have apple dumplings but the Old Colonel has forbidden it so we have to eat what we draw.

You spoke of Mother’s thinking of me. Now mother, don’t give yourself any uneasiness about me for I weigh more now than when I came to camp. The only fear I have is that I will get so lazy that I can’t stir. I thought I was sick until I went up to the front to work and now I am all right.

We have a chaplain now and have two or three prayer meetings through the week and preaching on Sabbath. I would be glad to meet with the friends of Barrington today but I can meet God even here on the campground and commit myself to his care. I beg in interest in your prayers that I may stand fast in the good cause. I must close and will answer Elizabeth’s letter soon. If we stay here, the boys talk of sending home for a cse of butter, but we don’t know yet. If we had butter, we could get along finely.

Give my love to all friends. Goodbye.

From your son, — F. S. Dunklee


6 thoughts on “1863: Freeman Stanton Dunklee to Lyman Dunklee

  1. As a matter of fact I think the original letter posted here may have been scanned by me years and years ago but I can’t locate it. So the friend of the family must have had multiple letters. I remember scanning a letter but I thought this one I just scanned was the same letter. A few crashed computers later and going through old files I found this “2nd Letter”. Now I have no idea where the original letter posted above is. Am I correct? How odd that I just decided to scan and post the letter I found going through my old stored items, then Google searched it and found the old letter I scanned years ago. I wish I could locate the original posted here. My ex-wife kept throwing the “junk” away and I know I pulled the letter out of the trash pile at least twice. She may have finally managed to trash living history without me knowing about it.


  2. There are four more pages to the latest letter that I posted on Civil War Talk. Not sure if you saw them because you just posted the envelope and one page. FYI


  3. Interesting! Love the description of the 36th Infantry soldier’s uniform that Dunklee provides in the letter. Thanks again for sharing. — Griff


  4. Received the following comment by e-mail:

    Thank you for sharing this letter! I was looking around the internet for family information and found this by chance. My grandmother was Lura M. Dunklee; her father was Lyman, I believe this letter may be written by her grandfather Lyman. Thank you again. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to share this with my son. We have been left with almost no info. and I’m piecing together anything I can to share with him.
    Sincerely grateful, — Cindy Crabb


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