1862-1863: George W. Morris to Peter Bailey

How George might have looked

How George might have looked

These six letters were written by Private George W. Morris (1838-1888) of Co. K, 10th Pennsylvania Reserve Corps (39th Regiment Volunteers). The regimental records indicate that he served his three years and mustered out with the regiment in 1864. A pension record suggests he died in 1888.

The 10th Pennsylvania Reserve Regiment was composed of men from the western part of the state who rendezvoused at Camp Wilkins, Pittsburg. It left camp on July 18, 1861, for Harrisburg, where it was mustered into the U. S. service on the 21st for a three years’ term, and then moved to Washington. On Aug. 1 it was sent to Tennallytown, and after a short service at Great Falls was assigned to the 3d brigade. This brigade made its winter quarters at Langley; fought at Dranesville in December; was ordered to the Peninsula in the spring of 1862; took part in the battles of Mechanicsville, Gaines’ Mill, Glendale, the second Bull Run, South mountain, Antietam and Fredericksburg and won many laurels.

Another soldier of the 39th Pennsylvania, First Sgt. Jesse L. Pryor, wrote on 18 July 1862 of the regiment’s engagement at Gaines Mill:

I belong to the Pennsylvania reserve corps. We have gained a proud name in our country’s history, but we have paid for our laurels with torrents of blood. True we were outnumbered & forced to fall back to another position, but none of us run. We gave way slowly contending against four to our one & we covered the ground with the enemy’s dead. Just at the critical moment reinforcement arrived, cheer after cheer went up from our battle worn & exausted column, made one more desperate charge, drove the enemy back & regained the ground we had lost…”  Pryer seemed overwhelmed to report that the 39th had lost 252 of the 730 men engaged, adding he could not describe more —  “The pen cannot paint a battle in true colors; the tongue fails to describe it as it is; even the imagination of those who have never witnessed such scenes fails to comprehend all its terror. None but him who has stood upon the gory field, & hears the roar of artillery & musketry, shells & bullets whizzing through the stern command of the officer, the cries of the wounded, the groans of the dying; while he sees his comrades & messmates fall by his side; him & him alone, when he considers that every man who falls around him, whether he be loyal or a rebel, has friends far distant who will his untimely fate, can form a just idea of all the horrors of war…”

After the Battle of Fredericksburg the remnants of the “cut up” regiment recuperated at Minor’s Hill near Washington D.C., and in June, 1863, side by side with its old comrades of the 3d brigade, the 39th fought at Gettysburg, afterward joining in the pursuit of the enemy. The regiment remained with the Army of the Potomac through the winter; took part in the Mine Run campaign ; engaged at the Wilderness in May, 1864, and then fought at Spottsylvania, Totopotomoy, and Bethesda Church before they returned to Pittsburg to be mustered out on June 11, 1864.

George wrote all the letters to his friend Peter Baley (1835-1924) — a blacksmith at Big Beaver, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. Peter was an emigrant from France. His name was actually Pierre Bailly; he was the son of Thiebeau (or Theobold) Bailly. Peter was married to Eliza Jane Corey (1839-1927) in 1857.

For other letters pertaining to the 10th Regiment Pennsylvania Reserves (39th Pennsylvania Infantry), see:

1861: Margaret Fruit to John W. Fruit
1861: James Wilson Hanna to Richard Lyons
1861: John to his brother Milton


1862 Envelope

1862 Envelope

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Addressed to
Mr. Peter Bailey, Irish Ripple, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania

Camp Pierpont, Va.
February 7th 1862

Mr. Peter Baily
Sir,

I will address you a few lines for I know you are much interested both in my prosperity and the success of the cause in which I am engaged. This strengthens me very much and makes me feel like pressing forward to give a good account of myself.

Peter, I would be glad to see your stepping into camp some evening. I would take you through the camp and show you what kind of houses Uncle Sam’s boys live in and also give you a chance to try them.

Peter, I suppose you folks talk of us in our new houses. The great change that this war has brought about will be remembered by [us] as long as we live. I hope that it may soon come to a peaceful end and that we will again return to our usual occupations. But until this takes place, I do not wish to withdraw my little support from the cause of the “Union,” which I regard as the hope of mankind. And if to fall should be my lot, I think I will lay side by side with our revolutionary sires. They died to introduce this free government. I will die to perpetuate the same.

Write soon and oblige.

— G. W. Morris
Co. K, 10th Regt. P.R.C., Washington City, D.C., Care of Capt. [Samuel] Miller


TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO

Camp Pierpont
February 21st 1862

Mr. Peter Baily
Sir,

I received your letter yesterday and was glad to hear that you was well and I hope that this scribbled sheet may find you the same. I am well at present and hope that I amy be as long as I am in the Army of the Potomac.

Well Pete, I have nothing strange to write to you this evening but we may have more to write about in a day or two for tomorrow is the 22nd of February and General Washington’s birthday and I learn that there will be a grand move made tomorrow and I hope that it is so for I am tired of this place and I think that when we do make a move that we will go to Centreville. And I hear that there is twenty thousand rebels there and that they have the place well fortified. But we don’t care a damn for that for we are the boys that can do as good fighting as any other boys in the service.

We have not had much of a chance to tell yet, but we had a little trial at Dranesville and we gave them hell. And if the damn cowards had not run, we would have killed every damn one. It would make you laugh to see us go in on the damn shits.

Well Peter, you asked me how I would like to see your coming into camp with your checker board. Well I think if you was to come that you would get heat for we play a good deal and I am the best of any boy in the company and I think that I could beat you easy.

Well Pete, I will now close. Write soon and oblige.

— G. W. Morris

Give my respects to all enquiring friends.


TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Addressed to
Mr. Peter Bailey, Irish Ripple, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania

Catlett Station
Fauquier County, Virginia
May 1st, 1862

Mr. Peter Bailey
Sir,

I now sit down to pen you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope when this comes to hand that it may find you the same.

I have not much to write today as there is not much to write about at present. I seen Nath and John when they were in Alexandria about two weeks ago and have got several letters since. We are going to start to Fredericksburg tomorrow and I expect that it will be a hard march for we have been doing some hard marching for the last month and I hope that it will soon be over for I am getting tired of it.

Well, I have nothing more to write today but I think I will come and see you when I come home. Write soon and direct as you did before. Nothing more but remain yours with respect.

— G. W. Morris

Please give my best respects to Jane.


aacivmorris7

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
Addressed to
Mr. Peter Bailey, Irish Ripple, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania

Camp of 10th Regt. P. R. C.
Fredericksburg, Va.
June 5th 1862

Mr. Peter Bailey
Sir,

I now sit down to pen you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope when this comes to hand that it may find you the same. I received your letter today and was glad to hear from you and to hear that you was well. For my part, I like this kind of weather better than what I do cold weather for we take things easy in warm weather.

Well Peter, I have nothing strange to write to you today as there is but little going on here. We got paid today and the boys are strutting around with their pockets full of cash. There is good signs of a fight here soon and for my part, I would like to get into a fight. I would try to kill some of the damned shits if they would not get out of my way. I shot at one the last time we were out on picket but he was too far off and I did not hit him. But he run like a son of a bitch. I think that I came very close to him and he thought it was best to be safe.

I am going to write Casey a letter this evening and see what he is about.

We had a very hard rain here today. It rained about three hours and as hard as ever I seen it rain. Well, I have not much more to write but I will come out and see you soon as I get through here and help you drink some of that rye tea — it is very scarce here and what we do get we have to pay one dollar and fifty cents per quart and that is a little to steep for me.

Well I have nothing more to write today. Write soon and oblige.

Yours — George W. Morris

aacivmorris9

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
Addressed to
Mrs. Eliza Jane Bailey, Irish Ripple, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania

Camp of the 10th Regt. P. R. C.
Near Richmond [Virginia]
June 21, 1862

Mr. Peter Bailey
Sir,

I now sit down to answer your letter which I received some few minutes ago and was glad to hear from you and to hear that you was well and all the rest of the folks. For my own part, I am well and most of the rest. Some few of our men is sick but none dangerously.

The weather is rather warm here for us northern boys but I guess the most of us can stand it. We are now laying about three miles from Richmond and I think in a few days that we will see that place.

Well Peter, we are encamped in a potato field. It has about fifty acres of sweet potatoes in it and they are not fit to use yet or we would have dug them up for we take anything that is fit to eat and never ask the owners what it is worth. I went out yesterday to a farm house and asked them what they would take for a chicken and they told me seventy-five cents and I told them that I would not pay no such a price and that I would have one and so I went out to the barn and shot one and got it for nothing. And that is the way we do to the damn secesh.

Well, I have not much to write this time. Write soon and oblige.

Yours, — G. W. Morris

Co. K, 10th Regt. P. R. C.
Washington City, D. C.
Care of Lieut. John D. Moore


1863 Envvelope

1863 Envelope

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX
Addressed to
Mr. Peter Bailey, Irish Ripple, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania

Camp of the 10th Regt., P. R. C.
Miners Hill, Virginia
March 9th 1863

Mr. Peter Bailey
Sir,

I once more sit down to pen you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope when this scribbled sheet reaches you that it may find you the same. I received your letter of March 2nd and was truly glad to hear from you once more but was sorry to hear of James Cokles being dead. Well Peter, I got a letter from Corey yesterday and he was well when he wrote.

Well Peter, we have got back to Washington City and I don’t think they will take us back to the front as our division is so sadly cut up. We are laying about seven miles west of the city and have got very good quarters — the best that we have ever had since we came out.

You wanted to know when I was coming to play you that game of checkers. I think I will get a furlough in the spring and if you will keep me over night, I will stop and beat you again or two.

Well Peter, you said you would hardly know me. I shan’t suppose you would for I have grown considerable since you last seen me. I was weighed yesterday and just weighed two hundred and four pounds. I am fleshery now than I ever was in my life.

Well Pete, as news is scarce, I will have to close soon by asking you to write soon and oblige.

Yours, — G. W. Morris
Co. K, 10th Regt. P. R. C.
Washington City, D. C.

Give my well wishes to all enquiring if any there is and tell David Moore to write me a letter. Tell John to write. Write soon.

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