1861: Lewis Hoover to Friend

Triano's painting of a 1st Sgt. in the 42nd Pennsylvania Bucktails

Troiani’s painting of a 1st Sgt. in the 42nd Pennsylvania Bucktails

This letter was written by 1st Sgt. Lewis Hoover (1835-1920), the son of Peter Hoover (1798-1869) and Mary Hall (1803-1870) of Pike, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania. He mustered into Co. K (known as the “Raftsman Rangers”) of the 13th Pennsylvania Reserve Corps (42nd Pennsylvania Infantry/1st Pennsylvania Rifles) with other volunteers from Clearfield County in May 1861. The regiment was often referred to as the “Bucktails” for the strips of deerhide they wore on their caps.

Sgt. Hoover was among the men of Company K who were cut off from the rest of the command during the Battle of Mechanicsville on 26 June 1862 and, after three days hunkered down in a swamp, were forced by hunger to surrender to the Confederates. After his parole, he returned to his regiment and remained with them for the balance of his three years service.

After the war Lewis lived at Lock Haven, Clinton County, Pennsylvania. He was married to Elizabeth Ferguson (1840-1915) in 1866.

This letter was written in the margins of Gen. McClellan’s General Orders No. 7 which declared that, “We are fighting in a holy cause, and should endeavor to deserve the benign favor of the Creator.” As such, McClellan commended to the commanding officers in the Army of the Potomac that the Sabbath be respected as a day of rest for the men.


September 19th 1861
Camp near Downy Town [Tenallytown], Maryland

Dear friend,

You will see by this that we have new arrangements about the Sabbath and I am heartily glad of it. This is more like it should be. It looks some like the government of a Christian people and I think we will be more likely to be successful in battle but still we have to be busy about half the time on Sunday. I have used this sheet that you may see that our new feels like it his duty to remember his creator in time of war as well as in peace and I am also able to state to you that we have had plenty to eat for the last two or three weeks which is very agreeable to us.

You wished to know how [Manning S.] Dunn and [Peter] Spargo and [Ephraim] Morrow gets along. Morrow is not with us now. He is away on Signal duty which consists of waving flags from the top of one high hill to another and is used in place of the telegraph. They have them extended from Washington City as far as our armies go and send news by signals every place.

Spargo is larger and heartier than he ever was at home and I think enjoys this kind of life full as well as anyone in the company. Dunn gets along as well as usual.

…this war will end as the day looks dark now. Still I hope that our government may be successful without much fighting but it must be victory or death. If it cannot be settled without fighting, it must be with it and we must fight as a great portion of the people at home seems to sympathize with the rebels rather than with us and I hope to live to see the day that traitors at home will be punished as well as those abroad.

When you write again, tell me if anybody has gone to war from there since we left. I intend sending this with Joe Spencer as he is going home in a day or two. The reason I did not answer your enquiry about him, I thought he would be at home by this time and I would let him surprise the folks about the city. I am sorry that Will Spencer ¹ did not stay for Joe’s sake but Joe will be at home soon where he ought to have stay there as he is not able to stand the hardships of war but he showed his good will and patriotism coming and doing what he could.

We are still in the camp we were in when I last wrote. I believe I have done at present. Remember the one that will never forget you.

Your friend, — L. Hoover

¹ Regimental records indicate that William H. Spencer deserted on 7 August 1861.


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