This letter was written by Ansel A. Edwards (1832-1862) of Neenah, Wisconsin. He enlisted in Co. G, 3rd Wisconsin Infantry on 15 April 1861 as a private and was later made “wagoner.” He was shot and killed on 23 May 1862 at Buckton Station while defending the new trestle bridge on the Manassas Gap Railroad from attack by Turner Ashby’s 7th Virginia Cavalry.
Ansel wrote the letter to his younger sister, Susan P. Edwards (1841-18xx), upon hearing of the death of their mother, Marilla [or Merrilla] (Tupper) Edwards (1807-1861). She passed on 9 November 1861. Their father was George W. Edwards (1805-1884), a farmer in Winnebago County who we learn struggled from insobriety. Susan later married James Duke (b. 1840) and they made their home in Escanaba, Delta County, Michigan, where James was employed as a boilermaker.
Addressed to Miss Susan P. Edwards, Neenah, Winnebago County, Wisconsin
Banks’ Head Quarters
November 16th 1861
I received a letter from Charles Cronkhite last evening and to my great surprise the death of our mother. You cannot judge the feelings I had all night thinking how you would get along in a trial like that there alone with the family. But knowing your disposition as well as I do, and your kindness to the children, I don’t take it as hard as I would if I didn’t think you would do all you could for the children’s good. But it will be a great undertaking to you for some time. It will be lonesome for you but I trust to your welfare.
I wish I was there to help you in this time of trouble. I am so afraid that father will take to drinking harder than ever. If he should, I don’t know what will become of you. These thoughts makes me feel as never felt before. They make me feel for this war to end so that once more I could be there with you and keep you from — and all the rest from want. But I am an enlisted soldier and strong and healthy and in the most critical point of the war so that it would be useless for to try to get discharged at present. But I live in hopes that it will come to its end before next July. If not, you must do the best you can for I place all my confidence in you.
You must try and please father in everything you do and keep him from drinking. It may be the means of making him very childish. If so, you must do everything you can to please him. Keep up good cheer. It is, as everyone knows, hard to lose a mother, but everyone has to and many is the case where it is worse than ours, not having a sister who can apply themselves to the steadiness that I think you can.
I don’t wait for your letter which is probably on the road but will write again as soon as received. No farther news at present with the exception of our captain is sick. He has got the jaundice but it is a little better this morning. So goodbye until I write again.
This from your affectionate brother, — Ansel Edwards