1864: Frank Moore to Sarah Moore

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Five unidentified prisoners at Camp Douglas

The author of this letter remains a mystery and there is no accompanying envelope to aid in the identification. The author signed his name “Frank Moore” and he addressed the letter to his wife Sarah. We can also conjecture that they had a little daughter named Mary but beyond this, I can’t say where they made their home.

It seems evident that Frank was in the service, but whether he was a Union or a Confederate soldier remains in doubt. The letter was datelined from “Camp Douglas” in June 1864. By this time, Camp Douglas was primarily a Union prison camp for captured Confederate soldiers, but Union soldiers were assigned the duty of guarding prisoners so soldiers from both sides were at the camp.

Since Confederate prisoners were typically restricted to one-page letters, my inclination is to believe Frank was a Union soldier. He mentions that he has 16 months of pay due him which means that he has been in the service since at least January 1863, if not earlier. He adds that 14 months of pay is equivalent to $182 which comes to $13/month — the pay typically received by a private in the Union army (Confederate privates  generally received $11/month). He also speaks of serving until his “time is out” which does not seem like an expression a Confederate soldier would say. Last but not least, the content of the letter is not typical of a Confederate prisoner-of-war.

Confusing the matter, however, is Frank’s statement that he is owed 16 months back pay. I find it highly unusual that a Union soldier would be owed so much back pay unless he had been arrested for desertion or some other cause. Union soldiers were rarely owed more than 6 months back pay.

The names mentioned in the letter are too common for me to narrow down the identity of the correspondents without the name of a regiment or some location.

TRANSCRIPTION

Camp Douglas, Illinois
June 26th 1864

Dear Wife,

I have the privilege this Sabbath evening to answer your kind letter of the 19th. I was pleased to hear from you and that you was well. Sarah, I am well at the present, hoping these few lines may find you the same.

Well Sarah, you said in your letter that the 116th [?] Regiment was all cut to pieces. I am sorry to hear that and I am sorry about David but if it is so, we cannot help it. Sarah, I suppose this day Vine takes the man. I should love to be at the wedding but I am in the place I am and I cannot be with you at the spree.

Sarah, I have but little to write at this time but I will say one thing and that is this — I will be at home as soon as I can and I will stay as long as I can. Sarah, you wanted me to take care of you and little Mary. I will do the best I can. I have 16 months pay coming to me and 14 months of that I will not get until my time is out. If I had any back pay, I could send it to you and it would keep until my time is out. The 14 months pay would be 182 dollars and you could live on that very well.

Sarah, you spoke of Samey Pew. Tell him to write to me. Tell Samey I send my love and best wishes to him and tell him I am well.

Sarah, I will close. I send my love to all and I wish Vine much Joy — first a girl and then a boy. You may think this a rhyme — twice a year and 2 at a time. Tell Vine not to get mad at this. It will be worse when I come home. Tell Mary I would love to hear from her and Lib too and all the rest. I have not received an answer from Vest yet nor Jess either.

I will close for this time. No more, but remain your husband till death.

— Frank Moore

Write soon and often.

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