This letter was written by Archibald (“Arch”) H. Neff (1844-1911), the orphaned son of Isaac Neff, Jr. (1812-1851) and Susannah Cochren (1825-1855) of Liberty, Delaware County, Indiana. “Arch” had at least three younger siblings — George (1846), Marietta (1848) and Delila (1850).
Archibald was a 17 year-old farmhand when he mustered into Co. E, 57th Indiana Infantry on 21 December 1862. He was discharged for disability at Indianapolis six months later on 21 June 1862.
In the 1860 Census, Archibald was enumerated in the Perry Godlove household in Delaware, Indiana. In the 1870 Census, Archibald was enumerated in Delaware, Indiana. He was married to Isabella (b. 1847) and had a one year old son named Orra R.
Arch wrote the letter to Nicholas Pittinger (b. 1838) — a 23-year-old school teacher in Delaware County, Indiana. He was the son of Daniel and Elenor Pittinger.
The 57th Indiana Regiment was mustered in November, 1861, in Richmond, Wayne County, Indiana. The regiment was comprised of men from the 5th and 11th Congressional Districts and was formed through the efforts of Revs. F. A. Hardin and J. W. T. McMullen. It was organized in Indianapolis and sent to Louisville where it was placed under General Buell’s command and assigned to the 6th Division of the Army of the Ohio. The 57th was stationed in Bardstown, Lebanon, and Munfordsville, Kentucky, before marching to Nashville, Tennessee in March, 1862. Although the regiment was not engaged in any battles at this time, it suffered a number of casualties from the severe winter of 1861-1862. In April, 1862, the 57th was ordered to Shiloh and saw action near the end of the battle. The regiment also was active in the siege of Corinth and was ordered to northern Alabama in July, 1862. From July, 1862- November, 1862, the 57th marched through middle Tennessee and Kentucky and was engaged in the battle of Chaplin Hills (Perryville) before returning to Nashville where it guarded foraging trains. The regiment next distinguished itself at the battle of Stone River while suffering heavy losses.
Camp Hardin [Kentucky] in care of Capt. Dunn, 57th Reg. Co. E
January the 1st 1862
My Dear Friend,
I take my pen in hand to let you know that I am well and well satisfied too. I was on guard last night but I would just like to be at your school today. But I can’t be there now. But I write my New Year’s gift to you. I expect that will do for this time.
Last week me and some 8 more went out to a secessionist’s to get some straw to make a bed and we looked around and we saw some corn shock and we put some of it into service and we had a nice time of eating parched corn. ¹ But we have good weather and it is warm enough to go in your shirt sleeves and keep warm enough.
I would like to be at class meeting once more with you but if we don’t meet on earth anymore, if we live faith[ful] so that we may meet in heaven where there will be no more sorrow there.
We marched up in Louisville yesterday to get new guns but it was a mistake in the print. They sent our guns up to town to get them fixed up. But I think we will get better guns after awhile when we get ready to fight.
John [Nelson Hatfield] and Levi and Eli and Noel 2 is well. Direct your letter to Camp Hardin, Louisville, Kentucky, in care of [Capt. Addison M.] Dunn, 57th Regiment, Co. E.
I must bring my scribbling to a close. I want you to write as soon as this comes to hand. So no more at present. So goodbye.
— A. H. Neff
[to] N. F. Pittinger
¹ In an excerpt taken from “Annals of the Fifty-Seventh Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry: Marches, Battles, and Incidents of Army Life” written by Asbury L. Kerwood immediately after the war (page 25), it is written that, “Our beds were made from the oats-field of a secessionist who lived near, notwithstanding we were under strict order to molest nothing belonging to citizens. This order, though from Gen. Buell, was often violated, as the appearance of poultry, honey, fruit, and ‘sich like’ in our camp bore ample testimony.”
² Three of these four were probably Levi H. Shaffer who died at Hamburg, Tennessee, on 4 July 1862; Eli B. Kline who died at Nashville, Tennessee, on 12 April 1862; and Noel Russell who died at Nashville, Tennessee on 17 October 1862.