1862: Mary Elizabeth Barnes to Ira Adams


Lizzie in later years

This letter was written by Mary Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Barnes (1843-1924), the daughter of Hiram Barnes and Elizabeth Sheldon of Ripon, Wisconsin. At the time, Lizzie was attending the Female Seminary in Rockford, Illinois. She wrote the letter to her close friend Ira Adams (1840-1862) of Co. K, 1st Wisconsin Cavalry. Ira was from Ripon, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. Ira enlisted on 1 Sep 1861 and died of disease at Helena, Arkansas on 23 September 1862. He was the son of John Adams (1814-1883) and Calista Ann Adams (1813-1867).

Lizzie Barnes wrote the letter in response to the following letter she received from Ira Barnes from the Guard House at Camp Harvey in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

1st Regiment Wisconsin Cavalry
Camp Harvey
March 12th 1862
Guard House

My Dear Friend,

Hard times in general, I take this opportunity to inform you that you are corresponding with a guard house subject. Much in camp life is idle, is considered disgraceful. I do not wish to hurt any reflections on my own character, but I consider it my duty to inform you of my position. 1st, His Excellency, Governor Harvey considering the elections of officers in the company void, he ordered a new election, which was held on Saturday 8th inst and I was defeated for majority by a combined force of office seekers.


Ira’s letter to Lizzie

The Regiment being under marching order, I considered it necessary for me to go to Mill for my things which I left there when last in Mill. We intended to leave on Tuesday, and were making every preparation for it. I started for the Major’s tent for a pass to go to Mill, stating to him the circumstances and he denied me. Such vexed me all the more. I obtained a pass to go down town. I proceeded immediately to the depot to take the cars. On arriving there, I found a guard stationed there to keep soldiers from deserting. The sergeant stepped up to me and asked me if I intended to take the train. I answered in the affirmative. He asked me to show my pass, I answered that my pocket book was the only pass I had. The engineer soon whistled and I was aboard for mill. There were a great many persons at the depot for the Colonel was expected and of course they all see me off. Captain Eggleston being there saw me take the cars and wishing to do me a favor and elevate himself in the estimation of the Major reported me as a deserter. The Major being greatly surprised, mounted his horse and started in great haste for the telegraph office. He sent a dispatch to Mill to the police that there was a deserter on the train and to arrest him and put him in irons and bring back to camp, but fortunately for me I was aware of the telegraph line from the North to Mill and when the cars stopped, I was careful where I went. I saw a police at the depot when I stepped off the cars and my suspicions were alarmed. I kept a little shy and soon the police telegraphed back that the deserted was not on the train. That created a considerable excitement in camp.

My business done in the city of bricks on Monday afternoon, I started for camp in company with Mrs. Potts from Ripon on her way to bid her husband good bye. On arriving at Kenosha I started for camp and before getting there I met Sgt. Gould and two soldiers with their sabers buckled on. I halted and asked them if they were after me. They replied that they were. I gave myself up and went with them to the major’s tent. He ordered me to my tent and considered myself under an arrest. I obeyed the order and proceeded to my tent. The boys came flocking in to see the returned deserter and I had a considerable of shaking hands to do. I then started for the major’s tent again, wishing to see Lagrange. He being absent, Maj. Pomeroy presided. I had not been in the tent long before he came up to me with the dignity of Prince Napoleon and said that he did not meet any deserters in his tent and I will oblige him very much if I would leave. I saluted him with all the grace imaginable and left the tent.

I had not gone far before the officer of the day saluted me and bid me halt. I obliged the command, and he approached and read an order from Major Pomeroy ordering him to put me in the guard house for an attempt to escape, insubordination in camp. He expressed great sympathy for me and said that he did not like to do so but he must obey his superior officers. I told him I was at his service and would go without any trouble although had there been an order issued to take me out and put me up for a target — it would not hurt me as much. And neverless here I am, and there has been an order issued for my release by order of Col. Daniels, who has just arrived from Washington. Thus ends the ceremony.

You must excuse bad writing and spelling for writing in Guard House where there are prisoners and the room filled with smoke and sitting on a bunch of hay with my valise in my lap to write the history is not very convenient. I shall leave the Regiment in a few days for good and something of an idea of enlisting in the regular army for five years to go to Colorado Territory but I have not fully determined. I want you to write and let me know what you think of it. I do not think that this Regiment will go away. We are ordered to be ready to leave on Saturday next, but I think that it is doubtful of our going at all. Capt. Eggleston has relieved Lt. O’Neill. Also Sgt. Burbank’s is thrown out and Sgt. Porter. In fact, there is a general break up. You wished me to write long letters but I think that this is too long but I wanted to give you a plain statement of the facts in the case and I want you to write and let me know what you think of it.

Write as soon as you receive this, for fear I may not be here. Your True Friend — Ira Adams

After Ira’s death in the service, Lizzie dated and later married (1868) to Stanton Fordice, Jr. (1845-1928).


Addressed to Lieut. Ira Adams, Co. K, Camp Harvey, Kenosha, Wisconsin

Rockford [Illinois]
March 13 [1862]

My dearest friend,

Your letter written in the “Guard House” I just received. I was very sorry indeed to hear of your misfortunes. I feared you would have trouble for you know you were always so venturesome. But I am not [going] to reprimand you now. I think you will come out all right in the end — at least I hope so.

About your entering the regular service, you must so as you think best. It seems like a long time to look forward five years to be separated from you, yet if you think it is your duty or the best thing you can do, I should bid you “God Speed” and wait patiently your return. I cannot judge for you what is right. That can only be decided between your conscience and God.

I send you what I had written before I received your last. You need not read it all unless you are in the Guard House with nothing else to do to pass away the time.

What does the Colonel have to say since his return? About the same as before he left? All gas, or at least full of blow & brass? What did you do that made Major [Henry] Pomeroy accuse you of occasioning insurrection? What did the Colonel say when he found you under arrest?

I thought when I took your letter this morning now I have a real nice long letter but the delight vanished when I found you had met with such a misfortune. I am real glad you wrote me all about [it]. Please do so on all occasions. If you are successful, I want to know it so to rejoice with you. If you meet with adversity, I want to sympathize with you.

Write immediately as I shall be more anxious now that you are in trouble. Did the Major Lagrange appear angry with you? Give my respects to all your friends that remain true to you. Now do not fail to write and tell me all the news relating to you or the regiment — but yourself in particular.

Your true & devoted friend, — Mary Eliza

I hardly know what to say about your re-enlisting. Can you free yourself from this company honorably? You have put your hand to the plough. Do not look back, but go ahead. The retiring bell has rung. Good night. How I wish you were here so I could see you. — Mary




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