1863: Henry Spohn to Elizabeth (Ganger) Spohn

How Henry might have looked

How Henry might have looked

This letter was written by 38 year-old Henry Spohn (1824-1905), the son of Henrich Spohn (1789-1863) and Hannah Flicker of Berks County, Pennsylvania. Henry wrote the letter to his wife, Elizabeth Ganger (1830-1876), his son Jacob Ganger Spohn (1849-1907), and daughter Catharine Ganger Spohn (1851-1891).

Henry was among the men of Berks County who were drafted to serve in the military for nine months by the State of Pennsylvania. He served in Co. C, 167th Pennsylvania Infantry from November 1862 to August 1863. He wrote this letter from Suffolk, Virginia, where the 167th Pennsylvania had been encamped since December 1862, engaged in strengthening fortifications around the city. He makes reference to the Battle of Blackwater [Battle of Deserted House] in which his regiment was engaged the previous month. Unfortunate circumstances caught the unseasoned men of the 167th Pennsylvania — carrying old 1832 smoothbore muskets — at a disadvantage. Their retreat in confusion prompted rumors that they had “skeedadled” — rumors that trickled all the way back home to Berks County. Henry’s sending a “correct description” of the battle home to his father was probably an attempt to try to set the record straight and restore the honor to the regiment.


Addressed to Elizabeth Spohn, Spangsville Post Office, Berks County, Pennsylvania

Suffolk, Virginia
February 21st 1863

My dear family,

Yours from the 15th is at hand and I am well pleased to hear from you that you are all well. I too enjoy perfect health at present time.

I am glad to hear that you have exchanged words of friendship with J. Weiser and that he is alive yet. Well I hope he may see the end of this rebellion so that he may return home and see his friends. And further I am glad that you have received that draft that you can see the fortifications around this place. But I would sooner see you here about a week at this place to see all that is going on here. With words I could not explain it to you.

We had a good week of it this week for it rained all along for three days and now we have spring-like weather. It is warm enough no to dig and plant. And further, we all received new pants, plows, and stockings. But my pants that I got first are just as good as new. Yet I have now more than I can hardly carry if we get on a good march. But I have thought of sending some of my clothing home if it gets warm enough so I can do without.

As yet we have received no pay from Uncle Sam, but I think it is time that we are paid, that those dear ones at home had something to live of. As for us, we have enough to eat if we are saving with our rations. But it requires a loaf of bread extra for me every week and so it does the most of us — but it only cost 10 cents a loaf — but my appetite did not fail yet since I am in camp — but I must say it is not half as bad as it was where I boarded and worked last summer and you can judge where that was.

And I give my love to you, my wife, for your kindness and for sending me that money. I hope you will be rewarded some day for it if I ever see the day that I can come home again.

I will now close by remaining your true father, — Henry Spohn

It is likely that you have not seen the news about the Battle of Blackwater and enclosed you will find the correct information concerning that affair.

Yours truly, — Henry Spohn

I have not heard where my father is going in spring so please and tell me in your next.

Lewis & Henry are well and so are all the rest in our company.

This small thing is a cotton seed in this letter.


1863: Mollie Van Nest to Mary Elizabeth Gardner

The first letter was written by 18 year-old Mary (“Mollie”) F. Van Nest (1845-1927), the 20 year-old daughter of John Van Nest (1814-1903) and Sarah Weiler (1818-1895) of Rowsburg, Ashland County, Ohio. Mollie’s father was an early resident of Rowsburg, marrying and settling there in 1839 and where he served as postmaster and justice of the peace for 35 years.

How Mollie might have looked

How Mollie might have looked

Mollie’s brother, Joseph P. Van Nest (1841-1905) worked with his father as a harness maker. He married Mary Elizabeth Gardner (1842-1928) in October 1861, and their son John was born in April 1862. “Raised in a family of dyed-in-the-wool Democrats, Joseph Van Nest went to war to preserve the old Constitution. After enlisting with the 120th Ohio in the summer of 1862, he shortly felt betrayed by the Emancipation Proclamation, and evidently his dissatisfaction became known throughout the community. One minister even claimed that Joseph, if given the opportunity, would be willing to shoot the president if he did not retract the edict. As would be expected, Joseph’s father John took offense at this slanderous statement, for he had seen the letter in question and knew that his son had expressed no such sentiment. John personally confronted ‘the Abolition Preacher,’ who ‘in order to dodge the matter claimed that he had misunderstood his wife.’ The offended father, however, did not buy this lame excuse but continued to regard the Republican cleric as a ‘Liar & Mischiefmaker’ unworthy to fill the office of a man of the cloth.” [A Visitation of God: Northern Civilians Interpret the War, by Sean A. Scott]  Though Joseph would not shoot the President, he did consider desertion. His wife Mary even pleaded with him to do so: “If I was you I would not stay down there and fight for the negroes anymore, for I would not have my blood spilt for them…” [February 1, 1863]  Mary apparently shared this opinion with her in-laws. But discord in the Van Nest family erupted later in the fall of 1863 when Mary announced to her husband and his family that she supported the Republican candidate  (John Brough) for Ohio Governor over the Peace Democrat Clement Vallandigham. In November 1864, Joseph transferred to the 114th Ohio Infantry where he was commissioned a lieutenant. Following his discharge in June 1865, VanNest returned to work as a harness maker, and later became an insurance agent.

Molly’s mother — Sarah Weiler — was the daughter of Joseph Weiler (1777-1860) and Rosina Styer (1782-1852) of Lancaster, Pa., later Wayne County, Ohio. Molly’s uncle — James Weiler (1821-1889) — was married to Sarah Talitha Ann France (1830-1902) of Wooster, Wayne County, Ohio. James Weiler served as 2Lt. in Co. H, 152nd Indiana Infantry during the Civil War though he wasn’t commissioned until 14 March 1865 and he mustered out on 30 August 1865.

It was Sarah Talitha Ann (France) Weiler that wrote the second letter to her nephew, which would have been Mollie’s brother, Joseph P. Van Nest (or Vannest).


[Near Monroeville, Allen County, Indiana]
Sabbath morning, June 27th 1863

Remembered Sister and dear Nephew,

I presume you are beginning to think I have forgotten you entirely but feel assured such is not the case. I have attempted several times to write and have had them written but of negligence have delayed sending them off. But hope you will pardon me and I will be more punctual in the future.

I suppose you wonder how I am enjoying myself since my arrival to the Land of Hoosiers — first rate. Better than what I anticipated. I get to Monroeville [Allen County, Indiana] so often, and every week I receive company from there a Friday night. There was a lot of young folks came and stayed till after twelve o’clock most every night. They go out riding apart here. I do love their society so much.

Last Saturday night, the free masons had a grand time in Monroeville. There was thirteen ladies took the degrees. I was among the crowd. We had the nicest table set you ever saw. They had over ten dollars worth of confectionaries and all the cakes and pies imaginable. But the most fun was when we rode the goat. If it had not of been for Mr. Roland, I would of fell clear down stairs. The ladies were all married except myself, but feel assured, I was not deprived of having a partner — one to assist in climbing the ladder, and the goat from throwing me down.

Mary, I do wish you would come out here and spend the summer. I know you would love it so much. The weather has been so pleasant; had but little rain. The farmers have got their hay about made and expect to commence harvesting this week. The strawberries are about all [gone]. We had but a few — it was too dry for them this summer. We have had new potatoes and peas already. We will not have very much fruit this year.

Well, Mary, how do you intend to spend the 4th of July? I thought of going to Fort Wayne. I can go for half price in the cars. They expect to have a grand time there.

Oh, I feel so bad. I expected a letter from Papa Friday but none came. Have you heard from brother lately? I am so anxious to hear how he is. I do hope he is not mortally wounded. The poor soldiers — it must be hard for them this warm weather. They are a going to draft here the first of July.

Well, I must quit writing and get ready for Sabbath School and church. I attend every Sabbath. We have a very good school.

Well, I will try and finish my letter. I have just got my evening work done. We have five cows to milk and four calves to feed. Aunt is sick all the time most which makes a great deal for me to do.

Oh dear, there is two young men stopping again. They’re from Monroeville — Mr. Roland and Swift. They want me to go along to Fort Wayne on the Fourth of July. What will I do! I hate to refuse the offer but think I will. I am afraid he will get mad at me. I wish you could see Mr. Roland. I will try to describe him. He is about 6 feet high and shiny, beautiful black hair and mustache, and dresses fine. There is a young man by the name of Luis Ceary — he is a nephew of Preacher Myers. He is acquainted with Sue Weaver. He got acquainted with her when her and Mrs. Myers was out to Defiance two or three years ago. He seems like a very nice young man. He has been here often since I am here.

Well Mary, how are the young folks prospering in Rows[burg]? I would love to see them all again. I expect they all have beau’s. Oh dear, but I would love to see [my sister] Emma and have a long talk with her. I will write her a letter some of these days and a letter it will be. Give my love to all the girls in town. It is getting late and I will have to bring my scribbling to a close. Excuse my brevity.

Do write soon and I will write to you regular. I would love to hear from my friends — those I love. Give my love to all at home and tell Papa to write me a letter. I will answer Kate as soon as I get one from home. Tell me all the news when you write. Excuse all mistakes for this was written in haste. I received a letter from J. R. Swerty last week. He was well when he wrote. Kiss dear little Johnny and Etty for me. Uncle Weiler’s family joins me in sending their respects.

From your true and loving sister, — Mollie Van Nest

Write soon. Goodbye.

P. S. Excuse my delicate letter paper. I purposed writing a sheet full when I commenced but did not quite do it. Good night. Write soon, write often, all the news.

Mary have you got that box pattern that you hang up at the wall to put newspapers and letters in. I have the sack for it and you you send the rest and oblige your sister Mollie. East Gilbert

¹ Monroeville Lodge, No. 293, was received on dispensation into the Free Mason Society on 31 January 1863, Mollie’s uncle, James Weiler, being one of the three charter officers. It’s curious, however, that Mollie claims “thirteen ladies” were accepted into the society at that time. If true, this would have been highly irregular and downright scandalous. According to Freemasonry regulations, a person who may be admitted, by definition must be limited to “good and true men, free-born, and of mature and discreet age and sound judgement — no bondmen, no women, or immoral or scandalous men” were allowed. Furthermore, any mason attending a lodge that allowed woman were to be immediately suspended or excluded from the craft. My hunch is that Mollie is referring to one of the women-only freemason societies that sprang up sporadically in the U.S. but I could find no record of it in Monroeville. 

Massillon, Indiana
March 26, 1865

Dear Nephew,

Your kind letter of March 7th came duly to hand on last Friday informing us of your whereabouts. And as your uncle is not here, I thought I would try and answer it the best I could. Your uncle and Mr. Wines of Fort Wayne raised a company [Co. H] for the 152d [Indiana] Regiment. Mr. [Marshall Wickliff] Wines is Captain, Mr. [Marshall D.] Hadsell First Lieutenant, and James is Second Lt. They left Indianapolis on the 18th inst. Their destination is Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, I believe. They have only gone for one year but O dear, what a long year it will be for me for it seems so lonesome without him. But he is for it and I will have to make the best of it.

I have bought property in Monroeville and will move in a week or two as soon as the house is finished. It is just a new house. It will be a good house when done. There is a parlor, a sitting room, three bedrooms, and a kitchen and butery, a wood house and milk house and cistern. There is four lots and a third with the house. I am to pay twelve hundred dollars for the property. I don’t think I could invest that amount of money in anything better for Monroeville is bound to make a place. It is fast improving. There is going to be quite a lot of new buildings built there this summer. There is quite a number of good buildings up already. There is a large steam grist mill, one stove factory, a large water house, one steam sawmill and quite a number of other good buildings. I believe there is to be a depot built there this summer.

I still have the post office yet but will only have it yet this week. My address will then be Monroeville, Allen County, Indiana. I sent our photograph to your wife some time since. Well, as I have nothing interesting to write to you, I must bring my scribbling to a close hoping you will excuse my poor writing and composition for I am a very poor scholar.

We as a family are all well except George. He has been sick yesterday and today. I do not know how it will terminate with him but I hope it will not be anything serious.

Your Uncle John Smith’s are all well at present. David Smith is still at Jefferson City, Missouri. He has got pretty well again. If you think worthwhile to answer this, do so.

No more at this time, but our love to you from your affectionate Aunt, — Sarah T. A. Weiler

P. S. I will send your letter to your Uncle as soon as I know where to direct to.

1862: Member of 103rd Illinois Infantry to his Parents

Thomas Franklin Gibboney, Co H, 103rd Illinois

Thomas Franklin Gibboney, Co H, 103rd Illinois

This letter was written by a member of the 103rd Illinois Infantry though I can’t be certain of his identity due to the illegibility of his signature. The letter was written from Camp Peoria which was organized near Adams and Mary Streets in Peoria, Illinois, in 1862. The regiment was formed entirely with men from Fulton County and was called up as part of the recruitment drive during the summer and fall of 1862 after a series of Union setbacks. The men were organized and trained in Peoria, Illinois before being mustered into service on October 2, 1862 with a strength of 804 men. Many of the officers were veterans of early battles in the war; most had come from the 17th Illinois Infantry Regiment.

Two members of the regiment are identifiable in the letter: Pvt. Theodore Baylor of Co. C — from Buckheart Township; and Pvt. Abraham Johnson of Co. G — from Canton. These two were obviously good friends of the author and recognizable to his parents back home. Theodore did not survive the war. He was killed on 27 June 1864 at Kenesaw Mountain, Georgia. Abraham, on the other hand, was discharged prematurely from the service due to disability after only four months.


Camp Peoria, [Peoria, Illinois]
October [1862]

Dear Parents,

I take my pen in hand to let you know that I am well and just received your letter and was glad to hear from you.

Abraham Johnson is not yet able to be on duty yet. He has got the ague and shakes every day for the last week, but he is so now that he can walk and go about.

Theodore Baylor is well and all the rest of the boys is too.

I got a letter from Warren the other night which was home ______ and they was all well at that time when it was wrote and all the rest of them was too.

I have concluded to [send] you my revolver for if I had sold it, I could not [have] got the money for a week so I send to you till I come home and if you want to use it, you can do it but you will have buy cartridges for it. You can’t use anything else. I send you one load.

— W. W. H. [?]

1862-63: Leander Peckham to Family

How Leander might have looked

How Leander might have looked

These letters were written by Pvt. Leander Peckham (1827-1873), the son of George Washington Peckham (1800-1856) and Eliza Barker (1804-1870) of Middletown, Newport County, Rhode Island. Leander married Patience S. Gray (1839-1916), daughter of Amasa and Phebe (Irish) Gray in November 1858. He and his family were enumerated in Middleton before the war where Leander’s occupation was given as carpenter. He was 35 years old when he enlisted in Co. D, 12th Rhode Island Infantry in September 1862, listing Middletown, Newport County, Rhode Island, as his residence. Regimental records show him to have been hospitalized from December 1862 until 10 March 1863 when he was discharged for disability at Baltimore.

An article appearing in the Newport Mercury (Newport, R. I.) in January 1863 reported that Leander Peckham was hospitalized in Washington D. C. at the Trinity Church Hospital. The same paper reported in February 1863 that Leander was in Baltimore at “Stuart’s Hospital.”

In the first letter, 35 year-old Leander shares the details of an 85 mile march the regiment had just made from Washington D. C. down the eastern shore of Maryland to Liverpool Point where transports carried them across the Potomac and into “Old Virginia.” He tells her they are fourteen miles from Fredericksburg and that they expect to join Burnside’s army and have “a big fight” soon.

In the second letter, Leander tells his sister Eliza that he is “most used up” from exposure and hard marching. The 12th Rhode Island Infantry had not had any battlefield experience prior to the Battle of Fredericksburg fought on 13 December 1863 so it is safe to assume that the scenes described by Leander were from that battle. He may have also been on one of the burial details, under a flag of truce, that followed a couple of days afterward. In any event, we can safely assume that his constitution broke down shortly thereafter and he was transported with other sick and wounded back to Washington D. C.

In the third letter, written just prior to his medical discharge, Leander was still in a Baltimore hospital.

The Newport Mercury reported that Leander Peckham died in Middletown on 11 September 1873 at age 46.

Wharf at Acqua Creek Landing in 1862-63

Wharf at Acquia Creek Landing in 1862-63


Acquia Creek [Virginia]
December 1st 1862
(the letter was written the 7th; he dated it so as to give us a sketch of each days march)

My Dear Wife,

I will write a few lines. We had orders to pack up Monday for a start & to take two days rations. We left our tent & stove & our sack of straw. We had to carry our grub, water & our little tent to sleep in & clothes. We left about 16 of the boys in our company to go to the Fairfax Hospital. The Compton boys — all but the two Grays — were left back. H. Chase was one too. I had ought to have staid too but it was so sickly I would try to go with the boys.

We left Monday about 12 o’clock. About 5 thousand of us men made a start for Washington. We went over the long bridge through Washington over the Navy Yard into Maryland & encamped for the night on the ground like so many hogs. [We] like to have froze. I had the chills. We marched 10 miles today.

December 2nd. Got up this morning, eat some hard crackers and cold water. We are going to march 16 miles today — quite a hard day’s march. I had to get someone to carry my gun a part of the day. I was quite used up.

December 3rd. They put me with the wagon train today and I got my knapsack on board of the wagon. We are going 10 miles today. Myself & one of the Vermont boys went up to the Doctor’s house & he invited us in & gave us some apples to eat & some wine to drink. We fared quite well. We got up with the Regiment in the evening. They were in camp in the woods. The camp fires were lit up for a mile. It looked quite pretty. The soldiers went out & shot some pigs & poultry.

December 4th. We are going to Port Tobacco today. Went through several plantations — tobacco & corn are the crops. Port Tobacco is a county seat — about 100 inhabitants — plenty of niggers. The land is hilly & marshy. ‘Tis about all woods through Maryland — fine trees mostly.

December 5. Got up this morning — another long march & looks like rain. They say there is about 40 thousand men ahead of us & 5 thousand with us & 300 baggage wagons & several thousand behind us. The men do not have half enough to eat & they are shooting every live thing they can find. They say there are 60 thousand men on the move. We are going to help Burnside, they say. It begins to rain & we shall catch a wetting. It rained all the forenoon. It grows cold & begins to snow. The men & horses are quite dragged out with the long march. I am cold, wet, & hungry. A lot of us got into a meeting house and made a fire to dry our clothes. I have one hard cracker & cold water. Got warm some & made another start. The mud & splosh is over shoe deep. I am within two miles of the regiment. I am going no further tonight. Some of us went into an old blacksmith shop, got up a fire to warm us again. [We] calculated to stay all night but some of the boys said there was another meeting house so we went in it and found about 50 soldiers there. Staid all night. Slept not much.

Started the next morning to catch up with the regiment. It was mud & snow. I got my feet wet all through. Found the boys not much better off, I can tell you. They had to camp on the snow. We are all getting ready for another storm.

Saturday, December 6th. ‘Tis cold today. 4 crackers apiece and march six miles to Liverpool Point — almost the lower end of Maryland. Here we had to stand in the splosh about 4 hours, cold & hungry, waiting for the transport boat to carry us across the Potomac again into Old Virginia. We arrived at Acquia Creek at six o’clock. It is quite a place — boats of all descriptions, railroads to carry provisions to the army. They kept us standing about an hour in the cold — our feet almost froze — and hungry. Amasa went up to a box of crackers & stove one side in it, got some & gave me some. Fore we go on another tramp of about two miles & we camp on the snow again. Went to work to build a fire to get warm with. We sat & stood up half of the night to get our feet warm, burned our faces, smoked our eyes, & froze our backs, but made out to live through the night.

December 7th. Here we are cold & hungry. The sun begins to shine. Some of the boys have gone for something to eat. Here they come with some crackers, white beans, & pork. The prospect is that we shall get something to eat. Well we have got filled up once.

Some of the folks say there is about 150 thousand men here to go & help Burnside. Fredericksburg is 14 miles from here. They are getting ready for a big fight, they say. They say we are going in to help fight with Burnside. We are going from here tomorrow. The fight is to be 4 miles this side of Fredericksburg at Falmouth. They say that we are agoing to have the mail at 5 o’clock. I hope to get a letter but they say we cannot send any letters until after the battle. May the Lord take care of you if I never come back, but I hope I shall. Then I think I shall stay there — I have seen enough. We lost two or three men & some horses by this cruel march. I am quite smart for me.

We have got some pine boughs to fix up our bed tonight and got a good fire agoing. I guess we shall sleep warm tonight. Amasa & two more of us have put our tents together. It is cold today but I hope I shall not take cold.

December 8th. I am quite smart for me, considering the long march but they say that we marched 85 miles in all. I can’t tell why they marched us so far out of the way. We left where we were & went through Maryland across the Potomac into Old Virginia again. We are about 50 miles farther down the same side.

I do not know how long we shall stay here. I hope long enough to hear from you & to get that letter & the box if you have sent any to us. Amasa is frying pork & crackers for our dinner. We don’t get more than half enough to eat. I hope we shall have more before a great while. Amasa & myself went down to the creek and got 25 cts worth of cookies. They are building storehouses & fixing up the wharfs. There is about 100 steamboats & other crafts there. It is quite a place for government stores.

It is cold here. We are suffering with the weather along the river. It is froze hard enough for the boys to skate on. The water we get to use freezes in our canteens & camp kettles. The brook is froze hard enough to bear me. I believe it is colder out here than it is at home. We have to keep campfires burning all the time. I wish myself at home if they have this weather out here. The snow is on the ground & we have to scrape it away to lay down. There is 5 or 6 men sick/ ‘Tis a hard place to send them, I hear. I shall make out to stand this voyage. I had to get up this morning at 5 to warm my feet. I thought they would freeze before I got them warm. We have to cut down trees & pick up the brush out of the snow to keep the fire going to keep warm with. ‘Tis tuff.

The news is that we are going to have full rations. I hope so. The weather grows a little warmer. We are quite a cross set of men, I can tell you. They reckon when they enlist again, it will be when they are crazy. They will have to draft if they get any more men for the war if this is the way they are going to use them. We have had as tuff a march as has been since the war [began].

Albert has got a chance to drive a four horse team awhile. He got almost used up. He fell out the regiment once. Amasa & myself are the only two that is left of our crowd & 6 White. The land is hilly & covered with trees. We have orders to clean our guns & equipment for a dress parade. There is over 100 thousand soldiers around here. Expect to have to go down to help Burnside every day to help take Fredericksburg to make winter quarters for some of the regiments.

I shall write a little sketch of our march. It is not wrote very good. I have to write out in the cold but I guess you can read some of it & guess at the rest. If I ever get home again, I will tell you all about it. We lost some horses & two or three men. Well it was a tuff march for man & beast. The poor mules would cry & holler — poor things. They were half starved. A hard traveling up hill & down, half a mile quite steep. Had to chain the wheels to keep them from turning. I hope we shall not have another such march as this without they want to kill us all. Going up hill they had to double the team.

I want you to send this letter to sister Eliza after you have read it because they want to hear from me. I do not have much time to write. If I did, it is not very agreeable to write out in the cold with your hands almost froze at that. So this letter must answer for all hands and you must all write when you can & I will try to answer some of them. Give my love to all the folks & take care of yourself & tell the boys to stay at home & not to make a fool of themselves in the way I have.

The government may go to the devil for all of me if ever I get home again before I will enlist again for the war if this is the way we have got to be used — half fed & suffering with the cold. I wish the men that got up this trouble would have to fight it out with the South & take the damn niggers to pay for their trouble. I will fetch this letter to a close & bid you goodbye & hope I shall see you all again.

My love to all and I remain your, — Leander Peckham

Stewart Mansion Hospital, Ward 7 appears in row of barracks at left.

Stewart Mansion Hospital, Ward 7 appears in row of barracks at left.


Ward 7, U. S. Army General Hospital
Stewart’s Mansion, Baltimore, Maryland
January 11, 1863

My dear sister,

I will write you a few lines. I am in Baltimore Hospital as you will see by this. We left Washington [D. C.] the 6th to make room for some more sick and wounded. We are on the outside of the city. There is about 1,000 sick or wounded here. I do not like [it] here. I hope they will send me back to my regiment or to Portsmouth Grove. I am about the same — almost used up. They march us so far and then into a battle. And sleeping on the cold ground — the rain and snow — with wet feet and half enough to eat — it was too much for me.

I have quite good care here but it will take some time for me to get [as] smart as when I left home. I wish I was at home where my Mother could take care of me but if I don’t get no better, they will have to discharge me from the hospital within about 6 months.

I received your kind letter the 24th of December. I have not heard from home since. I have wrote to Mother and Joe [but] no letter have I received from them so you must write me a letter and let me know how you are getting along. I shall want to hear all the news from home. How does the old horse get along? How are the boys and Mother? And how her honey and ____ hold out, and her stocks get along, and her corn and vinegar [?]. Tell her to look out in the hard times. I don’t calculate to sell my corn before next July.

It’s no good to send me anything for I should not get it here in the hospital. Well, if I ever get home again, I shall know how to prize it. I have seen enough to make my heart sick of war. I have seen men shot down on the battlefield and seen them carried to the hospital, have their legs and arms cut off and died like so many hogs and thought no more of. I have seen them thrown into a hole one on top the other and that is the last of the poor soldier — thought no more of [than] If they was so many cats.

Write soon. My love to all that enquire after me and take a [good] part to yourself. Tell the boys to be good to their kind mother and be contented to stay at home. I remain your brother, — Leander Peckham


[Probably Stewart’s Mansion Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland]
February 22nd, 1863

My dear sister Elisa and Mother and all hands,

I will commence another letter to you. It snow[ed] like great guns today. The snow is 3 or 4 inches thick and it keeps on snow[ing]. I am on the gaining had. If I stay here much longer, I shall be quite smart. I am in hopes I shall get my papers this week. I received Joel and Mother’s letter and was glad to hear from them but I am sorry that Mother takes so much trouble to try to get me at home for it won’t amount to nothing at all. The Governor Sprague and no one else could get me out of the army service. I have to remain the 9 months out or sooner discharge which I am in a fair way to be. I am afraid the folks at home [will] think I was not fit to go to the war — that I went to get the money — but I have been in one big battle [Fredericksburg] and like to [have] been killed but I come out alright. If they had not kept us laying in the mud and water so much, I should have been with the regiment now but I ain’t the only one that has been sick. There is about 300 sick ones [that have] left the regiment, including the killed and wounded.

I will send you a cach[et] of the hospital shanty and grounds where I am stopping for the present. You can see the city of Baltimore. This picture is a good representation. I heard they had the small pox in Newport and at the Grove too but I am glad you have got rid of it around your neighborhood.

I was down to see my friend Mr. [Frederick] Bannenberg yesterday. ¹ Had some string beans for dinner. They send their best respects to you. His wife [Annie] says she is coming to see us next summer if nothing happens to hinder her from coming. I told her I hoped she would.

February 27th

Well, sister, I received your kind letter today and was glad to hear from you [and] that you were all well as usual. I have not been very smart two or three days back. I got a cold last Sunday but I am better today. I hope I shall get home before I have another fall back. They say I shall have my discharge paper so I can come home next week. Tell Mother not to worry about the pay they get to pay me or I won’t sign my name to the papers.

March 1st

I will try to finish this letter so I can send it today. I am in bed. Had another sick spell but I am a little better today. The ladies and doctor are very kind to me. They fetch me anything I can eat. They had the doctor [sign my discharge papers] up to the first of this week [so] I shall be home next Saturday or Sunday if everything works right.

My love to all, your brother — L. Peckham

P. S. Tell mother not to worry about me. I shall be at home, I hope, next Sunday with her but I am sorry to come home sick. But I try not to put her at much trouble.

¹ Frederick Bannenburg (b. 1814 in Prussia) was a master shoemaker in Baltimore. His wife, Annie (or Hannah), was born in Massachusetts.

1861: Daniel Heyward Hamilton, Jr. to Frances (Roulhac) Hamilton


Lt. Col. Daniel Heyward Hamilton, Gregg’s Adjutant

This short note, expressing his love for his wife and infant daughter, was written by Major Daniel Heyward Hamilton, Jr. (1838-1908), the son of Col. Daniel Heyward and Rebecca Motte Middleton Hamilton.

Daniel received his education at The Citadel — a military school in his native Charleston, South Carolina. He removed himself to Hillsboro, North Carolina in 1859 and became an instructor at Charles Courtenay Tew’s Hillsboro Military Academy. The American Civil War interrupted this tenure, after which he was commissioned a Major with an assignment to the 13th North Carolina Infantry. He subsequently served on the staff of General Roswell Sabine Ripley with additional service as the Adjutant of Gregg’s 1st South Carolina Regiment then commanded by his father. Major Hamilton received a dangerous wound at Shepherdstown, West Virginia which required his removal from active field service. He continued in service as the Provost Marshal of Columbia, South Carolina. During the scuffle at Catawba Bridge, the South Carolinian was captured.

After the four year war concluded in 1865, he successfully studied law and was admitted to the bar, but never practiced the profession. As an alternative, he became a competent educator in Hillsboro’s school district. Furthermore, Hamilton served his community of Orange County as Chairman of the Board of Commissioners and Clerk of the Superior Court.

Daniel was married to Frances Gray Roulhac (1839-1897) and their first child was Katherine Roulhac Hamilton (1860-1893). The letter was written from Weldon, North Carolina where the volunteers of the 13th North Carolina assembled and organized during the summer of 1861.

1861 Envelope

1861 Envelope

Addressed to Mrs. D. H. Hamilton, Jr., Hillsboro, North Carolina

Weldon, North Carolina
September 2d 1861

My dear wife,

I have but time to write a line. I have heard no news whatever. I miss you more than I can say but you will be with me next week, I have no doubt. I love you dearly, my darling wife. Kiss my baby for me & give love to all. I am sad at leaving you. God bless you my own.

Your devoted husband, — D. H. Hamilton, Jr.

1863: Albert Nathaniel Husted to Elmira (Burhans) Husted

Albert N. Husted

Albert N. Husted, 44th New York

This letter was written by Lt. Albert Nathaniel Husted (1833-1912), the son of Nathaniel Husted (1798-1878) and Elmira Burhans (1810-1890) of Washington, Dutchess County, New York.

Albert was a professor of mathematics at the Normal School in Albany, New York, but resigned his position “in order to assist in forming a company of volunteer infantry. The company he helped muster would be known as the ‘new’ Company E, of the 44th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The original Company E had been decimated in the fighting at Antietam, with survivors being transferred to shore up the ranks of other companies in the regiment. The 44th New York was a proud unit, also known as ‘Ellsworth’s Avengers’ after Colonel E. Elmer Ellsworth who had been killed in Alexandria, Virginia. The ‘new’ Company E would consist primarily of graduates and students of the Normal School. Recruited in or near Albany, in the late summer of 1862, Company E joined the 44th New York as it guarded the Potomac on the 23rd of October, 1862… Husted participated in all battles with the Army of the Potomac between October 1862 and October 1864. Wounded at Chancellorsville in May of 1863, but not hospitalized, he credited the testament and diary carried in his side pocket with saving his life.” [Entering the Wilderness Campaign as the Captain of Co. I,] “Husted again escaped death (a bullet pierced his hat and another his bootleg) and narrowly avoided capture. He was mustered out of service with an honorable discharge on October 14, 1864.” [Source: Cory E. McClain]

Cpt. Husted returned from the war to marry Jane Eliza Ingersoll (in 1867) and to resume his employment as a professor in the Normal School at Albany.

In this fascinating letter, Husted yells his mother about Burnside’s aborted attempt to cross the Rappahannock and attack the Confederates wintering around Fredericksburg. Subsequently labeled “Burnside’s Mud March,” the failure, added to his disastrous defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg, sealed Burnside’s fate as the commander of the Army of the Potomac and he would soon be replaced by Joseph Hooker.


Mort Kunstler’s rendering of Burnside’s Mud March


Camp in the Woods, Va.
January 23, 1863

Dear Mother,

You have probably heard before this time that the Army of the Potomac is advancing. Perhaps you are again anxious lest a stray rebel bullet shall do me harm. The army did attempt an advance but on Tuesday night a two days rain set in, took the frost all out of the ground, and made it utterly impossible for the artillery and baggage to get along. The difficulties appeared so great that the undertaking has been abandoned and the troops are now moving back to their old camps.

We had been under marching orders for several days. Finally, on Tuesday afternoon about 4 o’clock, we started. The roads were then very good — the ground having been frozen for several days. After marching but two miles, we encamped in the woods. Soon after we got our tent pitched and our coffee made, it began to rain and continued all night. So far as I have seen, there is but very little gravelly or stony land in this state, so the roads cut up quite easily when wet. As a consequence, on Wednesday morning, the mud was getting bad. The artillery horses having stood out in the rain without any protection were pretty well chilled. This together with the heavy roads made it very difficult getting the trains in motion.

We breakfasted at daylight, packed up our things — wet tents and all — and “fell in.” It was ten o’clock before we got off and then our course was very slow. At one p.m., having marched about 4 miles, we turned off into a fine oak wood and were ordered to bivouac. Soon our tents were up and our fires burning. The drizzling rain still continued, but being favorably situated, we got things in comfortable shape for the night.

Yesterday we remained quiet and made ourselves as contented as possible. Today we have been out building corduroy roads through the mud holes in order that the artillery and wagons may get back to their camps. This afternoon the sun is shining and the heat is such as to make it quite safe to write in my blouse sitting in the door of my tent.

We expect to return to our old quarters where we have enjoyed ourselves so well tomorrow or the next day. We lived high for several days before leaving camp and made a large opening in that box. The remainder I boxed up and put in baggage waggon. I shall find it all right. A piece of the bread — now three weeks old — is in my haversack, and still fresh and sweet. The last cruller was eaten last night. The dried fruit is very nice.

I do not much like the idea of giving up as Burnside now seems compelled to, but perhaps it is better than pursuing a hopeless case. I believe the men could stand it and could get along, but it is impossible for the wagons. I am well and hearty as usual. This trip — like most others — seems to be doing me good. We have had no mail for two or three days but I think this will go out tonight.

Love to all. Affectionately your son, — Albert

To Mrs. N. Husted

1861: Augustus Thompson to Hannah Elizabeth Fogg

How Augustus might have looked

How Augustus might have looked

This letter was written by Augustus Thompson (1839->1896), the 22 year-old son of Ebenezer and Rachael Thompson of Sanford, York County, Maine. Augustus is enumerated as a shoemaker like his older brother Moses Thompson (1834-18xx) and his younger brother John Thompson (1841-18xx)  in the 1860 census. In fact, Augustus and his two brothers were also enumerated in 1860 in Danvers, Essex County, Massachusetts, working as shoemakers, boarding with the C. S. Brown family. It seems that Augustus never volunteered (or was drafted) for military service during the Civil War. However, four of his brothers — John, Joseph, Moses, and Warren — all served. Warren Thompson (b. 1836) enlisted in Co. A, 8th Maine Infantry in September 1862 and was discharged in June 1865. The other three brothers all served in Massachusetts units from the town of Danvers.

In 1865, Augustus is enumerated in Danvers; in 1870, in Marblehead; in 1880, in Lynn — always employed as a shoemaker, always single, and always a boarder. The last record I can find for him is in the 1896 Lynn, Massachusetts, City Directory — still employed as a shoemaker.

Augustus wrote the letter to Hannah Elizabeth Fogg (1838-1884), the 23 year-old daughter of Moses Bean Fogg (1810-1871) and Sophia Weed Bean (1814-1880) of North Sandwich, Carroll County, New Hampshire. Hannah was married in October 1867 to George Darius Garland (1839-1901). Their relationship, if anything more than friends, has not been learned.


Addressed to Miss Hannah E. Fogg, North Sandwich, New Hampshire

Sanford, Maine
[June] the 23, 1861

My dear friend,

I now spend a few moments in writing to you to answer your letter which I received last eek. I was very glad to hear from you.

Direct your letter to Springvale, Maine instead of directing it to Sanford, Maine. I am alive and kicking and as hardy as a buck and all the rest of the folks. I am farming about this time. I have being hoeing corn for about a week and I am as stiff as a truck horse. This don’t seem much like shoemaking, I tell you.

I liked the Conference Meeting first rate. I am a Hard Shell Baptist now. You must excuse mistakes beings there will be any amount of them here. I feel just as though I should like to pull your scolding locks this morning.

I don’t have no times as I used to. They think it is hard times down here now. It is all war with them here now. There was a Republican said that Lincoln ought to be hung up in the middle of hell by the tongue. The Republicans are all down on him down here. ¹ I think he is a pretty good man. I think if Douglas had been elected, I don’t think there would [have] been quite so much a war now. They have a band to play for the soldiers down here and have a pretty good times now. They are going to have a training there the Fourth Day of July. I think that they will have a pretty good time.

I think that was a good letter and a good long one that you sent me. Mine will be short and tough. Write and let me know how John is and the rest of the folks. I suppose you want to know whether I have left off chewing tobacco or not. I left off about a half a hour ago. I don’t chew much now. I think I shall leave it soon. It is hard times and I can’t afford it.

The 26 of June they [are] all going to the beach down here. I think I shall stay at home. It is about 20 miles where we go to the beach Prospect. They will have a pretty good time.

If I was up to Mass., I’d rather go to Nahant. Do you remember the time we all went to Nahant?

They hung a man down here a short time ago for speaking in favor of the South. They came pretty near killing him.

This is not a gentleman writing — it’s a farmer writing. Before you commence reading it, set one corner afire.

My pen is poor and my ink black, and if you can’t read it, send it back.

Write when you can get time. This is from your loving friend, — Augustus Thompson

¹ In The History of the Town of Sanford, 1661-1900, by Emery Edwin, published in 1901, the chapter devoted to the Civil War indicates that though many of the citizens were Republicans and some of them strong abolitionists, most of them were rather lukewarm on the idea of prosecuting war against the South. When a town meeting was called in May 1861 to consider the idea of raising funds to help support the families of those soldiers who went off to war, “the record of the meeting…was brief: ‘First, chose moderator. Second, dissolved the meeting.'”