1863: William H. Hibbard to Wife

These letters were written by 30 year-old Pvt. William H. Hibbard (1832-1863) of Co. B, 160th New York Infantry. He enlisted on 5 September 1862 at Owasco, New York, to serve three years but he died of dysentery on 25 June 1863 at a hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Ironically, Hibbard’s letter on 7 February 1863 foretells his own death as he tells his wife, “We have got the meanest doctors there is in the war. They don’t care whether the soldiers live or die.”

William wrote the letters to his wife, Delia L. Hibbard of Palmyra, Wayne County, New York. The couple were married sometime in the early 1850s and resided in Dix, Schuyler County New York in 1855 where William worked as a carpenter.

After receiving word of her husband’s death, Delia applied for Widow’s Pension on 2 September 1863. She remarried 7 September 1868 to Joseph L. Lines, but after his death in April 1913, she reapplied for a widow’s pension again. At that time she resided in Port Gibson, Ontario Co., NY.


Addressed to Delia L. Hibbard, Hillsdale County, Michigan

Thibodaux, Camp Stevens
February 7th 1863

Dear Wife,

I will sit down this pleasant morning to answer your kind & most welcome letter which I received the 5th & was glad to hear that you was well but sorry that you are so lonesome. My health is very good excepting my back. It has been so lame for 2 or 3 days that I would not do anything. It ain’t well yet. It is caused by sleeping on the hard floor. I went about 2 miles out on picket last week. In the morning, when I was relieved, I had all I could do to walk into camp & carry my gun. We had a heavy rainstorm here. It has been pretty cold for 4 days — the coldest weather I have seen since I left New York. It is some warmer now. All the stove we have is a log heap on fire. We sleep very warm. We have got 7 blankets. Some of the boys hasn’t got but one. All the fault I have with sleeping is lying on the floor. It makes me so lame all the time.

This regiment is a going to leave this place tomorrow the 8th. They are a going to Berwick Bay. I hope they will go to some bay for I have got tired of this place.

Dear wife, you wanted to know what I thought about your working out. I think it is too hard for you to work for Mrs. Walker. If you intend to work out, I hope you will get a place that ain’t so hard as it is to Mrs. Walker’s. If you work out, don’t go out of the village to work. I don’t think you will go to the poor house if you don’t work out. You was speaking about Maria in your letter. I hope that she will move to Palmyra. She wanted to know where I was. I am down south in no place at all. I haven’t see any place that I call a place yet. If she moves to Palmyra, you can move in the house with her if she is willing & get room enough.

I hope that I shall be home in course of 6 or 8 years. This is the damnedest war that I ever heard of. They allow the rebels to come back on their farms if they take the oath. They take the oath & that is all they care about it. The Union folks is guarding their property for the. If they get a chance to help the rebel army, they will do it. The Yankees can fight until the day of judgement & they never will whip them if they go on in this way. I don’t think they will. Anyway, that is my opinion. Some times I don’t care which way it goes.

There has been 6 or 7 deaths in our regiment since we came from New Orleans. Clark Heath ¹ is the first in our company — & I hope the last. One of the soldiers got shot. He went out one night to steal some chickens & he got 7 shot put into him. He lived about 12 hours. He belonged to Co. G. ² The most of them died with the fever. If they only had good care, there wouldn’t be so many deaths. We have got the meanest doctors there is in the war. They don’t care whether the soldiers live or die.

Honey, I have got my pay & I sent you 30 dollars by Adams Express. It cost me 1 dollar to send it. I thought that it would be the safest way to express it to you. It is too far to send money in a letter. I have got those stamps that you sent me. I think I have got all of your letters. I have had 6 letters since I left New York and I have answered them. I hope that you will continue on to write & let me know when you get that money. It ought to get there in 8 days after it leaves here. Take good care of it & don’t lend it. I will send you more next time.

I can’t think of any more at present. I have got to cook myself 3 days rations. If ever I get home, I can live cheap. I can cook a piece of meat, sit down on the floor, & eat it.

Give my love to all of my enquiring friends. Tell them I would write but I don’t get much time. Give my love to James & May & Margret Brown. Keep a good share for your dear self. Write soon. Goodbye.

From your husband, — Wm. H. Hibbard

¹ Clark Heath enlisted in Co. B, 160th New York Infantry at age 32 at Palmyra, New York. He died of typhoid fever on 1 February 1863 at Camp Stevens, Thibodaux, Louisiana.

Record of Pvt. Andrew M. Simpson, 160th New York

Record of Pvt. Andrew M. Simpson, 160th New York

² William doesn’t give the name of the soldier from Co. G who was shot stealing chickens and someone recently erroneously labeled Andrew J. Schoonover of Co. F as the thief. A more thorough search of available on-line records, however, reveals that the chicken thief was 18 year-old George Maurice Simpson who enlisted in the 160th New York Infantry at Almond, New York in August 1862 and died on 3 February 1863 “of wounds received at Thibodaux, La” according to regimental records. Another source states that Pvt. Simpson died on 3 February 1863 “of wounds received while marauding [military euphemism for stealing] at Thibodaux, La.” Simpson’s parents were William Henry Simpson and Phoebe Eliza Jacobus. The Town of Almond paid a bounty of $50 for Andrew’s enlistment. Andrew was born in Middletown, New York on 29 November 1844. Prior to his enlistment, he was employed as a farmer and as a Tanner/Currier. He stood 5 ft. 8 inches tall, had blue eyes, and brown hair. He is buried in a tomb in New Orleans. 

1863 Letter

1863 Letter

Addressed to Mrs. Delia L. Hibbard, Palmyra, Wayne County, New York
Postmarked New Orleans, LA

Bashear City [Louisiana]
Feb 10th 1863
Dear Wife,

As we have got moved & our tents fixed all right, I will write you a few lines to let you know that I am well at present. I hope that these few lines will find you the same.

This city is like all the rest of the cities I have seen since I have been south – two houses & a thousand niggers. This regiment is camped right close to the river. It is a very pleasant place considering the times. We can see the rebels pass up & down on the other side of the river. The pickets fire across the river at each other but it don’t amount to much.

I think this place is more healthier than where we was to Camp Stevens but it is bad enough here. The weather is very warm.

One of the soldiers in our regiment got discouraged & jumped into the river & drowned. ¹ What a fool he was. He might of lived & had a fight. It is no use of being so down-hearted for we are to work for Uncle Sam’s big pay as privates [and] all will get rich. Ain’t I glad I am a soldier. Only think, 13 dollars a month. That will almost buy my tobacco.

There is 4 gunboats here & that is all the good they are. If the gun boats and the regiments lay around & doing nothing, I think they will soon wipe them out. I hope there will be something done soon for it is getting pretty warm here.

Dear wife, when is Maria going to move to Palmyra. Write & let me know. Are you a going to work out? If you do, get a easy place for it is hard work in hot weather. I hope I shall be home before many months & then we can be our own masters — as you say. I think I shall know how to appreciate a home if I get one again.

Dear honey, keep up good courage for I do. I keep a stiff upper lip & pitch in. Our picket guard that went out this morning took a rebel prisoner. They brought him through the camp while I was writing. I thought I would put it down for it is the first prisoner they have taken.

Honey, I am about out of stamps. I had to pay 3 that I borrowed. Those stamps you sent me came through all safe. I hope that 30 dollars will come to you all safe. Honey, send me the Rochester Union. It don’t cost much & news is scarce here. I can’t think of any more to write so I will draw to a close. Give my love to all. Give my love to my folks. Tell Charley that I wear his ring yet that he gave me before I came away. Take good care of my tools.

My love to you, honey. Write soon. Direct to New Orleans. Co, B, 160th Regiment New York State Volunteers. Gen’l Banks Corps.

From your husband, — Wm H. Hibbard

¹ The soldier committing suicide by drowning himself in the river was Isaac Vandermiller of Sodus who was 29 years old when he enlisted in August 1862. He was in Company D. Regimental records indicate that he drowned at Brashear City on 9 February 1863.

1863 Letter

1863 Letter

Addressed to Mrs. Delia Hibbard, Palmyra, Wayne County, New York

Alexandria [Louisiana]
May 14th 1863

Dear Wife,

I have got a chance to write to you once more. I will let you know that I am alive & well. We have had a hard march. We have marched 430 miles in 24 days. We would stop about sundown & start at 4 o’clock in the morning. The days would be so hot & dusty sometimes I would think I must drop. Anyway, honey, I begin to think I can stand most anything. I have tired out stronger men than I am on this march. I can sleep just as sound on the ground as I did at home in a feather bed. I have been wet through with the rain & laid down on the wet ground [and] got up alright in the morning. Honey, I am a good deal tougher than I thought I was.

We drove the rebs before us, killed & wounded & took prisoners 2,000. Took 400,000 bales of cotton. I hope that all the armies have done as well as General Banks has.

Keep up good courage, honey. We will have them trapped before long. They are pretty well starved out at Port Hudson. They allow the soldiers 12 ounces of meal & 10 ounces of beef. No salt. They can’t hold out long at that rate. Banks’ army is a little over a 100 miles from Port Hudson. I don’t know but we shall go there. The news came this morning that it was surrounded by our troops. I hope the devils will have to give up soon. We had a lot of rebel prisoners. They said that we lived better on a march than they did in camp. They said they had their allowance of meal & they would sift it & use the siftings for coffee. They burn it. They would have to make their own johnny-cake. They said all they used was water & sugar. When they was with us, they would get their coffee 3 times a day & they has crackers & meat all they wanted. The most of the prisoners are tired of fighting. They was glad they was taken for they said [they] could get a chance to go home. I felt sorry for some of them. They said they was forced to fight.

I have told you all the news. I could tell more but I ain’t got paper. You musn’t look for letters very often until I get in camp. I want you to write often. Direct your letters just the same as you have done before. Write soon. Give my love to all, to my folks. Tell Es to write. I haven’t got any pay yet.

From your husband, — Wm. H. Hibbard


1864: Abraham M. McKinley to Sister

How Abraham might have looked

How Abraham might have looked

This letter was written by 20 year-old Pvt. Abraham M. McKinley (1843-1924) of Co. B, 146th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). The 146th OVI was formed from the 31st regiment of the Ohio National Guard along with two companies of the 35th regiment. They were federalized and organized for 100 days service in May 1864 to be utilized in “safe” rear areas to protect railroads and supply points, thus freeing regular troops for Grant’s Overland Campaign in the spring of 1864. This letter was written from Laurel Creek, some four miles from Fayetteville, West Virginia.

Abraham (or “Abram”) was the oldest son of Joseph B. McKinley and Eliza Merritt of “Red Lion,” Franklin Township, Warren County, Ohio. After the war, Abraham married Alice E. Campbell (1847-1927).


Laurel Creek
June 21st 1864

Dear Sister,

I received your letter last Sunday evening and was glad to hear from you. I am well at present and hope this may find you all the same. I heard the other day that there were a good many of the boys sick up at Fayette[ville, West Virginia]. I understand that there was 32 of Company H reported on the sick list. I don’t know what is the matter with all of them but I guess the measles is the main disease they have got. I have not got the measles yet but I don’t think I will take them now unless I should get another chance. It has been over three weeks since I had a chance to take them off Peter McChesney but he is now well. Dave is laying here sick with the mumps but he is better this morning.

I have not heard from Uncle John for some time. I don’t know whether he is sick or not but I suppose he is well or I would have heard it for some of the boys go up to Fayette[ville] every few days. Sam Beal and some more of the boys have gone up there today. One day last week there was a wagon coming down from Fayette bringing our provisions to us when there was some men stepped out of the bushes and halted the wagon and the drivers jumped out of the wagon and whipped up the mules and got them on a run and then they broke back to Fayette[ville] and the mules ran a mile or so when a man caught them and tied them and then sent word to us and the Captain took some men and went and got the wagon and provisions — what was left of them. The crackers and beans and a good many other things was scattered all along the road but he could not find anything of the bushwhackers. It is reported that it was an old man and his wife came out of the woods just as the wagon was passing by and he hollowed [hollered] out to them and asked ride and it scared the drivers so bad that they broke back for Fayette[ville] as hard as they could run.

I got Tom’s letter last Saturday. That money came through all safe and it come mighty acceptable for I was entirely out. I had just bought some letter paper and the boys took up a collection to get a coffee mill for our mess and I gave a little towards that and it took the last I had. We have to pay 10 cts here for six sheets of paper.

Well we had biscuits for breakfast this morning. We run out of bread and we had a little flour and we took it to a house here and got the women to bake us some biscuit and I tell you they went mighty good.

The Capt. says to direct your letters in his care and then they will be handed out here and not go on to Fayette as they have been. Nearly all the boys talk about is when their time will be out. Everyday some of them will say, one more day gone. I guess some of them are pretty sick of it but I am pretty well contented. But still, I don’t know but I would rather be at home to tell the truth of it.

Well, when I commenced, I thought I could not think of anything to write but I have got my paper about full so I guess I will quit. Write as soon as you get this. From your brother, — A. M. McKinley

I have no stamp to put on this letter nor I can’t get any here. Mose Barkelow brought a lot here but they was all gone before I knew it.

1861: William Davidson to William Manifold Menlove

How William might have looked in 1861

How William might have looked in 1861

This letter was written by William Davidson (1812-1863) of Charleston, South Carolina. Written on the eve of the Civil War, the letter was addressed to William Manifold Menlove (1832-1875) in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Edward Menlove, with whom he partnered in the cotton export business. Menlove & Davidson had their business on East Bay Street & Adger’s North Wharf in Charleston. In 1849, William Davidson resided at 66 Church Street.

A notice in the Charleston Courier on 4 October 1861 tells us that the partnership between Edward Menlove and William Davidson was disssolved by mutual consent on 31 October 1861. William Davidson was married to Julia Emma Antrum (1815-1902) in 1836.

Addressed to W. M. Menlove, Esq., Care of Edw. Menlove, Esq., New Orleans

Charlestown [South Carolina]
15 March 1861

Dear Menlove,

Partnership Dissolution Notice

Partnership Dissolution Notice in Charleston Courier

I have your letters to the 3rd inst. I have been quite sick and had business admitted, I would have been in my bed. I am now a little better altho’ far from well. With this month, I think our business for the year will about close. We are nearly through with all our Sea Island [Cotton] orders except one or two limited ones which I have no prospect of doing anything with. The same with uplands. We have had a brisk demand this week and middling and under in a pile ½ C higher — the other grades not quite so much — a good current style of middling is worth 11½ if not 11 5/8 C.

I have a letter of the 23rd from your father this morning. He had been complaining of a cold but was again better.

Do you know anything of a Mr. Chas. A. Clifford of Markham, Canada West. We have a letter from him requesting us to send him occasionally a statement of our cotton market. This I have done. He says it may lead to business but without knowing who he is or good confirmed credits, we shall of course execute none of his orders.

Yours truly, — W. Davidson

Mr. Frazer has called to enquire after your father & yourself. He intends leaving about the beginning of next month.

1862: Frederick Reed to Quinton Reed

Frederick Reed in later years

Frederick Reed in later years

This letter was written by Frederick Reed (1841-1923), a native of Ohio, who came to Union County, Iowa, with his parents and family in 1855. He enlisted in the 17th Iowa Infantry Regiment, Co. A, and served from 1862 to 1865. After receiving his honorable discharge, he returned to Union Co. and married Mary Ann Walters (1849-1879) in 1866. The family moved to Sherman township in the spring of 1873. They had eight children, Frances Susannah (1866-1902), Harry Ellsworth (1868-1869), Joseph Thomas (1870-1876), Rachel Jane (1872-1966), Sarah Elizabeth (1873-1898), Adam Adrian (1876-1948), Henrietta (1878-1878), and Ernest Edwin (1879-1968).

Frederick’s parents were Quinton Reed (1813-1889) and Susannah West (1817-1893).

1862 Envelope

1862 Envelope

Addressed to Mr. Quintin Reed, Afton P. O., Union County, Iowa

March the 13th 1862

My dear Father and Mother, Sisters and Brothers,

It is with much pleasure that I take my pen in hand to let you know that I am well at present and I hope when these few ill-written lines come to hand, they will find you all well.

I landed here last Tuesday and I found the boys all well here and we have plenty to eat and drink. Thee is no snow here and the river is a opening. The boys is on parade now and I will soon have to go.

Quinton Reed and wife

Quinton Reed and wife Susannah West

The Fifteenth Iowa is here yet but they will leave as soon as the river is clear of ice and that won’t be long for it is very warm today and the boys is cussing and swearing very much. I have not seen anyone that I know since I left you all.

Now that is all at present. Excuse all mistakes. Please write soon. Direct your letters to Keokuk P. O. in care of Captain [John L.] Young.

F. Reed to his Father and all the rest of the family.

I send my love and best respects to all inquiring friends.

I forgot one thing. You said for me to send you my daguerreotype but I cannot till I draw my pay.

1863: C. H. Bass to Sister

Headquarters 13th Army Corps
July 10, 1863
Vicksburg, Mississippi

My Dear Sister,

I will now embrace the favorable opportunity of writing these few lines to you. A few moments I have to spare permits me to think of my friends at home while I am in the warm and dusty city of Vicksburg on the Mississippi River and think in a few days of going towards New Orleans and perhaps our army will be ordered to take Richmond, Va.  If so, General “U. S. Grant” will proceed and do the work and relieve the Eastern Boys that has been for months trying and have made no headway yet. I think Genl Grant will never stop until he takes the Southern Confederacy and hangs the last Rebel General in it. When this is done, we will make him President of the U. S. I say one thing — that he has won one of the most complete victories ever “won during the opening of the Rebellion and won more for himself than any other General.”

I will give you a correct list of our captured property at Vicksburg that we took on the 4th of July when we took the city. We captured 32,000 prisoners, 3 Maj. Genls, 16 Colonels, 41 Lieut. Cols., 38 Majors, and over 100 Captains and 200 Lieutenants and two millions dollars worth of property, 35,000 stands of arms, and 46 large siege guns — the best in the world. We are busy every day paroling the men and the rebel Genl. Pemberton who commanded the city and Genl. Bowen we will send up North for their health and it is the wish of thousands of our men and even the rebels that we will hand Pemberton and not parole the officers at all.

I have been a little sick for a week past with the chills and fever but I am getting better at present and we are now in daily receipt of something good to eat & _____ from up the river since we took the city. I have no news of importance. I will depend on you hearing everything through the papers &c.

P. S. While writing this, I can distinctly hear the roaring of the cannons and our gunboats in the direction of Haines Bluff and I will have my horse saddled up and go out and see what the news is. I think it is Genl Sherman driving the Rebel Johnson over the bluffs. The taking of Vicksburg troubles the Rebs very bad and almost discourages them. Genl Grant’s health is good. I see the General at our Headquarters every day and he is confident of the taking of Port Hudson and says he will send his whole army there before Banks shall be defeated.

Well, no more at present. Answer immediately. Yours as ever. Brother — C. H. Bass

Direct Vicksburg, Mississippi

1862: Thomas Corwin Potter to Sister

This letter was written by Union artilleryman Pvt. Thomas Corwin Potter (1841-1863) of Battery B, 1st Ohio Light Artillery. [See also 1862: Thomas Corwin Potter to Sister and also “Wiley Sword’s War Letters Series

[MWIA Chickamauga, 9/20/63 both his arms were blown off by pre-ignition of his cannon, buried Chattanooga National Cemetery].

Addressed to Mrs. R. L. Robinson, Tekonsha, Michigan

Camp Walker, Tennessee
April 18, 1862

Dear Sister,

As I cannot have the satisfaction of receiving any letters, I will revenge myself by writing one to you to assure you that I am still within the land of the living and enjoying a reasonable share of good health. The last letter that I received was from home dated March 4th. We have been in this camp nearly two weeks and I have not received a single line from any source. But as I wrote you in my last from this place, our letters all come to Columbia to the Captain and he was to forward them. We have not heard from them since we came here.

We are 14 miles south of Columbia [Tennessee] on the Savannah Road and two miles south of Mt. Pleasant. We are in a splendid place and I think we stand a fair chance of staying here for some time yet. The weather is warm and pleasant, and one finds it very agreeable to look for the north side of one of our cherry trees between the hours of 10 and 2. But this reminds me of a little adventure that I had yesterday. Well, after dinner, I found a very comfortable place under one of our wild cherry trees and after taking a short nap, I was startled by a rustling in the leaves near my head and on looking up, behold a large snake eyeing me and appeared to be more frightened than myself but determined to hold his position, and I was about to make agnatic on him at once, but reflecting that he might have the oldest claim, I concluded to fall back which I did in good order and left his snakeship sole possession of the field. But I will close for the present.

Saturday the 19th [April]

It is raining this morning — warm and June-like. The grass and flowers are growing finely. No news from the late battlefield. By our being here, we have missed the grandest scene of the war.

Sunday 20th [April]

Still raining with a prospect of a severe flood. Our sutler went to Columbia last evening. He was to return today. We all expect more or less mail and if the Captain does not send it along, he will hear from it.

Our cavalry has brought in three or four prisoners — members of the rebel army who after the Battle of Pittsburg Landing [Shiloh], being scattered, they made tracks for home but were picked up by our scouts. They all seem to be heartily tired of this warfare.

10 o’clock a.m., Monday, [April] 21st.

Still raining with occasional intermissions. It is a little cooler with some prospects of fair weather. I think that this must be our equinoctial storm, although rather late.

It is just six months ago today since our engagement with the rebels at Wild-Cat and three months since last Saturday (19th) since the Mill Springs affair. ¹ A party of ten teamsters belonging to General [William (Bull)] Nelson’s Division arrived here last night direct from Savannah. They report that Jeff Davis has arrived at Corinth with 30,000 troops to reinforce General Beauregard and that he is to command in person, and that he has now — in and about Corinth — about 160,000 troops and that we have a force of 200,000. Furthermore, that our troops have burned bridges in their rear, thus entirely cutting off their retreat. They will be obliged to fight or surrender. No news from Columbia.

Tuesday, 22nd [April], 1 p.m.

The weather has cleared up beautifully. The sutler has arrived — came in last night but his wagon did not come in until this morning. We were all disappointed about mail matters as he brought only a few letters. But I was more fortunate than the most of my comrades for I received a letter from William dated April 6th. They are all well but rather desponding. Wm. would like to be here but he had better stay at home and fight his battles there for I think that our battles are about over with although there is rebels enough yet at Corinth to make the welkin ring again with the discordant sounds of war. No interesting news from Columbia or the seat of war and what is the worst of all, we receive no papers. But he is going back again tonight and perhaps he will do better next time.

Wednesday, 23rd [April], 8 a.m.

We had quite an excitement last night or ____ by the arrival here of a party of Union refugees from Clinton County, Tennessee. 110 in number — poor fellows — they were in a bad condition without arms, clothing, or starve enough to eat to keep soul and body together. They were obliged to leave their defenseless families to the tender mercy of their former friends — but [who are] now demonized and relentless foes — and travel by night, and during daylight they concealed themselves in a place in the woods. But at last they arrived within our lines where they were welcomed by deafening cheers and were well cared for. On this morning, they leave for Nashville where they are to be furnished [weapons] and mustered into service. ²

Same day. 6 p.m. We have just returned from a General Inspection and Review. At one o’clock this afternoon, we were harnessed and in a few moments were marched off towards the village accompanied by Acting Brigadier General [John Converse] Starkweather and staff with his full command fully equipped as if on a march. Arriving at a large clover field about one mile from camp, we were drawn up in line of battle and for three hours our able comrades put us through the various movements of an imaginary conflict, at common, quick, and double quick time.

Well sister, it is of no use for me to attempt to describe it, but I wish you could see one of our Grand Reviews, and particularly at this time. It was in a large clover field containing about 40 acres or more and was surrounded on two sides by woodland, now thick with foliage. On the north side in full view lies the town of Mt. Pleasant and presented a view that a painter would love to sketch. On the other side lies a large and beautiful plantation and everywhere around us the ground was covered with a rich carpet of vegetation, bespangled here and there by wild flowers.

Well I am wasting time and paper. Therefore, I will close. Weather here is warm and pleasant.

Thursday, 24th [April] 3 p.m.

We had a Brigade Drill on our [  ] yesterday & paraded around under the eye of the General. Returned to camp about noon. There is no more appearance of warfare here than as if we were lying in Camp Denison. And if we lay here much longer, I do not know what will become of us when we are discharged. We are getting so now that it is a hard lot for us to do the least things in the world. I think I shall have to get me a servant or two to take home with me. But enough of this. I will bring my long and senseless letter to a close. Do not look for letters from me very often. Write as often as convenient. Remember me to all enquiring friends.

This from your madcap brother, — Thomas C. Potter

Direct as before to Nashville, Tennessee

¹ Pvt. Potter wrote a letter to his sister on 24 January 1862 describing this affair:

Somersett, Ky. January 24, 1862

Dear sister,

I have but a few moments to spare and I must be brief. We are ordered to march tomorrow for Tennessee. I am in good health and hope this will find you the same…I suppose you have heard of our late battle in which the noted rebel General Zolicoffer was shot through the heart and left on the field. They made the attack on us last Sunday morning about 7 o’clock am about 6 miles from his camp. The engagement lasted about two hours and 40 minutes when the enemy retreated in great confusion leaving everything behind. The ground was literally covered all the way to their camp with… muskets, sabres, blankets, knapsacks, haversacks, canteens, cartridges, horses and everything that they could throw away to facilitate their escape.

We followed them to their camp and played upon it with shot and shell from 16 pieces of artillery from three p.m. until dark when we lay by our pieces untill daylight when we went into their camp and found that they had all crossed the river leaving 14 pieces of artillery, a large lot of ammunition, several hundred baggage wagons & about 3,000 horses and mules, all of their camp equipage, a large lot of commissary stores, provisions and clothing. Their camps were on both sides of the river and covered a space of ten square miles and there was tents and baracks enought fore 25,000 men to winter in. This they have strongly fortified but they left it without doing it any damage. Our loss is about 80 in killed and up to the present our troops have buried 350 of the rebels. I was within rods of Zolicoffer when he fell and cut three buttons off from his coat — one of these I sent to Wm, and another to father. I have several things that i would send to you but i have not go the means. i must close.

Our battery was the first one on the field and took the advance and our piece (no. 1) fired the first shot that was thrown from a cannon at the long to be remembered battle of Logansfield. Our piece took the extreme ________ and I loaded it 117 times. But i must close. Write to me often. Direct as before. This from your brother, Thomas Corwin Potter.

² The Nashville Daily Union of 19 April 1862 reported the following under the heading, “The Rebel Barbarities in Clinton County.”

Burksville, Ky., April 11, ’62.
Editors Democrat: Gentlemen—Our usually quiet town seems yet doomed to be the theater of much discord and confusion; it is already being thickly crowded by refugees from Clinton county, who were driven hither by a lawless marauding band of ruffians from Tennessee, commanded by the notorious Camp Ferguson, whose hands were long since dyed in the blood of more than a half a dozen of as innocent and unoffending citizens as Kentucky ever produced.

Their statements in regard to the destruction of life and property all concur, and it is utterly impossible to give any adequate or correct account of the fiendish deeds committed by these outlaws, who neither have a heart or conscience, or any of those essentials which it requires to constitute even a shadow of a true man.

They deliberately shot down the following persons while attending peaceably to their domestic affairs, without even assigning any other reason than that of sympathy for the Union: wm. Huff, Lewis Pierce, Henry Johnston, two of the Shellys, John Syms and several others, besides a promising little boy, twelve years old, by the name of Zachary, who was taken out of a sick bed, supported by two of the demons, while a third cut his abdomen wide open. Such cruelties and barbarities were seldom ever equalled even in an uncivilized nation. Col. Woolford went in pursuit of them, but as usual they fled back into Tennessee.

I think it prudent that we should have a force stationed here on the border, as they have repeatedly invaded this and one or two adjoining counties.
Yours, &c. Q. K.

1863: Nathaniel Prime to Mary Jane (Morrison) Prime

How Nathaniel might have looked

How Nathaniel might have looked

This letter was written by 35 year-old Nathaniel Prime (1828-1879), the son of John Prime (1785-1869) and Rebecca Hutto (1802-1850) of Howard County, Indiana. Nathaniel was married to Mary Jane Morrison in December 1851. He served as the First Sergeant of Company D of the 89th Indiana infantry from August 1862 to May 1863. Upon his return to Kokomo, Nathaniel became the first sheriff of Howard County for two, two-year terms. During the war, Nathaniel’s company had to march for several days through swampland. Later, he and his men were captured by the Confederates at the Battle of Munfordville, Kentucky, and held as prisoners of war. These circumstances probably contributed to his untimely death from lung fever at the age of 48. Perhaps that is the reason his daughter Arabelle had the words, “died that their children might live” engraved on her parents’ tombstone.

This letter was written while the 89th Indiana was attached to the District of Memphis in the 16th Army Corps. The 89th Indiana performed guard and fatigue duty at Fort Pickering located just south of Memphis, Tennessee.


Quarter Master’s Office
Fort Pickering, Tennessee
February 9th 1863

Dear Mary Jane and children,

This morning I am glad to inform you that I am still on the mend and in the Quarter Master’s Office assisting to make a monthly report, but I don’t think I will remain here long for I would much rather be with my company for I have become so much attached to them while I stay in the service for we have a jolly a set of boys as ever trod the soil of Tennessee. [John W.] Pool ¹ is the company’s favorite. He is always lively and if any of the boys becomes homesick or down-heartened, Pool will have a good joke to tell or make it interesting is some way.

Yours of the first of this month is the latest news that I have from you. I hope [2d Lt. William] Styer will [return from Kokomo] tomorrow and bring me some good news. If he don’t, I hope the mail will. I must confess that I have been uneasy about you. But from the way you write, I am satisfied for the time being. But if things don’t go on to suit you, I want you to let me know it and I will have a friend there that will attend to it.

Our regiment’s health is improving and the weather is turning warmer. All is quiet here. I haven’t heard a word said about a rebel being near here for the last four weeks. All the talk is Vicksburg & peace, and a war in Indiana. There are several Illinois regiments in this fort and they are dying very fast. The Hundred and Ninth Illinois Regiment ² (the ones that disgraced the state of Illinois) that laid down their arms are here inside the fort and their men are dying from one to three and four a day. While I am writing, I hear the firing of guns which is over the remains of one of their men. It looks like a great piece of nonsense but is practiced by a great many of the soldiers here. We have only had to bury one of our boys (L. Long) ³ and we took him to the grave quietly and there we had our chaplain to make a nice prayer & sung a beautiful song and in the absence of his relations (but not in the absence of friends) we buried him without the firing of any guns. And here let me say I never witnessed a more solemn time in all my life. But this is not the case with many that die. It appears like their officers want them out of sight in the quickest way possible.

Now I must close. I have wrote much more than I thought of doing when I began. The boys are all on the mend and I think if the weather remains anything like good, we will all be well before long. Now I must close.

I want you to take care of yourselves the best you can. Prospects are quite flattering for me here at present. I think it won’t be but a few days until I will be all all right.

Write soon & often. Affectionately yours, — N. Prime

¹ Pvt. John W. Pool was from Kokomo, Indiana. He served in Co. D, 89th Indiana Infantry from August 1862 to July 1865.

² The 109th Illinois Infantry was formed of men from Union County, Illinois, Alexander County, Illinois, Jackson County, Illinois, Johnson County, Illinois, and Pulaski County, Illinois. The men were organized at Camp Anna near Anna, Illinois and were mustered into service on September 11, 1862. From the beginning the regiment suffered from low morale, which was exacerbated by being issued “inferior” weapons. The regiment joined the Army of the Tennessee commanded by Major General Ulysses S. Grant and spent most of the fall guarding railroads and supplies around in west Tennessee. Due to poor organization and the dismal state of their weapons they were deemed unfit for combat and spent most of the rest of the winter at Holly Springs, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee. Traveling with the rest of the Army of the Tennessee down the Mississippi River in preparation for the assault on Vicksburg. Morale continued to plunge while the 109th was at Lake Providence, Louisiana and the number of deserters climbed to 237. High command decided that the regiment would be better if it was disbanded and broken up. Most of the officers were sent home or to other commands, and the remaining men were transferred to the 11th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. During the short-term of service for the 109th Illinois, they never saw combat and lost 2 officers and 92 men died by disease. These losses were augmented by the desertion of at least 237 men.

³ Sgt. Lewis Long was from Oakford, Indiana. He served in Co. D, 89th Indiana Infantry from August 1862 until his death at Memphis on 16 December 1862.