This letter was written by John Moulton (1836-1920), the son of John Moulton (1794-1876) and Jane Coffin (1800-1882) of Maine. John was working as a clerk—possibly a law clerk—in St. Paul, Minnesota, when the Civil War started and enlisted in July 1861 as a sergeant in Co. D, 2nd Minnesota Infantry. Moulton worked his way up to Lieutenant, then Captain, and finally to the Major of his regiment. At the time this letter was written in February 1863, he was either a 1st Lieutenant or Captain. After the war, John married Ella V. Sheely (1849-1934) and worked as a sawmill operator/lumberman in West Virginia. He died in Asheville, Buncombe county, North Carolina.
John wrote the letter to his friend, Robert Porter Lewis (1835-1934), the son of Rev. David and Elizabeth Williams (Porter) Lewis go Lewisville, Indiana county, Pennsylvania. Robert was educated at Elders Ridge Academy and Washington & Jefferson colleges, graduating in 1856 and after studying law, admitted to the bar in 1859. He was practicing law in St. Paul during the Civil War.
The letter was written from the camp at Concord Church which was on the Nolensville Turnpike 11 miles southeast of Nashville. It was the headquarters of Gen. James Blair Steedman’s 14th Army Corps during February 1863. IN early March, they relocated to Triune, some ten miles from Concord Church. The 2nd Minnesota was under Steedman’s command at the time.
Camp Concord Church, Tennessee February 8th 1863
It has now been a long time since I heard a word from you or have written myself. How do you and Blacketon and all these old fellows get along together now days? If you and they are like myself and my friend Mars, you occasionally will have a falling out with each. other. But I can honestly and truthfully say this of myself—that however much I desire peace, I never wish to see it made on any compromise grounds. Both parties have gone too far for such a peace to be permanent. There is but one way for us to make peace now—that is to conquer one. The Rebels have forced the negro issue upon us and we must meet it. Whatever might have been done one year ago, now I believe that the Union & slavery cannot be restored together. Jeff Davis says it is Disunion & Slavery or Union and No Slavery. I believe him.
I like the President’s [Emancipation] Proclamation of January 1st. I am one of those, however, who while this war lasts, have but one plank in my political platform—that is to sustain the administration in every measure it sees fit to take to put down this rebellion without a question. When that is accomplished, we shall have plenty of time again for politics.
What a mean sheet that “Pioneer” is getting to be—or rather has got to be. To express my opinions of it I should have to borrow largely from Parson Brownlow‘s language in speaking of his secesh East Tennessee friends. I don’t want it to come to me after my subscription is out. If it is not their custom to stop their paper, then please tell them to do so in my case.
[Charles] Brewster, I see, has got a military appointment—Commissary of Subsistence—words fail for comment. I have never heard a word from [Augustus R.] Capehart since I left. Is he still at St. Paul?
I see by the Pioneer[Captain James Liberty] Fisk (see image at right) has returned from Oregon. Also Bennis & Burritt. I wonder if all the patriotism they need to have when that article was not dangerous to its possessor will urge them into the army. Pride should do it if nothing else.
How are Johnson & Knight getting along? Please remember me to them. I see by the Adjutant General’s Report that when George W. Prescott’s was transferred to Gen. Sibley’s staff, that a man not belonging to the company at all was made 2nd Lt. How was that? Could not all those nice young men find one amongst themselves fitting for the place? How does Henry like soldiering? I would just like to drop in to see how you are all getting on but I fear the time is far distant when I shall be able to do that.
Please remember me to all my friends. Yours truly, — John Moulton
These letters were written by 33 year-old Private George Hiram Beckel (1829-1862) of Forsyth County, North Carolina, who was conscripted into Co. G, 33rd North Carolina Infantry, on 15 July 1862 and served with the regiment five months before his death from pneumonia in Richmond, Virginia, on Christmas Eve.
George was the son of John Boeckel and Sarah Weaver who raised two sons and six daughters. Conscripted with George at the same time and also assigned to Co. G, 33rd North Carolina was his younger brother—John W. Beckel (1838-1863). Unbelievably, John also died of disease—his death recorded on 1 January 1863, only a week later than his brother.
George wrote all of the letters to his wife, Antonette Sophia (Miller) Beckek (1828-1891) and their 8 year-old daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Beckel (1854-1932). There are frequent references to various member of the Miller family in the service with him; these were relatives of his wife Sophia.
Raleigh [North Carolina] July 31st 1862
I now take the present opportunity to let you know that we are at Raleigh in camp and it is raining. We got here last night and I don’t know how long we will stay here. We know nothing. There is all sorts of talk here. They say they are taking them to Richmond first. I don’t know how long we will stay here. Some say we will [stay] a few weeks. I should be glad to hear from you but I don’t know how to tell you where to write. We have just got here and we know nothing yet and I don’t know when we will. As soon as I find out how you must back letters, I will write again.
I have been as well as could be expected. I am yet in trouble some though I have determined put my trust in [God] and I hope you will pray to God that we may meet again. I have nothing to write—only we are here and don’t know what will become of us. Serve God and pray that we may meet again and I will do the same and no doubt God will hear us and answer our prayer. I am here and that is all I know. We hear everything and know nothing. Let us pray to God for deliverance and from those troubles. If we never meet on earth, I hope we will meet as a family at the right hand of God. Nothing more at present. Only serve your God.
Yours until death, — G. W. Beckel
to Sophia Beckel
[Camp near Gordonsville, Virginia] August 4th 1862
Dear wife and daughter and all my friends,
I received yours dated 26th in 4 days from the date with great pleasure. It was the first that I had ever received from you or anybody else since I left home. I was very glad to hear that you was all well and doing well. I have not been well all the time since I left. I have had a small spell of chills and fever. I missed drill 5 days though I believe that I am as well now as I have been the last 6 months. If I can take care of myself I think that I will get hearty. We have tolerable plenty to eat now though if we had it at home we could have it cooked better. We have a great deal of sickness with us and there has been 4 deaths but they was all strangers to me. I do not think that half of the men in our camp are able to drill now though I think that there are but few cases in camp that are dangerous.
Our boys—that is, those that I am acquainted with—are generally well. We would all feel better if we was not drilled so hard. Our officers are very hard on us. We are all here at the camp near Gordonsville yet and we think that we will stay it sometime yet but we don’t know for we know nothing and we hear nothing.
They have been fighting about Manassas some time already and they say that they are doing wondrous works but we know not.
You wrote that you had wrote letters to me and father one. I have never received any of them. I have got none—only the scrap that was in Benton’s and it done me good to hear that you was both well. I have wrote you 4 since I am here and father too and have received none. I must come to a close. Let us trust in God while we live.
— G. H. Beckel
[A few miles from Gordonsville, Va.] August 5th 1862
Dear Wife and Daughter,
I not take this pleasant opportunity to inform you that we are all well and are doing well at this time. We have plenty to eat at this time and my health is improving. I think if I get plenty to eat and have no other bad luck that I will get along. We have a good crowd. I hear more singing and praying than I expected to here while I would be out [where] we are and I believe that there are many good people with the conscripts.
They have moved us out a few miles from Gordonsville in the country to drill and we are cleaning up our camp today and we will go to drilling tomorrow. We have fell into the 33rd Regiment under Col. [Robert Frederick] Hoke’s 1 Company G. He seems to be a tolerable, fine man and those that are under [him] say that he is a very fine man though the finest is rough enough.
We don’t hear much war news here. There are skirmishes throughout this country almost every day and they expect a large battle about Richmond every day. And some say that this war is bound to end soon. They say that they will leave us here four weeks to drill but I don’t know whether they will or not. I have gave up to all on earth for his time. I have bit little uneasiness about home and try to be as easy as you can for I know if you keep well and have no bad luck, you will have plenty to eat. And I heard that David Rominger would make your shoes and that Nancy was coming to stay with you. Do the best you can. I am here about four hundred miles from home and you are there but we can do no better now and I am better contented than I ever expected to be away from home.
Tell G. Millers that the boys are well and we are divided out and did not get in the same company but in the same regiment. Me and [brother] John are together as it happened we were called out and divided out as we come so there was no choice of company. I want you to write to me as soon as you get this and write how you are getting along and write how Sarah is getting along and do all you can to help her [stay] cheered up. Tell her that maybe Papy will come home again and then perhaps we will never have to part again until death will take us home.
When you write to me, [tell] how you are getting along drying fruit and whether you got any wood hauled. Peter Tice told me that [he] would haul for you whenever you would let him know. Try and [get] some of the neighbors to haul for you and don’t expose yourself so as to injure your health. Try and take as good care of yourself as you can and love the Lord. Never cease praying to God that we may meet again. Write to me as soon as you can and tell Crews’ to write and write how those men fared that stayed.
Direct your letter to G. H. Beckel, Gordonsville, 33rd Regiment North Carolina troops, Company G, in care of Col. Hoke
From G. H. Beckel
to A. S. Beckel
1 Robert F. Hoke was the 24 year old manager of his widowed mother’s cotton mill and iron works in Lincoln County when he enrolled and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant of Co. K, 1st North Carolina Infantry on 25 April 1861. He transferred to the 33rd North Carolina Infantry on 1 August as their Major and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 17 January 1862. He was promoted to Colonel of the 21st North Carolina Infantry to date from 5 August 1862, but remained with the 33rd Infantry through the battle at Sharpsburg (17 September 1862) while Colonel C. M. Avery remained absent, a POW since captured at New Bern in March 1862.
Gordonsville, Va. August 7th 1862
Dear wife and daughter,
It is through the mercy and goodness of God that I am again permitted to write to you to let you know how I am getting along. I am not well and have not been in over a week. I have light touches of chills and fever and headache and pains in my limbs as I had before I left home. I did not drill but two days last week though I don’t think that I am dangerous. I think that I will get well again if it be consistent with our God.
I received your letter the 5th that was mailed the 3rd and was very glad to see it for it was the first that I had received from you or anybody else since I left—only a small piece in Benton [Miller]’s letter. I have wrote you 4 and this makes 5 that have been directed to you, and me and [brother] John [W. Beckel] wrote two to father and I have got no answer—only yours dated September [August?] 2nd and it came in 2 days.
I have no news to write. We are yet at the camp where they first took us to. We know not how long we will stay though I heard some talk that we would be apt to stay some time because there are so many sick in the camp. I sometimes hope that we will stay here until we are sent home. I have heard some chat that we would be sent home or to our own state, but we hear so much that we believe nothing until we know it to be so, We are very closely guarded and the officers are very careful not to let us find out anything if they can help it. They have drilled us very hard and I think too hard. I do not think that more than half of the men are now fit for drill but I do not think that man—if any—are dangerous. We have bread and bacon and beef tolerable plenty at this time but if we it cooked better, it would be better.
When I got your letter I was truly glad to hear that you was getting along as well as you was and that Sarah was well and that your stock was doing well—especially Sarah’s sheep and drummer. You wrote that you was not well—that you had pains in your back and hips, but I don’t wonder at it the way you wrote that you had been drying fruit. You know I told you to take care of yourself and I want you to do so as near as you can. And tell Sarah to be a good girl and take care of her things. And when you write again, I want you to write whether anybody has stayed with you since I left. I have oft wished for apples and peaches from home, The worst apples on the place would bring 10 cents a dozen here. Virginia is getting all our money for about nothing.
Our officers are [so] strict that they will not let us wash sometimes and I have paid 20 cents for washing a shirt.
You wrote that the fodder would soon come on and when it does come, I want you to take your time to it and not work yourself to death when there is no use of it. If it was not for the sheep, I would tell you to let the fodder alone. But try and make the molasses if you can for that will be something to eat and I hope that I will be home to help eat it. If not, make it [anyway].
I must come to a close. I would be glad to see you all but if cannot be so now. But if we put our whole trust in God, I hope He will rule all things for our good. Only let us pray to God we will live and He will no doubt answer our prayers. Write as often as you can and direct your letter to Gordonsville, Va. in care of Lieutenant Callie, Co. G, 33rd Regiment, N. C. troops, Camp of Instruction. Get G. Miller to direct. No more. Only yours until death, — G. W. Beckel
Gordonsville, Va. August 9th 1862
Dear wife and family, friends & neighbors,
I through the mercies of God have this present opportunity to inform you that I am yet in the land of the living and in tolerable good [health]. I have not been as healthy the last few days as I was when I wrote before. I think the water or the diet does not agree with me.
We have rather hard times here. We have hard drilling to go through with and we are not overfed. Sometimes we have beef and tough cake and sometimes a little bacon. I would rather have bacon all the time for salt and cooking utensils and salt is so scarce that we can’t cook as you could if you had it home but I think that we will make out if we keep well. This is not a good place for a person to be sick though I have been weller than I thought I would be though I am well all the time yet—just as I was before.
Benton & Tom Miller [of Co. H] are both well, I think. We did not get in the same company but in the same regiment. They are with Gideon and they are in tolerable good spirits. We have been call out to sign the payroll but it was not headed to our notion and we did not sign it. You know we told you that we would sign nothing unless we knew what it was and we hain’t a going to do it. If you see father tell him that I and John are together and he is well—only he is complaining with a cold, We conscripts are about 4 miles of Gordonsville encamped out in the woods at the edge of an old field and we drill 3 times a day, 4 hours in a day. It is very tiresome but I have got along so far,
I wrote to you on Tuesday the 5th and today is our wash day and I am done washing and have good time to write and I would be glad to hear from you and Sarah and I want you to write as soon as you can and write whether you have anybody to stay with you and whether you have got your shoes. And I want you to write what become of the conscripts that did not come when we did and tell Mr. Crews to write to me how the election went.
Our Colonel [Hoke] cheated us out of our vote when he got us to Raleigh. We named it to him several times during the day and all he could say was ‘I’ll see about it,” and the first thing we knew we had orders to fix to leave and then kept us standing 2 hours with our sacks which was time enough to hold the election.
I want you to write to me how the neighbors are treating you and if they are good to you and how yours and Sarah’s health is. And tell Sarah to take care of her crop and dry all the peaches she can for I hope I will be home again and then I will help her eat.
Serve your God and I will do so too. Direct yours to Gordonsville, 33rd Regiment, Company G in care of Colonel Hoke, N. C. troops
From G. H. to A. S. Beckel and S. E.
[Near Gordonsville, Va.] August 12th 1862
Dear wife and daughter,
I again drop you a few lines to let you know that I am yet alive and tolerable well at this time. We have orders to leave here. I think that we will leave tomorrow and go to Winchester which is 100 miles farther towards the old army that is in Maryland.
I received one letter from you and a few lines in Benton’s and you wrote that [you] sent me 4 and I never got them. I think that I have wrote you about 6. I want you to write as often as you can and I will do the same. Tell Sarah to be a good little girl and if I live, I will come home again and I have been in good hopes but I don’t know what to think now. We may be taken to the army in a few days and we may never. All I have to say to you is serve your God and I will do so too and if we fail to meet on earth, we will meet in heaven.– G. H. Beckel
[Near Gordonsville, Va.] August 26th 1862
Dear wife and little Sarah,
I take the present opportunity to let you know that I am yet alive and enjoying tolerable good health and hope when this comes to hand, it will find you enjoying the same blessing. I saw Junior and he told me that you was well. I have wrote to you 2 letters since I am here and have not received the scratch of a pen from you since I left home.
Junius is in camp 6 miles from us and come to see us last Sunday and I would be glad to go to their camp if I could but we cannot go anywhere, There has some 21 or upwards of our men run away and it makes our officers use us the worse. I think they do wrong. They are very tough to us but the [day] may come when the wicked shall cease from traveling and the very best rest.
I don’t know much war news for that is what we don’t get to hear—only as we can catch and then we don’t know what to believe so I have quit believing anything I hear unless it comes very straight. We have been hearing cannons all day northeast of us and it is said that it will be a very heavy battle. We heard about 2 o’clock that Jackson was surrounded and many of his men taken and we have heard since that he was whipping as we generally hear though I am convinced that we have heard many untruths.
We have been drilling now three weeks and it is the hardest work that I ever done. They drill us too hard. I think that half of the crowd are sick and past drilling, and our officers that are like men say that they will run down all of us soon if they keep on. I don’t think that many of them are dangerous. I don’t think that any of our neighbors are sick though none of us feel well and I would feel much better if I could get a letter from you and hear that you were getting along well and had got my letters and heard that I was well. I want you to write to me as oft as you can and tell your brothers to write and tell Crews and old father Evans to write to me and let me know how they are getting along and give me all the news for I hear nothing here.
And show this letter to as many of my friends as you please and when you write to me, write how your cows and hogs are coming on and tell Sarah to write how her sheep is coming on and tell her to take care of them and dry peaches. And if I should live to get home, I will help her eat them. I hope that you will not trouble about me more than you can help. I have cast away all trouble and have myself in the hands of my God only…praying to him that we may meet again.
Direct your letter to Gordonsville, G. H. Beckel, in care of Lieut. [William J.] Callais, Co. G, 33rd Regiment N. C. Troops. Put Gordonsville after G. H. B. in directing.
Winchester, Va. August [September] 19, 1862
Dear wife and daughter,
I take this opportunity to let you know where we are. We have left the camp and have been marching five days and we are now at Winchester and I am almost broke down. I have now walked 5 days on very scant fare—on about 1 and a half pounds of bacon and 15 crackers, and I would much rather had them many biscuits—but I got along better than I expected. I am not well yet and don’t think that I will be shortly for we have laid out ever since we have been on the march and I don’t know whether we will ever get tents again. One good thing on our side, it hasn’t rained much since we left home.
We have got a long ways from home now. You have heard from Winchester. I do not know the distance but it must be about 500 miles from home. We got here this evening and we think that we will have to leave tomorrow. We don’t know anything until we have it today but we think that we will have to go to the army right off. I think that is where we are started now.
We hear that they are fighting in Maryland and have been for about a week and they have been fighting and our men have taken Harper’s Ferry and a great many prisoners. And the fighting that we hear of, our side whips like usual. We know not how soon we will have to go into it too. I reckon soon as they can get us there but they have been fighting some time. I hope they will soon quit. Some say this has been the hardest fight that has been since the war commenced. The main army is in Maryland and we think that we will go there soon. Since I have commenced to write, I heard that we are to cook 4 days rations and I recon that will take us there.
Benton, Tom, and Gideon [Miller] and [brother] John and all the rest of the boys are with us yet but we are low in spirit and I am afraid that we will get lower yet for we have not been fed too high none of the time and I think the chance on the [march] is much worse and I don’t know when we will get done marching for the old army is always going.
Dear wife, I am here and that is all. I am weak and have the rheumatism in my legs and marching goes very hard with me. But I feel that I have put my trust in my God. I read in my testament whenever I have the chance and there I find the promise to the faithful.
Dear Sophia, I want you to pray to God every day while you live and I will do the same. It sometimes looks to me that the chance is bad fo us ever to meet on earth but let us pray to God constantly and He will no doubt hear us. I have only got 2 letters from you—one in Benton’s and one dated September 2. I must quit. It is dark. Only pray to God as long as you live and I will do so too. — G. H. Beckel
[Shepherdstown, Va.] September 23, 1862
Dear wife and daughter,
I am again permitted through the mercy of God to write a few lines to you to let you know how I am getting along. I feel tolerable well at this time only I am worn out. We have been marching the last 9 days and got to our regiment yesterday evening and we are now in the main army and we had had rest so far today and it appears that things are at peace here now, but there has been a great deal of battle here lately. We know not how soon or when there will be more fighting. I think that we will be used better than we was at the Camp of Instruction.
We got here last night and we got plenty of bread and meat as soon as it could be cooked. I feel like as if I could eat everything that I could get. I think the limestone water has been a help to me. I feel healthy—only the rheumatism. Sometimes my hips and legs pain me so that when I lie down at night I don’t know how and where to lay them, but when I am marching I get along better than I thought.
Gideon [Miller] is well and [my brother] John is well—only we are all tired. But I hope that we will get rest if the Yankees give us the chance. We are now with our regiment and I know not where we will go next. I have put my trust in my God and have prayed ever since I left home that I may return and I want you to do so too as long as we both are permitted to live. — G. H. Beckel
[Shephardstown, Va.] September 30th 1862
Dear wife and [daughter] Sarah,
I this morning am blessed with the opportunity to write to you to let you know that I am well. I have had my health better the last few weeks than I have had in a long time. We have left the Camp of Instruction near Gordonsville and have gone 80 or 90 miles farther north or northeast between Winchester and Harper’s Ferry. We have a nice place to camp now and more to eat than we had when we was in the Camp of Instruction and if I don’t get sick again, I think that I will get as big and as fat as Old Mack was. Sometimes when we was moving and got some strong limestone water, it works on my bowels tolerable strong and gets me weak for a day or two. But when I get over it, I feel like as if I could all the time and I think that I will be able to get along if I don’t get sick.
We have now got to our regiment and I am glad for we are used much better than we was at Gordonsville. We have a fine captain and lieutenants. They care for their men and don’t spare them to be misused. John is the captain’s cook and gets 4 dollars a month extra and plenty to eat.
We have seen a great many of our old neighbors that left when the first volunteers left. We have seen C. Mock and H. Bruner and many more. They are now about 1 and a half miles from us.
You wrote that you heard that Permania’s company [Co. K, 21st N. C.] was all killed and taken but 4. That is a mistake. I have not heard that any of them was killed lately but they went over into Maryland and there was many lives lost. Permany was killed there. 1 Christ Mock, and Sam Shutt told me all about his death. They said he was wounded in the forehead and was started away and another shot went in under his left shoulder which went near his heart and a bomb shell bursted and hit him on the right breast and shoulder and he then lived 4 hours yet. Christian Mock told me that he hope to carry him about 6 miles to Shepherdstown, Va., and buried him decently and put a marble stone to his grave. It was his request to be brought home but there was no chance for transportation now and he was buried so that he can be moved at anytime.
I received three letters from you yesterday. There was 2 letters and 3 sheets of paper and 3 envelopes and another letter. They was dated from the 6th to the 15th of September. I have got 4 from you since I am with the regiment and am truly glad to hear that you and Sarah have had your health as well as you have had and are getting along as well as you are. You wrote that you was sometimes very much troubled. You must lay all this aside and not trouble yourself about anything. You will injure your heart snd it will not profit you nor me any thing and you know that I always told you that you must not expose yourself at work so much.
You had better do what you can and live the balance undone than to injure your health. Take as good care of your things as you can not to overdo yourself. I would rather everything would [illegible] your health. You wrote that you sold the heifer. I think it was as good as any way but if she had been fat you could have got there times as much for her. But don’t trouble yourself about it for the salt would have cost half as much as the beef would have [illegible] if you would have kept it. When you write again, I want you to write how you make out for salt and whether you have any money yet and whether you have made any arrangements to get salt. If you have your pigs yet, try and sell all but 3 and have them marked for Sarah. Always saves. Ervin will buy your pigs and will give you as much as anybody else. Try and get the price that is going.
You have wrote about clothes. My clothes are all good yet and I don’t know when I will need any. Make yourself easy about clothes. Only knit me a good pair of gloves and if ever you can get the chance to send them to me. And you wrote about tobacco. If you get the chance, send me some, but not more than 10 plugs. It is too heavy to carry for we don’t stay long at a place. And if ever you get the chance, I want Sarah to send me about a gallon of peach snits but not more than a gallon for I can’t keep much of anything and somebody else would eat them. Tell Sarah to take care of all her things and be a good girl and keep me some of her ground peas and a plenty of snits and not trouble herself about me for I think that I will get home again. Some say that we will move to North Carolina if not home but I don’t know how it is. We hear much and know nothing. But I hope that there will soon be something done that will make for our better.
Oh, tell your brothers to write to me as oft as they can and you try and write every week and I will do the same and write how you and everybody else is doing. I read all G[ideon] Miller’s letters and get much satisfaction from them. I have not paid the postage for my letters. It is not because I have no money but I can’t get the stamps and I must send them to the office the best way I can.
I must bring my letter to a close by saying put your trust in God and don’t trouble yourself anymore. I have cast away all trouble and only pray to God that we may soon meet again and I have the hopes that we will meet again. Nothing more at present, only yours until death, — G. H. Beckel
1 Francis Permanius (“Permany”) Miller (1833-1862) was captain of Co. K, 21st North Carolina Infantry. He was killed at the Battle of Antietam on 17 September 1862, while commanding the regiment (not just his company). He was a younger brother of George’s wife, Sophia.
[Near Shepherdstown, Va.?] October 5th 1862
Dear wife and daughter,
I again take this present opportunity to let you know that I am well at this time. I have been very unwell with the bowel complaint. We are [ingesting?] limestone water and it is bound to clean us out. John has it now and he is tolerable weak but he says he is better today. I think we will get hearty when we all get over this, There is tight smart of this complaint with us now but there is but few cases that I think dangerous amongst many there must be some sick.
John is cooking for the captain and lieutenant. He has not much to do and plenty to eat. I can’t complain much at the fare since we got to the regiment. We had potatoes for dinner today. We had 10 pounds for 56 men. That with biscuit and roast beef was a good dinner. Robert Limeback is well. He is our cook and we fare better since we have out things cooked right than when we had them done up any way.
Benton and Tom [Miller] are well and I think doing well. Tell [Tom’s mother] not to make herself any uneasiness about Tom for he is just old enough to get his own and if a man don’t see out for himself, nobody will for him.
We have been here at this place nearly two weeks and we hear nothing about living here. We think that we have started nearer home to take winter quarters if we have to stay out this winter, but we hope that we will not have to stay out this winter. Many of the men and the officers say they think that the war will soon end but we can hear anything and everything, whether true or not. But we will hope that there will be an end soon, some way or other.
I must [not] forget Gideon [Miller]. He is a fine fellow and a good friend to me. He has now joined the band and he is well and hearty and passes of the time tolerable well. Him [and] Verg Miller is together and he told me that his little Varner girl got peaches off you. If I would have had your peaches and apples, I could have made 1000 dollars. Peaches sell here from 25 to 35 per dozen. Apples from 25 to 50 per dozen and everything else according.
I haven’t got an letter from you in over a week and then I got two. I got the largest I ever did get with the paper and envelopers and I wrote you a very large one in return and I hope you did get it. Tell Sarah to be a good girl and take care of her things for I have stronger hopes of getting home than I have had yet. Content yourself as well as you can and don’t trouble yourselves. It will do me no good and it will injure you only. Put your trust in God as I have oft told you and pray that we may meet again.
— G. H. Beckel
October 23, 1862
Dear wife and family and friends,
Through the mercy of God I am again permitted to write to you to let you know that I am yet in the land of the living and in good health. I am now in better health than I have been in a long time and it is a blessing to me for it is bad to be sick at home but much worse from home. [My brother] John has been somewhat under the weather but he is now well and hearty. There was about eighty of the boys put on double duty this morning and he was one of them but they did not make anything off of him. The boys are generally well. I have received no letter from you in about 3 or 4 weeks and then I got 3 at once with paper and envelopes and it is now 2 weeks since I have wrote to you. I wrote to you that I would write every week but we have been on a march and I did not get to write last week.
We got back last night to where we was when I wrote last, We are nearly north from home and when we was on that march, we was about north from home. Was was in the north corner of Virginia at a place called Hedgesville, 10 miles nearer Pennsylvania. We went there and tore up the railroad and left one evening about dark and marched til about midnight. I think that we was further out than any troops have been before and we all got back lucky and it is more than I expected and I believe that we all got back weller than we started. They say that we will stay here about a week and then move nearer home but I don’t know how it is. We know not when to believe what we hear for we hear many things that is not so. But I think that we will come nearer home this winter and maybe all the way.
I trust that you and Sarah would be glad to be with me but it cannot be now, but I hope that we will all get home some time. When we was on that march, we had a cold time. We camped on a mountain and the wind blew so hard that our fire did not do us much good. We have had scarcely any rain since we left home and that has been to our advantage. Cold and dry is like being [ ].
I must come to a close. I hope you and Sarah are well and doing well and I want you to content yourself the best you can and not trouble yourself about me for I have tolerable good, fair, and very good health. My only prayer is that God will take care of us and you and rule all things for our good. And I want you to remember me in your prayers daily and pray to God that we may meet again.
So no more at present, only yours until death, — G. H. Beckel
October 24th 1862
[The first half of the letter is illegible]
…and have them ready and keep them until I write for them. I do not need anything now but tobacco and gloves and a neckband handkerchief. My clothes are all good yet but dirty. [My brother] John is washing some of my clothes today to get me to write a letter for him to send to Sarah and John says to say he is hearty as a bulldog and eats all that he can get. And I am as hearty as a greyhound and eat beef and bread accordingly. We have been marching but we are now in camp. I do not know how long we will stay. I think that we are on the way back towards North Carolina and some say that we are going back to our state but we hear so much that we know not when or what to believe but we hope that we will come to North Carolina if not home this winter.
You wrote that you are in trouble about Permenia [Miller]. 1 You must not trouble yourself about it and you must not think that because he was killed that everybody will be killed. The most think that the fighting is about over. You wrote that they were coming after [your brother] Permania’s [body]. I want you to write as soon sas you get this and write when and how they are coming and then I will know more about clothes. I expect I will get money before long. If I get all due me, I think I can send you about 75 dollars.
— G. H. Beckel
1 Francis Permenia Miller was captain of Co. K, 21st North Carolina. He was killed in the Battle of Antietam on 17 September 1862.
October 25th 1862
Dear wife and daughter,
I wrote one letter to you the 23rd and had just sealed it and I got one from you and yesterday the 24th I opened it and put in another. I wrote that you should get me some clothing ready and on the same day we got clothing a plenty so I now send you this to let you know that now have clothes enough to do me all this winter. I need nothing but gloves, 1 pair of socks, and a neck handkerchief, and tobacco. Other clothing I have plenty and good warm clothes as can be got. So you need not pester to make any for me let the chance be ever so good to send. Do not send any only what I wrote for I could not carry anymore if I had them and everybody else has plenty that I don’t think that anybody will steal them.
I have no money now but I think that we will get some before long and if they pay us up, I will get about 75 dollars. I have no need for money here—only to get tobacco—for there is nothing here to sell that I want but tobacco and that sells for $1 a plug—about 9 times its worth.
I am well and hope will stay so and am glad to hear that you and Sarah are well and doing well. Try and do the best you can and content yourself as well as you can and write to me as oft as you can and direct as you did before and I will write whenever I get the chance. I hope that we will all get home again sometime. It is my daily prayer to God that we may meet again. I want you to remember me in your prayers daily as I have no doubt but you do.
— G. H. Beckel
[Somewhere between Winchester and Manassas near the Shenandoah river] November 6th 1862
Dear wife and dear little daughter,
I through the mercy of God again have the opportunity to write a few lines to let you know that am yet in the land of the living. I am not as well as I was when I wrote before. I have light touches of chills and fevers and a very bad [cough] but I am improving fast. I eat a hearty breakfast and feel very well at this time. [My brother] John has been sick the last few weeks but he is getting better. I think he would fare better if he would take better care of himself. There is getting to be very much sickness in camp. I think there is about 10 go to the doctor every morning from our company and other companies fully that many. Benton Miller is very sick. I think that he is dangerous. He has been sick some time and gets no better but if anything worse.
The weather is cold here but we have not had much rain. There are a great many men here barefooted and I do not see how they can live for my shoes are very good yet and my feet get cold. I think if the men don’t get shoes, they cannot live. We have had no tent in two months and some say that we will get none this winter. We are moving about from place to place the last month and we have heard cannons the last few days. Some say they expect a battle somewhere through here but I hope it will not be the case. We are now somewhere between Winchester and Manassas near the Shenandoah river.
I received yours dated 22nd and I got it in 5 days from the day it was sent and I was glad to hear that you was both well and doing well and that you had company enough that day and Adley with you that night. You again wrote about sending me clothes. I do not want you to send anything but gloves, comfort socks, and some tobacco. If you do, it will never do me any good. I have as many clothes now as I can carry. If you send any, I will only have to throw them down and let them lie. So I want you to keep them and not pester to make any more for I have good warm clothes a plenty to me this winter. My shoes will last some time yet and if ever you get a chance, send me gloves, socks, and wrapper and tobacco. That is all I want that you can help me to accept. You could send me some peach lether or peachsnit and if you send that, don’t send too big a bunch for if I did not eat it, somebody else would.
Me and John got a letter from father and sister. She wrote that Sam was gone and was driver in an artillery company and that she thought she was getting along better than she thought she would. The last you wrote to me, you wrote somewhat dissatisfied. I was very sorry to hear that you was pestered by any of the neighbors you wrote that had been telling lies and you wish that you was as far from home as I was. I am very sorry to hear that such is the case. I hope that nobody has injured you by telling lies. If they get to tile on you, get somebody to help you and go to [ ] and have them taken up. Don’t suffer yourself to be run over always. When you write again, write something to me about it—who it was—and try. and content yourself as well as you can. I would give a world if I had it to be with you but it cannot be so now and I do not know when it will be so. But I hope and pray daily and ever since I left home that God would spare me to get back sometime and enjoy the happiness of your company.
No more at present, only yours until death, — G. H. Beckel
November 21st 1862
I take this opportunity to write a few lines to you to let you know that I am as well as common. I received a few lines from you a few minutes ago and my gloves and wrapper and was glad for them and was glad to hear that you was both well and you wrote again about sending me clothing. I have wrote time and again that I want no clothes and I don’t want you to send me any clothes but one pair of socks and you may send me one shirt and if your father makes me any shoes you can send them but if you are sending the clothes, I will just have to throw them down and let them lie for it is impossible for me to carry anymore than I have got.
You wrote about my overcoat and pantaloons and vest. I do not want you to send any of them for I can’t carry them. I have as many good, warm clothes as I can carry. I would be glad if you could send me a good pair of shoes and one pair of socks and one shirt. If you send me any more, it will do me no good. I will have to let them lie and it will do me no good so I don’t want you to send them,
We have had damp, wet weather for several days and tolerable cold. We have no tents nor hain’t had. We have orders to move from here tomorrow [but] we know not where to. I have got no letter from you since the 29h of last month that come in about 4 days. I want you to write as much as 1 letter a week and I will write as oft as I can. I want you to be sure to send me no clothes but 1 shirt, and 1 pair of socks for I do not need them and if you do send them away at home but send me tobacco if you can.
I hope that we will meet again. Let us trust in God and pray without ceasing. — G. H. Beckel
[Near Fredericksburg, Va.] December 4th 1862
Dear wife and little Sarah,
I again through the mercy of God have the opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you know that I am tolerable well at present with the exception of being very tired. We have been marching twelve days very hard through mountains and hills and every other bad place and on very scant faire. We are all nearly tired down. We are resting today. I don’t know how long we will rest. We are on the railroad that goes from Richmond to Fredericksburg near Fredericksburg. Some say they have brought us…but I don’t know, and them that does know won’t tell. We have to trust in God and wait and see what will become of us.
News—I have none about the war. Sometimes I have good hopes of peace and sometimes it is all gone. We must only trust in God and pray for the best. Let us pray for Him to hear and answer our prayers if we are faithful.
John Stultz brought me my gloves and wrapper and a letter and that was the last letter that I had from you. We got one one from father and sister yesterday evening and he said that you was well. I never got the letter that you mailed before you sent that with. I wrote one the next day and could not mail it before. We had to march and I carried it in my pocket ever since. It is about clothing. I don’t want you to send any—only what I wrote for. We have been marching nearly all the time and I cannot carry them and I want you to keep them at home.
I want you to write as oft as you can and I will do the same. And write the news when you do write, and direct yours to Richmond and tell [ ] to write to me as soon as he can and give me all the best news he can. I wrote to Sylvester to send me paper. I have not heard from him yet. If he did not get the letter, I wish you would tell him to send me some. I have no paper nor envelopes and I can’t get here and I have no money. I can’t get any.
I must come to a close. Only put your trust in God and if it is His will, we will meet again. I was glad to hear that you did not trouble yourself for you have only [illegible]. — G. H. B.
The following letter was sold on the internet and was not transcribed.
The typed biographical sketch (above) was prepared by the family and sold with the original letters.
This letter was written by a soldier known only as Adelbert who wrote to his friend, Alvah Horton from the Union encampment at Suffolk, Virginia, in May 1863. The letter was written after Longstreet had given up his siege of the city and retreated to the Blackwater. The only clues in the letter are that Adelbert enlisted on 9 August 1862 and that “Four hundred” or four companies of his regiment were leaving to take the railroad cars to the Blackwater at the time he wrote the letter.
I could probably eventually figure out who wrote the letter but the content is insufficiently newsworthy to make it worth the time. My hunch is that he came from one of the numerous New York regiments that were part of the garrison at Suffolk in the spring of 1863.
Suffolk [Virginia] May 11th 1863
I received your letter Saturday night and I hasten to answer it as I always take pleasure in writing to my friend who sees fit to write to me. I suppose that while I am writing, very likely you are either plowing or drugging. I should like very well to do either. But Uncle Sam wants me to help him a while longer. Then I am in hopes you will see me climbing our side hill as usual.
Nine months ago the 9th of this month I enlisted and though then that by this time I should be at home again. But I am still a soldier and presume I shall be for some time to come. But I stand it first rate—never was healthier in my life. Weigh 25 or 30 more than I ever did at home.
Tonight after Dress Parade I went down to the pond to see the boys go in swimming. There was two or three hundred in. We have the best place I ever saw to swim—a large pond nearly a mile across it. Last Tuesday there was a man drowned down there. He dove and never come up, having been taken with a cramp.
But it is getting late and I have got to take this to the office so please excuse me for this time.
Four hundred of our regiment are going down toward the Blackwater on the cars. I do not know what they are going for.
Alvah, I should be very glad to hear from you again. Please write and I will answer. Accept this from your true friend, — Adelbert
These letters were written by John Edward (“Eddie”) Stewart (1834-1927) to his younger sister, Margaret (“Maggie”) Jane Stewart (1844-1928). They were two of at least ten children born to John Stewart (1806-1892) and Anne Bell Patton (1813-1892) of St. Clairsville, Belmont county, Ohio. Maggie later married, in December 1867, to David Robinson Johnston (1842-1897) who had served in Co. K, 17th OVI during the Civil War.
John enlisted as a corporal on 2 May 1864 in Co. E, 170th Ohio National Guard—a 100 days regiment. He mustered out on 10 September 1864. According to Belmont County records, John was married to Mary Jane Hinkle (1836-1912) on 24 September 1860.
[Note: These letters are from the personal collection of Mike Huston and are published by express consent.]
Fort Simmons, Maryland May 24, 1864
I received your letter on Tuesday mornin just before we started. Since that I have not had time to answer. I have some leisure today. As last we have arrived at our designated place. We were nearly one week in the cars. We had a pleasant but tiresome trip. Part of the road we came over in the night. The mountains I did not see as we crossed them in the night [but] I saw mountains enough to satisfy me. We crossed Harper’s Ferry in the night. It was moonlight & we got a partial view of the place. The bridge is a grand affair. Part of it was destroyed by the Rebs. There is some grand country between the Ferry and Washington.
We arrived in Washington Sabbath evening about 5 o’clock [and] was marched to our quarters which were in a large building. We had to lay on the floor. Supper was prepared for us & a great meal it was, consisting of bread, meat and coffee. The bread was good. The meat should have been good had it been coked but it was raw—fit only for dogs. The coffee would have made good slop for hogs. I tasted it but could not go it. Breakfast was the same. I did not eat any. What I had eaten made me sick. I was quite unwell all forenoon.
At 7 o’clock we got passes to go through the town—I should have said City. It got a small glance of the place. The Capitol is a nice place—grand beyond description. I was through a part of it. It would take some time to look all over it. I visited the President’s Mansion which is a grand place. I was in the Reception Room [but] did not get to see Old Abe. There are many places I would like to visit if I had time. There are some nice parks about the city. The town itself is not much; covers a great deal of ground. I got a pie before going to my quarters which done me some good. After going to quarters I lay down [and] on getting up, I felt better. Dinner came round. I found they had the same as for supper so I did not go in. Sam Thomson and myself broke for town to get some crackers. We got a few which was all we had to eat.
After dinner we had orders to march. We strapped on our armor which was quite heavy. We got started about three to [but] we did not know where. We marched for 4 hours & landed at this place which is about 8 miles from the City. The day was very hot & we were marched as soldiers are generally—marched very fast part of the time. Some of the boys lagged a little [but] I stood it very was. Was not much tired. After stopping, we had nothing to eat so I looked round for some supper. I found a house where the family were eating. They asked me to eat and I pitched in. I went back in the morning to get my breakfast which I got and paid a quarter for it. I like hard tack very well when we have it.
We have a nice place on a high piece of ground. The country around is well fortified. In our fort there are 10 or 12 guns. We will soon have to go to work and practice artillery shooting. We have barracks to sleep in & straw to sleep on. We have just finished cleaning up ands anyone that cannot live here ought not live at all. I hope we may get to stay here our time out. We have a cook house separate from our quarters.
Most all of the boys are writing letters today. We have no duty to perform today. Jim was on guard last night, is now in bed. One or two of our boys are on the sick list. I am quite well. Had a bad cold but was always able for duty. It is now near dinner time. I must close up. I have not time to write anymore as these letters must go to the office soon. I wrote one home today. You must write again. Give my love to all. Hoping to see you again, your brother, — J. E. Stewart
Address Jno. E. Stewart, Company E, 170 Regt. O. N. G., Fort Simmons via Washington D. C., Care of Capt. Lee
Headquarters Ft. Sumner June 20, 1864
I received your letter a few days ago. I have not answered before this not because I had not time but just because I did not do it so have plenty time to write, but it does not all come together. We have the most time from 10 P. M. till bed & during that part of the day. The weather is so hot & there being no shade about here, we do not feel much like writing.
This is Monday morning. I am on guard. I am sitting in the guard house on a stool writing on a bench. The guard house is a place under ground. On the one side it is made of large logs put on their ends covered with logs and earth to the depth of about 6 feet. The place is very strong—not any chance for one to get out—only at the door. There is a guard placed [here] and there is hardly a day passes without someone getting a berth for a short time. Various are the offenses committed for which the boys are arrested. Most are just in for sleeping on post. On the morning of the 18th, 2 were put in for sleeping. Their punishment was not severe. Were only put to hard labor on the fort. One Sunday one was put in for milking cows. That game had been going on very extensively. Some of the boys went out a few mornings ago and brought in a bucketful from their canteens & some their time week for an order was issued against it.
This morning 2 more from the picket post was brought in. Were caught asleep. They are now in the guard house awaiting sentence. According to the order, they will pass through a regular court martial. The sentence of some that have been here before was very severe; was kept in prison two months and compelled to wear a ball fastened to his ankle weighing 25 lbs., & forfeit their pay for two months.
By the heading of this you will see that we are at [Fort] Sumner. I do not know whether we were here when I last wrote or not. This is the third place we have been at. We have been here nearly two weeks. Cannot tell how long we may remain here. This is a very strong place. Commands a great section of country. Some very large guns here—two 100-lbs., some of them I can put my head in. Tried it on Saturday.
I have just come in from putting on my relief. I will now be on duty two hours. Will get off at 12 M. We corporals before coming out were made from [ ] by the privates said they would attend a privates in time. Their time is now turned the other way. They find out the non-commissioned officers have the advantage over privates. Every day we detail 12 more—one corporal & a sergeant for guard duty. If privates come about every third day, the non-commissioned officers about once a week. Other duties are about the same.
The weather here is very hot in day times & cold at night. The forepart of last week the nights were so cold alright, we had to have a fire in our stoves. The days have been getting hotter everyday. We have not had a rain for some time. Everything is getting very dry. We have plenty of water to drink. From the appearance, I think it will hold out if the weather is dry. Today looks come little like rain. I hope it will rai and lay the dust which is getting very deep.
On last Thursday, we had general inspection of arms and knapsacks. The men that do the inspecting think they are some on a splinter. I will tell you what I think of such men when I get home. Every Sabbath we have company inspection. Sometimes we have preaching on Tuesday evening. We are called out & formed into a line so that Sec. Chase might get a view of us. We stayed and waited patiently till nearly dark, being out nearly 2 hours, but Chase did not make his appearance. We are looking for him this evening. Maybe he may come.
I was sorry to heat that Mam & Craig were sick. The disease they had is a terrific one. I know some little about it. I hope they are well by this time. They will have to take good care of themselves for some time to come as the days of it remain in the system a long time.
And Pap has made a change of hands again? Why did Joe leave? I do not think it would take much of a hand to be better than he.
I have not had any letters from the boys yet. I wrote each of them—one a few days ago. I see by the Chronicle that cousin Joe is wounded again slightly. I hope to hear from them soon.
You may send me Bob’s photograph & anything that you wish. I wish you could so arrange it among that Mollie could get down to Wheeling sometime before long to get her photographs taken & Rosa’s too. I would like to have each of them. I will write to Mollie today and tell her about it and if it can be done conveniently, I would like it.
You ask if I hear any singing. Sometimes in the evening some of the boys do some singing . Not much. We hear lots of music of one kind or another. We have a fiddle in our company & some of the boys take a dance almost every night. The boys all seem to enjoy themselves very well. Most of them are fit for duty—only one of us have been in the hospital and he is now well. Some of the company have the measles & mumps in them. I am not afraid of either. I have been as healthy as ever I was except a cold and I am over that. I have got used to sleeping on the soft side of a pine board. Can do some tall sleeping/
I am going to get a pass to the city one of these days. I have applied for one. I want to get some photographs taken while there if I can. After going down there & back, I may have more to write about than at present. Uncle Dan was down on one day last week. He and Sam Thompson went together. But two can get a pass at a time. It is now about time I must close up for this time.
Well, I have had my dinner. Didn’t eat until all the others had eat. And what do you suppose I had for dinner? In the first place I had coffee, fresh beef, beans, potatoes &c. With that I was not satisfied [so] I went to the kitchen and got a piece of bread, toasted it [and] had some milk. Got some sugar and made me some dip. I tell you I had some of a dinner. Some of the boys go out and get cherries, come in & stew them in regular style.
My oh my but it is hot just now. One cannot get to a cool place and I suppose that two could not do any better. The boys not on duty are laying round lazy as they can be. If you have no flies in Ohio, just send us a box and we will try to hive up some and send them to you. I think we can spare some. Rats are very plenty around here. If a person goes out after night, they can see a regiment of them in dress parade. The last night I was on guard, I saw a number of them maneuvering around, having a cat for a Colonel. I suppose she got it. Tell Mam and Craig to write me a letter. You can all write me a letter apiece & I will write a letter to one answering all of them. This letter will apply to all of you. Tell Pop to make arrangements when it suits him to make that trip to Wheeling.
You must not delay writing. Give me all the news. I will have to have some postage stamps before long. If you can send them, I will be much obliged. I can get them here but do not like to lay out anymore money than I can help for things I can get from home. No more at present. Give my love to all enquiring friends. I ever remain your soldier brother, — J. E. Stewart
The author of this letter has not yet been confirmed but my hunch is that it was written by 18 year-old David Davis of Uniontown, Belmont, Ohio. In the summer of 1864, David enlisted in Co. E, 170th Ohio National Guard at Bellaire, Ohio, and was mustered into Federal Service for 100 days. The regiment was expected to garrison the forts around Washington D. C. and not likely see any action, but they found themselves stationed in the path of Confederate Gen. Jubal Early’s veteran Army of the Valley during its famed Valley Campaigns of 1864. The Ohio National Guard units met the battle-tested foe head-on and helped blunt the Confederate offensive, thereby saving Washington, D. C. from capture. Ohio National Guard units participated in the battles of Monacacy, Fort Stevens, Harpers Ferry, and in the siege of Petersburg.
Whoever wrote these letters left few clues as to his identity, though he clearly identified his company and regiment. The first letter was not signed and the second one appears to be signed “Dave” or possibly “Davis.” Other candidates for authorship are David Duff, age 18; David Gibeny, age 20; and David K. McCance, age 30. The best clue, perhaps, is the annotation on the envelope which reads, “Hurrah for Davis,” which I hardly think was intended to show respect for Jefferson Davis.
Both letters were addressed to Margaret (“Maggie”) Jane Stewart (1844-1928), the daughter of John Stewart (1806-1892) and Anne Bell Patton (1813-1892) of St. Clairsville, Belmont county, Ohio. Maggie later married, in December 1867, to David Robinson Johnston (1842-1897) who had served in Co. K, 17th OVI during the Civil War.
A Federal Encampment at Bellaire, Ohio
[Note: These letters are from the personal collection of Mike Huston and are published by express consent.]
Fort Sumner June 13th 1864
Today I am free from duty having returned from picket guard this morning and those who have been on picket are free from duty for twenty-four hours. Yesterday was Sabbath but still the guard must be mounted and the pickets placed. It came my turn yesterday and I went. Was placed on the second picket post with Dan Bell & three others. It was a cold night to be out of doors but we stood it well. Were it not for the coldness of the nights, I would rather be on picket than in camp.
I cannot now give you a full history of our travel here nor can I give you a full account of what we have done since arriving here. We, however, had a long and tiresome journey to the Capitol of our country. It was just one week from the time we started until we got to our camping ground. We lay on the cars three days north of Martinsburg about seven or eight miles. 1
We stayed in Washington City one night which was Sabbath night and, on Monday morning we visited different parts of the city. First the Capital which is most beautifully made an separated into rooms; here I saw and entered the Senate Hall [and] the House of Representatives. Both these are after the [same] pattern—-the House of Represensatives somewhat larger and containing more seats than the Senate. Neither of the houses were in session but would be at two o’clock that afternoon. However, we could not stay.
Below the Capitol is a large basin filled with water in which are different kinds of fish—yellow, red, white. Below this again is a large grove beautifully laid off with walks. From this place, taking a street car, we went to the President’s House. Were admitted into the reception room [the East Room]—and now, don’t ask me to give a large view of it because I cannot. There were three large chandeliers hanging from the ceiling; two large looking glasses on opposite ends of the room filling nearly the whole end, nice carpet, nice window blinds—in fact, everything in style. I seated myself and rested awhile probably on a chair that Old Abe has sat on. I did not get to see Abe as he could only be seen at certain hours.
I passed through Secretary Chase’s house—the place where the “greenbacks” are made. Here I saw numbers of lady clerks and also gentleman clerks. I saw Sec. Seward’s house but was not in it. I had not time to visit the Smithsonian Institute nor the Patent Office, both of which I would like to see. We marched Monday afternoon about eight miles west from Washington where our regiment was divided taking different forts. Our company was sent to Fort Mansfield but we had only stayed there three or four days when we were ordered to Fort Bayard, Having moved to Fort Bayard, we began fixing up thinking that we would stay there but on last Tuesday we got orders to move to Fort Sumner. The cause of this last move was the moving of the 163rd toward the front and we had to take their place.
Now probably you wish to know how I like soldiering. Well, I like it pretty well and I think if I keep well, I will still like it. We have plenty of amusements but not near enough of letters from home and other places. I have received only two and they are from home. I would like to receive about two every day. I have written about sixteen or eighteen since arriving here.
This fort is about ten miles from Washington. The boys are generally well. Sam Jackson is the only very sick man we have had in the company & he is now getting better. Edie is corporal of the guard today and has to be most with the guards. Give my best regards to all inquiring friends. Oh yes, I hear that Wm. Taggart and Sally Frazier are going to be joined in the holy bonds of matrimony. Please tell me all about it. Send all the good news. Write soon, sending your letters to Co. E, 170th Regt. Ohio N. G., Fort Sumner, via Washington D. C.
1 The description of the trip to Washington is similar to one written by 22 year-old James M. Rogers whose letter was posted, in part, in the Belmont Chronicle, and Farmers, Mechanics ad Manufacturers Advocate on 2 June 1864.See clipping.
Fort Sumner July 4, 1864
This is the most pleasant day we have had for sometime. It is not as warm as previous days. I suppose the people at home are today in some manner celebrating the “Fourth of July” but here there is nothing unusual going on—not even a salute from the guns. The company of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery that were stationed here expected to have a large picnic. They had ornamented the ground around their quarters with pine, made large arches, [and] had ladies invited our from Washington City. But last night, during the night sometime, they received orders to report at Washington today and were gone early this morning. So you see how affairs work in the army. These boys were expecting a great Fourth and were called away when about to enjoy it.
Grant has nearly invested Richmond and I suppose he wants all the men he can get in order to hold his positions. The news we had yesterday evening were that he had cut off all communication of Gen. Lee with the South. How true this may be, I cannot say but such was the news brought from Washington City.
I believe I was down at the City since I last wrote to you but I cannot tell all I saw there. One could not make a nicer visit than one to the Capitol of our country. I first went to the Navy Yard where I saw all kinds of guns—saw them making guns, shot, shell, and everything else pertaining to a cannon. I saw there a boat that was seized while attempting to run the blockade. It is just a new one. I went then to the Smithsonian Institute which is assuredly the nicest place in the city. There you see all kinds of fowls—all kinds of birds, all kinds of insects, all kinds of shells. I cannot tell you half what I saw there. They are too numerous to mention.
From this place I went to the White House. Here we are only admitted into two rooms but they are grand enough. The President’s Reception Room is nicely furnished—eight gilded looking-glasses about eight feet by six hanging against the walls, three chandeliers with three rows of burners on each hanging nicely decorated with glass from the ceiling. From here I passed to the Patent Office. It is a very nicely furnished house. In it you can see all kinds of patents. Leaving this I went to the Halls of Congress. Entering first the Senate, I continued about one hour and then left for the House of Representatives. Here I found a confused place—some were talking & laughing—others were reading or writing, and I noticed one or two men sleeping on sofas that sat around the room.
I was troubled all day with a severe headache and did not enjoy my visit as well as I might have done. I returned to camp [and] very near give out late in the evening. It is almost five miles from here to Georgetown (this I had to walk) and about three miles from there to the Capitol (this I rode on the streetcars).
Our boys are all generally well and like their situation very much. Two or three of the boys are in the hospital and several slightly sick in quarters. The weather here has been very warm. I saw in the Chronicle that the thermometer was up to 90 degrees. But two or three days ago it was up to 120 degrees here—103 degrees in the shade.
Alex McConnell is stationed with his company at Fort Simmons about two miles east of this. He stands it pretty well, I believe. Well, I do not feel much like writing today so I will close hoping to hear from you soon in a long and good letter. As ever, your friend, — Davis
This letter was written by Nathan Brazier of Beloit, Wisconsin, who served in Co. K, 18th Wisconsin Infantry. Nathan enlisted on 28 February 1862 and was one of the members of the regiment taken prisoner a few weeks later in the Battle of Shiloh. After he was exchanged he returned to the regiment and reenlisted as a veteran. He mustered out on 18 July 1865.
Members of the 18th Wisconsin (1865)
Nashville [Tennessee] January 12th 1865
I now take my pen in hand to let you know that I am well. I am in Nashville. We are a going to go to [join] Sherman in a few days. That will be a long ride.
The weather is quite cold here now. There is not much comfort for a soldier here after he has had a furlough and seen a good time.
I have been a guarding substitutes from Chicago down here and that was a pleasant time, but I should rather be excused.
Write to me as soon as you get this. Direct to Co. K, 18th Regiment Wisconsin Vet. Vols., Nashville, TN.
Give my respects to all the folks. Yours in haste. — Nathan Brazier
[Note: The following transcript comes from The Excelsior Brigade website where the letter is offered for sale. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the transcription.]
Cincinnati, Ohio January 29th 1865 AD
It is with pleasure I now write you a few lines to let you know that I am still well. I am on my way to Savannah, Georgia. We expect to go to help to take Charleston. We have got four hundred recruits for our regiment so we make quite a show. The good time I had when I was on furlough made me sick of soldiering but I shall come out all straight in time. You must write me soon as you get this. I saw Al Kisset. He is a hell of a man. So, I think he don’t tell any big things when he comes to see us. When you write to me direct Nathan Brazier, Company K, 18th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers, Savannah, Georgia. I am writing today to pass away time, as I have a good chance. We left Nashville the 18th day of January 1865 and today is the 29th. So you see, we don’t travel very fast. If anyone asks about me, tell them that I think of soldiering as long as I live. For the soldiers in the regular army now. But I think that they won’t get me for I don’t think I take it well enough. Our boys is all at getting sick. But I have not felt that way yet. There is more from sick ones than I ever saw.
Write soon as you get this. Breakfast soon. Tell me all the news of what is a going on in Newark.
Yours in haste,
N. Brazier Company K 18th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry
This letter was written by 17 year-old Harmon U. Miller (1847-1884) to his younger brother, Gaston Eugene Miller (1851-1927). The boys were the sons of John Sylvester Miller (1801-1878) and Elizabeth Holder (1808-1873) of Winston, Forsyth county, North Carolina.
Harmon wrote the letter while serving as a private in Co. B, 4th Battalion North Carolina Junior Reserves. He enlisted June 1, 1864 at Camp Holmes and was furloughed and sent home during the last three weeks of January suffering from pneumonia. In the letter, Harmon mentions having returned recently to his regiment.
Camp near Kinston, North Carolina February 11, 1865
I seat myself this evening to drop you a few lines to let you know where I am and how I am getting along. I am well at present, hoping when these few lines come to hand they may find you all well.
We left Goldsboro yesterday. We are now about two miles before Kinston where the Home Guard stayed. It is reported that there is third thousand Yankees advancing on Kinston. I thought we would get to stay at Goldsboro all this winter but just as we got our winter quarters up, we had to leave them. I had just got my house up and the chimney built and was daubing away on it when we had to leave but I think we will go back there before so many days.
I think I will hear from my transfer before many days. I think perhaps I will get to go. If I had just knowed it, I could went when I was at home but I didn’t know it.
So must close for this time, so no more at present, but remain your brother, —Harmon Miller
This letter was written by Pvt. William Truax (1841-1862) of Co. B, 126th Pennsylvania Infantry. The regiment was recruited in Juniata, Fulton, and Franklin counties during the summer of 1862. Its term of enlistment was nine months. Many of the men and officers had served in the 2nd Pennsylvania Infantry, a regiment whose term had expired. The regiment arrived too late to participate in the Battle of Antietam. While encamped near the battlefield in the weeks afterward, the 126th received its regimental flags and was reviewed by President Abraham Lincoln. The regiment’s first battle came three months later at Fredericksburg, where it lost 27 killed, 50 wounded, and 3 missing.
William was the son of Benjamin Truax (1812-1897) and Sarah Catherine Pittman (1819-1860) of Thompson township, Fulton County, Pennsylvania. According to his military records, William enlisted on 5 August 1862 at Greencastle and was with the regiment until his death from disease on 27 November 1862 at the Regimental Hospital near Falmouth, Virginia.
The three camp visitors mentioned in the letter were relatives of members of Co. B.
[One mile from Sharpsburg, Maryland] October 8th 1862
I must try and write a few words to send you when I have a chance. I had been very well ever since I left home till within the last five or six days, I have been very unwell. I am a little better now but I am hardly able to write. I think I’ll get better after awhile.
We are in a very sickly place close to the [Potomac] river near Sharpsburg in Maryland. There are a great many sick in our regiment. A great many of them say they don’t think the surgeon does them any good, but I think he must have helped me some. I believe I have a touch of my old fever.
John R. Pittman, John Litten, and Abner Hess came down last evening. They invited [me] to eat with them and I did eat a little. I send this letter with them. I should have written to you sooner but I did not get it done right at first and we could not send a letter for the last three or four weeks unless we sent it with some citizen. We have not received the mail for three weeks for some reason or other it has been stopped. I suppose you think I left you very suddenly and without notice. I did—that is a fact, but hope it was not much disappointment to you. I gave my Pap no more notice that you.
If you like to do any settling that relates to me, you and Dad do it, I suppose. I hope this will find you well. I send my best respects to you all.
Annie was the daughter of Anthony Benning Johns (1800-1874 and Eliza Mason Rives (1802-1846) of Leaksville, North Carolina. She wrote this letter in 1862 from her father’s residence in Leaksville (now Eden) which he named “Bleak House.” Her father built the house about 1835 when he moved the family from Pittsylvania county, Virginia. In 1846, Annie attended the Edgeworth Female Seminary in Greensboro, North Carolina. She became a amber of the Episcopal Church in 1851. During the Civil War, Annie volunteered as a matron in a hospital at Danville, Virginia. When offered the opportunity to nurse wounded Union soldiers at Danville, Annie volunteered her services.
Annie wrote this letter to Rev. John Rankin Lee (1803-1882)—an 1844 graduate of the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary of Virginia and a resident of Martinsville, Henry county, Virginia, in 1862. John was married to Elizabeth Mann Page Nelson in 1836 and their only son, Charles Dresser Lee was born in December 1840. In the 1840 US Census, John was enumerated in Halifax county, Virginia, and was the owner of 7 slaves. It was recorded on 3 April 1844 that “John Rankin Lee” was admitted to the Order of Deacons of the Protestant Episcopal church by Bishop Johns of Virginia. That same year, he was received by letter from the Bishop of Virginia into the Diocese of North Carolina. He established the “Church of the Epiphany” at Leaksville on 1 August 1844, reporting to the Diocese that he was absent from that post from the end of September until Christmas of that year, arranging the removal of his family from Virginia. John held services at a number of locations in and around Leaksville.
In 1846, John’s wife, Elizabeth, died during a typhoid epidemic. In 1850, records show that Rev. John R. Lee, and several other residents of Leaksville, made monetary contributions to the American Colonization Society, to repatriate freedmen to Africa. This may have been in following the anti-slavery movement within the church. However, the 1850 census slave schedules still showed a number of slaves in his home, and that of his mother-in-law. During 1856, John and his children relocated to Martinsville, Henry county, Virginia, where he held position with several local churches at the same time, including Christ Church and Trinity Church of Henry and Franklin counties. In March 1862, John’s son Charles enlisted in Co. I, 57th Virginia Infantry. Charles survived the war but never married.
Bleak House [Leaksville (now Eden), Rockingham county, North Carolina] July 26th 1862
I suppose that you hurried home to no purpose, my dear pastor, as I understand Bishop Johns is sick. You had a pleasant time for going up & I hope it did not affect you as much as before. I have sad news to tell you. Poor Jimmy Aiken is dead. 1 Mr. Aiken heard Wednesday evening. I believe that he was dangerously sick, or, very sick. He & Mrs. Aiken started down Thursday but received a telegram Thursday evening in Danville saying that he was dead. Mrs. Aiken returned home yesterday. Mr. Aiken remained in Danville till the body came up yesterday and was brought home last night & buried early this morning. Mr. Aiken had just gotten a substitute at $1500 for him. I heard a week or two ago that Mr. Dillard said that Jimmy could not stand the service. I believe that his parents thought him delicate and did not think he could stand it. It is a great trial, I suppose—by far the greatest Mr. and Mrs. Aiken ever had.
And you are exposed to the same—not only the loss of an only son, but of an only child. But you would not feel as Mr. & Mrs. Aiken do, my dear pastor, for your chief treasures are laid up above & Charlie would only be added to them there humanly. I believe you would suffer more than they, but you would be comforted of God & comforted concerning your child. Yes, if our Father sees best, may He spare you this trial. And I know that He will not send it on you unless in His infinite wisdom He sees best. I think it is good to think of the death of our dear ones if the thought of their going hence & leaving us in the world, strikes us suddenly, it brings too often gloom & heart-sinking & heart-aching with it. But if we meet it in the light that religion brings & think it a calmness & Holy hope, & sweetness comes over the soul, and we feel that we can trust God. And it is a trial again to think of leaving those that we love in this world without us. But we must trust in God about this too & know that He will do what is wise & loving & merciful, knowing that in either case, “the time is short,” and Oh! there is so much to do for ourselves & for others.
Tommy Lawson came up yesterday. 2 He looks pretty well though he has had a long spell of typhoid fever. He was taken prisoner while he was sick at Roswell, but Mr. Deans would not let the Yankees enter Tommy’s room, but promised to give him up as soon as he was well. 3 The Rosewell people & Dr. Jones were very kind to him, & would not take a cent’s pay. He stayed all night at Shelley. He says the Yankees have committed no depredations at Roswell or Shelley, they being above Yorktown & on the opposite side of the river, except to receive their servants. About 20 had gone to them from Rosewell & several of he likeliest owned by the Shelley people.
Tommy don’t seem to have fared badly among the Yankees but met with respect and kindness from them. Respect so far as I have heard him say, from all, and kindness from one or two which he wants to repay, he says, if we ever take them prisoners. One of them carried him articles of food from his own table. He says that some of the officers say they don’t believe the South can be subjugated & that the men seem tired of the war. They acknowledge the truth about their defeat in the Richmond battles & say that McClellan is the only man that could have saved the army.
Tommy says there is a vast deal of sickness among them—that a constant line of boats carrying the sick run to the Northern hospitals. He said if he had had the money, he could have bought beautiful Southern Confederacy uniform cheap made by the Yankees. In fact, I believe he said he might have bought it on time. I wonder if there is anything those people don’t make money out of.
I believe I haven’t told you that sister with Mrs. Strong, & Willie Downes, started to Petersburg Thursday. She concluded to go after hearing that Mr. & Mrs. Aiken were going. As it is, however, she went on without Mr. Aiken. She had a letter from brother Syd 4 Thursday morning which encouraged her going. There is a great deal of sickness in Bro. Syd’s Regiment—the 45th—in which there are 6 Rockingham companies. Bro. Syd was well but wrote to sister if he got sick, he wanted her to come & get him into a private house & nurse him for he would die if he stayed in camp & had men to wait on him. Fred Brodnax is said to be better. I have had a talk with Mr. Killiam about the creed &c. but hasn’t time to tell you about it fully. He says the reason that the Creek Church objected to the article about the procession of the Holy Ghost being inserted in the creed was not that they objected to the article, but that the change was made by a provincial council which the Creek Church said had no right to change the creed. I told him that I thought you said the Creek Church objected to it, as not being the sense of scripture, & that I would like to hear you & he talk about it.
I went downstairs to see Tonie & Tommy & it is now growing late & Abe wants to go so I must hurry my letter to a close. A letter came from Charlie dated May 20th to sister which I opened. He had been sick, he said, and was convalescing & wrote in other respects pretty much usual. Excuse the blots on my envelope. It’s all I have. Let us hear from you often as you can conveniently till you get right well. God bless & keep you, my dear friend. Ever yours, — A. E. J.
1 James Dillard Aiken (1841-1862) was a corporal in Co. G, 45th North Carolina Infantry. He enlisted on 11 March 1862 and died off disease in Petersburg, Virginia, on 23 July 1862. James was the son of George L. Aiken (b. 1810) and Lucy Jane Dillard (b. 1813) of Leakville, Rockingham county, North Carolina.
2 Thomas T. Lawson (1840-1864) enlisted as a private in Co. H, 13th North Carolina Infantry in September 1861. He was commissioned a lieutenant in April 1862. His military record indicates he was taken prisoner on 30 March 1862, which the Federal Provost Marshal could not substantiate, probably because he was not taken into custody as this letter corroborates. He died of disease on 24 February 1864 at Orange Court House.
3 The Rosewell Plantation was located on the bank of the York River in Gloucester county, Virginia. The 18th Century mansion was purchased in 1853 by Josiah Dean and remained in the Dean family for 125 years. It was gutted by fire in 1916.
4 Annie’s handwriting is a little difficult to read and it appears she has written “Syd” but I believe she is referring to her brother Anthony B. Johns who was the Assistant Surgeon in the 45th North Carolina Infantry.
This letter was written by Major Frederick William Patridge (1824-1899) of the 13th Illinois Infantry—sometimes referred to as “Fremont’s Grey Hounds” and of whose performance General W. T. Sherman called the regiment “unequalled in the Army” after the fighting at Vicksburg. He wrote the letter to Everell Fletcher Dutton (1838-1900) of Sycamore, Illinois, who served as Captain of Co. F, 13th Illinois Infantry early in the war, and then became Major of the 105th Illinois Infantry late in 1862. Dutton eventually rose in rank to Brevet Brigadier General.
Major Partridge was the son of Cyrus Partridge (1786-1842) and Mary Loveland of Norwich, Vermont. In mid-February, Partridge was promoted to Lt. Col. of 13th Illinois Regiment and he was brevetted Brigadier General on 13 March 1865 for “gallant and meritorious service at the Battles of Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga, and Ringgold Gap.” After the war, Patridge served as US Consul in Bangkok, Siam from 1869-1876. Hedied in Sycamore, DeKalb County, Illinois.
The 13th Illinois Infantry was mustered into state service by Captain John Pope, at Camp Dement, Dixon, Illinois, on April 21, 1861, and summoned into Federal service on May 24, 1861, for a three-year term. In June, the regiment was ordered to Caseyville, Illinois, 10 miles east of St. Louis, and by July 5, had arrived at Rolla, Missouri, where it remained until the spring of 1862. While stationed at Rolla, the regiment was deployed to guard the supply trains to and from General Lyon’s army, from guerrilla bands in that part of the state a small detachment took part at the battle of Wilson’s Creek. The Thirteenth was also part of General Fremont’s force that went to Springfield, Missouri, in the fall of 1861. In 1862 the regiment joined General Curtis’ army at Pea Ridge, Missouri, 250 miles southwest of Rolla, in his march from Pea Ridge to Helena, Arkansas, on the Mississippi River. The regiment was part of General Sherman’s army in his attack on Chickasaw Bayou, and on the first day of battle at the Bayou, Colonel Wyman was killed. The Thirteenth was also present at the capture of Arkansas Post, and was successful in a raid in Greenville, Mississippi.
Helena, Arkansas Camp 13th Regt. Ills. Infantry December 19th 1862
My Dear Major Dutton
Your long and most acceptable letter came duly to hand. I saw Lt. Col. [Adam B.] Gorgas immediately and he authorized Lt. Buck, in my presence, to send you the requisite certificate. I think on it you can get your money.
Was much interested in your history of the “105th.” Glad to hear of their creditable drill and appearance. I still think the “13th” can’t be beat at anything. Have been President of a General Court Martial now for 61 days. Am relieved now to go down with the regiment on the “Vicksburg Expedition.” We are pleased at the idea and think we are transferred by this movement into the Department of General Grant. We are all hurry and bustle which will account for the brevity and carelessness of my letter.
Do write me often. I will apply hereafter more at length. Col. [John B.] Wyman is Chief of Staff to General Steele, Commanding our Division. Oh! what a fall was then my countryman!” The officers speak often of you and very affectionately. Understand the officers of “F” Company are promoted according to their late commissions for gallant conduct at “Pea Ridge,” Arkansas. Good, isn’t it?