1862-64: Peyton Alexander Cox to his Siblings

I could not find an image of Peyton but here’s an Ambrotype of Pvt. Reuben Goodson of Co. G, 52nd North Carolina Infantry (LOC)

These letters were written by Peyton A. Cox (1821-1895), the son of William Cox (1788-1854) and Nancy Leedy (1797-1887) of Flat Branches, Forsyth county, North Carolina. Prior to the war, Peyton worked as a teacher but when North Carolina seceded from the Union, Peyton signed up to serve in Co. K, 52nd North Carolina. He was assigned duty as a nurse and by mid-September 1863, he was detailed to the Military Hospital at Wilson where he was made a Ward Master of the surgical ward.

The military hospital at Wilson, North Carolina, was sited in the former Wilson Female Seminary. The location of this hospital was ideal due to its location on the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad—the main artery between North Carolina and Virginia. As many as 35 to 40 soldier nurses and orderlies, as well as local women were employed there under the overall supervision of Dr. Solomon Sampson Satchwell, Surgeon-in-Charge. Satchwell was a graduate of Wake Forest College and had studied medicine at New York University before the war. During the war he was named the surgeon of the 25th North Carolina but he was permanently assigned to the Wilson Hospital throughout the war. [Source: Michael Brantley]

Peyton was married in September 1864 to Mary Evelyn Wheeler (1841-1936). He wrote these letters to one or the other of his younger brothers, John Henderson Cox (1831-1909), or Romulus Leedy Cox (1834-1924).

Letter 1

At Home
April 24, 1862

Dear Brother [Romulus L. Cox],

Your letter by Capt. Blackburn reached me in quick time & found us all well and very glad to hear from you and learn that you were also well but sorry to hear that so many of your men are sick. I hope they are cared for & by this time are improving. I am glad you seem so well satisfied with camp life. May it so continue with you, yet I know it must be a hard life at best. I was pleased to hear that you had got into a western regiment & had elected Z[ebulon] B[aird] Vance for your Colonel, but I am sorry to learn quite lately that he will not accept. You all would have been pleased with him. I trust you may make another judicious selection if any another such can be found. Elect an experienced man if possible. They know how to take care of their men.

Capt. Romulus Leedy Cox, posted on Ancestry.com by Karen Edwards

We have not our late paper & consequently have no late news from the war of special interest. Beauregard give them fits in the Battle of Corinth, Mississippi, & took many thousand prisoners. We learn fighting is going on at many points now but hear no particulars yet. The big effort is now making to whip us. Two months more will tell a tale. The Conscription Act has passed Congress, not altogether acceptable with many. I do not dread it—yet.

We planted our first corn today, I have been running off rows all day and it is the first plowing I have done in 8 years & you know I feel tired. But I am some gristle yet—if I am old, but not old enough to miss the conscription bill. Louisa dropped for us and says she is very tired. The pigs are fixed off for hogs. I am very nearly done splitting rails & wood. All is going pretty well. The girls are all well & saucy & wants shines very badly. I reckon I shall have to spree some of them to keep them easy till you all get back.

Tell us something of your affairs, your tents & beds, & how you all live & what you eat. How long you drill & rest. Who washes & cooks & what of your water & also where do you all go to shit & what do you all do for striking coals & paper. We were sorry for you all on last Monday—it was so wet. How did you all fare? I hope I may see Blackburn before he returns. Jno. Styres [?] & others speak of visiting you all soon. If he does I will send you some whiskey or brandy or by the first passing I hear of. I think Martin will see you soon. He is now at home. Walker’s people are well. S. A. O. can’t come yet. He wishes to be Captain in old town district. The election is Saturday next. All send their love. Be a prayerful boy & write soon as you can. Farewell, — P. A. C.

Mrs. Davy White wishes to know if Lee Gibson is in your regiment.

Letter 2

Camp French
November 8, 1862

Dear Brother,

A line in haste to inform you that we are not all frozen but fear you all have suffered greatly for want of your bed clothing. Dr. Coke came to Petersburg Wednesday or Thursday & came out here last night Friday at nearly sundown & ordered half the tents to Petersburg in double quick time to send on to the regiment. We fixed them up and sent them off at dark as he ordered. He was drunk & did not seem to know what else was wanting. Consequently we did not know what to do. We sent most of the things we found in the tents. Sent Capt. B’s tent, bedstead, shawl & two pillows. We forgot the quilt & send it by teamster Red today who goes with a wagon with the Col. goods &c. There was so much confusion I was afraid to send anything else or any of your things though I know you need them. I would send them by Red but fear you will be ordered to leave there soon & lose them. But if you want them, let me know & I will send them the first chance.

I hope that the Captain & Goslin & you can join your bedding and make out till you can get your things & I want to send them by safe hands if I do not go myself.

We had a cold time here but we made out pretty well. Snow was 4 inches deep, ground white now, but warm. Forty conscripts came to 52nd last night. Most of them good looking men. Walker will electioneer for some of them. I believe many will join Company K.

I send you two letters by Red. No news from [?] yet; nor from William. We are very lonely. write home soon. Fighting in North Carolina considerably. I had a letter from you dated the 3rd (Monday last). No more

— P. A. C.

P. S. If we stay here, write to us soon and often. We are glad to hear from you all. I fear you will get into a fight. Then if you do, give them fits.

Drury Wall is in the hospital & Sam will go today. Several have gone from the regiment sick. Old Butler & Sore leg ranaway night before last & I hope they may go clean, if they will not report to the Yankees.

The mail was sent in to you today. A letter from my gal this morning. All sick with Diphtheria. Some bad off and I fear dead by this. She is up yet. Make you as good a bed as you can without clothes. Capt. Gilliam just arrived & gave us some news from you all. Sorry you are badly situated. He is ordered to Weldon to act as Provost Marshal. He is glad, I know. Write soon. — P. A. C.

Letter 3

Wilson, North Carolina
September 17th, 1863

Dear Brother,

In conformity with promise, I write you my whereabouts &c. I left Mr. Wheeler’s on Tuesday at noon & arrived in Raleigh the next morning at 4 o’clock & had to lie over there till noon but my delay there was fortunate if my mission here will ever benefit me any for while there I accidentally met with Dr. Satchwell & Col. Joe Masten & they accompanied me to Col. Mallet 1 to get my transfer, but could not get it till I was subjected to another examination before the conscript board. I went before Drs. Baker and Coffey & by Baker’s kind feeling & sound judgment, I got through & was forthwith assigned to duty and to report to Dr. Satchwell & we both came on here. Arrived at 3 o’clock A. M. today, half sick, sleepy and tired. The Dr. let me rest today & recruit & look around, & learn the rules &c. He assigned me to duty this evening which will be principally with the pen as assistant clerk & also to write for the board of surgeons & the druggist &c. The business is so new to me & such an entire change. I do not know whether I shall like it or not & how I shall succeed in giving satisfaction. I will do all I can & the best I can & if I succeed & please the old coon, he may give me a more congenial berth in future as a druggist or in connection therewith.

Dr. Solomon Sampson Satchwell—a “snappish old cock and blisters a great deal.”

I have a nice room & fair bed—if the big chinches were dead, and I guess I’ll fix them soon. I sleep by myself. The clerk and myself occupy the rooms during the day and have the druggist at night. The fare is as good or better than I expected so far but would be much better if cooked better. I eat with the officers & apart from the private soldiers though I hear of no complaint with any class in that score. Everything seems to be well managed, but the old Dr. is a snappish old cock & blisters a great deal though. They say he is not a bad man after all which I hope to find true, for I never fancied his looks from my first sight. I expected to be almost as closely confined as if in the penitentiary. Have between 2 & 300 sick and wounded here now and almost full. I extracted one old tooth today for a soldier & did it before the old Dr. made a “happy list” & it seemed to please him. I am fearful all that sort of work will fall on me & will I ever get thanks or pay for it?

Have three young physicians here in attendance who do most of the practice. They are Drs. [Alexander] McDowell, Duggan, and [John Emory] Douthit of Clemmonsville. He was is 21st Regiment awhile. 2

I have not seen John [E.] Grubbs 3 yet as he has been moved out to a new ward apart from this & have not had a chance to see him yet, but learn he will never be able for duty again and cannot walk yet. The old Dr. made great enquiry for you. I will see him about my instruments & if he wishes them, I hope you will not be incommoded in coming by and staying a day or two. So soon as I can, I will see what can be done for William here, if anything.

Tell Mother I cannot say how I shall be satisfied but if I can merit a situation, I intend to make myself satisfied. Saw lots of troops passing from Lee to Bragg & Beauregard & they all called on [Gov. William Woods] Holden to show his head at the Depot & excitement & hatred for him is ten times worse than I expected. 4 I do not consider it safe no where & at no time. Have lots of mosquitoes here—bad at night. I will close this and add a few words tomorrow as it is bed tome now.

This is my address. P. A. C., Hospital, Wilson, N. C. I would write more but my paper is quite wet here now. Crops sorry. Old Alfred’s girls gave me peck of [ illegible]. Lots of troops expected by here tomorrow, going South. If you wish your letter brought for the camp, bring my cap. It will do as well as anything here. Bring it if you can, Tell William to try hard to stop his diarrhea soon as possible.

1 Major Peter Mallett was placed in charge of organizing, training, and deploying the men conscripted in North Carolina soon after Jefferson Davis signed the conscription act in April 1862.

2 John Emory Douthit was a doctor and surgeon with the 21st North Carolina Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. He was born in Clemmonsville, N.C., and received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1858. In 1860, while stationed at Wilson, N.C., Douthit met Medora (“Dora”) Crenshaw, and the two wed in 1863. After the war, Douthit opened a general goods store in Statesville, N.C. Douthit later moved to Kingsville, Mo. 

3 John Ensley Grubbs was 26 when he enlisted in Co. K, 52nd North Carolina Infantry. He was wounded on 17 December 1862 at Goldsboro, North Carolina.

4 William Woods Holden (1818-1892) was a politician in North Carolina but was opposed to secession. As the war progressed, he became more and more critical of the Confederate government and became the leader of the North Carolina peace movement. When he ran for office in 1864 but was roundly defeated. When the war ended, Holden was appointed Governor by President Andrew Johnson.

Letter 4

Wilson, North Carolina
October 7, 1863

Dear Brother,

A letter from Martin of recent date is at hand informing me that you are all well and also that you had your furlough extended & would not return in ten or fifteen days. I am glad to hear you are yet at home & improving. I hope you will soon be entirely well but I hate to see you leave home again—or rather, hear it.

I am well but very tired, but my day’s work is only half done. I have only a moment’s time to write you. Contrary to Dr. Satchwell‘s promise to me which you heard in Salem, I have been made a nurse & a Ward Master & have charge of Ward Tayloe & five wounded men—the worst cases in the hospital—and have but one assistant and fear I shall not keep him long as changes go on everyday.

My patients are as follows. One wounded through the shoulder, one badly through the calf of the leg with a bomb [shell]—both done at Gettysburg; one with his arm lately amputated near the shoulder who was wounded at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, last December; one with his back torn off six inches square down to the bone by a rail car near here lately & is the worst sore I ever saw. The last one is a negro boy with his hand off half way to the elbow, done lately in a sugar mill. I have to dress them all three times daily & three of them are helpless. All of them are doing well now.

I found my ward in a bad fix & will take a great deal of labor to straighten up. From 5 A. M. till 10 P. M. I do not rest one ten minutes & then I am frequently up after I got to bed with my men & lose much sleep. Though my work is hard and many times disagreeable, I believe I had rather do it than write & I am allowed more exercise & see more peace of mind.

When you return to camp, if you come by here, bring my shoes but leave my instruments and I will not use them if I had them. Though I have calls half dozen times daily for some operation on teeth, but I never could have time to work. You need not come by here on my account unless you choose. I am glad to hear you had a good time during your trip to Madison. Tell Mother not to send me any more fine shirts. I need no more of any kind now. My cap and a good pair of shoes is all I want now. In fact, do not need them just now but will soon. I prefer my business to mastering a fever ward. It’s more healthy and I can learn a great deal about surgical cases & how to treat wounds and sores generally. We have some very clever old women who superintend affairs in the hospital & I think they are interested in my behalf & I trust I shall get on well when once under way.

If I know I should always have surgical cases in my ward, I would like to have William with me but otherwise I know he could not stand it. Many of the old nurses are leaving and going to their regiments. Tell William to try and get some position as a detail & stay at or near home. Perhaps Capts. Chrisman, [John] Sloan or [John Austin] Lindsay at Greensboro can find him a place. Had better try them. Can you help him any? Do if you can. I am behind in news & no time to write more. If you come here, let me know. My love to all.

Brother, pray God that we may meet at home again & accept the love of your absent brother, — P. A. C.

Only ten minutes to write this scroll. Do not return to camp till able. Never mind what outsiders say. Care for yourself & let them sit. Has Dock sewn any wheat yet? Better sew all he can soon. All write soon. Tell Martin much obliged for his letter. Will answer soon.

Letter 5

Wilson, North Carolina
November 13th, 1863

Dear Brother,

Your letter of the 11th inst. came to hand this evening. Glad to hear from you. Heard from you through Martin this week. I am sorry you have to go to Virginia just at this juncture. I trust the good Lord will protect you in all your trials. As you expect to come here soon, I will not write you much. I am well & quite tired which is the case with me everyday. I have been removed to the most responsible ward in the main hospital. Have nine rooms to see & 17 patients to attend to now & to satisfy all their wants and sweep, pipe, and scour & keep the house neat and clean. Keeps me trotting from 5 A. M. till 9 P. M. and sometimes up all night long & yet I like my business very well so far.

As regards William, I can do nothing for unless he was here. I saw Dr. Satchwell relative to his case and immediately wrote him on the subject ten days ago which I presume he got. The Dr. said he could not tell me what could be done for him unless he could see him. Thought he had better come here before the board for if not able for field service, he ought not to be kept there. I want you to tell him to come here & try for a detail. I think if he can find the old Dr. in a good humor & hit him right, he will do all he can for him, & if he sets his head in his favor, he will be apt to succeed. The duty he would have to do here would be pretty hard & confining but indoors and would live very well—better than in the camp. If he could come in as an assistant for me, I could relieve him much & attend to him if sick. The Dr. Said if he was here as a patient, he could manage his case much better. If he comes for extension of furlough & it is granted, he could enter the hospital then & be the better able to procure a detail. You come and state the case to the Dr. & do all you can for him & perhaps we both can assist him some way to avoid ranks.

His regiment is all captured & will not stand a better chance to enter the service. Perhaps it would be well to get a certificate from Dr. [Theodore Felix] Keehln stating his case in full & his judgement on his disease & other papers & certificates that he can get. Better bring all his old papers with him. Would be best to come with you if ready to leave. If not, better let me know when he will be here if at all. I want him to come and try it. Will cost him but little & may profit him much. I will also electioneer with Dr. Douthit—is a member of the board & is from our county.

Ben a great revival of religion in this place lately & two of Drs. have professed. Maybe they will be more feeling now. Satchwell wants me to have my instruments brought & will surely enquire of you why you did not bring them. You need not tell him I forbade you bringing them but answer him as you can for I first agreed to send for them but afterward found I should wear to no profit. Bring me a couple bunches of neat envelopes, if not too dear. Worth $3 here. I prefer brown ones. Tell William and Mother I congratulate them more particularly on the appearance [of] Romulus Lee. May he live & be a man. I will write Henderson soon. Thank him for his letter. Pray for me. Farewell brother, — P A. C.

Jeff Davis passed here lately on his way to Richmond, however, did not see him. A citizen 50 years old was taken with dypyheria yesterday near this and died this evening.

Letter 6

The handmade envelope used to mail this letter is what is called a “turned cover”—reused due to the scarcity of paper during the Civil War.

Wilson, North Carolina
October 3rd 1864

Dear Brother,

Your letter of the 30th reached me last night and truly I was glad to hear your furlough had been extended 30 days. I was fearful you would have to return to camp soon and knew you were unfit for the field yet & I haed the thought of your going just now. You know I would like to stay at home now but if I knew you & William could stay, it seems I should not mind it half so badly. When you are home, I feel perfectly easy. But when in camp, I am always in dread. I hope your health may improve & you may get entirely well before your time expires.

I reached here the 30th & found all things right as far as I know. No complaint with the Old Dr. I wrote Mary yesterday & gave her the news, or at least all I have. There is a letter in Salem for me. Please get it when passing & give Mary to read it. I would like to see it though it is of no use now. What can be done for William? Help him get some place if you can. I hope he may do better than to come back here but better to come here if he cannot. I would prefer his getting in in Salem if possible, if his berth should be a little harder. Will be near home.

My time was so short I had to leave much unsettled that I wanted to do. I would be glad if you would let some safe man have my old horse for his feed, if possible. Horses are so scarce, I hate to sell him now if I can help. If the war should close soon, I would have need of him. He is not worth much but better than no horse. Does pretty well when worked regularly & very well in staves. Henderson can find use for him awhile. Do not let Oliver holler at & whip him. If he does, no one will take him & safely keep. Then you may sell him for all you can get. Any blind horse is worth $25 & one in specie is worth 27 in Confederate paper.

I hope you will assist Mary in getting her things home & put away. Let Albert help her. I left money with her to pay him. Pay him what is right for what he does for me. I would like to get him to sow some wheat for if any land can be had that will justify trouble & expenses. If you see any chances for two or three bushels, let me know immediately & I will get him to plough it in. If I can, I want to try to be on the safe side for bread next year. Had rather rent good land & then save poor land at house. How much will Dock sow? and what ground will he leave?

1864: John W. Booth to Maude J. Lester

I could not find an image of John but here’s a CDV of George D. Phillips who served in the same company of the 17th Connecticut (Conn. Historical Society)

This letter was penned by John W. Booth (1841-1908), the son of Orville Booth (1814-1888) and Annis Blackman (1814-1901) of Newtown, Fairfield county, Connecticut. John was a school teacher prior to his enlistment on 11 August 1862 as a private in Co. D, 17th Connecticut Infantry. By the time that John wrote this letter in February 1864, he had survived Burnside’s Mud March, and both the Battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. After the latter battle, the regiment was transported to South Carolina where they were engaged in siege operations on Morris Island and the eventual capture of Fort Wagner. Following this they were transported to Folly Island where they remained until April 1864.

From this letter we learn that after “nearly two years” of service, John’s “courage” was still at “high pressure” though he yearned for another correspondent to wile away the lonely hours on Folly Island, even to the point of answering newspaper advertisements for the same. In this letter, he responds to a newspaper ad placed by a woman named Maude J. Lester of Mystic Bridge (a suburb of Mystic), Connecticut, whom he didn’t even know. Unfortunately I have not been able to identify her further or find her ad placed in the Waverly. Most readers are probably aware that requests for correspondents was a common occurrence during the war—especially in the latter stages. As an example, here is one that was placed by a soldier in the 32nd Massachusetts in the Personal Ad column of the Springfield (Mass.) Republican in April 1864:

After the war, John married Mary Helen Northup (1843-1878) and worked as an accountant in Hartford for a time but eventually moved to New York City where he was employed as the Chief Examiner of Commissioners of Accounts, serving under Mayors Robert A. Van Wyck, Seth Low, and George B. McClellan (the former general).

It isn’t clear why the address on the back of the letter reads, “J. Wilkes Booth, Jr.” as John’s father was named Orville. Military records for John can be found under the name, “John W. Booth.” It may be possible that John’s middle name was not Wilkes but, since he was writing to an unfamiliar correspondent without any assurance that she would even respond, perhaps he merely hoped to capture her attention by capitalizing on the famous actor’s name, calling himself “John Wilkes Booth, Jr.” Little could he have imagined at the time what a villain the actor would become 14 months later.

Address John gave to Maude.


Folly Island, South Carolina
February 13, 1864

Availing myself of the facilities afforded by your “Special Notice” in a late number of the “Waverly,” I hasten to put in my plea for a small share of your attention. Should you think proper to notice me among so many candidates, I shall be very proud of the honor thus conferred.

Your object is “fun” and “mutual improvement.” I go in for having fun “mutual” if we can so arrange it. You remember the fable of the “boys” stoning the “frogs”—doubtless you could make lots of fun over an ignorant soldier’s letter if you should be disposed. I beg you not to, though, for I fear ridicule more than bullets.

What’s rare fun for one, often fails to arouse the mirth of another. Now we soldiers have lots of fun—practical jokes, cute speeches, ludicrous incidents, &c.—which fatten us us wonderfully, but which if recapitulated for your amusement might signally fail. I want first to get a letter from you and become somewhat familiar with your style & disposition. Then perhaps I can tell you something funny.

Maybe there is covert meaning in your “notice” and you intended to have “fun” in opening the correspondence. If so, I don’t think you will be disappointed. Nothing “out” would amuse and interest me more than perusing such a prodigious number & extensive variety of letters as must inevitably result from a “Notice” in the “Waverly.” One young lady friend of mine writes that she received 200 responses to her “advertisement” within a fortnight of its publication!

Shall I tell you of myself? My home is in Connecticut—Newtown, Fairfield county. I have been in Uncle Sam’s service nearly two years and my courage is at high pressure still. It’s these letters that keep our spirits up and prevent despondent feelings—these kind sympathy letters from loyal friends.

But I am making a long story of what I only intended for an appeal for a letter from you. Can I have it? Yours with respect, — J. W. B.

To Maude J. Lester, Mystic Bridge, Ct.

Address [to] J. Wilkes Booth, Jr., Headquarters Ames’ Brigade, Folly Island, South Carolina

1862: Wesley Scott to Jane (Davison) Scott

An unidentified soldier in the 9th N. Y. Heavy Artillery (formerly the 138th N. Y. Vols.) from CampSite artifacts.

This letter was written by Wesley Scott (1827-1902) to his wife, Jane E. (Davison) Scott (1840-1912) just weeks after his enlistment in Co. E, 138th New York Infantry. Wesley enlisted as a private on 8 September 1862 at Scipio, New York. The regiment was converted to artillery in December 1862 and designated the 9th New York Heavy Artillery on 19 December 1862. The regiment remained in the defenses of Washington D. C. May, 1864, when it was taken to the front and participated in the following battles: Cold Harbor, Monocacy, the Opequan, Cedar creek, siege of Petersburg, fall of Petersburg, Sailor’s creek. Fort Stevens, Snicker’s gap, Charlestown, Halltown. Smithfield, Hatcher’s Run and Appomattox. Wesley was not mustered out until 19 June 1865, having spent the final months of the war sick in a Washington D. C. Hospital.

Before the war, as a young man, Wesley went to the gold fields of California.

It should be noted that Wesley signed his name “Westley” though most other records spell his name Wesley.


Addressed to Mrs. Westley Scott, Fleming, Cayuga County, New York

Fort Kearney [near Washington D. C.]
October 6, 1862

Dear Wife,

It was with pleasure that I received your letter and was glad to hear that you was well. I do not enjoy very good health but I feel better than I have. I have to work on the road. We drill with a shovel and pick instead of a gun. We have got as bright a set of tools as was ever used and I guess as rusty a lot of guns.

“We drill with a shovel and pick instead of a gun. We have got as bright a set of tools as was ever used and I guess as rusty a lot of guns.”

— Westley Scott, 138th N. Y. Vols.

We have moved since I last wrote you and the report is that we have got to move again but I cannot tell where or when. Just as son as we get settled and get the machine running, then we have to pull up stakes and move. We do not have very good fare and some of the time it is rather short allowance. Some of the boys—and the most of them—find a great of fault and the most of them get discouraged and think that they have been sold. They are building a fort here and they have got a lot of contraband negroes building it—about 100. There is a string of forts not over one mile apart all the way around Washington—about from 4 to 6 miles—and soldiers enough to eat up the whole South if there were no more than report said when this war commenced.

“The climate here is very hot and dry, and [yet] cold enough in the night to freeze the nipples off of a cast iron soldier.”

— Westley Scott, 138th N. Y. Vols.

I said that I worked on the road but I have not worked but 4 days since I left Auburn. The climate here is very hot and dry and cold enough in the night to freeze the nipples off of a cast iron soldier.

I want to know if David has took that buckwheat or not—or whether it is good for anything. Tell Libby that I send her a kiss and that she must be a good girl and mind her Ma.

We are about four and a half miles from Washington. Do you know where or what has become of the 111th Regiment? 1 We have all kinds of reports here about them. I send you my love and I hope that God will guide and protect you from harm. Write as soon as you get this. Yours forever, — Westley Scott

Direct to Westley Scott, Co. E, 138th N. Y. V., Washington D. C.

1 The 111th New York Infantry was organized at Auburn and they were one of the regiments surrendered at Harper’s Ferry in September 1862 and were paroled at Camp Douglas in Chicago where they remained until December 1862.

1865: Samuel A. Miller to Elizabeth Irene Sage

I could not find an image of Samuel, but here is a CDV of Charles E. M. Olwin of Co. F, 123rd Ohio Infantry who was wounded in the Battle of Hatcher’s Run and lost his right leg. (LOC)

This letter was written by Samuel A. Miller (1839-1925), the son of Samuel Miller (1806-1875) and Elizabeth Kirkwood (1802-1880) of Richmond, Huron county, Ohio. Samuel—a Mennonite by faith—enlisted on 23 December 1863 as a recruit in Co. C, 123rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) and joined the command at Martinsburg, West Virginia, during the winter of 1863-64. In 1864 he participated in the battles of New Market, Winchester, Piedmont, Lynchburg, and Berryville, Virginia, where on 3 September he was wounded and sent to the hospital at Sandy Hook, Maryland. He was subsequently sent to a hospital at Frederick, Maryland, and then to Gallipolis, Ohio, where he remained until the close of the war. After he was discharged on 25 June 1865, he returned home to the family farm and married in 1871 to Elizabeth Aurilla Sykes (1844-1914). They lived out their days in Huron County, Ohio. [Source: Commemorative Biographical Records of the counties of Huron and Lorain, Ohio, 1894)

Samuel wrote the letter to his 10 year-old niece, Elizabeth Irene Sage (1865-1930) and her 7 year-old sister Evaline N. Sage. They were the two oldest of five daughters born to Seymour Norton Sage (1824-1883) and Samuel’s older sister, Hannah Miller (1832-1898) of Willard, Huron county, Ohio.


U.S.A. Gen Hospital
Ward 4
Gallipolis, Ohio
April 16th, 1865

Dear Niece,

I seat myself this pleasant Sabbath eve to write you a few lines in return to the kind and much welcomed letter which I received from you this morning. I was glad to think my niece thought enough of me to write me a letter. I received four letters this morning, all mailed Apr 10th—yours and one from Jake and one from sister Lib. It is a great pleasure to me to get letters—especially when they bring me good news. Though Libby I have some rather bad news to tell you of which I suppose you have heard of ere this—that is of the death of our President Abraham Lincoln. It is a sad affair and has made many a sad heart for it seemed as if he was almost a Father to us after four years of hard service and had to be assassinated in cold blood. It is too bad. I heard today that they had caught the man that shot him. I hope they have.

10 year-old Libby Sage

Well, Libby, I have not heard from Uncle John 1 since the battle but I hope and think he is alright for he is a lucky boy. I hope you have heard before this from him. Libby, I think this cruel war is about to a close and we will soon all be home again. That will be a happy day, don’t you I think? I know it will be to me and we will have a big time to your home. Lib, you and [your sister] Evy must go down to Grandpap’s and Grandmothers often and comfort them all you can. And you must also go to your Aunt Cate and Cousin Julia and Sanford’s and all your Aunts and cousins. I do not know but I am asking too much of you and Evy but you go as often as you can and be good girls.

Well, Lib, I believe I must close for tonight for I cannot see the lines.

Well, Lib, it is now Monday morning and I will try and finish my letter. This is indeed a beautiful morning and the woods is decked with green and everything looks lovely. Lib, I was glad to hear that your Pa was so near at home to work. You must tell him and your mother to write to me if they please and not wait for me to write for I have a good many letters to write. Libby, you may tell Julia I will write her a letter. Well, I must tell you how I am getting along. I am well with the exception of my wound which is getting better slowly. Well, I guess I must bring this to a close by wishing you all well. Write soon and remember me, — Samuel Miller

[to] Elizabeth Irene Sage

1 “Uncle John probably refers to Libby’s Uncle John, or Samuel’s brother, John W. Miller (1842-1936)

1862-63: Ezra Wilson Button to Harriett (“Hattie”) Emery

The two soldiers in this CDV are Jesse L. Berch (left) and Frank M. Rockwell (right of the 22nd Wisconsin. Frank was from Geneva and a mutual friend of both Ezra and Hattie. Frank is mentioned in the first letter. The woman is not identified. (LOC)

These letters were written by Ezra Wilson Button (1839-1901), the orphaned son of Riley Button (1800-1850) and Patience Weter (1800-1843) of Rome, Oneida county, New York. In 1860 he was enumerated in Linn, Walworth county, Wisconsin, in the household of his older brother Alexander Henry Button (1828-1918) where they both worked as carpenter-joiners.

On 15 August 1862, Ezra enlisted as a private in Co. C, 22nd Wisconsin Infantry—sometimes called the “Abolition Regiment.” He was taken a prisoner with some 200 others of his regiment in action at Thompson’s Station, Tennessee, on 5 March 1863 by Bragg’s Cavalry forces under Van Dorn but soon after exchanged. He mustered out on 12 June 1865. After the war, Ezra returned to Walworth county and in July 1866 he married Martha Ann Barker (1846-1935). He returned to his trade of carpentry and lived out his days in Bloomfield.

Ezra wrote the letters to Harriett (“Hattie”) Emery (b. 1847), the daughter of Daniel and Eliza (Abbey) Emery. She married in December 1867 to Capt. Hiram K. Edwards (1835-1905) of the 3rd Wisconsin Infantry.

The US Army Heritage & Education Center at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, hold the diary of Ezra W. Button, along with several of his letters.

Letter 1

Camp Coburn [Kentucky]
December 8th 1862

Dear Friend Hattie,

I am going to take the liberty of writing to you once more for I fear you did not get my last letter which was mailed on the fifth day of November and if you did get it, your answer has not yet come to hand. For the last two months I have looked very anxiously for an answer and it does not come so I have concluded to write for one. I am well and enjoying myself as well as can be expected. About one third of our boys are sick and death is almost daily thinning our ranks. Yesterday we were called for the first time to attend the funeral of one from our own company and we hope it may be a long time ere we are called to part with another of its members.

Now we will turn over a leaf. How do you like the looks of our second lieutenant Mr. I[saac] W. Kingman—pretty smart-looking fellow, isn’t he. Yes, and a military man too, and worth more as an officer than a dozen like our captain [Charles W. Smith]. But wait and see what a nice picture Libby gets before you boast much. Those socks created quite an excitement here in camp but they did not give me a fair chance as I was on guard that day. Still I presume it is all for the best. Some of the boys thought I could not find out who got the socks but I guessed as near as I could and then accused him and I could see by his eye that I was right. He says they are very nice and do credit to the one that knit them. But enough of this till Libby gets her picture—then we will see.

By some means we don’t get our letters as regular as we should but I have not lost any yet unless it is your answer to my last letter. Yet while there’s life, there’s hope, and I may get it today as the mail will soon be here. I have not written to you since we have been in our present camp but I presume you have heard from us by way of others writing. We are still in Kentucky and but twelve from Lexington and we pass our time in writing letters and doing guard and picket duty. We are having pleasant weather now but it too cold to make camp life very agreeable. There is a little snow and the ground is frozen quite hard. I have about come to the conclusion that I had rather work at carpentering than be a soldier in the winter season, but if I were sure we were doing any good, I should be satisfied.

Now I am going to change my base of operations and try and write you a letter for good luck was mine today and I got the long looked for letter. What do you think I saw tonight? Why it was nothing less than Mr. Rockwell from Wisconsin. He came to see Frank who has been sick for several days but is getting better now. Mr. Rockwell looks quite old-fashioned but anyone in this region that is not dressed in soldier’s clothes looks like a rebel. Now I will close this but first I will make a request and that s that after you have read this, you will burn it for I should not send this only for want of time. Now I will bid you good night and prepare for bed. — E. W. B.

Letter 2

Addressed to Miss Hattie L. Emery, Geneva, Walworth county, Wisconsin

Camp Coburn
December 9th 1862

Dear Friend Hattie,

I received your very welcome letter yesterday and now I am tryin in my poor way to pen answer and I want you to give me credit for being very prompt in answering. I have written one small sheet which I am almost ashamed to send to you but if you will agree not to be vexed with me, I will send it. I wish you could know just how good it seems to me to get a good long letter from some dear friend at home. Then you would not blame me for being impatient. But I fear I shall tell you but little news if I keep on in this way.

This is a splendid morning but rather to cold for comfort still we get along very well as we have a nice fireplace in one end of our tents. But now we have got to prepare for Company drill and I will try and finish this afternoon.

It did not take us a great while to drill a spell this morning so I get time to write a little more before noon. Now I will look over your letter and answer your questions. Your first question is how are yyou preparing your Thanksgiving Day and I will tell you as nearly as possible. It was a very fine day and I was on Provost Guard in the town of Nicholasville. I did not go to church as you did but I heard the church bells ring and saw lots of pretty girls going to church so you see I had something to be thankful for. Now I will let you guess what I had for dinner and tell you what I had for supper which the lady in front of whose house I was guarding brought out for me. I had a warm biscuit & butter, warm corn bread, beef steak, and good coffee. Now you may think there is nothing extra about all that but I thought it was pretty good and I felt thankful for it. One thing more I am thankful for and that is that we have a Colonel that is not to be scared by any civil authorities in Kentucky.

Yes, I think I can imagine just how things looked at your fireside last winter and I should like to make you a visit today but I presume I should not know enough to behave myself if I was in company with (white folks). Seems to me I have some faint recollection of our going to Dixie one night and of a particular star that shone as well as the comet. Don’t you think our regiment made a fine appearance while crossing the bridge at Covington. Probably you do not understand the order in which the companies are placed in the regiment. Instead of being in alphabetical order, they are as follows—a, f, d, i, c, h, e, k, g, b. So you see the color company is in the center of the regiment. I am glad to hear that the ladies of Walworth County have not forgotten the 22nd Regiment and I think some of the boys were glad to get those socks. I believe the people of Wisconsin are more for the Union than those of Kentucky for I have heard of but one wedding since we have been here and that was a negro getup.

Evening. We have had a battalion drill this afternoon and there is so many sick ones in our regiment that not over 400 men were out and all told we have not 700 efficient men. Now I think that is a pretty hard story to tell for a regiment that has been in the service no longer than ours.

Certainly I will rejoice with you that you have got done husking but did you have any husking bees? I assure you, I don’t know what will happen when Mr. Mickles’ new house is done but probably something that will astonish the natives. Now for your questions. And you say I must answer them truly. Did you ever know me to do differently? Yes, I like the life of a soldier so far just as well as I expected and there is but one thing about it that I do really dislike and that is to see so many of our boys sick. I tell you, it is hard to go through our hospital and see so many of our boys burning with the fever. But worst of all, James is with the number that is sick. But he is not dangerously ill and we will hope and pray that he may not be. Last night I was in the hospital and had a good long talk with him and this morning I have written to Uncle Palmer and told him all about it and asked him to come here as soon as possible. This morning James feels a little better and I am in hopes he will get along.

Now for another question. Our bill of fare—if so it may be called—is very simple. Hard bread, bacon, salt and fresh beef, rice & coffee and once in awhile we have potatoes but if we could have our food properly cooked we could get along very well. I will now tell you who my mess mates are and see how many of them you are acquainted with. They are as follows: James Holcomb, Dwight Allen, Noah & Frank Merriam, Elnathan Fellows, A. J. Howe, Stephen Knowles, Chauncey Dinsmore, Chandler Wells, Robert Saulsbury, William H. Bright, Martin F. Ross, Theron Aiken, James Weter & myself. Two of them are out now—James Holcomb & James Weter.

Now I have not space to tell you much about camp life and will leave it till some other time. Our Brigade has all gone and left us this morning and we shall have to march in a day or two. Now for the time I will have to bid you goodbye. Please write soon and direct as before, and I remain as ever one of your best friends. — E. W. Button

Letter 3

Addressed to Miss Hattie L. Emery, Genevam Walworth county, Wisconsin

Murfreesboro, Tennessee
July 21 [1863]

Dear Friend Hattie,

Your very welcome letter bearing date of July 14th came to hand on the 19th ult. and was gladly received by your soldier friend, and now after so long delay, I will try and pen a short answer. The general health of our company is good. There is some few exceptions. We have been having some very warm weather for the past week. Last night we had a heavy shower and this morning the air is quite cool and pleasant. Our duty is not so heavy here as while at Franklin. Therefore, I find more time to write letters but this is no sign I write longer ones.

From the 4th to the 10th of July our mail was delayed by Morgan or by his tearing up the railroad, and burning bridges between Louisville and Nashville. Since that time the letters have come in by the dozen and I have had to keep pretty busy to answer them all. But this is the last one unless I get some more today. I have just heard there is a prospect of our leaving this place soon but hope it is only rumor. I have been told that our Brigade was posted here, but this last report seems to contradict the former. Such is the life of a soldier. We stop at a place, set up our frail habitations, and get nicely to living, when the order comes to pull up stakes and travel we know not where. And I presume it is none of our business. Now, I had hoped that our marching was nearly done, but who can tell. We may yet be ordered to the Potomac. If we leave here, I have no idea where for which way we will go. A few days ago troops were ordered from this place to Cincinnati. Today troops are coming from Nashville here.

But enough of this. And now for your letter. By your account I should think you are having as warm weather in Wisconsin as we have here. So far this summer, let the days be ever so warm, we have cool, comfortable nights. Now you will excuse me a few moments as dinner is ready.

Evening and now for a few words more. Let me now excuse this long delay. Son after dinner it was proposed that a party of about 75 men from our regiment should go out to pick blackberries. Of course I was one of the number. So arming myself with a Springfield Rifle and a Patent pail, I started forth. You may think it strange and unnecessary that we should go around on such occasions as you are living in a land of peace and quiet, but here is is well at all times to be guarded against surprise. We went out three miles to the stockade. Here we left the teams, crossed Stone River on the railroad bridge, went about a half mile beyond, and here we found the berries. I got my pail full of nice ones—the nicest I ever saw. Well I came back to camp all right; only my hands feel a little worse for wear. Now if you want some of the berries, you are perfectly welcome and I wish you had them. Now to proceed with your letter.

Wednesday morning.I will now make one more effort. Guess this will be good when you get it. You must have had a gay time at the picnic. By the way, I had a picnic dinner on the fourth but more of this anon. Yes, I think gentlemen must be scarce in that region and what few are left do not seem to be of the most gallant sort. I expect things will be done up brown when the soger boys get home, don’t you? I will tell you soon how I went to the fourth, and see if you do not think I had a good time.

I would like it very much if you could send me a copy of the oration delivered at Geneva. I have before heard it was good and would like to read it. The Ladies Aid Society seem to be doing a good work, and I wish the poor sick soldiers could receive the benefit of their doings (as no doubt the members of the society think they do), but I tell you (and I know it by actual experience) by the time the surgeons and waiters have handled over and gorged themselves on the good things sent, there is but little if any left for those for whom it was intended. Still I do not wish to discourage anyone in a good work. Mr. Powell sent Carroll’s letter to John and I have read it.

“How nobly those negro soldiers acted in bringing the body of the wounded Gen. Paine off the field. When one was shot down, another would volunteer to take his place, and this way fourteen of them were killed before the General was brought off the field. Hereafter, no one must tell me that Negro is a coward and will not fight for none are more brave.”

—Ezra W. Button, 22nd Wisconsin
Gen. Halbert Eleazer Paine

The 4th Regiment have done some big fighting at Port Hudson. The state may well be proud of the regiment. At the same time, how many will be called upon to mourn the loss of dear friends slain in that terrible charge. But they died nobly and their names shall live in history. How nobly those negro soldiers acting in bringing the body of the wounded Gen. [Halbert Eleazer] Paine off the field. When one was shot down, another would volunteer to take his place, and in this way fourteen of them were killed before the General was brought off the field. Hereafter, no one must tell me that a Negro is a coward and will not fight for none are more brave. 1

The printed letter which you send me is very good in its way and sounds quite natural. I wonder what the writer thinks now about our being able to capture Charleston and about the progress of the war in general. I would like to see the young lady that claims to be the writer.

Now a few words about our late travels and I will close this. I believe we were at Franklin when I last wrote you. Well on account of a difficulty between our officers which resulted in their being all put under arrest (that is, all the line officers) and unfitting us for duty as a regiment, other troops were ordered to take our place and on the third day of July, about 4 o’clock P. M., we took up our line of march towards Murfreesboro. The first day we marched about fives miles and bivouacked for the night in a thick grove of large forest trees. All passed off quietly through the night and early on the morning of the fourth, we resumed our march. The day was very warm and the roads as rough as one could easily imagine. About ten A. M. and when but three miles from Triune, we were informed that the place was held by 2,000 rebels under Gen. Forrest. This made us open our eyes, for if the report was true, we might yet have a chance to celebrate the fourth. Scouts were sent ahead and we followed slowly after. When about half a mile from town, we got later news. The rebs were only 200 strong and they had gone away the night before. So for the time our fears were allayed. Just out of town, we stopped in a grove of fine shade trees for an hour or so to eat our picnic dinner of hard bread and bacon, and to rest ourselves preparatory to the afternoon’s march.

About one o’clock we were again on our way. The sun shone forth is all its midsummer brightness and with intense heat. When about three miles out from Triune, one of the cavalry scouts, which was ahead, came riding back with the intelligence that rebel pickets were seen by the advance in the road about a mile ahead. The regiment was halted. Co. A sent ahead as skirmishers and the other companies formed in columns across the road ready to deploy on either side in case of an attack. In this position we awaited the final result. Meanwhile the scouts had been ahead and discovered the cause of the alarm, which was neither more or less than two or three hunters who had stopped by the roadside to rest and pick blackberries. So this like the other at Triune proved to be a big scare. Once more we were on our way. I for one was very glad that rebs were only imaginary.

About sundown we stopped for the night. We were pretty well worn out with the days fatiguing march and after getting our Fourth of July supper, we spread our blankets on the ground and with the clear blue sky as our only covering, we lay down to dream of hime and friends who were now so far away. While here I could not help but contrast my present position with that occupied one short year ago. Then I was at home surrounded with friends. Now a stranger in a strange land surrounded by hostile foes. And I thought, will another year bring forth such changes? We hope it may bring us home. But enough of this foolish scribbling. I do not feel like writing today. Therefore, with my best wishes and love to all, I will bring this to a close. Hoping soon to hear from you again and remain as ever your friend. — E. W. Button

Please write soon. Excuse all mistakes and direct as before. Yours ever, — E

Assault of the Louisiana Native Guards at Port Hudson, Louisiana on 27 May 1863, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper

1 The Blacks soldiers making the attack with Gen. Paine’s brigade included two regiments under the command of Col. John A. Nelson consisting of troops raised in Louisiana known as the 1st and 3rd Louisiana Native Guards.

1862-65: John Stockett Button, 5th Maryland Infantry

These letters were written by John Stockett Button (1840-1880), the son of John Button (1802-1841) and Sarah Jane Wells (1809-1885) of Annapolis, Arundel county, Maryland. Mentioned throughout the letters are siblings, Georgeanna Button (1826-1915) who was married to 2d Lt. “William” Henry Irving (1823-1871)—William served with John in the 5th Maryland Infantry; “Sarah” Jane Button (1829-1908), the wife of “Louis” H. Rein (1836-1914)—a German-born clothing store owner in Annapolis; Elijah Button (1831-1917) and his wife “Lizzy” Phelps (1837-1899); Emory Button (1837-1905) and his wife Elizabeth Ann Haupt (1841-1925); and younger sisters Sophia, Isabella and Julia.

The drum carried by Mathias Lowman of Co. I, 5th Maryland Infantry

The 5th Regiment Infantry was organized at Baltimore, Md., September, 1861 and served at camp at LaFayette Square, Baltimore, Md., until March, 1862. Ordered to Fortress Monroe, Va., March 11, 1862. Duty there and at Suffolk, Va., to September, 1862. Moved to Washington, D. C., thence to Antietam, Md., September 8-16. Battle of Antietam, Md., September 16-17. Moved to Harper’s Ferry September 22 and duty there until January, 1863. Reconnaissance to Charleston October 16-17. At Point of Rocks and Maryland Heights protecting Baltimore & Ohio Railroad until June, 1863. Moved to Winchester, Va., June 2. Battle of Winchester June 13-15; mostly captured; those not captured at Bloody Run, Pa., and Loudon, Pa., until July. Duty in the Defenses of Baltimore, Middle Department, until January, 1864, and in the District of Delaware, Middle Department, until June, 1864. Ordered to Join Army of the Potomac in the field June 4, 1864. Siege operations against Petersburg and Richmond, Va., June 16, 1864, to April 2, 1865. Mine Explosion, Petersburg, July 30, 1864 (Reserve). Duty in trenches before Petersburg until September 27. Battle of Chaffin’s Farm, New Market Heights, September 28-30. Battle of Fair Oaks October 27-28. Duty in trenches before Richmond until April, 1865. Occupation of Richmond April 3. Pursuit of Lee to Appomattox Court House April 3-9. Appomattox Court House April 9. Surrender of Lee and his army. Duty in the Dept. of Virginia until September, 1865.

Union encampment just outside of Baltimore, Maryland

Letter 1

Camp Hoffman [at Lafayette Square]
Baltimore, [Maryland]
February 26th 1862

Dear Mother,

Patriotic stationery used by John S. Button to write his widowed mother in February 1862

I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to inform you that I am well and hope this will find you the same. I have not been to Annapolis since November. I was going down Christmas but was not well enough and there has been an order issued prohibiting any more furloughs on account of the foreward movements of our Army.

We now occupy comfortable houses built for us during the winter. We had a glorious celebration on Saturday in honor of the birth of Washington and the grand victories of our grand Army and Navy, the news of which I presume you have heard. There was about 7,000 soldiers in the line with the gallant Major General John A. Dix and staff at our head. We then paraded through the city amid the waving of flags and handkerchiefs over our head by the Ladies. After this, ours (the 5th Maryland Volunteers) marched to the Maryland Institute where we was presented with two handsome silk flags—one by the Union Ladies, the other by the Hon. Henry W. Hoffman, Collector of the Port.

Louis came to see me on Tuesday last. He brought me some things to use, among them shirt, pen, ink, paper, envelopes, looking glass, and comb. I think he is very kind to me. Sarah came to see me today, She is well and hearty. All are well at home and send their love to you all.

There are a great many sudden deaths in Annapolis. Joseph Barber died very sudden sometime since. Joshua Brown’s son John dropped dead last week. Mary Hutton died sudden and old Mr. Schwane dropped dead this morning.

I must now come to a close. There is nothing more worth my writing to you. Write to me soon and often for I cannot find time to write to you as often as I wish. Give my love to all and a share for yourself.

I remain your affectionate son, — John S. Button, Co. B, 5th Maryland Volunteers

Letter 2

Camp Hamilton near Fortress Monroe, Letterhead of John S. Button’s Letter

Camp Butler
Newport News, Virginia
April 20th 1862

Dear Mother,

I take this opportunity to write to you to let you know that I am well and hope this will find you the same. I wrote to you some time since but have received no answer yet, and I do not know what to make of it, whether you are sick, or moving to Annapolis again. If you should receive this letter, answer it immediately as I want to hear from you to know where you are so that I can send you some money. I signed the State Payroll last week which amounts to one dollar a week which is a small amount, but amounts up in the course of a year. I have signed it in your favor and you will tell Elijah to see to it for you. The first payment will occur next month. He must write to George Taylor and find out the Committee that has the paying of it.

The picture at the head of this represents Camp Hamilton which is about three miles from our camp. You must keep all these pictures that I send you so that if I should live to get home alive, I can explain all the incidents of the war.

N. B. Since I commenced this I received yours of the 17th of April and I don’t know when I received a more welcome letter in my life, but I was struck at hearing of Grandmother’s illness. I don’t know what to think of my relatives at Annapolis. They do not write to me at all. I have written four letters to Annapolis but get no answers from them. I have just been informed by one of our officers that Col. John Walton is the man that pays the State money to the soldiers’ parents. The payment commences from the time of my enlistment which amounts to 24 dollars to the first of April. I enlisted on the first day of October which makes it six months on the first of April. You can get the money as soon as you go to Annapolis and apply to Col. Walton for it.

Enclosed you will find five dollars which I willingly give to you. I have to keep some by me as I do not know what might happen before we are paid again. I also send you some of my hair which you requested of me. It is not so good a lock as I wish it to be owing to the shortness that I have kept it since I have been in the Army. Also a picture representing the last shot fired by the Cumberland as she went down.

This engraving from one of the Illustrated newspapers was entitled, “Last Shot fired from the Cumberland as she went down.”

William got a letter from Baltimore today and they are all well and send their love to you. I notice that you left Company B out of your direction this time. You must be particular about it hereafter for I may never get your letters for some weeks if I get them at all.

I must now close for the want of something worth relating. Give my love to all and a large share for yourself. Write immediately after you get this. I remain your affectionate son until death, — John S. Button

Co. B, 5th Regt. Maryland Vols., Newport News, Va. or elsewhere.

P. S. You spoke in your letter that there was a great battle expected at Yorktown. There has been hard fighting there for several days but you need not be uneasy about us for they have enough without us. Besides, we have to hold this important place. William sends his love to you and says he is in good spirits but would like to see his family. Keep up a good heart and spirits. Goodbye, — J. S. B.

Letter 3

Camp Butler
Newport News, Virginia
April 28, 1862

Dear Mother,

I have just received your eagerly looked-for letter and seat myself to answer it, informing you that it found us all well and in good spirits, and I hope this will find you the same.

I feel very much relieved to know that you received the $5 that I sent to you. In sending it, I did not myself but only wish that I could have sent you more. It pains me very much to hear that you feel so uneasy about us for it is as healthy here as it is at any place and if we are called upon to battle the enemy and fall in the attempt to restore our flag and country as it was handed down to us by our ancestors, and blot out the stains put upon it by the foul hands of traitors, we have the consolation and honor to know that we fall in a just and righteous cause—for our country is as sacred as our lives and we should not hesitate to rally in its defense, let the consequences be what may. But cheer up and keep a good heart for I hope that the day is not far distant when we shall all assemble to our once more quiet homes to be disturbed no more by ruffians and traitors.

I received a letter from Georgeanna. They are all well and send their love to you all. William wrote a letter to you the day after I wrote my last, but you make no mention of it in yours. Perhaps you did not receive it in time as there was no boat from Baltimore the day he mailed it. If you have not answered it when you get this, do so as soon as you can.

I am gratified to learn that you are all going back to Old Annapolis. Also that there has been 300 more students added to the school. It will be the means of keeping Annapolis at par with its former value. I am very glad to hear that Grandmother has got out again, for I felt uneasy about her. Send my love to her when you write and tell her to take good care of herself for I want to see you and her once more. There is nothing worth relating to you so I must bring my letter to a close by bidding you a happy night’s sleep with pleasant dreams. Give my love to all and a large share for yourself. William sends his love to you all and says you must cheer up and not be uneasy about us.

I remain your affectionate son until death, — John S. Button

Co. B, 5th Regt. Maryland Vols. USA, Newport News, Va., or elsewhere.

Letter 4

Camp Butler
Newport News, Virginia
6 o’clock P. M., May 10th 1862

Dear Mother,

With the permission of William, I send you a note in his letter informing you that I am well and hope this will find you the same. It gives me much pleasure to inform you that at 5 o’clock this morning the Rebel steamer Merrimack exploded her magazine, she having been set on fire early last night by her officers who then deserted her. Mother, it was a beautiful sight to see her. We had a full view of her all the time. She lay fully 12 miles from us but the report of the explosion shook the very earth.

We have taken the city of Norfolk. This was done this morning and we have taken the Rebel steamers Jamestown, Teaser, and sunk the Yorktown. We lost the steamer Port Royal in this engagement. It took place three days ago.

I have received no letter from you this week or I would have written sooner. As soon as I receive your letter, I will give you a full account of the whole affair. Give my love to all and a share for yourself. I remain your affectionate son, — John S. Button

Letter 5

Fortress Monroe, Va.
July 3, 1862

Dear Mother,

I take this opportunity to write you a few lines informing you that I am still in the land of the living and enjoying good health and hope you are enjoying the same blessing.

I received your letter in due time and was glad to hear from you all. I would have answered it sooner but have not had time having bee on the go all the time, but having caught a spare moment this evening, I hasten to make use of it.

There is nothing of importance to relate to you. Tell Elijah and Lizzy that I congratulate them upon becoming mother & father of a son. I hope to live to see them raise it up to be a soldier.

Give my love to all and a large share for yourself. Georgeanna has been home about two weeks. All are well with them except Alice. She has been very sick but has got most well again. William sends his love to you all. I got your picture. I think it is the best one you ever had taken.

Please excuse this miserably written letter as this pen is worthless and my time very sparing.

I will now close my note wishing you a happy Fourth of July. I remain your affectionate and obedient son until death. — John S. Button, Fortress Monroe, Va.

Letter 6

Fortress Monroe, Virginia
August 24, 1862

Dear Mother,

I take this the first opportunity to answer your kind and welcome letter. I was glad to hear that you were all enjoying your usual good health as it is my lot to enjoy the same good blessing.

I was in Baltimore last Monday and found them all enjoying their usual health. I went to see Eliza and Ellen. They were both well and send their love to you.

I notice in the [Baltimore] Clipper this morning a sad accident which resulted in the death of George Wilson. About 12 young men went from Annapolis and enlisted. Among them was George Wilson and Ike Richardson. George was examining a breach-loading pistol, when Richardson asked him to let him look at it, which he did, when by some means or other it exploded, the ball striking him in the ear and went through his head, killing him instantly. Another young widow left behind! Poor George. I am sorry for his wife and father.

There is nothing of importance to relate to you. McClellan has taken his army from the front of Richmond and has gone to Aquia Creek to join Pope and Burnside. You may look for some news from them soon, which I hope will end this bloody strife.

We have not been paid off yet. They owe us for four months. I expect we will be paid very soon and I will send you some. I must now close for want of something to say. I wish you all good health and prosperity. Write soon and let me hear from you all. I remain your affectionate and obedient son until death, — John S. Button

Letter 7

[It should be noted that someone has traced with ink the original handwriting which was rendered in light pencil.]

Camp at Harpers Ferry, Va.
October 4th 1862

Dear Mother,

I take this opportunity to write an answer to your long looked for and welcome letter of the 24th informing me of your good health, which blessing I still enjoy with the exception of fatigue. I have been Orderly for Acting Brig. General Schley ever since the Battle of Antietam which situation keeps me carrying messages to and from Headquarters. I stay at Headquarters altogethers.

There is some talk of us going to Baltimore. God grant that we may for I am sick and tired of living out doors in dirt and nothing seemingly to eat. William has been sick for several days but he is getting very well again. He sends his love to you all.

I shall make a strong effort for my discharge from the Army for I am completely played out by long marching and broken rest. If we were paid off, I would send you money to come down for I would have no trouble in getting it through your influence. I must now close my note for the want of time for I have now stolen away to write this. Give my love to all and a large share for yourself. Direct your letter as your last.

I remain your affectionate and obedient son until death, — John S. Burton

Letter 8

Headquarters 5th Regt. Maryland Vols
Camp on Maryland Heights
November 13th 1862

Dear Mother,

I received your letter last evening and was glad to hear from your, moreso to hear that you were all well as I am still enjoying the same good blessing. You want to know about the specks you sent me. They are the best I have ever had yet. I am in the midst of many friends but not a house within a mile or two of our encampment. As for the nearness to home, I suppose we are about three miles nearer the Bolivar Heights, but being in our native state is as near as we can wish without being immediately at home. I am perfectly contented with my fate, and only hope that you are the same for I do not expect to fire another gun at the Rebels.

I am now in the midst of getting a still easier, and perhaps a better paying berth than I now have. I have been told that the Quartermaster is trying to get me as his clerk. If he succeeds, I will have to give my gun and equipments up and keep in the rear—all the time. He may not succeed, but I am told he is making a strong effort for me. I am surprised to hear this for he is a friend more than I thought I had, and one that has some influence. This news I heard today. When coming past his tent with the mail, I heard a voice crying “Johnny!” I turned and looked and it was my friend Hawkins, the Quartermaster’s sergeant. He took me one side and told me he had something to tell me and that I must keep it a secret until it was over with. I told him I would. He asked me if I was aware of getting a better place than I had. I told him I was not. He then told me that the Quartermaster was after me as clerk and that he thought I would get the appointment. I told him that I was surprised at the Quartermaster being such a friend to me. Oh no, he says. He, the Quartermaster, has always held you in the highest estimation as an honest, upright, young man—such a one as he would like to have about him. I hope he may succeed for if I get with him, my fare would be much better than it now is. The pay, I think, is more. I am not certain about it though. If I get it, I will write to let you know.

If you have not already sent the box, I would like you to put in it about a dozen papers of Union Smoking Tobacco, 4 or 5 quires of plain (not fancy) letter paper, and some number of packs of envelopes, plain white one half and the balance buff colored, plain. Also 6 dozen boxes of matches, one box of fine cut [ ] tobacco, one dozen pen holders, and pens, and if you can get it, send me a little brass padlock and send a bill with the cost of each article on it. All of these things I can sell very readily and double my money on them. Even if you have sent the box, it will pay to send another. And don’t forget to bake a nice loaf of homemade bread and send me. I would like to have about a dollar’s worth of 3 cent postage stamps. If you send the stamps, send them in your next letter. There is a great demand for all of the above articles as there [rest of letter missing].

Letter 9

Headquarters 5th Regt. Md. Vols.
Camp on Maryland Heights
November 16, 1862

Dear Mother,

I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines informing you that I am well and hope this will find you enjoying the same blessing.

I received my box containing a dress coat & pants, one shirt, 2 pair gloves, a smoking cap, one box of fried oysters, some pies, and apples, and some tobacco. The coat and pants are the finest I have ever seen of the government uniform and are much admired by all who saw them on me today. The coat fits as if it was made for me. The pants too with the exception of being an inch too long—a very good fault in soldier’s pants; the shirt just came in time for me to have a change; the gloves are just the kind for my purposes, going to so many Headquarters, and consequently meeting with a great many Generals. That cap! oh how I was tickled at it; just the thing to sleep in; just the thing to keep my ears warm this winter. In fact, it is just the very thing. I wanted and did not know it and the oysters were a great treat to me, the pies and apples the same, the tobacco is always a welcome article.

I am a thousand times indebted for these many favors of comfort at yours and Sarah’s hands which render me more grateful to you both, as I am so situated as to know how to appreciate them more than I should were I at home.

I hope you received my last letter in due time to get the articles I wrote for sometime this week as the demand for them is very good at this time.

I have not received a letter since I last wrote to you. I wrote to James last week and have received no answer from him yet. I must now close my letter. Give my love to all enquiring friends and a share for yourself. I remain your affectionate and obedient son until death.

— John S. Button

Letter 10

Headquarters 5th Regt. Maryland Vols.
Harpers Ferry, Va.
January 4, 1863

Dear Mother,

I embrace this opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope this will find you all enjoying the same good blessing. I was surprised in the 2d to receive a box from you with a vest, cake, piece of tobacco and some apples. Also a letter. And upon opening it I was still more surprised to learn that the cake came from Newport, Rhode Island—a long distance to send cakes. But when I came to the eating part, I did not find it to be as good a raisin loaf as the one you sent me for Christmas.

I am sorry to hear of so many sudden deaths in your beautiful little city, I hope by this time the fell destroyer—death—has left your city for a long time to come, for I am afraid of hearing of the death of some of the family in every letter I receive from you. I would like very much to see the Port Tobacco Times and Annapolis Gazette with a list of those drafted in them. If you can get a copy of each of them, forward them to me by the mail.

There is nothing worth relating to you from this part of the Army. All is quiet around us.

It now becomes my sacred duty to wish you a Happy New Year. May it be a year of prosperity, peace and plenty. May it be one of enjoyment rather than trouble with you all. May we all live to see many more Happy New Years, and that it may be my lot to be with you all in the forthcoming one, never to leave my happy home again. May it not be our lot to want for the necessaries of life, nor may it never be the lot of Maryland to feel the pangs of war on its soils in 1863 as she did in the year just past at South Mountain, Antietam, Sharpsburg, and on the whole of her soil bordering on the Upper Potomac, is the prayer of your son, now in arms to defend her rights and sacred honor.

Give my love to all enquiring friends and a large share for yourself. Write soon and let me hear from you all. It gives me a great comfort to receive a letter from home. I will now pen a few lines suited for yourself and should be copied in an album.

Lines from a Soldier to his Beloved Mother

Most venerated mother dear,
It is a custom world-wide known,
To wish a happy better year,
Than the one that just has flown.

May God take care of you, I pray,
Always protect you night and day;
And when the war is past and o’er,
From you, I’ll leave to roam no more.

Oh! how I wish to be with you.
I dream of you both night and day,
But Mother dear, there’s very few
With a nobler Mother, blessed today.

— John S. Button

I must now bring my letter to a close by subscribing myself your affectionate and obedient son until death. — John S. Button

Letter 11

Headquarters 5th Regt. Maryland Vols.
Harper’s Ferry, Va.
January 18, 1863

My Dear Mother,

I embrace this opportunity to answer your kind letter of the 16th inst. and was pleased to hear that you were all enjoying your usual good health. It still lies in my power to inform you that I am well and enjoying myself as much as can be expected in these times that tries men’s souls.

I was greatly surprised at noon yesterday by being informed that Georgianna had arrived at Sandy Hook, Maryland (here is where William is stationed with his company doing Provost Guard Duty). I immediately got permission from the Colonel and put on my coat, and started in full speed to see if she had come. I was not disappointed, however, for when I arrived there she was sure enough, and I tell you I was glad to see her. She came down with Mrs. Marsh. She did not bring any of the children with her as she will not stay more than two or three days. She left all well at home and is looking very well herself. She sends her love to you all.

Dear Mother, you are not aware that there is a sum of money due you by the City of Baltimore which will be of some benefit to you. The amount is five dollars per month commencing from the 17th day of August last, which amounts to the sum of 25 dollars on the 17th of this month. I will now put you in the way of getting it. In the first place, you will have to go and make affidavit before a magistrate that I am your legal and lawful son, and that you are dependent upon me for a living. The magistrate will then give you a certificate. This you will take to Baltimore and present to Samuel McKubbin, City Comptroller of Baltimore. You will find him at the Mayor’s Office in Holliday Street. I hope you will spare no pains in procuring this money for I have gone to a great deal of trouble to place it in your reach. There is no trouble about getting it as all that have applied for it have been successful in procuring it. After you get the first payment, there will be no trouble in your getting it monthly, of the 17th of each month.

I am very glad to see that Thomas J. Wilson has been appointed paymaster in the Regular Army. It is a lifetime office. I hope he will be the one to pay our Regiment hereafter. I was down to Sandy Hook today and ate my dinner with William. The Colonel and Lieutenant Colonel, and Capt. Marsh were there to dinner also.

I am very much afraid that I will not be able to get home after all. The power of granting furloughs has been taken from the General Commanding here and transferred to General Schenck in Baltimore. I shall try very hard for it anyhow.

I must now bring my letter to a close as it is getting late in the evening. Write an answer by return mail and let me hear from home. Give me all the news you have in store for me. Tell the girls to write and don’t be afraid of making mistakes or bad writing. I will excuse all these for the sake of humanity.

My love to all enquiring friends and double share for yourself. In conclusion, I remain your affectionate and obedient son, until death. — John S. Button

To Mrs. Sarah Button, Annapolis, Md.

Letter 12

Annapolis [Maryland]
Wednesday, December 15, 1863

Dear Mother,

I will now answer your kind letter. I would have done it before but have been quite sick since I last wrote to you. I am still in the house but I want to go to work tomorrow.

I am happy to inform you that Grandmother is much better. She has been sitting up yesterday and today. She may last a year or two longer but I will not be surprised to hear of her death any night I come to town.

Aunt Ann came down yesterday to see Grandmother. She was so glad to see her old sister that she got better immediately. Aunt Ann is looking quite well. She sends her love to you. Old. Dr. Clande has been buried since I wrote. The Masonic order were at his funeral.

Since I wrote to you I have myself been initiated in the “Improved Order of Red Men,” and hope to become a useful and honored member thereof. The first money I get I shall take the first and second degree. It is my wish to become an Odd Fellow and Mason while I can spare the money, and then when I get out of the Army—if I am lucky enough to get out—I shall have some friends to care for me.

I must now close. I have given you all the news. Little “John” is well and can almost talk. All the children are well. Sarah and Louie send their love to all. I have no heard from Uncle Elijah yet.

Give my love to all and a large share for yourself. Hoping this will find you all well, I remain your affectionate son. — J. S. Butter

Letter 13

Headquarters 5th Maryland Detachment
Hanover Switch
February 28, 1864

My Dear Mother,

I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines informing you where I am. I am well and hope this will find you all enjoying the same blessing.

I am comfortably situated here, only 12 miles from Baltimore, and 7 from Annapolis Junction. Mother, the day I left Annapolis, Aunt Julia gave me 20 dollars to send you. I wanted a good many things for comfort, besides not knowing where I was going. I thought I had better keep the money rather than suffer. We are to be paid son and I will forward the amount to you. I hope you will not censure me for keeping it for I did it against my desire.

I will enclose you her letter and hope to send you the money in two weeks time. Schley is doing all he can to make us reenlist but he has got one too many this time. If they were to give ten thousand dollars bounty and a year’s furlough, I would not reenlist again.

They are all well in Baltimore and Annapolis except Louis. His health is no better. I am going to Balto. tomorrow on a pass.

I received Lizzie’s and Sophia’s letters and will answer them in due time. Give my love to all and a large share for yourself. Write soon. No more at present but remain your affectionate son, — John S. Button. Corporal Co. B, 5th Maryland Vols., St. Dennis P. O. Baltimore County, Maryland

Excuse this letter. I am on guard and very sleepy but must stay up all night.

Letter 14

Fort Delaware, Delaware
April 7, 1864

My Dear Mother,

Your long and anxiously looked-for letter has come at last. I received it today and hasten to give it an early answer. I was very happy to hear from you, that you were all enjoying good health, which blessing it is my lot to enjoy.

I saw Emory and his wife when in Baltimore. They were well. Emory is very busy, not having time to remain home more than a day or two at one time. They are all well at Annapolis. Louis is very busy at present, there being over thirty thousand troops there. Georgeanna is well; also her family. William wrote you a letter sometime since. I read it before it was mailed and think it a very friendly epistle. He has changed wonderfully since being in the Army, being altogether a different man, which change gives me great pleasure. You acknowledge the receipt of his letter and I truly hope that you will give it an early and friendly answer. He says it is the second one has has written to you, and has got no answer. He wrote to you when we were at Newport News. He says if you don’t answer this, he will never write you another.

Mother, I am glad you did not think hard of me in keeping the money I received from Aunt Julia. It was a God send to me for had I not kept it, I should have suffered for something to eat on my journey. We have not been paid yet but are looking for it daily. As son as we are paid, I shall transmit the amount to you immediately.

Well Mother, I was twenty-four years of age last Tuesday week, but I can scarcely realize the fact. My time in the Army is growing shorter every day and I will hail with joy, if I live, to see the first day of November next. If you are still in Newport, do not be surprised to see a fine, black cloth suit, walk in to greet you all with his Freedom in one hand and love in the other, about Christmas time.

I do not know how long I shall remain here. I have made many friends among the officers, which perhaps might keep me here when the regiment should leave. I hope so at any rate.

Mother, answer this as soon as you can that I may always get an answer in case we should leave. William sends his love to you and says he is looking anxiously for an answer to his letter. Give my love to all and keep a large share for yourself. Hoping this may find you all still in the enjoyment of good health, I remain your affectionate son, — J. Sockett Button

Corporal Co. B, 5th <aryland Vol. Infantry, Fort Delaware, Delaware.

Give my love to Sophy and tell her to write me a nice letter. I think a great deal of her. By writing me a letter now and then, she will improve in her letter writing. She can write better now than Alice. Tell her I would like to see her very much. It has been more than two years since I last saw her. — J. S. B.

P. S. Fort Delaware is entirely surrounded by water, being almost 4 miles from New Jersey and 3 from the Delaware shore. We have a steamer that runs daily to Salem, New Jersey, Newcastle, Wilmington, and Delaware City, Delaware. I have not been off the island since I landed but as soon as we get paid, I intend visiting the above cities. No more but remain. Your affectionate son, — J. Stockett Button

Letter 15

Fort Delaware, Del.
May 5th 1864

My own dear Mother,

Your welcome letter of the 2nd inst. is at hand, and it is with pleasure I now seat myself to give it an early answer, which I hope will find you all enjoying good health—a blessing I have long enjoyed.

The stamps you sent were much needed by me. I have not been able to write a letter for a week past for want of stamps.

I heard from Emory last week. He is well. He passed here on his way to New York. I have written to him and expect an answer daily. The number of their house is 47 Orchard Street, Baltimore, Md. I knew her father had the Small Pox but did not know that Lizzie had. I think it must be a mistake.

I got a letter from Louis yesterday in which he says, “John, I am glad that I can write you now that I feel like another man. For my health, I can say it is better now than for the past two years and is improving every day.” Sarah and the children except Emma are well. Emma was taken with spasms in Saturday. She got very low but is getting better. Little “John” can walk now and is very interesting.

Jim Button has moved his family to Annapolis. He is working for Bailey. Louis has been very busy this spring but it is all over now. He says that the streets were lined with peddlers and every house was a store, but they have left now. Mary Wells has another fine daughter.

Mother you spoke in your letter about my getting a nice little wife. I cannot say that I will, but unless my mind takes a change, I do not think I am very apt to unless someone dies and leaves me one, for since I got acquainted with her, I do not love for others only as pleasant company. However, when I get out of the Army, I am going to Port Tobacco and if I find one there that has a full purse and I like her, why then such a thing might happen.

I have a very nice lady correspondent in New Hampshire that I have never seen but I really believe she is smitten with me. I told her my portrait as near as I could with a pen. She has promised to send me a photograph if I return the favor. When I get it, I will send it up and let you see it.

Well, Mother, I have entirely run out of news so I will bring this to a close hoping you will not keep me waiting long for an answer. I am sorry Sophy did not send her picture in your letter but she must write and send it as soon as you get this. My love to all and a double share for yourself.

I remain your affectionate son, — J. Stockett Button, Corporal, Co. B, 5th Maryland Vol., Fort Delaware, Del.

Letter 16

Headquarters near Petersburg, Va.
June 27, 1864

Dear Mother,

After waiting sometime for an opportunity, I will now write you a few lines to assure you that I am still well and in good spirits.

Profile of Gen. Adelbert Ames. Button served as his Orderly before Petersburg in June 1864

I received your letter last Tuesday whilst laying in the rifle pits near the enemy. Since that time I have been lucky enough to get a good berth. I am now Orderly to Brigadier General [Adelbert] Ames and do not have to go with the regiment on any duty. So you need not make yourself the least uneasy about me for if I am hurt, it will be a mere chance.

I have written to Louis several times since we left and requested him to let you know about me. I have not time to write as I wish so by writing to Louis you can all hear from me.

William is well and sends his love. Give my love to all and keep for yourself my best love. I remain your affectionate son.

— J. Stockett Button, Corporal Co. B, 5th Maryland Vols, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 18th Army Corps

Write soon and use all are well at home.

Letter 17

Headquarters 5th Md. Vol. Infantry
2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 18th Corps
In the field near Petersburg, Va.
August 12, 1864

My Dear Mother,

It is with pleasure I write these few lines informing you that I am well and in fine spirits, and it is my wish that this may find you in full possession of the same blessings.

It has been some time since I wrote to you and have not received an answer to my last yet. During my long absence I have not ceased to thank you. I would have written before this but it has been so warm and my time so much taken up that I have been unable to write to anyone but Louis. By writing to him I can let you all know how I am getting along.

Well, Mother, our regiment is pretty nigh broken up. They have put most of the Veterans into the Regular Artillery service and as soon as they transfer the balance out of the regiment, those who did not reenlist will be sent home and mustered out of the service. It is the impression that we will get home by the 24th day September next. This is indeed cheering news to us for we are nearly starved to death for nourishing food, besides almost naked. We do not wish to draw any more clothing on account of having so short a time to serve.

Capt. Irving is home on sick leave for twenty days and from what he says, I do not think he will return any more. He can get his discharge without any trouble and if he does not get out now, I think he is very foolish.

They are all well at home and send their love to all. As soon as I get home I intend paying you all a visit for I want to see you all very much. I have not seen Elijah or Lizzie since the school left Annapolis over three years ago, and it has been a year since I saw you last.

There is nothing new in this army. Speculation, humbugary, whiskey-drinking, and show-making is about all that is going on among the officials. On the 30th of July there was some 5,000 to 6,000 men slaughtered [in the Battle of the Crater and] for what? Well I must say that the object was good and could have been accomplished with little loss, but there was too much confidence placed in the confounded “Negro” to do the work and the officers, as in all cases, could not brave the fight without the aide of whiskey. Unfortunately they had too much of it on this occasion. This is about all our army has been doing for the past two years. It is a great shame that such a government as we have should fold their arms in silence and allow one of the grandest armies the word ever boasted to be conducted in such a manner.

Give my love to all and a large share for yourself. Write soon. No more but remain truly your affectionate son, — J. Stockett Button, Corporal Co. B, 5th Maryland Vol. Infantry, 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 18th Army Corps, near Petersburg, Va.

Via Fortess Monroe, Va.

Letter 18

Annapolis [Maryland]
March 1st 1865

Dear Mother,

I again have the pleasant opportunity of dropping you a few lines that you may be informed of our health and doings.

Since I last wrote to you death has entered our family and snatched from the circle a young and promising bud—little Dora Wells, age 2 years and some months, son of James and Mary E. Wells. His death was quite sudden caused by croup. He died on Tuesday evening last. Mrs. Eliza Wells was buried last week and today her daughter buried her little babe.

With this exception we are all enjoying our usual good health except grandmother has been quite unwell, but is getting better. I fear she will [not] survive the coming spring.

I received a letter from Uncle Elijah last week enclosing $10 for grandmother. He says he had send you a very urgent invitation to pay them a visit. He says he is growing old and does not like the idea of growing “both old and cold at the same time.” It is my intention to pay them a visit this summer if nothing prevents my so doig.

Louis has been very busy taking in some days as high as twelve hundred dollars a day, selling clothing to officers just from Rebeldom. There is expected this week another large arrival of both officers and men.

There is nothing else of importance to write about. I received a letter to Jim’s wife and 3 vignettes of myself. They are splendid. Give my compliments to Mr. Fowler and tell him to print me 1 dozen of them, and if you have the money to spare, pay him and I will pay you back. They were admired by all who saw them. My respects to Mr. Fowler, Mr. & Mrs. Tilley, Mr. & Mrs. Denver, Mr. Brewer, Clarke, French, and all enquiring friends, and above all my best wishes to all the young Ladies with who I am acquainted—Miss Jennie especially.

All join me in love to you all, hoping to see you all returning to Annapolis this spring. I remain your affectionate son, — John S. Button

1862-63: Aaron Ridle to Henrietta Ridle

These letters were written by Aaron Ridle (1844-1863) who enlisted as a private in August 1862 at Cambridge, Illinois, to serve three years in the 112th Illinois Infantry. He initially served in Co. H but transferred to Co. F on 31 October 1862. In the spring of 1863, most of the 112th Illinois were provided with horses and accoutrements to become “mounted infantry.” The company roster states that Aaron was “supposed killed” at Knoxville on 18 November 1863. It was on this date that the regiment was thrown out in front to hold Longstreet in check while the town was put into a defensible condition. The record indicates that the regiment “behaved most gallantly” though they paid the price with over 100 killed and wounded. [Note, Aaron is listed on the roster as Aaron Rickle.]

Aaron was the eldest son of Joseph H. Ridle (1814-1890) and his first wife, Angeline Buck (1824-1857), of Toulon, Stark county, Illinois. He wrote both letters to his sister, Harriet (“Ettie”) R. Ridle (1842-1909).

Members of Co. G, 112th Illinois Infantry. The officer in front is William Lee Spaulding who was killed at Utoy Creek. (Al Niemiec collection)

Letter 1

Lexington [Kentucky]
[October] 25, 1862

My dear Sister,

I received your letter about one hour ago for I was glad to get it. I am well at present and hope that these few lines will find you enjoying the same.

We left Covington last Friday and traveled 16 miles in one half day. [illegible due to crease in paper and smudged pencil]…the road 15. We guarded a government train. There were about 70 teams in all. We started from Covington in a brigade and then we were detailed to guard them and so we had to leave them…

We’re here now in a cold place for it is cold at night and warmer in the daytime. We are camped where Morgan and his men had a battle. It was said all about here that the news came up here that Morgan and his men had taken us prisoners but he slipped upon that when we left Covington. We brought about 25 prisoners to Covington. They did not look like a white man. Now I want you to tell Charles to hurry and get the corn picked for it will snow there soon. The snow fell six inches here last night and now it is cold enough to freeze a nigger. It has not rained here since the 15th of July so you can think that we are hard up for water. There is one regiment of cavalrymen here and about 14 or 16 regiments.

Miles must dig the potatoes and Allen must pick up the cobs and bring in the chips for Charles must get the corn picked. Now I want you to tell them all to write for I cannot write to everyone and so they cannot look for anything from me. I have a poor place to write here. Write soon and often. Now I don’t care if you fill up fool’s cap, just so you write often.

Your brother, — Aaron Ridle

Write soon. You need not stop to answer any of the rest so you write when you get this. Tell Pa to write soon, and Ma and Charles and all the rest of the folks. Ettie, I want you to get yours and Olive’s likenesses taken for me on a plate.

One of our company is dead. It is Mr. [John F.] Negus at Covington. Direct your letters to Covington, Kentucky.

Letter 2

Addressed to Miss Henrietta Riddle, Toulon, Stark county, Illinois

Camp Wolford
Somerset, Kentucky
July 7th 1863

My Dear Sister Ettie,

I received your letter dated June 26th with the greatest of pleasure and it found me well and I hope that these few lines will find you the same. I received your letter on the 3rd of July. You said you would like to know how I spent the 4th of July. Well, I will tell you.

On the 28th of June just at sundown we were ordered to saddle up our horses and go to Mill Springs, Kentucky, to guard there so on the night of the 3rd of July, I stood horse guard. Then on the 4th of July I was detained to go on picket so you see I had to stand on guard in an enemy’s country. On the night of the 4th, it rained again and we were ordered back to Somerset.

It is supposed that from here we will go to Stanford, Kentucky. All the news that I have to tell is that Vicksburg is taken. The most fun was to see Capt. W[illiam] W. Wright run from his tent down to the hospital and get on Sam Eldridge’s horse and run him from there up to the Colonel’s tent and waving his hat over his head and holloring “Vickburg is taken!” &c.

Charlie Scranton is down here. I suppose you have heard that Lieutenant R[obert] E. Westfall of Co. F was dead.

Blackberries are just getting ripe. As far as coming home, you need not look for me until the war is over for when I get out of this 3 years or sooner discharged, I will join the Regulars. I think some of it so you had better eat your ripe fruit and not wait for me to come home.

The 4th of July came where I was at Mills Spring, Ky., out on picket. If I can get enough money I will buy me a pair of new boots either now or at pay day. Tell Aunt Rachel that I wrote to her and looking every evening for one from her. I send my love to Aunt Rachel and to you all. And tell Aunt Rachel that I said that she would have to speak a good word for me to Martha. There is none of the 112th taken prisoners but there was 1 in Co. F, 3 of Co. D, 1 of Co. C. T[homas] T. White was drowned of Co. F and John Cammerer comes up missing of Co. F. I wasn’t with them boys.

Please write soon and [give] all the news. — A. Ridle to Attie Ridle

1865: Alanson Robert Piper to his Parents

Alanson R. Piper, 4th Michigan Infantry (Crossing Hell on a Wooden Bridge Website)

This letter was written by Sgt. Alanson Robert Piper (1843-1913) of Co. D, 4th Michigan Infantry. Alanson enlisted at Adrian, Michigan, on 20 June 1861 as a private in Co. B and was promoted to a corporal in July 1863. He received a gunshot wound to the arm in the fight at Spotsylvania Court House on 10 May 1864 but recovered to rejoin his regiment and to make the trip with them to San Antonio, Texas, where they were sent after the war to maintain law and order on the frontier of Texas. He did not muster out of the regiment, as a sergeant, until March 1866. He returned to Michigan after the war, married, and became a saw mill operator in Deerfield for a time before moving to Allegan county where he took up farming.

Alanson was the son of Asa Piper (1809-1897) and Abigail Cornell (1812-1891) of Palmyra, Lenawee county, Michigan. Alanson had an older brother who also enlisted with him in the same company named Abel M. D. Piper (1837-1862). Abel was killed on 24 May 1862 during action at New Bridge, Virginia. After the battle, Abel’s body was returned to camp across the Chickahominy River and his entire brigade attended the funeral of not only Abel Piper, but also his comrade, Franklin Drake. Abel Piper’s original burial location was less than three miles from the location of present day Cold Harbor National Cemetery. War-time diary accounts state that he was buried between the camp of the Army of the Potomac in the proximity of New Bridge, Virginia and Gaines’ Mill, Virginia, where Abel’s regiment (the Fourth Michigan Infantry) marched the next day. [Source: Crossing Hell on a Wooden Bridge by George Wilkinson]


Camp of 4 Michigan Infantry
Near San Antonio, Texas
October 2d 1865, Monday afternoon

Dear Parents,

I have been looking some time for a letter from some of you but have been disappointed as often more so as I wrote to you for some money which I stand in need of very much. The last letter from home was written July 17 and since I have not heard a word from any but Alice.

“I tell you, the man who ordered this Corps into this department has killed a good many men and it will not be forgotten…[that] we was sent to this God forsaken country.”

—Sgt. Alanson R. Piper, 4th Michigan

The mail was to come in last Saturday but did not and expect it every hour. I hope then to receive the long looked-for letter containing the much needed article in this country to enable a person to live that has to depend on a government which boasts so much of its good usage of its volunteer soldiers which are kept after all its enemies has been subdued—especially in a state like this where men are dying daily for want of medicine which is not at any of the medical departments. There is men living suffering every hour for the want of proper care and proper treatment. I tell you, the man who ordered this Corps into this department has killed a good many men and it will not be forgotten for one while there is a day coming when some of these men will have free speech and then we will find out who sent and for what we was sent to this God forsaken country. Officers, men, and all say that when we are paid off, they will desert and call it no disgrace. It is not like before I would lie down and die. I will desert too.

We arrived here a few days ago after a hard march of 130 miles over the prairies with no water except at places from 12 to 15 and 20 miles apart with a hot sun shining upon our heads with no shade either. A good many of the men were sun struck and came near dying for want of water but I reached this place safe and sound and can say that I am tough as ever. We are encamped on a nice piece of ground with good water, plenty of wood, and lots of nuts called pecans and if I had a little money to buy articles brought in by the inhabitants, should live quite well. But I have spent the last of my money, used my last stamp on this letter, and begged this sheet of paper and borrowed the ink to write it with, so you see in what destitute circumstances I am in.

The country through which we came from Green Lake to Victoria is very desolate and new with but few inhabitants. Arrived at Victoria, found it [paper cut] a place for [paper cut] as it was. Lay there over night. Next morning at 7 A. M. continued our march for this place. We found the country growing better and thicker populated and better water. It is not very thickly inhabited around here nor is the country any of the best. I like Old Michigan a good deal more and wished myself there lots of times. I have not been down to the City of San Antonio yet but will go soon. It is expected that this regiment will go there sometime this week to do provost duty but as the 18th Michigan did on half pay.

Well, I am badly demoralized and can’t write till I get some money to buy writing material. I don’t know when I will come home. Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain your affectionate son. — A. R. Piper, Sgt, 4 Mich. Vols.

My love to all & Hattie

Address: A. R. Piper, Co. D, 4th Mich Vols. Infantry, San Antonio, Texas

1864: William H. Stewart to C. R. Drake

I could not find an image of William but here is a tintype of Corporal George S. Richardson who served in Co. D, 6th Iowa Infantry.

This letter was written by William H. Stewart (1839-1865) of Osceola, Iowa who enlisted on 1 July 1861 at the age of 22 to serve in Co. F, 6th Iowa Infantry. In January 1864, he reenlisted as a veteran and was promoted to a corporal in August 1864. He was taken prisoner on 24 March 1865 while on a forage detail near Goldsboro, North Carolina, and is supposed to have been killed. Nothing more was ever heard from him.

During the Atlanta Campaign, the 6th Iowa was brigaded with the 40th and 103rd Illinois, the 97th Indiana, and the 46th Ohio under the command of Brig, General Charles C. Walcutt (2nd Brigade), in Brig. General William Harrow’s 4th Division, of Major General John A. Logan’s 15th Army Corps. The 15th, 16th, and 17th Corps were in the Army of the Tennessee commanded by Major General James B. McPherson who was killed in the Battle of Atlanta on 22 July 1864, referred to in this letter.

The other battle referred to was the Battle of Ezra Church, fought on 28 July 1864, in which the Army of the Tennessee (now lead by Gen. Oliver O. Howard) beat back Hood’s men in an ill-advised attack against the entrenched Union troops. The Confederate losses were approximately 3,000. The Union losses less than 650.

The Battle of Ezra Church, 28 July 1864


East Point, Georgia
September 15, 1864

Mr. C. R. Drake, Sir,

I wrote you a letter while I was at Kingston, Georgia, and have not received not answer yet but I think I had a letter sent to me from the regiment while I was at Kingston at the hospital but I came away a short time after it got there as it was sent by my Captain to me. I was told there was a letter came to me addressed 6th Iowa Drafted. Captain and I think that was probably it. I joined my regiment July 15 before the army had crossed the Chattahoochie River to the south bank on the 21st of July.

I was in the charge before Atlanta. We charged through an open field 20 rods across, took the enemy’s rifle pits that was not over 75 yards from their main earthworks and held them. The next day at 10 o’clock P. M. the enemy made a desperate attack on the left wing of the army. Was the 16th, 17th, and 15th Corps [of the} Army of the Tennessee. The 15th I am a member of. It was a desperate fight and many a brave man fell on both sides battling for both sides. It was in that battle we lost our brave and gallant commander, Gen. McPherson, who could not be equalled. He was loved by all who knew him.

Our other glorious field was on the 28 July before Atlanta when the 15th Corps distinguished themselves as good soldiers. There we made many a Johnnies bite the dust and a great many say we gave them furloughs to their long homes, while some say they took a passport to another world. I have seen a great many battlefields but not any where the dead lay as thick as on that field. Hood’s old Corps and Stuart’s massed themselves before our Corps (15th) with the intention of breaking our lines but they were cut down like grass. Many of them came up within 1 rod of our works and were shot down. We buried 973 of them in front of our Corps. Our loss was very small.

Write soon. Yours truly. — William H. Stewart

to C. R. Drake

Address Atlanta, Ga., Co. F, 6th Iowa Infantry Regiment

1861: James Robinson Haines to Thomas Moody Haines

This letter was written by James Robinson Haines (1837-1923) to his twin brother Thomas Moody Haines (1837-1862) who enlisted in Co. E., 11th Iowa Infantry on 21 September 1862. The boys were the sons of Thomas Haines (1812-1890) and Eleanor J. Moody (1812-1890) of Tipton, Iowa.

I could not find an image of Thomas but here is one of Isaac N. Carr who served in Co. F, 11th Iowa.

The letter was made available to Spared & Shared for publication by Mike Huston who collects items related to the 11th Iowa Infantry because his ancestor, Elias G. Jackson, was a member of that regiment. He purchased the letter recently when he recognized the name Thomas Haines and the story he’d read about his tragic death at Shiloh in the regimental history published by  Alexander Downing. That entry reads as follows:

Sunday, 6th—-The long roll sounded about half past seven in the morning, and at once we formed a line of battle on the regimental parade ground. At about 8 o’clock we were ordered to the front, and marching out in battle line, about one half mile, we met the rebels at Water Oaks Pond. Dresser’s battery was just in front of our regiment; we acting as a support to it. The rebels came up on our right, compelling us to fall back about eighty rods to our second position, where we remained until we were again flanked, when we fell back to within about one hundred yards of our parade ground, where we lay down on the brow of a hill awaiting the approach of the rebels in front. While in this position, Thomas Hains [Haines] of Company E took off his hat, placed it upon his ramrod, and hold it up, shouted to the boys along the line to see what a close call he had had while out in front, for a minie ball had passed through the creased crown of his hat, making four holes. Before he could get his hat back on his head, a small shell burst over us and mortally wounded him.

Mike informed me that the letter probably meant a lot more to him than most others, but he thought some readers might be interested in it. Thanks for sharing it, Mike.


September 25, [1861]
Cedar Rapids [Iowa]

Dear brother Tom,

Yours is received and I do not know how to answer it. I feel so bad about your enlisting. I was in hopes that you would not, but since you have, may God Bless you. Be a good boy and pray for me very often. I am trying to be good. If we do not meet again on earth, let us meet in Heaven,

Your lot will be a hard one but be a good soldier and a good Christian and when the war is over, let us hope we may meet again. My heart is full.

If you stay at Davenport long I may visit you. Be sure and write soon. Good night, brother. Give my love to John.

—- J. R. Haines