1862-63: John Henry Wakefield to Hellen (Wakefield) Munyan

I could not find an image of John but here is a tintype of Benjamin Darby of Co. F, 41st Ohio Vol. Infantry (Matthew Fleming Collection)

These two letters were written by John Henry Wakefield (1839-1893), the son of John Wakefield (1802-1871) and Susan A. Wakefield (1813-1878) of Bedford, Cuyahoga county, Ohio. John wrote both letters to his older sister, Hellen (Wakefield) Munyan (1837-1903), the wife of Horace Franklin Munyan (1832-1922) of Bay City, Bay county, Michigan.

John enlisted on 27 September 1861 when he was 22 years old to serve three years in Co. D, 41st Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). He was appointed corporal on 24 November 1861, and made the 1st Sergeant of his company on 27 April 1863. He was wounded in the Battle of Chickamauga on 19 September 1863 and again on 27 May 1864 in the Battle of Picketts Mills, Georgia. His wound in the last named battle resulted in the amputation of his right arm and he was mustered out of the service on 4 November 1864.

The first letter was datelined from Glasgow, Kentucky, on the day before the Battle of Perryville in which the 41st OVI participated, though they saw only light skirmishing. After having helped to drive Bragg’s army out of Kentucky, the 41st returned to Nashville in late October 1862 and remained there until late December when the Army of the Ohio advanced against the Confederate army at Murfreesboro and participated in the Battle of Stones River. On the first day of that battle, the brigade in which the 41st fought stopped a Confederate assault after the Right Wing collapsed, saving the Union army from defeat. They repulsed another attack on the second day and silenced a Rebel battery on the third day. Following this three day battle, the 41st entered camp at Readyville, Tennessee, where the second letter was written.

Letter 1

Camp at Glasgow [Kentucky]
October 7, 1862

Dear Sister,

It has been a long time since I have written to you. I have not had any chance as we have been on the move for two months and I expect we shall tomorrow for Gallatin within fifteen miles of Nashville and sixty-five or seventy miles from here. The weather is quite cool and has been for some time. We had a snow about ten days ago. It fell three inches in depth and was very heavy and cold.

I have no news of interest to write—only we got four months pay yesterday. We have two [ ] yet. My health is very good and I hope these few lines will find you and Harold well. I wrote a letter home yesterday. The last letter I received from home was dated the sixth. It arrived in five days. Your letter of the 13th of August arrived some time after. I was very glad to hear that you were all well. I hope Horace has not enlisted yet. [Brother] Martin had not the last letter I got. They have not had their tents since we left Murfreesboro until a few days ago the Captain had one the Colonel gave him and I slept under it. I have not carried my blankets any on the march. We are still at our old business—Headquarters guard.

Our regiment had a skirmish with the enemy. There was no one hurt, one horse shot. There were heavy volleys of musketry and they opened on us with shell from artillery. Our men skirmished with them every day on our march from Louisville. If I were to give you a detailed [report], it would weary your patience so I will close sending my best respects to you and James. So goodbye, — J. H. Wakefield

J. H. Wakefield, Co. D, 41st Regt. OVI, 19th Brigade, 4th Division, Army of Ohio, Louisville, Kentucky, Care of Capt. [Harvey] Proctor


Letter 2

Camp at Readyville, Tennessee
February 16, 1863

Dear Sister and Husband,

I received your letter of January 6 and one from home some time ago. I received your letter of February 8th. This evening I was very glad to hear that you were all well but I was surprised to hear that you had not heard from me and that you were so much troubled about me. I wrote a letter to you a few days after the battle & wrote a long letter to Aunt Powers a short time since and requested her to send it to you. I am in good health and enjoying good spirits.

We are encamped at the foot of a hill on a fine slope of ground near a small river. The water is very good. The health of the soldiers is very good. We are in advance on this pike from Murfreesboro to Woodbury. It is ten miles to Murfreesboro and seven to Woodbury. The rebels are quite thick around here but we are getting used to them. We have had several skirmishes with them since we have been here. We went out to Woodbury and had quite a sharp skirmish with them. One man was wounded in our company in the leg quite severely.

The weather has been fine and warm for a week. It rained last night and has rained all day and rains hard tonight.

February 17th. It is not very pleasant today. It has rained nearly all day. We have been graveling our streets today and our walks to keep us out of the mud. It is quite warm.

There is no news of interest in camp today. I shall review the scenes of Murfreesboro Battle. I have written so many long letters about it that it would be a task to me. We were under a heavy fire of solid shot and shells and musket balls from daylight in the morning until darkness closed the same. It seemed as though the night would never come as hour after hour the shot and shell plowed our noble ranks all day. [But] we held our position. Darkness found us where we were in the morning. We were on the left of the army. Our Brigade was the only one that did not give way. Several times the balls came closer to me than I wished to have them. A musket ball hit my canteen and glanced off and a cannon ball took my cap off. 1

I received a letter from Harriet about ten days since. They were all well and enjoying themselves comfortably. I received a letter from Rufus and Aunt Powers. It was a very good, kind, and friendly letter and I answered it in the same style. I forgot to mention in the proper place that [Sergt.] Spencer Sawyer was slightly wounded. I have learned today for the first time his place of residence. He went to the rear to a hospital and was taken prisoner. He is doing well. He is in Maryland. Warren Scott was taken prisoner. He is not wounded. The opinion here is that he went and gave himself up. Joseph Hist was wounded in the wrist. I have heard today that he is dead. He had the consumption and I expect the effect of the wound caused his death. His father lives near Lockwood. I have received the intelligence that David Jones is dead. He belonged to our company. He had just returned home [to Bedford, Ohio] of a discharge furlough.

I received a letter from home this evening dated the eleventh. They are all well and enjoying themselves as far as I can learn. I wish when you write, you would send a postage stamp as they are very scarce and hard to obtain and I have to write a good many letters. I wrote home for some but thy do not send them. I most always have a plenty of paper and envelopes. We are nearly up with the times with news here. We saw Cleveland papers ninth and Louisville the sixteenth. I don’t know how it got here so quick. I would be very glad to spend a day with you but my business is such that I cannot leave at present. I am glad to hear that your little girl is a growing finely. I would be very glad to see her. I trust the time will come when the cloud will rise from the face of our country that now darkens it and we will meet again. I would be very glad to visit with you in your northern home.

The health of the regiment is very good. I have been acting Orderly Sergeant since we left Nashville. I must close fearing I will weary you with my long letters. If there is any mistakes, you must correct them as I have not time. We are having a very good time this winter. It is so warm.

Yours truly. I send my love to all. From your brother, — J. H. Wakefield

Address: Co. D. 41st Regt. OVI, 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, Army of the Cumberland. Left Wing Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Care of Capt. Proctor

1 For a great summary of the role played by the 41st OVI at the Battle of Stones River, see Summoning Hell’s Half Acre: The 41st Ohio in the Round Forest, published on 22 April 2020 in Dan Masters’ Civil War Chronicles.

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