1863: Garrett F. Speer to Walter Speer

I could not find an image of Garrett but here’s one of John Citheart who served as a private in Co. I of the 4th New Jersey (Photo Sleuth)

This letter was written by Garrett F. Speer (1838-1894), the son of Garrett T. Speer (1794-1842) and Jane Sigler (1796-1860). He wrote the letter to his brother Walter Speer (1830-1887) who resided in Newark, New Jersey, with his wife, Sarah Ann (Cummings) Speer and their seven children. Walter was a carpenter/house builder by trade.

Garrett was a private in Co. F, 4th New Jersey Infantry. He later (January 1864) enlisted again in Co. K, 1st New Jersey Infantry Veterans and was wounded in May 1864 and taken to the Fairfax Seminary Hospital near Alexandria. He mustered out of the regiment on 29 June 1865.

In this letter, Garrett informs his brother that he has just returned to Alexandria after having spent the last three weeks in Pennsylvania. The 4th New Jersey did not take part in the Battle of Gettysburg. Rather, three of the companies were detached as Provost Guard and the remaining companies, including the one in which Garrett belonged, were detailed to guard the Reserve Artillery train. The majority of the letter is devoted to advising his brother to refrain from offering any support to the Copperhead Party.


Alexandria [Virginia]
July 18, 1863

Dear Brother,

I am once more at leisure and will improve my leisure moments by writing you a few lines. I have just returned from Chambersburg, Pa. Since the first of July I have been very busy night and day until I am nearly worn out with fatigue. I received your letter of the 11th this morning. Was very glad to hear from you but would be much gladder to hear from you since the great Copperhead riot in New York City. I hope that will convince you that that party really mean.

You may think that I am somewhat abolitionized. That is not the case. I am neither a Copperhead nor an Abolitionist. God forbid that I should be either.

—Garrett Speer, 4th New Jersey Infantry, 18 July 1863

Walter, let me implore of you to spurn them more than the vilest Rebel that pollutes the soil of America. Walter, as a brother, I want to give you a good advice. Don’t cast your destinies with a party so vile and corrupted that will place an eternal disgrace on you and your family that you can never wash out. You may think that I am somewhat abolitionized. That is not the case. I am neither a Copperhead nor an Abolitionist. God forbid that I should be either. The Rebel advance in Pennsylvania is enough to convince any good man the necessity of sustaining the government of the United States and the Administration until every Rebel North or South is subdued.

Walter, I consider a Copperhead of the Vallandigham stripe a worse enemy than the bold Rebel that comes right out and fights for the government that he wishes to sustain. Oh, I could mention so many instances of Copperhead imbecility in my travels in Pennsylvania that it has sickened me so much against that gang of traitors there. I have not language enough to express my disgust toward them. For God sakes, Walter, never allow yourself to be deceived by this hoard of traitors. They once partially deceived me until I saw for myself that they were the worst enemy the government had to contend against, and then I despised them as I would any traitor.

My motto is Stand by the Union until our glorious Old Flag waves in triumph over every street and every city in these once United States of America. And I know that there is loyal hearts enough yet left to accomplish that glorious end. Do not think that this is mere prejudice on my part as to the loyalty of this party that I am hostile to—not by any means. What I say to you about them is [true] and I know them to be what I represent them to be. And remember that the advice comes from a brother that would sooner have his right arm severed from his body than to allow the same to write you a bad advice. — G. F. Speer

Give my love to all of those friends that you speak of in your last letter. Tell them that I often think of them when I am in camp and think of the contrast between camp life and enjoying their agreeable company in a city like Newark. However, I expect to see them all again when this cruel war is over. When the Rebs are all disarmed of course, &c. &c. — G. F. Speer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s