1863: John M. Ford to William Henry Ford

This letter was written by Pvt. John M. Ford (1843-1908) of Co. E, 7th Massachusetts Infantry. John gave his residence as Marshfield and his occupation as farmer when he enlisted as a recruit on 11 February 1862. He was wounded on 3 May 1863 during the Battle of Chancellorsville but recovered and presumably was with his regiment at the Battle of Gettysburg which was fought just one month previous to this letter.

I could not find an image of John, but here is one of James Lycett of the 7th Massachusetts Infantry. James was wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg (Al Niemiec Collection)

In June 1864, as the term of the initial enlistees of the 7th Massachusetts soldiers had expired, he was transferred to Co. A, 37th Massachusetts Infantry where he finished his term of service, mustering out in February 1865.

John was the son of William Ford (1799-1861) and Clarissa Packard (1813-1907) of Marshfield, Plymouth county, Massachusetts. John survived the war and married Sarah Dingley Sherman (b. 1844) in November 1869. He wrote the letter to his older brother, William Henry Ford (1841-1907) who gave his occupation as “Housewright” in the 1860 US Census. William was working at the time in Fairmount, Massachusetts.

I have not found the details of John’s death on 16 May 1908 but his death certificate suggests that he was accidentally killed near the Allston Station, B&A Railroad tracks. A physician recorded that he had a compound fracture of the skull and other injuries (no autopsy performed). The railroad was identified as a contributing cause. I suspect that he may have committed suicide as no report of accidental death appeared in the papers and in his hometown paper, his obituary simply reported his “sudden death.”

To read other letters by members of the 7th Massachusetts Infantry I’ve transcribed and posted on Spared & Shared, see:
Thomas Denton Johns, F&S, 7th Massachusetts (1 Letter)
Oziel Ames Ramsdell, Co. K, 7th Massachusetts (7 Letters)
Rufus Robbins, Co. K, 7th Massachusetts (2 Letters)

[Transcribed by Jeannette Ann Vannan; edited & researched by Griff.]

Transcription

Addressed to Mr. William H. Ford, Fairmount, Massachusetts

Camp Warrenton
August 3, 1863

Brother W. H.,

Taking it for granted that ‘ere this you have received the letters which I wrote you while laying on the banks of the Potomac, I will now proceed to answer your kind letter which was received in due season, giving me a list of the drafted in Marshfield. I had a day or two before seen a list of the drafted. It was taken from a paper and sent out in a letter.

I had no sooner finished that letter than we had orders to fall in. We did and marched along in rear of the teams. We marched about 9 hours and got into camp about 9 o’clock in the evening. We had some pretty tough marching in getting where we now lay. In two days we made 60 miles—pretty tall marching that. We have now been laying in this camp 8 days. The first four my time was wholly taken up in hunting sheep and hogs on the mountain.

The third day, myself with 4 others went out (with guns & ammunition) for a grand excursion. On reaching the mountain, we deployed out as skirmishers. On reaching the summit of the mountain, I emerged into a densely wooded part of the mountain [and] had not proceeded far before to my utter astonishment, what should greet my ear but the whickering of horses. As you may suppose I made immediate tracks for the horses. On arriving on the spot, I ascertained that there were 6 horses part with bridles and part with halters. I immediately commenced inspecting the animals and used the best of my judgement in picking out the best one. My choice was a beautiful iron-grey horse of certainly not more that five years of age. I led him from his concealment, and getting into the lane, I hopped upon his back and to my great surprise he struck off into a rapid pace. I soon found the others and we succeeded in securing 5 sheep. I informed the gang of the concealed horses, and we concluded to go back and select the best ones out and take them to camp. We took 3 more of them, slung our mutton to them and started for camp.

On passing a negro house we were saluted by a wench, “Where de get them horses? On de mountain?” We informed them that we did. “Them am secesh horses. There be gariless in de mountain.” I asked her if she ever saw the horses before. She informed me that she had. Well I guess she had the right of it, for we were about 5 miles out from camp and some of our fellows have been fired on out there. Capt. Young on Col. [Henry L.] Eustis’s staff (the colonel commanding our brigade), was fired on. He being a brave and desperate fellow (and as fine a little fellow as ever stood) came into camp, got a squad, and went out (armed squad) but no guerrillas were to be found.

Well on getting into camp I sold my horse (worth $150) for $3. This I did to prevent him from being taken away from me and then I should have derived no advantage from him. He was the prettiest riding horse I ever saw and a handsome one too. If I had him at home, I would have sold him for any price. I should have liked to come across Crossley with his spirited nag. I should not be much afraid of his getting the best of me. These posers will go terribly as Chas. Eustis would say.

Well, I suppose you will expect me to say something in regard to the war question and what I think of Meade’s late movements at the Battle of Gettysburg. Gen. Meade showed himself to be a competent general—qualified in every respect to command the Grand Army of the Potomac. And when the Rebs left on the night of the 4th of July, he immediately pursued them, thus showing further his good generalship. On coming up in front of Funkstown, we found that the Rebs had made a stand here. We were brought into line of battle but did not advance far—only driving in their advance guard. The Rebs were forced to make a stand here in order to save their artillery and trains. Every soldier and line office was willing and anxious to attack the Rebs. It might applicably been said of the Army of the Potomac that it was anxious for a fight but it could never have been said before and I think never again.

But Meade allowed them to run on unharmed to our great consternation. No, they did not want to smash up Old Lee’s army. The war would be settled too quick. These suckers have not made money enough yet. Before that I would given 12 ½ cents for Meade, but now I would not give half price. 

I wrote an order this morning and got 4 lbs. sugar at the commissary. Yesterday we drew clothing. I drew a shirt and haversack. I also charged them on the books. There is many boys in our company who are well acquainted with the man you work for. The most of our company came from Dorchester. I tell you Henry, the heat is very intense out here now. On our late marches, a great many have fell down in the ranks sun struck. I had my nose burst out bleeding once or twice.

Rather a hard thing on the drafted fellows. Think the most of them will come? George B.—how will it be with him? Amos I guess will come. Rather tough on the boarders. Dorchester is rather a tough place if all reports are true. I received a letter from mother the other day. She is well. The prospects are favorable for the stopping here some time. I now close hoping I may hear from you soon. I am sir, your affectionate brother, — J. M. Ford

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