1861: John H. Denton to Martha Cole

With undated letters, envelopes or stationery with patriotic emblems such as this one generally indicate an early-war letter (but not always!).

This letter was written by John H. Denton (1840-1893) of Aurora, Dearborn county, Indiana, who served as a private in Co. E, 7th Indiana Infantry from 20 April 1861 to 2 August 1861. Later he served as the Captain of Co. K, 10th Kentucky Infantry, which was organized in November 1861.

The 7th Indiana Infantry was organized at Indianapolis in mid-April 1861 with Ebenezer Dumont as its colonel. They made their first camp near Grafton, Virginia (now West Virginia) which is where this letter was written in June 1861. As part of Brigadier General Thomas A. Morris’ Indiana Brigade (of Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of West Virginia), the 7th Indiana participated in the Rich Mountain Campaign from July 6 to 17. The regiment saw action at Laurel Hill (July 7), Belington (July 8), the Battle of Corrick’s Ford (July 12–14), and in the pursuit of Brig. Gen. Robert S. Garnett’s forces (July 15–17). The regiment was mustered out of service on August 2, 1861.

John wrote the letter to Martha (“Mattie” or “Mat”) Cole (1844-1933) with whom he married in February 1865.

The Battle of Rich Mountain which the 7th Indiana Infantry participated.


Camp Dumont near Grafton, Virginia
June 24, [1861]

Dearest Mat,

I thought I would snatch this opportunity of writing you a few lines for there is not much time at the present. We arrived here last night all well. We have not seen any secessionists yet for they are such cowards they run and won’t let us see them. We have to start out this evening on a scouting expedition & I think we will see some maybe before long.

I saw John R. the evening that I started so I suppose you have heard where we were going before this. We are encamped on Valley River. It is a pleasant stream. we passed several bridges yesterday that the secessionists had burnt. They were repaired so that we could cross them. The Ohio troops had repaired them & were guarding them. They had caught several of them & some they are going to hang.

Mat, I feel today that I would like to see you but all hopes for that are lost for today. But I have stronger hopes of seeing you in the course of six or seven weeks. When you write, you can direct to Indianapolis the same as before for if you direct here, we will never get them. They will be forwarded to us from there.

Well dear Mat, I must close for the present for we have to get ready to start in a few minutes. Your cousin E. is all right. I will write you a long letter before long and tell you about all our journey. Goodbye Mat, goodbye.

Write soon. From your true friend, — J. H. Denton

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