1862: William Gover Gilpin to Rachel (Gover) Gilpin

I could not find an image of William but here is one of James F. Wilson who also served as a Quartermaster Sergeant in the 2nd Illinois Cavalry. James was in Co. G. (Photo Sleuth)

This letter was written by William Gover Gilpin (1836-1862) who enlisted on 5 August 1861 at Quincy, Illinois, to serve in Co. L, 2nd Illinois Cavalry. William was the quartermaster sergeant of his company. He died of “Camp Fever” on 29 September 1861 at Island No. 10. The following letter written to his mother was found in the the Pension’s Office Records. It was penned less than three weeks before his death.

William was the son of Samuel P. Gilpin (1801-1849) and Rachel Gover (1803-1871) of Baltimore, Maryland. William’s father died of cholera at Quincy, Illinois, in May 1849. The Gilpin were Quakers and members of the Baltimore Monthly Meeting of Friends (Stony Brook). Samuel and Rachel’s children included: James S. Gilpin, b. 1822, Joseph Bernard Gilpin (1825-1878); Edward Canby Gilpin (1829-1908); Thomas Harris Gilpin, b. 1831; William Gover Gilpin, b. 1836; and Albert Gallatin Gilpin (1838-1893). In the 1860 US Census, William was enumerated in Ellington, Adams county, Illinois, where he earned his living as a florist. Ten years earlier, the family was enumerated in Baltimore’s 16th Ward, Rachel being the head of the household, her husband having died the year previous.

William mentions his older brother, Joseph B. Gilpin who enlisted in April 1862 to serve as a Captain in the U. S. Commissary Department (Paymaster). He remained in the service until 13 March 1866. In the 1860 US Census, Joe was enumerated in Quincy, Illinois, where he was employed as a land agent. William also mentions his older brother Edward and a younger brother—Albert—who apparently threatened to join the Confederate army. If he did, I can find no record of it.

Rachel filed for a mother’s pension from her home in Sandy Springs, Montgomery county, Maryland. She offered this letter to the Pension’s Office as evidence that her son sent her money and that she relied on it to sustain her.


Island No. 10, Tennessee
September 10, 1862

Dear Mother,

It has been some time since I heard from you & cannot imagine why some of you don’t write oftener. We have no news worthy of note transpiring around here save the chasing & bagging of guerrilla bands.

We see with regret that our army has retreated to where they were just a year ago and are followed by the Rebels. There is no doubt that by removing McClellan, Pope has been outgeneraled, hence our defeat. But this yet will prove a good move for the North for it will cause them to stir & be active & prove to the idle thousands that there really is a war going on. Baltimore, Frederick, & perhaps Philadelphia may be taken before our army is filled up sufficient to overthrow this rebellion. But the day is not far distant when our army will be swelled to such a number that there will be no resisting it. Just when the North stopped recruiting, the South commenced the same, by which means they have probably two to our one man in the field. But this new levy will bring our Army up to its standard.

There is no fighting very near us, Bolivar being the nearest some 60 miles east of here. [Brother] Joe is at Jackson some twenty miles from Bolivar. Guerrillas are around Jackson but not in force to take the place. Matters are quiet generally on the river. The health of our camp is very good. My health still continues good, or better than ever in fact. The weather is splendid.

Our folks in Louden are again feeling the terrors of war, & those in Sandy Spring will no doubt feel the same.

You must remain perfectly quiet where you are for this will be but a raid in Maryland that cannot last but a few days & they will again be driven South. Stay where you are & take it as cool as you can. 1

I suppose ere this Albert has joined the Southern Army. Let him go if he wants but I assure you he will yet regret leaving this—the best government that ever existed—to join the Negro Government of a day.

Have not heard from Quincy for some time but all were well when last heard from. Ed’s folks were also well. Hope you will write often. I enclose you $15 all I can spared now. will send more soon. With much love in haste, I close and remain your son, — Wm.

1 William is referring, of course, to Lee’s Maryland Campaign that culminated in the Battle of Antietam.

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