1862-65: Elijah Foster Benedict to his Children

112th Illinois Infantry, Company G

These letters were written by Elijah “Foster” Benedict (1825-1888), the son of Elijah Benedict and Dolly Foster of Atkinson, Henry county, Illinois. On 24 June 1848, Foster was married to Mary Jannette Follett in Knox county, Illinois.

On 9 August 1862, Foster enlisted as a Sergeant in Co. C, 112th Regiment Illinois Infantry. He was mustered out on 20 June 1865 at Greensboro, North Carolina, with the rank of 1st Sergeant. His muster records indicate that he stood 5 foot 8 inches tall, had black hair and black eyes. It should be noted that while on duty in Kentucky in 1863, six companies of the 112th (D, C, E, K, G, and B) were mounted and remained so until February 1864.

Serving with Foster in the same regiment was his younger brother, George Whitfield Benedict (1836-1904) who entered as a musician and emerged three years later as the leader of the regimental band. Also serving was Foster’s brother-in-law, William Follett who did not survive the war. He was killed in the Battle of Resaca on 14 May 1864.

Most of these letters were written to his two oldest daughters, Mary and Susan Benedict, or his eldest son Charlie. While it is clear that he wrote to other family members, including his wife, none of those letters are in this collection.

To read other letters written by members of the 112th Illinois Infantry that I have transcribed and published on Spared & Shared, go to:

Lemuel Fordum Mathews, Co. D, 112th Illinois (2 Letters)
Bradford Foster Thompson, Co. D, 112th Illinois (1 Letter)
Aaron Ridle, Co. F, 112th Illinois (2 Letters)
Albert Pierce Lanphere, Co. I, 112th Illinois (1 Letter)
Henry Capron Lanphere, Co. I, 112th Illinois (2 Letters)

Letter 1

Addressed to Miss Mary L. Benedict, Atkinson, Henry county, Illinois

Lexington, Kentucky
Camp Ella Bishop 1
November 16, 1862

Dear Daughters Mary & Susy & all the little ones,

In the last letter I wrote your mother I promised to write the next to you and now on this pleasant Sunday afternoon I fulfill that promise.

I was very sorry to hear that the little ones at home were so unwell but hope the next time I hear from you they will be well.Mary, you and Susy must help your mother all you can for she has a great deal of work to do and every little you do lightens her labor very much. You must be good-natured to all and not fret if everything does not suit you. By so doing, you will be beloved by everybody and be the pride of your parents.

We are yet encamped near this city and no prospect of our moving on that I know of. It is one month tomorrow since we left Covington and the time has passed very quickly with me but there has not been a day passed in which I did not wish that I could see the dear little flock at home and listen to their voices in their plays. My health continues good and has ben good with the exception of a cold ever since I came into Kentucky.

George is not so fortunate for yesterday he had a severe attack of the ague but feels very well today. I do not think he will have any more attack. I sat up last night and gave him medicine and I do not feel much like writing today. I still perform the duties of orderly. How much longer I shall, I can’t tell. The orderly has been very sick but is now getting better. His foot was run over coming from Covington to this place and is not well yet, and it may disqualify him from marching again as it was hurt very badly.

William Follett, Co. C, 112th Illinois, killed at the Battle of Resaca on 14 May 1864

Uncle William marched past our camp the middle of last week and is ow about 16 miles from us at a place called Nicholasville. He is still orderly for Gen. Coburn and likes his place first rate. He does all his marching on horseback and hass a very easy time. I am glad he has the place on his account, but on my own, I would much prefer to have him with us as he is one of the best men I ever knew. The boys all like him first rate and would be ver glad to have him back again.

I am very busy now and have been for the last three weeks and shall be until I get all the orders copied which issue from the Headquarters of this army so if you do not get more than one letter a week from me, you need not be surprised. I have not written to Father’s folks since I have been here and to Abel but once, I believe. And the next letters I write must be to them. However, I will write you next Sunday anyhow and I want Charley to write in your letters because you cannot fill them out without help. Write about everything you can think of. By that means, you will learn to write letters and very soon you can write without any trouble.

Rufus Pratt had a letter from Lucius a few days ago. He was at Bowling Green, Kentucky, and was well. Your mother seems to think that because Charley did not get a letter from me when she expected one, that my great love of euchre prevented me from writing. I have not played a dozen games of euchre since I have been in this camp. Have been too busy other ways. In my next I will write the amount f labor I have to perform each day and I know you will excuse my not writing oftener. My sheet is about filled, therefore, I must close. Kiss the little ones for their Father and kiss your mother about 25 times for, — Foster

1 Camp Ella Bishop was named in honor of the “spirited Union girl of Lexington who, a short time before, had defiantly waved the Union flag in the faces of the Confederate troops who occupied the city and proclaimed her self for the Union, now and forever.” [History of the 12th Illinois, page 20]


Letter 2

Lexington, Kentucky
February 11, 1863

Dear Children,

I promised to write you last week but didn’t do it so I will endeavor to write today. My health is good yet and I feel first rate. George is well. Also your Uncle William. He was in our camp Sunday and likes his place first rate. He ranks as corporal and expects to have a sergeant’s place soon. I don’t know all of a corporal’s duty in a battery but the principal part of it is to sight the gun.

We are having very bad weather yet—first it snows, then melts, and then comes rain, and of course the mud is very deep and sticks to ones boots like the mischief. Illinois mud is nothing compared with it for stickiness.

The military authorities have had a big scare for the last week. The reports came in thick and fast that John [Hunt] Morgan was marching on this place from Tennessee. One of the Michigan regiments have received marching orders several times to go to Danville 35 miles south of this place to reinforce the troops stationed there and the orders have been countermanded each time, and the regiment is still here and likely to remain as there was nothing in the reports at all.

We are doing nothing at all but eating and sleeping. There is so much mud it is impossible to drill and do not have dress parade more than twice a week. So you see I must be getting very lazy or I should have written you before. I can’t find anything in camp worth writing about and it is almost impossible to fill out one of these small sheets with anything that is readable.

Abel wrote that you are getting along finely in your studies and that you get your lessons well. It makes me feel proud to hear that you are doing so well in school and improving so fast. You must improve all your time when you are in school because if you don’t, you will be sorry when you grow older and look back to the time when you were going to school and did not study as much as you might have done. However, I think you will do all you can without my saying much about it.

When you write, tell me all about the things at home, how the horses, cattle, and hogs are doing, and if you have killed your pork yet. And write about everything you can think about as all you can write will interest me.

We have no Major yet but expect to know who is the lucky man in a few days. I expect Capt. [Tristram T.] Dow will be the Major and he will make a good one. 1 Our captain [John J. Biggs] expected to be a Major but his heels were tripped up slightly as he stood no more chance of being the Major than 800 other men in the regiment did. He is not very popular with the Colonel nor anybody else that I know of. I believe that this is all that I can write today and will have to close with this page left blank.

Mary, you kiss all the little ones for me and Susie, you may too. Write often [even] if it is not very much, but you can all write together and fill a sheet without much trouble, can’t you? Charlie, how do your pants fit? I will send you a coat in the spring if I can get a chance. Goodbye little ones for this time. Your affectionate Father, — Foster

1 On account of a severe injury caused by a fall from his horse, giving him a hernia, Major James M. Hosford had to resign his commission. Captain Tristram T. Dow of Co. A was promoted to succeed him.


Letter 3

Addressed to Miss Mary L. Benedict, Atkinson, Illinois

Somerset, Kentucky
May 24th 1863

Dear Children,

I now write to all of you without exception, instead of each singly, because if I write to each, I would soon be out of postage stamps and they are hard to get here.

My health is first rate and I am contented where I am, notwithstanding you are all so dear to me. You know not how hard it was to part with you so soon after being home but honor and duty forbade my staying any longer. I have written to you mother telling here when I arrived in this camp so there is no need of writing it again. Also received a letter from her saying that you were all well which is as good news as could be written. She also said that Charlie had finished planting corn and I must say to him that I am pleased with the way he has worked this spring and in fact ever since I left home. And Charlie, I hope you will write and let me know how you get along with the work, and what you have done since you finished planting the corn. Write how the crops look and all about everything on the farm.

Mary & Susie, I hope you will write all about your progress in school and write anything else that you think I would like to hear.

I have not sent my money home yet but will send it to Cambridge by a Corporal of our company who is going home in a few days and my clothes which are partly worn out will be sent to the same place as soon as we can get a box to put them in as several have things to send. I promised your mother when I left that I would subscribe for the Cincinnati Times. Did not do it because I did not arrive there until 9 o’clock Saturday night and had to leave at 5 Monday morning. Therefore, you see there was no opportunity for me to do so. I hope she will send for some newspaper because I do not wish my family to be without one.

When I got back, found my things in good order—nothing lost. Have a new [ ] and pantaloons and if I do not [ ] too much, shall not be obliged to get any more clothes until winter and shall not have to ride much I guess until I have a horse. The one that was drawn for me was left at Millidgeville lame and there is none here for me. How long before I can get one there is no knowing. I hope before we march from this place. If not, I will have to be left or go into some other company which of course I would not like very much.

On Friday we had a regimental inspection and as a prize for the best guns—or those which were in the best condition—furloughs were to be granted as follows: to one private in each company, to four line sergeants, to two orderly sergeants, and to two commissioned officers whose companies presented the best appearance on the inspection. Well, Lieut. [Alexander P.] Petrie goes home as one of those officers and the orderly of our company was selected as one of the two orderlies. [ ] was selected as one of the line sergeants. I would have been one of those if I had not got a furlough the [ ] I could have gone home now. One of our boys heard the Inspector say that our was in the best condition of any of the sergeants and that I was the first choice among them. So you see that my pride has not all left me yet and I do not mean to be outdone by anyone as far as doing my duty is concerned ad keeping my arms and accoutrements in good order. I should have been well pleased to have gone home again but the distance is so far and the expense so much that I could not afford it and another reason was that I had only just come from hoso another sergeant was selected in my place which I did not think was quite right because if I was lucky enough to win the prize, I ought to have the privilege to give it to whom I pleased but it was not allowed and so George missed the chance of going home.

The way the Orderly got his was by borrowing a gun from one of the boys instead of using his own which is habitually in poor order—rather a small way of getting a furlough, I think.

My sheet is full and I must close. You can let whoever you are a mind to read this. Write often all of you. This is the fourth letter I have written since I got back but only one to those at home but presume you have heard from me by those to Albert and Abel. With love to each and all. I am your affectionate father, — Foster


Letter 4

Danville, Kentucky
August 5, 1863

Dear daughters Mary and Susy,

In my last letter to your mother I promised to write you next. It is one week since I have written home and the reason is that we were moved from this place to Hickman Bridge on account of a rebel raid into this part of the state under the command of Col. Scott. Last Sunday, 30 men from our company left camp for Richmond together with about 120 men from this regiment and 200 from different regiments of our brigade after going two miles south of the place, they met Scott’s Brigade of rebel cavalry 1500 strong and fought them two hours and were compelled to retreat on Lexington. Two of our company were wounded and seven taken prisoner. None that you know. After reaching Lexington, our forces were reinforced and then came the Reb’s turn to run—and they did run as fast as their horses could carry them. Did not make but one stand for a fight in going 120 miles and then they were scattered like chaff before a whirlwind.

You will look at the map and see the route gone over as I describe it. After leaving Richmond, the Rebels went to Winchester where our forces had a sharp fight with them, capturing a number of prisoners. From thence they went to Irvine on Red river and then to Lancaster where our forces overtook them and captured 250 prisoners. From there they went to Stanford where they were overtaken again and a number taken—I can’t tell how many—and from there to Somerset. From there to Mill Springs where they are reported to be this morning with heavy reinforcements. How true it is, I can’t tell. We have destroyed as fine a brigade of cavalry as there is in the rebel service. How many prisoners were taken, I can’t tell but a great many are being sent to Hickman all the time. As we were coming from there to this camp, we met 250 in one squad besides lots of others in wagons. That was on Friday. Since then a great many others have passed up to the bridge and there is no doubt that the force which invaded Kentucky is destroyed almost entirely, and in all probability this state will not be troubled much more this summer. And if that is so, we shall have nothing to do the balance of the summer unless we move into Tennessee. I did not go out with the expedition because my horse was too lame to travel.

My health is good now—nearly as good as ever. George enjoys good health at present. He is leader of the Regimental Band. We have German silver instruments. Eleven in number and cost $550 and it is a splendid band, I tell you.

I have not had a letter from home for more than a week but suppose that you have written, and in in hopes to get a letter tonight. I received a letter from Abel last night and he said that the wheat was all cut, but was hurt very much by the cinch bug. I am sorry to hear it. The wheat looked so well when I was at home. I expected you would have a good crop. But it cannot be helped. There is no news to write and will close with love to all at home. The next I will write to Charlie and I hope you will answer this as soon as received. Kiss the little ones for me and I am your affectionate father, — Foster


Letter 5

Addressed to Mary L. Benedict, Atkinson, Illinois

Mossy Creek, Tennessee
December 30th 1863

Dear Daughter Mary,

I have received two letters from you enclosed in your mother’s and today I will answer them. We are now in camp which is something unusual. Our regiment is in motion nearly all the time—hardly ever camp twice in the same place of late—are kept in the saddle so much that it seems to me that I am part of a horse. However, I like it better than going on foot.

Yesterday morning two divisions of cavalry were sent out on a scout to Dandridge 10.5 miles southeast of here and while they were gone, the Rebs pitched into our force hoping to drive them back. They failed however, and got a good thrashing themselves. Took 60 prisoners and killed and wounded a considerable number. How many I don’t now. The fighting was done by cavalry alone. The infantry are several miles in the rear of the cavalry forces and it is seldom we see any of them. We have been in the front in every advance and in the rear on every retreat, and it is a wonder that we have not lost more men than we have since we came into Tennessee. As it is, we have lost 165 men killed, wounded, and prisoners. We have now about 275 men for duty mounted; the rest of the regiment are in hospitals except the dismounted and they are back about 20 miles. How many there are I don’t know but suppose about 100.

The regiment make a very different appearance now from what it did when it first came into Kentucky. Then it was nearly full. Now, not more than three or four full companies of men out of 964. It would puzzle anybody to tell where the men are but as I said before, nearly all the men who are not killed and prisoners are in hospitals. I have been lucky—never have been sick enough to be obliged to go to a hospital and hope I never shall. My health is very good at present though I have sick spells occasionally. But they seldom last more than three or four days at a time and they are occasioned by the miserable rations we are compelled to eat or get nothing at all.

For the last twi weeks we are having all we want in the shape of flour and pork, nothing else until day before yesterday Will was lucky enough to buy a few dried apples and they relish first rate. I shall be glad if I ever get into a land of plenty again and where everything I eat does not swine [ ]. But it does no good to grumble. We have to take things as they come whether it suits or not. But we cannot help but growl when one week we are starved and the net filled with grease. However my time is about half out and I guess I can stand the hard knocks and hard fare.

The weather now is very pleasant and like the weather is pleasant, soldiering is not so very disagreeable but in rainy and cold weather it is hard. Have to sleep on the wet and frozen ground. But I have got used to it and it does not hurt me in the least. I generally sleep warm no matter what the weather is. Not much danger of fevers. Your mother writes that you wish to work out next summer and asks what I think about it. I have no objections to your working out if you think you will be able to. I don’t wish you to hurt yourself as too much work might as you are growing fast and a young person ought to be very careful of themselves or they might regret it after years.

Capt. [John B.] Mitchell has gone home on a sick furlough and I should have sent some money home by him if he had been with the regiment at the time he received his leave of absence. He was at Strawberry Plains and we were at New Market 16 miles from him. Lieut. [Alexander P.] Petrie expects to go home soon and if nothing happens I shall send by him. He says he will take anything the boys wish to send. There is no other way to send money home except by private hands and that seldom occurs. The money I brought into Tennessee with me I have paid out for clothes in order to keep from going naked as the government does not furnish us with anything until about a month ago. I had to buy a pair of boots, a shirt which I have to pay $5 for and a cap. It did not take all I had but I paid out the rest for something to eat while I felt unwell. I will send $60 the firs opportunity. I know you need it this winter for the purpose of buying clothes to keep you warm.

Have you got the corn all picket yet? And what are you going to put on the posts between us and Mr. Hart?

The last letter I write home was to Charley and I hope he will answer it as it has been a long time since I have had a letter from him. Write often no matter how often as letters are anxiously looked for all the time. We have not had a mail for two weeks and don’t know when we shall again. Tell Grandfather Benedict that George and I got the paper, envelopes, postage stamps, pencils, that he sent by Sergt. [Robert F.] Steele. Also his letter, and one from your mother at the same time. Will is in good health, also George.

With much love to Susie, Nellie and all the little ones for me, I am your affectionate father, — E. F. Benedict


Letter 6

Hospital No. 19
Nashville, Tennessee
August 4th 1864

Dear Susie,

In the letter which I wrote your mother since I came to this hospital, I promised to write the next to the children. Because this is directed to you, you must not think it is all yours. It is written as much to all the rest. It is now almost one week since I came here and I feel just about the same as then—only I am not as tired. The ride here nearly tired me out and now I am so nervous that I write but slowly and with difficulty. However, I have a tolerable appetite and as long as one can eat, there is not much danger of dying.

The hospital fare is very good but not in great quantity, We have for breakfast meat and coffee. For dinner today, potatoes boiled, tomatoes, baked pudding made from the pieces of bread left at breakfast, boiled meat beef with plenty of gravy which was much better than we get every day. For supper we have bread and molasses and tea. The fare varies somewhat each day from the above but not very much. The patients in this ward are doing well without any exception that I know of. There is today 139 men in the ward in which I am in. How many in the hospital I can’t tell but presume about 4 or 500.

The weather has been very warm until yesterday since which time it has been very comfortable. There is lots of mosquitoes on the hospital and they bother a great deal nights—so much so that one cannot sleep half of the time. I suppose you are going to school again and I hope you will study well and learn all you can (I no I need not to have written that because I know you will). And Charlie, I hope you will do the best you know how. When there is any work to be done, do it without dreading it, and be kind to your mother, sisters, and brothers. And children, be kind to each other and do not quarrel, but do right and you will all be happy. You know not the love I have for each and all of you, and if you love your absent father, I hope you will be nice good children.

I understand there is to be a general examination of the patients in this hospital tomorrow and those who are fit will be sent to the front. And some will probably be transferred to the Invalid Corps. What disposition will be made of me, of course I cannot tell, but if I am sent from here, I will write immediately and let you know. It is hard work to make a readable letter and fill the sheet full here in this place so you must not think that the sheet ought to be full. I have written but two letters since I came here—one to your mother and one to father. Tell Abel I will write him soon. Oh, I’m mistaken. I have written to Brother George. You need not write until you hear from me again as I may leave here in a day or two. Can’t tell you know.

Kiss mother and the little ones for me and you have no idea how I wish I could be with you all this time but that is impossible. Don’t forget to kiss Mary for her father. Goodbye dear children. Affectionately your father, — Foster


Letter 7

Addressed to Miss Mary L. Benedict, Atkinson, Illinois

Hospital No. 19, Ward 2
Nashville, Tennessee
August 14, 1864

Dear daughter Mary,

I have deferred writing today until afternoon hoping that I might get a letter from home, but none came I am sorry to say so I will write to let you know how my health is and that is all there is to write about here. I am very glad to be able to say that I am getting better but not very fast but slowly and steadily. Do not take any medicine at all now and that is significant that I shall shortly take my departure for the front I suppose. Whenever that time comes, I shall go cheerfully and gladly. I do not like hospital life at all. It is too much like being shut up. I have not been out since I came here but shall endeavor to obtain a pass tomorrow.

Well, Mary, how do you do? Is your health better than it was? I hope so and hope too that you may have good health for it is a blessing to be prized which I have found out. Be very careful of yourself because you are growing fast and very liable to spells of sickness incident to rapid growth, and I need not say to you be a good girl for I know you will be for my sake as well as your own.

Oh you know not how hard the parting from you and your mother and all the dear flock at home. It did seem as if my heart strings would break but there was no help for it and I had to go. But I earnestly hope and pray that in one short year you—but long, very long to me—I may be permitted to be with you once more, not to be separated again by any cause whatever. If anyone cannot prize the joys and comforts of home, let him go to war and I will be bound he will know how to enjoy them when he gets home.

I do wish that this horrible and terrible war was over, but I cannot see that there is any prospect of its closing this year and may drag alone one or two years longer.

I hardly know what to write so I guess that I will tell you what we had for dinner today. Boiled pudding and molasses, bread, tomatoes, potatoes, and water—a great deal better than we usually have for our dinner. But I would give more for a dish of bread and milk at home than I would for all the grub there is in the hospital. There is not much chance for a fellow to get very fleshy here if his appetite is very good, it is hard work to get enough to satisfy it. But in my case there is no trouble as I am not troubled with very much of an appetite. But it is some better than it has been.

Have all our folks forgot to write to me or what is the matter? I have had but one letter since I have been here and that was from Charlie and your mother, written August 4th. This is the 8th letter that I have written and I hope to get some in return before long. But if I should leave here, I don’t know as I would ever get them but think they would be sent to me wherever I am.

Will you write as soon as you get this and if you can’t fill a whole sheet, get somebody to finish it. Anything that you will write will interest me so you need not study very hard what to write for fear that I will care nothing about it. My next letter will be written to your mother and will be written within a day or two. Give my love to Abel and Harnity and Clara. Kiss your mother for me and all the children too. Affectionately your father, — Foster


Letter 8

Addressed to Miss Mary L. Benedict, Atkinson, Henry county, Illinois

Alexandria, Virginia
January 31, 1865

Dear daughter,

In my last letter I promised that you should have the next one, and now I proceed to fulfill that promise. You will see by the caption of this letter that we are still on our way to join the armies of Grant or Sherman—nobody knows which, but I hope we are going to Sherman’s which seems to be the prevailing opinion. I received a letter from your mother last night written January 12th and is the only letter that has reached me since leaving Clifton, Tennessee, I believe.

Was very glad to hear that all were well at home and do most sincerely hope that all of the family may continue to enjoy that precious blessing. We arrived here one week ago tomorrow night expecting to leave the next day but was prevented by the freezing over of the river. The river is still closed by the ice without much prospect of its being clear for some time to come. The weather have been very cold since we came here until yesterday when it moderated some but not enough to affect the ice in the river. The vessel which is to transport us lies here at one of the docks and is the steamship Atlantic which once run between New York and Liverpool and is a vessel of 2,000 tons burthen—the largest by all vessels of any which I ever saw.

There are several ships here but they do not present so large an appearance as I expected. One is now loading with railroad ties for Spain. On think of that—this county sending railroad ties to a foreign country. It looks a little out of the regular course of things but I suppose there is a speculation in it.

This city is six miles below Washington and on the Virginia side of the river. It is one of the oldest places in the state and one of the dirtiest I guess. Dirty as it is, I would much rather stay here until spring than move this cold weather no matter by what conveyance we are transported. It is always very uncomfortable [with] so many being crowded together and if the weather is cold there is no chance for a fire and if warm there are always too many together to keep cool. So it don’t make much difference whether we move in cold or warm weather so far as the comfort of the soldier is concerned. Well, I have one consolation and that is I have but little over seven months to remain in the army and then will be a free man once more and shall endeavor to remain so in all the future of my life.

I have not received any pay yet and think we will not be paid here. If not, there is not much probability of my receiving any until my term of service expires and I hope that the money which you now have will be sufficient to last until next fall and it will together with what the corn will bring. I was in hopes that Charlie would be able to buy a riding plough this winter but am afraid it cannot be done. But if it is possible, I hope he will get one because he can raise so much more corn with one than without—enough more to pay for a plow two or three times over.

My health is tolerably good yet. Rheumatism does not trouble me as much as I expected it would this winter, but enough to make me feel miserable nearly all the time. George is now in hospital in this city laid up with the rheumatism and if we move from here soon will not be able to go with us. His attack is not very severe but enough to incapacitate him from doing anything. He is in Queen Street Hospital, Ward No. 2, Bed 605. The hospital in which he is in is very nice and clean with good nurses and surgeons so I guess he will get along all right. Have not seen him since Sunday but am going to the hospital this afternoon to carry him letters from home which came last night.

Write often and let me know what studies you are pursuing this winter. Also everything you think will interest me. And Susie, I wish you to write too and I will soon write a letter to you. With love to all the little ones, your mother and yourself. I am affectionately your father, — E. F. Benedict

Tell Charlie I wish he would write oftener if he will.


Letter 9

Addressed to Miss Susie D. Benedict, Atkinson, Henry county, Illinois

Camp of the 112th Illinois Infantry
Three miles from Kinston, North Carolina
March 17, 1865

Dear Susie,

After waiting a long time after m promise to write to you I will now send you a few lines. I have nothing new to write and so you need not expect much of a letter this time. We are encamped near the railroad running from Morehead City to Goldsboro and are repairing it or rather making a new one except the grading; new toes and rails have to be laid and of course it is slow work. The Johnnies had carried off all the road they could but I guess we will not be delayed very long. The whole force of the 23rd Corps is here and a division of other troops beside composed of the garrison of Newbern and other places below us. This place is about 30 miles above Newbern and is on the Neuse river. A railroad bridge crosses the river at this point—or did. It was burned when the rebels left.

My last letter home was written on the 13th and I gave all the incidents of march from Wilmington to the camp in which we were then. We have only moved a few miles since and nothing has happened worth writing. We will probably remain here a few days longer and then move forward again. Where to, of course I can’t tell, but think up the railroad toward Goldsboro. I shall be glad if we ever get to a place where I can get letters from home. We have had but one mail since we came here but there came no letters for me. The last I had from home was dated February 9th and it does seem as if I never would get another letter. But I must posses myself in patience and letters will come after awhile, I guess.

I heard by the way of George that Charlie has been so very foolish as to enlist and that he has gone into the 9th Cavalry. I wish to know what company and where the regiment is so that I can write to him. I was very sorry to hear that he had goe and left the family because I don’t see how you are to get along without him. He cannot be held in the service without his mother has given her written consent for him to enter it and I am waiting to know all the particulars before I write much about it. George wrote that he got $400 bounty. Why did he not get more as the sum generally paid was $600. Who enlisted him and where and when? I have forgotten his exact age. Will you write immediately and let me know. Whoever enlisted him, if he did not have the consent of his parents is responsible for all the costs which may accrue in getting him released. I don’t know as it is the wish of the family to [have] him taken from the army but my own feelings are that he must go home again without unnecessary delay. He will be entirely ruined in morals in the army and especially am I afraid of it in the regiment in which he enlisted. That regiment has a very hard name but I hope he will conduct himself like a true soldier if he stays and then I will not be ashamed of him.

What did he do with his bounty? Did he go in anybody’s place? If so, who? I wish to know all about it and I wish nothing left out. My time will be out in six months and then home once more if I am so lucky as to escape the perils of field and camp. I send in this letter $10 bill which you will divide with Mary. After awhile I will send another. I have sent to father for your mother $200 by Lieut. Griffin of Cambridge which I hope she has got by this time. He did not go directly home but did not stay any length of time on the way, I guess. He had been a prisoner since May 1863 and must have been anxious to see his family.

My health is about the same as when I wrote last. I don’t like to send any white paper but there is nothing new to write. Direct your letters to Co. C, 112th Illinois Infantry, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 23rd Army Corps, via Newbern, North Carolina.

Kiss all the little ones for me. Affectionately your father, — Foster


Letter 10

Goldsboro, North Carolina
April 7th 1865

Dear Mary,

You have written two or three letters to me without receiving any reply. I will now make amends for my neglect. The last from home was written March 19th from you and your mother. I was very glad to know that all were so comfortable and in good health. My own is not very good but am able to do duty which is not very hard. We are still in the same position as when I wrote last. Expect to leave the first of next week. Where to, I will not pretend to guess. I hope the summer’s campaign will be short and think it will. Lee has received such a terrible thrashing at Petersburg and Richmond and lost both places together with so much of his army that there is not any probability of much more fighting, I guess. The rebellion is played out entirely and no one except a madman or a fool can expect to overcome and defeat the Union armies now closing around the remnant of the rebel army. I hope that peace may speedily come and it is the impression of the army that their occupation os about gone, and that no more hard battles will be fought.

The news of the fall of Richmond and Petersburg reached the army yesterday morning causing a general rejoicing throughout the army. All drill was suspended and a general holiday was observed. The officers went into the punch bowl rather steep. Some of them were very merry long before night and this morning I suspect their hair pulls some. The rank and file were all sober for the reason that they could not get the liquor to get tipsy on (which was a very good thing).

Are you not lonesome without Charlie? Nobody to both you now, is there? Guess you had rather be bothered than have him go into the army. Have not had any letter from him since he left home. Don’t see why he cannot write. Hope every mail to hear directly from him. I learned yesterday that he was in Co. B, 9th Cavalry. Was told by young Porter who is in the 57th Infantry and in the same company with Alex Hanna.

I see by the papers that produce is very low in Illinois. I hope the corn you have will not be sold yet. It had better be sent to market next July or August unless the prices advance sooner. Are you going to school this summer or not? Guess you will have to stay at home. Are the little ones all well? Do they often speak of me? It will not be many months before I will be with them again if nothing happens and then we will have a jolly time.

When you write, tell me all about things at home and write everything else you can think of that will interest me. It don’t make much difference whether you write sense or nonsense—only fill the sheet. Had a letter from George dated March 26th. He was getting well. Presume you have heard from him since. I cannot put in practice the advice I have just given you—that is, to fill the sheet full. My head aches very badly today, so much so that I cannot write a decent letter but thought the dear ones at home ought to get a few lines from me every few days. Tell Grandfather Benedict that I will write him before we leave this camp. Ought to have written some time ago but have put it off from time to time. I wish to know who has enlisted from our town and if there has been a draft. Who of our friends drew a prize in Uncle Sam’s army lottery?

Write often and if you can’t fill a sheet, have Susie help. Kiss all the little ones for me. Don’t forget to write Charlie often and write kind and loving letters, and then he will keep in mind the home and friends he has left and it may save him from straying away into paths which will lead to his ruin.

Ever your affectionate father, — E. F. Benedict


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