This letter was written by 19 year-old Frederick Kissel Ployer (1844-1920), the son of Jacob Ployer (1820-1897) and Sophia Kissel (1822-1896). Prior to his enlistment, Frederick was teaching school in Frankford township, Cumberland county, Pennsylvania. When he enlisted at Chambersburg on 4 February 1864 in Co. D, 187th Pennsylvania Infantry, he was described as standing 5 foot 9 inches tall. served in the field from May, 1864, to October of the same year, in this period participating in the Battle of Cold Harbor, and all of the engagements of the 5th Army Corps during the siege of Petersburg. His regiment was very active in the operations carried on at the Petersburg & Norfolk railroad, June 18 and 19; Jerusalem Plank Road, June 20; Weldon railroad, Aug. 18, 19 and 20. When his regiment was ordered to Philadelphia, he was detailed for special duty at headquarters. Department of the Susquehanna, and was ordered to report to Capt. Francis H. Wessels, Judge Advocate of this department, at Harrisburg. There Mr. Ployer was engaged in clerical work with the military commission in the trial of the Columbia County Conspirators. From the conclusion of this work until the muster out of his regiment, at the close of the war, he continued as record clerk in the Judge Advocate’s Office. He was honorably discharged August 3, 1865.
He married Sarah A. Lloyd January 18, 1870, and fathered Eleanor I. (b. 12/12/72). He also worked for the Internal Revenue Service and for a time was a clerk in an Altoona machine shop before becoming a bank cashier and financier. He served as one time commander of Mechanicsburg’s Zinn Post No. 415, G.A.R., and died in Carlisle Hospital from “hypostatic pneumonia with myocarditis” with “fractures of leg, clavicle & ribs” from an “accident” when he was “struck by an automobile.”
Line of battle near Petersburg, Va.
July 5th 1864
It is with the greatest of pleasure that I embrace the present opportunity of addressing you a few lines, notwithstanding the difficulties under which I write, tho facilities for writing are very poor and the writing no doubt will be accordingly. I am well and enjoying good health and I sincerely hope these lines may find you and family enjoying the same kind blessing.
The weather here still continues hot and dry. Look where you will and you see nothing but dust, dust, dust. But still it is not near so warm as it was last week as there is a good cool breeze blowing.
For the last week things have been very quiet in our front. The pickets of both sides seem to be taking a good rest. The pickets are very sociable with one another. The Rebs come half the distance between the picket lines and our pickets go the other half and then they trade and barter—the Johnnies generally trading tobacco for hard tack or other eatables. They say that they are short of rations and that they can not stand it much longer. And I judge it is about correct for Grant is in such a position that it is very difficult for them to get supplies forward. Grant has cut four of the five railroads running from the south to Petersburg and Richmond leaving them but one railroad and the James River canal open for to bring up their supplies. I see in the papers daily of complaints against Grant for being too slow about taking Richmond but rest assured that things will come out all right side up in the end. In the course of time, Lee will have to surrender or evacuate the region round and about Richmond and go farther south, and if he gets started once, we will take him much faster than he will like to go.
All is wanted is for the people to stand steadfast and uphold the government and be of good cheer and in my estimation matters will soon come to a successful issue. I suppose the “Copperheads” about your neighborhood are quite indignant at the nomination of Lincoln and Johnson. I saw a copy of the American Volunteer printed by the arch-traitor Bratton. He kind of goes it pretty strong. I suppose he would like to have his office destroyed again by some of Uncle Sam’s bluecoats. Just let him go on. He will rage and fume worse next November when he hears that Lincoln and Johnson has been elected by an overwhelming majority.
I will now tell you about the the 4th of July in the army. Things came off quite different from what we expected. We were expecting a festival of grape and canister as on last 4th of July, but everything passed off quietly. The day was quite cool and pleasant and bands were playing national airs all day such as Yankee Doodle, Hail Columbia, Star Spangled Banner, &c. Last evening our band played the Star Spangled Banner and the Rebs, hearing it, gave three groans while our men all along the line gave three rousing and hearty cheers.
Yesterday we had a Fourth of July present. What do you think it was. It was onions, pickles, and cabbage furnished by the U. S. Sanitary Commission. So much for the sanitary fairs held in the North. We have plenty to eat an once in awhile we get rations of whiskey, but it is in such small rations that you do not get enough to wet your eye. We get about half a gill at a time.
Our loss in the regiment so far will not exceed 200 men killed, wounded, and missing. A great many are sick and the regiment has been greatly decimated by disease. Out of 1100 men, we have about 550 men for duty. The old troops do not suffer so much from sickness as they have become used to it.
Alex Kennedy, Abraham Waggoner, and Joseph Heffelfinger are well. This morning I saw Edw. Wilders.
I will now bring my letter to a close hoping to hear from you soon. Give my love and respects to all friends but reserve a due portion for yourselves.
A paper once in awhile would be gratefully received if you can send me one—that is, one of our home papers, as we can buy the dailies here every day. Write soon.
Yours truly, &c. — F. K. Ployer
Direct to F. K. Ployer, Co. D, 187th Regt. P. V., 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 5th Army Corps, Washington D. C.
Tell Father to send me some letter paper as I am entirely out.