These letters were written by Henry P. W. Cramer (1824-1899) of Mendon, Adams county, Illinois, who entered Co. A, 50th Illinois Infantry as the 1st Lieutenant on 12 September 1861 and was promoted to Captain on 5 February 1862 when Capt. Edgar Pickett resigned. Cramer remained as captain of the company until he resigned his commission on 15 September 1864 after three years service.
Henry was the son of Christian Cramer (1779-1852) and Mary E. Pitts (1791-1857). He was married to Jane Anne Dean (1825-1900) and the couple had three children born prior to Henry’s enlistment: William (b. 1849), Jessie (b. 1858), and Elmer (b. 1861).
All nine of these letters were addressed to and saved by Henry’s older sister, Catharine (Cramer) Burkholder (1822-1906), the widow of Daniel Burkholder (1815-1858). Catharine’s children included Christian Burkholder (1845-1864), Mary Elizabeth Burkholder (1846-1921), William Burkholder (1848-1922), James Wesley Burkholder (1850-1915), and Phoebe Ann Burkholder (1858-1937). Mentioned in the final letter of this collection is the death of Catharine’s oldest son, Christian, who enlisted on 31 March 1864 in Co. K, 116th Pennsylvania Infantry. He was wounded on 3 June 1864 at the Battle of Cold Harbor and died at the 1st Division, 2nd A. C. Field Hospital.
Henry’s older brother Adam K. Cramer (1809-1868) is also mentioned throughout these letters. Adam lived in Fayette county, Pennsylvania, with his wife Catherine Zufall (1810-1889). They had at least seven children, three of whom gave their lives for their country. Adam G. Cramer (1837-1863), Enos R. Cramer (1839-1863) and Samuel Cramer (1843-1863) all served in Co. B of the 142nd Penn. Vols. and all three were killed or mortally wounded on 1 July 1863 at Gettysburg while fighting in the area south of Herbst’s Woods. Enos and Adam died on the field but Samuel had an arm and leg amputation before he died on 9 July. [See: Video]
Camp near Corinth, Mississippi
May 26th 1862
Dear Sister Catharine,
I received your letter of the 11th of May yesterday & was glad to hear from you & that you were all well & getting along well, but I was sorry to hear of our nephew White being killed at the Battle of Winchester. You say Samuel & Uriah Massena are in the army in Virginia and that Uriah was shot in the hand. You did not say what army they are in—whether it is the Rebel or Union army. Please let me know, but I suppose it is the Union army they are in. But then you know how easily Sam is persuaded to anything that I did not know but that he living in Virginia, the rebels might have persuaded him into their army. If they have, I almost wish he may be killed, but I hope he is all right on the Union question. How does sister Barbara get along while he is in the army? Does she have anything to live on or not For I do not suppose that he saves anything of his wages in the army to send home for her to live on, he being in the habit of drinking & there being so many ways to spend money in the army that I fear he will not save any of his money & that she will suffer.
I am also sorry to hear that the Imel boys fared so badly in the army but I am glad to know that they were willing to die for the old flag & the old Constitution. I am sorry to hear of the death of cousin Bacon. I think he was a good man. Where did he live? You spoke of sister Elizabeth. Where does she live? Does she live with Martha or where does she live & does she still own that land she bought? What is her post office address? Please let me know. I cannot tell whether Jane have answered the letters you spoke of or not but I think she has. You must keep on writing to her for it does her good to get a letter from a friend in her lonely condition for she is very lonely in my absence.
I understand from Russell and from Christian also that they have quite a correspondence with each other. I am glad to hear it for it will tend to improve their minds as well as keep up a friendly feeling between them. Christian said I should write to him as soon as I got your letter. Tell him I would be glad to do it but I have so much writing to do & so little convenience for writing that I will have to make this one do for you & him both this time & I do not have very much spare time to write letters either for I am kept busy nearly all the time with one thing or another connected with the company. You say you hope the time will soon come when war and bloodshed will come to an end & that I may be spared to return to my family. Catharine, you cannot wish so anymore than I do. It is my daily—yes, constant wish & prayer for I am heartily tired of war & its horrors & of being absent so long from my family. But I think the time is not far distant where those of us that are not killed will be permitted to return home if we are successful at this place & I cannot but help thinking we will be although I expect it will be a desperate struggle if they fight at all & I suppose they will. But I cannot tell when it will come off any more than you can.
There is skirmishing all along the lines all the time between the two lines of pickets for our lines are now within two miles of each other and occasionally a man taken prisoner, wounded or killed on both sides. We have now two hundred thousand troops here. Gen. Halleck is here in person. They have also got a large force but from what we can learn of deserters from their army & of returned prisoners to our army, they have not got so large a force as we have into many thousands. Neither have they near so much artillery as we have. We may have to lay here a month or move yet before the fight comes off for I do not think that General Halleck intends to fight until he has everything just to suit him & he may not intend fighting them at all but trying to surround them and starving them out for they are said to be quite short of rations.
I have passed through several conflicts unhurt & pray God that He may spare my life so that I may return to my home in safety. I want you to remember me in your morning and evening prayers that I may come out of this contest unharmed. It is as you say, this may be the last time I may write to you in this world. God only knows what the result will be. I wish you would see brother Adam and tell him to write to me & give me his correct post office address so that I can write to him if my life is spared to do so. I have written to him a number of times & have got no answer from him. I have concluded that I must not direct my letters to the right post office for him to get them or he would answer them…
How is the Harbough’s getting along? Is Uncle Leonard dead or not? If I did know, I have forgotten. I will have to bring my letter to a close. Write as soon as you get this. Direct as you did before & tell Adam to direct in the same. When you write to Elizabeth again, tell her to write to Jane and Jane will write to her. Tell her and Martha and Rebecca to write to me. Also tell Barbara to write to Jane & I both & we will write to all of the, if they will give us their post office addresses. Give my love to Lena and my respects to all enquiring. No more. God bless & protect you all. Goodbye dear sister.
Your brother, — H. P. W. Cramer
To Catharine Burkholder
P. S. Just now there is heavy cannonading off on our left a good ways. The engagement may be coming on now. but I do not think it will be general yet for a few days.
Camp near Corinth, Mississippi
June 28, 1862
Dear Sister Catharine,
It is with pleasure that I sit down to write you a few lines away down here in Dixie & to let you know that I received your letter of the 16th June last night. I was glad to hear from you and that you and your family are all well. I also had a letter from Jane last night stating that they were all well for which I am truly thankful. My family has been blessed with exceedingly good health ever since I have been away from home. I am in my usual health. Hope these lines may find you and yours still enjoying good health.
We are now encamped about two and a half miles south of Corinth on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad. I and my company have passed through the Corinth affair unharmed although we were under fire of the enemy several times before the evacuation. Our regiment was kept in the advance all the time we were moving on Corinth from Pittsburg Landing. The last engagement our regiment had with the Rebels before they evacuated was the last day but one before they left. In it we had one man killed & four or five wounded in the regiment, but my company came out without a scar, although the leaden hail flew thick around us. In this encounter our regiment as usual was thrown out in advance (it being the centre regiment of the Brigade) some two hundred and fifty yards. We came out of the brush into a road by an open field. The Rebels were on the opposite side of the field & opened fire on us as we emerged from the brush. We could not see them. We then fell back into the brush again about 20 paces and halted to see whether they would come out or not. They then charged on us across this open field with about three times our number & with a yell. When they got fairly out into the field, we opened fire on them with our artillery which very soon stopped their noise & drove them back with great loss. They never came out after this.
I cannot tell how long we will remain here but the prospects are that we will stop here nearly all summer. We have been some thirty miles farther south than this since the evacuation but were ordered back to this place where we have been ever since. This is a hard climate on us northern men. It is very warm & debilitating—so much so indeed that we cannot drill any, only in the cool of the morning & evening. The water we get here is so poor & unhealthy, it being mostly surface water.
I hope Mc[Clellan] will succeed in flaxing them out at Richmond & that soon so that they will move us farther north, if not home. In my opinion, the result of the Richmond battle will be the decisive one in a great measure. This is a poor country down here. I would not give 20 acres of our Illinois land for a whole plantation of it & be obliged to live on it. In fact, it is hardly worth fighting about, niggers and all. But then that is not what we are fighting about. We are fighting for the Constitution as our father’s made it & for the Union & republican principles. I do not mean the principles of the Republican party, but principles of a republican form. The Rebels are contending for the principles of anarchy & despotism. God forbid that they should ever succeed in establishing them in this fair land of freedom. My prayer to God is that the Old Stars & Stripes under which we as a nation have been so prosperous may forever continue to wave all over the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Our regiment has become considerably reduced in numbers through disease and battle. When I went into the service, my company was full, 101 men all told. Now it is but seventy and will not be that long for I have quite a number of men that will have to be discharged in a short time on account of disability. The other companies have lost at about the same ratio & if we remain down here all summer, I fear we will lose still a great many more. I do not want you to understand that these men are all dead that have left the regiment. About half of them are.
I am sorry for Sam Massena 1 that he has had such bad luck, but he will not remain a prisoner long. He will either be exchanged or released on parole. Poor wretch. I pity him. Tell Uriah for me that he must not become discouraged fighting in so good a cause as ours is, but that he must keep up his spirits & fight the harder. A soldier’s life is a hard one, I very well know, but if the troops will only keep up their spirits & fight bravely, it will be over much sooner than if they allow themselves to become disheartened, for then they will not fight half so well. When you write to Uriah again, give him all the encouragement you can. Tell him to fight bravely if called upon to fight and avenge his father’s capture.
I will quit for the present. Write soon. Direct as usual. Remember me at a throne of grace. My regards to all enquiring, &c.
Your brother, — H. P. W. Cramer
To his sister Catharine Burkholder
P. S. What has become of the Aughinbough’s?
1 Samuel Massena (1820-1874) married Henry’s sister, Barbara Cramer, and lived in Aleppo, Greene county, Pennsylvania. He served in Co, A, 12th West Virginia Infantry (Union). Their son, Uriah Massena (1842-1908) served in Co. K, 26th Pennsylvania Infantry. Uriah’s biography claims he “loyally and bravely served his country for three years and three months.” See 1861-62: Uriah C. Messina to Catherine Burkholder published on Spared & Shared 16.
Camp near Corinth, Mississippi
August 19, 1862
Dear Sister Catharine,
I sit myself down to write you a few lines in order to let you know of my well being & that I received your letter the other day with great pleasure. I am glad to hear that you and family are all well, or were at least all well at the writing of your letter. I am sorry to hear that you have so much sickness in your neighborhood. You say you should have answered my letter sooner that you did but for the reason of your having so many sick patients to visit. Well it seems that both of my sisters have turned Doctoresses for you said in one of your other letters that sister Barbara had taken up the practice of medicine. Well I guess if I get sick, I will send for someone of you to come and doctor me—that is, if I can raise money enough to pay the bill for the bill must be pretty high at the rate that other doctors charge for visits when you take into account the distance that you would have to travel to attend me. But I hope I shall have no occasion to call on you. At present I am very well & tolerably comfortable in my situation for the situation of a soldier is changeable like that of other people—sometimes more comfortable than at other times.
We have had no trouble with the secesh since the evacuation of Corinth. Yesterday morning we were called into line before daylight to be ready to march at a moment’s notice, but the alarm that had been given proved to be a false one so we did not have to go this time.
I had a letter from Jane yesterday. They were all well when it was written the 11th. In it they stated that they had got the report somehow at Mendon that our regiment had been engaged in a skirmish with the enemy & that we had been badly cut up. Now that was all false. I cannot see how such reports get started. They certainly do no good. But on the other hand a good deal of harm—that is, if you take into account the grief and anxiety of mind occasioned by such reports to the friends at home who have connections in the army on account of their safety. I think there is a better prospect now of bringing this war to a close than there has been at any time since it began—that is, soon as all those new troops are got into the field & that will not be long. It looks now as if the government was determined to sustain itself & this is the way to do it for the more men we have in the field, the sooner the rebellion will be crushed & it will cost the government less also. The Confiscation Act is also another grand move toward ending it; so also the emancipation of the slaves of Rebels & employing them in our army. Every slave we take from them weakens then one man and strengthens us one man for they employ them constantly against us.
I am sorry to hear of the deaths of T. Aughinbaugh & T. Lightlider. Where is Thad’s family? Had he squandered all the property Mr. Boose had given him or not? You say Sam Massena has got home. How did he get away from the secesh? Was he released on parole or how? I am glad that Uriah is in better spirits than he was. What kind of a young man is he? Is he wild like his father or is he steady in his habits? Why does Adam not write to me? What is Frank Long doing in Springfield? I will have to close with this.
Your brother, — H. P. W. Cramer
Write soon. Give my respects to all friends.
Camp near Corinth, Mississippi
September 26th 1862
Dear Sister Catharine,
It is with pleasure I take my pen up to write you a few lines, but I am so nervous it is with difficulty I can write at all. I cannot account for it. I have been so for some time by spells. I received yours of the 14th on yesterday. I was truly glad to hear from you, to know that you were all well and getting along well. I trust these lines may also find you all in good health. It does me good to hear such a favorable report from Uriah. I was fearful he would be led off by the example & bad influence of his Father, but I am glad it is not the case. I hope he will be spared to get out of the army & become an honorable man. I am glad to hear that Sam has grit enough to go into the army again. Was he exchanged or was he only paroled. If he was only paroled & the rebels capture him again, it will go hard with him. How comes it that Uriah is staying in the hospital? Is his health poor, or has he been detailed as a nurse? What regiment and what company does Frank Long belong to and where are they posted now? Let me know. I want to write to him.
We had another engagement with the Rebels a few days ago at Iuka—a small town about 22 miles from here. Our men whipped them soundly. Our loss in killed and wounded from 150 to two hundred, killed about 70. Rebel loss 800 to 1,000 killed & wounded, killed about 300—at least our forces buried two hundred and seventy of the Rebel dead & of course they had not found them all at that time yet. Our regiment was not in the fight. Neither was our Brigade but the balance of our Division was there but was not engaged. It is a wonder that we were not in it for they have kept our regiment in the advance whenever there was any trouble on hand ever since we left Pittsburg Landing. But I am not sorry at all that we were not in it. I have been in all the fights that I care about being in.
Our army has been doing some good execution in the East of late. If they will only keep on doing so, the Rebellion will be crushed in a short time. I thank God that the President has finally proclaimed the slaves of Rebels free. I think it will go farther towards putting down the rebellion than any other one act that could be done. I am not an abolitionist by a long shot, but if freeing the slaves will tend to end this war, for God sake, free them, & in addition to that, we can never have lasting peace in the United States while slavery exists in it.
It is strange that I do not get brother Adam’s letters. He must certainly not direct them right or I would get them. Instruct him how to direct. Do you know anything about Josiah Philippi—how he is getting along? Has he ever rebuilt the house and shop, has or is likely to get out of debt? There is still a matter of 50 or 60 dollars coming to me from him on that property. Is there any prospects of him marrying again & if there is, who to? I have written to him several times since I am in the army but never got an answer. What ever became of Jeremiah Philippi? Is old Christian Philippi still alive and does he still preach? How does cousin John Cramer, Betty Shoff, Aunt Lizzy, & all her boys & the children of all these get along?
Catherine, there is one thing I want to speak of to you and probably you may think it is none of my business. You are now a widow with your children all around you & they appear to be good children. Your boys seem to work well & you appear to be getting along very well. I do not know what your intentions are with regard to marrying again, but my advice to you would be to remain a widow unless you can better your condition very much by marrying again. You might get a husband that would ill treat your children which certainly would be a source of great annoyance to you and your children also, & in addition to all that, he might squander what you & your children have gathered. I do not want you to think hard of me for these suggestions, I merely make them as such.
I would like to hope you get your own & your three oldest children’s likenesses taken & send them to me. Have yours and Mary Elizabeth’s on one plate and the two boys on one. You can have them put in a double case; then it will take but one. I would like o have the pictures of all the children but perhaps it would cost more than you would like paying out. Get good ones taken. If they are not perfect the first sitting, make them try until they do get good pictures. If you send them, have the case well done up in paper and sealed or pasted & directed the same as you would a letter. I will send you mine some of these days.
How is Lena and her family? Give them my love. I also had a letter from Jane yesterday. They were all well with the exception of sore eyes & Russell had cut his foot pretty bad.
We are a good ways south but the nights are getting so cool that it is quite uncomfortable in our tents. Is there many chestnuts and cranberries this season? If there is, I wish I had a bushel or two of each, but that cannot be. They might be sent to my folks but they cannot be to me. I had better quit for I have already asked you more questions that you will be able to answer in one letter. Write soon as you get this & answer my questions if you can. Goodbye &c.
Your brother, — H. P. W. Cramer
Camp near Corinth, Mississippi
November 3rd 1862
Dear Sister Catharine,
I received yours of the 20th of October. I was happy to hear that my letters reach you as promptly as they do. You are now the only blood relative with whom I am in communication. I can get no answer to my letters from brother Adam, & I have written to cousin S. K. Cramer in Iowa & get no answer from him either so that it leaves you my only correspondent of the Cramer stock. If you will give me Adam’s proper post office address again, I will write him again. I keep forgetting his address all the time. I send your letters that I get from you home to Jane so I have nothing to refer to to find it out again, only by asking you. Give me the proper name of his post office & county is all I want and tell him again to write to me at this place. Let me know how he is getting along, whether he is making anything or not, how his sons & daughters are doing, & all about them, & whether Adam’s wife is as she use to be.
Well, Catherine, we have passed through another bloody battle at this place since I last wrote you. It commenced on the 3rd of October, just one month ago today, & ended on the 4th of October. I have again been spared without a scar for which I am truly thankful but I came very near being wounded. Our regiment made a charge on the enemy on the 3rd. While we were in the charge, the enemy turned our right flank and we were obliged to fall back. In this retreat I was struck by a ball in my left coat sleeve. It entered a little above the wrist and passed out over my hand. It caused my wrist to smart so much that I at first thought I was wounded, but on examination I found it was not. Pretty close cutting, was it not? I feel convinced that it is nothing but God’s protecting care that preserves me in these hairbreadth escapes, while at the same time I do not deserve the least of His notice, but instead, thereof His just displeasure.
I lost out of my company on the 3rd, one killed, two wounded & one missing. On the 4th, three wounded. The Rebels came very near defeating us several times. In fact, they did drive us at nearly every point on the 3rd (we fought in the woods on the third) & it was the charge that I have spoken of that saved the day to us on the 3rd. On the 4th, we fought in the edge of town. They had to come out into open ground to attack us. We killed large numbers of them in their attempt to cross this open ground but still they drove us back a short distance. But we soon rallied our men again & drove them from the word go, slaughtering them at a fearful rate & taking great numbers of them prisoners. After the battle, we buried between 13 and 14 hundred of the Rebels. Our loss was 350 killed. The loss in wounded on both sides was about 5 to one killed. Our loss in prisoners was about 400. Theres was upwards of two thousand. We followed them 35 miles. Our advance followed 45 miles. In their hasty retreat, they threw away immense quantities of arms, ammunition, tents, wagons, cooking utensils, cannon, & in fact, the greater portion of all they had.
If the Rebel Price & his army ever had a trouncing, they got it here on the 3rd & 4th of October 1862. It is said they are advancing on us again. All I have to say about that is that if they do come, they will get whipped worse than ever for we are now fortified at his place [such] that fifteen thousand can resist 60 thousand successfully. But I shall not be sorry at all if they do not come for I certainly have fought them as often as I care about. But if they do, I will try it again. I am better of my nervousness.
Sometimes we fare first rate on account of provisions, at other times we are rather hard up. Officers are not furnished grub by the government but have to buy it so when we are in a place where we can get anything to buy, we live pretty well, but I have saw that when we could get but little of anything, the men fare rather slim sometimes. Also on account of being so situated that the Quartermaster cannot get rations for them. My bed is a couple of blankets & the mother earth. My two Lieutenants [Sergeant Moody and Henry C. Bissell]and I sleep together, each of us have two blankets. We spread two on the ground to lay on & use the others for covering. A soldier’s life is a hard one at best.
I am sorry to hear of the deaths you speak of. What was the matter with cousin Joseph Pritz & what condition is his family left in? At one time you know he had become very intemperate & squandered nearly all his effects. Had he been doing any better lately? What Jacob Miller do you mean? Is it Levi & Jonathan’s brother or some other Jacob Miller? If Capt. F. Long has been captured by the Rebels, I am sorry for it. I used to think a good deal of Frank although he was a wild fellow. Yet he had some very good traits about him. If he is at home & you can get to see him or get word to him, tell him to write to me. I am pained to hear of the affliction of cousin Henry Cramer. What occasioned the tumor on his back that you speak of & how long has it been there? Has he ever tried to have it cut out? I am glad that my suggestion to you in regard to a certain matter were not taken as an offense by you & that our thoughts corroborate so very nearly with each other on that subject. It is encouraging to me to know that Adam’s sons are willing to stand by the old flag of our country. God grant them success & a safe deliverance.
I received a letter from Jane yesterday. They were all well. It was accompanied by her own & the children’s likenesses. I was happy to receive them yet I could barely restrain myself from shedding tears at the sight of them, not knowing whether I shall ever be permitted to see the originals of those pictures in life again or not. These thoughts make me feel sad. I have not got mine taken yet to send to you but will do it soon. Send yours and the childrens along as soon as you can for it may be all that I shall ever see of you & perhaps not even that for life is very uncertain & especially in the army. Tell cousin John Cramer & cousin Betsy Shoff or John to write to me occasionally. Write soon, &c. Your brother as ever, — H. P. W. Cramer
To my sister Catharine Burkholder
Camp near Corinth, Mississippi
February 11th 1863
Dear Sister Catharine,
I sit down this afternoon to address a few lines to you. I received yours of December 14th some time ago but have been so busy ever since that I did not get it answered. You will please excuse me. I have still not had an opportunity of getting my picture taken to send to you but I will send it just as soon as I can get it taken. I want you to send yours along & not wait for me. You are differently situated from what I am. You can go and come when you please. I cannot. Military rule is very strict. It necessarily must be. I cannot get away at all nor anyone else without getting permission & that we cannot always get.
I have had some pretty hard times since I last wrote you. About the time I got your letter, the Rebel Forrest made a raid across the Tennessee River for the purpose of cutting our communication off & did succeed in doing it. We were ordered out in pursuit of him & his gang. We started out at 10 o’clock at night on the 18th of December & marched all of that night & the four succeeding days & till 11 o’clock each night. We marched 130 miles in that time. I had a pair of new boots on. Oh but they did hurt my feet. I believe I never traveled in so much misery in my life. That is about the biggest marching on record for an army. The usual distance for troops to arch in a day is from 10 to 12 miles, but this was a forced march—at least my feet felt like it. Well when we got back to Corinth again, we were put on half rations on account of the Devils cutting our communications off. We were on half rations about three weeks. I tell you, we almost suffered for the want of something to eat. I tell you, it seems hard when men have to be denied enough to eat. The Rebs did not take much out of this raid after all, although we did not find them. But Gen. Sullivan with his forces did and gave them a sound drubbing, taking quite a number of them prisoners and all of their artillery but two or three pieces, & drove them back across the Tennessee River again. Within a few days, this same gang under Forrest was whipped again at Ft. Donelson. They lost 150 killed & 300 wounded. I think Forrest had better give it up for a bad job.
We now have plenty to eat again, communication having been opened again. I went to Memphis, Tennessee, on last Friday in charge of some prisoners of war from this place—Rebs of course. I had 38 of them. Memphis has been a beautiful place & still is, but the ravages of war are visible all over it. A great many very fine buildings are entirely demolished. The court house square is the most beautiful place I believe that ever I saw. It is still unmolested. It is set full of evergreens. A cedar and a magnolia tree are alternately [planted] with quite a number of forest trees interspersed. In the centre stands he monument of that Old Hero & lover of the country, Andrew Jackson. One one side of hte monument is inscribed these memorable words of his—“The Federal Union must be preserved.” These Devils, although professing to be Jackson’s disciples, have really undertaken to deface this inscription. The word “Federal” is very much defaced but is still legible. The engraving is so deep they could not deface it entirely without spoiling the entire monument. But the greatest curiosity about this square—to me at least—was the squirrels that are in it. There must be at least one hundred grey squirrels in it. They are as tame as cats. One can walk up to them & nearly lay their hand on them & they do scarcely notice you. It is a beautiful sight to see them gamboling about through this square. There are boxes placed on those forest trees in which they have their nests. The whole is enclosed with a very neat, ornamental iron fence.
You said Jerry Philippi had been in the Pittsburg Landing fight. How I should have liked to have seen him. You say we are near together if we only knew it. We may have been then, but may not be now. The troops that were in that battle have since been wonderfully scattered & it is almost impossible to find a person in the army unless you know what company & regiment he belongs to & what state he enlisted from. I would stand the treat as the saying is if I could get to see him. I wish you would find out the letter of his company, the number of his regiment, & what state the regiment belongs to & let me know it forthwith.
I had a letter from Jane the other evening. They were all well. I have some notion of resigning and going home. My health is not so good as it has been but still I suppose I could stand it. It is on Russell’s account that I think of doing it. He always was a hard boy to manage. It was all I could do to keep him under subjection. Jane writes me now that he has got entirely beyond her control—that she cannot do anything with him. I am well convinced that I owe a great deal of duty to my country, but if I am not mistaken, my first duty is to my family. He is now about the right age to be ruined forever if he is spoiled now. The old adage says that charity begins at home and I think if everyone will take hold & do as much as I have done toward putting down this hellish rebellion, it will be dried up in a short time, so I think no one can blame me for resigning if I do.
I am tolerable well with the exception of a very bad cold. Hope you and yours are all well. Give my respects to all the friends. Write soon as you get this &c.
Your brother, — H. P. W. Cramer
Camp near Corinth, Mississippi
February 22nd 1863
Dear sister Catharine,
I sit down on this the birthday of the Father of his country (viz) Washington, to address a few lines to you. Although there is no letter due you from me at this time, I sent you one some 8 or 10 days ago to which I have got no answer yet, but as I have now my picture taken, I thought I would send it along without waiting for an answer to my last. I wonder what George Washington would have to say about this hell-begotten rebellion if he were now living. I think he would make some of those God forsaken traitors, both North and South, quail before him. I think they will begin to shake in their books ere long as it is. In their boots, did I say? Well, if I did, that is a mistake of mine. So far as the South is concerned for the southron army has neither boots nor shoes to shake in, or else they are lied on most scandalously.
I had a letter from Adam the other day in which he said that Uriah Massena had been to see them & that he (Uriah) said he had been taken a prisoner at Vicksburg & paroled. How is this?—he being in the eastern army and taken a prisoner at Vicksburg? There was none of the eastern troops sent to Vicksburg that I know anything of. It looks mysterious to me. He must have been in th Rebel service if he was taken at that place as he said he was, or he has deserted from the eastern army & has hatched up this prisoner & parole story to screen himself. If he has done that, if if he has been in the rebel service, I hope he will be arrested and punished severely for it. It makes no difference with me if he is my nephew. A deserter should be punished for forsaking his country and flag. Of course I had much rather it were not so—if indeed it is so. At any rate, it looks smutty to me. You may be able to explain it all satisfactorily to me. I wish you would if you can.
The picture I send you is a photograph likeness. I like them much better than I do the other kind. They are much more correct and cost but little more by getting half a dozen, they will not cost so much as the others, but one alone will cost more, and sitting will do for a hundred or more after they have the negative as it is called (for that alone the sitting is required). They can print a hundred or more from it, consequently the first two or three they are cheap. I wish you would have yours. A photograph instead of the other kind if you have not already got it. I suppose you would have to go to Connellsville or Somerset to have it done but that would only be a pleasure trip for you seeing you have your own horse and conveyance & in addition to all that, you might come across some good-looking widower (grins).
I will send out in this letter for Lena also, give it to her if you please & tell her that I want her to send me hers and her husband’s in photograph, hers alone if she does not feel able to get both. I want you to send them right along now. If I am spared to have the opportunity of getting the picture of my whole family taken, I will send it to you also, but at present it is out of my power to do so. I have sent one likeness to Adam & if you will again give me the correct Post Office address of my other sisters in Green county, I will send one to each of them. I mean Rebecca, Marth, Elizabeth, & Barhary. I believe they are all living yet—at least I have not heard of the death of any of them…
There is some talk of us having to leave here but I cannot tell yet whether it is true or not. I hope it is not for I do not want to go into the field until the weather gets better for we have horrible weather here. It averages about three days rain to one of sun & cold too. It is like the correspondent said of Virginia, water 6 inches and mud the balance of the way. But it is not as I like in this matter of moving. When we get an order to move, we have to go, rain or shine.
I am well with the exception of the cold that I spoke of in my other letter sitting on my breast or lungs but is getting better. I had a letter the other evening from Jane & the children. They were all well except Jane. She had had a bad spell again and that miserable sick headache. It appears that is going to follow her through life. I guess I had better quit for I have about run out of material. Now don’t forget those photographs & tell Lena not to forget here either for I will look for them certain now. You wil l have to be careful about handing them. A little scratch or anything of that kind will spoil them. Give my respects to all enquiring. Who lives now where Thad Aughinbaugh did live? Write soon & answer all my questions both in this and the other letter. May the good Lord protect and preserve you all. Goodbye. Your brother, — H. P. W. Cramer
To his sister Kate.
P. S. That is the fashionable name for Catharine.
June 5th 1864
I received your kind letter some days ago but was on the march at the time, consequently I could not answer it. I will now try to do so. I was glad to hear from you as I had not heard from you directly in a long time. I was glad to hear that you and your family were well and that Christian has gone into the service of his country. You say it was a hard trial for you to part with him. I have not the least doubt of that. I have had some experience in that line myself. It has always been a trying time with me when the time came for me to leave my dear family and return to the army, but after all we have a duty to perform which we owe to our government which we, if we are loyal citizens of America, will perform regardless of our inclination for ease and comfort which we would enjoy at home. I say it is our duty to go forth to protect and sustain the flag of our country—the glorious old Stars & Stripes, long may they wave over a land of freemen. Our families and family connections are pretty well represented in this war, I think it can hardly be said of the Cramer family that they have failed to show a spirit of patriotism in the time of their country’s need.
In a letter that I had from Jane a few days ago, she tells me that [our son] Russell has also enlisted in the hundred days service. I was sorry to hear it on account of his youthfulness (he is only 15 years old), but I hope he will stand it that length of time. Poor fellow. It may do him good if he lives. One thing it will do, it will cut his eye teeth for him, as the saying is. There are hard things to contend with but we must endeavor to overcome them manfully.
I saw Uriah Massena since we are on this campaign about two weeks ago. He is in the 4th [West] Virginia Regiment, 15th Army Corps. We have been near each other before but did not know it. I should not have known it then, not knowing what regiment he was in. He knew from some source that I was in the 50th Ills. Regt. & enquired for the regiment, It happened that we were moving in the same column and were close together at the time. We had halted for rest & dinner one day on the bank of a creek. I was very dirty & had gone to the creek with my Lieut. to wash. When I got back, I noticed a young man talking with one of my men that looked strange to me. He approached me & addressed me in the familiar term of Uncle. I looked at him for some time & asked in my mind, who in thunder are you. He extended his hand to me. I took it and told him that he decidedly had the advantage of me. He then informed me who he was. I was perfectly taken aback, I had not had the least idea of meeting with him in the Western Army. He was well & looked well. I may be mistaken but I think he is a better boy than I expected he was. All that I judge from is his appearance. I had formed and idea that he was a chip off the old block, but his appearance does not bespeak that for him. Am I right or am I wrong? He told me that [his father] Sam had quit drinking. Is that so, or is it not? Well, I also saw Jerry Philippi & Absalom Pile this day two weeks ago. They are both in the same company and regiment, Co. B, 76th Ohio Regt. They were well. They both knew me. I knew Pile at first light, but I should not have known Jerry if he had been pointed out to me. He looks so very old. I was astonished to see him look so old. I was never more pleased to see an old friend than I was to see Jerry. He was equally pleased to see me. He is still the same warm-hearted Jerry as of yore.
Well, I have again through the protection of God passed through another desperate battle, or series of battles, without being harmed. I thank God for it. One man of my company only was wounded. Our Division, the 2nd of the 16 Army Corps under General Dodge lost about 200 men. We are now doing garrison duty at this place. The balance of the Division is in the front 35 to 40 miles south of this. They have been charged upon 7 times since we left them but have never faltered but repulsed the charge every time. It is a fighting division of the true metal. Cannot tell how long we will stay here.
You say Elizabeth has a bastard but do not say what Elizabeth. I am ashamed of her whoever she is. Do not say anything to Jane about it in writing to her. I am well. Must quit. Have no paper but what I get out of old rebel books. Goodbye, — H. P. W. Cramer
God bless you all.
What Co. & Regt. is [your son] Christian in? Who is his captain and who his Colonel? Tell him to be a good soldier & to write to me. God bless him and protect him.
July 10, 1864
Yours of the 26th June was received yesterday evening. I am truly sorry for to hear of the death of your dear [son] Christian. I have not the least doubts about his being a good boy. I sympathize with you in your bereavement but you need not, or at least you have no cause for doing so, mourn as those that have no hope. In the first place you say he had been regenerated in heart & that you think he was steadfast. I think so too from the tone of his letter to you. In the second place, he fell at his post in the discharge of his duty, nobly defending Liberty, and the cause of oppressed and downtrodden humanity & the best government the light of the sun ever shone on. God surely will not cut off those who die in the cause of right. He is a just God & loves those who do right & labor for the cause of right.
It is a severe blow, it is true, to be bereft of one so near and dear as a son in the bloom of youth—one just stepping into manhood. But when we think of the cause in which he died and the probable trouble, annoyance, vexations of spirit with which he would in all probability have been beset in this sin stricken world had he lived, that he has escaped all these things, they are calculated o ward off in a great measure the blow which under other circumstances would have fallen much heavier, you must strive to bear your affliction with Christian fortitude. God will not forsake the widow, neither do I believe He will forsake those whose main stay & support is slain in defending the cause of Liberty.
I had hoped that he & I would live to see each other. I had been as it were instinctively drawn towards him from the letters that he used to write me occasionally, but my hopes are all blasted. I wish I was near you so that I could render you some comfort and assistance. I am sorry to learn that my opinion of Uriah was incorrect. What trifling habits does he have? You say there has five of our nephews [been] killed besides Christian who is the 6th one. I recollect of none but Adam’s three sons, Christian, & P. Whipkey—5 in all.
Where is Elizabeth living at? What on earth does she mean to act the way she does? I should have thought her first lesson ought to have taught her enough of this kind of conduct. It is an old saying that children that have had their fingers burned are afraid of fire. It is a pretty true saying too, but it does not hold good in her case. She must not have as much sense as a child. Enough of this. The subject is mortifying to me.
How does your other boys do? Are they industrious and obedient? I forget which is the next oldest. I think it is William. He must be nearly grown by this time. Tell them that I want them to be good boys, to obey their mother in ll things & to take for their example their brother who has fallen in defense of his country. Tell them to write to me,
The regiment that Russell belongs is the 137th Illinois. It is stationed at Memphis, Tennessee. I have not heard from him directly since he is in the service. Old ex-Governor John Wood of Quincy, Illinois, is his Colonel. he is the Father of Quincy. He is quite an old man, near 70 I should judge.
It is very warm here at this time—the thermometer averaging about 95 degrees. No news worth speaking of. Sherman has got Joe Johnston on the run again. Will take Atlanta in a short time if he has not already got it. There is now a General Hospital established at this place. There is about 2,000 sick and wounded soldiers here set from the front. Three of my boys died of disease during the month of June. Russell has grown very large. When I was at home last winter, he was nearly as tall as I am. I am well. Hope you are the same. God bless you. Goodbye. Your brother, — H. P. W. Cramer