1864: Ernest Leolin Lapham to Ella Lapham

This letter was written by Ernest Leolin (“Lee”) Lapham (1846-19xx) who was 18 years old when he enlisted on 25 February 1864 to serve three years in Co. G, 25th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He began his service as a private, was promoted to corporal on 1 August 1865, and made sergeant before he was mustered out in June 1866. Since the original members of the 25th OVI mustered out of the service on 16 July 1864 after their three years service, all that remained in the regiment were those original members who reenlisted as veterans and the new recruits. The only battlefield experience these new recruits would have was at the Battle of Honey Hill in South Carolina where the regiment’s losses in killed and wounded was 150.

Ernest was the son of Stephen Lapham (1821-1896) and Lucinda M. Hall (1823-1904) of Republic, Scipio township, Seneca county, Ohio. He was employed as a carpenter prior to his enlistment. After he was discharged from the service, Ernest came home to marry Sarah Jane (“Jennie”) McVay (1846-1918). He farmed for a time with his father-in-law in Shelby county, Ohio, and then relocated to Newton, Harvey county, Kansas, where he worked as an agent for a mining company.

Lee Lapham wrote his letter on stationery that included an engraving of President Lincoln and his Cabinet at the time (1864)


Camp near Alexandria, Virginia
March 23, 1864

Dear Sister,

Tonight as I have just come off guard and as my relief does not go on till 8 in the morning, I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know I was in the land of the living and where we are. When we left Camp Chase, we started for New York to take the boat for Charleston but after we got to New York, our orders were countermanded and so we started for Washington. We left New York in the morning of the 21st [March]. We took the boat for Amboy in New Jersey some 80 miles from New York. We had a nice ride. We were some 3 hours a going it. Now I can say I have been on the salt water. We took the cars at Amboy for Philadelphia. We went across the river to Philadelphia in the ferry boat. We got our dinner at Philadelphia. It was a good one. We were used the best at Philadelphia than any place we have been.

We crossed the river at Havre-de-Grace on the cars and they were on the boat. It was the first time I was ever on board the cars and the cars on board of a boat. The [Susquehanna] river was about half mile wide. We stayed last night at the Soldier’s retreat. This morning we crossed the Long Bridge over the Potomac. The bridge is the longest I ever saw. It is 1 mile long. We lay near Alexandria at Fort Ripley.

Good___, John Sparks, and Jacob Lips have deserted. Lips left us in Pennsylvania.

I was guard today on the wagons. Leon Smith was sent to the hospital last night. He has got the mumps on one side of his face. I do not know what time we will leave here for the front. We leave these barracks tomorrow for our tents which came tonight. I want Pa to send me 3 dollars and some postage stamps. Direct your letters to Washington D. C. I am well and hearty. I have not received any letters since I left home.

Send me some pictures. Goodbye, Ernest Lapham

One thought on “1864: Ernest Leolin Lapham to Ella Lapham”

  1. Our g- grandfather was transferred to the 25th OVI from the 107th at the wars end. These two regiments and more, along with many black troops were together on Potter’s Raid (expedition) when the war ended. I imagine that Ernest saw a little action along the way as they had several skirmishes.
    Mary Chestnut mentioned the damage to the railroads in her Civil War diary. It was a shame the raid did so much damage so late in the war as it hampered travel in that area for years after.


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