1861-62: Addis E. Smith to Eleanor Smith & Others

These letters were written by 19 year Addis E. Smith who enlisted as a private on 26 August 1861 to serve three years in Co. A, 38th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). He died of typhoid fever on 9 April 1862 in the general hospital at Bardstown, Kentucky. His remains now lie buried in the Lebanon (KY) National Cemetery, Grave No. 26.

Two boys from the 38th OVI, one of whom was George Gray of Co. K—not sure which. (LOC)

Addis was the son of Irish emigrant Peter Smith (1816-1861) and his wife, Eleanor Smith (1821-1871), of Salt Creek township, Wayne county, Ohio. It appears the couple were married in Wayne county in 1840 and Addis was their oldest child. The family was enumerated in Wayne county in the 1850 US Census where Peter appears to have been running a boarding house. His children at that time were Addis (age 8) and Mary Ellen. (less than a year old). He had six boarders at the time. Eleanor’s maiden name was also Smith; she was the daughter of Nicholas Smith (1789-1839) and Abigail Teaff (1791-1871) of Wooster, Wayne county, Ohio.

After Addis’ death, Eleanor attempted to obtain a pension for her son’s service but apparently was unsuccessful for some reason. She was still trying in 1866. She died in 1871 while living in Milford township, defiance county, Ohio. She willed the farm they were living on to her three surviving children at that time—Mary Ellen, Elizabeth Emma, and Henry Lee. The farm was identified as eighty acres in the east half of the northwest quarter of section no. 3 in Milford township.

There are seven letters that follow written by Addis after he enlisted in the 38th OVI. His handwriting was much better than your average soldier suggesting he took full advantage of the schools available in Defiance county where he was raised. His letters provide good observations of the movements of his regiment in Kentucky early in the war. The final letter is a “gut-wrencher” penned by Addis’ mother to his captain begging for some news of her son whom she had not heard from in some time. “Oh God, can it be possible that he is dead? If so, let me know the worst,” she pleaded.

To read other letters from member of the 38th OVI that I have transcribed & published on Spared & Shared, see:

Eli Crosby, Co. F, 38th Ohio (2 Letters)
Andrew S. Williams, Co. H, 38th Ohio (1 Letter)
Edward D. A. Williams, Co. I, 38th Ohio (1 Letter)
Brice Hilton Jay, Co. K, 38th Ohio (1 Letter)

Letter 1

Milford, Defiance county, Ohio
September 10th 1861

Dear Sir,

I take this opportunity of writing you a few lines to inform you that we are all well at present and hope these few lines may find you and family in enjoyment of good health. I wrote to you some time ago but as I have heard nothing from you since, I have concluded to write again.

I have volunteered for three years service in the army and am now at home on parole. I go into Camp Trimble at Defiance again on the 12th. Mother would like to have you all out and stay awhile this winter as she and the children will be alone when I leave. If you wish to move out West, there is a first rate chance of buying land here now. Unimproved land is selling at the rate of about $10 per acre. There is an hundred and sixty acres of first rate timbered land for sale near Edgerton and I think that it can be bought very cheap by taking the whole quarter. It is within a half of a mile of Edgerton—a nice little village situated on the Northern Indiana & Southern Michigan Railroad. It contains [2?] dry goods stores, 1 hard ware store, and 1 tin shop, 3 groceries, 2 steam saw mills, 1 church, and 1 seminary, 2 select schools of very good size, and 1 Sunday School of over 200 scholars, 1 cooper shop, 2 shoe shops, 3 blacksmith ships, 1 cabinet and 1 saddler and harness shop, 1 Asbury Hotel, 1 silver smith shop and a telegraph office. If you should take a notion to come out and buy, you could rent mother’s place until you could get some cleared for yourself. There is plenty chances of buying out here now.

But as it is getting late, I will have to draw my letter to a close. I believe I said we were all well at present. I should have excepted Henry and Elizabeth for they have been quite unwell for a few days. They are getting some better now.

No more at present but remain your friend, — A. E. Smith

P. S. I received orders this evening to be in camp tomorrow. Hence, will leave in the morning.


Letter 2

Camp Calvert
Laurel County, [Kentucky]
November 7th [1861]

Dear Mother,

It is [with] pleasure that I now seat myself to write you a few lines to inform you that I am well at present and hope these few lines may find you and the children in the enjoyment of life and good health. I received a letter from Dr. Andrews a short time since which I stated that you had the Diphtheria but I hope these few lines may find you entirely recovered.

I believe that the last letter I wrote you was mailed at Dick Robinson. We left that camp on the same morning that I mailed the letter. After a march of about 20 miles, we camped over night on Dick [Dix] River. The next morning after we had been on the road a short time, the word came to us the Rebels under Zollicoffer had made an attack upon the Union boys at Camp Wild Cat about 22 miles ahead. Upon [hearing] this, our regiment was put through on a forced march but arrived about 24 hours too late to take part in the engagement. But we were not badly needed for the Rebels were repulsed three times in succession with great loss.

Their loss in killed at the lowest estimate cannot be less than 150 besides a great number of wounded. They retreated taking the most of their killed and wounded with them. It is reported that Zollicoffer told some of the inhabitants along the road that he had lost about 1,000 men. Our men lost in all 3 killed and between 10 and 20 wounded.

After we had rested awhile, several of us went out to view the battle ground which is on the side of a steep wooded hill. The trees gave every evidence of a pretty sharp fight. We saw several places where the Secesh were buried 3 & 4 in a hole. We stopped at that place several days and then came on to our present camp on what is called Rose Hill near London, the county seat of Laurel county. We are pretty well fortified here and ready to receive any number the Rebels have a mind to bring on. But there is no danger of them attacking us here for the cowardly whelps retreat every time that we are advancing on them.

There are about 7 regiments in camp at this place at present. Last Sunday evening the two flanking companies of each regiment formed together and started off in the direction of Barbourville to meet about 1200 Rebel cavalry who had been prowling about and robbing the Union people of that vicinity. We marched nearly all night and all next day on the muddiest kind of a road expecting to have a little fun as the boys termed it and to come back on horseback. But when we were within 7 miles of Barbourville, we camped over night and some time during the night the word came to our officers….[end of letter missing]


Letter 3

Danville, Kentucky
Monday, December 2nd 1861

Dear Mother,

It is [with] pleasure that I now seat myself to write you a few lines to inform you that I am pretty well at present and hope these few lines may find you and the children in good health and comfortable circumstances.

We left London over 2 weeks ago and after marching one night and two days we arrived at Crab orchard where we rested 3 or 4 days and then came on to this place where we pitched our tents to encamp a few days. Here our company was chosen by Gen. Thomas as his body guard so we packed up and left the regiment which was encamped about a mile and a half from town and took up our quarters in town. Here I was taken with the quinsy and had to go to the hospital where I am at present. The sore in my throat broke a few days ago and is nearly well now. I feel pretty well now except that I am very weak but I think that I shall be able to march in about a week. I shall not try it before that at any rate for we have a very comfortable place here and plenty to eat.

The regiment left a few days ago for Lebanon but after they had been on the march about two days, they received orders to march back to Somerset—a distance of 45 miles—to which place they went on a forced march. It is reported here that they arrived there and had a fight yesterday but I could not learn the particulars. Our company went on to Lebanon with the General and did not have a chance to try themselves on the Rebels. I suppose our company with go with the General hereafter.

We were oaid off about a week ago, We got 28 dollars for two months wages. I will send home $15 dollars. I think it would be advisable for me to keep the rest for my boots are giving out and I shall want another pair and as winter is coming on I shall need several little articles which the government does not furnish.

I received your letter from Wooster today and was glad to hear that you was well. Please write as soon as you receive this so I will know whether you are at home or not and I will send you fifteen dollars in my next letter. Also my likeness. If I do not stay here long enough to hear from you again, I will express the money to you. But I must close now. Please answer as soon as you get this for I have only got one letter from you since I left Defiance.

Direct your letters the same as you did the other one. No more at present. From your son, — Addis. E. Smith


Letter 4

Lebanon, Kentucky
December 23rd 1861

Mary Ellen, and Elizabeth Smith
Dear sisters,

It is with pleasure that I now seat myself to write you a few lines to inform you that I am well at present and hope these few lines may find you the same. I received your letter in due time and was glad to hear that you was well and had a good visit back East.

We are staying at Lebanon, Marion County, Kentucky. When we got to Danville, Boyle county, our company was promoted to the position of body guard for Gen. Thomas. We had to leave the regiment then and have not been with it since. Col. [Edwin D.] Bradley wrote to Capt. [Charles] Greenwood to have us come back to the regiment. He said that he could not get along without us but the General thinks too much of us to let us go back. He seems to be very proud of us and calls us his company of regulars.

We have good times for soldiers and instead of staying out in the tents, we have a nice story and a half house with one room above and three below. I expect we will stay here all winter but there is no telling. We may have to move when we least expect it.

But I must close. Write soon. No more at present but remain your brother, — Addis. E. Smith


Letter 5

Lebanon, Kentucky
December 24th 1861

Dear Mother,

It is with pleasure that I now seat myself to write you a few lines to inform you that I am well at present and hope these few lines may find you enjoying the same blessing. I received your letter of the 17th in due time and was glad to hear that you were all well. Also that the money and likeness which I sent from Danville had went through safe. I left Danville the day after I wrote my last letter from that place. There was four of us left the hospital on the same morning. We traveled 14 miles the first day and stopped overnight with a man who was said to be a good Union [man] but when we came to pay our bill in the morning, it was 50 cents apiece for supper and breakfast of the Missouri stripe and the privilege of sleeping on the floor. We made no complaint however but hauled out our pocket books, handed over he tin, and went our way rejoicing. But our rejoicings were doomed to be short duration for we have not traveled more than a mile till our knapsacks began to get heavy and we felt decidedly like taking a rest, which we did. After a short rest, we took up the line of march again but our load kept growing heavier and heavier until finally we resolved unanimously to take the stage at the next town, which was only 4 miles from where we stayed all night.

So when we got to Haysville, which was the next town, we took the stage and rode the remaining ten miles which cost us 50 cents, but we were so tired and sore that we did not begrudge the money. We arrived at this place at about half past one. We were met at the tavern by the first and second lieutenants and some of the boys who took our knapsacks and escorted us to our quarters where we had a general round of shaking hands, &c. &c.

We have comfortable quarters here and pretty good times. We drill 3 times a day when the weather is pleasant. When it is not, we do not drill at all. We have a plenty to eat and wear and but very little duty to do except guarding ammunition and provision stores and patrolling the streets at night to arrest drunken and disorderly soldiers.

I received a letter from Dr. Andrews yesterday. He said he heard that I had the small pox but that is a false report. I have had nothing like it. There is two or three cases of it in town but they [are] kept in a small room in the court house yard and strictly guarded. You spoke of sending me some clothing if I needed it, but I do not need any at present.

[rest of letter missing]


Letter 6

Somerset, Kentucky
February 5th 1862

Kind Sir,

It is with pleasure that I now seat myself to write you a few lines to inform you that I am well at present and hope these few lines may find you the same. I received yours of the 29th last evening and was glad to hear that you were well.

I don’t know as I have anything very interesting to write as I wrote to you some days ago concerning the battle fought near this place [see Battle of Mill Springs] in which the enemy were so badly defeated. Their loss is estimated at from three to five hundred killed. I cannot tell how many wounded for I have never found anyone that knew. We have a number of their wounded in the hospitals of this place and between 40 and 50 prisoners that are not wounded.

There are several regiments camped in the vicinity of this place at present. There is a good deal of sickness in the camp and every empty house and church in town have been turned into hospitals for the sick soldiers. There is a scarcely a day that the ground is not opened to receive the lifeless remains of a soldier and sometimes there are three or four funerals in a day.

We have had several days of rainy, disagreeable weather since we came to this place but it has been clear and pleasant today. I hope that it may continue so for it is not a very pleasant chore to stand guard every other night in the rain as we have had to do since we came here.

But I must close for it is getting late and I want to mail this letter this evening. Give my respects to all enquiring friends and answer soon. no more but remain yours truly, — Addis E. Smith

Direct to Somerset, Kentucky, care of Capt. Greenwood, Gen. Thomas’ Headquarters


Letter 7

Somerset, Kentucky
February 5, 1862

Dear Mother,

It is with pleasure that I now seat myself to write you a few lines to inform you that I am well at present and hope these few lines may find you the same. I received yours of the 17th a day or two ago and was glad to hear that you were all well.

I don’t know as I have anything interesting to write as I wrote to you several days ago concerning the battle fought within 8 miles of this place on the 19th of last month [see Battle of Mill Springs] in which the enemy were so badly defeated. The loss of the enemy is estimated at from three to five hundred killed. I cannot tell how many wounded for I have saw no one yet that knew. It is supposed that they carried a great number of wounded off with them. There is a number of their wounded in the hospital at this place. There are also between 40 and 50 of their men here as prisoners that are not wounded. Among them is a Lieut.-Colonel and two brigade surgeons.

You said that Mr. Knight wished to know whether I was in the retreat from London to Crab Orchard. You can tell them that I was. It was the hardest marching I ever done and the Boys that were in the three months service said that it was the hardest marching they ever done. But I rather guess from what I can hear that the account in the papers is a little exaggerated for it could hardly be called a retreat for there was nothing to retreat from as there was no force of the enemy within 60 miles of us and if there had been, we would not have retreated for we had a strong and beautiful position ad could easily have defeated three times our number. But as it is near bed time, I will lay the paper aside for tonight. I will commence again in the morning and give you a kind of history of our retreat.

February 6th 1862

I will now endeavor to give you a history of our march from London to Crab Orchard. I have forgotten the date but we started at 8 o’clock in the evening and marched all night through the mud and water and at about an hour before day, we arrived at the Wild Cat Battle Ground and halted on account of some teams having stalled on the hill ahead of us. A great many were so tired that they flung themselves on the ground where they first stopped and were soon asleep. I wrapped myself in my blanket and laid down beside the road and was soon asleep with the rest of them.

In about a half an hour we were ordered to build fires and make ourselves as comfortable as possible for we would move no farther until daylight. We soon had the woods alive with fires and began to broil meat over the coals until daybreak when it began to rain and we huddled closer to the fires. As soon as it was light enough, we resumed our march again and the rain began coming down in perfect torrents. Our overcoats were soon soaking wet but we trudged on climbing hills and rocks. We crossed the Rock Castle River at about 10 o’clock. I got somewhat behind by stopping to rest and on coming up to the river I found hat if I waited till my turn came I would be the last one over so I edged my way through the other companies and jumped onto the boat just as they were shoving off from shore and hurried on to my company.

At about noon the rain slacked up and we halted to make some coffee for dinner. All that we had to eat from the time we started from London up to this time was two crackers and a small piece of raw pork which we warmed over the coals at Wildcat and a great many had not even that. After we had drank some coffee, we marched on again. That afternoon the road was lined with fatigued and worn-out soldiers of other regiments that had gone on ahead of us. Every fence corner was occupied by them—even a solid rock appeared to be a soft bed for some and some had got some liquor from the citizens as they passed along and were so drunk that they laid right down in the road and were half buried in mud and a great many of our regiment gave out and were left behind.

I got somewhat behind myself but I was determined to go as long as I could get one foot before the other and at about dark I caught up with the regiment again which was camped near a place called Mount Vernon. The next day was pleasant and we got along very well and arrived at Crab Orchard at about 9 o’clock at night. We camped there 3 or 4 days and then went on to Danville where we were promoted to body guard and since then we have had pretty good times.

But I must close for you will get tired of reading this bungled up letter. Give my respects to all enquiring friends and answer as soon as you get this. So no more at present. From your son, — Addis. E. Smith


Letter 8

Edgerton [Defiance county, Ohio]
April 5th 1862

Capt. [Charles] Greenwood, Sir,

I take the liberty to write you a few lines in order to find out something about A. E. Smith. I have not had a letter from him since the 24th of February. He then stated that he was at Bardstown, Kentucky, and was not well. I since learned that he was left there in the hospital. We have written a number of letters to you and to Addis but received no answer. I can’t understand why I don’t hear from him. There was a report here that he was dead. I cannot express to you my feelings or what I have suffered in my mind. Not it cannot be possible he has been left without even a friend to write us of his sickness or death. Now if he is living and unfit for duty, I beg of you to send him home until he gets better. Oh God, can it be possible that he is dead? If so, let me know the worst. We have all been sick of diphtheria. We are getting better. Please answer as soon as this comes to hand. Let me know all about my dear son & oblige.

Yours respectfully, — Eleanor Smith

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s