These two letters were written by Charles E. Ruch (1840-1865), the son of Samuel Ruch (1797-1875) and Sarah Rehrig (1807-1847) of Carbon County, Pennsylvania. Charles’ older sister, Hannah Ruch (1825-1899) was married in the 1840s to Gideon Peter (1823-1883) whose younger brothers are mentioned in these letters.
According to muster records, Charles enlisted on 15 October 1861 and was mustered into Co. I, 81st Pennsylvania Volunteers 9the “Fighting Chippewas”) to serve three years. He was described as standing 5′ 8″ tall, with light hair and hazel eyes—a carpenter by trade and undoubtedly with a limited education based on his letter writing skills. Charles was taken prisoner at Reams’ Station in Virginia on 25 August 1864 and was sent to the prison at Andersonville in Georgia. He appears to have been among the prisoners relocated to Salisbury Prison in North Carolina where he died on 17 January 1865. [Another source says he died at Andersonville.]
The 81st Pennsylvania Regiment was recruited under the direction of James Miller, a soldier of the Mexican War, in obedience to an order of the War Department. Six companies were from the city of Philadelphia, and four from the counties of Carbon and Luzerne. Recruiting commenced early in August, and the men reported by squads and companies at the general camp of rendezvous near Easton. On the 10th of October 1861 the regiment proceeded to Washington, and went into camp at Kendall Green. Two weeks later it moved to a camp overlooking the East Branch of the Potomac and the Navy Yard. It was here assigned to a brigade commanded by General Casey, subsequently by General Howard, and known as the First Brigade, First Division, of the Second Corps. With the exception of an expedition to Marlborough, Maryland, as a police force for the preservation of order at the general elections, where the peace was threatened, it was engaged in no active duty until the beginning of December.
[Note: These letters are from the personal collection of William Clemens and are published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]
[no date given]
I took the opportunity to inform a dew lines unto you that we are all well at present time and in hoping this few lines will find you in the same state of good health & humor. And further, I received your letter on the twelfth of this month and was glad to hear from you. I would have written to you long before but I have no time. I am on duty pretty near every day now. I will write to you every week.
Mr. Alfred, excuse me for this time. I will satisfy you now from this time. I wish I can talk to you about one day. I would tell you much news. I have seen many things. I have seen more since I left that I ever saw in my life.
We have all our clothing and blanket. We have one [pair of] pants and two drawers and two shirts & three coats and one pair of shoes and two pair of summer stockings and one cap. Now I will tell you a statement about bedding. I and Charles Peter and Joseph Peter, & Edwin Rehrin, & William Rernig, and William Hunsicker [are] sleeping together in one tent. The tent is about eight feet long and six feet broad and so on.
Mr. Al H., I wish I can see you or I hope we come back before long. Then I will speak to you. I and Charles Peter [will] come up on your house on purpose for to talk with you. This is all for this time. Excuse me for that poor writing. I have no place for to write nice. Write to me soon. Then I will answer you right away.
If any of you want to write to me, direct your letter to Mr. C. E. Ruch, Washington City D. C., 36th Regiment, Company I, Pennsylvania Volunteers, Col. [James] Miller in care of Captain [William J.] Conner.
So much of your good friend, — C. E. Ruch & C. E. Peter.
Al H. I think Anna Miller and Martha Bernhard is all right. Alfred, I wish you good luck.
December 16, 1861
Dear Friend Alfred Hander,
I took the opportunity to inform a few lines unto you that I am well at present and in hoping this few lines will find you in the same state of good health & further I let you know that I received your kind letter the fifteenth day of this month and I was very glad to read it and I found that you was up in Rockport.
Further I let you know that our regiment was on picket guard last week. We was in Munson’s Hill. It is about two miles from our camp[ing] place. I and Joseph Peter and Owen Buck from Lehighton and Israel Youse 1 and William Keck—we five—have got one post. We have got the worst place in the whole lot. Our post was the nearest to the rebels [but] I am not afraid for a rebel.
We are in a brigade now. Our brigade has five regiments—about five thousand men. The name from our camp is Camp California. I must stop writing. It is time to get ready for tresperate [dress parade].
Don’t forget to write and write all the news that you know. Write soon. Write soon. So much from your friend, good friend, — C. E. Ruch
Direction: C. E. Ruch, Alexandria, Va. 81st Regiment P. V., Col. Miller, Company I in care of Capt. [William J.] Conner.
Our regiment has lost the number. It is the 81st Regiment now.
1 There is a work of fiction based upon the service of Israel Youse entitled, “Death & Deliverance: A Young Civil War Soldier’s Journey” written by Keith A. Youse and published in 2007.