These Civil War letters were written by Francis Henry West (1825-1896), an American businessman, politician, and Wisconsin pioneer. He was a member of the Wisconsin Legislature for three years, and served as a Union Army officer during the American Civil War, earning an honorary brevet to brigadier general.
West was born in Charlestown, New Hampshire. He moved to the Wisconsin Territory in 1845, eventually settling in Monroe, in Green County, in 1846. In Green County, he worked in the lumber industry. In 1853, he was elected as a Democrat to represent Green County in the Wisconsin State Senate for the 1854 and 1855 sessions. In 1855, he was the Republican nominee for Bank Comptroller, but was not successful. In 1859 and 1860, he accompanied parties of migrants from New York to California.
West joined the Army on August 28, 1862, and was commissioned a lieutenant colonel with the 31st Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which was still being organized in Wisconsin. The 31st Wisconsin was created from two volunteer battalions from Crawford County and Racine. The 31st mustered into service in October 1862 and left Wisconsin in March 1863, traveling to Kentucky via Cairo, Illinois, where they were attached to the XVI Army Corps. They spent the summer of 1863 on patrols and picket duty in southern Illinois, western Kentucky, protecting supply routes along the Mississippi River.
In September 1863, they were ordered to Nashville. Here, their colonel, Isaac E. Messmore, resigned, and, on October 8, Lt. Colonel West was promoted to colonel of the regiment. Through the winter of 1863–64, the regiment was stationed at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and continued to serve as protection for logistics and supplies. In April 1864, the 31st was attached to the XX Corps and split into detachments to protect a long stretch of railroad lines in Tennessee. In June, the regiment was ordered to consolidate and return to Nashville.
On July 5, the 31st Wisconsin was ordered by General William Tecumseh Sherman to proceed to the front of the ongoing Atlanta campaign. The 31st traveled by train to Marietta, Georgia, and reached its position on the line July 21. The regiment worked on constructing siege fortifications around Atlanta and came under frequent enemy fire due to their proximity to the enemy lines. They did not take part in the actual battle, but were one of the first units to enter the city. The regiment was assigned to provide security in the city and protect foraging operations in the surrounding area.
On November 15, 1864, the XX Corps broke camp and marched out of the city to begin their part in Sherman’s March to the Sea. They advanced without encountering any resistance until ten miles outside Savannah where, on December 9, they encountered two small enemy fortifications. The 31st Wisconsin, along with the 61st Ohio, were ordered to flank the position through a thick swamp. They passed the swamp and charged the enemy, taking the position with light casualties. For their action, they received the compliments of General Sherman. The regiment joined the siege of Savannah, and after capturing the city were assigned quarters there.
On January 18, 1865, the 31st Wisconsin departed Savannah and marched for Purrysburg, South Carolina, at the start of the Carolinas campaign. The regiment proceeded through South Carolina, burning enemy facilities, tearing up railroad tracks, and pushing the enemy’s rear guard toward North Carolina. On March 1, the 31st advanced toward Chesterfield, South Carolina, near the border with North Carolina. They forced a small confederate force to flee north, then stopped in the village. On March 16, the 31st took position on the front line for Averasborough, where they were shelled and took casualties. Three days later, they were in the advance on approach to Bentonville, along with two other regiments, where they encountered significant Confederate opposition and found their flanks exposed. They fell back and formed a defensive position with elements of the XIV and XX Corps. The Confederates attacked their position five times and were repelled in fierce fighting. This was the worst fighting that they saw during the war, and suffered ten killed and forty-two wounded.
On March 24, they reached Goldsboro, North Carolina, where they stopped to rest and re-equip. While the 31st was camped at Goldsboro, Ulysses S. Grant accepted the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomatox. On April 10, the 31st marched out to continue their advance toward Raleigh, pursuing Joseph E. Johnston and the remnants of the Army of the South. But before they reached Raleigh, they received word that Johnston had surrendered to Sherman and the war was effectively over.
The 31st was ordered back to Washington, where they participated in the Grand Review of the Armies in May, and West mustered out on June 20, 1865. While in Washington, U.S. President Andrew Johnson nominated Colonel West for an honorary brevet to brigadier general of volunteers for gallant service in the field, effective back to March 19, 1865, the day of their combat at Bentonville. The United States Senate confirmed the brevet on March 12, 1866.
After the war, General West moved to Milwaukee County and entered a partnership—Fowler & West—with James S. Fowler in the grain commission business. He served for six years on the board of directors of the Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce, including two years as president.
In 1873, he was elected on the Reform ticket to represent Northern Milwaukee County in the Wisconsin State Assembly for the 1874 session. The Reform Party was a short-lived coalition of Democrats, reformers, Liberal Republicans, and Grangers. Their signature accomplishment was the 1874 “Potter Law,” 1874 Wisconsin Act 273—named for Republican state senator Robert L. D. Potter—which established a new state Railroad Commission to aggressively regulate railroad and freight fees. In the Assembly, Colonel West served on the Committee on Railroads and the Committee on State Affairs. General West did not seek re-election in 1874.
During Grover Cleveland’s first presidential term, West was appointed United States Marshal for the Milwaukee district. After completing this final public service, Colonel West retired to Alabama, where two of his sons lived.
While on a trip to New York, in 1896, West slipped while attempting to step off of a street car and was severely injured. He was confined to his bed for several days before he was healthy enough to return to Alabama. He died a few weeks later, on March 6, 1896, at Bessemer, Alabama.
Francis H. West and his wife, Emma M. Rittenhouse, had several children. They included, Louise Ellen (1850-1878), Caroline (“Carrie”) (1852-1934), Edith (1854-1940), Susan (1859-1910), Grace (1866-1938), Benjamin F. (1868-1957), and Josephine (1872-1876). [Wikipedia]
The first 82 Civil War Letters can be found at 1863-64: The Civil War Letter of Francis Henry West, 31st Wisconsin Infantry
These images by members of the 31st Wisconsin Infantry are from the collection of Marc & Beth Storch and used by permission on Spared & Shared. They include Lt. Thomas Beattie, Co. B; Pvt. Philemon Livermore, Co. F/G; Capt. Daniel B. Dipple, Co E; Pvt. Alexander T. Newman, Co. A; Lt. John P. Willard, Co. H; and Capt. Farlin Quigley Ball, Co. G.
Near Savannah, Georgia
Saturday evening, December 18th 1864
My Dear Wife,
We have just received a large mail from the fleet by way of the Ogeechee River—the first news we have had from the outer world for about six weeks. I am very much chagrined at receiving one letter from you and that of November 7th, more than a week before we left Atlanta although we got papers and letters from Madison and other points as late as the 25th. I only write a line now, my dear one, to let you know that I am very well—never better—have not been unwell a moment since leaving Atlanta on the 15th of November.
We had a very pleasant, eventful, and triumphant march through Georgia a description of which would fill a volume. Therefore, I will not commence it now. It is the grandest event of the war. The regiment was never in better health or spirits. All are well. We have lost but few men this far on the campaign. It is now a week since we arrived here which has been occupied in getting the forces in position for besieging the city and in opening communication with the fleet which has been done by way of the mouth of the Ogeechee River. We are now about ready to commence in earnest. Thus far we have not made much demonstration on the City although they have shelled us continually but without doing much damage. This evening Sherman sent a flag of truce demanding a surrender or he should open on the City with give hundred guns at six tomorrow morning. Of course they will not surrender and possibly we may have a long siege as they are strongly fortified. The siege is vastly more interesting than was the siege of Atlanta. There is so much of interest to describe that I have concluded to pass it all by until I can have the pleasure of describing it to you in person.
I have not heard a word from Murfreesboro since leaving there. Consequently do not know whether Mr. Caldwell has been gobbled up or not.
The 31st [Wisconsin] gained quite a little reputation for the manner in which they in company with the 61st Ohio, both under my command, assaulted and captured a rebel fort at a place called “Harrison’s Field” ten miles back built to arrest our further progress. 1 We were publicly thanked the next day by all the generals in command up. to and including General Slocum, commanding the Left Wing of the Army of Georgia for the handsome manner I which it was done. Tell little George we made the Rebs run. like good fellows, killing lots of he.
With the exception of one or two days we have had most beautiful weather. Today, however, has been rather to warm for comfort. Of course we have had some pretty severe hardships since starting but we expected that and more when we started. If I get through safely, I would not have missed it for anything. As I said before, I have so much to write about, I have concluded not to write anything—and especially as you do not write to me. Give my love to all the children and ask Lou why in the world she does not write to her Pa. I hope to be with my loved ones at home soon and to stay but do not know when it will be. Affectionately yours, — Frank
We have no ink in camp.
1 “Confederate Col. Charles C. Jones dug in to slow Sherman and protect railroad tracks near “Harrison’s Place,” a plantation field at Monteith Swamp that has been cultivated since before the Civil War and is currently leased by Dotson to a hay farmer. The 14th and 20th corps with about 30,000 men advanced on three roads — Monteith Road, Middle Ground Road and Old Augusta Road. Jones’ detachment of 300 at Monteith Swamp strengthened its defensive works, felled trees and built an abatis and trench lines for its flanks. The Rebels used a long line of swamp to its advantage against an overwhelming force. On Dec.9, 1864, the entire 20th Corps (12,000 regulars) under Brig. Gen. Alpheus S. Williams (below) advanced down Monteith Road from Zion Church. Around noon they hit Confederate positions….By late afternoon, the defenders were gone, leaving knapsacks and camp equipment but taking their colors and four guns with them. The Confederates had about 14 killed and four captured in the six-hour battle. Union losses were two dead and six wounded. Union forces got to the railroad the next day and rolled up the Confederate defenses on the western line. The loss of Fort McAllister soon after spelled the end for Savannah. Sherman had ships to bring in supplies and a “biscuit line” to feed his massive army, Sheehy says.” [Monteith Swamp: Trying to Save what’s left of the 1864 Battlefield near Savannah]
December 25, 1864
My dear daughter Louise,
I wish you and all the rest of the family a very Merry Christmas and am very sorry I am not there to help you enjoy it instead of being here in a swamp with my eyes smoked out by pitch pine fires and without shelter. I have not been inside of a house until yesterday since leaving Atlanta.
Yesterday I went into the City and took dinner with an old secesh gentleman who invited me in today to eat Christmas dinner with him. Of course I accepted the invitation and have just returned to camp having had a very respectable dinner. It was a great treat to have a “clean meal” once more. The City is a very old-fashioned, uninviting kind of a place with sand knee deep in the streets. It is quite a large place having twenty-five thousand inhabitants, most of whom remained in the city after its capture. As you will learn all about its capture from the papers before you receive this, I shall say nothing about that.
We are now camped on the banks of the river two miles above the city and expect to start on another campaign for Charleston or some other secede place in about four weeks. Of course everything is very different in this far south country from what it is North. I think it is the finest climate to winter in I have ever been in but it must be a fearful place in the summer. I do not much expect to see you again until my term expires next August. I have been greatly in hopes the war would end sooner than that but I fear now it will not.
We received a large mail this morning and I was in hopes to be made merry by receiving letters from home but was disappointed as usual, there being letters for everyone else but myself. I have received but one letter from home written within the last two months (your mother’s written 7 November). I have received the Monroe Sentinel however down to the last date. If any of you are sick, someone ought surely to write and let me know about it. Tell your mother that if she will have the kindness to write me a few lines, I will. try and answer it immediately.
My health is first rate and everything is going on as pleasantly as could be expected under such frightful circumstances. Do try and keep me “posted up” as to what is going on at home. Give my love to all the family. Your affectionate father, — F. H. West
I hope your mother made you all a nice present for Christmas.
Sunday, January 1st 1865
My Dear Wife,
I wish you a very happy New Year and wish I had a little better prospect for a happy one myself. I was in hopes to have got a letter from you today which would have made the first day of the year passable at least. It is now nearly two months since I hav heard from you and I am beginning to stop looking for or expecting any mail.
We are having very beautiful weather while I expect you are having all you can do to keep from freezing to death.
We are expecting to get off on a new campaign in the course of the next ten days and anticipate a much rougher time than we had in coming here. The past week has been spent in Grand Reviews of a Corps at a time by General Sherman. These reviews take place inn the streets of Savannah and attracted large crowds of spectators. The new year commences with splendid prospects for the success of our army and the speedy termination of the rebellion. I suppose you hear of everything that happens here through the newspapers. We have got the particulars of Thomas’s great victory in Tennessee [Battle of Nashville] which has so effectually cleaned out Hood. I expect that Caldwell is cleaned out also. I have not heard from him since the 17th of November since when he could not have had an opportunity to do anything. He had got fifty-seven bales of cotton into Nashville which will more than pay the outlay.
Have Mr. Niles take possession of that land on verbal contract as he proposed and we will fix up the papers when opportunity offers. He must pay the taxes on it this winter. Write all about taxes, money matters, how you get along for wood, &c. I do not expect to be at home before next May or June when I shall try and get a leave of absence which will help me along until my time is out which will be in August. Give my love to all the children. — Frank
Let the suit of clothes remain where they are until I write you where to send them. If I can get a few days leave sometime to slip up to Charlestown and see Father & Mother, I shall do it. I send this by Lt. Lafferty who starts home tomorrow.
Friday, January 6, 1864 
My Dear Wife,
I returned last night from a trip of trendy-five miles up in the country where I had been in command of an expedition and found on my return your letter of December 18th. I was greatly relieved to find you were all well. You speak of having written before but I have not received any letters.
We expect to start out very soon on our new expedition, perhaps tomorrow. There is no danger of General Sherman’s letting us remain idle long. You might as well get his portrait framed at once. I don’t think you will ever have occasion to regret it.
Dr. Arndt has got his resignation accepted and starts home tomorrow. He will go to Murfreesboro in a few days. We expect to plant cotton there again next spring. I am in hopes the miserable old rebellion will be “played out” so that I can join them in the spring after making you a visit.
Sunday 8th. No more yet. I received yours of Christmas & 28th last night. I am glad you had a Merry Christmas. Hope you had a “Happy New Year” also. Capt. Vliet returned yesterday having been absent just a year. As ever, — Frank
Friday, January 13, 1865
My Dear Wife,
Our Chaplain, Mr. Woodworth, starts for home today on a detail to carry home money for the men and to do errands generally for the regiment. He is to be gone thirty days. He lives at Warren but he will call on you at Monroe previous to his return and probably stop at day or so at our house. I want you to send my new uniform by him. Have it nicely put up I a paste board box or something of the kind. Also be sure and buy me a half day pair of good large size cotton socks and put in with them. Mr. Woodworth will take charge of everything that you or anyone else may have to send to the regiment. I send home by him my old carpet sack with a few things without any special value in it but not wanting them here I thought best to send them home. There is a couple of tactics books that I want preserved. Also a couple of volumes that I took from the State Library at Milledgeville. Also a counterpane which you may have some use for.
When the 31st [Wisconsin] stormed the little fort near Savannah, we captured among other things an officer’s bedding which fell to my share. There being more of it than I have any use for, I send this piece in exchange for that quilt you sent me which you will recollect of having spoken of on different occasion. Although this was taken as a regular trophy of war, I am almost ashamed to send it home for the reason that there was so much vandalism committed by our men on the march in taking all such things from private houses. Consequently you had best not exhibit it for fear they may think it was obtained the same way. I have seen privates using piano covers that were worth a hundred dollars for saddle blankets and all such other wantonness to match. These things however were mostly taken from deserted houses and not infrequently found buried in the garden or other places. These things to me were the most disagreeable feature of the campaign, but General Sherman is mainly to blame for it as it was understood that he was in favor of the most indiscriminate plundering.
You can imagine what kind of a winter we are having when I tell you that there are orange trees in the open gardens here loaded with fruit at the present time. Still we have seen very chilly weather.
Yesterday General Sherman reviewed Kilpatrick’s Cavalry. Secretary Stanton and other notables from Washington being present, it was quite a big day with us.
I hear nothing from the cotton business yet and never expect to hear anything very favorable from it. If I can hear from Mr. Caldwell & Dr. Arndt that there is a favorable prospect for trying the speculation another year, I shall get out of the army in the spring and join them. Write about everything. — Frank
January 15, 1865
My Dear Wife,
I received yours of the 1st and 3rd today. I wrote you yesterday giving the letter to Chaplain Woodsworth who I expected to start for home yesterday but he did not get off on account of some delay in the boat. He expects to start tomorrow. I also gave him my carpet sack with something to take home. I shall send this by mail. If the Chaplain comes to Monroe you will see that he is well entertained while he stops there. I had a letter from Jo this morning saying that sixty two bales of cotton had been received and sold in New York. My share of the proceeds must be about twelve thousand dollars so we are “out of the woods.” I consider it very fortunate to get out without loss under the circumstances. He had not heard from Caldwell. I have no doubt but all the balance of our cotton together with gin, teams, &c. was taken or destroyed and do not know but what Caldwell himself was carried off. I shall write Jo to put the money into interest bearing bonds.
I would like much to quit the service and go home now but cannot think of it as long as the government is asking for more men. I think however that I shall be able to get away in April. I am a very homesick individual now. You might afford to write nearly every day the remaining of the time. — Frank
Drurysburg, South Carolina
January 24, 1865
My Dear Wife,
This dreary God forsaken swamp was made cheerful today by the receipt of a large mail—the first we have had for two weeks—and among which was yours of the 5th and 10th. I also received letters from Mr. Briggs and Dr. Arndt from New York from which I learned that I had on deposit in New York thirteen thousand, four hundred & twenty-nine 32/100 dollars ($13,429.32) as my share of the cotton sales, sixty-four bales that Mr. Caldwell got out before Hood’s raid. They had not heard from Mr. Caldwell since. Neither have I but do not expect that he has saved anything more, but am still in hopes that he has. If he was not disturbed, he may have nearly half as much more. Under the circumstances, we are lucky to get out so well as we have.
This place is on the Savannah River twenty-three miles above Savannah. We came up here on the 18th, since which time it has rained all the time and we are nearly drowned in the swamps, being unable to advance. The country is one vast swamp and it will be utterly impossible for us to move except in very dry weather. Some of our teams have been drowned; others we have got back to Savannah on boats. This is certainly the worst place that ever I have been in. I would not be surprised if the campaign had to be abandoned or at least undertaken in some other shape.
You do not say a word about taxes or business matters. I want to know all about those things. I am glad you are having such fine sleighing although it makes me shiver to think of it. All we have here for amusement is a great amount of music made by the millions of frogs in the swamp. I thought I had been homesick before but I believe I was mistaken. If we do not get out of this soon, I shall die with the blues. If I do not leave the army in the Spring, I shall try and get another leave of absence. Since leaving Savannah, I have been in command of the brigade. It is only temporary however.
Give my best regards to Fred and Elesebeth. Continue to direct your letters to Savannah and do not put the address so near the top of the envelopes so that there will be a chance to put the postmark near the top where it belongs. The health of the regiment is very good at present. If you knew my precious wife how dear your were to me, I am sure you would write very often. Frank
Give my love to the children.
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Sunday, March 12, 1865
My Dear Wife,
We arrived in this city at midnight last night, it being nearly two months since we cut loose from Savannah during which time we have struggled through mud and swamps and across swollen creeks and rivers day and night, frequently getting into camp at 2 o’clock in the morning and starting out again at 6, and subsisting almost entirely upon what we could pick up in the country. Still both the health and spirits of the men are first rate. I have stood the campaign first rate but am getting a little rheumatic and prematurely old from exposure and hardships. The enemy have offered by very little opposition to our advance but have fled before us like frightened deer. We are literally overrunning their whole country.
This place is at the head of navigation on Cape Fear River. Some gunboats have run up and met us here and returned this afternoon with the mail. I do not know whether we shall make any stop here or not, or where we shall go next, but expect we shall move on to Goldsboro on the Neuse for a base to fit up for another campaign. We are all very anxious to get where we can get mails from the North and get letters and papers from home. We have no idea what is going on in the world except what we do ourselves. I am in hopes we will get a mail before leaving here.
We have lost no men from the regiment since leaving Savannah except five who were captured while out foraging. We cannot realize that winter has passed. We have seen so little to remind us of what our Northern winters are. It seems to me that I can never be satisfied to spend another winter in the North but aside from the climate in winter, there is nothing to recommend the Carolinas. Both the country and the inhabitants are much meaner than I had ever heard them represented to be.
My greatest anxiety has been and will be to hear from home. I am in hopes to be able to return soon, not to leave again. I am heartily sick of the destruction of war. We have been in the dense pitch pine smoke of camp fires, railroad ties, fences, buildings, kilns, turpentine forests, &c. until we are as black as Negros and our clothing being very much worn and torn in running through the brush, we are as hard a looking set of human beings as ever astonished the natives of any country.
As soon as I can hear that you have got through the winter all right, I shall feel well again. I have just lost both of my horses. One died and the other was stolen. I am anxious to hear from Dr. Arndt and Caldwell to know how the cotton business closed up and what they are going to do this year in this direction. Give my love to the children. I shall write again the first chance. — Frank
Goldsboro, North Carolina
Sunday March 26, 1865
My Dear Wife,
We arrived here on Friday and closed the great Carolina Campaign, it having been a perfect success. We have had a very rough time on account of constant rains and mud and the poverty of the country much of the time. We were glad to get as much corn as we wanted to parch to live on, and some of the time we could not get enough even of that, and I have seen my men gathering up the scattering grains of corn that had been left where the Rebel cavalry had fed their horses. A good deal of the time, however, we fared first rate.
My own health has been good but the regiment suffered severely in the battle at Bentonville on the 19th. On the 16th, the enemy attacked our Corps in the swamps near “Smith’s Farm” and we fought them all day without much loss—the regiment losing twelve in killed and wounded, five of whom were from Capt. Treat’s Company, but no one that you know. Hogans had his gun shot out of his hands and a ball through his knapsack but escaped unhurt. The 19th corps coming up at night, the Rebs retreated on the 19th near Bentonville. The 15th Corps being in advance were attacked and sorely pushed by the whole Rebel force. Our Brigade and one other Brigade of our Corps being in advance of our Corps were pushed on and arrived on the field at 2 PM and just as a part of the 14th Corps were giving away, we were precipitated into the breach and fought desperately until darkness put an end to the fight and was the means of saving the day.
The 31st [Wisconsin] held the key to our whole position and sustained seven different assaults. Our loss was sixty-one, which is light considering our position, but the enemy charged so wildly that they did not fire with any accuracy, shooting high above our heads. My boys fired beautifully, causing great havoc. Lt. Lyman was killed; none other hurt that you know. My officers and men behaved splendidly. None of the field or staff hurt.
On the 16th our Brigade lost three field officers. On the 21st the right wing of our army came up and pitching into the Rebs, whipped them handsomely, thereby clearing the road for us to reach Goldsboro and close the campaign. We did some skirmishing on that day without any loss. The Major expects to start home soon in a few days. We have not received any mail yet and of course are very anxious to hear from home. It is now over two months since I have heard from you. We expect a mail tomorrow when I hope for nothing but good news from you.
Monday, 27. Received a long but not very late mail last night. Received your letters to February 20th. Am rejoiced to hear that you are all well. I cannot realize that we have had any winter but I suppose you have had a realizing sense of it. I hear from Caldwell & Dr. Arndt that I will have two or three thousand dollars more coming from the cotton. I learn that they formed a new partnership with those other men making six in the firm so that I am to have a sixth interest. As they are going to plant but a thousand acres, my interest will not amount to much one way or the other. The capital stock of the firm is $28,000 (my share 4,666).
Tell Willie that I have got a beautiful little double barreled shot gun that I captured from a Reb that I am going to send to him the first chance I have. I must get George one too if I can.
We are all very much worn out and exhausted. Many of the men came in barefooted and all very ragged. Excuse me not writing more, my dear wife, as I have got at least forty letters to answer today. I shall write again very soon. Give my love to all the children and my compliments to all friends who enquire after me. Affectionately yours, — Frank
I do not think I shall resign although I am as anxious as a person possibly can be to be at home with my wife and family who are all the world to me.
Goldsboro, North Carolina
March 30th 1865
My Dear Wife,
I have received your letters to March 12th. We get a mail every day now and I am in hopes to get later letters from you soon. We are fitting up for a new campaign as fast as possible and expect to start out about the 10th of April. If there is anyone curious to have this infernal war close, it is me. If you could only make me such a visit this spring as you did last, how it would help pass off the time.
Our wounded boys that are able to travel all go home on furlough today. I do not know as any of them go to Monroe. Our Chaplain has not returned yet. I hear that he is at Port Royal on some duty. You did not inform me whether he took my things or not.
In the case of Mr. Miles, my terms were positive that he should pay the taxes of last year and I never will make him a deed unless he does pay them. The Major failed to get his leave and in now trying for a sick leave being as usual quite unwell. I have been quite sick since arriving here but am much better today. Think I am alright again. I hope you will have everything kept up in nice shape around the house and yard this spring. If you have only spent eleven hundred dollars the last year, you must have managed very economically considering how very high everything has been. If I could only be at home to spend the spring with you, I should be the happiest mortal living. I find that I shall make on the cotton speculation very [near] ten thousand dollars. I shall instruct Mr. Briggs to use three or four thousand in the new cotton from this year, but the arrangements are such that I have no confidence that it will amount to anything much one way or the other.
Tell Willie that his letter has got too old to answer and that he must write me another one and then I will answer it. Just think, it is now over a year since I have seen Lou. Is George as much of a dreamer as used to be?
How are Carrie and Edith carrying sail now days? Give my love to all of them. — Frank
Goldsboro, [North Carolina]
Monday, April 3rd 1865
My Dear Guardian Angel (For such I think you must be or I should not be always thinking of you.)
I should have written you yesterday but had the sick headache which is quite common for me lately. I have not been very well since arriving here. It seems to me that if I could get some little delicacy (such as white folks usually have) to eat, I should feel better. I have a great longing for a piece of bread & butter—a thing that cannot be got in this country.
The Major [Robert B. Stephenson] failed to get his leave of absence so he got a certificate of disability and expects leave on them in a day or two. I have not received any letter from you since March 12th although others have letters from Monroe as late as the 24th. However, I am much obliged to you for writing as often as you did since we left Savannah.
Our Corps Commander General Williams was relieved from duty yesterday and Maj. Gen. Mower assigned to the command in his place. This is unfortunate for me as Williams ad told me that he was going to recommend me for promotion for gallantry on the field. It will fall through now.
I am very thankful that our children have escaped the ravages of the scarlet fever so far. I only write this line, my precious loved one, that you may not have any excuse for not writing to me. — Frank
Goldsboro [North Carolina]
Thursday, April 6, 1865
My Dear Wife,
I hope you will not scold me for writing so often but if you know how deeply devotedly your husband worships you, you will not think strange of it. I often wonder if you have any idea how much I love you. My only happiness now is in anticipation of the time when this awful war shall close and I be permitted to return home and remain with those I love.
This army is having great rejoicings today over the news of the capture of Richmond and Petersburg, the news of which we have just received without any particulars. Hope it will prove as “big a thing” as rumor makes it at present. The fall of Richmond will of course change the whole course of our next campaign. We are now making every preparation to start immediately (it will probably be two or three days before we can get supplies and ammunition sufficient so that it will answer at all for us to start) I suppose I whatever direction the enemy are found to be going. It does seem so strange that they should try to hold out any longer but I have prophesied their speedy downfall for so long that I have given up all expression of opinion on the subject.
The weather has been very cool and pleasant for a long time. we have had no uncomfortably warm weather yet this spring. Love to the children — Frank
Friday. No letter from home yet. We do not expect to start before Monday. Should I get a letter from you I may answer it before leaving.
Raleigh, North Carolina
April 17, 1865
My Dear Wife,
Everybody is crazy with excitement of the surrender of the Rebel armies and the termination of the war which we all think is ended. The only question talked of now is when shall we be able to go home. Sherman has gone out twenty miles today to receive the surrender of Johnston’s army but of course all war news will be old to you before you could get it by letter. We have no intimation yet of how or when our armies are to be disposed of. I have no doubt I shall be able to go home in the course of a month, either on leave of absence or as a citizen—probably the latter. I only wish I could start today.
The Chaplain has arrived but did not bring his trunk so I have not got my clothing which I am very much in need of. I wish you would have half a dozen nice white shorts made for me. I want to dress like a white man again. I have not received any letter from you since March 12th although I have received papers and other mail matter to April 7th. What does it mean?
My health is now first rate again. I hope no accident or sickness has happened to mar the joy occasioned by the prospect of a speedy return home of your humble servant.
Give my love to the children and believe me to be the most affectionate husband living. — Frank
As soon as matters settle a little, see that I can make a reasonable prophecy as to the future I will write again.
Washington [D. C.]
May 20, 1865
I arrived here Tuesday noon in time to witness the Great Review and a magnificent affair it was as you will have learned by the papers. I wish you could have ben here.
I did not join my regiment but remained here as a spectator until the whole ceremony was over. Sherman’s army was reviewed on the second day and did splendidly, far outstripping the Army of the Potomac. It was a proud day for us. The whole pageant was one of the grandest ever witnessed in the world. We are now camped four miles east of the city near the line of fortifications. I am boarding at a farm house near the camp. We are included in the first lot that is to be mustered out but may not get away from here in three weeks. I spent a very pleasant day in Chicago last Sunday with Mr. Hall’s and Mr. Carpenter’s folks. They are living finely and seem to enjoy themselves much. My desire to move to Chicago has been quite revived. If you receive anything from Murfreesboro, forward it at once.
I received and appointment as Brevet Brigadier General in the US Col. Services this morning. Give my love to the children, — Frank
Saturday, June 17, 1865
My Dear Wife,
We arrived here yesterday morning having had a most delightful trip from Parkersburg down the Ohio 450 miles. There are seventy steamers engaged in transporting Sherman’s army. Every village and house along the banks of the river had banners flying. The ladies were all out waving their handkerchiefs, bands playing, and everything was very gay and pleasant. We expect to leave here for Madison next Thursday so as to arrive in Madison on Saturday. There is nothing certain about the time of starting, however. I have not heard from you since leaving home except by the receipt of Dr. Arndt’s letter forwarded.
It is so very warm I do not think I shall go to Murfreesboro but take the chances on getting a settlement by letter. The heat seems to affect me worse than ever this summer.
Affectionately yours, — Frank