These two letters were written by Frederick Erasmus Underwood (1841-1889) the son of Albert Underwood (1810-1881) and Susan Moulton (1821-1891) of Brimfield, Portage county, Ohio.
According to muster records, Erasmus entered the service on 20 September 1861 as a private in Co. A, 42nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). He mustered out of the service in 20 September 1864 after three years.
Events described in these letters correspond to the following two paragraphs from the regimental history”
On February 1, 1862, the 42nd boarded boats and sailed up the Big Sandy River to Pikeville, Kentucky. On March 14, 1862, the regiment with other Northern units seized Pound Gap, Kentucky. The Union force spent the next few days skirmishing with Confederate guerrillas, before marching for Louisville, Kentucky on March 18. Upon reaching this new location on March 29, 1862, the 42nd entered camp.
In May 1862, the 42nd boarded railroad cars and traveled to Lexington, Kentucky. The regiment then joined Brigadier-General George W. Morgan’s command and marched to Cumberland Ford, where officials brigaded the organization with the 16th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry and the 14th and 22nd Regiments Kentucky Infantry. On May 15, 1862, the brigade crossed the Cumberland River and entered camp at the junction of the roads leading to Cumberland Gap and to Rogers’s Gap. On June 5, 1862, General Morgan led his troops against Confederate troops at Rogers’s Gap. The 42nd participated in several skirmishes upon reaching this location. On June 18, 1862, the Northerners attempted to strike a Confederate force at Big Spring, but the enemy withdrew as the Union soldiers approached. Morgan ordered his command to Cumberland Gap later that same day, with Confederate soldiers again withdrawing as the Federals approached. The 42nd Ohio entered camp near Yellow Creek and spent the next six weeks participating in various expeditions.
February 9, 1862
Yours of the 14th inst. by some unaccountable blunder came to hand but few days since but notwithstanding its tardiness, I was the no less gratified & overjoyed to receive it.
I was much pleased to hear that Mother’s health was good and Father’s improving. I also understand by a letter of later date to Mr. Hastings that Adaline and Josie have been sick.
There! Hark! I hear our captain’s voice. Listen to what he says, “Co. A, up, up instantly prepared to go to Piketon. Be ready within two hours.”
Now all is bustle again and I shall have to postpone writing for the present to finish in the future. Good night. — F. E. Underwood
February 11, 1862
Again, dear parents and sisters, after 50 miles ride on a steamboat and after the confusion which ever and eternally accompanies the setting of tents, I find myself settled again and conversing with you.
We are now situated very pleasantly at Piketon—a small town in the Big Sandy about 35 miles from the Cumberland Mountains. We have now cleaned out every vestige of secession in Eastern Kentucky. The rebel regiment under command of Col. Williams have left the state entirely and marshal force have disbanded. How long we shall stay here, I know not but hope that the next move we make will be down the river.
I regret much to inform you that my health has been quite poor for the last three weeks. I am troubled with the dysentery and rheumatism. I am getting to be quite poor. Oh! Mother, I would choose you in preference to a thousand regimental doctors for a nurse. I think though that I shall get along without going to the hospital. I hope so at least. The captain is now administering to my wants. He has given me two doses of “Hygean’s Pills” which sicken me to an alarming extent. I was sent yesterday to see the doctor and in so doing, exposed myself with many others from our company to the “mumps.” I have forgotten whether I ever had them or not. If not, I will consider myself “elected.”
Tell Adaline and Josie to write just how many such sutlers as that last one [ ] there are “amignto.” I shall always receive them with great joy and delight. I am heartily sick of our “stuff” on which we subsist. If I could only have a little potato [and] some soft bread, it would be such a help. I don’t know if we shall be paid as soon as I expected when last I wrote you. The paymaster hasn’t shown himself yet and not much prospect of it. If I had money, I might buy milk, bread and butter, but I would not ask you to send me any for it might not reach me.
Why don’t Lavina and Ellen write to me? I have not hear a word from them since I came to Kentucky. All write and oblige your son, — F. E. Underwood
To Father, Mother, Addie, Josie, and Sumner.
July 4, 1862
My dear parents,
Sadly and with a sorrowful heart do I sit down to reply to yours of the 2nd that came to my perusal yesterday. Glad indeed was I to hear from you for my mind—-since I learned of the irrevocable rent so suddenly and unexpectedly made in our dear circle—has been in a state of continual agitation searing, lest the deep affliction so suddenly brought upon you would crush the already bruised and mangled heart of my dear mother.
It is now nearly two weeks since I was appraised by Alice Savina and Ellen of the death of Josie. 1 Could I? Must I believe it? That she whose quick perceptibility’s and bright and untarnished intellect was seldom equalled; whose nature ever seemed to be inspired with the love of truth and acted accordingly, must be so rashly stricken down in this, her life’s springtime. But dear parents, I will cease to agitate your already turbulent ocean of trouble.
When I wrote you last we were encamped in Tennessee on the old Rebel camping grounds. But in consequence of the unpleasant, as well as unhealthy odor that constantly arose from the very earth so long polluted by their foul footsteps, Gen. Morgan gave our officers leave to seek a more congenial atmosphere which was done by moving over into the valley on the Kentucky side and pitching our tents in a beautiful grove of pine about 2.5 miles from the Gap. We shall probably stay here through this month although there is one regiment in our Brigade to be sent as provost guard to Frankfort, Louisville, and Lexington. The rumor through camp today intimates that our regiment is th one detailed. We all hope and trust it is.
The boys are all well from Brimfield with the exception of Jim who I think is threatened with a fever though he tells me today that he feels better.
Write to me often and tell me all the news connected with home and vicinity. And now with a hope that God will level his mighty power in bringing about a speedy restoration of peace that we may once more return to our homes and loved ones, I will close.
Your obedient son, — F. Erasmus
Cumberland Gap via Lexington, Co. I, 42nd OVM
P. S. Tell [sister] Adaline to write me a good long letter and [ ] that I could with my presence console her in her deep affliction. — F. E. U.
1 Mary Josephine (“Josie”) Underwood (1849-1862) died on 11 June 1862.