This letter was written by Joshua Hickman Perfect (1843-1864), the son of Joshua H. Perfect (1815-1882) and Sarah Jane Shields (1822-1843) of West Point, White county, Indiana. Joshua’s mother died giving birth to him and not long after remarried his wife’s younger sister, Nancy Maria Shields (1824-1906). It fell to Nancy to raise her sister’s three children as well as the additional 12 children she bore of her own.
During the Civil War, Joshua enlisted at the age of 18 in November 1861 in Co. G, 46th Indiana Infantry. It was while serving with that regiment that he wrote the following letter in July 1862 from Helena, Arkansas. He was discharged from the 46th Indiana after two years service, and enlisted again at Indianapolis in Co. K, 11th Indiana Infantry, on 29 March 1864. He died of disease on 24 August 1864 and now lies buried in the Chalmette National Cemetery in Louisiana.
July 31st 1862
Dear Father & Mother.
It is with great pleasure that I sit down to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well at present and hope that these few lines will find you the same. We have got in camp here and I don’t know how long we will have to stay here. There is some talk of us going to Richmond and some think that we will go to Little Rock and some to Vicksburg and there is no telling where we will go to as yet. But I think that we will have to do some good marching before long from the appearance of things now. They are putting out teams and everything looks suspicious to me. There is reported to be 60 thousand men besides the Negroes. There is some 4 thousand of them and I think that when we leave here that the bushwhackers will have to skedaddle for we oughta make breastworks of the Negros and take everything clean as we go.
There is nothing of importance going on here. We are drawing our [money] today and I am going to send mine home though I don’t think that I will have too much to send home for we have to pay for all our clothes this time and I expect that we will come out in debt. I want you and mother to get yourselves and the babies likenesses and send them to me. I want to see them and see what the babies looks like and I want you to tell me its name. You have not told me anything about it yet and I want you to send me some shirts if Capt. [Robert W.] Sill comes home. Send me 4 and don’t send white. [Send] some dark collared calico or something easy to wash for Uncle Sam is getting too poor to keep his family in clothes. We have to do all the fighting and pay all expenses and clothe ourselves and he furnishes us some shingles to eat so I think that Uncle has good bacon and he can carry on business fine. I wouldn’t give a cent if I could get to kill some few chickens.
So now I have put all that I can think of so I will have to close for the present hoping that the war will end sometime [soon and] we will all get home. So no more at present but still remain your affectionate son till death.
— J. H. Perfect
To his father and mother. goodbye for the present. Write soon and don’t forget.