These letters were written by Irish emigrant Patrick V. Fitzpatrick (1840-1924) who enlisted at 21 as a private in Co. F, 9th Illinois Cavalry on 19 September 1861. At the time of his enlistment, Patrick was described as standing 5’4″ in height, with brown hair and gray eyes. His occupation was given as “book keeper.” He was promoted to Sergeant Major in November 1862 and was with his regiment at the Battle of Moscow on 4 December 1863 when he was wounded in the head and discharged for his wounds on 9 April 1864.
The letters were all written to George H. Boone (b. 1833) who also served in Co. F, 9th Illinois Cavalry. George was and emigrant from Scotland and was married to a woman named Ellen. George began his service in the 9th Illinois Cavalry as a corporal but later rose in rank to Sergeant, 1st Sergeant, and eventually to 2nd Lieutenant. Though both served in the same regiment, the letters were written when Patrick was home in Chicago on sick leave, when George was home in Chicago on sick leave, or after Patrick was discharged from the service.
An ancestor of mine also served in the 9th Illinois Cavalry which had a reputation for hard riding, hard drinking, and questionable morality. In a letter written in 1862, my gg-grandmother wrote:
“I had a letter from your Uncle [Samuel] Rockwood last week. He is now at Belvidere [Illinois. He] has resigned [from the army]. He says he cannot live so. He is too old a man to go into an army. He writes he is 57 years and such a set of men, officers, and all. They drink, gamble, curse and sware. He says there is no morality in the army. He did not go into Kansas [but] was in the southern part of Missouri. [He] told about being out in a thunderstorm in the night, the wind blowing, trees falling, they lying on the ground with there blankets around them and the canopy above them. It rained all night and they was wet as could be. Two of there horses were killed by the falling of trees. He took his [horse] into an open field. He must have been an officer or he could not have resigned, and he was getting over a hundred dollars a month.” [Mary Ann Goodrich to Augusta (Goodrich) Griffing, 22 June 1862]
Pilot Knob, Missouri
April 5, 1862
Mrs. Ellen Boone,
Nellie, you will call at the Express Office in Chicago. George has sent you some money $20.00 and you will get it if you call for it. George is alright and so am I and all the rest of the family except Aleck. He was running a steeple chase the other day. He was riding close by a creek and the horse thought he had a right to get a drink and Aleck thought the contrary, but the horse was stronger than Aleck. He made a bolt for the creek and went at the rate of 2-40. The horse made a leap into the creek and left Aleck—as the Bible says of Absolom—he was hanging between heaven and earth on the branch of a tree that was projecting close by. He finally dropped as he says into the creek and fell on some stones and stump of old trees. His side and head was severely wounded.
I could not pay the Express on yours or P. M. Donnellan’s. My two boys all well, Eddy and Little George. My respects to all the folks. I am sore all over. I rode all the way from Patterson today on a trot all the way—55 miles. George is at Patterson. Me and the captain came with the mail.
— P. V. Fitzpatrick
My respects to Uncle Fuller and all the boys. I have also sent Mr. Donnellan $118.00. Write soon. I am off for bed. — P. V. Fitzpatrick
February 10th 1863
We have arrived all right at the Rock Island House 1 and maybe they were not surprised to see me. Ellen received your letter and wasn’t she glad. She answered it right away. She was very sorry that she was not in Memphis when you sent in for her. The folks are all well at present. The little one had the measles but is getting better now. I am getting much better. All the folks here wish to be remembered to you. A. OB is not here now.
Goodbye. I will [write] to you again in a few days. — P. V. Fitz.
1 The Rock Island House (hotel) was located at 52, 54, and 56 Sherman Street in Chicago; the proprietor was Patrick Michael Donnellan (1828-1902), an emigrant from Ireland.
Monday, February 15th 1863
Since I wrote last, things and times are about the same. Nothing news except now and then a case of murder or suicide in Chicago or a soldier’s wife running off with somebody else. You know Archer Berryman. 1 He was working on the Galena Railroad. He fell from the cars and had his skull fractured causing almost instant death. Poor fellow. I understand that he had a little drop taken when he fell from the cars. He had nobody to put the coffin into the hearse except his wife and the driver of the hearse. Jem Noud was very indignant about it. He thought somebody he knew of. should have been there but nuff sed.
Ellen wrote to you today.
I am doing very well and improving rapidly. I am going to Toledo tomorrow and will probably remain there a week or two and will then return to Chicago again where I will remain until I get well enough to go back to the regiment.
Business at present at the Rock Island House is pretty dull. Nothing much doing. Jem [James] Donahoe is in the office; Mike in the bar as they were when you was here. I am getting tired and will close this by sending my regards to all the boys of Company F. I will be back soon. The folks are all well and wish to he remembered to you. Goodbye. Write soon to your friend, — P. V. Fitz
P. S. Mary Ahern and Dennis has been here to see Ellen. They are well and wish to be remembered to you. — F. V. Fitz
1 The Chicago City Directory lists Archer B. Berryman as a boarder at the Rock Island House in 1863. He was a conductor on the C. & Rock Island Railroad.
February 29, 1863
Since I wrote last, I have been to Toledo to see my brother but I could not content myself so I remained only a week there when I again took up my line of march for Chicago. I found himself and the family all well and he sends his kind regards to you for taking such good care of my unworthy self.
P. M. D. [Patrick Michael Donnellan] is going to take a tour along the Rock Island Railroad to see his friends and customers and I promised to attend to the office and Jem [James] Donahoe until he returns.
Ellen and me went to Mr. Ahern’s last evening. We had supper there and had quite a pleasant time. Mr. and Mrs. Ahern, Dennis, Mary, and all the family spoke a good deal about you and wished more than once that you were present. While we were there, Dennis Shehan came in when a game of dominoes was proposed. Me and Miss Ahern played against him and Ellen. We played for the beer but when the game was decided, nobody would go after it. We wanted Dan to go and I would furnish the money but it was no go. He would not do it. So we bid the folks good night and came home promising to call again.
Ellen is in first rate health but feels bad because she did not hear from you. I keep telling her that you will write as soon as you get back to camp and that you are on a scout now and can’t write.
I am doing very well. I am able to march round town by myself. I had my furlough extended twenty days longer and if I am not well enough then, I will have it extended more. Times are very good in Chicago and as far as I can ascertain, all through the North.
P. M. D. and family are well except little Patrick M. Jr. He took cold and was pretty sick last night.
John Trainer had one of his fits yesterday. He suffered a good deal. I believe that himself and Annie O’Brien are married, or if they are not, they ought to be for I understand that they live together as man and wife, They live over that barber shop on Clark near Van Buren Street.
Goodbye. Write soon and remember me to all the boys and send me the news.
Yours truly, — P. V. Fitzpatrick
Ellen sends you her love.
Camp of the 9th Illinois Cavalry
September 23rd 1863
I received yours from Cairo and was glad to hear that you arrived safely once more in Illinois. The scout that was out when you left returned on the 17th inst. They had two skirmishes with the Rebs. Nobody on our side hurt. Captured six prisoners. Bishop has been relieved from duty as Provost Marshal and. Lt. Colonel Bowen of the 52nd Illinois Infantry put in his place. Bish. does not like it. He is now in camp. He has a large hospital tent and has it fitted up like a hotel—carpet and all.
Humphreys papers has been returned disapproved. He may take command soon. Burgh is in Memphis. Gifford is as blind as a bat what with Bishop, Gifford, and the Adjutant who is as crazy as a loon. Things is going to the devil, if not already there.
Mrs. Perkins is here. She came three days after you left. My regards to Mrs. Boone and all the folks. Tell Sis to write soon. I write though in haste. The mail is nearly ready. Write soon to your friend. — P. V. Fitzpatrick
Camp of the 9th Illinois Cavalry
September 28, 1863
I received yours and Ellen’s letters today. I am happy to hear that you enjoy your leave of absence. You may as well make the most of it while you are absent. You were right in saying that Rosecrans has been defeated and also in conjecturing that we might have to go and reinforce him. There has been orders issued cutting down our regimental train to “one wagon to every 82 men,” one for the commanding officers of the twelve companies. We have orders to draw 3 months clothing. We are getting the horses shod and making all preparations necessary to a march. Our tents are going to be taken from us and we will get in their place shelter tents or “dog kennels.” We have not orders to move yet but it looks like if we were going “some whare.”
I think, George, you had better leave Ellen in Chicago for we will have to take it now “rough and ready” and if we move once, we will be kept going all winter, and sis could never stand it. The officers are as mad as the devil about it. They will have to send their wives home, besides baggage of all kinds must be sent away. Won’t be allowed to carry only what is absolutely necessary for a change. [Lafayette] McCrillis 1 swears he won’t move until he is furnished with horses but that amounts to nothing. Go he will if he is ordered for he must do it. He can’t help himself.
The horses are well and in good order. Dick has not yet received that money, confound it! I am much obliged to all the folks in enquiring after my health. Ellen says she sent me the address of somebody but nary address did I get. Ellen, the best address you could send would be a line or two or more from the party. Then I can tell better what to write.
I enclose one letter—the only one that came for you. Tell Mr. Donnellan to see about that money of Dick’s. Write soon to yours truly, — P. V. F.
My regards to all the folks at the Rock Island House except to rascal [James] Donahue.
1 Lafayette McCrillis was the Colonel of the 3rd Illinois Cavalry but was promoted to command the 1st Cavalry Brigade prior to July 1863.
Camp of the 9th Illinois Cavalry
September 29th 1863
I received a letter for you today from New York and as you wanted your letters sent to you, I thought I would drop you a line with it.
We received orders last night to prepare for a march. Our whole 16th Army Corps is ordered to move except the parts of it that are in Kentucky & Helena but we do not know as yet when we will leave here. That big horse of yours is the most obstinate brute in America. Lord, don’t he smash things. Can’t tie him up. He is loose in the stable but he cannot get out. They (the horses) are in a good condition for a march.
Maj. Bishop took suddenly sick when we got orders to move. The knowing ones say that he wants to take all his stolen goods North. Mind, I don’t say it. No more furloughs granted. The devil is to pay amongst the men. Those fellows whose names were sent in for furloughs are getting drunk. They say they must have their spree.
In regard to those papers of mine, I found out it was all a hoax. I got mad, made out an application myself, had all the officers in the regiment sign it, went to McCrillis, he signed it. I then went to General Sweeney, A. A. General and got information as how to work it, got it in good time to run the gauntlet and started it through the channels. Stand it as far as I could an God only knows where it will likely to halt. I am going to send it to the fountain head before I stop. Then I will be satisfied. They all tell me it is a strong one and can’t help going through all right.
Dick McCutchin wants you to bring him an S-B-ring—a gold one—about $10 worth, solid gold. Come down when your time is up. I have not got that money of Dick’s yet. The deuce take it. Remember me to all the folks at the Rock Island House. Leave Ellen after you. She can’t stand it down here. We will have to rough it. Prepare accordingly. Mind no baggage. So don’t burden yourself with much. Write before you come. Yours &c., — Fitz
My regard s to Ellen, Mr. & Mrs. Donnellan
Camp of the 9th Illinois Cavalry
October 9, 1863
I received your letter stating that you was not able to come to the regiment on account of the chills and fever. Your time is up and yet you have not sent your Surgeon’s Certificate. You must not leave yourself liable which you have already done, but I have managed to ward it off so far by not making any reports, but I can’t do so very long as you know.
Since the commencement of this month our regiment has been continually on a scout fighting like the devil, but yesterday we got pretty well cleaned out. We had to retreat after firing every shot we had—clean run out of ammunition. Didn’t have a shell left. Butler was in command of the battery and worked it very well until everything was shot away. Had only a few canister remaining. The boys fought nobly—Co. F especially. There was 8,000 of the Rebs [and] only 1,500 Feds. We had to leave but we are going out to try our hand again tomorrow with all the cavalry in the 16th Army Corps besides five regiments of infantry besides the 9th Mounted Infantry and several pieces of heavy artillery. Col. Hatch started out this morning with some infantry. He commenced fighting five miles from here. The Secesh are driving him back. we expect him back every minute. If they do not attack us tonight, we will be already tomorrow. Wehogan has been wounded and I fear he will die. I am tired and sleepy and cannot write anymore just now. 1
The prospects are now that we will remain here all winter for we will have enough to do to defend this road, ff we can do that. Pullman’s wife is here, Can you read this? I hardly can.
My regards to all the folks at the Rock Island House. Tell Ellen to write or anybody else that wants to. Good night. I can hardly keep my eyes open. Write soon. When I come back from this scout, I will write again. Did not get Dicl’s money yet. Send me a few postage stamps.
Yours truly, — Fitz
1 These skirmishes led up to the Battle of Collierville which took place on 11 October 1863 between Brig. Gen. James R. Chalmers and Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman. Chalmers hoped to sever telegraph and rail lines in southwest Tennessee.
Camp pf the 9th Illinois Cavalry
October 28, 1863
I write you these few lines so that when you come down, you can’t say but I have wrote to you. George arrived here on the 26th looking very well. I think that his trip to Chicago benefitted his health. He has a very nice uniform. He is well fitted out for the winter. He brought me a very handsome pair of gauntlets—just the kind I wanted if they were not quite so big. The fingers are a trifle too long. The shirt also is of the right kind, only my arms are not quite as long as those of the shirts. Remember, my friend, I am not quite as large as you think I am.
George brought me Dick’s money from Mr. Donnellan. I am glad to have got rid of it. I think Dick thought there was something wrong when he did not get it, and I did not have that much money with me or I would have given it to him myself and I could not very well borrow for the boys did not have so much money. As for dear old Fuller, I had the utmost confidence in him. That is what vexed me the most—to think that anyone would think of doubting the integrity of my old friend Uncle Fuller. I only waited for George to come down and if he did not bring it, I would send hime to my brother for the amount. The Uncle Fuller could give me the money when he got ready, or when he could spare it.
George is stopping in the old tent yet. He has a stove and will have a new tent in a day or two. There was some talk of us leaving here but I think now we will remain here. George is only waiting to see whether we leave soon or not. The he will fix up and send for you. I think he will commence to fix up tomorrow and when he gets all ready, he will write for you. He boards with me until you come back. We get along as usual “very well.” I am very comfortably settled for the winter. I have a stove I the tent which keeps it as warm as I want it to be so when you come down, call in to warm yourself.
How is my friend Mary? I thought you said she was going to write. You know I like to get a letter. Once in awhile, let her write. When you come, bring me another shirt like the one George brought and one knit undershirt, and if I want anything else, I will write. If you want money, let me know.
Remember me too Mr. & Mrs. Donnellan, Eddy, & P. M. Junior, and all my friends at the Rock Island House, and all who may enquire for yours in friendship, — P. V. Fitzpatrick
P.S. Did you get that long letter I wrote to George. Read it. — P. V. P.
May 9, 1864
My dear friend,
I received your letter this morning. I am very happy to hear that you and Ellen are in good health as I am at present, thank God. The folks here are all well except Eddy who has the mumps, but he is much better now. I think you have done well not to receipt for F Company property, for you ought to know how that is mixed up. You can do just as ell by coming home. I expected Burgh would create some disturbance when ge got permanent command. I presume that Perkins is on the staff and will not take command of the company no more which in my humble opinion is no great loss to the company. They can do just as well without either him or Butler, I expect. You have great times in being rigged up for service and when you are fired up, you will have some hard time, there being enough for you to do this summer.
The Governor has called for 20,000 men for 100 days. The men are enlisting very slowly and I think he will not be able to raise that many in the time specified.
I can hardly sell my horse, he is so infernally old. They tell me that he is all of nineteen years and the government will not buy him. Gillespie lied to me. He told me that he was only seven years old but I. will fix him for it. Pat has not tried to sell yours yet and when he does try, I hardly think he can get over $125. He says that if he can’t get over that, he would sooner keep him himself. It costs like hell to keep a horse. I am going to sell him for what I can get. Remember me to all the boys. Tell Ellen to write. She will tell me all that is going on in camp. Tell that ten dollars is all right. Write soon to your friend, — P. V. Fitzpatrick
Mike is going to leave.
June 15th 1864
My dear friend,
As you have not answered my last letter to you, I take it for granted that you did not receive my letter so I am going to try again. I have heard from the regiment every week and know what is going on as well as if I were there myself.
I am still at the Rock Island House doing about the same kind of business as when you were here. Uncle Fuller is the same old three and four pence, the same girls are here. Kerosene is sparking Kate yet and we all want him to finish up the business but he says he “can’t see it.” We have got a new bartender.
That damned old horse has got me into trouble. The government has seized him and will keep hi, until we can prove property or that we had a right to sell him so if Gillespie don’t send the papers soon, he will be arrested and he has got to show where he has got him and so on until somebody pays the piper. Maybe Capt. Perkins will get into it and if he does, I reckon there will be wigs on the green. Donnellan was scared pretty badly about that “US” on Sam. He had him sent down to Pat Morgan who is going to blister it out but by the by, George, you have not said whether Donnellan was to keep him or not. Ids he to keep him? Yes or No? It costs like the deuce to keep a horse here now.
You don’t know that we got a new recruit last night but we did though. Mrs. Donnellan was delivered of a fine garsoon; about 12:30 last night which makes three boys. I have not seen him but Annie says he looks just like his pa which is always the case. I suppose he will be called Mike or Tom or some such name.
Well, how is sis at this time and when will you get your papers. Be sure and come home as soon as you can. Who is that confounded fool called General Sturgis—the ass! He would have our men taken, beaten again. I am glad the Ninth was not with him. We have had all the news here. How are the chills now? You had best come home.
You see I have been writing on two sheets of paper and did not know it until I turned over but I am going to send you both of them now.
Larry Lynch is at Springfield. They have lost their muster in papers and they can’t get mustered out until they find them Larry don’t swear any. Oh not! Well, I think I will close this by sending my regards to Ellen. She must not think that I did not answer her letter because I did. Remember me to all the boys and hoping you will soon be home.
I remain as ever. Sincerely your friend, — P. V. Fitzpatrick
July 1, 1864
My dear friend,
I received your very welcome letter this morning. I am glad to hear that you are well, but I am sorry to hear that George went on that expedition. Why don’t he get his papers and come home? But I expect it is difficult to get them. But I hope he will come home as soon as possible for I think it is not so pleasant in camp as it used to be. I am very sorry for Fred and would like to know all about him when you write again. Let me know if you can where he is, or what has become of him. Poor Fred. I am so sorry for him.
Times are the same as usual here. The same girls and boys work here yet. My dear friend, I know very well that you and George are my friends for you have proved such to be the case and believe me that I would do all in my power for George and you. So my dear Aunty, let me know what you have heard about me in your next letter. But you know me better than to believe anything to my discredit, and I think I do not give anybody the opportunity to say anything against me. But then I don’t care a curse for any of them, if they do not like my style, they can go to pot.
Tell Gillespie to send me the affidavit of his quartermaster sergeant. Enclosed is a letter I got this morning from New York for you.
Give my regards to all the boys and tell George to write as soon as he comes in and be sure that you answer this with as little delay as possible. I stood up for Mr. Donnellan’s little one. He is called William Richard. The family are all well and wish to e remembered to you and George. Mrs. D. got a letter from you today.
Sincerely yours, — P. V. Fitzpatrick
Let me know all the news about Fred. Goodbye all. I am I good health.