These letters were written by Benjamin Franklin (“Frank”) Titsworth (1843-1918), the son of Isaac Dunham Titsworth (1805-1897) and Hannah Ann Sheppard (1813-1895) of New Market, New Jersey. According to an obituary in the Sabbath Recorder (1918):
Frank was born in Shiloh, New Jersey in September 1843 and came with his parents to Plainfield, N. J. when he was nine years old. Soon after they relocated again to New Market (now Dunellen), N. J., where he attended school at the New Market Academy, and where, after baptism by Rev. H. H. Baker, he united with the Seventh Day Baptist Church of Piscataway.
On August 1, 1862, at the age of nineteen, he enlisted as a private in Co. D, 11th Regiment, New Jersey Infantry, and was mustered out of service June 6, 1865. An incident which he was fond of relating in this connection was that, in the final review before President Lincoln in Washington, his division was the last in the procession, as was his regiment and his company, and he was in the last line and would have been the last man in forming single rank. He was promoted to detached service first in the brigade general’s office and afterwards in the adjutant general’s office, where his duties were largely clerical because of his clear and fine penmanship and systematic methods.
On his return to civil life he attended Alfred Academy for a time, and afterwards engaged in business with his father and brothers, first in Dunellen, N. J., and afterwards in Milton Junction, Wis. While living at Milton Junction he married Emeline A. Langworthy, of Little Genesee, N. Y., whom he first met while attending school at Alfred. This was on October 11, 1871, and she died November 19, 1873. While living at Milton Junction he was made a deacon of the Milton Seventh Day Baptist Church. In 1880, he moved to Farina, Ill., and engaged in the grocery and drug business, and at one time was cashier of the Farina Bank. On February 21, 1881, he married Genevra Zinn, of Farina, and to them were born three children, – Bertha, now of Durham, N. H., Adeline, now of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Lewis, now of Brawley, Cal. There are two grandchildren, Phillip and Genevra, living in California. In 1896, the family moved to southern California and later to the city of Riverside, where they were prominent in the Seventh Day Baptist church, where he retained his membership until the time of his death. In 1908, the family removed to Alfred, where he lived at the time of his death.
The first two letters that Frank wrote in this small collection were sent under the name of “Frank Marlow”—a false identity. They were sent to a correspondent who had answered an advertisement he had placed in the newspaper looking to open a correspondence with “a few young ladies of the North.” See ad below:
I am a true soldier of Uncle Sam, belong to the Army of the Potomac and having lots of spare time, nothing would suite me better than to correspond with a few young ladies of the loyal North. Object, mutual improvement and to pass away the dull hours of camp life. Address FRANK MARLOW, Hd. Qrs. 1st Brig., 2nd Div., 3d Corps, Washington, D.C.
Responding to the ad was a young woman named Amanda Wallace of Lawrenceville, Alleghany county, Pennsylvania, who also began her correspondence with Frank under a false name and address—“Amy Waterman” of Pittsburgh. Beginning with the third letter in this collection, both parties apparently had convinced themselves they wished to continue their correspondence and to do so under their real names. Whether they carried on their correspondence beyond the last of these letters is unknown but is doubtful. In any event, Frank’s letters provide some good information on the closing days of the war around Petersburg.
3rd Brigade Headquarters, 3rd Division, 2nd Corps
December 14th 1864
I was really surprised and happily disappointed to have the pleasure of reading another one of your letters. I had made up my mind that you had not received mine in answer to your first one, or if you had, thought you wouldn’t wish to correspond with one no more punctual than I was and I couldn’t blame you. It would give me pleasure to be numbered among your correspondents. I promise to be more punctual in the future.
I intended to answer this as soon as received but the next day we went on an expedition and was cut off from all communication for three or four days. We returned last Monday after destroying several miles of the Weldon Railroad below Stoney Creek Station and nearly to Hicksford Station. If you have a map of Virginia, it might interest you after reading a detailed account of it in the papers, which will be better than I can give you.
We had very disagreeable weather. Nevertheless it was exciting and therefore enjoyed. We marched at a good rate going and some of the men straggled. On our way back we found some of those men murdered. They were completely stripped of their clothing and shot through the head and some were bruised terribly in retaliation of which General Warren—commanding 5th Corps and commanding the expedition—ordered all buildings not containing families to be destroyed. It is supposed the outrage was committed by guerrillas, inhabitants of the country we passed through. It was a splendid sight destroying the railroad and the boys seemed to enjoy it and went at it with a will. No force troubled us. It was reported that some force was awaiting our advance at Hicksford but we gave them the slip and got home safe with only one casualty in this brigade.
All is quiet at present but there is appearance of an important move. I wish it would come off soon so we could build winter quarters. You say you thought my address might change and so it has. It is now Headquarters 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 2nd Army Corps. I have nothing of interest to relate. We are enjoying ourselves and looking forward to the time of our deliverance from the clutches of Uncle Sam—eight months from the 18th of this month. How will it seem to be citizens once more and free. But I must close and do some work.
Believe me your true friend, — Frank Marlow
Headquarters 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 2nd Corps
February 7th, 1865
I received yours of the 27th last in due time. I am glad you reminded me of my tardiness. I now propose a withdrawal of correspondence. Do not be astonished. I make this proposal for one reason—that I do not want to favor this manner of corresponding. I have found nothing in your letters which tempts me to do this. No—I am sorry to lose such a correspondent. I admire your sentiments both religiously and political. Your letters have been a source of pleasure to me as well as instructive. If you wish to continue the correspondence, I propose that we do it with our true names.
It has been a cold, dreary, stormy day and a lonesome one to me. Last Sunday morning, two divisions of the 2nd Corps, parts of the 5th and 6th, marched to the left. Sunday afternoon heavy musketry firing could be heard and it was reported afterward that the enemy charged on our Brigade and were repulsed with heavy loss which has proved true. Yesterday and today the 5th Corps, on the left of ours, has had some severe fighting. I haven’t heard yet how it turned out except heavy loss on both sides. Some great movement is afoot, I think. This force of ours has gone out to hold a strong force of the enemy while our cavalry operates on some point or they have gone there maybe to capture the South Side Railroad or establish a new line so the enemy will have to rally theirs. We have received some reinforcements lately. Grant will not be idle long at a time.
You are surprised that I have not been absent from the army since my first winter, 1862/1863. The next winter I gave away to a friend as he had urgent business which called him home. And when he came back, the reenlisting order was received which deprived all of furloughs but those who reenlisted, and as I hadn’t been out long enough to reenlist, I lost my furlough that winter. And my time is so near now, I don’t wish to go home. As you say, “The long absence will make my return more joyous.” I was born and always lived in New Jersey—and still live there. I have a very pleasant home, as good parents as anyone could desire and patriotic too for they have sent four sons into armed service and two sons-in-law. Maybe you think it strange I am not with the troops. Well I’m left in charge of the camp. It is the first time I have been left so far in the rear for some time.
But I must draw this to a close. Hoping to hear from you and your mind on this subject, I remain as ever your friend, — Frank Marlow
P. S. Please excuse my writing. I am doing it in a hurry. — F.
Camp 11th New Jersey Volunteers
March 1st 1865
Yours of the 13th was duly received. Believing that our further correspondence will be not only a pleasure to me but instructive, I cheerfully extend my hand in favor of its continuance. I think there will be no harm in divulging my real name so here goes—B. Frank Titsworth. You may have heard that name before if you had lived in Jersey City.
Since the last of January I have changed my position from clerk at Brigade Headquarters to Quartermaster Sergeant of my Regiment. Quite a jump you might say from a private to a sergeant. The Colonel couldn’t get me back for less promotion. As I had been in the Adjutant General’s Department so long, I had fully become acquainted with the business and the Adjutant General was bothered to let me go. I’m very well satisfied with my new position as it gives me more time to myself. I can improve my mind by reading too. My time is very well occupied at present, making out the Quartermasters Monthly Returns, etc.
We have been having some very wet and stormy weather for the last few days. Doesn’t appear much like clearing off yet. Winter is gone—my last winter as a soldier but I can hardly realize it. In fact, the remainder of my time in Uncle Sam’s service appears longer than what I have passed through. If I devote my mind to other things, the time will seem to pass away quicker and likely be more healthful to my mind for as a person is apt to become partly deranged by setting his thoughts on one object like that and fretting on account of its nonappearance.
But this is not of any interest to you. I have no news of interest to relate. It has been so long since I saw a daily paper that I am hardly acquainted of the situation. I don’t see what is the matter that the newsboy doesn’t make his appearance now that we have just been paid off four months pay. It appears that Sherman still marches on triumphantly.
Last night just after dark, the Rebs in our front commenced to cheer and yell. We could hear them very distinctly. We couldn’t imagine what was up. Some thought Sherman had likely been defeated. But last night two deserters came into our brigade picket line and they stated the cause to be that a ration of whiskey was issued the men and also that their brigade commander told them to cheer and holler for an attack was expected from us. The cheering appears only in our front. There was noise enough for a pretty large force.
The situation of affairs looks very bright I think at present. And if divine providence continues his smile upon us, we shall soon crush this rebellion and live once more a united North and South under the best government on the earth. Deserters are coming in to our lines continually and tell stories of woe and suffering. It is my prayer that this war may be done with as little bloodshed as possible. Hoping to hear from you soon. I will subscribe myself, your friend, — B. F. Titsworth, Quartermaster Sergeant 11th New Jersey Volunteers
Direct to B. F. Titsworth, Quartermaster Sergeant , 11th New Jersey Volunteers, 2nd Army Corps
Wagon Park in the field
11th New Jersey Volunteers
April 1st 1865
It gives me pleasure to address you thus, not only because we believe each other to be corresponding under pure motives, which I hope I’ll never give you cause to doubt the same of me, but I believe I have found a true soldier’s friend—a patriotic Lady. I received yours of the 11th and would have answered it ere this had not a move of the army prevented it.
We are still on the move. Broke camp last Wednesday morning and the troops marched to the left where they have been since advancing gradually. The 5th Corps and Sherman’s cavalry force are on the left of us. There has been fighting every day. The wagon train lies near Humphrey’s Station—the farthest station on General Grant’s railroad. My new position requires me to accompany the train. The wounded are brought to this station after having their wounds dressed at the field hospital, put aboard the cars and sent to the General Hospital at City Point. I have been over to the station frequently when wounded came in and I saw some very severe cases.
All is reported progressing finely for our side. General Grant is here supervising the move. It was reported two days ago that General Sheridan had cut the South Side Railroad and destroyed ten miles of it, then moved off in the direction of Burkesville—the junction of the Danville and Lynchburg Roads. That report was contradicted this morning. I won’t vouch for the truth of either. I’m not afraid but Grant will carry things through alright. I have unbounded confidence in that General.
Sherman no doubt is resting his army now at or near Goldsboro [and] well he might. Twenty thousand of his men were unshod when they reached that place. After they are reclothed and recruited, I expect we will hear more good news from “Sherman and his Veterans.” We can afford to let them rest a while. We have had two days of very heavy rain which left the roads almost impassible. Yesterday some supplies were sent to the front and almost every team mired. They returned this morning. Today is a regular March day—very windy and it’s throwing the rain on my paper. You must excuse me if my paper doesn’t look as neat as it might. We haven’t any log houses now. However, we get along first rate with tents as it is not very cold weather. I guess I have built my last log house and I hope the army has as a general thing. But I must give way for the cook to set the dinner table.
Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain as ever, your true friend, — B. Frank Titsworth, Quartermaster Sergeant, 11th New Jersey Volunteers
Camp 11th Regiment, New Jersey Volunteers
Near Burkeville, VA
April 24th 1865
Your last kind missive bears date April 10th. It was received with many others on the 15th after having no mail for nearly two weeks. I tell you, it was appreciated. During the absence of all this mail, news from home, our spirits were not allowed to become morose and demoralized. How could we when we were pursuing a fleeing enemy so successfully and every new engagement and day brought to light that Lee couldn’t hold out much longer without surrendering or being annihilated. The long wished for surrender came at last. On Sunday, April 9th 1865, General Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant—the object fought for by the Army of the Potomac for the last four years. It is my opinion that if any other man but Grant had been put in command of this army, it would not be here as it is this day, enjoying easy camp life, no fear of the presence of an enemy, and hardly duty enough to keep the men from becoming lazy. Grant can’t see defeat.
While we have been made to rejoice over these victories, God has seen fit to stricken us as a Nation with a great affliction—yes, it seems to me, one of the greatest afflictions He could throw at us. It was evidently the will of God that President Lincoln should depart this world and we are invited to “trust in Him for He doeth all things well.” “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain thee.” I speak of the many sad hearts that will remain after this cruel war is over—yes, and even now are suffering from the loss of bosom friends by the hand of traitors. Many a sad heart will exist to tell the tales and horrors of this war. God has been very merciful to my Father’s family thus far. Of six sons and sons-in-law in the Army and Navy, all still live to share in Heaven’s blessings. You ask me if I am not glad that my position is such that I am not exposed to the fire of the enemy. Of course I shall answer in the affirmative, but don’t let this allow you to think that if my duty called me on the battlefield, I would act the part of a coward. Never.
I believe I can justly say I have always performed my duty. I have been in but one battle with my musket. You may want to know why I say with my musket. Well, I have been in battle while I was performing the office of clerk. But I won’t flatter myself in past doings.
I have now not quite four months to stay in the service. The time passes away quickly, as rumors are afloat all the while that we are going home in a very short time. I will credit that as soon as I hear of the surrender of General Johnston. You write as though you thought I had become weary of your letters. Far from it, much the other way. I love to receive and peruse them. Do you read anything in my letters that make you think so?
But I must close. Ever your friend, — Frank
11th Regiment, New Jersey Volunteers
Camp 11th Regiment, New Jersey Volunteers
Near Washington, DC
May 19th 1865
Yours of April 30th was received the day we reached Manchester. I hoped to answer it before but pressure of business would not permit. Leaving Burkeville at the time we did put me behind in my monthly papers. But since we reached this camp, I have worked pretty busy and finished them this forenoon. We have commenced to make out our “muster out rolls” and “discharge papers” and shall be very busy until we start for home which time, I think, will not be two weeks from date. The boys are highly pleased at the prospect of getting home so soon. Nothing would suit me better. I have made up my mind to be a citizen by the sixth of next month (June). That is giving us sufficient time to make out any papers.
On our march from Burkeville to our present camp, we passed through Manchester, Richmond, Fredericksburg and Falmouth. I broke off from the column after we marched into the City of Richmond and took my own route accompanied by a friend. We visited the places of interest—the Capital, Jeff’s mansion, &c, &c. It has been a very nice city, but most of the principal streets was destroyed which damages the looks of the best part of it somewhat. It is not as large as I thought. There is some very splendid country around it.
We passed through some very nice country during our march. Fredericksburg and Falmouth looked natural as well as the country around them. We didn’t exactly pass the ground of our (3rd Corps’) old camp but saw some houses which were near there. The nearer we got to Washington each day the more it felt like home.
We are now lying on Arlington Heights near Four Mile Run. On a hill near our camp, Washington can be seen in the distance. It is about six miles. Next Tuesday and Wednesday the army is to be reviewed. I believe it is to pass through Washington. I suppose a number of visitors from the North will be present to witness it. I believe I should rather be a witness than a participant.
Since the receipt of your letter many glorious news have been received—that of the capture of Jeff Davis, &c. I haven’t had a chance to see a paper lately so I don’t know much of what is transpiring in relation to the assassins. I hope the Government is successful in ferreting them out and give them their just desserts. It seems they have been very successful thus far.
You say that “you have never told me directly but once that you did not wish my correspondence.” I don’t recollect the time. I guess I didn’t mean it. You spoke about writing this letter on the Sabbath. I suppose you want my opinion on the subject. When I was at home, I wouldn’t write a letter on the Sabbath unless to a soldier engaged in active service. I don’t know as there is any sin in writing on the Sabbath. However, I very seldom do it.
We are having very pleasant weather. I think I will be in the service by the time you write me next. If you do not write by the 6th of next month, direct to New Market, New Jersey.
Ever believe me your friend, — Frank
Excuse my hurry.
New Market, New Jersey
June 20th 1865
It has now been nearly one month since the receipt of your last and welcome letter. I hope and think you will pardon me for this long neglect if I tell you the circumstances. When I received your letter, we were busy finishing the muster out rolls and proper papers for our discharge. As soon as they were completed, we reported to Trenton, NJ, and while lying there, all was excitement and hurry so I couldn’t get my mind near enough pacified to write one letter. I meant to write you there. We received our discharges and pay last Friday so you see we haven’t been home long.
“Home at last,” I can hardly realize that I am home for anything except on furlough, unless [it is] the fact that I have donned the citizen’s garb. I found everything looking natural, more so than I expected to. So much the better. We are having nice times now. We are waiting now for three more boys to return; one at school and two in the navy. Then our family will be made up—all home together for the first time in four years.
We are having splendid weather—very sultry and greatly in want of rain. It has made several attempts to rain for two weeks but never made out anything. The ground is getting very dry.
They are preparing to celebrate the 4th of July in this place. Several have met at our house a few times to practice singing. I believe they are going to have a speaker, &c., and I don’t know what all. Can’t expect much from a small village like this. I think this fourth will be more generally observed than it has for many years past. Since the war, there appears to be a more patriotic feeling—a greater love for our country. I believe this war has instilled into the heart of our people a greater knowledge of the worth of our country.
New Jersey is a copperhead state. We have a copperhead governor. When we (the 11th Regt. N. J. Vols.) arrived at Newton, we marched to the State House and Governor Parker came out to make a speech. The New Jersey soldiers all hate Parker and when he commenced his speech (if it can be called such) the boys instead of cheering, groaned at him and called for Marcus L. Ward (Mayor of Newark, NJ and a great friend of the soldier). They kept it up during his remarks. It was an ungentlemanly way of acting but they were soldiers from the front and would rather have a dinner than all their speeches, though we didn’t get any dinner until two or three days afterwards and then [only] through the unceasing efforts of the ladies. I don’t know what we would have done in many instances if the ladies hadn’t taken an interest in us.
In your letter you say you would like to have been at the [Grand] Review at Washington. It was a grand sight. My Regiment was the last one to pass in review the first day.
Well, my soldier life has passed and I must habituate myself to a citizen’s life again—almost the same as a start in a new life. But I must close. Hope to hear from you soon again. I remain as ever, your friend, — Frank
New Market, New Jersey