This letter was written by Gustavis (“Gus”) A. Cate (1844-1910), the son of William Wiley Cate (1814-1892) and Ann Glaze (1813-1887) of Cleveland, Tennessee. Gus’s father, a farmer in Bradley county, Tennessee, voted against the ratification of the ordinance of secession and was a Union sympathizer throughout the war. He was known to provide food and aid to Union troops passing through Bradley county.
Gus had an older brother named Henry Glaze Cate (1836-1907) who also was in the army but Henry wore gray while his brother Gus wore blue. Henry served as a private in Co. C, 36th Tennessee (Confederate) Infantry. In November 1863, Gus enlisted as a sergeant in Co. D, 12th Tennessee (Union) Cavalry. After its organization, the 12th Tennessee Cavalry was assigned to Gen. Gillem’s division and was placed on guard duty on the Nashville & Northwestern railroad, where it remained until April, 1864. During the remainder of the year the regiment was in active service almost continuously. It was one of the most efficient regiments in opposing Wheeler on his raid through Middle Tennessee and had several severe engagements with portions of his command. In the latter part of September it marched to contest the approach of Gen. Forrest, with whom it was several times engaged with considerable loss.
The regiment was also active in the campaign against Hood, participating in the battles at Lawrenceburg, Campbellsville, Spring Hill, Franklin and Nashville. From Nashville the regiment was in the advance in pursuit of Hood and fired the last shot at the enemy as he crossed the Tennessee River at Bainbridge. On Feb. 8, 1865, the regiment went into camp at Eastport, Miss., where it remained until May 11. It was then transferred from the 2nd to the 1st brigade under the command of Bvt. Brig-Gen. George Spalding, who had been commissioned colonel upon the completion of the regiment Aug. 16, 1864, and ordered to St. Louis.
Gus wrote this letter to his younger sister Malcena Cate who was born about 1847. She was still enumerated in her parents household at the time of the 1870 US Census.
See also—1862-63: Henry Glaze Cate to his Family on Spared & Shared 17.
12th Tennessee Cavalry
May 10th 1864
Miss Malcena Cate
Your kind letter of the 3rd came to hand in due time and found me in good health. I was glad to hear from you, it being the second letter that I have received from home since I left home. I have been stationed at Nashville for the last three months until the last few days. We moved down to station 51 on the Nashville & Northwestern Railroad leading from Nashville to Memphis. We have nothing to do here but drill. We have to scout a little occasionally. There is some few bushwhackers back here though not a great many.
I received a letter from sister Mary dated April 23rd. She wrote that she was well and that she had a very good school. I am glad to hear that you have come off so well. I am sorry to hear of Father’s having to go to work though the time has come when every man must do something. When I left home, I did not expect to be gone but a very short time though I have had a right smart wild goose chase of it. I travelled a right smart while before I concluded to join the army. I was exposed a right smart to the weather and [with] the danger crossing the mountains, I did not know when I would get home. I thought that I would be about as safe in the army as out of it.
I expect you would rather I had not joined the army. Though taking everything in consideration, I don’t know as I could have done much better. We see some very jolly times here and some very hard ones though I think I can stand it. I have not had one days sickness since I left home. I slept with the smallpox last winter but did not take it. Sam Keebler has had it. I slept with him when he was broke out with them. We lost eight men last winter with them. The health of our regiment is very good at present—better than it has been since I have been with it.
I have made some money since I have been here, I have made $300 dollars clear of expenses since I have been here. Besides, I have got a good horse of my own.
I would like to see you all very much though don’t know when I will be in that country. I have never made application for a furlough yet though I think I will be at home sometime this fall though if I do not, you need not be uneasy about me. I am going to try to take care of number one while I stay in the army. I have no one to depend on here but myself.
Uncle Thomas Cate is over here. He belongs to the 4th Kentucky Battery. I have seen him several times but have never spoke to him, When I was at Nashville, I could hear from home every day or so but since I have been here, I do not hear from you very often. I shall close by asking you to write often to me. There is nothing that gives me so much pleasure as to receive a letter from home. Tell Richard to take good care of my mare and colt until I return and I will make it all right with him. Tell Mother not to be uneasy about me. I shall try to take her advice.
Your brother, — G. A. Cate