1863: Francis James Stenger to his Friend

This letter was written by Francis (“Frank”) James Stenger (1840-1903), the eldest son of gunsmith Thomas Jefferson Stenger (1812-1888) and Joanna Potter (1817-1850) of Lycoming, Pennsylvania.

I could not find an image of Frank in uniform but here is an unidentified trooper from the 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry. He is holding a Model 1860 saber, possibly a fluted cylinder Colt .44 Army, and private-purchase slouch hat with personalized hat brass (upside down sabers and 5 P. V.)
(Rick Carlile Collection)

Frank enlisted as a private in August 1861 to serve three years in Co. K, 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry. He mustered out of the service in August 1864. After the war Frank married Emma J. Bostwick (1844-1932) and settled in Sheffield, Warren county, Pennsylvania where he earned his living as a carpenter.

The 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry was at first known as the Cameron Dragoons. It was among the first of the three years’ regiments raised. The regiment actively employed in scouting in and along the enemy’s line, bringing in prisoners almost daily and gathering much useful information, frequently meeting and skirmishing with the enemy, often resulting in severe encounters while at Fort Magruder, about a mile below Williamsburg, the command was attacked by superior numbers, and driven with the loss of six killed and fifteen wounded and thirty-two men were taken prisoners. The regiment lost a total of 293 men during service; 1 officer and 76 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded, 6 officers and 210 enlisted men died of disease. The 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry mustered out August 7, 1865 and was discharged August 16, 1865 at Philadelphia. Engagements: Seven Days Battles, First Battle of Petersburg, First Battle of Deep Bottom, Appomattox Campaign, Battle of Five Forks, Battle of Sailor’s Creek, Battle of Appomattox Court House.


Frank’s letter includes a sketch of The New York Herald newspaper with a headline that reads, “The latest news. Total defeat of the rebbels. Charleston closely besieged.”

Camp near Williamsburg, Virginia
August 12, 1863

Dear Friend,

Yours of the 2nd was joyfully received by me last evening. It is today two years since I left home. It is a well remembered day to me. Although I left home quite unconcerned, I have often thought of home since I left—but never wanting to go home to stay until my time is expired. But then I shall be glad to get home & stay. But this year will soon pass. It does not seem long since last year this time. We can now begin to count the months until count eleven and then we can count the days although it is a big way off yet.

News? I have none to write of any importance but I wish I could have the good luck you have had. I have not seen any since last winter, or not enough to soak me but there’s little difference, But would like to see some with you in some of the old ports. But if I live to get home, there will be time enough then. I suppose working will go hard if I should have to do it although I do not know what I shall do yet.

But I have not much to write for the present & therefore you must excuse my short letter. I had a letter from Ellen three or four days ago & in it she stated that Elizabeth Morhart fell on the spot the morning she wrote. She also stated mutton Jake Sunderland and Adam Hainee had a severe fight. Perhaps you heard of it before this. But I must soon close. This leaves me well hoping it to find you the same. Write soon and give me all the particulars.

No more at present but remain as ever your affectionate friend, — Francis J. Stenger

Address as before.

There are plenty of wenches in the town of Williamsburg but I should not want none of them. They are too skunkish.

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