1864: Robert Jennings Frost to Julius J. Eddy

This POW letter was written by Robert Jennings Frost (1842-1923) who served with the 9th Michigan Cavalry, Companies M & G, during the Civil War. He was taken prisoner near Stone Mountain, Georgia, on 27 October 1864, not long after the fall of Atlanta. During this time the 9th Michigan was called upon to scout and serve as a personal escort for General Kilpatrick.

According to Robert’s obituary, Robert first entered the service of his family’s adopted country in 1856, at age 14, as a captain’s boy in the US Navy. After two years, he returned to Michigan where he worked as a clerk in the post office at Albion and taught a township school. During the Civil War, Robert joined the 9th Michigan Cavalry, mustering in as a sergeant in Co. M in April 1863, and discharged at war’s end as a 1st Lieutenant in Co. G.

Robert was born in England and came to the United States just prior to the 1850 US Census with his parents—Robert Frost (1806-1866) and Sarah Leovitte (1811-1879)—settling in Trenton, Oneida county, New York where his father worked in the shoe manufacturing business. By 1850, the Frost family had relocated to Grand Ledge, Eaton county, Michigan, and turned to farming. After the war, Robert married Frances (“Fannie”) Adaline Olcott (1846-1916) and settled in Albion, Calhoun county, Michigan where he owned a shoe store.

Robert wrote the letter to his friend Julius J. Eddy (1844-1907) of Albion, Calhoun county, Michigan. Julius was the son of Samuel Clark Eddy (1823-1878) and his first wife, Elizabeth (1824-1854). After her death, Samuel married Perlina Wade (1823-1892). Julius married Eliza (“Lide”) Ann Watson (1843-1911) in April 1866.

[Note: This letter is owned by and sent to me for transcription by C. J. Frost, great-great-grandson of the officer, with express permission to publish it on Spared & Shared.]

“Scenes In and Around the Richland Jail, Columbia, South Carolina” published in Harper’s weekly, dated 20 February 1864. The view entitled “City Hall” is a view from the east windows of the prison. in the foreground can be seen the high board fence of the jail yard. Another view represents the rear of the prison and a Sabbath service being held in the prison yard.

Transcription

Richland Jail
Columbia, South Carolina
December 11, 1864

Dear Eddy.

I am at length seated to inform you of my prosperity and whereabouts. Of the former, I have nothing to say but that I am well. Of the latter, I am a prisoner and confined in this jail for about three weeks. I was captured October 27th about 30 miles from Atlanta on the Augusta Railroad since which time have been to several military hotels, viz: Macon, Savannah, Charleston, and Columbia jails. I have no definite idea as to the length of time I shall stay in this place of abode—probably until our worthy “Abe” designs to look on us & declares that we may be exchanged.

Well, J. J., there seems quite a difference in my situation two years since or even a few months, but such are the fortunes of war. There are confined here several Michigan officers, this prison being for officers alone. If you see or write to the 12th, tell Fred that Capt. [Elmer] Dicey 1 of the 1st Sharp Shooters who is confined [here] sends his best wishes. There is also a cousin of Prof. Barnard here—a Lieutenant [in the] 20th Infantry.

The weather is quite fine here. The ground has not been frozen. It is a source of enjoyment [for me to] reflect on past scenes of two years, the time we went to Hillsdale, &c. &c., “and sisters must pray at home,” 2 “Thou hast learned to love another,” 3 “Oh Bob, Oh Bob.”

How does D. C. prosper in the drug “biz” and in short, give all the news. Give my respects to all that enquire—particularly to Lide, Mr. & Mrs. Watson., and Mr. & Mrs. Eddy. You may have taken to yourself a Mrs. Eddy, who knows? I should like to hear from all my friends. I will write as fast as I can get the paper. I should be pleased to write more but something forbids. And remember me to be your most sincere friend, — R. J. Frost

Prisoner of War, Columbia, S. C. (Care of Capt. [E. A.] Semple, Richland Jail)


1 Capt. Elmer O. Dicey of Grand Haven commanded the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters after the 15 July 1864 death of Capt. Levant Rhine until he was taken prisoner during the Battle of the Crater on 30 July 1864.

2 “and sisters must pray at home” is a line in the final stanza of the poem, “Brave Boys Are They, ” written by Henry Clay Work. The Library of Congress has the sheet music.

3 “Thou hast learned to love another” is the alternative name to a song entitled, “My Heart is Lonely Now“, composed by J. C. Beckel in 1853. The song sheet is in the Library of Congress.

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