These 14 letters were written by Joseph Edie Stewart (1841-1916), the son of William Stewart (1804-1891) and Esther Bell (1815-1843) of St. Clairsville, Belmont county, Ohio. In August 1861 when he was 20 years old, Joseph enlisted in Co. E, 15th Ohio Infantry Volunteers (OVI). He was wounded and taken prisoner on 31 December 1862 during the Battle of Stone’s River and held captive until his exchange at which time he returned to his regiment near Murfreesboro in June 1863.
Joseph wrote the letter to his cousin, Margaret (“Maggie”) Jane Stewart (1844-1928), the daughter of John Stewart (1806-1892) and Anne Belle Patton (1813-1892) also of St. Clairsville. Joseph served in the same company and regiment as Maggie’s older brother, Robert Bell Stewart.
Two Stewart cousins were raised in Belmont county, Ohio—one of the more pro-Southern counties of the Buckeye State. It was a largely agrarian county that had formed strong attachments to the South as the outlet for its goods and produce. Anti-war sentiment remained strong throughout the entire war and the St. Clairsville Gazette was one of the most outspoken Copperhead newspapers in the state. References to Belmont county politics and the conflicts between “Unionists” and “Copperheads” on the home front are sprinkled throughout Joe’s letters.
To read the 18 letters of Robert Bell Stewart (Joe’s cousin) who served with him in Co. E, 15th OVI, see:
For additional reading, I recommend Jon-Erik Gilot’s blog article entitled, “At Liberty Gap…Every Man is a Hero”: The Story of an Ohio Soldier.
Camp Andy Johnson
near Nashville, Tennessee
March 13th 1862
I received your letter since we arrived in this camp. I suppose you have heard where we are before this time. I am looking for a letter from home everyday. The mail has just come, but nothing from home yet. I have not had but one from home since we left Camp Wood. I got a letter today from Jane McCoy. She said that James McCoy had gone to Illinois to live and liked the country first rate. I had a letter from William Stewart. The boys were then at Paw Paw Tunnel, Morgan Co., Virginia, and had been in a little fight at Bloomery Gap. But no doubt you have heard all about it.
I suppose Bob 1 has told all about our march from Camp Wood here and it is not worth my while to tell all about it. I will quit till after dinner.
Dinner over and I will bet you could not guess what we had for dinner. It was vegetable soup. It is a composition of all kinds of vegetables. We boiled it with beef and made first rate soup. It is the first that we ever got.
We have the finest kind of spring weather here now. The nights are rather cool but the days are very warm. It rained some last night and this morning. We have had a little snow since we came but did not last long. You ought to be down here just to see the country. I have not seen any in all our travels that is anything like as nice as it is down here. I think sometimes that I would like to live here. There is some of the nicest buildings and yards here that I have yet seen. I seen some pretty nice country in Ohio but this beats all. It will pay us if we never have a fight just to see the country. I have not got to see the city of Nashville yet. We came through after night and it was so dark that we could hardly see the houses on the side of the street. We are about 4 miles south of the city on the Franklin Pike. We don’t expect to be here very long. Some say we will leave here before next Monday but where to, we don’t know.
We had some cheering news from Manassas night before last—that there had been a hard fought battle there—that our men were victorious and had taken 60,000 prisoners. If this news is true, the secesh are about played out. We hear cheering news from every side and I am beginning to think that the secesh are about played out generally.
Our pickets have had some little skirmishes since we come here. The long roll called us out last Sunday morning but we did not leave quarters. There was but about 70 or 80 of the rebel’s cavalry came up and the pickets whipped them. The citizens here are all secesh.
I have just got a Louisville Journal which gives us more good news from the West. Our men are the victors at every fight. We have a pretty large force here now. Some say there is about one hundred fifty thousand here. I have not had any pictures taken yet but expect to tomorrow or next day. I could have had a picture taken before we left Camp Wood, but I had no money. I did not get any Valentine’s sent. We left Camp Wood about the time I was going to send some. I would like to have sent Bill Hinkle a good one. I think it would be a pretty good joke to send Bill a cracker. Some of the boys did send some cracker and Valentines. I hear that Becca Gray is married to Armstrong Porter. I wish her a happy life. I was not expecting to hear of her being married. I don’t care who gets married so there is one left for me when I get home. There is some pretty good-looking women down here but I don’t think a southern lady would suit me . My love to all. Write soon and often.
1 “Bob” was Joe’s cousin, Robert Bell Stewart, who served in the same company and regiment. Bob was Maggie’s brother.
Camp on Battle Creek
Saturday, August 16th 1862
Some time has elapsed since I received your letter. I would have answered sooner, but have had a great deal to do lately. I wrote one to Craig a few days ago. I received Annie’s letter a few days ago. Bob got one from Jim at the same time. We have to go on picket twice a week. We are putting up some fortifications near the mouth of Battle Creek. About half of our company is out at work on them today. I would have been out but was not able to do anything. I was in the river a few days ago and ran onto a snag and got a pretty severe hurt. But I think it will soon be well.
I can’t imagine what is the reason I don’t get any more letters from home. The last one I had was written on the 15th of July. They certainly don’t write any or else they don’t come through. I feel anxious to hear how they are getting along with their harvesting, &c.
Sunday Morning 17th
Lieutenant Danford and Sergeant Hewetson will start for home this morning at 9 o’clock to recruit for the company. I will send this with Danford. I reckon [your brothers] Jim and John have left you [to join the 98th OVI] before this time. If they had not been in so much of a hurry they would have had the chance to get into our company. You will feel quite lonesome now, more so than when we left, but I hope we may all return soon to our homes. It has been nearly one year now since we left home. The time has been very short to me but home—that dear old spot—is ever fresh upon my memory. I wonder sometimes if home looks like it used to. I will think of home a great deal more since the boys have left, wondering how father will get along by himself. I reckon there is no one that can be got now to help him as everybody will be gone to war.
I am sorry to tell you that the only field officer we had has left us and that was our Lieutenant-Colonel [William F.] Wilson. The boys all loved him and he the boys just as much. He was so sorry to leave us he could hardly speak to us when he started. We have got another man in our regiment—Colonel [Moses R.] Dickey—but we don’t call him a man. He is not liked by a [single] man in the regiment. We call him an old red-headed tyrant. He done all he could to injure Colonel Wilson. He knew the boys did not like him and that they did like Colonel Wilson. This was the reason why Wilson left. He would not be dogged round by Colonel Dickey any longer. We’re trying to get him out and I hope we will succeed. Dickey was up to Huntsville last week and I hear that he has got our regiment out of the 6th brigade and will be taken to Huntsville to guard. Dickey tried to get a promotion as Brigadier General but could not come it. Colonel [August] Willich of the 32nd Indiana got the appointment and now commands our brigade.
Our regiment all want to stay in the sixth brigade but we want to get rid of Colonel Dickey. We are building a fort at the mouth of Battle Creek. It will be called Fort McCook. I reckon you have heard that General Robert McCook was killed a short time ago by some guerrillas. I have some inscriptions taken off some tombstones in a graveyard near Battle Creek. They’re quite curiosities. I will send them just as they are on the stones. they will give you some idea of southern learning.
I have written this in a hurry to have it ready to send with Danford. Write soon. I will write to Annie soon. Ever your cousin, — J. E. Stewart
Camp Lunatic Asylum
[Six miles from Nashville, Tennessee]
November 26th 1862
It has been some time since I received your letter. I received one from Nan day before yesterday. I have not had one from home for some time. I have as good health as common. We have as good health in the regiment as ever we had. We have but one sick in our company now. Morning report gives six hundred and sixty for duty in the regiment and about sixty for duty in our company. We have the largest regiment in our division now. We are looking for Lieut. [Lorenzo] Danford and Walt Hewetson back every day with some recruits for our company.
We had a letter the other day from uncle John Bell. He was then in Camp Dennison. He wanted to get into our regiment but he could not get here unless he could get some more to come with him which he could not do. He expected to go into the 62nd [OVI] Regiment now in Virginia. I would like first rate if he could get into our company.
Well, I suppose old Davy Shatzer is satisfied now as he has got Pete home again. I would like to know what fool went as a substitute for him. I suppose Pete is happy now as he is out of the army and got himself a wife. John Howard and Pete should both be in the army. There seems to be more marriages now than there was before the war commenced. If they keep on, they will all be married that are at home. There is no one that will gain any credit for himself by acting the coward in staying at home. [If] nothing happens, we will be at home some day and you may be sure they will not have much peace. Such fellows if they ever intend to marry, they had better be about it before we get home.
This has been a very busy camp. We have something to do every day. We go on picket every fifth day, have foraging trains to guard, and drill four hours every day that we have nothing else to do. We drill company drill two hours in the forenoon and battalion drill two hours in the afternoon. It is pretty cool weather and we can stand it to be put through. It is better for us to drill some every day than to lay in camp and do nothing.
We are now camped at the Lunatic Asylum six miles from Nashville on the Murfreesboro Pike. We have a nice camp and plenty of good water but there is no telling how long we will stay here. It would be a nice place to stay all winter but I don’t suppose we will stay here very long. We have but three tents to the company and are very much crowded. We have twenty-one in our mess. Every man does his own cooking. Rob 1 and myself have a small coffee pot and a frying pan which we have carried ever since we left Louisville. Company cooks have played out and nobody is sorry for it. We can cook to suit ourselves now. While we had company cooks, no one was allowed to cook anything at all.
The cars run through to Nashville again and I think Old Morgan will not get a chance to destroy the railroad as much as he did when Old [Don Carlos] Buell had command of our army. The old traitor (Buell) was not removed any too soon. It has been reported here that Buell has gone South. If such is the case, he will get some high position in their army. It won’t do for him to show himself to us again if he don’t want his scalp taken. He has been a traitor ever since he has been in the army. 2 We were on half rations at Battle Creek and he was feeding the secesh with our rations. I don’t know how Rosecrans will get along but I hope he will do the fair thing. The army have confidence in him and he has confidence in his men.
John Todd died in the hospital in Nashville on the 17th. 3 We did not hear it till today. He had been sick ever since we left Louisville but stayed with us till we come to Nashville. When we moved here from the other side of the River, he was taken to the hospital. His disease was brought on by himself. It commenced with “home sickness”—something like he was last winter. I did not expect ever to see him again when he left us.
We have no drill this afternoon. Write soon. Give all the news. I wrote to Nan a short time ago. I must write home one of these days. My love to all. As ever your cousin, — Joe
1 “Rob” was Robert Bell Stewart, Joe’s cousin, and the brother of Maggie Stewart (the recipient of this letter).
2 Gen. Don Carlos Buell was relieved from command of the Army of the Ohio and replaced by Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans on 24 October 1862. A military committee investigated Buell’s conduct during and after Perryville, but came to no conclusions, and Buell considered his reputation vindicated as he did not compromise his principles in waging war. After his dismissal, he was ordered to Indianapolis to await future assignments, but none came. Buell earned the nickname “The McClellan of the West” for his cautious approach and desire for a limited war that would not disrupt civilian life in the South or interfere with slavery. Although he staunchly opposed secession, he was never able to reconcile himself with the Lincoln administration. Buell’s wife had owned slaves prior to the war, and their marriage, although she freed them shortly after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter. Buell had no personal animosity towards slavery or the Southern way of life. [Wikipedia]
3 Other sources state that John A. Todd of Co. E, 15th OVI died on 10 November 1862.
Monday, February 9th 1863
I received your letter today and you had better think I was glad to hear from you. I have not had a letter from home yet but am looking for one every day. I did not expect to hear of John being at home. I intend to go home if ever an opportunity presents itself. Some of our boys started for home a few days ago without money and without leave. It is hard to tell how they will get through. I don’t think I would like to start without money, at any rate.
I heard this morning that we have all been exchanged. If such be the case, we will probably leave here before long. If they take us through by Wheeling, you may expect to see me at home. I like to stay here very well and will be content to stay here as long as they see fit to keep me. I am still in the hospital yet, but expect to go to Camp Parole in a few days. One side of my arm is healed up; the other is healing fast. I will not have the right use of my arm for a long time. The ball cut the main leaders in my arm and it will take some time for them to heal up so that I can have the right use of my arm.
I am sorry to hear of [John] Brown Dysart’s death [on 15 January 1863]. We were together when I was taken prisoner. I did not think that his wound would prove fatal. I am sorry too to hear that John [W.] Danford is dead. It was the report among us that there was four killed dead of our company on the field, but I am glad to hear that such was not the case and that we have lost a much less number than I expected. I never thought of getting out as safe as I did. I am glad to hear that [cousin] Robert has got through safe. I saw a list of the killed and wounded of our regiment a few days ago. Robert’s name was not mentioned and I took from that that he was not hurt. I wrote to him last week and told him to send me what letters he had for me but I don’t expect he has very many for me. Anything else, I suppose, he will keep for me.
I would like to be with the company first rate but I reckon there will be no chance to get there until they get ready to send me. I would like to have got a box from home first rate but if I had a little money, I could get anything that you could send me—everything is so plenty and cheap [here]. I hope to get home before I go back to the regiment. It is very uncertain how long we will stay here and it would be uncertain whether I would be here until a box would come. Our hospital is in the Navy Yard close to the bay. We can go down everyday to the bay and get all the oysters we want. I was down today and got all I could eat and carried some up for the other boys.
We don’t get quite as much to eat in the hospital as I would like to have. For breakfast we get bread butter and coffee. Dinner we get bread, beef soup, and potatoes. For supper we get bread, butter, and tea. Sometimes we get a little more but maybe it is better for us as we have very little exercise.
We had a hard time of it in the South. I suffered a great deal with my wound while in the South. We were starved half the time, had to lay out at night without shelter, and ride in old cars that were not fit to haul hogs on. I only hope that I will never get into their hands again. It is my opinion that they will be starved out before long—everything is an awful price. Flour was $45 a barrel and everything else in proportion. They are so bad off in some places that they’re pressing flour from the citizens for their army. Their army while fighting at Murfreesboro had nothing to eat. Some had a little flour in their haversacks.
Hoping they get home soon and talk over what has passed, I will quit at present. Write again soon. My love to all. Ever your cousin, —Joe
Direct as before to U.S. General Hospital, Annapolis, Md
Camp Chase, Ohio
March 18th 1863
I suppose you have heard that I am now in Champ Chase. I have not been very well for two or three days. I have got a bad cold and sore throat. I think it will be well in a few days. I wrote a letter to Nan a few days before we left Annapolis. I told her that we were going to leave there on the 10th. We did leave on the evening of the 10th but did not come the road I expected to. If we had come through on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, I would have been at home before this time. We got here last Friday evening. We got into Pittsburgh about 11 o’clock at night, got our suppers, and started again about 2 o’clock. If we had come through there in daylight, I would have stopped a day or two at Layton’s. A great many of our boys stopped at Pittsburgh and went home. I thought that I would risk getting home from here. I want to get some money and clothes now before I go home.
The House passed a joint resolution last Saturday requesting the President to let us all remain at home until exchanged. Gov. Todd started for Washington City Monday morning to see about it. I hope the President will grant the request. I will stay here till the Governor comes back and if the President has not granted the request, I will go home anyhow. There is lots of boys leaves here every day without leave.
I wrote a letter home the next day after we come here. I told them not to write as I expected to start home the first of this week. I expect you will be looking pretty big for me about this time. Write as soon as you get this. Tell me if you sent any letters to me at Annapolis. If you did, I will send for them. I will step in one of these days when you are not looking for me.
We get plenty to eat. There is plenty of peddlers in camp but we have no money. But I think we will have some in a few days. Write soon as ever, your cousin, — Joe E. Stewart
Direct [to] Regiment, Co. A, 1st P. P. Camp Chase, Ohio
I must write a letter to Robert today.
Saturday, June 13th 1863
I suppose you have heard before this that I am again with the regiment. I have wrote one letter home since I came back which I suppose they have got by this time. We left Camp Chase on the 2nd, run down to Cincinnati on the cars, then on a boat to Louisville. We got to Louisville on Wednesday about noon, had to lay over there until Friday morning, got to Nashville on Friday night, and went to the barracks. Left Nashville on Saturday morning (this day week ago), [and] arrived here about 10 o’clock.
We were not long about finding the regiment as they are camped pretty close to the depot. We found the boys generally well and looking first rate. I don’t see any change in [cousin] Bob since the last time I saw him. He has got a letter from you and one from Craig since I come. I got one from “Dr” since I come here that was directed to Camp Chase. Tell her that my ears have not been burning any yet—only from the heat. It is awful hot here about the middle of the day. Somebody must be thinking about me nearly all the time for I can hardly keep my shoes tied. I expect it must be Liz McCoy for as Nan said in her letter, she could do nothing but think about me. I don’t think she need trouble herself thinking about me. I guess Liz was pretty bad struck but that is all the good it will do her. I am going to write to her sometime just to see what kind of an answer I will get. Don’t tell her what I have said. I suppose she is at home now. She begged the hardest kind for a photograph but she did not get one.
Our regiment has new Enfield rifles yesterday. I have got a gun, but no equipments yet. I have been out on drill two or three times. It is pretty warm work but is not very hard. We drill the skirmish drill most of the time. It comes quite natural to take hold of a musket again. The nasty flies bother me so that I can hardly write. You never saw half as many flies as we have here and such mean ones. We can’t keep them out of anything—especially when we’re eating.
Well Capt., I suppose about this time you are enjoying yourself at the mass meeting in St. Clairsville. We had the other evening what Col. Gibson calls one of General Willich’s mass meetings. Cols. Gibson and Jones were presented with a watch apiece. Capt. [Lorenzo] Danford delivered the presentation speech—and a good one it was too, after which Gibson and Jones gave us a short speech apiece. They were all good speeches but Gibson’s was rather the best. I suppose you remember the speech I read of his while at home. It was a good speech but the one the other evening was a great deal better than that one. Gibson is one of the best speakers in Ohio. The brigade was called out about the first of the week to hear a speech from Ex-Gov. Williams of Indiana.
We have good times here—plenty of fun. I feel a great deal better satisfied here than I did in Camp Chase. I felt mighty lonesome for a while in Camp Chase—hardly knew how to put the time in. I have been here now one week and the time seems shorter than three weeks did in Camp Chase. I had half a notion to go back home again [and] would have went back if we had not left there when we did. Some of the boys did go home again and are here now. We have plenty to eat here. Can get vegetables but they are most too dear to buy many. I got three bunches of onions yesterday. Paid 50 cts. for them. Was 15 onions in the three bunches. We had all the vegetables we wanted while in Camp Chase. I had some cherries and strawberries while in Cincinnati. I suppose you have plenty of them at home now. There is some talk of our brigade being mounted but I don’t know how it will turn out. I hope we will. We will have to go out on brigade drill at 3 o’clock and I will have to hurry and finish. Tell “Dr” that I will answer her letter soon. I suppose the Capt. will be over to see you before he returns. Write Soon, and give all the news. My love to all, as ever your cousin, — Joe
July 7th 1863
Dear cousin Mag.
I have just returned from town. Went over to get some letter paper and got the last quire that was to be had. I will now proceed to answer yours of the 24th which was received the first of July. I expect you are almost entirely ignorant as to how things are going on at present in this department. It was reported that no mail would be allowed to leave Murfreesboro for 20 days after we left. Don’t know how true it is. We get mail regular.
You have no doubt heard that we have moved from Murfreesboro and taken Tullahoma. We had no general engagement. The rebs were too fleet-footed for us and were as fast as we advanced. Our Division engaged the Rebs at Liberty Gap on the 24th and 25th. Whipped them both days and drove them out of the gap. We had 33 killed and wounded in our regiment. Capt. [Lorenzo] Danford was wounded. No other one hurt in our company. William [R.] Kirkwood, Co. B, was killed. [John E.] Ramage of Co. F was killed. Lieut. [Andrew E.] Smiley, Co. A, was killed. We marched from Liberty Gap to Manchester, then to this place. Our advance entered Tullahoma about noon on the 1st. The rebs evacuated the night before leaving 4 heavy siege funs and a lot of provision behind. Our men followed them up and I believe are still in pursuit. The most of Bragg’s army is now across the Tennessee River. We will have Chattanooga before a week. General Burnside is moving down through East Tennessee.
We have taken a great many prisoners—I believe about 5,000. We have also taken several pieces of artillery in the fight at Shelbyville. About 500 rebs were drowned in the attempt to ford Duck River. It was thought that General Wheeler was drowned but the report needs confirmation. The rebels lost one Brig. General killed. They lost several of the best men they had.
It was our luck for once to be left but I would just as leave be in the front. Our Division was left here to hold the place and I expect we will get our horses before we leave here. When we get our horses, you need not expect to hear from me again for some time for if we ever get a start, we will go all over the Southern Confederacy before stop. I would like such a trip first rate.
It will soon be peach time. The potatoes & apples are fit to use now. I expect you would like to have had some of the rain we have had since we left Murfreesboro. It commenced rain on the 24th and has rained every day but one since. It has not rained any today yet but I expect there will be before night. The roads are almost impassable. We had to wade through the mud knee deep. We look for the cars down today. I would like to see them come for we are pretty short of rations and the teams can’t get here until the roads get better. Our baggage was left behind and I would like to see it coming up.
We had a dispatch yesterday from the War Department that Meade & Lee had fought three days and that Lee had been repulsed and was in full retreat. Bully for Meade. It is also reported that a force of 50,000 is marching on to Richmond. I hope they will take it before Lee get back. It is reported that a dispatch come last night stating that Vicksburg had surrendered with 20,000 prisoners, 150 pieces of artillery and small arms. I don’t know how true it is, but believe if it is not so, it will be before very long. If all our army would be as successful as we have been, I think the fuss would soon be over. A great change is taking place in the minds of the Southern people. The tennesseans in Bragg’s army swear they will never cross the Tennessee River. They say that they will not fight for the South any longer and will desert and join our army the first chance. It is said that Bragg is turning. I should not wonder if there was something of it and that will probably account for him not fighting us. I am sure I don’t care how soon all of them turns and comes back into the Union so that we can once more return to our homes to live in peace.
I had a letter from Esther a few days ago. She sent me her’s & Narcissa McCoy’s photograph. I think they are pretty good ones, though I have not seen Narcissa McCoy for 7 or 8 years.
We are going to have a heavy rain pretty soon. I hope it will quit raining soon and dry up for a little while. I like to see rain but not so much as we have had within the last two weeks. I hear that there has been a muss in Loydetown between the Union chaps, and the Copperheads. I am glad to hear that the Copperhead boys were badly whipped. I like to hear of the Union boys being so spunky, more particular the Ladies that were engaged.
Well, you did get to see the Captain. I suppose you enjoyed yourself while he was with you? I hear that he has been promoted to Major. If he keeps on going up, I expect he will be a Brig. General yet. It is a pity indeed that I could not be at the festival at Bush Hill. I would like first rate to have been there, but other business would not let me be there. As soon as we get these rebs tended too.
Write soon Major! My love to all. as ever your cousin, — Joe
Camp in Alabama
September 5, 1863
I suppose you are aware that the army here is on the move and that part of it has crossed the Tennessee River. We left Bellefont on last Sabbath the 30th and the morning of the 31st we crossed the river. Davis’ Division crossed the day before and Neglee’s the day after. We have three divisions of infantry and two of cavalry on this road. I can hardly tell you just where we are but we are not far from the Georgia line and near a little town called Lebanon. By looking at the map you can tell just where we are. Our destination, I think, is Rome, Georgia. We have Chattanooga completely flanked and when we get to Rome, we will have Bragg’s retreat cut off by railroad. We are now forty miles in the rear of Chattanooga. If Bragg don’t look sharp, he will find himself surrounded before he knows it. He has a pretty strong force but I have no fears as to the result of our expedition.
We have pretty near cavalry enough to whip half of Bragg’s army.
Crittenden’s Corps crossed the river above Chattanooga and will flank it from the east. I hope that our generals will make a good thing of it. We have crossed a range of mountains since we crossed the river called the Sand Mountains. We have the Lookout Mountains to cross yet and then we will have nice level country to operate over. We will soon be down into the country that I was in last winter while a prisoner.
Our army is in the best of health and in good spirits. We have everything to carry now. All of our teams but three ave been taken to bring up supplies. We find a great many loyal people on our march and a great many are joining our army. If Bragg retreats from Chattanooga, he will lose nearly one half of his army. They are deserting him now as fast as they can. I saw two men and a woman starting afoot this morning for Illinois. The woman was carrying a child and the men their bedding. They will have a long tramp if they walk all the way to Illinois.
We have had no mail or papers for a day or two and we can’t tell much about what is going on in other parts of the army. How long we will stay, I can’t tell. We came here last night. We go on picket in about half an hour and I will have to close up pretty soon. I don’t know when this will go out, but I will not have it ready so that it will go when the mail goes. When I write again, I hope to be able to tell you of a great victory at Chattanooga. I have no idea that we will get into a general engagement but if such is the case, I put all my trust in the God of battles to guide me safely through.
You will have to excuse these few lines at this time. My love to all. Write soon. Goodbye. Ever your cousin, — J. E. Stewart
Direct to Co. E, 15th OVI, 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 20th Army Corps, Army of the Cumberland
Monday, September 7th. We were called out on picket before I got this started off. We got some mail Saturday night. I received a letter from home. It was written after the Puke Meeting in St. Clairsville. I am glad to hear that they are fighting among themselves. I hope they will keep it up until they are all killed off. I hear that the butternuts are going to send men to the army to electioneer for Val[landigham]. If such men want to save their bacon. They had better never come near the armies. They boys swear they will hang every one of them and they will do it too. I don’t believe we have a man in our regiment that will vote for Val. If there is any Vallandighammers, they will not dare to vote. They will be afraid of their necks. Our company would want no better from them to charge on a Copperhead meeting somewhere in the North. The boys nearly all say they expect to serve a term in the penitentiary when they get home for they will be sure to take the scalp of the first one that insults them and they will do it too.
Well, Mag, I was told in a letter a short time ago that I need not be surprised if I heard of the Capt. coming home before long to get married. How it is? Have you had your trip to Meeting? We are still in the same place yet. Don’t know when we will move. We are camped in Lookout Valley. It is a very nice place and the people are most all loyal. Write soon. — J. E. S.
Camp 15th OVI
November 12, 1863
Well, I guess we have nothing to do today so I will try and fill these two pieces of sheets with something. It is the best I can do for paper—everything is so scarce and no sutlers are allowed here at present. I had to beg this from the Christian Commission. We expect to be paid off in a day or two but the money won’t do us any good here as there is nothing here to sell that I want. Stewart Adams was badly mistaken when he said that we could get things cheaper here than we could at home. We can get most anything we want when the settlers are with us, but we have to pay about three times for nearly everything and I think Adams knew it very well.
Joe Dubois got back last Sunday evening. We’re looking for Captain Glover in a few days with some more recruits. We have got three new recruits for our company. The time for the big draft will soon come around and then I hope to see some of the men that voted for old Val[ladigham] brought out here to take our places. I think we have got enough rough man to train them by the time our term of service expires. But they may take Pence and Hinckley’s place and leave the country for their country’s good. I hope all such fellows will leave our neighborhood and never come back again. I wonder what Billy Meeks thinks of his Sergeant running off.
The railroad will not be open through before Christmas. The rebs still hold the point of Lookout Mountain but I don’t think they will hold it long. We’re getting some big guns into position to shell them off and the first thing they know, they will see something drop among them.
We have got nearly all the wood used up that is inside our lines and as the weather is cold, we will soon have to invite Bragg to move his pickets back and that I expect he will refuse to do. One thing we can do—we can move them back for him. I was over to the 98th [OVI] the other day. They are all well and getting along fine. They have a little more duty to do than they had some time ago. Johnson Hammond is getting some better. Rob got a letter the other day stating that Campbell and Phema Smith were to be married the next day. Who would have dreamed of the like?
Well, Mag, there is so little going on here now and we hear so little news that I don’t know hardly what to write. We have got easier times now than we had for a while. We had to work on the fort awhile yesterday. We spend most of our time trying to get something to eat and when we can get anything to stick to our fingers, it is more than likely to stick. We generally make out to have enough to eat between us. We got nearly half a bushel of corn last night. We made a big kettle of hominy day before yesterday and we have not got that all eat yet. We have a new way of making mush. We parch our corn before we grind it. We can save our crackers by eating corn. We get three-quarters rations now. The boats are running within two miles of here.
Rob had a letter from Craig Patterson yesterday. They are at Nashville and have been on half rations too but they have a chance to get anything they want. I suppose you are at Washington [Pennsylvania] now and I will direct this there. Write soon. Give all the news and how times are about Washington. As ever your cousin, — Joe E. Stewart
Sunday, April 17, 1864
It is now 5 weeks since we left home and it is about time I was writing you a line. I hear that you have had the measles since you came home. I suppose you are well by this time and the rest are having their turn.
Well, I reckon the draft is over. I would like to know who is drafted. I want to hear of Bill Hinkle being drafted. We will soon hear how this draft went.
We have not joined the brigade yet. The 49th and us are by ourselves. We will join the brigade tomorrow. Our division passed through town yesterday and camped four miles below. I suppose you have heard of the railroad accident which happened to us while coming down from Loudon. Our wounded are all doing well. Some of them are doing better than we expected. I did not expect one or two of our boys to get well. I can hardly see how we all escaped being killed. It was the first scrape of the kind that I was ever in and I hope it will be the last. To take my choice, I would about as leave go into a battle. A railroad accident does not last long—it hardly gives a fellow time to think until it is all over.
Well, I reckon the next thing on the list will be a battle. The movements within the last few days go to show that something is in the wind more than common. But I don’t think we will have much trouble in whipping Joe Johnston’s Army. He is still at Dalton, Georgia. Deserters still continue to come in. Great numbers are coming in everyday. They give some very bad accounts of the condition of the rebel army. Some say they got but three-quarters of a pound of oat meal a day and poor stuff at that. Others say that the mountains are full of deserters afraid to come into our lines. Their officers tell them hard tales to keep them from deserting, and that if they knew the true state of affairs, one half of the army at Dalton would desert before three months. Others say that Johnston will not fight us at Dalton, but that is hard to tell. I think we will have a chance to test that matter in a few days, but I have no fears as to the result. We have force enough to any amount of men the rebels can scare up. The veteran regiments have nearly all returned and nearly all full.
We have had very cool weather for the last few days—a great deal cooler than I expected this season of the year in these parts. There was a very heavy frost last night and I expect has killed all the fruit. The fruit trees are all in full bloom. It will be rather a bad job if the fruit is all killed. We were making great calculations on a heavy crop this season—especially in the peach trees. But if all things go right, we will probably get home again by winter. It is the opinion of most everyone that the war will be over again fall, but I make no such calculations. If it is over in one year, it will be more than I expect. But it is hard to tell what may turn up between this and next Christmas. I expect to stay till it is over—if I live, let it last as long as it will.
News are so scare that I hardly know what to write. General Howard has taken command of our corps. He is a good man but I would rather have had McCook back again. Howard has but one arm. He lost his right arm in the Battle of Chancellorsville. Willich is in Cincinnati sick. He is not expected to get well. He has a cancer on the lip and went there to have it cut out.
Write soon. And if you go back to Washington [Pennsylvania], give my respects to Miss Lindsey. I would like to get that photo you promised me. I had a letter from Iowa a few days ago. They were all well. My love to you all. Ever your cousin, — Joe E. Stewart
In front of Atlanta, Georgia
Monday, July 25, 1864
Dear Cousin Mag,
Yours of the 11th was received a few days since and as I have nothing to do, will try and see what I can do at writing. I have got the worst cold that I have had for a long time and don’t feel much like writing or doing anything else. The last two nights have been cold enough for frost and the days hot enough to roast eggs. Such weather is enough to give anybody a bad cold. And our sleep being so irregular makes it worse. We are on guard every night as we have but a single line where we are. We have to be on the lookout that the rebels don’t surprise us and break our lines.
We have the strongest works now that we have had on this campaign and if the rebels want to get their[selves] slaughtered, let them come. They will not find us asleep. Our position is about two miles north of the city. Our batteries can easily shell the city. The rebel batteries do us little or no damage. Their shots all pass over us.
On last Wednesday [See Battle of Peachtree Creek, 20 July] the rebels made an attempt to break our lines by massing on Hooker and Newton’s division of our corps. The assault was made by two corps and were handsomely repulsed with heavy loss, leaving nearly all their dead and wounded in our hands. Newton’s division lost but 94 men and brought 2400 of the rebel dead and wounded off this field besides what they carried off. Hooker’s loss was between 2 & 3,000. The rebel loss was very heavy. Hooker buried over 600 of their dead on the field. Some estimate their loss as high as 11,000; others at roughly 6000. There is no doubt but what it was very heavy. The rebel Lieut. General Hood was reported killed that day, but later reports say that he was but slightly wounded and that Stevenson was killed. Hood is in command of the rebel army now.
Another hard battle was fought on Friday [See Battle of Atlanta, 22 July]. The rebels thought to break our left wing by again massing on McPherson but their scheme again failed. The loss on both sides was very heavy. I am sorry to say the Major General McPherson was killed. But to balance that, Lieut. General Hardee is reported to be mortally wounded and a prisoner. The rebels left most of their dead and wounded in our hands. I did hear that one division of the 17th Corps buried 1000 dead rebels in their front. The entire rebel loss since we crossed the river is reported to be 25,000.
The rebels will no doubt do their very best to hold the city and to do so, Governor [Joseph E.] Brown has called on every man in the state that is able to walk to report immediately to Atlanta. The place is well fortified and all we want is a little time and Atlanta will be ours. We have had no fighting to do except a little skirmishing since we crossed the river. We have had some wounded in our company—one of them severe. Co. K had two killed, Co. B one killed and one wounded, Co. I one wounded. A shell burst among Willich’s staff the day we came here and wounded Lieut. Magrath and killed his horse. Lieut. Kaler’s horse was killed and fell on him, breaking one of his legs. One of our band boys was wounded while in bed asleep.
General [Lovell] Rousseau has just returned from a raid in the rebel rear. He reports 30 miles of the West Point railroad destroyed and bridge burned at West Point. Well done for Rousseau. One more raid and they will have no railroad communication at all and their supplies will be entirely cut off. I am anxious for Atlanta to fall for I have an idea that we will get some rest then and not till then.
I hear that Capt. McCoy has got a furlough and is coming home. From reports, they must have had a pretty hard time on their trip to Lynchburg. I would have liked very much to have attended the Sanitary Fair at Wheeling. I judge it was a nice affair from what I hear of it. We spent our Fourth [of July] in camp taunting the rebels with our bands. They don’t like our music a bit. Our bands play the National airs every evening and then the boys raise a cheer which is replied by a shower of musket balls from the rebel skirmish line.
Well, Mag, I am getting tired writing. Guess I will quit. Write soon. Tell Craig to write. Love to all. As ever your cousin — J. E. Stewart
Camp near Galesville, Alabama
October 25, 1864
Dear Cousin Maggie,
Yours of September 28th was received some two weeks ago while at Kingston, Georgia, and I hope you will excuse me for not writing sooner as we have had no time at all for writing since then, and even now I will not promise you a very long or interesting letter. I have just finished a letter home. It is very warm and I am very lazy, but I will have to write some or get behind. I always try to answer my letters as soon as I can, but this trip has got me a little behind. I have three beside this to answer before I am up to time. We have had mail but twice since we left Atlanta but they were pretty big ones. I received seven letters in the two mails. We are looking for another one soon.
You say that you received my last letter while at the [Sanitary] Fair and that quite a number of compliments were passed on the writing by the ladies, but you will not tell me who they were. But if you don’t want to tell who they were, I am sure I don’t care. But did you tell them whose writing it was! I hear that Tom Taylor and Will Taggart have furnished substitutes. I would like to know where they got so much money. Joe Taggart was tickled almost to death to hear that Will was drafted. The cops must have furnished them the money to hire substitutes.
I was very much surprised to hear of Old Belmont being so far behind on the Union ticket, but probably the soldiers’ vote will make it all right yet. Our regiment gave Bingham 86 and White nary a vote. There is no doubt but what Bingham is elected, but I am afraid of the county ticket. Old Belmont must do better than that. We are all right for Old Abe anyhow, so let the county ticket go. The main dependence of the rebels now is on the election of McClellan, but I think if they have heard the late news from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, they will no doubt give that up and will more than likely give up their cause as hopeless. I have no idea that they will try to hold out much longer.
The rebels have failed to do anything except destroy a little railroad (which did not amount to much) and they are on their way back south again. Their main object was to recapture Atlanta but in that they have failed. Atlanta is perfectly safe. Forrest has been driven clear out of Tennessee and across the river. He did not accomplish anything. I think they will certainly give up the idea now of making raids in our rear. How long we will lay in this place, none of us knows.
The 98th [OVI] are laying close to us. [They] have just got back from a trip to Florence. The news from Sheridan of late are good. It was reported here that Longstreet had attacked Sheridan and was repulsed—driven five miles, losing 50 pieces of artillery, and 1,600 prisoners. I hope the news are true.
We are now getting but half rations and have to forage for the rest. One good thing—we are in a good foraging country. We have been getting all the sweet potatoes we could eat, but they are about played [out] now. We commenced drilling again yesterday. Have two hours drill each day. The drill however don’t amount to much. We put it in as easy as possible.
I am in hopes we will leave this place soon for I would much rather go on the march in such a country as this than be laying in camp. While on the march, we can get all the forage we want. But when we stop in camp, it does not take long to clear the country out. I hear that Capt. McCoy is about to be promoted to major. I did not think that he would stay in the service this long. I suppose John will get a commission pretty soon. Well, it is about drill time, so I will quit. Write soon and often to your cousin, — Joe E. S.
Sulphur Trestle, Alabama
January 12th 1865
It has been a long long time since I received your letter and I presume you have almost given up. But I hope you will excuse me as I have had but few opportunities of writing since we left Nashville. At present, we are detached from the regiment. Our company is all that is at this place. Four other companies are down the road two miles. We are here to guard the workmen while building the trestle bridge. We relieved the 44th Colored Regiment. But worst of all was leaving our winter quarters at Huntsville. We had fixed up good quarters and were about fixed for living. But to our disappointment, we were waked up at 4 o’clock yesterday morning with orders to move at half past 5 o’clock. T’was then the general inquiry, “where are we going?” but no one could tell farther than that we were going on the cars. But after marching into town, we found that we were coming here.
We stopped in Athens last night and had a good place to stay. We expect to move to Elk River when this bridge is done. We can’t tell when we will return to the regiment again but it will not be for two or three weeks at least. I would be very well satisfied if they would let us stay here all winter. Somebody will have to guard the bridges after they are up and it might as well be us as anyone else.
We have boys out now foraging for us. We have almost quit eating government rations now and are living off the country. I was out one day at Huntsville and brought in three large shoulders and one ham. The boys are out for meat, flour, and chickens today. The only disadvantage we will have here will be getting our mail from the regiment. I don’t know when we can send mail away but I will have this ready for the first opportunity. Joe DuBois has returned; also the Chaplain with the mittens.
Well, I suppose Dave and Mary have gone to housekeeping by this time. I hear that there is to be some more weddings in the neighborhood soon and I would like to know who they are. You seem to be spited at not being invited to Dave’s wedding but don’t fret, you will probably have a chance to spite them sometime. You ask me if I won’t invite you to my wedding. I can only say that it depends altogether upon circumstances.
From last accounts, Hood was in Mississippi and still retreating. Our cavalry have captures his pontoons, 300 wagons, 2 pieces of artillery, and 300 prisoners since he crossed the Tennessee River. Nothing but the shoals saved the capture of his whole army. Our gunboats could not operate on the shoals to prevent his crossing. The late news from all parts of our army are very encouraging. I see in the papers that Sherman is already on the move from Savannah and I suppose Charleston is his destination. I can hear nothing at all lately from Grant’s army but am satisfied that he is not idle. He will catch them napping one of these days and will have Richmond before they know it. I would like first rate to be with Sherman, but we will probably have a chance yet of going to the coast in the direction of Mobile.
Rob had a letter from Jim a few days ago. I am glad to hear that they all got through safe. I’ll bet they had good times marching through Georgia. Well, I don’t know that I have anything more to write at present. Write soon and I will try and answer soon. Love to all. As Ever, your affectionate cousin, — Joe E. Stewart
February 20th 1865
Yours of the 4th was received a few days since. Something must be wrong for yours is the only letter either Rob or I have received from home for three weeks. My last letter from home was written on the 21st of January. There has been no little grumbling with the mails of late. I have received but three letters in this month. Now is when I would like to get the most letters—while laying in camp as we are now. I could write a letter every day and I would like to get one every day or so.
I suppose you heard at home that our division had gone to Eastport, Mississippi. We did start. Got to Nashville and were ordered back again. Since returning to camp, we have had but very little to do. We are well fixed—have plenty to eat and what more could we ask? We are now having most beautiful spring weather such as is seldom ever seen in the North this season of the year. You speak of having so much snow and good sleighing and I suppose you took the good of it. We have not had enough snow here all put together to run a sleigh. We may have a little more cool weather but the rough of the winter is past. It gets so warm about noon that I scarcely know what to do to put in the time. I get too lazy to read. The nights are very pleasant.
We had a Mr. Weaver to preach for us yesterday. He took for his text the 5th-6th verses of the 137th Psalm and a better sermon I have not heard for a long time. His text suited the times so well and I could not help but think of the many days where we together with our fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters went up to the sanctuary and united our voices in the songs of Zion. We have built a chapel for the regiment and meet every evening for worship and on Wednesday eve for prayer meeting. But I am afraid that we will not get to enjoy these good times long. There is a rumor today that we will go to Knoxville in a day or two. The main portion of Dick Taylor’s army is lying to the east and I suppose we will move in that direction to prevent him from getting into E. Tennessee.
There was also another report that peace had been declared but I don’t suppose there was any foundation for the report at all. We are getting but very little news now. About all we can see in the papers is that Sherman is still on the move through South and North Carolina. I expect soon to hear that Charleston and Wilmington are ours. It is rumored that Mobile is evacuated. I am of the opinion that the rebels are only holding on now to get a chance to make their exit out of the Confederacy. I believe it is the intention of Jeff and the leading rebels to leave the country as soon as they can and when they are safe in some foreign country, then all will be ours.
There has been so much talk of peace lately that I am wishing more and more for peace everyday. Oh how I would like to hear an order read this evening on dress parade from Secretary Stanton that peace had been declared on our own terms. But I am afraid that when peace is made here, that we will have a little job in Mexico before we can get to go home and I believe most all are willing to go to Mexico awhile and give the French a good cleaning out. But for my part, when this trouble is ended, I want to end my life as a soldier and settle down in peace and quietness.
You say that you were on a visit down to Mr. D’s in that R is all right? Of course she is. Did you ever know her to be any other way? She will be quite lonely when Jane leaves her but I guess she is old enough to stay by herself a while. Well, Meg, we will have a little drill in a few minutes and I must close and get this ready for the office. I expected to hear of some more weddings before this time, but probably they’re all waiting to see whether they will be drafted or not. Write soon. Give all the news. Love to all. Good bye. As ever your cousin — Joe E. Stewart