This letter was written by 28 year-old Pvt. John H. Lepley (1837-1919) of Co. G, 61st Pennsylvania Infantry. John did not put on the uniform until 26 September 1864 when he mustered into the regiment and he was discharged on 20 June 1865 after only 9 months service.
John was the son of Valentine Lepley (1803-1894) and Lydia Elizabeth Beal (1801-1841) of Southampton, Somerset county, Pennsylvania. In December 1861, he married 19 year-old Susana Eiber (1842-1925) and the couple would eventually have at least eleven children but only the the first two were born by the time this letter was written in June 1865. Agnes (“Aggy”) was born on 5 December 1862, and Ida Catharine (“that other little gal” whom he had not yet seen) was born on 20 March 1865.
During John’s term of service, the 61st Pennsylvania was attached to the Army of the Shenandoah during which time he must have participated in the Battle of Cedar Creek. They were then sent to the Army of the Potomac and joined Grant’s forces around Petersburg, Virginia. Following the surrender of Lee’s army at Appomattox, the 61st Pennsylvania marched to Danville where they remained until 23 May and then began the long march back to Washington D. C. by way of Richmond and Fredericksburg in time for the Grand Review on June 8th.
Camp near Washington City
June 7, 1865
I will once more write to you although I haven’t received any letters from you for a month. The last I received was dated 5th of May and that I got while at Danville, Illinois. Well, you don’t need to write anymore as I will be home in a short time now. Tomorrow there will be a Grand Review of our Corps and after that is over we expect to go as they have made out our muster rolls already.
Joe, I suppose, is home by this time. I seen Gust Dow the other day. He looks well. He thinks they will be discharged before long. Crist Lepley won’t be mustered out yet. None of the substitutes will. All troops will be discharged under this order—that is, if their time would expire before October first, so all the one year drafted men will be discharged.
We have had a pretty hard march from Richmond to this place as the roads were bad and weather hot. We came through Fredericksburg. I was trying to find [my brother] Jacob’s grave but could not find it. 1 I found the place where he was buried but there was only a few head boards up yet. The citizens told me that the niggers pulled out the headboards for kindling wood and the headboards that were up yet were of some other soldiers. But I was in the Baptist Church which was used as a hospital where he died in. The town looks bad as it is pretty well riddled with shots.
By the time I get home, the cherries will be about ripe. I am anxious to see Aggy and that other little gal that’s about the diggins. I will now stop. you need not write to me any more and I don’t think I’ll write anymore.
Nothing more. I expect to see you soon. From your affectionate husband, — John H. Lepley
I didn’t get my letter off as soon as I had it wrote. The Review is over and we are waiting to be mustered out. I had a letter from Dan. He is at Baltimore, Maryland. It is very hot here now. Your husband, — J. H. Lepley
1 Jacob B. Lepley (1839-1864) was the 1st Sergeant of Co. F, 142nd Pennsylvania Infantry when he was mortally wounded during the Battle of the fighting in the Wilderness on 5 May 1864. He died in the Baptist Church in Fredericksburg on 24 May 1864. John does not indicate which of the Baptist churches that his brother died in but it is known that the Shiloh Baptist Church (used exclusively by a Black congregation after 1855) near the banks of the Rappahanock River was used as a hospital by Union troops during the war.