The following letter was written by Martin Conley (1831-1906) of Co. D, 131st Pennsylvania Infantry, a nine-months regiment that was formed in the fall of 1862. Co. D was recruited primarily in Northumberland county—Lewistown and vicinity. Martin was among those who enlisted at Lewistown and served from August 12, 1862 until 23 May 1863. During this time the regiment participated in the Battle of Fredericksburg, Burnside’s Mud March, and the Battle of Chancellorsville. The regiment lost during its service 2 officers and 36 enlisted men killed and mortally wounded ,and 1 officer and 44 enlisted men by disease.
Martin was the son of James Conley and Sarah Delilah Lepley—all born in Ireland and emigrated to the United States about 1850.
Camp near Warrenton [Virginia]
November 13th 1862
Dear Friend Sam,
I seat myself down to answer your most welcome letter which was duly received today. This letter found me well and enjoying the pleasures of war. I hope that those few lines may find you all enjoying the greatest of pleasure that life can afford.
You stated that Thomas was shot at the Battle of Antietam. I had not heard that Thomas was killed until I got the letter. It made me feel very sorry when I heard it. In the army, it is very hard getting along. Since I have been in the service, I have seen some pretty hard sights—men lying over the [battle] field and no attention paid to them at all. I heard that John was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel but I heard since that he was going to be Colonel altogether. I hope he is. I would not care if they would promote me to be something else than privacy.
I have not been in a battle yet nor don’t want to get in one very soon. The reason I don’t want to get in one is because they shoot at a fellow. But if I have to, I will do all I can for my country.
I wish I was there to get a share of those potatoes and turnips. I well believe that I would be well fed. I would like some apple butter too for i know it is nice. I will tell you what we have to eat. It is hard crackers and black coffee and a little meat and sometimes bean soup. It is pretty hard living for a fellow thats had good living all his life time.
Sam, I want you to get me a good pair of boots made and send them to me. I suppose sevens would be about right. We need them pretty big for we have mud and water to wade. We have been marching for about a week.
We left Sharpsburg on the 31st and are still under marching orders. I tell you that march set pretty hard on me for I had a big knapsack to carry. But I got along as well as I could. I did not get the money for them clothes and if you can get it, I wish you would. The clothes was too cheap, I know, but I can’t help it. Try and get the money for me if you can. I told you I would be back, Sam, but if I live in six months, I will come if that suits you. You know I can’t come sooner for I am under Uncle Sam and he won’t let me go soon.
I must bring my letter to a close for it is supper time. I got a letter from my sister and if I don’t happen to get home, you can send my money to my sister. When I get paid, I will send you the rest of my money. This is the directions how to write to my sister. Bridgeport P. O., Widen River, New Jersey. Her name is Lurensa Robbins.
Answer soon, — Martin Conley
[to] Samuel Welles