1861: Elijah C. Eldred to his Brother

An image of George Hodges on the 7th Michigan Infantry. (Charles Joyce Collection; now in Dale Niesen Collection)

The identity of the soldier from Co. H, 7th Michigan Infantry who wrote this letter cannot be confirmed but my hunch is that it was penned by Elijah C. Eldred (1835-1921) of Oakland county, Michigan. More research would be required to confirm this.

The 7th Michigan Infantry was organized at Monroe, Michigan, in August 1861 and were sent to the Army of the Potomac in September where they were attached to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 2nd Corps for the duration of the war. The following letter was written in Maryland when the regiment was posted along the upper Potomac.

The 7th was one of the first regiments to cross the Rappahannock River on Dec. 11th, 1862 while under fire from Confederate sharpshooters hidden in the buildings of Fredericksburg.


Headquarters Camp Benton
7th Regt. Michigan, Co. H
October 18th 1861

Dear Brother,

I received your kind letter a short time since and one from Mother and Melvin Tuesday night and am glad to find that your health continues good. My health is good as usual at present. I never had any better health in my life than since I came into the state of Maryland. Our fare was not very good when we first arrived here. Old [James M.] Tilghman was chief cook and he slushed our victuals up any way to make it easy for himself. But about two weeks ago, we made a little mess (just for fun) and put another man in as chief cook. Since then we have good fare and plenty of it.

Instead of having mud coffee, bull beef, and hard bread for breakfast and the same warmed up for dinner and supper, we have a change of good soft bread, tea, or coffee, and some of as just as good fresh beef as you ever drove your face into. There is two tons of fresh beef due this regiment.

We are at the same encampment we have been with no prospect of any fighting yet awhile. I see by the the papers that our Brigadier General (Lander) has been assigned the post of guarding the Baltimore and Wheeling Railroad. The paper did not say whether his men were going with him or not. He is at Washington now. Some of the officers think we will go and some think not. I hope we may go but I have my doubts about it. The report is that the rebels are moving back all along the line of the Potomac but there are so many false stories told in camp that anyone don’t know when to believe what he hears. One thing is certain, they had better be moving before long. Things are shaping just right. When we start to cross the river, we will go with a perfect rush to it.

October 19th. I have just come from washing my clothes. Every Saturday forenoon we do our washing for the week, We go about half or three quarters of a mile down to a small stream to do our washing. I have got so that I can wash as well as half of the women.

Eugene [Clark] talks of going home. He has applied for his discharge. I don’t know whether he will get it or not. He has not done anything since he left Monroe. He did not drill only one day and a half while there. He don’t say much but keeps up a devil of a thinking.

There is quite a number of our boys that lay in their tents and do nothing but sleep and eat. They eat double rations and say they are sick when if they would only drill a little every day, the would be all sound. One thing is certain, I should be sick in two days to lay around the way they do. They can’t get outside to get any exercise and it is enough to kill anyone.We don’t average over two hours drill in a day, take it from one week’s end to another. That is just enough to keep anyone’s blood in circulation.

I will try to finish this at some other time. [unsigned]

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