All posts by Griff

My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries.

1859: Hugh Sleight Walsh to James W. Denver

This letter was written by Hugh Sleight Walsh (1810-1877), a native of New Windsor, New York, who “spent his entire childhood and much of his early adulthood in New York, but also lived for a time in Alabama before coming to Kansas Territory in 1857. In Kansas, Walsh worked as a private secretary, first to Frederick P. Stanton and later to James W. Denver, with whom he appears to have cultivated a close political relationship. On May 12, 1858, Walsh became the territorial secretary, replacing Denver, who had vacated the position to become territorial governor. As territorial secretary, Walsh had the job of serving as acting governor when necessary. This occurred four times total.

Kansas Territorial Secretary Hugh Sleight Walsh

Walsh’s first stint as acting governor lasted from July 3 to July 30 in 1858 during the temporary absence of Governor Denver. Little of note occurred during this time.

He next became acting governor on October 10, 1858, upon the resignation of Governor Denver. Walsh remained in close contact with Denver, however. He confided to the outgoing governor that he entertained some hopes of securing an appointment to the office himself, although he was also amenable to the idea of having a Kentucky man as the next territorial governor. When word came that Samuel Medary was the president’s selection, Walsh was disappointed, but admitted to Denver that he respected the future governor’s tact. Meanwhile, Walsh occupied the rest of his time as acting governor petitioning for federal money to offer as a reward for the capture of John Brown and dispatching Missouri guerrilla fighters to stamp out an opposing abolitionist band under James Montgomery known as the Jayhawkers.”

Tensions and distrust grew between Walsh and Medary “until the governor asked to have Walsh removed from office claiming ‘incompatibility of temper’ as a pretext. Walsh resigned in June 1860 and took up a more congenial life of farming near Grantville in Jefferson county, Kansas.” [See Homestead on the Range]

Most free-staters held a relatively low opinion of Walsh, believing him to hold “the interests of liberty and freedom in Kansas” as only a “secondary concern” and was preoccupied with keeping Montgomery and Brown’s “Jayhawkers” in check. To be fair, however, Montgomery & Brown did foment continued violence on the border and performed unlawful acts.

Abolitionist Kansas Jayhawkers returning from a raid on slaveowner’s camp in 1858. (Kansas Historical Society)

[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Rob Morgan and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]

Transcription

Lawrence, Kansas Territory
January 11, 1859

Dear Governor,

Governor [Samuel] Medary last night received the instructions of Secretary Thompson with regard to offering a reward for Brown and Montgomery and also the orders to Capt. Walker, U. S. A. , to return to his post from his march to Linn County. The Governor immediately dispatched the document to Capt. Walker and also the instructions to Marshall [William P.] Fain who with Samuel Walker, his deputy, was with Capt. Walker. The troops had got no further than Ottawa [John Tecumseh] Jones’ [house near Ottawa, KT] and are now on their return.

Since Governor Medary’s coming into the territory, these things have been growing worse and worse and what at the time of my communications to the State Department in November was only a band of some 28 to 40 men, from the want of means and energy at the first outbreak in those counties, has swelled to some 200 men, and with the expressed determination of resisting all civil authority.

Having disarmed the peaceable citizens, they have held meetings and attempted to dictate terms to the authorities and unless an absolute pardon was granted to Montgomery and all his men for all past and present offenses, have asserted the determination to fight to the last. Deputations of citizens from both Bourbon and Linn counties waited upon the Governor and assured him that the civil power was entirely overthrown and nothing short of military assistance—and that immediate—would save the lifes of many of the citizens.

A change in the tone of public sentiment has taken place, and a disposition to have Montgomery punished by any adequate power, is now in the ascendant and the troops even necessary, or considered so by the most intelligent citizens in order to safely organize the posse and arm it for the protection of the people. What effect these orders will have upon these counties who were looking to the Governor for aid cannot now be told but must be disastrous.

I am sorry but what use is sorrow in such a case as this. In haste. Yours truly, — Hugh S. Walsh

1863: F. F. Mayo to Joel McPherson

This letter appears to have written by a “F. F. Mayo” of Bonsacks Depot, Roanoke county, Virginia, but I have not been able to find anyone by that name. The letter was addressed to Col. Joel McPherson (1807-1888) of Lewisburg, Greenbrier County, Virginia. In 1835, Joel received a commission from Governor Tazewell as Colonel of the State militia.

The letter pertains to the sale or use of two Negroes, man and wife, who were the property of Mr. Cabell. The author of the letter appears to be making the arrangements for a Capt. Beard, possibly in the Confederate service.

Transcription

Addressed to Col. Joel McPherson, Lewisburg, Greenbrier County, Va.

Bonsacks Depot [Roanoke county, Virginia]
January 24th 1863

Col. Joel McPherson, Lewisburg, Virginia
My dear valued friend,

As you seem the only real friend that I can ever get any satisfaction from in your country is my apology for troubling you again with a letter concerning my business.

In the first place I wrote to you, in that letter is contained an order from Mr. Cabell for his Black man Archy & his woman Any. It is important that I should have had an answer & it is now so as I am compelled to have an answer without any delay. If Mr. Beard intends to take them & deliver my little John over to some one that will bring him to me, he must do so without any further delay. He must say yes or no. My business matters are come now quickly. The man and his wife are valuable hands & will do Capt. Beard more service than a dozen little fellows like little John. The man is a fair cooper, good enough carpenter, can make ploughs and other farming instruments, besides he has worked at the Blacksmith trade. In fact, he is one of the most useful hands on a farm that can be had. The woman—a large strong woman, good cook, or field hand, either. But if he does not intend to let the boy after all these offers which is doubtless to his interest, as to value, it is my wish then forthwith of not sooner to get the two—Archy and his wife—brought over here as I must send a hand for them immediately.

You may think that I have gone into negro trading. Far from it. This is something that I never should engage in. These two negroes, I thought would be so much value & render so much service to Mr. Beard is the only reason why that I obtained an order for them, although they please and answer Mr. Beard’s purpose so well. In order to get my little John on friendly terms will cost me 5 times more than Mr. Beard should ever have the conscience to have exacted from me under the circumstances.

I wrote to my friend Charles W. Browning calling upon him to get these two negroes of Mr. Cabell’s sent to me about a month ago and just today at last he did conclude to answer, after writing a second letter. It would have always been my pride and pleasure to lend a hand & attend to his interest at all times, but when I call on a friend in the hour of need & as urgent as I did on him, & he knowing my liberality of soul where money is concerned, and then receive an answer after a month’s delay, and then get an answer from him, using his own words, “If I can make it a consideration to him, he would bring them himself.” What he means by a consideration to him, I do not understand. It might be the value of the two negroes, or more. If the two negroes are brought in to Lewisburg & there is any expenses, I will forward the amount, or my fried Jesper Bright will advance for me.

Now if my friend, Charles Browning had have drawn upon me for 100 or $500 even with giving me notice, I should have honored his draft, but on the other hand, I call upon him for a favor that would not cost him probably 20 dollars outlay and probably not one fourth of that. He answers when I told him it was important to me to know quickly, “If I can make it a consideration to him, &c.” You will please show him this letter. I also in my letter to him told him to call upon Mr. Jno. W. Dunn and in his answer he says nothing about it. I have always been very friendly with Mr. Browning & shall still remain so. I wish him well yet, but did not expect so severe and unkind a cut. You will please see him and ask of him what is Mr. Dunn’s determination about Jordan and write to me & if the two negroes can be bought by anyone, I will pay a fair price. Your friend, — F. F. Mayo

If Beard is to retain the two negroes Archy & his wife, & Let John come, he can come with Jordan. I will trust to Jordan bringing him safe & if money is needed, inform me & I will remit to you forthwith.

1861: Sarah Elizabeth (Atwater) Royce to Lucien Merriam Royce

Lucien M. Royce (at left) enlisted in the 25th Connecticut in August 1862. In November 1863, he joined the US Navy serving as ships steward on the USS Acacia. (Buck Zaidel Collection)

This letter was penned by Sarah Elizabeth (Atwater) Royce (1807-1887), the wife of shoemaker Enos Royce (1803-1874) of Bristol, Hartford county, Connecticut. She wrote the letter to her son Lucien Merriam Royce (1838-1907).

In her letter, Sarah despairs that her son Hubert Dana Royce (1842-1914) has stated his intention of enlisting in the army despite her repeated attempts to talk him out of it, feeling that war is against the teachings of her religion. She even goes so far as to warn him that if he carries through with his determination to enlist, it will most certainly send her to a lunatic asylum or the grave. Sarah mentions a neighbor family named Yale who had a son named Frank already in the service. This would have been Orlando Franklin (“Frank”) Yale who enlisted in the 9th Connecticut Infantry. Frank’s father William Yale was a machinist and his older brother Henry was a carpenter. The Yale family lived immediately next door to the Royce family.

Sarah’s letter was datelined on 1 December 1861 from “Brookside” which I suspect is the name given the family homestead rather than a city or town. According to state military records, Hubert did indeed enlist, as he threatened, on 3 December 1861 in the 12th Connecticut Infantry. Fortunately he survived the war (as did his mother), mustering out of the service on a disability on 24 August 1863. Hubert’s older brother Lucien also enlisted, joining the 25th Connecticut Infantry in August 1862.

It should be noted when Hubert enlisted, he did so under the alias name of Hubert D. Rice, not Royce.

[This letter is from the private collection of Richard Weiner and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]

Transcription

Brookside
December 1st 1861

Dear Lucien,

As Hubert proposes to visit you tomorrow, I devote a few moments to writing to you. Your Uncle and Aunt left us yesterday afternoon and we already begin to feel the loneliness which must shortly be more complete if Hubert carries into effect his determination. Ella 1 weeps incessantly and will not eat and we are a sad house. My own feelings I will not attempt to describe further than to say that as memory goes back over the darker passages of a life where such passages have not been “few or far between,” I find nothing to compare with the present.

Your Father saw Henry Yale [Gale?] yesterday. He is better but unable to work. He told your Father that Frank said he had no idea of the hardships of the “Service” that no one could from any adequate idea of them till experienced and that although long enlisted, he meant to carry it through, yet if he were well out, he would not do it again. He is so stout and strong and hardly yet feels the galling of the chain of the war demon, and longs un vain for freedom. And how shall your young brother endure? “Oh that my head were waters and mine eyes a fountain of tears that I might weep day and night” for the miseries of my countrymen, “for the slain of the daughter of my people,” for the young lives that are daily offered upon the altar of this Moloch.

If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved, but Oh! in such a way. Can I bear it? I think not. I tell Hubert if he persists in going, he may expect to hear from me either as occupying a Lunatic Asylum or the grave. And your sisters; it will fall with terrible force upon them. John, I learn from William’s letter is not well nor will she if she hears that two of her brothers instead of one has gone. True, we have yourself left, but

“A doting parent lives in many lives
Though many a nerve she feels
From child to child the quick affections spread,
Forever wondering yet forever fixed,
Nor does division weaken, nor the force
Of constant operation e’er exhaust
Parental love. All other passions change
With changing circumstances: rise or fall,
Dependant on their object; claim returns;
Live on reciprocation and expire
Unfed by hope. A Mother’s fondness reigns
What a rival and without an end.”
[Lines from the Drama of Moses in the Bullrushes]

Another image of Lucien M. Royce of the 25th Connecticut Infantry, taken in September 1862. (Connecticut Historical Society)

But I will yet hope as long as I may. I will not believe that this terrible affliction will be permitted to overtake us and yet, “what am I or what is my house” that I should escape. Could I take the popular view of this subject, I might endure, but the nearer it comes to me personally, the more false appears this view. Rest assured “the things which are highly esteemed among men are abomination in the sight of God.” He the fountain of goodness and of blessing wills the happiness of his creatures commanding, entreating, exhorting us in His holy word to love one another and live in peace and by the thousand voices of Nature, beseeches us saying, “Oh, do not this abominable thing which I hate.” Yes men presumes to set aside this divine, this heavenly and beautiful teaching and with savage ferocity hastens to imbue his hands in his brother’s blood. Was not a mark set upon Cain, the first murderer? And now were a black mark set upon each individual who carries murder in his heart, what a spectacle would this “free and enlightened nation” present.

I judge not those who deem it their duty thus to mix slaughter and bloodshed with the religion of Him who came with song of angels. “Peace on earth, good will to men,” but I cannot reconcile Him.

Yours truly, — Mother


1 I assumed Ella was short for Ellen when I initially searched for this family but it turns out her name was Elmira Elizabeth Royce (1844-1927) and they called her “Ella” for short.

1861: Samuel Vance Fulkerson to Catherine Elizabeth Fulkerson

This letter was written by Samuel (“Sam”) Vance Fulkerson (1822-1862), the son of Abram Fulkerson, Sr. (1789-1859) and Margaret Laughlin Vance (1794-1864) of Abingdon, Washington county, Virginia. He wrote the December 1861 letter to his 29 year-old sister, Catherine (“Kate”) Elizabeth Fulkerson (1832-1903).

Col. Samuel Vance Fulkerson, 37th Virginia

Samuel was born on his father’s farm in the southern part of Washington County, Virginia, but he was principally raised in Grainger county, Tennessee. He enlisted as a private in Colonel McClelland’s regiment during the Mexican war, and served throughout the war. He studied law and began a law practice in Estillville (Gate City) and Jonesville in the southwestern Virginia counties of Scott and Lee. In 1846, Samuel was elected to the Constitutional Convention of 1850, and then elected judge in 1856. He served as judge until the spring of 1861, when he was elected and commissioned colonel of the 37th Virginia Regiment of Infantry, and commanded that regiment until June 27, 1862, when he was mortally wounded while leading the 3rd Brigade in a charge against a strong Northern position on the Chickahominy. He died the following day, and was interred in the Sinking Spring Cemetery, Abingdon, Virginia.

This early-war letter is significant for revealing the emerging conflict between Major General “Stonewall” Jackson, commanding the newly created Valley District headquartered in Winchester, and General William (“Old Billy’) Loring, in charge of a Division under Jackson’s command. The quarrel was initiated when Jackson accused Loring of not moving his troops quickly enough to Winchester in order to launch an expedition to wrestle Romney away from Union troops garrisoned there. Jackson was not tolerant of Loring’s excuses for the delays in moving his troops despite the winter weather. The quarrel intensified after Romney was captured and occupied, with Loring complaining that Jackson had abused his men and was continuing to do so. The fact that Loring’s men were forced to weather the cold and wet conditions at Romney while Jackson’s men quartered in better conditions in Winchester almost resulted in a mutiny. [See Loring-Jackson Incident]

Taking the lead among Loring’s command to complain of his men’s treatment under Jackson was Col. Fulkerson of the 37th Virginia who wrote letters to former political associates of his, including Confederate Congressmen. Perhaps Fulkerson felt emboldened to criticize Jackson due to the previous encounter in December at Monterey that is mentioned in the third paragraph of the following letter. Of course Sam Fulkerson and Stonewall Jackson barely knew each other at this stage of the war. Most likely as the war progressed and the fighting qualities of each man became better known to each other, a mutual respect evolved. Once Colonel Fulkerson gained recognition for his bravery in leading his regiment and the 23rd Virginia in a desperate, but costly, attack on the Pritchard’s Hill at Kernstown in March 1862, and again in the Battle of Gaines’s Mill where he was killed, Stonewall Jackson wrote of him: “Col. S. V. Fulkerson was an officer of distinguished worth. I deeply felt his death. He rendered valuable service to his country, and had he lived, would probably have been recommended by me before this time for a brigadier generalcy. So far as my knowledge extends, he enjoyed the confidence of his regiment and all who knew him. I am, Sir, your obdt. servt, T. J. Jackson”

John Paul Strain’s depiction of Stonewall Jackson leading his men on the January 1862 Expedition through the West Virginia high country to capture Romney. The expedition is romanticized today but proved a hard lesson to Jackson in command. This letter was written in the days just before the expedition against Romney was launched.

Transcription

Addressed to Miss Kate E. Fulkerson, Abingdon, Virginia

Winchester, [Virginia]
9 December 1861

Dear Kate,

I arrived at this place night before last having left Staunton three days before. I come down on my horse and had a pleasant ride of it, the weather being dry and fine.

The Valley is one of the best and most beautiful portions of Virginia. The road is macadamized and dotted all along with pretty towns and villages. I enjoyed the leisure of the trip very much though I did not find the public houses very well kept. I could not get to houses in the country where I would have preferred stopping, but had to stop in the towns.

I was kept at Monterey about a week when General [William Wing] Loring ordered me to go to Staunton and to report to him there personally. He kept me there about a week. He and General [Thomas J. (Stonewall)] Jackson did not agree about my case. General Loring taking my side and General Jackson the other. General Loring referred the matter to the authorities at Richmond and kept me waiting for a decision. After a week’s delay and hearing nothing from Richmond, General Loring released me from arrest and ordered me to join my regiment. Whether anything further will be done with the case, I do not know but I am of the opinion that it will not be noticed again.

I found the regiment in very good health and sprits having suffered less from the march than I expected. For several days they had snow and rain and very cold, but the balance of the time the weather was good. They marched some one hundred and fifty miles and being on a stone road a part of the way, their feet became very sore. My regiment has the name of the “Foot Cavalry.” We have marched over six hundred miles, having crossed the Alleghany Mountains six times, the distance across being eighteen miles. Besides all this we have made divers little marches of from ten to twenty miles.

We are in camp about two miles from Winchester on the Romney Road. Col. [Arthur C.] Cummings [of the 33rd Virginia] is also near Winchester. His wife is in town but I have not seen her. She was in camp a time or two before I got here. I do not know how long we will remain here, nor what will be our destination when we leave. The weather is not near so cold here as it was in the mountains. Capt. Vance is very well and also Will [H.] Ropp.

I sent a check to Col. Gibson for some money to be placed to my credit in Bank and also for $100 to be placed to your credit. Ask him if he got the check and write to me about it. I hope that you will be able to get supplies. When you write, tell me what you have procured and what prospect there is of getting all you will need. You must try and get at least one hundred and fifty bushels of corn and hope that you can get 1500 or 2000 pounds of pork, and also beef enough to do.

When Lee is not otherwise employed, I want him to cut wood. Tell him to see to it that the young apple trees in the orchard are not destroyed by the cattle.

I had a letter from Mary the other day. Where are Abe and Ike? I am interrupted so often that I can’t write more now.

Write immediately and tell Mother to write. Your brother, — Samuel V. Fulkerson

1855: Samuel Vance Fulkerson to Catherine Elizabeth Fulkerson

This interesting letter was written by Samuel (“Sam”) Vance Fulkerson (1822-1862), the son of Abram Fulkerson, Sr. (1789-1859) and Margaret Laughlin Vance (1794-1864) of Abingdon, Washington county, Virginia. He wrote the December 1855 letter to his 23 year-old sister, Catherine (“Kate”) Elizabeth Fulkerson (1832-1903) teaching a select school in Tazewell. Claiborne county, Tennessee.

Samuel was born on his father’s farm in the southern part of Washington County, Virginia, but he was principally raised in Grainger county, Tennessee. He enlisted as a private in Colonel McClelland’s regiment during the Mexican war, and served throughout the war. He studied law and began a law practice in Estillville (Gate City) and Jonesville in the southwestern Virginia counties of Scott and Lee. In 1846, Samuel was elected to the Constitutional Convention of 1850, and then elected judge in 1856. He served as judge until the spring of 1861, when he was elected and commissioned colonel of the 37th Virginia Regiment of Infantry, and commanded that regiment until June 27, 1862, when he was mortally wounded while leading the 3rd Brigade in a charge against a strong Northern position on the Chickahominy. He died the following day, and was interred in the Sinking Spring Cemetery, Abingdon, Virginia. Of his death, Stonewall Jackson wrote, “Col. S. V. Fulkerson was an officer of distinguished worth. I deeply felt his death. He rendered valuable service to his country, and had he lived, would probably have been recommended by me before this time for a brigadier generalcy. So far as my knowledge extends, he enjoyed the confidence of his regiment and all who knew him. I am, Sir, your obdt. servt, T. J. Jackson”

This letter was written in 1855 after Samuel returned to his native Washington county with a view of making it his permanent home. He purchased a handsome property near Abingdon, known as “Retirement,” which is located at what is now known as the Muster Grounds. In the letter, Sam mentions visiting his younger brother, Abram (“Abe”) Fulkerson, Jr. (1834-1902) while he was attending the Virginia Military Institute at Lexington in 1857, where he was a student of Prof. Thomas Jonathan (“Stonewall”) Jackson. According to his records at VMI, he had a reputation for being a prankster and wore an “outlandish collar” on his cadet uniform: the collar being the only part of the uniform not covered under regulations. After graduation, he taught school in Palmyra, Virginia, and Rogersville, Tennessee, until the beginning of the American Civil War when he entered Confederate military service in June 1861 as a Captain of Co. K, 19th Tennessee Infantry Regiment at Knoxville. His was the first company of volunteers organized in East Tennessee. He was elected as Major of the 19th Tennessee Infantry Regiment. He was wounded in the thigh and his horse was shot from under him at the Battle of Shiloh and was reassigned in the resulting reorganization to the 63rd Tennessee Infantry after recovering from his injury. He was elected as Lieutenant Colonel of the 63rd, and was later promoted to full colonel by President Jefferson Davis on February 12, 1864.

I have previously transcribed two letters from the Fulkerson family of Abington, Virginia. The first was an 1852 letter by Kate Fulkerson to her younger brother Abram and the second an 1860 letter from John Fulkerson Tyler to Samuel Vance Fulkerson, who was later to distinguish himself as the commander of the 37th Virginia. Many of Samuel Vance Fulkerson’s letters can be found at the Fulkerson Family Papers in at the Virginia Military Institute.

Aside from family chit-chat and a description of Richmond Society, there isn’t anything particularly newsworthy in this letter although I found the holiday tradition of passing a jug of whiskey between the school master and his or her students which Samuel called a “time-honored treat” somewhat fascinating. Whether this tradition was unique to Tennessee or more widely “honored” is not stated in the letter and I suspect it was not the kind of thing normally documented in writing.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]

Transcription

Addressed to Miss Kate E. Fulkerson, Tazewell, Claiborne county, Tennessee

Abington, Virginia
18 December 1855

Dear Kate,

I wrote to you since you have to me, but as I am not particular about these little matters of etiquette, I will just write again though I now so seldom write more friendly letters that I am almost out of practice in that line.

By the time this reaches you, I suppose you will have turned out, or been turned out for Christmas, and of course will have given the old time-honored treat of a half gallon of whiskey and two bushels of apples. This was the old custom, and if the “master” would not submit to stand the treat, a ducking in the nearest pond, soon cooled down is obstinacy and brought him to a sense of his duties and obligations. Of course on such occasions, everyone felt himself or herself privileged to get tight and kick up a row on his or her own hook, and every row was conducted on the principle of a free fight. Of if the fight was a single handed one and was particularly interesting, the thing was conducted on the plan of “fair fight; no man touch” which was generally religiously observed by the boys and girls present; the least show of “foul play” being instantly resented by all hands present. As a matter of justice, the “master” must be neutral on all such occasions, and take no note in his official capacity of anything which is then and there done. So if the time is not already past with you, you will know how to act as becomes you when the time for action comes. As a matter of courtesy and respect, the “master” is always permitted and requested to “knock the bead 1 off the jug” by taking the first horn before it is passed around to the juveniles. After that there is no priority, but the jug goes round much after the fashion observed in a free fight.

You must write to me how you spend your Christmas, who you see, what they are doing and everything of a particular and special nature.

A few days [ago] I returned from Richmond where I had been gone ten or twelve days. As everybody did not know what I was going for, why “in course” I went a courting, or rather I went for the purpose of seeing Miss Ernest home, who lives below Richmond and was going home at the same time. But like all of my other reported courtships, nothing come of it.

I come back by Lexington and staid a day with Abe [at the Virginia Military Institute]. He and Jno. [Fulkerson] Tyler are well and doing well. John is now very well satisfied and has improved very much in his appearance, and is getting on well with his studies. They were very much pleased with their visits to the fairs at Petersburg & Richmond to which places the whole corps was marched. Abe seems to be doing well and stands high on some of his studies, particularly mathematics. He is standard bearer for the corps which relieves him from a good deal of military duty.

I was at home the other. Mother and Balf are well. Father was not there, having gone to Dees Davis. I have not yet been to Dee’s. Indeed, I have not visited any since I have been here, except to see Eliza G. a few times. She is well and has great fears of becoming fleshy. I saw her at church the other night where she had a fainting fit, and was taken home. But I think there was not much the matter with her. I am almost ashamed to say that I have not yet called on Mary & Ann Preston. I started once but found that they were not at home. There is nothing said now about Mary & Joe C. getting married. In fact there is no prospect of anybody marrying about here unless it is Jno. Kreger and Sally McCulloch, and that may be nothing but talk. [Elizabeth] “Lizzie” [B.] Hill is to be married shortly after Christmas but I can’t get her. She is going to marry Dr. [Charles Clement Johnson] Aston [1832-1905]—a very clever young man lately of Russell county but now of Jonesville. I expect I will have to call on Cousin Sally for help yet as it is doubtful about my getting a wife without help from somebody. Tell her to hold herself in readiness to help the distressed.

Mr. Parrott’s folks have [come] down on Smith’s Creek but Tom McConnell has not moved out yet & will not this winter. Jno. Bradley has not yet got into his new home.

The prospect now is that there will be a very dull Christmas here. Save a few egg-nog and hunting parties, I know of nothing unusual to take place. Balf says that the Miss Rhea’s are to be up and that I must come down and we will spend the holiday with them. It’s doubtful with me. I believe there is to be a big frolic of some sort at Estillville. I reckon it will be a buster. You know how things are carried on there. McIver has gone to the legislature and Mrs. McIver & Em are attending to the house.

While in Richmond I visited some of my acquaintances and was invited to a good many places and to a large party at Mr. Lyons, but left the morning before it come off. Richmond is a very pleasant place to anyone having acquaintances there. The people of all eastern Virginia are the most social people in the world, and enjoy life better. I wish the manners and customs here were more like they are there. They are so free and easy in their manners and so full of life.

I will not read over this letter so you must correct mistakes. Give my love to Frank & Lizzie, cousin & Jane, Miss Mary & all.

The Court of Appeals is in session here. Write soon.

Your brother, — Samuel V. Fulkerson

1 If you shake a bottle of whiskey, the bubbles that form on top, known as the “bead,” are an indication of the amount of alcohol in the whiskey. It was a common practice to shake a bottle of whiskey to detect whether one was being sold cheap whiskey—in mass production before and during the Civil War. The consumption of whiskey was far more prevalent among the youth of the 19th Century than most people probably realize. Lincoln once said that “intoxicating drinks were commonly the first draught of the infant and the last draught of the dying man.”

1862: William Colley Crumley to Nancy (Ivester) Crumley

These letters were written by William Colley Crumley (1840-1862), the son of Charles H. Crumley and Susannah Wheeler of Hamersham county, Georgia. William was married to Nancy Lavina Ivester (1845-1898) in Habersham county, Georgia, on 7 April 1860. The couple had one child who was born just before William’s enlistment; her name was Melinda (“Linny”) Crumley (1861-1934).

I could not find an image of William but here is Pvt. Eli Pinson Landers of the 16th Georgia Infantry. He died of disease in October 1863. (Tim Talbott Collection, Civil War Faces)

The following biographical sketch comes from Find-A-Grave:

William Crumley enlisted as a private in Company E 16th Georgia Volunteer Infantry. The 16th GA Infantry Regiment (also called Sallie Twiggs Regiment) was originally organized during the summer of 1861. The ten companies were raised in the counties of Columbia, Elbert, Gwinnett, Habersham, Hart, Jackson, Madison, and Walton (although there were members from other counties). Company E was organized at Habersham County, Ga. by Captain Benjamin Edward Stiles (Find A Grave Memorial# 6607225. Stiles became a Lieutenant Colonel and was killed at Front Royal/Deep Bottom, Va Aug 16, 1864.)

Sent to Virginia, the 16th Regiment was assigned to General Howell Cobb’s Brigade. They were encamped at Richmond from July 19, 1861 until October 20, 1861, when they were ordered to Yorktown. The Regiment fought with Magruder at Yorktown, Lee’s Mill (Dam No. 1), and Williamsburg. 

William Colley Crumley enlisted December 23, 1861 at “Camp Lamar” which was the nickname for one of the encampment areas of Cobb’s Brigade near Yorktown. Camp Lamar was named after Howell Cobb’s brother in law, John B. Lamar. The Brigade remained in the area throughout the winter of 1861-62 before returning to Richmond.

William Colley Crumley was admitted to General Hospital Camp Winder Richmond, Va on May 13, 1862 with chronic diarrhea and died May 22, 1862. According to family statements, he was buried in Hollywood Cemetery on May 23, 1862. 

[Note: These letters are from the private collection of Chase Milner and are published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]

Letter 1

Camp Cobb 1
January 3, 1862

Dear Wife,

It’s with pleasure that I write you this letter. I [am] well at this time and I hope these lines will find you the same. I think I will like camp life the best sort. I don’t think [we] will have to fight any at this place for the Yankees is afraid of us. We have got our winter quarters done and they are quite [ ]. We will stay here all the winter.

I want you to take good care of yourself. I think we will come home next spring for there is a strong talk of peace here. The health of the regiment is very good at this time. I like the boys that is in my mess very well. We have plenty to eat so far.

I have been mustered in to the service and the time is going on. We had a fine time coming on. I saw a great many things that I would never of seen at home. Take good care of the little one till I come home. I will write to you often as I can and let you know how I am getting on and the news here. I want you to tell Father’s people to write to me. So I will close for this time. Goodbye.

— W. C. Crumley

When you write, direct your letter to me in care of Capt. B[enjamin] E. Stiles, 16th Georgia Regiment Volunteers, Yorktown, Va.

1 Crowley’s handwriting is somewhat difficult to decipher at time but I think he means Camp Cobb, named after General Howell Cobb. The regiment had been organized during the summer of 1861 and sent to Richmond, Virginia, where they remained until mid-October when they were sent on to Yorktown which was being fortified at the time of William’s arrival. The regiment wintered there and were manning Magruder’s defenses at Dam No. 1 when the Union army approached up the Pensinsula in the spring of 1862.


Letter 2

Headquarters 16th Independent Georgia Volunteers
Camp Lamar near Yorktown, Va.
February 17, 1862

Dear Wife,

I seat myself to let you know that I am well at this time hoping these few lines will come safe to hand and will find you all well and doing well. I received your letter which gave me great joy to hear from you all that you was well. I was sorry to hear of [ ] losing his child.

I hant much to write to you but all your cousins are well. Young [John W.] Fry 1 is getting tolerable stout. John [N.] Ivester is here with us and he is well. I received your things that you sent to me. I thank you for them. I wish I was there with you. I had rather see you than any other thing on earth. I hope I will live to see you one more time but it is a narrow chance looking to be called off every moment to fight the Yankees. If we should happen to get in a battle, I want to be prepared to die. If I should happen to be killed, I want you to meet me in heaven if we should never meet no more on earth.

Kiss little Linny for me and I will kiss you if I do get home which I think I will, if God’s willing for it to be so. Write when you get this letter.

[to] N. Crumley

Dear friend, I this day embrace the opportunity of dropping you a few lines to let you know that we are all well and doing well. The boys says tell you howdy. Boo says that he would like to see you [paper creased] but all for the better. I hant nothing to write worth your attention. We hant drawed no money yet nor we don’t know when we will. I don’t know whether I will get the money that is paid out coming out here or not. Some says I will and some says it is doubtful. Tell all my friend to write to me. Tell Mat Marting to write to me. Tell that I wish I could be with him at meeting. Tell Pap’s and Morse’s folks that I hant forgot them and I would like to see them tell all of [ ] Ruth’s folks howdy for me and tell them to write to me. So I will close by saying write to me. I still remain your friend, — W. C. Crumley to John Ivester

1 John W. Fry of Co. E, 16th Georgia Infantry, died on 10 August 1862. His father was David Fry of Clarkesville, Georgia.


Letter 3

Suffolk Town, Virginia
March 18, 1862

Dear Wife,

I seat myself to let you know that I am well at present hoping these few lines will find you all well and doing well. I received your letter dated the third of March which gave me great satisfaction to hear that you were all well. I haven’t much to write to you but we have moved our camps and I think that it is a better place than our other camps. There has been one death in our company since we came here. [Richard] “Dick” Tinch [Tench] died last week and William Wester [?] and John Dockins is very low. They are in the hospital.

We have very good times here but I would give anything to be at home to make a crop of corn. I had rather see you and Linny than any other thing I ever saw. Kiss Linny for me.

You said you wanted me to send my likeness to you. I will get it taken and send it to you as son as I can.

I have saw the boys and they are well and doing well and I think I will go to their regiment if I can get the chance. They are [within] two miles of us. We are all in the same brigade. I want you to write to me as soon as you get this letter. Tell brother’s folks to write to me and Mose. Give my respects to all and tell them howdy for me.

When you write to me, direct your letters to Suffolk Town, Va. in the care of Captain Stiles, Commanding Georgia Brigade, 16th Georgia Regiment. So I must close by saying take good care of yourself. No more at present. So goodbye my dear wife.

— W. C. Crumley


Letter 4

Goldsboro
April 24, 1862

Dear Wife,

It is with pleasure that I embrace the opportunity of dropping you a few lines to let you know that I am well but I have been very low. I have been in the hospital about a week but I am well now [and] I think that I will be able to go to the regiment in two or three days.

I received your letter today which gave me great joy to hear from you and to hear that you were well and doing well.

Our regiment has been in a battle. 1 They made the Yankees go back. The last time that I heard, they were in the line of battle [and] they were throwing bob shells at one another everyday at Yorktown. Our regiment is at Yorktown. you may direct your letters to Yorktown.

I wish I could see you. I had rather see you than anybody I ever saw in my life. I will send my likeness to you as soon as I can get it taken. It is a bad chance about getting our likeness taken here.

I will come to a close but if I ever see you on this earth, I intend to meet you in heaven. I want you to write to me as soon as you get this letter. So I will close. I remain your husband, — W. C. Crowley

to Nancy Crowley

1 This is probably a reference to the fight at Dam No. 1 in which McClellan’s forces tried to break the Confederate line at the Warwick River near Yorktown.


Letter 5

[Not datelined]

Dear Wife,

It is with pleasure that I embrace the opportunity of drafting you a few lines to let you know that I am in tolerable good health, hoping these few lines will come safe to hand and find you well and doing well. I had rather see you than anybody I ever saw. I dreamed of seeing you and being with you last night. I wish I had been.

So I will send you two dollars in this letter. Tell the boys howdy for me and mother and father and all my friends. You must excuse my bad writing and excuse me for not writing no more for I have been sick and I am so week that I can’t write no more. So I will close by saying I remain your husband. — W. C. Crumley

Dear Brother,

I take the pleasure of dropping you a few lines to let you know that I am well and I received your letter and was glad to hear from you but I had rather see you. If I was at home, I would stay there but I ain’t there nor I don’t know when I will be there. When my three years is out if I live so long, but if I die in the army I intend to try to be prepared to die by the Grace of God. So I must close by saying write soon. — W. C. Crumley

To Moses Franklin

1862: Clarence Gillette Harmon to his Friend “Nellie”

I could not find an image of Clarence but here is Lt. Walter C. Hull who was also from Ellicottville and served in Co. I, 37th New York Infantry. He later reenlisted in the 2nd New York Cavalry and was KIA at Cedar Creek in November 1864. (Kyle M. Stetz Collection)

These five letters were written by Clarence Gillette Harmon (1838-1901), the son of Eleazer Harmon (1807-1882) and Harriet Goodspeed (1810-1839) of Ellicottville, Cattaraugus county, New York. Clarence was employed as a bookkeeper when he enlisted in November 1861 at the age of 23 to serve two years and was mustered in as the 1st Lieutenant of Co. H, 37th New York Infantry. His older brother, Luke Goodspeed Harmon (1836-1908) was already a Captain in the same regiment. Some three weeks after the last letter in this collection was penned by Clarence, his brother Luke sent a letter home stating that Clarence was dangerously ill with typhoid fever at Fortress Monroe, so much so that Clarence resigned his commission and was officially discharged from the service on 19 June 1862.

The 37th New York Infantry, or “Irish Rifles,” was recruited during the months of April and May, 1861. As its name indicates, it was principally composed of Irish American citizens, with the exception of two companies (H and I) from Cattaraugus county, a majority of whom were American born. When the books of the regiment were opened, says Surgeon O’Meagher, “more than two thousand members were enrolled, but could not be retained, in consequence, as well of the prescribed limits affixed to the military organizations, as of the difficulties experienced by the recruiting officers in obtaining the requisite authority from the State officials. Nine-tenths of the men and officers might be classed as clerks, mechanics, laborers and farmers’ sons. The remainder—two companies—were mostly American born, from Cattaraugus County, with a slight sprinkling of Irish and German citizens. They were all American citizens and harmonized very well.”

Clarence wrote these letters to his friend “Nellie” who surely lived in Cattaraugus county but does not appear to be the woman he eventually married named Mary Patterson (1844-1905). Clarence asked her to give his regards to Mr. and Mrs. Blakeslee in one of his letters so she might very well have been their daughter, Ella Delia Blakeslee (1852-1946) even though she would have only been ten years old at the time. Ella married Frank Blackmon in 1881.

Four of Clarence’s five letters were written from Fort Washington overlooking the Potomac River

Letter 1

Headquarters Company H, 37th Regiment New York Volunteers
Fort Washington, Md.
January 19, 1862

My dear friend,

You cannot imagine my delight last evening upon receiving and perusing your very welcome letter of the 12th instant and to show you how highly I prize them, I am going to be very prompt in answering. I cannot expect that my scrawls will more than half repay you for the time and trouble expended and shall have to request that you charge the difference to the “the Union.” I fear I should be discouraged and tempted to give up the “old ship” and return to civil life if it were not that then I should be deprived of your letters.

This fort reminds me of the buildings erected in every county seat for the accomodation of men that insist upon breaking the laws of the land. We are entirely shut up away from everybody and everything except these two companies and their officers, the Commanding officer and family, the Post Surgeon, and assistant acting Quarter Master. I have not been twenty rods from the fort in over a month and am getting heartily sick of such close confinement. It is perfect machinery—the same thing over and over and over again.

For the last ten days we have had very disagreeable weather—snowing at night and raining all day, making the mud ankle deep. This evening there is a beautiful rainbow and I hope we may have a few days pleasant weather.

Lieutenant [George W.] Baillet’s wife arrived here last Thursday evening and I fancy we shall soon see a decided change in the management of our culinary department as she has consented to take charge of it. We have a Negress (slave) that we pay her master three dollars a week for her services including a young nigger brat about two months old which of course is very agreeable nights. We also have an Irish girl which we pay two dollars and a half to wait upon the Niggers which occupies so much time that our food is brought upon the table more than half dirt and the other half about one quarter cooked. With your knowledge of housekeeping, you can readily imagine the condition of our kitchen with such help and no one to oversee them. The other night I went to the kitchen and they were having a gay time, I assure you. Catharine (the Irish girl) was playing on an old greasy banjo and three or four young Niggers dancing while the old Negress was sitting the table and making molasses candy. The result is that it costs us from thirty-five to forty-five dollars each per month for board and nothing fit to eat at that price. Hence you see the importance of young ladies knowing how work should be done that they could tell if it were not thoroughly executed.

In answer to your interrogatory, “Have you enlisted for three years?” I take great pleasure in answering, “If the Court know herself and she believe darned will she do,” I have not and do not think I shall remain in the army longer than May or June. I received a letter from Mr. Stowell in which he gave some encouragement that he should want me in the spring. I seriously hope he will for I never saw a better man to labor with and then I think a fine place to live in. I don’t like soldiering here. It is too lazy work. You know I told you I should not remain longer than until I could obtain some kind of business at home and that I only came here because I had nothing else to do and did not want to loaf around home doing nothing. I must say that I do not fancy “Brass coats and blue buttons.” here we see too much of them & they are too expensive. It costs a person five dollars to look at anything in Washington and when you talk of purchasing, they act as though you were the last person they ever expected to see and they must improve the opportunity and make a fortune from one a small purchase.

I fear I have already written more than you will care to read and will not annoy you with much more. I believe I have not answered your question, “Do you know how to skate?” I did know how to skate a little several years ago but think I should make awkward work of it now as I have not had a pair upon my feet in over five years. You must have had a grand time the week you were at home.

I thought I told you I had received a letter from Mary Clarke. I received one about one week before New Years. I think it was Christmas morning. I have answered it but as yet have received no reply. She said she was having a gay time and the evening she wrote was going to the theatre and the next day to Central Park skating. She said her people were not going to remain long in Olean but did not say where they were going. I think she is a good [girl] and agree with you that she improves upon acquaintance. Gillmore is undoubtedly a rascal but I think that his father-in-law is more to blame that he for I do not believe Gillmore knows enough to defraud many without some help and I think Clarke has done it.

Excuse me for writing so long a letter. I won’t do so no more, but you may. Please remember me to Mr. & Mrs. Blakeslee. Are you going to remain at Olean another term? Hoping to hear from you very soon, I remain truly your friend, — Clarence


Letter 2

Headquarters Company H, 37th Regt. New York Volunteers
Fort Washington, Maryland
Washington’s Birthday [Feb. 22, 1862]

Dear Friend,

Your very welcome epistle was received one week ago today and eagerly perused. I should have answered it immediately but a few days before it arrived we applied to Major General McClellan to be relieved from duty at this post and returned to our regiment and were expecting orders every day and I did not know where to have my letters addressed. You will appreciate the delay for had it not occurred, you would have been annoyed with this letter several days sooner.

Since I wrote you, I have visited Edwin Goodrich 1 and Henry Davis. They are in the 9th New York Volunteer Cavalry and are camped about two miles from Washington upon a hillside in a cedar grove—the best location for a camp that I ever saw. There was eight of them, I believe, camped in one Sibley tent and all appeared happy. It was just retreat when I arrived in camp and when I found the boys they were eating their supper which consisted of coffee, bread & rice with molasses. Every man is furnished with a tin plate, cup, knife and fork which they keep in their tent. At meals they all march up to the cook’s tent and get their rations. It is not sulable [?] to wash their dishes more than once a month but I think Henry & Edwin must have violated the rule for their plates & cups were clean.

This has been a great day for Ameriky here. We fired two salutes at this garrison in honor of Washington’s Birthday. [There were] thirty-four guns at noon and thirty-four at retreat (sundown), breaking out about twenty lights of glass and throwing one window entirely out of the building. We burned three barrels of powder.

I cannot tell when we shall hear from our application but think we must hear next week. I sincerely hope it will be approved for I am heartily tired of being shut up in this jail. I cannot say that I have any desire to be shot and sent to the arms of my Heavenly Parent, but I do think I should prefer the field and stand my chances.

I cannot think you honestly believe I wish to flatter you. If I did not prize your letters very much, be assured I would not answer them as promptly as I have done. Indeed, Nellie, you cannot imagine how very acceptable they are, and I think I duly appreciate them. I should expect to hear from you soon—very soon. Please do not disappoint me. Truly your friend, — Clarence

Address Fort Washington

1 Edwin Goodrich (1843-1910) was awarded the Medal of Honor as a First Lieutenant in Company D, 9th New York Cavalry for action in November 1864 near Cedar Creek, Virgina. His citation reads “While the command was falling back, he returned and in the face of the enemy rescued a sergeant from under his fallen horse.” 


Letter 3

Headquarters Company H, 37th New York Volunteers
Fort Washington, Maryland
March 23, 1862

Dear Friend,

Rev. George Ward Dunbar (1833-1911)

Your very interesting letter of the 19th instant was received Saturday evening and you perceive I am going to be punctual in answering it. I cannot with a clear conscience say I have attended church although I heard our Army Chaplain read service and a sermon. I cannot but think it a greater sin to go here than remain in my quarters for I cannot have any respect for a minister of the Gospel that can and will get drunker than I ever was. The other Sunday he was so drunk that it was with difficulty that he conducted the services, and furthermore, he is I believe at heart “a right smart” (Maryland expression) secesher, though he does not commit himself. I would like to be in Olean and hear Mr. [George Ward] Dunbar and if it wasn’t wicked, I would say see the girls. Do you like Mr. Dunbar as well as when I was there? Everyone spoke very highly of him & I liked him very much.

“My opinion of slavery is that it is a blessing to the Nigger and a curse to the master.”

— Lt. Clarence G. Harmon, 37th New York Infantry, 23 March 1862

This is a beautiful day and quite warm. I wish we could have such weather in Cattaraugus. I went out into the country a few days ago and every thing looks forsaken. I called upon several planters that have been at the Fort and was astonished at the method of farming. Everything looks forsaken, prices down, and the ground in horrible condition. Now and then I could see three or four Niggers playing work but would not accomplish as much in three days as one white man North would do in one. Their houses were intended to have been genteelly furnished, but oh Lord, such a mixture. I should judge everything was very expensive but were so arranged [that] it looked very much as if a nigger had unloaded it in the middle of the room and they had not time to arrange it. I dare say, any Irish woman could take the money and display better taste. I took dinner with Mr. Hatton. 1 They thought it was very nice. I think it would have been had it been properly cooked. My opinion of slavery is that it is a blessing to the Nigger and a curse to the master.

Last Tuesday there was one Division passed here going down the river into Dixie and yesterday two more. It was the grandest spectacle I ever witnessed. There were twenty steamers Tuesday and with a Marine Glass I could readily distinguish our regiment (the 37th N. Y. Volunteers) as they passed. We expected ourselves to get ordered with them but failed. Yesterday there was two large steamers and as they approached, it looked like one line of soldiers. Every space large enough to hold a man was occupied and the boats resembled a swarm of bees upon the deck. In all there was about forty thousand troops and you can judge what a magnificent sight it must have been. 2

Today boats have been passing to and fro and just dark one boat went down loaded with soldiers since which they have passed one every half hour and now I can see thirteen anchored about a mile below the point and they look splendid. We can see men (with a Marine Glass) well enough to distinguish non-commissioned officers and officers from the men. They look magnificent all lighted up. They will undoubtedly remain there until morning as the channel of the river is quite narrow and the boats very large. The men are only allowed to take what clothing they can carry in their knapsacks and their portable tents which is nothing more or less than two Indian rubber blankets for four men at night. They drive two sticks in the ground, lay another upon them about two or three feet from the ground, hang the blankets over, and the men crawl under, resembling chicken coop upon an enlarge scale.

Tomorrow is my birthday and I have ready a great many good resolutions & one is to stop smoking. One year ago (when I was twenty-three), I stopped chewing and have not used any in that way since and now I do not wish for any. I have not resolved to stop for any length of time but if it is not to hard, shall stop entirely.

Sarah writes me that she had a very gay time in New York. I was much disappointed that they could not come here. We have had fine sport here for the past week fishing. The two companies purchased a seine )twelve hundred feet long) and have caught fish enough to supply the garrison. Yesterday at one haul we caught seven turtles & six eels. And today we had a splendid dinner—turtle soup and roast turkey, &c. &c. Did you ever eat any eels? I think they are next the brook trout but at first I would not taste of them. They look like a large snake and I kept thinking snake. Won’t you drop in and take dinner with us any day this week? Just send Bub over in the morning and we will give you nice turtle soup, turkey, &c.—the best market affords. You will find Mrs. Buillet a very interesting lady and we will do all in our power to make it pleasant for you.

I have not seen Abe since I wrote you. I expected he would come down and bring Mary but she wrote me saying that they felt so down in the mouth since their boy died one day that they did not care to gab. 3

Nellie, if I have not tried your patience too much with this long letter, please answer soon and I will not trespass upon your very precious time in so rude a manner again, but will do all in my power to promote your happiness, knowing that I cannot repay you for your very entertaining letters. I was much surprised to hear of Mr. Palmer’s being discharged. When I left, they thought him perfect almost—the young ladies particularly.

Wishing you pleasant dreams, I will say bye bye. Truly your friend, — Clarence

1 This was probably the residence of Henry Davison Hatton (1817-1864), a slaveowner who lived near Fort Washington by Swann and Piscataway Creeks. Hatton’s father was listed in the 1833 Tax Assessment for Prince George’s County with 72 slaves valued at $15,145 total. Henry was bequeathed 11 slaves in his father’s will dated 15 November 1824. The 1850 US Census shows him holding 24 slaves, 13 females and 11 males. In 1860, the Hattons were still in the 5th District and had 25 slaves.

2 The 37th New York Infantry spent the winter of 1861-2 at “Camp Michigan.” On the 17th of March it embarked with its division, (Hamilton’s), for Fortress Monroe, where it remained for several days under the orders of General Wool. On the 3d of April it moved up the Peninsula, by the New Bridge road, and encamped on Howard’s creek; and on the 5th advanced, (the division following Gen. Porter’s), to Yorktown, where on the 10th, Heintzelman’s corps was posted in the front. Porter’s, Hooker’s and Hamilton’s divisions extending from Wormley’s Creek to Winnie’s Mills. Throughout the siege the regiment was constantly under fire in the trenches and in the camp, and performed the most arduous and harassing labor up to the moment of the evacuation.

3 Abraham and Mary Lincoln’s son, William Wallace Lincoln, died on 20 February 1862.


Letter 4

Headquarters Company H, 37th New York Volunteers
Fort Washington, Maryland
April 8, 1862

Dear Friend,

Your very welcome and interesting letter of the 2nd inst. I had the pleasure of receiving and perusing last evening. There has nothing of special interest transpired at this post since i wrote you. Nearly every day steamers have passed loaded with troops bound for the land of cotton. I understand that more than one hundred thousand soldiers have passed this garrison within the last two weeks. Where they come from I cannot conceive for Alexandria, Va., and Washington are as crowded as ever. We have been held in suspense here for the past week every day expecting orders to join our regiment now in “Dixie.”

Last Wednesday, 2nd Lieut. William C. Green of Company H, 37th Regt. N. Y. Vols. was at Alexandria, Va., and there saw Major General [Isreal Bush] Richardson commanding the Division to which our regiment was attached. Immediately after passing the compliments of the day, the General said, “Your two companies at Fort Washington, Md., are ordered to join they regiment now at Fortress Monroe.” Of course this coming from him and voluntary was relied upon as being correct and we immediately commenced packing and making arrangements and held ourselves in readiness to embark at a few hours notice. We remained thus until Saturday. Captain Clarke went to Washington and there ascertained that they had not received any such orders. We have just got settled again and I trust we may not again be annoyed by false alarms.

I received a letter from Sarah in which she expresses great disappointment that she was unable to visit you the last evening you were in Olean. She says, “The girl is going away today and where there are about forty young ones there has to be about forty to stay at home and take care of them.”

You cannot see the fun in fishing with a seine? It is this—“eating the fish.” And it is not disagreeable to lay upon the banks of river these nice warm spring days and see the men haul the seine. But rest assured I shall not blister my hands hauling it.

My education being limited, I was not permitted to attend guessing school but if I had been, I should guess that you were to be bridesmaid for Miss Emma White. 1 May I ask who is the happy man that you have allowed to entertain hopes that he should be groomsman? I suppose the expected bride is some lady of my acquaintance or you would not have challenged me to guess who it was. And she is the only one that I know contemplates matrimony and I believe I am indebted to you for that information.

This is a genuine Cattaraugus day. Last night it snowed about two hours and this morning at reveille the snow was about two inches deep and it was raining and now there is a heavy fog so dense that I cannot see across the parade ground. I think I never witnessed a more dismal and gloomy day. Do you not find it very refreshing in the country after being accustomed to gay & giddy city life in so large a place as Olean? I must confess that I like living in Olean very much and think after the war, if it is not my luck to be called upstairs to my Heavenly Parent, I shall settle in Olean if I can obtain any paying employment.

I am sorry Miss Clarke is going away for I think she is a nice girl and one that improves upon acquaintance. I certainly think she is well worthy her “Suvyer” Mr. B. Pardon me if I have wounded your feelings by insinuating they were strongly attached to each other. There must be strong hopes of better times this spring to induce your Father to bring on new goods. You can amuse yourself waiting upon customers and I trust you may not often be annoyed with lookers that do not wish to purchase. Do you and Miss Hawleys enjoy fishing in the canal as much this season as you did last? I shall expect to receive another of your very entertaining letters soon—very soon. Please do not disappoint me.

Truly your friend, — Clarence

1 Emma White (1842-1872) married Rev. George Ward Dunbar (1833-1911) on 26 June 1862 in Olean, Cattaraugus county, New York.


Letter 5

Camp Winfield Scott
Near Yorktown, Virginia
April 22, 1862

My Dear Friend,

You will perceive that we have transferred from garrison duty and are now doing duty in the field. We received orders last Sunday evening (April 13th) to hold ourselves in readiness to embark for Alexandria, Va., and thence proceed to Fortress Monroe to join our regiment. Tuesday evening about eight o’clock we were relieved from duty at the Fort and immediately thereafter we embarked on board the Government Transport Aeriel and went to Alexandria. We were kept in board the boat that night and slept on deck which I assure you was pretty tough, it being my first encampment without any shelter. There was a cold north wind all night and at two o’clock I was compelled to walk the deck or suffer with cold. I was not long making up my mind which to do.

Wednesday we layed at anchor in the river till four p.m. and was then transferred to another steamer with orders to leave at seven but the Captain of the boat simply run into the river and anchored and we remained there until 11 a.m. Thursday. We then weighed anchor. Nothing of special interest transpired upon the trip and at 9 a.m. Friday we landed at Ship Point about seven miles from camp.

After dinner we marched to camp, arriving here about sunset and pitched our tents. The next morning we were turned out under arms. Remaining one hour, after breaking ranks and breakfast, we were marched two miles from camp to join the regiment that were at the time upon picket duty. Shells were exchanged between our troops and the Rebels every few moments all day. They wounded a lieutenant in charge of our batteries slightly but did not injure anyone else. Our troops dismounted three of their heavy guns.

Sunday part of our regiment went out to throw up entrenchments. Monday they were making roads to transport our heavy siege guns upon and today they performed the same duties.

The tactical manuals owned by Capt. Luke Harmon (and undoubtedly his brother Clarence) while serving on the 27th New York Infantry (Kyle M. Stetz Collection)

I have not received any reply to my last letter but think you must certainly have answered & that it is delayed some where a necessary consequence when troops are transferred from one station to another. The officers are not allowed any more baggage than they can carry theirselves, hence the absolute necessity of suffering with cold. For one woolen blanket, one rubber one, an overcoat and satchel are all that I wish to carry upon a long march. I visited Edwin Goodrich & Henry Davis [9th N. Y. Cavalry] this afternoon. They are in camp about two miles from us and are well and look rugged & tough. In case I might fall, I will now say to you truly that in you I have found a friend that can be relied upon. “A friend in need is a friend indeed” is a very true saying & I sincerely believe that you would prove such a friend. I will again tender many, many thanks for your kind letters and all other kind favors you have bestowed upon me.

In case Providence should spare my life and conduct me safely through this war, I sincerely trust that it will be your pleasure to continue the friendship. I was compelled to burn your letters when I left the Fort knowing that if I did not, they might fall into others hands who were not intended to peruse their contents. This I trust will meet your approval. I shall write you every opportunity I have without regard to replies and hope you will favor me with your very welcome letters often. May Heaven bless and protect you, my dear friend, is my constant prayer.

Address Lt. C. G. Harmon, Co. H, 37th N. Y. Vols., Washington D. C. & your letters will be forwarded without delay. Write soon. Do please.

I am truly your friend, — Clarence

1862: A. L. Henry to Friend Milo

I have not been able to identify the author of this letter nor his regiment.

Transcription

Camp near Hancock, Maryland
February 3, 1862

Friend Milo,

I received your letters and paper yesterday and was glad to hear from you. I am as well as ever and hope this will find you the same. We have done nothing towards fighting since I wrote to you. It has been the damndest weather you ever saw for the last two weeks. It has been stormy almost every day—mostly snow. We have had a hard time of it along back. We have had to do picket [duty] on the river. Have to stand all night without being relieved.

We shall cross over and go into Virginia [and] probably have some fighting to do. Saw several of their pickets the other day. Some of our men went over but the devils left like hell. I suppose you have heard what big marches we have made and that we have got the name of being the best marchers in the whole division. I have not much much war news to write this time so I will close.

You spoke about sending a book. The book that I was going to [send to] Phil got tore so that I could not send it. I wrote to him quite a spell ago and have not heard from him yet. Tell him to write.

I had a letter from Charles about a week ago. I would liked to have seen the hog that they killed. I saw the death of Colt in paper about a week ago. I have not much more time to write now so I will close. Yours, — A. L. Henry

Direct as before

1864: Unidentified Henry to his Wife

This letter was written by a soldier named Henry who served in the 5th Connecticut Infantry. This regiment fought with the Army of Virginia in the East until the fall of 1863 when they were transferred to the Army of the Cumberland and assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 20th Army Corps.

Henry Cornwall Clark, possible author of letter

The soldier did not sign his last name but he mentions being transported to his regiment in Stevenson, Alabama, where the regiment was sent in the fall of 1863. Most likely he was either a wounded or sick soldier held in the hospital on Bedloe’s Island (where the Statue of Liberty sits today in New York Harbor) and was being transported along with recruits or draftees to Alabama in time to participate in Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign. He mentions only one traveling companion, Bob Warner, who was a private in Co. B, 5th Connecticut. Bob had been wound in in 1863 and was most likely hospitalized with Henry. Bob had been transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps but then transferred back, presumably thinking he could endure the two months he had left to serve with his regiment. Henry writes of being plagued by pains that he feels certain will enable him to get his discharge once properly examined by a physician after getting back to his regiment. One possibility is that the author might be Henry Cornwall Clark (1836-1912) of Granville, Massachusetts, who also served in Co. B, 5th Connecticut. Henry and his wife, Lauretta Moore, were married on 21 April 1863—only a year previous. I cannot prove he was the author, however.

The Zollicoffer House in Nashville, only partially constructed when the Civil War began, was used extensively as a prison for Confederate POWs. Many of them were housed there on temporary floors that had been constructed as makeshift barracks inside the structure, and many of them were killed or mangled when the flooring collapsed on 29 September 1863. By the time Henry and his traveling companions were quartered there, there was still no roof and the upper floors were partially collapsed. After the war, a 1st Wisconsin Cavalry Quartermaster Sergeant named James Waterman remembered the Zollicoffer House as being “more like a prison than a barracks for civilized beings, and was a disgrace to the service.”

Fort Harker just outside of Stevenson, Alabama

Transcription

Stevenson, Alabama
May 11, 1864

My Darling & Beloved Wife,

I take this opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you know where I am and how I am getting along. I don’t feel any better than I have felt. My back and side troubles me considerable but I could not get any examination anywhere on the road. But if the regiment is stationed in the same place, I shall ask for my discharge as soon as I get there and I will get it.

Zollicoffer House in Nashville during the war

But I hope these few lines will find my darling enjoying first rate health. I hope that you received the letter that I wrote from Louisville the 8th of this month in which I told you about our treatment from Bedloe’s Island to Cincinnati. But from Cincinnati to this place we was treated a little better. But when we was in Nashville we put up at the largest hotel in the City. It was called the Zollicoffer House but it was not half finished. There was no covering on the roof and when it rained, it came right down through on to the ground floor. We arrived there about half past five in the afternoon and stayed until the next morning about 11 o’clock when we took the cars for this place and just outside of Nashville I saw a great many new made graves. And for about 4 or 5 miles you could see graves and entrenchments where there had been engagements.

And when we got to Murfreesboro, there was very strong entrenchments which encircled the whole town so the rebs would have a hard time getting in there. There was one place we came through called Wartrace and it was rightly named for it showed traces of a war party and as our train came thundering into the depot, there was quite a tumult such as the ringing of bells and gongs which one could hear above the noise of the train.

We arrived here about half past 4 in the morning and had to stand around about an hour before we could find out where we was going to put up but at last we found a place and Bob Warner 1 and two other men belonging to the Fifth and myself went into quarters together.

I have borrowed about 75 cents of Bob to get some paper and stamps so that I could write to you but I don’t expect to hear from you until I get somewhere to stay a spell and then I will want to have you write for it would only be a waste of paper and stamps. But I have not got much more to write so I will draw to a close for this time. So give my best respects to all and keep all of my love to yourself with 50 million kisses.

So good day hoping to see you before long, I remain your ever loving and affectionate husband, — Henry

To his darling little [ ]. You need not write until you hear from me again. So good day, darling pet.


1 Robert (“Bob”) Warner of Hartford, was a private in Co. B, 5th Connecticut Infantry. He was wounded on 8 August 1862 at Cedar Mountain, Virginia, and again on 23 November 1863 (place unknown). He was transferred to Co. G, 20th Veteran Reserve Corps on 11 January 1864 and re-transferred to the 5th Connecticut on 26 March 1864. He was discharged on 22 July 1864 when his term expired.

1866: Lucius Parker Merriam to Caroline P. Merriam

Lucius Parker Merriam (1846-1883) was only 17 years old in 1864 when he travelled from his home in Grafton, Massachusetts, to New Bern, North Carolina, captured by the Union Army from the Confederates two years before, then becoming a “mecca” for thousands of “contrabands”—freed slaves who flocked there seeking protection and sustenance. The humanitarian problem confronting the Union Army in caring for the contraband was given to Worcester clergyman and Army Chaplain Horace James who had already recruited Merriam’s 23 year-old college-educated sister, Sallie Anna (“Annie”) Parker Merriam (1839-1923) to teach school to illiterate Blacks.

By the time Lucius came to New Bern as a civilian Quartermaster clerk, Capt. James had created a small town for 3,000 freed slaves, a “Trent River Settlement” renamed “James City” in his honor. Merriam spent two years clerking for some 20 Army officers and civilian employees who administered this ramshackle Black community, duties assumed, after Lincoln’s assassination and War’s end, by the newly-established Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands, more commonly and simply called, the “Freedmen’s Bureau.” Despite instances of rampant corruption, the Freedmens Bureau would resist the efforts of President Andrew Johnson to abolish it. Spouting Republican rhetoric about “Universal Liberty,” Merriam insisted his Bureau must survive until “the Southerners are ready to give the colored man his just rights and acknowledge his manhood.” [This letter was sold from a small lot of letters written by Merriam by PBA Galleries in August 2014.]

Lucius’ parents were Charles Merriam (1807-1888) and Caroline Parker (1811-1890) of Grafton, Worcester county, Massachusetts. In 1869, Lucius entered Amherst College, graduated in 1873, and later taught school in Norwich, Connecticut, in Springfield, Massachusetts, and served as a high school principal in Providence, Rhode Island. In the 1870s he married Emily Atwell Clemons (1852-1910) but died a premature death in 1883 after fathering three children. He died of diabetes in Knoxville, Tennessee, while trying to regain his health during the winter of 1882-83 with the idea that he might relocate there.

[This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]

Lucius P. Merriam worked as a clerk in the Freedmen’s Bureau at New Bern after the war while his sister Annie taught a school for Blacks at Raleigh and later New Bern.

Transcription

Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands
Headquarters, Eastern District of North Carolina
New Berne, North Carolina
January 22nd 1866

My dear mother,

You must pardon me for not writing you oftener but the fact is I’ve been very busy lately. I have been employed on Capt. [Frederick A.] Seely’s 1 papers most of the time since I have been with him and have now finished them of this months.

Capt. Horace James, a former pastor of the Old South Congregational Church in Worcester who joined the 25th Mass. Infantry as a chaplain and then took charge of contraband during the war. For a great article chronicling his service to Freedmen, see Joe Mobley’s biographical sketch on NCPedia.

I am now busy in finishing up Capt. James’ papers of December and January. While here a week ago he received a letter from the War Department at Washington honorably mustering him out of the U. S. service in answer to his own request, his services being no longer necessary. The date being January 8th 1866. He has now been a Quartermaster [in the Freedman’s Bureau] from February 18th 1864 to the above date—nearly two years—and faithfully has he discharged the duties and responsibilities entrusted to his care by the government. In many instances have I noticed his economical management, calculating beforehand so that his expenditures on account of the U. S. would be no more than if the money was to come out of his own pocket. We have not in our army a superabundance of officers like him. When I have finished up his papers, it is my intention to write him a letter of regret on parting from his fatherly care and thanking him for his kindnesses to me of which there are many during my first absence from parental care and while a clerk under his patronage. I miss the light of his countenance very much, I can assure you, and the pleasing sound of his voice, whether in regard to official or private matters. It is a luxury, as you well know, to be in his company. When down here, he gave me another invitation to come up and see him which I shall accept at the first opportunity. You know he is civilian agent of the Bureau for Pitt Co., the county in which is his plantation. 2 There is a rumor of a plot among some of the secesh there to take his life. Captain is well aware of the satisfaction they would take in dispatching him and consequently keeps himself armed for any emergency and I understand intends to arm the darkeys on his plantation. Although I am fearful for his life, I know he would sell his life dearly unless he should be assassinated unawares. How contemptible are these secesh! North Carolina will be the last state to get into the Union at this rate.

An 1868 engraving of “James’s Plantation School” in North Carolina. This freedmen’s school is possibly one of those established by Horace James on the Yankee or Avon Hall plantations in Pitt County in 1866. North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library.

Of course I shall not venture across the country alone or unprotected. Even now I think it advisable to confine my horseback rides within the breastworks of the town as a band of marauders are known to be outside in the woods and byways around town, several citizens having been robbed and outraged by them. Capt. Seely is about to arm a band of colored militia and send them scouting in the suburbs and through the county with orders to hang at once anyone who is known to be an outlaw or engaged in plundering and overhauling unprotected citizens or travelers.

January 23, 1866. I have just received two bundles of [Worchester] “Spys” which are very acceptable. After reading them—myself and Annie—I lend them to Mrs. Robbins and Mrs. Johnson, wife of Joe Johnson, whom Father saw with me in Worcester. Late yesterday afternoon, Johnson, being a little “tight,” got into an altercation with (3) three soldiers and one of them knocked him downstairs backwards and then kicked and stamped upon his head, bruising him very severely and rendering him insensible. He was taken home and medical aid restored him to consciousness in a couple of hours. This morning the paper says he has since died of his injuries but on going down to the house, I find him sitting up in bed eating his breakfast. I am glad he was not taken away under such circumstances. When sober, he is a kind, good, honest fellow, but drink sets him fighting crazy. Mrs. Johnson is a real good lady—kind and affectionate—and I have no doubt that Joe’s bad actions are a great trial to her. 3

My favorite pony “Dixie” has gone out in the country for three weeks to carry Lieut. [George S.] Hawley of the Veteran Reserve Corps on a tour of inspection. Mine is the only quartermaster horse that could stand such a tramp so he had to go. Capt. Seely told me he had done something which he supposed I would abuse him about—viz: letting my horse go for a short time. Nevertheless, he has given me the use of a private pony of his during Dixie’s absence. Capt. Seely is a sensible man. He calculates on his clerks have exercise out of office hours. Every one of his three clerks has a horse. Woog, I think, has a buggy. Captain also has a buggy.

How I wish you were here. I could manage so that we could take a buggy ride quite often. The weather is delightful now. The beautiful, bright southern mornings and the balmy air are very exhilarating and are much like our northern spring. I miss very much the skating and sliding and the deep snows of a more northern clime. I really used to enjoy running through the snow banks carrying morning papers.

Lt. Beecher (Fred H.) of the Veteran Reserve Corps and nephew of Henry Ward Beecher was down here Monday. He is acting Asst. Adjt. General for Col. [Eliphalet] Whittlesey at Raleigh. He called at the “home” to see Annie with whom he became acquainted when he was at Raleigh.

I send in a separate envelope addressed to Father my invitation by Mr. Near to a New Year’s dinner; my letter to Col. [Nathan] Goff of the 37th N. C. C. T. [USCT] relative to the death of young [Lieut.] Mellon [shot on 23 September 1865] and his reply, also notice of a meeting of our “Social Sociable Association.” This association is not a rough and tumble conglomeration of everything and everybody as you might think its name implied, but is a company of respectable northern young men mostly who have regular meetings in the capacity of a literary club and its object is as stated in the by-laws for the mutual improvement of all its members in parliamentary rules of debate, declamation, and the proper mode of conducting meetings. They have already given one lecture this winter by Capt. James. They seem to want to have me belong to the club as they voted me in without my wish or consent. All that is necessary for me to become an active member is to sign the constitution and by-laws (and slide into the Treasury a greenback). It is a very good kind of society to belong to and if I was North, I would join it eagerly, but I wish to give my best attention to my business and have time enough for recreation. I don’t want to tax either my mind or pocket unnecessarily or without improvement. The chairman of the lecture committee, Mr. Frank H. Sterns, came up to the office and presented us clerks with complimentary tickets. He gave me two—one for Annie and one for me.

This p.m. we are going out on a grand horseback ride. Mr. [Edward] Fitz, Annie and myself, and perhaps Miss Thompson. Mr. Fitz has gained honor and credit to himself by his decided stand against the popular immoralities of the times. Through my own and Joe Towle’s intercedence, I think an amicable feeling will be brought about between parties lately at [ ]. I think each and all have done wrong in some degree. Those quoted lines in your letter which aroused your suspicions was simply my opinion; they did not relate to Mr. Fitz particularly. I think just so no matter who it hits. Everyone has a right to his or her opinion on matters and things and our judgement becomes more just as we advance in knowledge. 4

Mr. John F. Keyes [1835-1921] of Clifton, Mass., came in to the office to see me this morning. He was Capt. James’ commissary and a chum of Abernethy’s in dealing out rations. He was a detailed soldier of the 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. He has come out here to start in the carriage business which is his trade.

Our Congregational Society are about to lose the use of the Presbyterian Church….


1 Capt. Frederick A. Seely served as the Superintendent of the Eastern District of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (a.k.a., the “Freedmen’s Bureau”), headquartered in Newbern, North Carolina, between January and May 1866. He later worked for the Bureau in Missouri.

2 Capt. Horace James “remained as head of the eastern district until December 1865, when Gen. O. O. Howard finally accepted his resignation. After leaving the Freedmen’s Bureau he entered into a plantation and labor scheme in Pitt County. In the enterprise he was the partner of Whittlesey and Winthrop Tappan, a neighbor of Whittlesey in the state of Maine. The plan conceived by Whittlesey and Tappan and presented to James called for the two men from Maine to rent two plantations in Pitt County from the owner, William Grimes. The plantations, named Avon and Yankee Hall, were located about twelve miles from Washington on opposite sides of the Tar River. James received money for expenses and had complete charge of the farms, including hiring and supervising freedmen as laborers and purchasing supplies. On each of the sites he established schools and churches for the freedmen. In overseeing the laborers employed on the plantations, James acted as a civilian agent for the Freedmen’s Bureau; he received no salary, but if the project produced a profit he was to share in it equally with his partners.

“In the summer of 1866, a black laborer was killed on one of the plantations. In September a military court tried James as an accomplice in the shooting and for allegedly exploiting the freedmen in the profit-making venture. The court also tried Whittlesey for using his position as head of the Freedmen’s Bureau in the state to exploit freedmen labor and for not reporting the Pitt County shooting to headquarters in Washington. Both men were acquitted. Whittlesey soon left the state and rejoined Howard’s staff in Washington, D.C.

“James continued to run the plantations until a crop failure in 1867 led to the venture’s termination, after which the land was returned to the owner. James returned to Massachusetts in the same year and took charge of a parish in Lowell, serving also as associate editor of the Congregationalist, a church publication. He then traveled abroad. While visiting Palestine, he contracted a severe cold that resulted in consumption and ultimately his death in Worcester, Mass. He was survived by his wife and son.” [NCPedia]

3 Joseph (“Joe”) Johnson may have been the member of Co. H, 25th Massachusetts Infantry by the same name from Worcester who served as a wagoner during the war and was a machinist by profession. This is the same regiment that Capt. Horace James first served as chaplain. He was married to Lucretia Wheelock (1834-1888) of Worcester county.

4 Rev. Edward Fitz was a Worcester, Massachusetts, clergyman who exercised arbitrary powers of law enforcement in James City. Fitz was charged with practicing “revolting and unheard of cruelties on the helpless freedmen under his charge” which was supported by testimony from those he had harshly punished. An Army Court of Inquiry dismissed the charges as personal “malice” but also dismissed Fitz for administrative “malfeasance.” Defending Fitz, Lucius wrote in another letter, “This is the reward of four years of his labor for the Contrabands. I would not blame him in the least for turning to an Andy Johnson man. These ignorant darkeys are the hardest people to get along with I ever saw. The more you do for them the more they hate you and will trample on you…”