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.

1861: Edward Rumsey Weir, Jr. to John Littlejohn Davidson

Major John L. Davidson, 26th Kentucky Infantry, killed at Shiloh

The following letter was written by Edward Rumsey Weir, Jr. (1839-1906), the son of Edward Rumsey Weir, Sr. (1816-1891) and Harriet Rumsey Miller (1822-1913) of Greenville, Muhlenberg county, Kentucky. Edward, Sr. was “an attorney, merchant, politician, and soldier. Greenville, Kentucky, native. Member of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Kentucky from Muhlenberg County from 1841 to 1842. Attorney in Muhlenberg County in 1850. Owned twenty-nine enslaved persons in Muhlenberg County in 1850. Attorney and merchant in Muhlenberg County in 1860. Owned forty enslaved persons in Muhlenberg County in 1860. Served in the Muhlenberg County Home Guard in 1861. Member of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Kentucky from Muhlenberg County from 1862 to 1865.” [See Kentucky Historical Society] According to the Archivist at Western Kentucky University, Edward , Sr. was “also an abolitionist; he emancipated some of his slaves and assisted with their recolonization in Liberia. After the outbreak of the Civil War, he used his wealth and influence to advocate for the Union and to recruit and equip home guards and companies for the regular army. As Confederates moved through Muhlenberg and surrounding counties, Weir’s wife Harriet removed with their children to Jacksonville, Illinois and returned home only after the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson in 1862.” [See Weir Family Collection]

Edward, Jr., served as an officer with the 11th and 35th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry and saw action at Shiloh and Corinth and elsewhere. Many of his letters, archived atWestern Kentucky University’s Special Collections, “provide much detail of his life in camp at Calhoun, Kentucky with his servant Jesse, and his fears for the Weir home amid reports of Confederate theft. He reports on incidents such as the arrival of non-English speaking German “cannonniers,” troop losses from illness, and a young Indiana wife who visits the camp, only to find her husband dead. He provides vivid descriptions of his actions at the Battle of Shiloh and of his regiment’s advance on Corinth, Mississippi, including his arrival at the deserted town of Farmington, Mississippi. He tells of seeing Confederate general John Hunt Morgan approach the Union lines at Farmington under a flag of truce, and the doubts of the colonel in command that he was actually “Morgan of Kentucky.” Illness compels Weir to resign from the 11th Kentucky Infantry in 1863, but later that year he receives a commission in the 35th Kentucky Mounted Volunteer Infantry, and writes of his march through Kentucky into Virginia and of the fighting at Saltville. Prior to being mustered out in 1864, Weir expresses regret at leaving the 11th Kentucky, whose men he thought superior to those of the 35th. He also alludes to wrongs committed by other officers of the 35th that could attract lawsuits.”

Edward’s letter was addressed to John Littlejohn Davidson (1830-1862), the son of James W. and Priscilla Quinn (Jones) Davidson of Elton, Kentucky. John worked at a dry goods store in Nashville, Tennessee, before the Civil War and then enlisted on 9 September 1861 and was commissioned Major of the 26th Infantry Regiment Kentucky on 8 March 1862. He was killed at the Battle of Shiloh in Shiloh, Tennessee on 7 April 1862.


Greenville, Kentucky
August 1861

Mr. John L. Davidson
Dear Sir,

Your note and flattering offer were received last mail and to my regret, I am in no condition to respond in person. I have been thinking of entering the Cavalry Regiment but all my military aspirations have been nipped in the bud by a long spell of fever. I made a journey to Washington during the dog-days and the excessive head combined with unusual excitement was too much for me, and I have been “laid on the shelf” ever since my return, and fear I will not be fir for active service for some time. The regiment will probably be organized before I am well enough to engage in stirring business of any kind.

You may rely on my secrecy. With most heart-felt wishes for your success. I am yours respectfully, — Edward R. Weir, Jr.

1865: Julia Moore to Merritt L. Pierce

How Julia might have looked in 1865

The following letter was written by Julia Moore (b. 1 May 1842), the daughter of Mason Moore (1808-1886) and Emily Stickle (1809-1887) of Schuyler Falls, Clinton county, New York. In her letter, Julia mentions her brother, Elvin Allen Moore (1840-1903) who enlisted in Co. I, 16th New York Infantry in May 1861 but was discharged a month later as being unfit for duty.

Julia wrote the letter to her hometown friend and neighbor, Merritt L. Pierce who was at the time serving in Co. L, 1st New York Engineers and encamped near Richmond, Virginia, where they would spend the entire month of June rebuilding the Mayo Bridge across the James River. Julia’s sister, Emily Miranda Moore married George Parsons Farnsworth, a veteran of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry who was discharged from the service not long after he was seriously wounded at Gettysburg.

This letter was found in the Plattsburgh historian’s files at Plattsburgh, New York. It was transcribed by Chuck Cockrell and provided to Spared & Share for publication.

[See also—1865 Diary of Merritt L. Pierce, Co. L, 1st New York Engineers]


[Schuyler Falls, Clinton county, New York]
[Early May, 1865]

Friend Merritt,

I have just received your letter. I had about given up the thought of hearing again from you, or while you remained in the South, but I fully pardon your tardiness in replying because I see it was impossible for it to be otherwise and a soldier’s time is not his own. I am glad your health is good. I fear I would not know you were I to meet you unexpectedly. I wish I could write you like this—“my health is good, never better”—and speak the truth, but I cannot. No, friend Merritt, I am in very poor health at present. I have been confined to bed most of the time for two weeks. Am somewhat better today. I have had some fever with slight cold. I think I should be quite smart in a few days, if I am careful.

[My brother] Elvin is much better now, but not able do anything as yet. The other two members of the family are well as usual, except Silas, who has his hands and arms poisoned very badly by the flax (flying) where he has been to work. The skin was completely covered with eruptions. He has been unable to work for several weeks. Is some better though now. Your people are well as usual. Your little brother was here the other day to get a library book. He is quite a “book” boy.

There was great rejoicing here when the glorious news “Richmond is ours!” reached us. The late victories put the people in very good spirits. We had quite an exhibition and display of fireworks and firearms for two or three nights on the renowned hill of our imposing city, Morrisonville. But oh! Merritt—how soon the terrible news, “Our President, our chief magistrate, is laid low by the assassin’s hand!” The mass of people would not—could not believe it. Even after it was confirmed later in the day, they would shake their heads in an undecided, half-affirmative way, prone to disbelieve that such a great sorrow had come unto them. 

They were prone to disbelieve there was a being in the likeness of God whose heart was destitute of all human feelings and natural affection. How dreadful the thought! But it has been meted out of him according to his deserts. But the blood of the innocent will cry out against him in judgement. I am glad he [Lincoln] lived to see the bright of dawn of the day of liberty.

We think most of the soldiers will return home soon. We heard two Virginia Regiments are ordered to Washington to be disbanded. I hope it is true.

Merritt L. Pierce

Well, Merritt, I will try to finish my letter now. Should not have neglected it so long. Had I been well, I have not been able to write until today. I feel considerable better. It is trying to rain some. Hilla is at school (Miss Holcome’s) over on the plank—quite a long walk. Miranda and Carrie are at home this summer. They are not seperate much of the time. I overheard Carrie and Miranda speaking of nice times they used to have at parties e’re this dreadful war had made such a ravage and taken so many of our members. “The good old days (said Miranda), will they come back again?” “Yes (said Carrie), keep up good courage. They are close at hand.” And I am beginning to think so too. There is one I shall miss, oh how sadly. He laid himself on the alter of his country and perished nobly. I shall not wish him back for he is better off, I have reason to think, than in this cold selfish world. There is one consolation—we can see him again sometime if He wills it. It must be very pleasant indeed, so near that beautiful river. I am sorry that you have to work so hard. I fear you will be lonesome after you get home, being away from your comrades.

General Sherman is not in favor in the North just at present. Some will have it [that] he is slightly deranged. I hope it is nothing more serious than that. 1 What do soldiers think of proceedings relative to Johnston’s army? Or are the newspapers at fault? He is thought by some to be too aspiring for a citizen of the United States and one holding his position. He must be deranged. Certainly, if his ———?———- has been played out.

There has been a serious  accident happened in this place a few days since. Frank Sanborn had his right hand cut and mangled terribly by a circular saw in the foundry. It was impossible to save it. Dr. John Moore  took it off at the wrist. There was five doctors in attendance. It is indeed a very bad loss. Everybody is very kind to him and are taking up a subscription for him. It is thought that he will be helped to the amount of a thousand dollars. That will buy the tavern he is to move into soon and the rent of his new house will be sixty dollars per year. That, and his office (collector) will help him some. I think he will manage to get along very well.

Watson Hayes 2 was cut up very badly sometime ago by the finishing knives in the flax machine. If it were not for the timely aid and forethought of Silas, he would have been killed. It is thought, Silas flew to the gate in an instant and put it down the second time, but the savage knives had well nigh done their fatal work.

A deserter was arrested at the falls a day or so two since and sent down to the army. Resman, by name. I have forgotten if I informed you of my cousin Lester Moore’s death. He starved nearly to death in Salisbury prison. He came as far as New York City after his release and then there died. A letter was written to his father informing him of his whereabouts, but he did not receive the letter until some time after his death. Will Finn went down after his remains and he was buried beside his dear Mother. Elder Smith preached his funeral sermon. We knew naught his whereabouts and terrible suffering until it was all over. Oh, that it might have been in our power to relieve him! 3

I wish it was in my power to provide you with better food than hard tack. I should think you should need a new set of teeth every two weeks. I hope you will be home by the 4th of July. I passed my 23rd birthday last Monday (1st of May). Was sorry that the Dr. called and left some medicine that day. I should have mailed this sooner had I felt able to write. Please write soon. From your ever true friend,  — Julia [Moore]

P. S. Please give my best regards to Will, Edgar, & [?].

He that watches over you this far will still continue to protect the soldier boy and bring him safe home.

We just heard Sherman shot Grant. We think it’s a false report, of course. It cannot be true. That is to horrid to believe!

1 It is true that some detractors of Sherman maligned him in the press even at this late stage of the war, calling him a “Traitor” an a “madman” but these attacks were silenced rather quickly by President Johnson, General U. S. Grant, and others who came to his defense.

2 Lucius “Watson” Hayes (1847-1914) was the son of Reuben Hayes (1815-1891) and Caroline S. Scribner (1819-1899) of Plattsburgh, Clinton county, New York.

3 Lester K. Moore (1844-1865) was the son of Jacob H. Moore (1818-1870) and Martha Marsh (1823-1851) of Beekmantown, Clinton county, New York. Lester enlisted in Co. B, 96th New York Infantry in October 1861 and was carried as present on muster rolls until 27 October 1864 when he was taken prisoner. We learn from the letter that he was confined in Salisbury (North Carolina) Prison until exchanged and that he expired in New York City on 11 April 1865.

1863: William Russell Dunham to Warren Snow Barrows

This letter was written by William Russell Dunham (1833-1911), the son of Ira Dunham (1806-1878) and Savona Prentice (1810-1878) of Chesterfield, Cheshire county, N. H. He attended lectures at the Berkshire Medical college and at Harvard University were he graduated in 1865. He then practiced Allopathic Medicine in Westmoreland and then Keen, New Hampshire. In 1858, William was married to Mary Ann Prentice (1832-1871).

William’s wife, Mary Ann, was the daughter of Bradley Prentice (1811-1888) and Sally Barrows (1809-1897). Sally was a younger sister of Warren Barrows (1800-1868)—the father of the recipient of this letter, Warren Snow Barrows (1824-1888). Hence, the correspondents were cousins by marriage. Warren was married to Maria L. Walker (1828-1919).

William’s letter provides the first indication of a second Northern invasion by Lee’s army. New York and Baltimore papers were reporting as early as 30 May 1863 (the day before this letter was written) that, “the rebel army is evidently moving” on a “probably commencement of offensive operations.” Gen. Lee was reported to have issued an order to his troops “that they are to have long and rapid marches through a country without railroads.” [Baltimore Sun, 30 May 1863]

Curiously, after the letter was penned, William affixed a lithographic image of John Charles Frémont to the letterhead. Of course Frémont was an outspoken abolitionist and was the first nominee of the Republican Party and his name was still being touted as a possible nominee for President in 1864. Did William do this to spite his cousin whom he must have known was an anti-war Democrat?

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Greg Herr and was transcribed and published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Addressed to W. S. Barrows, Hinsdale, New Hampshire

May 31, 1863

Cousin Barrows,

I have been writing a few letters today & thinking that you deserved one, I pen a few lies. We are keeping house but shall not live in this only until fall. I have a nice garden, easy hoeing, although the land has not been manured much for the last five years. It gives me an advantage—weeds die easy.

In the way of mosquitoes we have a splendid assortment—music all day long and part of the night. You would think Gabriel was blowing his trumpet when they get their pipes all tuned. I have a mosquito net 12 x 15 feet that protects me nights. When the insects journey on, I wish you and family to come and see us.

I have nineteen kinds of fruit—apples, pears, peaches, cherries, currants artichokes, carroway, barberries, coriander, rhubarb, [ ], Cape gooseberry, &c. &c.

I hear from G—- 1 occasionally. He is a doing well, I think, I suppose we shall meet on the banks of the Potomac with bayonets set, according to the present indications of army requirements. What are you a going to do? Fight or travel? Mary Ann wants to have them draft. She thinks it will be a fine thing. What do you say, Maria? Mary Ann & I send our respects to wife & children. Please write soon all the news.

Yours, — W. R. Dunham

I would fight here before I would go one step. —Mary Ann

I am afraid you cannot read the address, Warren. — M. A. D.

1 I can’t be certain who William refers to as “G—–” but my hunch is that it was his younger brother German Dunham. German enlisted in Co. A, 14th New Hampshire Infantry in August 1862 but according to company records, he deserted at Poolesville, Maryland, on 23 February 1863—possibly defecting to the Confederate army.

1863: Andrew Russell Barrows to Warren Snow Barrows

The following letter was written by Andrew W. Barrows (1832-1871), a native of New Hampshire, who was a market man with a stall in the New Faneuil Hall Market in the 1860s and who died of typhoid pneumonia in Washington D. C. in March 1871. He was married to Lydia Adelia Pettingill (1839-1870).

Andrew was the son of Warren Barrows (Unk-1868) and Phila Smith (Unk-1838) of Westmoreland, Cheshire county, New Hampshire. He wrote the letter to his old brother, Warren Snow Barrows (1824-1888) of Hinsdale, Cheshire county, New Hampshire. Warren was married to Maria L. Walker (1828-1919). Warren was an active member of the Democratic Party in Hinsdale and served as chairman of the Board of Selectmen for many years. One of his last duties in the town was as depot master.

We learn from the letter that Warren had recently returned from the Battlefield of Gettysburg. His reason for visiting Gettysburg is not stated in the letter but my hunch is that he went there to retrieve the body of Sgt. Abraham H. Cooper (1827-1863) of Co. F, Hiram Berdan’s 1st U. S. Sharpshooters (Regular Army). Sgt. Cooper was killed in action while on a reconnaissance at Pitzer’s Woods in 2 July 1863. 1 He was the unmarried son of Arad Cooper (1787-1856) and Hannah Fisher (1794-1834) of Hinsdale. In August 1863, a month after the battle, Warren was appointed by the Judge of Probate in Cheshire county to serve as the Administrator of Abraham’s Estate which probably necessarily included his burial and attendant expenses.

Administrator’s Notice published in the Cheshire Republican on 5 August 1863, Keene, N. H.

Andrew’s letter makes it pretty clear that he placed the blame for the war squarely at the feet of the abolitionists, stating that he “would sooner see some of these long hailed folks (meaning abolitionists) rot on the ground than a southern Rebel.” The letter was written less than a month before Lincoln delivered his address at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery.

See also—1864: Andrew Russell Barrows to Warren Snow Barrows.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Greg Herr and was transcribed and published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Addressed to Warren S. Barrows, Hinsdale, New Hampshire

Boston, [Massachusetts]
October 21, 1863

Brother Warren,

I received your letter this morning and was very glad to hear you were alive as it had been so long since I heard from you. I began to think you had gone to war or else you were dead. I was surprised to hear you had been out to the great Battle field at Gettysburg. I think you mist of seen things that you never dreamt of or expected to see in your life time. I am sure I would like to go there but [at] the same time, I would not like to see the poor fellows bones piled up on the top of the ground to rot no matter whether they are rebels or abolitionists. I would sooner see some of these long hailed folks rot on the ground than a southern Rebel.

Cooper’s Headstone in Pine Grove Cemetery in Hinsdale, NH

I han’t time to write any news now so I close hoping to hear from you soon. Yours truly, &c., — Andrew

Enclosed I send you a check for $200. Please write soon as you receive it and let me know if you do get it all right. All well.

1 “Students of the Battle of Gettysburg are familiar with the reconnaissance action at Pitzer’s Woods. At noon on July 2, 1863, 300 Union soldiers probed the Confederate position. Four companies from Col. Hiram Berdan’s 1st U.S. Sharpshooters—about 100 men—led the way. They formed into skirmish line in the woods near the Warfield and Flaherty farms and then pushed northward, moving along the crest of Seminary Ridge. When the four companies reached a position northwest of the Staub Farm, they made contact with three regiments from Brig. Gen. Cadmus Wilcox’s brigade, the 8th, 10th, and 11th Alabama. A twenty-minute fire-fight developed. After it was all over, the 1st U.S. Sharpshooters counted their losses. They had subtracted nineteen officers and men. Of this number, five had been killed in action (including Sgt. Cooper).” [See Tales from the Army of the Potomac, by Timothy Orr]

1862: Orlando Comstock Geer to Harriett Cordelia Geer

I’ve seen lots of patriotic stationery sold by James Gates of Cincinnati but this is the only time I’ve seen this particular design, entitled “The Southerner as He Was.”

The following letter was written by Orlando Comstock Geer (1840-1927), the son of Alexander Hamilton Beer (1811-1879) and Cordelia Comstock (1815-1897) of Maumee, Lucas county, Ohio. He was the oldest of three children, including Amos Wight (1843-1900) and Harriet Cordelia (Geer) Church (1847-1936). This letter was addressed to his sister Harriet, or “Hattie,” who later married John Anderson Church (1842-1894), a veteran of the 25th and 75th OVI.

When the Civil War broke out, Orlando enlisted in Co. A of the 14th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) as a Corporal. This unit participated in the siege of Corinth, the Tullahoma Campaign, the occupation of Middle Tennessee, the Chickamauga Campaign, the Chattanooga-Ringgold Campaign, and the Atlanta Campaign. Geer was promoted to Sergeant on May 21, 1865 and mustered out on July 11, 1865. He returned to Lucas County after the war, where he lived until his death in Maumee on February 9, 1927.

The 14th OVI sustained its heaviest casualties of the war at the Battle of Chickamauga: 35 killed, 167 wounded, and 43 missing, or 245 of 460 men. To read a great account of that pitched battle, see my friend Dan Master’s Civil War Chronicles, “Defending the 14th Ohio Infantry Flag at Chickamauga.”


Winchester, Tennessee
August 5th 1862

Dear Hattie,

We arrived here yesterday after a long and tedious march of 125 miles from Tuscumbia, Alabama. We stopped at Pulaski, Tennessee, two days and then came on as far as here. When we got to Pulaski, we intended to stay a good while but Gen. Buell telegraphed Gen. Fry to report with his brigade to this place.

I have been very well so far. This last march was pretty hard on us. The last few days were pretty hot. Generally we have had very pleasant weather. It has not been as hot as I anticipated in Secessia. There are various conjectures as to our destination—some saying we are after Gen. Hardy who has 30,000 men 30 miles from here strongly entrenched; others reporting us after the barbarous guerrilla Morgan. But in war, we never know anything till it transpires and then ain’t positive till we see it.

I will write at all events as soon as possible. I will have to close as the mail is going out. Write soon, dear sister. Give my love to all. Forgive me for not writing soon as I could. We have been moving ever since I wrote last.

Excuse the briefness of this as well as all imperfections as I wrote it in a great hurry. I did not know the mail was going out till a few minutes ago. Farewell till I hear from you again.

From your loving brother, — Orlando C. Geer

1862: Samuel Aborn Wightman Arnold to Phebe (Wightman) Arnold

The following letter was written by Samuel Aborn Wightman Arnold (1842-1902), the son of John William Arnold (1817-1885) and Phebe Holdridge Wightman (1818-1882) of Warwick, Kent county, Rhode Island.

Some sources state that the 10th Rhode Island wore Zouave uniforms but I don’t believe all of the companies did. This is Sergt. John R. Allen of Co. I, 10th R. I.

Samuel enlisted in Co. B, 10th Rhode Island Infantry in late May 1862 and mustered out of the service some 90 days later on 1 September 1862. The regiment was detailed to garrison duty in the forts about Washington D. C. Company B included about 125 students from Brown University and Providence High School. Its captain for three months was Elisha Dyer, the former governor of Rhode Island. Legend has it that Brown’s President Sears consented to allow his students to enlist only on the condition that Gov. Dyer accompany them. They were posted at Fort Pennsylvania along with Co. K for the duration of their term of service. The fort stood near Tennallytown at the top of the hill that marks the highest point in Washington, D. C. It was built in the winter of 1861 by the 119th Pennsylvania Regiment, and was named Fort Pennsylvania until 1863 when the name was changed to honor Major General Jesse Lee Reno, who died at the Battle of South Mountain in 1862. 

Samuel married Mary Jane Fuller in 1867 and worked as a painter after the war.

Fort Pennsylvania & Encampment of the 10th Rhode Island just outside the fort. Co. B’s tents are 16-21 and Co. K’s tents are 22-27. Drawn in 1862 by W. E. Cushing (LOC)


Fort Pennsylvania
August 3rd 1862

I now take these few moments to write you a few lines. I was on guard yesterday and came off guard this morning at 8 o’clock. We had a meeting this forenoon. We have our guns loaded every night. We have to be careful with them. It is very warm here. This is the warmest month of the year.

What do you think we had for dinner? Well, I will tell you what we had. We had some green corn, roast beef. I can tell you it was good. I have some fruit cake left yet. I have not used any of my tea yet for we have very good tea every night.

I must stop writing a few moments to eat my supper. We have got bread and tea. I have finished my supper and I will go on with writing. It rained very hard this afternoon. We have a Dress Parade every evening and Battalion Drill every two days. Mr. Clapp came in the tent and left some tracts. I am as well as anyone can wish. You don’t know what rumors runs through the camp—some saying that we will go home in six months and some says that we will go home in two weeks.

Co. B. fall in. I will go on with my writing once more. We have not received no money except our bounty money. It is a splendid evening. The rain has cooled the air very much. Camp life is a lazy life, I can tell you.

How does Old Moll get along? And has Father got any pigs? There was two boxes came in our tent this morning and we had a grand treat all round. Tell James to write. Should like to have a letter from him very much. I have lost my shirt and two handkerchiefs and one pair of drawers. I have got my undershirt that I wore when I left home. You will find a letter in the Press last Thursday.

I am sorry that I have not wrote to Fred or Hannah. I don’t know what they think of me. I have put it off so long now that I am ashamed to write now. I could not have the two certificates made out at once for the two months were not up. Charley Wilbur had his two months drawn into one.

It is a pretty sight [to] see signal lights displayed from one fort to fort. I think myself lucky that I have not been sick. There is seven of the Co. K sick with the fever. I don’t know any more to write so I must bid you goodbye. From your son, — S. A. W. Arnold

Pawtucket, Rhode Island

1863: John Teague to his Sister

I could not find an image of John but here is one of Henry Heath who served in Co. H, 6th Iowa Cavalry
(Iowa Civil War Images)

The following letter was written by 19 year old John Teague of Fayette County, Iowa—an emigrant from England. John enlisted in Co. C, 6th Iowa Cavalry on 22 September 1862 and mustered in on the same day. He was promoted to Eighth Corporal on 28 May 1865 and mustered out on 17 October 1865 at Sioux City, Iowa. 

The Sixth Regiment of Iowa Cavalry was organized under a special order of the War Department, dated September 9, 1862. The twelve companies of which the regiment was composed were ordered into quarters by the Governor, on dates ranging from about the 1st of November, 1862, to near the last of February, 1863. The rendezvous designated in the order was Camp Hendershott, near Davenport, Iowa, where the companies were-mustered into the service of the United States, by Captain H. B. Hendershott, of the Regular Army, on dates ranging from January 31 to March 5, 1863. Upon the muster in of the last company the regiment had an aggregate strength of 1,125, rank and file. 


Patriotic Letterhead of stationery

Camp Hendershott 1
[Davenport, Iowa]
February 12, [1863]

Dear Sister,

Your letter of the seventh came to hand today and very glad I was to receive it too. I was glad to hear that you are all well. I am well at present with the exception of a cold. It is rather lonesome here at present, there being only a few of us, about forty, being furloughed—Jesse and I being amongst the lot. I expected to come home when Jesse came but they could not spare me but I shall have a chance and if you wish me to come home, send down by Jesse and let me know and I will come home. But if you do not wish me to come home, I shall not come.

We had a fine fall of snow last night. it fell to the depth of four inches and you may bet the sleigh bells were jingling, it being the first time this winter down here. But I suppose you have plenty of snow up there.

The barracks tonight are almost as quiet as if no one [was] here. I am kept quite busy every day having to see to the feeding, cleaning, and the rest of the work around forty-eight horses, the Orderly having put me in as boss and therefore it keeps me busy.

I hope you have fine times up there as we do down here. We were mustered the last day of last month and received twenty-seven dollars. We are expecting thirteen dollars more every day and just as soon as I receive that, if you want me to come home, I will come. I sent six dollars home by Jesse, that being all I could spare this time. I lent Jesse six dollars and owed the sutler eight dollars so that I only had seven dollars left. We drawed our sabres and rifles the other day so that we are practicing the manual of arms everyday.

I have seen John [Sheldon] Stearns two or three times since we have been home and he has told me how dull the times is up there and all about the girls and the rest of the news. And I must come to a close. You must excuse my poor writing mistakes and all the rest of it for the reason that I am in an awkward place and a poor light. Give my respects to all enquiring friends. Write soon.

I received a letter from William and he said he was well. I remain your affectionate brother, — John Feuga

1 Camp Hendershott (1862 – 1863) was located between 13th, Locust, Ripley, and Scott Streets in Davenport, Iowa. It was named for Capt. Hendershott who was the Govt. Superintendent of State Recruiting in Iowa.

1864: William H. Doster to his Aunt

This letter was written by 32 year-old William H. Doster. He and Quartermaster Sergeant Edward P. Paul, also mentioned in the letter, were members of Hilliard’s Legion, Alabama Volunteers. This command went into camp at Montgomery, Alabama, and served in eastern Tennessee.

I could not find an image of William but here is one of Francis M. Sconyers of Coosa County who served with William in Hilliard’s Legion and later in the 59th Alabama Infantry. (Case Auctions)

After fighting in the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia, Sept. 19-20, 1863, the 59th Alabama Infantry was created in November, 1863, at Charleston, Tennessee, from remnants of the 2nd and 4th Battalions, Hilliard’s Alabama Legion. Many of the men from Coosa county who served in Capt. Walden’s Co. B (like Doster) were placed in Co. K of the 59th Alabama. The regiment was assigned to General Gracie’s Brigade, took part in the Knoxville Campaign, then moved to Virginia where it lost heavily at Drewry’s Bluff and in June, 1864, had a force of about 240 men. Later it participated in the long Petersburg siege north of the James River and in various conflicts around Appomattox.

This letter was datelined in early September 1864 from Dinwiddie County. The battle reports of the regiment inform us that “the last two fights” in which the regiment suffered 14 men killed, wounded, and missing referred to skirmishes at Petersburg and the Battle of the Crater.

[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Greg Herr and was transcribed and published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Dinwiddie County, Virginia
September 3rd 1864

Dear Aunt Cole,

I received your letter yesterday and was glad to hear from you all. I am always glad to get a letter from you as I am to get one from home. You give me the news. I got one from Uncle Jo yesterday and he said Uncle Cole was making some Stagger Juice & supposed Pa would make some too. I am in hopes they will make enough to supply their wants & some to spare to their friends.

“I got [a letter] from Uncle Jo yesterday and he said Uncle Cole was making some Stagger Juice & supposed Pa would make some too. I am in hopes they will make enough to supply their wants & some to spare to their friends.”

—William H. Doster, 59th Alabama Infantry, 3 Sept. 1864

I will give you a sketch of the crops in this country. Corn is very good and everything else. I have not eat more corn than I ever eat in my life. The stealing you need not be uneasy about. Uncle Gran [?] he is better off than any of us is today. He has just what any of us would of done. And when I am treated the way he was, I am going the same way.

I saw Edward Paul the other day and he told me he was all right if he will stay. So you will hear from him soon, I guess. The reason I didn’t write more, I was afraid to write & did just as I thought best. He was treated worse than I ever intend to be by any passel of dogs.

I want you to write as soon as you get this and give me all the news in your neighborhood. We will go on picket tomorrow morning and I think we will have some fun if not before. The Yanks is very saucy. We lost 14 men out in the last two fights—four killed on the field, nine wounded and one missing. I am in hopes the war will soon come to a close.

The weather is getting very cool here now. I will bring this scribbling to a close as I don’t know anything else to write. Write soon. From your nephew, — W. H.

Give my love to your Pa and Matt & the rest of the family.

— Wm. H. Doster

1862: Gilson Mendall to Elmira (Foye) Mendall

I could not find an image of Gilson but here is a cdv of Samuel A. Bagley who served in Co. H, 9th Maine Infantry (Photo Sleuth)

This letter was written by Gilson Mendall (1837-1887), the son of Sylvanus Mendall (1807-1872) and Mary Soule (1805-1874) of Canton, Oxford county, Maine. Gilson was married in March 1860 to Elmira Foye. According to enlistment records, Gilson entered Co. F, 9th Maine Infantry as a private in mid-September 1861 and was mustered out as a corporal after three years and 10 months service in July 1865.

The 9th Maine Infantry was organized at Augusta and mustered in September 22, 1861. It proceeded to Washington and briefly served in the Washington Defenses before joining the expedition to Port Royal, SC, attached to the Department of the South. The 9th Maine participated in a number of minor combined operations resulting in the capture of Forts Walker and Beauregard and later occupied Fernandina, Florida. The regiment then shifted to operations at Charleston arriving at Hilton Head in January 1863, assigned to the 10th Corps.


Hilton Head, South Carolina
January 16th 1862

Dear Wife,

I will write you a few lines again tonight. I am well as common. I am a little lame yet but my health is as good as it has been for a long time. Coleman is at the hospital yet but he is getting better. I think that he will be out again in a few days at longest. Elisha Bisbee is dead. He died last Monday night. I think they said that it was the typhoid fever that he died with. He was not sick but a few days. I can imagine how his mother will feel. He died very easy—the same as though he was going to sleep. 1

It is very rainy and cold tonight. It seems like October. It rains about half of the time now. The niggers say that it will for about a month. There is a lot of them on the island—a number of hundreds of them. 

The report is that we are a going to move soon and I hope we shall for I thought they should be doing something to close this thing up (they won’t let me go into battle for I am lame). They want that I should cook and I think that seeing I have cooked so long that I shall keep. [I also] help on the mail some and we expect it in a few minutes so I will wait and see if I get any letters. I hope I shall. The last that I got from you was dated December 29th. I want you should number your letters on the lower corner. Begin at 1, then 2, 3, 4 and so on. I will do the same. I am expecting a letter from Father. I wish your folks would write to me. I would write to them if I could get time and I will try to answer Harriet’s letter soon and write to John to tell him and everybody else that I don’t believe a word about Old England fighting us. If they do, he will have to come and no backing out.

We have not got paid off yet. They say that the money is on the island to pay us with but I don’t know. Write how much money you have got. I sent you 25 dollars. There is any amount of niggers here every day selling oysters—men, women and children. I should as leave sleep with an old sow as to one of them. They are very nasty looking things and I think that their masters are plagey fools to make the best of them. I shall have to take another sheet of paper. — Gilson

1 Elisha Bisbee of Canton, Maine, was 18 years old when he enlisted as a corporal in Co. F, 9th Maine Infantry. He died on 14 January 1862.

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]