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.


A sixth plate tintype of an unidentified member of the 12th Illinois Infantry, famously known as the 1st Scotch Regiment. He’s wearing the early-war state-issued tunic cut from gray fabric with blue cuff facings, six button front, and the Scotish tam or bonnet widely worn by the regiment. (This image was sold on WorthPoint)

[Insert bio (yet to be written)] of J. Frederick Hammerly, born 1834 in Koenigreich, Wirtemberg, Germany. Came to America on 3 October 1852.

This is the second diary of J. F. H. I have transcribed. It is identified as “Vol. 3” but Vol. 2 is missing. The first diary may be found here:

1861-62 Diary of Frederick Hammerly, Co. B, 12th Illinois Infantry

Frederick’s brother, Jacob Hammerly, enlisted on 25 August 1861 in Co. B, 12th Illinois Infantry. Drowned 15 September 1861 Residence place give: Amboy, Illinois.


J. Frederick Hammerly. Bought at Corinth, Mississippi, October 10th 1862

October 1862

October 10, 1862. Friday. Yesterday and ever since the 2nd, it has been very warm but today it is raining and growing cold. Fires feeling very comfortable.
October 11 & 12. Saturday & Sunday had been very cold for the Sunny South this time in the year. Prisoners are being paroled ever since the 6th. Received two letters—one from Mr. Brigham, another from (Mich).
October 13 Monday had been quite cool last night but it’s now warm. Sent a letter to Michigan
October 14. Tuesday. Weather fair. We are on duty every other day since the [2nd] Battle of Corinth doing Provost or Picket Duty.

October 15 & 16. Wednesday & Thursday. Nights are cold. Guards are surrounding the fires. Received a letter from New York.
October 17 Friday. Moved our camp northeast of Corinth. I am on Camp Guard.
October 18 Saturday. Weather fair. Received a letter from M. B.
October 19. Sunday. Cold nights and warm days. Guarded prisoners. Sent a letter to Rushville.
October 20. Monday. I came off from guard this morning. The guards we relieved let a prisoner run away, consequently the orders were strict. Had a frost this morning.

October 21. Tuesday. Has been quite windy today. Sent a letter to George. Saw Charlie Dykeman in the 21st Missouri. They are talking of going home.
October 22. Wednesday. I am on camp guard. It is very warm. The 21st Missouri left Corinth for home before daylight. Co. K of our regiment have orders to take charge of artillery. Sent a letter to Helena, Arkansas. Received a letter from George.
October 23. Thursday. Weather warm. Our stove feels comfortable this evening.
October 24. Friday. Moved our camp a few rods in order to let them build a fort. Commenced clouding up before sundown. Had a very cold night. Co. K is going to stay.
October 25. Saturday. It is a very cold day—cold enough to snow. 4 o’clock it snows like blazes. Cold enough to freeze. Am on Provost Guard.
October 26. Sunday. Very cold this morning. The ground is covered with snow and frozen hard. Come off from guard this morning at 10 o’clock. Sent a letter to brother.
October 27. Monday. Had a very heavy frost this morning. Suffered much from cold last night. The troops are breaking down houses like everything. The breastworks are growing fast in front of us. I went on Camp Guard this morning. Received a letter from Mother.
October 28. Tuesday. Weather warmer. Came off from guard at 9 o’clock this morning. Heard from [brother] Martin through Glick. Sent a letter to Conrad mother, to sister Katie, a third to M. Page.
October 29. Wednesday. Weather growing warmer. Am on guard.
October 30. Tuesday. Had a frost last night but is warm today.
October 31, 1862. Corinth, Mississippi. Am on guard. It is warm. Had muster for inspection in general. Received a letter from George.

A sample of Frederick’s handwriting

November 1862

November 1, 1862. Saturday. It is quite warm today. Had a letter from Ch. Alf[red].
November 2. Sunday. It had been cloudy last night. This morning it is quite foggy. Troops are on a move ever since 2 o’clock this morning. Their destination is reported to be Bolivar. 11 o’clock a. m. It is now real warm. Have been on guard camp.
November 3. Monday. Had been warm today. Sent a letter to George and one to New York enclosed.
November 4, 1862. Tuesday a.m. on Provost Guard. It is real warm today noon. Sent a letter to Ch. Alf.
November 5. Wednesday. It is getting cold. This evening the wind is blowing big guns. Many have to hold their tents down. The dust blowing through our tent. The night it commenced raining. It did no rain much. Received a letter from M. Northway.

November 6. Thursday. Had been very cold this morning. A fresh breeze blowing all day. Was on ordinary fatigue.
November 7, 1862. Friday. The wind is again blowing heavy guns. Received a letter from Lew Roff.
November 8, 1862. Saturday. Am on Provost Guard. More hopes of leaving here. Drawed a pair of socks and one overshirt. Sent a letter to Benton Barracks to Martin.

November 9, 1862. Sunday. Corinth, Tishomingo Co., Mississippi. It has been warmer today than its been for weeks back although last night was a severe one. The ground was white in the morning with frost. Went as an escort to help bring Trover of Co. C.
November 10, 1862. Monday. Has been quite pleasant today. Went on the sick report. Had several chills last night.
November 11, 1862. Tuesday. Windy towards evening.
November 12. Wednesday. Rained nearly all last night and part of today. Cloudy this evening. Took medicine three times today.
November 13. Thursday. Was cloudy and frost this morning but now it is clear and warm. Received a slip from Martin.

November 14, 1862. Friday. Weather fair and pleasant. Sent a letter to Cousin Fred.
November 15. Saturday. Weather fair. Sent a line to Martin. After sundown, received a letter from him and another from R. M. Brigham.
November 16. Sunday. Went on Camp Guard this morning. Has been real warm last night. Looks like rain.
November 17. Monday. It is sprinkling at intervals, warm and calm.
November 18. Tuesday. It’s cloudy all day. Commenced raining several times. went after rails about 3 miles out.

November 19. Wednesday. Rained this morning. I was on Provost Guard. Cloudy nearly all day.
November 20. Thursday. Has been cold and windy last night. The majority of Companies C & B went off guarding a train of wagons to some place. Has been clear and cloudy today. The artillery had a shooting match today. Some thought it an attack.

November 21. Friday. Clear, cloudy, cold and windy.
November 22. Weather clear and warm. Was on Water Fatigue.
November 23, 1862. Sunday. Weather fair. Helped get some wood. Sent a letter to Brother John and Martin.

November 24, 1862. Monday. Weather fair. Had review yesterday. Received a letter from sister Maria. Another from C. Alf. Hammerly told me of the unexpected death of cousin William. Sent a letter to M. North [?]
November 25, 1862. Tuesday. Clear and cloudy alternately but cold all day. Received intelligence of a forage train being captured. Also of our correspondence between here and Columbus being cut off. No train came in the night. Am on Camp Guard. Received a letter from Rushville, Pennsylvania.
November 26, 1862. Wednesday. Weather clear and cold. Rumors afloat of the rebels again advancing on here with the intention to siege it. The road is fight again and a train left here for Columbus this afternoon.

November 27, 1862. Thursday. Had been very cold last night bu it is warm today. Had Battalion drill.
November 28, 1862. Friday. Weather cold, clear, and cloudy. Sent a letter to Ch. Alfred. Another to Rushville.
November 29, 1862. Saturday. Weather fair. Received two Watchman’s. Sent a letter to No. 2. N. Y. had a regimental drill.
November 30, 1862. Sunday. Weather warm and cloudy. Looks like rain. Noon, sprinkling now. I am on patrol. Sent a letter to Mr. Brigham.

December 1862

Capt. Henry Willard Allen of Co. G, 7th Illinois Infantry was shot by Sergt. John Myers on 3 December 1862. According to Hammerly’s diary, the captain died three days later, 6 December 1862.

December 1, 1862. Monday. Weather wintery.
December 2, 1862. Tuesday. Had a cold rain last night. Today it is quite cold. Rains and snows at intervals.
December 3, 1862. Wednesday. Weather fair. Am on camp guard. One of the 7th Illinois shot a captain while discussing politics.

December 4, 1862. Thursday. Commenced clouding up early this morning. Part of three companies—B included—went to guard a train of wagons to LaGrange. Had several small rains through the day.
December 5, 1862. Friday. Had a considerable rain last night and snowed nearly all the forenoon. 4 o’clock p.m., seems to be clearing off. One of the 7th Illinois shot a Captain [Henry W. Allen of Co. G, 7th Illinois].
December 6, 1862. Saturday. Had a very cold night. Froze hard. I am on provost patrol today. I am guarding the Sergeant [John Myers] of the 7th Illinois who shot a Captain [Henry W. Allen of Co. G] in a quarrel. The Captain died this morning.
[Sgt. John Myers was hung for his crime on 28 April 1864.
December 7, 1862. Sunday. Weather clear but cold. Had a very cold night. Had general review.
December 8, 1862. Monday. Weather fair. Sent a letter to No. 1 N. Y. The detailed guards came back tonight from LaGrange. One of Co. I was shot through both legs by an accidental discharge of a musket on the cars. Drawed a pair of boots.
December 9, 1862. Tuesday. Weather warm. Have been out 10 to 12 miles foraging.
December 10, 1862. Wednesday. Corinth, Mississippi. Another warm and comfortable day. Had Battalion Drill. Sent a letter to Mo.
December 11, 1862. Thursday. Had been very warm today. Helped get some fire wood.
December 12, 1862. Friday. Weather warm, cloudy and sprinkling at intervals. Went down to Glendale with a telegrapher on a handcar. Received a letter from Martin. Another from Charles Dykeman (Mo.), a third from N. Y. No. 2. Co. I man who had been shot through the legs had them both amputated (is alive).
December 13, 1862. Saturday. Had been very warm and comfortable but windy. This evening looks like rain. wind increasing. Several detachments left here for Iuka.
December 14, 1862. Sunday. Corinth, Mississippi. Another warm and fair day. Had some rain and considerable wind last night. Wrote a letter to Mich. and received a letter from Bithe and a paper from W. Bingham.
December 15, 1862. Monday. Had several rain storms today mixed with heavy winds. Is quite warmer. More rain towards night. Is growing cold. Am on guard.
December 16, 1862. Tuesday. Weather clear and cold. Received a letter from Cousin Fred. An attack on Jackson, Tennessee is talked of tonight.
December 17, 1862. Wednesday. Had been real cold last night and is clear but cold today. Co. I man who was shot through both legs and amputated coming back on the cars from LaGrange was buried today. His sister, the Captain’s wife of the company, had been here to attend to him. 1

1 The soldier who had both legs shot accidentally while returning to Corinth from LaGrange was wagoner Jacob W. Butt (1842-1862) of Princeton, Illinois. His sister was Alice Butt, was married to William D. Mills (1838-1906), Captain of Co. I, 12th Illinois Infantry.

December 18, 1862. Thursday. Corinth, Mississippi. Weather clear but fresh. I am on patrol. Sent a letter to Mo.
December 19, 1862. Friday. Weather fair and nice today. Three companies of our regiment with the 90th Illinois and others—also some artillery—left last night for somewhere, supposed to harass the Rebels marching on Jackson, Tennessee. They say they are fighting there. The 9th Illinois and 31st Ohio came back with a lot of prisoners from Alabama. No train, no news tonight.
December 20, 1862. Saturday. Weather fair, nice and warm. Am on Provost Guard. Considerable excitement here on account of Jackson being taken by the Rebels. Had strict orders in regard to the last group of prisoners. A mounted infantry company was organized.
December 21, 1862. Sunday. Corinth, Mississippi. Weather fair. Received about one hour in the guard house of Corinth for the complaint of letting a prisoner off. This evening they are moving all Commissary and Quartermaster goods to the main fort. The question–What’s Up? No news tonight.
December 22, 1862. Monday. Had been real warm today. No attack has been made on this place yet. Our forces whipped the Rebels at Jackson the day before yesterday. No reliable news from there has as yet been received although tis only 50 miles from here. A train left for the North but not come back. Today we were put on half rations.
December 23, 1862. Tuesday. Another [day] like summer. Two trains came in with two days mail and some papers. Also the most of the troops that had left this place a few days previous. I am on Provost Guard.
December 24, 1862. Wednesday. Had some rain early this morning but cleared off towards non. Another train came in tonight but only from Jackson. No news and no mail. We have splendid weather. Sent a letter to Peters.
December 25, 1862. Christmas. Weather like summer. Our half rations are felt. Those who have money can have whole. The same are buying their whiskey. Many are having their drinking sprees. This has been a hungry Christmas. A train from Jackson again but no news.
December 26, 1862. Friday. It commenced raining this morning about 9 o’clock and rained most all day and all night. Capt. Sharp—a secesh—got away last night.
December 27, 1862. Saturday. Had considerable rain again today. This evening it cleared off and clouded up alternatively. No news at all. Am on Provost Guard. Drawed a pair of pants.

December 28, 1862. Sunday. Had a real pleasant day today. Had company inspection. A train from Jackson arrived but no news.
December 29, 1862. Monday. Another warm and nice day. No news yet (cut off yet). Am on patrol.
December 30, 1862. Tuesday. Rain almost all day and the biggest part of the night.
December 31, 1862. Wednesday. Clear and cold. Two trains arrived from Jackson

January 1863

January 1, 1863. New Year’s Day. Corinth, Mississippi. Weather has been very warm and agreeable all day. Cut off yet, consequently no news. Living on half rations ever since the 19th. Such a Christmas & New Year’s I never saw!
January 2, 1863. Friday. Had been very windy and clouding up alternatively and [rained] hard all last night. Several regiments left for places unknown—some say to Pittsburg Landing. Co. G went on picket and on Camp Guard.
January 3, 1863. Saturday. Rained much all night and considerable today. The Tennessee River must soon be rising. It is pouring down in torrents this evening.

January 4, 1863. Sunday. Cleared off this morning and proved to be very fine day. Had company inspection this morn. Received a big mail tonight over which was great rejoicing. The mail was carried over the burned and destroyed bridges. Vicksburg is said to be ours sure. Received a letter from Rushville. Another from John Amboy. Third and fourth from camp near Fredericksburg. What a splendid moonlight night!
January 5, 1863. Monday. It is cloudy and windy today. The few papers came in last night was sold for one dollar apiece. According to papers, Burnside is whipped.

January 6, 1863. [No entry]
January 7, 1863. Wednesday. Air cold but clear and sunshine. a large train of provisions arrived here last night. Sent a letter to Alford.
January 8, 1863. Thursday. Weather fair but chilly. Martin arrived tonight. Am on patrol.
January 9, 1863. Friday. Weather fair but is clouding up this eve. The long roll beat today. After we had fallen in, we were dismissed. Sent a letter to Benton Barracks with $1.

January 10, 1863. Saturday. Had some rain last night. Had been very comfortable all day. Some cloudy. Heard heavy thunder all night. Sent a letter to Rushville.
January 11, 1863. Sunday. Looks like spring. Am on Headquarters Guard. A small mail arrived here. Drawed a dress coat, a pair of pants for [John] Griffin, [coat] $6.70; [pants] $3.05.

January 12, 1863. Monday. Weather fair like spring. A train with provisions from Pittsburg Landing arrived here. Had Battalion drill. A letter from Conrad.
January 13, 1863. Tuesday. Warm but windy. Some cloudy. Draw whole rations again.
January 14, 1863. Wednesday. Commenced raining early this morning and it rained hard all day and all night too.
January 15, 1863. Thursday. The rain turned into snow this morning. Snowed most all day but partly melted. am on Provost Guard. Guarded the sharpshooters hospital. Sent a letter to John Church and brother George.

January 16, 1863. Friday. Snowed and blowed the bigger part of today. Found George. Camp of the 72nd Ohio.
January 17, 1863. Saturday. Cleared off last night. The sun shines nice this morning.
January 18, 1863. Sunday. It is clouding up again. the mail consisting of 4 letters came to the regiment, very unfrequent and small. Am on Provost Guard. The snow is melting.
January 19, 1863. Monday. Commenced raining early this morning. Rained all day and part of the night. The snow is gone.
January 20, 1863. Tuesday. It is cloudy, chilly and damp. Rains at intervals. Was detailed for Train Guard. Was dismissed.

January 21, 1863. Wednesday. Is cloudy, damp and the streets are very muddy. Went on Headquarters (Paymaster) Guard, Our paymaster came in this evening.
January 22, 1863. Thursday. Has cleared off this morning and it looks again like spring. This evening at 5 o’clock an expedition left here for Pittsburg Landing or Hamburg Landing.
January 23, 1863. Friday. Cloudy today but warm. went on picket [but] a few hours after were relieved. Got marching orders with three days rations in our haversacks. Ready to start early in the morning.

January 24, 1863. Get our breakfast by candlelight and ready to start. Marched down i town, stacked arms in front of the Corinth Music Hall. About 9 o’clock we left town as a rear guard of a forage train to Hamburg. About noon it commenced raining and rained till after midnight. Arrived at Hamburg about sundown. The train was loaded through the night.
January 25, 1863. Sunday. Left Hamburg about 8 o’clock. Halted about an hour on the hill back of Hamburg, took a different road, arrived at Corinth two hours after dark. Was cloudy and windy but did not rain. We had plenty of mud to tramp through.
January 26, 1863. Monday. Early this morning the 7th Illinois and 81st Ohio were loaded on the train to Hamburg. Had some rain and much wind this afternoon. The paymaster paying the 90th Illinois.
January 27, 1863. Tuesday. Rained much last night. Today is cloudy, damp and chilly.
January 28, 1863. Wednesday. It is cold and cloudy. Was on Fatigue [Duty] last night until 11 o’clock to help unload a train from Hamburg Landing. Snowed some last night. Sent a letter to Cincinnati, Ohio, with $1 D. C.
January 29, 1863. Thursday. Whether fair. Rather windy. Am on Provost Guard. Cut off again below here and Jackson. A train only stove up!
January 30, 1863. Friday. Corinth, Mississippi. Weather fair. were paid for two months. Received a letter from Michigan.
January 31, 1863. Saturday. Weather nice and fair. Had monthly inspection. It sprinkled some on Dress Parade. Voted for to stand by the government. Martin received a letter from Ch. Church.

February 1863

February 1, 1863. Sunday. Drawed blouse and forage cap. Rained last night and part of the day today. It’s warm. Sent $50 to Mr. Bingham by Lieut. Cook and $5 to Martin.
February 2, 1863. Monday. weather clear and comfortable. Turned cold and cloudy towards night. Am on Patrol.
February 3, 1863. Tuesday. Had been very cold last night but cleared. First US Infantry leaves this morning for Vicksburg. Co. G takes their places at Fort [Battery] Williams.

The Memphis & Charleston Railroad facing west with Battery Williams on the left and Battery Robinett on the right.

February 4, 1863. Wednesday. Corinth, Mississippi. Had been cold last night. Came off from Patrol. Is growing colder this morning. Five o’clock p.m., the ground is covered with snow and it snows like everything. went after nails to fix our tent.
February 5, 1863. Thursday. Considerable snow fell last night. Is very cold this morning. Moved our bunks and altered the looks of our tent. Received a letter from Ch. Alf.
February 6, 1863. Friday. Was detailed for taking off condemned horses and mules to Henderson. Went 15 miles and stayed over at a plantation. Quite a number of mules gave out. Had a hard time of it. Was freezing cold.

February 7, 1863. Saturday. Corinth, Mississippi. The snow is melting fast. Went through Purdy. Is a very fine town. Arrived at Henderson after sundown. Got left behind with three more. Stayed over at the telegraph office.
February 8, 1863. Sunday. Slept pretty cold last night. Now waiting for the train from Jackson. Had breakfast with some teamsters. 4 o’clock the train has come and is going. Arrived at Corinth after dark. Up in camp I am. Heard of another fight at Fort Donelson. The rebels whipped. The snow seems to have disappeared from all places but Oh! so windy
February 9, 1863. Monday. Weather moderate. Looking again like rain this evening. Considerable trading done in town. The Adams express is open again. A lot of Christmas boxes received here but everything is spoiled in them.

February 10, 1863. Tuesday. It is very muddy today and is raining at intervals. Two trains arrived from Jackson, Tennessee. Got a check from our money sent by Lieut. Cook.
February 11, 1863. Wednesday. It is very warm today but muddy yet. Am on Camp Fatigue. went after rails for the regimental bakery. Got stuck several time [in mud].
February 12, 1863. Thursday. Rained last night and had two or three showers today. Thundered hard. It is growing cold this evening.
February 13, 1863. Friday. Cleared off last night. Is growing warm. Was detailed to guard a train. Went after wood beyond Chewalla, 11 miles from Corinth on the Memphis & Charleston Railroad.Had been very warm. Sent a Valentine.

February 14, 1863. Saturday. Corinth, Mississippi. Thundered and commenced raining early this morning. Was a rainy day. This eve it thundered hard and heavy dark clouds approaching.
February 15, 1863. Sunday. Weather damp and cloudy. Am on patrol. Rained and thundered hard tonight. Only one letter for the [entire] regiment.
February 16, 1863. Monday. Weather damp and cloudy. Commenced raining on Dress Parade. Our Colonel was going to have us meet at Headquarters in regard of their being the anniversary of the surrender of Fort Donelson [but] on account of the weather it was postponed. Received a letter from Cincinnati.
February 17, 1863. Tuesday. Weather damp and cloudy. Rained last night and this evening it is again raining. Sent $5 to O. A letter to 21st Mo.

February 18, 1863. Wednesday. Corinth, Mississippi. Rained much last night. Today it is damp and cloudy. Went after wood beyond Burnsville.
February 19, 1863. Thursday. Weather damp, windy and cloudy.
February 20, 1863. Friday. Clear but awful windy. Growing warm and nice. The roads are getting dry. A nice moonlit night.
February 21, 1863. Saturday. It commenced to raining this morning early. It’s been raining all day. Am on patrol. A detail left horseback for the Shiloh.
February 22, 1863. Sunday. It is very cold today. The wind is rising. Very dark this evening. Big guns were fired today in honor of Washington’s Birthday. Sent a letter to Chicago with $30.

February 23, 1863. Monday. Corinth, Mississippi. It is rather cold this morning but looks like clearing off. In p.m., the sun shines and the sky is clear again. Sent off a letter to Mich. and to Church and George. A third to Ohio with $2.
February 24, 1863. Tuesday. Weather fair. P. M. is warm and nice. Evening clear and moonshine. Am on camp guard. Received a letter from George and another from N. Y.
February 25, 1863. Wednesday. Commenced raining early this morning. Thundered hard. Considerable rain fell.
February 26, 1863. Thursday. An immense sight of rain fell last night and today it is raining continually. 5 p.m. it looks like clearing off. Am on Provost Guard. Signed the payrolls for two months pay.
February 27, 1863. Friday. Corinth, Mississippi.Today it has been warm and nice. Sent a letter to Ch. Alf.
February 28, 1863. Saturday. Weather fair. Some cloudy in a.m. Considerable wind. Had general muster. Am on camp guard.

March 1863

March 1, 1863. Sunday. Weather had been fair and warm today.
March 2, 1863. Monday. Weather warm and clear and cloudy and windy part of this afternoon. Sent a locket to Katie Henrick.
March 3, 1863. Tuesday. Corinth, Mississippi. Weather fair. Some windy. What a splendid moonlight night. Send a letter to Jim Dy. Amboy Martin to his. 200 Rebels were brought in. Am on camp guard.
March 4, 1863. Wednesday. Weather fair. Nice moonshine. The capture of the Indianola and the Queen of the West is talked of and believed here. Received $4 of the $5…[See The Indianola Affair]

March 5, 1863. Thursday. Weather is cold and cloudy. Snows lightly. Got two months pay.
March 6, 1863. Friday. Weather changeable warm, cold, sunshine and rain. Am on Provost Guard.
March 7, 1863. Saturday. Corinth, Mississippi. Weather the same as yesterday, Considerable rain fell last night. Thundered hard. Sent a letter to Rushville and to Cincinnati, Ohio.

March 8, 1863. Sunday. Weather cloudy but warm; sunshine at intervals. Had an awful hailstorm this evening. Received a letter with negative note paper. Sent off a letter to Brigham.
March 9, 1863. Monday. Cleared off last night. was quite fresh this morning. Went to Chewalla after wood. One car ran off the track.
March 10, 1863. Tuesday. Weather cloudy and considerable rain. Rained much last night. Sent a letter to Chicago
March 11, 1863. Wednesday. Corinth, Mississippi. Weather clear but is rather fresh and windy.
March 12, 1863. Thursday. Weather about the same as yesterday. Am on Camp Fatigue. Sent a letter to Cincinnati.
March 13, 1863. Friday. Weather fair and very nice. Received a letter from Cincinnati.
March 14, 1863. Saturday. Weather warm and nice. Went on extra patrol this afternoon. Received a letter from George’s wife.
March 15, 1863. Sunday. Commenced clouding up early this morning. Looks like rain. Went on weekly inspection.
March 16, 1863. Monday. Corinth, Mississippi. Weather like spring. It cleared off this morning. Sent a letter to George. Another to Cincinnati…
March 17, 1863. Tuesday. Weather fair. very warm all day. Am on patrol. Had two shows and two balls in town.
March 18, 1863. Wednesday. It’s very warm today.
March 19, 1863. Thursday. Very warm—yes, hot. was beyond Glendale as guard to a wood train. Received a letter with S. C. from Cincinnati, Ohio.

March 20, 1863. Friday. Weather fair. Sent to Chicago to Hilton for books to Philadelphia.
March 21, 1863. Saturday. Corinth, Mississippi. Weather warm. Like summer. Am on Paymaster Guard to Chandler.
March 22, 1863. Sunday. Weather foggy, windy and damp. Received a gold pen from Chicago.
March 23, 1863. Monday. Is raining mostly all day, Went after some medicine. Sent to Philadelphia $1. S. C.
March 24, 1863. Tuesday. Weather foggy, damp, and rained at intervals. Received a letter from Michigan. Am on forage guard.
March 25, 1863. Wednesday. Has cleared off but is pretty chilly all day. I received news of being detailed to escort prisoners to Alton, Illinois. Much pleased. A fair show for a short furlough.
March 26, 1863. Thursday. Memphis, Tennessee. Left Corinth at 8 o’clock this morning on board the cars for Memphis. Arrived at 8 in the evening. Have 21 Union prisoners to guard. marched them through the streets up to the Memphis Prison. Took our quarters n the same building. It is growing cold and a change of weather is eminent. Hear of Rosecrans fighting. Are anxious of further news.
March 27, 1863. Friday. Commenced raining this morning and had several thunder showers through today. Not much news from Rosecrans nor from below here. The 190th & 130th left this eve. for Vicksburg. Slept cold last night.
March 28, 1863. Saturday. Memphis, Tennessee. Had a heavy rain storm last night. Is cloudy and damp but warm. Slept comfortable last night. About sundown we marched our prisoners to the landing but as the boat could not leave before Sunday morning, we had to counter march them back to the same place.Two of them threw their shackles off, consequently they were put in the cell. One of them escaped but the secret police brought him in after two hours. Hear of the morning train being cut off by a rebel raid near Moscow.
March 29, 1863. Sunday. The wind blew big guns last night. Is growing very cold. This morning it looks cloudy and may snow. Later, it is snowing and raining. 8 o’clock a.m., our prisoners are safe on board the boat, Mary Forsyth. 11 o’clock, she is pushing out. Later, are going a pretty good speed.

March 30, 1863. Monday. On board the steamer Forsyth. Slept about two hours upon two barrels. Had the colic all day ad last night. Tuesday arrived at Cairo about 3 o’clock a.m. Left at 8 a.m. Stopped at Cape Girardeau at 4:30 p.m. and met an old acquaintance.
March 31, 1863. Tuesday. Slept sound and comfortable on some bags of wheat.

April 1863

April 1, 1863. Wednesday. Is nice and clear today. arrived at St. Louis at 3:30 o’clock p.m. [Robert] Donnelly and myself arrested three persons (passengers of the Mary Forsyth) who were suspected of having stolen money on their persons. Stayed over night at [ ]field’s Barracks. Pretty hard place.

Hammerly’s Diary

1861: Edward H. Spooner to Trueman Gardner Avery

March of the 7th New York Regiment down Broadway (New York Digital Collections)

This letter was written by Edward H. Spooner (1838-1888), a native of Wampsville, near Syracuse, New York. His parents were Dr. [Stillman W.] Spooner (1802-1880)—was one of the original abolitionists, and Lucretia Lydia Thorpe (1813-1888). Edward taught school for a year or two before coming to New York prior to the Civil War where he practiced law in partnership with his cousin, Trueman Gardner Avery. He soon married Frances (“Fanny”) Bush, the heiress of Dr. Ralph Isaacs Bush (1779-1860), making him independently rich.

Edward was counsel for the American News Company when it was formed which was later purchased by the firm Beadle & Co. (publisher of Beadle’s Monthly). In the New York City Directory for 1860-61 he was listed as a lawyer with an office at 4 New Street. His name appears continuously in the directories until 1882, with the exception of 1864-65 to 1866-67, inclusive, when he lived in Madison county, New York, and 1868-69, although his address was not always the same. From 1863 to 1881 he lived in Brooklyn, after which he moved to New Jersey, and in 1887-88 he lived in Plainfield. From the Registry of Voters in Brooklyn, we learn that his birth year was 1838. He left a wife and a son named Robert (b. 1865) when he died in 1888. Obituary notices in The New York Tribune, March 30, 1888 and the Plainfield Daily Press, March 29, 1888.

Edward wrote the letter to his cousin, Trueman Gardner Avery (1837-1914), the son of Jared Newell Avery (1803-1880) and Cornelia Benham (1808-1877) of Wampsville, Madison county, New York. Avery was prepared for college at the Oneida Conference Seminary; was graduated from Hamilton College in 1856; studied law with Judge Israel Selden Spencer at Syracuse; afterward at the Albany Law School where he was graduated LL. B.; was admitted to practice in 1859; practiced in New York City; removed to Buffalo in 1860; soon gave up the law for mercantile pursuits. He is a member and a trustee of the First Presbyterian Church; a Republican in politics; a director of the Merchants’ Bank; a trustee of the Fidelity and Guaranty Company; a trustee of the Buffalo Orphan Asylum; president of the board of trustees of the Buffalo General Hospital; a life member of the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, of the Young Men’s Association, and of the German Young Men’s Association; president of the Niagara Frontier Landmarks Association; and a Son of the American Revolution.

As far as I can learn, neither of the correspondents served in the military during the Civil War.

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


Addressed to Truman G. Avery, Esq., Counsellor at Law, Buffalo, New York

4 New Street, New York
May 1, 1861

Dear Cousin TGA,

Your letter reached me in due time & was read with great pleasure though its patriotic sentiments did not in the least surprise me. It was to be expected from one who loves his country as I know you do & I am glad to hear that you have enlisted though I hardly hope that you will be called upon to suffer the hardships that I know are attendant upon a soldier’s life.

I had a strange dream the other night. What do you suppose it was—that I had gone to the war & at the first battle met Frank 1 fighting on the other side—that we concluded we would not hew each other to pieces & so with locked arms stepped one side & enjoyed a pleasant chat while our comrades continued to fight. Don’t you think we did sensibly? A matter of fact, however, I do not believe that Frank will enlist for the Southern treason. But my dream illustrates the horrors of civil war in which cousins & brothers are likely to meet each other in deadly conflict. But this I think is much exaggerated. Peoples sympathies seem to lean very much to the land of their birth & so very few born North will fight for the South & vice versa. Therefore, I would not put arms in the hands of any of the [border?] State men. They cannot be trusted until there is no chance for successful rebellion.

I met J. O. Benett a few days since. He was warlike enough & said he had offered to take charge of Uncle David’s business if he wanted to go to the war as Major. I thought it a very good joke for I should as soon expect Uncle David would turn pastor as soldier. A gentleman who is afraid to walk through Buffalo 5 Points in the evening—Uncle David will admit it—would not hurry to face the music of bullets and shells. I do not know after all but you will have to go for the credit of the family. Do you hear anything of Henry?

As to business, I am doing something. But I think law is not going to be very good with anybody here for the next year & I expect to do a small, but I hope increasing business.

This is May 1 & there is due from you $15.62 rent & I suppose you will be very glad to have your liabilities here cease. I made a small fortune today on the furniture I bought of you which I sold in order to “raise the wind.” I sold your desk for $9, stone for $5 and the biggest thing was your chair & my two small chairs for $1. The things ought to bring more but the 2nd hand dealers won’t pay any more; and besides, this war has upset things that such goods are a drag and many law offices will be without tenants the coming year. Mr. Wheeler has the office where we were. I could have had it for $100 but did not feel that I can afford to pay any more than I am paying here $60. Law offices are renting very cheap, Soldiering may be the best business going next year.

My love to Uncle & Aunt & hope I shall see them next time I am at [ ].

Very truly yours, cousin Edward H. Spooner


I have just come from the City Hall where I got my certificate as Notary Public—not worth very much however, in this building as there are now 4 notaries it it. When I found two of the County Clerks defending secession and maintaining the novel doctrine that Jeff Davis is not a traitor & cannot be punished according to law for anything he had done, I told them that if that were so, he would be punished contrary to law. In such cases, if there is no law, we will have to extemporize a little. But there is law enough & if Jeff Davis ever gets into our hands, he will find it out. Amen say you to that.

As for my enlisting like everyone else, I felt that all should respond to the country’s call if necessary, & those who were adapted should volunteer. Even unadapted to the rough work of a soldier as I know myself to be. I went so far as to present myself to the 7th [New York] Regiment on the invitation of one of the captains with whom I am acquainted. Butthose who joined were required to remain for two years & not wishing to play soldier in time of peace, I declined to enter into the arrangement & have concluded to fight the opposing counsel only for the present.

“This going to war is no child’s play & is something much more wearing & burdensome than either of us ever endured. I have no desire to go and regret it afterward. However, I would have gone in the [New York] 7th for the war only as that is the crack regiment of the Nation & each man in it is a hero—at least with the ladies.”

— Edward H. Spooner, lawyer, New York City

This going to war is no child’s play & is something much more wearing & burdensome than either of us ever endured. I have no desire to go and regret it afterward. However, I would have gone in the [New York] 7th for the war only as that is the crack regiment of the Nation & each man in it is a hero—at least with the ladies. And besides, I am acquainted with a number of young men in it & would have had plenty of company though probably soldiers are never lonesome for the lack of it.

Father, it seems, has been urged to go as surgeon. If I was a doctor, I would go in that capacity in a moment for [just think] how a surgeon could improve himself with so many subjects to experiment upon. If I went to war, I should want to take my own surgeon with me. I expect army surgeons cut and slash at a great rate.

1 Franklin (“Frank”) Newell Avery (1840-1864) was Trueman’s younger brother. He died on 19 November 1864 in the military hospital at Keatchie, Louisiana. After the Battle of Mansfield (Sabine Crossroads) on April 08 1864, Keatchie College was converted into a hospital. Many Confederate Soldiers were treated there and the ones that died were buried in this cemetery. There are a number of unmarked graves, some graves marked with a “CSA” headstone, some with only bricks or stones. A number of Union soldiers were also treated in this same hospital.

1865: Charles Henry Bell to Licetta Bell

Capt. J. Leroy Bell, Co. G, 11th New Hampshire Infantry wearing Lincoln Mourning Band (1865)

These letters were written by Charles Henry Bell (1842-1898), the son of James Bell (1792-1864) and Rebecca Fletcher (1800-1883) of Haverhill, Grafton county, New Hampshire. Charles was single and working as a house painter when he was drafted on 31 May 1864. I can’t find him in military records but he indicates on his letterhead that he was a member of the “1st Division Sharpshooters.” His letter suggest that the regiment was being recruited as most of the veterans had mustered out by the time of these letters.

After he was mustered out of the service, he married Ann Allissa Willoughby (1847-1926) and lived in Boston where he returned to house painting. He wrote the letters to his older sister, Licetta Bell (1840-1902), living in Boston at the time. Licetta never married and lived many years with her older sister Calista Bell who was married in 1848 to Rev. William McPherson.

In one of his letters, Charles mentions his cousin Jacob Leroy Bell who was Captain of Co. G, 11th New Hampshire Infantry.

Addressed to Miss Licetta Bell, No. 9 Dwight Street, Boston, Mass.

Letter 1

Camp 1st Division Sharpshooters
January 9, 1865

Dear Sister,

I thought that I would write you a few lines to let you know where we are. We have got our camp nearly all cleared off now so that it begins to look a little more like home. Egan [?] and me have got our tents [ ] done except some new men that just come last night and will [ ] here their tents up for me shall all help them and it won’t take long to get them done. We have yet only about 75 men now but they are going to fill us up to 100 in a few days and then we shall have target practice every day and by spring shall get to be quite good shots for we have improved a great deal since we were organized. And now when we get short of rations, we go out and shoot some wild turkey or squirrel but we have got them pretty well thinned up now for there has been so many after them.

The regiment got some more recruits last week and they were all foreigners but they are a better lot of men than the ones they sent before for them can understand english and the others could not.

I wonder why that John don’t write, I have written to him several times but don’t get any answer so that I shall quit writing to him now for awhile at least.

How does Henry Mitchel? I suppose that he is enjoying the honeymoon now and I wonder if it is as grand as the honey that we got one night by moonlight when we was on the raid. I went to taste a piece in the dark and there was a bee in it that showed his contempt for the Yanks by stinging me on the tongue. But a thing that is not worth fighting for is not worth having.

I don’t hear of any news except the report that the Pay Master is coming soon and that is good news if it is true for we have not been paid for 4 months now and a [ ] from him would be very acceptable.

When does Capt. Leroy Bell intend to come back to the army. His camp lays about 3 miles from us now. We lay outside of the rear line of works near the Jerusalem Plank Road, He will know where that is for his regiment laid there in the camp quarters that ours built. Please remember me to him.

Give my love to all the folks. Your affectionate brother, — C. H. Bell

Letter 2

Camp 1st Div. Sharpshooters
May 1st

Dear Sister,

I was very glad to receive a letter from you and to know that you had received some of my letters at last for I heard that you had not any of you heard from me. I was very anxious to hear from you. I do not see why my letters were delayed so long on the road and was very sorry to learn that you had been so anxious about me for I was well all the time but I came very near going to Richmond on the first day’s fight, for the Rebs drove us out of the woods in rather a hurry and I had to make my legs do their duty for I had made up my mind not to be taken prisoner. But we soon made them run faster than they made us for we opened our artillery on them and the Old 3rd Brigade charged at the same time and they left in a hurry.

We are under orders to march again and shall probably start in the morning. I don’t know where we are going. Some say that we are going to march over land to Fairfax and others say that we are going to City Point to take transports for Alexandria but we shall know by tomorrow night. I think that it won’t be long now before we are home again for there is nothing more to do now and they won’t keep the whole army long. I had as leave stay here now until fall for so many of the boys get sick that go home in the summer.

Please give my love to all. Your affectionate brother, — C. H. Bell

1865: Merritt L. Pierce to Proctor & Huldah (Reed) Proctor

A post-war CDV of Merritt L. Pierce

This letter was written by Merritt L. Pierce (1842-1869), the son of Proctor Pierce (1811-1874) and Huldah Ann Reed (1816-1872) of Morrisonville, Schuyler Falls, Clinton county, New York. Merritt was 22 years old when he enlisted on 31 August 1864 at Troy as a private in Co. L, 1st New York Engineers. He mustered out of the regiment as an artificer on 30 June 1865 at Richmond, Virginia.

Merritt died of consumption (tuberculosis) in 1869 at the age of 28 but not before marrying Mary S. Mead (1845-1922).

Earlier in the war the 1st New York Engineers were used primarily building breastworks but by late 1864 and 1865 they were attached to Gen. Butler’s Army of the James and performed other tasks such as building corduroy roads, dredging the Dutch Gap Canal, building pontoon bridges, &c.

Broadway Landing; Pontoon Bridge over Appomattox River


Camp near Broadway Landing
[Sunday] March 19, [1865]

Dear Parents,

I have a few moments to spare this afternoon & I think I will improve them in writing you a few lines. I have just finished my dinner. It consisted of a small piece of pork, a cup of coffee, and some hard tack. I have got so I like the Government rations first rate and they agree with me well. I have not tasted butter since I ate the last you sent me which was 4 weeks ago. Many of the boys are sick since pay day just in consequence of eating too much,

I went to church this forenoon at Point of Rocks Hospital (it is nearly a half mile from our camp). I heard a very good sermon indeed. After church I went & made Charlie Ford a visit. He was very glad to see me, He knew me at first sight. I did not know him—he had grown much since I saw him last. He is looking well. I think he will soon get his health.

Well today is a most beautiful day—clear, warm & pleasant, wind north. The birds are singing sweet songs. I forget for a moment many times that I am in a land of war and deadly strife. If I listen but a moment, I hear the roar of cannon which reminds me of where I am, but I am so use to hearing the noisy things that I don’t mind them in the least (I must stop. There is an inspection).

Inspection is over and no fault found with the company excepting one of the men had his pants rolled up & the Captain told him not to come on inspection again in that condition. Ed has gone to Burmuda [Hundred] after the mail, This is his job every day. It is an easy one too—much better than laying pontoon bridges, but I have got so I like it very much. It is about a half mile up the river where we lay the bridge & we go there in small boats. Each boat carries about 20 men & such times as we have, racing to and from the bridge is a caution. We construct a bridge & take it up in the forenoon and one in the p.m. It took us just 40 minutes to lay the bridge yesterday p.m. and it is much further across than the bridge at Morrisonville. What do you think of that?

Well, we are expecting to leave here soon, but where we shall go, it is impossible to tell but it will be somewhere with a pontoon train. I think I had rather be a Pioneer than an Engineer. Don’t think there is as much danger in laying bridges as there is in building breastworks, & as for taking up bridges, I don’t calculate we shall have any of that to do for I think we shall whip them (the Rebs) every time. The fact is, the Johnnies are getting discouraged & think there is no hope for them. They are deserting very fast now & very soon they will have a chance to desert as fast as they are a mind to. The Army will soon be on the move for Richmond. They are moving on the left of our lines now. I know that Father will laugh at what I say but I can’t help it. I must tell you what I think about matters and things.

Well, to change the subject, I wish I was at home this afternoon. I imagine what I should do. One thing I would do, that’s certain, & that would be to play and sing a few tunes in the parlor where I used often to go for a few moments to enjoy a little harmony & pass time away. I enjoyed that much better than I enjoy a game at cards. I have not played a game in some time. Guess I had not better play anymore. But I get so lonesome once in awhile for a little amusement & it comes so handy to have a game.

Now Mother, if you think I had better not play, I’ll quit for I can do it as easy as I did using tobacco, According to my manner of thinking, I have not got a great many bad habits for a soldier boy that is exposed to temptations on every hand. I have the privilege of attending meeting every evening now. We have very interesting meetings indeed. The house is much larger than our meeting house & it is crowded full every night. The house is but a short distance from here (about as far as the red house is from ours). It is most time to get ready for church. I don’t have to fix up much for I have not got the fixings to put on—just black my boots & brush up a little & then I am ready for church.

Well Ed has just come in with the mail. I must go and see if there is any mail for me. Indeed, I have got a letter & what do you think I found in it—a picture of Frank P’s, a good picture it is too. Will says tell Frank it is first rate. Ed says so too & of course it must be so. I have shown it to several & they all say it is a young Pierce. Good night. I’ll finish some other time.

Monday morning. I am well. Have just got my breakfast & I feel fine. It is a very beautiful morning. The air is cool & refreshing. My cabin door is open and it seems like summer to look out and see the sun shining so pleasantly. Edgar went to City Point on Friday last. Sent him money home. I sent $50 dollars with his. You will get it from Uncle Lucius. Well Ed goes on duty today. One of the drummers is going to carry the mail hereafter. I went to church last evening. Heard a very excellent sermon. The text was, “The wages of sin is death.”

Well time and paper bids me stop writing. Please send me a little linen thread. The gum Frank sent was nice. I should like to [hear] from George. No more. From — Merritt

1850: Thomas Larmuth to William Hunter

This letter was written by 23 year-old English native Thomas Larmuth (1826-1866) who seems to have been paying for his sight-seeing excursion of the United States by performing various jobs in which he could apply his skill as an engineer. In this particular letter he wrote to his former acquaintance, William Hunter (b. 1818), an English-born millhand at the Hamilton Corporation, a cotton textile mill in Lowell, Massachusetts.

How Thomas might have looked in 1850

Gleaning any kind of information about Thomas from US census records proved impossible due to his mobility but I fortunately stumbled on his identity from an article published on the internet pertaining to Leopold Larmuth (b. 1855), an ear surgeon who grew up in Manchester, England. It seems Leopold’s grandfather was named Thomas Larmuth (1797-1873) and he lived in Salford, Manchester, where he was the proprietor of his own machine manufacturing firm (eventually the Tobleben Iron Works). This Thomas Larmuth had three sons who acquired the skills of their father—James Williams (1821-1902), Thomas (1826-1866), and Matthew Henry (1831-1908). James and Matthew continued to work for their father producing boilers, steam cranes, rock drills, and many kinds of machines using in manufacturing.

Thomas Larmuth, however, decided to see America before settling down in Cheetham, Lancashire, England, to work at the family trade designing and manufacturing machinery. In the 1851 UK census, he was still living with his parents but in 1853 he married Rachel Adelaide Taylor (1831-1911) and by 1861 had moved his growing family to Frodsham in Cheshire. After the 1861 UK Census, Thomas disappears from public records and his family speculates that he returned to America where he worked in the Confederacy as an engineer. A member of the family claims to have found a death notice stating that he drowned in the Mississippi river on 17 January 1866. His wife, who made a living as a pianist, was left to raise their five children back in England.

From the Manchester Courier, Saturday, 5 May 1866. Courtesy of the The British Library Board and supplied by Gwyneth Wilkie, author of the article about Leopold Larmuth.


Addressed to Mr. William Hunter, Hamilton Corporation, Lowell, Mass.
Postmarked Mobile, Alabama, January 2, 1850

Mobile, State of Alabama
January 1st 1850

Mr. William Hunter, dear friend,

It is now so long since writing to you that where to begin or how to pen this is rather more than I can tell. Since leaving your happy roof, I have traveled over the greater portion of the United States and am now wending my way back into Massachusetts through the states of Georgia, North and South Carolina, and from thence to Washington and on to New York.

Since leaving you I have been all through the southern and western states. I was engineering on the Ohio river, also running a locomotive on to the Mexican Gulf from New Orleans, at the present time am working repairing steamboats in Mobile. I have lived amongst Indians, Spaniards, French, Creoles, Dutch, and every other nation that is represented in this country.

There has been only one letter sent to me from my friends since leaving you and I feel very anxious to receive some. I have written two letters to you and also one to Mr. Stott but have never heard whether they reached their destination. One I wrote in Michigan; the other two were written in Kentucky.

We have everything here very comfortable at this present time. We have all the doors and windows open, the ladies all go out in the evening without any bonnet, the gentlemen wear nothing but a light dress coat. Last evening being New Year’s eve, the ladies and gentlemen all turned out in fancy costume and made such a display that I never saw equal before. 1 This morning a party of us took a walk in the country out to see the orange trees and flowers of all descriptions growing at this season of the year. Makes one feel very comfortable after feeling one of your cold winters.

You must excuse me for being so abrupt as it is my intention to write home so wishing you and Mrs. Hunter a happy and prosperous New Year, I remain yours truly, — Thomas Larmuth

P.S. Give my kind regards to Mr & Mrs Stott. Also to all enquiring friends. If you have anything to communicate, be kind enough to write to me. Post Office Mobile, Alabama

1 Thomas was probably referring to the callithumpians who caused a large commotion in the streets. Often they were masked or costumed revelers making noise for an official occasion.

1855: Clarissa Dwight Marsh to Sarah (Whitney) Marsh

How Clara might have looked in 1855

These letters were written by Clarissa (“Clara”) Dwight Marsh (1834-1899), the daughter of Henry Marsh, Jr. (1797-1852) and Sarah Whitney (1796-1883). Clara’s father was an 1815 graduate of Williams College and lived in Dalton, Massachusetts from 1821 to 1840 where he was a lawyer, a merchant, a farmer and wool grower, and a wool dealer and manufacturer. In 1840 he moved with his family to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he lost his savings with the failure of the Ashuelot Manufacturing Company. In 1843 he went to Racine, Wisconsin, in 1846 to Sandusky City, Ohio, and in 1850 to St. Louis, Missouri, engaging in the mercantile and produce business. He died of cholera in June 1852 but had managed to put three sons through Williams College and afforded his daughters, Clara, and Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Willard Marsh (1829-1882), some outstanding educational advantages as well. 

Lizzie “was educated at Maplewood, Pittsfield, Mt. Holyoke and Bradford Seminaries, and spent her life in teaching. She had a school in St. Louis and at Batavia, Illinois, and afterwards taught in private families in Pittsfield, Mass., Batavia, N. Y., and Hudson, Wisconsin. At the latter place on Lake St. Croix she made her home with her life-long friend, Susan (“Sue”) Ellen Lockwood (1830-1915), the wife Charles Wendell Porter and the daughter of Judge [Samuel Drake] Lockwood of Batavia, Illinois. She died at Hudson, Wisconsin, on 23 April 1882.”

Clara attended the Cooper Female Academy in Dayton, Ohio, in the early 1850s. She married Samuel Watkins Eager, Jr. of St. Louis, Missouri, in May 1857.

From these letters we learn that Clara and her older sister Lizzie were teachers at the newly opened Batavia Institute—a private academy that was chartered on 12 February 1853 by 13 men, including Rev. Stephen Peet, the Congregational minister, Elijah Shumway Town, Joel McKee, John Van Nortwick, Dennison K. Town, and Isaac G. Wilson of Batavia, Illinois The building’s central part, which still stands in Batavia at 333 South Jefferson Street, at Union Avenue, was constructed in 1853–1854 of locally quarried limestone at a cost of $20,000. The architect Elijah Shumway Town designed the building in a Greek Revival style.

The Batavia Institute as it looked in 1864.

Letter 1

Batavia, [Illinois]
September 11th 1855

My dearest Mother,

It is just two o’clock & therefore I imagine you are now seated at the dinner table. Do the vacant places remind you of your wandering children? I told “Sue” [Lockwood] a few minutes ago that I would like very much to see my dear mother.

I have no doubt that Henry gave you our “few lines” written in the cars so that you know of our journey so far. We soon after reached Sandoval where Mr. Spooner rechecked our baggage and introduced us to Mr. DeWolf, the conductor of the train coming north. There was very little to see except boundless prairie and the road was straight and level and not particularly smooth. At Decatur we saw Mr. Hawley a moment. Lizzie had the sick headache all the afternoon but read all the time.

We got to Wapella about seven o’clock and got a very good supper, and I was hungry enough to do it justice. Lizzie’s tea did her good and she felt much better. We changed cars there and Mr. DeWolf put us in the care of Mr. Johns (a Decatur man) who was very polite to us. And now what a road we had, jolting and bouncing till I thought there would be not one breath left me, and really I never was so well shapen. I got quite out of patience and was glad enough to reach Mendota and change to a smooth, delightful track.

Presumably the same “forlorn…little old depot” at Batavia where the Marsh sisters arrived and waited for wagon transportation to the Lockwood residence on the west side of the Fox River. This Depot was built in 1854 and was moved to its current location in the 20th Century.

We got here about four o’clock and it was not light, and it seemed rather forlorn in the little old depot but we sat down and laughed and made the best of it for a half an hour when the man got a buggy-wagon and a driver from the “tavern” and we rode up here and roused them up a little before five. I had slept “more or less” in the night but have been sleepy ever since (Lizzie is sleeping now). We left all but two trunks at the depot and they will be sent tomorrow, I suppose, to where we are to board.

About nine this morn, we went with “Sue” to see about board and also went into the school building [Batavia Institute] which seems very pleasant. We expect to go to Mr. Town’s to board and hope to like it. The room is upstairs & has two windows and a good sized closet and bed, washstand, table and chairs, and an ugly carpet compose the furniture. But it looked clean and comfortable. We shall pay each $3 a week and have lights & towels furnished and have to get our washing done somewhere else. It will be cheap I imagine, however. The room is heated by a furnace. We could have had the parlor and a bedrom off it by paying $4 (each) but we cannot afford it.

The walk to school will be short (about as much as one square in the city—perhaps two) and we shall come to our dinner, I suppose. I imagine we shall have plenty of time to sew and read, and I do mean to improve it. With the prospect of seeing you in Chicago, I do not mean to be homesick. The family here are as cordial and pleasant as ever and it is worth everything to have nice people to visit. “Sue” is a real good friend.

Yesterday was very warm indeed and today would be were there not so much air stirring. Lizzie will write tonight or tomorrow, I guess. One of the teachers—Mr. Horton [Norton?] has just come to see us. Goodbye dearest mother. Love to all. From Clara

Letter 2

[Batavia, Illinois]
Wednesday morning [10 October 1855]

Mr. Norton was here in the afternoon so that Lizzie could not write & she was too sleepy in the evening. She is just ready to start for school & I do not have to go this morning.

Lizzie will write so it will go tomorrow and you must wait for her letter that is to go in the box she says. She forgot all about the steel clasp to be put on the work box for Julia, and will you get one or get Mrs. Topping to do it, and while you are about it, please get one for me.

Lizzie thinks it would be a good plan for you to let us have your bureau as it is so inconvenient to get along without one; if Waldo thinks it is worthwhile to send it up. I suppose the freight on it would not be very much.

It is rainy this morning and seems dull enough. They are waiting for this letter and so I must stop. We feel much better for a good nights sleep. Goodbye with love from us both. Your affectionate Clara

Letter 3

Batavia, [Illinois]
October 12th 1855

My own dear Mother,

I got up this morning before Lizzie went to school and dressed myself & after she had gone, I combed my hair through (sitting in the rocking chair) and fixed it up so it would do.

The Doctor has just been here and says unless I get worse, I shall not need him anymore. He says I must be very careful. Lizzie has come home from school & is writing too.

I read some this morning & since sinner, Alice [Mason] has been sitting here with her sewing.

I was disappointed that you did not tell us you were settled in your letter. I hope all will “end well.”

Dear Mother, I have been very thankful that I have had patience given me to bear my sickness as well as I could. It has been very trying to be out of school so long. But I think I can submit cheerfully to the will of my Heavenly Father and I trust He will give me strength to endure all.

I must stop for I am getting tired & the doctor told me not to write today.

My best love to dear Waldo. I hope he will enjoy “Rackensack.” 1 Yesterday was Charlie’s birthday. I wish I could have written him. Goodbye dear, dear Mother. With love now and ever, from your affectionate, — Clara

1 Waldo Marsh apparently was a member of the Rackensack Club in St. Louis. “Rackensack” was an old Indian name for the Arkansas River. I’m not sure what the club’s purpose was.

Letter 4

Batavia, [Illinois]
October 15, 1855

My own dear Mother,

You will rejoice with me that I am so much better. I came down stairs yesterday afternoon and stayed to prayers, having my tea in Miss Mason’s room while the rest had theirs. I have taken a little walk in the yard this morning and it seemed delightful to breath the fresh air once more. How grateful I am to be gaining my strength though it comes rather slowly. I am going to have a ride after dinner if Lizzie does not change her mind at noon. The wind blows much more than it did yesterday, but it is very pleasant & sunny.

I am writing down in Miss Mason’s parlor and Alice has been here with her sewing till now she has gone to dress. I dressed myself entirely this morning though I had to sit down between times & to comb my hair. If I am as well, I shall try to go to school tomorrow. I shall be so happy when I am strong and feel bright again. My head aches a little but I think it will pass off. I do hope we shall have pleasant weather yet for some time. I am glad to have Lizzie relieved from the weight of care she has had. She has been a very kind & excellent nurse, but I have often thought how nice it would be to have Mother here. I shall be greatly disappointed if we do not hear from you early this week. It seems so long to have to wait till friday. Can you not possibly find or take time to write twice a week at least occasionally to do so?

I hope you are settled by this time and pleasantly situated. Have you heard from Racine at all. We wrote to Clara long ago and got no answer.

Dear Mother, I am very anxious to hear about my class in Sabbath School. Will you find out for me who has taught them & whether Fannie Post has then now? I would like to know too if the school is filling up. How very much I should like to hear dear Mr. Post preach again. 1 Give much love to them all.

I was exceedingly sorry to hear of the death of. Mrs. Wheelock Allen of Sheboygan. What a severe affliction it must be to the Rice’s. Mr. Blackford told Sue Lockwood in Chicago. I suppose you will hear particulars from Mrs. Studley. She did not hear much & I did not remember exactly what she did hear.

Lue and Anna [Lockwood] called here Saturday and Lizzie went with them to see Miss Stowe. They enjoyed their trip to Chicago very much.

I am anticipating a great deal of pleasure in going with Lizzie to visit Miss Mason. She says she is coming out after us so as to make sure of having the visit. If I am well enough, we shall probably go. I shall hope to see Aunt & Maggie & Uncle Robert.

Miss Mason and Alice have been exceedingly kind to me & have materially helped Lizzie in her watchful care. Indeed, Hattie and Rossy have done their share of kindnesses and I am sure I shall never forget them. I hope you will meet them this winter.

Mrs. Town too has been very kind and all have been willing to do. Warner Town 2 went five miles to get me some ice last Wednesday and it has not all melted yet. You cannot think how much ice has been to me; meat and drink and comfirt. The few days I could not get any were enough to make me prize it doubly when I did have it.

I had a little cold chicken (or rather a little piece of one) & a very nice baked potato with thick cream on it and a little toasted bread for my dinner yesterday; and it tasted very good. I have not much appetite & am to be kept on rather low diet for awhile, I suppose.

Warner [Town] has just brought me a letter from Cousin Robert which being unexpected was most truly welcome. Do thank him very much and tell him it shall be remembered among the ten I now have on hand which have accumulated in my illness. I got Mary Peck’s daguerreotype on Saturday and as it is a very good one, it is a very great pleasure. I did not expect to write so long a letter but I guess it won’t tire me.

Lizzie has just come from school. I have been watching for her this half hour & find she stayed to “correct compositions.” Goodbye dear, dear Mother. Do write to us often. Your letters are so much comfort. Love, love ever from your own affectionate, — Clara

After dinner, my dear brother Waldo,

I thought I must write a few words to you so that you will be sure I have prized your parts of the letters. I had some codfish fixed with cream and potato for my dinner like all the rest & went out to the table to get it. You can imagine how glad I am to be up and about though if I am not careful, I stagger when I walk alone. I feel quite encouraged & if I do not have a relapse, think I shall do bravely.

I am glad you are fixed at “the rooms” and hope you will find it very agreeable all winter. Where do you eat now? I wish you and Mother could have meals together. I am very glad that Charlie is looking better & hope he will learn a great deal. Are you any more busy now?

I think Hattie Naylor had quite a narrow escape. Give my love to her and Sophy. I hope you will call there frequently & will you go occasionally to see my friend Ginnie Stephenson? Have you been to see Fannie Post? You will I hope.

Please tell Henry my next letter shall be addressed to his lordship. Remember me to each member of the “Rackensack Club” and dear Waldo, accept ever the warm love of your affectionate sister, — Clara

Lizzie sent a quantity of love to all as she hurried off to school.

1 Rev. Truman Marcellus Post (1810-1886) was invited to take charge of the Third Presbyterian Church in St, Louis in 1847. He was “unwilling to live in a community in which slavery existed. He finally accepted the invitation on the express condition that his letter of acceptance should be read publicly, and then the question of renewing the call be submitted to the people. In this letter he stated that he regarded holding human beings as property as a violation of the first principles of the Christian religion, and that while he did not require the church to adopt his views, he thought every Christian should be alive to the question of slavery; and as for himself, he must be guaranteed perfect liberty of opinion and speech on the subject, otherwise he did not think God called him to add to the number of slaves already in Missouri. The church heard the letter and unanimously renewed the invitation, where upon Professor Post, in the fall of 1847, became the pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church of St. Louis, limiting the engagement to four years, in the hope he might be able to return to the college at the expiration of that period. But at the close of the alloted term, the church with great unanimity voted to become a Congregational Church, and chose Rev. Mr. Post as its pastor, a position which under the circumstances he was constrained to accept, and which he held uninterruptedly until his resignation, which took effect January 1, 1882. Under his pastorate the church prospered, and became the rallying-point for opinions that later became potential in the great Civil War. During that period Mr. Post did not forbear to assert the supremacy of those principles of personal liberty and responsibility which he had brought with him from New England, but did so with so much courtesy as well as courage, the he commanded the entire respect of a congregation and community of widely differing opinions.” Rev. Posts’s daughter was Frances (“Fanny”) Henshaw Post (1836-1916). She married Jacob Van Norstand (1830-1895).

2 Ebenezer Warner Towne, Jr. (1839-1907), was the son of Bible Society Agent Ebenezer Warner Towne (1802-1892) and Sophia A. Hawkes (1813-1874) of Batavia, Kane county, Illinois.

Letter 5

[This letter was written by Clara Marsh to Samuel Watkins Eager, Jr. (her future husband)]

Batavia [Illinois]
November 22, 1855

My very dear Sam,

It is late but I cannot help writing a short time. I received the paper you sent since tea, & was struck with one idea in the notice of Bishop Hopkin’s lecture, for it is one of which you have often spoken—viz: “mutual confidence.” I have no fear that you, dearest, will fail in that respect, or indeed in any other; and I shall strive not to be found wanting. I often feel what I cannot express, but it seems to me now that I never shall again find it impossible to speak to you my various thoughts. Help me to become worthy of your love and I cannot but be happy. Are you sure I can add to your happiness after all my errors?

I have been writing to Henry & probably you ill see the letter. Would you rather I had not said what I did? Tell me truly now. I had a letter from Sarah Hunter on Monday and she urges me to visit them soon and I may go in next week. You will love her a little for my sake, won’t you? You pity us in our disappointment that Mother is not here this evening.

It was some time before I could really feel submissive and I almost cried, but that would not do in the cars; still I feel that infinite love and wisdom cannot err and I can “trust a Father’s love.” God is good. My dear Sam, will you not use your influence with Henry that the solemn warning conveyed by the awful scenes of November 1st may be heeded. I am sure he must feel deeply. Still I fear he may seem to treat the matter with indifference. Oh! it is my earnest prayer that dear Waldo and Henry may by this mysterious Providence be brought back into the fold of the Good Shepherds; that they may be once more the professed followers of the Savior.

And for cousin John, must we give up all hope? Can he not be saved? To you I speak thus. When we can do nothing to rescue (apparently) we can pray. Blessed privilege. Let us improve it. I have enjoyed so much the last two Sabbaths in reading the “course of Faith” that I hope to read it again with you some of these days that may come.

Lizzie has fallen asleep over her book and we must retire. Good night love.

Friday eve. Ten o’clock. Dear Mother is here safely and I am very thankful. A few moments since I finished reading the long, long precious letter which she brought. I cannot sleep without thanking you for it. I cannot possibly “burn it.” You did not mean that, did you? And more than that, Lizzie is now reading it with my permission. I could not refuse, and if at first you think I might, you will in the end say I did right to show it to so good a sister (I hope so at least). I shall not say anything I wish tonight for I may disturb dear Mother if I sit up late. I have been quite excited and my thoughts jostle one another too often to be recorded.

I have asked our Heavenly Father to bless us and help us to love one another, adding an earnest petition for entire submission to the divine will. God bless you this night, dearest. The moon is most beautiful and truly “the Heavens declare the glory of God.” He watcheth over all, however distant from those they love. He will keep you and me and us all I trust in His care. Dear, dear Sam, I am yours when He permits. Good night love!

Letter 6

[This partially transcribed letter was written by Clara Marsh to Samuel Watkins Eager, Jr. (her future husband)]

Saturday eve., 7:30 o’clock
November 24, 1855

All the day, dearest Sam, my thoughts have been with you and many of them would have been penned could I have done so consistently.

Now it is eight o’clock and I have been downstairs singing the last half hour as I had promised Mr. French at tea to that effect. Charles Town played the melodeon and we all sang a few set pieces. Mr. French is very fond of it and is a good bass singer. We often sing after prayers on Sabbath evening. And as I am upon the subject, I may as well say that I often wish we had a piano in our room & especially now that Mother is here. I can only practice by going up to the Institute on Saturday, so my poor books are unopened from week to week. Yes indeed, I do like “Katy darling” and I would sing it for you tonight, dearest, with a great deal of pleasure were I permitted though I am quite hoarse having a very sore throat which I hope to cure with a cold water bandage.

I am so glad that you have thought you would like to hear me play once more. we will hope to sing together many a song of praise.

Mother and Lizzie are in the other room and I have come in here by myself to have a talk with you; and if I jump from one subject to another, you will excuse for I really cannot arrange my ideas they come in such crowds.

Mother has just left me and as she kissed me at my request, the tears came welling up, but I cannot permit them to fall anymore—to hinder me. I have been reading some parts of your dear little letter (do send me word I may keep it) and have been talking with her. She says we have her entire approval and sees no reason why we cannot make each other happy if we make up our minds to strive to do so. She says we need to exercise great forbearance each toward the other for neither of us are perfect. Let us pray each day for a gentle forgiving spirit, for lowliness of mind, for the “charity that thinketh no evil.”

Mother sends a particular remembrance to you and be assured, dearest, she thinks very highly of you as she always has.

I feel that after a stormy and weary tossing on the billows, I have reached a peaceful haven. I am calm and trustful and happy and we will remember that often. The bitter draught has healing power. Shall not the bitter experience teach us a useful lesson and will not the memory of the bright hour cast more joy over present happiness. Let us have no fear of the days to come for now to distrust the love and kindness of our Heavenly Father would be sin, as indeed in any event, for the promises are sure and God cannot err. It is my desire to love Him supremely but you must not tell me I have attainedm for I too often wander far away and oh! how many times I tremble lest I should be but a child of God in name.

Oh for faith! Faith to believe that our names will be written in “The Lamb’s book of life.”

Dearest, will you get your Testament now (before you finish this letter( and read the 4th Chapter of Hebrews, marking the 1st, 11th, & 16th verses. The first verse came so vividly to mind that I have just found and read the whole chapter….

I hope for a letter from you tomorrow. Shall I really see you in the Holidays? I can hardly believe they are coming so soon. May we have the pleasure of meeting one another then. I must go to school. God bless thee dearest, now and ever, prays your loving, — Clara

1855: Elizabeth Willard Marsh to Sarah (Whitney) Marsh

How Lizzie might have looked in 1855

These letters were written by Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Willard Marsh (1829-1882), the daughter of Henry Marsh, Jr. (1797-1852) and Sarah Whitney (1796-1883). Lizzie’s father was an 1815 graduate of Williams College and lived in Dalton, Massachusetts from 1821 to 1840 where he was a lawyer, a merchant, a farmer and wool grower, and a wool dealer and manufacturer. In 1840 he moved with his family to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he lost his savings with the failure of the Ashuelot Manufacturing Company. In 1843 he went to Racine, Wisconsin, in 1846 to Sandusky City, Ohio, and in 1850 to St. Louis, Missouri, engaging in the mercantile and produce business. He died of cholera in June 1852 but had managed to put three sons through Williams College and afforded his daughters educational advantages as well.

Lizzie “was educated at Maplewood, Pittsfield, Mt. Holyoke and Bradford Seminaries, and spent her life in teaching. She had a school in St. Louis and at Batavia, Illinois, and afterwards taught in private families in Pittsfield, Mass., Batavia, N. Y., and Hudson, Wisconsin. At the latter place on Lake St. Croix she made her home with her life-long friend, Susan Ellen Lockwood (1830-1915), the wife Charles Wendell Porter and the daughter of Judge [Samuel Drake] Lockwood of Batavia, Illinois. She died at Hudson, Wisconsin, on 23 April 1882.”

From these letters we learn that Lizzie and her younger sister Clarissa (“Clara”) Dwight Marsh (1834-1899) were teachers at the newly opened Batavia Institute—a private academy that was chartered on 12 February 1853 by 13 men, including Rev. Stephen Peet, the Congregational minister, Elijah Shumway Town, Joel McKee, John Van Nortwick, Dennison K. Town, and Isaac G. Wilson of Batavia, Illinois The building’s central part, which still stands in Batavia at 333 South Jefferson Street, at Union Avenue, was constructed in 1853–1854 of locally quarried limestone at a cost of $20,000. The architect Elijah Shumway Town designed the building in a Greek Revival style.

Clara attended the Cooper Female Academy in Dayton, Ohio, in the early 1850s. She married Samuel Watkins Eager, Jr. of St. Louis, Missouri, in May 1857. Three months prior to her marriage, Clara received the following Valentine from Samuel:

I am dead in love, I’ll flee with thee
By night or day, by land or sea
Then come along, but just to prove the matter
Tie a white ribbon, to your window shutter
Which shall by me be that fair warning
As I pass by, tomorrow morning
In haste, your Valentine.

The Batavia Institute in Batavia, Illinois, as it looked about 1864

Letter 1

Addressed to Mr. Waldo Marsh, Care of Leach and Goodrich, Saint Louis, Missouri

Batavia [Illinois]
Wednesday evening, September 19, 1855

My very dear mother,

This is the first time I have seated myself in “peace and quietness” to write to you. I wrote you a few words on the cars and again a half a sheet before school in the morning when I was expecting every moment to hear the bell ring for school. We are sitting in our room but we both have shawls on as tis very chilly. I have on my merino dress and my thick hose.

We had a tremendous storm yesterday and last night which I think must be the equinoctial. I got very wet coming home from school but put on dry clothes immediately and it did me no harm. Clara has not very much to do as yet. Today she only gave our lessons so she has been quite a lady of leisure. I have to go up to school (that is start) about half past eight—come home at twelve—go back at one and get home again about half past four.

Thursday morn. I do hope we shall have either warmer weather or a fire soon. I am afraid we shall make the Mason’s twice glash [?] This is really gloomy and chilly. What are you doing this morning? Have you heard anything from Charlie? I think I must work a pair of slippers for him before Christmas. Would it not be a good idea? I am intending to be very industrious and hope to accomplish very much. I have not made much of a beginning yet but intend on Saturday to make my arrangements.

Last Saturday I went up to Sue’s early in the morning and fitted two dresses for Miss Eddy! What do you think of that? She could not get anyone here and had been twice to Aurora and been disappointed in one who promised to come. I was very glad to be able to be of service in that way and was very thankful to succeed in making them fit nicely. Miss Eddy left on Monday for Jacksonville. We will miss her very much. She is very lovely, I think.

I think I shall not send this letter till we hear from you. You must write us very often without waiting for our letters.

Twice “we teachers” have had to stay to arrange recitations and rules &c. and I did not get home till after tea. We have breakfast at seven, dinner at half past twelve, and tea at six. I get up about six. Is that early enough?

Lizzie’s Sketch of their boarding room

I will give you a little plan of our room. The house fronts the north. From the east window we can see the cars pass on the other side of the river which runs nearly south. 1 is the washstand, 2 the table, 3 and 4 trunks, 5 the register which does not warm our room as yet, 6 our couch whereon we court “tired nature’s sweet restorer, balmy sleep.” Before you visit us, we will have a rocking chair for your benefit. The Institute is directly west of us about half a square’s distance. My pet Dick hangs by this east window on the side next the table and over the table my little colored engraving. The table is pretty much covered with books. We want a stand for our work. A bureau would be very comfortable but I think we can get along very well without.

Miss Mason continues as charming as ever. She has just been up here to tell us we must not stay in the cold but come down to their room. There is a thumping big apple on the window [sill] Miss Alice gave me. Miss Sadie is very pretty. She has such an animated face—very bright eyes and curls that are particularly pretty. I hope you will see her some day. We are already beginning to say what shall we do when they go away. Clara went up to Judy Lockwood’s after school. They are sick there still. Anna and the baby are quite sick. The Judge better. Sue says there is some prospect of their getting a girl tomorrow. I do hope they may.

I have not seen any of the Batavia ladies yet. I don’t know as they ever make any calls. It will save us the trouble of returning them if they do not. How I wish, dear mother, I could come in and sit with you this eve. What have you been doing all this time? How often have you seen Henry and Robert? If they don’t come to see you often, I shall not own them. Letters are very apt to be delayed at Chicago. You will, I hope, get ours more regularly than we do yours. Is the box fairly off yet? I hope it will go safely.

How is Waldo? Did Mrs. Topping finish my tidy? Do you see her often? Love to all my friends. Remember me to Mr. O. P. Best love ever from your own, — Lizzie

Letter 2

Batavia [Illinois]
September 28, 1855

My very dear brother [Waldo],

Yours and mother’s letters came to us yesterday as I just remember I told you they shortened our faces several degrees and made me feel finely. What should we do when away from home without letters—they are real feasts to us.

Well, I have just come up from dinner and a very good boiled dinner too. We are certainly very fortunate in having so good and pleasant a boarding place. I intended writing you this morning but did not ever make a beginning as I have been nearly all this time waiting on Clara. She is not any better today though I don’t know as she is any worse. I sent for the doctor this morning but he had gone to Geneva—was to be back at noon so I shall expect to see him here before long. I think Clara has some sort of a fever though I am not able to tell whether it is chill fever or not. She seemed to feel somewhat better yesterday though her head ached and went up to school and gave our Music lesson. When I came home from school, she had gone to bed again and seemed to have a little fever. Still she did not feel any worse.

I dressed and went up to see her a little while and found her on the sofa with a chill or rather the fever after a chill. When I came home, I thought some of sending for a doctor but we finally concluded to wait till morning. Mrs. Town and I have given her medicine and as Mrs. Town has used Homeopathy a long time and been in the habit of administering this medicine herself. I think we have done pretty well for her. I thought early this morning that she was better for she seemed to sleep so nicely all night but about nine the fever came on her again and she has gelt pretty badly all day. I can’t discover that she had really had a chill at all but I remember when I was sick the chills were hardly discoverable at first and I am inclined to think that Clara has chill fever. I do hope she won’t be sick long for she can hardly spare the time and ’tis quite unfortunate to be sick away from home.

She seems to feel a little “blue” though she does not mean to. You know she has had such a horror of chills and thus in naturally somewhat easily depressed. I do hope she will soon feel better. If we were at home, I should not feel so anxious.

Have you heard from Charlie since we left home and has he been sick anymore? It must be four weeks since he went out to Kirkwood. Perhaps he is at home today. You must write us how he gets along there and what you think of the school. I am glad Henry, Robert, and the others have the prospect of such pleasant quarters for the winter. I think it will be very pleasant for all hands. I am very glad you called on the Naylors. I wish there were more pleasant ladies to call on. You must call on Fanny Post when she comes.

I received a St. Louis paper from Mr. Eager today and Miss Mason brought me up two Republicans that were sent to her from Chicago. I have only glanced at them yet as I have been so busy. Shall enjoy them by and by. They look very natural.

The latest Chicago papers say that Sebastopol is taken. Shall I believe it or not? Have you written to Dwight lately? If you have not, will you not write hm a good long letter while you are having so little to do? Tell mother my canary does not sing though he chirps a great deal.

I hope mother will not get lonely anymore than she can help. She must go out every day and see her friends. I am glad Cousin Mary is coming home so soon. How are they all at Mrs. Allen’s now? How comes on the railroad? Has Mr. Goodrich given up going East this fall? Have you called on Mrs. Field ever? I think you ought as you have been invited there two or three times. If you call, give her my love and tell her there is a baby here just as old as hers but not one half as pretty. That seems quite like flattering, does it not, but it was not intended as such.

I’ve had a letter from Miss Eddy the other day. She gave quite an account of putting her jaw out of joint gaping. She said the suffering was dreadful for a few minutes till a gentleman had sufficient presence of mind to pull it into its place. I will write again on Monday how Clara is. Best love to mother and for yourself. From your sister, — Lizzie

Letter 3

Batavia [Illinois]
Monday morn., October 1, 1855

My dear mother,

I am taking time in school to write to you as promised for I am sure I cannot finish any out. I told Miss Mason this morning that I should like to be able to divide myself into three parts and distribute myself around where I was needed as I wanted to fill my usual place in school, give lessons to Clara’s scholars, and take care of her besides. I gave one Music lesson—rather a brief one as you can guess—at recess and shall give one after school this noon.

And now for Clara. The doctor came Saturday afternoon and again Sunday afternoon. He said Saturday he thought she had an irregularly intermittent fever and that she must be content to be quiet several days. Sunday she seemed to feel better in the morning and I bathed her in tepid water and rubbed her well. About noon she seemed to feel worse and had some chill symptoms though I could not discover that she really had a chill but she had fever again all the afternoon. Dr. Lord said yesterday that he thought there were chills there and he hoped they would come out and shew themselves as there seemed to be now a tendency to low fever. This morn Clara seems rather better. Says her head aches less than it has at any time since last Tuesday.

I stayed at home with her all day yesterday but went to church in the evening leaving her with Alice Mason. Miss Sarah Mason is with her this morning. I think she won’t be able to be in school again this week certainly but hope she will next week. Dr. Lord said he wanted to cure her as quick as possible as she was such an important personage. I like what I have seen of him very much.

Noon. At home. Clara wants me to tell you to tell Henry that she was so much obliged to him for his letter and the pamphlet and will write as soon as she is well enough. You must all write often for letters seem to do Clara so much good. She says tell mother I was very thankful to get some ice yesterday as I couldn’t get any Saturday. Miss Mason says she has been lying very quietly all this morning. She seemed to have considerable fever this noon but has not had anything like a chill today. She sat up about an hour last evening ad rather more than that Saturday afternoon.

Dr. Lord said he would be here soon after dinner. Clara sends love to you all and hopes you won’t any of you get sick.

If I don’t write tomorrow you may conclude she is improving. I will write at any rate if I have time but I am kept pretty busy as you can guess. Best love to all from your own, — Lizzie

Letter 4

Batavia [Illinois]
October 3, 1855

My dear mother,

I am writing once more in school as I can’t find any other time very well. I wish I could get a letter from you this noon but I shall not begin to expect one till tomorrow and shall not be very much disappointed if I do not get one till Friday, I think Clara is better today than yesterday….She sits up every morning long enough for me to make the bed…I give her a bath and a good rubbing as often as she feels inclined ad have taken a great deal of pains to keep the air in the room pure and not too warm.

I had quite a headache yesterday and the latter part of the afternoon felt quite sick and could hardly stay in the schoolroom. When i went home, I lay down a little while and then I got up again. I felt so uncomfortable I lay down a second time and dropped asleep and felt much better for it. I did not go down to supper at all and went to bed as soon as I got Clara fixed for the night. My head aches considerably today but I hope I shan’t feel as badly as yesterday afternoon. I leave Clara in the care of the Masons while I am at school. They are very kind and she gets along very well…

Clara wants me to ask you, mother, to go to Balmes [?] and Webers and pay $1.25 for some books he sent to her last winter. She sent to Chicago for them and could not get them and so sent to St. Louis. She will send you the money as son as she is able to give the girls their books and collect the money. Waldo will, I dare say, give you this amount…

At home. Noon. The Dr. had been here when I came home. He told Clara he thought she was getting along but she must be very careful. She is sitting up now for the first time in the day since last Friday. It really seems right pleasant to see her up. One of the girls brought her a beautiful bouquet this morning. I brought it down to Clara at recess but after admiring it a little, she sent it out of the room. She said the [ ] was so fragrant. So Miss Alice is enjoying it for us both. Miss Sarah Mason went to Chicago last night. Will come back again tonight. She is going to get a [ ] and make over her bonnet and so I sent ffor [ ] for Clara and I and intend bringing our [ ].

Sue Lockwood was here a little while day before yesterday. They are all better up there. Monday was a real rainy day. Yesterday and today have been beautiful. Clara got a Springfield paper this noon. I wish Waldo would send me some papers occasionally. I have read Harper’s for October. I think I must make some arrangements for getting the monthlies regularly. I am sure I can’t be without them all winter…

Love to all friends. You must write very often. Best love to Waldo and Charlie. Clara sends love to all. Thank Mrs. Topping for doing my tidy. Love ever, from Lizzie

Letter 5

Batavia [Illinois]
Friday afternoon, October 12th 1855

My very dear mother,

Your letter and Waldo’s came this noon. I have been sure I should get one every day this week and have been everyday disappointed. I took so much pains to write you every other day last week. I am sure you might have written once extra, And in your letters you do not say anything about more than one letter from me.

You see I am quite out of sorts and must give vent to any ill humor, but I had expected so much sympathy from your home letters and had to so without. I don’t think you realize what a time Clara has had or how sick she has been and how much I have had on my hands. I hope Clara is going to get along, but it is very slowly as yet. I do hope she will be able to go up to school early in the week. It is very unfortunate for the Music scholars but I am very thankful things are not worse and that she has not had typhoid fever.

You do not say why you did not go to Mrs. Stalling’s. Mr. Eager in his last letter said you were going to Mrs. Norris’. Did you think of it? I think it would be very nice idea for you to come up here for a time if you did not stay all winter. I think it would be a very good idea for you to board a month in St. Louis. By that time you could finish fixing up Charlie for his winter. Then you might come up here and stay till the holidays, go with Clara to Racine, and if it was best, stay there a while or come back here or go to St. Louis as you and Waldo thought best. It seems too much to pay $35 a month when you could board here or at Racine for so much less. I wish Waldo would write what he thinks of it. I was afraid it would have been quite lonely here for you but then we would have some nice times. I don’t doubt you would find it pleasanter at Racine than here.

You did not say whether you went out to Mr. Post’s or not. Have you seen Miss Fanny? You have not said one work of Mrs. Topping in either of your last letters. I hope you will send Dwight’s letters soon. How is cousin Mary? Was there any particular reason for Mrs. Allen’s and Mattie’s return? Does Mary bring any Pittsfield news? Have you heard at all from Northampton?

The Mason’s are expecting to go into Chicago next week. We shall miss them very much indeed. Miss Mason says as soon as they are fully settled, she is coming out some Thursday to take us back on Friday to spend the Sabbath. I can’t stay over the Sabbath but Clara might. It is very pleasant to have them so cordial and kind. I am sure I don’t know what Clara would have done without them for they have taken the whole care of her in school hours.

The State Fair at Chicago came off this week and very many people went in to attend it. The weather has been most lovely. Mr. and Mrs. Town went in on the four o’clock train Wednesday morning and came home on the eleven o’clock train at night but it did not get here till one, making quite a long day, was it not? Sue and Anna Lockwood went in Thursday with Mr. Merinden [?]. Mr. M has not been at his [church] to preach yet but hopes to in a few weeks. How I should love to hear Mr. Post. Is he well and looking well? How comes on his chapel?

You do not say anything about the box. Has it gone?

I must tell you how Miss Mason had her English straw fixed this fall. It is [ ] and trimmed with bombazines. There are five or six narrow folds around the front and twice as many over the center of the bonnet. The cape has three or four of the same narrow folds. It is very pretty and I thought you might like yours fixed so. I have not touched mine yet. Indeed, I have not done any sewing since I have been here. I have not done any thing for the last three weeks hardly.

Give much love to Mary and to all my friends. Seems to me it is very strange that Charlie should have been at home and you not mention it. Who is Perry? Do you think he is improving any? Best love to Waldo, to cousin Robert and Henry. Tell Robert I enjoyed his letter very much and shall answer soon. Love ever from your own, — Lizzie

1864: Martha Rebecca Elizabeth McElwee to Jonathan Newman McElwee

How Lizzie might have looked in 1864

This letter was written by 16 year-old Martha Rebecca Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) McElwee, the daughter of Jonathan Newman McElwee (1809-1892) and Martha Amelia Orr (1810-1873) of Rock Hill, York county, South Carolina. Lizzy was married in 1870 to J. W. O. Riley.

Lizzie’s father served in the Confederate army early in the war and her two brothers, Jonathan Lewis and Manlius Jerome were still serving in the 1st South Carolina Cavalry late in 1864.

Lizzie may have been attending the Yorkville Female College in Yorkville when she wrote this letter in December 1864.


Addressed to Mr. J. N. McElwee, Taylor’s Creek, South Carolina
Postmarked Yorkville, S. C.

Yorkville, South Carolina
December 31, 1864

My Dear Father,

I received your very kind letter this evening brought by Mr. C. and also 10 dollars. I am very much obliged to you for it as I have been needing some for I was nearly out. I also received the trunk. It came safe—all but the key. He did not send it around with the trunk but if he didn’t bring the key, I can get it open anyway as Aunt Emily has one that will unlock it.

Father, I suppose that you all are very despondent about our country now. I think that almost everyone is so now—at least all of the York people is that I have seen. I have not heard from the boys in three or four weeks until this evening [when] sister sent me one from [brother] Jerome. I am very sorry to hear that they have left Charleston for they were fixed very well for this winter.

If you have not got a supply of salt, you had better get it as salt is selling here at 100 dollars a bushel. Everyone is trying to get all they can as nearly all of the people think that Charleston & W[ilmington] will fall & if so, it will be very hard to get salt at almost any price.

I have just returned from Mrs. Smith’s. She died last night very sudden with apoplexy. She leaves a very helpless family. I will be at home on next Thursday if it does not rain too hard for me to get to the depot as Mr. Muller is going down to tune our piano. I thought I would go down with him as he is a very old man & he asked me to go down with him. Aunt Emily says for me to go that way as the raids is very bad so please send the carriage to Rock Hill for us on that day.

You must excuse this bad written letter as I can hardly write at all with my pen, it is so dull. Aunt Emily joins me in love to you all. Tell sis that I have received two letters from her but will not answer them now as I will be at home in a few days. Write soon. I remain your affectionate daughter, — Lizzie McElwee

P. S. Father, I hope that you will not be displeased at me for coming home on the railroads as I have several friends going down on that day and perhaps Aunt Emily will go with me down to Chester.

1850: Calvin Waldo Marsh to Clarissa Dwight Marsh

This letter was written by Calvin Waldo Marsh (1825-1873), the son of Henry Marsh (1797-1852) and Sarah Whitney (1796-1883) of Berkshire county, Massachusetts. Calvin’s father, Henry, died of cholera at LaSalle, Illinois in 1852 when he was 55 years old. By that time, Calvin had already graduated from Williams College (1844) and was working as a commission merchant in St. Louis, Missouri. 

Calvin write the letter to his sister Clarissa (“Clara”) Dwight Marsh (1834-1899) who was attending the Cooper Female Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, at the time of this 1850 letter.

One large paragraph of the letter is devoted to a discussion of journals kept by Calvin’s older brother, Rev. Dwight Whitney Marsh (1823-1896), an 1842 graduate of Williams College and the Andover Theological Seminary who traveled as a missionary to Turkey in 1849. As mentioned is young “Charlie,” (Charles Francis Marsh) the thirteen year-old brother of Calvin’s.


Addressed to Miss Clara D. Marsh, Cooper Female Seminary, Dayton, Ohio

Saint Louis, [Missouri]
June 1, 1850

My Dear Sister,

Although I am not indebted to you by way of correspondence, still as I have leisure this morning, I thought t’would be pleasant to spend it in holding a little chat with you. I presume ‘ere this you are having there as here delightful warm weather. For four or five days it has been charming here & except last Monday, none too warm for comfort.

An early Saint Louis fire pump apparatus

On Monday the firemen had their annual “Parade” and of course Charlie was half crazy to see it all. T’was a beautiful sight and the bright colored uniforms of the men and the highly polished engines gaily trimmed with flowers and the streets in front of the different engine houses filled with flags suspended by ropes from one side to the other, the beautiful horses drawing the “machines” & the inspiriting music of six or eight different bands all tended to excite & please the multitude of citizens of all ages which thronged the sidewalks, church steps, balconies & windows of each street they passed. 1

The Butchers, each mounted & in a beautiful white shirt with blue scarfs paraded with the firemen. They were quite half an hour passing where I stood. They marched from eleven till three or four, &c., then dined at different hotels. T’was the warmest day of the season—the thermometer standing at 90 degrees in the shade.

I have had one or two letters from Sandusky from Jim Peck and John Massey. Kate spends the summer in Rochester & also her father & mother. We have not heard very recently from Racine but they were all well when we last heard. Lizzie seems quite anxious that you should remain at Dayton another year & I am also decidedly of the same opinion & when father returns from Illinois, shall talk with him about it. Should you do so, can you spend part of your vacation in Sandusky, pleasantly. If you should, I should think & advise that Lizzie meet you there & make a visit and then father or myself would meet here at Cincinnati or Dayton. It would be too hot for you to think of spending the vacation here & would cost too much besides.

I wish you would write me in your next what your expenses have been for the last year & what they probably will be for the year to come.

Monday, the 3rd. I stopped writing on Saturday to go to the post office & there found a letter from Julia to me together with Dwight’s journal “No. 4.” No. 3 we received a month since & after all reading it, I copied it and sent it to Henry with instructions to forward to you. As soon as you receive it & have read it, you must remail to “Julia” in New York. With the last journal came a letter addressed to the “family” & in it he says, “return the journal as soon as possible to New York to her.” His journal Nos. 1 & 2 have not been received as yet and I begin to fear they are lost. No. 1 contains his trip across the ocean & No. 2 his stay at Smyrna & journey to Beirut & stay there. “No. 3” is description of a week’s sojourn at Scanderoon & his journey from there to Aleppo. The last one, No. 4. contains description of Aleppo & journey from there to Aintab. & his reception there. I copied on Saturday about one half of the last journal, some four sheets (16 pages) and was quite tired before night. Journal No. 3 is 11 sheets—44 days—and it was quite a job but a pleasant one. I shall copy the balance today & tomorrow and send to Henry next day.

I received six letters this morning, one from Henry, one from you, from Thornton, from Henry Boardman, and two on business—one for Father however. Henry has just received the journal and will I presume forward it to you. Edward Smith has been dangerously sick & when he wrote, they had scarcely any hopes of his recovery. Maria & Clara had taken almost the entire care of him. His complaint is pneumonia & hemorrhage of the lungs. His father Canfield & John were both absent and he was very busy. All the rest well.

Thornton says Mr. L. S. Hubbard is to be married 25th of this month & he expects to be Mr. Hubbard’s right hand man & thinks they will take a trip to Falls of Saint Anthony by way of this city. He says also that Mr. A. M. Porter has bought the Hollister place where we lived. He speaks of “Ella,” Converse little child being sick or having been of which I believe you wrote. In regard to “Lizzie’s” going there with you, I like the idea myself but this morning Father did not concur at all. We had not time to discuss the matter but shall today or soon & then pressure Father & Mother will both write you. I still take my meals at the “Munroe” and room up on Fourth Street & Father & Mother with Charlie are at Mrs. Douthitt’s on Sixth Street. As to my business, cannot say much as in this business I have to first make the acquaintance of the men who send produce here to sell and then to get their confidence, all of which takes time, & it is both a dull season and near the close of the spring business season.

I see cousin Robert every day or two although I have not seen a great deal of him as he is pretty closely confined by his banking duties. Mother has written to Aunt Clara once or twice & I think I will soon. I am pretty confident I sent the paper you speak of & cannot now get another. I send you now the Republican with two quite pretty stories & a very interesting letter from France by their correspondent in Paris who is a lady & the suggestions in regard to dress I think exceedingly good. I like Mrs. Peters much. Of Belle I cannot judge but she appears well for what I have seen of her.

Charlie is happy as a cricket & is perfectly well. He goes to Mr. Wyman’s school & finds his way about the city without much trouble. I sent him from my office up home alone the other day, seven blocks off.

LSE4313117 Adam and Eve. Painting by Claude Marie Dubufe (1790-1864), Oil On Canvas, 1827. Museum of Fine Arts of Nantes. by Dubufe, Claude-Marie (1790-1864); Musee des Beaux-Arts, Nantes, France; ( Adam and Eve. Painting by Claude Marie Dubufe (1790-1864), Oil On Canvas, 1827. Museum of Fine Arts of Nantes.); Photo © Leonard de Selva.

The painting of Adam & Eve by [Claude Marie] Dubufes has been on exhibition here for four weeks & leaves today for Louisville. Strawberries are getting quite plenty & will soon be cheap and abundant.

I went to ride with Mother a week ago down towards “Vide Pochí” pronounced Veed Poshe & called first at a Mr. Williams whose acquaintance I had made & who very politely took me out to tea with him one evening sometime ago & although his wife (a lady of twenty-two or three & very agreeable( was not at hot house, her house keeper showed us over the garden and gave us flowers and took us up on the back piazza where there is a most beautiful view down the river twenty-five miles & the river appearing to come out of the ground at the foot of the long descent from the house.

We called at Mr. Thomas Allen’s as came along back and there had a pleasant chat with Mrs. A., a romp with “Lillie” & “Russell,” and were refreshed with some nice cake. Lilla showed me her chickens & ducks & young Guinea hens, her flower bed in the garden, & found me one or two ripe strawberries, then into the house & up in the library to see her young canaries two weeks old, five of them in one next—little beauties. Russell showed “his” birds, four little young “catbirds” in a nest built in a evergreen bush not so high as my head near the gate & about ten rods from the house. Is Miss Claflin still your roommate & how does the Misses Osborn? Remember me to them should they enquire. With much love from Father & Mother, & from your own brother, — C. W. Marsh

Hubbard marries a Miss Livingston of Gainsville who spent part of last winter in Sandusky. I knew her very intelligent and quite handsome. A good match.

Father returned from Illinois Saturday night & will write you before he leaves again, I think. Write when you have leisure. I shall not be able to write you as often as I do after the [ ] commences. — Waldo

1 The city of Saint Louis had 12 volunteer fire companies by the 1850s.

1864: G. C. S. to “Bedford”

This letter was written by a recently resigned Union officer, regiment unknown. He signed his letter with the initials “G. C. S.” and addressed it to his friend “Bedford,” also unfortunately unidentified although we learn from the letter then Bedford had recently been assigned to the staff of Union General John W. Slocum and was with him in Atlanta, Georgia. During the summer of 1864, Slocum commanded the District of Vicksburg and the XVII Corps of the Department of the Tennessee. When Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson was killed in action during the Atlanta Campaign, command of Army of the Tennessee opened up, and when Hooker did not get it he resigned his commission. Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman the appointed Slocum to command the XX Corps, which earlier had been formed by merging the XI Corps and XII Corps into a single command. His former XII Corps soldiers cheered their previous commander’s return. When Atlanta fell to Sherman on September 2, 1864, Gen. Slocum and his corps were the first to enter the city. Slocum was occupation commander of Atlanta for ten weeks, during which time he tried to make the occupation as tolerable for civilians as he could.

There is some possibility that. “G. C. S.” was connected with the 72nd Ohio Infantry that occupied Vicksburg at the time but I could not find an officer with those initials. He may also have been connected with one of the USCT Regiments.


Vicksburg [Mississippi]
September 22, 1864

My dear Bedford,

Your highly esteemed favor of the 29th ult. came to hand today after my patience was quite exhausted with waiting to hear from you.

We have heard of the occupation of Atlanta and of Sherman’s order to citizens loyal and disloyal to vacate. There has always been too many of the latter class permitted to remain at our military posts but I question the policy of sending from their homes those who are loyal or who are willing in good faith to turn to the overtures of mercy and embrace the amnesty offered by Father Abraham. We all rejoice to hear that you are safely through the campaign so far.

My resignation was returned to me today “accepted” and in consequence, am now an American Citizen, not of A. D. [African Descent] unfortunately perhaps, but willing to take the risk of getting my rights with a fair complexion.

All your old friends are well and make frequent inquiry after you. I took tea last evening at Judge [Laurence S.] Houghton’s besides the daughter of the judge [Theodosia], Mrs. Cushing, and a Miss Grafton were present—a very nice party you will say. After tea several officers of the 72nd [Ohio?] came in. Miss Dona was much gratified when I told her you had wished to be most kindly remembered to her. I have not seen Miss Hazelett since you left.

How is General [Henry Warner] Slocum? The ladies here all say they never properly appreciated him until after he was gone & now they earnestly pray for his return. They want him to know it. I congratulate you upon having your fortunes cast with such an officer. General Dennis now commands the 2nd Division, 19th Army Corps—8,000 strong now [and] is at the mouth of the White River. Kuhn is A. A. A. G., Davis [is] C. S. Kuhn is about to lose Miss Williamson. She is now lying very low with typhoid fever and no hopes are entertained of her recovery.

Since you left I had quite an attack of chill & fever that prostrated me completely. Mrs. Wilson & family were very kind indeed. I still occupy the old room and use the same furniture every piece of which serves to remind me of my old chum.

Write a greater length & oftener. I shall be here until Christmas. My respects to the General & staff and believe me as ever, truly your friend, — G. C. S.