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.

1863: Daniel W. Tuttle to Owen Tuttle

This letter was written by Daniel W. Tuttle (1837-11913), the son of Owen Tuttle (1807-1864) and Permelia Cooper (1811-1897) of Galion, Crawford county, Illinois.

Daniel enlisted on 20 August 1861 to serve as a private in the 16th Ohio Light Artillery. He mustered out of the regiment on 5 September 1864 after three years service. Daniel’s brother enlisted with him in September but was discharged for disability in January 1862 and died in 1868.

David’s letter includes a discussion of the soldier voting in the Ohio Gubernatorial Election in the fall of 1863. He also mentions the manufacture of water barrels for the anticipated march into Texas.

I could not find an image of David and his brother Samuel but here are two brothers—James and Pomeroy Mitchell—who served in the 16th Independent Battery, Ohio Light Artillery. The image was too good not to use. (Ohio History Connection)


Addressed to Mr. Owen Tuttle, Galion, Crawford county, Ohio

New Orleans [Louisiana]
October 30th 1863

Remembered Parents,

I find myself seated once more for the purpose of addressing a few lines to you. We have not had any mail for so long that I have pretty near quit writing too. I have not had any letters from you since the 17th of September but I suppose some of our mails have been burnt on some of the boats that met with the firey element.

There is no news here that would be of any interest to you that you do not hear. We have had the privilege of voting on the 13th. There was 61 votes polled in our company for [John] Brough but the poor traitor Val[andigham] could get nary a one. If I had known the names of the candidates for the county offices, I could have voted for them. We have not heard how the election went in the state. The news is ten days old when it arrives at this place but we know how the soldiers vote is cast and from that we an guess who is Chief of Ohio for the next two years.

I believe that our Division is still near Brashear City. General [Francis J.] Herron’s Division and the 3rd has been put together. Herron lost two of his regiments while on a scout up Red River—the 19th Iowa and the 26th Indiana. I suppose George Johnson is a prisoner but 20 of the regiment escaped. They also lost a section of one of their batteries. Their Division and ours has seven batteries and now as the think has been consolidated, there will not be use for more than four of them so that part of us will stay here this winter or be sent to some other command. The reason that we do not go to our Division is on account of getting fresh water for the horses. There has been several thousand barrels made here for the purpose of hauling water for to drink and cook with. There is quite a long march to make that is destitute of fresh water except in the cisterns and that would not go very far towards supplying even drinking [water]. I have not much of a desire to make a march where water has to be dealt out as a ration.

The weather here is quite war and pleasant with very little rain but the mosquitoes the like of them never was in other place except this. We can only get about four hours peace out of 24. It is almost out of the question to do this scribbling. I must close. Until we join our division, direct in this way: New Orleans, 16th Ohio Battery, Care of Capt. R[ussell[ P[eter] Twist 1

— D. T.

1 See also—1863: Russell Peter Twist to Nannie (Forman) Twist, published on S&S 7 in May 2014.

1862-64: James Archibald Johnson to Handy William Johnson

These letters were written by James Archibald Johnson (1841-1864), the son of Handy William Johnson (1816-1914) and Francis Matilda McKneeley (1824-1898) of Griffin, Spalding county, Georgia. During the Civil War, Alfred’s father—advanced in years—served in the 2nd Georgia Reserves but offered up his four oldest sons to serve in the Confederate army.

Alfred Homer Johnson (1842-1866) the son of Handy William Johnson (1816-1914) and Francis Matilda McKneeley (1824-1898) of Griffin, Spalding county, Georgia. During the Civil War, Alfred’s father—advanced in years—served in the 2nd Georgia Reserves but offered up his four oldest sons to serve in the Confederate army.

According to Confederate military records, James enlisted for one year in Co. C, 39th Georgia Infantry, on 25 September 1861. By May 1862, James had reenlisted for the duration of the war as a private in Co. F, 30th Georgia Infantry. James was wounded in the fighting at Jackson, Mississippi, on 16 July 1863 after the surrender of Vicksburg. He died of his wounds over a year later, on 7 September 1864.

James served with three younger brothers in the 30th Georgia Infantry. Alfred Homer Johnson (1842-1866) was wounded in the fighting at Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia, on or about 27 June 1864, survived, but died of his wounds a couple years later. William Gilben (“Gip” or “Dill”) Johnson (1845-1920) received a foot wound in the fighting before Atlanta but survived the war. O. Sidney Johnson (1847-1864) enlisted with his older brothers in May 1864 but died of illness in a hospital in Atlanta on 30 June 1864.

See also—1863-64: Alfred Homer Johnson to Handy W. Johnson.

A post-war image of William G. Johnson and his family. William was the only one of four brothers to serve in the 30th Georgia Infantry to survive the war and live to an old age.

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

Letter 1

Camp Barto
May 1, 1862

Dear Father, mother, brothers and sisters,

I seat myself to drop you a few lines which leave me well at this time, hoping when these few lines come to hand they may find you all well and enjoying the good blessing of life. Mother, I don’t want you to be uneasy about me. I am a coming home as soon as I can get off. I don’t know how [long] it will be before I can get off. We all have reenlisted for a year longer. We will draw money again tomorrow if nothing happens.

Pa, I want you to take care of my colt for me. I want you to make her fat for me if you can. I want you to tell children that I want to see them mighty bad. It looks like it has been a year since I have been at home. Tell the children not to forget me for I will get to come home some time or other if nothing happens to me. I have nothing more at present more than you all must write often and every chance.

Direct your letters to the 39th Regiment Georgia Volunteers, Savannah, Box No. 800

To all of you, — James A. Johnson

Letter 2

[partial letter, probably sometime in July 1864]

Camp 30th Georgia Reserves, Camp Smith, near Atlanta

…the trouble that I am seeing is more than I can stand. It seems like that I would not care how soon my time may come and after all of the rest. I heard that Alfred and Dill—both of them—was wounded seriously. I want to know whether there was any of you with Sidney [when he died] or not. I would be glad to hear some more than I have learned. It is very effecting to hear anything and not know the particulars about it. I only know that he is dead and Alfred ad Dill was wounded. It seems like to me that I hant got a friend in the world. I am here by myself. I hant heard from home since Pa left here. I don’t want you all to forget me. I hope you will all write every chance that you have.

….and heard that William was at home. I hope that may be so and I want him to stay there as long as he can. Mother, I want you to let trouble never pester you. If we all get killed and die, let us go. I don’t want you [to] study anything about the troubles of this world for you can’t stand up under everything.

Sis, I want you to write to me. I would be glad to hear from you. I am well at this time. — James A. Johnson

[to] H. W. Johnson

1863-64: Alfred Homer Johnson to Handy W. Johnson

These letters were written by Alfred Homer Johnson (1842-1866) the son of Handy William Johnson (1816-1914) and Francis Matilda McKneeley (1824-1898) of Griffin, Spalding county, Georgia. During the Civil War, Alfred’s father—advanced in years—served in the 2nd Georgia Reserves but offered up his four oldest sons to serve in the Confederate army.

I could not find an image of Alfred but here is one of an unidentified Georgia infantryman (LOC)

According to Confederate military records, Alfred enlisted for one year in Co. C, 39th Georgia Infantry, on 25 September 1861 and was elected 2nd Corporal. By May 1862, Alfred had reenlisted for the duration of the war as a private in Co. F, 30th Georgia Infantry. That summer and fall he was detailed as an ambulance driver. There are no other details in Alfred’s records until he is identified as being one of the wounded in the fighting at Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia, on or about 27 June 1864.

Alfred served in the 30th Georgia with two brothers, both of whom are mentioned in these letters. His older brother, James Archibald Johnson (1841-1864), was wounded in the fighting at Jackson, Mississippi, on 16 July 1863 after the surrender of Vicksburg. He died of his wounds over a year later, on 7 September 1864. His younger brother William Gilben (“Gip” or “Dill”) Johnson (1845-1920) survived the war. Though Alfred survived the war, he may have died prematurely in 1866 as a result of his wounds received in front of Atlanta.

In the fourth letter, Alfred mentions the death of his younger brother, O. Sidney Johnson who had entered the 3rd Regiment Georgia Reserves as a private in Co. K. in April 1864. His age was not given in his military record but he was enumerated in the June 1860 US Census as a 12 year-old in his father’s household so he was probably only 16 in April 1864. A month later, in late May 1864, perhaps just having turned 17, Sidney enlisted in Co. F, 30th Georgia, to serve with his older brothers. His descriptive list described him as standing 5′ 9″ tall, with light hair, a fair complexion, and blue eyes. Sidney died the 30th of June 1864 in an Atlanta hospital.

See also—1862-64: James Archibald Johnson to Handy William Johnson

Descriptive List for O. S. (“Sidney”) Johnson. 17 year-old Sidney could not sign his name; only make his mark.

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

Letter 1

Johnson wrote his letter on 8 April 1863, the day after “The Great Fight at Charleston” of 7 April 1863 waged by nine ironclads under the command of Admiral Dupont and the Rebel forts in Charleston Harbor.

Camp Near Charleston [South Carolina]
April 8, 1863

Dear Father and Mother,

I seat myself to drop you all a few lines to let you know how we are getting along. We are well. I hant got any news to write—only we are here waiting for a fight. We are expecting to be ordered to the battlefield every hour. The Yankees has 9 ironclads inside of the bar now and 40 standing just below the bar now and 75 transports down in the river. That is the news we get out here. I don’t know how true it may be.

We left Gip at Savannah. He is well. We will go back to Savannah just as soon as the excitement is over here at Charleston. We are here beside the big road without our tents or anything to cook in. The only one good thing—we have nice weather, and I don’t mind it as long as we have fair weather.

Pap, Jim says to tell you to [paper creased] horse and raise him a colt. Pap, write how you are getting along with your crop and how all of the things are gettin along. I will close. I hant got anything to write. You all must write as soon as you get this letter and let me hear all the news of our home. Mother, direct your letter to Charleston, South Carolina and write as soon as you get this. I don’t know how long we will stay here. Nothing more. — A. H. Johnson

To you all at home.

Letter 2

A scene depicting the Battle of Jackson that took place on 13 May 1863

Camp Vaughan Station, Mississippi
May 23, 1863

Dear Father and Mother,

I take my pen in hand to drop you all a few lines to let you know we are all well at this time and I sincerely hope these few lines will come to hand and find you all well and doing well. I hant got anything to write that will interest you—only there has been a fight at Jackson. We was there in time of the fight. I can’t say that we was in it although all of the boys think we was in it. It is true we was on the battlefield. I only shot three times and if they had come in sight of me, I would have shot more but I wanted to see them. The [ ] and balls fell very thick around us. I was not scared a bit—more than if it had a been hail. James was not there in the time of the fight, nor Gip. I sent him off in the rear. The Yankees would have taken every one of us if we’ens hadn’t got away just as we did. General Johnston did not intend to fight there. Our force commenced retreating in the night before the fight came next morning. We was left there to hold them in check so our force could get away.

We lost everything we had at Jackson—our clothes, knapsacks, and blankets. We hant got anything, only what we have got on. We lie on the ground every night by the fire. I done about as well with[out] blankets as I done with them. We will get some clothes and blankets I reckon before long. We have been marching every day since we have been here through the mud and it has been raining a great deal. The water is bad and hard to get.

The Yankees got three of our company—William Johnson 1 and William Willis 2 and Arch Head. 3 It is some spoken that Head let the Yankees take him on purpose. I can’t say whether he did or not. Mother, we passed [with]in ten miles of Uncle Alfred’s house, Gip stands the trip very well. He pressed a mule and rode four days.

I hant got anything to write that will interest you all. Look over [my] bad writing and spelling. I have a bad way to write and this paper is so bad that I can’t write on it. Mother, you must write all the news you have. Let us know how all the things are getting at home. You mustn’t be uneasy about us all that we are faring bad—not as bad as some has, I reckon—but this is bad. Worse than I like. I don’t feel under any dread whatever.

I will close for this time. Tell all of the children I want to see them all. Write as soon as this you get.

Direct your letter to Canton, Mississippi, the 30th Regt. Georgia Volunteers, in the care of Capt. R. J. Andrews, Co. F, Col. T[homas] W[oodward] Mangham, General Walker’s Brigade

— A. H. Johnson

Alfred H. Johnson

1 William Johnson of Co. F, 30th Ga. Infantry, was taken prisoner at Jackson, Mississippi, on 14 May 1863. His name appears on the list of exchanged men from Demopolis since 17 August 1863 to Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s Headquarters.

2 William Daniel Willis of Talbot county, Georgia, served in Co. F, 30th Ga. Infantry. He was admitted into the 1st Mississippi CSA Hospital at Jackson, Mississippi, on 14 May 1863 suffering from acute diarrhea. He was returned to duty on 27 May 1863. He was among the remaining members of the regiment who surrendered at Greensboro, North Carolina, on 26 April 1865.

3 Archie T. Head did not enlist in Co. F, 30th Georgia Infantry until September 1862. He was captured at Jackson on 14 May 1863 and his name appears among the paroled prisoners in camp at Demopolis, Alabama, on 5 June 1863. Archie returned to his regiment and was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga later that year.

Letter 3

Camp near Morton
August 18, 1863

Dear Father and Mother,

I take my pen in hand to drop you all a few lines to let you know we are well and Dill is well. Mother, we got the letter that you [sent] by George McElhenney. We was glad to hear from you all but was sorry to hear that some of the children was and had been sick. But I do sincerely hope these few lines will come to hand and find you all well. I hant got anything of importance to write. Times are very peaceful here.

I hear this morning that there was a little fight at Canton yesterday but never heard the result of the fight yet. The loss is not much on either side, I don’t reckon. We have been stationed here ever since the fight at Jackson. I hope that we won’t have to do much more marching this year.

Mother, I want you to write and let me know how much wheat you made and whether you think that you will make enough corn to do you next year or not and I want [you] to let me know [how] the horses look and oxen and cows ad the sheep and hogs and whether you think that you wil have hogs enough to make your meat next year. Be sure and let me know how my colt looks and how he is getting on. Let me know how all the stock looks.

James said to tend to his filly as well as your colt. I will stop that subject and tell you how I want to be at home to get peaches and watermelons to eat. I would give most anything in the world to be at home to get some milk and butter. Mother, I know you would cook me something good to eat if I was at home. Mother, I want to be at [home] to get something good to eat worse than anybody in the world, I reckon.

Mother, I will tell you what we have to pay for peaches—one dollar and a half, pies two dollars, watermelons from two to ten dollars, and peaches one and a half dollars, apples two a dozen. Dill received a letter 3 or 4 days ago. Mother, I send my love to you all. Tell the children I want to see them all mighty bad. Mother, I will close for what I have wrote won’t interest you. Write as soon as you get this letter. Direct to the 30th Ga. Regiment, Wilson’s Brigade, Walker’s Division. Goodbye to you all, — Alfred H. Johnson

To you all. write soon.

Letter 4

Hospital, LaGrange, Georgia
July 14, 1864

Dear and beloved Mother and Father,

I seat myself to drop a few lines which will inform you of my troubles that is inflicted on me. The solemn and sad news that has come to my ear is this—that I have lost one of my brothers. I heard today that Sidney is passed from time to eternity. Oh! that the poor boy is better off than he was before. He departed from this life to another world. I was impressed that the poor boy could not stand a camp life. I hope the poor boy is better off. I hope he is where there is no war and trouble to be with him.

— Alfred H. Johnson

Not something you see everyday. Among the Johnson papers there remains a Surgeon’s slip issued from the Hospital at LaGrange, Georgia, dated 24 July 1864, testifying an examination of James A. Johnson (Co. F, 30th Georgia) by Asst. Surgeon Edward Milhous Vasser. The surgeon was checking the small pox scar of Johnson’s arm to make certain that it was “perfect” and didn’t require additional vaccination.

Letter 5

Mr. Johnson,

I will send you a word about your boys. I brought a letter from Lieut. J. M. Wise last night. Dilly are wounded in the foot very bad—left foot. Alfred in the face. Sidney are dead. He died on the 30th of June in Atlanta. — L. J. Foster

Grim news sent to father of the boys, undated cryptic note.

1864: George R. Payne to Friend Buck

I could not find an image of George but here is one of Lewis Campbell of Co. H, 134th New York Infantry. (Photo Sleuth)

This letter was written by Orderly Sergt. George R. Payne (1841-1864), Co. E, 134th Regt. New York Volunteers. George was a resident of Richmondville, Schoharie county, New York, when he mustered into service on 22 September 1862 at the age of 22. He was killed in action at the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge, Georgia, on 8 May 1864.

The entry for George in the New York Town Clerk’s Registers of Men Who Served in the Civil War states that George was “taken prisoner at Gettysburg & recaptured a few days after. Afterwards shot dead.” One source says he was a Lieutenant when he was killed but I see no evidence of a commission.

George was the son of William Payne (1799-1863) and Gertrude (“Gitty”) Crapser (1802-1885) of Schoharie county, New York.


Lookout Valley, Tennessee
February 1, 1864

Friend Buck,

You must imagine the satisfaction it gave me to receive a letter from you. I have been anxious to hear from you, but was in rather a worse fix than you were, as I had no idea where to address you; and I want you to continue directing letters by guess to me, if they all come through in time like the one in hand. I have often thought of you and the pleasant, though short, association we had together. Although our acquaintance was short, I believe our friendship is as permanent and lasting as life itself, which I would wish, if possible, to enjoy in a more personal manner than with a pen.

I am sorry that you had to stop in Washington. I was in hopes to hear from you in California or the West: at least I was in hopes you would go to Philadelphia., Newark, or some other northern city. I believe if you were in either of the above-named places you would enjoy yourself and be contented. As for me, I am better satisfied and contented than I was at the hospital. And more healthy also. You would hardly know me I have fleshed up so.

When I reached here (17 Dec.) I did not find the regiment. They with the Corps were gone up to relieve Burnside of Longstreet, but they returned the same night and you can bet we were glad to see each other. I did hardly else for a couple of days but talk over matters and events that transpired since I left them. They had been gone since the Lookout Mountain and Chattanooga fights, which was about four weeks, during which time, as they left their knapsacks behind, they had no shelter or blankets and marched 240 miles. They were barefooted, ragged, and lousy, and that in December during some of the coldest weather we have had. Some of the boys marched over a hundred miles barefooted. They drew no rations and what they had was picked up along the rout. The whole army were on short rations from the time they came in here (that is, when Rosecrans took Chattanooga) until the cars came through from Bridgeport to Chattanooga, about two weeks ago. Previous, all our supplies were fetched up on boats which were insufficient to supply the whole army. Since I have been here, we were two days without a ration. Before Hooker opened the way from Bridgeport to Chattanooga, Rosecrans’ army was on the point of starvation for the rebs had possession of this valley and wold fire on the boats and wagon trains on the other side of the river and nearly stopped transportation.

The Western Army were glad to see them come, and were surprised that they came through right under the guns on Lookout and the Valley, which also has minor mountains on which were reb’s breastworks and infantry. Our boys say it is nothing but fun to fight Bragg’s Army; they do not fight like Lee’s. The western troops highly applauded our boys for taking the Valley and Lookout. There were only fourteen wounded in my regiment; none killed.

Today is like spring and has been so for three or four weeks—sometimes too warm for comfort. I do not know what it will be in the summer. On the other hand we had a week of very cold weather and it snowed about half an inch. It is probable that we will have rain soon, but we are prepared for it, having first rate stockade tents and good fireplaces. We built these soon after I came back and have enjoyed ourselves first rate since.

We are right in view of Lookout Mountain and three miles from Chattanooga and presume we will remain along this railroad this summer, as the western generals think Old Joe has won laurels enough. This is a very mountainous country and it is surprising how we drove the rebs off from them. Lookout is a second Gibraltar. I have been up on it and is only accessible on this side by the assistance of ladders; on the other side, a road leads up by tacking along the mountain. On the opposite side of the Valley is Raccoon Mountain. I was on this also the other day hunting. I only shot a rabbit and came very near getting a shot at a deer. Four other fellows that were hunting also shot at it but did not kill it. There is once in a while a bear and wild hog shot. There is hundreds of acres of woods on these mountains and plenty of the latter.

The next morning after I got here, the Captain saw the Colonel and appointed me orderly of my company. When it was read off on dress parade, it said, “promoted for meritorious conduct.” Is not that a compliment? I have it very easy now as the company is small and we have a commissary sergeant. Our regiment numbers only about 200 at present and the Colonel and Major are trying to get it filled up but I am afraid they will not succeed. There are a great many enlisting in the counties in which our regiment was raised but cannot get them as we have no recruiting officer there, although the Colonel has tried to send some.

We had a pretty tedious time coming from Washington and were two weeks weeks on the road. We went to Camp Chase, Ohio, where we expected to stay awhile but remained only one day and started for Cincinnati where we stopped two days, giving us a chance to look around the pork metropolis, which is rightly named from the quantity I saw there. From there we took a boat down the Ohio River 150 miles to Louisville, Kentucky, remaining there one day. Then our course lay directly south across the states of Kentucky and Tennessee, passing through Nashville, to Bridgeport. Alabama, from which place we came afoot—a distance of thirty miles. Ohio is a fine state and well cultivated but Kentucky and Tennessee, being equally fine, need Yankee enterprise to make it the finest country in the world. They are about half covered with heavy timber and I hardly saw a frame house and the log houses were miserable things—not as good as our tents. They do not appreciate good buildings or have the ingenuity to build them. And if the ladies I saw are specimens of “southern chivalry,” where else no real beauty and symmetry is found. I think the sooner they are got rid of the better for as the boys say, they will all firk. One of the “chivalry” said, “we’ens think it no harm down here, as you’ens do.”

I would like to give you a more minute description of my journey here but have already wearied your patience and think I hear you say enough, enough. So I forbear and suffice it to say, I felt well repaid for the tiresome side of sixteen hundred miles.

I am glad to hear and see so many old regiments reenlisting for the war or three years. It is a severe blow at the rebellion, discouraging to them and greatly encourages us. I hope this administration will be [successful] getting out the 800,000 new recruits; then I think we can walk through anywhere. I hope Congress will repeal the commutation clause and allow no money substitutes, but it seems they are doing nothing. I hope to hear from you again soon and believe me as ever, your sincere friend, — G. R. Payne

Direct to Sergt. G. R. Payne, Co. E, 134th Regt. N. Y. Vol., 11th Corps, Nashville, Tenn.

1862: William Spates to Robert Spates

I could not find an image of William but here is one of John Davenport who also served in the 15th Iowa Infantry (Roger Davis Collection)

These three letters were written by William (“Bill”) Spates (1842-1863), the son of Thomas Purnell Spates (1799-1864) and Levica Scott (1805-1854) of Oskaloosa, Mahaska county, Iowa.

When William enlisted in Co. C, 15th Iowa Infantry in January 1863, he gave Indiana as his birthplace and Rose Hill, Iowa, as his current residence. He entered the service as a private and had been promoted to corporal prior to 6 June 1863 when he was detailed for Orderly Sergeant of Co. B, Tenth Louisiana Colored Volunteers (later designated the 48th US Colored Infantry Regiment). According to the muster rolls of the 48th USCT, William was never mustered as the Orderly Sergeant because he died on 25 June 1863 of fever at Goodrich Landing, Louisiana.

To read other letters published on Spared & Shared by 15th Iowa Infantry soldiers, see:
Cyrus E. Ferguson, Co. A, 15th Iowa (1 Letter)
Cyrus E. Ferguson, Co. A, 15th Iowa (9 Letters)
John A. Wheelock, Co. A, 15th Iowa (2 Letters)
John A. Wheelock, Co. A, 15th Iowa (2 Letters)

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

Letter 1

Headquarters 15th Iowa Infantry
Camp near Bolivar, Tennessee
August 13th 1862

Dear Brother,

I once more seat myself to inform you that I am well and when these few lines reach you, I hope they will find you enjoying the same blessing. I am on guard today and I thought I would drop you a few lines to let you know how things are at present as far as I can. We are still camped in the same place where we was when I wrote to [you] last. There has been nothing of any importance occurred yet and I am in hopes there will be none. We are a building forts here now. There is 6 forts a building or being built in a round here. I was on fatigue duty yesterday a having to go to build a magazine for Fort England. We go a foraging every other day and get peaches and apples.

Henry Hiatt is at our camp this morning and he is as fine a looking soldier as I ever saw in my life.. I believe he belongs to the 17th Illinois Regiment and they drawed their pay 4 or 5 days ago and he says he intends to send his father $25 or $30 dollars. I think it will be a good idea if he does.

You wanted to know how we lived. We live sometimes like gentlemen and some times like hogs. We draw flour and ham and pickled pork every five days and beef every morning. We have built a bake oven and we have bread that is fit to eat and as to our officers, we have as good officers as any company in the regiment. There never was a better man than Capt. [James A.] Seevers. 1 But as to the lieutenants, I will whip the Second Lieutenant if we ever live to get back to Oskaloosa. That is John D. Kinsman. He used to clerk in the Recorder’s [Office]. He is a perfect tyrant since he has come in command of the company. 2 Capt. Seevers is Acting Major and Lieut. John D. Shannon is detailed on the court martial in session at Bolivar. If I ever live to get to Oskaloosa, I will give Lieut. Kinsman a good licking.

I don’t know as I have anything to write of any importance any more than I want you to give me a full detail of all that is going on and about the draft but I will advise you to stay at home for you will never stand it at all. So take a fool’s advise and stay at home. write soon and oblige your brother.

— Bill Spates

To Robert Spates, Esq.

1 Seevers, James A. Age 29. Residence Oskaloosa, nativity Virginia. Appointed Captain Dec. 31, 1861. Mustered Dec. 31, 1861. Resigned Nov. 27, 1862, Tennessee. 

2 Kinsman, John D. Age 20. Residence Oskaloosa, nativity Iowa. Enlisted Oct. 17, 1861, as First Sergeant. Mustered Dec. 31, 1861. Promoted Second Lieutenant April 23, 1862. Killed in battle Oct. 3, 1862, Corinth, Miss. 

Letter 2

Headquarters 15th Regt. Iowa Vols.
Camp No. 14
September 17th 1862

Dear Bob,

I seat myself to drop you a few lines. We received orders to be ready to march by 3 o’clock Friday morning and started from Bolivar to Corinth and was two days and a half on the road. We are camped about 2 miles and a half from Corinth—a little east, and a supporting the Tenth Ohio Battery. We are camped close to the picket line of Company C, 7th Iowa. Bruce Jarvis 1 has not come down here yet. Walter Tanner 2 came to camp yesterday and said hat Bruce Jarvis started down when Johnson came down to St. Louis to get his pay. If he is strapped, it is not my fault for if he has been gambling and lost his money, I can’t sympathize with him for it. I don’t know when we will get our pay but I could not care if we did not draw our money while we are in the service.

I received your letter the other morning as we was a starting for Corinth. I received them papers you sent. I wish you would send me a few more stamps for I fell in the Tallahatchie River and got them wet and they stuck together and I lost all of them nearly. I will try and give Miss [ ] a flourish with the pen if I get a chance. I would give her a flourish with something else.

Bob, I am afraid this Union is about gone up or as our byword is, “played out” for ninety days. Our Generals has not done anything in the East.

I will close. Give my respects to all of my friends. Send me something good to eat if you please. Farewell and excuse my writing for I have one of the meanest pens you ever saw. I have run out of gas.

Your humble servant, — Bill Spates

I will send you some wild grapes seeds. The Tennesseans call them Muscadines. They are as big as a snail’s egg. I want you to have them a bearing by the time I get home.

1 There was no Bruce Jarvis on the rolls of the 15th Iowa Infantry.

2 Tanner, Walter A. Age 25. Residence Hopewell, nativity Ohio. Enlisted Oct. 17, 1861, as Third Corporal. Mustered Dec. 31, 1861. Killed in battle Oct. 3, 1862, Corinth, Miss. 

Letter 3

La Grange, [Tennessee]
November 29, 1862

Dear Brother,

I take the present opportunity of dropping you a few lines to let you know where I am. I arrived at La Grange yesterday evening. The Regiment left yesterday morning for Holly Springs and I and 4 more of the same regiment are here. I don’t know when I will get a chance to go to my regiment. The whole army is on the move and I expect will have a fight before a great while. There was about 70 thousand troops on their way to some place, God only knows where for I don’t.

I am well or about as I was when I left home. I think I will get a discharge when I get to the regiment or at least I intend to do my best towards getting one. I had not time to call on you for money so I gave Johnson a draft on you for $15. I suppose it will make no material difference to you. It did not cost me a cent for me to come down here. I came down to St. Louis with the 33rd Regiment and then I got a Transportation to my regiment.

Give my love and respects to all y old friends and especially to E. J. Shipley. Write soon and often. Your brother, — William Spates

To Robert Spates

1863: William Henry Scarbrough to James Scarbrough

I could not find an image of William but here is one of Albert Coomer who served in Co. C, 96th OVI (Griffing Collection)

This letter was written by William Henry Scarbrough (1842-1903), the son of James Scarbrough (1807-1896) and Elizabeth Breckenridge (1816-1904) of Liberty, Knox county, Ohio. The Scarbrough family were farmers and active members of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

William enlisted on 12 August 1862 to serve in Co. B, 96th OVI. Prior to his promotion to corporal in April 1863, he participated in the battles of Chickasaw Bluffs and Fort Hindman. He was with his regiment in the rear of Vicksburg when he wrote this letter in mid-June 1863 but became ill and was sent to the hospital on 4 July where he remained for a couple of weeks. He returned to his regiment and participated in the battle of Grand Coteau where he was wounded in the left index finger, was promoted to sergeant in December 1863, and and participated in the battles of Sabine Crossroads, Fort Gaines and Morgan, Spanish Fort and Mobile, Alabama.

For a great article on the early war experience of the 9th OVI, see Grapes and Catawba Wine on the Ohio: The 96th Ohio Defends Cincinnati, published in March 2021 in Dan Masters’ Civil War Chronicles.

See also, “An Ohio English TeachWent to Fight in the Civil War and Got his First True Taste of Battle,” by James Jewell on HistoryNet.

Previously published Spared & Shared letters by members of the 96th OVI:
Albert S. Coomer, Co. C, 96th Ohio (3 Letters)
Alfred Alverson Thayer, Co. C, 96th Ohio (3 Letters)
Joseph C. Arnold, Co. E, 96th Ohio (3 Letters)

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History houses a collection of 51 letters by William H. Scarbrough of Co. B, 96th OVI.


Addressed to Mr. James Scarbrough, Mt. Vernon, Knox County, Phio

Rear of Vicksburg, four miles on the Battlefield
June 17, 1863

Dear Parents,

This beautiful morning finds me seated for the purpose of writing you a few lines. However, I do not owe you any letter but if I did not write when I only received letters, I would not write very often. Since last writing you, nothing of interest has occurred more than usual. Last Sabbath morning as Orderly Lore and myself were laying in the beautiful shade with our Testaments in our hands and talking of home and the pleasant times we have had and soon hope to enjoy again, we were called—or rather aroused—by a Rebel shell which soon brought us to our feet and instead of reading our Bibles, had to lay in the rifle pits the balance of the day. Such is the theme of war. You do not know from one minute to another what you will be called on to do. Persons not acquainted or used to the Army would think it a strange place. I do not mind the hardships of war anymore for tis of no use. I thank God for sparing my life through so many dangers and hardships and good health. Since coming here, many of our boys have taken sick with disease, chills, and fever. Consequently the duty we have to perform (which is very heavy) comes harder upon those that are well.

John Law is not very well at this time but is now improving slowly. I wrote a letter stating that I would like if you could send me a couple of good woolen shirts—something of good quality. I am nearly out of anything in the shirt line and do not like the army shorts. If you have any chance, send them, or if you think it safe to Express them.

If you want to see a map of Vicksburg and of the charges [that have] been made and where the Federal Army lays and even [the] 96th [OVI], look in Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. It is being made and will be sent to him soon. You can see the position of all out forces and 20th, 96th, or any regiment you wish to see. I have nothing more of interest to communicate. I hope to hear from you all soon.

Send me postage stamps. I am out and will have to frank this letter. My love to all friends after reserving a share for yourselves. Yours topographically and fraternally, — William H. Scarbrough, soldier boy.

[to] James and Elizabeth Scarbrough

Direct to camp near Vicksburg, Miss., 96th Regiment OVI, Company B, Care of Capt. Joseph Leonard

I could say many things concerning the army but will be useless for the papers can and will give you a better statement than myself. I hope to hear from you soon.

1862: Henry Augustus Cheever to Mehitable (Felt) Cheever

1Lt.& Adjutant Henry Augustus Cheever, 17th Massachusetts Infantry (Memorial History)

This letter was written by Henry Augustus Cheever (1839-1905), the son of Ira Cheever (1798-1876) and Mehitable Gardener Felt (1802-1882) of Chelsea, Suffolk county, Massachusetts. He was captain of the Chelsea Wide-Awakes in the Lincoln Presidential campaign and also served as a member of Co. F, 7th Mass. Vol. Militia before the war. Henry received a commission as a 1st Lieutenant early in the war and was assigned to the 17th Massachusetts where he was appointed adjutant.

Later in the war, Adjutant Cheever was severely wounded at Batchelders Creek in North Carolina, He was wounded on the morning of 1 February 1864 and was taken prisoner but survived the surgery and recovered to return home. He went into the mercantile business after he war but eventually went to work for the Treasury Department and processed pension claims.

In this May 1862 letter, penned from New Bern after the Union occupancy, Henry tells his mother about the skirmish at Trenton Bridge that took place on 15 May 1862. He also shares his views of the New Bern inhabitants, their customs, farming methods, and the weather in general in the South. He includes some details of a long conversation held with Rebel officers during a flag-of-truce.


Picket Station near New Bern, [North Carolina]
Sunday, May 18th 1862

Dear Mother,

As a few moments are at my command, I will write you a few lines to let you know that I am in the land of the living (also Rebels) and am well—never was in better health in my life. Think that upon the close of the present war, I had better enlist in the Regular Army, hadn’t I? I received a letter from you a few days ago and it seems that you had only received one letter from me. I have written several but I presume they were lost as the mail arrangements are not the best in the world. So you must make up your mind that some of the letters I send you will never reach home.

We still remain here in the same place but we have frequent skirmishes with the enemy. On Thursday [15 May 1862] of the past week quite a force went up 15 miles above our camp to a place called Trenton. We had 800 cavalry [3rd N. Y. Cavalry], 2 pieces of cannon, and the 25th Regt. Massachusetts Vol. and our [17th Mass.] regiment. [We] started about 2 o’clock in the morning and came within two miles of Trenton and the advance guard of the cavalry ran upon the enemy and a terrific fight took place. The enemy were double in force to our men, they having 75 or 80 men to our 37, but our boys drove them from the field and they left in double quick for town where they set fire to the bridge and then evacuated the town. There were 7 Rebels killed, 2 wounded that we got, and one prisoner, while on our side were 2 wounded and 1 Lieutenant taken prisoner. The Rebels left on the field 13 horses killed and we three.

One of our wounded was the Major 1 of the [3rd New York] cavalry who in the skirmish was taken prisoner three times but got away by the help of his men. The 4rd time his captors looked at him a moment and then cooly told him that he must be a dangerous person and that they had better shoot him on the spot. The Major had discharged his revolver but when this was told him, quicker than thought, he raised and threw it at the speaker. It hit him in the mouth and knocked him from his saddle. Another Rebel who helped take the Major raised his saber to cut him down, but at this moment one of our captains struck the Rebel with his sword and cut his right arm off so it hung by the skin. In consequence of this, the Major got away. He is a nice man and a very powerful one. All this took place in less time than I have written. The rest of the cavalry and troops were a mile behind the advance guard but we came up on the double quick to give them a volley, but were too late.

I was in command of the Pioneers and was ahead of the regiments and in rear of the cavalry. After we halted three of our companies were sent out to search the woods and C. C. had a skirmish and killed 4 more. After remaining here a while, we started for home, having marched 30 miles in less than 12 hours and through mud and water up to our knees. The object of the expedition was to capture and steal a lot of horses as this department is greatly in need of them. But they got the alarm and took them away.

Father wished to know concerning the people, habits, customs, &c. I should be very happy to inform him but as there are no people here save negroes, I can’t enlighten him much. When the town was evacuated, the people left also. Some few have returned but not many. There are poor whites here but they are far worse than the negroes for they are so lazy that they won’t work and the consequence is that they steal and starve.

The weather is at the present like our July weather. We have frequent thunder showers. I have read and heard tell of a thunder storm in the Southern States but I must confess that my imagination was not strong enough to conceive what a storm could take place. A person must experience one in order to realize the beauty of it. Peaches and plums are fast ripening, strawberries in quantity, only we hardly dare venture into the fields to gather them for fear that the Rebels may pick us up. It is a sad looking sight to look over the broad fields of the plantations and see their barrenness for no one has planted anything save the negroes who only look out for themselves. Let a hundred live Yankees come down here and in three years time they could make a paradise out of this now neglected country. There is no care taken of the land, merely to drop the seed into the ground and let it grow—is the Southerner’s principle—and it is well carried out. In everything they are 100 years behind our time. Their houses would amuse you. On all of them the chimneys are built upon the outside and contain brick enough to build a common-sized house. Then they are all old style and in such comical shape that it is really amusing to ride a few miles to merely look at the houses. I should not like to settle in this part of the state unless there be a colony of Yankees here.

There was a Rebel Lieutenant Colonel 2 and Adjutant here last week came up with a flag-of-truce. They say that the western part of the state is much more pleasant—it being on higher ground. Speaking of these officers, I went up two miles outside of our lines to carry their escort some rations as they brought none, expecting to return the same day but did not. There were 20 of them. They belonged to the 1st North Carolina Cavalry. I was with them three hours and had a jolly time. They had many questions to ask and I answered all that were proper. They are sick of the war and wish it over. They talk it out. They felt anxious to know my opinion on the matter and they felt or acted pleased when I told them tht I thought it would close virtually in two or three months. I carried up 30 papers which were eagerly grabbed at for they cannot get the true state of the case from the Confederate papers.

I gave one of them a New York Herald in which was a editorial which stated the fact that if Yorktown and Norfolk were taken, that the contest was decided. One of them read it and came along to me and told me it would certainly prove so. I asked him if he did not know that they had already been captured? No, he had heard nothing of it. He supposed they were still in their hands. They were very much surprised at learning the fact. When I parted with them, I told them I hoped that if it was my fate to be taken prisoner, I hoped I might fall into their hands for I felt sure the would treat me well. They gave me the prices of their uniforms. Overcoat $35 (worth $5), pants $17 (worth $3), boots $20 (worth $5), coffee 150 and 200 per pound and other articles in the same proportion.

But I must close. Please tell Electa Brown that I will answer her letter very soon. Also convey my compliments to Anna Misley and say I should be very happy to hear from her. If I had any photograph, I would send her one. Also Electa. But I have none and there are no means of having any taken here so I shall have to wait until I arrive in some Northern City. Give my regards to my friends. Remember me to Sarah Young & Fred. Please write soon. From your son, — Hen

1 The name of the Major is never given in this letter but the Regimental roster indicates that the Major at the time was 35 year-old George W. Lewis of Elmira, New York.

2 The Lieutenant-Colonel of the 1st North Carolina Cavalry at the time was James Byron Gordon who later became a Brigadier General in the CSA.

Confederate Election Ballot for Jefferson Davis as President

The following handwritten document is a very rare Virginia electoral ticket endorsing Jefferson Davis for president and Alexander H. Stevens for vice president. It also lists John R. Edmunds of Halifax and Allen T. Caperton of Monroe “for the state at large,” and various other men “for the districts.” The election took place on Wednesday, 6 November 1861. This election was the only presidential election under the Permanent Constitution of the CSA. Jefferson Davis and Alexander H. Stephens had been previously elected President and Vice President only under the Provisional Constitution.

This ballot was signed on the verso by James F. Ross, the voter who cast the Virginia ballot. Most likely the voter was 40 year-old James Franklin Ross (1821-1894), the son of John W. Ross (1788-1876) and Susannah Thomas (1794-1831) of Loudoun county, Virginia. James was married in November 1851 to Mary Jane Gochnour (1832-1929). Sometime after 1870, the Ross family relocated to Geary county, Kansas.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History houses a similar ballot that was cast by William Fern but it was a printed ballot, as were most of the ballots. It was only when the pre-printed paper ballots were depleted that electors submitted hand written ballots.


For President, Jeff Davis
Vice President, Alex H. Stevens [Stephens]


[At large]

Jno R. Edmonds [of Halifax]
A[llen] T. Caperton [of Monroe]


Joseph Christian [of Middlesex]
C[incinnatis] W. Newton [of Norfolk City]
R. T. Daniel [of Richmond City]
W[illiam] F. Thompson [of Dinwiddie]
Wood Bouldin [of Charlotte]
W[illiam] L. Goggin [of Bedford]
B. F. Randolph [of Albemarle]
James W. Walker [of Madison]
Asa Rogers [of Loudoun]
Sam[uel] C. Williams [of Shenandoah]
Sam[uel] M[cDowell] Reid [of Rockbridge]
Henry A. Edmundson [of Roanoke]
J[ames] W. Sheffey [of Smythe]
H[enry] J. Fisher [of Mason]
Joseph Johnson [of Harrison]
E. H. Fitzhugh [of Ohio]

A sample of the Printed Ballot that was widely distributed for elector’s use

1861: George deCharms to Mary (Graham) deCharms

These two letters were written by George deCharms (1839-1862), the son of Rev. Richard deCharms (1796-1864) and Mary Graham (1803-1880) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It appears that George’s father abandoned his mother in the 1850s, leaving him at a very young age to try to supplement the meagre income earned by his mother and siblings. In the 1850 US Census, George was enumerated in his father’s household in Moyamensing Ward 2 of Philadelphia. His father’s occupation was recorded as “Welfare and Religious Services.” The children at that time included 14 year-old Sarah, 13 year-old Mary, 11 year-old George, 10 year-old William, 8 year-old Richard, 7 year-old Fideath, and 5 year-old Virginia. By 1860, Mary had moved her family to Cincinnati where George worked as a printer, and his sister Mary worked as a school teach and brother Richard was a law student.

Marker noting the location of the artillery duel at Greenbrier Bridge on 3 October 1861

At the age of 22, George enlisted as a private in Co. A, 6th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) on 20 April 1861. Enlisting with him was his brother Willie, age 21. The 6th OVI departed Camp Dennison for western Virginia, arriving at Grafton in modern-day West Virginia on July 2, 1861. The regiment next proceeded to Philippi and then to Laurel Hill, both in present-day West Virginia. The 6th helped additional Union forces to drive Confederate soldiers from Laurel Hill and pursued the retreating Southerners to Corrick’s Ford, where the Federals killed the enemy commanding officer, General Robert Garnett, on July 13, 1861. Following this engagement, the 6th marched to Beverly, Virginia (modern-day West Virginia), before moving to Elkwater in present-day West Virginia in August 1861. It was while at Elkwater that George wrote the first letter.

On November 19, 1861, the 6th departed Elkwater for Parkersburg, Virginia (modern-day West Virginia). The regiment next boarded steamers and sailed down the Ohio River to Louisville, Kentucky, where the organization joined the Army of the Ohio’s Fifteenth Brigade, Fourth Division. It was here that George wrote the second letter.

George would not long afterward arrange a transfer to the 54th Ohio Infantry where he would be made a 2nd Lieutenant and be one of five officers of the 54th OVI who were killed at the Battle of Shiloh. See—1864: Thomas Kilby Smith to Mary DeCharms.

These two letters were found in George deCharms’ pension file, offered as proof to the Pension Bureau by George’s mother that he supported her by sending home money to her.

Letter 1

Elkwater Camp [West Virginia]
October 16, 1861

Dear Mother,

I had intended to write to you before this but circumstances have prevented, so I take this my first opportunity for so doing though I hardly know what to say that will be of much interest.

No doubt ere this you have received my note through Captain [Marcus A.] Westcott in which was enclosed forty dollars. When you write, please acknowledge the receipt of it. as I said in my note, you can make what use you please of twenty dollars and the other twenty I want you to keep for I intend to save all I can of my pay for the benefit of us all when I return home when the war is over. Please don’t give any of it to Uncle because he can wait for what little we owe him. I mention this because if he knows I sent you any, he will not hesitate to ask for it. No doubt he will want you to pay what he lent Will out of it, and he has no right to do so out of my funds. Will and I will pay him what both of us owe, when the next pay day comes round. You need not say anything to him about it. However, I hope Father will not come to Cincinnati to make you miserable. If he does, don’t let him take or threaten you out of your money, and I think you ought not to let him come to the house.

We are very unsettled at present. Rumors are flying about camp that our regiment is going to Kentucky. How true it is, I do not know. I only hope it may be so. I don’t see how it is possible to stay here. The farmers around here say that it is impossible for wagons to travel the roads around here in the winter.

[Missing a page]

…with the 6th, and I shall endeavor to get out of it, for I don’t think his place can be filled.

I suppose you have seen an account of the battle [See Battle of Greenbrier River] that occurred near here a short time ago [on 3 October 1861]. Our regiment had not the honor of being there but yet it did not matter much for the fight was between the artillery alone. Capt. Howe of the regular army who was in command of Howe’s Battery there and which did most of the work there says, “All the armies in Europe might be a thousand years before they would experience as much heavy firing in so short a time.” This battery and Loomis’s [Michigan] Battery fired for two hours and forty minutes at the rate of a shot every three minutes. In that time, 1282 rounds were fired and every shot took effect.

The enemy lost nearly 400 killed while our loss was only ten killed and wounded. 1 The only effectual shot the enemy made was caused by a shell which they had not time to cause to explode by putting in the fuse, so busy were they kept at work. This shell killed two horses; also killed one of the men of Howe’s Battery and took off the arm of another man. I have heard military men say that the firing at Manassas Junction did not equal it in the amount of execution that was done. The 17th Indiana Regiment was ordered to charge but getting into a hot place, was obliged to retreat and some say in a cowardly manner.

Capt. Loomis paid our regiment and the 9th the compliment that if he had had us there, he could have taken the enemy’s works by storm. But he would not have trusted any other regiments in this part of the country.

Will tells me that my letters, on account of their length, have to be prepaid so I will quit as I have but one stamp. Will brought some out with him but they disappeared and I think I sent them home in the envelope I sent by Capt. Westcott. If so, send them out or take a half dollar out of the money I sent and buy the worth of that in stamps and send to me when you wish.

With love to all, I remain your affectionate son, — George

1 “Though the engagement was sharp and spirited, the losses were not heavy. Each side, however, magnified the loss of the enemy. Reynolds, who thought Jackson’s 1,800 men had grown to 9,000, reported the Confederate loss in killed and wounded was about 300. Not to be outdone, Jackson reported that Reynolds’ loss in killed and wounded “is estimated at from 250 to 300, among them an officer of superior rank. Our own was very inconsiderable, not exceeding 50 in all.” Actually, when the returns were all in, it was found that the Federals lost eight killed, and thirty-five wounded, for a total of forty-three. The Confederates had six men killed, thirty-three wounded, and thirteen missing; these turned up in Reynolds’ report as prisoners.” [Source: The Battle of Greenbrier River]

Letter 2

Louisville, [Kentucky]
December 3, 1861

Dear Mother,

As you see by the date of this, I am now in town, partly to avoid extra duty I have to perform in camp on account of two-thirds of our regiment being absent, either here or in Cincinnati, which our officers are unable to collect together; many of whom I am afraid will never return unless some inducement is offered. In our company there was not over fifteen or twenty men and half those are now sick, who are here to do duty. They take as many men on guard out of the two or three hundred men present as they did when the whole regiment was on hand; so that those who are present have to stand guard all the time as was my fix.

The camp is on a plowed field and now since it has snowed, the mud is awful. The first night the regiment went out they had no tents so that most of the men came to town. Many of them go out and report themselves and becoming discouraged at the dreary look of things, turn round and come back to town. I am afraid that the Bully 6th has played out. Col. [William K.] Bosley will never get as much out of it as he has heretofore. I have regretted every time that Will and I did not return with you and Mary on the boat. We could have done it just as well as not. We might have stayed several days just as well as not for a great many have gone further than Cincinnati and returned, and nothing has been said to them.

If we had only thought of going with that Captain that took such a family to Mary to Gen. Buell, I have no doubt we could have got a furlough. Several mothers have got their sons furloughs in that way.

I have not heard anything from the old fellow yet. Julius Stewart has gone to Cincinnati and he said he would call on you all. I have had several chances to go home and wanted Willie to go with me but he thought it was not right to go without leave and I won’t go without him.

I hope Uncle will succeed in getting me a commission for I don’t think there will be much honor gained by staying in the 6th. General Buell says that he is going to make an example of this regiment and I have no doubt he will for he is a hard man. I am afraid he will send us on board ships to some garrison sp that we will have no chance at all. Mother, I wish you would send me a five dollars by mail or in a note by Julius. I thought I should not need any more than I retained but there are some things that I need and would like to have it if you can spare it out of that ten dollars I gave you. But if you need it very much, don’t send it for I can wait till next pay day.

Perhaps we may yet get a furlough. If not, give my love to all at home and to all the relations and remember me as ever your affectionate son, — George

1864: Thomas Kilby Smith to Mary De Charms

This letter was written by Brig. General Thomas Kilby Smith (1820-1887) as a favor to his friend Mary De Charms who sought a pension for the death of her son 2Lt. George De Charms of Co. C, 54th Ohio Infantry. George was killed in action at the Battle of Shiloh on 6 April 1862 while fighting with the 54th Ohio Infantry that was led at the time, by then Colonel Smith. For a great account of the 54th OVI at Shiloh, I’ll refer readers to “My boys from Cleveland, for God’s sake, do your duty!” The 54th Ohio Infantry at Shiloh, by Dan Masters.

Brig. Gen. Thomas Kilby Smith

Pension records indicate that Mary did not file her claim until after the death of her husband Richard in March 1864 who left her and her three daughters with no means of support other than what they could raise teaching school. It appears that even before her husband’s death, however, Mary relied heavily on the money made by George before and during his time in the service as her husband had abandoned her 17 years before and had since published material indicating his disloyalty to the US Government. Though the Pension Bureau did not dispute that her son was a fallen soldier and eligible for a pension, they questioned he was an officer as no record could be produced—until Thomas K. Smith generated the letter which he claims to have enclosed with the following letter. The pension record contains a letter dated 27 April 1865 which states that George’s commission as 2nd Lieutenant was awarded and backdated to 13 December 1861. 1

Mary lived until March 1880 during which time she received a pension for her son’s service.

A letter by Col. Smith contained in George de Charm’s Pension Record, dated 4 May 1862, not long after the Battle of Shiloh, reads: “Lieut. De Charms died as a soldier should die, with his face to the foe, died trusting in God, with his honor bright. He fell early in the fight of Sunday, shot, fell in front, the ball piercing the centre of his breast a little below his throat. His last and only words as he fell were, ‘Tell my friends I died like a man. I die happy in the service of my country.’ His remains were found and decently interred on Wednesday following. His brother [William] was present at the interment. His person has been rifled of his watch, money & valuables by the enemy. The battlefield of Pittsburgh or ‘Shiloh’ as it should be called properly is drenched with the blood of patriots, honeycombed with their graves. Partial newspaper correspondents who unfortunately are the historians of our country have failed to do Ohio justice in their vague & false reports of the battle—reports too often made to purposely forestall public opinion. Ohio has been nobly represented but none of her sons have been more heroic or deserve more praise than Lieutenant George de Charms….But what is all this to a Mother’s heart? Ah! how well I know how it pains…the tear wells to my own eye as I write. God help us. I would give anything to call him back again. I had learned to love him for his soldierly qualities, his earnest honest wit. But he has gone…”


Yellow Springs, Ohio
December 11, 1864

My dear madam,

It was my intention when last in Philadelphia to have called upon you but my manifold engagements and the brief time allotted for my stay prevented my seeing many even of my relations.

After leaving you, I saw Lieut. General Grant, spoke to him of your son George, and of you, and of the action the Pension Bureau had taken with regard to your pension. His Chief of Staff, Brigadier General [John A.] Rawlins promised me that upon the receipt of the commission of your son and a statement of the facts, he would make application for you & aid me in securing for you the pension to which you are legally entitled. I have therefore prepared the letter which with the commission I enclose herewith, that you may read the same, take copy, submit if you please to your friends, & then forward to General Rawlins requesting him to correspond with you. I think you had better write him yourself.

I trust, dear Madam, that this correspondence will result in your receiving the trifle the U. S. Government owes you and that it should be prompt to pay. I with very best wishes for the prosperity & happiness of yourself and your charming daughters to whom convey my kind regards.

Believe me with the highest respect, your sincere friend and obedient servant, — Thomas Kilby Smith, Brig. Gen’l.

Mrs. Mary De Chams
No 1616 Filbert Street

1 The following two letters are on file at the Ohio History Archives:

December 10, 1861
R. Buchanan, Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio. To Governor William Dennison. Letter recommending George De Charms for the appointment of Lieutenant in the 54th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry; and stating that De Charms had served in the 6th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry from its organization, was about 23 years old, large and muscular, and was well educated and a good soldier, and that he had no hesitation in saying that if appointed, De Charms would do credit to the service. 
1 p. [Series 147-19: 206]

December 10, 1861
John W. Caldwell, No. 379, Main Street, Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio. To Governor William Dennison. Letter stating that he had seen testimonials of the merits of George De Charms, a Private in Company A, 6th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, that he had also seen the suggestion of Colonel T[homas] K[ilby] Smith that he might have use for De Charms as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 54th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and Smith’s request for De Charms’ transfer, and that he cheerfully concurred in the request for De Charms’ immediate transfer to the 54th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry. 
1 p. [Series 147-19: 203]