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.

1873: C. L. Van Piper to William Van Nostrand

Van wrote the 1873 to William Van Nostrand, shown here.

The following letter was written by 52 year-old C. Van Piper who we learn was the station agent in Nunda, Livingston county, New York, before heading west in 1873 with his wife Susan to accept a similar position in Boulder, Colorado Territory. The letter was written in two parts, by both “Van” (as his wife called him) and by his wife.

Van addressed his letter to William Van Nostrand (1835-1925), a native of Allegany county, New York, whose father, Luzon Van Nostrand (1807-1895) was an early settle of Short Tract. In 1880, William was enumerated at Nunda Station, Livingston county, New York, where he ran a saw and planing mill. He was married to Susan Maria Swain (1839-1902).

In his letter, Van writes of his journey from Chicago to Colorado by train but first stops to see Henry Moore Teller, a native of Allegany county, New York, who earned a law degree and settled in Morrison, Whiteside county, Illinois, before joining the gold-seekers in Colorado in April 1861. Rather than pan for gold, however, Teller accumulated wealth as a supplier and opened an office in Central City—the chief mining area west of Denver. In 1865 he drew up the charter for the Colorado Central Railroad and got the Territorial legislature to back the project. Henry and his brother Willard built a hotel in Central City in 1871-72 which was the town’s main hotel for more than 60 years.

The Teller House, built in 1871-72, still stands today in Central City, Colorado


Addressed to Wm. Van Nostrand, Short Tract, Allegany County, NY

Colorado Central Railroad
Boulder Station
October 27, 1873

Wm. Van Nostrand
Dear Sir,

You have probably heard how I slid out and left Nunda Station. No living soul knew where I was going when I left home except my wife—not even my mother—but I was bound to see this country and here I am and not sorry for it. It was a fine ride for me. After I left Chicago, I stopped at Mr. Teller’s [in Morrison] and then met H[enry] M[oore Teller. Stayed from Thursday till Tuesday and then left for Colorado, passing through Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, touched Wyoming Territory, and then Colorado.

We left the Union Pacific Railroad at Cheyenne (pronounced Shyan) and took the Denver Pacific Railroad 106 miles and this was a very pleasant and interesting road. On the west you can see the Rocky Mountains with their snow-clad peaks and on the east the broad plains as far as the eye can reach and all dotted over with large herds of cattle, accompanied with their her wagons and tents—a most splendid sight to me. You can see so far in this country. The air is so clear you have a fair view of the mountains—can see them for some 300 miles.

The narrow gauge Colorado Central Railroad in Clear Creek Canyon

I was disappointed in the way they look. I supposed we would come to them by degrees but not so. You keep on the plains and all at once as it were you come to them staring you in the face and saying, hold! and come no farther, but man is a progressive animal and into them he has you in search of the precious metals and it is wonderful to see what man can accomplish. For instance, the railroad running from Golden to Central City follows up Clear Creek Canion and is wonderful to behold. Rocks from 5 to 1500 feet high piled in all manner of shapes and the railroad track cut in the rocks and crooked. Not half of the time you can see either end of the train. But I cannot describe it. You must come and see for yourself and it will pay you well.

This is a great country for stocking can keep all you choose and no fodering winters. They say you can turn out an old broken down ox in the fall and he will come out fat in the spring. If your wife and girls was here and had about 30 coins [?] and 500 hens, could make as much money as all Grangers. Butter 40 cents, eggs 40 cents, and they say you can keep eggs till the Holidays. You can get from 6 to 8 bits per dozen up in the mountains among the miners. They do raise the finest wheat I ever saw sown—white and plump—and spring at that. Oh what nice flour. I believe irrigating is the way after all for fine crops. You say it must cost something to irrigate. So it does, but not as much as to clear up a farm in your section.

But I must quit as I will tire your patience. You will please write us and let us know how you and all the folks are. Please accept this from your friend, — C. Van Piper

[In a different hand]

Boulder Station
October 27, 1873

Dear Friends, Van Norstrands,

Here we are this beautiful Sabbath morning literally among the mountains. I wish I could describe to you the beauty of this mountain scenery—peak upon peak, glade upon glade, more rough and rugged now, more smooth and undulating as far as the eye can reach north and south, and even east of us is somewhat sharp points, but not so high. So we are almost surrounded by mountains.

In coming from Central City (where the Teller’s live) to here, we, in the first place come down out of the mountains following a canion down some 20 miles to Golden, just out on the plains. Then changed cars and come north about 28 miles, following the base of the mountains all the way but keeping on the plains. Such splendid views as we had some of the way. Got here just dark. Was here a week before out household goods come. The former agent moved out the next morning and left the coast clear but so dirty. The new only been built three months. Well, we got dirt out as soon as we could. Van had to do the most and he bought out a chap who had kept bachelor’s hall and we went to eating ourselves. Got along very well but it was an experience quite new to me. Well, we are comfortably settled now. Got such a nice little stove for 35 dollars, kettles, and everything with it. We burn a sort of soft coal. Makes a splendid fire. Got our carpets down and my melodian here and bought some fowls. We can keep as many as we like. Bought 7 old hens and 8 chickens half grown. Have the whitest bread here. 1.75 for sack of flour, potatoes 1.20 per bushel, butter 35 to 40 cents, sugar about the same. Their tea about the same though we have not bought any. Had some eggs 40 cents a dozen.

I am going to go into the poultry business. Bought a good chance. Had warm pleasant weather all the time. A little snow now but won’t lay long. We are half mile from the city proper of Boulder but they are building down this way very fast. 25 brick houses going up now. It is quite lonely for us here—too far to go to church for mother and me at least. Van goes. Heard the bells ringing this morning very lively. Sorry I could not go. The town is right in plain sight but farther off than it looks. I have not been up town yet. Don’t know how it looks nearby.

Well, I must get dinner. Please write us, will you. Ever your friend, —S. A. Van Piper

Van will write himself. I am getting better.

1863: William T. Lewis to Peter Lewis

A young unidentified Black man (LOC)

The following letter was written by William T. Lewis (1839-Aft1865), the son of Peter Lewis (b. 1815) and Emeline E. Lewis (1817-1865), who grew up a free black man in Cayutaville—a small hamlet between Smith Valley and Catharine in the southeast corner of Hector Township in Schuyler county, New York. In the 1860 US Census, the Lewis family was enumerated in Odessa, William’s father in his mid-40’s and employed as a farm hand, and 21 year-old William the oldest of three children. According to the 1865 NY State Census, William’s father was born in New York City and his mother in Connecticut. William and siblings were born in Chemung county. The 1880 US Census informs us that William’s paternal grandmother was from the West Indies. The community that William’s parents lived in before and after the war was almost exclusively White.

Unfortunately I cannot find any record of William’s service during the war—if in fact he was drafted. He may not have been and William’s enrollment may have been an error as blacks were not considered citizens and therefore not subject to the draft. Hence the animosity borne against the black citizens of New York City and other urban centers that resulted in the draft riots of 1863. Some scholars have argued, however, that blacks were eligible because in the aftermath of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Second Confiscation Act, and Attorney General Bates’ opinion that free blacks were citizens and Dred Scott was not legally binding, Congress changed the definition of the militia from “free able-bodied white male citizens” to “Able-bodied male citizens.” There are reportedly few cases of blacks being called up by local draft boards under the act though.

We do know William lived beyond the war. He was enumerated in his parent’s home in July 1865, but I could not find him in census records beyond that date.

1863 Draft Registration, William T. Lewis identified as a 24 year-old “Col’d Laborer” who was “at work in Hector, Schuyler county, NY”

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


Addressed to Mr. Peter Lewis, Cayutaville, Schuyler county, New York

Jacksonville, Tompkins county, New York
Sunday, August 9, 1863

Dear parents,

It is with pleasure that I find myself by my desk addressing you with my pen. I am well & in good spirits. I must write you some of our victories of the last month. July 3rd the victory of Gettysburg, rebel loss in killed & wounded & prisoners 33,000. July 4, capture of Vicksburg with 31,000 prisoners, 220 guns & 70,000 small arms. July 4, victory of Helena, Arkansas, the rebels losing 2,700 killed, wounded & prisoners. July 6, defeat of Stuart by Buford at Hanover with loss of 1,000 prisoners. July 8, capture of Port Hudson 7,000 prisoners & numerous cannon & small arms & several other victories including in all 28 successful contests with a loss to the enemy of more than 300 guns & 80,000 prisoners. The Mississippi is open from its sources to the gulf. The rebels expelled from nearly all Tennessee & Mississippi—the territory subject to their military control reduced to the states of Alabama, Georgia, South & North Carolina, & a part of Virginia. That looks bully indeed.

I received my notice on Monday morning. I have to appear on or before the 2nd of September or just as I am a mind to. As I have plenty of paper & time, I will write you my notice. So here it is.

Lincoln’s General Order No. 233; A rebel soldier shall be executed for every Black soldier killed instead of being treated as a POW.

Notice. Any person drafted & notified may on or before the day fixed for his appearance before the Board of Enrollment, furnish an acceptable substitute to take his place in the draft or he may pay to the Collector of Internal Revenue of his Congressional District the sum of 300 dollars who will give him a duplicate receipt. He must take to the Board of Enrollment on or before the time for his appearance before said Board persons furnishing a substitute or paying the above sum of money shall be discharged from further liability under the draft. Any person failing to report in person or by substitute or to furnish receipt of payment will be treated as a deserter and arrested as such.

The President has issued a Proclamation [General Order] declaring that colored soldiers must be protected. If the rebels take them prisoners, they must treat them as such. I have come to the conclusion that I had better go to Dixie than to pay 300 dollars. The belief is now that there won’t be much fighting for they are about whipped & I shall go unless you think that I had better pay the money. I think it is best for me to go. I haven’t paper to explain all I should like to write so that I can get it by the first of next week. I shall be home a week before I go. — W. T. Lewis

1865: John C. Lilley to Mitchell Campbell Lilley

The following letter was written by John C. Lilley (1842-1890) of Shelby county, Ohio. He enlisted as a corporal in September 1861 in Co. D, 46th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) but later transferred to F&S as Quartermaster Sergeant of the regiment. He mustered out of the service on 22 July 1865.

John wrote the letter to his uncle, Mitchell Campbell Lilley (1819-1897) of Columbus, Ohio, who served as a Captain of Co. H, 46th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

After the war, John became a medical doctor and practiced medicine in Quincy, Logan county, Ohio.


Addressed to Capt. M. C. Lilley, Company H, 46th Regt. OVI, Memphis, Tennessee

Quartermaster Office 46th Ohio V. V. I.
Thunderbolt, Georgia
January 11, 1864 [should be 1865]

Dear Uncle,

I have not received a letter from the North (that is, since we occupied Savannah). I must write anyhow. We are on the move once more. We will stop here only long enough to get boats to take us someplace above on the coast. Beaufort is thought our destination. The 17th Army Corps has already gone. This place is about 4 miles by land from Savannah on the river. It is said that Hon. E. M. Stanton is here this evening. We have heard of Butler’s safe return to Ft. Monroe—a fine thing—something that the 15th don’t do. Our chaplain arrived today. He is from Van Wert—Rev. George [Alexander] Exline. I think that he is a very good man.

I did not have a very fine Christmas but New Years we had all the oysters we could eat—raw, friend, soup, &c. I think they are best to lay them on the fire till they are just warm enough to open easily. They had been selling at $2 per bushel until the Provost Marshal regulated the prices. They they could be had for $1.

Just wait till the Army of the Tennessee commences operations. We will show these Easterns how to do it up. Gen. John A. Logan has returned and taken command of the 15th again. The opinion of the Army is, that with Sherman, Howard, and Logan, we can go any place.

I was thinking over matters in general today and came to the conclusion that a certain young man in our regiment had been misused or had a personal enemy in the regiment of considerable import. He was Sergt. Major from January 13, 1863 till January 1, 1864 when he re-enlisted and was appointed Q. M. S. and I know that if he is capable to fill that position (as he seems to be), think he is capable of more, and I think if Gov. Brough does, as it is said, he should have been promoted long ago. I only wish for justice. Will you please examine the Regimental records at the State House and call the attention of the Adjutant General to it? I hardly think he will treat the matter with indifference. I will not, if I stay in the service 5 years more, ask the Regimental Commander to recommend me for promotion for I know that I am entitled to it. The Sergt. Major and Commissary Sergt. have both been promoted within the last six months. I have for the last four months made all the necessary papers for this office. What is more, 7 duty sergeants and corporals have fared the same—that is, have been promoted.

I must close by sending my love to all. Write soon. Your affectionate nephew, — John C. Lilley

1864: Humphrey J. Comer to Honorable Austin Augustus King

The following letter was written by Humphrey J. Comer (1819-1889) of Richmond, Missouri. He was born in Chillicothe, Rosee county, Ohio, to John Comer (1785-1865) and Polly Baker (1790-1852), and came to Missouri Territory with his parents when he was young.

Comer wrote the letter to U.S. Congressman Austin A. King—also from Richmond, Missouri—at Washington, D.C. in which he thanks King for his help in obtaining a pardon for his brother, and now asks the same favor for friends of his—two of whom he points out had formerly “had the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with the President [Lincoln], having had him employed at one time in the State of Illinois as an Attorney in a long suit in Court.”

He notes that all is “quiet” at present, but in just 8 months, the Guerilla leader, “Bloody Bill” Anderson was killed in Richmond, Mo. and buried there. 

Congressman Austin King

On the back is a lengthy autograph endorsement signed by Austin A. King, (1802-1870), born in Tennessee, he came to Missouri in 1830; Colonel of Militia in the Black Hawk War, 1832; Move to Richmond, MO in 1837, when he was appointed Judge of the Missouri Fifth Circuit Court, serving on the bench until 1848, and during which time he presided over the trial of Mormon Founder Joseph Smith during the 1838 Mormon War; Governor of Missouri, 1848-1853; In U.S. Congress, 1863-1865.  

Congressman King endorses the request for the pardons requested by Mr. Comer in this letter (which would have to be granted by President Lincoln), and notes that “they, like very many of the men of their county, went originally into the rebellion, but voluntarily returned home & were arrested & gave bond & took the oath of allegiance & I have no doubt have lived up to it…”


Richmond, Mo.
February 19, 1864


Your favor covering a pardon for my brother was duly received, and delivered to my brother in a few days after I received it, which allow me to assure you places him and myself under lasting obligations to you. 

And, Sir, if you could confer an additional favor upon my friends Messrs. James M. Withers, Marquis M. Withers, and John N. Carter of Lafayette County, Missouri, in the way of procuring their pardons, they together with myself will feel ourselves under obligations to return the favor at any time. 

This request is made by the above named Gentlemen of my hearing that you had procured a pardon for my brother through my request. I can assure you that they are all Gentlemen, and men of influence in the County in which they reside. They, Messrs. Withers, inform me that they have formerly had the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with the President, having had him employed at one time in the state of Illinois as an Attorney in a long suit in Court. They are all men of decided conservative feelings—having given bond and strictly complied with their requirements. Please make an effort for them.

There is nothing transpiring here of interest. All quiet. There will be a rush for the gold regions in the spring equal to that of 1850. Mrs. King, I understand, is in very bad health. Mr. James R. Allen died some weeks since. The weather is intensely cold. 

If you succeed in procuring the within pardons, please mail them to me at this place. 

Respectfully your obt. servt. 
Humphrey J. Comer 

[to]  Hon. Austin A. King, Washington City, D.C. 

docketed on the reverse:

I endorse the request for the pardon of the within named men. They, like very many of the men of their county went originally into the rebellion, but voluntarily returned home & were arrested, & gave bond & took the oath of allegiance & I have no doubt have lived up to it. Subsequent they were indicted in U.S. Court at St. Louis for their original offense. 

A. A. King , House of Reps. 

They reside at Lexington, Mo.

1863: Charles Ray Brayton to Colonel Edwin Metcalf

Col. Charles Ray Brayton, 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery

Charles R. Brayton (1840-1910) was born in Warwick, Rhode Island to William Daniel Brayton and Anna Maud (Clarke) Brayton. In 1857, his father was elected as a Republican representing Rhode Island in the U.S. Congress. In 1859, he began attending Brown University in Providence, but left in the middle of his second year to join the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery. He was commissioned as first lieutenant in 1861, promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1863, and to colonel in April 1864. He was honorably mustered out of service in October 1864. In March 1865, along with many others, he received a brevet (honorary promotion) to the rank of brigadier general. That same year, just a month before the end of the war, he married Antoinette Percival Belden.

Charles wrote the letter to Col. Edwin Metcalf of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery. At the time of this letter, the 3rd Rhode Island Heavies were still stationed on Morris and Folly Islands near Charleston, South Carolina.

[Note: These letters are from the personal collection of Greg Herr and were transcribed and published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]

Letter 1

Headquarters Battery C, 3rd Rhode Island Vol. Artillery
Morris Island, South Carolina
September 24, 1863

Dear Colonel,

Yours of the 13th inst. came duly to hand by the Arago. I thank you kindly for the advice which I only wished had reached me before I was compelled to answer the Governor’s proposition without hearing from you. I knew you thought well of me and I have tried to merit your esteem and confidence, but there were so many officers senior to me that I thought my chance for further promotion distant. I have already written you my reasons for accepting the position offered and trust that all may yet be satisfactorily arranged. I shall be “mustered out” if I can so as to get home for a few days. Then the whole matter can be settled. But I assure you I do not want to leave the 3rd. My Battery never was in better condition. Have got 27 new horses, all sound and young, have a good name in the command, and as independent as I could wish to be. I know I never shall be as pleasantly situated and should leave the Battery reluctantly to take a Majority in the 3rd but feelings must be suppressed—the wisest course pursued. Was there any prospect of active service on the main land, I would not give up my company, but I see none now.

I have been compelled to perform a duty at once humiliating and imperative. I yesterday preferred charges against Lieut. Morrow for “Drunkenness on duty” while in command of a section on picket duty. He has tendered his resignation which I respectfully forwarded. It came back from Henry Metcalf for my recommendation. I endorsed it “respectfully recommended for the good of the service.” I could not approve his honorable discharge and thought I might appear to crowd him too hard did I insist on a court martial. As it is, he may be court martialed as I have not heard from the resignation and Gillmore is severe in such cases. Did I do more than my duty? No doubt of his guilt, as I brought him to camp beastly drunk. I regret that my company furnishes the first case and hope you will not consider it a fault of mine for I have ever discouraged drinking and no one ever saw me drunk or under the influence of liquor while here.

I have talked to Morrow and let him pass when my judgment told me better. I could not have been more lenient with my own brother. My duty was plain. I did it and hope you approve the course. It may save some good officers and be of great benefit to the regiment in the end. Gen. Gillmore has received his appointment as a Major General. I fired a salute of 13 guns for his yesterday on the beach where there were thousands to congratulate him by cheers.

Regulars have “played out.” I don’t associate with them now. They are beneath my notice. What have they done in the campaign thus far—nothing but growl at the manner in which matters were conducted by “damned Volunteers,” yet “Sumter” gave up the ghost, and “Wagner” yielded reluctantly to the Volunteer. I am proud of the Volunteers and glad I am one. I sed to think Regulars something wonderful but have got all over that. We have given them a blow here that staggers them. Even Henry, who talked of you at first as our “amiable Colonel, praises you to the skies.” But Colonel, he is a damned hypocrite. Don’t trust him as far as you would a thief. I ask no odds of him. He is not Brig. Gen. and if he says to me what he says to others, I will break his jaw. It makes me so mad to see “Rawson” and “Gardiner” follow him like curs—not daring to speak unless Henry says so. Damn a man that will go back on his regiment and has not the moral force to resent an insult to it—come from whom it may. But never fear but that I will hold my own. They have no Seymour, damn him, to help them in their infernal designs upon us poor Volunteers.

“Irwin” has joined Hamilton’s Battery. Am sorry for it. “Myrick” and “Brainard” have had a “row” and Brainard has gone to Beaufort to take charge of hospital. No. 2 in that Battery is going to hell fast. But let them quarrel, hoping they may come out like the “Kilkenny cats” in the end.

There is to be a Grand Review today. “Brayton’s Battery” has the “Right” of the Light Artillery. Capt. Joe Comstock is still at the [Hilton] Head awaiting transportation. You speak in your letter as though the 3rd was intolerable now. I can’t believe you really mean any such thing. Cursed we are by as miserable a lot of Field Officers (excepting yourself and Ames) as ever sapped the life of any regiment, but still we have talent among us sufficient to fill creditably any position. Our officers are far in advance of any I have seen here, take them as a class. You have no idea of the class of officers that came with those troops from Virginia. The 3rd stands well and are treated as Artillery Companies should be. They have done well. I am proud of them. If you can make a better regiment than stands out of the 4rd Rhode Island, mark out your cause and there are enough of us to support you. Only a few croakers to deal with.

Never fear about our getting into Charleston before you come back. Don’t you think me rather precocious in asking what I did. But I can’t help it for if I am left out now, I shall never command a regiment, I fear, and it is hard jumping from Major to Colonel over a Lieut. Colonel. But we will talk this over I hope before anything definite is done. I can keep my counsel—have so far—and promise you I will in future. Please excuse the emphatic remarks. Yours truly, — C. R. Brayton

Letter 2

Office of the Chief of Artillery
Morris Island, South Carolina
December 14, 1863

Dear Colonel,

Yours ofthe 4th and 5th (postscript) was duly received a few hours after I had mailed one for you. I think Eddy’s case settled for I well knew the Gov. had “no personal interest in the matter.” Bailey, I think, was at the bottom of the affair, put up to it by Eddy’s friends at home. If you think the matter need more attention, I will write the Governor about it, but I think it unnecessary.

Maj. Ames is in command of the Battalion. I showed him your letter about Report and Returns. Peirce of Co. D had a Descriptive List which Burton says he gave to Lamson, one having been given, the Company Commander has no right, I think, to give another.

Reenlisting is all the rage here now. Connecticut offers a bounty to Veterans which with the US Bounty, makes $792 for cash, beside aid to the families. Rhode Island should offer $500 in addition to the US Bounty of $402. This will secure all the old men of the regiment we want and many from others. Regimental commanders here have appointed Regimental Recruiting Officers to reenlist Veterans. Why not appoint some officer in the Battalion here or direct Ames to do so? It is a matter that requires immediate attention—else other regiments will get the start of us. The course is for you to appoint a Recruiting Officer here with orders to report to Lieut. Reynolds, Com. of Musters for instructions as to his duties. I have the above direct from Col. Smith.

Why not write the Governor about the Bounty and see if the $300 now paid by the State will be paid to men reenlisting in the old regiments.

There is nothing new. We have been having a heavy storm during the past week which has caused the water to encroach on the island 30 or 40 feet, completely cutting through the island just below “Wagner.” Admiral Dahlgren got caught outside and could not get into the Inlet on account of the sea on the bar. The “Weehawken” sank last week—cause unknown, so the Navy says. I saw her go down. There was a puff of smoke and she sank in less than a minute. Between 20 and 30 lives reported to have been lost.

The storm has evidently broken up the “obstructions” 1 between Sumter and Moultrie as large masses of timber, evidently links of some chain have been driven on shore. They consist of 9 sticks of 15 in. hard pine timber firmly bound together with iron hoops. Through the centre is a bar of railroad iron, on either end of which iron links have been attached so that an indefinite number of these wooden masses can be joined together and thus make a chain of great strength. The timber having buoyancy enough to support the railroad iron at all times and the iron being strong enough to prevent vessels from forcing their way past it.

Sumter was on fire in the Southwest corner during the past week—cause unknown to us. We shell the city every twenty-four hours. I will see about King’s Case Co. M today. Regards to all your officers. I pity Lanahan’s wife—she being alone at Pulaski, but Capt. Jerry is satisfied, I suppose. Write soon. Have not yet received our mail by the Arago. Can’t it be sorted at the Head some way?

Ever your sincere friend, — C. R. Brayton

1 The New York Herald of 7 April 1863 carried an article on “the obstructions” in Charleston Harbor. They were said to consist of “floating rafts, made of heavy timber, securely lashed together by cable chains, and then bolted to an upper layer of timber, which not only covers the chains, but adds a bracing strength to the structure. At a given point this bar or boom is provided with a moveable gate, which is opened to allow their own vessels to pass in and out. This place of ingress is directly under the guns of Fort Sumter and so close that it seems impossible that any vessel could pass them, A chain and a connecting seres of obstructions exist between Forts Sumter and Moultrie.”

1863: William McCarty to Marilla Jane (Wilson) McCarty

William’s broken headstone in Cottonwood Cemetery, Dallas, Texas

The following letter was written by William McCarty (1821-1883) to his wife, Myrilla Jane Wilson (1827-1882). The couple were married in 1846 and had at least two children by the time this letter was written. William was born in Tennessee and was residing in Bradley county, Tennessee, when the 1850 US Census was collected. Ten years later he and Marilla were enumerated in Plano, Collin county, Texas.

TexasMuster Roll Index cards indicate that William was drafted into Co. D, 15th Battalion Texas State Troops on 15 July 1863.


Camp Lane, Fannon County, Texas
September 30th 1863

I have sat down in a wagon to scratch you a few lines amongst the fuss and bustle in camp. We are all well and passing of time very well.

We have had some very good preaching in camp and have religious songs sung until 9 o’clock every night. It commenced raining last night and is still raining yet. We will move from here in a few days further up the river. I want you to do the very best you can for I do not know when I will be at home. It may be before long and it may be not be before spring. I cannot tell. You know anything about it. We will know in a few days whether we will get to come or not.

We are all sworn into the Confederate service for the length of three years after our six months is out. Now my Marilla, I do not want you to give way in despair to everything. I want you to brave the storm and do all the good you can for yourself and your country. Do not fret nor grieve for me for I will try to take care of myself and I want you to do the same.

I will say something about our tent. I do not know whether it will take 36 yards or not. When you go to make it, make your breadth about 7 yards long the ends. Set your breadths up on the end and then take a pleat in it up high enough for the wall and that will make the eve. Then a small rope every yard. Then it will do without corner posts. — William McCarty

When you write, direct your letter to Bonham, [Texas], Company, Co. D, 15th Battalion

1863: Joseph B. Frost to Henry Martin Lowe

An unidentified seaman from the collection of Ron Field

The following letter was written by Joseph B. Frost (1839-1872) of Marblehead, Massachusetts who entered the US Navy in December 1861 at the age of 22 and held the rank of Ordinary Seaman (OS). He was described as standing 5’9″ tall with brown hair and blueish gray eyes. We know from this letter as well as official records that Joseph served aboard the USS gunboat Penobscot. The next notice of him in Naval Records indicates that he was admitted into the Naval Hospital at Portsmouth, Virginia, in July 1863 suffering from periostitis (shin splints). He was discharged from the hospital on 21 August 1863 and I believe discharged from the Navy at or about the same time. An assistant surgeon named William Longshaw, Jr. 1 who served aboard the USS Penobscot form May-July 1863, treated Frost with the following comments: “Has been under treatment for ulcer affecting right leg. This patient manifests a scrofulous diathesis and has before been treated for indolent ulcer. Treatment has been…local stimulants with iodine externally and idiod. internally. Was sent to army hospital in Beaufort, N. C. on 19 July 1863 and discharged 27 July 1863 for passage to Hampton Roads.” From this description, my interpretation is that Joseph may have been suffering from syphilis which was commonly treated with potassium iodine.

Curiously, Joseph’s hospital admission record at Portsmouth suggests that Joseph was incapable of signing his own name with anything other than an “X” (his mark). If so, he must have had someone else on board the gunboat to write the following letter on his behalf.

Frost wrote the letter to his friend, Henry “Martin” Lowe (1840-1907), who served with him aboard the US Gunboat Penobscot. Martin was the son of Henry Thurston Lowe (1806-1888) and Rachel Pool (1816-1897), and the husband of Louisa Foster Blatchford (1841-1910) of Rockport, Essex county, Massachusetts. Martin and Louisa were married on 21 April 1860 at Newburyport and in the 1860 US Census, they were enumerated as newlyweds in her parents home—William and Mary (Gott) Blatchford of Rockport. At that time, Martin was employed as a clerk. One of some forty-one men from the fishing port of Rockport, Massachusetts who served in the Navy during the Civil War, Martin Lowe was a Paymaster’s Steward aboard the U.S.S. Penobscot. He entered the service in early February 1862 and was discharged in March 1864. [See 1862-64: Henry Martin Lowe to his Family]

1 Dr. William Longshaw Jr., Acting Assistant Surgeon, U.S. Navy, was killed on 15 January 1865 at the Battle of Fort Fisher. “A sailor, too severely wounded to help himself, had fallen close to the water’s edge and with the rising tide would have drowned. Dr. Longshaw, at the peril of his life, went to his assistance and dragged him beyond the incoming tide. At this moment he heard a cry from a wounded marine, one of a small group who, behind a little hillock of sand close to the parapet, kept up a fire upon the enemy. Longshaw ran to his assistance and while attending to his wounds was shot dead.”


Addressed to Mr. Henry Lowe, Rockport, Massachusetts

U. S. S. Penobscot
Off Wilmington, N. C.
May 1, [1863]

Friend Henry,

It is with pleasure that I now address you from the old and familiar spot Rollingville and a gay place it is. There is now 23 steamers on the blockade and vessels can run in and out just as they please without anyone troubling them.

And now for our trip down here. We arrived at Fort Monroe on the next Monday after we left Washington and then steamed up to report to the flag ship and he sent a steamboat down to the store ship and got our crew and the next day the Captain made the petty officers and give the rest of the men their station and old Snow and the carpenter still hold their rates and all the rest are new men and there is any amount of dissatisfaction amongst them. I can tell you, Henry, she is not the ship she used to be. It is like a going on board of a new vessel as there is all new rules and regulations in regard of all things.

And now Henry, I hope you will pardon me for opening two letters which I got the next day after we arrived for I had no envelopes large enough to get them into and so I had to open them and fold them over to forward them to you. And now I will ask you to send me some papers as they will be very receptive as you know yourself when you were with us.

And now Henry, I will bring this to a close as the mail is all ready to go on board the Florida. This is from your friend and well wisher. — Joseph B. Frost

Direct as before.

P. S. Henry I want you to send me your wife’s and baby’s picture for I have already got yours and when I get them, I shall keep them in remembrance of you and your family. And by sending them, you will greatly oblige old — Hob

1863-64: John Chenowith Brooks to Mrs. Amanda Catherine (Brooks) Lilley

I could not find an image of Brooks but here is a CDV of Benjamin Marot who also served in the 66th Illinois Infantry (Photo Sleuth)

The following letters were written by John Chenowith Brooks (1838-1915) to his sister, Amanda Catherine (Brooks) Lilley (1830-1887)—the wife of Mitchell Campbell Lilley of Columbus, Ohio. John and Amanda were the children of Thomas Martin Brooks (1803-1881) and Sarah B. Chenowith (1808-1865) of Paris, Edgar county, Illinois.

John enlisted in Co. E, 66th Illinois Regiment (Western Sharp Shooters) in October 1861. The 66th Illinois was a multi-state regiment—two companies were raised in Ohio, three in Illinois, one in Michigan, and four were organized at St Louis’ Benton Barracks of Missourians and detachments of volunteer candidates sent by recruiting officers from Iowa, Minnesota and other western states, thus forming a regiment that represented every state in the West, a pet scheme of General John C. Fremont. John rose in rank to sergeant and later as a 2nd Lieutenant. Late in the war he was attached to Co. G, 1st Alabama Cavalry (a predominantly white regiment composed of Southern Unionists). He mustered out of the service on 25 January 1865 and soon after attended the Indianapolis Dental College where he graduated and became a practicing dentist in Sullivan and Charleston, Illinois. He married Charlotte Blake (1844-1928) in 1864 and had at least two children.

Letter 1

Camp near Pulaski, Tennessee
November 19, 1863

Dear Sister,

It has been almost three weeks since I received your last letter. It has been cruelly neglected but I will assure you it has been from necessity. As you may see by the heading of my letter, we are in Middle Tennessee, about one hundred miles east of Corinth. We marched through [and] were near two weeks on the road, and have been scouting about almost all the time since we arrived here. Our Division of our Corps is here and distributed along this railroad which is being opened through from Nashville to Decatur. I understand that the other two Divisions are on the way here and the 17th Army Corps is to follow.

We have had but three mails since we left Corinth—two since we have been here and one when we got to the Tennessee river. We have but one or two chances of sending mail and then I had no chance to write. I will write this and have it ready. I hope you will accept this explanation as sufficient excuse for my long delay.

I suppose we will stay here or in this vicinity for awhile. So you will address to 2nd Division, 16th Army Corps, via Nashville, Tenn. I hope our communication will be perfected soon so that we may get mail regular.

I am in good health and stood the march fine—better than I thought I would. Our troops are in fine condition. Not a man reports to the hospital from our company.

This is a beautiful country and has once been called rich in the world’s goods, but alas, the destroyer “War” has been here and left his mark. In the place of affluence and wealth is now found desolation and ruin. Out of fifty business houses in this town is not found one that can boast of an occupant.

I was on a scout the other day and seen find dwellings deserted—the finest of furniture left to the mercy of our soldiers. We brought some fine chairs in for the use of our hospital. Please excuse bad writing for I have to write on my knee.

There are a few citizens living here but they are either Union folks who feared not to stay, or those who were too poor to get away. Many of the citizens are coming in and taking the oath of allegiance. Gen. Dodge, commanding, has ordered the citizens to bring in provisions for the soldiers. The consequence is we are living very well just now. The railroad is finished down to Columbia from Nashville, within thirty miles of this place. I must close. Write soon to your brother, — J. C. Brooks

E Company, 66th Illinois Vols., W. S. S., 2nd Division, 16th Army Corps, via Nashville, Tenn.

Letter 2

Camp 1st Alabama Cavalry
near Rome, Georgia
July 10th 1864

Dear Sister,

I received a letter from you some time ago while in the field, but have forgotten whether I answered it or not. If I have you may thank me for an extra.

Our regiment is now stationed at Rome, Georgia. We left the army in the front about three weeks ago while they were hammering away at Kennesaw Mountains. I have heard but little news from there since. We have heard that Sherman had got into Atlanta and that is all. Our communication might just as well be cut off for all the good it does us in the way of news and mail. I have received but one mail since I have been here. There is a train runs down here every day or two but it hardly ever brings mail. I suppose our mail goes down the army and they neglect sending it back. I hope we may get a regular communication opened soon. If we don’t, I fear there will one boy have the blues some o’ these days. I have enough to do just now to keep me from getting the blues.

Please excuse that big letter on the other side. I guess I must have put more on it than it could dispose og on that side so I had to use both sides.

My health is good—never better. The health of the regiment is good—but very few cases of sickness in our hospital. I sent one of our boys to the hospital this morning for insanity. He had become quite dangerous around where there are so many firearms. He would get up at the dead hour of night and shoot his gun off at some of his imaginary objects.

I haven’t received a letter from home for Lo these many days, but one since I have been in this camp. We have a few alarms here about once per week. Some daring rebel will slip up to our picket post and try a shot at our pickets.

I have been quite busy for the past few days making out company papers, I have enough to keep me busy for some time to come. I have no news of importance so I will close. Write soon to your affectionate brother, — J. C. Brooks, “G” Company, 1st Alabama Cavalry Vols., Rome, Georgia, via Chattanooga, Tenn.

P. S. I have just received orders to have the company ready for a three days scout at 5 o’clock tomorrow morning. We are going over the Coosa river and we will perhaps have a little fight before we get back. if we go as far as is expected, thirty miles south of the river. — J. C. Brooks

1863: Solomon Tesh to Solomon Hege

Solomon Tesh’s Headstone in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Va.

The following letter was written by Solomon Tesh, a corporal in Co. H, 15th North Carolina Infantry. Solomon enlisted on 15 July 1862 at Raleigh, North Carolina. His muster records indicate that he was wounded in the fighting at South Mountain on 14 September 1862 and shortly thereafter furloughed for 60 days to recuperate. He was with his regiment again in December 1862 and promoted to corporal on 8 April 1863. Unfortunately, Solomon did not survive the war, though he expressed eternal hope that he might, asking his Lord to “give us peace in thine own way & grace to wait thine own time. Thy will be done, not mine.”

Solomon was the son of George Tesh (1796-1872) and Maria Sarah Boeckel (1796-1870) of Friedberg, Davidson county, North Carolina. He was married in 1851 to Phebe Malvina Perryman (1835-1923) who bore him five children—Letitia, Laura, Robert, Benjamin, and Lucy.


Fredericksburg, Virginia
August 8th 1863

Dear Br. Hege,

I am happy to say I received a few lines from you yesterday by way of  your worthy son, in answer to which I will drop you a few stating that I am tolerable well at present. I have been right sick for some two weeks past, as you no doubt have heard, but have about recovered. I am now getting along as well as a poor soldier can expect.

I have good tidings to tell, yet it will be no news to you as you have heard it before now—I mean the reviving influence of the Holy Spirit that has visited our regiment. We have been abundantly blessed in the last month. I hope the God of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob will continue to bless our poor souls while the body has to suffer so much. We still keep up public prayer in most of our companies, sometimes at one tent and then at another. We meet & sing some old familiar hymns. Then one will lead in prayer. Then we sing again & pray and so on till we get revived. I see more enjoyment sometimes after the day is spent then I do during the day for these things are of more interest to me than all our hard marching or fighting. Yet, if we acknowledge this war as a judgment on us for our sins, it behooves us to suffer our part of the hardships, if possible without murmuring. To do this, it requires much grace. May God help us.

You know, dear Br., that my thoughts often go back to past days spent with you & many beloved Brethren in old Davidson & Forsythe at many places—especially at Friedburg. You know I love the place &  those who worship there. And so strong are my affections that Simeonlike, it seems to me that only there I could cheerfully “Depart.” My prayer to almighty God is that I may live to enjoy some of the means of grace in this. If God will fit to bless me with such privileges, I solemnly promise Him to serve Him more fully idea by his grace.

I am indebted to sister Hege for the [ ] of my dear wife’s misfortune. I hoped for some time that in some time it was [ ], but alas, it is so. Hope sister Hege will assist her & drop some word of comfort as any such misfortune must add to sorrow already in divide. It is no small mater to have five little children depending on a poor woman & her husband in the army, now exposed to everything that is hard & dangerous—spiritual & temporal, & at the same time in a condition like here. These things are enough to weigh down my spirit, but turn the thoughts & cry out, “Bless God,” that it is no worse with us. My wife & dear children are still in the interior of the state where they know comparatively nothing of the horrors of war & at last account, we were all alive & had a  hope to meet again in this world. And above all things else, I bless God for the hope after death. Then I wish to commend them to the care of their friends, the  church & God, with the hope that all things will work together for our good.

But dear Br. & sister, I am running along too lengthy. I hope you will pardon me. You know I love to talk and it is a long time since you & I have been privileged  to have a chat. If I was with you to dinner, I think I would enjoy myself & then we could spend Saturday evening pleasantly together.

I have seen a great deal since I am a soldier—much that is heart-rending to look upon. The awful destruction of our once prosperous & happy country, the lands & property of every kind, the many beautiful buildings that I have seen burnt—it looks to me like Old Abe has a poor way to restore the Union & Old Jeff seems to give little hope of any reward like freedom or liberty, so it looks dark for one who always loved a free & republic government. I hope that in some way the curse may be removed ere long. Lord, give us peace in thine own way & grace to wait thine own time. Thy will be done, not mine.

But I must close, dear Br., I hope you will remember when you read this the source from where it comes & will therefore receive it as well meant & overlook all mistakes C. A. is well. The boys are all about except Br. He is not about much. Cont is with us. He is some better. No more now. Your friend, wishing to be claimed as a brother—Solomon Tesh

to his esteemed Br Solomon Hege
Fredricksburg Va.  August 8th 1863

1863: Andrew Durfee to Stephen Durfee

This letter is written by Andrew Durfee (1840-1865), the son of Stephen Durfee (1812-1886) and Sarah Marshall (1816-18xx) of Fall River, Newport county, Rhode Island.

Andrew mustered into Co. D, 1st Rhode Island Cavalry as a private in mid-December 1861. He was captured at Middleburg, Virginia. where the regiment was badly routed on 18 June 1863, and paroled on 23 July 1863 at City Point, Virginia. He was captured again at Sulfur Springs, Virginia, on 14 October 1863. He spent the next 18 months at Libby and Andersonville, being paroled 27 February 1865 at N. E. Ferry, North Carolina, only to die of pneumonia in the General Hospital in Wilmington, North Carolina within a month.

I could not find an image of Andrew but here is Lyman Aylesworth of the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry. Lyman barely escaped capture at the Battle of Middleburg (VA) on June 17/18, 1863 when most of his comrades were taken prisoner. His family donated his uniform, sword, enlistment papers and other various accoutrements to the Varnum museum in the 1920s. His shell jacket has been recently conserved. — at Varnum Memorial Armory Museum.


Camp near Potomac Creek
May 12, 1863

Dear Father,

Once more I am in camp. I have escaped the battle without a scar. It was good luck [and] not because we were not under fire. My battalion has had a hard time of it. We were detached after joining Hooker to scout outside of our rifle pits. There was ninety of us drove the Rebs two miles and a half with pistols over the Fredericksburg and Culpeper Road to Ely’s Ford where two regiments of infantry [and] two pieces of artillery was driven back on a double quick. Our runners stationed on the road did not leave their post through all of the firing. The Rebs came in the rear of us afterwards and cut us off but we got away from them and returned with only three wounded.

After returning at night with no food for the horses or men all day, we were sent out again to scout outside of our pickets to see if the Rebs were advancing on the right through the woods and while returning, we came upon our pickets across a ravine. Two of our men went ahead to find a path to get inside the [picket line when] the pickets fired on them and right after, a whole brigade opened on us but [we] all escaped unhurt. Some of our men were dismounted and stood in the woods all night to keep from being shot. The General, it seems, after sending us out, gave the pickets orders not to challenge anybody but fire on anyone they saw—and so they fired on us instead of the Rebs. It was a thoughtless piece of work and ought to cost that general his commission.

The report is that Hooker is again across the river but I do not see it so. But we shall cross again soon. I am well and I hope this will find you and Mother the same. Give my love to Libbie and Lida and goodbye for the present. From your ever affectionate son, — Andrew Durfee