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.

1862: William Gover Gilpin to Rachel (Gover) Gilpin

I could not find an image of William but here is one of James F. Wilson who also served as a Quartermaster Sergeant in the 2nd Illinois Cavalry. James was in Co. G. (Photo Sleuth)

This letter was written by William Gover Gilpin (1836-1862) who enlisted on 5 August 1861 at Quincy, Illinois, to serve in Co. L, 2nd Illinois Cavalry. William was the quartermaster sergeant of his company. He died of “Camp Fever” on 29 September 1861 at Island No. 10. The following letter written to his mother was found in the the Pension’s Office Records. It was penned less than three weeks before his death.

William was the son of Samuel P. Gilpin (1801-1849) and Rachel Gover (1803-1871) of Baltimore, Maryland. William’s father died of cholera at Quincy, Illinois, in May 1849. The Gilpin were Quakers and members of the Baltimore Monthly Meeting of Friends (Stony Brook). Samuel and Rachel’s children included: James S. Gilpin, b. 1822, Joseph Bernard Gilpin (1825-1878); Edward Canby Gilpin (1829-1908); Thomas Harris Gilpin, b. 1831; William Gover Gilpin, b. 1836; and Albert Gallatin Gilpin (1838-1893). In the 1860 US Census, William was enumerated in Ellington, Adams county, Illinois, where he earned his living as a florist. Ten years earlier, the family was enumerated in Baltimore’s 16th Ward, Rachel being the head of the household, her husband having died the year previous.

William mentions his older brother, Joseph B. Gilpin who enlisted in April 1862 to serve as a Captain in the U. S. Commissary Department (Paymaster). He remained in the service until 13 March 1866. In the 1860 US Census, Joe was enumerated in Quincy, Illinois, where he was employed as a land agent. William also mentions his older brother Edward and a younger brother—Albert—who apparently threatened to join the Confederate army. If he did, I can find no record of it.

Rachel filed for a mother’s pension from her home in Sandy Springs, Montgomery county, Maryland. She offered this letter to the Pension’s Office as evidence that her son sent her money and that she relied on it to sustain her.


Island No. 10, Tennessee
September 10, 1862

Dear Mother,

It has been some time since I heard from you & cannot imagine why some of you don’t write oftener. We have no news worthy of note transpiring around here save the chasing & bagging of guerrilla bands.

We see with regret that our army has retreated to where they were just a year ago and are followed by the Rebels. There is no doubt that by removing McClellan, Pope has been outgeneraled, hence our defeat. But this yet will prove a good move for the North for it will cause them to stir & be active & prove to the idle thousands that there really is a war going on. Baltimore, Frederick, & perhaps Philadelphia may be taken before our army is filled up sufficient to overthrow this rebellion. But the day is not far distant when our army will be swelled to such a number that there will be no resisting it. Just when the North stopped recruiting, the South commenced the same, by which means they have probably two to our one man in the field. But this new levy will bring our Army up to its standard.

There is no fighting very near us, Bolivar being the nearest some 60 miles east of here. [Brother] Joe is at Jackson some twenty miles from Bolivar. Guerrillas are around Jackson but not in force to take the place. Matters are quiet generally on the river. The health of our camp is very good. My health still continues good, or better than ever in fact. The weather is splendid.

Our folks in Louden are again feeling the terrors of war, & those in Sandy Spring will no doubt feel the same.

You must remain perfectly quiet where you are for this will be but a raid in Maryland that cannot last but a few days & they will again be driven South. Stay where you are & take it as cool as you can. 1

I suppose ere this Albert has joined the Southern Army. Let him go if he wants but I assure you he will yet regret leaving this—the best government that ever existed—to join the Negro Government of a day.

Have not heard from Quincy for some time but all were well when last heard from. Ed’s folks were also well. Hope you will write often. I enclose you $15 all I can spared now. will send more soon. With much love in haste, I close and remain your son, — Wm.

1 William is referring, of course, to Lee’s Maryland Campaign that culminated in the Battle of Antietam.

1863: Edward D. A. Williams to Minnie Blackwell

This letter was written by Capt. Edward D. A. Williams (1839-1920) of Co. I, 38th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). Edward enlisted on 28 August 1861 at Delta, Ohio. He began his term of service as 1st Lieutenant and was Captain of his company when he resigned his commission on 15 April 1864. His pension file indicates that prior to joining the 38th OVI, he served 3 months in Co. A, 14th OVI.

The 1920 US Census informs us that Edward was born in Ohio in 1839 adn that his parents were natives of Vermont. His death record gives his father’s name as David Williams and his mother’s maiden name as Seeley. His pension record give’s his wife’s name as “Phileta” or “Philda E.”

Maybe Edward marched in this 38th OVI reunion parade in Melrose, Ohio, in 1889


Headquarters Co. I, 38th Regiment Ohio Volunteers
Camp near Winchester, Tennessee
July 20th 1863

Dear Minnie,

How have you passed the time since the last time I saw you some two years ago? I have thought that perhaps I might be so fortunate as to get a furlough during my term of enlistment but so far have only succeeded in obtaining permission to remain in camp and be a good “Boy” and I might go home when my time was out. A great consolation isn’t it?

We are now almost as far south as we were about a year ago but prospects are brighter than then, and we hope not to be compelled to retrace our steps back to the desolate hills of Kentucky. Rather than do this, I would go on until we are arrested by the Gulf of Mexico, carrying all before us. We are confident of success so long as Rosecrans leads the Army of the Cumberland and if nothing interposes more than Bragg’s army to dispute the possession of the country, we shall soon be masters of the Southern Confederacy.

Today we are cheered with good news from guerrilla Morgan’s command, stating that our forces have succeeded in bringing him to an engagement in which the Rebels lost severely and were routed with prospects fair for the capture of himself and entire force. His artillery is in our possession.

Do you anticipate a “Mob” in Toledo soon? One must be gotten up or you will be behind most of the Northern cities. A firm resistance to the Draft seems to be the order of the day and perhaps it is better to lose one’s life in resisting the demands of the government for support than to yield obedience to its mandates and lose it in defense of his country. In resisting the draft, he is certain to lose it, and on the other hand he stands as fair a chance as those who are already in the field.

But perhaps I shall fail to interest you and will cease for this time hoping you will respond at your earliest convenience if consistent with your idea of propriety.

With best wishes for your future happiness, I am, dear Minnie, your humble servant, “Edward”, Capt. Co. I, 38th Ohio Vols.

To Miss Minnie Blackwell

Capt. Williams’ headstone

1862: John Newton Silverthorn to J. O. Jones

This letter was written by John Newton Silverthorn (1821-1883) of Brooke, Virginia (now West Virginia), the son of Henry and Hannah (McCracken) Silverthorn. At age 15, John learned the millwrighting and carpentry trade, then went steamboating on the Ohio river. In 1845 he attended Florence Academy in Pennsylvania and then taught school at the J. B. Anderson’s Collegiate Institute at New Albany. In 1849 he married Harriet J. Dinwiddie of Hanover, Indiana, and then took charge of the Ripley County Seminary. His next job was editor of the American published in Terre Haute. After a number of other jobs he finally became editor of the Journal in Evansville, Indiana.

Also adding a note to the letter was James H. McNeely (182801902) who was a printer and newspaper publisher in Lawrenceburg, Dearborn county, Indiana. In 1859, McNeely purchased the Evansville Daily Journal.

The letter was directed to J. O. Jones, the postmaster at Terre Haute, Indiana. There is a reference to the wounded soldiers from the Battle of Shiloh arriving at the hospitals in Evansville.

Masthead of Silverthorn’s letter


Evansville, Indiana
April 11, 1862

Mr. J. O. Jones, Terre Haute, Dear Sir,

At request of Mr. J. H. McNeely, I have made diligent inquiry at the hospitals & found there are but three (3) soldiers from your city or vicinity now in this city & they are convalescent & need nothing. The balance have all been furloughed or having regained their health have returned to their regiments.

We expect some of the wounded from Pittsburg Landing tonight or tomorrow for whom the kind offices of your loyal-hearted citizens are invoked. Prepare such things as you know will be needed & have them ready to send when required. Our people here are alive to the work.

Yours for the glorious old flag, — Silverthorn

[in a different hand]

Friend Jones,

I handed your letter over to Silverthorn, he having more time to spare than I have and a better opportunity. I hope his letter is satisfactory.

The “Commodore Perry” has just arrived with about 250 of the wounded from Pittsburg, Tennessee. Major [Frederick] Arn and Capt. [George] Harvey of the 31st [Indiana] are killed. 1

Yours respectfully, — James H. McNeely

1 The after action report written by Col. Charles Cruft of the 31st Indiana Infantry mentions the deaths of Arn and Harvey: “It grieves me to report the loss of two gallant officers. During the first charge of the enemy on the morning of the 6th Maj. Fred. Arn fell mortally wounded. He was a true soldier and accomplished gentleman. No more gallant soul ever “took wing” from a battle-field. Capt. George Harvey, one of the best officers of the regiment, was killed upon the field while bravely leading his company in the afternoon advance.

1864: James Ebenezer Cornelius to J. O. Jones

James Ebenezer Cornelius

This letter was written by James Ebenezer Cornelius (1832-1881), a carpenter from Muddy Creek, Butler county, Pennsylvania, who served as the Captain of Co, C, 100th Pennsylvania Infantry (the “Roundheads”) from August 1861 until he was wounded at the Battle of Chantilly on 1 September 1862 and discharged from the regiment on 4 March 1863. He led the regiment in the Battle of 2nd Bull Run. After he was discharged, he was transferred to the 15th Veteran Reserve Corps where he was breveted a Major for his bravery.

Major Cornelius wrote the letter to J. O. Jones, the post master at Terre Haute, Indiana, informing him that the body of Capt. Jeremiah Mewhinney (1825-1864) was sent to Terre Haute under the charge of Capt. Hastings. Capt. Mewhinney was a successful farmer in Vigo county, Indiana, when he volunteered to serve as the Capt. of Co. C (the “Noble Guards”), 31st Indiana Infantry. He died of disease in Chicago on 24 June 1864.


Camp Douglas
Chicago, Illinois
June 29th 1864

J. O. Jones, Esq.
Dear Sir,

Yours of the 27th inst. has just come to hand. Your telegram of the 24th (Friday) never reached me. Your dispatch of Monday morning reached me about 4 o’clock p.m. Monday and I returned an answer with the messenger who brought the dispatch. I sent the body under charge of Capt. Hastings yesterday.

I am sorry that we did not get your first dispatch as it would have prevented so long delay. Yours respectfully, — J. E. Cornelius, Major, 15th Regt. V. R. C.

P. S. Will you please send the enclosed resolutions to Mrs. Mewhinney. The Captain was very highly respected by the officers here. — J. E. Cornelius

1864: Carey Campbell Wright to William C. Wright

Carey C. Wright, Co. B, 47th Illinois Infantry

This letter was written by Carey C. Wright (1834-1913) who enlisted as a corporal in Co. B, 47th Illinois Infantry at Peoria, Illinois, on 16 August 1861. At the time of his enlistment he was described as a 27 year-old, six foot tall farmer with auburn hair and auburn eyes. He gave his birthplace as Brown county, Ohio. When he mustered out of the service on 11 October 1864 as the 1st Sergeant of Co. B, he gave his residence as Tazewell county, Ohio.

Carey was the son of James R. Wright (1807-1883) and Melinda Bayne (1813-1886) of Decatur, Brown county, Ohio. In 1860, the Wright family was living near Washington, Tazewell county, Illinois. They later moved to McLean county, Illinois, then to Appanoose County, Iowa, and finally Franklin county, Kansas. Carey was married to Persis Catharine Muzzy (1847-1920) and together they had at least three children.


Memphis, Tennessee
September 15, 1864

Dear Brother,

As I have not much to do this morning, I thought I would write you a few lines though I do not know what to write. We have so little news. The most important just now is the duty we have to perform is quite heavy, and the boys are complaining very much about it. Since the 1st & 3rd Divisions have left, it takes all the troops to do the necessary guard and fatigue duty in and around the city. The detail from our company this morning called for 16 privates & 3 non com officers. I could not fill the detail for privates & use those men I had on fatigue duty yesterday by 5 men, the balance of our men all being on duty. Several of the boys are complaining of being unwell and I am afraid we will have the shakes again if we stay here. Whether we will get off from here about the 20th is a question. Col. McClure says General Washburn told him he would give him 5 days to go from here and be mustered out at Springfield. The Colonel says he is going to try him again on the 19th to let us off the 20th. But how he will succeed, time alone will tell.

For the last 4 or 5 days the weather has been hot in the daytime & almost cold enough for the frost—last night the coldest, and I expect you have had some frost up in Illinois.

We have not heard anything from General Mower & his command except there was a prospect of a march ahead of them but we cannot tell anything about it.

21 September 1864, Times-Picayune (New Orleans) account of explosion at Fort Pickering gives rather gruesome particulars.

We had quite an explosion here a few mornings since in Fort Pickering. A pile of shell laying somewhere inside the fort exploded. A negro was fooling around somewhere near smoking when they exploded with a terrific noise, killing 4 or 5 persons who were somewhere near at the time. 1

I have not received any letter yet & there is no mail today for our regiment. There is a rumor that Mobile has been captured. We got a Chicago Tribune this morning of the 12th. The draft does not yet seem to have taken effect.

The Major has been back since I wrote you last. He is busy fixing up his matters & the officers are all expecting to get out of service soon. Most of the 100 days men have gone home from here but they must keep us who have served three years two months over our time. For my part, I do not say anything but think it is a piece of great injustice. But we must take it quietly. Nothing more at present but remain your affectionate brother, — Carey C. Wright

1 The New York Times reported on 18 September 1864: “About nine o’clock on Tuesday morning last, the citizens of Memphis were startled by one of the most terrific explosions ever heard there; a shell house under the banks, in Fort Pickering, containing some two hundred and fifty shells, exploded killing two men, one a negro soldier and the other an Irish laborer, and wounding several negro soldiers. One died during the day of his wounds. It was found upon examination that 110 shells had exploded. The explosion was occasioned by sparks from the steamer Neill.Actually, the cause of the accident was unknown.

1862: Andrew Thomas McReynolds to his Daughter

Col. Andrew Thomas McReynolds

This letter was written by Col. Andrew Thomas McReynolds (1808-1898). McReynolds was born in Ireland and came to the Michigan in 1833. There he married Elizabeth Brewster in 1835 and together they raised at least seven children. During the Mexican War, McReynolds served as a captain in the 3rd US Dragoons and was breveted a Major for gallant and meritorious service at Contreras and Churubusco where he was wounded.

When the Civil War erupted, McReynolds was personally commissioned a Colonel in the U.S. Regular Army by Abraham Lincoln when cavalry units became a necessity. He accordingly recruited men for the “Lincoln Cavalry” which mustered into the service as the 1st New York Cavalry Regiment at New York City. Companies A, B, D, E, G, H, I, L and M, were recruited principally in New York city, four of them being composed of Germans, Hungarians and Poles; Company C, Boyd’s Company C, Cavalry, Pa. Vols., at Philadelphia; F, at Syracuse; and K, Michigan Company, at Grand Rapids, Mich.

When this letter was written during the Peninsula Campaign in 1862, the regiment was attached to the 1st Division, 1st Corps of the Army of the Potomac. From its first engagement at Pohick Church, Va., in Aug., 1861, to the surrender at Appomattox, all, or part of the regiment, participated in nearly 230 battles and skirmishes. Some of the heaviest casualties of the regiment were incurred at Strasburg, Va., where it lost 17 killed, wounded and missing; at Winchester, where it lost 63 killed, wounded and missing; at New Market, where its loss was 99 killed, wounded and missing; and at Piedmont, where it lost 26 killed, wounded and missing. McReynolds was mustered out on June 15, 1864, possibly from his tenure expiring.

1861 Recruiting Poster for the Lincoln Cavalry


Headquarters N. Y. Cavalry
Camp 11 miles from Richmond
May 23, 1862

Dear Mary,

I received your letter of the 15th last night and it was quite a relief to me as my last received was the 2nd of May before Frank had visited home. It must have been pleasant for you all to have him at home even for so short a time. I presume he made quite a flourish. He wrote me on his arrival at New York but not a word about home or family. I have not heard from him since.

We will soon be in Richmond when he will follow up with sutler supplies. I have written Franklin advising him to forward a large stock of goods. Frank will have a good chance to make money. You don’t say anything about the deafness of Maria. I infer from that that it is not serious. I am glad to know that my $70 remittance reached safe and so opportune. It is strange that you had not heard from Mr. [Frederick A.] Nims previous to your writing. The day I sent mine by express, he requested me to forward $50 to you for him. I obtained it the next day and handed him $45, retaining $5 for pocket money. I preferred that he should send it, thinking he would be better satisfied. You have probably received it ‘ere this, at any rate, your Mother will decide until it reaches you. When I next see him, I will tell him of the receipt of your letter and that you had not heard from him for so long a time. It may be that his letters have miscarried, the mails are so irregular. I received 3 letters from your Mother in one day written 3 weeks apart, but have not received the business letters spoken of. I will write from Richmond and make another remittance as soon as I can get hold of money from the paymaster. My expenses are very light. All I receive divided between home and creditors.

My regiment is kept in the saddle day and night. It is the only cavalry in our Army Corps of some 30 thousand men. Captain [Anson N.] Norton’s Company [K], I regret to say, lost two men yesterday afternoon. Sergeant [George W.] Cummings from Muskegon, I think, one of my best men, was shot through the heart, pierced with 2 balls, and shocking to think of, the fiends inhuman form, cut off one ear after his death. His body is now in camp and will be decently buried this afternoon. 1 The other, a corporal named [William D.] Anderson from Grand Rapids. 2 His father resides there. He visited his son last winter in company with Judge Tracy. His horse was shot, and beside his horse marks of where he had lain were discovered with considerable blood. We searched for his body but could not find it. It is probable he was badly wounded, captured, and carried off. I hope it is so and that he yet lives. He too was a good soldier. At the same time, 8 of Norton’s company charged upon and drove over 50 rebel infantry into the woods. We lost 4 horses in the affair.

When anything interesting arises, I will write your Mother. Tell her this must answer for all the family. My time is much occupied, 3 or 4 hours sleep is about all we can hope for in the 24 hours. I shall be glad when it is all over and I can enjoy once more the sweets of home in Bower Cottage.

With love to all. Your affectionate father, — Andrew T. McReynolds

1 Muster rolls indicate that George W. Cummins entered the service when he was 34 years old as a private in Co. K. He was promoted to sergeant prior to his death which took place on 22 May 1862 near Mechanicsville, Virginia. He was actually from Grand Rapids.

2 William D. Anderson mustered into Co. K at Grand Rapids as a private. He was captured at Chickahominy, Virginia on 22 May 1862 and paroled at Aiken’s Landing, Virginia, on 13 September 1862. He was discharged as a corporal for disability on 10 November 1862 at Annapolis, Maryland.

1865: Caroline Crane Faxen to John Wellington Faxon

This letter was written by Caroline (“Carrie”) Crane Faxon (1848-19xx), the daughter of Charles Faxon (1799-1867) and Lucy Ann Steele (1804-1874). Charles Faxon was a printer, bookseller, and editor who hailed from Connecticut. In the 1820s he relocated to Catskill, New York, where he edited the Catskill Recorder. He then moved to Buffalo, New York, where he started the Daily Star. In 1843, he moved to Clarksville, Tennesee, where he commenced the publication of the Primitive Standard, an Episcopal Journal, with Rev. James Hervey Otey, afterwards Bishop of Tennessee. He also started the Clarksville Jeffersonian. Carrie married Robert Warner Thomas in December 1868.

Carrie wrote her letter to her older brother, John Wellington Faxon (1840-1917). John married Florence Herring in February 1866. John joined the 14th Tennessee Infantry and served until 1863 when, on account of disability, he was transferred to the CSA Treasury where he clerked until war’s end.

Carrie’s older brother, Henry W. Faxon (1826-1864), enlisted on 15 January 1864 at Buffalo, New York, as a private in the 24th New York Cavalry. He died of disease at Harewood Hospital in Washington D. C. on 11 September 1864.

Carrie’s letter mentions several Clarksville hometown boys who fought in Co. A, 49th Tennessee Infantry. This hat was work by Sergt. William McKeage of Co. A who finally deserted after the Battle of Nashville in mid-December 1864.


Clarksville, Tennessee
February 3rd 1865

My Darling Brother,

I suppose you will be quite surprised to find that I am in Clarksville, Tennessee, instead of Buffalo, New York. I received your letter a week ago last night and can assure you was highly delighted that you had at last condescended to write to you little sister, I have been thinking of you ever since I came home—especially all this week before Christmas when all the girls nearly in town, and all the young men that are left, assembled at our church for the purpose of decorating it. Lou Ellen Anderson was there, also Julliet, Nannie H., Jane Ward, Hattie Elliott, & all the other pretty girls in town. All sent their love and spoke of the Christmas that Lewis clark, Willie Kerr & yourself were with us and what a nice time we all had down to the church.

I have a great deal of news to tell you but some is what you will not like to hear. In the first place, Sallie McKoin was married today to Quint Atkinson 1, & Mr. [Hugh] Dunlop 2 is to be next week to Miss Mattie Williams. The next thing, the small pox is in town. Dr. McMullen & his wife both died of it. Also old Ely Lockhart. Old R. Beaumont has died since I came home but not of small pox. Old grandmother Shackelford, brother John’s little Marietta, & others.

Mont. Ghoram [Gorham] was shot across the river and his remains brought home. Also Lem House 3 whose remains will be brought home tomorrow. Bob Bringhurst 4 & young Willie Munford 5 were both killed at Nashville & brought home. Polk W[ilcox] 6 has had his left arm cut off and is a prisoner. The whole family are in town. Miss Sallie has the typhoid fever and is quite sick. Little Georgie sends his love to you. He has been very sick but is well now. Dixie, or little Emmy, & Sallie say, “Tell Uncle John I kiss him.” Goodbye. Write soon. With much love, — Carrie

Emma Derring, Dr. McMullen’s niece, has the small pox. I tell you this so if you see any of her relations in Mississippi, you can tell them of it. — Carrie

1 Quintus C. Atkinson (1840-1894) served as a private in Co. A, 49th (Confederate) Tennessee Infantry. He was discharged for disability following a year’s service. He was married to Sarah (“Sally”) Elizabeth McKoin on 3 February 1865 at Clarksville, Tennessee.

2 Mr. Hugh Dunlop (1811-1879) was an elderly farmer who loved near Clarksville, an emigrant from Scotland. He married Miss Mattie Williams on the 17 May 1865.

3 Lemuel F. House served as a private in Co. A, 14th Tennessee Infantry. After he was wounded at the Battle of Sharpsburg in September 1862, he left the regiment to join Forrest’s Cavalry.

4 Robert Bringhurst was a sergeant in Co. A, 49th Tennessee Infantry. He was among the garrison at Fort Donelson that were captured in February 1862 and sent to Camp Douglas in Chicago. He was exchanged in September 1862. Nothing more appears in his muster rolls but we learn from this letter that he was killed at the Battle of Franklin. It is believed that the remnants of the 49th and 55th Tennessee were consolidated with the 7th Texas to form “Bailey’s Consolidated Regiment of Infantry.”

5 William B. Munford also served in Co. A, 49th Tennessee Infantry. He was taken prisoner at Fort Donelson and later exchanged. Elevated in rank to a Lieutenant, Munford was later placed on detached service as a clerk on Gen. Quarles staff as A.A.A.G. He was killed at the Battle of Franklin according to the Military Annals of Tennessee.

6 James Polk Wilcox also served in Co. A, 49th Tennessee Infantry. He was wounded and taken prisoner at Franklin, Tennessee. He was sent to Louisville, Kentucky, and then to Camp Chase in Ohio. He died of pneumonia on 5 March 1865 according to muster rolls. His left arm was amputated on 1 December 1864 in an attempt to save his life.

1861: Robert Hancock Wood to Major John Houston Bills

This letter was written by Robert Hancock Wood (1826-1901), the son of James Wood (1797-1867) and Frances Allen (1804-1888) of Albemarle county, Virginia. Robert was married to Mary Caroline Bills (1829-1869) in January 1847. She was the daughter of Major John Houston Bills (1800-1871) and Prudence Tate McNeal (1809-1840) of Bolivar, Hardeman county, Tennessee.

Robert was the captain of Co. B, 22nd Tennessee Infantry. He volunteered his services on 15 July 1861 at Trenton, Tennessee, and was discharged from the service on 8 May 1862 when he was not re-elected as captain after the regiment’s reorganization. According to the book, The Battle of Belmont: Grant Strikes South, the Hardeman county boys in Co. B of the 22nd Tennessee called themselves the “Hatchie Hunters.” They were among the troops that faced Grant’s troops at the Battle of Belmont on 7 November 1861 and later at Shiloh.

In this September 1861 letter to his father-in-law, we learn that Capt. Wood felt it was a mistake for the Confederacy to move troops into neutral Kentucky. “I have felt ever since we came into the state that we were abandoning our principle of self defense & placing ourselves upon indefensible grounds. The evidence of Kentucky’s Union proclivities are too strong & decided to admit of [her ever coming] to our side except by subjugation. She is not yet ready to take the leap and we cannot help her decide. I think the whole move on our part will prove to be a military failure, not less marked & pitiable than a similar one made into Missouri.”

Robert Hancock Wood and his wife, Mary C. (Bills) Wood. Robert was captain of Co. B, 22nd (Confederate) Tennessee Infantry in the first year of the Civil War.


Mayfield, Kentucky
September 16, 1861

Major J. H. Bills, dear sir,

Enclosed herewith I send you the account of my company which I wish paid by Thomas Peters, Quartermaster of Tennessee forces. The amounts are embraced in a requisition which is here enclosed, signed by myself and Col. Freeman. It will be necessary for the accounts to be receipted before the Quartermaster will allow the requisition. But this you can do for the several persons holding them.

It is possible Col. Peters may object to paying the requisition at this time but be pleased to remind him that he promised me when I was in Memphis laying in the uniforms about the 12th of July that if I would have the clothes made up, he would pay for it. He has paid for the lots & clothes, long since I think & he must also pay for this. Be pleased to press the matter as it is very important for the interests of the company that it should be allowed. It is possible the requisition is not correctly made out. If not, let him write out one and forward me at once and it shall be returned forthwith with the necessary signatures.

Be pleased also to get from him a requisition I gave Col. McMahon for hats, shorts, drawers, socks, shoes, &c. for my company dated about the 20th of July. Col. McMahon sent the requisition forward to Col. Peters to be filled at the same time taking my receipt for the articles., but the articles were not furnished in whole, or in part. Still, so long as my receipt is out, I am liable to have an ugly account presented me.

Col. McMahon induced me to believe that I could never have the requisition honored unless I signed the receipt of the 1st instance. Be pleased to follow this last matter up until the requisition is destroyed.

Your kind favor was received at Columbus just before we took the cars for the Tennessee line & I had no opportunity of answering until now. I am sorry I did not meet with you at Columbus (I suppose you made your intended visit).

We had a somewhat fatiguing trip for a sick regiment from Columbus to this point. We are now 27 miles north of the Tennessee line in Graves county in a black jack and hickory [ ] county. It reminds me a good deal of western portions of Hardeman county—considerable wealth, large farms hereabouts. Water is very scarce. Wells are deep. Cistern water mostly used. An excellent evidence that good [ ] hard to get. There is a creek in half mile from our camp which we are compelled to use. It is however stagnant water and muddy.

Much to my surprise and gratification, I found the Polk Battery here. From what I can hear, I think they slipped off from Columbus without orders. I saw Lieut. Smith today. He is a little unwell. I gave him two [ ] of quinine & set him up again. I have not seen March but learn he is well.

We find the people of this portion of Kentucky very hospitable & well disposed & anxious for us to overrun the state. But I have felt ever since we came into the state that we were abandoning our principle of self defense & placing ourselves upon indefensible grounds. The evidence of Kentucky’s Union proclivities are too strong & decided to admit of a hope of [ ] over to our side except by subjugation. She is not yet ready to take the leap and we cannot help her decide. I think the whole move on our part will prove to be a military failure, not less marked & pitiable than a similar one made into Missouri. So far as soldiers are concerned, it is a pleasant recreation to move them about from place to place with the hope of giving them work to do. Still we will not win any laurels in Kentucky this time because the move is premature.

It is understood that President Davis disapproves of the move and did instruct General Polk to send the army back to Tennessee. I do not know how true this is but I believe [ ] the matter is understood by the President, he will order us at once. I think we will return to the Tennessee line in less than three days from this time.

My health was a little feeble for two or three days at Columbus but I am now as well as ever & ready to go wherever duty calls. The health of my company is improving (those who are here). About thirty are at home on furloughs. We are [with]in 25 or 26 miles of Paducah where it is said the enemy is posted 10 to 12,000 strong. The larger portion are foreigners badly officered & drilled with the exception of one regiment of Zouaves. If we attack the place, we will have to approach from this place on foot as the rolling stock on the road is not sufficient to carry more than 700 men at a time.

I would write more but night is approaching. Be pleased to let <ary read this. Give my love to all your family and write as often as you can.

I remain yours very truly, — R. H. Wood

1860: Paul Tudor Jones to Major John Houston Bills

This letter was written by Paul Tudor Jones (1828-1904), the youngest son of Gen. Calvin Jones and Temperance Body Williams. He came with his parents to Bolivar, Hardeman county, Tennessee in 1835, settling on a farm where the West Tennessee Insane Asylum was eventually built. He received his education at La Grange College in Alabama and in 1849 married Jane Margaret Wood. When she died in 1863, he married Mary Kirkman. Paul was an extensive planter as was the man he addressed his letter to, Major John Houston Bills (1800-1871) of Bolivar, Hardeman county, Tennessee. Major Bill’s biography in Tennessee Encyclopedia reads:

Born in Iredell County, North Carolina, John H. Bills was one of the founders of Bolivar, in Hardeman County, and a leader of the Tennessee Democratic Party in the nineteenth century. He came to the West Tennessee area in 1818 with members of the family of James K. Polk. In 1823 Bills married Prudence Polk McNeal, a cousin of the future president. Bills also began a cotton factoring company with her brother, Ezekial McNeal, which they called Bills and McNeal, and acquired two plantations, one near Bolivar and the other in Mississippi.

Bills was one of the first commissioners for the new town of Bolivar in 1824, and with his brother-in-law, one of the leading industrialists and planters in West Tennessee. He purchased his home, known as “The Pillars,” in 1837, from a Philadelphia newspaperman, John Lea, and traveled throughout the eastern United States to furnish it in appropriate style. The mansion is now a historic house museum administered by the local chapter of the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities. Bills entertained several notable Tennesseans and southerners at his home, including Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, Sam Houston, Leonidas Polk, and Jefferson Davis. After his wife died in 1840, Bills continued making trips throughout the eastern U.S. and Europe. In 1849 Bills married a widow from Virginia, Lucy Anne Duke.

Union troops burned the town of Bolivar in 1864, destroying the business district, including Bills’s cotton plant. Bills, however, proclaimed himself neither Unionist nor secessionist, and thus protected his home and much of his wealth from military reprisals. He continued traveling, entertaining, and aiding in the rebuilding of his business and of Bolivar until his death at home in November 1871.

From the letter we learn that Major Bill’s “great house” was being remodeled and in his absence, Mr. Jones was overseeing the construction work which was being performed by the Major’s slaves. The Major’s home—called “The Pillars” was built in the 1820s but a wing was added onto the building beginning in 1858 according to “The Pillars” website.


October 15, 1860

Major J. H. Bills, dear sir,

As you requested to be advised of the progress of the work here, I know of no better way than to begin a sort of diary & send it to you by first conveyance.

In attempting to get our negroes straightened, I find 2 or 3 taking wives away from home & I regret that it was not known before you left. I have put all off until I could hear from you. Alfred has taken one of Jane Willians’ women & Stephen Miller’s man Bob has asked for Emma.

Monday, 15th October

Gray burning brick. The fir made its appearance on top this morning. Anthony & Wash digging out cisterns. Got down 14 feet. Pretty wet [and] will go no further. Carrol hauling dirt from cistern to house & getting up brickwood. The women burning brush. Jake & Arch sick. Lucy & Ned hewed over the plates and morticed the sills & side plates to Great house. Wilson to the River. Brought home the meat and balance of lime & cement. Isham hauling cistern timbers until 12 & brickwood after dinner. The rest of hands at the pond getting sills from negro houses & loading the wagon. got 4 sills today and 3 saw logs.

Tuesday 16. Changed the fire in brick kiln this evening. Covered cistern. got out posts for workshop. Got out 14 sills today and 5 or 6 saw longs. Chopping out places in sills to receive the sleepers & adjusting the plates of Great house. Ned hauling saw logs. Wilson to River after Mill. Isam & Arch sick. Women burning brush. Wash making & repairing mule collars.

Wednesday 17th Arch & Isam sick or lazy. Finished mortising for sleepers & all ready at Great house for scantling. Close up the Brick kiln tonight. Plastered the upper half of cistern. Finished hauling brush & 24 sills in all from negro houses. Ned hauled 2 saw logs today and six sills. Wilson got back at 12 with the Mill and hauled a load of corn in afternoon from below the old cow pen.

Mr. Duke went to Austin today and brought out your letters & I feel anxious to settle about the Mill & will send Gray to Senatobia in the morning & write to [George] Widrig to stop it. You say truly that the time is about out when it ought to be sawing to profit this winter & I am sorry you could not have seen Widrig when you passed Murphey & stopped it. The work that I shall do for the balance of the week will not interfere with the mill if it comes or not. I shall get rafters and build a corn crib & gather some corn, &c. And but little is lost if any log work that has been done except the saw logs of which we have in the yard 20 & the rough lot of timber got out for the mill. I had rather lose that than more fooling about for a week or two in the mud trying to get the mill started.

All are out except Arch and Isam & I cannot see anything the matter with them unless maybe a slight cold. Carrol was ready for work the day after you left but i told him to keep quiet a day or two and he is regularly at it now & doing very well

Respectfully — P. T. Jones

If the mill does not come by Friday night, I shall know it is stopped and shall them go to building log houses. Shall put up the sills & mortise down for sleepers so no time will be lost. I wrote Widrig if he wanted to communicate further to address us at Bolivar. I wrote we would not take it.

1861-62: Thomas E. Morrow to his Sister

I could not find an image of Thomas but here is a full-plate tinted ferrotype of a Louisiana soldier—the artist detailed a pelican on his belt plate. Dennis Headlee Collection

These two letters were written by Thomas E. Morrow (b. 1835) of Co. G, 8th Louisiana Infantry. Thomas enlisted as a private on 23 June 1861 at Camp Moore, Louisiana for 12 months service. Muster records show he was with his regiment until mid November 1861 when he was detached to accompany Major Prados (perhaps to take his brother’s body home). He accepted a bounty and reenlisted in April 1862 and was with his regiment until 7 November 1863 when he was taken prisoner at the Battle of Rappahannock Bridge. He was in captivity at Point Lookout, Maryland, until 10 March 1864 when he returned to his regiment, only to be taken prisoner again on 19 October 1864 at the Battle of Belle Grove and returned to Point Lookout a second time. He was finally exchanged on 10 February 1865.

Thomas was the oldest son of James “Madison” Morrow (1811-1865) and Elizabeth B. Kinnon (b. 1816) of Walton county, Georgia. Thomas was born in Georgia in 1835 but came to Minden, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, as a child when his father purchased several tracts in Township 19, Range 8 in 1839-40.

Enlisting with him in the same company were two brothers—20 year-old Edward G. Morrow (1841-1861) and 13 year-old William M. Morrow (1848-1936) whom I believe he referred to as “Bud.” Edward died of disease at Culpeper, Virginia, on 23 November 1861. William, like Thomas, survived the war though he was wounded twice—at Chancellorsville and again on the 2nd day at Gettysburg. William was taken prisoner on 7 November 1863 at Rappahannock Bridge with his brother but he may have deserted after he was exchanged in April 1864. William settled in Caddo, Louisiana.

The brothers were accompanied by one of the family slaves named Dolphus Morrow or “Dolph” for short. In the 1860 Slave Schedule, the Morrow family owned 56 slaves ranging in age from infant to age 58.

Letter 1

Camp Pickens
Manassas Junction, Virginia
July 9th 1861

Dear Sister,

You must excuse my writing as I am sitting on the ground and writing on my knapsack. Camp life goes hard with most of the boys as they never knew before what it was to cook and wash for themselves but me and Bud do very well as far as that is concerned for we make Dolphus do that. This place is about 27 miles from Washington City, 23 from Alexandria, 12 from Fairfax Court House. There is about six thousand troops at this camp. It is said that in ten days we can land one hundred and fifty thousand troops in Washington City.

We do not know at what hour we will be call[ed] on to fight and we will not know until we are ordered to march for a private knows but very little what is going on, but I am pretty certain that we will get into a fight before ten days.

This camp is General Beauregard’s headquarters. I have seen him several times. We drill five hours every day. We have one hundred & twelve privates in our company (Minden Blues). Four have been sent home on account of sickness before we got here. If any get sick now, they will not have the pleasure of going home but will have to go to the hospital. I feel as well as I ever did in my life. Bud is also in good health.

It has been four weeks last Saturday since we left home and have not received a letter but they did not know what point to direct their letters. If you haver received a letter from home lately, write me all the news. Perry [J.] Murrell got a letter from Minden. Mrs. Thompson & Rial Lancaster are married. John Lancaster joined our company at Camp Moore.

You must answer this as soon as you receive it. If you have nothing else to write, let me know whether you are well or not. I would like to know how you are getting on but should like to see you much better for it has been a long time since I have seen you. It seems as if I had been from home three years. Give my love to all of the pretty girls. Tell them I am not a marrying man just now but as soon as the war is over, I will be on hand.

Give my love to Truby C. and accept the love of your brother for yourself. Your affectionate brother, — T. E. Morrow

P. S. Direct your letter thus:

F. E. Morrow
Manassas Junction, Virginia
Care of Capt. J. L. Lewis, 8th Louisiana Regiment

Letter 2

Camp Carondelet, [@ 6 mile from Centreville,] Virginia
January 23rd 1862

Dear Sister,

I got your letter that you wrote to me in Lieut. [Benjamin F.] Simms’s letter. I was glad to hear that you had recovered your health & was taking an interest in your studies & the examination. I would like to be there to see you & as a matter of course all the pretty girls. You seem to regret my not coming by to see you but you must recollect that my furlough was out on the 18th of December and I did not leave home until the 28th December & if I had have went by to see you, I would have lost five or six days & you know Military Laws has to be carried out to the letter so I had to hurry on to camps.

I found Mother very sick when I got home but she was a good deal better before I left. I found everything very dull in Minden & I could not enjoy myself there in the least. I was almost crazy to get back to the Army. You can’t imagine how dull & different everything is in Minden. There are but three young men in Minden—Han. McKinnie, Lynn Watkins, & Ben. Neal. They look like lost sheep. I would not be in their fix for a thousand dollars. I would not go home to stay unless the whole of our company were to go. Talk about staying at home now—it would be impossible for me to do it.

I saw but very few young ladies while at home. In fact, I did not go about but very little. I, sister, and Aunt Frances took dinner & an egg-nog out at Uncle Edwards’ on Christmas. Sister went home two or three days before I left. Jesse stayed but a short time after I got there. I think that sister & Jesse are both dissatisfied with the River.

Our time will be out just five months from today. Everyone is looking forward to a happy time when he gets back home but I don’t expect we will stay there but a short time after we get home. We don’t look for a fight here until spring. It is very cold but we are now in winter quarters—log cabins daubed with mud and dirt floors constitute our winter quarters which are very comfortable compared with our tents.

There was a man killed tonight by another who was drunk. He stabbed him three times. He only lived three minutes. While I was at home, there were two men shot for trying to release a prisoner & trying to kill the Officer of the Guard. 1

Capt. [John Langdon] Lewis resigned while I was at home & the boys elected J[ohn] H. Webb for captain. I should have voted for him if I had have been here. He got fifty-nine votes to Simms’s sixteen. [Benjamin F.] Simms & [William] Rockwell do not like it at all but nobody cares. I wish both of them would resign—Simms in particular. Webb is a good captain & a perfect gentleman. He was our orderly sergeant.

I have changed my mess. There are ten in the cabin I am in, viz: Nunn, L. Wren, W. Morrow, King, Jack Hamilton, Russell Montgomery, McCoy, John S. Williams, G. Collins, myself & Dolphus. We sleep in bunks one bed above the other like steamboat berths. We have a good deal of fun since we got into winter quarters. We have two god violins in the company & the boys have a dance almost every night.

I expect it would amuse you girls a good deal to see us going it on a reel or just to see how we manage everything in general. I am well at present but have been a little unwell since I returned. You must write often & I will try to be more punctual in writing. Since we got houses, it is a great deal more convenient to write. You must write oftener.

Your affectionate brother, — T. E. Morrow

1 The two Louisiana Tigers executed were Dennis Corcoran and Michael O’Brien. Lt. Kennon was the Officer of the Day. The circumstances surrounding the event are described in more detail under the heading, “Tiger execution,” found on the Louisiana Tigers web page.

Thomas E. Morrow’s List of Engagements during the Civil War.