The following letters were written by Sergeant Charles (“Charlie”) Darwin Carpenter (1839-1925), the son of David Cooley Carpenter (1805-1886) and Sarah Cleveland (1809-Aft1880). Charlie’s father was a stone cutter turned farmer in Berkshire Township, Delaware County, Ohio. He wrote most of the letters to his sister, Martha J. Carpenter (1837-1921). Martha married Charles Pierson in McLean County, Illinois on 10 February 1869. They resided in Decatur, Illinois. Some letters were written to his brother Corwin (“Cor”) Carpenter.
Charlie served in Co. D, 20th Ohio Infantry, enlisting as a private on 24 September 1861 when he was 22 years old. He was made a corporal a couple of weeks later and promoted to sergeant on 15 May 1862. Charlie was mustered out of the service as the first sergeant of his company on 28 September 1864 after three years of service.
After the war it appears that Charlie took up farming near Bloomington, McLean County, Illinois and married Hanna Maria Cravath (1846-Aft1920) on 3 July 1872. Maria was the daughter of Myrtillus and Polly Cravath of Pittsfield, Michigan; later Bloomington, Illinois.
The couple eventually relocated to Fort Scott, Bourbon County, Kansas, where Charlie became a nurseryman. His last residence (1910) before retirement was in Parsons, Kansas, where he worked as a teamster for a dairy. He is enumerated in the 1920 Census residing in the household of his son, Ernest Fay Carpenter (1873-1852) in Center Township, Vernon County, Missouri. Ernest was married to Agnes D. Estes (1873-1953). Pension records suggest that Charlie died in 1925.
Fort Donelson, Tennessee
February 18, 1862
Dear folks at home,
It has been so long since I have heard anything from you that I thought I’d just drop a few lines to let you know that I’m all right. The boys are all well. Of course you know all about our leaving Cincinnati. We went down river about 480 miles to Paducah, went to bed and next morning found ourselves going up Cumberland river to the fort where we are now. The gunboats were playing on the forts finely when we got here. They were not long in silencing the guns at the fort but then the work was not quarter done. The fort is as strong a one as the rebels have and then their entrenchments extended about five miles down the river. They would come out and fire on our men and then retreat to their ditches. We had a force of about fifty thousand here. I can’t tell anything about the rebel force.
One thing certain, we have got ten or twelve thousand prisoners for I have seen them. Our regiment is going down river with them. Co. B is on board a boat now expecting to start every minute. We have about twelve hundred on board. They are going to Cairo or St. Louis.
If I was at home, I could give a description of the fort and the fight but I can’t do it now. We were not in the fight. We were held in reserve for a charge bayonet but they surrendered before it came to that. We were held so close that the balls whistled around our heads some but we didn’t have any of the fun.
The loss was heavy on both sides. Can’t tell what it is. We have Buckner & Johnson are our prisoners, sure. To attempt a description of the battlefield would be useless. Dead rebels & horses piled around without number. It was enough to make anybody sick. The rebels fought like madmen but our men were too much for them. The rebels stacked their guns Sunday morn. They had a large amount of prisoners and ammunition which is in our possession.
Camp near Pittsburg Landing
May 7th 1862
I received yours & mother’s good letters on the 5th and would have written immediately but could not do it. We were camped out towards Corinth when I got it and before I’d got it half read, our regiment was ordered back to the old camp. So we won’t be in the fight at Corinth at all. I have been on duty so much that I couldn’t write before. Last night was the first night’s sleep I’ve had out of three but that don’t happen often. My health is good—better than it has been this time of year for two years.
Of course you have heard of Ed Perfect’s death by way of Ken Sherman before this time. He was sick some time. I would have written and sent by him but thought I might as well send one by Orleans as by him for when we asked him how our folks were, he said didn’t know; he had not seen any of them. We boys thought that was rather mean in him so we didn’t send any word by him. The letter that you & Cor wrote, I never got. Don’t much wonder that you were sick. Your tramp was nearly equal to some of our marches. I wish I had been with you. But never mind. I expect to be up there to fish before long. I’d like to see you all once more, you had better believe.
I have got the appointment of sergeant in the company so I shan’t have as much to do and will get $17 per month. I should have seen Daniel’s brother but we had to move in such a hurry the other day that I couldn’t do it. His regiment was camped about one half mile from us. Give my respects to O. G. when you write to him. You must excuse this short letter for we expect to get our pay in a day or two and then I shall write again. Tell the boys that I think if they want to keep a pet, they’d better keep a pig or a calf though I suppose a fox is a very valuable animal when he is tamed. Give love to all the folks and believe me as ever, — Charley
Mother, you seem to doubt some whether I am well or not. I don’t know as there is anything the matter with me but consumption—and that is consumption of crackers and coffee. If you think I need any medicine for that, you can send some but I don’t think I need any. You wanted to know how about my clothes. I have drawn a new blouse and the other day found a new pair of pants where a regiment had left in a hurry. They were first rate ones, so you see I am well enough off for clothes. My boots are good yet.
Doc Beech is assistant surgeon in our regiment. I hadn’t seen him to speak to him yet as he has been here but a short time. The boys are all well but John D. He is not very well.
May 25th 1862.
Dear Folks at Home,
I just received your good long letter about two hours ago and if ever a fellow was glad to get anything, I was to get that. Was glad to hear that you are all well. My health is good—better than it generally is this time of year. The boys are all well that are here. John Dustin left us sick about two weeks ago. Haven’t heard from him since. Presume he is in a hospital on the river somewhere. Should thought he would have written home before this time.
We are still camped where we were when I wrote last. Are having quite easy times now. Don’t know when we will have to start though. I hope next time we move, it will be towards old Ohio but don’t want to go till they all go and I think that will be before long. Would like to have slipped in while Uncle Joel, Grandfather & Grandmother was there and had a good time with you all. Think it is kind of funny Grandfather can’t be contented there, but I guess he will be better off in Vermont. Hope Grandmother won’t go.
You wanted to know what my duties were now. I can hardly tell you now. Will tell you all about it when I get home. Our orderly has been sick and I have been acting in his place about two weeks and have been pretty busy. (Don’t want you to say anything about it. Folks will think I am conceited you know.) Am glad you are getting so you can walk to town so easily because you know I won’t know how to do anything but walk when I get back.
How I should like to hear some music this afternoon. I think about it every night about dark—just about the time you always play so much. Just play some for me when you sit down some night. I see they still keep having parties yet. Should think they would play out before long.
Gill & I went on a tramp the other day and of all the looking girls & women that I ever saw, that took the lead. All they have to eat is corn pone and buttermilk. Well, I just wish you could be down here and see some of them. We are right in the meanest part of the state. It’s a perfect wilderness of woe. But I will have to stop for it is almost time for dress parade.
Got your picture safe and sound. Think it is a splendid one. I wouldn’t take a small farm for it. I am going to send the old one back and I want you to be sure to keep it for me for I have carried [it] so long that I want to keep it for it has been the rounds sure. Now write very soon—all of you. Tell Father I want him to be ready to go west when I get back. Love to all. Good bye. From Charley C.
26th. Cor, I couldn’t finish my letter yesterday so I will do it this morn. The company have all gone out on picket this morning. Think you are getting along finely with your work. Tell Matt I would like to have a drink of milk from that durham of hers. The orderly & I are going out fishing this afternoon. I just thought I would write a little this time.
July 21st 1862
Dear Folks at Home,
I received your letter dated July 8th on the 17th and was glad to hear from home. You may know I intended to answer it yesterday but our company had to go out on a foraging expedition. Had a good time. There was fifteen wagons and about 100 men to guard them. Got them all loaded with new hay. You see we give them an order on Uncle Sam and then if they can prove that they never helped the rebel army and are good Union men, they will get their pay for their things. If not, they can whistle for it.
We are expecting an attack from rebel cavalry every day, but I guess we are enough for them. I know now the reason why I didn’t get your letters any better. That train that started from Memphis for Grand Junction was run off the track by the rebels, and they got a large mail in their possession that was for our brigade. So I suppose that has gone up the spout.
It is very warm here but I suppose not much warmer than it is up there. I think you must be enjoying yourselves first rate—plenty of good fruit though I guess we are a little ahead of you in that line for yesterday we had plenty of peaches, melons & apples. You must have had gay times the Fourth [of July]. I should like to have been there very much.
12 o’clock p.m. I have been to the pond to bathe. Got back, ate dinner and will write a few lines more. Gill is on picket duty today. Zeph has gone up to town. Bruce is sitting here fighting flies. It is very hot but we don’t seem to mind any more than we would at home. The Galena boys are very healthy. There are only five excused from duty by the surgeon in our company. We have got tanned so that we look like so many Indians. Don’t know whether it will ever get off or not. Don’t care.
Am sorry John D. don’t like the army any better. I suppose he don’t put on a very bright face about it. Hope he has got a discharge anyhow. Several of the boys have got back that went home on sick leave. I never thought John would come. Give him my respects and tell him that we are all as fat as pigs and bound to see the show over with or die in Dixie. Love to all. Goodbye. From your Brother
Cor., how do you get along these warm days? Suppose you are through cutting wheat by this time. Glad things looks so well up there. Hope there will be an abundance of everything for once. We have plenty of green corn and fruit. You must have had grand old times the fourth. It was as dry as a chip. Mat, I am obliged for this paper. I have a little here. Why can’t you slip down sometime and see a fellow a little while? But I must stop. So good bye. — Charley
September 28th, 1862
It has been so long since I’ve had a letter from home that I don’t know what to make of it. Haven’t heard a word since Cor. wrote. I don’t blame you for I suppose you have written but if us boys don’t get a letter from home every week, we get very impatient. I do for it’s mighty little that I hear from there unless it comes directly from my own folks. That accounts for my impatience. So you see ,you’ll have to write pretty often or I shall lose track of everything. I am enjoying excellent health at present which is about as much as I can ask while I am in the service.
We have had big times since I wrote last. If I should undertake to give you a history of our tramp, it would take two or three sheets of paper. We went to Corinth via Jackson, from there down to luka where Price was. But we were about three hours too late. The bird had flown. We were only about four miles from there at the time of that hard fight between Price and Rosecrans’ men. We hurried up to help them, but were too late. Better believe we had a sweet time. It rained most of the time—no tents, sleeping on the wet ground, hard crackers, raw meat and coffee, &c. &c. Well, in fact it was what you might call a pleasure trip in a soldiers’ life. But then the war will soon be closed now. Abe is going to free the niggers. (It will be closed over the left though) and then we will be at peace again I hope.
Our regiment has been out on two foraging expeditions since we got back here. Had a train of teams about three miles long. Loaded them mostly with corn. The way us boys went for sweet potatoes, tomatoes, chickens, and such things was a caution. Got enough to last us a good while. We are living now on the top shelf. Have tomatoes & bread cooked every meal. We had turkey for breakfast, tomatoes & sweet potatoes for dinner and don’t know what we shall have for supper.
But to change the subject, how do the forlorn ones get along since their men went to war? Pretty lonesome I expect. Suppose you hear from Hem now & then. How does he like it? He has an easy place. He couldn’t help liking it. Oh yes, did you ever get the things that Gill, Zeph, & I sent? We sent them to Lewis Center by a fellow that was discharged from our company. His name was William Kellar. The things for you were all marked. If you get them, please tell me. I must stop for it is most dress parade time. Write soon. We get a mail every day now. All write. Love to all. Good bye. From your brother, — Charley
October 12th, 1862
Dear Folks at Home,
I received your letter dated 5th this morn. We were just falling in for inspection and had to wait till that was over. I was mad I tell you, but got it tonight quick when I got a chance. Never was so glad to get a letter as I was to get this one. Glad to hear that you were well but sorry that Scott is sick. I know how it goes when he has the chills. Hope he is well by this time.
My health is good. I am not as fleshy as common as a matter of course, and I am glad of it, but I never enjoyed better health in my life. We have been marching a good deal lately. That takes the flesh off some. Since the first of September we have marched about four hundred miles and slept fifteen nights without tents. Some of the time it rained like fury. We were at luka, but not in the fight. Were also at Matamoras near Corinth. Got in there about three hours after the fight. We always seem to get back to Bolivar again. Just got back last eve from a tramp into Mississippi. Went down below Grand Junction to burn a railroad bridge—burned that and a water tank. Then went across to La Grange (a very pretty [village] on the Memphis R. R.) and stayed all night. Returned last eve to Bolivar.
You see we are after old Price—he running regular Missouri style. You know about how we’ll have it while we have him to deal with. I wish the 96th [Ohio] boys were down here. Perhaps they would find out what soldiering is for. They don’t know anymore about it more than you do. You spoke of getting a letter from Brad. I didn’t know anything of it until sometime after and didn’t care about sending much word by him anyhow. When we left Corinth for luka, he was left behind not very well and then he can find a good deal more time to write than I can. You know some folks always have plenty of time to do everything. Perhaps I’ll learn to take time too, but I can’t find time to do any more than my duty here and that I must attend to sure. Brad has always had a good many correspondents, but I guess it don’t amount to much.
Looking for [Joshua L.] Dunlevy every day now. I am not suffering for the things though. They will be very acceptable. How I should like to have been up there to help eat that turkey. Guess we had some fowl too. Eat all the chickens and turkey we could carry while we were out the last time. Tore down five or six bee hives for one man that were full of honey. Eat just all we wanted. Guess I must take another sheet.
Mother, I must write you a few lines before I stop or else I wouldn’t think I had got through. I am thinking that you worry too much about me. I don’t want you to because if anything happens to me, I shall let you know it. I am glad you didn’t send the shirt & socks for I have got as much as I can carry now and I will need them worse when I get home. Those cotton shirts you made me are as good as ever. That was good advice you gave me about taking care of myself. I do it as well as I can under the circumstances and that you know wouldn’t be any too good part of the time. There is a nice run close to camp and I visit it pretty often to wash my face, neck and feet. I should like to be up there in time to get some strawberries but don’t expect that will be hardly possible. you must excuse these short notes for I have had so much on my mind for a week or two that I couldn’t think of anything hardly. Give my love to Grandfather, Grandmother, and all the rest. From C. D. C.
October 13, 1862
How do you all do this fine morning. Ell & I have just been up town on some little business. Saw them start off with the prisoners that were taken out at Matamoras. There was bout three hundred of them. Have gone to Holly Springs for exchange. There was some from most every state in the South. Pretty hard-looking fellows too. They say they are coming back here in a few days with guns in their hands. We told them to come along, we’ll give them the best we had in the shop. The ladies too made a great fuss over them. Told them to hurry back for they didn’t want the Union flag hoisted over their houses. I believe they beat the northern ladies for patriotism anyhow.
You say [Joshua L.] Dunlevy is there yet? I suppose he has had a good time. He has done just as any of us would—didn’t care whether school kept or not, so he had a good time at home. Glad you got that box. It was not of much account though. That picture is a very poor one. It is natural but it was taken by a poor artist. It looks just about as black as I am. I was taken in Bolivar.
Oh yes, you wanted to know something about Bolivar. Well it is a very pretty town—a county seat, three churches, a good court house, five or six stores, some splendid dwellings, and a few goof-looking ladies but they are about as severe as hen’s teeth. The majority of the inhabitants are niggers.
I should like to have been there to attend [James J.] Herron’s funeral. He was a good fellow and liked by every man in the company. He was a brave fellow and died like a soldier with his face to the enemy.
I was not a bit surprised to hear that Uncle Joel & Hannah had parted. If I was in his place, I would give here a nice little sum to get rid of her. Hope Hem & M. W. will have a good time writing to one another. I guess the thing has about played out here.
But I must stop. It is most mail time and I want this to go out today. Mat, that piece of your dress—I shall keep it—is very pretty. I’l write again in a few days to the boys. Goodbye, — Charley Carpenter
In camp on Yochnapataffa River [Little Tallahachie River?]
December 17th, 1862
I received your good long letter on the eve of 14th and was very glad to get it, I assure you. Sorry that you are all so unwell. Hope your throat is well by this time. My health is good. The boys are all well. I couldn’t find a man to go to surgeon’s this morning. I would have answered this before this but the next day after I got it, was sent out with the teams after forage and it rained all day too. I never got so wet in my life. It took me about two days to dry out, but I am all right now. Got a big sack of sweet potatoes while out so we have been living pretty well for a few days. Wirz & Ed Allen have just got in off picket bringing chickens, potatoes, &c. Then we have driven in all the cattle, sheep & hogs there is in the country and are killing them every day. Our fires we make of rails. You can’t find a rail in the country where our army has been.
We are encamped on a small stream about forty miles below Holly Springs near the Mississippi Central R. R. It is a beautiful place with plenty of wood & water. They are repairing the railroad between here and Holly Springs. When that’s done we expect to move on again. They all seem to be enjoying themselves up there–having oyster supper and even sucks. Hope they will keep it up for they have not much else to do while we are down here fighting for them. I think such lubbers as those had better be at home with their ma’s.
Was very sorry to hear of Mr. Allen’s death. Don’t see what they will do now. Hem will get a discharge I suppose. There, I hear the Captain calling for “Co. D” to fall in so I must stop and see what is going on.
3 o’clock p. m. Well, we have been out on a scouting expedition. Co. D & Co. E. went out about 4 miles and back again already. Saw no rebs. Eat some turnips but didn’t see anything much worth taking. Gen. [James W.] Denver’s Division is encamped on our right. We went to their picket. But I must stop for drill and I want to fix up our tent a little better this afternoon. Wirz, Ed A., Frank P., Ame Mounts, Lee Sherman, Gill & I bunk together. We have some gay times you can bet. If anything new happens here I will write. Want you to write just as often as you can. Love to all of you. Hope this will find you all better than when you wrote. Good bye. From your brother, — Charley
P. S. Direct to Holly Springs, Miss.
February 6th, 1863
I received your letter of January 26th on the 31st—the first for four weeks. Perhaps you can imagine how anxious I was to hear from home but don’t believe you can. It makes me so mad to think that I don’t get all your letters that I can hardly contain myself. But its nothing when a fellow gets used to it. I should have been more prompt in answering but had just written a day or two before yours was received.
My health is good. Galena boys are all very hearty. We are having a pretty good time here. Don’t have a great deal to do and get to go up to town quite often. 3rd Division is being clothed and fitted out (I expect for down river). General Logan says his men can’t fight until they get good warm clothes. When they get them, they can help take Vicksburg. The snow is about an inch deep here and it freezes every night like fury. Co. D don’t suffer much for all have brick fireplaces by our tents. Gill, Ame Mounts, Len Sherman & I bunk together. Wish you could see our rig. We have a floor in our tent and a large fireplace in one end of it (one of our own make) and we can keep as warm as you please. Have been drawing new tents (the wedge). Guess they are better than the “dog tents.”
February 8th. You see I have made quite a jump here, but I’m glad of it for I received your other letter yesterday dated January 12th so I didn’t lose anything by waiting a day or two. I am sure you don’t get all my letters for I most always write two for every one I get. Glad that Jud has got home. Hope he will get a discharge. Think it’s quite strange they should have an aid society meet at Nic Arnold’s. I do hope that their donations will benefit some poor soldier but am sorry to say that our regiment has never had much good of them. Perhaps others have.
The 32nd [Ohio] are encamped close to us. Have seen all the boys from that country. Lieut. Adams, I suppose, has resigned. Does he contemplate going into business at Galena? I perceive he is up there quite often. Very pretty present he made you. Think I shall send you my photograph before long. Wish I was up there today to hear your new music. There is no good music store in town or I would send you some. It is quite muddy or I should attend church. Guess I’ll wait till next Sunday.
I have sent you a record of our company. The boys were all getting them and I thought perhaps you’d like to see names of all the boys. I know I shall value it highly if I ever get home. Sometime when I send some money home, get it framed. If it ever gets there. Please tell me whether any of you get that money or not that I sent. Write very soon all of you. Good bye. From your brother, — Charlie
P. S. Tell mother I think her head is clear on the war question. She looks at it in the same light that I do, and the majority of the northern soldiers think the same. Tell her to write more next time. Has D. E. W. called yet? Give him my best respects. Love to all.
February 8th, 1863
How do you do this morning? All right though I hope. Suppose you attend church Sunday up in North America as the niggers call it. But you see here we have inspection, dress parade, &c. &c. the same as any other day. We have a chaplain now. He is a good man too. Preaches every Sunday (when it don’t rain). Don’t see but what you are enjoying yourselves as well as need be, going to parties. I’m glad of it too. I’m afraid though that the girls will lose all their feelings for soldiers. I hope not though. Do you and Scott go to school? Who is your teacher? Scott, do you rabbit hunt any this winter? I wish I was there to go with you a few times. How does Tray & Spry get along? Both of you write a good long letter next time.
Cor., if I get hold of a reb gun, I will be sure to send it to you. Love to all. Good bye. — C. D. C.
Camp near Vicksburg
June 7th 1863
I wrote a letter a day or two ago but having a chance to send word directly home I thought I must write a line or two. Norton T. Longwell ¹ of Eden has got a furlough. He belongs to our company. Has been Col’s ² orderly ever since we have been in the service. Is a good little fellow too. I believe he gets to go home on account of his father’s illness.
My health is good. The only thing we can complain of is it is very hot here. We are lying in sight of the rebel forts. It’s of no use for me to try to tell you anything for you can see it all in the papers. If you don’t take Harpers Weekly, get one occasionally. He has an artist here. He draws some faithful sketches. I have seen some of them in the paper.
We have been drawing new clothes. Feel somewhat better. Tell Father I would like to have him get me another pair of boots. The boys are nearly all going to send and they can all come in one box. Nort says he will bring them through for us. I want a pair of light kid-lined all through, with heavy soles. Get them made where he did before, if possible. My boots are not worn out yet but will be by time I get another pair.
Nort Longwell is going in a few hours so I can’t write much. I have so much to do that I can’t write much at a time anyhow. Write often. Love to all. Good bye.
From, — Charlie Carpenter
The other boots were just the right size.
P. S. Mat, please send a towel or two. Can’t get any good ones here. Mat. Please send me a few postage stamps if you can as well as not.
¹ Norton Thurston Longwell (1842-1930) was the son of Ralph S. and Elizabeth (Thurston) Longwell — early residents of Berkshire, Ohio. Norton T. was the tenth of a family of thirteen children. One who was a surgeon in the army with the rank of Major, and died at Camp Chase. Norton enlisted in Co. D, 20th O. V. I., and served three years; he was Orderly on the Colonel’s staff throughout the war. After the war, “Nort” return home to a farm of 164 acres situated north of Eden. In 1867 he married Ella E. Hyde (b. 1848), the daughter of Udney and Olive (Hunter) Hyde.
² The Colonel of the 20th Ohio at the time was Manning Ferguson Force (1824-1899). Force was born in Washington, D.C., where his father, Peter Force, was the mayor. He attended Harvard College until 1845, and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1848. The following year, Force moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, and began his law practice. Colonel Force’s 20th Ohio bore the brunt of the Battle of Raymond, Mississippi, in the Vicksburg Campaign. Osborn Oldroyd related the number of casualties from the 20th Ohio to his commander: “I took the roll-book from the pocket of our dead sergeant, and found that while we had gone in with thirty-two men, we came out with but sixteen – one-half of the brave little band, but a few hours before so full of hope and patriotism, either killed or wounded. Nearly all the survivors could show bullet marks in clothing or flesh, but no man left the field on account of wounds. When I told Colonel Force of our loss, I saw tears course down his cheeks, and so intent were his thoughts upon his fallen men that he failed to note the bursting of a shell above him, scattering the powder over his person, as he sat at the foot of a tree.” After the war, Force returned to Cincinnati, where he became a justice of the Superior Court of Cincinnati. He also authored several law books and became a prominent writer as well as a lecturer. [Source: Wikipedia]
September 3rd, 1863.
It may seem rather hard that I have not written before, but it was only because I couldn’t do it. I received a good long letter from you & Cor[win] on the 21st of last month just as our division had got ready to start into Louisiana on a big tramp. Started to the boat about an hour after I got it. Was glad to hear from you two.
We just got back last eve. Had a very hard trip too. Traveled about a hundred miles by river and 175 miles by land. Went out on Bayou Macon and Washita River. Saw some beautiful country and some miserable. Plenty of bear, deer, rattlesnakes, and almost everything else you can think of.
Found Lieut. Humiston here when I got back. He had a letter for me. Was so glad he visited you. He said he had a very pleasant time at our house and heard some good music. By the way, he plays some on the violin, piano, melodeon. Did he play any for you? Well, he is a pretty good fellow. He said he didn’t hardly know how to get along with you for you tried to make him promise to give me a furlough and he couldn’t do that very well. I never asked for a furlough but once and then I got it and I think it will be just so when I ask again. I could have had a furlough before this time, but to be gone just thirty days from camp and have the distance to go that we have to get home, it will hardly pay. It would only be an aggravation. Lieut. says he thinks there will be a chance between this and Christmas if I want to go.
There are a great many absent on sick leave but as my health is always good, I don’t come in on that you know. If I live, look for me in about one year. I’ll be pretty apt to take a leave about that time for good. Was sorry to hear that Jud’s health is so poor. Give him my respects when you see him and tell him I will write him soon.
You wanted to know whether I had a good visit or not with Lieut. Very good. He has just been down for me to go up and help him make out muster rolls, so you see I’ll have to finish this some other time. I meant a portfolio like yours—only perhaps little larger.
How do copperheads thrive up there? I should think that so many soldiers going home would keep them Union. I guess Vallandigham will stand a poor chance. I know he would if he had the soldiers to depend on. Think you must feel quite patriotic when you and the boys ran out to hurrah for [John] Brough when Townley and band were passing. I glory in your spunk. It is time the ladies took in hand. The men seem to be afraid of those fellows. It wouldn’t do for them to hurrah for a rope to hang Grant [in effigy] before one of our boys for their lives would have to pay for their folly. The ladies up there had ought to go armed and then say and do what they pleased. That’s the way they do here (some of them). Have you seen Capt. Hills yet? If you and Cor[win] would go to Del. and him and wife you would have no cause to be sorry, I assure you. But I will stop. I want to write some to Mother this eve. Love to yourself and all the rest. As ever your brother, — Charlie D. Carpenter
9 o’clock p.m. Mat, enclosed you will find a photograph. I want you to keep it for me. I shall want it when I get home. He is a member of Co. D and a particular friend of mine. His name is Charles Weisner—a first rate fellow too. Used to go to school in Delaware.
September 14th, 1863
I don’t want you to get mad now because I haven’t written to you before. I thought I would [write] to one at a time and you would hear from me oftener. Not feeling very bright this morning. You needn’t be surprised if this is a very uninteresting letter. I did not sleep more than a half hour last night on account of the infernal mosquitoes. So after roll call, I laid down to take a nap. The boys didn’t know where I was so I lost my breakfast. But the sleep done me more good than that would. You can’t sleep a bit here without covering up your face, feet, & hands, and then these darned mosquitoes will bite you through two thicknesses of cloth. You can’t imagine how thick they are.
My health is very good. It is very hot here yet but I hope it won’t stay so all winter. I haven’t seen any cold weather since I left home and you had better believe I would like to be where there was plenty of snow and ice for about six months. We can get a drink of ice water once in a while for a dime but that don’t do a fellow much good. But then there’s a “better time coming,” I hope.
You said when you wrote that you had had one mess of green corn. The corn here then was all ripe. Some of it was put in the cribs. Here you know they never cut their corn nor husk it either. Just strip it off the stalk. Then strip the leaves and stack them. You never see any hay here.
You spoke of your health being poor. I’m very sorry to hear it. Hope you are well by this time. I should think a fellow ought to feel pretty well to hold his own with those copperheads up there. I suppose they are a little more quiet than common and they will be more so after the election. Let them hiss. The day is soon coming when they will have to bow to the will of “Lincoln’s minions.” Then they will be sorry that they opposed this war. Their punishment will be a sure one and severe too. It will be remorse of conscience and that is certainly the worst they could receive. I don’t see how they can look a soldier in the face. Those fellows must have felt pretty [big] that passed our house on road to Del., marshaled by Townley, hurrahing for Val and for a rope to hang Grant. It makes my blood boil to think of it. I told the boys here about it. They said they would have given anything to have been there with their muskets and fired a volley or two into them. Genl. Grant is worshiped by his men here and they wouldn’t hesitate much to shoot a man that hurrahed for a rope to hang him. Tell Scott that every opportunity he gets I want him to hurrah for U. S. Grant. And if they ask him why he does it, tell them he does it for me. If they don’t like it, they needn’t ride. They can walk. But enough of this.
I am much obliged for the “local news” you gave me. (About the young folks I mean.) I should liked to have been a mouse about the time you & Mat were having the talk about the girls. Now I don’t pretend to know much about these things as we don’t speak to a white woman once in three months (or a black one either). But I can’t see any harm in your going with the girls some. And about the pin feathers. Guess that don’t make much difference to the girls for probably they are in the same fix. Then I think you must have shed yours some time ago. You said you was going to see a girl when you finished your letter. Who was it? You needn’t be afraid to tell me for of course I’ve no objection. I think it all right. But I must stop. Now Cor[win], I want you & Scott to write me a long letter when you get this. It is the third one I have written though. Enclosed you will find two songs written by some of the boys down here. I thought perhaps they would suit you songs & Scott pretty well. Love to all at home. Write soon. Tell Good Mat I will look for one from her about twice in a while. — Charlie C.
October 5th, 1863
It has been such a long long time since I received a letter from home that I thought I must write a little. The last one was dated Aug. 26th. That one I received by O. H. Just think of it—five long weeks without a word from home. The other boys get letters often. Why can’t I? This is the third one (the fourth I believe) since I received one from home. Well, if I don’t get one in a day or two, I guess I’ll have to write to someone else. I believe I can find someone that will write.
My health is good—never was better. The boys are all well, I believe. We are enjoying very pleasant weather now. Expect we’ll get it after while. We live in hopes that they will leave us here this winter. Don’t know how it will be yet. Sherman’s Corps has all left to reinforce Rosecrans. Glad it wasn’t us for I shouldn’t like much to spend a winter up in that country. I do hope our troops will be successful there for I think that is going to decide the length of the war—that, and the election.
I received a letter from Joel P. yesterday. Shall answer it in a day or two. My respects to him if you see him. Lieut. [Joshua L.] Dunlevy’s wife [Mary (Torrence) Dunlevy] is here. She made a very narrow escape on the river. The boat she was on burned about fifty miles above here. They had to jump into the water about two hundred yards from shore. She managed to save herself some way. Don’t hardly know how. There was about thirty lives lost. When D.’s wife gets home I want you to see her. You will like her very much I know. She is a very pretty woman. Now I only wrote this note to let you know that I was alive and that my P. O. address was Vicksburg, Mississippi, and I would be more than glad to hear from you often. Love to all. Good bye. Please don’t forget that you have a brother in the army. — C. D. Carpenter
To Mattie Carpenter
December 17th, 1863
Zeph[ania Cook] returned yesterday and I received such a good long letter from you & Scott that I am tickled to death most. Had been looking for a letter several days but I was just as glad when it came. The things came through all right. We had the cake for supper [and] sausage for breakfast. All decided that the cake was very nice indeed. Sausage and butter too. We all know how to appreciate such things now, I do believe. The cook is going to boil the cabbage for dinner.
I know that Zeph had a good time. Have been talking to him most all time since he got back. He is the only one that ever went home and back that could tell me anything that I wanted to hear. He is well posted, I think. Says the best music he ever heard was at our house. Mat & Cor. got Mrs. Kenniston through safe, I believe. Haven’t seen her yet.
I am enjoying the best health so you see your dream hasn’t come to pass yet. I dream about home almost every night. It’s always something good though. Never mind it’s only eight or nine months more. Then, if we all live, we will have some good times yet. Don’t suppose I would know any of the young ladies in Galena now. Could get acquainted I guess. have to learn to dance now as you are all dancers. Zeph says you are the best dancer there was at the party. Galena must be coming out, sure enough.
There is quite an excitement here about enlisting [as] Veterans. Not one of Co. D will go — not but what we are just as patriotic as ever. But we are bound to see some of those cursed Copperheads drafted first. Another thing is they are giving new recruits just as much for enlisting as for old soldiers. Now that won’t work with us. If after serving “Uncle Sam” almost three years and suffering what we have we are not worth anymore than a “raw recruit,” why we are worth just enough to serve our time and then go home and let them draft. That’s the way to raise an army now anyhow. They hadn’t ought to allow another man to volunteer. Get soldiers by a draft every time I say. Then a Copperhead is as like to go as a Union man. I do hope that Congress will annul that $300 Exemption Act the first thing they do. I want to see the rich and poor shoulder the musket together. No man should have a chance to show his cowardice by paying over three hundred dollars (although some of them would it be worth half as much as their money). I believe the latter are a great deal more patriotic than the men. Perhaps I am mistaken but think not.
What an awful thing it was to let John [Hunt] Morgan escape. ¹ Don’t believe there was a bit of need of it. Should suppose that Union men would begin to open their eyes by this time and not be duped by Northern traitors any longer. But it is dinner time and my sheet is full so I’ll quit and commence on another one.
Give my love to Hattie & Mattie Allen for me. Mat, I don’t want my pictures to be scattered around the country if it can be helped (around Galena, I mean). When the artist gets through printing for you, tell him to stop.
¹ Confederate cavalry raider John Hunt Morgan escaped from the Ohio State Penitentiary at Columbus, Ohio, on 27 November 1863.
June 8, 1864
I was not gone as long as I expected to be so thought I’d write you a few lines to let you know where I was. We only went as far as Davisville, Kentucky. Was gone four days. I received a letter from Mat and the boys since I returned. My health is good. Have just been detailed to go to Vicksburg. Will be gone until about the first of July so you’ll not hear anything more from me until I return.
Capt. [Arthur] Humiston is going. So is “Snook.” I thought I’d just as leave travel on the river as to stay here in these old barracks this hot weather.
Oh yes! I heard some Galena news that you never told me. A gentleman told me yesterday (no one from Galena) that Gill Hoover had been getting into a scrape with one of the “fair ones” at that illustrious place. I was not at all surprised. The girls must be in a very bad way indeed, I think.
You see I’ll have to close this. With much love, I am as ever, — C. D. Carpenter