This letter was written by William Henry Scarbrough (1842-1903), the son of James Scarbrough (1807-1896) and Elizabeth Breckenridge (1816-1904) of Liberty, Knox county, Ohio. The Scarbrough family were farmers and active members of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
William enlisted on 12 August 1862 to serve in Co. B, 96th OVI. Prior to his promotion to corporal in April 1863, he participated in the battles of Chickasaw Bluffs and Fort Hindman. He was with his regiment in the rear of Vicksburg when he wrote this letter in mid-June 1863 but became ill and was sent to the hospital on 4 July where he remained for a couple of weeks. He returned to his regiment and participated in the battle of Grand Coteau where he was wounded in the left index finger, was promoted to sergeant in December 1863, and and participated in the battles of Sabine Crossroads, Fort Gaines and Morgan, Spanish Fort and Mobile, Alabama.
For a great article on the early war experience of the 9th OVI, see Grapes and Catawba Wine on the Ohio: The 96th Ohio Defends Cincinnati, published in March 2021 in Dan Masters’ Civil War Chronicles.
See also, “An Ohio English TeachWent to Fight in the Civil War and Got his First True Taste of Battle,” by James Jewell on HistoryNet.
Previously published Spared & Shared letters by members of the 96th OVI:
Albert S. Coomer, Co. C, 96th Ohio (3 Letters)
Alfred Alverson Thayer, Co. C, 96th Ohio (3 Letters)
Joseph C. Arnold, Co. E, 96th Ohio (3 Letters)
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History houses a collection of 51 letters by William H. Scarbrough of Co. B, 96th OVI.
Rear of Vicksburg, four miles on the Battlefield
June 17, 1863
This beautiful morning finds me seated for the purpose of writing you a few lines. However, I do not owe you any letter but if I did not write when I only received letters, I would not write very often. Since last writing you, nothing of interest has occurred more than usual. Last Sabbath morning as Orderly Lore and myself were laying in the beautiful shade with our Testaments in our hands and talking of home and the pleasant times we have had and soon hope to enjoy again, we were called—or rather aroused—by a Rebel shell which soon brought us to our feet and instead of reading our Bibles, had to lay in the rifle pits the balance of the day. Such is the theme of war. You do not know from one minute to another what you will be called on to do. Persons not acquainted or used to the Army would think it a strange place. I do not mind the hardships of war anymore for tis of no use. I thank God for sparing my life through so many dangers and hardships and good health. Since coming here, many of our boys have taken sick with disease, chills, and fever. Consequently the duty we have to perform (which is very heavy) comes harder upon those that are well.
John Law is not very well at this time but is now improving slowly. I wrote a letter stating that I would like if you could send me a couple of good woolen shirts—something of good quality. I am nearly out of anything in the shirt line and do not like the army shorts. If you have any chance, send them, or if you think it safe to Express them.
If you want to see a map of Vicksburg and of the charges [that have] been made and where the Federal Army lays and even [the] 96th [OVI], look in Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. It is being made and will be sent to him soon. You can see the position of all out forces and 20th, 96th, or any regiment you wish to see. I have nothing more of interest to communicate. I hope to hear from you all soon.
Send me postage stamps. I am out and will have to frank this letter. My love to all friends after reserving a share for yourselves. Yours topographically and fraternally, — William H. Scarbrough, soldier boy.
[to] James and Elizabeth Scarbrough
Direct to camp near Vicksburg, Miss., 96th Regiment OVI, Company B, Care of Capt. Joseph Leonard
I could say many things concerning the army but will be useless for the papers can and will give you a better statement than myself. I hope to hear from you soon.