Category Archives: Andersonville Prison

1861-2: Samuel J. Marshall to Addis E. Smith

A squad from the 21st Ohio Infantry with their Colt Revolving Rifles
(David K. Parks Military Antiques posted on CW Faces)

These two letters were written by Samuel J. Marshall (1844-1864), the orphaned son of James Marshall (1816-1860) and Martha Jane Wartenbe (1825-1850) of Milford township, Defiance county, Ohio.

Samuel enlisted in Co. E, 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) when the company was formed in Defiance county in September 1861 and was with them until September 1863 when he was taken prisoner at the Battle of Chickamauga and died of dysentery ten months later, 26 July 1864, at Andersonville Prison in Sumter county, Georgia. He was a corporal at the time of his death, having been promoted in February 1863.

It’s worth noting that Samuel was only one of 96 prisoners who died at Andersonville on that date. At the time, the prison population was 31,693.

Samuel wrote the letters to his hometown friend Addis E. Smith who served in the 38th OVI and died of disease in April 1862 at Bardstown, Kentucky.

More more letters by members of the 21st OVI transcibed & published on Spared & Shared, see:

David Harness Randall, Co. D, 21st Ohio (1 Letter)
Levi M. Bronson, Co. E, 21st Ohio (1 Letter)
Joseph H. Hornback, Co. K, 21st Ohio (1 Letter)

Readers are also referred to Dan Master’s Civil War Chronicles:
Captured at Chickamauga with the 21st Ohio Infantry,” and “Off to War with the 21st Ohio Infantry in September 1861.”

Letter 1

Camp Jefferson, Kentucky
December 25th 1861

Friend Addis,

It is with the greatest pleasure that I sit down this fine Christmas morning to let you know that I received your letter yesterday that was dated the 19h and I was very glad to hear from you all. I am well at present.

After we left you, we went to Lexington where we stayed a couple of days and then we marched from there to Hazel Green where we stayed a couple of weeks. We had such bad water there that about half of the regiment took sick so we left there and marched to Prestonsburg and stayed there a couple of nights and then we was ordered to Piketon and there we had a battle with the ornery cusses.

But when our artillerymen throwed some of them old bomb shells amongst them, it made them run like the devil. There was about seven hundred of the rebels and about four thousand of us and in crossing the river there was six horses drowned and the cannon went to the bottom. But they got the cannon and harness out again and then we marched down the Big Sandy about forty miles and then we took the steamboat and run down to the mouth of Big Sandy and then we took the boat there and run down the Ohio River and arrived at Cincinnati again—distance one hundred and fifty miles. And there we was ordered to get on to another boat and go to Louisville, Kentucky—one hundred and fifty miles further down the river—and there we camped two weeks.

And then we was ordered to march to Elizabethtown—distance forty miles further towards Green river. We stayed there one week and was paid off there and then we left there and went about twenty miles further down the railroad to this camp. We are now within eight miles of Green river. The Rebels burnt the railroad bridge at Green river and they are repairing it as fast as possible. They think they will finish it in a couple of weeks and then we calculate to try Old Buckner a crack.

But i don’t expect that the 21st will ever get to see much of the fun for there is about sixty thousand Union troops ahead of us. But there is no telling. They [may] be fixed so that they may stand us a pretty good brush after all. But they have got to be whipped out—there is no mistake in that.

No more at present but excuse bad writing and bad spelling. Write as soon as possible. I send my best respects to you all and I hope I shall see you all again. From your friend, — Samuel J. Marshall

Direct your letters to Kentucky, 21st Regiment, OV[I], USA in care of Capt. J[ames] P. Arrants, Co. E

Letter 2

Bacon Creek, Kentucky
January 1, 1862

Friend Addis,

I take a seat to inform you that I received your letter this evening of the 19th. I was very glad to ear from you all. I am as well as usual and have had a very Happy New Years. But I don’t expect to have as fine a sleigh ride or as good times tonight as we had together last New Years night as we had the privilege to cross the guard line backwards and forwards just as we pleased.

We went up the creek about a mile and went through a tunnel that was about sixty rods [330 yards] long. It was worth going to see, I can tell you. If I was to home tonight, I can tell you I would have better times than I expect to have tonight. But I am very well satisfied where I am.

The new bridge across the St. Joseph river is finished and the widow boy has had a bussing bee since the bridge was finished and all of the boys and girls in the neighborhood was there and they had a big time of it. But just wait, if we ever get home safe, won’t we have a jolly old time of it, though I think we will.

General Buell was here inspecting the different regiments. He was also down to Green river inspecting the regiments down there. I heard that we was to remain where we are for sixty days but I don’t [know] whether we will or not. But I think that we will move about the same time you do. But won’t we give Old Buckner the devil though I think we will.

We have very nice weather here at present. I send my best respects to you and all the boys that I am acquainted with. Write soon and oblige.

Your friend, — Samuel Marshal

Direct as before.

1865: William Johnson Dale to Albert H. Blanchard

This letter was written by Dr. William Johnson Dale. Born in 1815, he was sent to North Andover, Massachusetts—his mother’s ancestral home—for schooling at Franklin Academy. He later went to Andover and graduated from Harvard in 1837 and then Harvard Medical School. He married Sarah Frances Adams. A physician in Boston, he was significantly wealthy by 1860 when he was practicing medicine in Boston. During the Civil War, he joined the service, rising to the rank of Brigadier General where he served as Asst. Surgeon General of the US, and following the War, became Surgeon General of Massachusetts. For these services he held the title of General for his lifetime. After the war, he returned to his ancestral roots of North Andover, purchasing the old Johnson farm, which had been in his family since 1637. Here he developed a model farm specializing in milk production.

William Johnson Dale

Dr. Dale wrote the letter to Dr. Albert H. Blanchard of Sherborn, Massachusetts.

The letter pertains to an apparent attempt by Abbie M. (Leland) Taber (1839-1926) of Sherborn, Massachusetts, to obtain a widow’s pension for the service of her husband, Thomas Taber (1835-1864), a corporal in Co. E, 16th Massachusetts Infantry when he was taken a prisoner-of-war on 26 November 1863 during the Battle of Mine Run. . The pension file shows evidence that Thomas enlisted as a private on 13 July 1861 and that he died at Andersonville Prison on or about the 9th of October, 1864 from “scurvey and want of food and proper treatment” while in the hands of the Rebels. Abie was married to Thomas on 18 October 1858 at Sherborn and together they had two children, Frank (b. 1859) and Willie (b. 1861).

Thomas’s death seems to have been confirmed by a statement given by a comrade who was confined in Andersonville Prison named Michael Brady. His sworn testimony is presented beneath the transcribed letter in the event anyone is interested in the details of Thomas’s death.

This short note to the Pension Office which was included in Abbie’s application hints at the frustration, anxiety and anguish she must have experienced in the long silence from her husband: “It may not be necessary but I will add this statement—that my husband Thomas Taber volunteered for three years in August 1861 (in 16th Mass. Regt). He was a prisoner of war eleven months—the last five of which he was at Andersonville, dying there October 10 or 11, 1864, about three months after the regiment was mustered out. For the last seven months, I knew nothing of him.” [Widows Pension File]


Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Office of Surgeon General, Boston
January 7, 1865

A. H. Blanchard, Esq.
Sherborn, Massachusetts
Dear Sir,

I have the honor to inform you in answer to your communication of December 14, 1864, a memo of which we put on file, that we have a report of the death in Rebel Prison at Andersonville, George, of Thomas Tarbox, Co. E, 16th Mass. Vols. October 19, 1864. We have examined the muster in rolls of Co. E, 16th Regiment on file in the Adjutant General’s Office and find that there is no such name as Tarbox on those rolls. we regret to inform you that in our opinion this name is wrongly reported by the exchanged prisoners who furnished our agents with the information and we think the report may mean Thomas Taber instead of Tarbox.

we asked the Editor & Reporters of the Boston Herald (which paper published an account of Taber’s death) where they obtained the information but were unable to ascertain that fact. We would recommend that you address Lieut. Col. Gardiner Tufts, Mass. Agent at Washington D. C. who perhaps mat be able to furnish you with some additional information.

Very respectfully your obedient servant, — Wm. J. Dale, Surgeon Gen. Massachusetts