The following letter was written by Levi Leverett Carr (1842-1900) of Randolph, Cattaraugus county, New York. The letter is not datelined but it was undoubtedly written not long after he was released from Andersonville Prison. Levi enlisted at the age of 19 in Co. B, 64th New York Infantry—the “First Cattaraugus Regiment.” According to family tradition, “In company with H. D. Litchfield of Randolph he was taken prisoner in front of Petersburg on 17 June 1864, and together they spent 10 months and 20 days in the loathsome prison pen at Andersonvllle; when the northern men were turned loose in April, 1865, Mr. Carr carried his comrade out upon his back.”
During its service the regiment lost by death, killed in action, 10 officers, 109 enlisted men; of wounds received in action, 3 officers, 50 enlisted men; of disease and other causes, 5 officers, 124 enlisted men; total, 18 officers, 283 enlisted men; aggregate, 301; of whom 1 officer and 31 enlisted men died in the hands of the enemy.
[April 1865?] Livonia,
If I don’t gain weight soon, I shall soon sleep in my grave. But the grave has no sting to me. You don’t know how I suffer and I never shall live through another such a time. But Livonia, it seems to me that I have been hurled into the well and through the world and I shall be chased out but I do have that trust in God [that] I shall be at rest.
My mother has worried herself almost to death to think I am sick. I had a spell the other morning that I was numb and cold, my hands to my elbows, and my feet to my knees cold and numb and crooked. You don’t know how mother was so frail. I am so tired. You can excuse my short letter for I have got to go to bed. Write all about the folks. — Levi
Many folks has been here everyday for a week till today. — E. J. Monroe
This letter was written by John B. Freeman (1840-1868), the son of Job Tarleton Freeman (1810-1891) and Eveline Barnes (1820-1896) of Roxanna, Eaton county, Michigan. Prior to their relocation to Michigan, the Freeman’s lived in Allen township, Hancock county, Ohio, where they were enumerated in 1850. John probably wrote the letter to his sister Mary Kay (Freeman) Goit who was married to William Goit, had an young son named LaQuinnis (b. 1862), and still resided in Ohio where she must have known many of the soldiers who volunteered in the 21st Ohio Infantry who were also former friends of John’s.
John enlisted in Co. H, 13th Michigan Infantry which mustered into service for three years in January 1862. The regiment performed well in many engagements in the western theatre. One of the prominent battles in which the 13th served was the battle of Chickamauga where they were under the command of Col. J. B. Culver, and where they helped to hold the rebels in check from early in the morning until 12 noon. When the thermometer stood at 90 degrees, the regiment charged upon the enemy in a most spectacular movement. In this engagement 107 officers and men were lost, either killed, wounded or missing. 217 took part in the engagement. Such a loss tells how the 13th Michigan sustained its part in this historic engagement far more eloquently than words can describe.
In his remarkable letter, John chronicles his time in captivity from the time of his being wounded and taken prisoner at Chickamauga until he was released at the end of the war, including time spent at Richmond, Danville, and Andersonville, and two escape attempts. And though he claims that he was as “tough and hearty” as ever following his release, he died three years later at the age of 28.
Dear Brother and Sister, nephew, and all enquiring friends,
I enjoy the opportunity of once more being in God’s country and having the privilege to write what I like. I am again at Father’s as tough and hearty as ever. If anything, my health is better. I was a prisoner a long time—from the twentieth of September ’63 until the twenty-eighth of April ’65. I was wounded and captured at the Battle of Chickamauga. I was wounded in the left shoulder and back so that I could not get away or they would not have got me. I was then taken to Richmond and remained there until the 12th of December, then went to Danville, Virginia, and remained there until the fourteenth of April except a little while when I ran away. I got out of prison and was 14 days and very near to our lines.
We arrived at Andersonville on the 20th of April where I remained until I again ran away, was caught, and brought back and put in the prison. I run away from the hospital where I had been for 7 months. I then remained with the other prisoners until we came to our lines and a hard-looking set we was of course for we had wore the same old clothing for near two years—dirty, ragged, and lousy with naught to shelter us from the sun or storm—not even a blanket—nothing but the sand to lay on. It was not hard atall, was it? The second time I run away I was caught by their hounds.
All the 21st Ohio boys that were in prison were with me and many of them died. I will give you the names of a few that I know died. George Brets [Co. G], George McMurray [Co.G], Henry Copus [Co. G], and a young fellow by the name of Davis. I was not acquainted with him. Charles Tonoe was there. I think he got through. And James Copus’s boy, little Joe Copus [Co. G]—he left the hospital last fall. I told him when he left that if he got through, he should let you know about me as I was working in the hospital at that time and had something to do with the sick and dead. They died very fast. I have saw them carry out as high as 172 dead bodies in a day that died in 24 hours. Through July, August, and September, there was not a day passed but there was 152 died.
I must stop. I will send you a couple of songs that I helped to compose in prison. So saying I remain your affectionate brother, — J. B. Freeman
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.
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
Bacon Creek, Kentucky January 1, 1862
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.
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.
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.
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