Category Archives: Atlanta Campaign

1863-64: The Civil War Letters of Francis Henry West, 31st Wisconsin Infantry

These Civil War letters were written by Francis Henry West (1825-1896), an American businessman, politician, and Wisconsin pioneer. He was a member of the Wisconsin Legislature for three years, and served as a Union Army officer during the American Civil War, earning an honorary brevet to brigadier general.

Francis Henry West, US Biographical Dictionary & Portrait Gallery

West was born in Charlestown, New Hampshire. He moved to the Wisconsin Territory in 1845, eventually settling in Monroe, in Green County, in 1846. In Green County, he worked in the lumber industry. In 1853, he was elected as a Democrat to represent Green County in the Wisconsin State Senate for the 1854 and 1855 sessions. In 1855, he was the Republican nominee for Bank Comptroller, but was not successful. In 1859 and 1860, he accompanied parties of migrants from New York to California.

West joined the Army on August 28, 1862, and was commissioned a lieutenant colonel with the 31st Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which was still being organized in Wisconsin. The 31st Wisconsin was created from two volunteer battalions from Crawford County and Racine. The 31st mustered into service in October 1862 and left Wisconsin in March 1863, traveling to Kentucky via Cairo, Illinois, where they were attached to the XVI Army Corps. They spent the summer of 1863 on patrols and picket duty in southern Illinois, western Kentucky, protecting supply routes along the Mississippi River.

In September 1863, they were ordered to Nashville. Here, their colonel, Isaac E. Messmore, resigned, and, on October 8, Lt. Colonel West was promoted to colonel of the regiment. Through the winter of 1863–64, the regiment was stationed at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and continued to serve as protection for logistics and supplies. In April 1864, the 31st was attached to the XX Corps and split into detachments to protect a long stretch of railroad lines in Tennessee. In June, the regiment was ordered to consolidate and return to Nashville.

On July 5, the 31st Wisconsin was ordered by General William Tecumseh Sherman to proceed to the front of the ongoing Atlanta campaign. The 31st traveled by train to Marietta, Georgia, and reached its position on the line July 21. The regiment worked on constructing siege fortifications around Atlanta and came under frequent enemy fire due to their proximity to the enemy lines. They did not take part in the actual battle, but were one of the first units to enter the city. The regiment was assigned to provide security in the city and protect foraging operations in the surrounding area.

On November 15, 1864, the XX Corps broke camp and marched out of the city to begin their part in Sherman’s March to the Sea. They advanced without encountering any resistance until ten miles outside Savannah where, on December 9, they encountered two small enemy fortifications. The 31st Wisconsin, along with the 61st Ohio, were ordered to flank the position through a thick swamp. They passed the swamp and charged the enemy, taking the position with light casualties. For their action, they received the compliments of General Sherman. The regiment joined the siege of Savannah, and after capturing the city were assigned quarters there.

On January 18, 1865, the 31st Wisconsin departed Savannah and marched for Purrysburg, South Carolina, at the start of the Carolinas campaign. The regiment proceeded through South Carolina, burning enemy facilities, tearing up railroad tracks, and pushing the enemy’s rear guard toward North Carolina. On March 1, the 31st advanced toward Chesterfield, South Carolina, near the border with North Carolina. They forced a small confederate force to flee north, then stopped in the village. On March 16, the 31st took position on the front line for Averasborough, where they were shelled and took casualties. Three days later, they were in the advance on approach to Bentonville, along with two other regiments, where they encountered significant Confederate opposition and found their flanks exposed. They fell back and formed a defensive position with elements of the XIV and XX Corps. The Confederates attacked their position five times and were repelled in fierce fighting. This was the worst fighting that they saw during the war, and suffered ten killed and forty-two wounded.

On March 24, they reached Goldsboro, North Carolina, where they stopped to rest and re-equip. While the 31st was camped at Goldsboro, Ulysses S. Grant accepted the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomatox. On April 10, the 31st marched out to continue their advance toward Raleigh, pursuing Joseph E. Johnston and the remnants of the Army of the South. But before they reached Raleigh, they received word that Johnston had surrendered to Sherman and the war was effectively over.

The 31st was ordered back to Washington, where they participated in the Grand Review of the Armies in May, and West mustered out on June 20, 1865.[2] While in Washington, U.S. President Andrew Johnson nominated Colonel West for an honorary brevet to brigadier general of volunteers for gallant service in the field, effective back to March 19, 1865, the day of their combat at Bentonville. The United States Senate confirmed the brevet on March 12, 1866.

After the war, General West moved to Milwaukee County and entered a partnership—Fowler & West—with James S. Fowler in the grain commission business. He served for six years on the board of directors of the Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce, including two years as president.

In 1873, he was elected on the Reform ticket to represent Northern Milwaukee County in the Wisconsin State Assembly for the 1874 session. The Reform Party was a short-lived coalition of Democrats, reformers, Liberal Republicans, and Grangers. Their signature accomplishment was the 1874 “Potter Law,” 1874 Wisconsin Act 273—named for Republican state senator Robert L. D. Potter—which established a new state Railroad Commission to aggressively regulate railroad and freight fees. In the Assembly, Colonel West served on the Committee on Railroads and the Committee on State Affairs. General West did not seek re-election in 1874.

During Grover Cleveland’s first presidential term, West was appointed United States Marshal for the Milwaukee district. After completing this final public service, Colonel West retired to Alabama, where two of his sons lived.

While on a trip to New York, in 1896, West slipped while attempting to step off of a street car and was severely injured. He was confined to his bed for several days before he was healthy enough to return to Alabama. He died a few weeks later, on March 6, 1896, at Bessemer, Alabama.

Francis H. West and his wife, Emma M. Rittenhouse, had several children. They included, Louise Ellen (1850-1878), Caroline (“Carrie”) (1852-1934), Edith (1854-1940), Susan (1859-1910), Grace (1866-1938), Benjamin F. (1868-1957), and Josephine (1872-1876). [Wikipedia]

To read other letters and diaries that I have transcribed by members of the 31st Wisconsin Infantry, see:

John Sine, Co. F, 31st Wisconsin (3 Diaries)
John A. McClure, Co. K, 31st Wisconsin (Diary & Letters)


Letter 1

Racine [Wisconsin]
February 27, 1863

My dear wife,

We leave for Cairo Sunday morning at eleven o’clock. I am sorry I did not know it when I left home so as to have bid you all a final farewell. I wish my dear wife you would kiss each one of the children and say goodbye to them for me. I find on paying all my bill and subscriptions that I have left barely $5 to start on a campaign with. I do not know what I shall do for money unless you send me some. I suppose I can borrow some for awhile. You must be more particular in directing your letters hereafter. At present, direct your letters to Cairo. Put on 31st Regt. Wisconsin Cols. I have not time to write more today. We shall [go] by way of Freeport.

My sweet little wife, you must find time to write very often to your loving husband. — F. H. West


Letter 2

Columbus, Kentucky
March 4th 1863

Dear Wife,

We left Racine Sunday morning and arrived Cairo on Tuesday morning all right except the loss of one man’s leg who was run over by the cars. His name is [Joshua] Davis and he belongs to Capt. [Robert B.] Stephenson’s Co. Davis on Dr. Roster’s farm. His leg was amputated and he was left at Centralia. On arriving at Cairo, I was ordered to this place where we arrived last night on the steamer Minnehaha.

We camped on the bluffs without tents or camp equipage. Had a rough time as it snowed. Today I am establishing my camp permanently. The Colonel left us for Freeport since which I have run the machine. The Colonel will join us in a few days.

General [Alexander] Asboth is in command here. Today we celebrate the anniversary of the taking of this stronghold from the rebels. I have no idea how long we shall remain here. I am kept on the jump all the time. My health is first rate.

Write often, dear wife, — F. H. West


Letter 3

View of Fort Halleck on the bluff above Columbus, Kentucky

Fort Halleck
Columbus, Kentucky
March 8, 1863

My Dear Wife,

I have not hear from you since I left home. We have drawn our tents and are regularly encamped inside the fort which is simply about forty acres enclosed by a deep ditch and breastwork of earth on which are mounted many big guns. We are on a very high bluff on the bank of the river. There are three regiments inside the fort and two regiments and a squadron of cavalry and a battery encamped on the outside. The fort is in command of Col. Messmore which leaves me in command of the regiment. A part of the regiment has gone as an escort to Paducah and a part under Capt. [Robert B.] Stephenson to Memphis. The people are nearly [all] secesh. I took a scout yesterday back a few miles into the country to see how matters looked. The inhabitants are very sullen and ugly. The mud in the streets of Columbus is from six to sixteen feet deep. Foot soldiers sometimes get mired and have to be pulled out with ropes. I never had any idea what mud was before. It rains most of the time. Quite a number of our men are getting sick. I hope, my dear wife, you will not be so slack in writing hereafter.

Affectionately yours, — F. H. West


Letter 4

Columbus, Kentucky
March 14, 1863

My Dear Wife,

I have just received your kind, affectionate letter of the 5th & 7th. I was beginning to feel very much troubled because I did not hear from you and was just sitting in my tent thinking about it when in passed the post master with your letter. I am sorry you did not send Willie’s letter. Have them all write as you propose. Hope you and little George will not hurt your eyes looking at each other. You never need to wait about sending your letters because you do not know where we are. Send them to the last place where you have heard of us and if we have left, the letters will follow us.

The weather is now very pleasant and the mud drying up very rapidly and we are getting along very pleasantly. Nearly all the forces except our regiment left here yesterday for Ft. Donaldson expecting to participate in a fight with Van Dorn. We wanted to go but were not allowed to. We are liable to have work to do at anytime and feel ready for it.

J. W. Stewart writes me that he has bought Thomas Millman’s place and wants to pay up the mortgage. Says you say there is $20 due on it. I think there is about $50 interest and all due. You had better get Mr. Bloom or someone to figure the interest all up just according to the endorsements and no other way and whatever it is, have it paid. He wants me to send a receipt against the mortgage as I can not discharge it from record. The fact is the mortgage was never put on record and only has to be surrendered up on payment in full. But you need not let them know that as they might not be as likely to pay. So I will enclose a receipt for you to draw the money on and when you get it, you can give up the mort. If they do not like to pay on the receipt, you can let them know that the mortgage is not recorded and it is probable they will pay on that.

I have borrowed thirty dollars of George and spent every cent of it so that I have not a cent of money on hand. Everything costs an enormous price in this country and a little money does not go far. I wish you would send me immediately a fifty dollar draft payable in Chicago or New York to my order.

I want you to keep me well posted up on your money matters and get that note taken up at the Bank as soon as possible. You will have to go personally to see about it and make no delays in any business transactions. You also want to see Mr. Rood frequently and keep posted up as to how he gets along collecting. Mr. Carpenter left notes with different parties in the mines to collect and send the money to the Bank. See if they are sending in any money and be careful not to make any mistake in settling up those mixed up note lists. Keep an exact memorandum of all the money you receive on those lists, who you received it of and when. You had better refer to this letter after so as to not to forget about it.

Have you received a discharge from Madison for the school fund mortgage?

I wish you would get your photograph well taken and send me a copy. And I am sure if you knew how much pleasure the sight of even a piece of paper from you gave me, you would write every day. Give my love to all the children. With fervent devotion, I remain yours, — F. H. West


Letter 5

Columbus, Kentucky
March 17, 1863

My dear wife,

I received yours of the 9th last night. Was very glad to hear that you were well. We are getting along very quietly down here at present. The weather is very fine—only a little to hot for comfort. You may look out for some big news from down the river before many days. I do not believe we shall be allowed to “hand in.” This is probably the most healthy place on the river and on that account I would like to remain here. I hope you will have the shade trees fixed up in good shape this spring and also the vines and shrubbery. You had better have some maples set in place of those elms that are dead or else get some smaller open land elms. I do not see how you will get along without Mike.

Em, I wish you would write to Mother occasionally. I do not need anything to make me comfortable at present except the $50 draft I wrote you about & hope the children will write that promised letter.

I hope my dear wife you will not continue to feel so disconsolate. I am sure I never felt less like being killed in my life. You may depend upon it, I shall come out all right. — F. H. West


Letter 6

Columbus, Kentucky
March 23rd 1863

My Dear Wife,

I have not heard from you since I received Loutie’s letter saying you were sick and of course I am very anxious about you. I hope I shall receive a letter tonight announcing your perfect recovery. I hope Lutie will write very often. She writes a very good letter.

I have no news to tell you. Everything is very quiet here. Col. Messmore has gone to Memphis on some business. I have been in command of the regiment since we left Freeport, Illinois. I am troubled very much with hoarseness and am sometimes afraid my voice will fail me entirely.

We are having a little rain today but the weather is really very fine, the wild plums being in full bloom. We have considerable sickness in camp. One man of Co. A died this morning. I think my own health is rather better than usual with the exception of over strained lungs.

Have you rented those two little bits of land yet? I suppose Mary Ann is with you yet/ I hope she will stay. Write all about all the folks and what they are doing. Affectionately yours, — F. H. West


Letter 7

Columbus, Kentucky
April 3rd 1863

My dear daughter Carrie,

I have just received your welcome letter of March 29th. I am glad to hear that you are taking music lessons and hope you will try and improve all you possibly can. I also expect you will learn to do all kinds of work so as to be of great help to your kind mother who has so much to do to take care of you.

You must be very patient and kind to that little boy that has so many teeth and take good care of him. I am glad you are going to have a nice garden. It makes one’s home so pleasant to have nice flowers and shrubbery. You will have to be very industrious and keep the weeds down. Do not let Dick (the rabbit) get away. I suppose you had a great time on April Fool Days. Did you get fooled any?

We have had nothing but bad winds and dust for a number of days which makes it very disagreeable in our little cloth houses. How would you like to see our hill city made up of little white cloth houses? That is the way we live here. You must be very kind and pleasant to your brothers and sisters and write again soon to your affectionate, — Father


Letter 8

Columbus, Kentucky
March [April] 5th 1863

My dear wife,

I have just received yours of April 1st. You seem to be getting along first rate for which I am very glad. We have had a little excitement in the way of a small scare, but it has about all blown over. Night before last it was reported that a large force were attacking Hickman twenty miles from here. I was ordered to have my men ready with ammunition and rations to start on a moment’s notice for the scene of action. I got them ready and have held them so since, but have had no orders to leave. I think it all a false alarm.

We occasionally lose a man by sickness. We buried one today but generally the health is good. I understand that the remainder of the 22nd have been captured. Have you learned what became of Capt. [James] Bintliff? 1

I am very unpleasantly situated in this regiment owing the peculiarities of our Colonel [Isaac E. Messmore] but I have stood it so far and am in hopes I can continue to stand it. He has the ambition of a Napoleon with ten times the jealousy that Old Dr. Fisher ever had, together with the most sordid avarice. He is perfectly unscrupulous as to means used to further his interests and entirely devoid of all feeling as to the rights or feelings of others. You can judge by this that I have a hard row to hoe. This, however, is all private matter but I cannot help, my dear one, of apprising you of all my troubles.

I have got my quarters fixed up very comfortably and they would be very pleasant were it not for the wind and dust which is very annoying. Quite a number of our men are engaged at all times as escorts to boats going up and down the river and as provost patrol and picket guards in different places.

Give my love to all the children. Affectionately yours, — F. H. West

1 The 22nd Wisconsin saw action at Thompson’s Station March 4–5, 1863 where nearly 200 of the regiment were captured by Bragg’s Cavalry forces under Van Dorn, nearly 18,000 strong. The regiment was then ordered to Brentwood Station on March 8. They saw action at Little Harpeth, Brentwood, on March 25 where the remainder of the regiment were surrounded and surrendered to Nathan Bedford Forrest. They were exchanged May 5, 1863. 


Letter 9

Columbus, Kentucky
April 9th 1863

My dear wife,

It is five or six days since I have had a letter from you. I am sorry you are getting negligent about writing. I learn that the scarlet fever is prevailing at Monroe. I hope our family will escape. Mrs. Messmore & Mrs. Mason came down yesterday and have gone to keeping house in a fine large house that is in the fort. If it was not for leaving so many children at home, you could come down here and stay as well as not. It is not over two days travel from Monroe and a very accessible place. Everything is very quiet in this part of the country at present and we are having a very dull time.

We were paid off yesterday up to the first of March. Enclosed I send you Paymaster’s draft for $300 payable to the order of Ludlow Bingham & Co. Take it down to them and have them give you credit for it. You can certainly take up that note now. It being a government draft, it does not need to have any stamp on it. We are having plenty of wind and dust as usual. I am getting so black and dirty you would not know me from an Indian.

Affectionately yours, — F. H. West


Letter 10

Fort Halleck
Columbus, Kentucky
April 18th 1863

My dear little daughter Edith,

I was very much pleased last night to receive a letter from you. Your describing Freddie as such a funny little boy makes me feel homesick. I would give a good deal to see the saucy little fellow “toddling” around.

I am delighted to hear that Willie is such a nice, industrious boy. He shall have a nice gentle little saddle pony as soon as he gets large enough to take care of him. What does George fin to busy himself about? I suppose he and “Little Dame Crump” keep very busy about something. I hope you make yourself as agreeable and useful as possible as I have no doubt you do. Are you and Mrs. Mosher as good friends as ever?

The weather is very nice and warm here. The trees and shrubs are in full foliage and there are many and beautiful flowers. I think you would like to live here very much. We have chased all the rebels away from here so we do not have any fighting to do at present. We have about two hundred of them that we have captured from time to time shut up in our prison here and a sorry looking set of fellows they are.

Your affectionate father.


Letter 11

Columbus, Kentucky
April 27 [25], 1863

My dear wife,

Why in the [ ] don’t I hear from you. I am getting alarmed, fearing some of you are sick. I also would like to hear of the safe arrival of the money sent you. I am as well as usual but unable to endure much hardship. I hope you are well and are having things fixed up nicely about the house. Have a martin box put up on the barn. I had one put up on a pole by my tent and it was immediately occupied by birds, the singing of which I find very pleasant, tending to turn one’s thoughts from the stern realities of war to bright visions of peace.

George started for home last Saturday. I wish you would get some nice check[ed] gingham and make me a couple of good, full-sized shirts without collars, but buttons for paper collars and send them by him on the first opportunity you have. I do not know as he will go to Monroe or if he does perhaps you cannot get them in time to send by him, but there will be some chance to send before long. I hope you will dry and can a good lot of fruits this summer so that if I remain in the Army you can send me a box of good things once in awhile. It is very difficult to get anything here. Besides, any such thing sent by you would seem much better.

Sunday morning, 26th

I have just received yours of the 21st and feel much relieved. I was getting very uneasy knowing that there was much sickness at Monroe. Do not fail to have the Monroe Sentinel sent to me regularly.

I judge by your letter that you received the $300 although you do not say so as you should have done if you received it. I wish you would send your letters to the office as soon as written. I see that many of them are not mailed for two or three days after they are written.

My proposition to the Dutchman is simply this—he can have the 30 acres by paying $300 down in money and $100 a year for three years with seven percent interest, interest payable annually. The last $300 to be secured by mortgage on the land.

I spent a very pleasant day in the country yesterday. The ten captains of the regiment, Mr. Bartlett and myself, took some saddle horses and ambulances and went out to Clinton, the county seat of Hickman County where the 21st Missouri Regiment are stationed and spent the day getting a good dinner at a Secesh hotel, the landlord of which had an arm shot off while in the rebel army at the Battle of Shiloh. The country about Clinton is beautiful but the inhabitants are the most wretched, shiftless, worthless looking set of white beings I ever saw. They do not seem to be one degree above the idiotic, ragged negroes who are loafing around in perfect swarms doing nothing. A large share of the farms are remaining uncultivated and everything going to destruction. — Frank


Letter 12

Columbus, Kentucky
May 7, 1863

My Dear Wife,

I received yours of 3rd inst. today and was rejoiced to hear from you again. I have never failed to answer your letters on the day that I received them. If you would do the same, we should each get two letters a week. If you would keep a memorandum making a note of everything that happens that you think at the time that you would like to write to me about, and then when you write, look it over and see that you put in all the items, I presume it would keep you from forgetting many things of interest. Your last letter was certainly the onl intimation that I ever had that you received the money sent except that you had paid the note at bank by which I could draw only an inference.

George got back all right a couple of days ago and I was rejoiced to receive my old sweet heart again that I had carried across the plains so carefully. It is quite a comfort although a very poor substitute for the original.

Frank Millman has gone home on a furlough until the 1st of June. You can send those shirts down by him if you do not get a chance before. Get Mike to see him about it. Tell Mike that I expect he will keep everything about right around the house. I hope you will get some of the improved kind of raspberries and strawberries this spring.

Our armies are doing some glorious fighting now. It makes me chafe like a caged hyena to be tied up here and not allowed to take a hand in [it]. I am still of my old opinion that the rebellion will be broken by the first of June.

We have had very cold, rainy weather for a few days back. Have you written to Mother yet? And what are Joe and Ellen about? And how is George Campbell suited with his new place?

We have just heard the terrible news of hooker’s defeat, contrary to our expectations. I can hardly keep from crying. I had such great faith in his success. What in God’s name are we coming to? I am too much depressed to write more. Do write often to your affectionate husband, — F. H. West


Letter 13

Columbus, Kentucky
May 13, 1863

My Dear Wife,

I have not written you for some time for the simple fact that I do not have a thing new to write about. The conflicting war news has kept us somewhat excited lately. Yesterday nearly everybody got drunk on the strength of Richmond’s being taken and so it goes. I am on detached service at present, being detailed on a general court martial in session in this place. It will probably occupy us for some time, during which time I have nothing to do with the regiment.

I am moving my quarters today into a couple of quite comfortable log houses. If it were not for the fleas, mosquitoes, heat, dust, and various other annoyances, I should be in favor of your coming down here. As it is, you are certainly much better off at home although it would be a great comfort to me to have you here. There are seven or eight of the officers’ wives here but it is rater a sorry place for them to stay. I received a letter from Fred today. He talks of coming down here soon.

I received a letter two or three days since. Will answer it soon. I hope little Freddy has got well by this time. Give my love to all the children and tell the boys I will write them a letter some day. — Frank


Letter 14

Columbus, Kentucky
May 18, 1863

My Dear Wife,

As I was eating breakfast this morning thinking what a pleasant house I had, I made up my mind that I must send for you. Just then an orderly came in with your very kind letter of the 10th in which you say you wish to come. You must stay here at least three or four weeks. If Mary will keep house for you, everything will go on just as well as though you were at home. The only trouble will be that you will get sick and tired of staying in this God-forsaken place before you have been here three days and I shall not enjoy your visit so much as I otherwise should knowing how sick you are. Some of the ladies here ride on horse back and some take rides out into the country in ambulances (a kind of stage) and I suppose manage to kill time some way.

Mrs. Capt. Burdick with two little children stops next door to me. The log huts are all close together and there is not a spear of grass to be seen from one of them. I have one large square room for office and sleeping room, and a room across the street for a dining room with a cook and wash room attached. Here my ostler and his wife—a very nice young woman from Darlington—stop, she doing the cooking and washing.

I do not want you to bring any of the children with you. You cannot bring any more than baggage enough for yourself and I want you relieved from all care of children once just to see how it will seem. And I want you to be able to pay proper attention to your own personal appearance which you will not have time to do if you have to rig out children. Besides, we cannot afford the expense of bringing any of the children. The fare down and back for yourself will be about forty dollars.

If you will get Fred to take you to Freeport, you could there take the cars through for Cairo without change of cars or stops. and I would meet you there when we could have a pleasant boat ride down here. Perhaps Fred is coming down and you can coe with him. I must now all about when and how you are going to start and which way you are going so as to make calculations accordingly and you must be sure and be up to time.

I think you had better come soon before the weather gets very warm. I suppose Freddie is old enough to get his own living now. You can start just as quick as you are a mind to—only write at least four days beforehand all about your starting. I hope you will come immediately while there are so many other ladies here. Stop in Cairo at the St. Charles Hotel (don’t forget this).

With unbounded affection, I remain as ever your devoted husband, — F. H. West


Letter 15

Columbus, Kentucky
Sunday, May 24, 1863

Dear Wife,

I have just received your very cool reply to my letter of invitation to you to come down here and am very much disheartened that you are not coming immediately to see me. You say you do not know as you have given me any encouragement that you would come. I will give an exact quotation from your letter which I certainly took as encouragement, “If you cannot come home, I must come and see you.” It is quite certain that I shall not be able to go home until after the war. We have not got long to live anyway and we might as well enjoy ourselves as much as possible while we do live. And I know of nothing that would afford me so much pleasure as a visit from the person that I love more than all the world. Besides, I had taken a great deal of pains and got everything fixed up as nice as possible to make your visit pleasant. And I am so disappointed that you are not coming.

I am going to send George to Cairo tomorrow thinking that possibly on the receipt of my other letter, you may have changed your mind and started. As for the mumps, they never hurt children. You might as well wait because one of them had caught a louse.

We have news that Vicksburg is captured with forty thousand prisoners but dare not believe it at all yet. If it should prove true, which God grant, it will pretty much end the rebellion.

All the ladies of the camp with their husbands have gone out to the woods today to have a picnic. I presume they will have a fine time. I am having a very lonesome day of it all alone. I wish you could have been here to have gone also.

Mrs. Capt. Rogers is going to start down on Monday the first day of June. She will take the cars at Warner so as to leave Freeport on the evening train Monday. Perhaps you can come then. If so, write instantly. Capt. Rogers would have her go by Monroe if there was any such arrangement.

I had supposed that this was quite a healthy place but it is not. It has the reputation of being one of the most sickly places in the South. We have over a hundred sick all the time. I am some afraid to have you come down on that account. It is also the reason I am anxious to see you come early in the season. I wish you would be more particular in dating your letters and not put on simply “April” or “May” as I always want to know what day they are written.

Your affectionate husband, — F. H. West


Letter 16

Columbus, Kentucky
Thursday, June 18, 1863

My Dear Wife,

I was very glad to receive as I did last night your line announcing your safe arrival home and that you found everything all right at home. You left just in the right time. There has been constant alarms that have kept the women frightened ever since. They did not leave any of them until this morning wen they all left under positive orders to do so except Mrs. Stephenson, Mrs. Colwel and Mrs. Dr. Thomas. The Colonel did not go to Washington, the General refusing to let him go at present. Teams are at work night and day hauling up large quantities of provisions and storing them in the old log houses so as to place the fort in condition to stand a siege and every preparation being made about the town for a vigorous defense. Every negro or white man about the town that could carry a gun has been armed and organized into companies. We have received reinforcements from other places.

The rebel generals Forrest and Cheatham are supposed to be advancing on us with a large force. I think they will have a merry time of it before they take us. I have no idea myself that they will try it at present but the general thinks they are sure to. Day before yesterday we sent out 20 of our regiment in cars to make a reconnaissance. When they had proceeded some distance, the train was fired upon by a large force when the engineer immediately took the back track. Not one of our men was hit. They returned the fire and saw some of the rebels fall. Yesterday we sent Companies B & E (Stephenson’s and Mason’s) but they saw no enemy. The cavalry that were sent out while you were here have been repulsed on the Tennessee river with what loss we have not learned. It seems a little more like war here than it did, though not enough to suit most of us yet.

Write often to your affectionate husband, — F. H. West


Letter 17

Columbus, Kentucky
Saturday, June 27, 1863

My Dear Wife,

I have just received yours of the 21st inst., the anniversary of all my past happiness and future joys. I am glad your visit to me is pleasantly remembered. I was fearful it would be otherwise. I was quite unwell for about a week since you were here but am feeling better now than I have done for a long time. Major Olmstead of the 27th Wisconsin is lying very sick in Col. Messmore’s quarters. I think he will die. We sent for his wife today.

It has rained nearly all the time for a week. I wish you had some of it in Wisconsin. Everything is very quiet here just now. We sent another expedition out to look for rebels day before yesterday but they all “skedaddled” on the approach of our boys. They ascertained that our boys of the first expedition in returning their fire killed a captain and one man of the rebel party.

I would like to have seen Edith representing an angel. I think she would come about as near a perfect representation as anything they could be got up on earth. I wonder you did not have “little George” representing a cupid. What part did Lou & Carried take?

You do not say a word about the collecting business. How is Mr. Carpenter getting along with it? You must look out for it sharply all the time. Also look after that Roberts and C__ Murphy notes and save every cent you get so that I can have money enough to start business with in Chicago when I get out of the army, if I want to, and I believe I will if we can sell out in Monroe.

We are going to have a great celebration here on the Fourth [of July]. I hope we can celebrate the fall of Vicksburg at the same time. I am glad the rebels are changing around a little in Pennsylvania. I am in hopes they will stir some of the Copperheads of the North up to a lively sense of their duty.

Did the trees live that Mike set out this spring? I have got my gray horse yet. I wish I could send him home for carriage horse for you. I am under the impression that we shall not remain in this but a very short time longer. We are all very anxious to get away. As ever, — Frank


Letter 18

Columbus, Kentucky
Sunday, June 28, 1863

Dear Wife,

I have just received yours in pencil of last Monday, I am surprised at the perfect fright you seem to be in. Everything is perfectly quiet here now. The Rebels never will occupy this place by force of arms again. As for general apprehension, I see no cause for it at all. In less than three months I believe we shall have driven out or captured every thing in the shape of a large force west of Georgia and the Alleghany Mountains and if the people of the middle and eastern states cannot take care of what is east of these, they are to be pitied. I am far from being discouraged at present.

As for our own regiment being mustered out, that is all a humbug. It is well understood here that it is the best drilled and best disciplined regiment in this district. Things are just as pleasant as every about headquarters. I have been compelled to put Lt. Lewis under arrest for disorderly conduct towards myself. It is generally believed in the regiment that he was instigated by the Colonel.

We are expecting to be sent down the river somewhere tomorrow but have got no orders yet. I shall not send this until I ascertain whether it is so or not. I hope you will continue to be scared if that will make you write very often.

Monday. I have just received yours of last Tuesday. You speak of our own dear little pet boys. Tell them their father expects them to be nice good boys. We have not got any marching orders yet although boats are still held here to take us off if necessary. We are expecting to go down to New Madrid to repel Price who is reported advancing on that place. It is probably all a scare. I still think we shall leave here for some place soon. I am sure I don’t care how quick. I hope you will not worry yourself on my account, my dear kind wife, for I am sure I shall come out all right.

Do the girls improve any in playing on the piano? I am going to write to Lou to see if you continue to wear your curls. If you do not, I shall make a fuss. With the most abiding affection, I remain devotedly yours, — F. H. West

We continue to have heavy showers and it is getting very muddy. I have got no money and unless I can sell y grey horse in a day or two, must send for some. Have you got any on hand?

Monday night. Everything all quiet. No prospect of getting away immediately. No letter from you tonight.


Letter 19

Columbus, Kentucky
July 4th 1863 (morning)

My dear wife,

I have just received yours of last Sunday and have got most of it ciphered out. I do not mean the figures but the writing. If you do not take more pains in writing, you will have to send an interpreter along with them for there is no one in this country that can read them. Now don’t be vexed and say you won’t write anymore but take a little more pains and not leave out so many words.

The expedition that left from the 4th Mo. Cavalry when you were here has been “gobbled up” together with the Lt. Col. commanding. They were defeated on the “Big Obion” with a loss of one hundred and fifty in killed, wounded, and missing.

Everything is very quiet here. We have an immense program for a celebration today. Do not know how it will come out yet. The weather for several days past has been terrible hot. It almost kills me. I will not write any more until after the celebration.

3 o’clock p.m. Have just come back, hot and wearied nearly to death from the celebration which was a grand fizzle. We were marched way down the river for two miles where the grounds had been fitted up and where the loyal citizens of Kentucky were to give us a big dinner and barbeque. After some speaking and singing, we found there was not a mouthful to eat or drink on the ground. Neither was there a Kentuckian present except a few negroes whereupon we suspected there might be an attempt made to take the fort during our absence. The celebration was adjourned after some very denunciating remarks by Col. Messmore on the conduct of the Kentucks and we hurried back home. Several men fell down sun struck and all were much worried. 1

I understood your financial statement very well. You do not say anything about how much money you have on hand or whether you have any or how Mr. Carpenter is getting along collecting. If you have any money, you must send me fifty dollars (a draft) as I cannot sell my horse and it may be some time before we are paid.

I have scolded you so much in this letter that I dare not scold you anymore and I do not believe you need it either. I hope you will keep an exact account of all your receipts and expenditures from the first of July on, starting the account with the amount of money you had on hand in that day.

Do continue to write very often to your fault-finding but very loving and devoted husband. — F. H. West

1 In the diary of Corp. John Sine of Co. F, 31st Wisconsin, his entry for the 4th of July stated: “Attended celebration at Columbus, Kentucky, today. Speech by Col Messmore did not amount to much. Got back to camp a little after noon. Very hot today.”


Letter 20

Columbus, Kentucky
July 5, 1863

Dear Wife,

Owing to a change in post quartermasters, I have been called upon to pay for the horse that I bought immediately. You must send me a hundred as soon as possible (a New York draft). We have not been paid off yet. I have about one thousand dollars due me from the government and individuals in the regiment which I am in hopes to get soon. It is so much hotter than it has ever been before. I am sorry I have ever said anything about warm weather. It is terrible now.

No letter from you yet. Make some arrangement for the money at the bank if you have not got it. In haste, — Frank


Letter 21

Columbus, Kentucky
Sunday, July 5th 1863

My Dear Em,

Although I mailed a letter to you this morning written yesterday, I cannot resist the desire to write you a line today, I am so lonely since you left and think of you so much as the only real true sympathetic friend I have on earth, It does seem too bad that we cannot remain together. The time seemed so short when you were here and so long since you left.

My situation continues to get more unpleasant (if possible) than ever. Unfortunately there seems to be entirely too few officers in the army that seem to have any appreciation for honor, honesty, or even decency. Still I have no thoughts of anything but “standing my hand” until the end. Everything seems to be on the move now and there certainly can be no complaints of inactivity on the part of the army at present and it seems as though the present crisis must result favorably for us. I hope, my dear pet companion, you will write me very kind and very frequent letters I hope.

Give my love to our dear little children and learn them to think a great deal of their papa. Mrs. Thomas, Colwel, and Stephenson still remain in camp. Affectionately yours, — Frank


Letter 22

Columbus, Kentucky
Thursday, July 9, 1863

Dear Wife,

I wrote you a line yesterday that we were celebrating the taking of Vicksburg. Last night it run into a regular row. The soldiers were turned loose into the town and they compelled every one in town to illuminate every pane of glass in their buildings. Those of those of the Secesh that objected, immediately had their buildings riddled. After they had riddled a few whiskey shops and consumed the contents, they became perfectly wild and we had a deuce of a time to get the men back to camp without their destroying the whole town. The whole thing was perfectly disgraceful but the fault was in the general in giving orders to let all the men into the town. Two hundred rebels could have taken the place at any time during the evening.

The men were bound to make up for the nice dinner that they did not get on the fourth. The weather continues excessively hot and many of the men are sick. We have about two hundred unfit for duty at present.

I want you to see Norman Churchill and see if he has or can do anything with that sawmill. I wrote him long ago about it but have never heard from him.

Friday, 10th. We fired a salute today n honor of the taking of Richmond. I hope it will not prove to have been premature but we have celebrated the taking of that place so many times, one cannot help being suspicious. We are having so much glorious new now-a-days one can hardly appreciate it. I think it is time some of our historians commenced writing, “the last days of the rebellion.”

The general sent up to the Fort this morning to have every man “fall in” instantly. I was sick in bed but jumped out and had the long roll sounded and the men in fighting shape in short order. I was really in hopes we were going to have a “little brush” at last but was disappointed. The enemy not showing themselves, the 32nd Iowa were sent out to look for them and have not returned yet. We understand the Rebs have gobbled up two more companies of the 4th Missouri Cavalry. I wish they would let me after them with the 31st. I feel first rate since there was a prospect of a fight. It did me more good than a dose of medicine. I don’t think, however, that there is the slightest probability that they will attack this place. I have not heard from you since yours of July 1st. Why don’t you write?

2 o’clock Saturday morning. As I have to be up all night in command of the firt, I want to kill a little time in writing to you. I have just received yours of the 4th. Our whole force is standing to arms through the night expecting an attack. I do not think there is any danger of our being attacked here immediately, however. The general continues to send small squads out scouting who are not strong enough to sustain themselves and of course are captured.

The 32nd Iowa sent out today arrived too late to assist the two cavalry companies spoken of before. The Rebels killed or captured every man of them and had just left when our force got there as they were all mounted and 2,000 strong. Our force did not pursue them. This was at Union City out on the railroad 20 miles from here…


Letter 23

Columbus, Kentucky
Sunday eve., July 12, 1863

Dear Em,

I did not think I would write to you again so soon but I could not get through the day without writing a few lines. We have had a great change in the weather today. It is as cold as Greenland. I think this is a terrible sickly hole. We have about two hundred sick and only one surgeon, Dr. Thomas. Dr. Galen has gone home sick. Dr. Mason left about the time you did and has not returned. The most interesting thing we have had today was a big “nigger” meeting on the bank of the river under our quarters. Nine of the black damsels were baptized in the river. They out did any Methodist meeting you ever saw in the way of shouting, clapping of hands, &c.

I received a short letter from Mother today. She sent her love to you.

We have five regiments of infantry here at present and a little cavalry and artillery, besides part of a negro regiment. Everything is all quiet. I believe the general intends fitting out an expedition for the interior in a day or two. I hope he will send me out.

Wednesday, July 15th. We have not been “gobbled” yet expect by fleas, and they have done about annihilated me. To every one that was here when you were here, there is now a hundred. Our men are pretty worn out by being called out nights. The old general is very excitable and scary and everytime he hears of a rebel within twenty miles has us out under arms. Col. Messmore is still worse. Between them they have tried to keep up a perfect scare for a week past. They have had very poor success however so far as most of us are concerned. We are always ready, however, to turn out at a second’s warning.

Col. Messmore started for Washington this morning and I have assumed command of the fort. The garrison consists of two full and three parts of regiments. In case of attack—of which I have no hopes—I shall have a fine chance to try myself.

Evening. I have just received yours of the 9th. I am so sorry little Susie has lost her curls. The Adjutant is all right and my right hand man in “running the machine.” Mrs. Holland is here yet but unwell and has to keep a Negress to do her work. Dr. Mason and his wife returned this evening. I have to be up nearly all night every night. It is now midnight and I am just sending out extra guards on the picket line. Have no fears of an attack, however. What glorious news we are getting from every direction. I am afraid you will think I am a prophet. With much affection for you to express. I am, — Frank


Letter 24

Columbus, Kentucky
Sunday, July 19, 1863

Dear Wife,

I received yours of the 12th last night. I forgot to acknowledge the receipt of the handkerchief sent in a newspaper. I suppose the reason I forgot it was that the handkerchief was so small. Since you left, I have roomed alone, the adjutant stopping with the Major. The Major has gone out to Union City today with four companies to see what he can find. THere are just reels enough a raiding around here to keep the general scared to death without being enough so that we can corner them and get up any fight. They are well mounted and in this timbered country it is impossible for infantry to catch them. They simply prowl around and “gobble” any small squad they can find away from the main force.

The weather is quite hot again but the sun does not affect me much as I have got so thin that it shines right through me without making any shadow. I do not know whether I shall be able to get a leave of absence i September or not. Field officers for duty are so very scarce here now, it will be difficult for me to get away.

I hope you will not get slack in money matters again. We must save some to commence business with when the war is over. If we do not get paid by the first of August, you will have to send me some money, but do not send only until I send for it.

Evening. The regiment has got back. No enemy found. Everything dull, hot and tedious. Affectionately yours, — Frank

Do write. Tell about the children and everything else.


Letter 25

Columbus, Kentucky
September 8, 1863

My dear wife,

Yours of last Wednesday has been received. I am very glad that you can find time to write i the middle of the week. You say you were at a party “last night.” Why did you not tell me where it was and who was there and what was said and how the ladies were dressed and all about it? I am sure you might have written a very entertaining letter in that subject along.

The Fort headquarters are turned into a hospital. Dr. [Darius] Mason being sick in one room, the adjutant [James F. Suddith] in another, and the Major—who is very dangerously sick—in another. We telegraphed yesterday for his wife to come immediately. I went to bed day before yesterday not expecting to get up again for a month but it worked off in a fit of sick headache and I am all right again. The weather is as hot as it has been any time this summer.

Wednesday morning. The Major [William J. Gibson] has been given up by the surgeons. I fear he will die before his wife gets here. Still he may recover. The adjutant and Dr. Mason were sent to the Post Hospital this morning. Captains [Edward K.] Buttrick and [Edwin A.] Bottum and Lieuts. [George R.] Peck and Stevens were there before. I think none of them are dangerously sick. I have demanded a court of inquiry to investigate the conduct of the officers in relation to certain charges that have long been made by the enlisted men of the regiment. I have done this in order that the innocent, which includes a very large share of the officers, might be cleared of the stigma, as well as that the guilty—if there are any—might be exposed and punished. There is a terrible squirming among the very small Messmore clique.

It is thought that the Major has Yellow Fever. If so, we may expect a terrible scourging here before we get through with it.

Wednesday evening.

Another victim to this cursed rebellion. The Major is dead. He died at seven o’clock this evening. His wife has not arrived yet. He was a noble hearted man, greatly loved by the regiment who are now mourning. It is dark times for the 31st. I remain, my dear wife, as ever, — Frank


Letter 26

Columbus, Kentucky
Wednesday evening
September 16, 1863

My Dear Wife,

I received a letter from Lou two days ago. It is time I had one from you. The Col. returned last night and the ball will commence now. He is very affable to everyone. He is evidently trying to accomplish by “soft persuasions” what he finds he cannot do by force. The sick are all getting along very well except the adjutant who is quite sick yet.

I suppose you will hear of the burning of the steamer Hope before you receive this. She burnt just up around the bend above here and she sunk when of course the fire was quenched. She was loaded with government horses and stores. I have spent the day on the wreck as one of a board of survey to ascertain the amount of government property destroyed. All below the deck being about one half the cargo is ruined. All above was saved. I think the guerrillas have organized a plan of trying to burn all boats on the river.

Friday morning. The Colonel had a love feast last night inviting in all the officers except myself. He spent half of the night talking to them in a very fine manner persuading them to bury the hatchet and be friends and making all kinds of promises as to how good he would be, winding up with an oyster supper. He completely swallowed more than half of them (I mean the officers—not the officers). He said yesterday he was going to have me arrrested but has not done it yet. I am liable to get a leave of absence any time after the middle of next week although I do not much expect it, and if the Colonel can manage to trump up any charge as an excuse for having me arrested (which is doubtful), I cannot come home if I get one. However, you need not be surprised to see me at home any time after a week.

Affectionately yours, — F. H. West


Letter 27

Columbus, Kentucky
Sunday, September 20, 1863

My Dear Wife,

I received yours of last Sunday on Friday morning immediately after having mailed a letter to you. It was all a humbug about there being any yellow fever in camp. It was only some virulent cases of jaundice. The health of the regiment continues about the same. Why did you not tell me something about what George did about the fanning mill business when he was out?

The prospect of my coming home has pretty much faded out. There is little doubt but what we shall be ordered to the front in a very short time but where to, I have no positive knowledge as yet. As I am the only field officer for duty, of course I would not leave if I could. I wish you were down here now to make me a visit while it is possible to do so but I think it is too late now. Still we may not get off for some time and I may possibly get a chance to go home.

In regard to that land, I do not think I would care to sell less than twenty acres together, however if I go home, I will see how it lies and if it takes all that the timber is cut off of I will let it go. Or you can ascertain and write about it. I am afraid that fifteen acres would not come down low enough to take all that is cleared. Give my respects to Mr. Rutledge when you see him. Also to Mr. Bloom and family. I suppose Allen has moved away.

The Messmore imbroglio has assumed a new feature today. Two days ago I preferred a series of very grave charges against him which entirely overwhelmed him. He has got down on all fours and crawled after me ever since. Today he plead ill health and physical inability to stand a trial and asked me to withdraw the charges and give him a chance to resign which he promised to do immediately and I have done so, but have no confidence in his word that he will do so if he can find any dodge to get out as I shall look after him very closely. 1

Write very often, my loved one, to your own, — Frank

1 In the diary of Corp. John Sine of Co. F, 31st Wisconsin, his entry for Sunday, September 20, 1863 read: “Col. I. E. Messmore made short speech today on dress parade. Said he was going to resign.


Letter 28

Nashville, Tennessee
October 2nd 1863

My Dear Wife,

I received yours of the 24th of September today and am very sorry I was not there to help you about taking care of those grapes, but I expect we will get plenty of another kind of grape soon.

We are still lying here waiting for transportation to Chattanooga but the railroad is entirely occupied in transporting a portion of the Army of the Potomac and we shall have to wait until they are all through before we can go on. General Joe Hooker is here today. He came by this evening as I was holding dress parade and stopped and complimented the regiment very highly and I had a very pleasant chat with him.

We have just got through with a two days rain and as we have no tents, our men have had a very rough time of it lying on the open common. Col. Messmore tendered his immediate and unconditional resignation today and I presume it will be accepted. Seven of our ten captains are sick so that we have but three for duty. I visited the State prison today and also the military prisons where the prisoners of war are kept. They are a hard looking set of customers. A great many of the finest private houses in the City are converted into hospitals. We have about six thousand wounded in the last battle. I went through the hospital today that had two thousand in it who were shot in every conceivable shape and place.

I am stopping at a private house close by camp. The owner is a good Union man and says he does not want to see the war end until slavery is wiped out. He has seen enough of it. There are many getting of the same opinion in this vicinity although many of the prominent men of Nashville are still in the Rebel army and man splendid mansions were entirely abandoned when the Union troops took possession of the city and are now used for government purposes. The government offices are all furnished with the most magnificent furniture I ever saw which had been deserted by Rebels. Everything about the City has the appearance of a great wealth and splendor. I visited the resident of Mrs. Polk today. It is a very fine place.

Excuse this scrawl, my precious little darling wife, and write often to the most homesick husband on earth. — Frank

The Colonel’s resignation has been accepted and he is discharged from the service—thank God.

Col. Messore has not been in direct command of the regiment a day since we left the state. Still he has had enough to do with it to make him generally despised. To call him a dishonest, crave, cowardly poltroon would be a very weak expression for describing him. Saturday morning. The old Third Wisconsin passed through here last night.


Letter 29

Headquarters 31st [Wisconsin] Regiment
Lavergne, Tennessee
Saturday, October 10, 1863

My dear wife,

I had a letter from you last Sunday which is the only one I have received since leaving Columbus. On Sunday night we received orders to make a forced march to this place which was menaced by ten thousand Rebels under Wheeler. I started with the regiment and a section of artillery (the first real marching we have ever done) shortly after midnight and arrived here the next forenoon when we took up fighting position and have remained here ever since without any brush as yet. The Rebs came within two miles of us and then turned off, I suppose concluding that it would cost more to gobble us than we were worth. We have a strong little fort and there were about six hundred troops here before we came that we were sent to reinforce. The Rebs are bushing around in this vicinity quite lively. We are just half way between Nashville and Murfreesboro in the railroad in a most God-forsaken place. There used to be a little town here but it was burned slick and clean long ago.

I am afraid my health is going to fail me. I have been very miserable since I have been here, being unable to sit up but a small part of the time. I am feeling much better today and hope I shall get along all right again. Our regiment is being paid off today. I enclose you a draft for $400 which you must take to the bank and lay up for a wet day.

Give my love to all the children and do write often. You don’t know what a comfort it is here in the army to get letters from loves ones at home. — Frank

I have no time to write anymore now. Acknowledge receipt of draft immediately.


Letter 30

Nashville, [Tennessee]
Friday, October 23, [1863]

My Dear Wife,

I came here last night partly on business and partly to recuperate thinking a few days in town at a good hotel might do me good—especially as I have come to my appetite again. And although I have to pay four dollars per day and have not much but corn meal to eat, still I think I can keep about even with the landlord.

I suppose you have heard of the death of Captain Mason. He died here in the hospital last Saturday night. We did not hear of it at the regiment until Monday when we were perfectly thunderstruck as we had no idea that he was dangerously sick. His body has been embalmed and sent home.

I received orders last night to start tomorrow morning for Chattanooga with my regiment. This morning they are countermanded and I am ordered to report for temporary duty at Murfreesboro where we shall march tomorrow. I shall have to go back to Lavergne tonight. I guess I am getting strong enough to stand it. The 22nd [Wisconsin] is still at Murfreesboro so I shall find friends there. It is not likely we shall remain there long.

I received a letter from you yesterday that was dated back in September. It had been sent to the 21st Regiment and returned. I also received yours stating that you were going to Woodman. I hope you have had a pleasant time. When George was down at Columbus last, I sent him $120 expecting to collect it back out of his sutler accounts on pay day. I only succeeded in getting about 50 of it so far and I don’t believe there can ever be enough collected to pay it all. If anything happens to me before I get it collected, you must make him pay it to you. If we are paid again soon, it may all be collected.

It is raining hard as usual. We are getting some of the delights of soldiering now. Give my love to all the children and accept a great amount for yourself, my own precious darling. From your most devoted husband, — F. H. West


Letter 31

Murfreesboro [Tennessee]
Sunday eve, October 25, 1863

My Dear Wife,

We marched into this place today. Had a very pleasant march, the weather being fine. It being my birthday, I though I must write you a line. I have not seen you lately to ask you how old I am, but I believe I am thirty-eight (quite an old man). Saw Bentliff this eve and some of his men. They are looking finely—much better than my men. Have not seen John Demiston yet.

We are camped in a beautiful place on the bank of Stone River opposite the town. I have taken possession of a beautiful octagon mansion that has been deserted by some rebel who has gone in search of his rights for my headquarters. It is very much like our house—only much larger and very magnificently finished. There is no certainty of our remaining here twenty-four hours. It is a nice place to be allowed to stay in longer. Still we may remain here some time. I am feeling first rate now.

The rebels are raiding around here so that we have to be on the alert all the time and frequently have to turn out in line of battle at night. But no fight yet.

The adjutant is still at home sick, as are quite a number of other officers, and we have still nearly two hundred men back in hospitals.

My all. on earth, do write often. — F. H. West


Letter 32

Murfreesboro [Tennessee]
Sunday, November 8, 1863

My Dear Em,

I received your long letter of last Sunday yesterday. You need not worry about my health as long as I have such fine quarters as I have here but I don’t know how it will be when I have to lay out in the mud and rain again. I find I cannot stand exposure as I used to. If you could come down here and bring some of the children, you would not know but what you were at home. The house is so very like our own. I only occupy the two front rooms and use the balance for hospital purposes.

Yesterday I spent the day with Capt. Woodman of Monroe and Capt. Bintliff exploring the battleground. We found a citizen who showed us where Capt. [Oscar] Pinney [of the 5th Wisconsin Light Artillery] fell. 1 Three of his battery horses lay there yet with their harness still on. [Charles] Adair was buried on the spot. The country seems to be covered with graves for miles. The Rebs did not half bury their dead and in some places their legs and arms are sticking out. I found very many things of great interest and spent the day very pleasantly. While we were out, some Rebs came in between us and our picket lines and captured a six mule team that was out for a load of wood, but fortunately they did not see us. If they had, our chances would have been good for being “gobbled” as they greatly outnumbered us. Still I think we should have given them a good fight.

The other day, some of our men who were out on picket duty on the battlefield kicked an old shell into the fire and sat their coffee pot on it to boil when it exploded and slightly wounded two of them. There were six around the fire and the only mystery is that it did not kill the whole of them.

In regard to Wm. Bloom, Lt. Treat is very anxious to get him back to his company. I received a letter from the Major at Madison today saying he could not well spared him and I shall leave him there at present.

The weather is still quite warm here and if you were here, you could gratify your passion for roses of which there seems to be an endless variety in those gardens not yet destroyed, and many are now in full bloom.

The business part of your letter is not very explicit. Why did you not find out all about what Mr. Carpenter was doing with those mills in hand, and also with the wagon, &c. Fred has never written me anything about the mill business and I expect you to see to it immediately and let me know just what has been done. You must not leave anything unattended to for a moment thinking that I shall come home for there is not more than one chance in twenty that I shall go.

Have you got any wood cut in the woods ready to haul this winter? I am sorry the girls are not getting along better with their music. You must see to them. If you have a chance to send Lou to Charleston, do it. You must “buckle on your armor,” my dear wife and as Father used to say, “Stand heavy” and keep the machine a running all right until I get home again and when that will be, the Lord only knows.

As ever devoted yours, — Frank

1 On December 31, 1862, Captain Oscar Pinney was severely wounded at Stone’s River, Tennessee and died on February 17, 1863 and buried at the Greenwood Cemetery in Monroe, Green County, Wisconsin. 


Letter 33

Murfreesboro [Tennessee]
Friday, November 20, 1863

My Dear Wife,

I have just received your long and very satisfactory letter of last Sunday. In reply to what is to be done with the money in Bank, I would say nothing at present—only to let it alone and add as much to it as possible. I think we will find chances enough to use it by and by. If I could get everything we have got into money, I believe I would go to banking. You say Mr. Carpenter has collected $1,115. Do you mean that he has that much for my share or that much in all? I am glad he has set Pinney at work. I hope they will rush things to a focus. What is being done with the mills that were on hand? Do not fail to acknowledge the receipt of the draft sent you yesterday. You did not acknowledge the receipt of the last one at al except by an incidental remark in a letter from Woodman.

I am glad your own farming has turned out so well. You must look after all little matters as sharp as a weasel. I believe you are improving in that respect and will make quite a financier yet. What has become of Mike? You do not mention him anymore. You must get someone to see that there is no wood stolen from the land west of town. Thomas Millman used to see to it but I believe you said he went to California last spring. I suppose you can get Jimmy Conner or Con Murphey to get your wood and look after the land as they both live right there.

Will Willie have a chance to go to school at Woodman? If I should come home, I could not stand it without seeing him. I am afraid he will get the diphtheria or some other fatal disease by staying up in that sickly place. You do not say anything about Mary Ann or the other girls. Are they staying with you or where are they? How I would like to hear “little agreeable” (Susie) tell some of her funny stories. I suppose Little George continues to be his “Mother’s Delight” yet. Has Freddy got any better health than he had? I expect every day to hear that some of them are burned up by their clothes taking fire. I hope you are very careful about it.

I have received a commission as Colonel but it is of no use as a regiment that has not got as many as 842 men is not entitled to a higher officer than Lt. Col. unless they have him on hand. Consequently I cannot get mustered in as Colonel. We are about fifty men short of the requisite number.

Sunday 22nd. I have delayed sending this until today thinking there might be something new to add, but there is not. I have not made up my mind yet whether to try hard for a leave of absence or not. What do you think about it?

Affectionately yours, — F. H. West


Letter 34

Murfreesboro [Tennessee]
Sunday, December 6th 1863

My Dear Wife,

have just received your long and well written letter of the 1st together with monthly account of expenses. I am not going to scold any more about expenses as I know you get along the best you possibly can. You must get Fred to go down to Clarno and pay your taxes. You had better get him to pay all of your taxes as soon as the rolls are made out. If they are paid before Christmas, you can save 3 percent. The rolls will probably be made out a few days before that time so that there will be time to pay before the 25th. I saw Bryant yesterday on his way to Monroe. He promised to call on you.

Everything continues very pleasant here. The weather is perfectly lovely and we have the gratification of seeing thousands of Butternuts passed to the rear as prisoners. They have been badly thrashed in the late fights. Our sick are gradually recovering and rejoining the regiment. I suppose you gave orders to have the bank pay John Holland’s father the $40 as I directed.

We are now commanded by General Van Cleave who is under General Rousseau at Nashville, whose immediate commander is General Thomas who is under General Grant who is the Chief of all this country. I expect to send a recruiting party home soon when I am in hopes to fill up the regiment so that I can avail myself of the Colonel’s commission.

— Frank


Letter 35

Murfreesboro [Tennessee]
December 9th 1863

My Dear Em,

Your very long letter of last Friday (four lines) has just been received. Even one line letting me know that you are well is a great satisfaction. I have pretty much given up all idea of going home soon. When you wrote me that you had over three thousand dollars in bank, I concluded that with what I sent after that and with what you must have collected afterwards, that it must amount to over four thousand and I had a good many castles conjured up as to what great things I was going to do with that next spring. But since learning the true state of the case, I have subsided—in fact, collapsed, and shall probably keep along as I am for some time to come.

It is excessively [dull] here—no excitement at all. It seems as though it was always going to be our luck to be kept in the rear. But I suppose it is of no use to try to make you. feel bad on that account.

I would like so much to be at home even for two weeks (which is a long a time as I could get anyway) but I know I should feel so much the worse to leave again, the constant dread of which would nearly spoil the visit. It is nearly a year since I have [seen] the children which is longer than I ever was absent before. They must have grown almost out of my knowledge—especially little Fred (I think you said you had such a little boy).

Do you know whether Father has given his Western land to George? I understand he has bought a nice farm adjoining the village of Darlington by which I suppose he must have had some help from home. And by your writing that Fred was out there surveying, I concluded that he was disposing of the land.

The weather continues warm and pleasant with occasional rains. The birds are still singing as pleasantly as they do in our country in the spring. I am afraid I shall never want to winter in a frozen country again.

You ought to require Lou to write me long letters if for nothing else than to improve herself in composition. When I come home, I shall bring a saddle horse for the girls to ride. I suppose Willie is about large enough to take care of one now. Very affectionately your devoted husband, — Frank


Letter 36

Murfreesboro [Tennessee]
Wednesday, December 16th [1863]

My Dear Wife,

I received your very short but kind letter of the 10th this morning. You once wrote that you thought I had forgotten I had any children. I think that you must now have forgotten that I have any or you would occasionally mention them in writing to me. You ought in every letter to tell me of some smart thing that little Fred has done or that “Little Dame Crump” has said. And what that “wonderful” little boy is up to. And how honest Billy gets along. I suppose the young ladies are growing more agreeable, accomplished, and useful every day.

As to going home, if I go at all, it will be in January. I made an application a few days ago for leave o take effect the 1st of January but as I did not take the pains to get the General here to make a favorable endorsement on it, it will not be very likely to be granted. It takes three or four weeks to hear from any such application even if you ever hear from it, which is quite doubtful. If it was not for leaving the children to freeze to death at home, I would rather you would come down here and then we could have a longer visit. Although I am dying to see you, I do not much like the idea of hurrying up there to freeze a few days and have to hurry back again. Ten days would be as long as I could stay anyway and that would not give me time to do any business or make much of a visit.

I suppose you recollect of hearing Mrs. Holland say a great deal about John Parker. He died last night. His wife is here.

The Adjutant, Major, and myself mess and room together and get along as pleasantly as it is possible to under the circumstances but it is becoming terribly dull and monotonous and we are anxious for some move or change. I have to write short, uninteresting letters from the fact that I have nothing to write about unless I continue to tell over and over how much I love my dear little wife at home, and this is all that makes me write at all.

— Frank

P. S. The weather continues quite warm. I think this is about the right climate to live in. And immediately about here is much the finest country I have ever seen in the South.

I suppose you think you saw a great many “niggers” at Columbus but there are a million here for every one there. The whole place is fairly swarming with them. And the sentinels have positive orders not to let another one inside the lines as it is impossible to keep so many here. Besides, hundreds of them have the small pox and it is a great wonder that we do not all get it.


Letter 37

[Murfreesboro, Tennessee]
Sunday, December 20th 1863

My dear wife,

am again under the necessity of writing without having any letter to answer. I believe you like to hear from me often [even] if you don’t think enough of me to write very often. I suppose I ought to consider, however, that you do not have as much leisure time as I do. Since I commenced making an effort to get home, I cannot think of anything else but you and I already count the hours up to the time I shall be likely to go—if I go at all. I feel quite sure I shall be there sometime between the 7th and the 10th of January. I suppose you will get this about Christmas so I will wish you a very Merry Christmas. Tell the children in their great joy on that day not to forget their Father. I wish I could be there to help you fill their stockings on Christmas Eve.

We are losing more men by death lately than we have ever lost before in the same length of time. Four died last week. It seems to be the winding up of the old cases of last summer which are terminating one way or the other. Yesterday Richard Manley—who was in apparent good health—fell dead in the street, cause unknown. He will be buried today. Send word to his mother.

Hoping to see you soon, I remain your devoted, — Frank


Letter 38

Murfreesboro [Tennessee]
Wednesday, December 23d 1863

My Dear Em,

After having mailed my letter last Sunday, I received a letter from you. I now feel quite sure that I shall start home sometime between this and the 5th of January, but cannot tell anything about the exact time and shall be unable to give you any definite notice of my coming as I shall start immediately or receiving the order and I am liable to receive that any day after next Saturday although I do not much expect to receive it before the first of January. So you need not be disappointed to see me any night after you receive this. And you must not be much disappointed if you do not see me at all. But I am expediting an order sending Captain Burns, myself, and six men to Wisconsin to take charge of drafted men in which case the first thing we do will be to go home.

I expect another order to send an officer and ten non-commissioned officers home as a recruiting party but do not know when. It may be tomorrow or it may be any other day within the next three weeks. I shall send Lieut. Treat. Hogans will also be of the party. I hope you anticipate having a good time when I come home as I know I do and I trust our anticipations may be fully realized. I shall not write again unless I find I cannot go.

Thursday. From information just received, I think I shall be able to start home next Tuesday or Wednesday. This will bring me home on Friday or Saturday as it takes four days from here. I ought to have had a letter from you this morning but did not. If I could only be at home tomorrow, what a Merry Christmas we would have. The birds are singing beautifully this morning so you may judge what the weather is.


Letter 39

[Murfreesboro, Tennessee]
Tuesday, December 28, 1863

My Dear Wife,

The whole program “is busted.” I got all ready to start home tomorrow. An order has just arrived saying I must not go as I was the commanding officer of the regiment. I am terribly disappointed. I have been counting the minutes for ten days past when I should be able to see you. I send this by Hogans who will tell you all the news. Write immediately. The Lord only knows when we shall met again.

— Frank

I have sent to Washington for a leave of absence which there is about one chance in a thousand may be granted.


Letter 40

Murfreesboro [Tennessee]
January 1st, 1864

My dear Daughter,

I received a letter from you some time since but did not answer it as I expected to go home but have been woefully disappointed. This however does not prevent my wishing you a very Happy New Year which I have no doubt you will have. As for myself, I do not expect much joy for a year to come, or at least, until the war is over. You must tell me all about your New Years and Christmas presents and what you all did for amusement. I have no doubt you have had very “high times” and I expect you have nearly set your mother crazy. I expected to have gone to the next military post today to a New Year’s party that I was invited to, but it is so awful cold I did not go. The weather has been warm and springlike until last evening when it grew very cold so fast. Several soldiers from an Indiana Regiment froze to death before morning. It seems as though I had never seen a colder day in Wisconsin than we are having here today. Our soldiers who are out on picket duty suffer very much. I am afraid some of them will freeze to death tonight.

I see by the Monroe Sentinel that you have had a school exhibition in our district. I suppose you were on hand as usual to take a distinguished part. How does your mother manage to get along with little George now-a-days? It used to be as much as she could do to “stand it” with him. How I would like to spend an evening lounging on the sofa listening to your playing and singing and have all the other children playing around. Of course I should want to have your mother around not very far off. Hoping that you are very kind and affectionate to your brothers and sisters as well as to your very kind mother.

I am your affectionate father, — F. H. West


Letter 41

Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Wednesday, January 6, 1864

My Dear Wife,

I am very anxious to hear from you but do not expect to before Sunday. I am most afraid some of you have frozen to death as I see by the papers that you have had most extreme cold weather since New Years. It still continues quite cold here. Everything is so very dull here. It is enough to kill a person to stay here. I am in very much the same state of mind now that a certain young man was who was in the pinery some fifteen years ago and who came all the way down to Monroe over horrid bad roads to see a certain young lady that had nearly set him crazy. I feel as though I would travel to the ends of the earth to see that same lady now.

I have just sent another application to Washington for a leave of absence. It will take about twenty days to get an answer. I have but very little idea that it will be granted and shall try hard and not make any calculations on going but you need not be so very disappointed if you should see me the last of the month or the first of February. And you certainly need not be disappointed if you do not see me at all.

I have got the promise of being sent to the front in the Spring if there is any chance for a good, active campaign. I shall not think of leaving the army until it is over. I think I will not send this or write more until I hear from you.

Thursday. It’s cold and snowing today. It is too cold to snow hard. I am afraid you will be buried up in snow. Capt. Burns and Vliet with six sergeants started home today as a detail to bring down drafted men. As there are no drafted men to bring, it only amounts to a leave of absence to go home and have all expenses paid. This was the detail I expected to go on but had to send the papers back and have them made over again with someone else’s name on. It renewed my homesickness to see them starting off. I feel as though I must see you before we start out for the Spring Campaign. There is a bare possibility that my leave of absence may be granted by General Thomas at Chattanooga and not be sent to Washington in which case I might be at home by the 16th or 20th but as I said before, I do not expect to go at all and I only write about it so that in case I should happen to go, you would not think I intended to surprise you and you need not delay writing to me a day at any time on account of supposing I may come home.

Friday. Not getting any letter from you today, I have concluded to send this without waiting any longer. I suppose the trains have stopped running on account of the snow. I hope you have got someone to get wood and keep up fires on. I am sure you will freeze to death in that cold house.

The castle we stop in here is the coldest place I ever was in. There is a large old-fashioned fireplace in every room in the house, in each of which we keep the biggest fire that it is possible to but the rooms are so large and airy that it is impossible to keep warm. We have the whole house to ourselves now. The Adjutant has gone to Nashville to attend a great military ball that was to come off there last night. I don’t think they were able to get any of the Tennessee belles to attend.

I shall expect some very long letters from you soon. Of course you will send your regular monthly statement of accounts the first letter. Also statement about taxes. It is as cold as ever today but there is not snow enough for sleighing. Every third day I have to visit the pickets in a line seven miles long. It is not very pleasant this cold weather.

Devotedly yours, — F. H. West


Letter 42

Louisville, Kentucky
Thursday, February 4, 1864

My Dear Wife,

I arrived here yesterday afternoon all right and put up at the “Gault House” here. I found Maj. Generals Grant, Rosecrans, Hunter, Crittenden, McCook, Stoneman, Commodore Porter and a host of lesser note were stopping so I concluded to stay over a day and draw my pay and see the sights generally. Different bands were serenading about the house nearly all night on account of some of the distinguished guests.

I have drawn my pay to the first of February (3 months) and sent it all in a draft to the Bank of Monroe. It amounted, after deducting for my absence, to $448.31. There is no snow this side of Chicago. Here the mud is knee deep. I shall go to Nashville tomorrow and to Murfreesboro Saturday when I hope to find everything all right. I am sure I shall feel very much better for my visit but it would have been much more satisfactory if I could have stayed a week longer. I would have some photographs taken today but as I have no straps on my coat, I shall let it go.

Hoping to hear very often from my precious wife, I remain as devoted as ever, — Frank

Encourage land sales as much as possible whenever you have a chance. I am going to be very economical myself now to make up for past expenses.


Letter 43

Murfreesboro [Tennessee]
Tuesday, February 9, 1864

My Dear Wife,

I went from Louisville to Nashville on Friday where I remained until Saturday evening when I rejoined the regiment here. I found everything all right except that the regiment is very scattered on detached service of one kind or another. We have only had the one case of small pox—Lt. Fayette—and he has got well. I have been very busy since I got back in getting matters straightened up.

We have all got mustered in our new grades of office so we are all right on that score. The weather is very fine. People are making gardens. There has been no frost since I left. It was to bad that I could not have remained at home a few days longer at least. I was so frustrated that I ever realized that I had got home until the evening before I started back. If I could have remained after that, I should have enjoyed it very much. It seems as though I had hardly set eyes on any of you. And then to think, we never visited one of our friends except at Fred’s. It is a great pity you could not come down here and enjoy this beautiful weather. There are a number of officers wives here now. they appear to have fine times riding round on horseback. If we remain here, you must come down in the spring before the weather gets very warm. The trouble will be, however, that by the time you get your garden made, it will be hot enough to roast eggs here.

Tell Lou to write to me soon. I anticipate so much pleasure with her and I hardly saw her. And then I feel so bad to think that I did not “pet” my dear precious little wife more when at home, but next time I go home it will be for a visit and not on business. Do try and write often to, — Frank

If you come down here, you must bring George as he is so small, he will not cost anything.


Letter 44

Murfreesboro, [Tennessee]
Monday, February 15, 1864

My Dear Wife,

I have just received your long interesting letter of the 7th with vignette of my precious wife enclosed. You have no idea what a fascinating charm the word “wife” has for me. I never see it in print without emotion which causes me to pause and take a second long look at the precious word. I think the vignette a very beautiful likeness but you will excuse me for not returning the photograph for I am in love with that also. I like it on account showing the form.

Everything is quiet here with no prospect of our leaving. There is no case of small pox in the regiment and never has been but one. The officers had a big supper on the occasion of my assuming the “eagles.” Everything went off very pleasantly. Dr. Thomas has just sent for his wife to come down. I think you can come down if we remain here.

I return the deed direct to Judge Dinwiddie. Mark on the real estate book the twenty acres sold, it being “20 acres next the South 10 acres on the South end of the West half of the NE Quarter of Section 25, T1, R7.” Nothing has been done yet in regard to chaplain for the regiment as seven of our captains are absent on duty at present. Elder Morris had made an application. I think I shall tender it too Mr. Fairbanks, however, you need not say anything about it. Keep my memory fresh in the minds of the children.

Our photograph man has moved away so that I do not expect to have a chance to have my likeness taken. I have not heard from the money I sent to the bank yet. — Frank


Letter 45

Murfreesboro [Tennessee]
Tuesday evening, February 23, 1864

My Dear Wife,

I have not written for eight or nine days because I was expecting every day to hear from you. I have had but one letter since I left home and that was dated the 7th. Neither have I heard anything from the money that I sent to the Bank from Louisville on the 4th. I am afraid it is lost.

As there seems to be a prospect for our remaining here through the summer, I have a great mind to go into the cotton speculation. Immense fortunes were made last year in raising cotton on abandoned lands. The cost of raising a hundred acres is from four to five thousand dollars, and an average crop at present prices brings fifteen or sixteen thousand. Of course there is some risk to run from guerrillas and rebel raids, but I do not think the risk very great here. We are about making up a company of four persons with a cash capital of twenty thousand dollars ready only with which we expect to raise six hundred acres of cotton (paying a little of the expense of raising out of the crop). If everything is favorable and crops good, we expect to make sixty thousand dollars. Mr. Colwell is one of the firm and is to do all the business. The rest of the firm are all army officers and of course cannot give the matter any personal attention, and only put in their money and let Mr. Colwell do the work under a salary. We have not fully. determined on the matter yet but expect to decide one way or the other within the next three days as we have to commence operations immediately if we do anything at all. If I go in, I shall have to sell the bonds and scrape up everything to make up my five thousand and get it down here at once, as most of the expense has to be incurred at the outset in buying teams, took, provisions, &c.

The weather has been very fine the past week and I have taken long rides nearly every day out into the country and visited the planters and taken items generally on matters and things. If I remain here you must come down as early as you can prepared for a long visit when we will have a glorious time riding around the country. I have got the nicest saddle horse for a lady to ride you ever saw and John is already fixing him up for you to ride. I tell him that you never ride on horse back but he insists that you will if you come down. So you must bring a riding dress and hat. I can get a side saddle here.

The 22nd [Wisconsin] Regiment is to leave here in two or three days when we shall have to leave our fine quarters here and move up into the fortifications where they now are and live in tents, but if you come down we will go in town and board at some private house. How soon do you think you could leave home and for how long a time? I should not consent to your coming to stay less than six weeks. I don’t know how in the world you could ever get here without someone to come with. I should expect to go as far as Louisville after you, but I don’t know how you would get that far. It takes two days now to get from Louisville here. It is two days and one night’s travel from Monroe to Louisville. Perhaps there will be someone coming down that you can come with.

Wednesday eve. No letter from you yet but I expect one in the morning as I am told a large mail came in tonight. We made arrangements for our cotton speculation today and commence work with fifty niggers tomorrow morning. So you must make calculations on sending me all the money that we can possibly raise. I will write to the Bank folks about it in a few days. You need not mention anything about it in Monroe (I mean the cotton speculation). I wish you would see Mr. Carpenter and ask him to get in all he possibly can as I want to use it all at once in some speculation down here. You need not know what it is. I hope you will sell some more of that land. Write me what you get on the division of you land. The 22nd [Wisconsin] Regt. left here today.

Thursday morning February 25. Yours & Louis’s letter of the 14th I have just received. It seems to take about ten days for a letter to get down here lately.

I will answer Luty’s letter soon. We shall not move into the fortress at present—perhaps not at all.

I cannot get over mourning over my not being able to make more of a visit while at home. I want to see you all worse than ever now. The next time I go home I hope I shall have a chance to visit all my old friends. Don’t fail to tell me all about what you think about coming down and when. Now is the time you ought to be here—it is so very pleasant. But you don’t see how you could leave very early in the spring unless you got Mary Ann to see to everything for you. — Frank


Letter 46

Murfreesboro [Tennessee]
February 29, 1864

My Dear Daughter,

You all seem very slack about writing since I was at home. I have not received any letter since yours of the 14th. I was very glad to hear that Mr. Emerson had got home in such good shape. He had been gone nearly five years. I would rather die at once than to know that I should have to remain away from home so long a time.

There is a general movement of troops in every direction and great activity prevails in all quarters. My regiment is not ordered to move yet but the regiment is being got together—those companies that were stationed at other places being ordered to report to me. We may be sent off to some other place any day. I have been making great calculations for your Mother’s making me a visit but from the enclosed notice which I clipped from the Louisville Journal today, I am afraid she will not be able to get down here. Still, if we remain here, I think I can get her a pass.

The weather has been very unpleasant for a few days. High winds and a great amount of dust until today it has rained all day. I presume we shall have much unpleasant weather now for some time. I am afraid to have you go to Charlestown for fear I shall not see you again for a long time. I want you to ride I horse back every chance you can get so as to learn to ride as I am making calculations on having fine times riding with you when I get home.

I am very anxious to get a letter from your Mother, hoping she will express a desire to come down here immediately. She might come with Capt. Treat when he returned but she must not start without first having a pass from here and I do not want to send one until I know when she wants to come. We have just sent five hundred dollars to Boston to buy a set of silver instruments for the band. When they arrive, we expect to have some very fine music. I [wish] you could be here to take a ride with me out to the plantation and see all the “little & big” niggers at work preparing the “cotton land.” Give my respects to Mr. Emerson. I don’t know of anyone that I would rather see than him.

Your affectionate, — Father

Tuesday morning. I have just received your Mother’s and the girl’ letters of a week ago last Sunday. Will answer them soon.


Letter 47

Murfreesboro [Tennessee]
Wednesday, March 2d 1864

How terribly slow the mails are lately. Your letters are forever coming. I have received but two from home since I left. I am sure you must have written several. Going home has spoiled me entirely. I feel as though I could not live away from you and if you don’t come down very soon and stay with me, I am sure I shall die with a broken heart.

You must not write anything but the most affectionate letters. A cold, formal kind of letter reminds me too much of the first letter that I ever received from a certain young lady long ago.

My regiment has been divided up again today which does not look much like ever getting away from here. Two companies have been put into the forts to man the big guns as heavy artillery and one company—Co. B—is placed on horseback as mounted infantry. They are to scour the country for guerrillas. Lt. Col. Rogers was thrown from his horse this morning and had his face pretty badly jammed up but is not seriously injured.

I have written to the Bank to send me all the money on hand and also to sell 800 hundred of the bonds and send the money. I shall also have to sell the other bonds after awhile in order to carry on the cotton “crop.” I am bound to “make a horn or spoil a spoon.” 1

Friday. I have waited a couple of days in hopes to hear from you and see what you thought about coming down soon—say the first of April with Capt. Treat and Mrs. Stephenson. If I knew that you would want to come, then I would send you a pass. I suppose, however, the Captain could get you a pass on arrival at Louisville. However, you must not come at all unless you think you can leave for a long time as well as not and come put up with very rough camp fare. I presume it would be much more agreeable for you to stay at home. Perhaps you will think you can not leave so early in the spring. You must use your judgement about these matters. Of course it would be a great delight to me to have my precious little wife with me but it would be so disagreeable for you to live here it might seem like selfishness on my part to ask you to come.

The weather is windy and unpleasant lately. I see you are not inclined to write but once a week lately so I shall adopt the same rule, much against my inclination however. — Frank

1 Frank has stated the idiom incorrectly. It should be “to make a spoon or spoil a horn” which is to achieve or accomplish something, even if it ruins something as a result. This of course is an allusion to the former use of cattle horns for making cutlery.


Letter 48

Murfreesboro [Tennessee]
Monday, March 7, 1864

My Dear Em,

I received from Mr. Hogans a precious little note from my precious little wife although written long ago (February 22nd). I was delighted with it because it expressed the deep affection that my darling wife has for her husband.

About one hundred of our new recruits have arrived here at last, as has also Dr. Ball. The Dr. is going to send for his wife soon. I am surprised that you do not say more about coming down. I suppose you could get Mary Ann and Harriet to move up and keep house for you. It is a big undertaking for you to leave home as you are situated and must do as you think best about it, but it seems to me that as we have but so short a time to be together on this earth at the most, that we ought not to be separated a moment that could be avoided. As for the expense, I do not care to save a few dollars at the expense of happiness which ought to be one great object in this life.

The weather for some time back has been wet and unfavorable for farming operations and we have got very little done on our plantation as yet.

Tuesday morning. I have just received yours of the 29th and March 1st. Why don’t you direct to Murfreesboro and not too Nashville? Where time is given on land, I would prefer to give a contract (or bond for a deed as it is called) to giving a deed and taking a mortgage. On mortgages there is no escaping being taxed “out of existence.” I am tired of paying all the taxes in the country which is one reason I am so anxious to sell the land but in this case it cannot be changed now. I also dislike having the payments run so long (four years). Two or three years at the outside is long enough. I want it so it can be closed up some time. As to who does my writing when I am at home, you might have told Mr. Shobor that I did it myself. He can get anyone he chooses to do it making the parties purchasing pay all expenses, which arrangement I made with him when I was home. Recollect that the interest on all dies must be paid annually and always be stated in the notes or contract.

If Mr Foster wants fifteen acres, tell him or Mr. Shobor (or both) to fill up a couple of contracts as he wants it and send them down for my signature. One year is as long time as he will want for payment I suppose. It is long enough for a little amount like that.

I wish you would ask Fred to try and sell those two forty-acre lots in Section 29 in Monroe. He can sell them to some Irishman by trying price $6.25 per acre. John Drumney wants to buy some land. See if you can sell it to him. It is very cheap. I am also anxious to sell any that I have in Section 32 (Monroe) for 12.50 per acre. Sell the large piece at Hurlbut’s for $250 and the small one for $150 if you have a chance. I guess you will think you have got business advice enough for once.

Our Spring Campaigns do not open very favorably so far but I am greatly in hopes we shall come out all right yet. I wish you would not be so saving of paper when you write and do find time, my dear wife, to write very, very often to your devoted husband, — Frank

When I get a letter from you, I count the hours that it will probably be before I get another one. [Rest of the letter is missing]


Letter 49

Murfreesboro [Tennessee]
Friday evening, March 11th [1864]

My Dear Wife,

My heart leapt with joy this morning when the post master handed me one of your familiar envelopes but I was sorely disappointed on opening it to find nothing but a horrid congressional speech. Do not squander any more stationery in sending me such things for I never shall look at them. If you had sent me a piece of blank paper with nothing but you own name on it, it would have been much more satisfactory. If you don’t write oftener, I am going to stop writing entirely and see if I cannot for get you entirely.

Mrs. Dr. Thomas arrived tonight. I have not seen her yet. I am very anxious to hear that you want to come down immediately although I don’t know where you would stay if you did as we commenced moving into the Fortress today and shall all move tomorrow when I shall have to move into my small tent or put up some kind of a little shanty to live in. However, I suppose you would be willing to stay in a tent a few days for the sake of being with your husband. The weather is very pleasant again now and Mr. Coldwell is getting along finely with his plowing.

Saturday morning. I have just seen Mrs. Thomas and she has given me a glowing description (which she is capable of doing) of her visit to you. I hope you [enjoyed it] as well as you could. I am delighted to learn from her that you are anxious to come down. I shan’t have a moment’s happiness until you do. Let someone else see to the garden or let it go entirely (I expect you must think I am getting reckless which is a fact). She tells me that Freddy has had a terrible fall and broken his nose. If you can get Mary Ann to keep house for you, you will be all right. You must have the Bank save you enough money for expenses. I want you to bring me a pair of No, 8 slippers, half dozen pair white cotton socks, 2 handkerchiefs, and a fine comb. Bring a plenty of traps for yourself. You must not try to come alone. I think Capt. Treat will come about the 1st or 10th of April. How good it would have been if you could have come with Mrs. Thomas. She said she would write you today and tell you what to bring. I suppose you will bring George with you and possibly Willie but I am afraid it will make too much trouble and too much plunder to bring more than one. You can do as you like, however.

We have got neither spoons, knives, dishes, bedding or anything else here and consequently not very well provided for keeping many boarders. We can hardly get enough to eat here now o keep soul and body together. Don’t you bring any boy down here without having him fixed up in good shape so that I will not be ashamed of him. It is probable that I will send you a pass in a few days. If you come with [paper torn]

…Don’t lumber up your trunk with anything to eat except what you want for lunch on the road. I wish you had my carpet sack but you can get one. Perhaps you can make arrangements with Mrs. Dr. Ball to come together. Your horse is getting so wild and [ ] that I don’t think you can ride him. I shall expect you to stay a long, long time. I am glad to learn that Mr. [James] Bintliff is made Colonel of the 38th [Wisconsin] Regiment.

Give my love to the young ladies. Miss Louise does not write us often as she promised to. Mrs. Thomas was greatly pleased with the “little dame.” Don’t ever have the boys hair cut short again. I think I have made suggestions enough for once. So hoping my dear little wife will write every day or two that I will know what her arrangements are. I remain her devoted, — Frank

Bring me a long, long-sleeved, lose linen cambric coat or something as near the description as you can get.


Letter 50

Murfreesboro [Tennessee]
Sunday, March 20, 1864

My Dear Wife,

I have an opportunity through the kindness of Capt. Vliet who starts for Madiso today to send you a line which he will mail at Janesville. He will also endeavor while at Nashville to get your pass extended until the 10th of April in which case he will send it to you with this ( sent you a pass yesterday go to March 30th). The Captain has some expectations of returning to the regiment immediately in which case he says he will go out to Monroe and escort you down if you have not [already] got an arrangement to come with Capt. Treat. So I think your chance to come with one of them is good. You must be ready to start on a moment’s notice. If my friend Capt. Vliet comes out to Monroe, you will entertain him the nest you can at our house. He will consult with Capt. Treat at Madison and make arrangements for you to come with one of them. Can’t you get Elizabeth to take care of some of the children while you are gone? I have got everything nicely fixed for you and expect you to bring both boys and stay three months and let everything else go.

Dr. Abbott came last night. I was down at the cars quite certain that you would come with him. You can “farm out” most of the children so as to nearly break up housekeeping for the summer. I received yours of the 12th this morning. Nearly all the officers are trying to get their families down here.

Dart around lively and be on hand ready to start. Charley is still in hospital quite sick with neuralgia. — Frank

If you are not here by the first of April, I shall be badly April fooled.


Letter 51

Nashville [Tennessee]
Friday evening, June 10th [1864]

Dear Wife,

The regiment came in in fine style yesterday about two o’clock and went into camp in their “pup” tents since which it has rained nearly all the time and this afternoon it has fairly poured down, nearly drowning the boys. I have pitched my tent and moved in. We have got fairly established on provost duty. Company B take charge of the military prison. We will all have to work constantly. Mrs. Thomas has not got a house yet. She has got house “on the brain” and does not talk of anything else. I have got perfectly sick of hearing of it. She and Mrs. Stephenson are thinking they will have to go home.

I wish you had stayed a day longer. We had a grand celebration, illumination, &c. at the Saint Cloud last night in honor of the nominations. Gov. [Andrew] Johnson made a speech. Mr. Leeber and Elder Miner came down here today on a Sanitary [Commission] expedition with stores for the soldiers that went from Bruc___. General Wonder left for home this morning. If you had waited a day, you would have had company, but I think you will get along all right.

Tell Billy his gun came through all right. I am going to send it to him if I have a chance. I expect the boys will both want to come back bad enough. Give my love to the girls and tell me all about how you found Little Fred and the Little Dame. I am horrid lonesome since you left.

Affectionately yours, — Frank

If it does not stop raining soon it will ruin the cotton. Mrs. White charged me sixteen dollars for what we stayed there. Pretty steep.


Letter 52

Nashville [Tennessee]
Saturday, June 18, 1864

My Dear Wife,

I have just received yours of Monday announcing your safe arrival home which was a great relief to me. I wish you could send us some of your cool weather for it is hot enough here to kill a person. The men are still laying out with their “pup tents” and many are getting sick. We shall have barracks built in a few days out beyond the prison where there is a fine spring and plenty of shade. There is to be a large [prisoner] exchange camp built there which it is intended at present to place under my command. We shall be fitted out with new guns and equipments and dressed up in fine style for fancy duty—a kind of duty by the way that does not suit my taste at all. I had much rather be out in the field. The Lt. Col. & Adjutant have consolidated their mess with mine with Kate and Jane for cooks (Kate is a first rate cook) and we are living first rate. I wish you had stayed here and had Joe and Ellen made us their visit here. I would like so much to see them but you will certainly be much more comfortable at home this hot weather.

Mr. Caldwell was up yesterday. Says we have got the best cotton there is in Tennessee. The price of everything has gone up so lately that the expenses are enormous and is going to take everything I can rake and scrape to get through with my share. But if it should come out all right, it will bring a “pile.” I enclose a slip from the paper to show you the unpleasant job we had to do yesterday.

I am sorry little Fred did not care to see “his Ma” after she had worried so much about leaving “the poor little fellow.” Why did not Lutie come home with Aunt Nell? What do they say about her? Love to all the children.

Affectionately yours, — Frank

Mrs. Thomas says she has something funny to write you.


Letter 53

Nashville, [Tennessee]
Friday, July 1st 1864

My Dear Wife,

I have just received yours of last Sunday and Monday. I am glad you are homesick and want to come back here again. I think I will get a furlough for John in September so that you can come back with him.

Our big camp arrangement has “busted” are are going to move back near the prison again tomorrow. It is so very hot I am unable to stir at all. It seems as though I Neve could live through three months of such weather. I have heard nothing from Mr. Shobus but am in hopes to as the cotton expenses are so enormous I must have more money. I shall send today to have the other bonds sold. The cotton is growing splendidly, It is knee high and will be in blossom by the middle of the month. We have great difficulty in procuring food for the Negroes at any price.

Capt. [John B.] Vliet [of Co. I] 1 was captured by the Rebs on the 18th of last month since which he has not been heard of. He was near Acworth, Ga., in charge of beef cattle at the time of his capture. Capt. [Edwin A.] Bottums’ [Co. K] resignation was accepted yesterday.

I shall answer every letter that you write instantly so you can have me write as often as you please. I have not heard from Lou since you left. As Willie is the only one that thinks enough of his Pa to send him any word, I send my love especially to him and generally to all the rest. as ever, — Frank

Dr. [James M.] Ball is very uneasy about his family. He has not heard from them since the evening they arrived at Judd.

You have no replaced that photograph you were so kind as to give to Mrs. Murray yet.

1 At the start of the American Civil War, John Black Vliet enlisted as a volunteer and was commissioned captain for Company I of the 31st Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers. He served throughout the war, including briefly visiting Fort Leavenworth, and was taken prisoner of war in 1864. He later escaped, was wounded, and was in early 1865 commissioned as lieutenant colonel of the 50th Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers. After mustering out in August, Vliet started for Lawrence, Kansas. Once there he presented himself to General James Lane and was quickly engaged as chief engineer of the Leavenworth, Lawrence, and Fort Gibson Railroad, later renamed the Leavenworth, Lawrence, and Galveston. By 1870 Vliet was engaged in surveying for the Paola and Fall River Railroad and thereafter he returned to Wisconsin.


Letter 54

Nashville [Tennessee]
Thursday, July 7th 1864

My Dear Em,

I thought I would not write until I got a letter from you but I have got tired of waiting and cannot resist the desire to write any longer. I have not a thing in the world to do and it is so very lonesome out here that I can hardly live. I spend most of my time reading.

The weather is so very warm it is almost impossible to stir. I have not seen Mrs. Thomas since she went to the hospital. Mrs. Stephenson is here in a little tent. The Major is trying every way in the world to get her to go home but it is of no use. She is more amiable and agreeable than ever. I suppose you will have learned by the time this reaches you that Dr. [James M.] Ball has resigned and gone home. He started yesterday morning. He has been running down ever since his wife left. I meant to have sent you. a paper containing an account of the celebration here on the 4th but they were all gone before I could get one. All the troops here turned out in procession. The 31st had the post of honor in the advance and your humble servant being the Senior Officer present took command of the whole.

We wee invited out by the mayor and council of the city who represent that the citizens were all a going to turn out and have a big time. But “nary” citizen showed his rebel head. They were all denned up as still as mice. A paymaster is here to pay off the regiment.

There is a constant stream of wounded and used up men and officers coming back from the front. I am satisfied from what I can learn from them that Sherman’s losses are more than double what they have been reported and that his army is vanishing like dew (this kind of news however is contraband). I have no doubt, however, but that he will succeed in taking Atlanta. The campaign is frightful both here and on the Potomac.

We have a couple of guerrillas to hand tomorrow. It is very unpleasant business. I would much rather kill them in a fight in the woods.

I shall go down to Murfreesboro next week to see how the cotton gets along. The weather seems very favorable for it. We have plenty of fruit now—ripe apples, blackberries, &c., as well as all kinds of vegetables, so we are in no danger of starving here. Gold is getting so very high, or rather paper is getting so very low, that I do not feel as anxious to sell land as I did. I do not want to sell unless I get a big price unless it is some poor price.

Give my best regards to George & Susan as often as you write them. What discoveries did George make in Kansas? How do you feel about coming down here again in the fall? If you come down, perhaps I will go home with you by the way of New Hampshire and get Louise.

Friday 8th. I expected a letter today but I did not get it. Capt. Treat hung the two men this morning according to agreement. Killing men seems to be a very trifling matter now-a-days. Tell Willie to write me a letter. Give my love to all the children and see if you cannot find time to write oftener to your, — Frank


Letter 55

Nashville, [Tennessee]
Monday, July 10, 1864

My Dear Wife,

I have not heard from you for ten days and am getting very much alarmed thinking you or some of the children must be very sick. We are relieved from duty here and ordered to the extreme front, We go by cars on Wednesday. We are assigned to the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 20th Corps, Army of the Cumberland—all of which description you must put on the address of your letters in future. The last report I had from our brigade they were seven miles from Atlanta where we are ordered to join them.

Mr. Caldwell writes me that he will have to commence picking cotton in six or seven weeks. My cream horse burst a blood vessel in his head yesterday and has bled until he cannot stand up. He will die of course. I got disgusted with the little black and traded him off for a poor grey a few days ago so I am now about out of a horse.

Tuesday morning. No letter from home yet. Mrs. Stephenson started home this morning. We leave tomorrow. — Frank


Letter 56

Nashville, [Tennessee]
July 13, 1864

My Dear Wife,

I received yours of the 6th this morning. I had become very much alarmed not having heard from you for twelve days. I am almost sorry you were not sick as then I could have excused your not writing for so long. I believe I would rather know that my dear little wife was sick than that she would neglect her husband.

If any man wants that Audrick lot for four hundred dollars inn paper money or one hundred and fifty in gold, let them have it. I do not care about selling any land at present prices and take pay in money that is not worth more than ten cents per bushel although I have every confidence that the money will be good eventually.

Dr. Peter Arndt, Surgeon of the 31st Wisconsin

We are held here a few days for the purpose of running prisoners through to Nashville, large numbers of which are being sent up by Sherman. Nearly all the boys are on the road to Louisville now. As soon as the present rush is over we shall start for the front—probably on Sunday. Mrs. Thomas will go to Darlington. Jane is going to live with Mrs. Caldwell at Murfreesboro. If anything happens to me at the front, you must get Fred or George Campbell to take that cotton contract and come down and see the cotton speculation out for you. It now promises fair to pay from forty to fifty thousand dollars for my share. Mr. Caldwell is here today and says it is all in full bloom. I have paid in $2800 so far and expect to pay in a thousand more as soon as I hear from the bank. That will take us through until we begin to pick cotton and have some ready for market.

I wish Deacon Clinton would pay you that $115 so you could have it to live on. Whenever you get that short, you must call on Fred for what he owes. I send enclosed Dr. [Peter] Arndt’s photograph.

Friday noon. We go at six this evening. I heard from our brigade last night. It was within three miles of Atlanta. I was in hopes to get a letter this morning but did not. William Brown & G___ are here. Goodbye for the present. — Frank


Letter 57

Camp near Atlanta [Georgia]
July 21, 1864

My Dear Wife,

We arrived here yesterday and found a terrific fight going on. We did not get into position in time to do anything. Neither party gained any advantage. Our brigade suffered very much losing about 500. We are busy today helping to bury the dead. We are now in the front line.

We had a bad mash-up on the cars near Kingston day before yesterday in which twelve of my men were wounded and one killed. Two or three others must be dead by this time. Lt. [Byron] Hewett & [Lt. Samuel J.] Hooker [of Co. H] are among the injured.

I received your letter of the 11th this morning. I am sorry you made little George feel bad. Give him my special love. Also give my love to all the other children. I have no time to write now. We shall have a good deal of rough work before we get into Atlanta.

— Frank


Letter 58

Camp in front of last ditch in front of Atlanta
Saturday, July 23, 1864

My Dear Em,

I have just received your very kind note of the 15th. You must not think of coming down here under any circumstances. It would be utterly impossible to get further than Chattanooga and we are nearly one hundred and fifty miles from there. We advanced to this place yesterday, driving the enemy before us. I formed the regiment on a ridge in front of the enemy works (which are immensely strong) under a most infernal screaming of shell and set them to digging themselves into the ground. In a few moments, they were all burrowed in ditches with a los of but three me—one killed & two wounded. These were shot by sharp shooters from the top of a house in the suburbs of the city. Lt. [Alexander F.] Cook [of Co. K] was one of the wounded. The other regiments in my vicinity suffered as little comparatively.

My men behave splendidly. On our extreme left east of Atlanta we suffered a repulse yesterday in which Gen. McPherson was killed, I fear we are going to have a tough time before we get the place. The roar of artillery and the rattle of musketry has not ceased for a moment, day or night, since we joined the army. As I write, the shot are constantly whistling over our heads without doing any damage. We are having it pretty rough but I never felt better in my life. Give my love to all the children and recollect that you are as ever all and everything to me. — Frank

No one at the North has the slightest idea of the immense difficulties we have encountered in conquering this country, or of the hardships our army has endured and is [still] enduring in this campaign.


Letter 59

Camp near Atlanta [Georgia]
Sunday, July 24th 1864

About the time I finished my letter yesterday the Rebs set up a big yell and made a dash on our lines directly I front of our brigade. They were handsomely repulsed with very little loss on our side. My loss was two killed and three wounded—all from Co. E. 1 Since then there has been nothing done except to keep up a constant artillery duel and sharp shooters at work whenever a man shows his head.

Today the Rebs have kept a better playing directly on my headquarters without any effect so far except wounding one Co. C man and killing four horses, all close to my tent. We find it necessary to stick very close to the rifle pits. Company B had a little fun today at the expense of their dinner. Just as the company cooks brought up their dinners and set it down outside the pits, a solid shot struck the kettles and knocked them all too flinders. The boys had a good laugh over it thinking it quite a joke.

We have had to leave all of our baggage behind and our accommodations for living are very limited. Still we shall get along some way.

Monday morning. Everything is perfectly quiet here this morning. I would not wonder if we had to lay here for a month yet. We certainly can not take their works by a direct assault and I don’t think we shall ever try it. We had a good display of fine works last night. At precisely ten o’clock every gun on our line opened on the rebel works simultaneously and kept up the fire for an hour. The night was beautiful and nothing could exceed the grandeur of the fiery shell as they screamed through the air on their way to Atlanta.

Write very often, my dear wife, — Frank

Give my love to all the children. I may not write again for some time.

1 The two killed in action go 23 July 1864 from Co. E were Sgt. Charles H. G. Bailey and Pvt. David A. Coble.


Letter 60

Camp near Atlanta
Tuesday morning, July 26, 1864

My Dear Wife,

Since closing my last letter yesterday morning we have lost but one man—Sergt. [Michael] Van Norman of Co. E, severely wounded by a sharp shooter. Shot through the shoulder. [Lt.] Col. [George D.] Rogers’ nigger Joe got a shot in the mouth knocking his front teeth out and injuring his beauty very much. Capt. [Thomas Eugene] Orton of Darlington (a brother of Harlow Orton of Madison) and one of the 3rd [Wisconsin] Regiment was killed yesterday by a shell and two lieutenants wounded at the same time. I had just been over to the 3rd making a call and had not left the group of officers more than three minutes when the shell burst in their midst.

Everything is comparatively quiet just at present. The weather has been quite cool ever since we came down and the nights are nearly cold making it very uncomfortable with our very scant amount of blankets, many of the men not having any, having thrown them away on the hot march down here.

The Rebs make a dash somewhere on our lines every night but without much effect so far. We have just got orders to be ready to move but don’t know which way yet.

Wednesday morning. We moved half a mile to the left and took a new position last night square in front of the north side of the city. Today a grand move is to be made to try and envelope the whole city. Since yesterday morning nothing but skirmishing, sharpshooting, and shelling has taken place and everything has been comparatively quite. I have had three more men wounded—all from Co. I. I had a message direct from Atlanta yesterday in the shape of a small shell that tore a big hole in the top of my tent. As it is raining this morning, it makes my house rather leaky.

We had a big mail last night and I got several letters but none from home. I believe I shan’t write any more soon unless you write oftener to — Frank


Letter 61

Union earthworks before Atlanta

[Before Atlanta]
Thursday morning, July 29, 1864

My Dear Wife,

Since writing you last we have not changed our position and have lost only one man wounded although we have been shelled continually day and night. I make the men keep close under their works which we have now got made very strong and although the “johnnies” make the earth fairly quake from their forts along immediately in front of us, they do us but little damage. The mens’ “pup tents” which are pitched immediately back of the ditch were terribly riddled yesterday. The extreme right of our Army made an advance around towards the south side of the city yesterday and had a severe fight, repulsing the enemy in three successive assaults [see Battle of Ezra Church]. I suppose by the time you get this, you will have seen Gen. Thomas’s order giving an account of the battles of the 20th and 22nd, showing how badly the enemy were worsted on those days. They seem bound to hold this place at all hazards and as their works are immense and we have not got men enough to surround them, I don’t know how we shall get them out but this I do know, they have got to be got out some way. Our shells have set the city on fire several times.

I gave you the wrong description of the brigade and division that are in. It is the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division of the 20th Corps. Perhaps this is the reason I do not get letters from you.

Give my love to the children and let me hear from you often. This is the eighth say we have been under constant fire. I begin to feel as though it was time we had a rest. Jo Hooker left us yesterday. Our Corps is now commanded by Gen. Williams.

Affectionately yours, — Frank


Letter 62

Camp 31st Wisconsin near Atlanta
Saturday morning, July 30th 1864

My Dear Wife,

We had a very quiet day yesterday. Very little done except to throw shells into the City. The Rebs kept very still and hardly fired a gun except their sharpshooters who never cease. This morning our skirmishers had a splendid little brush along the whole line of our division, capturing quite a number of prisoners. The 31st [Wisconsin] did beautifully. A squad of them made a dash on the rebel rifle pits and captured and brought in twenty-three prisoners including an officer. I lost but one wounded.

The weather is getting very hot again. We are terribly annoyed by insects. The common housefly swarm about the army in legions [and] a very small insect called a chigger pretty nearly eats us all up alive.

We don’t get a mouthful of anything to eat except hardtack and pork. I am afraid I shall get so poor the surgeons will be unable to tell when a bullet hits me. I have not had a letter from you for over a week. It seems really cruel in you not to write oftener.

5 p.m. I was interrupted this morning by a heavy skirmish in front which with shelling has been kept up all day. We have forced our skirmish lime up to within 150 steps of the rebel forts. Since morning I have had two killed and three wounded. I have just received yours of the 22nd with vignette. I see some ludicrous accounts in the papers of the capture of Atlanta, the character of the country, &c. You need not place any reliance on the newspaper reports that you get from this army. Although we have not yet taken Atlanta, we have thrashed them severely everywhere. Not less than twenty thousand rebels have been put out of the field since we crossed the Chattahoochee.

Sunday morning. Very quiet and so not a person can scarcely catch breath. Do you hear from Lutie yet? Continue to write very often. — Frank


Letter 63

Near Atlanta
Monday morning, August 1, 1864

My Dear Wife,

I write a few lines every morning and send every other day which is as often as the mail goes. We had a very quiet and very rainy Sunday. It came near drowning the boys in the ditches yesterday afternoon. We had a little skirmishing in front in which I had one man severely and one slightly wounded. We are laying quiet here now awaiting events and movements from other portions of the arm that are figuring on either flank. Our line of battle is about twelve miles long and I think we lack at least four miles of surrounding the town. Some moves are now being made that you will hear about soon that will astonish the natives some “I reckon.”

The [bank] sent me a thousand dollars from the bank sometime since which was all we had there after selling the bonds, except about eighty-five dollars which was left for your expenses. I shall have to have more money the last of September but don’t know where it is to come from. You had better write to the Clinton’s and tell them you are out of money on account of the cotton speculation and see if they will not pay that amount due. Gather up every little sum that you can from any source.

Tuesday morning. It rained heavily yesterday and it is cold this morning. Nothing going on but the usual cannonading and skirmishing. I had one man killed and two wounded yesterday. This continual picking off of men without any general engagement is very annoying. Men and officers are getting sick by hundreds. The whole army looks worn out. Dr. Thomas has gone to the rear sick which leaves us with but one surgeon when we need at least three.

We get a mail every day now and everybody gets letters but me. I am in hopes to get at least one soon. Give my love to the children. Your affectionate, — Frank

Don’t write such doleful letters. I am not dead yet although I must say that the chance for going anyway is very fair.


Letter 64

Near Atlanta
Wednesday, August 3rd 1864

I received yours of the 25th last night and was very much surprised to learn of Dr. Young’s arrival. Would give anything to see him. If you see him or Mrs. Young again, please give them my very best respects and tell them I hope to see them soon. Do not forget to alter the address of your letters from 1st Brigade, 3rd Division to 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, and also to put on 31st Regt. Wisconsin Vol. as there is a 31st Regt. from every state.

You speak of meeting me at Murfreesboro. I could get a leave to go to Monroe [Wisconsin] as easily as to Murfreesboro which is between two and three hundred miles from here but a not likely to get one for either place soon. A great many of my officers and men are laying around sick owing to exposure and lack of proper diet. We cannot get even a particle of vinegar, pepper, or anything else but wormy hardtack and salt pork.

Everything is perfectly quiet in front of us today—hardly a shot fired. From the heavy cannonading far to our right we think heavy fighting is going on there. When we first came here we were on the right of the army. The different corps have been gradually moving from the last and passing in our rear and forming on the right until we are now nearly on the left and the army in place of being on the northeast side of Atlanta are now in the north and west sides and running down south parallel with the Macon road which we are bound to have soon.

Thursday morning. All quiet. One man wounded on skirmish line last night. — Frank


Letter 65

Near Atlanta
Friday, August 5, 1864

My Dear Wife,

Everything quiet as usual. Had a day of big expectations yesterday without any results. The whole line was ordered into fighting trim and notice given that at 4 p.m. the right would make a desperate assault to capture the Macon road and perhaps the city, but for some reason the ball did not come off. But I suppose it will ere long. I had one man in Co. A very badly shot in the face yesterday. David Watts’s son of the 22nd [Wisconsin] Regiment (cousin of Capt. Ball’s) was killed yesterday.

I see the papers pronounced this a level, clear country. The fact is it is a very broken, hilly, miserable country, being a succession of sharp hills crowned with scrub, pitch pines and other brush. I have not seen a place inn Georgia fit for a white man to live in. And a more infernal country to fight over could not be imagined. There is one good thing about it, however; the men have plenty of dense shade, otherwise they would be unable to stand the heat. I would not give one good white man for all of Georgia that we have captured so far, for for all the balance of the State unless it is much better.

We are already suffering for a change of diet. I would give anything for even a drink of buttermilk (which I always did abhor). I am getting so poor that were it not for my clothes, I should be invisible to the naked eye.

Saturday evening. We got a big mail this evening and also last evening but nothing for me and I am both provided and disgusted. There is no particular change in affairs yet. We had one more man wounded. It is raining now and bids fair to be a cold rainy night.

Sunday. It is a very pleasant day and very quiet. Hostilities have ceased apparently by mutual consent. There has been three hard fights around on the railroad on our right and nearly opposite us within the last two days in which from the meagre reports that reach us I fear we get the worst end of the bargain. Evening. The mail is in and nothing for me which makes me too blue to write any.

Monday morning. Everybody about headquarters of the regiment even to the last orderly [is] sick. Nothing doing. — Frank

I wish you would jot down the incidents of the day together with your thoughts each evening and mail me every other day.


Letter 66

Near Atlanta
Tuesday Evening, August 9th 1864

My Dear Em,

After looking anxiously for a letter ten days and until I was almost sick abed with the blues on account of not receiving any, I had the joyous good fortune to receive two this evening—yours of August 1st and 2nd. If you knew what an immense satisfaction it gave me to hear from my precious wife, I am sure you would write every day while I am in this God abandoned place.

There has been several pretty sharp battles on the right without much success. I think, however, we are bound to smoke them out ‘ere long. The first ladies I have seen since leaving Chattanooga I saw yesterday standing on the rebel parapets and defiantly waving a rebel flag. We fired a blank cartridge on two of them by way of compliment but this only made them wave the more. We then sent a shell near them when they skedaddled.

The Ponder house near Atlanta was used as cover by Confederate sharpshooters until Union artillery targeted.

Today we have sent about five thousand solid shot and shell into the rebel works and into the City, with what effect the rebels know better than we do. They have not replied to our artillery at all today from which it is conjectured that they are moving their artillery. Their sharpshooters, however, have kept busy. One man in our Co. E had his nose shot off by one of them today (rather a close call).

It rains a great deal lately. I suppose it is occasioned by the great amount of cannonading. My quarters are a few steps in rear of a heavy battery that keeps “booming” away night and day. I have already got so used to it that their firing doe not disturb my sleep at night in the least.

I have not heard from Mr. Caldwell since leaving Murfreesboro on the way here. There is a poor prospect of my going after Lutie unless she should stay until winter or late in the fall when it is probable I might. We have not tasted soft bread or vegetables since leaving Chattanooga. I don’t know how much longer I can stand this kind of diet in this climate with poor water. I am feeling pretty well used up now as are a great many others.

Give my love to each one of my precious little boys and darling little girls and try and appreciate, my own dear loved one, what a great consolation it must be to me to hear from you continually.

As I write, the Rebs commenced throwing us over a few shells just to let us know that they are there yet and not all dead.

Wednesday evening. It has been showery today as usual. We could hear a good deal of fighting around on the opposite side of Atlanta on the railroad last night and this morning. It is reported that we have whipped the Rebs and got possession of the railroad. If this is so they will have to skedaddle soon.

James Van Wagenen of Monroe (Co. B) lost a foot today by an accidental shot. [Regimental record states, “Wounded 11 Aug 1864, Atlanta; left foot amputated. Discharged May 30 1865]

I have just received a letter from Mr. Caldwell. The cotton is doing finely. He will commence picking in two weeks. He has got a gin, the bailing, and rope and everything on hand ready for operations. The expenses continue very heavy. I am just going on duty for the next 24 hours as General Division Office of the Day. During the time I have charge of the skirmish line in front of the brigades (a division). Also general supervision of all matters in the division.

[in pencil]. Thursday morning. Dark, rainy and quiet. Tell me everything that is going on at Monroe and at home and do not write such little pitiful letters.


Letter 67

Near Atlanta
Friday, August 12, 1864

My Dear Em,

It is a fine warm day with a showery appearance. Nothing doing in our immediate front but a gradual noise on other parts of the line. I am quite rheumatic today from the exposure on the skirmish line yesterday in the rain. Lt. [Gilbert N.] Rogers (the [Lt.] Col’s brother), died last night of typhoid fever. I am afraid [Orville] Strong, the Sergt. Major, will go the same way. Lt. [James R.] Raynor is also quite sick. The other officers that were sick are recovering rapidly.

As I expect a letter from you this evening, I will not write anymore now.

Saturday morning. No letter yet. It is very pleasant, very quiet & very dull this morning. We seem to be making very little headway towards capturing the city. Do not try to send any box of traps for it is not likely I shall ever get it if you do. I hope you will put up a good lot of canned fruits and make a good deal of domestic wines so we will have plenty to eat and drink when I come home this winter. I shall want to make up for lost time. Does Freddy learn to talk any?

Sunday morning. No letter yet. I fear you do not direct your letters with enough care. We receive a number every day that are for the 31st Illinois and 31st Iowa &c. From the appearance it is going to be very hot today. We have escaped excessive heat so far very fortunately owing to there being so much rain. There was not much cannonading last night owing to which I could not sleep as well as usual. We have got so used to it that it is like a baby that is accustomed to being rocked in its cradle and wakes up as soon as the rocking ceases.

Love to all the children. Devotedly yours, — F. H. West


Letter 68

Near Atlanta
Tuesday, August 16, 1864

My Dear Wife,

I am going to continue writing to you if I do not get any letters from you for I am certain it cannot be your fault. If you write any letters, I have no idea what becomes of them unless they are sent to Col. West of the 21st Wisconsin. He is now at home in Wisconsin and they may be sent to his regiment and then emailed to him in Wisconsin. This is not very probable, however.

It is getting terrible dull here. On other parts of the line they are maneuvering and skirmishing to get a nearer and better position but we crowded close up to the Rebs works in the first place and have not stirred for a long time. The pickets of our brigade have made a truce with the Johnnies and they do not shoot at each other anymore but occasionally cross over and have a chat or trade a little in tobacco. This is just as well as keeping up a constant firing, which is very annoying and never attended with any “beneficial results” to either party. This skulking around in the brush trying to shoot a man in an unguarded moment is most too much like murder.

The general impression now seems to be that we shall not be able to figure the Rebs out of Atlanta but that we shall eventually have to storm them out. Our line of battle is twelve miles long reaching from northeast of the City around to the west and south and extending six or eight miles along parallel with the Macon railroad. But we are everywhere confronted by the Rebs with heavy works between us and the City. Although it would be attended with great loss, but if successful, we should be able to nearly annihilate the Rebs.

The weather continues showery.

You never write a word about Monroe folks or Monroe gossip, or the gander on the smart or cunning things that the children do, or any of those little things that I like to hear about.

We captured seven hundred Rebs on the right day before yesterday. We are catching little squads nearly every day. I learn this morning that Wheeler has cut our communications near Dalton. If that is so, it may be some time before this reaches you. Yours as devoted as ever, — Frank


Letter 69

Near Atlanta
Thursday, August 18, 1864

My Dear Wife,

I have not written for two or three days on account of our communications being cut by the Rebs and I know nothing about how soon I shall be able to send this. I feel much better on account of not getting any letters from home now that it is impossible to get than I did before the road was cut and had reason to expect them. I presume I shall get a fine lot all together one of these days. It would be much pleasanter to receive them regularly and in due time.

The weather is nearly pleasant—only a little warm. We have had very quiet times for a few days and expected our Corps to march this morning to try our fortunes in some new locality. Our artillery commenced moving out at four o’clock this morning. The Rebs soon discovering what was going on commenced shelling us with all their artillery so furiously that we had to get into “position” again as quick as possible and put ourselves on the defensive. Consequently our contemplated move is postponed for the present. Fortunately the 31st [Wisconsin] sustained no damage this morning if we except a dozen or two of “pup tents” torn up by shells (they being empty, the boys having taken to the ditch). I was on the picket line at the time as General Division Officer of the Day and had the fun of hearing the shot whistle as they flew over from both ways, not knowing which to fear most—friend or foe.

My health is much better now than it was ten days ago. Everyone, however, seems to feel week and miserable in this debilitating climate.

I have never had any letter from Lutie yet. She ought to be ashamed of herself for not writing.

I hear that the guerrillas are committing some depredations about Murfreesboro. I am afraid they will drive Caldwell out before he gets his cotton picked. I should not be surprised if Wheeler got up there again with his force. If he does, we are “gone up sure.” I wonder if I could get George Campbell to come down and spend two or three months in attending to my cotton interest, shipping it to New York, selling it, &c. I do not like to trust so large an interest in a stranger’s hands. If the campaign remains active so that I cannot get a chance to attend to it myself, I must have someone to see to my interest after the picking season is fairly at hand which will not be much before the first of October although we will have to commence picking the early bowls very soon and continue picking a little all the time. From some blunders that have already occurred, I am getting afraid to trust the closing up of the matter to Mr. Caldwell. I don’t know of anyone that I could get to attend to the business (that I would consider fit) unless per chance I could get Mr. Campbell. Of course I should expect to have to pay anyone pretty liberally for such a job. Perhaps. Dr. Arndt will be able to get out of the army and see to it. He will if he can.

Friday morning [19 August 1864]. Everything has settled down into perfect quiet again. This monotony is becoming very irksome. We had a little episode this morning, however, by way of variety. At four o’clock this morning every piece of artillery on our lines opened at the same moment and threw 25 shells each. It must have made a perfect pandemonium in Atlanta. The flash and roar of the bursting shells over the city was perfectly sublime and what made it the more pleasant for us was the Rebels never replied with a single shot.

[In pencil] Saturday evening. We are out of ink. The mail has just got through and everyone is rejoicing. I received four from you of the 6th, 9th, 12th, and Mother’s with your note without any date. Also a bag of currants and a can of jelly. The deeds I have not received. You need not take the trouble to send me any packages as I am not in want of anything more than letters. I had rather have one of your kind, loving notes than forty cans of eatables. I never had a better appetite than at present and eat my hard tack like a veteran.

You speak of sending a short. I have not received it. Do not need it. Could not carry it if I had it. Am not allowed anything but a carpet sack. What land were the deeds for? Please write more at length and explicitly.

This is a cold, dull, rainy day. We expect to move from here very soon. Movements are being [made] constantly on the right with considerable fighting in most of which we are decidedly successful. We are daily losing, scattering men all along the line by stray shot and shell which in the aggregate amount to thousands since we have been here. There is a constant wearing away of the army in this manner that you get no account of up North as they are not killed in big battles.

I am surprised at your confidential note. The reputation of one of the parties has always been very hard. — Frank

I hope you will continue to remain at home and attend to your own affairs as you always done so that not a breath of this horrid scandalous times may pass near you.


Letter 70

Near Atlanta
Monday, August 21, 1864

My Dear Emma,

No mail yesterday. The road reported cut again, however the large lot of letters that I got on Saturday made me feel so well that I can stand it a few days again without any mail. The weather still continues cool and showery. It is so cold sometimes as to be nearly uncomfortable. I am thankful we do not have the hot weather that we had reason to expect. you know it is almost impossible for me to exist when it is very warm. As it is, I am feeling first rate. The greatest hardship is our having to lay here inactive so long. I feel sometimes as though I had rather charge the Rebel works alone than lay here any longer but to get into those [works] immediately in front we would have to have ladders at least forty feet long.

Those currants are splendid. They were so damp that the sack and handkerchief that you put in was colored a bright scarlet and I guess some letters that were in the mail must have got stained some. I don’t know whether it will wash out of the handkerchief or not. Have not opened the jelly yet. We have nine in our mess now—cooks andall—so that any small not of edibles does not last long. We are getting plenty of everything now but vegetables so that we live pretty fair.

A portion of the army has truck off south on a raid for the purpose of conquering the Macon road at some point which I have no doubt they will accomplish.

I wrote Mother a long letter yesterday. Does Luty ever write to you or is she so much engaged in “bossing” her theatricals that she cannot get time. I expect she will be a very important personage when she gets back. I had a letter from George dated. the 8th. He said Charlotte was going East in a week. Did not say how long she was going to stay. If she is coming back soon, it will be a good chance for Leuty to come.

I cannot help thinking of that horrid scandal. I think it is about time you quit patronizing that fancy church. There is no religion enough in the whole church to have one Guinea Nigger. I should rather a hundred times have my head blowed off with a shell than to be in WOC place though I knew there was nothing more than talk. I hear the. mail has just come in. I will wait for the news before writing more.

Evening. I have just received yours of the 15th. Why don’t you write longer letters telling me what everybody is doing and saying? How many shade trees are alive? How the grapes are doing? What our young soldiers are about and how our young ladies put in their time? What you have for dinner, &c.?

I have just learned that we have captured both the railroads south of the east port junction and that the rebels are now taking up the rails from Atlanta to East Point and taking them over to Augusta road to repair that road which they now have possession of, we having abandoned it to make the big flank one around to the right. If we could only have a couple of hundred thousand more troops at once, we could annihilate their whole concern in a very short time and end the war in less than three months. We have got force enough now to occupy the attention of every man they can raise and if we only had two hundred thousand more we could go to Mobile, Charleston, and in the rear of Richmond—in fact, cut the Confederacy all to pieces without opposition. But I fear we will not raise that many out of the whole call for five hundred thousand more as every person North seems to be contriving every plan on earth to avoid going and to diminish their quota by furnishing niggers, cripples, or anything on God’s earth that will count without regard to the service they can perform. The only quick, sure, and cheap way to end the war now is to furnish a big and effective army for a short time where it must terminate in such a way as never to be revived again. If the dallying peace influence is allowed to prevail, it may be years before the war will end, and then only in dissolution in which case each party will have to keep a large standing army costing as much each year as it would to squelch the whole thing now if the means could be vigorously and properly applied. I would be glad to be one of a sufficient number to pay two thousand dollars each to hire two hundred thousand extra men for six months and am sure we would end the infernal war by so doing. As ever, — Frank


Letter 71

Camp near Chattahoochee
Sunday morning, August 28th 1864

My Dear Wife,

I have not written for several days for the reason that I have not had time. Last Thursday night we (20th Corps) quietly pulled up stakes and fell back here to the railroad crossing to hold our communications while the balance of the army took twenty days rations, cut loose from the base, and started off south on a rampage since which we have not heard from them. We arrived here just at daylight in fine shape, the enemy following us up at a very respectable distance. They attacked [William T.] Ward’s [3rd] Division of our Corps yesterday and got handsomely repulsed.

I am stationed out by myself together with Briggs [Bridge’s?] Chicago Battery to guard a very important pass. It is considered a very important, critical and dangerous position. We have been at work night and day since arriving and have built a thousand yards of as strong works as those around Fort Halleck [at Columbus, Ky.]. The weather is perfectly delightful. The health of the regiment has improved very much and the men are in fine spirits.

We took position on the finest cotton plantation I have seen in Georgia, or anywhere else in fact. The mansion stood on an eminence where it was necessary to place the battery, which with all the out buildings, including eight nice large frame houses for negro quarters, I was compelled to destroy—a thing I disliked to do but military necessity overrides everything else. This place like all others had been entirely abandoned by the owner.

I have received one letter from you since arriving here. Also a box of pepper for which I am much obliged although I never use the article and the army is now furnished an abundance of it.

I had one of the worst spells of sick headache last week that I ever had, but got over it just in time to make the move for which I was very thankful. [Lt,] Col. Rogers is quite sick this morning. I am afraid he is going to have a fever.

Mr. Caldwell writes me that I shall have to furnish a thousand dollars more the first of October. You must see Fred and have him pay what he borrowed and scrape in every dollar that you can from any source and have it in the bank subject to my order. I enclose two deeds which Mr. Shoban sent for me to sign. I did not quite like the terms that he made with the parties and have written him stating my terms which if the parties agree to, you are to sign and deliver to deeds, either to Mr. Shobar or the parties as he directs. If they do not comply, the deeds are to be destroyed. I require that for the twenty acres all cash down shall be paid. For the 35 acres that half or more if possible shall be paid down with balance in one year, or possibly a little to remain for two years unpaid as Mr. Shobar can agree with the party. Mr. Shobar will see you about it. I would not sell even in this way did I not want more money immediately to run the cotton business.

The weather has been so cool I am afraid that the cotton is not ripening very fast. We are in such a wild tumult, I find it very difficult to write. All are at work making every kind of defense. The enemy reconnoitered our position last evening but apparently not liking the looks of things, have retired for the present at least.

Give my love to the children. Hoping to hear from you every day, I remain, my dear wife, as ever your very devoted husband, — Frank


Letter 72

Chattahoochee
Monday, August 29, 1864

Dear Em,

I received yours of the 17th & 20th this morning. I received the Ladies Book some days since. Was very glad to get it. I wish you would subscribe for three or four of the best magazines for your own benefit and as fast as you and the girls get through reading them, send them to me.

It looks now as if we might settle down here on the defensive and remain for some time. Everything depends, however, on Sherman’s success south of here. We have not heard from the main army since it cut loose from us. General Slocum commands the 20th Corps now. We are still hard at work on defenses. When we get through, if the enemy let us alone, I expect we shall settle down and die with ennui again. I like active operations much the best. As long as there is any excitement spiced with a little danger, I feel first rate.

The weather continues lovely. Today I have some of my men cutting down a splendid orchard of peach, fig, and many other choice kinds of fruit trees that obstruct our line of fire. We can see a few Johnnies reconnoitering in front, but they have not annoyed us any as yet.

I want you to see if you cannot get that money from the Clinton’s immediately. I must have more money soon. It costs us now fifty cents per lb. for bacon and other things in proportion on the cotton farm. As soon as this campaign is over, I shall try to get up to Murfreesboro. The next two weeks must determine past all doubt whether Sherman is to be eminently successful on the campaign or a whole be a failure.

I hope you will make a good lot of wine and put up a lot of fruit and if you have any grapes, pack away a lot in kiln-dried sawdust and I will help you eat them next winter. I am in hopes to spend the winter with you at home. It is astonishing how cold the nights are here. There has not been a night for a long time that person could keep warm with less than two blankets.

Wednesday morning. I received Lutie’s letter with the few postage stamps (about one fourth as many as I have already borrowed of the boys) yesterday. I wish you would send at least fifty stamps more immediately. Lou seems to be perfectly carried away with her theatricals.

All of our labor here is lost. I have just got orders to fall back a quarter of a mile to a new and stronger position and make new works. I wanted to take that position in the first place and urged it strongly but the generals could not see the advantages of it then but now they see it. And all the consolation I get for the extra work is a remark from General Williams that I had a “better eye for a military position that all of them.”

Affectionately yours, — F. H. West


Letter 73

Chattahoochee River
Saturday morning, September 3rd 1864

Dear Em,

Everybody is excited by the good events transpiring. Day before yesterday a great battle was fought south of Atlanta in which the Rebels were badly whipped and their losses very heavy. Our loss five thousand. This compelled them to evacuate Atlanta which they did night before last, first blowing up their magazines and ammunition trains. This they commenced doing about one o’clock in the morning. It is said they burnt ninety carloads of shells and cartridges, the continual explosions of which led us here to suppose that a terrible fight was going on. Two divisions of our Corps went in and occupied the City at eleven a.m. yesterday. We are expecting to follow today.

Sherman and Hood are supposed to be running a race for Macon. If the northern people would only stand up to the work two or three months longer and furnish one half the number of men called for, we could occupy every inch of the whole Southern Confederacy in the time. From this point of view where we can see how nearly subdued the Rebels are, it seems perfectly awful to see the northern people holding submission conventions and talking about peace on any terms. I think Sherman’s great success must take the wind out of the sails of the Chicago Convention somewhat.

We had a very heavy shower last night. It is clearing off fine this morning. I received a letter from you yesterday dated the 10th of last month. Yours of the 20th received some days since is the latest I have received from you. Do not delay a day in hurrying up all collections and money matters. I must have a thousand dollars by the first of October. If we get the two months now due I can make up half of it here but we do not expect to be paid again for a long time as all the balance of the army here is eight months behind on pay and we have been paid up to the last two months. I have not heard from Caldwell lately.

The health of the regiment has improved lately. [Lt.] Col. Rogers is so as to be around camp a little. We sent some men and a team back to Marietta a few days since and made out to secure a small variety of vegetables together with a few peaches since which we have lived like princes.

Give my love to all the children accepting a large share for yourself, my precious little darling wife. — Frank


Letter 74

Atlanta
Sunday, September 4, 1864

Dear Em,

We marched in here this morning in fine style and spirits. Everyone seemed to feel the highest exultation in marching into a place that had been the object of all their ambition for so long. It is a fine, large city situated on high rolling hills and although there are but few costly buildings, there is such a profusion of beautiful shrubbery that it gives it a very beautiful appearance.

The entire business portion of the City is deserted and everything moved away. There is not a business place of any description “in running order.” In the suburbs, about one half of the houses seem to be occupied—mostly by women and children with some few darkies. I should [think] that about one fourth of the regular inhabitants were remaining.

There is scarcely a house in the City that has not been torn, more or less, by our shells. Still most of them can be easily repaired. Some few were burned. The inhabitants had places fixed like root houses in their yards where they crept in and remained whenever we were shelling the City.

It rained very hard yesterday and last night and we had a muddy tramp of it today. The Rebs built immense fortifications all around the city for us to occupy. We are now stationed on the northeast side of the City in a very pleasant place with plenty of very good houses for all the officers and shanties for all the men. I am afraid we are fixed most too comfortable to be allowed to remain long. We have got no mail for several days. It is reported that the bridge is burned at Stevenson.

It is reported here that our forces are already in Macon and that Sherman has taken a large number of prisoners. The rebellion is pretty well thrashed out in this vicinity. We have just received a big mail but nothing for me. I have got a nice little brick cottage with green blinds for my quarters. It is torn to pieces some by a shell but still very comfortable. If you were only here now, we would keep house in fine style. We are the most pleasantly situated now that we have ever been since being in the service but may have to “pull out” and leave everything before night.

Affectionately yours, — Frank

Monday. The taking of Macon was a hoax of course. Our army is thirty miles south of this.


Letter 75

Atlanta
Tuesday, September 6, 1864

It being as usual a cool, rainy afternoon, I had just laid down in my parlor for a quiet afternoon nap when I was greatly rejoiced by the Orderly’s bring me your letter of the 24th ult. with stamps enclosed. The letter must have had a weary journey being two weeks on the way.

We continue to have drenching showers every afternoon which keeps the air pure and cool. We have had neither heat, dust, or much mud since being on the campaign. The soil is a hard clay that washes off smooth ad clear in a hard rain without making any mud except in low places where cut up by very heavy teams. It is a dreadful lonesome place. I know of nothing so lonesome as a deserted city. Of course the troops are all stationed around the outside in the fortifications.

I have not heard from Mr. Caldwell for three weeks. Rumors say that Wheeler has captured Murfreesboro. If so, goodbye cotton speculation and visions of competency.

We are at work as usual fixing up our new quarters just as though we expected to remain here always. [Lt.] Col. Rogers is still sick. Lt. Lewis has sent in his resignation on account of ill health. The balance of the officers are very well.

Wednesday morning. General Sherman has just issued an order declaring the campaign closed and stating that the armies will remain in or near Atlanta for at least a month for receiving pay, clothing, and to reorganize for a new fall and winter campaign. Since the excitement is all over and we have settled down into quiet, I have become very lonesome and blue. If you could only be here to spend this month with me, how happy I should be. I mean to try hard for a leave of absence but do not expect to get it. If I do, I shall have to spend most of the time at Murfreesboro looking after my interest there. I am feeling a great deal of anxiety and apprehension about it now.

We get no papers or news from the North now. That makes it much more dreary here than it would be otherwise. Give my love to the children. — Frank

Before leaving Nashville, I got another half dozen of those photographs taken which I will send you if you want them to exchange for others to fill your album.


Letter 76

Atlanta
Sunday eve, September 11, 1864

My Dear Em,

We received the first mail today that we have had for about two weeks. I expected several letters from you but received only one—that of August 28th. You speak of sending three deeds. I have received none except two from r. Shobar some time since which are the ones you have reference to perhaps.

We have had a very busy day today. There is a great activity in the army in making every preparation for a fall campaign. We had just got our camp fixed up splendidly. Every man had a nice little shanty and I had spent the whole forenoon in making a minute inspection to see what each man wanted to fit him for the campaign when I received orders to march in fifteen minutes to go into camp in a new position about a half mile distant. Promptly to the time, the men were in line and marched out and abandoned the camp they had worked so hard to build without a murmur. They are all at work again fixing up and will soon have things comfortable. As good luck would have it, there is a magnificent house in rear of the camp which I am using for headquarters. There is a fine carriage and harness in the carriage house so we have nothing to do but hitch up and ride when we want to—that is, we would have provided we had any horses. But the railroad has been cut so long the army is out of forage and we have not got a mouthful to feed our horses on and they can barely browse around enough to keep the breath of life in them if they are not worked any.

I suppose you have seen that Gen. Sherman has taken entire possession of the city for the use of the army and ordered all other persons to leave immediately.

I hear that Rebs have been carrying on with a high hand about Murfreesboro and as I cannot hear a word from Mr. Caldwell, I expect that he is “gobbled.” I have made an urgent appeal for a leave of absence and may possibly get it very soon. In fact, I may get to Monroe before this does. Should I get it (and I expect to), if the Rebs permit, I shall go first to Murfreesboro and see how matters are there and perhaps stop there two or three days to get things in shape id there is any shape to them and then go on to Monroe to stay a few days. I wish I knew for a certainty about it so as to have you meet me in Chicago. If the cotton business is still all right, I may may go to New York. — Frank

You need not be surprised to see me any day after receiving this.


Letter 77

Nashville, [Tennessee]
Thursday, October 13, 1864

My Dear Wife,

As usual I missed connections and had to lay over a day at Indianapolis and did not arrive here until last night. We passed the 43rd at Louisville but did not see any of them. They are expected here today. This city is full of officers waiting to get back to the front but it is not probable there will be any trains through for several days. I wish I had stayed at home a week longer which I might just as well have done.

I was going to Murfreesboro today but saw a man from there who said Mr. Caldwell was coming here tonight so I shall wait until tomorrow when I shall go down and stay until the road is opened. I find he has got a little cotton in store here and considerable more which he is expecting to get through today which if he succeeds in doing, will make enough to cover all outlay. He is still picking with a prospect of getting considerable more so matters are not so bad after all. As soon as I find out more fully the condition of affairs, I will write you again. He lost two loads of cotton within seven miles of here very foolishly and simply by not obeying my instructions which makes it very provoking. The crowd here is intolerable.

Direct to Atlanta when you write. Affectionately yours, — F. H. West


Letter 78

Murfreesboro
Saturday eve, October 15, 1864

My Dear Wife,

I came down here yesterday. When I shall be able to go on [to Atlanta] is more than I can tell, I am very anxious to get back to the regiment again.

I find matters pretty badly mixed up here. Mrs. Caldwell has been sick with typhoid fever ever since I left here. She is now beginning to recover. The Negroes have all been stampeded again and hid in the woods nearly all the time I was gone but Forrest’s men have not been on the place at all and everything is comparatively quiet here now although one man was shot today on the road between here and Nashville. And three were killed within a mile of here a few days since.

The niggers are all back at work again now. We have got cotton enough inside the fortifications here together with what we have in Nashville to cover all of our outlay and if it will stop raining and the Rebs leave us alone, we will soon have considerable more. The weather is very unfavorable and heavy rains have destroyed much cotton that should have been picked before. However, if everything works well hereafter (which is much more than we can expect), we shall do very well after all the pullbacks we have had.

I suppose Lutie is at home by this time. Write me all about the wonderful things she has to tell. Very affectionately, your humble servant, — Frank West

Give my love to all the children.


Letter 79

Murfreesboro [Tennessee]
Friday October 31, 1864

My Dear Wife,

I am still waiting on the blockade, but am very anxious to get through and shall start out in a day or two and try it. My regiment is still in Atlanta and I am told that the whole 20th Corps are building winter quarters there. Ain’t we whipping them beautifully everywhere? Everything looks very flattering for a speedy termination of the war at this time. I just had a letter from Jo Briggs dated the 9th. He said Lutie was to start home the next day so I suppose she is up home now. How I wish I could see her. I am very anxious to get through so that I can get letters from home.

Mrs. Caldewell is getting some better but is still quite low. Caldwell has got about twenty thousand lbs. of cotton baled up fitted up here and if the guerrillas let him alone and he can get the niggers to pick it out of the grass, he may get nearly as much more. Then if he can get it through to Louisville, we shall make quite a good thing of it after all the fuss. We cannot get a pound of it shipped now because the government agent who grants shipping permits has been captured and taken off by the Rebels. So we shall have to run the risk of keeping it here until a new agent is appointed. I am making arrangements to continue the cotton business another year.

Excuse haste and give my love to all the children. As ever, — Frank


Letter 80

Atlanta [Georgia]
Sunday, October 30, 1864

My Dear Wife,

I left Murfreesboro on Sunday and arrived here on Friday after a very hard trip. I might just as well have remained at home fifteen days longer and then have reached here just as soon. I found two letters from you—one of October 14th saying Lou had got. home and that George was sick and one of the 16th saying he had got well again. As I read the last letter first I did not have much chance to feel bad over the first one.

The first trains came all the way through from Chattanooga yesterday. I had to march from Dalton to Resaca 16 miles one day and carry my own baggage so you can judge what would have become of Mrs. Shular’s packages had I attempted to bring them. As I had to camp in an old shed after getting through without supper. I could have found use for the edibles had I been able to get them along that far. On arriving here I found the whole brigade had gone out on a five days foraging expedition some thirty miles east of here. They came in last night with eight hundred loads of corn, some beef, sweet potatoes, several barrels of sorghum molasses, some milk cows, and divers other traps. So you see we are not going to starve right away. This is the third trip of the kind they have made all equally successful.

I find the health and spirits of the men first rate. There is not a sick officer in the regiment.

We are now ordered to send all surplus baggage, sick men &c. to the rear and prepare for an immediate campaign in the very lightest marching order possible. We shall undoubtedly make a break for some place very soon—perhaps not until after election however. Where we are to go is yet a mystery.

I left everything going on very well at Murfreesboro. I have now paid in exactly six thousand dollars to that concern; the others not so much yet. In regard to that five acres of land, I would rather have the money all paid down and not have any bother with papers. I did not bring any blanks of any kind so you will have to send me a deed to sign or blank contracts, whichever way you fix it up. Do you get any offers for your timberland yet? Tell Lou to write immediately. Give my love to all the children and continue to write very often to your worshipping subscriber, — Frank

My own impression is that we shall go to Macon and that we shall not leave until after election. And also that it will be a very rough campaign.


Letter 81

Atlanta, Georgia
Thursday, November 3, 1864

My Dear Wife,

I have just received yours of the last Thursday. I am very glad to hear that you have no more diphtheria in the family. All personal baggage of the officers of the Corps except a change of underclothing together with all books, papers, &c. have been sent back to Nashville (I am going to try and stick to my trunk) preparatory to the approaching campaign or raid. Our brigade was t have started this morning on a reconnaissance to feel for and ascertain the whereabouts of the enemy, but owing to a terrible storm that has been raging for two days, we did not go. I cannot tell now how soon we may start out for good. We shall probably cut loose from all supplies and depend upon the country for subsistence. We shall undoubtedly see rough times and probably bring up on salt water somewhere. If we don’t it the spot we intend to, we may by the resistance of the Rebs reach Charleston.

The worst feature in the whole thing will be the impossibility of hearing from home. The Lord only knows when I shall hear from you again after we start. Continue to write regularly whether you hear from me or not. Perhaps I shall get them sometime. I presume I shall have a chance to write again before leaving. I do not believe now that we shall leave until after election as all the paymasters have just got here to pay off the troops. I was careless enough not to get any rubber clothing when at home and it is impossible to get any here and almost impossible to live at this rainy season without.

You will have to fix up some kind of a verbal contract with Mr. Niles about that land until there is a chance to fix it up permanently. He must pay the taxes this fall. Dr. Arndt expected to have ben mustered out and have gone to Murfreesboro to look after the cotton but he was a little too late in sending in his papers and will have to go along with us. The arrangements made with Mr. Caldwell while I was in Murfreesboro was that the cotton was to be sent to J. G. Briggs at New York, he to dispose of it and hold 2/5 of the money subject to ny order, 2/5 to Caldwell’s order, and 1/5 to Dr. Arndt’s order. No one to have power to draw out any more than his own interest. I have paid in my full share of the stock six thousand dollars. When I left Mr. Caldwell had paid in about forty-three hundred leaving him still about seventeen hundred to pay. Dr. Arndt has paid in twenty-four hundred leaving him six hundred still to pay. This together with what is due from Caldwell it is expected will be paid in making sufficient to finish picking the crop and send it to Louisville and pay the government taxes which are six cents per pound. If [ ] ($15000.) is paid in, it may lack in the neighborhood of a thousand dollars of setting our cotton down free of all charges in Louisville. The company had ten or a dozen horses on hand, one cotton gin, some plows, hoes, harness, &c. on hand. If this property is sold and the avails used in addition, it will make ample means for everything (provided the other parties pay up). There will also be three or four thousand bushels of cotton seed that ought to be worth a thousand dollars.

I am sorry that I shall not be able to help settle the matter up as Mr. Caldwell makes a great many blunders in his accounts, being a very poor accountant. I will send you a copy of his balance sheet to October 22nd, the time I left here, together with as plain a statement as possible of his maters stand so that you will be able to get home one to settle with him if necessary. Give my love to all the children and remember how devoted I remain. Your affectionate husband, — Frank

See Solomon Roth and have him keep my suit of clothes until I know where to have them sent. I wish I had not ordered them as it is quite likely I shall never want them or if I do, not be able to get them. You might as well pay for them at once. I received the Fitzgerald letter.


Letter 82

Atlanta, Georgia
Sunday, November 6th 1864

My Dear Wife,

Corp. Asa Bailey served in Co. G, 31st Wisconsin. He received a pension for his service for a wound described in his pension file as a ruptured left groin, caused “by throwing a cannonball over his head…for exercise and [to] pass time.” (Melissa Hacker Winn Collection)

My present writing is rather unexpected to me especially from this place. At 2 o’clock p.m. yesterday we received orders to match in twenty minutes (the first intimation we had had that we were to leave very soon). The bugle sounded the march at the same time and we started leaving. Nearly everything for want of time to pack up marched out towards Macon three or four miles and camped for the night, not expecting to see Atlanta again for at least six months if at all. This morning the Rebs drove in our pickets and at the same time made such a demonstration on Atlanta which was left with a very small force for defense that we were ordered back on much less notice than we left on, and have now gone into camp exactly in out old position where we may remain a week before starting out again. Of course we were gone long enough to lose everything we left behind on leaving. I hope the next time we shall have a little more notice for preparation. I have not heard from you for some days.

The weather is very rough and cold, as much so as it usually is in Wisconsin at this season of the year. We all expect a very rough time.

Monday morning. Have just received notice to be ready to march at all times on fifteen minutes notice. So not believe we shall start until after election tomorrow. I do not expect to write again before leaving so goodbye. Give my love to all the children reserving an overwhelming amount for yourself.


1864: John Hawthorn to his Niece

This incredible letter was written by 2nd Lt. John Hawthorn (1817-1882) of Fayette county, Iowa, who enlisted on 5 September 1861 as a sergeant in Co. F, 9th Iowa Infantry. He was promoted to 1st Sergeant on 11 March 1862, and finally to 2nd Lieutenant on 6 February 1863. He survived the war and mustered out on 31 December 1864 after making the march to Savannah, Georgia—a proud veteran of the Bloody 9th whose record of service was arguably unmatched by that of any other regiment in the state.

I could not find an image of John Hawthorn but here is one of John W. Niles who served with him in the 9th Iowa, first as a sergeant and then as captain of Co. B. (Photo Sleuth)

John was married to Hannah White (1825-1880) in Wiscassett, Maine, on 9 May 1848. In the 1850 US Census, he was enumerated as a farmer in Bloomingdale, Dupage county, Illinois. In 1860, John & Hannah had relocated to Westfield township, Fayette county, Iowa. In 1870, John and Hannah were living in Lodi (Maple Park), Kane county, Illinois, where he was employed as agent for the gas works. They were enumerated in the household of his father-in-law, Solomon White (1801-1879), a local merchant.

Hannah died in 1880 and John died in 1882; both are buried in Springfield Cemetery, Garnet, Kansas. Her grave marker bears the name, “Hawthorne” though the name has been found in records as Hawthorn, Hathorn, and Hawthorne.

Transcription

Camp 9th Iowa
East Point, Georgia
September 26th 1864

Dear Niece Susie,

I have waited & waited for a letter from you ever since I was at Woodville [Alabama] last spring but no letter comes. I have written you three since receiving your last. What is the matter? Have I offended or are you like the girl that got married & didn’t live anywhere now? But soberly, every mail for five months & now I have thought now I’ll hear from Susie—but no letter yet.

I am well except rheumatism which for a month or over past has [been] troubling me considerable so that I have had hard work to perform the duties devolving upon me during the last of this campaign which has been a long and fatiguing one. Our regiment & Army Corps has been on the move 133 days out of which we have been in the front line & under fire of the Rebs 81 days and have helped fight 13 different and distinct battles from one to 25 days long.

We started the first of May from Woodville 589 strong and when we came into camp here on 10th of September, we numbered but 331. We have as a regiment lost 1 officer killed, 3 wounded—our Colonel [being] one, badly [wounded] in head [by a] bullet; over 100 men killed and wounded, 13 taken prisoners on 27th May at Dallas, Georgia. Over 30 have died of disease—2 of sun stroke, and lots of others sick in hospitals. Most of those that have died of disease were new recruits who came back with us when home on Veteran’s furlough & most of those sick since starting out & now in hospitals are all new recruits. Some of them are coming up to us now & will be ready for the fall campaign. Yesterday, 112 non-veterans mustered out—expiration of three years on 23rd—so now we are very much reduced indeed. But what we have left are good grit.

An unidentified member of Co. E, 9th Iowa Infantry—a regiment much reduced after the Atlanta Campaign but those left were of “good grit.” (Dale Niesen Collection)

In every fight, siege, &c. have we—the [9th]—come off best, fought the Rebs day by day, driving them inch by inch as it were from Tunnel Hill near Ringgold, through all their various deviations & wanderings to Dalton, Resaca, Calhoun Ferry, Allatoona Pass, Adairsville, Kingston, Dallas, New Hope Church, Lost Mountain, Pine Mountain, Big Shanty, Kennesaw Mountain, Marietta, Nick-A-Jack Creek, Chattahoochie River at RR Bridge, and at Roswell. Then at Stone Mountain, Decatur & towards Atlanta on east 20, 21, 22 Peach Orchard & Creek, on west and north by Hooker on 20 & 21st too, then at Eutaw Church on 28th July from which time to 26th August we fought, dug, and sharpshot with [the Rebels] every day, every day almost getting someone in [our] regiment killed or wounded.

Then we made the flank move to the right, cut the Montgomery Railroad near Fairburn, then on 30th drove the Rebs 6 miles with three sharp little fights & at night had them in their works near Jonesboro 22 miles south of Atlanta 31st & September 1st were two days of hard fighting but we broke their army in two, 8 miles above Jonesboro near Rough & Ready Station, taking over 2,000 prisoners, 14 guns, and on the eve of September 1st, drove them through Jonesboro. [On the] 2nd, [we] followed them to near Lovejoy Station & held them there till all our teams could collect & get within the fortifications of Atlanta when on the 7th we began to fall back slowly & on the 10th, we brought up here and have been resting & fortifying &c. as best we could & enjoying ourselves hugely on hard tack and bacon. No fresh beef.

We have given the Rebs several good killings & they say that one more good large killing, or two small ones, would be all they could stand. Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley is doing glorious work too. Old Farragut has acted well his part. Grant has fought some heavy and bloody battles though not with that success we had hoped for but we do not despair for him. He will hoe his row out yet, we believe, and compel Lee to cut bait or fish.

Gen. John “Black Jack” Logan, “Hold your fire till they come up snug & then kill them all, damn them!”

We got a report last night that Grant had had a blood fight & taken Petersburg but we hardly credit it as Grant was, the last we heard of him, looking after matters about Harpers Ferry. But we hope he may have [taken] Petersburg though we hope the loss as reported on our side may not be true of 30,000 killed, wounded, & missing & that Grant himself was mortally wounded. That would be an awful blow to the army. We would in that case fear you would be for taking our general away from us. We could illy afford to lose Grant, but to lose Sherman would cut us up bad, though we have a Thomas, a Howard, & then our Gen. John A. Logan who is a trump & loves to tread on secesh snakes of all varieties & says the best way to end the rebellion is to kill every Reb—North or South— we can get at as on the 28th July when the Rebs were charging our lines, charge after charge, & riding along our lines he [Logan] said, “They come, hold your fire till they get up snug & then kill them all, damn them! Kill every mother’s son of them! That’s the way to end the rebellion & take you home.

Now Sis, you have our moves &c. in a nut shell & soon we hope to crack the secesh shell & if extermination or the acknowledgement of their independence alone will secure peace, we hope to enrich their soil with their carcasses as at Decatur & Eutaw Church where we buried ourselves in front of our own Army Corps over 2400. In front of the 55th Illinois they buried 209 in two trenches—98 and 111. In our front we buried 97—one colonel, one major, 6 captains, and 11 lieutenants. They seemed determined on death or whipping us as Hood told them the 15th Army Corps was never whipped & it remained for them to do it or all was lost. But the 15th Army Corps still remains unwhipped & long may it remain.

We are having fine weather. All is cheerful and bright. Everything is being done that can be to put the army in fighting trim for a speedy campaign & vigorous one. The Rebs are playing hob with our hard tack line. Night before last they entered Marietta, tore up track, burned lots of supplies &c. carrying off report says quite a lot of our sick boys in hospital there & some few guards. They have been doing that kind of business for some time & this morning one division of our Corps & one battery have gone out there to attend to their cases.

I expect by & by to go home. Business calls for me loudly & I feel that I must go and I shall resign if I cannot get a furlough or leave of absence. So when you write me again, direct to Fayette, Fayette county, Iowa. I would I could go East this fall & see you all & father and mother J. but I will have to content myself with matters at home for awhile. Write me a long letter & tell me if you have been down to see the Dresden folks & how you are all going for President. I see you did nobly for Governor. May the whole Union follow your lead & put Lincoln & Johnson in the Chairs of State, that Rebels may howl & gnash their teeth for the tightening of Union measures & the downfall of their arrogant pride that “Lincoln should never rule over them, &c.”

Where is John &c. now all your good friends in your neighborhood. My love & regards to all who inquire after me so deal it as will suit best saving a good share of the first for yourself & tell Uncle G & Aunt I never got any letter from them yet & I would be right glad of a letter from your Aunt Elizabeth & will answer. Love to Aunt Baily & girls. Where is Uncle B. now? Are the Richmond folks & Aunt Polly? Do you go and see her often? I got a letter from Han & Sallie on inst. date, were well and very urgent for me to come now and stay there this winter and then I might come back but I feel that I am getting [too] old to sleep in mud and wet and cold, though I have stood it for over three years now & have not seen a day for the whole time but what I could do my duty though I have several times been somewhat under the weather.

Now dear Susie, if you wish to keep up correspondence all right & I’ll try to act my part & when I get home, I’ll get help now and then, but if other engagements take up your time & cannot afford your Old Uncle a little time to keep youth bright & life cheerful, all right. So do your best for self & I’ll try & live as long as I can see anybody & when we go under, may Jordan be crossed safely & by and by all meet where there is fullness of joy & pleasures forever more. And now goodbye. Ever be true to yourself, your country, and your God. Your uncle, — John

1864: Asahel W. Thompson to his Parents

The flag under which the 6th & 7th Arkansas fought during the Atlanta Campaign. It was captured on 1 September 1864 at the Battle of Jonesboro.

These letters were written by Asahel W. Thompson (1838-1864), the son of Asahel Washington Thompson (1800-1872) and Nancy Horton (1809-1899) of Chesterfield county, South Carolina.

According to military records, Asahel enlisted on 19 September 1861 at Pitman’s Ferry, Arkansas. He was wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863 and convalesced in a hospital at Columbia, South Carolina, until 9 February 1864 when he returned to his regiment.

Due to dwindling numbers, the Sixth and Seventh Arkansas were consolidated for the Atlanta Campaign which started in May. On September 1, the entire unit was captured at the Battle of Jonesboro but were later exchanged in time to fight at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, and the Battle of Nashville, Tennessee. Private Thompson was not among those taken prisoner, however. He was wounded in the left arm, just above the elbow, on 22 July and he died on 25 August, 1864, at a hospital in Griffin, Georgia. He was buried in the Stonewall Confederate Cemetery at Griffin. Thompson was actually a member of Co. G, 6th Arkansas, though when the 6th was consolidated with the 7th companies C and G of the 6th were consolidated and became Co. E of the 6th-7th Arkansas. So Thompson was a member of Co. E, 6th-7th Arkansas in the Atlanta Campaign.

The first six letters posted here are from my client’s collection and were written while serving in Daniel C. Govan’s Brigade, Patrick Cleburne’s Division, which has often been called “the best fighting division in the Army of the Tennessee” and the “hardest hitting division in the Confederate army.” [see No Better Officer…, by Daniel E. Sutherland] The other letters were found transcribed and posted on the Heritage Auctions website where they were recently sold.

Letter 1

Addressed to A. R. Thompson, Jefferson P. O. Chesterfield District, South Carolina

Dalton, Georgia
April 22, 1864

Father & Mother,

This short epistle leaves me well hoping it may reach you the same. This [is the] second letter I have written you since I left home. I have nothing of interest to correspond to you. Sherman are concentrating his forces in front of our army and a battle is expected soon. It is thought if Sherman does not advance on Johnston, that Johnston will advance soon.

Father, I must say something in regard to my transfer and there is not an officer from my Colonel up to General Johnston that will approve of it. Father, I think I can get a transfer from Congress or the Secretary of War as Congress meets the first of next month. I would be glad [if] you could go to see Witherspoon 1—that is, if he is not gone to Richmond. If you can get to see him and state the case to him, I think he would give me a transfer or tell you how I could get it. You would have to give him the company number of Regiment, Brigade and Division as my officer will not transfer me. I am going to try as long as I think there is any chance as I am not satisfied in my present company.

Answer in haste. Fail not. Give me the initials of Witherspoon’s name.

Address [to] Dalton, Georgia, Company C, 6th Arkansas Regt., [Daniel] Govan’s Brigade, [Patrick] Cleburne’s Division, The Army of Tennessee

— A. W. Thompson

1 Probably James Hervey Witherspoon (1810-1865) who served as a member of the CSA Congress representing South Carolina.


Letter 2

Camp 6th Arkansas Regiment
May 27th 1864

Dear Mother,

I assume my seat this afternoon to correspond to you the following. This leaves me well.

We are in line of battle in sight of the Yankees. Some heavy fighting going on on some part of the line. Some few killed and wounded in my Brigade today. One man mortally wounded in my company today. I have heard the roaring cannon & the clash of musketry for twenty days.

I am very tired. I must close as time will not admit of writing anymore. We are in thirty miles of Atlanta. Write soon. Fail not.

Address: Dalton, Georgia, Company C, 6th Arkansas Regt., [Daniel] Govan’s Brigade, [Patrick] Cleburne’s Division, Army of Tennessee

Wrote in haste. Listen at the cannon and the musketry.


Letter 3

Line of Battle, 6th Arkansas
June 2, 1864

Dear Sister,

Yours of the 20th of May is at hand & its contents. I received it in due time & read it with great pleasure. This leaves me well but very tired. We have had some hard fighting to do for the last week. Two men killed dead in my regiment yesterday. Our cases have been very small to that of the enemy’s as we fought them mostly behind breastworks. Seven is the most we have had killed & wounded a day in my regiment.

We have been fighting twenty-four days. It is supposed we have killed and wounded forty thousand Yankees since the fight commenced. Our case has been very small. The hardest struggle we have had since the fight commenced was on the 27th of May [when] the enemy charged my Brigade [Gowan’s] & Gen. [Hiram B.] Granbury’s Brigade with six lines of battle which was successfully repulsed with a loss of one thousand killed on the field & five thousand wounded & several prisoners. 1 Such a slaughter of Yankees I have never witnessed before. You could stand in one place & count fifty dead Yankees. We had them to bury putting over one hundred in a hole together. Such a sight I have never witnessed before.

The front line hoisted a white flag three different times but they had so many lines we did not let them surrender. Oh! that this cruel war would stop. Our line of battle is forty miles from Atlanta. Gen. Johnston fell back from Dalton to draw them from their base. Fighting is got to be very common of night. I was in a hot fire night before last. The enemy fired volley after volley of cannon in our ranks but did not do much execution.

I must close as time will not admit of writing anymore. You must not expose my bad written letter. The cannon are roaring up and down our lines & my mind are wandering. Answer in hate. Fail not. Give me all of the news. — A. W. Thompson

to L. E. Hancock

1 The Battle of Pickett’s Mill was fought on 27 May 1864. In the battle, Sherman sent Brigadier General Thomas J. Wood’s division, supported by other formations, to turn Johnston’s right flank, but the Federals were repulsed with heavy casualties when they ran into tenacious Confederate opposition. Author Ambrose Bierce, an eyewitness, later wrote an account of the battle titled The Crime at Pickett’s Mill. Cleburne’s division reported sustaining 448 casualties, mostly in Granbury’s brigade. The Union soldiers suffered a loss of 1,600 killed, wounded, and missing. The American Battlefield Trust estimated losses at 500 Confederate and 1,600 Union. Normally, the killed-to-wounded ratio in Civil War battles was one-to-five. In this battle, the number of killed in Wood’s division was extraordinarily high, probably because many of the dead were shot repeatedly. The Confederates found one corpse with 47 bullet holes. Hazen’s brigade lost 467 casualties, Gibson’s brigade lost 681, and Knefler’s brigade lost 250, mainly prisoners. Scribner’s brigade lost 125 of which 102 were from the 37th Indiana and 78th Pennsylvania. About 70 wounded and 140 unwounded Union soldiers were captured by the Confederates. Georgia State Parks credited Union forces with 14,000 troops and Confederate forces with 10,000 soldiers. [See Battle of Pickett’s Mill]

This print of the Battle of Pickett’s Mill depicts the first volley from Granbury’s Texas Brigade into the advancing troops of Gen. William B. Hazen. Hundreds of union soldiers were cut down from less than 20 paces away. One half of Hazen’s brigade became casualties in less than 30 minutes of fighting. (Rick Reeves Studio) See HistoryNet’s article, Simply Criminal.

Letter 4

Camp line of Battle, 6th Arkansas Reg.
June 8th 1864

Dear Sister,

I assume my seat this afternoon to correspond to you the following. Yours of the 28th is at hand & its contents which I received on the 4th inst. Before I could get through reading your letter, I was called upon to go to the front as skirmishers to meet the advancing invader. Though I read your letter with great pleasure, it was filled with news to me. This short epistle leaves me well. I have nothing of definite importance to communicate to you. We are still in line of battle, some skirmishing going on every day and night on some part of our line. The enemy is still maneuvering for advantage of position but so far he has been promptly met. They are still throwing troops on our right but they do not find Gen. Johnston napping. They are trying to flank Johnston but met at ever point and successfully defeated.

Dear sister, we have been one month fighting and marching, changing our position to right, to left & right, to center, & left to center. The most of the time, day and night, we was marching or fighting. Some nights do not sleep any atall though the troops are in good spirits and confident of victory wherever they meet the invader.

I have just written a letter to Gilly Ann. Also one to Mr. Files of Hamburg. The letters will leave this evening by hand. Mr. Files is acquainted with Bro. J. Q. Files is Clerk of the Court of Ashley. I wrote to him for an answer. I am in hopes that Father’s finger will soon get well. Willy, I am glad to hear that you can feed Matchless. You must ride her to church when she gets large enough. Give Charley my address. Tell him to write to me. Also J. P. D. McLaurin is in this army. I saw him the other day. He thought that Bro. William carried his family to Texas and he did not know it to be so. Yours as ever, — A. W. Thompson

to H. F. Thompson


Letter 5

Line of Battle. 6th Arkansas Regt., Govan Brig.
June 16th 1864

Dear Sister,

Yours of the 3rd inst. is at hand which was read with pleasure. This short epistle leaves me well is the best news that I can communicate to you. I was sorry to hear that Father was sick. I am hopes that this will reach him enjoying health & pleasure. Dear sister, we are in line of battle and the enemy are in a half miles of our line of battle. Skirmishing are going on all the time, day and night. While I am writing the cannon are belching forth its war whoop from the invader in front of our lines.

We are waiting for the Yankees to advance on us which we expect them to do soon. It is thought they will advance today. They are maneuvering from the way they throw their shells.

I am sorry to inform you that Lt. General [Leonidas] Polk that commanded a Corps in this army was killed dead on the field yesterday. His left shoulder was torn off with a shell. He was killed on the right of my Division [at Pine Mountain].

I was sorry to hear the death of little Mary Watts but God giveth & God taketh away. He blessed us & five us a brave & noble general but he taketh him away and we are willing to give him up. They are so many old fields and roads I could not understand by your letter where Mary Watts was buried & I am not acquainted with Miley Sowell.

Our rations are not very plenty but we can make out on them. We get nothing but bread & meat. You must answer in haste. Give me all the news. Give Charley & J. P. my address & tell them to write to me. Give me the latest news from the 8th & 6th & 26th Regiments. If you do not get a letter every week from me, it is on account of the mail as it is not regular from here to the railroad. We are on the extreme left of our line of battle & that throws us fives miles from the railroad. Answered in haste. Fail not. — A. W. Thompson

The postage for the buttons was very high but buttons are very high & money is not worth much. Mother, you can give Aunt Wineford some of the buttons if she has any use for them as she is always making new pants. Farewell for awhile.

Address A. W. Thompson, Co. C, 6th Arkansas Reg., Govan’s Brigade, Cleburne’s Division, Army of the Tennessee, Marietta P. O., Georgia


Letter 6

Line of Battle, 6th Arkansas Reg.
June 23rd 1864

Dear Father & Mother,

Your kind letter of the 10th is at hand. I received it in due time. This leaves me well but wearied nearly out. We have been fighting very hard for the last two days. We are in full view of the enemy. They are in four hundred yards of our lines. Father, while I am writing, the balls are whistling all around me. The skirmishers are a few yards of our line of battle fighting. We are in our ditches & we have to stay in them day and night. My company have been skirmishing very hard for the last two days. The loss in my company for the last two days are one killed, four wounded, and one lost his right arm & several others struck with balls. I run some very narrow escapes but I thank God that I am one amongst the living yet.

You will see enclosed the Yankees account of their repulse on the 27th May [at Pickett’s Mill] but they was mistaken about the number of men we had engaged. Govan & Granbury Brig. was all that repulsed them. We had several wounded in the regiment & some few killed.

We are waiting for the Yankees to advance on our lines & when they do, we are confident of victory. It has been nearly two months since we left Dalton & we have been fighting & moving around from right to left, & falling back most the time, day and night. He have heavy rains every day and we have to take it as it comes.

Father, I cannot interest you as times is very hot around me with balls. You should be satisfied to hear that I am living. You must not expose my letters as I had to write in great haste & my mind are wandering. I get very little sleep at night. You must write in haste. Fail not. Give me all the news. Address as before. Yours as ever, — A. W. Thompson


Letter 7

Line of Battle Ten Miles from Atlanta
July 7th 1864

Father & Mother

This short epistle will inform you that I received yours of the 25th in due time & was read with great pleasure. My health is very good except a bad cold & cough. My leg has been a great deal of pain to me for the last week.

Father, we are [with]in ten miles of Atlanta. The two armies are close fronting each other. I have had some fighting to do since the date of my last letter. I spent the fourth of July on the skirmishing line and the Yankees advanced ]with]in seventy-five feet of our line when they received a brisk fire from our lines which made them skedaddle back. I ran a very narrow escape. We was behind very inferior works of old rails & some dirt thrown on them when a ball passed through them with full force, passing so near my head that I did not know which side it went.

Father, I was struck the other day side of my head right in my left ear but being a spent ball, it did not hurt me very bad. Had one ball shot threw my oil-cloth, wounding me, [and then] wounding a member of my company in the leg. Father I feel that GOD is with me. If not, I could not be able to pen out this letter to you knowing what I went through since I left Dalton.

The casualties of my company since we left Dalton is three killed, six wounded, one lost his right arm. Mother, I often think of your table. Our rations are bacon & cornbread. We have to fry it in our plates. I have got so I cannot eat it fried any longer. I boil some in my cup and eat but I am getting very puny as I cannot change my diet, the soldiers are using pea vines, parsley, kernels of wheat, briar leaves & many other weeds for salad. My company uses the above named for salad. The boys are nearly starved out for vegetables but they are like me, cannot help themselves. Answer in haste. Give me all the news from JP & CS. Let them hear from me. I have not time to write to them as there is fighting all the time on our front. — A. W. Thompson


Addressed to Miss Nancy F. Thompson, Jefferson P. O., Chesterfield District, South Carolina

Letter 8

Line of Battle in Front of Atlanta
July 15th, 1864

Dear Sister,

I received your benevolent and favorable letter of the 1st & the 2nd in due time. It was received with great pleasure. I have no news to communicate to you that will interest you—only that I am well. Hoping you may receive this short epistle enjoying health and pleasure.

We are [with]in four miles of Atlanta. The Yankees are fronting our line of battle but have not advanced any for several days. They know that General Johnston will not retreat any further & they are come to a halt. When they try to advance on Atlanta the bloodiest battle of the war will take place. Most of the citizens have left the city. The soldiers are in good spirits & we all think that Johnston will hold Atlanta. Gen. Bragg arrived here yesterday from Richmond.

You spoke something about the apples getting ripe. It would be a great pleasure to me if I could spend one week at home to get some fruit and vegetables though I would be satisfied if I could get a few onions to eat with my bacon, but alas I will have to do the best I can during the war. I should be satisfied that I am living. I am in hopes that Charles Norton’s wound is slight when you get the correct news, for I would be very sorry to hear of his death. Let me hear from John and Henry Knight also from the 6th, 8th, & the 26 Regiments.

I got a mess of Irish potatoes the other day which pleased me, the best of anything I have met up with in several days. Onions are selling at one dollar a pound and they are very scarce. It is the most impossible to get any vegetables about the army. I must close, answer in haste, fail not, give me all the news as all you write to me interests me. — A. W. Thompson


Letter 9

On August 11, 1864, Thompson’s father was sent a two page letter from Griffin, Georgia, from a volunteer Army missionary imparting grave news regarding the condition of his son.

Griffin, Georgia
Aug 11 1864

Dear Sir:

I drop you these lines to inform you of the condition of your son, A. W. Thompson, Co. C, 6th Ark. Regiment. He was wounded on the 22nd July in the left arm. It was broken just above the elbow and is now at the S. P. Moore Hospital in this place. He is very anxious to see you. He begged me to write to you which I do with pleasure. To be candid I cannot think from what the Dr. told me that your son will survive unless a change in his present condition. He was thought to be doing well till yesterday but since then he is growing weaker. I will write you in a day or so again & will telegraph you tomorrow or next day how your son is doing.

In the meantime I hope you will be submissive to the will of Providence—whatever that may be. We are doing all for him that can be done & the ladies are untiring in their attentions to the soldier’s wants. I remain respectfully yours, — Wm. H. Pearson, Missionary to the Army