The following letters were written by William Edgar Oakey (b. 1844) who enlisted at 18 years of age in August 1862 to serve as a private in Co. A, 127th New York Infantry. He mustered out with the company at Charleston, South Carolina, on 30 June 1865.
William was the son of Rev. Peter Davis Oakey (1816-1895)—a Presbyterian Clergyman—and Nancy Simpson (1818-1879) of Jamaica, Queens county, New York. (Note: the name is spelled Oakley at times.)
To read other letters by member if the 127th New York Infantry that I have transcribed and published on Spared & Shared, see:
Henry Blain Graham, Co. C, 127th New York (1 Letter)
John Allen, Co. E, 127th New York (1 Letter)
Lord Wellington Gillett, Co. H, 127th New York (1 Letter)
Jonathan Allen Bennett, Co. K, 127th New York (33 Letters)
Josiah Parsons Miller, Co. K, 127th New York (3 Letters)
William B. Miller, Co. K, 127th New York (4 Letters)
Beaufort, South Carolina
February 11, 1865
Having nothing else to do I thought I would scribble a few lines to you. Our boys are still to the front with a prospect of plenty more fighting to do. The rebs out there are are getting furious. They rushed in our lines last night and shot a quarter master and was stripping him when they had to leave suddenly. This they done not 20 yards from the regiment. They also rushed in and hung two boys out of the 25th Ohio Regiment but they will have to pay for it as Sherman says he will hang 5 for every one killed in that way and he always does what he says he will. They (the Rebs) do not take any prisoners. Not a single one of our boys are in their hands and to tell the truth, we do not take very many prisoners either. We will make them pay dear for what they are doing if we exterminate them in doing so. They have started this cold-blooded murder and God only knows when it will end. They have got our boys fairly roused and they will find we can be as cruel as themselves.
I think Sherman will see some very hard fighting before he leaves South Carolina. He is destroying it entirely—burning and destroying everything he comes across. He does not leave a single house nor a bit of anything for them to eat. He has about the hardest army I ever saw—no mercy or pity for anyone—every feeling hardened—and it is best they are so.
I send you a card of one of our boys—our Orderly in the office. I shall send you one of mine taken lately which was taken here—they did not cost me anything—as soon as I get them from there. My time is rapidly drawing to a close. You can begin to look out a place for me. I should like very much to go in with Uncle Crebb when I get home as poor Austin is now gone and it would be a good opening for me. Only 6 months and 17 days and if my life is spared, will be home. Chas. is well and getting along nicely. That box has never come yet. Good [bye]. My love to all. Remember me to all friends. — Will
Beaufort, South Carolina
February 18, 1865
Mr. Elemanderf has arrived and brought me your note containing the $10 for which I am much obliged. I have sent for $10 more. Please send it if you can spare it. I send you in this two of my cards. They are quite good for down here. One is for you and the other for Annie C____. I also send you one of Webb’s from a proof he had taken about 6 weeks before his death. They are considered by those who knew him here as very good ones. Webb had changed a good deal since coming out here. His face which at home was always smiling became very serious out here when not engaged in talking as you can see by the picture. What was the reason, I do not know unless the hardships of a soldier’s life changes us all.
I was out taking a ride of about 18 miles today to a place called Jericho Point. I had a first rate horse and enjoyed my ride very much. The road was in a splendid condition mostly through woods of live oak, dropping nearly to the ground with moss. It was a beautiful sight and one which I wish you could see and you can by coming here but if you do not come before long, you cannot come on account of the hot weather and I would not have you come then for a great deal. But I was speaking of my ride.
There are but two plantations on the road. The houses are nothing extra but the plantations are beautiful—handsomely laid out with trees and shrubbery. Of course the war has affected them some but we can easily see what they have been. I enjoyed my ride very much and stopped at one of the houses and the darkey cooked 4 eggs and some cold hominy for me and I had a pretty good appetite.
I received the paper you sent me. I cannot say I like Chaplain Harris’s tone in it. It is all self self. But if a man don’t blow his own trumpet, who will ? Old [Quincy Adams] Gilmore is again down here and I am glad of it. I think a good deal of him. Our forces & regiment are still to the front. Where? I do not know as the [telegraph] line is down and we have no communication but hope to in a few days. Bring the draft on. Bring them out. Too many sneaks loafing around home. Fill up the quota. But don’t send any to our regiment.
Have you received all my letters up to this one or have you missed some? I guess not or you would have spoken about it. Well, I must close. Only six more months. Love to all. — Will
Please send some more stamps.
Beaufort, South Carolina
April 24, 1865
Feeling somewhat like writing, I dedicate these few lines to you. For the last two days we have had quite cool weather and down here we feel the least cold weather—the change being so great. I was to church yesterday and heard a good sermon and it done me a good deal of good. It is a thing we rarely have in Beaufort and we appreciate it when we do have it.
I see something down here which makes me feel awful. I am used to seeing deaths and seen them carry from 20 to 30 persons a day to the grave yard, but there has nothing affected me in a long while like this. There is down here a young lady by the name of Miss King from Rochester, New York. There is not a young lady in Jamaica [Long Island] but one that I saw compare with her in education, manners, standing in society, or anything else. I have never in all my acquaintances met a girl which I though so much of as a friend nor anything else. And now, consumption has taken hold of her and I feel as if I was losing a sister and she has been one to me. She is about 25 years old and is a good Christian in every way and always feel better than I have told someone else my feelings. She is a very dear friend of mine and I feel awful when I look at her and see the marks which will soon bring her to that [ ] from whence none ever return. Now I do not want you to misunderstand my feelings. I do not love her only as a very dear friend. If I am to die soon, give me the bullet or some quick disease but God spare me from that lingering disease. What is going to become of this country? Consumption is carrying off a great many of our friends. I was to see her last evening and she told me she would never get well and was afraid she could not get home. I am not ashamed to say that I walked the floor and cried nearly all night. Father, we have lost a dear one by the same disease and can sympathize with her folks. Skid Hendrickson tends her and he told me today that there was no hope for her. Father, you may think me foolish in writing this to you but I have felt so bad.
Father, seeing her has made me think that sooner or later we must all enter the valley of the shadow of death and the question arises in my mind, am I prepared? And alas, in looking over my past life, I cannot see that I have done anything to merit God’s mercy. But He has said that even the vilest sinner may come and drink of that water after which we never thirst. And in this and this alone, my only hope and thanks be to Him. He has in his loving kindness shown me the way. As one after one of my friends and relatives pass away, it seems like the hand of God pointing to me and saying, “Let your lamp be trimmed and burning—the Bride groom cometh.” Father, pray for me that when that times comes, I may be ready and Father, in your prayers, pray for this friend of mine that God who has said the prayers of the righteous [ ] much may be merciful and yet stay this distance which Oh God, as I should but never do, I forget to thank Him when I lie down for his goodness to me through the ay. You know I do not talk much on this subject as I think too much show has but I think a good deal. Do not think me foolish for what I have written as I write just as I feel and knowing you sympathize with me, I feel a great deal better. Give my best love to all the family and with love to yourself, I remain as ever, your Will
Chas. is well and sends love.