Category Archives: General William T. Sherman

1865: Julia Moore to Merritt L. Pierce

How Julia might have looked in 1865

The following letter was written by Julia Moore (b. 1 May 1842), the daughter of Mason Moore (1808-1886) and Emily Stickle (1809-1887) of Schuyler Falls, Clinton county, New York. In her letter, Julia mentions her brother, Elvin Allen Moore (1840-1903) who enlisted in Co. I, 16th New York Infantry in May 1861 but was discharged a month later as being unfit for duty.

Julia wrote the letter to her hometown friend and neighbor, Merritt L. Pierce who was at the time serving in Co. L, 1st New York Engineers and encamped near Richmond, Virginia, where they would spend the entire month of June rebuilding the Mayo Bridge across the James River. Julia’s sister, Emily Miranda Moore married George Parsons Farnsworth, a veteran of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry who was discharged from the service not long after he was seriously wounded at Gettysburg.

This letter was found in the Plattsburgh historian’s files at Plattsburgh, New York. It was transcribed by Chuck Cockrell and provided to Spared & Share for publication.

[See also—1865 Diary of Merritt L. Pierce, Co. L, 1st New York Engineers]


[Schuyler Falls, Clinton county, New York]
[Early May, 1865]

Friend Merritt,

I have just received your letter. I had about given up the thought of hearing again from you, or while you remained in the South, but I fully pardon your tardiness in replying because I see it was impossible for it to be otherwise and a soldier’s time is not his own. I am glad your health is good. I fear I would not know you were I to meet you unexpectedly. I wish I could write you like this—“my health is good, never better”—and speak the truth, but I cannot. No, friend Merritt, I am in very poor health at present. I have been confined to bed most of the time for two weeks. Am somewhat better today. I have had some fever with slight cold. I think I should be quite smart in a few days, if I am careful.

[My brother] Elvin is much better now, but not able do anything as yet. The other two members of the family are well as usual, except Silas, who has his hands and arms poisoned very badly by the flax (flying) where he has been to work. The skin was completely covered with eruptions. He has been unable to work for several weeks. Is some better though now. Your people are well as usual. Your little brother was here the other day to get a library book. He is quite a “book”¬†boy.

There was great rejoicing here when the glorious news “Richmond is ours!” reached us. The late victories put the people in very good spirits. We had quite an exhibition and display of fireworks and firearms for two or three nights on the renowned hill of our imposing city, Morrisonville. But oh! Merritt—how soon the terrible news, “Our President, our chief magistrate, is laid low by the assassin’s hand!” The mass of people would not—could not believe it. Even after it was confirmed later in the day, they would shake their heads in an undecided, half-affirmative way, prone to disbelieve that such a great sorrow had come unto them. 

They were prone to disbelieve there was a being in the likeness of God whose heart was destitute of all human feelings and natural affection. How dreadful the thought! But it has been meted out of him according to his deserts. But the blood of the innocent will cry out against him in judgement. I am glad he [Lincoln] lived to see the bright of dawn of the day of liberty.

We think most of the soldiers will return home soon. We heard two Virginia Regiments are ordered to Washington to be disbanded. I hope it is true.

Merritt L. Pierce

Well, Merritt, I will try to finish my letter now. Should not have neglected it so long. Had I been well, I have not been able to write until today. I feel considerable better. It is trying to rain some. Hilla is at school (Miss Holcome’s) over on the plank—quite a long walk. Miranda and Carrie are at home this summer. They are not seperate much of the time. I overheard Carrie and Miranda speaking of nice times they used to have at parties e’re this dreadful war had made such a ravage and taken so many of our members. “The good old days (said Miranda), will they come back again?” “Yes (said Carrie), keep up good courage. They are close at hand.” And I am beginning to think so too. There is one I shall miss, oh how sadly. He laid himself on the alter of his country and perished nobly. I shall not wish him back for he is better off, I have reason to think, than in this cold selfish world. There is one consolation—we can see him again sometime if He wills it. It must be very pleasant indeed, so near that beautiful river. I am sorry that you have to work so hard. I fear you will be lonesome after you get home, being away from your comrades.

General Sherman is not in favor in the North just at present. Some will have it [that] he is slightly deranged. I hope it is nothing more serious than that. 1 What do soldiers think of proceedings relative to Johnston’s army? Or are the newspapers at fault? He is thought by some to be too aspiring for a citizen of the United States and one holding his position. He must be deranged. Certainly, if his ———?———- has been played out.

There has been a serious  accident happened in this place a few days since. Frank Sanborn had his right hand cut and mangled terribly by a circular saw in the foundry. It was impossible to save it. Dr. John Moore  took it off at the wrist. There was five doctors in attendance. It is indeed a very bad loss. Everybody is very kind to him and are taking up a subscription for him. It is thought that he will be helped to the amount of a thousand dollars. That will buy the tavern he is to move into soon and the rent of his new house will be sixty dollars per year. That, and his office (collector) will help him some. I think he will manage to get along very well.

Watson Hayes 2 was cut up very badly sometime ago by the finishing knives in the flax machine. If it were not for the timely aid and forethought of Silas, he would have been killed. It is thought, Silas flew to the gate in an instant and put it down the second time, but the savage knives had well nigh done their fatal work.

A deserter was arrested at the falls a day or so two since and sent down to the army. Resman, by name. I have forgotten if I informed you of my cousin Lester Moore’s death. He starved nearly to death in Salisbury prison. He came as far as New York City after his release and then there died. A letter was written to his father informing him of his whereabouts, but he did not receive the letter until some time after his death. Will Finn went down after his remains and he was buried beside his dear Mother. Elder Smith preached his funeral sermon. We knew naught his whereabouts and terrible suffering until it was all over. Oh, that it might have been in our power to relieve him! 3

I wish it was in my power to provide you with better food than hard tack. I should think you should need a new set of teeth every two weeks. I hope you will be home by the 4th of July. I passed my 23rd birthday last Monday (1st of May). Was sorry that the Dr. called and left some medicine that day. I should have mailed this sooner had I felt able to write. Please write soon. From your ever true friend,  — Julia [Moore]

P. S. Please give my best regards to Will, Edgar, & [?].

He that watches over you this far will still continue to protect the soldier boy and bring him safe home.

We just heard Sherman shot Grant. We think it’s a false report, of course. It cannot be true. That is to horrid to believe!

1 It is true that some detractors of Sherman maligned him in the press even at this late stage of the war, calling him a “Traitor” an a “madman” but these attacks were silenced rather quickly by President Johnson, General U. S. Grant, and others who came to his defense.

2 Lucius “Watson” Hayes (1847-1914) was the son of Reuben Hayes (1815-1891) and Caroline S. Scribner (1819-1899) of Plattsburgh, Clinton county, New York.

3 Lester K. Moore (1844-1865) was the son of Jacob H. Moore (1818-1870) and Martha Marsh (1823-1851) of Beekmantown, Clinton county, New York. Lester enlisted in Co. B, 96th New York Infantry in October 1861 and was carried as present on muster rolls until 27 October 1864 when he was taken prisoner. We learn from the letter that he was confined in Salisbury (North Carolina) Prison until exchanged and that he expired in New York City on 11 April 1865.