Category Archives: Lincoln Assassination

1864-65: Benjamin Franklin Titsworth to Amanda Wallace

I could not find an image of Frank but here is a private believed to be from New Jersey (Melissa Hacker Winn Collection)

These letters were written by Benjamin Franklin (“Frank”) Titsworth (1843-1918), the son of Isaac Dunham Titsworth (1805-1897) and Hannah Ann Sheppard (1813-1895) of New Market, New Jersey. According to an obituary in the Sabbath Recorder (1918):

Frank was born in Shiloh, New Jersey in September 1843 and came with his parents to Plainfield, N. J. when he was nine years old. Soon after they relocated again to New Market (now Dunellen), N. J., where he attended school at the New Market Academy, and where, after baptism by Rev. H. H. Baker, he united with the Seventh Day Baptist Church of Piscataway.

On August 1, 1862, at the age of nineteen, he enlisted as a private in Co. D, 11th Regiment, New Jersey Infantry, and was mustered out of service June 6, 1865. An incident which he was fond of relating in this connection was that, in the final review before President Lincoln in Washington, his division was the last in the procession, as was his regiment and his company, and he was in the last line and would have been the last man in forming single rank. He was promoted to detached service first in the brigade general’s office and afterwards in the adjutant general’s office, where his duties were largely clerical because of his clear and fine penmanship and systematic methods.

On his return to civil life he attended Alfred Academy for a time, and afterwards engaged in business with his father and brothers, first in Dunellen, N. J., and afterwards in Milton Junction, Wis. While living at Milton Junction he married Emeline A. Langworthy, of Little Genesee, N. Y., whom he first met while attending school at Alfred. This was on October 11, 1871, and she died November 19, 1873. While living at Milton Junction he was made a deacon of the Milton Seventh Day Baptist Church. In 1880, he moved to Farina, Ill., and engaged in the grocery and drug business, and at one time was cashier of the Farina Bank. On February 21, 1881, he married Genevra Zinn, of Farina, and to them were born three children, – Bertha, now of Durham, N. H., Adeline, now of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Lewis, now of Brawley, Cal. There are two grandchildren, Phillip and Genevra, living in California. In 1896, the family moved to southern California and later to the city of Riverside, where they were prominent in the Seventh Day Baptist church, where he retained his membership until the time of his death. In 1908, the family removed to Alfred, where he lived at the time of his death.

The first two letters that Frank wrote in this small collection were sent under the name of “Frank Marlow”—a false identity. They were sent to a correspondent who had answered an advertisement he had placed in the newspaper looking to open a correspondence with “a few young ladies of the North.” See ad below:

I am a true soldier of Uncle Sam, belong to the Army of the Potomac and having lots of spare time, nothing would suite me better than to correspond with a few young ladies of the loyal North. Object, mutual improvement and to pass away the dull hours of camp life. Address FRANK MARLOW, Hd. Qrs. 1st Brig., 2nd Div., 3d Corps, Washington, D.C.

Responding to the ad was a young woman named Amanda Wallace of Lawrenceville, Alleghany county, Pennsylvania, who also began her correspondence with Frank under a false name and address—“Amy Waterman” of Pittsburgh. Beginning with the third letter in this collection, both parties apparently had convinced themselves they wished to continue their correspondence and to do so under their real names. Whether they carried on their correspondence beyond the last of these letters is unknown but is doubtful. In any event, Frank’s letters provide some good information on the closing days of the war around Petersburg.

Letter 1

3rd Brigade Headquarters, 3rd Division, 2nd Corps
December 14th 1864

Friend Amy,

I was really surprised and happily disappointed to have the pleasure of reading another one of your letters. I had made up my mind that you had not received mine in answer to your first one, or if you had, thought you wouldn’t wish to correspond with one no more punctual than I was and I couldn’t blame you. It would give me pleasure to be numbered among your correspondents. I promise to be more punctual in the future.

I intended to  answer this as soon as received but the next day we went on an expedition and was cut off from all communication for three or four days. We returned last Monday after destroying several miles of the Weldon Railroad below Stoney Creek Station and nearly to Hicksford Station. If you have a map of Virginia, it might interest you after reading a  detailed account of it in the papers, which will be better than I can give you.

We had very disagreeable weather. Nevertheless it was exciting and therefore enjoyed. We marched at a good rate going and some of the men straggled. On our way back we found some of those men murdered. They were completely stripped of their clothing and shot through the head and some were bruised terribly in retaliation of which General Warren—commanding 5th Corps and commanding the expedition—ordered all buildings not containing families to be destroyed. It is supposed the outrage was  committed by guerrillas, inhabitants of the country we passed through. It was a  splendid sight destroying the railroad and the boys seemed to enjoy it and went at it with a will. No force troubled us. It was reported that some force was awaiting our advance at Hicksford but we gave them the slip and got home safe with only one casualty in this brigade.

All is quiet at present but there is appearance of an important move. I wish it would come off soon so we could build winter quarters. You say you thought my address might change and so it has. It is now Headquarters 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 2nd Army Corps. I have nothing of interest to relate. We are enjoying ourselves and looking forward to the time of our deliverance from the clutches of Uncle Sam—eight months from the 18th of this month. How will it seem to be citizens once more and free. But I must close and do some work.

Believe me your true friend, — Frank Marlow


Letter 2

Addressed to Miss Amy Waterman, 885 Penn Street, Pittsburg, Pa.

Headquarters 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 2nd Corps
February 7th, 1865

Friend Amy,

I received yours of the 27th last in due time. I am glad you reminded me of my tardiness. I now propose a withdrawal of correspondence. Do not be astonished. I make this proposal for one reason—that I do not want to favor this manner of corresponding. I have found nothing in your letters which tempts me to do this. No—I am sorry to lose such a correspondent. I admire your sentiments both religiously and political. Your letters have been a source of pleasure to me as well as instructive. If you wish to continue the correspondence, I propose that we do it with our true names.

It has been a  cold, dreary, stormy day and a lonesome one to me. Last Sunday morning, two divisions of the 2nd Corps, parts of the 5th and 6th, marched to the left. Sunday afternoon heavy musketry firing could be heard and it was reported afterward that the enemy charged on our Brigade and were repulsed with heavy loss which has proved true. Yesterday and today the 5th Corps, on the left of ours, has had some severe fighting. I haven’t heard yet how it turned out except heavy loss on both sides. Some great movement is afoot, I think. This force of ours has gone out to hold a strong force of the enemy while our cavalry operates on some point or they have gone there maybe to capture the South Side Railroad or establish a new line so the enemy will have to  rally theirs. We have received some reinforcements lately. Grant will not be idle long at a time.

You are surprised that I have not been absent from the army since my first winter, 1862/1863. The next winter I gave away to a friend as he had urgent business which called him home. And when he came back, the reenlisting order was received which deprived all of furloughs but those who reenlisted, and as I hadn’t been out long enough to reenlist, I lost my furlough that winter. And my time is so near now, I don’t wish to go home. As you say, “The long absence will make my return more joyous.” I was born and always lived in New Jersey—and still live there. I have a very pleasant home, as good parents as anyone could desire and patriotic too for they have sent four sons into armed service and two sons-in-law. Maybe you think it strange I am not with the troops. Well I’m left in charge of the camp. It is the first time I have been left so far in the rear for some time.

But I must draw this to a close. Hoping to hear from you and your mind on this subject, I remain as ever your friend, — Frank Marlow

P. S. Please excuse my writing. I am doing it in a hurry. — F.


Letter 3

Addressed to Miss Amy Waterman, 885 Penn Street, Pittsburg, Pa.

Camp 11th New Jersey Volunteers
March 1st 1865

Friend Amy,

Yours of the 13th was duly received. Believing that our further correspondence will be not only a pleasure to me but instructive, I cheerfully extend my hand in favor of its continuance. I think there will be no harm in divulging my real name so here goes—B. Frank Titsworth. You may have heard that name before if you had lived in Jersey City.

Since the last of January I have changed my position from clerk at Brigade Headquarters to Quartermaster Sergeant of my Regiment. Quite a jump you might say from a private to a sergeant. The Colonel couldn’t get me back for less promotion. As I had been in the Adjutant General’s Department so long, I had fully become acquainted with the  business and the Adjutant General was bothered to let me go. I’m very well satisfied with my new position as it gives me more time to myself. I can improve my mind by reading too. My time is very well occupied at present, making out the Quartermasters  Monthly Returns, etc.

We have been having some very wet and stormy weather for the last few days. Doesn’t appear much like clearing off yet. Winter is gone—my last winter as a soldier but I can hardly realize it. In fact, the remainder of my time in Uncle Sam’s service appears longer than what I have passed through. If I devote my mind to other things, the time will seem to pass away quicker and likely be more healthful to my mind for as a person is apt to become partly deranged by setting his thoughts on one object like that and fretting on account of its nonappearance.

But this is not of any interest to you. I have no news of interest to relate. It has been so long since I saw a daily paper that I am hardly acquainted of the situation. I don’t see what is the matter that the newsboy doesn’t make his appearance now that we have just been paid off four months pay. It appears that Sherman still marches on triumphantly.

Last night just after dark, the Rebs in our front commenced to cheer and yell. We could hear them very distinctly. We couldn’t imagine what was up. Some thought Sherman had likely been defeated. But last night two deserters came into our brigade picket line and they stated the cause to be that a ration of whiskey was issued the men and also that their brigade commander told them to cheer and holler for an attack was expected from us. The cheering appears only in our front. There was noise enough for a pretty large force.

The situation of affairs looks very bright I think at present. And if divine providence  continues his smile upon us, we shall soon crush this rebellion and live once more a  united North and South under the best government on the earth. Deserters are coming in  to our lines continually and tell stories of woe and suffering. It is my prayer that this war may be done with as little bloodshed as possible. Hoping to hear from you soon. I will subscribe myself, your friend, — B. F. Titsworth, Quartermaster Sergeant  11th New Jersey Volunteers

Direct to B. F. Titsworth, Quartermaster Sergeant , 11th New Jersey Volunteers, 2nd Army Corps


Letter 4

Addressed to Miss Amanda Wallace, Lawrenceville, Alleghany county, Pennsylvania

Wagon Park in the field
Quartermaster Department
11th New Jersey Volunteers

April 1st 1865

Friend Amanda,

It gives me pleasure to address you thus, not only because we believe each other to be corresponding under pure motives, which I hope I’ll never give you cause to doubt the same of me, but I believe I have found a true soldier’s friend—a patriotic Lady. I received yours of the 11th and would have answered it ere this had not a move of the army prevented it.

We are still on the move. Broke camp last Wednesday morning and the troops marched to the left where they have been since advancing gradually. The 5th Corps and Sherman’s cavalry force are on the left of us. There has been fighting every  day. The wagon train lies near Humphrey’s Station—the farthest station on General Grant’s railroad. My new position requires me to accompany the train. The wounded are brought to this station after having their wounds dressed at the field hospital, put aboard the cars and sent to the General Hospital at City Point. I have been over to the station frequently when wounded came in and I saw some very severe cases.

All is reported progressing finely for our side. General Grant is here supervising the move. It was reported two days ago that General Sheridan had cut the South Side Railroad and destroyed ten miles of it, then moved off in the direction of Burkesville—the junction of the Danville and Lynchburg Roads. That report was contradicted this morning. I won’t vouch for the truth of either. I’m not afraid but Grant will carry things through alright. I have unbounded confidence in that General.

Sherman no doubt is resting his army now at or near Goldsboro [and] well he might. Twenty thousand of his men were unshod when they  reached that place. After they are reclothed and recruited, I expect we will hear more good news from “Sherman and his Veterans.” We can afford to let them rest a while. We have had two days of very heavy rain which left the roads almost impassible. Yesterday some supplies were sent to the front and almost every team mired. They returned this morning. Today is a regular March day—very windy and it’s throwing the  rain on my paper. You must excuse me if my paper doesn’t look as neat as it might. We haven’t any log houses now. However, we get along first rate with tents as it is not very cold weather. I guess I have built my last log house and I hope the army has as a general thing. But I must give way for the cook to set the dinner table.

Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain as ever, your true friend, — B. Frank Titsworth, Quartermaster Sergeant, 11th New Jersey Volunteers


Letter 5

Addressed to Miss Amanda Wallace, Lawrenceville, Alleghany county, Pennsylvania

Camp 11th Regiment, New Jersey Volunteers
Near Burkeville, VA
April 24th 1865

Friend Amanda,

Your last kind missive bears date April 10th. It was received with many others on the 15th after having no mail for nearly two weeks. I tell you, it was appreciated. During the absence of all this mail, news from home, our spirits were not allowed to become morose and demoralized. How could we when we were pursuing a fleeing enemy so successfully and every new engagement and day brought to light that Lee couldn’t hold  out much longer without surrendering or being annihilated. The long wished for surrender came at last. On Sunday, April 9th 1865, General Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant—the object fought for by the Army of the Potomac for the last four years. It is my opinion that if any other man but Grant had been put in command of this army, it would not be here as it is this day, enjoying easy camp life, no  fear of the presence of an enemy, and hardly duty enough to keep the men from becoming  lazy. Grant can’t see defeat.

While we have been made to rejoice over these victories, God has seen fit to stricken us as a Nation with a great affliction—yes, it seems to me, one of the greatest afflictions He could throw at us. It was evidently the will of God that President Lincoln should depart this world and we are invited to “trust in Him for He doeth all things well.” “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain thee.” I speak of the many sad hearts that will remain after this cruel war is over—yes, and even now are suffering from the loss of bosom friends by the hand of traitors. Many a sad heart will exist to tell the tales and horrors of this war. God has been very merciful to my Father’s family thus far. Of six sons and sons-in-law in the Army and Navy, all still live to share in Heaven’s blessings. You ask me if I am not glad that my position is such that I am not exposed to the fire of the enemy. Of course I shall answer in the affirmative, but don’t let this allow you to think that if my duty called me on the battlefield, I would act the part of a coward. Never.

I believe I can justly say I have always performed my duty. I have been in but one battle with my musket. You may want to know why I say with my musket. Well, I have been in battle while I was performing the office of clerk. But I won’t flatter myself  in past doings.

I have now not quite four months to stay in the service. The time passes  away quickly, as rumors are afloat all the while that we are going home in a very short time. I will credit that as soon as I hear of the surrender of General Johnston. You write as though you thought I had become weary of your letters. Far from it, much  the other way. I love to receive and peruse them. Do you read anything in my letters that make you think so?

But I must close. Ever your friend, — Frank

11th Regiment, New Jersey Volunteers


Letter 6

Addressed to Miss Amanda Wallace, Lawrenceville, Alleghany County, Pennsylvania

Camp 11th Regiment, New Jersey Volunteers 
Near Washington, DC 
May 19th 1865

Friend Amanda,

Yours of April 30th was received the day we reached Manchester. I hoped to answer it before but pressure of business would not permit. Leaving Burkeville at the time we did put me behind in my monthly papers. But since we reached this camp, I have worked pretty busy and finished them this forenoon. We have commenced to make out our  “muster out rolls” and “discharge papers” and shall be very busy until we start for home which time, I think, will not be two weeks from date. The boys are highly pleased at the  prospect of getting home so soon. Nothing would suit me better. I have made up my mind to be a citizen by the sixth of next month (June). That is giving us sufficient time to make out any papers.

On our march from Burkeville to our present camp, we passed through Manchester, Richmond, Fredericksburg and Falmouth. I broke off from the column after we marched into the City of Richmond and took my own route accompanied by a friend. We visited the places of interest—the Capital, Jeff’s mansion, &c, &c. It has been a very nice city, but most of the principal streets was destroyed which damages the looks of the best part of it somewhat. It is not as large as I thought. There is some very splendid country around it.

We passed through some very nice country during our march. Fredericksburg and Falmouth looked natural as well as the country around them. We didn’t exactly pass the ground of our (3rd Corps’) old camp but saw some houses which were near there. The nearer we got to Washington each day the more it felt like home.

We are now lying on Arlington Heights near Four Mile Run. On a hill near  our camp, Washington can be seen in the distance. It is about six miles. Next Tuesday and Wednesday the army is to be reviewed. I believe it is to pass through Washington. I suppose a number of visitors from the North will be present to witness it. I believe I should rather be a witness than a participant.

Since the receipt of your letter many glorious news have been received—that of the capture of Jeff Davis, &c. I haven’t had a chance to see a paper lately so I don’t know much of what is transpiring in relation to the assassins. I hope the Government is successful in ferreting them out and give them their just desserts. It seems they have been very  successful thus far.

You say that “you have never told me directly but once that you did not wish my  correspondence.” I don’t recollect the time. I guess I didn’t mean it. You spoke about writing this letter on the Sabbath. I suppose you want my opinion on the subject. When I was at home, I wouldn’t write a letter on the Sabbath unless to a soldier engaged in active service. I don’t know as there is any sin in writing on the Sabbath. However, I very seldom do it.

We are having very pleasant weather. I think I will be in the service by the time you write me next. If you do not write by the 6th of next month, direct to New Market, New Jersey.

Ever believe me your friend, — Frank

Excuse my hurry.


Letter 7

Addressed to Miss Amanda Wallace, Lawrenceville, Alleghany County, Pennsylvania

New Market, New Jersey
June 20th 1865

Friend Amanda,

It has now been nearly one month since the receipt of your last and welcome letter. I hope and think you will pardon me for this long neglect if I tell you the circumstances. When I received your letter, we were busy finishing the muster out rolls and proper papers for our discharge. As soon as they were completed, we reported to Trenton, NJ, and while lying there, all was excitement and hurry so I couldn’t get my mind near enough pacified to write one letter. I meant to write you there. We received our discharges and pay last Friday so you see we haven’t been home long.

“Home at last,” I can hardly realize that I am home for anything except on furlough, unless [it is] the fact that I have donned the citizen’s garb. I found everything looking natural, more so than I expected to. So much the better. We are having nice times now. We are waiting now for three more boys to return; one at school and two in the navy. Then our family will be made up—all home together for the first time in four years.

We are having splendid weather—very sultry and greatly in want of rain. It has made several attempts to rain for two weeks but never made out anything. The ground is getting very dry.

They are preparing to celebrate the 4th of July in this place. Several have met at our house a few times to practice singing. I believe they are going to have a speaker, &c., and I don’t know what all. Can’t expect much from a small village like this. I think this fourth will be more generally observed than it has for many years past. Since the war, there appears to be a more patriotic feeling—a greater love for our country. I believe this war has instilled into the heart of our people a greater knowledge of the worth of our country.

New Jersey is  a copperhead state. We have a copperhead governor. When we (the 11th Regt.  N. J. Vols.) arrived at Newton, we marched to the State House and  Governor Parker came out to make a speech. The New Jersey soldiers all hate Parker and when he commenced his speech (if it can be called such) the boys instead of cheering, groaned at him and called for Marcus L. Ward (Mayor of Newark, NJ  and a great friend of the soldier). They kept it up during his remarks. It was an ungentlemanly way of acting but they were soldiers from the front and would rather have a dinner than all their speeches, though we didn’t get any dinner until two or three days afterwards and then [only] through the unceasing efforts of the ladies. I don’t know what we would have done in many instances if the ladies hadn’t taken an interest in us.

In your letter you say you would like to have been at the [Grand] Review at Washington. It was a grand sight. My Regiment was the last one to pass in review the first day.

Well, my soldier life has passed and I must habituate myself to a citizen’s life again—almost  the same as a start in a new life. But I must close. Hope to hear from you soon again. I remain as ever, your friend, — Frank

New Market, New Jersey

1865: Sophia Morton (Williams) Harris to Mary (Williams) Brayman

Images of William Chapin Harris and his wife, Sophia Morton Williams—the author of this letter datelined from Hamburg, Erie county, New York, just after the Lincoln Assassination.

This letter was written by Sophia Morton (Williams) Harris (1804-1880), the wife of William Chapin Harris (1797-1885) of Hamburg, Erie county, New York. Sophia was the daughter of Richard Williams (1773-1822) and Sophia Morton (1776-1854).

Sophia wrote the letter to her younger sister, Mary (Williams) Brayman (1816-1886), the wife of Mason Brayman (1813-1895) of Springfield, Sangamon county, Illinois. Mason Brayman began his career as an attorney in New York State but relocated his practice to Michigan in the late 1830s. In 1842, he again relocated his practice to Illinois and while there, in 1845, he compiled the Illinois Revised Statutes, and was also appointed by Governor Thomas Ford to investigate the difficulties between Mormons in Nauvoo, Illinois and their hostile neighbors. When Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1848, Brayman rented Lincoln’s home while Lincoln lived in Washington. Brayman served as general solicitor for the Illinois Central Railroad from 1851 to 1855.

With the outbreak of the American Civil War, Brayman joined with other railroad executives and secured a military commission. Initially serving as a major with the 29th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment under General McClernand, he was promoted to colonel on April 15, 1862 and command of his regiment. Following the Battle of Fort Donelson, Brayman stopped shaving and grew a beard that would eventually reach his belt. He also had his horse shot out from under him twice. At Shiloh he became a minor hero, rallying his troops by charging between the Union and Confederate lines. During the Siege of Vicksburg he suffered a bout of heatstroke that forced him into garrison duty. By the end of the war he had achieved the rank of Major General and was serving as head of a claims commission in New Orleans. Major General Mason Brayman was the highest ranking Civil War officer to have lived in the Lincoln’s neighborhood. Mason Brayman – 42 years old, served as a Major General with the 29th IL Volunteer Infantry. He lived in the neighborhood two times—once as a renter in the Lincoln Home and once as a renter in what is now called the Shutt House.

After the war, Brayman became the editor of the Illinois State Journal and held that position until 1873 when he moved to Wisconsin. Brayman continued newspaper work until President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him Governor of the Idaho Territory in 1876. After the expiration of his term, Brayman moved to Wisconsin and then later to Missouri.

Transcription

Hamburg [Erie county, New York]
April 18, 1865

My Dear Sister, 

I received your welcome and long wished-for letter last evening and now take my pen to answer it. But dear Sister, how can I write or what shall I say? My heart is nigh to bursting and my eyes are swimming in tears. Our Country’s Protector and best friend is no more. Murdered by a Fiend, a Devil. Was there every anything so horrid before? But I cannot write about it for you know it all as well as we. And as he was your neighbor and friend, I know you will mourn in sadness at his great loss. But sister, his work is done and our Heavenly Father has taken him home, and when I read the piece you sent in your letter about his needing rest, I thought now he has rest eternal. No more cares—no more anxiety—no more sorrow or pain; all is over and he is at rest.

But Sister, I must tell you how I have felt for the past year about him. I have seen such a true semblance between him and Moses and have been so afraid he would not be permitted to see the Canaan—for you know Moses got in sight of the promised land but was not permitted to enter it, that I felt afraid our President would be murdered at or about the time of his second Inauguration, and when he went to Richmond I was very anxious about him. But when he returned safely to Washington and Lee’s Army had gone home and everyone seemed so happy in the near approach of Peace, that I had thought all danger was past. But now I can see he had got to the place Moses had when God took him. He came to the place where God said I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shall not go over to possess it. And now I feel to say, O My Father, President Lincoln is dead, and send us a Joshua to lead the people and endow him with wisdom and knowledge that he may lead them as faithfully as Joshua of old.

Oh Mary! what fearful, what responsible times we are living in, and it becomes us all to daily pray, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do.” But I must change my theme or I shall fill my sheet with this sad subject, and in fact I can hardly think on anything else. I could tell you how our City is draped in mourning and all business is suspended, and the mourners go about the streets, and next Thursday was set apart for our Great Jubilee, and now it is to be observed as a day of fasting and prayer. 

Dr. Velona Roundy Hotchkiss (1815-1882)

You ask who is our Pastor. Dr. [Velona Roundy] Hodgkiss is again our Pastor, and there is none better. His only son [Albert]—a noble young man of 22—died in the Andersonville Prison the past winter from suffering and starvation. 1 It was a great affliction, almost insupportable. Last Sabbath our Church was draped in mourning too when our Pastor Dr. Hodgkiss arose to open the meeting, and when he announced his text, ‘All these are the beginnings of sorrow’, he proceeded but a few minutes before he buried his face in his pocket handkerchief and sobbed aloud, and for, I should think, five minutes, there was nothing heard but sobs. It was truly a mourning congregation, and Sister, if these are the beginnings of sorrow, what will the end be? Oh God, have mercy on us.

Well, I must change my theme and tell you of the sickness and death of Mother Brayman. She was taken with a pain in her stomach but did not think it serious and you know Father Brayman does not like doctors. He have her such medicine as they though best but she died. They had a doctor but it was too late. It was inflammation in her stomach and mortification set in ad relieved her of her sufferings. She was sick only a few days and none thought her dangerous till the day she died. Mell’s wife told me she died happy and said death had no terrors. Mell’s wife said she asked her a short time before she died what message she would send to Mason. She said, tell him I should have been glad to see him once more, but I hope to meet him in heaven. The Old Gentleman felt very bad. Mrs. Emerson was with her when she died and stayed with him a week after. They tried to persuade him to sell his farm (as he had an offer of $55 dollars an acre) and go and live with Mrs. Emerson, but he would not sell or leave his home. He got a woman to keep his house for awhile till Mr. Emerson could get ready and move there. I do not know what bargain they have made but Mr. Emerson has moved there to take care of him. Mrs. Emerson thought it her duty to do so, and besides, Mr. Emerson was thrown out of his business by the bridge being broke down and probably there will not be another built before fall. So the Old Gentleman is very comfortable with Mrs. Emerson.

Four weeks after Mother Brayman died, Deacon Foster died. They were two of the oldest inhabitants. Marion Bird was here to the funeral. She spent three days with me and a week with her Aunt Foster. She says her mother enjoys good health and is very pleasantly situated. Jane and Ada are with me. Ada says I must tell Nell not to forget her amid all the wonderful scenes she is passing through. Abell’s folks are still on the Starring farm and they have reported that Mason gave it to Mason for his name (or Mrs. Brayman has). I visited with her two weeks ago to Joshua Smith’s and I told her the farm was for sale. She did not tell me that Mason gave it to them but said if it was sold they should buy it. Dwight is living to home but Asher is married to a Miss Bruce and lives on his wife’s father’s farm and Mason is going to the Oil regions. You ask if the farm would sell well this Spring. It depends on circumstances. They are boring for oil about two miles from there and if they succeed, the farm will fetch a good price. A company have been on from the East and tried to leave all the land where they thought there was a prospect of getting oil. They think there is no better prospect than in the Gulf on the Staring farm. Mr. Beach came to see me about it and I told him I did not think it could be leased but it was for sale.

I am glad to hear from Fred and of his prosperity. I wish he would write to us. Jane has written him two letters but received no answer to them. She has a letter from Will a short time ago. He was well and happy in the prospect of so soon seeing his friends once more. He says he shall leave there “Number One.” Sister Morgan’s family are well. Albert’s wife has a son six weeks old, both doing well. Sister Hannah and family are well. She was at Sylvina’s a short time ago and Sylvina says she never saw her look so well. She is most as large as I am. Dora is a young woman. She is with her Mother. Theodore is in the City in a store. Helen is still in New York. She has a son.

My own family are well. [My husband] William’s health has not been better for many years. [Our son] Richard [Williams Harris, (1822-1890)] has been very unfortunate. He was bitten by a dog the day before New Years on the first finger on his right hand and the inflammation set in and four weeks after he had to have his finger cut off. For a long time we were afraid it would cost him his life. He lost 30 pounds in three seeks, so you may judge how bad off he was, but he is getting better now and his finger is healing. [Our daughter Sarah] Sylvina [Harris Peek]’s husband, [Harvey Peek] is quite unwell. His health has been poor the past year and I sometimes fear he is going into consumption. [Our son Cyrenus] Chapin [Harris (1835-1899)] and family are well. He has three nice children. Willie, his only son, has been with us the past two years. He is six years old and says he is Grandpa’s farmer boy. The two girls, Hannah and Sophie, are nice children. We had a letter from [our son William] Hamilton [Harris (1830-1899) four weeks ago. He and family were well. They live in Warsaw, Benton county, Missouri. He is still working for the government.

Mary, I told you I would let you know when [sister] Eliza [Williams Morgan (1806-1886)] made me that visit and I will if you keep me posted of your whereabouts. But she has not been here yet. She says if it did not cost her any more to come and see me than it did you, she would come. It only cost her four shillings to visit you and she says it will cost her three dollars for a horse and buggy to come and visit me.

I suppose you have heard of the death of Cousin Julius Morton? He died in Detroit some three months ago—sick one week. I hope you will excuse all mistakes and poor writing for I cannot hold a pen very well. I see by your letter you have heard of my misfortune and so I will explain. Last November I went to the City of Friday to be to our Covenant Meeting in the evening and was going to stay till Sunday to communion. Well I went to Meeting Friday night and Saturday I called on some old friends and in the evening Sylvina came up to Mrs. Booth’s after me. She lives near Sister Morgan’s. We were walking along and had got most to her house when she saw the first thing she see, I was going head first onto the pavement, I do not recollect anything—only I was walking by her side. I struck my face so hard that I broke my nose apart where the gristle joins the bone and cut it open lengthwise and the blood streamed out and I suppose that was what brought me to. Probably I should never come to if the blood had not flown so freely. Two men see me fall and run to me and when they got me up the blood was running off the bottom of my dress. The Dr. said it was a sudden rush of blood to the head in my fall. I hurt my right hand severely. My little finger and the one next to it were put out of joint and the little one is broke apart from the rest and the cord that holds it in the joint is broke so it will never stay in its place. It is stiff. I cannot bend it and the swelling has never left it. I have sometimes wished I had had it taken off but I think now that I will take it to my grave with me.

I shall be so glad to have you and Mason come and see us this Spring. A few more meetings and we shall be gone. Earth is not our home. I feel that my work is nearly done. Did you think our good President was murdered on our dear Mother’s dying day? Our dear good Mother died eleven years ago last Friday, and all that day I had felt gloomy and my mind had run back over the past, and the scenes of my childhood had passed before me, and the image of my loved Mother was with me all that day. I thought of our dear departed Father, of our brothers and sisters dear, and of our children’s home, and I thought of the contrast of the then ad now, and I said surely, this is a changing world. Surely this is not our home. Surely we are only pilgrims and strangers. Our home is beyond this changing world, beyond the narrow bounds of time.

Sister, I don’t know what you will think of my letter or whether you can read it or not. I am not fit to write for I can think of nothing but the scenes at Washington. But I will try to tell you about [brother] Oliver [Hazard Perry Williams] and then will close this. He sold out all he had at North Evans and has bought him a tannery and house and lot at Pontiac some six miles from North Evans and three miles from Angola Station. He thinks he has bettered himself materially and shall do well there. [His wife, Emma [Parthenia (Lake) Williams] has been very sick. We received a note a week ago last Saturday night that she was not expected to live through the night and Sunday [my daughter] Jane and I went to see her. We found her very low and the Dr. said if he could get her through that night, he should have hopes of her. She was better in the morning and for the first time since she was taken the pain subsided in her head. She is now slowly recovering but it will take her a long time to regain hers strength. Jane says I must tell you that she and Abell’s wife had a political battle a short time since. She was denouncing the Administration and Old Abe Lincoln in bitter terms and Jane replied to it. She is a perfect secesh or Copperhead as they are called here, and Mary, all such are now rejoicing at the Assassination of our good President. Now dear sister, farewell. May the best of heavens blessings rest on you and yours is my sincere wish and prayer. Your sister, — Sophia

Mary, do write often to me. I should have written to you long ago if I had known where to direct. Jane wrote to Ada [Sarah Adaline Brayman] Bailhatche but she did not answer her letter. Thanks to Nell [Ella Sophia Brayman] for the bakery. We had crocuses in blossom the 21st of last month and now our garden is beautiful with daffodils, hyacinths, purple, white , pink and straw colored. Violets sweet scented and the Polyanthus. Do write soon, — Sophia Harris


1 Albert G. Hotchkiss was 19 years old when he enlisted in the 8th New York Cavalry. He was taken prisoner on 29 June 1864 and died of starvation in Andersonville Prison two months later.

1865: William Fraser to William J. Fraser

Most of these letters were written by William Fraser (1801-1877) of New Ephrata (renamed Lincoln), Lancaster county, Pennsylvania. He wrote the letters to his son, William Jackson Fraser (1835-1910) who was serving in Co. B, 195th Pennsylvania Infantry (1 Year Unit) that was not mustered out until June 1865.

A mourning ribbon for the assassinated President

There are three letters included here written by Wiliam’s boyhood friend, Samuel Musser Fry, Jr. (1845-1924), the son of Samuel Fry (1808-1887) and Nancy Ann Musser (1811-1886). In the 1860 US Census, Samuel Fry, Jr. was enumerated in his parents’ household in Warwick township where his occupation was given as “miller.” In 1862, either Samuel or his father took ownership of the three-story stone gristmill and sawmill previously owned and operated by Jacob Weis. According to the History of Lancaster County (Ellis and Evans), both Samuel and his younger brother Phares Fry (1845-1921) served as privates in Co. D, in the Fiftieth Regiment Emergency Troops of 1863.” These troops were organized into companies and placed along the river in Lancaster county with Emlen Franklin serving as their Colonel. This regiment went to Carlisle and Chambersburg, then to Hagerstown and Williamsport. They were stationed for a brief time at Dam No. 5 where they did picket duty until the middle of July, then returned to Harrisburg where they were discharged. Samuel and Phares subsequently served in the 195th Pennsylvania from 20 July 1864 to 4 November 1864 (a “hundred days” unit). Phares was a corporal in Co. G and Samuel was a private in Co. C.

This collection of home front letters were all penned from the Lancaster county hamlet of Lincoln during the final days of the Civil War and the assassination of President Lincoln.

See also

1863-5: William Jackson Fraser to Parents published on Spared & Shared 17.
1864-5: Samuel Musser Fry, Jr. to William Jackson Fraser on Spared & Shared 17.

Letter 1

Addressed to Mr. William J. Fraser, Co. B, Detached 195th Regiment, Martinsburg, W. Virginia

Lincoln [Pennsylvania]
March 11, 1865

Dear Son,

I received two letters from you—one dated February 22nd, the other March 7th. You may rest assured that we were pleased to hear from you—especially that you were enjoying that greatly needed gift of the soldier, “good health and spirits.” I requested George to answer your first letter immediately after receiving it but was answered that he would soon see you personally but as circumstances would not permit for him to leave at the expected time, the letter has been neglected.

You enquire in your last whether we received the photographs, package, paper, &c. The photograph came to hand a the proper time, 2 in number. I also received Baltimore papers several times. Your discharge of the 100 days service is received and will be kept until your return home (if Providence grants you the boon). The package that you alluded to containing papers, coffee, &c. has as yet not been received although it may yet arrive. George has been the recipient of the fifty dollars forwarded by you and has deposited them safely into “Uncle Sam’s” coffers according to request. Mary sent a pair of stockings & a pair of wrist bands or pulse warmers to you (by mail) about the 3rd February but you have kept silent in your letter in regards to them. We therefore came to the conclusion that you did not receive them. Is our supposition correct? Or have you merely forgotten to note them in your letters?

You ask for my opinion of the President’s Inaugural Address. I think it is very good, suitable for the times; as the old adage is “short but sweet.”

…I do not know what kind of weather you have had in the “Old Dominion” but here let me tell you we have had an old fashioned winter—nothing but snow, sleet, ice, and sleighing all the time. I can yet by looking out of the window see the snowbanks along most every fence, but by looking over the uncovered grain fields, no one can fail to notice that the grain appears to have been invigorated by the warm covering of snow. The grain fields have a spring-like appearance, promising a fair yield for the coming summer.

We doubt you have thought that our little town must be lonesome since so many of our neighbors have left to reinforce the armies of the Union. We do not feel the effect of this last call of the President but nevertheless we cheerfully submit so that this cursed rebellion will be crushed and our banner float victorious over sea and land. All these soldiers’ families appear to be in good health and spirits, no doubt taking the consolation that their friends and relatives have gone to fight the battles of the just.

Our family are all in better health than myself. I as a general thing being the invalid on account of rheumatism but still being able to be on my feet and work a little….

Your father, — Wm. Fraser


Letter 2

[Note: The following letter was written by Samuel Fry, Jr. of Lincoln, Pennsylvania.]

Lincoln, [Pennsylvania]
March 31, 1865

Friend William,

Yours of the 19th came to hand and was read with pleasure for I always like to receive letters from my comrades in the army. Everything is quiet here now about the officers. You don’t hear a word. There is a rumor here that the regiment left Martinsburg and went on as far as Charlestown [W. Va.] but how it is, I do not know. There are a good many rumors here same as in the army. Last Friday a week I cast my first vote down the Ephrata. I voted on my age. We had a ticket settled for our township officers. We elected them all but two that was one of the supervisors and the assessor. Ed Nagle was the supervisor and John W. Gross was the assessor that was elected on the Copperhead side but they had not such a very large majority.

Thhe people are busy settling up their old accounts as April is approaching very fast and are busy moving about. There will be some changes in Lincoln. Heiser is going to move to White Hall and Ernie Buck is going to move where Heiser lives. Mrs. Hershburger from Lebanon is going to move in the house where Reason lived in. A man by the name of Ander is going to move in Oberly’s house. Levi Shirk is Swilly’s house. Swilly is going to leave Lincoln next Tuesday for Naperville, Illinois. I believe them is all the changes here. Phares left for Chicago, Illinois, last Monday. He is going to try to get a situation in a store out there if he can.

The war news is good and the people around here think that the war can’t last very long anymore. Sherman has been victorious again and so has Grant and I think Richmond must fall before very long. Lieut. Henry Musser from Ohio is here. He is brother to Ed Musser. He is a lieutenant in a nigger regiment. He belonged to the Army of the James. He says the niggers fight very well and learn the drill very fast. Fry was home on a furlough of 2 days but I did not get to see him. They are at Philadelphia just now. They must have their ship repaired. They were in the fight at Fort Fisher. They helped to capture the fort.

I must come to a close. I am well and hope you are all enjoying the same blessing. Tell Jack I seen his sister this week and they are all well at home. No more.

From your friend, — Samuel Fry, Jr.


Letter 3

Lincoln, Lancaster county, Pennsylvania
April 9, 1865

W. J. Fraser, dear son,

Your letter of the 28th March has been received giving us the information that you are in good health. In reply I inform you that I am in a much better state of health than I have been in five months. I feel well and have more work that I want. In answer to your former letter, I mailed one with a five dollar note enclosed as by you directed on the 27th March one day before the date of your letter. On the same day I send one to George with postage stamps but have since received no answer from him. Also on the same day I mailed one to Anthony and I have since received an answer from him. I hope you may reach your enjoying health in your new quarters.

We have the glorious news that Richmond has fallen and is in possession of our Union troops and have the large flag waving across the street in the patriotic town of Lincoln. All the Union men look pleasant and feel to be in good humor with hopes that you all may be soon spared to return home from the army. The Copperheads say it is good news if true, but are not ready to believe it.

“That President Lincoln was in the possession of the reception room lately occupied by Jeff Davis in Richmond is very disagreeable to the Copperheads and that the Negro troops first entered Richmond is another bitter pill to them. I saw in some newspaper that General Grant had turned Leeward and that Gen. Lee had turned Hellward.”

William Fraser, Lincoln, Pennsylvania, 9 April 1865

That President Lincoln was in the possession of the reception room lately occupied by Jeff Davis in Richmond is very disagreeable to the Copperheads and that the Negro troops first entered Richmond is another bitter pill to them. I saw in some newspaper that General Grant had turned Leeward and that Gen. Lee had turned Hellward. It seems that the last fall election laid the way to victories of our armies under the command of Gen. Grant. It seems the right men have got to the right places. Gen. Sherman, Gen. Thomas, Gen. Sheridan, Gen. Terry, Gen. Meade, Gen. Burnside, with others who fill places of men who were either not fitted for their positions or were not with their heart in it. But it seems that Providence destined things how it should be at the proper time and our complete victories now will have its beneficial influences over the whole world—that the people can maintain themselves by their government and wipe out a set of the greatest villains that ever lived in any country without the aid of some of the colossal powers of Europe.

Mr. Noah Zooks wife died and will be buried today. All the rest of our family are well. I would like to hear from you soon whether you received my former letter with the five dollars enclosed and if anything else you want, let us know.

Your father affectionately, — William Fraser


Letter 4

[Note: The following letter was written by Samuel Fry, Jr. of Lincoln, Pennsylvania.]

Lincoln [Pennsylvania]
April 25, 1865

Friend William,

Your welcome letter came to hand and I should have answered it long before this but I was kept pretty busy. We have our stock of spring goods and the people are rushing in to buy like everything. It makes a person hop around behind the counter. Cotton goods are cheap towards they used to be. So are groceries. We sell muslins from 12.5 to 40 cents, calicoes 12.5 to 25 cents, sugar 12.5 to 25 cents, molasses 12. to 35 cents. Woolen goods have not come down much yet and I don’t think they will come down much.

The weather is nice and warm and everything is growing nice and green. Cherry trees and peach trees are in blossom.

I think one of the most outrageous murders ever committed was that of murdering the President and Secretary Seward. If I could catch a hold of the assassins, I would cut them up in small pieces. Hanging is too good for them. They ought to make a ring and put him in and then put some brush around him and then set it on fire and push it up to him closer and closer and would make him confess all. If he would not do it, I would burn him alive. I am glad President Lincoln lived so long as to see the end of this Great Rebellion which he has accomplished. I think the rebels have not gained anything by murdering the President. I think they have killed a friend—not an enemy. I always thought Lincoln was a little too lenient to the rebels but it might have been all for the best. President Johnson, I think, will be a little more severe on the rebels and make them come up to the mark some better.

General Sherman has made a botch of himself if it is true what is reported. The report is that him and Gen. Johnston made a treaty for peace without having orders from the War Department. The news as a general thing is scarce. People are nearly all mourning our late beloved President. Most of hte Copperheads are mourning but whether it is only a sham, I do not know.

I received a letter from Phares yesterday. He is out in Greentown, Stark county, Ohio. He is not in business yet but he expects to get a situation in Akron, Ohio, before very long. I must come to a close.

Tell Jack I was up at Benj. last Sunday and found them all well. I am well and hope you are all enjoying the same. No more from your friend, — Samuel Fry, Jr.

Write soon. Excuse all mistakes for I was in a hurry.


Letter 5

Lincoln, Pennsylvania
April 29, 1865

Mr. Wm. J. Fraser, dear son,

Your letter of the 17th mailed on the 20th was received on the 22nd and glad to hear from you being well and that you received the five dollar note. We are all enjoying good health and my health in particular is much better than I have had for many years. You mention that you have sent some clothing with others directed to Rev. E. H. Thomas and Ben. Dressler. We have received none of your clothing as yet.

We have received the news that Booth, the murderer of President Lincoln, was taken but is now dead. Yet he was taken alive mortally wounded. We have mysterious news from Gen. Sherman but that Gen. Grant will bring all right and that Jeff Davis is fleeing heavily loaded with specie to Texas and is presumed bound for Mexico after having sacrificed the lives of so many for Southern Rights which enabled him to lay up a large store of wealth when thousands were suffering for want of the needful subsistence. I think the time will come when it will become manifest to the people of the Southern States that President Lincoln was their true, honest friend and desired to give them protection when they were blinded by falsehood &c. which afforded Jeff Davis to rob them of lives and treasure. The day of reckoning has come and although the much lamented President has fallen by the hand of an assassin, our government survives the shock and will overcome the disgrace which has been inflicted for a time.

The sin of tolerating slavery for such a length of time has manifested itself more conclusively and President Lincoln’s lenient policy of mercy to the misguided men has not been appreciated by them in any reasonable manner whatever.

…As soon as I receive your clothing, I will let you know. I expect to see Ben Wissler today or this evening. He had received nothing on last Wednesday.

Your affectionate father, — William Fraser


Letter 6

Lincoln, Pennsylvania
May 23, 1865

Dear Son, William Fraser.

Your letter of the 12th was received on the morning when Mr. Faust left and always glad to hear of you being well and would have answered sooner but as Mr. Forest left with whom I sent the V. which George in his letter states you had received…

I expected you to be mustered out of the service soon, but I have no satisfactory information now to form any opinion when you may be discharged. The sooner you could be relieved, the better I would like it as work has been crowding in on me with that expectation that you might return before long but will have to do the best we can.

George in his letter states that he has received his uniform and is pleased with the fit. This morning the ministers and elders who attended the meeting of the Classes all left after having been in session since last Friday. It was quite an interesting affair and some very good sermons preached. On Sunday there was meeting in the forenoon, afternoon, and evening. Dr. Nevin preached in the english language and Rev. Eckert from the lower end of the county preached in the english language. In the whole, it was not only interesting but a very creditable meeting of the classes. It was an unfortunate thing that the bell on the church cracked a few weeks ago and has become entirely useless and could not have been replaced in time for the meeting of the classes…

Your clothing, the overcoats and boots with some papers, has arrived all in good order….

We are all well and hope to hear from you soon. Your affectionate father, — William Fraser


[Note: The following letter was written by Samuel Fry, Jr. of Lincoln, Pennsylvania.]

Letter 7

Lincoln [Pennsylvania]
May 24, 1865

Friend William,

…Last week we had quite a lively time here at Lincoln. They had a Synod here at church. There were some fifteen to eighteen ministers here. It commenced on last Friday and closed on Monday evening. On Sunday we would have had a great crowd of people here but it rained so there were not so many as we expected. But I am sorry to say most of these ministers were Copperheads. Peter Kurtz has left the store so I was alone for about a week but we have one again. Phares is here now. He came here last Tuesday. He came back from the West last Saturday a week. He could not get any employment out there so he thought he would come back again. He was gone 7 weeks. He was at Chicago and Naperville, Illinois, from there he went back to Greentown, Ohio, and New Berlin, Canton, and other places around there but he could get no situation, he came out so late. All the merchants had made their spring changes already. He liked it very well in Ohio but in Illinois he did not like it so very well.

On next Tuesday there will be a “Love Feast” at Samuel Fahnestock and on Thursday a week there will be one at Christian Wenger’s down toward Earlville somewheres. There will also be one at Jacob R. Keller’s but when that will be, I do not know.

The news is scarce. The war is over now so there is not much news. Thy have caught Old Jeff now. He tried to make his escape in female attire through the woods but he was kidnapped and is now on the way to Washington to have his trial. I think he is interested in the assassination of Lincoln. Yesterday, Henry B.. Martin S. Fry, and some more started for Washington to see the Grand Review which is to take place.

Isaac Fry is home on a furlough of 10 days. He is still stationed at Philadelphia. I also seen David Grant of your company a few weeks ago. He was here at Lincoln. He looks well and hearty. I think after the review is over, you will all be sent home in time of haymaking and harvest. There will be a heavy crop this summer. I have never seen the grass look so well before this time of the year.

On Thursday a week we are going to have the store closed. It is a “Fast Day.” Rev. Boyer is going to preach a Funeral Sermon for Lincoln in Reamstown. I guess he will have a great crowd there. The stores at Gravel Hill & at Rothsville are about being closed up….

— Samuel Fry, Jr.