Category Archives: Ohio Homefront

1864: Sarah Wells (Hibbing) Rose & Thomas Stagg Rose Letters

How Sarah might have looked (Rob Morgan Collection)

The following seven letters were penned by Sarah Wells (Hibbing) Rose (1830-1874) of Cherry Grove, Hamilton county, Ohio, and her husband Pvt. Thomas Stagg Rose while he served in Co. H, 138th Ohio National Guard (ONG). Sarah wrote letters 3 & 4, Thomas the other five.

Tthe 138th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry mustered into service at Camp Dennison, at Cincinnati, Ohio, on 14 May 1864. The men in the regiment were to serve one hundred days. The 138th consisted of Licking County’s 5th Regiment Ohio National Guard, Hardin County’s 32nd Battalion Ohio National Guard, and one company of Lorain County’s 37th Battalion Ohio National Guard.

In mid-May, authorities dispatched the regiment to Washington, DC, traveling via the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Upon reaching North Mountain, the 138th disembarked due to an impassable railroad bridge near Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. After a delay of several days, the regiment arrived at Washington on May 22, 1864. Officials placed the 138th in Forts Albany, Craig, and Tillinghast south of the Potomac River. The regiment garrisoned these fortifications until June 5, 1864, when authorities ordered the 138th to White House, Virginia, where the regiment served on guard duty and supervised Confederate prisoners until June 16. The regiment then boarded ships for Bermuda Hundred, Virginia but disembarked at Fort Powhatan on the James River, twenty-five miles away from Bermuda Hundred. The regiment completed the journey on foot, arriving on June 19, and officials assigned the 138th to picket duty at Point of Rocks and Broadway Landing, Virginia.

Authorities soon ordered the regiment to the Cherrystone Inlet on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, where the 138th garrisoned several communities, including Eastville. The regiment protected telegraph lines connecting Cherrystone to Wilmington, Delaware and also patrolled for Confederate blockade-runners—duty so light and enjoyable that Thomas confessed that it was “more like a picnic than soldiering.” In late August 1864, the regiment traveled via the Pennsylvania Central Railroad to Camp Dennison, where the 138th mustered out of service on September 1, 1864. During the 138th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry’s term of service, eight enlisted men perished from disease or accidents, while no soldiers died from wounds received on the battlefield.

From Sarah’s letters we can gain some small idea of what it was like for the work-a-day lives of the wives and mothers who were left at home while their husbands went off to serve their country. At the time these letters were written in the summer of 1864, Sarah had four children ranging in age from four to fourteen to take care of, an elderly mother, and a large farm to manage. What she does not reveal in her letter—except to hint by writing, “I find it inconvenient these warm days,”—is that she was eight months pregnant at the time carrying her fifth child, Alice Rose (a.k.a., “the little stranger.”)

To read other letters by members of the 138th Ohio National Guard transcribed and published on Spared & Shared, see:

George Gaddis Myers, Co. C, 138th Ohio (Union/1 Letter)
J. Henry Hine, Co. H, 138th Ohio (Union/1 Letter)
William Budd Shinn, Co. H, 138th Ohio (Union/2 Letters)

Letter 1

Martinsburg, Virginia
Co. H, 138th [Ohio National Guard] Regiment
May 20, [1864]

Dear wife, children and mother,

I am now sitting away upon the side of a mountain in a pine grove where there are thousands of beautiful pine groves. I have been on the top of the mountain and looked over a beautiful valley called Happy Valley where the rebels went up into Fredericksburg, PA in the North. The Blue Ridge Mountains [can be seen] in the distance commencing up in the west running away round to the southeast. [Looking] east, the scenery is beyond mortal [man] to describe.

I intended to give you our trip in the form of a diary but my paper is precious and paper is very scarce and high here so I will write little and often.

Old George Martin was raised here at this place. The town is nearly burnt down. It was burnt by the rebels. They also burnt any [number of] places along the railroad. Last week they burnt a portion of the town of Piedmont. 1

The drum is beating before Battalion Drill so I must go.

Supper is over. I am now close to camp by a little mountain stream. I never enjoyed better health in my life. There is several of our company sick but they are those that don’t take care of themselves.

We had prayer meeting last night up on the side of the mountain. That the best drill for me since I left home. We have another tonight. It is delightful to hear hundreds of voices singing praise to God but prayer and war of not go together with me. I would rather be home plowing corn and praying with you at home. I count every day and think the rime will roll around.

We have beautiful clear weather here and warm. I have no news to write about the army. I expect you are better posted than I am. Our regiment has taken several spies or bushwhackers.

I must lose as I must be careful of paper. John is well. He is on picket today. I want you all to remember me and all write. Your dear husband, — T. S. Rose

1 “At Piedmont the rebels broke and burn up a number of cars, and threw four of five engines off the track, damaging them to some extent, and burnt three or four buildings in Piedmont, including the square workshop and the paint shop, with tools and machinery, belonging to the railroad company. A portion of the round top workshop was also destroyed. They then went to Bloomington, a station on the road, two miles west of Piedmont, and there threw off the track several engines, and damaged a number of cars. They took no prisoners at either place. They then left Bloomington, and retreated down the country.” The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, 9 May 1864

Letter 2

White House, Virginia
June 11, [1864]

Dear wife,

I received a letter from you this morning and how glad I was. [When] the first letters came up, there was none for me so I went and laid down in the tent. [But] in a little [while], there came up another lot and one for me. Now I am alright [and] enjoying the best of health. I don’t want you to give yourself any uneasiness about our starving. Sometimes we have been short but have plenty now of bread, pork, beef, rice and potatoes and hard tack. I don’t think we will starve and don’t be troubled about our going to the front for this morning two regiments came in from the front that went there and offered themselves [but] Grant told them he had no use for such troops.

I wrote to you yesterday telling you that we had to cook five days rations. It may be that we will leave today or tomorrow and may stay here. If we leave here, I rather think we will go to Bermuda Hundred on the James River. There is a great many rumors but I don’t believe anything I hear or hardly what I see.

When you write, the best plan I think is to direct to Washington D. C., to follow the regiment. Then we will be sure to get them wherever we go. There was two letters came for John this morning. He is out on picket but they have gone to him.

Now Ma, be of good cheer and I will do the same, trusting in the Lord. Now I must close and go to dinner. Give my love to all my friends. Tell Emma that John is well. I must close. Yours forever, — T. S. Rose

Dear Hettie,

I received a letter from Ma and you this morning and was very glad to hear from you and very glad that you are all well.

I am sitting under a tree on the main road that leads to Richmond near our camp where there are hundreds and thousands passing every hour—footmen and cavalry and wagons. Their teams here have but six horses or six mules. I cannot give you the faintest idea of the camp and scenery here. There is hundreds of acres here covered with tents and wagons. This morning there was from ten to twenty thousands of wagons in our camp alone and four miles around the same. It must take an immense amount of provision for such a large amount of men as Grant has besides men. There is an enumerable amount of horses and the feed and provision is all to haul and all have a plenty and to spare.

I am close by the grave yard where [they] are busy all the time covering the poor dead soldiers. Poor fellows—they shall know no more of war or sorrow. I wish [you] could be here for a little while to see the country here, to see the beautiful trees and flowers. There was a man just passed with the [finest] bunch of flowers I ever saw.

Now I want you to be a good girl and take care of yourself. So goodbye for this time. Write often. I will do the same. Your Pa

Now Anna, I hardly know what to write to you so I will tell you that I just [looked] towards the woods and I seen the largest drove of cattle that I ever saw. It looks like a large cloud. I also saw two women pass by. They are from the Christian Commission. The most of them are from Cincinnati and are the finest and best of women. They go all around the camps and wherever they find a sick man, they bring him anything they want to eat or drink, any kind of preserves or anything they want.

I am glad that you have such a good Sabbath school and so many comes. Mr. Sheldon wrote a letter to the school yesterday. I will write one some of these days if I can. We have the finest weather here I ever saw. It rained a light shower Thursday evening. It’s cool and pleasant in the shade—a fine breeze all the time. I want you to be a good girl and write when you can and let me know how everything is getting along and how much you have made picking berries. Goodbye Anna.

Now to my little Ella. I don’t know what to write about. I can say that I am glad you are well and go to Sunday school and get so many verses. Go on and learn all you can. I wish I was home to go along with you but I [am] over twelve hundred miles from home the road we came. But every Sunday morning I can see in [my] imagination [you] getting ready to go [to church] and I think I see you out in the strawberry patch picking the large berries and Oh! how I wish I was there to help you gather and eat them. But I’ll have a good time when I come home eating them big fellows that Ma has put up for me, won’t I? When you get through picking, tell me how many you had.

Now Ella, I want you to remember me and pray for me. If I could, I would like to send you some of the Sunday school papers we have here. The Societies have very nice ones here. I will send some if I can. When you write, tell me how big the chickens and guineas are for I feel a great interest in them. And [also] how high the oats is. Now Ella, excuse this and next time I try to do better. Goodbye Ella.

Letter 3

Cherry Grove [Ohio]
Wednesday night, 29 June [1864]

My dear husband,

It has been a rainy afternoon and now everything begins to look up. The children are at home today. The berry crop is not sufficient to keep them picking every day. I suppose by this time if you have luck, you are in your new quarters. I hope you will find it a pleasant place and more of more safety that your last one. I think you have been a little too near the front to be very safe but I hope you got away from there before the battle came off. I have not heard of any battle yet but suppose there is one expected & perhaps before this time many more poor soldiers have laid their bodies down a sacrifice to this cruel war.

Thursday, the 30th. The children have all been picking again today. It is very warm but I suppose that is the kind of weather we need now to make things grow. The berry picking harvest is coming almost together & that makes it still harder to get hands enough to get the work done.

This night I received another letter from you but it was written before the last one I got so I don’t know yet about you all or whether you have left Spring Hill or not. But it done me good to get it. I could sit and read letters from you all the time & never do anything else. It pleased Ella to think you had got her little card. I don’t know what possessed the child to want to send it but every letter we sent she would come with it and want to put it in. At last I sent it just to please her.

I see by referring to the map that Point Lookout is a good way from Spring Hill. If it is on the Chesapeake Bay, I hope you are there by this time for I expect to hear of a great battle on the Fourth of July & I want you to be as far away from there as possible. I am glad you have plenty of coffee and sugar for sugar is a luxury we can’t indulge in very free. It is 23 cents per pound here. Calico 30, muslin 60 cents per yard. As you see, we have to pay for what we get, but I was lucky enough to get what I got in the dry goods line before the raise so I did not have to pay so much. I feel more encouraged that I have since you went away for I know now that the time is half gone if you do not begin to count till the day you have mentioned in which was the 13th of May. I suppose if you have got all the letters I have sent you in the last three weeks, they must be very tiresome to you to read them all for I write the same thing over and over in nearly every one of them for I thought perhaps you would not get more than a quarter of them.

If we have good growing weather from this [time] on, I think we will have as good crops as any of our neighbors for it is all in good order now although it took a good deal of work to get it so. The children are looking for a good time on the Fourth of July. Aaron has promised them a big treat & fireworks at night if they will pick for him. That day there is to be no celebration of any kind around here.

[Clement] Vallandigham is to make a speech in Batavia on the Fourth. I suppose they will have a great time up there. What kind of a time will you have, I wonder. I know how I will spend the day. I expect to be alone and plucking raspberries to dry for I will not have enough for anything else. I have sold one drawer. I want to trip and sell one more & then put up & dry the rest for we will not have any other kind of fruit as there is no blackberries and but very few apples. I expect berries will taste good to you this fall. I think you will be here in time to east some of those roasting ears with us yet that was planted just after you went away. I hope so at least. Our hard work will soon be done. Now and then I will only have one more duty to perform and then await patiently for your return home. Oh how I wish it could be before this month was out but I dare not hope. I suppose the 10th of August is as soon as we can begin to look for you.

Thomas Fitch and family & Ann and John are all to Aunt Nancy’s. They came last night and went this afternoon to Mt. Washington to buy a farm. I do not know whether they succeeded or not. Tell Bill Potter his wife is well, picking berries every day. She and George’s family are all well also. I suppose all the rest are. I have not hear of any sickness among any of them. I saw Emma & Harry tonight. Harry is got to look so well again and as playful as ever.

We are all well & I am better than I expected to be at this time. So don’t be uneasy about me. I have no doubt but I will do very well. All I mind is being deprived of your company at this time. If you were in a place of safety and in good health, I would not mind anything else. I thought in the course of a two or three weeks I would get Willie to stay with us at night. Be sure and take the best care of yourself you can & try to keep a look out of danger as much as possible.

As it is late, I will close for this time. So good night, my dear husband. Still try to press on in the right way & still continue to pray for a safe return home. I still try to pray for your protection day and night and still believe the Lord will grant us our desire if we only trust in Him. I feel that I have much to contend wit but the Lord is able to deliver & feel like trusting in Him.

Your affectionate wife, — S. W. Rose

All your friends send their love to you.

Letter 4

Addressed to Mr. Thomas S. Rose, Co. H, 138th Ohio National Guard in care of Capt. Kline, Washington D. C. Follow the regiment.

Cherry Grove, [Hamilton county, Ohio]
Saturday night 23rd [July 1864]

My dearest one,

I received another letter from you last night—the one you wrote just after landing at your camp. It gave me more pleasure than any letter I got from you since you left Fort Craig for I know you was certainly in danger as long as you were so close to the fighting. But now I feel that you are in a place of safety & I believe in a healthy place. I would like to be with you when you are eating some of those crabs and oysters. I was looking at the map to see where you were situated. I can’t imagine what they want with troops in that out of the way place. I guess you had your usual luck in getting away just in the right time for I see by the papers there was a hard fight at Point of Rocks a few days ago & I believe that is near Broadway Landing. I would like to have a few of those pears you spoke of for fruit is something we won’t have for a year. Our berries are gone now & we have not another thing in the shape of fruit except a few grapes. I saw four blackberries yesterday. I picked or ate them so I could have it to say I had some this year.

It is so very dry—nothing can grow. The farmers are all discouraged. They say there won’t be any corn & potatoes are not good. Altogether I think it will be a hard winter to live.

Sunday morning, 24th. I am alone again as usual. Grandma went with the children to Sunday school. The nigger preacher is going to preach little George’s funeral today & she wanted to go to hear him sing.

I would like to see what you are doing just now but I have an idea you are employed just as I am in writing to those you love. I can see you in my imaginations although so far away & I hope in three weeks more to see you in reality. You need not give yourself any uneasiness about this draft for our township is very near clear. Mr. Jones told me yesterday there was no doubt but it would be. Tomorrow evening will be the next important meeting & that will finish it. They are raising money sufficient to hire substitutes enough to fill the quota & will succeed without a doubt.

I was glad to see conditions of compromising in the papers the other day but it turned out just as I expected. Our President would not receive them though. I suppose you get the papers & know as much about what is going on as we do.

The children was pulling weeds out of the late corn yesterday. I have not had but one days plowing done for three weeks, it is so hard to get help. T. Clack was sick & it was harvest time & hands were not to be had. It looks strange that every time I get a field plowed, it has to be weeded. It was not so when you plowed. I think sometimes if it was done right, that would not be the case though I did not have to weed after T. Clack so much. But that is all done now, I hope. I will have to give up making a turnip patch back of old garden as I and the children have to dig the potatoes ourselves. I do not feel blessed at present to undertake anything so hard as that but I will have some planted among some very late corn that we have out by the gate. I think they will do just as well. But if it does not rain, it will be no use to plant or try to do anything.

We have the prospect of a very hard winter at present the way things are selling. We can only get three pounds of sugar for a dollar and in most places it is 35 cents a pound. Coffee I never inquire the price of. Meat is very high. But I don’t think we will have any of that to buy for a long time. I have to give 20 cents for a spool of thread and everything else accordingly. So you see we have sutler’s prices here too.

Our tomato & pickle patch son’t seem to grow hardy a bit anymore although there is not a weed in them an inch high. They never was plowed much but we tended them pretty well with the hoe. The tomato was plowed once; the pickles none. I think they would be nice if it would only rain. Jim says he will stack the oats if I would get someone to help him. I spoke to Mr. Jones about it and he said he would help so that is the last I will have to do.

Sunday night. Grandma went to Aunt Nancy’s today. She has all her children at home now. It has been quite cool for several mornings and evenings but it is very warm again tonight. Old Mr. Stephen Woodruff is dead. He died with the cholera. Only lived 5 hours after he was taken. Sam Morrison is dead also. He died somewhere in the army with consumption, I believe.

I forgot to tell you that some of the men about here have been fortifying themselves against the draft by getting exempted. Sam Johnson, Orse Clack, big John Bogart, & several others.

As it is getting late, I will bring my long letter to a close. This paper is so bad I can’t write on it so you can read it. I feel so thankful that you have got away from the main army. I sincerely hope you will be in a safe place the rest of the time and continue in good health. We are all well at present. I find it inconvenient these warm days but I am perfectly well. Grandma has got over her little spell. We all still remember you in our prayers, day by day. I try to pray that God in His mercy will keep and protect you from danger & still give your to feel His divine presence, although surrounded by trials and temptations, and soon bring you home again. I am looking for you in three weeks. Is that too soon? Good night dearest one. — S. W. Rose

Letter 5

Cherry Stone Inlet, Virginia
July 23, [1864]

Dear Wife,

Our mail came at last yesterday morning 22nd. It came after being gone more than a week. I received three from you [and] one from Seven Johnson. I was very glad to hear from you once more. I began to feel the blues coming but it all disappeared at once.

We are at Cherry Stone [Inlet] yet. This is a finer place than I thought at first. There is a large frame house on the bank with a garden in the rear. In front [there are] large locust trees with rows of fig trees nearly all around full of figs, peach, plums and apple trees full of fruit and everything around is lovely. Mr. Colter talking very strong of buying it.

Every time we move, we get in a finer place except White House [Landing, Virginia] and that was a prettier place than [Fort] Craig 1 but it was the most loathsome, stinking places I [ever] was in. We was nearly fenced in with dead horses and mules which stank so one could hardly breathe. Then Spring Mill was a very pleasant place but there we was in some danger and working in the hot sun and dust. Broadway [Landing, Virginia] was a still finer place out of the dust, but hard work and dangerous work loading and unloading shot and shell which is very dangerous work.

Here we have no work, no picket duty to perform, and our guarding don’t amount to anything. We guard the well to keep the privates from drinking too much and the garden and orchards to keep privates out of the hospital. I hardly know what for unless it is to keep the sick from coming out or keep their friends from giving them something to eat. The officers are not at all strict here. We do about as we please. This morning Wardle, Sheldon, Ralph and I went out in the country three or four miles to a store after some notions—tobacco mostly. Things are cheap enough here considering. Lettuce 30, muslin 30, sugar 25, everything I thought cheap enough.

We saw fields of cotton growing & the largest fields of corn I ever saw and nigger women plowing. While at the store, I saw some of the Virginia Bloods going to church—some in buggies. And I saw some ladies dressed to death almost, in old rickety carts with rope lines jogging along up and down like our boat did on the Bay.

Colonel [Samuel S.] Fisher says Co. H may go on Cobb’s Island which all say is the finest place in the world. It is a small island ten miles distance from here. Some years ago a man from the North bought the whole of it and built a large hotel there for a summer resort. But since the rebellion has left it all a loss.

While sitting here the boys say we leave at 5 o’clock this evening. I want to go there to see the ocean shore and see the shells and catch the fish and eat lobster. I cannot see for the life of me what we were ever sent here for unless it was to show the strength of the army. There is no rebel here nor never was. This will be our last move until we move towards home. I still believe we will get home by the 15th unless transportation is hard to get like it is at this time. I [hope] that will not be the case.

I would like to have a road through the Burdsall property but still I don’t care much about it. I am very anxious to get home now and be with you but as it is, I cannot be there for awhile so you keep in good spirits and trust in the Lord and all will work for our good. My prayer is grant us grace and health and happiness here on earth and home in heaven. Now I must close for this time.

Goodbye my dear wife. — Thomas Rose.

I am enjoying the best of health.

Now Ella, I want you to keep the stock [ ] covered and don’t drown all the guineas. Don’t work in the hot sun and get sick. Eat plenty of pudding every week and I will soon be home. Then we will have a rousing big one. Tell Grandma I want her to keep well. Anna and Hettie, when I get to Cobb’s Island, I will write to you. When I come home I will fetch some sea crabs if there is any there. So goodbye for this time. Your Pa, — T. S. Rose

1 Fort Craig was one of the 33 forts on the Virginia side of the Potomac River built as a defensive perimeter around Washington D. C. A 17 May 1864 report from the Union Inspector of Artillery noted the following: “Fort Craig, Major Holt commanding.–Garrison, two companies First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery–15 commissioned officers, 1 ordnance-sergeant, 280 men. Armament, one 24- pounder field howitzer, four 24-pounder siege, five 30-pounder Parrotts, one Coehorn mortar, one 10-inch mortar. Magazines, two; dry and in good condition. Ammunition, full supply and in good condition. Implements, complete and in good order. Drill in artillery, fair. Drill in infantry, fair. Discipline, fair. Garrison of sufficient strength.”

Letter 6

Accomack county, Virginia
August 5, [1864]

Dear Wife,

Yesterday was a day of rejoicing with myself and many others. We received [our mail for] the first time for two weeks. Our Colonel was kind enough to bring it up from Cherrystone. I received three letters mailed on the 22nd July, 25th and 26th. I was very eager to know the contents and how rejoiced I was to hear you was all well and in good spirits in the first two letters and O! how much more rejoiced to read the third one from Eliza bringing the news of a little stranger there. O! how I do want to e there to see it. But here I am bound. But I thank the Lord it is only for a few days more. Then I shall be with you and with the little stranger.

I was glad that Emma in her letter to John spoke of you getting along so well. I feel like singing—“I want to go home. I want to go home.” I want you to keep in good spirits and one of these nights with my knapsack strapped upon my back, [I shall come home] singing now my hundred [days are over]. we are expecting orders for home every day now. We may stay here for several days yet. The farthest any put the time of getting home is the 22nd. I thin we will be there before that time.

We are now camped in a beautiful place near one mile from Drummond Town on the sea view road. It is very pleasant if there was no mosquitoes to bother us at night. But we manage to keep them off by smoking them off. If we do not get enough sleep at night, we sleep in the day time. The weather continues very dry here. It is pleasant in the shade.

My health continues very good. I never was so fleshy in my life nor vainer. Feel so well. I hope that I may continue in good health. Our duties here are very light. We drill about two hours in a day and have a camp guard at night sometimes. The balance of the time we put in as we please. Col. Fisher and his wife came up yesterday and paid us a visit. They went down to a place by the name of Sea View in the evening. They came in camp and we gave them a grand reception. We had every tent illuminated with three candles and candlesticks all through the trees and a large camp fire in the center and all the soldiers sitting around in a large circle and of all the times of our soldiering, this beat all in singing all kinds of songs that one ever heard till 1 o’clock when the Colonel made us a little speech when all was quiet again.

Well, Ma, as I don’t expect to get more than one more letter from you, I will just say you must keep in good spirits and take good care of yourself and the dear little one. Do not be uneasy if you should not hear from me more than this time. I hope we will leave for home by Monday. I will write as often as I have opportunity. Goodbye, my dearest one. — T. S. Rose

Dear children. I wish I knew what to write to you that would be interesting to you. I will tell you what I have been doing today. I came off guard this morning at 7 o’clock and then I [went] over a little way from camp to a rich old doctor’s. His name is Satchel. 1 He has two large farms here and of all the places for fruit I ever saw, this beats them all. There is an old darkey attends to it. We go there and give him a dime and he gives us a peck of peaches, pears, and the largest and best plums I ever saw. I was all through the orchard and eat until I could eat no more. In the front yard there is more than an acre of all kinds of trees that grow nearly. I will say those trees [are] from all the old countries. Rare beautiful fig trees and all manner of fruit. I wish you were here to eat fruit ands the yard now.

I have made this so long, I will have to close for this time. When I get home, I will tell you of all I have done. So now goodbye. I would like to know what you have named that little pet for I expect it is a pet already. I believe you ought to wait until I get home and let me help name it. You must take god care of it until I come. Tell Grandma that I am well and kiss her for me and don’t forget to kiss the little baby for me also. John is well. All the balance of the boys are going around. Goodbye. Your Pa, — T. S. Rose

1 The rich old physician was undoubtedly Dr. Southey S. Satchell (1801-1873) of St. George’s Parish, Accomack county, Virginia.

Letter 7

Drummon Town, Accomack county, Virginia
August 8, [1864]

Dear Wife,

I have just received three letters from home. How glad I was to hear you was getting along so well. I would like to see the little baby. I am over anxious to get home how. We have but a few days more to spend in Old Virginia. Then soldiering will be played out. I think we will start for home by Friday this week anyhow. Some of the boys are getting very homesick. J. O. Johnson and J. F. Martin are [the] laughing stock for all the company. They are complaining all the time. They complain that they have no appetite when they are eating all the time.

The weather has been very dry here until Saturday night when we had a very heavy rain. Least Saturday Mace Parker, John Hancock, [&] Ben Stewart of Co. E, G. Sheldon and I went to the ocean shore. We left camp at 7 o’clock a.m. and walked two miles to an inlet where we chartered a little boat. We tried to charter a pilot but failed to get one so we concluded we would try it alone so we jumped aboard, hoisted the sail, & wit Parker to steer. The wind and tide being against us, Sheldon Stewart and I each [took] the oars and pulled away down the inlet about four miles to where we crossed over to an island to the broad Atlantic shore. This was the grandest sight I ever saw yet. I had to stop and gaze in wonder and amazement.

But I soon went to looking at the shells on the shore where they laid in piles. But I was somewhat disappointed. There was plenty of shells but not very fine shells. I gathered some, then went in swimming. This was the nicest swimming or bathing I ever had. We would wade out in the water until a large wave would come forming like a soap suds. After we got tired of our fun in the water and of gathering shells, we got in our boat and started back. While we were on the island, there was a heavy thunder came very near us but did not quite reach us. That was all such a grant sight.

On our way back, we had a very pleasant time. The wind being in our favor, we glided up the inlet beautifully without using the oars and reached our camp at supper time. Yesterday, Sunday, was rather lonesome. in camp as nearly all went to the ocean shore. Nearly all the rest were strolling over the country. At night we had a pleasant time. We came together and sung all the sweet old hymns that we use to sing at home. When we got tired of singing, we built our mosquito fires and went to bed or laid down and slept sound all night. While we were on drill this morning, the mail came. The captain dismissed us and all went to reading and now are all writing.

I am sorry to hear that the dry weather continues yet. I begin to fear there will be short crops and hard living this winter but I will not complain now. All I want is to get home and be with you all once more. I have no name yet for the little baby so you will have to wait until I get home for I want it to have a pretty name. I have thought of a name but for fear I might find a nicer one, I had bette not tell it. I expect this will be about the last letter I will write from this place so don’t be uneasy of you should not hear from me so often.

We are having a very easy time here. It is more like a picnic than soldiering. We have all kinds of fruit in abundance and melons. Then we have the finest fish I ever eat and nothing to do but cook, eat and sleep. Now I close again wit my love and prayers to and for you all trusting and hoping in the Lord it will not be long until we shall meet together.

Your dear [husband], — T. S. Rose

1863: Mary Elizabeth (Gardner) Van Nest to Joseph P. Van Nest

This letter was written by 20 year-old Mary Elizabeth (Gardner) Van Nest (1842-1928) to her husband, Joseph P. Van Nest (1841-1905) who enlisted as a private in Co. F, 120th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) in August 1862. Before his enlistment, Joseph worked with his father as a harness maker in Rowsburg, Ashland county, Ohio.

Joseph P. Van Nest when a lieutenant in the 114th OVI

In his book, “A visitation of God: Northern Civilians Interpret the War,” author Sean A. Scott wrote that Joseph was “raised in a family old dyed-in-the-wool Democrats…and that Joseph went to war to preserve the old Constitution.” A few months after enlisting, however, Joseph “felt betrayed by the Emancipation Proclamation and evidently his dissatisfaction became known throughout the community. One minister even claimed that Joseph, if given the opportunity, would be willing to shoot the President if he did not retracts the edict. As would be expected, Joseph’s father took offense at this slanderous statement for he had seen the letter in question and knew that his son had expressed no such sentiment.” When Joseph’s father confronted the minister, the “Abolition preacher” apparently withdrew the charge claiming that he must have “misunderstood his wife.”

Despite Joseph’s anger regarding his government’s prosecution of the war and his wife’s pleadings to desert, he remained steadfast in his duties, rising in rank to 1st Sergeant of his company, and then accepted a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 114th OVI.

To read letters previously transcribed and published on Spared & Shared that were written by Joseph P. Van Nest, see:

Joseph P. Van Nest, Co. F, 120th Ohio (6 letters)
Joseph P. Van Nest, Co. F, 120th Ohio (1 Letter)

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Addressed to J. P. Van Nest, in care of Capt. Buck, Co. F, 120th Regt. O/V. I., via Memphis, Tennessee

Rowsburg, [Ohio]
February 1, 1863

Dear Husband,

I again seat myself to try to write you a few lines to let you know we are all well at present and I hope you are getting along better than you were when you wrote. I was very sorry to hear you were sick, but still I was glad in one way, so that you had not to go in the battle. We heard that the sick was all sent to St. Louis and I think that is a good plan for they will be better taken care of than at Memphis. Uncle John started for there last Wednesday. I hope that you are sent there too so that you will not be in that battle at Vicksburg again for if you are in it, I have little hope of ever seeing you again. It will be an awful slaughter. I don’t believe our men will ever take it. I don’t believe the fighting will ever end this confounded war and no person thinks so anymore.

If I was you, I would not stay down there and fight for the negroes anymore for I would not have my blood spilt for them. This is not an honorable war anyhow. The men that lives to get home will not have any honor anyhow.

Joe, I don’t care how soon you desert and come home and your folks don’t care either. They said they wished you would come home.  I would not want you to start with those [military] clothes on, but send me word and I will send you some [civilian] clothes. I can  send them in a box and get them expressed to you and then you would  have no trouble to get home, and you might go to some other state and work until the war was over. I would stay where I am [just] so I know  where you were. I would not care.

Mother said she should write to [her brother] Al 1 and tell him to come home and start East. Oh! how I wish you would have taken my advice and stayed at home with me. Sometimes I think it can’t be that the one that I love best of all on earth must be so far from me. Oh, Joe, sometimes I sit down and cry when I think of  times past and gone forever and never to return again. It is a solemn thought indeed that I may have seen you for the last time. It is hard to tell. I think sometimes I must just start and come  and see you but the distance is too great. It seems awful hard to  think you can’t come home until the war is over. Oh Joe, desert and come home. If you knew how bad I want to see you, I think you  would.

Keifers feels very bad about  the war. They think he may have drowned himself. It will be an awful thing if he has done it. Some say there was another man missing with him and maybe they have deserted together. I have not  learned his name, but I glory in their spunk if they have deserted. I wrote in the other letter I sent you about so many things. Emerson wrote a letter in the Times that the sesech wanted things so bad and they were so mean that when they got to Ashland, they opened the barrels and distributed them. It was an awful mean trick after we went to so much trouble and getting it ready for our poor soldiers. If I hear anything about Keifers, I will send you word of it.

Dr. Cole’ wife had a son.

There was several of the boys wrote home that [Capt. Henry] Buck 2 and [1st Lieutenant Robert M.] Zuver 3 run when the battle was at Arkansas Post. I wish you would write if it is true or not. Everybody says you ought to shoot them both. I will never pity Buck a bit if he don’t get home. He wrote home if the soldiers did not get something pretty soon to eat, you would have to starve. Before I would starve, I would start home. Joe, do come home. I can’t hardly live without you. It seems so long since we were together. If Buck would start home, you should just start too for he promised before you went that he would stay with you.

I guess I’ll stay on in the little house. It is so good a place as I can get. It is pretty lonesome—nobody but me and [our son] Johnny. All I want is for you to come home. I can put up with anything. Bill Strayer has gone East with a patent-wright to stay all winter.

I guess I have written all the news for this time. I’ll write again. I feel out of heart today and can’t write as I wished. These are dreary days and I suppose they are to you too. Johnny is well and will soon walk. Your father gave me a new dress. It is oil calico [and] is very pretty. Joe, I hope you will excuse this poorly composed letter. I send you some newspapers with this letter. I must close by bidding you good night. I remain your affectionate wife, — Mary E. Van Nest

Tell me all that is sick when you write. I forgot to state when I received [your] letter. It was the 29th. Write soon for I can’t wait.

1 Alpheus A. Hamilton, in the 42nd OVI

2 Capt. Henry Buck of Co. F, 120th OVI resigned on 15 February 1863.

3 1st Lieutenant Robert M. Zuver of Co. F, 120th OVI resigned on 14 June 1863.

1861: Polly (Sackett) Giddings to Claudius Joseph Giddings

An unidentified Northern Mother (Rob Morgan Collection)

Though I cannot confirm it, I believe this letter to have been written by Polly (Sackett) Giddings (1822-1864), the daughter of Thomas and Lucy Sackett and the widow of Emery Sidney Giddings (1815-1851). The “Grandmother” mentioned in the letter would have been Polly’s mother-in-law, Philothea (Fish) Giddings (1782-1868)—the widow of Elisha Giddings (1780-1855). “Maple Grove Farm” was the name of the Giddings estate in Cherry Valley that eventually was taken over by Sidney’s brother, Josiah Marvin Giddings (1812-1892). The “Grandpa” mentioned in the last line of the letter would have been Polly’s father, Thomas T. Sackett (1794-1864) who resided in Geauga County, Ohio. Polly Giddings was known to be a member of the First Congregational Church of Wayne in Ashtabula County. According to the History of the church, she became a member in January 1847. Her husband’s parents were charter members in 1832.

If the letter was written by Polly, then it was addressed to her son, Claudius Joseph Giddings (1843-1928) who was apparently in relatively poor health and living with an Uncle’s family, possibly working as a printer while attending school. Polly’s son, who later went by the name “Claude J. Giddings” moved to Vasalia, California, in the 1870s and became a banker. According to his obituary, he attracted attention when at age 64 he married 21 year-old Anna Olsen.

The letter contains a well-crafted statement that captures the sentiment, undoubtedly, of many mothers who resided in both the North and the South who saw the approach of war unfold before them and despaired that they might lose a son in an irrational conflict brought on by extremists with opposing views, drawing the “conservatives into the perils and horrors of civil war.”

[This letter is from the private collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent on Spared & Shared.]


Maple Grove Farm
April 22, 1861

My dear Joseph,

Your Grandma is anxious about you and insists I should write although my last is unanswered. There is so much excitement all over the country and especially about you in Pitts. Yesterday while at church, Esq. Abel Krum, 1 our Representative to Columbus, entered the church direct from that City with exciting war news. He went into Mr. [Heman] Geer’s 2 pulpit to announce that when he left [Columbus], Jeff Davis was marching to take Washington and probably now they were engaged with the Federal troops fighting. He then came on to our [Congregational] church requesting that our citizens would call a meeting and see who would volunteer for defense of the Southern part of our state [Ohio] where they had already been skirmishing. He had not yet been to call on his family. Returns to Columbus this Monday morning again.

Tomorrow evening the citizens meet. The cannons have been heard here this morning and again since three o’clock, the wind very strong in the east and the air filled with smoke ever since sunrise. Shouldn’t be surprised if its from the fire of our public buildings. And so the antagonist factions have succeeded in drawing us conservatives into the perils and horrors of civil war. If the fire eaters of the South and ultraist of the North alone could meet and both get whipped, it might cool off their excited blood. But here we are in a family quarrel like naughty children trying to break the Will of a deceased parent. So we of the South and North, trying to break the Constitution, having lost in a manner respect for the opinions of the Fathers who with wisdom framed it and adopted the motto, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

“And so the antagonist factions have succeeded in drawing us conservatives into the perils and horrors of civil war. If the fire eaters of the South and ultraist of the North alone could meet and both get whipped, it might cool off their excited blood. But here we are in a family quarrel like naughty children trying to break the Will of a deceased parent.”

—Polly (Sackett) Giddings, 22 April 1861

Well politicians have their plans, military men theirs, and Jeff Davis his. But above all, God has His and “causes the wrath of man to praise Him” and the remainder “He will restrain.”

Your Grandma fears you may be so enthusiastic that you may be persuaded to volunteer. I trust not. I should not be willing except you have first given your heart to God and then, if prepared to die and it was necessary to thus take your life in your hands and go to defend your country’s honor, I should not object.

George proposes to visit us in July or August and we wish you to accompany him as he will stat but a few days. Grandma thinks it would do you good, improve your health, &c. We think if you would come home and work on the farm a little, it would help your health and divert disease while this night printing will fasten upon your system. George has an engagement to teach in the institution for 10 months—salary 200 dollars. teaches algebra, geometry, philosophy, Latin, &c., and gets time to study. Commenced the 12th of April. I know you must be very busy but I do want you to write.

John Brown is in Canada. 3 Has been all winter drilling the colored people (for active service somewhere—so say the abolition friends here). The professed purpose has been to help and persuade them to emigrate to Haiti. Alfred works for Wolcott. Spends the Sabbaths at home and when you and George come, I will keep house at home and entertain you. I shall not got to Illinois at present.

Have late news from Aunt H. and C. Both are well. Carrie is so happy with that blue-eyed baby. George says Cousin Virginia’s boy weighed 11.5 pounds. How are they all at Uncle Robert’s? Have you joined society again. So write soon. From, — Mother

Grandma is bad. Can scarcely get up or down. Grandpa is doing alone. Shall have 9 cows. Have 5 calves.

1 Abel Krum (1805-1881) was born in Kinderhook, Columbia county, New York. He died in Cherry Valley, Ashtabula county, Ohio.

2 Heman Geer (1819-1892) was a Congregational Clergyman in Ashtabula county, Ohio. He was in the pulpit of the Wayne Congregational Church from October 1857 to January 1867. He died at Tabor, Iowa.

3 A reference to John Brown, Jr. (son of the martyr). The Detroit Free Press on 19 May 1861 had less than kind things to say about Brown’s attempts to relocate escaped slaves from Canada to Haiti: “That notorious character, John Brown, Jr., is now at Windsor, accompanied by an ebony-colored individual who styles himself Captain Tate and hails from Hayti. Does John Brow for one moment entertain the idea that, by bringing his Haytien friend with him to exhibit as a specimen of what Hayti produces, he will prevail upon the Canada niggers to leave a country where they can subsist by stealing, and go where they will be obliged to labor for a livelihood? It cannot be accomplished; it is beyong the power of man.”

1861: Mary C. Stewart to Sarah Elizabeth Russell

Libby Russell, ca. 1855

This letter was penned in June 1861 by a young school teacher who signed her name “Mary.” The content of the letter suggests to me that she was actually from the same same village as the young woman she was writing to which was her friend, Sarah Elizabeth (“Libbie”) Russell (1834-1925), the daughter of Luther Russell (1802-1878) and Polly E. Russell (1806-1896) of Streetsboro, Portage county, Ohio. The 1860 US Census for Streetsboro reveals a school teacher by the name of Mary C. Stewart (b. 1832) who was single and living with her parents. Since it was not uncommon for school teachers to leave their hometowns and teach in rural school districts while boarding with families of the students, my hunch is that this letter was written by Mary C. Stewart though of course I cannot confirm that by anything in the letter.

Mary’s patriotic envelope and stationery immediately arrest the eye but what is most interesting and appropriate is the postmark “Freedom, Ohio” given the content of her letter. Written prior to any major battle, Mary’s letter foreshadows the “blighting scourge” that is about to descend on the Nation, delivering “horror and despair” to the mothers and sisters who are already “shedding bitter tears over loved ones that have left them for the battlefield.” Mary lays the cause of the war on the evil “Slavery!” but also expresses her belief that the “agitators” (abolitionists) are as much to blame for sparking the war because they “sought at once” to eradicate the evil rather that trust that task to God.

The recipient of this letter (Libbie) never married. Her younger sister, Helen M. Russell (1841-1881), was betrothed to Corp. James (“Jimmie”) Fitzpatrick of Co. D, 104th OVI. He was shot in the head in the fighting near Dallas, Georgia on 28 May 1864 and died two days later.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent.]


Addressed to Miss Libbie Russell, Streetsboro, Portage County, Ohio
Postmarked Freedom, Ohio, July 1 [1861]

Freedom [Portage county, Ohio]
June 21, 1861

Dear Libbie,

Your kind letter was received long since and would ere this have been answered had not time laden with its many duties sped so swiftly onward giving me no opportunity to perform the pleasant task of writing to you.

I am teaching. Have a pleasant school of about thirty scholars. Plenty to do have I not? Yes, I find no time to loiter by the way to cull the flowers of ease and pleasure. Tis well for to the clarion call of duty so we owe strength of purpose and earnestness of life. Rousing the soul from its lethargic slumber and thrilling its inmost recesses, it breaths an inspiration that bids us, “do and dare”—noble things. I love to think of the many hearts that have responded to this call and gone forth to gladden the world by their deeds of love, silently and patiently they tread the uneven places, evincing that spirit of self forgetfulness that seeks not its own.

In the unwritten history of such lives, is a moral heroism, unequaled by many whom the world calls great, and I doubt not that in the day of final judgment, hearts that have thus lived and suffered will have won the brightest crown.

There is Libbie now but one topic of conversation in our little village. “War” is on every tongue. Mother and sisters are shedding bitter tears over loved ones that have left them for the battlefield. Is it true that the war-cry is sounding throughout our land? That our nation, once so prosperous. is to be visited by such a blighting scourge, making desolate our homes and spreading horror and despair all around? To me it seems like a fearful dream. I cannot realize it.

Our glorious Union, purchased by the brave heroes of ’76—gone forever. And what has been the rock upon which it has been wrecked? Slavery! a fearful evil that has ever been a dark stain upon our nation, and now threatens to prove its overthrow. The subject of slavery has been agitating the political world for many years and I can but think that many of the agitators have lost sight of that declaration—“Vengeance in mine. I will repay saith the Lord.” In their mistaken zeal they have sought at once to utterly eradicate an evil—that time and the power of which is ever on the side of right can alone destroy. Evils exist all around us over which we may weep and pray, and yet they be not removed. We can only commend our cause to God, believing that in His own time He will remove them. The question of slavery and all party distinctions are now forgotten in the desire to “save the Union” and I trust that it may yet be preserved, that the stars of our national banner may never be diminished but sustained by the brave descendants of the patriots of ’76—may continue to float proudly over our land. May God speed the right.

Oh Libbie, I want to see you “so bad” and all your friend at home. Present my kind regards to them and Helen. Tell her that I think of her often. May God bless her in her labors and make her useful in training the tender mind of youth.

Give my love to the Miss Combs. Tell Addie I do want to write to her but cannot find time. My love to Nancy Russell and tell her that she need not be surprised if she should receive a letter from me for I am thinking of writing. Libbie, please write soon—very soon. I have enclosed a letter to the scholars which Hellen will please give them. Also a note to Addie and Emma Patterson. When will [you] visit me Libbie? Ever your friend, — Mary

1862-63: John Mortimer Carr to Pembroke S. Scott

These letters were written by John Mortimer (“Mort”) Carr (1827-1904) of Taylor Creek township, Hardin County, Ohio. Mort was married to Maria Scott (1838-1871) in 1854. The couple had four children at the time these letters were written; Thornton (“Thornt”) Washington Carr (1855-1889), Jennie B. Carr (1857-1929), Maud Charlotte Carr (b. 1859), and Scott Sieg Carr (b. 1862). Census records inform us that Mort was a farmer but these letters reveal that he was also a stockman who raised hogs for the Eastern markets as well as sheep.

Mort wrote the letters to his brother-in-law, Pembroke S. (“Snook”) Scott (1842-1864), a private with the 118th Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He was mustered into service on August 11, 1862. This regiment saw action as part of Burnside’s Campaign in East Tennessee from August 16- October 17, 1863. Afterwards, they served near Kingston, Tennessee, until moving to Nashville in December. They then joined the Atlanta Campaign from May 1 to September 8. Pembroke was killed in battle on May 14, 1864 at Resaca, Ga. [See 1862: Pembroke S. Scott to Jane (Patterson) Scott published on Spared & Shared 18]

In the first letter, Mort writes of getting into a scrape with Charles Quinn (1818-1865) of Rush Creek township in Logan county, Ohio. The scuffle began with name calling (“Abolitionist!”) and resulted in thrown punches and a knife plunged that fortunately missed its mark. Though both parties pressed charges against each other, it apparently did not amount to much. Heated disputes such as this between civilians on the home front were probably more common than we realize today as news of Lincoln’s impending and controversial Emancipation Proclamation became more commonly known and debated in the fall of 1862.

Letter 1

Addressed to Mr. P. S. S. Scott, Falmouth, Ky., 118th Regiment O. V. G., Company B, In care of Capt. Kramer

Rushsylvania [Logan county, Ohio]
November 17th 1862

Mr. P. S. S. Scott, Esgq,
Dear Sir,

Yours of the 2nd inst. at hand was truly glad to hear from you and to hear that you was well again and was with your regiment. We are all well here at present and the folks in this county are generally well here.

Nothing of interest has transpired from my last but I got into some difficulty with Charley Quinn and he called me a damned abolitionist and struck me two or three times and then I took out my knife and stabbed him in the side. But lucky for him it was a glancing stick and went down instead of going in so I did not hurt him very much. We was by ourselves and he had me arrested for stabbing with intent to kill and he says he is a going to put me to the penitentiary but I do not feel much alarmed about that. I had him arrested and we had both of our trials before the same justice and we are both bound over to court and I think he will not make more than four times. Court commences the 25th inst. and we will soon know our dooms. It is causing me some trouble and will cost me right smart but I think that will be all that he can do.

I have a lot of hogs ready to ship to New York but cannot get back in time for court and I will have to sell in Buffalo if I do not sell here before I start. I will start on the 19th inst. and I have to be here on the 25th for court.

I wish you was here to go with me to Buffalo and then you could go to Niagara Falls and see one of the grandest sights that the human eye ever beheld.

I received a letter from Miller and he is a getting very low but he expects to be discharged. Dock is a getting better very slow. He says he will always be a cripple. I got a letter from J. W. M. and he is not very well but says he likes the service better that he expected. I received a letter from Mort Stiles and one from Joe and one from you all the same day and one from Frank the day or two before and one from Miller and Dock today. Mort and Frank was well. Mort said he had got a letter from home and Harper was home with the typhoid fever and one of the Colonels of that parts had come home and he had took Bill Hardin prisoner near New Orleans and he was married and was in the Rebel army. So he may get what he deserved. Goodbye, — Mort

Capt. [Solomon] Kramer is here but I have not seen him.

Letter 2

Rushsylvania [Logan county, Ohio]
December 29, 1862

Mr. P. S. Scott

Yours of the 16th inst. [came to] hand in due time [and] was truly glad to hear from you once more and to hear that you was well. We are all well here at preset and I hope when these few imperfect lines comes to your hand, they may find you enjoying good health. There is nothing of interest a going on here at this time as I know of.

Christmas is passed and I believe the girls and the old bachelors had a party at H. H. H. on Christmas night but I do not know how they enjoyed themselves. They say they had an oyster supper. That is all I know about it. I just got home the night before Christmas from Buffalo. I was down with the hogs and found rather a hard market but I got out safe without making very much money. John Clark and Henry Rumsey went along with me and they went down to the [Niagara] Falls and enjoyed themselves well. Spent the Sabbath down there. I am a going down again next week and then I expect to go on to New York City and John is a going along with me. I wish you was here to go with us. You would have a very nice time. You would have time to go and see the Falls for U expect to stay in Buffalo as much as ten days and you could have time to see all there is to see down there.

I want to take down about three hundred hogs this time. Oh how I wish you was here to go along with us. I have not had any news from any of the boys from the Army of Virginia since I last wrote you. I have not been about home very much for some time and I think there must be some letters at the [post] office. I have not been to Rushsylvania for three months.

I believe John C. Bailey 1 was wounded in the late battle at Fredericksburg in the leg and since then he has had to have his leg taken off above the knee. So you see he will always be a cripple. I do not know whether J. W. was in the battle or not. I have not had any letter from him since the battle. If he was in the battle, he may be amongst the dead. I do not know what to think about him. I would like very much to hear from him.

I believe that Doc is at Point Lookout in the hospital yet. They say old Noah Rogers is getting fat as a bear. I believe there has nothing of interest transpired here for some time. I believe that they say that Frank [M.] Rose was married on Christmas day to one of Jim Haney’s girls [Eunice]—a very poor choice the girl made, I think. What think you? It is a rose with a thorn in it is my opinion

Well, P. S., I am writing by candle light and all of my family is around me. Maud and Jennie is laying on the bed, Sieg is asleep in the cradle. Thornt, Johnny, and Maria is looking at the pictures in my new dictionary. I got a new atlas and dictionary that I paid $18.50 for—the best in use.

I believe that I wrote you in my last that I got through with that Quinn scrape without much trouble. They say he carries a revolver for to shoot me but I do not feel much alarmed about it. If I never die till Charles Quinn kills me, I think I will live to see the war close anyhow.

I believe I will have to bring my letter to a focus. Maud says I must write a letter to you for her. Thornt says he is well. Jenney says she will send you an apple if I will put it in this letter but you will have to excuse me for I cannot get it in the envelope. We have some very fine apples and I wish you had some of them anyhow for New Years.

So good night and I wish you a happy New Year. — Mort

Write soon as you can and believe me ever your sincere friend, — Mort to Snook

Thornt says as for them chickens you wanted to know about, he says his advise is to take all you can get from them old rebels and talk to the girls in the borques [?] He says if he was you he would have a nice turkey for dinner on New Years Day if they was any Rebel turkeys that could be drafted in or around your camp. That is what’s the matter.

You said you thought you would try to get a furlough to come home on New Years. Well I wish you may get one for I would like very much to have you to take dinner with me a New Years Day.

1 John Catlett Bailey (1832-1922) of Taylor Creek township, Hardin County, Ohio, served as a private in Co. D, 4th OVI. He enlisted on 1 June 1861 and was discharged for medical disability on 24 April 1863. We learn from this letter that Pvt. Bailey was wounded in the leg at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862 that necessitated the amputation of the limb, leaving him a cripple. He was married to Hortense Shepherd in 1878. He died in Kenton, Ohio.

Letter 3

Rushsylvania [Logan county, Ohio]
June 10, 1863

Mr. P. S. Scott
Dear Brother,

I received your kind letter some time ago and was truly glad to hear from you and have neglected to answer till now awaiting for to have something of interest to write you but they have nothing of that kind transpired so you must excuse me if I do not write you anything of that kind. But in the first place, we are all well here and they was all well at our Mother’s yesterday and John he was well enough to be out last Sunday night to see some of the fair sex. So you can see that it is all right with him.

Well I have got through planting corn and I did not get very much planted. I only got about nine acres planted. We had to clear all the ground that we planted but it is a coming up very nice. But it has been so dry here that they can nothing grow to do much good. The wheat is this part of the country is a going to be very poor. It cannot make over one half crop. It must be six weeks since we have had any rain to do any good toward wetting the ground here and they are still planting corn yet.

I just sheared my sheep yesterday and Maria, she is a going to work up some of the wool and I will have about ninety dollars worth to sell. I saw Mr. Canaan when he was here and he told me that you was alright and was lied first rate by all of the men in the company and I was very glad to hear that. And he said that you would et a furlough for to come home he thought before long. I would like very much to see you and would come down to see you if I had the time to spare. But if you are well and can get to come home, I suppose it will be alright.

I received a letter from Mort [Stiles] written the last days of May. He was well then and was in good spirits and he thinks that things look alright down there in Virginia. He is still at Suffolk but he thinks or says itis the opinion that prevails amongst the men and officers that that army will be moved to Hooker’s army soon.

I got a letter from J. W. M. a few days ago and he was just tolerable. Well, he was not in the battle but is one of the guards that guard the cattle and he says he has very easy times. Well, I suppose Noah Rogers was killed in the Chancellorsville Battle for he amongst the missing and it has been reported since that he was found in three or four days after and was buried and I am inclined to think it is true. They are picking up some of the deserters here now and making the balance run and hide in the woods.

So write soon and believe me ever your friend and brother, — Mort

to Snook

1863: Lizzie (Wilson) Rice to John Birchard Rice

Lizzie (Wilson) Rice

This letter was written by Sarah Eliza (Wilson) Rice (1842-1928), the daughter of James William Wilson (1816-1904) and Nancy E. Justice (1821-1904) of Fremont, Sandusky county, Ohio. Sarah—who went by “Lizzie”—was only 19 years old when she married John Birchard Rice (1832-1893), an 1857 graduate of the medical department at the University of Michigan, in December 1861.

During the Civil War, Lizzie’s husband served on the medical staff as assistant surgeon of the Tenth and then as surgeon of the Seventy-second regiments of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He was also surgeon in chief of a division in the Fifteenth Army Corps and of the District of Memphis. Following the Battle of Shiloh, Gen. W. T. Sherman went out of of his way to praise Rice in his after action brigade report: “I take the liberty to refer to the important services of Surgeon John B. Rice and the assistant surgeons of the 48th, 70th, and 72nd [Ohio] Regiments. They have labored at the landing among the wounded almost incessantly night and day, taking no sleep for two days and nights.”

In this letter, Lizzie shares home-front information with her husband including the excitement raised between Union loyalists and secession sympathizers who were derisively called “Butternuts” or “Copperheads.” Her youthful exuberance relating social activity and local courtships is on full display as her husband is about to embark on an expedition down the Mississippi from Memphis to Young’s Point, opposite Vicksburg.

More on Surgeon John B. Rice:

Five of John’s Civil War letters are on-line, graciously made available to researchers at the Ohio History Connection where they are housed under the title, John Birchard Rice Civil War Letters. The Auburn University Digital Library also has a letter from Surgeon Rice to his wife dated 24 October 1864 on-line.

For an excellent article mentioning Surgeon Rice, see—“Skinned out for Memphis like Tom O’ Shanter with the devil after him,” General Samuel Sturgis, the 72nd Ohio, and the Guntown Disaster, Dan Masters’ Civil War Chronicles, published 8 June 2019.


March 28th 1863

My Own Darling Husband,

I wrote you a long letter day before yesterday, but having nothing in particular to do this evening will write you again. There is nothing going on worth writing about. It is as dull as can be here. Was out to an exhibition last evening which was as good as such exhibitions generally are. Saw Mr. Willard there and he inquired about you as he always does when he sees me.

Surgeon John B. Rice, 72nd OVI

There was a “Union Supper” over at Hocke’s Hotel 1 last evening. The way they come to have it there was this. One evening last week a number of these butternuts about town (Frinefrock 2, [Bruce] Lindsay, and others) went over there to hold one of their meetings. They abused Lincoln and the soldiers and talked “secesh” so strong that Hocke ordered them out of his house. They remonstrated, but he told them to go. They then told him that they would get their horses and go and that it would ruin him. He told the hostler to get their horses ready as soon as he could and let them go. Said there was something in his heart that told him he ought not to let them do so and he would not have it. The Union men were so pleased when they heard it that about one hundred of them went over there last night and got their supper. Do not know whether [Benjamin] Brundage & Owen were there the night they were ordered away or not.

Owen is very much taken with Live [Olivia] Bartlett. 3 Thinks she is perfection. He pays here a great deal of attention and would not be surprised if he cut out Oakley. 4 She would do a great deal better to take him, if he was not a butternut. That is the only thing I know against him. He is smarter than Oak and has a profession while Oak has no trade, profession, or anything else. The most he has ever done towards making a living is teaching school and clerking.

I received yours of the 14th day before yesterday. I cannot tell you how glad I was to hear that you had been promised a “leave of absence” when this expedition was ended. Hope it will not be very long. You had better take good care of your new clothes for I want you to present as fine an appearance as possible when you come home. I want folks to see that I have reason to be proud of you. I will not tell you how many compliments Mr. Glenn paid you, nor what they were for fear it would make you vain if I did. Amos Word has returned to his regiment. Charlie Norton has been promoted. Have almost forgotten what he is now but think it is Captain. You wrote that the weather was very pleasant. Do you have much rain? It rained here all this week until yesterday when it was very warm and pleasant. Tonight the ground is covered with snow.

Your brother Rob is expected home in a few days. He has got his “sheepskin.” Did I ever tell you that Lou Gessner 5 had gone back into the army? They are going to have a “Continental Tea Party” 6 out to Clyde next Thursday evening. Have heard a number of ladies say that they thought of going out. Ella Watson called here yesterday but I was not at home. She told me when I called on her that she was very anxious to see your picture. Said she had not seen you since you was a little fellow. That was the time I suppose when you was so much in love with her. I heard the other day that one of my schoolmates (a girl about my age) was married to a widower who had ten children. I think she is a goose to marry a man with children. She is now living in Springfield, Mass.

It is very late and will have to stop writing and go to bed. Suppose I have made about fifty mistakes in this letter. Have been talking and writing at the same time. Is Gen. [James William] Denver going down the river with you? Remember me to all friends. Suppose Owen has told you all the news that I have written, hasn’t he? He must have a special correspondent here at home who keeps him posted in regard to what is going on. But no more tonight. Did Gen. [Ralph Pomeroy] Buckland give you that kiss I sent by him?

Write often to your darling wife, — Lizzie S. Rice

All send love

Monday, March 30

Did not get this letter in the [Post] Office yesterday and it will not go out until tomorrow morning. I suppose you will get it as soon as if it had gone out this morning. Have no doubt but it will lay in the office at Cairo or perhaps travel around two or three weeks before you get it. Do not forget to write often. Affectionately your wife, — Lizzie

1 Christian F. Hocke, (1820-1863) a native of Germany, operated the hotel in Fremont, Ohio. I note that Christian died on 10 June 1863, just two and a half months after this letter was written. His 17 year-old son who was also named Christian, took over the operation of his father’s hotel and was identified as the proprietor in 1870.

2 Judge Thomas Peter Finefrock (1826-1909) practiced law in Sandusky county. He ws married to Emma Ellen Carter (1835-1910) at Fremont, Ohio. Finefrock was a life-long Democrat who took a very active role in leading the ultra-Democratic Party in an anti-Administration campaign.

3 Olivia Jane Bartlett (1842-1879) was the 21 year-old daughter of Brice J. Bartlett—a lawyer and former mayor in Fremont, Ohio. Olivia married Israel Oakley Totten on 29 March 1864. When he died two years later, she married Capt. John George Nuhfer.

4 Israel “Oakley” Totten (1841-1866) enlisted in August 1861 in Co. F, 49th OVI. He was wounded in the Battle of Stones River and discharged in August 1863. His father, William Oakley Totten, was a shipbuilder in Fremont.

5 Dr. Louis S. J. Gessner was an Asst. Surgeon on the 37th OVI. He later served briefly as the surgeon at Camp Chase, Confederate POW Camp in Columbus, and then was sent to Nashville where he was Chief Surgeon at Hospital No. 11, Army of the Cumberland, 1863-65.

6 A “Continental Tea Party” seems to have been an event designed to inspire patriotism during the war, conjuring up images of the Spirit of ’76. Some newspaper accounts of such events indicate attendees may have worn continental clothing.

1864: H. F. Chad to her Nephew

How Mrs. Chad might have looked.

This letter was written by a woman who signed her name H. F. Chad, though I can’t be certain of the middle initial as the script is unusual. She datelined her letter from Orwell, Ashtabula county, Ohio, but I cannot find any public record online under that surname even if I search under the name Chadd instead which was the more common English spelling. I can only assume they moved into the area after 1860 and left before 1870. The woman and her husband seem to be farmers based on the content of the letter and she indicates that they were having a new barn erected on the property that was being framed by Marshall Howard, a local carpenter.

She wrote the letter to an unnamed nephew who was clearly serving in the army—probably engaged in Grant’s Overland Campaign. She mentions that she was sending him some tea in the envelope and I can only assume that the lithographed paper with scenes of Washington D. C. on one side and of flowers on the reverse contained a small pouch of tea at one time.


Orwell, Ashtabula county, Ohio
June 19, 1864

My kind and affectionate Nephew,

I now seat myself to write a few lines to you in answer to your welcome letter of the 7th that came to hand yesterday with the glad tidings that you was still well and hearty which I was very glad to hear and so was your Uncle. We had a letter from William written the 31st of May. He and Seymour was well and hearty then. They were eleven miles from Richmond. I hope the next letter I get from you that you will have the good luck to be in Richmond safe and well.

So I will send you a drawing of tea so you can take tea. I sent William some twice. He is very fond of tea.

I hope the war will be over by the 1st of July so you can have a day of rejoicing and Independence. The reason I send so small a piece of paper is so I can send some more tea and I am in a hurry for I have a hired man to get dinner for this Monday, the 20th. I had company come yesterday so I did not get it wrote but I will do better next time.

We are going to have a new barn. Mr. [Marshall J.] Howard is framing it. They think they will raise it Thursday.

You say it is very hot weather down there. We have had a very cold spring except a few days. We have had 4 days what you may call warm weather and we have had no rain to speak of for 3 weeks. Yesterday it tried to ran but did not rain enough to lay the dust. This morning it just warm enough to be comfortable.

We think of you poor fellows down there having to march and fight these hot days and I thank the Lord too for sparing you thus far and have faith to believe he will watch over you and bring you safe home.

Mrs. Sheredeen [Sheridan?] had a letter from Mack [?] wrote the 8th. He was all right then and in 5 miles of Richmond. Carol is done going to school this spring. She has been sick with 6 boils but not as bad as 6 balls would make her, I guess. Oh yes, we had two quite hard frosts this month but they did not hurt anything right here. Our corn and potatoes, oats and beans look first rate, and peas, but they are sowed late.

I often wish I was a bird that could fly down there and take a peep at you and over the field to William but I can’t and is it all right. God knows what is best. So I will leave you in God’s care and close this scribbling and do better next time. write as often as you can for we like to hear but we know you can’t have much time. This is from your aunt, — H. F. Chad