This letter was written by 26 year-old Elmira (“Ellie”) Ann Bailey (1838-1926), the daughter of Daniel Bailey (1802-1868) and Christiana Mumper (1808-1897) of Dillsburg, York county, Pennsylvania. Ellie married Levi Brandt (1829-1905) in November 1866. In her letter, Ellie mentions her two brothers—Samuel Nelson Bailey (1841-1903), and Mumper John Bailey (1844-1915)—neither of whom enlisted or were apparently drafted in the service during the war.
Ellie wrote the letter to her cousin “Jennie” who was Jane (Mateer) Henderson (1837-1926). The letter was addressed to Dunningsville, a small village in Washington county, Pennsylvania. We learn from the letter that Jennie had recently married Rev. Samuel McFarren Henderson (1839-1879) who was called to the pastorate of the Pigeon Creek Presbyterian Church in June 1863 where he served until late April 1867. Samuel was born in New Hagerstown, Carroll county, Ohio, and an 1859 graduate of Washington & Jefferson College. After pursuing theological studies at the Western Theological Seminary in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Steubenville. After leaving the Pigeon Creek church, he relocated to the church at Wilkinsburg, Presbytery of Pittsburgh. After Rev. Henderson died in 1879, Jennie remarried with University of Wooster teacher, Samuel J. Kirkwood (1840-1901) in 1882. Jennie was the daughter of John Mateer (1807-1875) and Mary Nelson Diven (1816-1896).
Though written six months after the Battle of Gettysburg, Ellie informs her cousin that Lee’s invasion into Pennsylvania the previous summer had caused “an exciting time” and resulted in her brother having three of his horses taken by the Confederates. She also claimed that the cannonading at Gettysburg could be heard quite distinctly at their home 24 miles away during the 3-day battle and that great crowds of curiosity seekers were observed passing their home in Dillsburg on their way to the battlefield immediately afterward.
Home [Dillsburg, York county, Pa] Monday afternoon, January 18th 1864
My dear Cousin Jennie,
After looking and waiting a letter from you for more than a year, I at last receive a very surprising one the 26th of November telling me of your marriage, “your husband,” &c. I am of the same opinion as you that such a step occasions deep interest, yet Jennie I have not yet been persuaded to commit the like act, (as you surmised in your letter) [and] do not know that I will permit myself to be, yet I do think it is much the happier way of living this life, or it would not have be instituted.
I presume you feel quite at home as Mrs. Henderson by this time—also naturalized as a pastor’s wife and to what the congregation will expect of you—it is generally perfection. I wish I could have seen you the first Sabbath you went to church after you were Mrs. Henderson. I can imagine the curiosity of the congregation to see their “Minister’s wife.” No doubt you impressed them very favorably with your humility, commendable dignity, &c. I should like to see you and your husband. You recommend matrimony as a capital institution, and of course there is something in having a nice husband. You no doubt, dear Jennie, are well suited. Hope I may be as fortunate.
Mumper is at Academia, Juniata county, at school—his second sessions. Says it was not “Cap year.” The evening you & I stayed out a little late & he had one horse to put up, I was very much worried that evening. Mr. L. was very kind to offer his services if you would only stay a little longer; but Jennie we must take the bitter with the sweet in this world. I am extremely sensitive; it is a failing.
Jennie, you should have been here last June and first of July to see our friends from the South, but we did have an exciting time in constant fear; though they were all very polite & gentlemanly that stopped here. You ask me how Sam got along with his black horse when the rebels were here. Jennie, they found him and two other young horses and gave in exchange an old worn-out U. S. horse. Father had them sent down to the river but government had taken charge of things and could not get over until they would wait a few hours, but the rebels being expected there hourly, they “flew to the mountain” with six of ours, where they remained two or three days, when the mountains were searched. Yes! Sam was very much distressed that his beautiful black horse got into their hands. the other two were very pretty bays.
I saw Logans at church yesterday. They are all about as usual. Their father was very ill a short time after you left. His sight is very bad.
Saw Ellie Dunlop at Mechanicsburg Church last Sabbath. Also Maggie Lusk & Ellen Mateer (you have heard her sister died of diphtheria in the summer very suddenly). She is looking very badly. Will hardly recover her former health. Saw Dr. Youngs too. I expect to go down to see them shortly—perhaps next week.
I spent an evening and afternoon at Wolford’s a few weeks before Christmas. Mr. B & I had a very pleasant time. Saw John A. W. & sister. They are looking very well; also [Mary] “Mollie” Myers [1841-1891]. I suppose you heard her sister Alice [Louise Myers] was married to Will[iam H.] Gardner a few months since [14 October 1863 in York Springs, Adams county]. I expect to see some of Adams County tomorrow as they will likely go over to Harrisburg to see [Andrew G. ] Curtin inaugurated. I fear they will have an unpleasant time as it has been raining real hard all day.
Where did you spend your holidays? I had the pleasure of spending mine in Philadelphia. Had a very pleasant time. Came home Tuesday after New Year. Spent two Sabbaths in the city [and] heard beautiful sermons. Cousin John Bailey goes down every few weeks. I went with him. Cousin Will has been one of the surgeons in the army of the Cumberland. His regiment lays at Chattanooga. Was there at the time of battle. Was home this fall on leave of absence on account of ill health. He started back week before last and only got as far as Huntingdon (where John was practicing). He would not let him go further as he was suffering with rheumatism too much for exposure on the field.
Jennie, I have come to the end of my paper, yet I have not all said. Stayman’s are all very well. They have had another addition to their family since you were here—a sweet little girl [named] “Ida,” about eight months old. Emma & Frank are as fussy as ever. James Clark’s family have been very weak or delicate. Lucinda’s mind was very weak during the summer and their father has been right ill with heart disease for some time.
Have you heard from Calvin lately or since they arrived at their destination? I have their photographs. They are very good. Jennie, you ask me for my photograph. I do not think it would be prudent for me to send it now as you have been so delinquent in writing me. I shall, however, reserve one for you at least six months if you can within that time send me yours, & your good husband’s for my benefit, and to aid in gracing my album. I have very good ones taken in the city. Now, Jennie, I will leave it to your husband if this proposition is not fair or equal. I am very anxious to have them. Shall look for them in you next letter & you shall have mine in return.
We have had only a few days sleighing.
Grandfather [John Mumper] & Mother [Christina “Jane” (Beelman)] Mumper are both dead. He died in August [8 August 1863] and she the 4th inst. [4 January 1864], both being eighty-two years. All join in sending much love to you and your husband. Hoping to hear from you soon, I am as ever your loving cousin, — Ellen A. Bailey
We could hear very distinctly the cannonading at Gettysburg during the three days battle. You should have been here to see the crowds go up to see the fields after the battle. One morning before breakfast, no less than thirty buggies & carriages passed. Thus you have an idea. And we are twenty-four miles from the point. — Ellie
This letter was written by Kenzie Allen Lovell (1841-1923), the son of Amon Lovell (1802-1850) and Wealthy Houck Baird (1816-1907) of Huntingdon county, Pennsylvania. Mentioned in the letter is his brother Albert G. Lovell (1839-1934).
At the time that Kenzie wrote this letter in 1861, he was employed as a school teacher but the following year he enlisted in August to serve 9 months as a first sergeant in Co. E, 122nd Pennsylvania Infantry. In 1870, he was still living in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, earning his living as a lawyer. He was married in 1865 to Mary G. Lease (1845-1928).
Kenzie’s letter speaks of the outrage exhibited by the Northern populace—particularly by the students in his school—when the Massachusetts Militia were attacked by southern sympathizers as they attempted to pass through Baltimore on 19 April 1861.
Tuesday, 3 p.m., June 25, 1861
My dear friends,
Your most welcome epistle reached its destination a few evenings since and to all such, I respond with the greatest pleasure. I am sorry to hear that you do not intend coming to the Normal [school] till next spring, but am glad that you have not abandoned the idea entirely. I can’t say whether I will be here then or not but I want to remain next winter at least. If I am, you will not see me.
I suppose old “Harmony Hill” Seminary is now closed up and left to commune in silence with those large oaks around it, or, mayhap ’tis still frequented by a group of “little ones,” more eager for play than study. In your next, please let me know when my successor closed and how he succeeded. Let me know also where Mr. Solliday is; whether he has left Maryland or not.
The school here is not now as large as it was at the commencement of the term, many having left at the close of the first quarter. There are now only about 300. The war excitement had a great effect upon the school this spring, and many students left their books to handle the musket and sword. May success attend them where traitors are to be crushed.
When the news reached the school that the Northern troops had been attacked in Baltimore, it created intense excitement, and had it it been in their power, the proud Monumental City, disgraced by its treasonous inhabitants, would have been reduced to ashes. This I give you as an illustration of the effect which that ignominious attack upon our troops had in the school, and the illustration will apply in general to the whole North, from Pennsylvania’s southern boundary to Maine, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
It is now begun, however, and were a hero of the Revolution permitted to visit America at the present unhappy period in her history, he could not but weep to think that our once happy Republic should so soon fall a victim to civil strife—strife inaugurated by traitors whose foul deeds would make an Arnold blush. But enough of this; it pains me to behold it, much more to picture it to others. I anxiously await the result, and think that ere six months more roll around, Gen. Scott—who is the Union’s support—will have proved that the “Southern Confederacy” is only a phantom and that Republicanism is not a failure.
I am happy indeed to read such sentiments as are expressed in your letter, and to think that while evil influences surrounded you, you did not yield to them, but still remain the same that you were when we last conversed together in my study at Mr. Kline’s. In your next, please tell me if you can what Mr. Kline’s sentiments are about the present national issue.
Brother Albert, I believe, is still in Maryland, I think, however, he intends coming to school here before long. I suppose you are about beginning to cut your grain crop, for it is some earlier than ours. I would like to go into the harvest fields about two weeks if I thought I could endure it. I am confident if you intend going to school any place, you will find it vastly to your benefit to attend the institution because it has been prepared and is now endowed by the State to train teachers.
I believe I have written all of importance and shall close. Please write soon. You will see this letter has been written in haste. Direct as before. Sincerely yours, — K. Allen Lovell
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.
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.
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
[Note: The following letter was written by Samuel Fry, Jr. of Lincoln, Pennsylvania.]
Lincoln, [Pennsylvania] March 31, 1865
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.
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. 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
[Note: The following letter was written by Samuel Fry, Jr. of Lincoln, Pennsylvania.]
Lincoln [Pennsylvania] April 25, 1865
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.
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
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.]
Lincoln [Pennsylvania] May 24, 1865
…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….
The identity of the author of this letter was intentionally concealed by the writer claiming that he feared for his life. The author datelined his letter from Philadelphia where we learn that he was a Southerner by birth and awaiting an opportunity to flee the city and return to the South before he might be “hung to a lamp post” or “thrown in prison.” He datelined his letter on 16 May 1861, over a month after the firing on Fort Sumter, but before all mail service to, from, and within the Confederate States was suspended on 31 May 1861 by US Postmaster General, Montgomery Blair.
It is my personal opinion that in concealing his identity, the author has conveniently also avoided the necessity of ever proving the extreme danger he was in. While it is true that many southern sympathizers were rounded up and thrown into prison for a period of time in the weeks and months after the fall of Fort Sumter, I have not found any reports of mob hangings though it was occasionally threatened by blowhard politicians. His representations of the impact on Northern businesses and the sufferings of the Northern populace were also grossly overstated in my opinion—perhaps intentionally. One gets the impression that he wrote this letter with the idea that it would be published in some Southern newspaper just to arouse popular opinion against the North—a common tactic in an age when news could not be easily or readily fact-checked.
[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 16th 1861
Your kind and welcome letter came to hand a day or two ago and I was much pleased to hear from you once more. Joe, I do not know what to write as this will surely be opened before it reaches you and if it does, you can’t tell what it may cost me if it should be found out that I wrote it as the feelings of the people here are very hard towards those of southern birth or from the South. I can’t speak above a whisper here and have to keep my lips sealed to the world for fear of being hung to a lamp post, or being thrown in prison. But if I am spared, I will try and be once more where I can breath free and speak without the fear of being killed.
But do not say anything about my position here as I don’t want Mat to know that I am in so much danger as it will make her very uneasy about me. I shall try and leave here in a few days or as soon as possible for me to get off, even if I have to first go to England to get there on a sail vessel. It is exceedingly dangerous and almost death to attempt to go from here to the South.
You wanted to know the news here. There is no news except war, war, and everybody here is for war. The whole North are for war and I expect that we will have a bloody time of it very soon as we daily expect a collision between the troops. There are now thirty thousand troops in Washington City and a great many more in all the States but they have no arms to fight with at the present time.
There are a great many men here who are for the South but they cannot say a word for fear of being hung or put in prison or being shot down like dogs. Though time will tell, there is a bad state of affairs here and more suffering than you can imagine for so short a time. Provisions are scarce and exceedingly high. And hundreds have been compelled to join the army to get their daily bread or perish or go to the alms houses. The North will suffer as much as the South. All business has ceased and all of the manufacturers have been compelled to close up for the present. And times are very hard and no one knows when they will be better.
I wish I was with you but you are there and I am here. but God grant that I may soon be with you. If you answer this, be exceedingly careful what you write as your letters will be opened before i see them. Answer immediately and I may get it before I leave here. Best wishes to all. Your friends as ever, — Bo The old name
This letter was written by Nathan Frederick Bohn (1842-1907), the 19 year-old son of William Bohn (1813-1893) and Catharine Frederick (1809-1871) of Berks county, Pennsylvania. At the time of this letter in 1863, Nathan’s father was the proprietor of a saloon and restaurant in Reading, Pennsylvania.
Nathan datelined his letter from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, where he was apparently in the employ of, or in company with, his Uncle Joseph Bohn as a boatman on the Susquehanna River. The Susquehanna was a major transportation artery for the movement of farm produce from Upstate New York and central Pennsylvania to eastern markets via Chesapeake Bay. We learn from the letter that Nathan has just completed his first visit to Havre de Grace at the mouth of the Susquehanna so we can surmise he had just begun the employment.
Nathan’s letter mentions seeing 4,000 Rebel prisoners pass through Havre de Grace, possibly on their way to Fort Delaware, and several thousand more on the way. These prisoners may have been captured during the Battle of Chancellorsville.
Lebanon [Lebanon county, Pennsylvania] May 14, 1863
My dear father and mother, sister [Elbina] and brother [Richard],
I will let you all know that I am well at the present time and I hope that these few lines will find you all the same state of health. Dear brother, I will let you know that I received your kind and welcome letter on the 12th of this month of May and I was very glad to hear from you that you are all well.
And now I will let you know that I was a a place that I have never been before. I have been in haverdegrass [Havre de Grace] in the state of Maryland. I tell you that I seen a good lot of Nigger slaves at work but they look very hard and I have seen a new fashion of houses with the stove pipe out of the windows and no chimley [chimney] on the houses. I tell you, it looks funny to see that. And further, I will let you all know that 4,000 Rebels has passed through Havre de Grace that our men have caught and there was yet 12,000 on the road a coming but we had no time to stay any longer for we was unloaded and we had to start off for home for we have been one month and four days at this trip. But this time we needn’t to go to Havre de Grace. We must go home to Lebanon with this trip and so I want you to write as soon as you get this letter for if you don’t write as soon as you get this letter, why I won’t get your letter then, not until we come back from the other trip.
And so I want you to write as soon as you possibly can for I will send yours home [with] $12 dollars in this and then when you write, write in your letter whether you got my money or not. I would have sent you more, father, but I couldn’t. I had to pay $3.62 and a half for that gum suit where I got [it] and I had to get my boots soled and for that I had to pay 70 cents. And now I am going to buy myself a new straw hat and the rest I had to have for tobacco and to buy more when it is all [out] again. But next month I think I can send home $17 dollars for you father. And I can’t tell you when I will come home yet. It may be before long and maybe not until haymaking, but they are talking very hard out here about drafting again. But if they do draft, why I will come home as soon as I can.
And further, I will let you all know that we had very high water again out here on the Susquehanna River for there were two boats went down over the dam at Columbia and broke up to pieces, but the men all got out safe but two mules drowned and the flat [boat] broke loose up at the Nanticoke Dam. Six mules went down over the dam and they all six drowned. I tell you, that was hard to look at. And father, I will let you know that I seen Uncle Daniel Bohn up here at Lebanon with his boat. I was on his boat by him till 10 o’clock talking, and father, I wish you all luck at home—especially on the vote. I think if the weather gets right hot once, it will kill mother, or Old Katchen as Richard always says, very near again.
Father, I think you might better go and buy me two pair of summer pants for me till I come home once for I only got two pairs yet for the old pair is worn out and I got two have some. And go and buy stuff for me and let mother make them for me till I come home. I don’t know how soon I will come home again but before long if they are agoing to draft. Father, I like boating very well yet so far with Joseph Bohn. So no more at present time. From your son, — Nathan F. Bohn
Richard, I wish I had you our here by me on the boat. You Nutzerferquintten Ein hodenferquatch as mother always said. So no more, but only don’t forget to write as soon as you get this letter for I would like to know whether you got this money or not. Now only don’t forget to write and direct your letter this way:
Mr. Nathan F. Bohn Lebanon Post Office Lebanon county, Pa. In care of Henry Hoffman