1863: Richard S. Thomas to Hannah Jeffrey

An unidentified Union soldier, possibly from an Indiana Regiment, wearing a faux zouave jacket
(Will Griffing Collection)

The following letter was written by Richard S. Thomas (1839-1864) of Huntington, Indiana, who enlisted as a recruit in Co. F, 13th Indiana Infantry on 13 September 1862. He was killed on 10 May 1864 in the fierce hand-to-hand combat that ensued when the regiment was attacked unexpectedly by two Confederate brigades led by Major General Robert Ransom while on an expedition to cut the line of communication on the Richmond & Petersburg Railroad (see Battle of Chester Station).

Richard addressed the letter to his cousin, Hannah Jeffrey (1838-1886), the daughter of Willis Jeffrey (1807-1886) and Zilpha Achsah Thomas (1811-1865) of Mount Etna, Lancaster township, Huntington county, Indiana. She died unmarried at the age of 48.


Addressed to Hannah Jeffrey, Mount Etna, Huntington county, Indiana

Camp Suffolk, Virginia
April 30th 1863

Dear Cousin,

I have nothing of importance to write but I concluded I would write a few lines to let you know that I am still alive and well. I have no doubt but you have heard before this time that we had a few rebs in our immediate neighborhood and that we have been giving them a Lincoln pill occasionally and that they have been returning the compliment with Jeff Davis drugs.

On the 11th inst. there was one hundred men went out in front from the Old 13th to feel of their pulse but we had not advanced but a short distance outside of our pickets till we found our patients was prepared to give us a warm reception. We exchanged shots with them for about an hour but finding them too strong for our small force, we returned to camp with a loss of three men wounded. Barney [Bernard] Conron, our 2nd Lieutenant, was amongst the wounded and has since died. We sent his body to Huntington.

“Our regiment…made a charge into a piece of woods where the skirmishers said the rebs was drawn up in line of battle but they was either mistaken or else when we raised the hoosier yell and went in on double quick with bayonets fixed, they thought it was more than they could stand and skallyhooted out of that in a hurry for when we got there, there was not a greyback to be seen.”

Robert S. Thomas, Co. F, 13th Indiana Infantry, 30 April 1863

On the 24th we went out in force on another road and had a little fight. Our regiment was on the right and made a charge into a piece of woods where the skirmishers said the rebs was drawn up in line of battle but they was either mistaken or else when we raised the hoosier yell and went in on double quick with bayonets fixed, they thought it was more than they could stand and skallyhooted out of that in a hurry for when we got there, there was not a grey back to be seen. I shall not attempt to give any particulars as you will get it sooner and more correct in the paper than I could give if I should try.

Our company was out on a reconnoissance yesterday up the Jericho Canal, or rather the Dismal Swamp Ditch. We was about three miles above our outpost pickets and did not see anything nearer like a rebel than mud and water and canebrakes. we went till we had to wade mud and water knee deep and the further we went, the worse it got. We talk of going again tomorrow in skiffs and if we do, we will go through to Dremen [Drummond] Lake unless the rebs stop us before we get there.

There has not been any fighting for several days except by the sharpshooters. They are popping away every day but I don’t think they are accomplishing much. There is more or less artillery firing every day by our men. They are shelling the woods to keep the rebs from planting their batteries. The cannonading has ben pretty heavy for an hour or two over on the river. I think perhaps they are trying to blockade the river again.

A person that did not know anything about war and would see our fortifications and number of men and the amount of artillery we have here, they would think the whole Southern Confederacy could not whip us. I think myself it will take a good portion of them.

Well, I guess I have gassed more now than you will care about reading and I will quit for the present. Lesel [?] and Sam Williamson sends their best respects and Sam said he would like to hear from you.

Yours of the 28th of last month come to hand in due season and was read with pleasure. Give my compliments to all my friends if any there be and write soon. As ever, your cousin, — R. S. Thomas

[to] Hannah Jeffrey

1863: George Espy Morrow to Pliny Dudley Cottle

The following letter was written y George Espy Morrow (1840-1900), the son of John Morrow (1800-1887) and Nancy Espy (18xx-1881) of Warren county, Ohio. George was the grandson of Jeremiah Morrow, the 9th Governor of Ohio and a U.S. Senator. George Morrow’s parents were farmers, and he remained home until enlisting in August 1861 as a corporal in Co. C, 2nd Ohio Infantry in 1861. He was wounded at the Battle of Perryville and was briefly a prisoner of war. He was discharged on 15 July 1863 due to disability.

George wrote the letter to Pliny Dudley Cottle (show here) after Pliny was discharged for disability from the 2nd OVI

Following his discharge, he moved to Minnesota. After a few months, he decided to enroll in the University of Michigan Law School. He graduated in 1866 and took a position as editor of the Western Rural, later editing the Western Farmer. In 1876, Morrow accepted a position as professor at the Iowa Agricultural College, and eventually rose to chair the department. In 1877, Morrow accepted an appointment as chair of the University of Illinois College of Agriculture. Morrow implemented the Rothamsted Plan at the university to determine what could improve the quality of Illinois soil. The field became known as the Morrow Plots, today recognized as a National Historic Landmark for its contributions to the history of American agriculture. He later became president of the Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College.

Morrow married Sarah M. Gifford in Detroit, Michigan, in 1867.  Morrow died on 26 Mar 1900 at his home in Paxton, Illinois and was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Urbana, Illinois. [Wikipedia]

George wrote the letter to one of his “best friends,” Pliny Dudley Cottle (1840-1916), the son of Lucius Cottle (1815-1890) and Adeline Dudley (1817-1843) of Maineville, Warren county, Ohio. Pliney enlisted as a sergeant in September 1861 in Co. I, 2nd OVI. He was discharged for disability on 28 February 1862. Later in the war he served as a lieutenant in the 146th Ohio National Guard.


Addressed to P. D. Cottle, Maineville, Warren county, Ohio

Headquarters 1st Division, 14th Army Corps
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
4th April 1863

P. D. Cottle
My dear friend,

Today when I had opened the mail and found in our headquarters package a letter from one of my best friends, I thought that as much as could reasonably be expected. When, a short time after, I was told there was another for me at the company, I had not the least idea whom it was from—was rather agreeably surprised to find it was in your handwriting. It will be better to direct as this is headquarters in future—at least until further orders—as I will receive it sooner.

I regret that you have not fully recovered your health but am glad to see that you have your usual good spirits. I frequently hear from you as regards your health, &c. from my other correspondents, and have often thought of writing. In future, I hope to hear from you more frequently. Tell me of all the little occurrences in the neighborhood. You, as a one time soldier, know that we feel an interest in the most unimportant and trivial affairs connected with homeland.

I see the regiment almost daily. The health of the men is generally good. All your friends are well, I believe. I saw Jessie Hineson yesterday looking very well—ditto John Snook. You have heard that [James E.] Murdoch is now Captain and Sergeant Major Williams of Co. D is 2nd Lieutenant of Co. I. Williams makes a good-looking officer. [Daniel W.] Dewitt, our 2nd Lt., received his resignation papers today—ill health. Do not know his successor.

Our regiment is now the largest in our division—rather remarkable, isn’t it? The division, by the way, is much the largest in the army and with the unique feature of a brigade of regulars, consisting of six battalions of infantry and one battery–[William Rufus] Terrill’s celebrated one. This brigade has been much strengthened by new troops coming up from duty in other places and is a fine thing.

As you may naturally suppose, we are all glad that Gen. Rosecrans is back with us. I have never known an instance of such general admiration for a general as our entire division shows for its commander. It equals the feeling in the 2nd Ohio for Col. [Leonard A.] Harris. Let me say here that the army is in good condition—better than I ever knew it before. It is well supplied and we have large stores of provisions in readiness for the future. When this army is put in motion and has work shown it, it will do that work thoroughly and well. When that time is to be, I do not at all know ad have ceased to speculate.

The fortifications, at which much work is still being done, are very extensive and strong. A considerable force will be left here, of course.

I trust that as warm weather is now not far off, you will with its advance become well and strong again. Do not allow yourself to become a hermit or misanthrope. I would much like to have the opportunity of seeing our friends of whom you spoke as well as many others but until this war is ended or I get sick, or again wounded, my place is in the army.

Lately, I have felt encouraged to hope that the end was now not very far in the future. We have gained much and lost but little comparatively.

For myself, I am pretty well and have as pleasant times as could be expected. Give my respects to all my friends. Hoping to soon hear from you, I am truly your friend, — G. Espy Morrow

P. S. Aaron Morris sends his regards as would a host of your friends were they here to know of the opportunity. The splendid band of the 15th U. S. Infantry has just commenced a serenade intended to honor Rosecrans.

1863: Thomas M. Nickel to Henry C. Scofield

I could not find an image of Thomas but here is one of George J. Yeagley of Co. C, 5th Independent Battalion OVC
(Brad Pruden Collection)

This letter was written by Pvt. Thomas M. Nickel of Co. B, 5th Independent Battalion Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. This regiment was organized for only 6 months for duty beginning at the time of Morgan’s Raid on the southern border of Ohio until August 1863; they completed their organization at Camp Chase and moved to Cincinnati on 8 September 1863. They were assigned duty in the District of Eastern Kentucky engaged in scouting and raiding guerrillas until February 1864. They skirmished in Morgan county, Kentucky on 6 Otober 1863 adn at Liberty, Kentucky, on 12 October, 1863. They mustered out on 15 February 1864, losing one man killed and two men dying of disease.

Thomas wrote the letter to his friend, Henry C. Scofield (1836-1883), the son of Barzilla Schofield (1804-Bef1850) and Lydia Parish (1807-1870) of Cattaraugus county, New York. In the 1855 New York Census, Henry was enumerated in the household of his uncle, Amos Schofield (1809-1869) of Allegany, Cattaraugus county, New York.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Greg Herr and was transcribed and published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Addressed to H. C. Scofield, Esq., Portfield [Cattaraugus County] New York

Camp Garrett
Fleming county, Kentucky
October 3rd 1863


I received your letter day before yesterday and was glad to hear from home again. I thought you had not intended to write to me at all, as your letter of the 24th September was the first I got since we left camp Tod [in Cleveland]. You desired me to tell you how politics are in the army. Of this, I know very little. I have not heard [John] Brough’s or [Clement] Vallandigham’s name mentioned as much as once a week all the time I have been in camp except on the trip from Columbus down to Cincinnati. I believe, however, that there is not one Vallandighammer in our Batt[alion]. There is none that I know of. How it is in other parts of the army, I have no means of knowing except in the featherbed regiment at Camp Chase and the 10th Kentucky who are pretty generally down on Vallandigham.

We don’t think much about politics in our camp. If we can dodge standing picket, get somebody to lead our horse to water so we don’t get dusty, and have plenty to eat, we are quite content. We have so few men here that when some go on a scout, the others have to go on guard every other night. We have picket and horse guard. The horse guards have to attend to the horses, see that none get loose and run away, or that none are stolen. I prefer going on picket and then I have no horse but my own to attend to and I have no bother getting my preferences for there are a great many who have a peculiar dislike to going far from camp at night.

I was on picket both last night and night before. I was detailed night before last. Last night I went voluntarily because the rest of my mess went. I had to stand half of each night. Night before last was a very bad night. It rained and blowed very hard and the dust on the road got very muddy. Last night was a tolerably pleasant night to be out except that it was rather cool toward morning. I do not consider it near so dangerous on picket as some of the boys do. Some always hear somebody in the woods, or hear him whistle his countersign, and some fool will occasionally feel sure he sees a fellow and fire away. But we have got so used to that that we do not get much excited as we did at first.

I have never been bothered by any enemy yet, nor been fool enough to alarm the camp, but it does make a fellow’s heart beat a little quicker than usual to hear others approach him as he stands all alone in the dark. But I must reflect too much on the hard part of camp life for fear it makes you uneasy and me afraid. Now for something a little more pleasant.

We have (thanks to Plumner’s plank) got our camp fixed very comfortable. We are not crammed in tents or barracks, but a few fellows get together and make a shanty to suit themselves. Marshall [Harvey], [James M.] McKitrick, and I bunk together now. [William P.] Furgeson and old John [C.] Beymer stay in the same shanty with us. Bob Stewart and Newt Anderson have one of their own. We [get] plenty to eat and very good too. I think our mess lives better than half of the families in Guernsey county. We swap our extra rations for country produce and if we have no rations, we get them the other way.

The health of the Batt[alion] is good now. A few are in the hospital and about forty have the itch. 1 Ferguson is very bad with it. I have not got it yet and faith, I don’t want it.

I was glad to hear of the great Mass Meeting at Cambridge [Ohio] being such a splendid one. I was very glad to hear of the good circumstance of so many of the fellows—McLeeper and Joe, for instance, and the two dear Davis. I hope they will keep up the steam, all do the best they can, and don’t fail to let me know of the grand movements of the country. Tell Davy if he don’t want to write to me, he need not do it. If he don’t, I don’t care. If he can’t write a letter, he ought not to be teaching school. I have wrote to him twice without any answer—a thing which Marget Beal never did.

You never sent word whether you got my clothes or not. I don’t know as I will write so often in the future as I have been doing. I think we will remain here for some time and I don’t think there is much danger here. At Mount Sterling, sixty miles from here, the rebels took fifteen of our pickets prisoners and after they gave up their arms, stood them in a rank and shot them. That’s the way they use prisoners. 2

When you write, tell me if Mr. Criswell is got well as his son [William H. Criswell] here would like to know how he is. Direct your letters as I said in the last one I wrote. Having nothing more to say, I will wind up by wishing good luck to Till in her endeavors to take off Butternuts.

— T. M. Nickel

1 The “itch” might have been scabies. See “army itch.”

2 I could not find an incident taking place just prior to Thomas’s arrival in Kentucky at or near Mount Sterling. It might date date to events at Mount Sterling in mid-June 1863 during which time it was alleged that prisoners were shot. See excerpt from article appearing in the New York Herald on 19 June 1863.

1861: Samuel P. McKenney to Eliza Beazley

The following letter was written by Corp. Samuel P. McKenney (1820-1871) of Co. D, 30th Virginia Infantry who enlisted on 26 April 1861 at Spotsylvania Court House for one year’s service. He was “discharged for majority” (meaning over age) from the regiment on 23 July 1862.

A member of the 30th Virginia Infantry reenacting unit

I believe Samuel died of consumption in Spotsylvania County in 1871. Further, I believe his parents were John Milton McKenney (1798-1834)—a native of Ireland, and Elizabeth Carpenter. He wrote the letter to Eliza Beasly (Beazley)—possibly his cousin—who was his “consort” though they never married.

The 30th Infantry Regiment completed its organization at Fredericksburg, Virginia, in June, 1861. Men of this unit were from Fredericksburg and the counties of Spotsylvania, Caroline, Stafford, and King George. It was assigned to General J. G. Walker’s and Corse’s Brigade, and fought with the Army of Northern Virginia from the Seven Days’ Battles to Fredericksburg. After serving with Longstreet at Suffolk, it was on detached duty in Tennessee and North Carolina. During the spring of 1864 the 30th returned to Virginia and saw action at Drewry’s Bluff and Cold Harbor. Later it endured the hardships of the Petersburg trenches north and south of the James River and ended the war at Appomattox. 

[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Greg Herr and was transcribed and published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Camp Cary 1
Potomac Creek
8 o’clock at night

Miss Eliza Beasly,

Having been unexpectedly called to this place, I could not comply with my promise sooner. I do assure you that my thoughts have been hovering about that lovely spot. You know where and for what; ever since my departure. Eliza, but for thee, I would not care to live. Little did I think the ties of a lover was so binding until separated. I now assure you that fear I know not. But alas, the probability of our never meeting on this earth again is indescribable. Oh my heart is filled to overflowing. But should I be killed, I shall die a soldier’s death. I have no uneasiness in regard to the great battle to be fought as we are in the right. He that controls all things will be with us. Liberty, Liberty is what every American if true will have or die.

Eliza, I stood the trip perhaps better than anyone in the company. Robert Duerson 2 has been sick but not serious—caused from excitement. The rest of the boys are well. I should not be surprised if I am made Captain before long though I care nothing for office. [ ] is mighty and will prevail. I will try and see you soon. My love to Mary. Say to Charles I am in hopes he may get off. I do not want him in this company for I know he can’t stand the trip. Of all the sorry, low life people, I have never seen their equals. I am truly sorry that I joined the company. Say to Aly I forgive him for his treatment to me as I believe it is possible we may never meet again.

Eliza, it is you and only you that I care to live for. I will see you soon. Yours most affectionately, — Sam’l P. McKenney

1 The encampment was probably named after Col. Richard Milton Cary (1834-1886), a Richmond attorney who organized a volunteer militia company of light infantry which became Co. F of the 12th Virginia soon after the bombardment of Fort Sumter. One June 15th he was promoted to the rank of Colonel and given command of the 30th Virginia, a regiment posted near Fredericksburg.

2 Robert Duerson (1833-1906) was a resident of Thornburg, Spotsylvania county, Virginia, when he enlisted in Co. D, 30th Virginia Infantry. He served from 26 April 1861 to 16 May 1864 when he was wounded in the thigh at Drury’s Bluff, Virginia.

1862: “Sallie” to Joseph R. Dickerson

How Sallie might have looked

I can’t be certain of the identity of the author of this letter who signed her name “Sallie” but she was clearly a cousin of several members of the Gravely family who lived in Pittsylvania county, Virginia. I believe she wrote the letter to her friend Joseph R. Dickerson who was, at the time, sick in a hospital at Staunton, Virginia, while serving as a private in the Danville Artillery. Joseph enlisted in the spring of 1861 and was with the company in the Battle of Greenbrier River (West Virginia) in early October where he was wounded, but was taken ill in November and December of that year. In April 1862 when the company reenlisted, he was elected 3rd Lieutenant.

The letter contains a lot of news about local soldiers. More research would likely lead to the author’s identity.


Danville, Virginia
January 29th 1862

Dear friend Josephene,

I received your interesting communication last night and hasten to reply. As you expect to get a furlough, I thought I would write before you left Staunton. I was exceedingly glad to hear that you was improving and was also glad to hear that my sweetheart (as you say) (Mr. William Lawrence) was improving. I thought he had gone to his last resting place long ago.

Mr. George Wooding 1 came up on the cars one day last week. He is improving, but very slowly indeed. I think he is about as smart a young man as there is in Danville, “don’t you?” I have heard him deliver some excellent speeches. Mr. Henry Stamps (your orderly sergeant) is also at home. He has gotten well again. He has made him up a company. Has nearly 100 men already. 2

Capt. [T. D.] Claiborne of the Danville Greys 3 has made up an artillery company out of that regiment. He is in town now on 30 days furlough. Uncle Marshall has not joined. Neither has Lewis or Frank.

Uncle Abner McCabe 4 has procured a discharge and has gone home on account of his health, I suppose. John Burch has also procured a discharge and I heard from very good authority him and cousin Bettie Gravely is about to knock up a wedding. Perhaps you will get home just in time for it. I am rather opposed to chat but if she does marry him, I hope she will give me an invitation to the nuptial feast.

I received a letter from Dr. Wingfield last mail & he said they were camped near Winchester. The enemy has possession of Romney—a town about forty miles from them. He said they had a dull Christmas, those that were not drunk. I enjoyed myself very pleasantly during Christmas. I was in company with several of my acquaintance from the army which made the time fly much faster than if otherwise spent. I thought of you all and wondered how you spent your Christmas.

I heard from a very good authority that Cousin Joe Morton Gravely 5 was in the Northern army and had made official reports to Washington. I was somewhat surprised to hear that. His father [Edmund] was looking for him to come home Christmas but if he has joined the Federals, I reckon he has been at home his last time.

I received a letter from cousin John Gravely not long since. He enjoyed himself finely Christmas. John R. Brown & Boleyn were at their camp & spent the Christmas with them. I suppose you have heard of Oliver Witcher’s resignation 6 & T. J. Martin being elected in his place. Mr. [George W.] Dickinson 1st Lieut. & cousin John W. G[ravely] 2nd Lieut. 7

I have not had the pleasure of seeing your Dules Parella (Miss Mollie) since I returned home but I reckon you are posted as regards her health & the news in general about there as I understand you write to her about 17 times a week and sometimes oftener. I don’t wonder at paper and envelopes being hard to come at. I am sorry that you are sick enough to be compelled to go to the hospital. Staunton seems to be an unlucky place for soldiers. You are not the only one of my acquaintances that has been sick there, but from accounts, some of Captain Hereford’s officers are destined to remain in the hospital at Winchester for some considerable time as they are quite sick. But enough of that foolishness.

Joseph Henry Harrison Gravely (1840- ) was born in Leatherwood, Henry Co., VA. He was the son of Willis Gravely and Ann Marshall (Barrow) Gravely.

I will not trespass on your patience any longer but will now conclude. Permit me to express many kind wishes for your happiness & with a hope of hearing from you very soon, will now desist. I remain as ever your true friend, — Sallie

I would almost bet my sweetheart against Barkmill that you can’t read this letter.

P. S. My kindest regards to anyone that may enquire after me. Write soon. Excuse all defects as I write in great haste. Joe Henry Gravely 8 has been elected 3rd Lieutenant in place of Lieut. Law who died some time ago.

1 George W. Wooding, a lawyer in Pittsylvania county, Va., was 23 years old when he enlisted in May 1861 to serve in the Danville Artillery. He was elected 2nd Lieutenant and was with the unit until late in 1861 when he was reported sick at Warm Springs. In December 1861 he returned to Danville, as noted in this letter. In April 1862, he was elected Captain of the Danville Artillery and was with them at the Battle of Fredericksburg where he was wounded on 13 December 1862. He appears to have been court martialed the following month.

2 Timothy “Henry” Stamps was a 41 year-old Pittsylvania county farmer who enlisted at Danville in Capt. L. M. Shumaker’s Company (“Danville Artillery”) in May 1861. He was selected as the 1st (Orderly) Sergeant. Late in 1861, he was reported sick and at Warm Springs. We learn from this letter that Henry raised another company in 1862 which became part of the “Ringgold Battery,” 13th Battalion Virginia Artillery. He resigned his commission of captain in June 1863.

3 The Danville Greys became Co. B of the Eighteenth Virginia Infantry. Capt. Thomas D. Claiborne led the company. Claiborne’s men were covered with glory at the Battle of Bull Run when they captured Union guns (Sherman Battery) posted between the Henry House and the Sudley Road. They successfully turned the guns around and used them against the federals.

Susan (Gravely) McCabe)

4 Abner McCabe (1831-1866) was married in 1853 to Susan Eleanor (“Sue Ellen”) Gravely (1834-1920). He enlisted at Danville as a private in Capt. Claiborne’s Co. B, 18th Virginia Infantry and served until 20 August 1861 when he was hospitalized with a hernia. (Perhaps he injured himself dragging the guns at Bull Run.) He was discharged for disability on 15 January 1862. He was a farmer in Bedford county, Virginia. Susan Gravely was the daughter of Willis Gravely (1800-1885) and Ann Marshall Barrow (1812-1885) of Henry county, Virginia.

5 Joseph Morton Gravely (b. 1832) was the son of Edmund Gravely (1788-1883) and Susan Robertson (1800-1879) of Henry county, Virginia. Willis Gravely mentioned in footnote 4 was Edmund’s younger brother.

6 Vincent Oliver Witcher was the captain of Co. F, 57th Virginia Infantry from July 1861 until 21 October 1861 when he became ill and went home to Pittsylvania county on furlough. He resigned his commission in November 1861 and his successor was T. J. Martin.

7 John W. Gravely, the author’s cousin, was wounded in the wrist slightly at the Battle of Malvern Hill (or Crew’s Farm) on 1 July 1862 while serving as lieutenant in Co. F, 57th Virginia. He resigned his commission in late September 1862 for medical reasons claiming his eyesight was failing due to congenital blindness.

8 Joseph Henry Harrison Gravely (1840-1920) became a lieutenant in Co. F, 42nd Virginia Infantry. He was a younger brother of Sue Ellen Gravely (wife of Abner McCabe) mentioned in footnote 4.

1862: Amos Clinton Metzgar to Alberto Osborn

The following letter was written by 37 year-old Amos Clinton Metzgar (1825-1903) who enlisted on 31 May 1861 in Co. E, 42nd Pennsylvania (1st Pennsylvania Rifles, or “Bucktails”) and was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate 23 February 1862. A note in his 1890 Veteran’s Schedule claims he was discharged from the service “due to epilepsy” but this letter suggest that he received a gunshot wound to his leg on 15 September 1861 that was not healing. I can’t find any engagement of the regiment on that day so it may have been an accidental discharge.

I could not find an image of Amos or Edward but here is one of Robert B. Valentine who fought with the Bucktails (Ronn Palm Collection)

The boys of Co. E were recruited primarily in Tioga county and, like other companies in the regiment, were mostly lumbermen on the upper reaches of the Susquehanna River. The boys wore a distinctive bucktail in their hats and bragged of their marksmanship. Co. E branded themselves the “Tioga Rifles.”

The last page of the letter was written by Edward Osborn (1833-1876) who enlisted on 7 August 1861 in Co. E, 42nd Pennsylvania, and was discharged on a surgeon’s certificate on 18 April 1863. Edward was the son of Daniel Osborn (1809-1878) and Harriette Hoadley (1811-1863) of Stony Fork, Tioga county, Pennsylvania. In the 1860 US Census, Amos Metzgar lived on the property adjacent to the Osborn family in Stony Creek, Tioga county.

Amos and Edward addressed the letter to Edward’s brother, Albert Osborn (1836-1908) who also was in the service. Albert served initially as a sergeant in Co. G, 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry from 9 October 1861 to 2 June 1862. He then reenlisted as a private in Battery E, 5th US Artillery from 10 August 1863 to 17 June 1866 (though the veteran’s schedule claims he was a veteran of Gettysburg and Cold Harbor).

To read other letters I have transcribed and published on Spared & Shared that were written by members of this regiment, see:

Jacob Snyder, Co. E, 42nd Pennsylvania (Union/1 Letter)
Lewis Hoover, Co. K, 42nd Pennsylvania (Union/1 Letter)


Headquarters Bucktail Regiment, Co. E
Camp Bucktail City
January 30th 1862

Friend Alberto,

I take this opportunity to write to let you know that I am as well as can be expected on the account of my leg. I han’t got well yet. I han’t been any about since I got shot. That was shot on the 15th of September. The rest of the boys are all well at present time and I hope this will find you enjoying good health.

Albert, they have made out my discharge and I will start for home next week and when I get home, I will write to you again. Albert, it is very muddy and rainy here all the time. The camp is very quiet at present time. Nothing going on to raise a excitement in or about camp for the mud is so deep that they can’t get around.

Albert, may God watch and protect you through this campaign and land you safe in the old free state once more on Stony Fork to join your friends there that is close to you.

So no more at present. From your friend, — Amos C. Metzgar

[In a different hand]

Dear brother,

I thought that I would write a few lines in Amos’s letter. I received a letter from you night before last about eight o’clock in the evening and I sat down and answered it before I went to bed. Captain [Alanson E.] Niles started for home last Sunday and I sent 30 dollars by him.

The weather is not very cold. It is not as cold as I wish it was. If it was cold enough to harden the mud so that we could get top of it, it would be a great blessing. No more at present. From your affectionate brother, — Edward Osborn

1863: James S. Sickels to Susan M. Sickels

Pvt. James S. Sickels, Co. E, 9th New Jersey

This partial letter was written by Pvt. James S. Sickels (1839-1864) of Co. E, 9th New Jersey Infantry. He enlisted on 20 September 1861, veteranized in January 1864, and was wounded on 7 May 1864 at Port Walthal Junction, Virginia. He died of his wounds on 1 June 1864 at Hampton, Virginia.

James wrote this letter from Carolina City where the 9th New Jersey was stationed from April 25 until June, 1863. 

James was the son of Jacob Sickels (1799-1871) and Elizabeth Foose (1810-1876). He wrote the letter to his sister, Susan M. Sickels (b. 1842). She married John Stout in 1879.


Addressed to Miss Susan M. Sickels, Alamuchy, Warren county, New Jersey
Also signed by John J. Carrell, Chaplain (9th New Jersey)

Newbern, North Carolina Carolina City
May 12, 1863

Dear Sister,

I received yours dated the 3rd of May this morning. I am well at present and I hope these few lines may find you enjoying the same comfort. You say I don’t write but tis a mistake. I send one a week but you can’t or I don’t get them. But it will be alright some day for I don’t think it will be more than two or three months till I will see you all but not long till I will go to the army again so you may look for me in that time if not sooner. Byt that time sure anyhow…

Everything is quiet here just now and I think we will stay here all summer if the rebs don’t get thicker than they are. It is reported that we are going in South Carolina again but it is all stuff for Gen. Foster won’t let us go because he gets in trouble every time we hain’t with him. I have seen enough of the South’s difference parts. I could come home with content. I could not be contented before. This has learnt me a good lesson. I never regretted it on the account of fighting because that don’t larn me. I believe that I am protected by the one above so far and…

1861: Jane Margaret Brown to Christopher Valentine Winfree

How Jane might have looked

This letter was written by 40 year-old Jane Margaret (Winfree) Brown (1821-1910), the daughter of Christopher Winfree (1785-1858) and Cornelia Meyer Tilden (1798-1836) of Lynchburg, Campbell county, Virginia. Jane married attorney Edward Smith Brown (1818-1908) in 1845, the son of James and Mary (Spearman) Brown of Cumberland county. The couple had three children: Cornelia (b. 1846), Mary Virginia (b. 1849), and Anne (b. 1856). After the Civil War, Edward and Jane moved to Lynchburg where he resumed his law practice.

Jane wrote the letter to her younger brother, Christopher Valentine Winfree (1826-1902)—a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and a civil engineer on the Norfolk & Western railroad. In November 1860, just a few months before the Civil War, Christopher was married to Virginia (“Jinnie”) Ann Brown (1838-1884)—a younger sister of Jane’s husband. Christopher was commissioned a Lieutenant in Co. E, 11th Virginia Infantry on 19 April 1861 and promoted to Captain in August 1861. He was dropped from the reorganization in April 1862.

Illustration from Steve Cottrell’s Book, Civil War in Tennessee


Addressed to Mr. Christopher V. Winfree. Lynchburg, Virginia

[Sunnyside, Va.] 1
May 27, 1861

My very dear brother,

As you may so soon have to leave home, I will address this letter to you. We reached Farmville very safely after a pleasant trip. Old Mrs. French, mother of Mrs. Powers, came down with us. One of her granddaughters (Miss Woodson) came in with her. Mrs. Loomis, daughter of Mrs. Sam Hobson came also. After we got to Farmville, several Tennessee soldiers came out of the cars. A good many girls and gentlemen had collected at the Depot. The girls threw bouquets to the soldiers. One of them (the soldiers) made a nice little speech in return for the flowers. Mrs. Loomis said he was an Editor and a very nice gentleman. She came to Virginia under his care. One of the soldiers proposed three cheers for the Virginia girls and they were cheered in style. 2

We got home about three o’clock. Mary Virginia had a little dinner for us. She had gathered strawberries and insisted I should let her have cream with it. I did so and they were very nice. The next morning she and Willie gathered some for dinner. In the evening Mary and Anne Eliza gathered a large mess for Sunday. Mary and Toliver have gone again. They are wild strawberries but larger than wild ones are generally.

Philip St. George Cocke (1809-1861) was a wealthy planter in Powhatan county with hundreds of slaves and thousands of acres. He organized a cavalry troop in response to John Brown’s Raid. He committed suicide on 26 December 1861.

Willie went with Mr. Brown Saturday to drill. He drilled one squad. He says they drilled pretty well. A few members of the Powhatan Troop have returned to visit their friends. They say Mr. [Philip St. George] Cocke wants more persons in his troop. I understand he authorized Mr. Murray to get new members. They say Mr. Cocke is very kind and furnishes them with many comforts. Some of them spoke of sending for money. He told them that was unnecessary—he would furnish it to them. That if they would spend their money right, he would not mind letting them have what they wanted. It is quite convenient to have a Colonel who is able to supply the wants of his men.

John French is still sick at Culpeper Court House. Old Mrs. French insists she will go to see her boys. Wesley Garrett 3 came up to see Pattie last week. He left the troops well. He says they have great difficulty about getting their food cooked. They made him cook a good deal. He says they would put thick pieces of meat in the pan to fry and burn up the outside before the inside was cooked at all. You had better learn to cook before you go. Pattie stood Mr. Garrett’s leaving better than at first. She thinks of going to see him in about three weeks. She is much better.

I understand George Palmer has made oath to keep the Constitution of the United States. Mr. Palmer from Cumberland (Tell Parlin [?] he is cousin of Sam Garrett’s children) was so sick when the troops got to Powhatan Court House that he had to be left. He was taken either to Willis Dance’s or Mrs. Dance’s.

We heard yesterday that Federal troops had taken Alexandria. Is the report correct? If it is, I reckon Lynchburg is in danger. Willis Hobson is anxious for Mr. Daniel to join the Powhatan troop. When I got home, I found no one here but Mary and Anne. Cornelia was at Mrs. Haskins’. I brought here and Salina home with me from church yesterday. I saw sister Ann, Mollie, and Laura yesterday. All were well and asked many questions about Jinnie and other Lynchburg friends. Our relations are well. Cornelia looks a good deal better than she did when I left home.

Miss Mary is still at Mrs. Haskins. She told me she would come home with me from church next Sabbath. Next Saturday and Sunday will be our Quarterly Meeting. I expect Mr. [William H.] Christian to come home with me. Our preacher is not on the circuit. Brother Jordon preached for us yesterday. His sermon was on Temperance. It was very good. Old Mrs. Clack is very sick. I have been to see her. She told me she did not think she would ever be well. Ellen and Bently staid with us last night. If you see Mr. Figgai, you can tell him she is well. Only staid last night. Also Willie seems to be enjoying himself very much. He seems quite well. Says I must say that as I am writing, he will wait till another time. He sends much love to all and will write soon. The boys see, delighted to have him with them. My children seem to be very glad indeed to have him here.

Did Hoppie go to Aunt Betties when he got to Lynchburg Friday? I felt afraid he would have some difficulty in getting along. Cousin Frances got a letter from home Friday evening saying her Pa would meet him at the Bridge. We have been more cheerful since I got home than before I left. I will try and keep so. I know it will be much best if I can…

Mr. Brown has gone to Cumberland County today. He will begin to teach in the morning. He says it will give him much pleasure to instruct Willie in arithmetic.

How are the sick soldiers? Have the leaders been in to see any of them? Cousin Robert saw Dr. Walton when he was in Richmond. He told him he had some very ill patients with measles. Some have pneumonia. He has about thirty to attend to. Mary and Salina have returned with their berries. I wish you were here to have some. Give much love to every one for me. Sister Anne says when you go, Jinnie must come down to Cumberland.

My dear brother, try and prepare your heart for what is before you. I am not writing this because it is my custom to give you advice, but because I want you to find more delight in waiting on God. Don’t be satisfied without the constant evidence of your acceptance. This is your privilege. You ought to prepare yourself so that you may discharge your duty in camp. The responsible position given you by your company, God will require you to improve. It is your imperative duty to watch over the souls given to your care whether poor human nature is willing or not. Be sure to have prayers in your camp and get, if you can, every member of your company to sign the pledge. If you will start right with your company, you will be able to wield a moral influence over them that will tell in eternity. Let songs of praise rise to God from your tents and let every man have morning and evening in prayer to the giver of all good.

The Charlotte troop 4 passed while I was in Lynchburg. At the Court House they took their seats in the court yard and sung hymns. None of them drank liquor at the Court House. There were 88 in their troop. 44 were married men.

Dr. Lewis Walkin was a member of Mr. Harrison’s Company of this county. He was sent back because he was too feeble to bear the fatigue of the service.

Goodbye dear brother. No one is with me ot lots of love would be sent. Kiss Jinnie, my sisters, and Aunt Bettie for me. I hope Mrs. M____ is better, Give much love to John and all at his house. write very soon to your devoted sister. — Jane M. Brown

Dear Jinnie,

I have written a long letter to Christopher & as I wrote you a long letter before I went up, I will only write a few lines to return you the hardy thanks of little Anne for her doll. She is also much obliged to Aunt Bettie for the piece of ___. Salina is delighted with her flat [?] and other things and is much obliged to you for her doll. She says she wrote to you a few days ago. She seems pleased to get back to school and looks well and happy. Receive for yourself and C. the warmest love of Salina and all the children. Mrs. Wilkerson has gone home and the children are at Father’s. Mr. Brown went round to see his relatives while I was away. Bro. Daniel Bently and Bro. Zack expect to go to Richmond this week. James Reynolds was here yesterday. He said he would go in a short time to Randolph-Macon [College] to commencement. He hopes he will take measles while away as he wants to join the army and is afraid to have it in camp. Bently hopes he will take it while in Richmond. Willis Hobson advised Dr. Thomas not to let Bently join the army.

Go to class, Jinnie. Try to get more of the love of God in your heart. you can never be as happy as you might until you have an assurance of your acceptance. The love of God sweetens every joy, soothes every sorrow. You have so much leisure time, spend more of it in prayer and in the study of God’s Hold Word. There you will find every duty made plain. Write very soon. Kiss my dear brother for me. I don’t feel very sad about his going into camp. I believe the good Lord will be with him. So few of our family are in the army, I would do nothing to prevent his going. Be sure to write very soon.

Your affectionate Aunt, — P. M. Brown

1 Sunny Side was an unincorporated village in Buckingham and Cumberland counties, Virginia. It was a stop on the Farmville and Powhatan Railroad. It is located approximately four miles east of Cumberland and some 50 miles west of Richmond.

2 These Tennessee soldiers were probably members of the 1st Tennessee Infantry. This regiment was ordered to proceed by the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad to Lynchburg, Virginia on 3 May 1861. Six companies arrived there on 5 May 1861; the other four companies arriving shortly afterwards. They were mustered into Confederate service for twelve months on 8 May 1861. They were then ordered to proceed by the Southside Railroad to Richmond on 19 May 1861 and arrived there very late on 20 May 1861. They probably passed through Farmville (midway between Lynchburg and Richmond) on the 19th or 20th of May. A private in the 1st Tennessee named Sam Watkins remembered, “Leaving Nashville, we went bowling along twenty or thirty miles an hour, as fast as steam could carry us. At every town and station citizens and ladies were waving their handkerchiefs and hurrahing for Jeff Davis and the Southern Confederacy. Magnificent banquets were prepared for us all along the entire route. It was one magnificent festival from one end of the line to the other. At Chattanooga, Knoxville, Bristol, Farmville, Lynchburg, everywhere, the same demonstrations of joy and welcome greeted us. Ah those were glorious times…” [Civil War in Tennessee, by Steve Cottrell, pg 13]

3 John “Wesley” Garret was married to Pattie Frances Clark of Cumberland county, Virginia, in July 1860. Wesley served as a corporal in Capt. Henry R. Johnson’s Company (Cumberland Light Dragoons) or the 3rd Virginia Cavalry from 14 May 1861 till he was wounded on 29 May 1864 at Haw’s Shop.

4 The 14th Virginia Cavalry, Co. B, was sometimes referred to as “the Charlotte Troop.”

1864: John Sowden to his Family

John Sowden, Co. K, 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, half-plate ferrotype
(Rob Morgan Collection)

The following letters were written by John Sowden (1841-1917) who emigrated as a small child from England with his mother, Mary Ann Sowden (1808-1870)—a “matron”—and older siblings in August 1843 aboard the ship Stephen Whitney. John’s maternal grandfather’s surname may have been “Caser” or “Cazer.” Mary Ann settled her family in Lanesborough in the Housatonic River Valley of the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts—a rural settlement that must have reminded her considerably of her native home.

From John’s letter we learn that his mother persuaded him to resist the temptation to give up his job as an engineer and enlist with his friends in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry when it was first being formed in the fall of 1861. He was married to Harriet E. Stocking (1842-1905) in 1862; their firstborn of eventually eight children was born in May 1863. Finally, near the end of December 1863, John accepted a state bounty of $325 and enlisted as a private in Co. K of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry where he served until 10 June 1865. John’s second letter includes a brief description of the cavalry fight at Jerusalem Plank Road on 16 September 1864, 12 days previous. In this ill-advised engagement, the regiment charged Rebel earthworks with artillery multiple times hoping to recapture a herd of cattle that had been carried off by Lee’s army the day before. The regimental history claims only two of their own troopers were killed, ten wounded, and nine missing.

After his discharge from the service, John returned to his family in Lanesborough where he was employed as a “blowers assistant” (glassblower presumably). By the 1880s, he had moved his family to Anoka county, Minnesota, where he worked in a planing mill. In 1900, the family resided in Minneapolis.

[Note: These letters are from the personal collection of Rob Morgan and were transcribed and published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]

Letter 1

Monocacy River
August 28, 1864

My Dear Wife,

As I had a few moments leisure time I thought I must spend it in writing to you to let you know that I am with the living. I hant got much news for you this time. I wrote to you in my last letter about my having the rheumatism. I can’t say I am much better. I am obliged to walk the camp the bigger part of the night.

We have moved to another new place now. I expect we will stay here for a spell—maybe two or three months. We relieved another regiment which was doing picket duty at the mouth of the Monocacy River where it empties into the Potomac River.

Hattie, we heard some very heavy cannonading yesterday. It was up in the Shenandoah Valley about thirty miles from here. General Sheridan is up there someplace with a large force. I expect it must be him that was fighting. We may think ourselves well off to have such a soft job although we are liable to be attacked any day or night and at the same time we might stay here three years and not be attacked.

Hattie, haven’t you heard from James yet? I saw a man from Camp Stoneman the other day. He told me that everyone that he was acquainted with had got back and I thought that everyone of them had got back. It is quite strange that he don’t write. I am a going to write to Camp Stoneman to see if I can find out anything about him. I shall write today. When you write again, let me know where Arthur Smith was when he wrote to his mother.

Hattie, I am a going to direct an envelope myself for you to send back and I want you to direct just like it as near as you can to see if it will make any difference in getting through. Henry Boggart was just sitting down by the side of me. He sends his best respects to you and all the rest who enquires after him.

My dear, I don’t think of any more to write this time. Tell Mother I should like to get a letter from her because I know it would be a good one for I must say she can write a good letter. My dear, I don’t want you to think that I have run down your letters for I do not but you must acknowledge that Mother can beat you a little on writing letters. But never mind that. Maybe when you have wrote as many letters as she has, you can compose a letter as good as she can. I can’t find any fault with your letters for your writing, spelling, and composing is much better than mine. But I do as well as I can considering the way I have to right. Often times I can’t find a piece of board to right on so I have to write on my blanket in any way I can but am writing on a little box this time. It seems quite good to get it to write on.

You must give my love to Father & Mother. Also the rest. Remember yourself whilst giving it out and remember them kisses sent to Jenny. How is the dear little thing getting along? If I could only see you for a few hours, what is there I would not give. But I feel in pretty good spirits if it was not for the pains I have in my shoulder. But I am in hopes it will wear off in a little while.

Well, my dear, I will bid you goodbye for this time. From your ever loving husband, — John Sowden

To Mrs. H. E. S.

Letter 2

Camp near Petersburg [Virginia]
September 28, 1864

My Dear Mother,

I just received your kind letter last night and was very glad to hear that you was in such good health, hoping it may continue so. My health is very good at present. I have seen one pretty hard fight since I joined my regiment. We had it hand to hand with them but they had three to our one so we had to fall back and they had six cannons playing on us where we only had four on them. They had six officers killed and we did not lose a one. We lost Maurice Casey in that fight. 1 I guess you know him. He is from Dolton. We lost about 25 of our boys in that [fight]. Our regiment was fighting about 12 hours.

Mother, we keep getting good news from the War Department. I think we will all be home by next June if not before and we think all the fighting will be done this fall. I hope so for I have seen enough of it. But if I get home all right, I don’t think I shall be sorry I came for I can say I have seen a good deal and learnt a good deal of such as I would not know anything about if I had not been here.

Mother, do you remember when I was a going to enlist with John Ober? If I had went with him and got through all tight, I should of been home probably next week for the old fellows are going home next week. John Ober came out when the regiment first came out. He got killed last June. 2

Well, Mother, I don’t think of anything more at present to write. You must write soon and often/ From your son, — John Sowden

Give my love to all. Much love to you. Write soon.

1 Maurice Casey of Pittsfield was 28 years old when he mustered into Co. K, 1st Massachusetts Cavalry on 14 January 1864. He was killed on 16 September 1864 in the fighting at Jerusalem Plank Road.

2 John P. Ober of Pittsfield was 26 years old when he mustered into Co. F, 1st Massachusetts Cavalry on 19 September 1861. He was killed on 17 June 1863 in the fighting at Aldie. See “Not for Gain or Glory: The 1st Mass. Cavalry at Aldie,” by Daniel Davis.

1862: Mahlon Pitney Davis to Mahlon Oscar Davis

These two letters were written by 49 year-old Lt. Mahlon Pitney Davis (1813-1876) of Co. K, 63rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He wrote both letters to his son, Mahlon “Oscar” Davis (1844-1862), who served as a musician in the same company and regiment. Oscar died of typhoid fever at the regimental hospital on 28 May 1862. Mahlon resigned his commission on 27 May 1862.

The 63rd OVI did not get organized until late January 1863 and then it was set immediately took the field and joined Major General John Pope in Missouri. At New Madrid, the 63rd was brigaded with other Ohio regiments in what became known as the Ohio Brigade. It took part in all the operations resulting in the surrender of Island No. 10.

Mahlon was married in 1838 to Lydia Ann Morrow (1819-1899). The Davis’s were enumerated on the family farm near Trimble, Athens county, Ohio, at the time of the 1860 US Census.

I could not find an image of either Mahlon or his son Oscar, but here is an Ambrotype of William Harrison Moore (1828-1894) who enlisted in the same company (Co. K) of the 63rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. (Harrison G. Moore IV Collection)

Letter 1

Addressed to Mr. Oscar Davis, 63rd Regt. OVI

[Hamburg, Tennessee]
May 19, 1862

Dear Oscar. I am still at Hamburg in the hospital. I am on the mend. I have had no good chance to go home yet but I expect I can go before long as there has been no sick boats—or boats for the sick—a going to Cincinnati of any consequence. If I don’t get a chance soon to go home, I will come back to you as soon as there is a chance with team. I am well taken care of at the hospital. I have written one letter home but I have had no word from any of them. Neither have I had any word from you since Tom Dawson was in. He told me he saw you and I sent a dollar to you by him. If he has not given it to you, ask him for it—that is, if he has not given it to you. I would like for you to write to me and let me know how you are getting along. Direct your letter to Hamburg P. O., Tennessee.

Lieut. [Wesley S.] Tucker 1 of Fouts’ company [D] is here with me. He wants to go home but the doctor who is tending the ward won’t let him go home but he will let me on the account of my bad health. William Vore [Co. A] is attending in the ward or he is sick now in Ward No. 3. I want you to see Solomon Johnston. 2 Tell him that William Vore wants him to send his Descriptive Roll as he talks of going home. He wants Johnston to forward it on as soon as he can to Hamburg either by mail or any reliable person. You go and tell Solomon Johnston or show him these lines as it was Vore’s request for me to write.

Oscar, I want you to write to me as soon as you can conveniently. — M. P. Davis

[to] Oscar Davis

1 Lt. Wesley S. Tucker was commissioned 1st Lt. in October 1861 and resigned on 18 June 1862.

2 Solomon H. Johnston was a lieutenant in Co. A, 63rd OVI.

Letter 2

Hamburg [Tennessee]
May 21, 1862


I am still here. I gain slowly. I have a diarrhea yet. It bothers me at night. I feel very weak but I am doing as well as could be expected. I have had no word from you or home since I saw Tom Dawson. I would like you to write to me at Hamburg or if the teams come, you might come and see me as a drummer. Mick would let you come. There is no guards or pickets to pass as some said if the fight goes on you run no necessary danger. The talk is here that there will be a big fight as Beauregard and all of the South are together at Corinth. I would like to go home but they tell me there is none going home now.

George Henry and E. Davis both got on a boat of sick passengers for St. Louis. I would like for you to write soon as you can or come and see me if you can get away with some teams as it is too far for you to walk. If you was to come, change your old coat for a new one as I am too tired to hunt the box. The box is in among the rest of the boxes. I took a short look for it the other day but did not find the box.

I would be glad to see you or hear from you. I add no more. Goodbye. — M. P. Davis

[to] Oscar Davis