General Order No. 13 by Brig. Gen. Roger Atkinson Pryor

This Confederate order was written by Capt. William Henry Whitner who was appointed as the A. A. G. to Brig. Gen. Roger Atkinson Pryor on the Blackwater below Petersburg. Whitner began his Confederate service as a 2nd Lieutenant in Co. F, 1st Florida Infantry. He later suffered a gunshot wound to his little finger (resulting in its amputation) received during the Battle of the Wilderness on 6 May 1864. He finished the war in April 1865 serving as the A.A. G. Gen. B. R. Johnson’s Division, R. H. Anderson’s Corps.

Whitner wrote the order at the request and for the signature of his commander, Brig. Gen. Roger A. Pryor who filled a rank within the Confederate service far beyond his worth. The biographical sketch in Wikipedia is kinder than most in describing Pryor’s military performance:

He entered the Confederate army as colonel of the 3rd Virginia Infantry Regiment. He was promoted to brigadier general on April 16, 1862. His brigade fought in the Peninsula Campaign and at Second Manassas, where it became detached in the swirling fighting and temporarily operated under Stonewall Jackson. Pryor’s command initially consisted of the 2nd Florida, 14th Alabama, 3rd Virginia, and 14th Louisiana. During the Seven Days Battles, the 1st (Coppens’) Louisiana Zouave Battalion was temporarily attached to it. Afterwards, the Louisianans departed and Pryor received two brand-new regiments; the 5th and 8th Florida Infantry. As a consequence, it became known as “The Florida Brigade.” At Antietam on September 17, 1862, he assumed command of Anderson’s Division in Longstreet’s Corps when Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson was wounded. Pryor proved inept as a division commander, and Union troops flanked his position, causing them to fall back in disorder. As a result, he did not gain a permanent higher field command from the Confederate president. Following his adequate performance at the Battle of Deserted House, later in 1863 Pryor resigned his commission and his brigade was broken up, its regiments being reassigned to other commands. In August of that year, he enlisted as a private and scout in the 3rd Virginia Cavalry Regiment under General Fitzhugh Lee. Pryor was captured on November 28, 1864, and confined in Fort Lafayette in New York as a suspected spy. After several months, he was released on parole by order of President Lincoln and returned to Virginia. CSA War Clerk and diarist, John B. Jones, mentioned Pryor in his April 9, 1865 entry from Richmond, VA, “Roger A. Pryor is said to have remained voluntarily in Petersburg, and announces his abandonment of the Confederate States cause.” [Wikipedia]

Pryor in later years looking at a portrait of the man who paroled him, Abraham Lincoln.


Headquarters Forces on Black Water
December 21st 1862

General Order No. 13

The crime of desertion having become scandalously prevalent in this command, it is hereby ordered that any person of this command caught two miles from this camp without a proper pass and indicating a purpose to desert shall be shot at once without the formality of a trial. To this end, persons so caught will be immediately sent to these headquarters with the witnesses in the case.

By command of Brig. General Pryor
W. H. Witner, A. A. G.

1860: W. B. Dunlop to his Brother

I have not yet learned the identity of the author of this letter. His signature appears to read W. B. Dunlap (or Dunlop) but there is little in the letter to reveal the location of “Home” which is where the 1860 letter was datelined. The author suggests that his “brother” sell out his business in Nashville fearing that he stays, he might be the target of a armed mob that might question his loyalty to either the North or the South—it isn’t quite clear. There was a general store operated in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1860 by Thomas Coke Dunlap (1839-1903) but I have yet to find a brother named W. B. Dunlap.


Monday evening, December 17, 1860

Dear Brother,

We have just received your letter to James and myself. The two letters came together today. The Captain left this afternoon in the cars for Cincinnati without having received the one you wrote to him. You may believe that our folks were a good deal alarmed when the Captain arrived here on Friday and told us you had not yet arrived at Cincinnati when he left. He, however, assured us you would get there on Thursday evening. From this we anxiously looked for a letter on Saturday and when none came, the circumstances certainly did not tend to allay the apprehensions of the family. Your letters received today however relieved our anxiety.

We were all dumbfounded at the information received from the Captain that Wallace had come home. The Captain told us that you knew nothing of his coming and we very readily surmised that he had carried off all the money taken in during the trip. He told the Captain on the way up that he was going to get married. It is very hard that you should lose this amount of money by the scoundrel, but you will—you may as well make up your mind to this. Pa does not feel like saying anything to him about it. I think myself it would not amount to anything. Pa, however as well as all the family, strongly advise that you have nothing more to do with him. Let him go. You can never trust him even if he should go back after this trick he has played on you. It may be troublesome to get a person you can rely on to fill his place, but I would not worry about it Whenever you can get a good price, I would sell. The relief from care and anxiety of mind will compensate for what you might make by holding on to it. Consult your own judgment, however. You will know what is best. Fawcett is on the Minerva. Horner is not at home. I mention these names so that should you think of them in connection with this place, you will know that neither of them is unemployed.

We are getting along well at home. I am doing better. I was up at Uncle Thomas’s office today. He enquired particularly for you. Walter today drew twenty-five dollars for his first month’s wages. As it is but a short time until the mail will close, I will give you no further particulars now further than to say we are all well but will write again.

You say we know nothing about the excitement here. This may be, but we know far more than when you were here. We know that it is on the increase. Before you get back to Nashville, a collision mat have occurred between the South Carolinians and the garrison of Fort Moultrie in Charleston Harbor. If this should take place, there would be little safety for any Northern man in the South no matter what his political views may be. They have only your word that you are a democrat. What is to prevent one of your enemies from sending down a report that you are not what you represent yourself to be. You may offend some man in your business transactions [and] he has but to shout abolitionist to have you beset by a mob. Mobs don’t reason. How did they know at New Orleans than Ramson voted for Fremont? Why, his enemies have circulated the reports. These things are being done constantly.

I, this family, all of us advise you not to remain behind to collect should you go to Nashville. It may be very hazardous. Besides, you have done your share of this work. It is but fair that McConnell should alternate with you.

But I must close. Will write you again before you leave. Your brother, — W. B. Dunlap

1864: F. H. Murdock to Cousin John

This letter was written by a woman named F. H. Murdock but I have not been able to place her in census records or even in locale though my hunch is that she was either from New Orleans, or further up the river in Louisiana. I conjecture from the content that she was being sent North to attend school. By 1864, she and her sister Sallie could travel north by way of the Mississippi river or by ocean steamer.


[New Orleans, Louisiana]
February 25, 1864

Dear Cousin John,

Here I am, my last night at home, which I will leave on the morrow for that heinous settlement, Yankeedom. I think I hear you ask with your accustomed energy, “Well, why do you go if you hate it so bad?” Oh! Cousin John dearest, I must. I have learned to now my will must bend to Ma’s. There is no escape, we must go and bear all that will be said & thought of us by the dear confederates whom we love so much and who will probably consider us turncoats & traitors but will you please testify to it that we are not. I do beseech of you, do not think so of us yourself.

And now isn’t it a shame we have no homespun dresses to take. I have a beautiful palmetto hat to show them “what Southern girls—for Southern rights will do,” however, & though we are greatly disappointed not to have a dress, the lot will be a worthy sample.

We are now in this neighborhood favored with our friends the Marines whom we are becoming quite used to—that is, we are not afraid of them and Providence grant we may [not] get so used as to like them as some of our friends we feign to fear do—(James remaining unmentioned). Oh! what will not people do, for their pockets? They are today hauling government cotton from Mrs. C’s today. That in Valentine’s field our scouts have burned, I believe—at least most of it. We have also a block up. Dan Broughton figures largely in it, I believe. It’s to be hoped he has no old scores to settle with anyone at [ ]; finely decked out in his uniform loaded with arms is said to be quite a figure. Isn’t it disgusting? They say they have come to garrison Port Hudson at which I should not be surprised.

We are all waiting with great anxiety for news from Morton. We have every hope of being successful there & I must say I should go deep into the blues if our arms failed there. Of course at the North we will not get true reports of things from [here] but when they tel us they are victorious, I will know it is just the other way.

Sallie & I do no know how long we will be gone but I hope not over a year, when New Orleans will be retaken & we can come home to graduate there.

I see on looking over this letter it is written & expressed badly; but I know you will excuse it in a Murdock when you hear it was written at 12 o’clock at night. I was so tired I ached from head to foot. Dear boy, I must bid you goodbye. Now behave yourself and please don’t get any sprees while you are in the army. I know you are too good a soldier for that. You must be sure & write to me. Write good long letters & send them to Hard Have & she will forward them in some of theirs. Adieu to you and yours, fond cousin. — F. H. Murdock

1861: Thomas P. Forrester to Mary T. Forrester

I could not find an image of Thomas but here is a tintype of Pvt. John Chitwood of “The Bartow County Yankee Killers,” 23rd Georgia. (Ada O. Fleischer Collection)

This letter was written by Thomas P. Forrester (1835-1864) of Co. E (“Tate Guards”) of the 23rd Georgia Infantry. Thomas began his service as a sergeant and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in December 1861. The 23rd Georgia was organized at Big Shanty, Georgia, on 31 August 1861, contained men from Bartow, Henderson, Floyd, Pickens, and Cherokee counties. It moved to Tennessee, then was sent to Virginia and assigned to the Department of the Peninsula. In April, 1862, it totalled 370 effectives and during the war served under Generals Rains and Colquitt. The 23rd participated in the campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia from Williamsburg to Chancellorsville, where more than 275 men were captured. It then was ordered to Charleston, South Carolina, and later Florida. After fighting at Olustee the unit returned to Virginia, took part in the conflicts at Drewry’s Bluff and Cold Harbor, and endured the battles and hardships of the Petersburg siege. It lost 4 killed and 56 wounded at Gaines’ Mill and Malvern Hill , had 14 killed and 64 wounded in the Maryland Campaign, and 2 killed, 66 wounded, and 2 missing at Olustee . During 1865 it was active in North Carolina and surrendered with the Army of Tennessee.

Thomas is presumed to have died in the fall of 1864. He became seriously ill with dysentery in the summer of 1864 and in September 1864 asked for a leave of absence to go home on a surgeon’s certificate. There is no further record in company muster rolls.

Several of Thomas’s letters have been transcribed and previously published on the internet at Letters of Thomas P. Forrester but that site does not include images of the letters and the following letter, datelined from the old Fairgrounds in Richmond on 28 November 1861 is not included.

Thomas was the son of Hiram Forrester (1799-1863) and Emily (“Millie”) Davis (1815-aft1861). In the 1860 US Census, the Forrester family was enumerated in Sharp Top, Pickens county, Georgia.


Old Fair Grounds
Richmond, Virginia
28th November 1861

Dear Sister,

I embrace this leisure hour to drop you a few lines which leaves me much better than I have been for some days. I have not been really sick but have a very severe cold as most of the men here have had but we are all getting better and I think when we get over this spell, we can stand Virginia very well.

I have nothing new to write you more than I have seen the prisoners and many other things since I have been here. There are Yankees being brought in every day more or less and they are being carried south every day for safe keeping and in consequence of so many being here, I will say to you we received orders yesterday that our regiment has to guard the scamps a while and probably all winter. One company goes at a time or 45 privates, 2 non-commissioned, and 1 commissioned officer, and guards them 24 hours and then another guard goes from the other companies, so I have no doubt we will stay here for the winter. I had rather do it than to go north from all reports.

I read a letter from T[homas] G. Stearns and C. P. West the other day. They were all well except Harvey who has been in the hospital either here or at Culpeper. The boys had not heard from him since he left them which is some three weeks ago I am satisfied he is not here as we have hunted over most of the hospitals in Richmond for him and other friends.

M. H. West 1 and Phil started to Manassas yesterday evening. They went after the body of Samuel Loveless 2 who died some ten days ago. Mr. Presley 3 is going to carry it home. Say to mother that I met with Henry Allen 4 yesterday evening. He is just on his way from Banks county where he has been to carry the body of his brother Robert who died at Manassas some two weeks ago. He is a private in a company from Banks county and belongs to the 2nd Georgia Regiment. He says it will be much better for us to stay here for the winter.

We have plenty to eat here of bacon, beef, flour, corn meal, sugar and coffee, and there are vegetables here in abundance for sale. We exchange some bacon and beef for potatoes, cabbages, &c. I must tell you that I and Bill Pool 5 have both got to drinking coffee because the water is bad. It is nothing but river water brought in pipes and is really not fit to drink though it will do for winter very well.

Give my kind regards to Mary Margaret and Jane Watson. Also to Mr. and Mrs. Watson, Mr. & Mrs. Stearns, and the rest of the family, and my love to father and mother and the rest of the children, and receive the same to yourself. Write soon.

As ever your absent brother, — Tom

1 Pvt. M. H. West was a member of Co. D, 23rd Georgia Infantry. He was from Jasper, Pickens county, Georgia, where he married Margaret M. Bailey on 21 August 1861. He died of disease on 22 April 1864.

2 Pvt. Samuel B. Loveless was a member of Co. F. (Dickerson’s Company), 2nd Georgia Infantry. Samuel died of pneumonia on 16 November 1861.

3 Jordan Presley was a musician in Co. E, 23rd Georgia. He was absent in December 1861 detailed as escort to the remains of Samuel Loveless.

4 Pvt. Henry Allen (or Allan) was a member of Co. A, 2nd Georgia Infantry. He enlisted on 20 April 1861 at Homer, Banks county, Georgia. His muster roll records indicates that he was detailed to carry 2nd Lieut. Robert Allen’s remains to Richmond, Virginia. Lt. Robt. Allen died at Mrs. Foster’s near Manassas with camp fever on 14 October 1861. Henry was discharged on 25 May 1862 on account of physical disability.

5 Sgt. William (“Bill”) Pool was a member of Co. E (Capt. Wm. Bacon’s Company), 23rd Georgia Infantry. Bill enlisted in August 1861 at Camp McDonald in Georgia. By the summer of 1862 he had been commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. He was taken prisoner on 2 May 1863 at the Battle of Chancellorsville. After returning to his regiment, he acted as the captain for a time and then resigned on 14 April 1864 giving the reason that he had been elected tax collector in Pickens county, Georgia.

1863: Mathew Bell Scofield to his Brother & Sister

This letter was written by Mathew Bell Scofield (1836-1922), the son Joshua Scofield (1800-1840) and Ada Warren (1800-Aft1870). Mathew and his wife Rachel E. Dean (1839-1920) were married in June 1858. Their first child (a boy) died at 18 months, but by the time of this letter in May 1863, they had two daughters, Mary Frances Scofield (1861-1940) and Amanda B. Scofield (b. 1863).

I could not find an image of Mathew but here is one of Mathias Roseberry who also served in the 21st Missouri Infantry (LOC)

The 1890 Veterans schedule informs us that Mathew enlisted as a corporal in Co. H, 21st Missouri Infantry on 19 June 1861 and he mustered out on 5 December 1864 after 3 years and 5.5 months. In 1870, Mathew and Rachel were enumerated in Lima, Adams county, Illinois. Ten years later they were in Rocky Run, Hancock county, Illinois. In 1890, Adair county, Missouri, and by 1910, Woodward county, Oklahoma.

At the time this letter was written, the 21st Missouri Infantry was on post and garrison duty near Memphis where they remained until January 1864.

Other family members mentioned in the letter include:

Isaac Thompson Scofield (1826-1921) and Lucinda [ ] (1821-Bef1867) were married before 1848 and lived in Bonaparte, Van Buren county. Iowa in the mid 1850s. In 1860, the couple were enumerated in Farmington, Van Buren county, Iowa. In July 1862, Isaac enlisted as a private in Co. K, 15th Iowa Infantry. He mustered out of the regiment in June 1865 after nearly three years service giving his place of residence as Jasper, Camden county, Missouri. The family was enumerated in Fort Scott, Bourbon county, Kansas in 1870.

Zerah Costin Dean (1838-1891) and Ada Scofield (1835-1884) were married in the late 1850s and were enumerated in Johnson, Scotland county, Missouri in 1860. In August 1862 when Zerah enlisted as a private in Co. H, 19th Iowa Infantry, he and Ada listed in Mount Sterling, Iowa. Zerah survived the war. He mustered out with his regiment at Mobile, Alabama, in July 1865. After the war, the Dean’s moved to Salt River, Randolph county, Missouri.

Susanna Scofield (1835-1917) and David D. Loper (1822-1904) were married in August 1856 in Henderson county, Illinois. David enlisted as a private in Co. G, 34th Iowa Infantry in August 1862 but was discharged for disability on 28 March 1863 at Chicago, giving Lucas county, Iowa as his residence at the time.


Camp in the woods
2 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee
One mile from the [Mississippi] River
May 18, 1863

Dear brother & sister,

I now embrace this present opportunity to let you know that I am enjoying good health through the mercy of God for which I desire to be thankful, hoping if these few lines reach you they may find you enjoying the great blessing of good health. I should have wrote to you before this time but I didn’t know where to direct to you so you would get my letters.

Well John, I have just received a letter from Isaac’s wife and they was all well. Lucy said she had just been to see mother and the girls. She said that mother’s health was some better than she expected to find it, though mother’s health is not near as good as it was two or three years ago. Lucy said that mother could be up the most of the time. It’s only a short time since I got a letter from Ada and Lorinda. Ada and her oldest boy [Henry] was not very well at that time. Mother has been subject to have fits or something of that nature for two or three years. She generally has one every month and sometimes oftener which renders her health very poor. She is also very feeble with old age after the toil of many a summer and the frosts of many a winter. Mother and Ada Dean, and Lorinda is living on my place where I was living when you was there to see us the last time.

Ada’s husband Zerah C. Dean is a soldier in the 19th Regiment Iowa Vols. Infantry. I got a letter from him a short time since and he was well. He volunteered last summer in the United States Service. He is a first rate man. Brother Isaac Scofield is in the 15th Regt. Iowa Volunteers. The last letter I got from him was wrote the 29th of April. He was well at that time. He was below Vicksburg several miles. He said they was expecting a battle soon. Isaac is a nurse in the regimental hospital. He said that their health was better than it was last winter. He said they had the small pox in his regiment last winter but it was all gone when he wrote the last letter to me.

Well, it’s two days since I got the last letter from my wife Rache and the children was in tolerable good health the 10th of this month. We have two children living. They are both girls [Mary F. & Amanda B.]. Our oldest was a boy but he died when about 18 months old. Rachel is living in Illinois with her sister Caroline Clark. They are getting along very well so far.

It is not long since I got a letter from Susannah. She said they was all enjoying good health too except her husband. Mr. Loper has been very poorly for 4 months. He caught a severe cold & it settled on his lungs and he was 4 months that he couldn’t speak above a whisper. He got a discharge from the army a short time ago and has gone home. Susannah said she had rented out his farm before he came home and she said they was going to visit mother this summer if nothing [happens] to prevent it. She said her husband’s health was improving some but she thought he would not be able to do much labor this season.

“This wicked rebellion [was] started out of the rotten hearts of accursed traitors of the South and Negro stealers of the North.”

Mathew Scofield, Co. H, 21st Missouri Infantry, 18 May 1863

Well, John, I enlisted in the army to fight for my country and to help punish traitors and to help sustain our old flag and to help put down this wicked rebellion which has started out of the rotten hearts of accursed traitors of the South and Negro stealers of the North. We may say what we may about the war or the cause of it, but now is the great struggle to save the Union or to see it destroyed and be ruled by Southern traitors and I say, crush this wicked rebellion in the quickest way it can be done—let it cost what it may. It is one year and 11 months yesterday since I was sworn in the service of the U. S. I have been a soldier long enough to know something about the hardships of a soldier’s life. I have had some easy times and some hard times. I must close now.

1861-63: James Cornell Biddle to Gertrude (Meredith) Biddle

Colonel James C. Biddle

These letters were written by James Cornell Biddle (1835-1898), the son of James Cornell Biddle (1795-1838) and Sarah Caldwell Keppele (1798-1877). Biddle wrote the letters to his cousin—and fiancee, then wife, Gertrude Gouverneur Meredith (1839-1905), the daughter of William Morris Meredith (1799-1873) and Catherine Keppele (1801-1853). William M. Meredith was a distinguished leader of the bar in Philadelphia and served as the Secretary of Treasury (1849-50) during the Zachary Taylor administration.

James began his military service as a private in Co. A, 17th Pennsylvania Volunteers. He enlisted on 25 April 1861 and mustered out after three months on 2 August 1861. It was while serving in the 17th Pennsylvania that he wrote the following letter.

On November 1, 1861 he was commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant in Co. C, 27th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Promoted to Captain and commander of Co. H on November 1, 1862. He was soon tabbed to served on the staff of Major General George Gordon Meade, performing that duty from May 1863 through the July 1863 Gettysburg Campaign, and through the end of the war. On November 5, 1863 he was discharged from the 27th Pennsylvania, and was promoted to Major and Aide-De-Camp, US Volunteers. He was brevetted Lieutenant Colonel, US Volunteers on August 1, 1864, for “faithful and meritorious services in the field” and Colonel, US Volunteers on April 9, 1865 for “gallant and meritorious services during the recent operations resulting the fall of Richmond and the surrender of the insurgent army under General R.E. Lee”. 

See also—1862: James Cornell Biddle to Gertrude Gouverneur Meredith transcribed & published on Spared & Shared 3 in August 2013.

Letter 1

Addressed to Miss Gertrude G. Meredith, Hon. W. M. Meredith, Philadelphia

Poolesville [Maryland]
June 19th 1861

My Dearest Gertrude,

I have just received yours & Colby’s letters of the 14th inst. I was very anxious to hear from you as I had not heard anything since the 13th and felt quite relieved at the contents, hearing that you were so well. I think Colby’s idea with regard to our movements may be correct as we have fixed our tents & have everything arranged as if it was a permanent thing, but as I have told you, there is no telling from one minute to another where we may be.

Three of our companies have gone to the Potomac as a guard to two pieces of artillery & I should like very much to go myself. This is a horrid place for an encampment. We have but one tree on our ground & an army of pigs must have been here before us as the ground is all rooted up. If it should rain, it will be a regular mud puddle. A detachment of three [men] from each company have been detailed to pick off the secessionists from the other side of the river. I was told this morning they had driven a party away from a cannon & prevented them from taking it away.

I was again on guard last night at a spring preventing any person [from] poisoning it. It has generally been the rule that after being on guard all night, we had the privilege of going where we pleased, but this morning the Colonel had us all drawn up & told us we were the guard of the camp and none of us would be allowed to leave our muskets so that we are now all huddled round this one tree.

We received the Baltimore Sun of Monday which mentions the evacuation of Harper’s Ferry. They say a good many of them have gone to Edwards Ferry 5 miles from here and that now they have a force there of some 7 or 8,000, but it is not likely they will attempt to cross the river. Neither will we do so if such is the case. This is a horribly dull place & the sooner we get out of it, the better I shall like it.

I was very sorry to hear Cassie is still so miserable. I think a little change of air will be of service to her. My darling Diddy, this is the 19th & it is less than one month till my time is up. I shall be too much rejoiced for anything to be with you once more. I think this war is not going to last a very great while as I do not see how the secessionists can hold out against such odds.

Tell Colby [that] Col. [C. P.] Stone is in command of this division. 1 He is quite a young man—not over 35. General Scott thinks a great deal of him and I like him so far as I have seen him. Colby mentions he is going to see our Flags. I wish we had them with us. Col. Patterson told me he would just as soon not receive them till our return as they would get soiled but if we are to gain any honor, I would rather have it under the new colors. The band have been playing almost all the morning. It is a great addition to our camp.

I intend taking a nap, dear Gertrude, as soon as I finish these few lines to you. You know I always was a sleepy head and last night I only had three hours sleep. What would you think of my taking one of Aunt Latimer’s blankets and sleeping all night in the lawn in front of the house, wrapped up in it? I can assure you, that would be a luxury in comparison with this as there the grass is nice & soft, and here is is full of holes and very little grass. I can imagine Aunt Latimer’s consternation at such a thing & yet I was never better in my life.

I am sorry to hear Miss Margaret Price is a secessionist. I think Baltimore is as bad if not worse than any city in the Union They all profess to be Unionists here, but I think it is principally owing to our presence. They say all kinds & sorts of stories were originated with regard to us before our arrival, but they have found out they were all untrue since we have been here.

I should like very much to meet Tom’s and your Uncle Sullie’s regiments. I was in hopes of seeing them but now I do not know how it will be. I hear the President is going to recommend the calling out of 500,000 troops in addition to those already enlisted.

I have just taken a peep at your photographs. I can read your feelings exactly. I know, dear Gertrude, you are very much attached to me and likewise that I am to you & I am sure we will lead a happy life together. I have always had the feeling we were fated for each other. The day of my return will be the happiest day of my life. I often think I have so much more to look forward to on my return than most of those who are away. There were a very few letters in the mail this morning & I have had dear knows how many inquiries as to how my letters were directed. I believe there is another mail expected into camp this afternoon. Do you know my own dear Gertrude, there has not been a mail that has yet arrived without bringing me a letter from the one I care most for, of all & everything in this world.

I have been afraid they would put in the papers all kinds and sorts of rumors with regard to our movements as I do not believe they know anything more of us than we know of what is taking place in the world. It is a joke of Abbie Bache’s the advertisements we have seen in the papers for recruits. “Able bodied, unmarried men wanted for the Army, fine chance for study, &c.” John Hewson & all are well. Osy [Oswald] Jackson inquired after you all & particularly Cassie. He requested me to send his regards to you all & referred to the pleasant breakfasts he had had with the gals previous to our departure.

The New Hampshire men have gone to the Potomac & report shooting some 5 or 6 secessionists on the other side of the river. I could see them quite plainly the day I was there. It is said there is a large force of Federal troops within one hour’s distance from here, but where they are I do not know. The New York 9th & the Washington Volunteers are three-quarter of a mile below us.

I heard some rumor of George Cadwalader’s 2 being suspended on account of some negligence, but I do not credit it. You see so many false reports in the papers at such times as these.

It is now only 10 o’clock and the day seems very long. We now get up between 3 and 4 and someone remarked in Philadelphia he could not sleep in the afternoon but here he could sleep all the time. It makes a great difference being in the open air all the time.

This last week has flown by very fast to me as we have had considerable to keep up the excitement. I now have finished all I have to say. Tell Ma she must not expect me to write as your letters will answer. I always let you know all the news. Give her my love as well as Katy, Grandma, your father, Cassie, Effie, and all with a great deal of love to yourself.

I am yours devotedly, forever, — J. C. B.

1 The 17th Pennsylvania Infantry was ordered to Rockville, Montgomery County, Maryland, on 10 June, 1861, and was assigned to the Seventh Brigade, Third Division, Army of Pennsylvania, under the command of Colonel Charles Pomeroy Stone, 14th United States Infantry, by Special Orders No.96, Paragraph I, Headquarters, Department of Pennsylvania, Martinsburg, Berkeley County, Virginia, on 10 July, 1861. Col. Stone was reportedly the first volunteer to enter the Union Army, and during the war he served as a general officer, noted for his involvement at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff in October 1861. Held responsible for the Union defeat, Stone was arrested and imprisoned for almost six months, mostly for political reasons. He never received a trial, and after his release he would not hold a significant command during the war again.

2 Gen. George Cadwalader was in command of Fort McHenry. See Lincoln and Taney’s great writ showdown.

Letter 2

Knoxville [Maryland]
July 5th 1861

My Dearest Gertrude,

John Williams and myself walked to this place a few minutes ago for the purpose of mailing the letters & in hopes of being able to telegraph but find there is no telegraph office nearer than the Point of Rocks. I have written a dispatch & given it to the postmaster to give to the conductor to leave us off at that place.

Everything is quiet here—not a shot was fired last night. The people in this neighborhood are all strong Union. They are delighted at seeing us here and say we are the very men they want.

I sent you a sample of the money they are circulating in Virginia. They have it as low as 10 cents but I was not able to get one for you. I saw one that one of our men had.

This is going to be a very warm day & I should like to remain where I am for the rest of the day but our movements are so uncertain we may go at any moment & after writing his, I must hurry back to camp. I do not know how many regiments are here. I was awake a little while last night. It was but a short time I can assure you as I was very tired & heard the tramp of wagons & was told this morning they were arriving all through the night.

I do not think the fight—if any—will last long as we will be too many for them. There are 2 Mississippi Regiments in Harpers Ferry. I was very sorry indeed to hear of the loss of the New York 9th & feel it worse as it was caused by the drunken folly of one of Co. D of our regiment. They are all Irish. We have some very low characters in our regiment.

Dearest Gertrude, you must keep up your spirits. I do not think our regiment will advance much beyond Harpers Ferry in two weeks. I expect to be on board a train from this place bound to Philadelphia. How happy I shall be to be with you again. The men who live here are telling the condition of things here. They say they are ruined. All their factories are stopped & they think will never come up again. We see the effects of secession wherever we go. They have been doing, it seems to me, all the damage possible, destroying bridges, grain and everything without any reason.

Oswald Jackson has just passed on Hewson’s horse. John says his [Oswald’s] aunt lives a short distance from here. I suppose he is going to pay her a visit. I am very glad to hear Cassie is improving. I hope the change of air will be of service to her. One man says the secessionists have been blowing [bragging] that one of their men was equal to 5 Northern men, but they think it will take 4 men of our regiment to catch them & 1 to shoot them, yhey will run away so fast.

There is a mail here daily. You will receive this tomorrow. Yesterday was a glorious day to us. The people all were rejoiced to see us & I saw what would convince me if anything would of the gloriousness of our cause.

With all the love I have, I am your own devoted Jim for ever.

Give my love to Ma, Katy, your Father, Grandma and all.

Letter 3

Headquarters 5th Corps
April 4th 1863

My own darling Gertrude,

The candles are flickering so with the wind it is almost impossible to write, but I intend making out as well as I can as I would not for anything miss sending you a daily letter. I have been resting myself all day.

There was to have been a review of all the cavalry but it was postponed till tomorrow on account of the President who I hear is coming down tonight to spend Sunday. I do not think it is right to have anything of the kind on Sunday and I feel very sorry to hear it is to take place. I think nothing should be done in that day that can be avoided. I do not think we can be truly successful unless we place our trust in God as a nation, and I feel that any disregard of that day has a very bad effect on the army. I am sure the life is demoralizing enough and everything should be done to counteract the bad effects. I like to remain quiet and feel it is Sunday. It always to me is the pleasantest day of the whole week. I think it is terrible to see how little regard is paid to religion. I am sorry that I am not myself better. I know how far I am from being what I should be, & I wish I was a great deal better. I know what true happiness religion brings with it and it seems to me so strange it should be so generally disregarded. Things pertaining to this world seem to be the uppermost thoughts of mankind, ambitious to occupy a high place here on earth with no regard to the future. Why do not the same feelings operate to make humanity better?

I received your nice letter this afternoon. They come now regularly to me every day and I can assure you I look forward to their arrival with a great deal of pleasure.

I am very sorry to hear gold has gone up again. I do not think we can expect much now from either Grant or Banks in the quarter in which they are operating. I wish they would send the whole force into Tennessee and North Carolina. It seems to me we can accomplish more in that way than any other. I do not like dividing our forces so much. We must trust for the best and we cannot expect to have anything as we should like. We have a tremendous rebellion to contend against. We have to fight them now in their strong positions and it must take time to produce any telling results.

Everyone now is looking to this army. I presume before long its movements will be made known. The roads are now in a passable condition & before many weeks I presume it will be on the move.

I have not as yet read McClellan’s report. Gen. [Andrew A.] Humphreys does not like his throwing the blame upon him, or rather attributing his failure to advance to Humphreys division not being on the ground till late the day after. He says he arrived early in the morning and was in position in the rear of Porter by 8 o’clock a.m. the day after the battle with 6,000 men.

I am very well, my own darling wife. Take good care of yourself for my sake. You are ever present in my mind and I know there is a happy future in store for us. Capt, Mason has just come in my tent to tell me my map and all the books r. Garland sent me have ben burnt up. They accidentally caught fire when no one was present. Thank Mr. G for me for sending. Give my love to all & with heaps to you. Believe me forever your devoted husband.

Letter 4

Headquarters, 5th Corps
April 5th 1863

My own darling wife,

The roads had just become passable and yesterday John was remarking he did not see why the army did not move. But today the ground is covered with snow. It will take at least a week before they are in as good condition again. I am of the opinion we will not do anything till after the middle of the month. The move, when it is made is to be a rapid one and would be entirely frustrated if we should encounter such a storm as this. I think we shall go down the [Rappahannock] river, make a rapid march, and try and get to Richmond in advance of the army of Lee. I hope this time we shall be successful. By the middle of May, this army will be diminished considerably by the expiration of the enlistment of the two years men, also the nine months conscripts. Whatever is to be done must take place before that time. Our Corps will lose just one half of its number.

Today is Sunday. I have been reading my prayer book and amusing myself talking to different members of the staff. They are mostly McClellanites and in consequence I never mention his name. It is not worth while getting into disputes.

The President passed by this morning on a special train. He has gone to Gen. Hooker’s Headquarters. The review will not come off and I am very glad of it as I must confess I did not approve of it.

I am writing on my bed with your desk on my lap. I have no rest for my arm and consequently it is not possible for me to write nicely.

I am expecting a letter shortly from you. The 1 o’clock train left before the arrival of the boat. It is now just 4 o’clock—the time the train is due. We dine at 5 o’clock. I generally take a lunch at about 12. I hear the whistle of the engine now. I wonder if any of my letters were on the train that broke down between Washington & Philadelphia the other day. I hope is any should have been they were not destroyed.

John is very well and seems in much better spirits although I think he still would like very much to resign. I must confess I would like very much myself to be quietly living in the peaceful paths of life, but as this is impossible, I make myself contented.

[Our new Corps commander,] Gen. Meade I think a very good officer. Everyone speaks highly of him and he certainly is a gentleman which I am sorry to say a great many of our officers are not. A portion of Gen. Hooker’s staff were here last evening and it almost made me sick. They were half tight and a more rowdy looking set I never met. “Birds of a feather flock together.” I will not say more.

Let me know my own dear little wife all about yourself. I wish you were more regular. I think it is so important for one’s health. When you write, tell me all about yourself & I want you to be as bright as possible. When do you intend to get your spring clothes? I have one month’s pay now due me and by the end of this month hope to be able to send some more money to you. My expenses will not be at all heavy and I can save at least one half. I do not want you. to economize but get whatever you may want.

There is no news. I am very well & you need not be at all uneasy about me. Give my love to all, and with a heart overflowing with love for yourself, I am forever your devoted husband.

Letter 5

Headquarters 5th Corps
April 12th 1863

My own dear little wife,

I received your letter of the 9th yesterday. I am very glad to hear such good accounts of all at home. It is a great consolation when one is away as I am to have no cause of anxiety. I am perfectly contented and never in my life felt better in every respect. I would like very much to get a peep at you in your spring things but I hardly expect to be so fortunate. I want you to get whatever you may want. I have $80 in my purse and Capt. Mason will bring me down $160 more, leaving me a sufficient sum after paying for my horse. If I find one, I conclude to buy. It is very strange if you want to buy a horse, it is a difficult thing to get one you like, and if you want to sell, you find the same difficulty in finding anyone who wants to buy. I always calculate upon leaving one half in every horse I purchase and why I should be so unfortunate, I cannot tell. I am certain my black horse will never bring $200, the price I paid for him. Some horse jockey could buy him for about $100 & then sell him for the price I gave. I require a strong, sound horse, and as yet I have not seen any that I at all like.

There is a Swiss General visiting our army and he is coming here at 12 o’clock to ride through the camps to take a look at things in general. I am sorry for it. I am so heartily sick of anything like reviews. Of course the General [Meade] will ride with him.

It is going to be a very warm day, It is now in my tent quite close. I feel very anxious to hear of the result from Charleston. The rebels have been quite jubilant, cheering most vociferously. They called across the river to our pickets that they hoped we were satisfied with the whipping we got at Charleston. I still hope for the best. I know it is a tremendous undertaking but then we have made vast preparations and I trust they may prove successful. It will be a heavy blow morally to the rebels, and I do not believe there is anything that can damage them as much, It will tell with such effect all through the South. They hate Charleston almost as much as we do, and a great many of them would like to see it leveled to the ground.

Nothing is said as yet about moving. I do not understand the cause of the delay. It certainly is very strange, There are various surmises made as to where we will go when we leave here. The rebels are in strong force and position directly opposite to us.

John is well and seems contented in his present position. The only thing he is afraid of is being ordered to some strange general but I do not think they will do so. He has not had a great deal to do and is acting more in the capacity of Aide.

I hear nothing of the sword presentation to General Meade. Ma wrote to me it was to take place at the camp of the reserves near Alexandria. Gen. Meade himself knows nothing definite. I believe none of the new Major Generals have been allowed the Aides given them by law. Gen. Meade spoke to the President about it when he was down here. The President was very noncommittal. He said if the law gave them to them, he thought they should have them and promised to see about it on his return to Washington. I have no news, my dear little wife, only I know how much I love you and that I am always looking forward to my return to a long & endless life of happiness with as much certainty as anyone may possess. I am sure of our love for each other and I know I care for nothing without you. I must close this. Give my love to all & with a great deal to yourself.

I am forever your own devoted husband.

Letter 6

Headquarters 5th Corps
April 16th 1863

My own dear little wife,

James Cornell Biddle

We had a very heavy rain last night which will put us back a day or so in the contemplated movement, I am very glad we did not have the storm after we had taken down our tents. It is now about the change of the moon, and I am in strong hopes this has been the clear up rain for in all conscience, we have certainly had enough to last for some time.

I hear some 20,000 men left Washington the night before last to reinforce Gen. Peck [at Suffolk]. They say the rebels are concentrating troops in that direction to strike against him. I do not understand their movements but would not be at all surprised if they intend to fall back upon Richmond. From here, it certainly looks so, when we hear of such large forces on the other side of that place. We have not heard anything from our cavalry. We have to await the arrival of the Chronicle to know of anything even in our own army. We have heard distant firing but do not know what was the cause of it. There is a report that they have captured a Battery. I am in great expectations the rebel cavalry force has been very much diminished in consequence of the inability of their getting forage. It now numbers, so report goes, only 4,000 men. We sent out from here 12,000 & I presume General Stahl has left Washington with 4,000 more. They certainly ought to accomplish something. Infantry cannot follow them and they ought to have everything their own way.

The news from Charleston is not encouraging but it is as much as I expected. I had not much hope of the iron clads being able to accomplish anything against strongly casemates land batteries.

Gen. Meade said this morning he knew nothing of the intended movements. We are all wondering what the eight days supplies are for. I do not think we can carry that much. The men are very improvident and I know from experience it is difficult to get them to carry 3 days rations.

I received your letter yesterday of the 13th. They come regularly to me every day and I look forward to them arrival with a great deal of pleasure.

With regard to my views, they all know I am not an admirer of McClellan and there is very little ever said of him. I do not think it worth while to stir up controversies with those who have been associated with him. Webb was on his staff. I believe he has a good opinion of him but I have heard him say but little. Locke has been very civil to me. I recollect hearing something of the testimony he gave on the Porter & McDowell court martials but I never read them myself.

I am very well, my dear wife. I never felt better in my life. The sedentary life on the board was not compatible with my disposition. I never could stand sitting over a table all day writing and consequently gave me those unpleasant feelings after my meals. But since I have been here, I have not been troubled with them. I wonder when the board or the present officers will be relieved. I should think they must be getting tired of it.

I must now draw this to a close, my dear little wife, or else I will be too late for the mail. I feel like you, I never like to stop my letters but wish I only could write a great deal more and make them more interesting. Give my love to all & with a great deal to yourself, believe me for ever your devoted husband.

Letter 7

Headquarters 5th Corps
April 17, 1863

My own dear little wife,

We are still uncertain of our movements. The rain has disturbed all the plans for the present. It is still threatening and before a great while, I think it is going to pour. I am very sorry for it as I am afraid the tail of our cavalry may be impeded in consequence. I have not the least idea where the cavalry have gone to but the Rappahannock has risen by the recent rains and it may have prevented their crossing, as I presume they intended to do at some point. I heard of them at Rappahannock Station. There is a very good ford there but I have not heard of their crossing. It is the largest force of cavalry we have ever had together and they ought to accomplish what they design to do.

General Peck is threatened at Suffolk. I hope with the force we sent from Washington we may have good news from him.

I received yesterday the pamphlets sent to me by Mr. Garland. Thank him and tell him I have already distributed a number. I do not think the first were intentionally burnt as the fire was in John Mason’s tent and no one would have done anything of the kind intentionally. It came very near burning up the tent and the wonder was it did not do it. The legs of the table were burnt ad everything that was on it, books, gloves, &c.

I was over at Gen. Hooker’s Headquarters yesterday. Charley Cadwalader was in Washington. Jim Starr told me he was going on his Uncle George’s staff as Major. If so, George must be going to have a Corps, and if so, where is the vacancy? Starr was very anxious to get a staff appointment. He would not though do so unless he could get another commission as he did not think it right for so many officers to be taken away from Rush. Starr spoke very well of Rush although he does not fancy him, yet he says Rush has acted in everything as he thought best for the good of his regiment. He said John was too hasty in resigning insinuating that he was disgusted without any reason and as we know John has been out of sorts in every position he has occupied, he was disgusted with the law also. This is entirely for yourself and I now am sorry I have written it. I do hate to say abusive things of persons. It is a very bad habit to get into but I only mean by the above remarks to say John’s disposition is a hard one to please. We know very well the moody ways he sometimes would get into. He sees though better satisfied now for he has made up his mind it will not do for him to resign, but I think he will do so after the next fight.

The Chronicle arrives everyday by one o’clock. There has been no news for a long time and I now think we must wait till after this army gets in motion & then I think there will be startling doings. There is only one thing I regret, the time of so many men is so near expiring. I am afraid they will not fight so well as they otherwise might. I wish the draft would get in operation. We need more men. The rebels have an equal number & occupy their chosen positions, which are now strongly fortified. We ought to make up for these disadvantages by numbers.

I am in hopes Foster will get out of his scrape [in North Carolina]. I am inclined to think he is all right as the rebels have not said anything. The pickets notwithstanding talking across the river is prohibited, always taunt each other when there is any news good to either side. I hear the rebel pickets called over to ours, “So you’re trying a raid, are you?” They know everything we do. They are much better informed of what is going on than we are.

I received your letter yesterday of the 14th. It is so comforting to get such cheerful letters. I am very well and manage to pass my time very pleasantly. I have you constantly on my mind & would give a good deal to see you if for only a short time. I often think of how happy I was in Washington. I always looked forward with so much pleasure when my duties were over to my return to my darling little wife. But for the present, we must make up our minds to be separated and trust in God for the future. Have you heard or seen anything of Markoe Bache? I expect he is visiting on my head his failure to get his appointment. I see Hewson every now and then. He is looking very well and seems to like the life as much as one can be supposed to. He always seems cheerful and contented. I must now say goodbye. I like to write you nice long letters, my dear life wife, and I feel I cannot put half I want to express on paper. You know how much I love you & I can tell you my affection will never grow less. Give my love to all & with a great deal to yourself.

I am forever your devoted husband.

Gen. Meade was told by Gen. Hooker he could not let him leave the army now to go to to the sword presentation.

Letter 8

Headquarters 5th Corps
April 18th 1863

My own dear little wife,

The mail arrived yesterday but brought no letter for me. After dinner I received the second one you wrote to me on the 30th of March. I had gone over to Gen. Hooker’s Headquarters & they kept it there all this time. It partly made up for my disappointment at not hearing in the morning. My own dear little wife, I know it was not your fault but entirely owing to the mail. I will. today receive two in compensation.

I write to Gen. Ricketts yesterday. I wonder when the present Board will be dissolved and what command your Uncle Sully will have. I see every now and then new lists published in the Chronicle but they are gradually getting smaller, This is a lovely spring day and I am in hopes it may last for some time. I heard yesterday Gen. Stoneman had sent word back he was stopped owing to the impossibility of getting his artillery forward. I do trust they may accomplish some good, but what they are after I have no idea of. I hope they may destroy some of the bridges between here and Richmond. They have been delayed so much I am afraid the rebels are cognizant of their plans.

I presume now in a day or so we shall be off. I can see nothing to delay us any longer. The sooner we go, the better as the time of enlistment of some of the troops is nearly up. I have great faith in this army and if we are successful, it will pretty nigh break down the Confederacy. I read Davis’s address to his soldiers. There is no doubt they are badly off for supplies & another year—if the war lasts so long—must starve them into obedience. But I hope the triumph of our armies will sooner bring them to their senses.

There is no news of any kind. I presume we shall hear something from Suffolk or Williamsburg. Foster, I think, is safe. If they had him in a box we would have heard of it through rebel sources. I am glad Grantees troops are moving up the Mississippi. I do not believe in attempting Vicksburg again. The best thing to do is to send two or three son clads to blockade the river and take away the land force & send them into Tennessee.

How is your father? I hope he is frisking up. Also that Cassie has gotten over her indisposition—the two invalids.

Take good care of yourself, my own dear little wife. You are my every thought. I want you to get whatever you want. I now have nearly two months pay due me & $80 in my pocket so you see I am flush.

Frank Wistar was here the day before yesterday. I think Gen. Meade has applied for him as commissary of musters. We all get along together on the staff very nicely. It is a great thing to be associated with gentlemen. I am very well contented with my position. Gen. Meade has just told Gen. Griffin he intended reviewing Syke’s Division at 2 o’clock today. Alas for reviews. I though they were over. It seems to me everyone is review mad. I am sick of them having had so much of them since I’ve been here.

I must say goodbye my dear wife. Know how much I love you, my dear girl. You are my all and I look forward to a happy future. Give my love to all & with a great deal to yourself I am forever your devoted husband.

Letter 9

Headquarters 5th Corps
Stoneman’s Station, Virginia
May 22, 1863

My own dear little wife,

I received your letter of the 19th yesterday. I am very much afraid I have created expectations in your mind which I did not intend to give. I have no idea of being able to leave here now. General Meade will only give leaves of absence upon urgent grounds and then only for five days. I have the satisfaction though of knowing if there is any reason for my leaving, I can get off without any difficulty. There is no telling what may happen. Gen. Meade may be ordered to pay the President a visit & if he takes me with him, I will telegraph for you. I would give anything to be with you, my own darling little wife, and I have been thinking and envying John ever since he took his departure. I do not believe there is anyone in the army who has more reason to wish for home than myself and I trust this war may soon be ended but as long as it lasts, I feel it a duty to bear a part of the hardships, and when it is over, I will be as happy as the day is long with my own sweet Gertrude.

Jay, Mason & Dr. Russell are in my tent. They wonder how I am able to write so much. They say I must write the same letter every day. Well, my dear Gertrude, in that they are pretty nigh correct, but I know what a pleasure my letters are to you and that no apologies are necessary.

Yesterday morning I took a swim in Potomac Creek and in the afternoon went to the presentation of a horse, saddle & bridle, spurs, gloves, sword and overcoat too Gen. Barnes. I met there some 5 or 6 members of the Washington Grays who now are with the Corn Exchange Regiment. Gen. Meade has one of his nephews staying here—Mr. Meade of the Navy. He leaves this morning. He had a very narrow escape yesterday, He got one of Gen. Meade’s horses and sailor-like, depended upon the reins instead of upon his legs to hold himself in the saddle, the consequence of which was the horse reared and fell over backwards upon him. I was a good deal startled and felt afraid he was severely hurt, but he fortunately got off with only a few bruises.

I am going over to see George Ingham sometime today. Gen. Sykes has been quite sick and I believe has applied for a leave of absence in which case I presume George will get off too. Both our Division Commanders are sick. Griffin is in Washington and has just had his sick leave extended fifteen days.

Of course you have seen John and have received from him a full account of me as to how well I am. I make up my mind to be satisfied although I do miss you dreadfully. The rebels seem to be getting very tired of the war. They told our officers left at Chancellorsville they wished they could see an honorable way out of it for them and they would be satisfied.

There is no news of any kind and no sign of a move. It is impossible for us to do anything here till we are reinforced. I am in hopes though that this base will be abandoned. I see by Southern papers we are fortifying West Point [Va.]. What can be the meaning of this? I do think it a great mistake the way we are scattering our forces and have never as yet been able to have a combined movement. I believe though with all the blunders that have been committed, we are gaining every day and the rebellion is sinking. There is no doubt of the end. It has gone so far there can be no compromise and we must conquer them or they us. And of the result, I have no doubt whatever.

I we have Vicksburg, we hold the Mississippi and you recollect John Cadwalader predicted that this would be the work of ten years. It is hard for us to brook reverses. But in the end, all will be right and I trust we may be a purer, better people that ever before.

My darling Liddy, I must now close this in time fr the mail. Your letter arrive regularly every day about 1 o’clock and I am always wishing for that hour to het my letter. Give my love to a, Kate, Elizabeth, your father and all & wish a great deal of love to yourself.

I am ever your devoted husband.

Col. [Charles Mallet] Prevost of the 118th said to me he had heard of me through Philadelphia. His wife wrote to him Major Biddle had expressed some opinion with regard to Hooker. He said it was nothing bad but he could not recollect what it was. How could she have heard this? Dear Gertrude, do not think I think for a moment you would say anything to anyone. I would mind for I do not. I only not knowing her wondered how she had heard it.

1862: Josiah R. Kirkbride to his Parents

Flag of the 23rd New Jersey Infantry

These two letters were written by Josiah R. Kirkbride (1844-1932) who enlisted on 13 September 1862 as a private in Co. C, 23rd New Jersey Infantry. The 23rd New Jersey was a nine-month unit that participated in the Battle of Fredericksburg, the “Mud March,” the Battle of Salem Church in the Chancellorsville Campaign, and the first part of the Gettysburg Campaign. Josiah survived them all and mustered out with his regiment on 27 June 1863. The regiment went by the nickname “Yahoos” when an unpopular officer used it as as an insult because he considered them to be totally undisciplined. But the regiment wore the name as a badge of honor and even had it stitched into their battle flag.

Josiah was the son of William H. Kirkbride (1811-1881) and Elizabeth Boultonhouse (1809-1885) of Mount Holly, Burlington county, New Jersey. Josiah learned the house carpentry trade from his father. He was married on New Years Eve 1865, to Mary Ella Fogg in Camden, New Jersey, but began their life together in Bridgeton.

At the time the following letters were written the 23rd New Jersey was brigaded with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 15th New Jersey under the command of Col. Alfred T. Torbert in Brooks’ 1st Division of Smith’s VI Corps.

Letter 1

Near Fredericksburg, [Virginia]
December 14, 1862

Alonzo M. Bodine, Co. C, 23rd N. J.

Dear ones at home,

I have half hour to write in. Yesterday we were in a very heavy battle for about two hours. I came out safe and sound. There is a few out of our company wounded. They are Capt. [Samuel] Carr in the foot, Alonzo [Moorehead] Bodine in the back, and one or two others. There is a very heavy battle here and we do not know when it will stop. We may soon be in it again but we are getting the best of them. We were in one of the heaviest [fights] ever was seen. The shells bursted all around us but I am safe.

Give my love to all. So goodbye for the present. Pray for me. From your loving son and brother, — J. R. K.

Letter 2

Camp near White Oak Chapel
December 26, 1862

Dear Father,

I have just received a letter from you containing 3 papers which was written on the 21st. I was very glad to hear from you. Glad to hear that you were all well. I received that money which you sent me. It did me much good. We expect to be paid off every day.

You want to know about the weather. It is so warm that we sleep without our blankets but I think it is now blowing up a storm. The wind goes moaning through the pine tops. It is a solemn thing to hear. I am enjoying excellent health but I a sorry to state that I hear the dead march played almost daily. None out of our camp have died yet.

I had a letter from C[harles] Risley. He says he thinks he will never get back with us again. Fred Shinn has been to see me three times. He is as fat as a hog [and] looks first rate. He says he don’t like it much. I guess all of the soldiers are tired of war. As for me, I am.

One of our wounded men—Charles Broom—has returned to his company. He was struck by a piece of a shell on the foot. It did not even break the skin but his foot swelled up so he could not walk. He is well now. I have not heard from any of the rest.

What do you think I had for my Christmas dinner? Why I had some fried beef and 6 hard tack fried in the gravy. That was what my Christmas consisted of. Oh how I thought of the many happy Christmases I had sent at home. I longed to be there but I could not so I had to be contented.

I wrote a letter to Maggie this morning. I wrote one to you yesterday telling all about the battle. When you receive this, please send me a quire of paper and a package of envelopes for I have but two sheets and I cannot get any here. Send them as soon as you can. But I must prepare for dress parade so I will close with my love to all.

From your ever dutiful son, — J R. K.

The [New Jersey] Mirror dated the 18th has a true account of the battle. Yours in love, — J. K.

1863: Calvin Shedd to his Wife

An unidentified 2nd Lieutenant from New Hampshire (Dave Morin Collection)

This letter was written by 37 year-old 2Lt. Calvin Shedd who enlisted in September 1861 as a sergeant in Co. C, 7th New Hampshire Infantry. He was promoted to 1st Sergeant on the 4th of July 1862 and accepted a commission as 2nd Lieutenant of Co. A two weeks later.

There are 44 letters that were written by Calvin Shedd between 1862-64 that are housed in the South Carolina Library under the title, Calvin Shedd Papers, 1862-1864. Connected with that collection comes the following biographical sketch:

Calvin Shedd was born in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, in 1826. A devoted husband and father, Shedd enlisted as a private in Company C, Seventh Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteers, on 6 November 1861, at the age of thirty-five. He was appointed sergeant on 15 November 1861, and achieved the rank of first sergeant on 4 July 1862. Shedd was promoted to second lieutenant, Company A, on 23 July 1862, and discharged with a disability on 31 December 1863. Shedd returned to New England and then travelled to Illinois and Indiana to support his family in the years after the Civil War. He eventually returned to New England and died in Tewksbury on 11 June 1891 at the age of sixty-five. Much of Shedd’s life remains a mystery. For two brief periods, however, from 1861 to 1863 and 1865 to 1869, a series of letters and documents illuminates his life. Many questions remain: What of Shedd’s life prior to 1861? What did he do between his discharge from the Union Army in 1863 and his travels in Indiana and Illinois? How did Shedd spend the final twenty years of his life?

The Dartmouth College Library collection includes an interesting group of letters written by Shedd to his wife and children in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. A brief note penned in 1859 is followed by a letter of introduction, signed on Shedd’s behalf by several citizens of Enfield. The letter attests to Shedd’s military training in the Massachusetts militia and, coupled with Shedd’s abilities, likely played a role in his early appointment to sergeant. Letters from 1861 and 1862 find Shedd relating his Union Army training experiences at Camp Hale in New Hampshire and shortly thereafter in New York City.[1] Ironically, this portion of Shedd’s military service was among his most difficult and dangerous, as severe overcrowding, poor diet and quarters, and abysmal sanitary and health conditions created a deadly environment that travelled with Shedd and the Seventh Regiment from New York by boat to Key West, Florida. The Dartmouth letters then resume after Shedd’s Civil War service, and document his efforts to receive back pay (1863 to 1865) and his travels to Indiana and Illinois, where he sought work and wages to support his family (1865, 1867, 1869). This essay reproduces only selected documents relating to Shedd’s military discharge and salary matters. As with his Civil War letters, Shedd’s missives from the Midwest offer thoughtful, descriptive observations on his life and activities, as well as heartfelt advice and yearnings for his dear wife and family.

This letter is from the private collection of Jim Doncaster and is published by express consent.


General Hospital
Hilton Head, South Carolina
October 10th 1863

Dear Wife,

The mail does not go today but will in the morning. I am feeling stronger and better. If I can get rid of the pain and soreness in my bowels & stop their bleeding, I think I shall soon be fit for duty. [Lt. Col. Joseph C.] Abbott went North yesterday in the Continental. The Arago will go tomorrow. I hear nothing of my leave yet. If it don’t get around soon, I shall go to the regiment as soon as I am any way fit for duty. As badly as I wish to see you all, I can stay away till my time is out if I live so long. I want to see you extremely—now that is a fact, but I have made up my mind not to be disappointed if I don’t get home providing I get better.

I have not been paid yet. I hear that the paymaster is up to Morris [Island] and shall expect to be paid when he returns.

I don’t think of anything to write. There is one thing if Abbott don’t get about 200 conscripts, he can’t be mustered as Colonel. That will be a “grain” of comfort if he stops my promotion.

Yours anyway, — C. Shedd

1863: Elbridge W. Whitney to his Family

A middle-aged, unidentified Massachusetts soldier from the collection of Dave Morin.

This letter was written by 44 year-old Elbridge Whipple Whitney (1819-1882), the son of William Knowlton Whitney (1795-1868) and Deborah Woodward (18xx-1841). Elbridge was married to Sophia Ann Billings (1823-1873) and together they had two surviving daughters by the time he entered military service in the Civil War.—Frances (b. 1856) and Nellie (b. 1861).

Elbridge was working as a shoemaker in Athol, Worcester county, Massachusetts, when he was recruited in August 1862 into Co. B, 27th Massachusetts Infantry. He remained with the regiment for one year, mustering out in mid-August 1863 on a surgeon’s certificate of disability. Following the war, Elbridge returned to Athol where he resumed work in the shoemaking business.

Elbridge no doubt joined the regiment in New Bern, North Carolina, in time for the Goldsboro Expedition in December 1862 and was among the eight companies of the regiment in Washington, North Carolina, in April 1863 when they were hemmed in by Gen. Daniel H. Hill’s confederates and subjected to a siege. The following letter was written after the siege was lifted and the 27th Massachusetts had just returned to New Bern.

Siege of Washington, N. C., Map, April 1863 (LOC)

This letter is from the private collection of Jim Doncaster and is published by express consent.


Newbern, N. C.
April 26th 1863

Ever dear wife.

It is Sunday & very pleasant. We arrived here last night. We came down by a steamer. We got about halfway & the shaft broke and we had to cast anchor & lay over about three hours until another steamer came along & then we started again and got into Newbern safely.

Dear wife, I hope these few lines will find you and the children all well. I am well & tough.

We hear that the rebs are a getting whipped & I am glad of it, ain’t you? I think you are. I think the war will be closed before long. We have not had our pay yet but we expect it this week. We have a good many troops here now. I don’ know how many for I have not been here long enough to find out yet. I understand that we are a going to stay here to garrison the place. We are in A tents—four of us in a tent. Charles Sears and myself and Major Hogg & Mr. [Addison] Leach, the fifer. Charles is well.

I can’t write much this time for the mail closes at 12 o’clock so I shall have to cut short this letter & I will write a longer one next time.

Kiss the children for me & take a big one yourself. Remember. The war is a going to close now soon. Bear in mind. My love to my two little girls and Mary Turner.

Your husband, — E. W. Whitney

To Sophia A. Whitney

Newbern, North Carolina
April 26th 1863

Ever dear Mother,

I have not forgotten you yet. How do you do now? I am well & tough & hope these few lines will find you the same. We have got back to our old place again to do garrison duty & I am glad of it, ain’t you? Yes, I know you are. The Rebs are hard up, I tell you. There is hundreds of them bare-footed and bare-headed. They don’t have but one-fourth of a pound of meat a day & it is hard at that & four crackers.

Old General [Daniel H.] Hill was the reb general that attacked us to Washington [N. C.] and Old Governor [Zebulon Baird] Vance was there with them & he came very near getting killed. We throwed a shell over there & it burst & very near killing him. I wished it had, don’t you? I know you do.

I shall have to close now for the mail closes at 12 o’clock. Write as soon as you get this. Yours with respect. Your son, — E. W. Whitney

To A R. E. Billings, Athol Depot, Worcester county, Mass.

1864: Henry Peiffer Kauffman to Caroline (Slagel) Kauffman

This letter was written by Henry P. Kauffman (1835-1914), the son of Jacob G. Kauffman (1813-1880) and Flora Peiffer (1820-1865) of New Salem, Armstrong county, Pennsylvania. Henry was married in 1857 to Caroline Slagel (1833-1916) and had one child by the time he entered the military service. After the war, Henry and Caroline would have at least 9 more children. Henry was a stone mason by trade.

Henry’s headstone in Saint Jacobs Union Cemetery in New Salem, Pennsylvania (Find-A-Grave)

Military records indicate that Henry served in two different units during the Civil War. He was drafted in York County November 8, 1862 (although the late enlistment date suggests the possibility he enlisted as a substitute), mustered into federal service at York November 11 as a private with Co. D, 166th Pennsylvania Infantry (aka “Drafted Militia”), promoted to sergeant June 8,1863, and honorably discharged with his company July 28, 1863.

He then again enlisted in York August 29, 1864, and mustered into federal service at Harrisburg on September 2 as a private with Co. I, 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry (65th Pa). That regiment later merged with the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry (60th Pa) in which he served unassigned (altough he claimed Co. A) until honorably discharged by general order to date May 28, 1865.

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


Washington [D. C.]
September 10, 1864

Dear Wife,

It is with pleasure that I sit myself down this morning to let you know that we arrived here yesterday and expect to go away from here to Camp Stoneman today at 8 o’clock a.m. All the rest of our [re]cruits is here excepting Jacob Shepp. He is in Harrisburg in the hospital. I don’t know any particulars to write for this time but here I will put $10 in this letter and in the next letter I will send then again. If you don’t want to have this money in the house, then give it to somebody where it is safe. If you don’t know nobody, I guess George Shive would take it. Tell [ ] and the [ ] he can take it and pay the land with.

I will bring my letter to a conclusion by saying that I am well at present and I hope these few lines may find you in the same state of health. Don’t write till I write again. So no more at present but remain your husband, Henry Kauffman

to Caroline Kauffman

And further, you shall tell George Glatfelter’s wife that he has sent her $35 at Eli Myers for her and $20 with old Fiestel and she shall not give it all away at any time so that she could send him some then.

A few lines more. I had not time this morning to send my letter off but now I will let you know that we are in Camp Stoneman just opposite of Alexandria on this side of the Potomac river and further if you want to write to me, direct your letter to Camp Stoneman, 2rd Pa. Cavalry, 7th Brigade, 2nd Division, Company E.