These two partial letters were written by Pvt. Allen Quarmy (1831-1875)—a native of Yorkshire, England. In 1860, Allen was laboring in a woolen mill at Schuylkill, Chester county, Pennsylvania. By 1861, he had married the widow Jane (Lambert) Kay (1835-1903)—an Irish-born dressmaker—and relocated to Norristown, Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, where he enlisted in Co. K, 4th Pennsylvania Volunteer (P. V.) Infantry (3 months). The first letter was probably written in July 1861 while Allen was serving in this regiment. He mustered out of the 4th P. V. on 21 July 1861.
In the fall of 1862, Allen re-enlisted in the 138th P. V. Infantry and the second letter was penned in July 1863 after the Battle of Gettysburg when the regiment joined the Army of the Potomac in pursuit of Lee’s army. Allen remained with the 138th P. V.’s until he was wounded on 6 May 1864 at the Battle of the Wilderness. He was discharged on 10 April 1865 on account of his wounds.
After the war, Allen returned to Norristown, Pennsylvania, and went to work in a cotton mill but he died prematurely in 1875 at the age of 44.
It’s interesting to observe the difference in Allen’s handwriting between these two letters, separated in time by two years. Presumably Allen had little occasion to write before the Civil War but he, like many other soldiers, improved in both penmanship and spelling through frequent letter-writing while in the service.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
[First part of letter missing]
…give us the victory and a safe return home. They have not given us any money yet nor I don’t think they will till our time is up. You must try and do as well as you can till I come home which will soon come around now if God spares us. When you write, direct your letter the same as ever and if we move at any time, I will write and let you know. Give my respects to all my inquiring friends.
No more at present. I will write you a long letter the next time. I remain your affectionate husband, — Allen Quarmby
Direct your letter to Washington in care of Captain [Walter H.] Cook, 4th Regiment, Co. K, Pennsylvania Volunteers
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Addressed to Mrs. Jane Quarmby, Penn St. 303, Morristown, Mont. Co., Pa.
Postmarked Washington D. C. 21 July 1863
[“Soldier Letter” authorized by “L. A. May, Major [of the] 138th P. V.]
Pleasant Valley, Maryland
July 16th 1863
I sit down this evening to again write you a few lines. I am well and hope you and all the rest are the same, I wrote a letter last Sunday a week while we were at Tenleytown which I expect you received and were informed of our previous movements—the evacuation of Maryland Heights—our excursion to Washington in the canal boats, &c.—and I will now give you a brief account of our movements from that time.
We left Tenleytown last Monday a week and arrived at Frederick in the cars Wednesday. We stayed there over night and the next morning commenced our march and joined the noble Army of the Potomac which was then in hot pursuit of Lee. We were put in the 3rd Division, 3rd Corps, and marched about 10 or 12 miles that day. We came up as close to the Rebels as we could without bringing on a battle. On Saturday, skirmishes took place and our cavalry had several engagements with the enemy in which we took several hundred prisoners but we were in reserve and saw nothing of it.
We laid in line of battle over Sunday—the two armies facing each other—and Monday morning our whole army advanced but found that the Rebs had abandoned their fortifications and earthworks the night before and made good their escape into Virginia with the exception of losing about 2,000 prisoners. We were greatly disappointed at not having a battle on Saturday. We thought surely that there would be but it was perhaps delayed by the furious rain storm that we had in the afternoon. The boys were all eager for a fight for we believe that we could drive Old Lee into the river and captured half his army.
The Rebs crossed at Williamsport and yesterday morning we again commenced to march. It was a very hot day and we were marched hard. Several of the men gave out—some have died and others will not get over it. When we stopped about 2 miles this side of Sharpsburg to stay over night, the company only had 12 men in it out of 75. I held out. The rest soon caught up.
Today we marched about 10 miles and are now near the Potomac. Maryland Heights is in view and we can see the place we left 2 weeks ago. We expect to stay here 2 or 3 days to rest and then go after the Rebs into …. [remainder of letter missing]