This fascinating letter was written by Levi Ober (1826-1888)—a native of Bedford county, Pennsylvania. He grew to manhood in the state he has born, and at the age of twenty married Miss Elizabeth Williams. In April 1854, he and Elizabeth moved to Illinois, and in September 1855, came to Chatfield, Fillmore county, Minnesota. He was a carpenter by trade and worked at that business for a number of years before abandoning it and starting a wagon and blacksmith shop, which business he followed for the remainder of his life.
In the summer of 1861 he enlisted in Co. A, 2nd Minnesota Infantry, under the command of Capt. Bishop, and was mustered into service as second sergeant of the company. In March 1862, he was promoted to second lieutenant, and in the fall of the same year was advanced to first lieutenant. In August 1863, he was given command of the company, which position he held until July 1864, when, owing to ill health, he resigned his commission and returned home.
The Second Minnesota saw as much, or more, active service than any of the regiments from the Northwest, going with Gen. Sherman through to the sea, besides participating in several other battles also being at Mill Springs, Kennesaw and Lookout Mountains, Missionary Ridge, Chicamauga and Chattanooga, and at all times Capt. Ober with his company sharing its fatigues and dangers, a popular and respected officer. He was twice wounded at Chattanooga, and again at Chicamauga and though he had ample grounds on which to base his claims, never asked the government for a pension.
For many years Mr. Ober took an active interest in politics, and at different times was elected to a number of town and other offices, being for a number of years a member of the town board and was elected assessor for five successive terms. At the time of his death he was member of the board of county commissioners of Fillmore county, and also a member of the Chatfield school board, having held that position for the past eight years.
Levi wrote this letter to his brother-in-law, John B. Fluck, husband of Levi’s sister, Mary Ann Ober.
[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Sheldon H. Weaver and is published by express consent]
Camp Decherd [Tennessee]
August 9, 1862
I have seated myself to write to you after some time. We had a long & tedious march of seventy miles from Tuscumbia to this place—Decherd [Tennessee]. The bushwhackers harassed us all the way & finally shot our General. He got in advance of the train & regiments about three miles when the citizens & guerrillas pounced on him & overpowered his bodyguard & after taking him prisoner they shot him. He has been sick for ten days of chronic diarrhea & had to be hauled in an ambulance. He could not sit up but they butchered him. We took some of them & sent them to their long homes ¹ in a style that they deserved & burned New Market—a small town—& all the plantations about the country. His brigade have sworn vengeance & they will make a many a poor fellow bite the dust to pay for the loss of General R. L. McCook. ² He was loved by his brigade. He was a model Union man & one among many that done his whole duty at all times. But he would expose his person & did not screen himself. He was kind to his men & had over [?] his men that was surprising. He had a brigade that is a terror to the Rebels.
Our regiment has been detailed as a guard to take a wagon train through from here to Battle Creek—fifty miles from here—& the country is infested with guerrillas. We start in the morning & we are allowed six days to make the trip. There is no regiment in this department has done as much service & hard duty as the 2nd Minnesota.
The weather is very hot here but the health of the troops is good—better than usual. The new boys will soon come into service. They are needed for the Rebels outnumber us. We have too many railroads to guard. That leaves us not enough of men in active service.
I have not got a letter from you or Father for more than a month. The most of our mail is carried all over the country before we get it. Sometimes we don’t get no mail for five & ten days. The papers state that the recruiting is going forward lively in all the states. The war policy is getting stronger every day but it is not strong enough yet not to see every soldier carry a rope to hang the first traitor that may fall in his way. They have no rights that we had ought to respect. They carry on a dastardly warfare that is too disgraceful [even] for a heathen warrior. I could see some of them shot away from the mouths of cannon like the sepoys for they deserve it. We have officers that sympathize with the rebels not because they think they are right but because they are cowards. If our men had took the policy that the rebels took, the war would have been over before this time. But I hope it will close soon for things begin to look dreary & the importunities of some of the European powers are beginning to be very offensive.
My health was never better & I am ready for my duty. The prospect is good for a fight here soon between this place & Chattanooga. I have received a letter from home & the folks in Chatfield are in good health.
More soon. I ever remain yours &c. &c., — L. Ober
¹ The “Long House” was a casket.
² Robert Latimer McCook was promoted as a brigadier general of volunteers on March 21, 1862, while still away from the army recovering from his injury. He rejoined his command before his wound had fully healed, and found that he could no longer travel long distances on horseback. He was shot in a skirmish with the 4th Alabama Cavalry near Huntsville, Alabama. Northern versions claimed he was shot by Confederate guerrillas while lying helpless in an ambulance, but a Southern version disputes this. In agony from a mortal wound in the intestines, he was taken to a nearby house, where he died within 24 hours.