These 8 letters were written by George W. Fraser (1841-1912), the son of William J. Fraser (1801-1877) and Catherine McCollum (1802-1875) of New Ephrata [later renamed “Lincoln”], Lancaster county, Pennsylvania. All of these letters were written during the period that George served from August 1862 to May 1863 in Co. E, 122nd Pennsylvania Volunteers with his brother Anthony Robert Fraser (1844-1920). George stood 5′ 8″ tall and had brown hair and gray eyes.
George later re-enlisted as a private in Co. G, 195th Pennsylvania Volunteers and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant at Martinsburg, West Virginia in March 1865. He was honorably discharged from the service in January 1866.
George married Lancaster County-born Fannie Lucinda Breneisen December 12, 1876, in Landisville, Lancaster County, and fathered John Howard (b. 06/02/79), Emma Blanche (b. 04/19/82), Willard Goodman (b. 12/21/87), Martin Luther (b. 02/24/92), and Alice Ruth (b. 08/12/96). By 1887, he was living in Nebraska, moved to Illinois by 1892, but settled in Springfield, Ohio, where he lived out his life. He was a preacher in later life.
Most of these letters were addressed to his brother, William Jackson Fraser.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Addressed to Wm. J. Fraser, Lincoln, Lancaster county, Pa.
Camp near Fort Richardson
September 10, 1862
At 9 P. M.
I have no time to spare to write a long letter now. All I can write is and must be on business. I received a note from you this evening asking me to answer whether we received the box. I did receive it on the 6th at Alexandria by the Quartermaster wagons. I found everything as you had put it in and more and better than expected. I would have answered sooner but we have been moving from place to place ever since I received the box. I divided it as you wished me to do and all were very well satisfied. I think our old clothes are at Lancaster. They were all packed up in boxes when we were near Alexandria by orders of the Colonel and as I understood were to be sent to Lancaster and left there until we return. Please give that subscription for the pavement at Wood Corner to S. P. A. Weidman and explain it to him. This is all I can write for the present. Mail closes now. I am truly yours, — George Fraser
When we are more settled, I will write a longer letter.
P. S. We are in Gen. Piatt’s Brigade, Surgis’ Division, Morrell’s Corps and McClellan’s Command.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Addressed to Wm. J. Fraser, Lincoln, Lancaster county, Pa.
Miner’s Hill, Va.
October 16, 1862
Yours of the 4th & 7th inst. were received in due time but I put off writing until I would receive the box. The box arrived here last evening all in good condition except the apples. Some of them were rotten. The grapes were all in very good condition and tasted very good to all of us. I distributed the contents as you had directed and all were very well satisfied and thankful for the gift except Henry Roth. He thought Dan did not send him the right kind of articles and not enough of them. I am almost sure that he will be sick in a few days for he digs into anything good like a hog. I never seen such a glutton before.
The articles that A. & E. Stober sent were thankfully received and equally divided. You and those that sent or helped to send these useful gifts will please accept out heart-felt thanks for them. This is but little to send to you in return but it all we have to send.
By yours of the 4th inst. I am sorry to learn that we both have been under a wrong impression. You were waiting for a letter from me and I was waiting for an answer from you. Who is to blame for this, I do not know, but I am certain that I wrote two letters to you (before I received yours) that were not answered. You must not have received them.
I am pleased to know that you and all the young folks at home enjoy yourselves so well at the apple butter boiling parties. I should do the same were I among you, but so far I have enjoyed myself very well as a soldier where I am. This life has not yet proven half so tiresome as I expected. Indeed, I enjoy it.
We have just received the election report of Lancaster county. We all rejoice in the election of “Old Thad” [Thaddeus Stevens] by so large a majority. Some of us have more belief in Lincoln’s Proclamation and Thad Stevens than in the whole of McClellan’s army towards bringing the rebellion to a speedy close.
We were ready to leave out present camp last Sunday, some said for Harper’s Ferry, others to Fortress Monroe, New Orleans, or Washington. The former place was most likely but that order has been countermanded and we stay here for some time so that if you wish to visit us, you can find us at this place about seven miles west of Washington.
Large flocks of wild geese, ducks, and pigeons fly over our heads daily but we are not allowed to fire off our rifles.
I will enclose some wild flower seeds for Mother and Mary. They may try if they can raise plants of them. They are not as beautiful as I have seen some in Virginia. There are a few other kinds I am waiting on to ripen. If they wish they can distribute some among other flowerists.
If you visit us, please bring your engraving tools along [as] I wish to put my initials on my rifle and other small articles so that I can easily recover them if they are exchanged as they often are. Also bring a few small bottles of oil and your hunting cased watch as I think I can sell mine at an advanced price. We received out twenty-five dollars bounty and some received the two dollars premium for enlisting but I was out in picket at the time the paymaster was here. I do not know whether I will get it or not.
I would write more but we are kept very busy at present so that we must watch our time if we wish to write letters. I send my best wishes to you all. I remain your affectionate brother, — George Fraser, Company E, 122nd Regt. P. V., Washington D. C.
October 17, 1862
Since writing the above, we received orders to be ready in an hour to march. We had struck tents and packed knapsacks in less than no time and waited for the order to “fall in” but we slept until this morning under our gum blankets, the rain coming down in large drops.
This morning, however, we left our old camp with joy. Where we are going, I cannot say for certain but it is very probable that we will go to Frederick City. We leave in the morning. You will hear in the next [mail] where we are.
Brother Anthony, F. M. Houck, and myself sent each of us $15 to J. K. Reed & Co.’s banking house at Lancaster to be drawn by Col. David Houck. You will get it of him. We thought that as David Houck is at Lancaster often, it would be more handy for him to draw it than you. I remain your true brother, — George
P. S. Direct your letters as before.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
November 14, 1862
Dear Brother William,
Yours of the 22nd October came to hand on the 12th inst., being twenty-three days in catching up with us. The reason of this was that we had no regular mail carrier and being so continually marching through the interior of Old Virginia, we had a very poor chance of getting them. The mail we received on the 12th inst. was very large—everyone in the company receiving no less than three or four. I received ten and those papers you sent me, This mail had been sent to Harper’s Ferry at first and from thence back to Washington, from there to Warrenton about six miles from our present camp. There was new life in camp when we heard that the old mail had come. We were all very anxious to hear from home.
Our present camp is on a hill near Waterloo—a small town containing about a dozen log cabins. The chimney and foundation of a fine cotton factory still stands, having been burned down by order of Gen. Pope in his rapid retreat last summer from Warrenton towards Bull Run.
We have done considerable marching since we crossed the river at Berlin into Virginia, having been at Lovettsville, Hillsboro, Snicker’s Gap, Bloomfield, Upperville, Piedmont Station, Manassas Gap, near Salem, Orleans, and now at Waterloo, about six miles from Warrenton.
I suppose you seen by the Lancaster papers that the 122nd Regt. had been engaged in a small skirmish at Manassas Gap. This is the first time that they had a view of the “Grey backs.” I was left as one of the guards at Piedmont Station to guard their knapsacks. Our artillery threw a few shells among their cavalry, scattering them and killing a few and Company K, 122nd Regt captured two of their horses. I was sorry that I was not among them to see the fun.
We are all a very hungry set of people at present. Provisions have been scarce for the last week on account of transportation being very difficult but the railroad has been opened lately to Warrenton and provisions are coming on in abundance. Foraging in this country is very poor business. The country has not produced anything but corn. The pretending Union men have not even the common necessaries of life. Coffee sells at $1 per lb. and salt at sixteen dollars per bushel and very scarce at that. Some of them told me they have not had any in the house for the last six months. I do not know how these folks intend to live this winter. I am sure that a thief could hardly live.
In your letter you ask how we disposed of the blackberry conserve. We carried it along on our march until we had ate it and then used the can to boil our victuals in. One of my tent mates are himself sick of it before we left Miner’s Hill. He is no tent mate of mine now. I do not like such a boy as he.
You suppose H. Roth is religiously inclined. I think his thimbleful of religion is all humbug. I cannot see any change in him for the good at present.
You cannot form an idea how well we enjoy the camp by these cold, frosty nights. We had a snow about an inch deep on the 7th inst., but we lie down at night around our camp fires or under our small shelter tents and sleep like good fellows. “We never mind the weather.”
You ask me to send a photograph likeness of myself and Anthony. We will do so as soon as we have an opportunity to get them taken. But at present there is no chance within fifty miles of us, and there will not be for a month yet.
I pity those who have been drafted at home. I hope they will go in good cheer and obey their commanders and the sooner will the war end. I would advise them to take a number of oil cloth or muslin quart bags along also a needle case, thread, buttons, a strong tin plate or pan to dry in, a two-quart kettle to boil meat &c., a pair of mittens with forefinger and thumb. These are very handy articles in camp. Each soldier should have a large-sized gum blanket, a good overcoat, woolen blanket, and a havelock and a good army knife. I wish Mother and Mary would knit a pair of such mittens for Anthony and myself and whenever we get more settled, I will let you know and you may then send them.
We will not stay here long. We have orders to have our knapsacks packed and be ready at a moment’s notice. Where we will go to, n one knows but some think it will be to Sulphur Springs beyond Warrenton to guard a ford on the Rappahannock.
I suppose you have received the money sent by Anthony and myself to Col. Houck. You did not mention in your last. I should very much like to have a photograph likeness sent to me of Mother and Father—also of all the brothers and sisters. I received one from J. A. Stober today (15th) which I think is a perfect picture.
Before I had time or opportunity to send this letter, we received another mail which was sent to Harper’s Ferry. Tell J. A. Stober I will answer his letter before long.
I am very happy to learn through certain sources that you have had the company of Miss Union. I wish you will stick to such company always—in particular to her as she is in my estimation a perfect lady of the lake.
The Lincoln boys stand the hardships as well or better than the most of the regiment. Anthony stands the hardships remarkably well. Father and Mother can be assured that their boys are doing well and are gaining in flesh as well as wisdom. I am very glad that little Emma learns so well. It is more than I expected. I must close. I remain your affectionate brother, — George Fraser
Co. E, 122nd Regt P. V., Piott’s Brigade, Washington D. C.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
Addressed to Wm. J. Fraser, Lincoln P. O., Lancaster county, Pa.
Camp near Rappahannock River
November 25, 1862
Dear brother William,
I wrote to you about a week ago and therefore will not write more than to let you know where we are and how we are getting on.
We are encamped about 1½ miles from the river opposite Fredericksburg. The town is said to be still in the possession of the rebels but will soon be shelled if not evacuated. We occupy the left of the Center Division of the Army of Virginia, being the Third Army Corps. The whole army commanded by Gen. Burnside moves together whenever any part of it moves. We are all in very good health and some of us are growing stouter although rations are very scarce on account of the large number of troops gathered here and the inconvenience of the transportation. This will soon be remedied.
Please tell Mother and Mary to knit us each a pair of mittens with the forefinger and long in the wrist. Get my heaviest boots mended, if you think it worth while and keep them in readiness to send to us as soon as we get into winter quarters. Please let me know about the drafted men as I have not heard anything about them lately. Please send me some postage stamps and paper as they are a scarce article here. I wish you a successful courtship with Miss Gerhart. “Stick to her like a leach.” I hope to hear from you soon. I am very glad to know that Emma does so well at school. How does the teacher at Wood Corner succeed?
I remain your affectionate brother, — George Fraser
Co. E, 122nd Regt P. V., Washington D. C.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
Addressed to Mr. Wm. J. Fraser, Lincoln, Lancaster county, Pa.
Camp near Falmouth, Va.
December 9th 1862
Dear brother William,
Your welcome letters of November 28th came to me and Anthony a very few days since and you know not with what great pleasure they were read by us. Just as I was writing, Anthony and myself each received four papers from you. We are very thankful for them and will read them with great interest as well as all the other Lancaster county boys in the company.
I am very much surprised to learn that such men as Shirk and Weist have been speculating un human flesh. I always thought they were opposed to dealing in negroes and yet they are now inhuman enough to deal in white flesh. May they learn to feel for their brethren.
It gives me great pleasure to hear that Lincoln folks and in particular Miss Malinda is so very anxious to hear from us. We are all doing well considering. Our present camp is within 1½ miles of the town of Falmouth which is situated on the Rappahannock river opposite Fredericksburg. The rebels are said to occupy that city with a strong force. Our pickets are on this side of the river and the rebels right opposite. It is rumored in camp that three of their pickets were frozen to death the other night. This is indeed quite true as they are very scant in clothing—some having no shoes to their feet and not more to cover their body than a shirt and a pair of torn pants. They are indeed a pitiful set of human beings.
I and no one else can understand why so many troops should be lying idle here at this point. Some think that the army is waiting for supplies; others think that Burnside is afraid to make the attack and waiting for Congress to try to offer a compromise to the rebels. But I am very much inclined to think that we are holding them at bay here at Fredericksburg while the greater part of the army is approaching Richmond by way of the Peninsula and James river. This is only my opinion and I hope is very near correct.
We are not yet in winter quarters but it is generally supposed that we will stay here for some time. Some of the boys have built their winter huts. I have none yet but will commence building tomorrow. There is snow on the ground but the weather is generally ver pleasant for this season of the year.
Our regiment is not as healthy as it might be. The general complaint is rheumatic fever and jaundice. Theodore Stauffer, son of John Stauffer of New Holland, has an inflammation of the lungs but is not seriously unwell. One of our company died while on a furlough to his home at Christmas. He was one of the favorites of the company. You no doubt have seen a notice of his death in the Lancaster papers.
I see by a former letter to Anthony that you have been made to believe that I am tired of the service. This is certainly not so. I am in as good spirits as I was on the day I enlisted. If I have enough to eat and drink and good clothing, I am well satisfied. Yet I should like to see more earnestness in the prosecution of this war. I cannot see as yet whether our Generals are fighting for the Union or not. I have not for a moment wished that I had not enlisted. Just before I closes, I received your letter if the 5th inst. with the postage stamps enclosed. I am very thankful for them. H. C. Roth told me that he had written several letters lately to Daniel but they were not answered and he is getting tired of writing. He will send a letter today.
As we will be stationed here for a time, I wish you to send me the following necessaries as soon as possible by Express: Those mittens, an India rubber comb with a case, a small scarf that can be worn as a neck tie, one light neck tie, my silk handkerchief, and two of my white ones as I lost my old one, a pair of army boots like those which William Martin wore last winter, a pair of stockings, some black pepper with p. box, a small bottle of oil. Try and get a small kettle made at Lewis Gettle’s, if not too inconvenient. It should be made of heavy tin with a wire handle to hold about two or three quarts at least, and then a small one that could be put inside of the former. Each should have a cover.
For Anothy the following: 1 pair boots, stockings, mittens, 1 towel, scarf, licorice, 1 oz. cinnamon, pepper, black & cayenne, qt. kettle and 1 soft cotton handkerchief. It is well that you thought of the old boots. Try and get them made large and long in the legs, by H. G. Miller. Tell him to make them water proof. Anthony’s the same mind. Do not forget to send some apple butter &c.
I was just told that we will soon be ordered to move from this place with four days rations and sixty rounds of cartridges. Where we are going, I cannot tell but I suppose across the river. Do not send those articles until you hear from us again. Anthony will send a small book to Emma as a Christmas present. He found it nicely wrapped up in paper lying near our camp. I should like to send Christmas present too but they are not to be had here. I hope you may get the present in good order.
If you can get Charles’ address, let me know, or tell him to write to me. I hope you still keep sister Sarah well informed about her brothers far away from her home.
Tell all our friends that we are all very well and hope to see them all again—not as we were when we left them, but as better men, knowing and doing our duty towards God, to man and our country, better than we did formerly. I hope there is more peace and prosperity at home than there was formerly, for it is hard indeed for sons to leave the pleasures of home to help to settle the war and then to think that there is strife at home. May God bless you all is my humble prayer. Please write soon again and I will ever remain your affectionate brother, — George Fraser
Co. E, 122nd Regt., P. V., Washington D. C.
P. S. Tell friend Al to write to me soon again for letters some to soldiers like angel visits, few and far between. Before I sealed this letter, we received orders to be ready to march at sunset tomorrow evening a distance of ten miles. I think across the river. G. F.
My best wishes to Miss Gerhart and yourself. May you be a happy pair is my humble wish. Yours &c., — George
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX
Camp near Falmouth, Va.
December 29, 1862
Friend Peter Martin.
I send you a package containing some few articles for William. Will you please do me the favor of handing them to him and you will oblige me very much.
We are all well and in good spirits. I hope you are the same. I remain your friend. — George Fraser, Co. C, 122nd Regt. P. V., Washington D. C.
To Peter Martin, Lancaster, Pa.
Camp near Falmouth
December 29, 1862
These relics are for you. The spoon and clasp Anthony sends to you. We are all well and hope you are the same.
I remain your son, — George
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SEVEN
Addressed to Mr. W. J. Fraser, Lincoln, Lancaster county, Pa.
Camp Franklin near Falmouth, Va.
March 31st 1863
Dear Brother William,
Yours of the 26th inst. came to hand last evening and was read with much interest and pleasure. I do not know how it happened that I forgot to put the date to my former letter. I think I must have written it while on picket and did not know when I could send it to the post office and in my thoughtlessness, sealed it.
You make mention of the Copperheads in your letter and ask why the 122nd [Regiment] does not follow the wise example set by other regiments by passing resolutions denouncing these week kneed low-lived Northern traitors in the strongest terms. It seems, however, that they are so mean and weak that they are beneath our notice. They will die a natural death before long. It is said by the officers that we will take our arms with us to Lancaster City and if the Copperheads make any attempt to insult us, they will also have a chance to show their fighting qualities if they feel inclined. There will be a terrible riot in the city if they show any signs. We would all fight much harder with these chicken-hearted traitors in the North than with the “rebs” in Dixie.
Mr. Zook did not tell us what his object was in visiting the army, but during our conversation we got to talking about the reforms and improvements that should be made in the army. Friend Hauck and I condemned the sutlers as a perfect nuisance in the army—robbing the poor soldiers of their hard-earned wages when rations are scarce. He had not a word to say to it and changed the subject. They are a perfect nuisance and do not fare as well as they did since General Hooker feeds his army so well.
I should like to have a conversation with my friend Cyrus Kolp. I have no doubt but that he would roll out some of his best yarns that he could think of. He ought to be in the army so that he could keep himself in new stories and of a different style to those which he generally spins out in his eloquent strain. I dare say, he gives me too much praise and my successor Mr. Oberholtzer too little as regards the progress of his son. I have a very good opinion of Mr. Oberholtzer as a teacher.
Friend Fred is still love sick and visits us every few days to talk about the women. Every time he knows of some rich old sick maid or grass widow that he intends to court and marry by the first opportunity. We have put him on the notion that an old soldier will be all the go among the ladies when we come home. We tell him that no matter whether we are ignorant as jackasses and may have as many faults as the day is long, still we will be wanted by all the beauties of Lincoln and vicinity. He told me today that he heard of an old maid about his age living near New Holland that he intends to marry if she is agreed. He tells me that she is virtuous and industrious and above all, has a fortune of seven or eight thousand dollars and a horse of her own. She is lame, however, from infancy but that matters not to him, he says.
As regards myself on this universal love and courtship and marriage question, I have not come to any serious considerations on the subject. However, a part of us fellows have discussed the propriety of improving the American race by marrying Asiatic ladies. We fear that if the race is not improved, it will in the course of time all run into feet. If my feet continue to increase in size as they have during the past eight months, I will have a very good foundation for a cornerstone of some building. What is your opinion on the subject?
Some of us have pledged ourselves not to court any ladies until the war is over and the soldiers have all returned for fear that if we would court some fair one, it might be the loved one of some brave soldier boys who would then be shedding his blood for his country and I think it would be very wrong to woo and win the soldier’s loved one in such a case.
The army is in excellent spirits and all is ready except the roads for an onward move towards Richmond by Fighting Joe.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER EIGHT
Addressed to Wm. J. Fraser, Lincoln, Lancaster county, Pa.
Camp Franklin near Falmouth, Va.
April 27th 1863
Dear Brother William,
I grasp this opportunity of giving you an account of the intended movements of the Army of the Potomac. The 5th Corps commanded by Gen. Meade marched today. It is said they are going up the river towards Warrenton. The 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 11th Army Corps had orders to march at 11 o’clock today. We have orders to be ready to move at 8 o’clock in the morning with eight days rations. Where we are going, we do not know but it is supposed by some of the officers that we will cross the river at or near Fredericksburg. We expect to meet the enemy and give them regular fits. Some might well suppose that as our time is so near out that we will not stand the fight. This may be so with other regiments, but not so with the 122nd. I dare say, as long as Col. Franklin leads, we will follow through the thickest of the fight and the mothers in Lancaster County need not fear that their sons in the 122nd will bring them to shame in the coming battle on the Rappahannock.
You may expect to hear stirring news from this quarter about next week. But come what there may, I am ready to meet it. If I am killed while fighting for our glorious cause, I wish that our now distracted and unhappy country may again be restored and if the damn Copperheads do not see their folly, I hope and wish that they may be forever swept from the face of the earth, never again to pollute the soil of America.
I close beside a kettle of pork just boiled for the march and hope that we will be victorious and that I may have the pleasure to take you all by the hand before another month rolls round. I have some other letters to answer of friends in and about Lincoln but you may please tell that time will not allow me to do so. I am your affectionate brother, — George Fraser