These eight 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. They were written while George served as a lieutenant in Co. G, 195th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Earlier in the war, George served as a private in Co. E, 122nd Pennsylvania Volunteers.
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.
All of the letters were addressed to his brother, William Jackson Fraser, who had previously served in Co. C, 195th Pennsylvania Volunteers.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Washington D. C.
August 8, 1865
Your of last month has been received and should have been answered sooner but we were on the march from Staunton to Stevenson Station at the time I received it and therefore I postponed until we were perfectly settled in camp at this place. We marched from Staunton to Winchester—a distance of 92 miles in exactly four days. We had our knapsacks & hauled on the wagons. There had been a general order issued for the mustering out of all one-year regiments in the Valley but before the special order to us could be issued, another order was issued to us and including the 194th, 214th Pa. & the 195th Ohio to report to Gen. Auger at Washington for duty. Our duty here consists of guarding all kinds of government stores and supplies which is being disposed of daily.
Pay day has come at last and with it plenty of greenbacks which is causing some fast living among the boys. It is quite amusing to see how some will sport on a few dollars for a short time. Enclosed you will find the Express receipt for $440 sent to your address at Lancaster which you will please get or send for and pay all my debts and invest the remainder in any profitable stocks or bonds. It is strange that you had not yet received my answer to your letter at Staunton in which I had acknowledged the receipt of your favors sent (i. e., the money with Mr. Leeds & also that with Messrs. Bingaman and Musselman & the flute, handkerchiefs, &c. &c.) Please accept my sincere thanks until better paid.
Jonathan Reother, Jacob Keller, and others were here the other day and will tell you more of our situation. I was on duty yesterday in the City near [Treasury] Secretary [Hugh] McCulloch’s house and quite close to Secretary [William H.] Seward’s. The private house of Mrs. [Dan] Sickles & Mr. Keys is in the same square. It is one of the streets where “lovers meet loved ones by moonlight alone.” A hiding place for the aristocracy. I have been through the greater part of the city and have seen considerable of interest.
It is necessary to have letters of introduction to get into good society which very few of us have as yet. I have not met Mr. Took nor Allen [Porter] Hibsman [1808-1883]. I wonder in what bureau they are employed. Please inquire and let me know.
I must close hoping to hear from you soon when I will try to give you more news of Washington. I suppose you have called round at the “brick” ‘ere this. Give my best respects to my friend Martin Bentz [Mahlon T. Bretz of Co. C?] and tell him that I wrote a letter to Hiram over two months ago and never received an answer. I therefore supposed that he never cares about me. I am your true brother, — George
Address Co. G, 195th P. V., Washington D. C.
P. S. We belong to another “Provisional Division” (better provision, however, than formerly) commanded by Brevet Brig. Gen. Dewitt of the 10th Veteran Reserve Corps.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Addressed to William J. Fraser, Lincoln, Lancaster county, Pa.
Georgetown, D. C.
August 24, 1865
Having been almost certain of having the pleasure of meeting you at home ‘ere this a free man, I deferred answering your most interesting letter of the 15th inst. until now. We are all convinced that out lucky turn has not come yet and we must still resort to the pen as a means of conversation. I am almost certain that we will not be mustered out this month. I take my judgement from the following indications. Under the late order to muster out 8,000 troops within the Dept. of Washington, there are at least 6,000 Heavy Artillery men who have already the special orders to be discharged at once. They occupy the dismantled forts of Washington. We—inclusive of six regiments in our Division—are all on duty every other day in the city such as guards at the War Department, Pay Master’s Department, Quartermaster stores, Commissary barracks, Hospitals, &c. &c. All these different buildings and contents are being disposed by public sale as rapidly as possible but it may be several weeks. Hence, ‘ere we can expect to be without duty. The Division Adj. General’s clerk told me that out of no less than six regiments in the division, only sixty men remained that were not on duty yesterday morning. Thus our duty continues very severe. White gloves are still the fashion in this department.
I am on permanent duty as Jos. Steininger or Capt. [Edwin H.] Faust have, I presume, told you more particularly about. I have very fine times all day but very little rest at night on account of bedbugs and mosquitoes who frequent my quarters at all hours during the night.
I have been at all the different public buildings in the city and at the navy yard and also at Lee’s farm on Arlington Heights, right opposite my post on the Potomac River. The latter is quite an interesting place and would take me hours to describe fully.
I have not inquired for Mr. Took or Al Hibsman but met an old member of our company in the “122nd” [Pennsylvania Vols.] who is clerking in the same department and will direct me to their rooms whenever I wish to call. I almost forgot to tell you that I was in the museum part of the Smithsonian Institute. The curiosities are all in good order and are all of the most rare to be found in the world. They are rebuilding the other part of the building. But to return to your letter.
I am very happy to see that you have attended to my money so promptly and so well. I think I must as you to send me some $25 with [Sgt.] Joseph Steininger or Capt. [Edwin H.] Faust or any other person who will come to Washington soon. Boarding &c. cost more here than I was aware of when I sent the money, Jerome Gerhart is with the company again and Acting 5th Sergeant in place of Kafroth who is under arrest for absence without leave. Lieut. [J. David] Miller [Co. D] & Capt. [Don Juan] Wallings [Co. K] have also returned to their companies and seem to feel quite out of their element since they are with us. General [Thomas Wilberforce] Egan has gone to New York to retire if he gets no other command.
Desertions and “French leaves” are common now-a-days here. Our band is doing better every day. I heard by a civilian from Lancaster that the 186th P. V. is mustered out. I have been expecting you, Charles & Anthony out here one of these days. I wish you would come and bring some money along to buy a few horses for me and take them home to sell. I can get some of the best officer’s horses appraised at a low rate and buy them so that they could almost be doubled by selling at home. Several of our officer’s have bought four or five of the very best horses by having them appraised. All commissioned officers only have this privilege. It is really a chance for speculation if I had the means and some person to help me. I wish you and Charles or Anthony or all would come out to see us.
I must close as the mail leaves in a few minutes. I send my love and best wishes to you all hoping to hear from you soon. I remain your humble brother, — George
Co. G, 195th P. V., Washington D. C.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Addressed to Mr. William J. Fraser, Lincoln, Lancaster county, Pa.
Georgetown, D. C.
September 6th 1865
Your kind letters have been received in due time and should have been answered sooner but thinking that you had seen several of our men on furlough, I thought you had gained all interesting information.
I am very thankful for your sending me those $25 and the order on the U. S. Treasurer. I have not yet had the latter cashed. I must have the signature of some one whom they know before they will cash it. I do not know how the rolls must be fixed to draw the other pay due me.
Sergt. [Joseph] Steininger returned to us in good time and very much pleased with his trip among his friends at home. He could hardly forget the good wine to which he said he had been treated by you at home. We had our picture taken in Washington and he has already sent you one. Mine are very poorly taken but I will still have one inclosed for Mother as she is so very anxious to have one. I was thinking all the time that I had sent her one long ago. I will try to get the pictures of all the regimental officers.
The weather has been extremely warm here for the last week. It seems to me I never experienced such weather before. It seemed to me that the elements and insects had agreed to try how much the poor soldier could bear. On duty every day and too warm to rest by day and mosquitoes and bedbugs doing all in their power to keep us from it at night, it is too much almost for a Christian to bear without a murmur. I hope, however, there will soon be a change.
I have I suppose the most agreeable and easiest post in charge that I could wish. I can go and come whenever I please. I have been in all parts of Washington and Georgetown that can be of any interest to the curious. Georgetown is a very fine and aristocratic city. Nearly all our celebrated army and navy officers reside there in some of the most splendid houses.
Mr. Reather and Jacob B. Keller were here last night. I have been looking for others from our town and vicinity. If any one of you would come here soon, I could take you to many places of interest.
There is still the same prospect as ever for us to be mustered out. There is an order published in the “Star” of yesterday in regard to the muster out of troops which I will enclose to you. It has reference to the old battalion, I think. All unnecessary government property is being disposed of by public auction.
I have not yet answered Anthony’s letter but will do so in a few days. I may perhaps try to get home in a few weeks if possible.
The boys are mostly in good health and have “home on the brain.” James [W.] Kegerise has the small pox but is recovering rapidly.
Ten men of Co. I are confined in the Capitol Prison for refusing to go on guard at their proper post in Washington. The orders here are very strict. We are in a manner expected to be the same in dress and discipline as the Regulars.
I must come to a close hoping to hear from you soon. Excuse all the blots. I send my love and best wishes to you all and remain your affectionate brother, — George
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
Washington D. C.
November 21, 1865
Enclosed you will find Express receipt for $210 sent to your address. If you can send to Lancaster for it with some friend, you will do me a great favor.
I arrived here on Saturday and found the regiment still here without any hopes of being mustered out for the present. The 213th Pennsylvania Volunteers has been mustered out and sent to Philadelphia. There are two full regiments of Hancock’s Corps doing duty here now (the 8th & 6th).
Those blankets that I sent home you will dispose of as I told you, retaining the 1 pr. of white ones for me—also 3 of the tolled towels. All the other towels, sheets, &c. you may sell or keep for yourselves. There was a mistake made in counting out the blankets. Lt. Landis having taken 2 pr. grey ones more than his number in the box—not thinking at the time that he had kept his 2 pr. here. This error will be corrected as soon as he arrives from his leave of absence. I wrote to you about this matter at Lancaster.
Please tell Harriet that I could not get the bonnet block that she wanted. There was none such in the whole city. I sent the bonnet frames by stage on Thursday morning last week. The government sale of horses, mules, and blankets have been closed by order of the Quarter Master General. I can buy some clean but second-handed white and grey blankets for $5 per pair but I would not advise you to buy any.
The whole regiment has been paid up to the 1st inst. including the 2nd installment of bounty. Quite a number of the regiment have made tracks northward among whom are Henry S. Musselman of our company. It is said still more will go ‘ere long.
Dr. Wilson has just returned his discharge for disability and will be home in a few days. He has been anxiously waiting for it for a long time.
I left your hat at Shultz’s. He would not take pay on it and said it must be called for. I presume brother took it along on Saturday when he went home.
News is scarce in these parts—at least the kind we would wish to hear and write home. We are most anxiously looking for the dawn of peace when all can be their own governors. I will close hoping soon to hear from you again. Tell Anthony I will write to him as soon as I know whether he stays in Lancaster or not. Give my love to all and I will remain your true brother. — George
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
Addressed to Mr. W. J. Fraser, Lincoln, Lancaster county, Pa.
Washington D. C.
November 27th 1865
Yours of the 23rd inst. came to hand and was read with pleasure. It seems strange that the impression that I have become married has become so general here as well as at home. It is with difficulty that I resist the volume of congratulations that are still being poured in on me. I know not what has been done or said to cause such an impression among the busy bodies unless they supposed I had taken your plan by “doing it on the sly.” Whilst others might think such a contingency probable, I think it altogether improbable and not advisable by any means.
By request, I again give you the prices or rather the cost of those articles sent. The grey blankets cost me $3 per pr., white $4 per pr., and the single one $2.50. The sheets $1.50 per piece, roller towels 36 & hand towels 31 cents per piece. You can have all of the above-named articles except 1 pr. white blankets & 3 roller towels at the cost prices if you pay the freight & drayage which cost about $2.50.
I intend buying more this week if they are of good quality and do not come too high. For so doing, I have got the loan of $10 of Martin Romig and given him an order on you for that amount. He intends going home this week and you will please pay him that amount and charge to my account. If I can, I will send a scarlet blanket with him to you which you will deliver secretly to Mr. Stober. I would not like to have it known by any of the men.
I am very much in want of something to pass away the long evenings and should delight in having some good reading matter. If you will be so kind as to loan me your book called “Scott’s Works” and also any other beneficial books, I will be very much obliged. Try to send them with Mr. Romig or any other man home on a legal furlough.
By the way, let me tell you that since we were paid off, no less than 87 men have taken “French leaves” with the intention of never returning in most cases.
The MC’s [members of Congress] are already making their appearance here and it is expected that we will have an interesting Congress the coming session. We are encamped only about two squares from the Capitol and will have a fair chance to hear and see.
I have an offer of going to St. Louis with prisoners this week but I do not yet know whether I shall go or not. I know nothing more of interest and will therefore close hoping to hear from you soon. I remain your true brother, — George
P. S. Please tell Mary to make me a pair of figure woolen shirts and send them with Mr. Romig. Make them long, and tight at the wrists. — George
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX
Addressed to Mr. W. J. Fraser, Lincoln, Lancaster county, Pa.
Washington D. C.
December 24th 1865
With pleasure although great delay I attempt to answer your most welcome letter. I would have answered sooner but I expected to be at home during the holidays but there are always plenty of Headquarter pets to get all the favor to be given at such times and I therefore had to stand back.
The weather here is anything but pleasant today and portends an unpleasant Christmas. We had snow last night and rain today, making the streets very muddy and slushy.
I suppose you are aware that Col. Fisher has been promoted to Brevet Brigadier to date from last March. He is still in command of the regiment. The officers have purchased him a full uniform as a token of respect.
I did not take the trip to St. Louis that I had anticipated preferring to spend my spare time in Congress. The Lieutenants get on duty only about once in eight days and therefore we have a fair chance to be there often. I was there almost every day until they adjourned and could not help but feel proud of being a Lancastrian as we are so well represented in the House. The “Cops” [Copperheads] do not say much except several from New York and New Jersey who howl occasionally but they are not heeded. ¹
In the Senate, [Charles] Sumner & [Henry] Wilson from Massachusetts, Sherman from Ohio, Doolittle from Iowa, and Anthony from Rhode Island are the most active. The Pennsylvania Senators to not say much, Occasionally Cowan seconds some resolution and then sits down again.
I think I can get those books you speak of soon as Congress is in session again. We can get the Patent Office reports of ’62.
We have fine opportunities to attend lectures by some of our most learned and talented men. I had the pleasure of hearing Speaker [Schuyler] Colfax lecture on his trip across the Continent. It was most excellent and interesting. He is a very able lecturer and very witty and eloquent.
The men who were home on “French Leave” have nearly all returned. They all receive a mild punishment—generally a stoppage of $10 on their wages for one month. Corp. [William] Brenheisen’s [Brenneisen?] sentence is $10 and reduced to ranks, but on account of his former good conduct, he will be reinstated. There are still some going home on “Frenches.”
Those shirts and books came to hand in good order. The shirts are very nice and fit well. Please pay for the making &c.
I am sorry that you were so unfortunate with your hat. I hope Mr. Shultz paid you for the damage. It surely would be no more than justice if he would do so.
The markets of Washington were filled to overflowing yesterday. There was plenty of everything and especially of turkeys, varying in price from $2.50 to $7 per piece. We will have a very nice one for $3 tomorrow. All the stores were also filled with new and fancy goods and it was a delightful sight on the Pennsylvania Avenue yesterday afternoon. The ladies were out in full bloom. I wish you could be here whilst Congress is in session. We have been expecting some of the Lincoln folks with us ‘ere this. They will meet again on January 5th next and I hope you will avail yourself of the good opportunity. It will cost you no more than the fare coming and going. On the 10th of January, the House will take up the Negro Suffrage Bill for the District of Columbia.
I must come to a close hoping to hear from you soon. I send my love to all and hope to see you sometime in January. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year. I am still your most affectionate brother, — George
I will write to Anthony in a few days.
P. S. Please send me $10 with someone who is home on leave or by mail as soon as you can. I am, — George
¹ Republican Thaddeus Stevens, from Lancaster, who represented Pennsylvania in the US House of Representatives, argued in the December session of the 39th Congress that the rebel states should not be allowed representation in Congress until they had adopted state constitutions providing African Americans full citizenship and the right to vote.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SEVEN
Addressed to Mr. W. J. Fraser, Lincoln, Lancaster county, Pa.
Washington D. C.
January 5th 1866
With pleasure I attempt to answer yours of the 27th ultimo which has been received a few days ago and should have been answered sooner, but within the last few days I was in company with (“Dory”) T. [Theodore] W. Stauffer. He had been home on leave and on return stopped here to see his brother. He is 2nd Lt. in the 2nd Pa. Heavy Artillery [Battery A], now stationed at Burkeville, Va. Before he left for home he was connected with the Freedman’s Bureau and had been Provost Marshal of a county. He was telling some of his exploits with secesh masters and their former slaves. He said he had very many law cases to hear and decide. He seems to be the same whole-souled fellow that he was when in the militia. He stands a fair chance to be promoted. He however intends to resign his commission and go into business.
At present writing, John Geib is with us. You remember he was with us to Wrightsville in the 10-days campaign. He has a train of coal here for sale.
I would not be understood that I do not command the proper respect of the superior officers. I do not know that any man in the whole regiment has an ill feeling towards me, except Coover. But you very well know that there are some in the regiment who always court favor more at headquarters than within their proper sphere.
The sheets &c. that you inquired about are all sold but they generally have sale of second-handed bedding &c. every week. There were many sold this week at the Govt. Auction but I did not attend the sale. They generally sell in large quantities at a low price. I think there be another lot sold next week. It is strange indeed that Dr. Jim has not yet called on you since he is home but I suppose he is afraid you might question or doubt his right to apply for a discharge. I do not hope you consider yourself slighted by his indifference. He is a poor “critter.”
I am very thankful to Father for being so thoughtful as to give me such good advice although I do not know that I require it for as regards keeping out of bad company, I have generally been able to keep within bounds. I very seldom visit the city now and when I do, I never do anything that I need be ashamed of. I think it a true soldier’s duty to be as brave when dealing with the “rebels of society” as he should when facing the cannons of the rebels of his country. I hope to do my duty in both if required.
I wonder at Christian Wissler wanting to go to such a cold state as Michigan. Why not go to a warmer country? If I go West, I think I shall land somewhere along the St. Joseph & Hannibal Railroad in Missouri—Chillicothe perhaps. I believe that Atchison on the Missouri in Kansas will be a prospering city ‘ere long. Colfax in his lecture spoke very highly of the rich soil and beautiful country along the Nebraska or Platte and Kansas Rivers. I think it foolishness for healthy men to stay in Lancaster county when such fine acres and young cities are waiting for them to come and make them all prosperous and happy.
There seems to be a terrible matrimonial fever in Lincoln and vicinity. Quite lately I heard that Mary and Peggie—both former schoolmates of mine—have left single blessedness. Thus they leave me one by one, to wander solitary and alone. But let them be taken and welcome for they were as stale beef in the market, hanging on the last hook. I wish them much happiness.
I attended a “watch night meeting” on Sunday eve. The services were quite interesting but there was not much ceremony.
Congress met again today and will take up some important bills next eek. I wish you could be here to visit the Congress.
You can tell [brother] Anthony I will write to him as soon as I have seen Mr. Took which will be in a few days.
There is not much news now and I will close for the present, hoping to hear from you soon. I send my move and best wishes to our whole family including yours, and remain as ever your affectionate brother, — George
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER EIGHT
Washington D. C.
January 18, 1866
Yours of the 12th inst. lies unanswered before me and with pleasure will i attempt to answer it although perhaps not so deservingly as it should be.
Since the receipt of yours we have been busily engaged in preparing the requisite papers preparatory to being mustered out on the 31st inst. This would have been welcome news three months ago but just at the present time it causes very much dissatisfaction among the men for fear of not getting the last installment of bounty which is so justly though not legally due them.
The volunteers are being mustered out as rapidly as they can be spared. The 58th Pennsylvania has been mustered out and the 2nd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery is under similar orders. But to resume my promise.
I am somewhat astonished at the intentions of Dr. Shirk though not very much neither for he has always been a man of queer and many notions. He may do very well by going to Iowa with his family. You are right in saying that Mr. Geib is not the man that he professed to be. We have had too many such “would-be true Union men.” “Posish” will bring them out but without it, they cannot be spared at home.
I am not surprised at all at the action of the Ephrata School Directors in regard to taxing returned soldiers for bounty paid them. It is just what might be expected from such men. I wonder whether they would not take back a part of the bounty itself as a present since we do not stay in service the whole year? Such men too would call themselves the “Guardian Angels” of the country but it there were no better angels watching over us than they, “Goodbye to us and our country.” They must remember, however, that there is a little debt of $25 which will be demanded by the men who enlisted for the township. That will pay at least part of their taxes.
I made an inquiry at the Public Printing Office in regard to public documents. They do not often sell them unless they are old books. Those on hand after the Senators in Congress &c. have been supplied. The documents in 3 volumes which you wish are not ready yet and will not be until some time to come. The Superintendent could not tell the price. Colfax’s lecture is not published in book form and will not, I suppose, until he stops lecturing on that subject. There is a book published by one of his companions across the continent but it is of a different style.
I expressed $235 to Peter Martin and sent the receipt to Anthony a few days ago. I thought it best to send it to Peter Martin as he goes to Lancaster most frequently. It is all in “Greenbacks” — $35 of it is Wm. Brenneisen’s. Invest $150 of mine as you think best.
The Negro Suffrage Bill has not passed yet but a vote will be taken in Congress this P. M. It has created quite an interesting discussion in Congress. It is a shame that such intelligent and eloquent men as [Daniel W.] Voorhees of Indiana, [Andrew J.] Rogers of New Jersey, [Henry J.] Raymond of New York, and [Benjamin M.] Boyer of Pennsylvania will waste their eloquence and intellect in so bad a cause. They all oppose the bill and all other bills for the good of the country. Judge [William D.] Kelly from Pennsylvania seems to be the champion of the House and can command the attention of his most bitter opponents.
I sent you papers—one containing a description of the fresco painting [Apothesosis of Washington] in the dome [by Constantino Brumidi]. I wish you could see it—words can[not] describe its magnificence. Try to come to see it before we leave here.
I intend to send a box of surplus blankets, clothing, &c. by express one of these days. Look out for it. I must close hoping to hear from you soon. I remain your affectionate brother, — George