These two letters were written by Enoch Leavitt (1844-1907), the son of Daniel Dyer Leavitt (180101851) and Sophia T. Freeman (1805-1866) of Spencer, Medina county, Ohio. Enoch wrote the letter to his sister, Panthea Leavitt (1842-1880) while he was serving in Co. H, 2nd Ohio Cavalry.
In the first letter, Pvt. Leavitt gives an account of the expedition to Monticello, Kentucky, in which the 2nd Ohio Cavalry participated. In this expedition under the command of Col. August V. Kautz, Union cavalry advanced on Monticello on the morning of 9 June 1863. “Between 4 and 5 p. m., after Kautz had left the town and had fallen back some distance, the rear-guard was attacked by an overpowering force of the enemy. A portion of the 2nd Tenn. was sent to reinforce it and found it retiring in some disorder. The reinforcements drove the enemy back through timber half a mile, where he rallied behind a stone wall, and in turn compelled the Federals to fall back out of range. An attack was then made by the reinforced Confederates, but it was repulsed by another detachment of the 2nd Tenn. and a portion of the 7th Ohio. Darkness put an end to the fighting. The total loss of Kautz’s force was 7 killed, 34 wounded and 6 missing. The enemy’s loss was not ascertained, but 5 of their dead, 5 wounded and 16 prisoners fell into Federal hands.” [Source: The Union army, vol. 6]
In the second letter, Enoch expresses his grief over the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. The letter was written from the Newton Military Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland on the day of Lincoln’s death, 15 April 1865. The Filson Historical Library (Louisville, Ky.) has a companion letter to this one that was written a week later (22 April 1865) by Enoch to his mother in North Fairfield, Huron county, Ohio. In it, he writes, “Abraham Lincoln is dead!” adding, “…every heart has sobbed in response at the news that he is no more.” He laments, “May he wind his way in safety to his final home and rest there in peace while the memory of his life well ever linger in the hearts of the American people.” He notes that reports of the fall of Mobile, Ala. were barely noticed as the people mourned. [Source: Leavitt, Enoch, ca, 1844-ca.1907, Letter, 22 April 1865, 2 pp., Call No. Mss. C L]
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE:
Addressed to Miss Panthea Leavitt, North Fairfield, Huron county, Ohio
Postmarked Somerset, Kentucky
June 11th 1863
We arose to perform our daily duty as usual and all went on guard as usual until noon. We had our horses out grazing. We signed the payrolls in the morning to have them ready when the paymaster gets around to us. He is here paying off the troops now. About noon, orders came to march with two days rations. Our horses were brought in and we were soon on the way. There was about two hundred from our regiment out. Our company numbered forty which was all we had able for duty. We crossed the river (which is so low now that it is very easy forded) at the ford directly south of here and marched on four miles and camped about sundown. We were up, ate our breakfast, and on the march again by the first rays of daylight.
As they expected to come onto the rebels during the day, they wanted some men that they could depend upon to lead the advance and so our company was selected for that place. I, being on the right of the company that morning, was one of four to be thrown out ahead as vedettes. We marched on to where the road from Mill Springs made its junction with ours. Then there was about two hundred of our troops that had come out on the Mill Spring Road so as to cut off if there should be any rebels this side of there. They found the rebel pickets at the junction of the roads and drove them back into the woods and were there waiting for us.
Evening. Dearest sister, I am now the happy recipient of another of thy soul-cheering letters—also one from Aunt Polly which does one good to read. I am glad to get your picture again.
I will now continue a brief account of our fighting from the above. We marched right on in the same order which we were before. The advance guard was commanded by our orderly [sergeant, Albert C.] Houghton and consisted of 12 men and marched about a quarter of a mile in advance of the column. Four of us were thrown out about as far in advance of them—that is, the regular order for the advance of an army to march. The four ahead were Wm. [P.] Bushnell, Otis [L.] Sexton, John [N.] Inman, and I. We had marched only a half a mile from the junction of the roads when we came onto their pickets. We drove them before us without halting until within two miles of Monticello where they had their whole force (perhaps two thousand men). They they fought us for a few minutes but soon retreated. We drove them two miles beyond town and the stopped pursuit, turned around, and retreated back. We had got some ways back from town and we saw they had been reinforced and were following us back. We that were on the advance going down were in the rear coming back and the first to receive their fire. We fell back ____ to where we first came at them in the morning. Col. [Augustus V.] Kautz being in command of the whole force, had got them together there and made a stand in the woods. We all dismounted and went in on foot. The rebels had the advantage of stone fences for breastworks on their side of the woods and we could not drive them from behind it. We had a pretty lively fight for nearly two hours when night approached and firing ceased and we fell back towards the river.
Our company was relieved from rear guard then and sent ahead. We crossed the river and camped down at one o’clock A.M. on this side. The forces, all except one, remained on the other side over night and crossed in the morning when they came to camp.
There was twelve wounded, I hear, of our regiment—seven of which were of our company. Their names are Lieut. [Franklin S.] Case—shot through right lung—still alive, Anson Chapman—through the bowels—died that night, John [W.] Devlin was missing—the next morning he was found on the field just alive—shot through the bowels—died before night. The first two were so bad that they could not be brought to camp. [Instead, they] were taken to a house close by and our surgeon (Smith) stayed with them. Also Orland Smith stayed with them to take care of them. Dr. [Joseph T.] Smith came from there this morning [and] told us of the deaths of the two above. He took an ambulance and an escort of twelve men and has gone back under a flag-of-truce after Lieut. Case.
John [P.] La[u]ndon was wounded in the leg slightly. Henry Gordon and Andrew Bishop in their arms. F. B. Kobe in the thigh. These will probably recover in time. The orderly of Co. M [Daniel P. Beaton] was shot in the ankle. Has since been amputated.
Our company is now wrapped in mourning as it never was before. We deeply regret the misfortune of our lieutenant. We all a great deal of him [and] hoped that he might soon be our captain, but don’t expect he will ever join us in service again. Devlin & Chapman were both as good men as we had in the company and are missed by all.
Panthea, I take a great deal of pleasure in reading your letter. I can read it over and over and it makes my heart rejoice to hear that our Church is cutting down the unfruitful members and is building up firmly after the rock Christ Jesus. The cause will prosper and His word will yet triumph over all opposition. God speed on the Holy work. Yes, will keep the wheel a rolling.
[William] Wilson Welcher received a letter stating that his brother Allen ¹ was wounded in the battles before Vicksburg. He was in a Wisconsin regiment. He was hit by three balls. How serious, they did not know.
I have been troubled a little with the diarrhea for a few days past but not very bad yet. You inquired about Joel [E.] Field. He is a disciple from Wellington. There was three disciples from Wellington in the company at first. One died at Fort Scott. The other has now no respect for religion or morality but Joel remains firm in the faith. He is a noble-hearted boy—a true Christian and a brave soldier. There is one member of the Royalton Church in the company. I think you must of had a good meeting at Shelby. I am glad you went.
Panthea, I have no desire ever to enter another battle, but if it is necessary, I will never flinch. I saw scenes which to think of after the excitement is over are heart-rending. Men in the prime of life and health fall to the ground and in one moment gasping in the agonies of death. I never want to look upon such again. But I must close.
Write often. This from your affectionate brother preserved by God, — Enoch
¹ Allen Welcher was a corporal in Co. B, 29th Wisconsin Infantry. He was wounded at Port Gibson on 1 May 1863.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Newton USA General Hospital
April 15, 1865
Joy unspeakable is in this moment turned to deepest mourning. The national heart has for some time been aroused to its highest pitch of excitement in rejoicing over the glorious success of our national arms, the establishment of peace, and the supremacy of our national emblems. But in one moment, sorrow hath come to our jubilant people as fast as the wings of lightning can carry, the sad news. Abraham Lincoln—our President, he whom the nation feel proud (in view of his admirable capacity and undying devotion to the cause of our country) to bestow upon him the highest honors of our nation—is murdered by an assassin. Who can describe the infamy of the atrocious act? Also Secretary Seward by the same assassinating plot is mortally wounded. In this infamous act, he whose very life has become distinguished for his acts of kindness and mercy is murdered by one that has been an object of his benevolence. Is there a place in the “blackness of darkness” deep enough for such a perpetrator?