1861-63: Erwin Welsh to Mary Jane Welsh

“Think of me often as you can make it convenient”

— Ten Civil War Letters by Erwin Welsh, 67th OVI—

These letters were written by Erwin Welsh (1835-1915), 67th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). Erwin enlisted at age 21 on 18 December 1861 for three years in Co. I. He was a wagoner initially but was promoted to sergeant on 19 December 1862. He was then promoted on 5 October 1864 to Sergeant Major. He mustered out of the regiment on 17 January 1865.

Erwin’s parents, John H, and Lydia (Southworth) Welsh of Fulton county, Ohio

Erwin was the son of John Harvey Welsh (1809-1882) and Lydia Ann Southworth (1814-1856) Welsh of Royalton, Fulton county, Ohio. At the time of his enlistment, Erwin was newly married to Mary Jane Curtis (1845-1891), the daughter of Horace Curtis (1818-1901) and Mary J. Darby (1818-1888). After the war, Erwin and his family moved to Eaton county, Michigan where he became a farmer. Their eldest child, Elmer Welsh (1862-1869) was born on 30 September 1862 while Erwin was in the service.

From Erwin’s letters we can tell that he was only marginally educated though he appears to have been a devoted soldier and husband. The letters were all written to his wife and there are occasional tender passages such as, “If I could only see you once more, that would satisfy me for that moment but it would be so hard to part again. I shall never forget that morning when we parted. It comes fresh to my mind as the moment when we parted.” But there are less tender, though well-meaning passages such as: “There is one thing that I hope that you won’t give yourself no uneasiness about my ever raising my hand to strike you. That’s not what I got married for—to pound my woman. If a man can’t live with his wife without pounding her, he had better never see a woman.”

The transcriptions have been heavily edited to make them readable though there are one or two sentences that escaped my understanding. Like most Civil War letters, they contain some humor. One of my favorite passages is in Letter Five where Erwin tells his wife, “When Co. I gets at them [speaking of the Rebels], they will think that Jesus has come too close.” Adding to their interest, each letter is written on colorful patriotic stationery.

Letter 1

Toledo [Ohio]
December 15, 1861

Patriotic Letterhead on Erwin Welsh’s Letter, “Liberty and Union.”

It is with great pleasure that I take this opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know that we got here safe and sound. We have just come from dress parade and my hand trembles some. We had a good discourse here today. It was a discourse on the war question and it was a good one. The boys have gone to be examined while I write. Harrison [Welsh] said he couldn’t get homesick for there was so much a going on. He thinks he never saw as much agoing on in his life. We have preaching here every Sunday. The Northern men have had a battle in Cheat Mountains December 14th. One of the hardest and best fought battles was at Allegheny Camp, Pocahontas county, Virginia West. The news came here that they have had a negro insurrection in Charleston and they have burned up half of the city. There is more than 700 hundred of the Union force and over 2,000 thousand of the Rebels.

Jane, you must keep up good courage and not get down-hearted. When you get down-hearted, you must think of the pump spout and of Frank’s wedding and old times past and gone. Think old New Years and the mink tracks and about that old chimney over towards delta and the hole in the buffalo. You must not get downcast and homesick nor sick of home but think of old and the future. I shall improve all of the time that I can get writing to you.

Captain [Lewis] Butler wanted me to pay J. Herick three dollars for him and if you will send it over to him by your father, it will please me very much. Have him give him a receipt for the same. No more at present. And only think of me and I will think of you. Direct your letters to Toledo, Ohio, Camp Oliver, Co. H, in care of Captain Butler.

Yours truly, — Erwin Welsh to Mrs. J. Welsh

Letter 2

Toledo [Ohio]
December 18, [1862]

Dear wife,

It is with great pleasure that I take this opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well at present and hope these few lines will find you the same.

I was very sorry to hear that you can’t content yourself to go to school but if you can’t, you must try and do something till New Years. If you want to go anywhere in a visit, write and let me know where it is and you can go and if you want any money, you must write and let me know.

Jane, if I can’t be with you, my mind is with you and I trust it may always be, and it shall always be. And I trust we may always be true and constant friends to each other. And may our hearts be true as they were when they were in speaking distance. And I trust in our honesty that they may be. There are no one that seems so near to me to be afar of than you do. If I could only see you once more, that would satisfy me for that moment but it would be so hard to part again. I shall never forget that morning when we parted. It comes fresh to my mind as the moment when we parted.

You wrote to me that Susan moved and you wished it was not any more than I do. Please get everything ready so when the time comes, we may have everything ready. If you don’t go to school, Jane—or my woman, you must write to me the whole particulars about everything. Nothing excepted.

You must not be downcast. You must try and think of something to do for I want to come home and see you as bright as you were the first day that I first saw you and I trust that I may.

You may think that I don’t think of you very often but I trust that you won’t think any such thing. You are in my mind the most of the time. There are not five minutes in a day that you are not in my mind. I trust that we may meet again and that same feeling may rest in the same bosom that have ever rested there. And I trust that same hand may guide us that has ever had the everlasting power over us and we may so live that we will not be ashamed to meet each other face to face and look each other in the face.

I don’t want you to think wrong in me. Write so that I can get your letter the last of the week. Write and let me know how that [ ] does the think or not, if you please. Write me a good long letter. Your husband for ever and ever, — Erwin Welsh

It is so dark that I can’t see anymore.

Letter 3

[Toledo, Ohio]
[December 1861]

Dear Wife,

It is with great pleasure that I take this opportunity to let you know that we are all well at present and hope that these few lines will find you the same. I have just come out of the [   ] . We have just had our election and they elected W. Roos for First Lieutenant but the election has been thrown up and we are a going to have another.

I want you to send me a pair of overalls down by Mr. Terry if he will bring them, He is awaiting. The rest of the officers are all elected but the First Lieutenant.

No more at present. The particulars next time. Write soon as you receive this. Yours truly, — Erwin Welsh

Letter 4

Erwin’s Patriotic Stationery of 18 January 1862 includes one of the less common images of Gen. George McClellan

Columbus [Ohio]
January 18, 1862

Most affectionate wife,

It is with great pleasure that I take this opportunity to write you a few lines more this evening. Being that I have sealed up your letters, I shall have to put this in your father’s letter. You must think that I don’t do much of anything else but write to you but I can’t help it. I must write every time that I get a chance. I feel as if it was my duty to write to you.

I went up to the Daguerrean office to get my likeness taken for you. The office was so full that I could not get in the office but you shall have it soon as I can get out of camp. I want you to write and let me know how you want it taken—whether with my gun or not. I shall be out of camp when I get the team that I am a going to drive and then I will get it taken for you then and send it to you then. You must try and take all of the comfort that you can while I am gone.

We have been out shooting our guns this afternoon. We shot our guns from eight to a hundred rods. [With] the work that I have got, I shan’t have to be in the regiment none of the time. All that I shall have to do is to draw the rations to the commissary and take care of the team. The wages are some more than they would be if I went as a private. They are twenty dollars per month so you must rest as easy as you can till you see me again. Think of me often as you can make it convenient.

I can’t tell you when I can come home now but the first opportunity that I have I shall improve. The news has just come here that we are a going to get our pay tomorrow. Nothing certain till we get it in our hands. I have not swore a word since about a week before I received your letter and I hain’t a going to swear anymore. Some of the boys have gambled since they have come in camp. You can guess who it is near enough.

Nothing more tonight. There will be something new that I can write that will be of some consequence.

While I was thinking of you this evening, I thought that I would finish this letter. I have wrote all the news that I can think of tonight so the last of this letter will be to you, while thinking of thee, and thinking about the many happy hours that we have spent together, and hope that time may come when we may take the same comfort that we have taken together. Hope and trust in the Almighty that we may meet to spend the time that we long to come.

Direct your letters the same [as] you have and they will follow the regiment up. Write often and don’t forget it. Your husband, — Erwin Welsh

Letter 5

Erwin’s patriotic stationery includes image of the ever-popular Zouaves

February 11, 1862

Dear Wife,

I received your letter that you had mailed at Wauseon this afternoon and you had ought to of seen me for it was the first one that I had received since I left Camp Chase [in Columbus] and I had almost began to think that the Royalton folks had forgotten me. But they have not. I don’t want you to think that I thought you had forgotten me for I know better. I knew that there was something wrong and you were not aware that your letters had not come through to me. You need not make yourself uneasy about anyone making me believe that you would forget me as soon as I was gone out of sight for I know that you have always proved true.

I was glad to hear that you had stayed at home when the rest had attended dances. You will never be forgotten in my mind as long as the longest das that I live. And when I get home, you will remember that you shall go when you want to and where you want to. I should not think that one could pretend to think as much of one when they are a going to leave as soon as they are [and] go to dances when their husband lies in the hospital sick. And if I should hear that my woman had gone to a dance and left me sick in the hospital, I should feel very bad. But thanks [to] the kind Providence that I have not and I don’t give myself any uneasiness about no such performance. I shall remain true and know that you will.

Jane, you wanted me to write and let you know whether I was teamster or not. I am, but we have not got our teams yet. They say that the regiment will get their teams next week.

And you wrote that you heard that I got a chance to come home and had not got money enough to come with. I have not had no chance to come home since I come home from Camp Oliver. If I had had such a chance to come home, I should come home. If I should get the chance tomorrow, you would see me at home less than one week. But that is out of the question. I can’t come home tight off but shall the first time that I get a chance. You must not believe all the news that you hear there.

You can believe that we had some fresh hog the other day and it went first rate, I tell you. The Secesh hogs have to take it everywhere we go, I tell you. That is enough of that.

There are 30,000 thousand Union troops here and 35 pieces of cannon here and the rebels are completely hemmed in so that they can’t get out of Virginia. Their whole force lay at Winchester now and our forces are all around them—General Banks on the one side and McClellan on the other—and [the] rest on the other. When Co. I gets at them, they will think that Jesus has come too close. We have got them hemmed in and we haint in 36 miles of the rebels and that hain’t the worst of it. We can’t get the Twenty-ninth Ohio boys chased them out of Romney the other day and the sharks ran and left their guns and all that they had. Some of the boys got a hundred D.

You don’t know how glad I am to hear from you. Write soon as you receive this. From your husband, — Erwin Welsh


Letter 6

Hampshire county, Va.
February 19, 1862

Dear Wife,

It is with pleasure that I sit down this evening to finish the letter that I commenced this forenoon.

I have just received a letter from you. You don’t know the pleasure that I have when I receive a letter from you. I sat down on a hand car and I read the one that I got this evening. You mustn’t think anything about what I said about writing to bother you. I did not think no such a thing as bothering you. I thought that it might be a good bother. Maybe I know that it is a good bother for me to get a bother from you. There is nothing in the world that makes me feel cheerful—only when I get a letter from you. I don’t want you to think that I think any such a thing as bothering you a writing. There is one thing that I hope that you won’t give yourself no uneasiness about my ever raising my hand to strike you. That’s not what I got married for—to pound my woman. If a man can’t live with his wife without pounding her, he had better never see a woman.

Jane, I never have no such fear as ever striking you and I hope that you are acquainted with me enough to know that I would not strike you for all the world. There is no other that I can take the comfort a writing to as I can in writing to you and when I receive a letter from you, the longer it is, the better it suits me. I hope that when we meet, there may never be any angry word pass from our lips. That is a thing that a man had ought to despise the worst. When a man and a woman gets to blows, what are they thought of through[out] the neighborhood? They hain’t thought anything of anywhere. Can a man let his passion run to such a pitch as to strike the one that he has so often promised to love and protect her as long as he lives? And then as soon as they are married, can they let their tongues slander each other in the worst degree and their hand that are made for some other [  ] than to pound each other? That makes me feel bad. It seems as though I could not about about anything else.

Jane, you must excuse me this time for sending you such dirty paper. I spilt my ink and it blotted my paper. This is about all that I can think of this time. You must excuse me this time and I will do better. I have a first rate place to write. I have to write on my knee so that is very convenient to have a knee to write on. It seems as though I could never stop writing when I commence. Jane, you are in my mind all the time whether on duty or not. Let me be doing what I may, you still are there. You are in my dreams every night and when I awake. We are as far apart as we was when we laid ourself down at night. Write soon as you receive this. From your ever affectionate and distant husband, — E. Welsh

To J. Welsh

Letter 7

Morgan County, [Va.]
[Tuesday] March 4th, 1862

Most affectionate wife,

It is with great pleasure that I write you a few more short lines to let you know the news or the misfortune that has happened to our brigade. Our General is dead—General F[rederick] W. Lander. ¹ He died Sunday evening and he was taken away from here Monday. There were about 10 they called together here to see him—or his corpse—leave for Washington. There was 20 of his body guard that went with him.

Gen. Frederick William Lander died on 2 March 1862

There were 2 rebs came in here last Saturday and give themselves up to our pickets. They said that there were 16 more that would come as soon as they could get a chance. They said they had been forced in the [Confederate] service. There has about 2,000 left General Jackson’s army within two weeks. That was their story for it. There has been a new general by the name of Shields, I believe.

It has been the coldest that has been this winter. There is about one inch of snow—the most that has been in this place since we were here.

If there is anyone that wants to hire out to be a teamster, just send them to me. Tell them that they can hire out to me. Tell them that I will give them 20 dollars a month. That is the same that I get. If there is anyone that you know of that wants to come, send me word.

You want me to come home but you do not want me to come worse than I want to come. I must tell you how many that went to Cumberland Hospital—William W. Potes, D. W. Roos, [James] S. Dean, Samuel Onweller, Richard Roos, Albert C. Daniels, S. Nap [?], [and] William Griffin. That is all that I can think of this time. William Potes was the sickest one in the pile. The rest was not so but what they could eat as hearty as ever. You may think that I don’t have much sympathy for them. I think that I have some sympathy for a sick man but them that can eat more than a well man, [well] they can’t be much sick without it makes them sick to carry it around—victuals, I mean. Enough of that.

I have had to go after some wood since I sat down to write this letter. I need not mind the  matter anyway. Our wood here is rails. It makes the old Secesh or Union men swear some. There are some good Union men here when Union men are around, and when the Secesh are around, they are good Secesh. They must have their rails burned. They have made us the trouble to come down here and they must keep us in wood.

It is now evening and I will try and finish my letter. It keeps me busy most of the time but it is better for me to be at work than it would for me to sit in the tent. I am as well as I ever was in my life with the exceptions of a little cold, but it don’t hurt me the least might. Only I am a little hoarse but otherwise I can eat like a bear. The fat meet has to suffer now.

Write soon, From your husband, — E. Welsh to Jennie Welsh

¹ In his entry of 4 March 1862, Col. Homer A. Plimpton of the 39th Illinois wrote, “they also brough word that our leader, General F. W. Lander, died night before last of apoplexy. The news, on account of being entirely unexpected, was very shocking. Privates die, and so do our leaders. Death makes no distinction!” [The Civil War Journals of Col. Homer A. Plimpton 1861-1865 by John L. Dodson]

Patriotic Stationery Letterhead on Erwin’s Welsh’s Letter

Letter 8

Camp near Newbern [North Carolina]
January 16th 1863

Distant and affectionate wife,

I received a letter from you last night which left you well and I also was pleased to hear from you. Nothing pleases me more than to have a letter from you and it gives me pleasure to read the lines that come from the pen of the one that is the nearest to me in thought. And I hope that ‘ere long that we may be permitted to meet and meet to part no more. I hope that the time will never come that there be such talk about us as there are about W.  But I have no fear of any such thing transacting while we are separated and as for me, I shall live so so that I shall not be ashamed to meet you without the least shadow of guilt hanging on my shoulders. Let the stories about me [be] what they may, they won’t harm me in the least. It will harm only the one that takes the pains to tell the news that he has taken pains to make up out of whole cloth.

And I hope that there won’t be any one foolish enough to believe all the stories that they hear for if they do they will believe a great deal more that the bill calls for, and will burden their mind with a great many thoughts that are uncalled for and unnecessary. That time is fast approaching I hope when we shall meet and meet in peace and harmony to improve the coming time. Let it be longer or shorter but I hope that we may enjoy ourselves and be the happiest couple that ever came together. And you must not think that you have got a soldier in the army that has forgot his family at home. And you know not the anxiety that I have for you and the boy that I have left at home. And I hope that you will not harbor the thoughts that I have forgotten you or my family that I have left with you or has come to light since I left. I would like very much to se him but I would like to see you better. I suppose that I have wrote enough such stuff and more than will be interesting to you. But you must read with patience and consider who it is from.

I shall have to daw this poor scratching to a close and hope that you will return the compliment by writing and write a good long letter. Give my best wishes to Father and Mother and all that takes the pains to enquire after [me] and keep a great big hunk for yourself.

From your affectionate husband, — E. Welsh

To Mrs. Jennie Welsh

Direct your letters to the 67th Regiment O.V.I., in care of Captain Lewis Butler to follow the regiment.

Letter 9

Port Royal Harbor, South Carolina
February 1, 1863

Dear Wife,

Patriotic Letterhead on Erwin Welsh’s letter, “One Flag, One Government.”

I take the present opportunity to answer your welcome letter that night before I started from Moorehead City. It was written on the 8th of January and [I] was pleased to hear that you was well. I am well and hope when you receive this it will find you the same. I have had another ride on the Old Atlantic of 3 days and 2 days of the time was rather rough and it made the boys rather sick—and myself with the rest. ¹ I heaved up Jones like fun but  it was not much fun about it. There were days of the time that I did not know which end I stood on. Spew and heave and sit ——- ah ah and finally  we got better. And the way the hard crackers had to suffice was a sin. There was one day of our voyage that was pleasant. There was not a wave to be seen. The old I ran …mother so if it had been freezed on the bottom. There was one of the boys that shot a porpoise—a kind of fish that they have down here in South Carolina.

There are 2 forts here. One by the name of Beauregard and one Walker, are the names of the forts. The mail is going out and I shall have to draw this to a close and you must excuse this and I may have more time the next time that I write. From your affectionate husband, — E. Welsch

¹ The 67th OVI embarked on transports and sailed from Beaufort Harbor, N. C., on 29 January 1863, arriving at Port Royal Harbor, S. C., on 1 February 1863.

Screen Shot 2020-07-31 at 9.57.19 AM

Letter 10

Camp on St. Helena Island, South Carolina
March 19th 1863

Dear Wife,

As I am on guard this afternoon, I will spend the leisure moments as they pass in writing you to let you know that I am still in the land of the living and tough and healthy and hope to this will find you the same—and Elmore also. The boys are as well as usual. Uncle Sile [Silas] Terry’s health is about the same.

The regiment went down to practice on rowing boats today. When we leave here we shall leave on transports and each regiment will have 10 surf boats and we are landed, we will land as near as we can in the transports and then we have to take those surf boats and row them to shore. There will be two oarsmen and one sternsman or cocksman left in the boat to take care of the knapsacks and bring them to shore as soon as we are landed. We are to have our cartridge box on the outside of our belts in case that we should get int the water so we could raise our boxes up so that it would keep our cartridges out of the water. This is the story but it can’t be relied on until after the thing has been transacted. The new is here that Vicksburg has fallen, that the rebs has evacuated the place, and Banks has taken 7,000 prisoners and the two gunboats that the rebs had taken from us.

The men will be landed in a line the same as they are when they are on land and in line of battle. Our boys have been out today to practice on this. They could row the boats in about 6 rods [@ 33 yards] of the beach and then they had to get out and wade to shore. Our First Lieutenant, Charley Shaeffer, fell out of the boat and struck on his head and shoulders in the water and the boys all hooted and laughed and it made Shaeffer mad. And as soon as he got on shore, he ordered the boys in double quick and there was 6 files on the right of the company that would not take the double quick and  he took their names. He thought that he would punish them, but he fell short of that. The Captain will not let him do anything with the boys. I think that we have got the best captain that there is in the 67th Regiment. He never punishes the boys, let them do what they will. And the boys all think everything of their captain—or at least the most of them—and they all of them ought to for they could not find a better captain if they had looked the world over. And if the boys ever have to come under Charley Shaeffer, they will wish they had the Captain back again. As David Wood said that he despised no nations, but damn the Dutch.

There is one of our blockading boats lying here on the beach a painting and repairing. It was one of the blockading boats that have been lying off Charleston Harbor and whilst she was there she ran onto a sandbar and had to throw over her ballast and six of her heavy guns. They have only two guns on board of her at present. That’s the way our commanders get out of scrapes when they get into one—they show bravery. They are as brave as a sheep and as wooly.

Uncle Sile says [to] tell you that he would like to see you and your boy and he wants you to write about his colts when you write. I like to forgot to tell you how I slipped out of this drill on the boats today. Being on camp guard, as sergeant of the guard, it kept me from the drill. Ab went and James [too]. They got their feet wet you know.

I received yours and Ellie’s picture. It looks first rate. The boy is a better looking one than I thought. I could get up for the first one. I believe that I could rather better the next one. What do you think?

I received a letter from Aunt Joannah Riley. She wrote that the folks were all well as usual there and she expected that the draft would take effect there the next week and that the most of that part of the county were opposed to the draft. I begin to think that they are getting divided in the Northern States. If that is so, what can the soldiers do that in the field. Would they have the courage to go on [with] the same spirit and zeal that they would if they knew their friends at home were at work for in [   ] of against them. Are our friends at home a going to turn traitors to their own soldiers that are now in the field? Can it be possible? If there are such men in the North, I despise them worse than I do the traitors in the South and I think there is more honor in a southern traitor than there is in one of those poor miserable offspring of the earth that are trying to be protected by our laws and then turn traitor. I could fight such men with a clear conscience. [But] enough of such trash.

When you write, write and let me know whether you get that paper and pipe and palmetto. Tell Father and Mother that I have not forgotten them and they must not like that boy [of ours] to death for I want to see him when I get home. I would like very much to see you this evening and have an old fashioned chat with you. And let the folks know that we have not forgotten each other [even] if we have been separated from each other a long spell. And I feel glad to hear that you don’t go to dances and I hope that you won’t till I come home and then the folks will have nothing to talk about. There were some that was opposed to me when I came to your house and now I want them to see for themselves that I knew my own business. I don’t know but what you knew all about it before this time. I shall have to bid you goodnight. Forever and ever, your ever faithful husband, — Erwin Welsh

to Mrs. Jennie Welsh

Be sure and write as soon as you receive this without fail. Goodnight till I hear from you again.

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