1865: Emma Louisa Merkle to William Henry Thurston

A Lincoln 1864 campaign button turned into a mourning ribbon

This letter was written by Emma L. Merkle (1847-1881), the daughter of Michael Merkle (1823-1901) and his first wife, Ann Bender (1822-1859) of Minersville, Schuylkill county, Pennsylvania. Emma was yet unmarried in 1870. In 1871 she married Valentine Keene Boyer (1831-1922), brother of Col. Zaccur Praull Boyer (96th Pa. Regt.), and they resided in Port Carbon.

Emma wrote the letter to her friend, Lt. William Henry Thurston (1838-1924), the son of Isreal Thurston (1809-1888) and Abigail Persing (1817-1892) of Shamokin, Pennsylvania. William worked as a blacksmith before he enlisted and was mustered into service on July 8, 1861 as a private with the Forty-Third Regiment, Battery F, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery [a.k.a. “Rickett’s Battery”]. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on April 22, 1865 and mustered out with the Battery on June 9, 1865. Shortly afterward, William married his fiancé, Laura Morgan (1845-1928), the daughter of John Campbell Morgan (1818-1887) and Mary Catharine Weimer (1825-1885) of Sunbury, Northumberland county, Pennsylvania.


Minersville [Schuylkill county, Pa.]
April 15, 1865

Friend Will,

Your letter came to hand day before yesterday and it was read with pleasure to think you got out safe of the four-days fighting. I didn’t expect to hear anything but you had been killed, but I guess it was to be that you weren’t to be killed. I have a brother [Phillip] in the 55th [Pennsylvania] Regiment. He is in the drum corps—him and another friend [W. S. Sterner]. They went off with Captain [George H.] Hill [of] Pottsville. We haven’t heard from them since the fight. ¹

Will, I can hardly write—to think that our President is dead. It is a terrible fright to most everyone who has respect for him. The people in our town has their houses in mourning and in other towns and cities. They had intended to have a Great Illumination on Monday evening in our town. ²

Will, don’t let Mrs. Hobb know when you write to her. Don’t let her know that we are writing together. I made her believe we weren’t corresponding no more.

Mr. [Daniel] Hobb ³ came home today. He says there is a great excitement in Philadelphia.

Will, you must excuse me for this time and my poor letter. Write soon. The next shall be more interesting. From your friend, — Emma L. Merkel

To her friend, W. Thurston

¹ Pennsylvania Muster Rolls indicate that 18 year-old Philip Merkel enlisted on 7 February 1864 at Minersville to serve as a musician in Co. E, 55th Pennsylvania Infantry. He was mustered into the service on 1 March 1864. Philip and his fellow musician Sterner mustered out with the regiment on 30 August 1865 at Petersburg, Va.  The regiment served in the Appomattox Campaign and was present at Appomattox Court House on 9 April 1865 to witness the surrender of Lee’s army.

² “Business leaders in Pottsville came together on the evening of April 13 to begin plans for a grand celebration of Union victories for Monday, April 17, 1865. A city lawyer, B. Haywood, urged the ‘all Loyal citizens to abstain from all business on that day.’ Schools planned to be out of session that day to help mark the occasion. A former Union Army officer, James Nagle, was appointed as marshal for the parade. They published their plans for the April 17 demonstration on Good Friday, April 14, 1865.” [Wynning History]

³ Daniel Hobb was a 38 year-old German-born butcher in Minersville, Pennsylvania.


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