1862: John Mordecai Garner to Family

These eight letters were written by Rev. John Mordacai Garner (1823-1904), a native of Jefferson county, Tennessee. He was married to Eleanor Elizabeth Hayes (1826-1912) on 17 August 1845 in Andrew county, Missouri. In the 1860 US Census, John was enumerated as a farmer in Hurricane township, Carroll county, Missouri. His children included Henrietta Fulton (1847-1924), Minerva Reese (1849-1922), Ann Adelia (1850-1925), Arbella Hutchinson (1852-1868), Frances Scott (1854-1856), Mahaney Parks (1855-1855), Theodore Cox (1856-1930), James Staples (1857-1858), Mary Catherine (1859-18xx), Walter Love (1861-1904), John Reynolds (1865-1936) and Ella Lawler (1867-18xx).

During the Civil War, John offered his services as chaplain of the 18th Missouri (Union) Infantry. The first letter was written on the eve of their first major engagement—the Battle of Shiloh—where more than a hundred soldiers in the regiment, including their commander, Lt. Col. Isaac V. Pratt, were taken prisoner and had the ignominious distinction of losing their battle flag. During the battle, the 18th Missouri was attached to Miller’s (2nd) Brigade, Sixth Division, Army of the Tennessee. Rev. Garner’s letter reveals that not only were Rebels reported in the vicinity of Pittsburg Landing in the days just prior to the battle, he was interrupted twice by fighting while writing the letter, and he anticipated a major battle “one of these days.”

Years later, in 1892, an article by Chaplain Garner pertaining to the burial of soldiers and animals after the Battle of Shiloh was published in the Unionville (Missouri) Republican, (Oct. 5, 1892). It read:

“The aim was to group the dead, by regiments as far as possible, but many isolated ones were buried alone and unmarked. Little red mounds rose rapidly all about in that woods, some covering one man, others several men each. These were all marked, but the marking could not be durable, and the identity of many must have been lost in a short time. The dead animals were drawn together in piles and ricks of logs and leaves stacked on them; and then fire was applied… Hundreds of such fires [were] in full blast at the same time. The fumes from such quantities of burning, putrid flesh were almost unbearable, and it took so long to reduce these piles to ashes.”

The remainder of Rev. Garner’s letters were written from locations in Tennessee, many of them from Post Chewalla where the 18th Missouri launched reconnaissance parties up and down Muddy Creek as they guarded the Memphis & Charleston Railroad. The majority of the 18th Missouri were garrisoned in Corinth, Mississippi—10 miles away—during the spring and summer of 1863 until they were relieved in October.


Near Pittsburg Landing
Hardin County, Tennessee
April 4th 1862

My dear Ann,

I feel like writing you a good long letter, so here goes on my knee, out in the woods, amidst the noise of camp life. I have spent a portion of the day in riding round for observation and recreation, and I may now tell what I have seen. I need not tell you that the whole space over which I rode is dotted with tents and alive with infantry, cavalry, and artillery. I have no knowledge of our strength here, but may inform you that it is great. I have never seen so many men together in my life. These are all well-armed and will doubtless play well their part in crushing out this most wicked rebellion.

An enlisted man in the 18th Mo. Vols.

The most solemn thing I saw today was a man of our regiment buried without coffin or box. We rolled him up in his blanket and laid him down in the cold grave and covered him up in the ground. I prayed at the grave and delivered a short address. How hard to die from home and be thus disposed of! Just now we are attacked by three thousand rebels and I must lay down my pen; no time for writing now.

April 5th Morning. Good morning my daughter. I am still alive and well, thank God, and all is quiet this morning. I will now go on with my story from which I was cut off on last evening by the attack of the rebels. After the burial of which I was speaking, I rode to Pittsburg Landing—a little the busiest place I ever saw. There I saw ten steamers all loaded with soldiers or military stores. On the bank there must have been at least a thousand government teams loading in forage and commissary stores for the several brigades encamped hereabouts. In my little ramble, I saw a large poplar tree with a hole through it made by a cannon ball during the battle at this place on the first day of March. A little way on I saw on several oaks the effect of the same battle. Riding up a hollow, I saw a mound of fresh earth on approaching which I saw the side of a dead mule’s face with one eye peeping out. Thought I, “Old fellow, you have seen service.” Still on my way up, I saw another similar mound, out of which stuck the hind leg of a horse with the shoe on. Said I, “Well old fellow, there you are; you have seen your last battle.”

Just at the top of the hollow and on my right, I saw still another mound which I approached, and what do you think I saw? At one end I saw the corner of a soldier’s blanket. I rode to the other end and there I saw a section of beef’s hide, and a little further round I met the forehead and nose of a Secesh. Well, thought I, “Old fellow, you have fallen upon evil times, lying here between two logs with a beef skin and a very little dirt for your covering.” A soldier who was in the fight told me that the rebels piled up six of their dead between those logs, threw the beef hide and their blankets over them, and then fled, and that our men put the dirt on them. On the lower side of this mound, the top of the ground is covered with putrescent which flows from the decaying bodies, and the big green flies have deposited their eggs which soon become maggots, What an end this is! My heart sickens to contemplate it. But such is war.

From this scene I turned away in disgust and rode off to a farm house and without an invitation alighted from my horse and walked in and helped myself to a chair. At this the landlord walked out at the back door and I have not seen him since. I asked his lady what had become of all the citizens in this community? to which she replied, “The bomb shells scared them off.” Then said I, “I suppose you are for the Union, or you should have gone with them.” She replied, “I don’t know what we are for.” Then said I, “What is the prevailing religious sentiment in this community?” to which she replied, “Methodist.” “Ah! Methodist,” I replied. “Then Madam, I understand all about it.” Thus the talk ended, and in a bland manner I bade the Dixie lady “Adieu.”

On my return to camp, I commenced this letter to you and at 4 P. M. the rebels attacked us three thousand strong. The fight continued till 2 this morning. I tell you, Bouts, we had a jolly old time. Sherman’s battery of artillery gave them particular fits. We killed 62 of the jockies and got 30 of their cavalry horses.  We lost some men but I do not know how many. We were all on a big tear down, I assure you. Dr. [Norman Scott] Hamlin ¹ was too unwell to do anything, so he got into an ambulance and stowed himself away on a steamer at the landing. A friend said to me, handing me a box of surgical instruments, “Take this, sir, and use it as your judgement may suggest; I wish we had you for our Regimental Surgeon.” I took the box, but up to this time have not had to use it. Our Assistant Surgeon [Samuel B. Houts] came to me about 8 o’clock at night and said, “Where will you be during the action?” With the wounded of course,” was my reply. Said he, “I am so glad! for I know I shall need you.” From this you will see about how I stand in the regiment. About two this morning, we had a most drenching rain, and the fighting ceased, and has not been renewed up to this hour (11 o’clock).

I expect one of these days we will have an old He battle down here. The force is great on both sides, and if the rebels will stand lead, this battle will be a decisive one.

Now I am approaching the close of my letter. This is a beautiful morning with a bright sun and a pure atmosphere. The face of nature is most lovely in this latitude. The oaks, the dogwoods, the sassafras, and the sarvices are all in bloom; so are the peach and plum trees, and many little flowers of various colours decorate the earth. This would be so beautiful but for the fact that blight of war is here.

Halloo there you rascals! Can’t a man get to write one letter for you? The rebels are blazing away again on the southeast of our division in the direction of the little town on the Tennessee river. Boom! Boom! Boom! Do you hear that! Watch out or someone will get hurt. I now come to a hasty close. You will remember me most kindly to Ma, and all the children, and Uncle Joe. Tell him I am as mad as fire because he does not write to me. Take good care of Sam and be good to Mattie and Don. I shall expect in return for this a long letter. You must all write or you will forget how. I have no idea when I will come home. Tell Ma to have nothing to do with that pony matter; to give no explanation, and let the thing stand till I come.

Direct your letters to Rev. J. M. Garner, Western Tennessee, 18th Reg. Mo. Vols.,

Affectionately, your Pa

¹ According to a biography for Norman Scott Hamlin (b. 1834), he enlisted in the 18th Missouri as a 1st Lieutenant—a surgeon—and was acting brigade surgeon during the battles of “Shiloh, Shelbina, Hurricane Creek, etc.” The biography states that he resigned on account of disability on 30 September 1862. According to the regimental records housed at the Missouri State Archives, however, it appears that Regimental surgeon Hamlin deserted shortly after the Battle of Shiloh and Rev. Garner’s letter places him ineffectually in a steamer at the Landing. [See article on Page 10 of The Missouri State Archives, Winter/Spring 2015]



Memphis, Tennessee
June 24, 1862

Dearest [wife] Elly,

When I last wrote, I was on board the Steamer Emma, but mailed my letter in this city. We left the boat on Sunday evening and took lodgings at the Lenier’s Hotel at 1.50 per day—the cheapest fare we could find in the city, and I am sorry to say that our living is shamefully poor. Still we get enough to eat. I am not prepared to tell you when we will leave. The most reliable information that I can get is that the railroad from this to Corinth is now completed and if this is so, we will leave on the first train.

On yesterday we telegraphed to General [Henry W.] Halleck to know where our regiment is and received a dispatch informing us that it is at Corinth. I think from all that I can learn, the 18th [Missouri] will remain in that place or vicinity for some time to come. I am going down there and if things do not go more to suit me than when I left, I intend to leave the service. This I would do anyway but for the fact that I see nothing that promises better in Missouri.

The weather is oppressively warm here and men almost suffocate if they take exercise in the sun. I sweat at every pore while I write. I cannot tell what I will do till I get to the regiment and see how things are there and what prospects are ahead of us.

I still suffer in mind about you. I do hope, however, that your health improved from the time I left. Dr. Harris promised me to visit you the evening that I left home, and also promised that he would write me if your case was likely to become serious, but then here I am very differently situated from what I expected to be when I saw him. Under these circumstances, you know I suffer great uneasiness of mind. Still I hope for the best, trusting in that God who is too wise to err, and to good to do wrong.

My health is very good. I have had no symptoms of diarrhea since I last wrote, and the abdominal soreness which so annoyed me at home is entirely gone. I feel that I have so far been very fortunate. The delay in travel is painful and expensive, but if my means will take me through, I shall not grieve. $40 or $50 is no great sum to pay for the privilege of visiting you and the children. I am very much concerned about your work on the farm. I did not like the arrangement that I was forced to make, from the fact that it is expensive, but then it was the best and all that I could do. If Shipley will only keep sober, he can do a good deal that will be valuable in the future. And if you keep Uncle Joe sober, the two can put your little place in the neatest sort of trim.

In my last I laid a full plan of the work, but if you think it best to change the plan, it will be right with me. I was well pleased with the way you had managed the farm under the circumstances while I was gone. I know you did the best you could. If Uncle Joe continues to drink, send him down to the Feny to collect debts, or dispose of him as best you can. I hope you will not take any insult from him. Be sure to let me know in answer to this just how he and Shipley are doing. I want to know all about the work, and how the season is and how the crop looks. If my presence is really needed at home, I will come, and my course will be shaped by what you write in answer to this. Therefore, be explicit and definite, for I intend to be governed by what you write.

On my way down I learned from Aza White that he left a buggy with Dr. White to sell. After asking him many questions about the buggy and harness, I found that he had authorized the Dr. to take $20.00 for it, but finally he told me that he had instructed the Dr. to sell for just what he could get. You need something of the sort, and I think you can get that buggy & harness at your own price. It might be very cheap at 10 or 15 dollars. You can be the judge. If you purchase, take a bill of sale in your own name. I think you could spare bacon and corn enough to pay for the thing and I am certain that it would be of great service to you. Exercise your own judgement, however, and I shall be pleased. If you buy it, remember that the shafts on it belong to George Tracy. White told me that George broke his shafts and that George’s must be put in their place. I would not purchase without these. I judge from what White told me a little work would make the buggy as good as your mother’s.

In your next, let me know if you received the two letters written prior to this date. I have a strong notion to buy a stock of drugs—in other words, I think I will have you do it. Really I do not know how to calculate. If I could stay in the service till the first of August, I could let you have say $400.00 and that would purchase enough raw material to fit up a very nice little establishment in skillful hands. That would be the right time to put them into the market as it would be the sickly season. By making my own compounds, I think the business would pay. This letter is intended for your own eye. I will write again soon.

Love to all the children. Very affectionately yours, — John M. Garner



[partial letter]

July 13th [1862]

Bouts, as I did not get to mail my letter when I expected, I will add a line.

This is Sunday, and I expect to preach this evening at 4 o’clock. On last Sabbath I preached from Genesis 20th Chapter and Seventh verse. I need not allude to the discourse but may tell you that the good effect has been visible all through the past week. Surgeon Davis—the most profane man I ever saw—came to me after service and told me with tears in his eyes that if God would forgive him, he would never swear in my presence again. Others have expressed themselves in the same way. I hope, my child, tat I am not living without accomplishing some good.

This evening I will preach in front of the hospital to us to benefit the sick as far as I can. We have some men here that will die. Two have died since I returned. We have not more than twelve in the hospital, and those are feeble men, exhausted with diarrhea. I am sorry that they cannot be sent home.

I am very well and my living is good. The last purchase I made, I got 1 gallon sour kraut, 1½ gallon pickles, 5 pounds dried apples, and 5 lbs. dried peaches for $1.25. This does very well for this country. At dinner today, I really felt like I wanted you all here to eat with me. If I have to remain down here much longer, I intend for [your] Ma and some of you to visit me. I am not jesting. Who will come? Don’t all speak at once. I know [your] Ma would like to see the battlefield of Pittsburg [Landing] and the City of Corinth. If our prospects as a regiment do not grow better, I will not remain here a great while. I do not intend to come into collision with Captain [Jacob R.] Ault [Co. G]. I am only waiting patiently to hear from Major [James A.] Price. He will prospect for me in Missouri.

I think the 18th [Missouri] will be paid off this week. I have a notion to not receive my pay this time for reasons that I need not mention. It will be safe in government hands. Tell [your] Ma to let me know if Col. Lander got that mortgage from Bowman, and if she sees Margrave, tell him to write to me. I heard last night that he was in Cairo on his way home. I want to go into the publishing business with him at Luclede. Surgeon Davis was dismissed from our regiment on yesterday and I suppose I will have to see to the sick till we get another.

Now I must close. Give my love to [your] Ma and all the children. Take good care of my chicken/ Ne good to Walt & Don, and be a good girl.

Truly your Pa, — John M. Garner


McNary County, Tennessee
January 5th 1863

Dearest [wife] Elly,

I can see how it is probable that you are undergoing the keenest mental anxiety and it is to remove this, if possible, that I now write. You have doubtless learned by the papers that our communication with the North has been entirely cut off for more than two weeks. This, in addition to many rumors that I imagine to be in circulation—for the papers will lie when there is no truth to tell—is calculated to render you very unhappy, and under this impression, I am deeply concerned about you. I know not when this can go through but hope it will not be long. It has been so long since I heard from you that I feel quite gloomy and find myself relapsing with my natural disposition to hunt up trouble. I hope this is the last letter that I will ever write to you. I mean by this, that I ardently wish to get home soon, and never again to be separated from you for even a day. This wilderness is cruel to me and the society in which I move is as inexorable as death. The society of the good and virtuous is agreeable to me for a time, but for intimacy—a fixed affection—there can be no other than my Elly for me in the world.

As I am situated at present, I must either relax and accommodate myself to the disgusting guffaws of camp life, or move in a circle by myself. I prefer the latter, and believe that you will approve my course, as I know I will be your delight to receive me back from the war path as pure as when I entered upon it. I have laid aside the flowers which grow and bloom in the warmth of youthful fancy and passion and learned to weigh life in the scale of reason. In doing this, I find much that once I considered real was only artificial and evanescent. I judge myself to have been most fortunate in making my angel Elly the mistress of my heart, the depository of all my secrets. I have mingled extensively in the world and seen life in many of its phases—have been on terms of friendship with many, but intimate with few, and it is the delight of my heart that you are the only one on earth to whom I could fully commit my destiny. I have never regretted the 17th of August 1845 when our youthful hearts were joined in one. We though we loved then, but time has proved to my mind—and also to yours, I have the strongest reason to think—that on that day, we only crossed the threshold of love’s vast empire which, like a river, rapid at its source, widens and deepens to an eddy at its mouth. This accords with my notion of conjugal life and so far I have not been disappointed. True, the stream of our happiness has not moved unruffled at every time in its course: the cases and reverses incident to real life could not produce slight agitation, at times, but thank God! Our vessel has all the time kept above the waves, and sailed on towards the desired haven.

I write sentimentally because I feel so, and imagine that you feel so too. I feel quite like a planet out of its orbit. For many pleasant years, I have with the confiding simplicity of a little child poured into your ear my whole mind and looked to you for counsel; but now, far separated from my true love, the sum of all my joys, I sit moodily and sigh my thoughts away. My mind is just as a stream doubled back upon itself—not weakened at all, but constantly pressing at every point for outlet, but finding none, save through its old, natural channel. This gives you a feeble picture of the struggle constantly going on within me, and I often ask myself, “When will this commotion subside?” to which the answer invariably comes back, “Not until you return to the bosom of your true love at home.” This I would fain do, but how can I? My papers have yet come and if they had, I dare not, at present, attempt the journey. Dreadful suspense! How long will it continue? I do not suppose that you live under an unclouded sky. I know the contrary. In addition to the maternal care of a large family and the management of the farm, you are consumed with anxiety on my account. I fully appreciate your trials and affectionately tender my sympathy which is all that I can do at present. And while I deeply regret the trouble you experience on my account, I may say, my only comfort flows from my knowledge of the fact that in this day of darkness, there is one who cares for me. But for the assurance of your love and your prayers, whither would I look for comfort? My days are passed in silent thought, and when I lay me down at night amidst the uncertainty of military life and try to pray, I rejoice to know that one other hear pulsates in unison with mine. I deem all that I have said in this letter due to you. Of course I hope to be with you in a short time, but should any fatal accident befall me, you will have in this the evidence that I loved and appreciated you for your real worth.

These days I am not greatly concerned about our future prosperity or adversity as heretofore. The time was when that subject annoyed me much, but now I desire peace above all things. This war may leave us with but little, but then the world will be as large as it ever was, and we will not have so long to live in it as we had when the war commenced. If we only prove faithful to the grace of God—which let us constantly endeavor to do—we will come out well in the end. I would be glad to say what day you may look for me but this I cannot do with any certainty. I expected to have seen you before this. I hope you will be of good courage and wait with prayerful patience.

Remember me most affectionately to all the children, to Uncle Joe, and in the circle of our friends. I suppose you need not write as I certainly will get off soon.

Keep the children at some useful study.

And now, my dearest one on earth, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, with a full sense of the many obligations under which you have brought me by your constant goodness and faithfulness, amid the varied scenes through which we have passed in the intimate relation of husband and wife. More than ever your devoted and affectionate husband, — John M. Garner



Post Chewalla, Tennessee
March 29th 1863

Miss Ann A. Garner,

Dear daughter, yours of the 18th & 19th instant is before me and as I have a chance to send by private conveyance, I answer you before I sleep.

My hand is a little tired, having just written a full sheet to Don, but I must not let this opportunity pass unimproved.

I am much pleased with your letter in every respect. The hand writing is decidedly improved, the orthography is much better, and the matter composing your letter is very good and reflects great credit upon your mind and taste. The hand writing is so improved that I did not know whose letter I was reading till I was half down the first page. Really, I will have to begin to be myself with the pen, or you girls will lay me in the shade. When I proposed this correspondence, I did suppose that, in so short a time, I would be forced to the utmost precision of thought and my best efforts at penmanship. But if I fail to keep pace with my children, I will rejoice the more at their success. Are you not glad that we ever entered into this arrangement? I assure you I am, and you now do better than I expected you would at the end of the six months.

I agree with you precisely about your going to school this summer. Certain I am that you can learn as much, if not more, than you will at a common country school. I like your idea for another reason, viz: you will be at home all the time and not have to undergo fatigue and exposure of two long trips per day. Then again, these times, I think it rather difficult to get good teachers. Every man who wants to teach is not to be trusted. Before I send my children to a teacher, I want to know that he is competent. Still further; society is very much mixed at present, and I would regret for you to get into the hands of a rebel teacher. Finally I fear that the children of rebels and the children of Union men mixed up in the same school, would not agree very well, and if they did not, that would bring on a disagreeable state of feeling—and perhaps action—among the parents of those children. All these things—and they are possible—taken together, I think it best for you not to go to school this summer—especially as you girls are taking such a beautiful start at home improvement. At home you can attend to the very branches that I wish you to study most; at school, viz: reading, writing, arithmetic, and geography. A little close attention to these every day at home will amount to more in one year than you will learn at most common schools in twice that time. You know—or I do—that children do not learn to understand what they learn at school. They go through this book or that, and understand but little about it. Nor is it the length of time that we go to school that makes the pupil a scholar, but it is the understanding of what are profess to have studied. How many children do we see who have been kept at school for several weary years to learn what others have learned at home in one fourth of the time! I want you to hunt a chapter in Family Government [a treatise on conjugal, parental, and filial duties], by Bishop [James Osgood] Andrew, upon this very point and read it with care, or have Ma to read it to all of you. I do not remember the number of the chapter, but you can find it. Perhaps you can find it under the letter C in my Index Renem.

I am very sorry to hear of the death of Mr. James Preston. As you say, he was a good man and a good teacher. It is always painful to hear of the death of those we love and esteem. I sometimes think of the number of widows and orphans to be left in our country by this war till my heart sickens with the thought. The state of society will be terrible for a long time after the war, and I do hope that my loved ones at home will be prepared for it. My earnest prayer, daily, is that we may live right, die right, and at last, all get to Heaven.

I now point out and correct your errors. Cabage, yesterday, blowes, frunt—four in all. I correct you thus: cabbage, yesturday, blows, front.

I am sorry that you cannot get the front yard fixed. Can you not get the mounds made? It does seem to me that you can get that much done, if you girls have to do some of it. You know nest, however, and if it can not be done, we will have to let it go.

I must now close without writing you as long a letter as you are entitled to. I hope you will be punctual in writing, and strive hard to make every letter an improvement upon all that have come before it.

Since reading your letter, I have grown uneasy about your cough. I had about forgotten that you are subject to such an affliction. I used to be afraid that it would one day damage your health. I shall be unhappy about it till I hear from you again.

Glad that you have a prospect of getting the saddle and suit. Do your best, and if Hutchie does not best you, then I will admit that I am no judge of human nature.

My love to the whole family. Affectionately your Pa, — John M. Garner

Dearest [wife] Ella;

I would have written you a long letter but the fact that I am in the habit of writing so much to you and the family. I read your last with tender interest. To be loved and esteemed by you is my highest earthly pleasure.

I wish I could inform you of the time when I can visit you but I cannot. But when I assure you that it is for you and the children that I am here, you will endure this privation with more patience.

Major Young will hand this to you. He started with one some days ago but on reaching Memphis, his papers were wrong and he had to come back, so I write a little more.

My health was never better and I do thank God that you have all been so highly favored in this respect.

Keep the children at their books as they are doing remarkably well.

I will send you some money when I have a safe chance, if I do not get to visit you. Will write to Uncle Joe this week.

Yours affectionately, in great haste, as Young is again waiting, — John M. Garner



Post Chewalla, Tennessee
April 10th 1863

Miss Ann A. Garner,

Dear daughter, your welcome letter of the 1st instant came to hand at noon today, and as I had waited many long, tedious days to hear from home, I have penned it with more than ordinary interest. I had begun to feel very uneasy about my loved ones at home, and you can scarcely imagine the relief I find in the perusal of your letter. May the Father of all our mercies still spare your lives and preserve your health.

I still enjoy the best of health and have an easy time but what is ease when all that is dear to me on earth is absent? I deplore my long stay from home, and hope that it may not be protracted many more months. While I know that it is perfectly right for me to be here, and that it is the best thing that I can do for my dear family, I cannot conquer my desire to be at home. It has been said that “Time reconciles us to all things.” As yet, this is not my experience, and, reasoning from the past, it never will be; and hence I am left to that patience and endurance which I have tried to learn in the school of philosophy.

Your wish so often repeated for me to come home, touches me in a very tender place, and most joyfully would I comply if I could. Several things must be considered in connection with this thought. If I come at my own expense, the trip to and from home will cost me all of $60. Forty dollars added to this will get a little home, and if you will divide 60 by 10 you will see that it would cost me just six dollars per day to see you. Pretty high price that. In addition to this, there is considerable risk in traveling. Still I intend to come if I can.

I am glad that you intend to observe the rule that I proposed. If you and Reese do not like to write together, each of you write a sheet of commercial note, or small letter paper, and send them together.

I now have two whippoor-wills which sing for me every night till the hills are vocal with their song, and my katy-dids will soon be round, and then I will sleep sweetly.

My garden is doing very well. I send you a pea and a plant of mustard. The mustard you are to cook for my chicken/ I send her a flower.

I have to charge you with one mistake. Here it is. Turkeys. It should  be turkies. This is doing splendidly. Still try to improve your hand by writing some every day. I am delighted with your progress so far, in every respect.

For the present I close, promising you a long letter next time. Affectionately your Pa.



[Post] Chewalla, Tennessee
May 29th 1863

Dear Delia,

Your favor of the 22d is just to hand, and I lay my other work aside to attempt a prompt answer. I am much pleased with your letter but somewhat disturbed to learn that you were not well at the date of writing. At this great distance from home, any intelligence like that affects me sorely I do trust, however, that you are better now.

You complain of your letter but I tell you in truth, it is decidedly the best production that I have ever seen from your pen. The penmanship is not any better, but the style and diction are decidedly the best you have ever sent me. There is one error in orthography. The word cherries should have 2 r’s, thus cherries, Only one wrong word in such an amount of writing is a very small matter, and I have no doubt was a slip of the pen that will occur again. You have reason to reproach yourself for anything that is in this letter and if being puny improves you so much, I hope you will write everytime you feel so.

I am glad that I ever did anything for which you feel grateful, it it was nothing more than to cut your lettuce so that you could eat it when you were too little to do it yourself. Delia, gratitude is the brightest passion of the soul. Without it all is moral waste within the human breast. I often think with thrilling emotion of the period in our family history to which you so touchingly allude. Those were halcyon days. But alas! they are gone and with them have fled many of our highest joys. But will I permit a single remark of my grateful child to lead me into the region of tears? Already a face that should glow with the blushes of manhood quivers from the rush of feeling that swells the heart within. Your Ma tried to murder me also when she alluded to my kindness to her. Get away you sons of bitches!! I am not going to dangle round your heels anymore. I don’t know anybody in Missouri by the name of Garner and if you should see one there of the name, just give her a quarter and inform her that she is no connection of mine.

I am glad to learn a little about home matters after long waiting. I suppose that the bluegrass is very nice and that you will have plenty of fruit; but I learned precious little from you about the bees. You bet, Suppose you are saving them for next time. Shall wait and seem and if they don’t come this way soon, will conclude that they went some other way.

Now I want to know a little about one thing. To my astonishment Mr. A, B. White told me the other day that he had expressed $200 to your Ma. Is that so? And last night he almost told me that he was going to write to Miss Ett today. What do you think of all this?

Did you ever see the devil
With his Ironwood shovel
With his pitchfork and ladle
And his old gourd head?

If you did not, you will one of these days, for (I say in confidence) if these things are not put a stop to, I will be found going through North Missouri like a roaring lion seeking whom I may devour before another twelve months shall have passed and gone, that’s what’s the matter with the Irishman, you bet. I have just found out the danger of having a pretty wife and a smart daughter. I am in the best of health, and am full of chicken pie and potatoes. What do you think of that in the history of a soldier?

The weather is very warm and dry, and if we do not get rain soon, our garden will be ruined. So far as have the general news, it is good. I think Vicksburg will, without, soon fall into our hands. Rosecrans is holding his position bravely, and I think Hooker will hold his own in Virginia till we go round and take Richmond.

Recently there has been some terrible fighting around Vicksburg and I think with fair success. I listen, with good hope, to hear any day that Grant’s headquarters are in that place. It will—it must—come down. The 18th [Missouri] is doing a great deal of scouting and they clean the country where they go. You will have seen before this reaches you that the planters of Louisiana are taking steps to bring that state back into the Union. Commanding the mouth of the Mississippi river as Louisiana does, this will be a fatal stroke to the South, and other states will soon follow. I believe this will take place as soon as our Government can give them protection against Southern tyranny. The people of the South have no heart to work under the Rebel government. They can’t ship their cotton, and if we don’t take it from them, the rebel government will, or if they hide it, guerrillas will burn it. But by returning to us, they can ship it North as they did before the war and have our protection. If Vicksburg falls, you may look for some very important events to follow soon after.  I now close to you for the purpose of devoting a little space to Reese. Bouts, you must not be discouraged but write often. Do the best yuo can and I will be pleased.

Your Pa.

Reese, I am glad to read a line from you, though you seem to have written it grudgingly, or because no one else would use the paper. I did not suppose you would ever see the day when writing to me would be a burthen. I hope you did not mean the construction of which your remarks admit. If so, I can only say that I am sorry. I never write to you just to keep up appearances, but always because I want to write and love to write to you. Your letter is free from orthographical error. I charged you with the word turkies in my last. You had it turkeys. On reflection, I am not positive that I am correct. Please look and let me know.= as I have no means of ascertaining here. I want to do you justice and one word may decide your failure or success.

We are just getting a refreshing rain, This we have needed for some weeks. In my last to you I sent my chicken a few of my Tom Thumb peas. Hope you will receive and plant. Tell me in your next who waits on or writes to Miss Ett. I fear that child is getting hold of some strange notions. What did Ma do with mr love letter to Mrs. Shipley? Not one word from Capt. Lomax. Health of the 18th [Missouri] is good. Love to Grandma and all the family, — Garner


Post Chewalla, Tennessee
September 23, 1863

Dear Delia,

I am just in from the gallery after a hard [day’s] work for which I have on my stand eleven dollars and seventy-five cents. I attempt to write you a long letter but if I fail, you will attribute it to the fact that I am tired and a little nervous.

I was much pleased with your kind communication of the 10th to which this is intended to be an answer. You allude to many things about which I wanted to know in a way altogether satisfactory. I appreciate such letters very highly and hope that you will continue to write them.

Your orthography is not all correct but as the six months are out, I do not hold you responsible, but hope you will be very careful in future. Never write a word which you do not know to be correct. If you will make this a rule, you will never perpetrate an error. If I can get out of the 18th [Missouri], I will spend the winter in Missouri and this will enable me to devote some personal attention to your mental improvement.

The condition of the country is such that it is hard for me to decide upon any course of future action. I do not wish to do anything unpatriotic, but to remain here much longer does seem to be more than my duty, and yet to leave may—by the force of future circumstances—be [a] matter of regret. Time alone can tell. I may assure you that this subject exercises me greatly.

There is a great deal of bosh in the papers about war with France but as yet I see no special cause of fear upon that account. If Louis Napoleon could have swindled other foreign powers into an alliance with him, we would have been placed in jeopardy; but having failed in this, I consider him powerless for evil in North America. Poor scoundrel! he drew a tiger in Mexico and there tried to get Maximilian of Russia to come over and tame the beast. But the young prince said, “No!” In plain language, Louis Napoleon proposed to subjugate the Republic of Mexico and establish a monarchy upon its ruins—of which a Russian prince was to be monarch. This would have united Russia with her ninety million of people to the interest of France. But the Russian prince said, “I will be monarch if France will give me an army sufficient to sustain a monarchy in Mexico, but on no other terms.” This is precisely what France cannot afford to do, and poor Louis has his Mexico pet on his own hands, and it remains for time to reveal what he will do with it.

September 24th Morning—I did not rest very well last night. Attended Lyceum till a late hour, then read till near midnight, and had only dropped to sleep when [1st] Lieut. [Frederick] Partenheimer [Co. K] came for me to see his sick child. After this I had dreams of home and other years when surrounded by an affectionate wife and lovely children. I was a happy man. How different now! Who that was once surrounded as I, would not think and grieve and dream?

I am well this morning and hope this may find you all enjoying the same great blessing.

This will be carried to Laclede by Sergeant [John Q.] Myers ¹ who goes home on a furlough of 30 days. He may call on you and if he does, treat him well. He can give you many statements about me, and I have notified him that you will quiz him within an inch of his life. The Sergeant is waiting and I am forced to close. I present you five dollars to buy you some warm clothes for winter. My love to all.

Farewell, — John M. Garner

¹ John Q. Myers served in Co. E, 18th Missouri Infantry. He was described as standing 6 ft, 2½ tall, with hazel eyes and dark black hair. According to the Company Descriptive Book, Meyers went home on furlough on 24 September 1863 for 30 days. He returned to the regiment on 25 October 1863. He was promoted from private to duty sergeant on 12 August 1863 (another source says 20 September 1863). He was discharged on 14 November 1864 at Smyrna Campground, Georgia. His home was in Kiddsville, Mo.

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