1863: Thomas Putnam Gray to Sarah Annette Markham

Thomas Putnam Gray in later years

This letter was written by Pvt. Thomas Putnam Gray (1835-1926) who served as a musician in Co. I, 12th Illinois Infantry—sometimes called the 1st Scotch Regiment. Thomas enlisted on 24 July 1861 at Princeton, Bureau county, Illinois, and remained with the regiment until 13 August 1864. When Thomas enlisted, he was described as standing 5 feet 7 inches tall, with grey eyes, dark hair, and a dark complexion. He gave his birthplace as Covington, Tioga county, Pennsylvania, and his occupation as school teacher.

Thomas was the son of Lester W. Gray (1811-1881) and Diantha Putnam (1817-1908) who resided in Kane county, Illinois, prior to the Civil War.  In the 1860 US Census, Thomas was enumerated in the Mark Shiek household in Walnut, Bureau county, Illinois, where he presumably boarded while teaching his school.

Thomas wrote the letter from Pocahontas, Tennessee in the fall of 1863 while on detached duty serving as a court recorder at a court martial trial. No doubt Thomas’ superb handwriting had something to do with his selection.


Addressed to Sarah Annette Markham, Henderson, Knox county, Ills.
Postmarked Memphis, Tennessee

Court Room
Pocahontas, Tennessee
September 28th 1863

Miss Markham,

Kind friend, I received your welcome favor almost a month ago and am sorry to say I must now write hurriedly and brief. I have put off writing hoping to catch a chance when I might write a letter of decent length but such a letter I have not written to anyone for over a month on account of being very busy as Recorder of Court Martial at this place. Finally thinking you would rather get a short, hurried line from me than none, I commenced this at 10 at night having just finished my task for today. I was sorry to hear you had been sick. Hope this will find you well.

I thank you for your kind forgiveness and willingness to “open new books.” I think I must faithfully promise to visit you the next time I go to Knox county. Thank you for the invitation to call in at the same time tempting me with that list of good things. I might ask you to eat something extra for me but it might make you sick again.

We expect to march soon, probably to face the enemy again on the field. I must cut this short or not be fit for my duties tomorrow. In fact, I am too closely confined to writing for my health.

You can hardly realize my sadness on first hearing of Fanny’s death. You know I never had favorites in my school but if I had dared so to do, I am sure Fanny would have been one. She was always such a good girl. All could not help liking her.

My regards to all your folks. Shall try to remember the “Photos” provided we remember also that “where little is given, much is required.” (please pardon if my memory has quoted incorrectly)

Good night. Very respectfully, — Thos. P. Gray

Please write soon.

Co. I, 12th Regt. Ills. Infantry via Memphis, Tenn.

An unidentified corporal of the famous 12th Illinois Infantry, also known as the 1st Scotch Regiment, a western organization commanded by Colonel John McArthur. This young soldier is seen wearing the unique blue-trimmed gray tunic issued to several early Illinois regiments. His tam is the same type as others worn by members of the regiment with jacquard woven band at the bottom edge. Image is a sixth plate “soft emulsion” tintype with light varnish, housed in a gutta-percha “Union” case. [This image & caption posted on “Civil War Faces” by Brian White in September 2015]


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