All posts by Griff

My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries.

1863: John E. Freeman to Peter E. Freeman

This letter was written by John E. Freeman (1842-1864), the son of Peter E. Freeman (1803-1890) and Anna Freeman (1807-1883) of Mayfield, Chautaugua county, New York.

John enlisted on 21 August 1862 to serve three years in Co. H, 112th New York Volunteers (a. k. a. “The Chautaugua Regiment“). He mustered in as a private but was promoted to corporal on 22 January 1863. John was among the 28 killed in his regiment in the late afternoon assault on the Confederate works at Cold Harbor on 1 June 1864. Aside from those killed, the regiment suffered another 140 wounded and 12 missing.

John mentions his siblings, Melissa Freeman (1830-Aft1863), Laura Jane Freeman (1832-1883), and Eldridge Ancel Freeman (1845-1931) in the letter.

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TRANSCRIPTION
Addressed to Peter E. Freeman, Esq., Dewittville, Chautaugua County, New York
Postmarked Old Point Comfort, Virginia

Hampton Hospital, Virginia
Ward 6
September 4th 1863

Dear Father,

I now sit down to inform you how I am & how I get along. I am about the same as I was when I came here. The doctor calls it the [rheumatism?] that ails me. I think it is too. My hips are quite lame some days and some days they are not very lame. I can get around all over where I am allowed to go. I am also taking medicine for it. I have good quarters as anyone asks for.

The weather is very cool here at present. We have no more warm nights this year in Virginia. There is only two months that we have warm nights and those are July and August.

The regiment are on Folly Island at the foot of Morris Island. Some of the boys have written back that they had a good camp and a good place to stay when they wrote. There had been two of Company D wounded since they had been down there. That was all that had happened to them.

I want to know the reason why that some of the family do not write to me to let me know how you get along. I have not received any letters since the eleventh of August. The one that I got then had the money in that was sent to me. That came through straight. Since that, I have written one letter to Laura Jane and one to Melissa and sent a paper to Ancel. I want some of them answered. Tell them I shall direct this letter to Dewittville for I think that there is something that does not go right there. If the girls have not got my letters and they have written to me so that they have had time to get here. Those that I wrote have had time to get there twice, The one that I wrote I think was directed August 13th & the one to Melissa the 25th. I do not know though as the one written to Melissa has had its full time, come to think it all over.

If you see John Miels and it comes handy, tell him I would like to hear from him since he has got to be a soldier. I wrote him last.

Well, Father, what do you think of the war in its present state? If Charleston is taken—which I think it will be—it is agoing to close up shortly after for Bragg’s Army is demoralized and Lee’s is not much better for they have got so that they fight among themselves. But we cannot tell when it will. I think that when the draft is over and they get all of the money that they can in that way to pay expenses, that they will try to close it for I think that the South have got about all that they want. That is my way [of] thinking.

I cannot find any news to write you for there is nothing going on here to write about. We were mustered in the other day but I do not know whether they will pay us this time or not. I guess I will close. I do not know whether you can read this or not for my hand trembles today quite hard. Tell Mother that she must keep up good courage for I am safe yet. Give my love to all and keep a share for yourself, Write when you can.

From your son, — John E. Freeman

Direct to John E. Freeman, U. S. Hospital, Hampton, Va., Ward 6

1862: Theodore Cooper to Arthur Erwin Cooper

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CDV of Asst. Engineer Theodore Cooper

This letter was written by Theodore (“Theod”) Cooper (1839-1919), the son of John Cooper, Jr. (1799-1863) and Elizabeth Margaret Evans (1807-1889) of Coopers Plains (near Corning), Steuben county, New York. Theodore graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute in 1858 in December 1861 he enrolled in the US Navy as a Third Assistant Engineer. He served on the USS Chocura in the Blockading Squadron from January 13, 1862 to June 28, 1865. After the war he was promoted and served as an instructor at the US Naval Academy from 1865 to 1868 before going back to sea aboard the USS Nyack. He was discharged from the Navy in 1872. He stood 6 foot 2 inches tall. After the war he lived in Philadelphia, Pittsburg, St. Louis, Phillipsburg, N. J., and New York City working as a civil engineer. He never married.

In his letter, Theodore mentions his siblings, John Cooper (1833-1904)—a Major & Surgeon posted in Washington D. C., his sister, Charlotte Cooper (1844-1915) in Philadelphia, and his brother Arther Erwin Cooper (1848-1909) to whom he addressed the letter

The USS Chocura was one of some 40 vessels in the Unadilla class—a class of gunboat built for the Union Navy at the outbreak of the American Civil War. Ships of the class were also known as “90-day gunboats” due to their rapid construction. The class was designed to be fully oceangoing while having a light enough draft to be able to operate close inshore, for blockade duty or other operations in shallow waters.

TRANSCRIPTION

[USS] Chocura off Norfolk, Virginia
October 26, 1862

My dear Arthur,

Papa’s short letter of the 20th and Mother’s of the 22nd with one of Mary’s letters enclosed have both been received and gave me great pleasure—both to hear you were all well and also to find the folks had consented to Charlotte’s going to school. She says to me in a letter written me a short time ago that she was 18 years old. Can it be possible? It wouldn’t have astonished me more to have heard you were 21.

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Charlotte Cooper in 1862

Papa seems to fear we will stint ourselves in regard to her schooling. I don’t think there is the least danger. I know I haven’t—not that it would do us any harm if we should. My living expenses for the last 8 months have not been over 20 dollars a month and I have spent all that was necessary and more too. But still I don’t count this all, as my clothes &c. will count up some. But still I supplied myself so well before leaving Boston—at least in all underclothes &c. that it will not be a large percentage. As far as my experience and information goes, Naval officers in general are quite the reverse from extravagant in living when on duty.

I regretted to hear of Aunt Mag’s sickness.

Well, here we are in the hotbed of Virginia seceshdom. Mirabile Dictu? ¹ We are within sound of a church bell for first time in 8 months. They sound very familiar and pleasant. I wanted to get off to church today but couldn’t but they say the ministers are all rabid rebs. I am sure, however, the bells are good Christians. Their sound has done me more good than an hour and a half sermon would.

For a couple of months we have been indulging in the delusive phantom of hope of getting north for at least a couple of weeks. As we needed repairing badly, it was supposed we would have to go somewhere to overhaul. For fear of disappointing you, I said nothing of it but secretly hoped if I couldn’t get home, I would either run a chance of seeing John at Washington, Charlotte at Philadelphia, or Mary at New York. But now all is lost. The Admiral has chosen us for his flag ship. We’re ordered to Hampton Roads to caulk &c. and then we were going to Wilmington. On examination, we were pronounced badly in need of caulking and it couldn’t be done well down in the Roads. Then we felt sure of going North, but the Admiral wasn’t to be cheated of his ship that way. When it was decided we should come up here and repair and now our ribs are being rammed with pitch and oakum.

We came up here Friday night or rather part way up, as our pilot—after running us twice aground (dark)—succeeded in landing us up on top of a sunken rebel schooner where we had to lay till morning when we sent a boat to Norfolk (3 miles) for a tug. The river is well obstructed up here. It would do Papa good to see the piles driven across the river. A short distance above the obstructions lays the hulk of the frigate United States which grounded before the rebs could get her into the right place.

Since our arrival, the caulkers have been busy while we have been getting our part of the vessel in good order.

On Friday, was ashore at Fortress Monroe. Had a long tramp about the fort and out to [the village of] Hampton—or rather where it was. Saw fig bushes covered with green figs for the first time.

Yesterday I had all day in Norfolk. Saw lots of secesh—female as well as male. Were not as bad as expected. Once in awhile a veil would go down and the nose up. See the tradesmen speak of Confederate money as “our money,” and give you the price in US money & also in “our money”—the latter varying from 25 to 50 percent discount. I purchased of a reb a small model of the Merrimac[k] for yourself. The prices of those things not allow[ed] to be brought from the North are tremendous, but clothes & provisions are about sutler’s prices. I wanted a small piece of caustic (lunar) but found it to be 5 cents a gram. Didn’t buy any.

Town appeared peaceable. Not many soldiers about except at public buildings. Mother’s bug poison came this afternoon all right. I shall try it immediately. With much love to all. Write often to your loving brother, — Theod


¹ Latin for “wonderful to relate.” 

 

1863: Robert James Wear to John A. Wear

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A painting by Mark Maritato of a 14th North Carolina Infantryman

This letter was written by Cpl. Robert J. Ware (1842-1863) of Co. D (the “Cleveland Blues”), 14th North Carolina (Confederate) Infantry. Robert volunteered as a private in the summer of 1861 at the age of 19. He was promoted to a corporal in December 1862. He was sick and absent from the regiment from late February until mid-April 1863 when he wrote this letter. His military record states that he died on 17 May 1863 of wounds received in the Battle of Chancellorsville. [Note: military rosters have his surname spelled “Ware” at times but from this letter you can see that he wrote it “Wear.”]

At the time of his enlistment in 1861, Robert was identified as standing 5 feet, 10 inches tall, with gray eyes and dark hair. His occupation was that of a Cleveland county farmer. He is buried in Section D, Row 30, Grave 22 in Oakwood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.

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TRANSCRIPTION
Addressed to Mr. John A. Wear, Shelby, N. C.
with the politeness of [Sgt. John] Calvin Randall

Camp near Bolden Green [Bowling Green], Va.
April 19th 1863

Dear father and mother,

I seat myself this Sabbath day to inform you that I am well at this time and I hope these few lines will find you all in the same blessing. I came to my regiment on Monday last safe and sound and it was alright with the Captain and Colonel. I have sent my uniform pants and coat and a pair of fine jean pants I took for what David [H.] Bookout owed me and five or six shirt collars in the pocket and some buttons and I could send you more but Calvin said he couldn’t bring no more. I got my shirts and pants all and I have more than I can carry.

I wrote you a letter the day after I came and one to Jim Grimes Wear too. We have got marching orders now but I think we are just a going back up to the brigade about 20 miles. Everything is quiet still here now. I don’t believe that there will be much more fighting done. There is more prospect of peace now than there has been. I want you to write me. Tell me what you got as I have got nothing more to write so I [will] bring my few lines to a close by saying write [as] soon as you read [this] and give me all the news. Turn over.

Caroline, I sent you a song ballad in the other letter I wrote. I would send you all some now but I hadn’t got none. It was Sunday when I came through Richmond and the stores was shut up. I want you and Carlinda or Margaret to write me all about the times and how Martha gets along. Tell Miss Elisabeth Oates that I put postage stamps on her letter and sent it on.

— R. J. Wear

 

 

1864: J. Henry Hine to Elizabeth Hine

This letter was written by J. Henry Hine (1843-19xx), the son of Joseph Hine (1809-1878) and Rebecca Ann Hill (1812-1890). Joseph was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and came to Mount Washington, Hamilton county, Ohio in 1832, where he married and took up farming. Joseph and Rebecca Hine may have had other children but there were only two enumerated in their household in both the 1850 and 1860 US Census Records—Lizzie, born in 1836, and Thomas, born in 1838. From service records we know that Thomas enlisted on 20 July 1861 in Co. D, 39th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). His numerous Civil War letters are posted on-line at Bull Dog Fighting. Lizzie (1836-1915) never married. She is buried in Salem Heights Cemetery in Hamilton county, Ohio, with her parents.

J. Henry Hine was 21 years old when he entered the federal service on 2 May 1864 as a sergeant in Co. H, 138th Ohio Infantry (National Guard). This 100 Days Regiment left Ohio for Washington, D.C., on May 14. They were on picket duty at Harper’s Ferry, W. Va., from 16-22 May, and then reached Washington on May 22 where they were attached to 1st Brigade, DeRussy’s Division, 22nd Army Corps. They were then assigned to garrison duty at Forts Albany, Craig and Tillinghast, Defenses of Washington, south of the Potomac, till June 5. They then moved to White House Landing. Va., on June 5 where they performed picket and guard duty till June 16. They then moved to Bermuda Hundred, Va., on June 16 and were assigned to the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 10th Army Corps, Army of the James. Picket and fatigue duty at Bermuda Hundred, Point of Rocks, Broadway Landing and Cherrystone Inlet till August. Sgt. Hine mustered out with his regiment on September 1, 1864.

aacivhimey95

TRANSCRIPTION
Addressed to Miss Elizabeth Hine, Mt. Washington, Hamilton Co., Ohio
Postmarked Old Point Comfort, VA

“Camp Shady” near Broadway, Va.
July 7th 1864

Dear Sister Lib,

Your letter was one of the good things that helped to while away the Fourth of July. I was down to the post commissaries on Saturday and did not get your letter until I had read one from Delilah about the same time as yours. You owe me no apologies for not writing although I should have been glad to received one from you at least once a week. I have a much better idea of the disadvantages that soldiers labor under so far as keeping up a regular correspondence is concerned for in more than one instance I have been compelled to drop pen or pencil to perform some duty ordered by the powers that be—and when time permitted to return to my notes, not only all my ideas, but frequently paper and all, were gone, of course, by the unkind assistance of some light fingered friend. It seems to be the ruling passion to take anything that falls in the way of some mens fingers. This is not so much the case in our own company as many of the others composing our Regiment. We have been quartered a good portion of the time among the Old Vets and few of them have any consciences [or] scruples. I cannot blame them much for no one knows the hardships and privations they have endured. And it is but natural they should envy us the little conveniences and comforts we have. In fact, the hundred day men are not looked upon with much favor by the vets. There are some exceptions for I have talked with many who say that we are entitled to a share of whatever success Grant may gain over the Johnnies (even though we may not fire a single gun). Well, though we may not return home covered with much glory, I have no doubt we shall return covered with dirt—or it may be with “gray backs.” And yet up to this time we have not been troubled much with them. I shall hope by much scrubbing with a plentiful application of soap and water to make good my escape.

You say the heat is intolerable at Rural Choice. So it is here, yet me manage to survive by indulging in all the drinks of the season, come at able in the Army. The marches that you dread so much so far as the 138th Regiment is concerned have not amounted to more than forty miles since we have been in the service. It is claimed for us that we have traveled a greater number of miles in fewer days than any other Regiment ever has since the war began.

We are longing for rain. There has not been a drop of rain fell since we left Parkersburg except one little shower some six weeks ago which was hardly sufficient to lay the dust. I have no doubt you are longing for the appearance of “Jake” Beenlzoine and equipment on the North porch. Indeed, I should like to be there and I hardly think black looks would cause me to beat a hasty retreat.

I expect it will be as well to say here that I am enjoying the best of health and as far as I know our boys are well as can be, not more than twelve or fifteen on the Sick List out of the entire Regiment. We have become so accustomed to hearing cannonading that it has lost all novelty and I think no more of it than I should at home to hear a clap of thunder during a storm. We are beginning to think of home and some are counting the days we have to remain. I hoped when we came out that Richmond would be taken before we were marched home. I have my doubts about its being accomplished so soon. Should not wonder if it took our One Hundred Days yet to accomplish the work. That Grant will succeed, no one doubts—but it will take time. I think the hardest fought battle will be near Petersburg.

Have you ever heard from Cleveland? I saw him as we passed through Western Va. He was stationed at New Creek then. I should like to know the number of his Regiment and where it is stationed. I expect Jno. Mears can tell. How are all the folks in Salem? How is Uncle Berry getting along with his house? Are the prospects encouraging for the church’s completions. Company H has some few grumbling in its ranks, and no doubt I come in for a share of their silly charges of injustice being imposed on them. My conscience is clear, however, for I have only obeyed orders, and have endeavored to deal impartially with all. Some have written him yarns about the officers and messes, that I think had better never been said or written. Some of them holding positions in the church and society of our neighborhood that I had thought would scorn to misrepresent the truth. It is hard for some men to come under command. I think the besetting sin in my case has been that I had money enough with you to buy whatever I wanted and was liberal enough to do so. Some whom I thought friends are the greatest growlers. Should I ever again go into the service, even though but for one hundred days. I should not want more than two or three acquaintances in this Regiment. Then I should expect to grant no favors nor ask for any. But enough of this.

When do you hear from Tommy? And how are the boys of Company D? I wrote him to send his letters to me as usual so you can read them should Delilah get any. How is Mother on the question of Subs? How does Brother Maddy stand it with you all now? Understand he does not preach the “Last Man” and “last dollars” since he escaped the conscription by [Gov.] Johnny Brough. There are several other diseased individuals about Mt. Washington that we have had no tidings from since we left Camp Denison. I hoped some of the Loyal Gals would present them with a P______s.  How is George getting along with his crop? Tell him I have not secured a partner for him yet. Most of the Nigs in this country are of the yaller kind and would not suit him. Colter has one that he will bring home.

I scribbled the foregoing down last night intending to draw it off. I find I have not time to do so. Must therefore ask you to excuse all mistakes. Hoping this may find you all well and happy, I will close this by asking you to write whenever you have time to do so.

Truly yours, — J. H. Nine

 

1862: Theodore Norton Hyde to Parents

This letter was written by 19 year-old Theodore N. Hyde (1843-1863) of Co. C, 9th Iowa Infantry to his parents. The letter has no date, but was probably written in mid June 1862 as the regiment prepared to leave Batesville and make the 20 mile march to Jacksonport, on its way towards Helena where it arrived in mid-July. During this march across north Arkansas, “the weather was very warm and dry, and the troops suffered greatly from the heat, dust and thirst, and, on the latter part of the march, from insufficient rations. For five weeks of this time the army was cut off from all communication but fortunately no considerable body of the enemy was encountered and it at last arrived safely at Helena.”

Theodore Hyde was the eldest child of Ambrose Hulbert Hyde (1814-1899) and Eunice Ann Lewis (1819-1900) from Quasqueton, Buchanan county, Iowa. The couple were married in 1841 and made their way west to Iowa by 1853. Theodore enlisted with the 9th Iowa Infantry on 25 September 1861 and served with his regiment until he was killed in the fighting on Missionary Ridge on 25 November 1863.

TRANSCRIPTION

Camp near Batesville [Arkansas]
[June 1862]

Dear Parents,

Once more I pen a few lines saying I am quite well. I have not been sick except a cold. It has settled in my head and turned into a catarrh similar to Uncle Frank’s. I am in hopes that I can get where I can have right course of treatment. The Regimental Surgeon is worth nothing at all. He is universally disliked by officers & men. His miserable treatment of our wounded showed what he is—he is a regular scoundrel and they have been trying to get [him] out, but we can’t. ¹

The weather is awful hot and dry. We leave for Jacksonport tomorrow I expect.

Some of our transports in company with two of our gunboats, were coming up White River to Jacksonport. The gunboats were ahead. Just as they had passed a rebel battery, [it] opened fire on the transports. A ball went through the boiler of the City [of] Alton and scalded 136 of our men. ² The men jumped overboard and tried to save themselves. One of our gunboats dropped down the stream, landed troops, surrounded them, took the battery—three 44-pounders, [and] killed every man but two or three.

Jacksonport is situated at the junction of Black & White Rivers—not a very nice place, but it does a great deal of business situated at the head of navigation. Sugar good article for 7 & 10 cents. ³ When we get down there—if I can get a chance—I shall send home a[n] overcoat of mine. It is good and I do not like to lug it around and get it spoilt for it is a good U. S. government coat. If I can get the chance, I shall send home some groceries to you. We have lots of apples, plums and will soon have peaches. We have had a good many new potatoes.

Last Friday we started out on a forage expedition in company with Co. G of the Ninth Iowa, Co. K & C of the 4th Iowa Cavalry, and 39 wagons. We were gone three days. We went over the roughest country I ever saw. We filled all of our wagons. We went out about 30 or 40 miles is all we took by paths and roads to find our corn. Some had it hid and then said they had none. Such men we took it from without paying for it and they cannot get any pay till they give bonds for good behavior and take the oath.

We have got a new Captain—Dr. R.W. Wright of Independence. Capt. [Hiram C.] Bull had been promoted to Major in the regular Army, ranking as Major.

Direct your letters to Theodore N. Hyde, 9th Iowa, care Capt. Wright, Co. C, Vandever’s Brigade, Gen. Curtis Division.

Write soon,

Your affectionate son, — Theodore

Father and Mother, pray for me that I prove faithful. Kiss the children for me and tell them to be good. Excuse all mistakes for it is so warm I can hardly write. Wheat is all harvested and a good deal of it threshed. U. S. pays one dollar per bushel for wheat.


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Benjamin McClure “is universally disliked by officers & men” wrote Pvt. T. N. Hyde.

¹ Benjamin McClure (1824-1894) was the Regimental Surgeon of the 9th Iowa Infantry at the time. According to the Directory of Deceased American Physicians, McClure received his degree from the Harvard Medical School in 1852 and set up his Allopathic practice in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1856. 

² Surprisingly I cannot find an account of this incident leading me to wonder if it was actually the steamer City of Alton or some other transport.

³ Jacksonport, Arkansas, had previously served as a supply center for General Van Dorn’s troops prior to the Battle of Shiloh when it was abandoned. When the Confederate army evacuated the town, they attempted to destroy the stockpile of supplies they had stored in Jacksonport which included a very large supply of sugar. It is reported that they rolled the barrels into the streets and emptied them until sugar was “two or three inches deep in the principal street for a distance of one or two blocks.”  Apparently they did not destroy it all, however, as there seemed to be no shortage by the time the Union troops arrived in the city.