1863: James M. Thompson to Mrs. Margaret A. Younger

This letter was written by James M. Thompson (1845-1894) of Co. C, 46th Georgia, to his mother, Margaret A. Scott (1821-1892). After Margaret’s first husband, James W. Thompson, died, she married John Younger (1800-1854). She was a widow residing in Columbus, Georgia, during the Civil War. The letter is datelined Camp Pendleton, which helped guard Charleston, South Carolina. The letter is of particular interest in that it mentions the use of a negro as a Confederate spy, who was alleged to have been paid $1000 to buy his freedom if he returned from Hilton Head with information about the Union troops and fleet there. Unfortunately I have not been able to confirm the validity of this report.

The following biographical notes come from the Columbus State University Archives which contains a collection of scanned Thompson Family Letters:

“James M. Thompson was born about 1845 and died on February 3, 1894 in Columbus, Georgia. Henderson, Vol. IV, p. 956 gives the Civil War record of James M. Thompson, in Co. C, 46th Georgia Infantry Regiment out of Muscogee County. His widow, Elizabeth (Lizzy) Amanda Parkman Thompson (1844-1922), applied for a Confederate widow’s pension in 1910.

According to the 1850 census, the Thompson family was living in Columbus at household no. 509. The family included Margaret A. Thompson, 29, born in SC, Malvina C., aged 8, born in Georgia and James M, aged 5, also born in Georgia, and William H. Thompson, 17, a carpenter, born in Florida.

In the 1870 City Directory for Columbus James M. Thompson, age 25, was working in a cotton mill and living with his wife Elizabeth 25, and children Hattie T., aged 3 and Clifton M., aged 3/12 months) old. James’ mother, Margaret A. Younger aged 48, was also in Columbus with her daughter, Malvina C. Johnson, aged 25, and her son Eddy, aged 2.

In the 1880 census, Thompson was across the river living in Brownville, Alabama, the mill village that became the northern part of present-day Phenix City, then located in Lee County, Alabama. He was listed as James T. Thompson 35, working in cotton mill, wife Amanda E, and children Hattie T, Clifton M., aged 11, Charles E. aged 8, Elizabeth M., aged 5, and James W., aged 2. James’ mother Margaret was listed in Columbus in 1880 as M E Younger, 59, living with daughter N. C. Johnson 37, and grandson J. E. Johnson, 12.”

After the Civil War, James M. Thompson returned to Columbus, Georgia, where he married Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Amanda Parkman (1843-1922) in 1866 and pursued a career as a machinist. What the biographical note above does not tell you is that as the years rolled by, James Thompson came to abuse alcohol and when he drank, he became abusive to his wife and children. In 1894, James was killed by his 23 year-old son, Cliff Thomson (a deaf mute), who came home to find his father attacking his mother.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent.]



Camp Pemberton
Charleston, South Carolina
February 28th 1863

Mrs. M. A. Younger
My own dear Mother,

Yours of the 25th and also Aunt Lizzie’s came to hand and I was glad to hear from you all. I am on guard today and will finish tomorrow morning if nothing happens to prevent me.

Sunday morning and I have just come off guard and cleaned my gun and washed and will now resume my letter to you. There is not much news to write so I will have to fill it up with something else. I stood guard 4 hours last night in the hardest kind of a rain all the time so you know that I do not feel very much like writing.

There was two vessels ran in this port last night from Nassau. They come in pretty often now. I sent the box by express and sent the receipt by mail. I hope you will get them. I don’t know if anyone’s coming now so you can wait awhile and not send it by express. I don’t need them right now. You need not send the socks yet as I have a plenty to do me awhile yet. I will write to Aunt Lizzie before long.

The Yankees did not attack us at the appointed day but it wont be long before it will begin as they are making every preparation for an attack. They are carrying iron down to Hilton Head and are cladding their gunboats down there. The Authorities here gave a Negro $1,000 and his freedom to go to Hilton Head as a spy and return. He got back a day or two ago. He said they had about 70,000 troops down there so you see that they are preparing to attack this place and Savannah both but it will not do them any good as the Mayors of both places will fight them from house to house before they shall have either place.

Remember me to all of my friends and acquaintances and my love to all of the relations. My love to Maria, Manny, and all of the blacks. I must close now as it is getting near dinner or beef time as the boys call it. My love to sister Ebba, William, and Mr. Johnson and reserve a large share for yourself and believe  me as ever your affectionate son & soldier boy, — J. M. Thompson

P. S. You know that a letter is not complete without a P. S. So write soon. I write twice a week regular. Goodbye, — Bud

John says when the interest of his letters get up pretty high, he will take the insolvent oath. As you see you can’t make much out of him. — Bud


1864: Henry Raubenstine to Michael Fox

Henry Robenstine’s Headstone

This letter was written by 28 year-old Henry (“Hank”) Raubenstine [Robenstine] (1836-1916), the son of Samuel Raubenstine (1804-1871) and Priscilla Dennius (1792-1871) of Stark county, Ohio. Henry was married on 3 March 1864 to Nancy L. Britton (1831-1877) and despite whatever differences the couple may have had at the time this letter was written three months after their marriage, they remained married after the war and raised at least three children together. A year after Nancy’s death, Henry married his second wife, Martha Covey (1843-1911) who bore him six more children. A farmer by profession, Henry left Ohio for Amoy, Hillside county, Michigan, in the late 1860s and remained there the rest of his life.

Hank wrote his letter to his brother-in-law, Michael Fox (1817-1891), who took Hank’s younger sister, Eliza Ann Robenstine (1842-1925) as his second wife.

Hank wrote his letter while serving in Co. A, 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). The letter was written from the regiment’s encampment near Marietta, Georgia. The letter includes an envelope addressed to Hank’s father and postmarked November which is clearly not the same envelope the letter was mailed in.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Jean MacCallum and is published by express consent.]


Camp near Marietta, Georgia
June 3rd 1864

Dear brother-in-law,

Having received your letter several days ago, I will now make a brief reply. Under the present circumstances, folks at home must excuse short letters as we are and have labored under a hard and long campaign and the hardest I think is yet to come. At present, we are perhaps five hundred yards from the rebs main works. Two days ago we made an assault on their works but we were repulsed with heavy loss. How soon we will attempt it again, I know not, but I think if we make another charge on them that we will make them come under for we are not to be unsuccessful in every attempt we make.

Since I wrote to you, we have had some rough and hard fighting but we made our points and cleaned the rebs. We made one charge at night and drove them one mile with scarcely any loss on our side.

I will tell you how we get along here with the rebels when we are on picket. Our pickets and the rebs pickets are only a few rods apart—each party having their picket station fortified so none is exposed to any fire. When we are on picket and don’t want to shoot at them, we tell them so. Then if both sides agree, why we set down our guns and they do the same. Then we commence trading with the rebs. We trade coffee and crackers with them for tobacco and soon after we get tired of trading, we sit together and talk the same as though we were some relation. Sometimes, or about two times a day, we have a fall out with them when we get mad at them. Why we call out to them, “Hunt your holes for we are going to shoot.” Then as soon as they get in their works and after that, if we see any of them poke up their heads, why we shoot at them and keep it up till we make another compromise with them.

When they get made at us, then they call out, “Yanks, hunt your holes for we are going to shoot awhile. Then of course we return the compliment. One thing is when we are talking with them, we never fire before we give them notice, and they do the same. Sometimes they shoot, then ask us if any of us was hit and so on. We have plenty of fun with them sometimes—that is, till we get mad at one another.

When you get this, write and tell my folks to write more for we can’t write very often now. Please read this to them. I’ll say nothing about my wife for she don’t write to me and hereafter I’ll write no more to her, and I’ll never keep house with her if I get out of the service alright for I have been  humbugged enough with her and some of her friends. I’ll let them know that I ain’t no damn fool—that’s all.

We are well and in good spirits and hope you are all enjoying the same. We may have some hard fighting yet and we may not. There is no telling.

Give my love to your neighbors and to all that may enquire about me. Read this to my folks and tell them not to worry for us. Tell Morris that I saw Alpheus a few hours ago and he is alright.

Direct to Marietta, Georgia
Company A, 19th Reg. OVI
Third Brigade, Third Division, 4th Army Corps

No more. Your brother, — Hank

Write soon.

1862: Frank J. Weston to his Aunt

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1st Massachusetts Cavalry Pin

This letter was written by Frank J. Weston, a 19 year old machinist from Chicopee, Massachusetts, when he enlisted as a bugler  in Co. F, 1st Mass. Cavalry on 7 September 1861. He was mustered out on 18 September 1864.

In his letter, Frank describes being taken prisoner on 5 September 1862 at Poolsville, Maryland, while the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry was attached to Brig. Gen. Alfred Pleasanton’s Cavalry Brigade. He tells her that he was treated “very kindly” by Ashby’s Cavalry which was more than he could say for the way he was treated by U. S. doctors after he was paroled. The company muster rolls indicate Frank was back with his regiment in November & December 1862.


Camp of Parole near Annapolis, Md.
September 23rd 1862

My Dear Aunt,

Your kind letter was received this morning, and I hasten to answer it. We left Beaufort about the 20th of August and came to Washington and on the 5th of this month I was captured by the rebels. I was carried to the rear and paroled, but I was compelled to remain in their hands 3 or 4 days on account of a bullet wound on the side of my head. I was then sent to this place. Your letter probably went to Beaufort and then to my regiment, which will account for my not receiving it before, but I don’t think that it will take this letter quite as long to get to its destination. I hope it will not, as you must have given up all hopes of ever hearing from me.

I was captured by the noted 5th Virginia—Ashby’s Cavalry—while my company was doing picket duty. They were mostly Virginians and were a good looking and well appearing set of men, and I will say that I was treated very kindly by them while in their hands, and that is more than a good many prisoners can say of them. And it is also more than I can say of the U. S. doctors who had care of me afterwards. The short time that I was with the rebels, they gave me a good bed to sleep on in Poolesville, Md., good food to eat, and plenty of it. But when I got inside of our lines, I had to sleep on the bare ground and thought myself lucky if I got half a dozen hard crackers per day to eat. But where I am now we have plenty to eat and nothing to do.

There is about 10 or 15,000 paroled prisoners in camp here. They are under no control whatever and of course they make some havoc in the surrounding corn and potato fields. Yesterday they attacked the sutler’s establishment and in half an hour there was not a piece of board left as large as my hand.

That miniature that you sent me was a very good one and I am very thankful for it. I lost several valuable ones when I was captured. I had them in my haversack and I will send this one home to insure its safety when I write to Father next. I have not had a letter from Joe, but would like to very much. Neither have I heard from LeRoy yet, although I have written to him several times.

I hope the war will soon be over as I have got about tired of a soldier’s life, and I think the President will push it right to a close as soon as possible. Give my love to Uncle Nelson and the children, and believe me to be your affectionate nephew,— Frank J. Weston

1863: Nathaniel Eugene Wordin to Nellie C. Wordin

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Nathaniel Eugene Wordin in later years

This letter was written by Nathaniel E. Wordin (1844-1915), the son of Nathaniel Sherwood Wordin (1813-1889) and Frances Augusta Leavenworth (1812-1892) of Bridgeport, Connecticut. In 1860, when Nathaniel was 16 years old, his parents sent him to attend a school conducted by his uncle, the Rev. Mr. Leavenworth, in Petersburg, Virginia. He managed to get on the last steamer to run the blockade out of Richmond in 1861. The following year, on 29 August 1862, he enlisted in Co. I, 6th Connecticut Infantry as a private. He was promoted to Corporal on Apr. 27, 1864, and spent much of the war employed as a clerk and orderly to Colonel Chatfield. He mustered out on June 3, 1865.

At the time of writing this letter, he was detailed from his company as Clerk for the Post Inspector. He was among the first to enter Richmond, Va. after it fell, and as clerk, he drew up the order of General Shepley, establishing Martial Law in occupied Richmond.After the war, he studied medicine, and became a prominent Physician in Bridgeport.


Addressed to Miss Nellie C. Wordin, No. 144 State Street, Bridgeport, Ct.

Inspector’s Office
Hilton Head, South Carolina
November 19th 1863

Dear Sister,

You may be surprised to see the place from which this is dated. Let me now tell you never to wonder at all at anything that may happen to me. That soldier is the best who obeys orders with the greatest efficiency, and to obey orders, is what I am here for. My situation now is about the same as when I wrote you last. A Special Order from Post Head Quarters detailed me as clerk of Capt. Metcalf, Post Inspector. His office is about as far from camp as Dr. Porter’s from our house. I eat and sleep in the same place that I did before, and have the exercise of walking to and from camp 4 times each day, in sand up to my ankles. I have charge of the office, keep the key, open & shut, &c., do no business after 3 P.M. unless of my own wish. Occasionally have to go to different camps on the Island, and mark tents or any other articles that may have been condemned as unfit for service. Capt. Metcalf, the Inspector, is a very fine man indeed. He belongs to the 3rd R. I. Heavy Artillery—has recently been appointed Major of that Regiment. If Mrs. Penfield was troubled lest I should interfere at all with Ben, she may at once dissolve her fears. Ben is for the present out of danger, My place as good as I ask for. Have more time to myself than when I was in the Adjutant’s office.

The Fulton arrived Tuesday. Her mail was a very large one and I did not get your letter until the next morning. I somewhat expected the Lieut. on her, and did not write to him by the Arago‘s mail. He will be on the next steamer. He was expecting Mrs. Duryee to accompany him, but the Colonel has heard from her [and] she is not coming down. I have made complaints home that I did not hear from you often enough, and I felt that such was the case; but it was when I first got here and was feeling the want of my clothes, and anxious to know how you felt about my sudden and unceremonious departure. Now, a part of my clothes are here. I hear from home by nearly every regular steamer and I am satisfied. Ben wrote by the last mail—also last week. His mother had become tired of waiting for him and sent word that if he could not write, I must do it for him. I should certainly have done it just for a joke, but had no time. As to your enquiries  about him, I would say that he is in first rate health but there are signs of silken hair growing on his chin which trouble him some and make him very uneasy. There have been two clerks in the office beside himself so you can judge that he is not very busy. Most adjutants have but one clerk—ours has three. In going from my tent to his, I have to walk about as far as you would in going from the back porch to the front or south door of the wood house and vice versa. As regards my place of abode, you Northern folks seem to have no idea of what a fine place it is, or of what fine quality of furniture we use. Our chairs are just as good as any in your dining room—a great deal better looking anyhow.

Had that company box arrived with the one who had it in charge as it should have done, I would have received my things more than two weeks ago; but the fellow left it in New York and Ben will bring it on with him. The receipt of the other one, I acknowledged some time ago. If it is not too late, I would like to say be careful and put the right buttons on my blouse; such as were on the other. If there are none of those in the house, use those very large ones that you will find in the right hand corner of the upper drawer in my room. On each side of each leg of my pants, put two buttons on the inside for fastening them down with straps, in case I have a chance to ride horse back. Put in two leather straps of about the right length to easily under my boots. I want as good a ruler as you can find in the city—a black, gutta percha one, made to rule with both edges if you can find it. Also a ruling pen. That you will find at Lewis’ for 4 or 5 shillings. If you can, send them by return mail and charge to my account.

Lieut. Col. [Daniel C.] Rodman of the 7th Connecticut has received the appointment of Colonel of the 6th. The question as to who was to receive the honor is at last settled. But those in the 6th, though knowing that he is very brave and in every way qualified for the position, would much rather it would have been given to someone in the Regiment. Lt. Colonel—or rather Colonel Rodman—has not yet recovered from the severe wounds received at [Fort] Wagner, and still goes on crutches. I suppose he will not assume command at present. The Regiment was inspected today by Major Metcalf. Everything and everybody are looking first rate. Great improvements have been made, both in the men and the camp, and you would judge from the numerous buildings that we calculated to remain an indefinite time.

It is very gratifying to hear from home and to know that I am remembered by distant friends, Glad you correspond with Sally and hope you will keep it up. When next you write, send my kind regards, love, or whatever is proper. Do Nan or Bell ever write? I suppose Nan things I have given up all ideas of writing to her, but shall get at it one of these days. Has Annie Wright yet stopped on her way back? Do you hear from her often? How is she? What does she say? You have often heard her speak of Louise Eaton. Her brother is a 1st Lieutenant in Co. B this regiment. In the line, it is first to the right of Company I—a pretty hard company.

I should hardly know that there was such a paper as the Standard published did I not see copies that are sent to the Adjutant. He has one or more of the weeklies by every steamer. Had not seen an entire list of the drafted until he showed it to me. Did not know of the presentation of a saber to Lt. Hotchkiss before I saw it in his paper. Would like it very well if you could contrive to occasionally send me a copy.

Speaking of the drafted in Bridgeport, it could hardly have been better, taking as a general thing, those who are opposed to going; and as for Will Mead & Warden, I begin to think I am most as patriotic as Artemus Ward. He says he is willing to sacrifice the best blood of his able bodied cousins for the war. I begin to think that I can do the same thing.

The Regiment was paid off last Saturday. I received 52 dollars. I send enclosed 40 of them, which Father can deposit with the other 80, or use to supply my wants, according as they are more or less, and as he sees fit to do. As I do not know how long before we shall again get our allotment of greenbacks, 12 dollars will not be any too much for me [to] retain.

The bearer is Alfred Beers of whom I have spoken before. He has received a furlough for thirty days and has kindly… [end of letter missing]

1862: Unidentified Rhode Island Private

I have not been able to verify the identity of this soldier who signed his name “Allie” which was a nickname often used by young men named Albert. He wrote the letter to a woman named “Adda” (most likely short for Adeline) who was probably his sister.

From the content of the letter, I am pretty certain that Allie served in the 7th Rhode Island Infantry which was organized at “Camp Bliss” (mentioned near the end of the letter) in the fall of 1862. Two regiments are mentioned—the 21st and 35th Massachusetts—who were brigaded with the 7th Rhode Island and were known to be camped together near White Sulphur Springs in mid-November 1862. Allie seems to be uncertain of the date as it is somewhat illegible, —either 13 November or 18 November. I transcribed another letter by a member of the 7th Rhode Island some time ago that was datelined from there on the 18th. (See Letter No. 6 dated 18 November 1862 written from Camp near White Sulphur Springs, Virginia, by William Henry Jordan, 7th Rhode Island Infantry). There were a half dozen or more privates in the regiment named Albert but I failed to single one out as the author.

Since he suggests that his sister send his boots to him by anyone coming to the 21st or 35th Massachusetts, most likely his sister was residing in Boston, instead of with their family, when he wrote this letter. She may have been older and married.


Camp near White Sulphur Springs, Va.
November 13th 1862

Dear Ada, Sis,

My last letter from home was rec’d more than a week ago. It was mailed Oct. 28th and rec’d Nov. 3rd; came right through. I have had some tramping since then to do. We have marched every day since Nov. 1st, but one, and then our company was on picket duty. By the way, picket duty is not so bad as you might think, for unless surprised (which is not often) there is not much danger. We found a small drove of calves about 1 year old and took 3 of them, which divided among 40 men made us quite well off for a day or two. Our living while on the march is such as I like, although there are some rather funny times.

We have more fresh meat than salt, and each man or mess cook their own, so we live as well as we can. We find some vegetables sometimes, and meal, apples, corn and other things, and as we have plenty of coffee and sugar. We get along nicely. We can have a change of living most every day. We have not rec’d any hard bread for two days and most of the men in the regiment have nothing but salt pork and coffee now, but we expect bread tonight, and our mess (4 of us) have had a little bread, some meal and corn, so that we have lived pretty well. Now don’t neither laugh nor cry, for such living is just what suits me to a T. We cook for ourselves and have an appetite for it after it is done. Each one has a tin plate, cup, knife, fork and spoon, and we must cook and eat with them or not at all. In the mess, one generally cooks meat, another the Coffee, and another the lobscouse, which is hard bread broken up and soaked soft, and then cooked with grease and salt to eat with the meat.

We are now camped in the woods and the rebels are throwing shells within 2 miles of us, but there is not much danger of any fight. They simply drove in our pickets and as soon as we show ourselves, they will take to their heels.

Our regiment probably will not stir today nor do I think we shall have any fighting to do yet awhile—if we do at all. I like this camping in the woods better than at Camp Bliss. We gather leaves for a bed and have plenty of wood for fires, and live well when we can, and when we can’t, why then we get along as best we can. My good luck still continues. I have good health, good boys for a mess, and generally get along as easy as any of them. The Orderly [Sergeant] is a good friend to me, as well as some officers in other companies—both commissioned and non com’d.

But I must stop for tis time for the mail to close and I want to send this tonight. We shall not get paid off probably till the 1st of January. If you keep your eyes open, you will probably find some persons coming out to the 21st or 36th [Massachusetts] Regiments. by whom you can send me my boots, and you need not send any pistol, for I have all I can carry. My health is good. Love to you and all friends,

Yours ever, —Allie

1862: G. W. Johnson to Margaret Johnson

I have not been able to learn the identity of this Confederate soldier who wrote his wife from Little Rock, Arkansas, on 19 December 1862. From his letter we know his regiment had previously been east of the Mississippi (which tells us it was most likely one of the regiments formed in 1861) and that they had just arrived in Little Rock—still under Confederate control. We know his wife’s name was Margaret but we really can’t even be certain that he was a resident of Arkansas. His signature appears to be “G. W. Johnson” to me but others have read it as “”J. W. Johnson.”


Little Rock, Arkansas
December the 19th 1862

Dear Wife,

It is with pleasure that I take my pen in hand this morning to let you know that I am well and I hope when this comes to hand, they may find you enjoying the same good blessing.

Dear Wife, we was ordered across the Mississippi River, but when we got here to Little Rock, we got orders to stop till further orders, and it is the talk that we will go to Fort Smith, Arkansas. I want you to let Mother have some money if she needs it. I want you to have your profile taken and send it to me. If you don’t have no chance to send it by hand, wait till I write to you where to send it to. Here is five dollars that I send you to keep. Nothing more at present, but remain you husband until death, — G.W. Johnson

[to] Margret Johnson

1860: Austin LaMonte to George Robert Adams

This letter was written by Austin LaMonte (1837-1918), the son of Thomas William LaMont (1803-1853) and Elizabeth Marie Payne (1811-1898) of Charlotteville, Schoharie county, New York. Austin wrote these two letters while in his senior year at the University of Michigan where he earned a allopathic medical degree in 1861.

At the time of the 1863 draft registration, Austin was enumerated in Hyde Park, Duchess county, New York, listed as a 26 year-old single doctor. In 1867, Dr. LaMonte was married to Sarah S. Berry (1844-1928).

The epitaph on Dr. LaMonte’s headstone reads, “For forty-five years he rode these hills sparing not himself to relieve the sufferings of others.”

The letters were addressed to “Friend George” —not otherwise identified—but we learn that George had matriculated at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, and so a review of the Alumni Record for that school revealed that Austin’s correspondent was George Robert Adams, Class of 1863. After his graduation from Wesleyan University, George became the principal of the Schoharie Academy while he studied law. He was admitted to the bar in 1866 and practiced law in Charlotteville, New York. He apparently did not marry the woman mentioned in the letters; he was married in 1866 to Emma E. Fenton of Johnstown, New York.

These two letters capture the mood of the divided nation in the days leading up to the eruption of hostilities.


Ann Arbor, Michigan
November 27, 1860

My Friend George,

Your letter came to hand this day. You may judge of my happiness in hearing from you by the haste I make to reply. I did not know where you were. I had written home and asked where you were but I could never learn. So be sure I will excuse you. I can do no better. But I hope you will find time to write hereafter.

I am very glad you have entered college under such favorable circumstances. I see your name is on the programme of the exhibition. I have no doubts of your success on that occasion. But I wish you had have come here instead of going to the Wesleyan University. I think you would have liked it here. All the classes here are very full this year—much more so the last term. When the catalogue is out, I will send you one. I hope you are having a fine time of it during your vacation. I should like very much to see you and my friends at home. I was going to send regard to Miss Sizer but I am too late.

You speak of the result of the election and of politics. I think it poorly becomes you and your party to glory over the victory which you have won in the last election. When you look at what the expense has been and what disaster it has brought on the land—and what greater disaster it is so very likely to bring. It is your party who have done this by the promulgation of their doctrines, who have irritated the South until they are ready to sever the ties of this Union. It is your party who would deprive them of their rights which were guaranteed to them by the Constitution and now that it is done, you would throw it off onto the only party who ever made an effort to maintain the Union.

No, I am not a Republican and pray that I may never be so long as their doctrines are as they now are. You have been successful in electing a President but I hope you may not be as successful in driving the South from the Union for there could [be] no greater calamity fall on our common country and on the whole world. You [and your party] would be [to blame] if the hopes of freedom, if this the brightest and most prosperous of all the liberal governments should prove a failure thus early. I hope it may not be so.

No, George, I am not a Republican. I think too much of our common country—of the Fathers of our country—of truth, justice, and right to forsake what I believe to be right and take up for what I believe to be wrong, only for the sake of being on the strongest side. And I believe that if ever a party were right, it was the Democratic party in the last campaign. I don’t say that I think they never advocated foolish things but I think the principles of the party were just—just to both North and the South—and if they had been successful, would have saved a vast amount of property [and] friendship between the North & South, to say nothing of the blood which may be spilled and which must be if the Union be separated.

You cannot get rid of it, George, your party have done all this. You may try and throw it off on our party, but history and truth will do the Democratic party justice. What it will come to, the future only can tell. I hope it will not prove to be as bad as now to all appearances it will be. The patriots—both North and South—are trying to bring the people to sober thought. God help their efforts. We all think too much of our country to have it broken for a nigger. I have no doubts but that there are patriots who vote with the Republican party who when they come to think soberly at what they have done, will repent and will turn around and do all they can to remedy the matter, but it may be too late.

You cannot lay this calamity to the Democrats. They have acted nobly all through the North. Though they are vanquished, they did all they could and honor to whom honor is due. But you will think I am very patriotic. If you don’t like it, you must not read it.

But enough of this. You speak of hearing from Gilboa [New York]. May I ask what it is there which interests you? Perhaps Miss Stevins has returned to that place? If so, that will make it plain. But I had not learned of it. I hope she is well. I thought she was in Charlotteville all this time. I wish her very much happiness with health. I know of no more deserving.

But you say Kate is going to be married. Are you guessing or do you write advised. I have heard nothing of it more than those speaking of Mr. Steel. What do you know about him? Please write and tell me.

The weather has been quite cold here for a few days. Have had about six inches of snow, so that the sleighing is pretty good. I can hear the bells almost all the time. The snow is much earlier than common. Most likely it will not stay long.

I am attending lectures—four per day. Am in the graduating class and expect to be an M. D. next spring. What do you say?

I am not married. That subject is the last one thought of by me so far as I am concerned though I do think if you and Miss Stevin from time to time. But I must close. Please write soon. Truly your friend, — Austin La Monte.


Ann Arbor, Michigan
December 29, 1860

My Friend George,

Your kind letter came to hand yesterday for which I am very much obliged. Am very glad to hear of your prosperity and happiness and shall ever think it a pleasure to hear from you. We are having vacation now between the holidays. A large portion of our class are home spending them while we who have remained are writing and preparing for the final examination. We only have eight days.

The catalogue is not yet out but will be in a few days. When it is, I will send you one.

The sleighing is fine here now. I have not had any real sleigh rides yet nor do I know that I shall have any.

You ask me which I should like to have triumph—slavery or freedom. Why, you should know I should choose freedom. But I cannot see why you should say one or the other must triumph to the overthrow of the other. I cannot see why you should take that as a fact beyond dispute. I know that a very eminent man said it would be so, but he did not prove it and it has not been proven. Don’t freight so much on a bubble. The bubble may not prove worthy of the cargo. But suppose one or the other must give way; who would ever say that in this century freedom would give way to slavery—none! No sane man! Why then the cry slavery is going to overturn the free institutions of the North. Why? to make political capital of it. It has been done and you have elected a President. Were the North ever in fear of the South? If so, when within the last half century? But on the other hand the South have been in fear of the North and are now. And they have cause to be. The real thinking men of the North never dreamed of the time that slavery would ever again be established in the northern states, nor will it ever be, so long as our country lasts as a nation. Then, we were never in fear of slavery. Why do you ask me that question?

The North have steadily been gaining in power and wealth while the South have been losing ground and are every year becoming of less and less importance. What folly then to take off the subjection of the free North. The fear was all on the other side where it of right should be. And now we see the result of that fear in part. What it will come to, we shall see—perhaps. But I am getting political as you well see so I will change the subject hoping you will give the subject due thought and contemplation.

I am very happy to hear of your good fortune in the interest of Gilboa. I hope you may never have a less good fortune. I take it that you have matters pretty well arranged. How is it? I think you are very fortunate in attaining the favor of so fine a specimen of the better sex. I know not what she may think of me, but I am free to say I know of no lady of more virtues. You should cherish her friendship as a priceless value. May God bless and favor you in all worthy endeavors when by the form of the law you can claim her as your own. My wish is that happiness may fill your cup. Tupper says, “They who love early become like minded and the temper toucheth them not.”

Fortunate indeed is the man who obtains the favor of a noble specimen of the better part of the human race. You say in about five years, come with your wife and see a feller. Well I should be very happy to come and see you with my wife if I had one, but as I have none and cannot say I ever shall, I say it with pain, I cannot promise you. Let my fortune be what it may, I wish you all the happiness which ever fell to the fortune of a mortal. Perhaps you will think I am becoming foolish or cracked, but I think not and I think you will hear me out in the assertion. Once more, allow me to say to you, love and cherish her. Never allow yourself from pride or any of the [  ] passions of man to desecrate that fair temple of love.

Pardon me. I see I must close. Please write soon and if I have room on a large sheet of paper, I shall preach a sermon on love and matrimony. Please write very soon. Truly your friend, — Austin La Monte

In Dixie’s Sunny Land

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A Song Sheet published after the war by Johnson of Philadelphia

The following poem entitled “Dixie’s Sunny Land” is often attributed to Private John Lauffer (1846-1921) who survived the horrors of Andersonville and then went on the lecture circuit after the war to share his experiences with citizens who were eager to hear a first-hand account of prison-life. At least one of his descendants has claimed that the poem was written by Pvt. Lauffer whom they also say was not released from Andersonville Prison until May 2, 1865 and not mustered out of the service until 8 June 1865.

If indeed, Pvt. Lauffer wrote this poem, then he wrote it while still at Andersonville because the first published version of the poem that I’ve found in period newspapers was in the Star of the North (Bloomsburg, PA) on 19 April 1865—just ten days after Lee’s Surrender and with Johnston’s Army still in the field. This 1865 publication of the poem does not attribute it to any particular individual. In questioning Pvt. Lauffer as the author, I would also direct the reader’s attention to the last stanza of the poem that reads, “We landed at Annapolis…” which, for Lauffer, hadn’t even happened yet if the poem was written as early as April 1865.

I investigated the origins of this poem because I was offered a hand-written copy of the poem that clearly dates to the Civil War era but is undated and unsigned. This handwritten copy appears to have been copied from some source—most likely a newspaper. It reads:

Song of our Union prisoners

“Come friends and fellow soldiers brave,
Come listen to our song;
About the rebel prisons, and
Our sojourn there so long.
Our wretched state and hardships great,
No one can understand
But those who have endured this fate
In Dixie’s sunny land.

When captured by this “chivalry,”
They stripped us to the skin,
But failed to give us back again
The value of a pin —
Except those lousy rags of gray,
Discarded by their band,
And thus commenced our prison life
In Dixie’s sunny land.

With a host of guards surrounding us,
Each with a loaded gun.
We were stationed in an open plain,
Exposed to rain and sun.
No tent or tree to shelter us
We lay upon the sand,
Thus side by side great numbers died
In Dixie’s sunny land.

This was our daily bill of fare
In that secesh saloon:
No sugar, tea or coffee there,
At morning, night, or noon;
But a pint of meal, ground cob and all,
Was served to every man,
And for want of fire we ate it raw,
In Dixie’s sunny land.

We were by these poor rations, soon
Reduced to skin and bones;
A lingering starvation, worse
Than death we could but own.
Three hundred lay both day and night,
By far too weak to stand;
Till death relieved their sufferings,
In Dixie’s sunny land.

We poor survivors oft were tried
By many a threat and bribe,
To desert our glorious Union cause,
And join the rebel tribe;
Though fain we were to leave the place,
We let them understand
We’d rather die, than thus disgrace
Our flag, in Dixie’s land.

Thus dreary days and nights rolled by,
Yes, weeks and months untold;
Until the happy time arrived,
When we were all parolled.
We landed at Annapolis,
A wretched looking band,
But glad to be alive and free,
From Dixie’s sunny land.”



1864: John W. Shuster to Esign Chubb

These letters were written by John W. Shuster (1846-1916), the son of Peter Shuster (1802-1890) and Elizabeth Post (1804-1850) of Canfield, Mahoning county, Ohio.

John enlisted as a private in Co. K, 139th Indiana Volunteers (Hundred Days Regiment) on June 5, 1864. He mustered out on 29 September 1864 at Indianapolis.

John wrote the letters to his boyhood friend, Ensign Chubb (b. 1846), the son of Henry and Catherine Chubb of Canfield.


Addressed to Mr. Ensign Chubb, Canfield, Mahoning county, Ohio

Fort Jones
Lebanon Junction, Kentucky
June 26th 1864

Dear Friend,

I take my pen in hand to let you know that I am well and I hope that this will find you in the same state of health. I wrote to you before I left Ft. Wayne but I did not get any answer. I guess you know that I am in the army. I like it very well. We have been at this place 2 weeks. I guess we will stay here till our time is out. I hope you will have a good time on the 4th of July. I would like to spend it with you but I guess I will spend it here among the hills.

You must not think hard of me for not paying the postage on this letter. There is no stamps to be had here or I would have paid it. I wish you would tell Wallace Neff to write to me. I wrote to him before I left Indianapolis. Tell him where to direct his letters to.

This is all at present. Write soon. From your friend, — John W. Shuster

Direct your letter to  J. W. Shuster, Company K, 139th Indiana Reg., Lebanon Junction, Kentucky, in care of Capt. Slagel.


Addressed to Mr. Ensign Chubb, Canfield, Mahoning county, Ohio

Fort Jones
Lebanon Junction, Kentucky
July 19th 1864

Dear Friend,

I take my pen in hand to let you know that I am still alive and well and I hope that this will find you in the same fix. I received your good long and welcome letter last week and I was glad to hear from you. I would have answered sooner but so many of the boys are sick then we have so much guard duty to do that we don’t get much time for anything else.

We buried one of our boys on the 14th. He was sick with the typhus about 2 weeks. 4 others were sent to Munfordsville to the regular hospital. They were very sick when they were sent away. I don’t know how they are now. Part of the boys are down with the measles. For my part, I am as well as ever. I am getting fat and I believe that [I] weigh heavier than I ever did. You would hardly know me if you would see me in my suit of blue.

We had a pretty good time on the 4th. In the afternoon, the 2nd Ohio Battery fired a salute of 35 guns. The Captain sent to Louisville, Kentucky, for 2 kegs of beer which you may bet was drunk without any grumbling. I felt like Joe said Old Handwork had ought to be fixed sometimes.

Bushwhackers are as thick here as fiddlers in hell. Thy fired on our pickets twice now. The first night one of the tired heads got wounded but he crept in a swamp and we could not find him.

You said that you was of the same stripe you was. So am I and by the Eternal, I always will be. The Captain’s vote is good for McClellan and the biggest part of the [boys] are Democrats. Let me know if there is any prospect of electing Little Mac for we don’t hear anything atall here. If there is any chance, then I say Bully for Cox.

You said you would send me some stamps. You need not mind it for I can send my letters without stamps. This is all at present.

Write soon, — Shuster

Direct to Company K, 139th Indiana Vol., Lebanon Junction, Kentucky


1864: James Patrick Ramsey to Ensign Chubb

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James Patrick Ramsey (1895)

These letters were written by James Patrick Ramsey (1827-1912), the son of James Ramsey (1785-1859) and Abigail R. Synott (1790-1869) of Canfield township, Mahoning county, Ohio. He was married in 1851 to Rebecca Weaver (1833-1896) and together they had at least five children before James enlisted in Co. A, 125th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI)—aka the “Opdyke Tigers.” At the time of his enlistment in August 1862, James was living in Canfield township on a farm near the Chubb family. He wrote his letter to Ensign Chubb (b. 1846), the son of Henry and Catherine Chubb.

Ramsey was listed among the wounded during the fighting at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, in December 1864. He mustered out with his company, however, on 8 June 1865.

Reference book: Opdycke tigers, 125th OVI, by Charles T. Clark


Franklin, Tennessee
March 4, 1863

Dear SIr,

I received your letter and was glad to hear that you was well and that I am well at present and hope that these few lines will find you the same and I will tell you about the times we have down in secesh. We have had hard times. We hunt down here but we don’t hunt coon or opossum or mink but we hunt secesh. But we have to look out or they will shoot us first and we have to look out or they will hunt us first.

I will tell you the prices that the things are selling at here. Coffee is worth $1.25 cents per pound and sugar is worth $1 dollar per pound and butter is worth 75 cents per pound and cotton cloth is worth 75 cents per yard and Ketucky james [jeans] is worth $4 dollars per yard and tobacco is worth $2 dollars per pound and eggs worth 25 cents per dozen.

And I will tell you about the country. It is the best that I ever saw. Thet can raise cotton, tobacco, corn, wheat and everything that we can raise to the North.

We had a fight with the rebs and got defeated but they had fifteen thousand and we had about three thousand and then we got reinforced and then they run and we could not get them to fight but we run them to Columbia and then they crossed the river and our men came back and left them. The Boys are all middling well at present.

I wrote my wife a letter and I wrote Wm. Brooks a letter and I forgot to date it but you can tell him that it was the 13th of March—the same as yours.

The land is all covered with limestone and it is about as hilly as it is around in Ohio where we live. There is plenty of negroes here. They are a hard looking set of devils as you want to see. They come in by the hundreds and [we] ask them where they are a going and they [say] to Nashville. The people are all secesh here. They are Union as long as you are facing them but as soon as you turn your back, they are the secesh or the Devil. I do not know whether they ever will be Union or not.

I have heard that they are agoing to draft but I hope not. You can tell Rebecca that I have not got that box yet but I am agoing to see about it today and I forgot to tell you the price of salt. It is worth $75 dollars per barrel.

No more at present.

When you write to me again, direct your letters to Nashville, Tenn.

125th Regt. OVI, Co. A
or Co. A, 125 Reg. OVI to follow the regiment

Your affectionate friend, — James P. Ramsey



Camp near Franklin, Tennessee
April the 3rd 1863

Ensign Chubb, Sir,

I wrote you a letter the same time that I wrote to my wife. I take my pen to inform you that I am better today. I am better than I have been for two weeks. The times are middling good here now but they have been middling hard. There is plenty of negroes down here and plenty of Union men. There is about thirty thousand troops here. The country is almost ruined. The rebs have taken their living out and the Union men have taken the rest that is left and the people are hard up. Our men capture some of the rebs almost every day. They captured thirteen yesterday. The rebs have nothing to eat here but corn bread. The rich people have wheat flour but the rest have corn. They think that the war will end about the first of May but I think that it will last until next fall.

I will give you an account of the times down here and the prices of the things. The cotton cloth is worth 75 cents per yard and Kentucky janes [jeans] is worth 4 dollars per yard and calico is worth 60 cents per yard and coffee is worth 50 cents per pound and sugar is worth 50 cents per pound and salt is worth 75 dollars per barrel and all other articles in proportion. We have had hard times in the army. We have hard crackers and bacon and fresh beef and that is about all that we have. But the Boys are all in middling good health.

Jacob B. Calvin is dead and Samuel Kistler died April the first. There is a great many that has the diarrhea and the dysentery and the doctor cannot cure it. The land is the best that I ever saw. It is sandy soil and they can raise almost any kind of grain. They raise cotton, corn, wheat and tobacco. They can raise all that we can in the North and the timber is about the same that it is in Ohio—all but the Locust and Cedar and then there is what they call Red Bud and two or three other kinds that I have not heard the name. There is limestone and a hard sand stone. The peach trees has been in bloom about two weeks but it has been frosty and I think that it has hurt them.

The people have planted their corn, potatoes, and made their garden. The people around in this part are all Union as long as the Union men are around but as soon as they turn their backs, they are secesh. So I myst bring my letter to a close. You must excuse my bad writing and you must write as soon as you can. This is from your old friend. YOurs with respect, — James P. Ramsey

I send you some corn.


Addressed to Mr. Ensign Chubb, Dogstreet No. 1, Mahoney Co., Ohio

Camp in the field, Georgia
June the 8th, 1864

Mr. Ensign Chubb,

It is with pleasure that I take my pen to inform you that I am well and hope that this will find you the same. You say there is hard times in Ohio but they are nothing to the times that we have down in the army. We have the rebs to Atlanta and are resting now. We have had two hard fights with them and cleaned them out both times. Cornelius Infield was killed on the 7th on rocky ledge. He was [shot] through the head and there was fifteen killed and wounded—five killed and ten wounded—in our company in all that we have lost since we have started on this campaign.

Corn is almost knee high but the army takes it for fodder for the teams. The rebs are about done for this time and I hope it will end this summer and that I will get home safe and sound. This war is getting desperate for we fight to put the rebellion down this summer.

The weather is warm and there is plenty of rain but the country is not very good. The soil is thin. The timber is about the same as it is in Ohio except the pine and there is no sugar tree and there is very little beach timber.

We have hard times for it [is] so warm and our clothes is all woolen and it makes one sweat a great deal and sometimes we have to march middling hard and then it tries the men. We was under fire for ten days in the last fight that we had with the rebs and there was a great many killed and wounded.

I wrote a letter to my wife and dated it the 7th of May and it should have been the 7th of June and you can tell her so. I saw Jacob Lynn in the 124th OVI but I did not talk to him for he was marching and had not time to talk with me. The people have all gone south with the rebel army and there is no people at home. I expect there is some hot times about the election for the President. You must write as often as you can and I will do the same. There is no more news that I can think of this time.

From your old friend. Yours truly, — James P. Ramsey

I forgot to tell you that I got your letter that was dated the 28th of April. — James P. Ramsey


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Addressed to Mr. Esign Chubb, Canfield, Mahoning county, Ohio

Camp near Atlanta, Georgia
August the 21st 1864

Friend Ensign,

It is with the greatest of pleasure that I take my pen to inform you that I am well hoping this will find you the same. There is some hard times in the army and some that is easy but as to the shelling, it is awful to see the men shot down in the prime of life they way they are in the army. You have no idea how the war is carried on. It’s first the negro, and then comes the money, and then step around Mr. Private or you will get hell or something worse—and that is the way they do on the army.

The battles that has been fought in front of Atlanta has been hard. We was in one of them. It was a hard one and the rebs got the worst of it. They lost about three thousand killed and three times as many wounded and thy have fought four such battles since we have been here and yet they have a large army yet to contend with.

The crops are all gone for horse feed. The corn was middling good but there is none to be seen within ten miles of camp. The timber is not very good. It is the awfullest country for brush that I ever saw. It is like Church’s thicket all through the country. And the people have all gone to the south part of the state and the cleared land is not as plenty as it is in Ohio.

You said that the rebs had played the Old Harry ¹ in Pennsylvania—that they had burnt the half of Chambersburg. That is nothing for them to do. You ought to see the country that both of the armies has passed through. We have drove the rebs one hundred miles and there is nothing but one of breastworks after another all the way and we have fought over ever[y] foot of the ground. And I think that the war will close after the election—that is, if someone is put in besides Old Abe for there is to[o] much negro wool in him to stop the war.

I received your kind letter that was dated on the 7th and was glad to hear from you. I do not want you to kill all of them cranes and squirrels this fall for if I get through all safe and sound, I want to get home this fall and help you kill some of them. There is nothing more this time.

I remain yours as ever, — James P. Ramsey

¹ To play “Old Harry” means to make mischief or to cause ruin or serious damage. “Old Harry” was a nickname for the devil.




Saving History One Letter at a Time

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Saving History One Letter at a Time

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by Charles A. Frey

The Civil War Letters of William Kennedy

Co. B, 91st New York Infantry

The Glorious Dead

Letters from the 23rd Illinois Infantry, the 111th Pennsylvania Infantry, the 64th New York Infantry, and the 14th Pennsylvania Cavalry

Cornelius Van Houten

1st New Jersey Light Artillery

Letters of Charley Howe

36th Massachusetts Volunteers

Sgt. Major Fayette Lacey

Co. B, 37th Illinois Volunteers

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The Civil War Letters of Will Dunn

Co. F, 62nd Pennsylvania Volunteers

Henry McGrath Cannon

Co. A, 124th New York Infantry & Co. B, 16th New York Cavalry

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Co. H, 77th Illinois Volunteers

"Though distant lands between us be"

Civil War Letters of Monroe McCollister, Co. B, 6th OVC

"Tell her to keep good heart"

Civil War Letters of Nelson Statler, 211th PA

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14th Connecticut drummer boy's war-time correspondence with his mother

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Lt. Commander in the US Navy during the Civil War

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Fighting with the Irish Brigade during the Peninsula Campaign

"Till this unholy rebellion is crushed"

Letters of Dory & Morty Longwood, 7th Indiana

"I Go With Good Courage"

The Civil War Letters of Henry Clay Long, 11th Maine Infantry

"This is a dreadful war"

The Civil War Letters of Jacob Bauer, 16th Connecticut, & his wife Emily

Spared & Shared 16

Saving History One Letter at a Time

Lloyd Willis Manning Letters

3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, Co. I

The Yankee Volunteer

A Virtual Archive of Civil War Likenesses collected by Dave Morin

William Henry Jordan

Co. K, 7th Rhode Island Infantry

No Cause to Blush

The Bancroft Collection of Civil War Letters

William A. Bartlett Civil War Letters

Company D, 37th Massachusetts Infantry

The John Hughes Collection

A Virtual Archive of his Letters, 1858-1869

The Civil War Letters of Rufus P. Staniels

Co. H, 13th New Hampshire Volunteers

This is Indeed A Singular War

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The Letters of James A. Durrett

Co. E, 18th Alabama Infantry

Spared & Shared 15

Saving History One Letter at a Time

The Civil War Letters of George Messer

Company F, 107th Illinois Volunteer Infantry

Jeff's Prayers are as Effective as Abe's

The Civil War Letters of George S. Youngs, 126th New York Vols

Soldiering is a Very Uncertain Game

The Civil War Letters of Lemuel Glidden, Co. K, 145th Indiana Infantry

Tough as a Pitch Pine Knot

Letters of John Whitcomb Piper, 4th Massachusetts Heavy Artillery

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