These eight letters were written by Jefferson (“Jeff”) Green Galbraith (1839-1922) while serving as a 2nd Lt. in Co. H, 195th Pennsylvania Vol. Infantry. He was mustered into the regiment on 16 March 1865 and mustered out on 31 January 1866.
Jeff had previously served for three months (24 Apr 1861 to 31 Jul 1861) in the 10th Pennsylvania Volunteers, and for nine months (1 November 1862 to 17 August 1863) in Co. A, 173rd Pennsylvania Vols.
Jeff wrote all of the letters to his mother, Eliza Fager (Bell) Galbraith (1812-1888) of Bainbridge—a village on the Susquehanna river a few miles downriver from Harrisburg in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania. His father, Bertram Gillespie Galbraith (1804-1848), died when Jeff was only 9 years old. It appears that Jeff worked as a canal boatman prior to the war.
Jeff had five brothers and all of them served in the Union army during the Civil War. Two brothers in the service are mentioned in these letters: 1—“James” Carpenter Galbraith (1835-1872) who served in Co. B, 45th Pennsylvania Volunteers from 2 September 1861 to 1 January 1864 when he was transferred to the VRC; and 2—Franklin (“Frank”) Grush Galbraith (1842-1900) who served in Co. K, 122nd Pennsylvania Vols. from 11 August 1862 to 15 May 1863, and later served as a musician in the 195th P.V. I. with Jeff.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 1
Headquarters Co. H, 195th Regt. P. V. I.
March 30th, 1865
I received your kind letter on the 28th. [It] found your two boys well. We have removed to the above-named place. Had a march of 23 miles in one day—already reminds me of old times—and been hauled out in line of battle [for] the third time. We was brought out last night twice [and] night before once, but nobody hurt. It has been raining nearly all day & the boys are all loafing in their quarters. It appears that those picture takes pretty well by all accounts. I had 12 taken. I was expecting to get to see one myself. I would like to see one. Will send it back again. Those papers which you sent me has not yet arrived. They may come in the evening mail. Hope so at all events as there is no papers comes to this camp at all so we get no news—only by letters from home.
I suppose James feels himself since acting orderly. If I knew his direction, I would write him occasionally. I would liked to been home when the river was so high. There must of been a great excitement along the Old Susquehanna. How is the boat by this time? I hope it is all right.
I received a letter from Samuel Shroff giving the particulars of the high water & the boats. If he comes into the office, tell him I will leave you know when I receive the papers. When you write, give me the particulars of the DRAFT. Tell me whether John, Jim Smith & Harry has listed. I see in reading over your letter that Gabriel McNeil has been taking the manure from the stable. He asked me for a little for his tobacco plants. I told him he might take a little for that but you wanted as much as you could get for those lots. I did not intend him to rob the pile at all. And about those pictures, I don’t like to have too many distributed, but if Henny & Lizzie should have one, the negative is at Middletown where the picture was taken. If they want any, they can go & have some struck.
I throw up my hat for Dad. What is he going to name the boy?
I wrote to the sheriff a few days ago. Give him the full particulars.
My love to all the folks. I close. Received a letter from Middletown. Your affectionate son, — Jeff
Address Charlestown, Va.
Since closed, an order has come for one operator of which P___ Frank will fill. He reports at General Headquarters this afternoon. Hancock’s First & Second Regiments passed through camp a few minutes ago. Where they are going, I can’t say.
Write soon, — Jeff
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 2
[Note: Someone has attempted to darken the faded ink in Jefferson’s letter with an ink pen and made a couple errors in transcription I have corrected in my transcript.]
Headquarters Co. H, 195th Regt. P. V. I.
Stevenson Station, Va.
April 19, 1865
As this is a day of rest throughout the army, I will write to pass some of the time away. This is the second before receiving one but still that don’t matter. It is acceptable any hour. You’re fully aware what we are lying in this way for & there is no use in saying more about it.
The regiment was paraded at [ ] o’clock for the purpose of listening to the funeral sermon of Abraham Lincoln—our President. It was a solemn occasion. Stout-hearted men shed tears. After the sermon was over, the Colonel [Joseph W. Fisher] came forward & spoke a few words in this way. He says, “Soldiers—I mean every one of you—when you get home & any man speaks to you disgraceful of your country & the murdered President, cut him to the ground & not allow him any chance for escape atall.” It is awful to think of—just in the act of closing this war, he was to be murdered in that way.
There is some talk of us coming back soon but we can’t tell whether we will be discharged or not. I suppose our little town feels the affects of that crime as well as other places. I suppose the sheriff & many other old standbys takes it pretty hard. This is a beautiful day. Just suits the occasion.
I have not heard from [brother] Frank for a few days but I suppose he is getting along all right as he naturally does. I have a letter belonging to him from Kane. Will send it to him tomorrow. I wrote to Aggie a few days ago. I will be looking for an answer soon. Get to hear from Middletown occasionally. Tell John to answer that letter which I wrote him about a month ago & Jim Mirth.
Mother, how would it do to have the mule put out to pasture if there is any to be had. It will amount to a good bit to keep it in the stable too long unless the canal is finished soon.
There is a man in the camp by the name of Henry Wigner from Falmouth [Penn.] who wanted me to take twenty dollars being afraid to send it home. If his wife comes down & you have it to spare, please give her the amount & I will pay you. I suppose you will think I am taking the advantage of you but I will make it all right with you.
I am well. All the rest of the boys are enjoying good health. I must close hoping to hear from you soon.
Your son, — Jefferson
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 3
Headquarters Co. H, 195th Regt. P. V. I.
May 28, 1865
I received a letter from you last evening very unexpectedly—also papers & envelopes. Received one from Aggie in the same mail. Found me as well as usual & very glad to hear from all again. You can speak about strawberries & ice cream but what has that to do with soldiering? Only makes me mad to think of them things. I can imagine how things look around Auntie’s house, but that is all. Can’t indulge. If I find out that we will not get out of the service before our time is up, I will make application for a furlough to come home awhile but I can’t do it now as there is one that made application now & have not gone yet.
I suppose Joe Markley is making his time good at the hotels about this time. The next two that comes home will be Isaac Filbers & Frank Feltenberger. Ike’s has went in to be approved but has not got back yet, May be in tomorrow, Monday.
Now Mother, don’t bother yourself about me for I never fall short where there is anything to eat & I am as well and hearty as I ever was—only a little short in green backs., that is all. I have thirty cents yet. Five of that is specie that I fetched alone from home. The 25 cents stamp I won’t spend till I get more for I don’t like to be strapped. No doubt you think I squandered my money, Mother, but I tell you I have been as saving as I could be. I only got three hundred dollars bounty. One hundred it took to buy my clothes & I paid some debts that I owed which took nearly all, so I have been trying to board myself since on a very little sum, I tell you. Uncle Sam owes me about three hundred & fifty dollars now but that don’t so me any good at the present time. If we stay in service, we will be posted at Harpers Ferry—a splendid chance to take a french [leave] now & then, won’t it? You will see me home sure if we get there, furlough or not.
Mother, I wish you would ask John whether he would not lend me some money for awhile till we get paid off. I will send it back to him again. The company rations is short enough without us eating any of them so we must have money to live. The First Lieutenant has been keeping the house going but he is played out himself now.
Well, I see Lovey is back again. A great time I suppose. House full of girls & not one beau. Give Lovey my best regards & all the rest also & I close as I have one to answer for Aggie this afternoon yet. This is Sunday. I must take the advantage of the day. no more. From your contented boy, — Jeff
Mamy, write soon.
This is rather rough scribbling.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 4
Headquarters Co. H, 195th Regt. P. V. I.
Summit Station, Va.
June 1st 1865
I received your letter last evening. [It] found us all well but a slight accident happened to one of our boys a few hours ago. Andrew Ellis [Elles] was cleaning his pistol & somehow the pistol discharged, the ball entering the left leg right above the knee. It is only a flesh would. The ball was of the smaller size so I don’t think it very dangerous. He was taken to the hospital & very likely will be sent home.
Mother, you accuse me for spending too much money. I thought I was stingy with mine. We have all our provisions to buy & we have the highest price to pay for everything & hadn’t a great deal to go on when I left home. I paid some debts off before I left.
Today we was mustered for pay but I don’t think we will get paid before we are mustered out of service. We are expecting to get the news every day. I am ready for home most any moment. I don’t like Sunday soldiering at all.
Mother, I am almost played out of news at this time & am compelled to stop with what I have. Remember me to all & I close for the present.
From your son, — Jeffersonian
McPheeters is promoted from private to regimental post master.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 5
Headquarters Co. H, 195th Regt.
June 23rd 1865
I have been looking for a letter for a long time but today I found out that I was looking in vain. I seen on the back of Thomas Walton’s envelope that I should write home. I knew by that that there ws no use in me looking for a letter till I wrote first.
I have been under the weather for a few days but am getting along very well now. I had a touch of fever but I think it is all over now. We have still moved farther south. We are now lying about seventy-five miles from Winchester. Have very good times at present.
I find out through T. Walton’s letter that [Christian] Hoover & [John] Hicks has got home. They have made bright subjects of themselves. Today their names goes on the rolls as deserters & will be published in all the papers through the State. Besides that, they will never get a cent of pay. I didn’t think we had such men on Old Conoy as a few that we had in this company.
I suppose boating has commenced by this time. I wish I was home to boat myself. I would like to see te boat fixed & started all right. Wish John could take the boat to run till I get back. I was speaking to the Colonel about a furlough but he says there is four officers ahead & then I can get one. By that time, we may be all home. It will cost about 50 dollars too & that is something I have not had since we came out.
There is three companies of our regiment lying at Stanton doing Provost duty. There was an order came here for us to move there next week but it may be countermanded before that as a many a one is. According to the papers today, James will be mustered out soon.
General Meade says that Hancock’s Corps will be mustered out soon. I hope our time will come next but I suspect all the soldiers think so & they can’t all be mustered out.
I sent my sword home with young Welty. Has he got home yet? I have a new one now that the company bought me for sixty-five dollars. It is a gay affair.
I must close as it is so miserable hot that we can hardly breathe down here. Some of the boys was out helping the farmers make hay — John Myers, Levi Engle, Joseph Bachman & one more that I did not know. Tell Agg[ie] I will write to her soon. My respects to all * I close.
Your son, — Jeff
We can get provisions cheap if we had the money.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 6
Washington [D. C.]
September 22, 1865
I received a letter from you some days ago & also one from Mrs. “Levi” Engle stating that you could not get the money. I know I should of sent the money to you before this but we will not be paid before the last of the month or I would certainly of sent the money to you. I have some notion of resigning & coming home. I am getting tired of the service. I was at Baltimore a few days ago to see the Odd Fellows Parade & met John there.
There is something very strange about the land. I think Carpenter should know more about it than anybody else. The quicker the land is disposed of the better. Is Frank doing anything at present?
Mother, I hardly know what to write to make up a letter & I hope you will excuse this short one. I am well as usual any more than I want to come home. That is all.
How is Lovey flourishing by this time? Hoping this will find you all well, I close.
From your son, — Jefferson
I will send the money as quick as I can.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 7
Washington D. C.
October 21st 1865
When I wrote to you before I thought we was going right home, but here we are yet & not mustered out. We may get away next week & we may not. It is uncertain now. No doubt you are disappointed. We are as much so as anybody, I and Will. Give my respect to the girls. We will be at home soon, I hope.
From your son, — Jeff
Did you get the fifty dollars?
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 8
Washington D. C.
November 7th 1865
I have been wanting to answer your letter every day since I received it & never got it till now. We were expecting to be home before this time but was disappointed. Can’t tell when we will get home again.
I got the boots. They fit very well. I will be home about the 15th of next month if we are in the service at that time. I want to settle up the boat business. They will be tied up by that time. I wrote to James some time ago but had lost the address. Did you send the letter to him? And tell Agg[ie] if she don’t answer my letter, I will never write to her again. Official business should be attended to promptly.
I heard you all deserted the castle one night. Never give up the ship, Mamy, if the roof is off. I suppose I will be as much surprised as James was when he came home from the three years service. Give my respects to Lovie & Aggie & all the rest. Goodnight, Mame. I am going to bed.