1863: Peter Ink Weatherby to Hannah (Weatherby) Shur

This fascinating letter was written by Peter Ink Weatherby (1829-1919), the son of Samuel W. Weatherby (1806-1853) and Dorcas Hinkley (1808-1870). He wrote the letter to his sister, Hannah Ida (Weatherby) Shur (1838-1912) of Chesterville, Morrow county, Ohio—the wife of Artemus O. Shur.

Peter Weatherby enlisted as a private in Co. A, 20th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) in September 1861 and rose in rank steadily to First Sergeant before receiving his commission as 2nd Lieutenant in February 1862. The following November he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and on 20 April, 1864, he was promoted to Captain of the company. When this letter was written from the regiment’s encampment near Vicksburg, Peter was 1st Lieutenant but in (acting) command of the company.

In this letter, Weatherby gives a good account of the movements of the regiment during the Vicksburg Campaign and of his struggles to remain on duty and in command of his company while battling the malarial fever.

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Camp 20th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Vicksburg, Mississippi
July 26th, 1863

Dear Sister,

Yesterday I received your letter with Mother’s & well do I deserve the scolding I got, but I hope you will forgive me if I feel truly penitent for the past & promise so much better in the future which I do mean to do. But the facts are that until yesterday we have not been in a settled camp since we left Milliken’s Bend the 25th of April. Sometimes I could not write & then often we carried letters two weeks before we could mail them & with the different circumstances we were under, I did not write as often as I wanted to do so. Up to the day after the Battle of Champion Hills, I wrote as often as I could. Since then I have written several letters—family letters to you all in one. But there is one on the way for you all, mother, you & Jeff, & several others who I had long neglected. But I do think I can offer some excuse.

I have not been well since the Battle of Champion Hills. That is it say, well, & yet have not missed duty at any time either. And we have been very busy. Have surveyed the country between the Yazoo & the Big Black [rivers] pretty thoroughly for forty miles. Had our turn at the fight at Vicksburg & have just returned from Jackson, Mississippi yesterday & have had almost constant marching for a month with sometimes a day or two & then three or four in a place & I tell you, it took all the strength I had. And when we would move two or three days, it would take all the time I could get from picket duty & building rifle pits & defenses & forts that I only done what I had to do. And yet I wrote home to some of the family as often as once in two weeks.

Two weeks since I was taken with the regular ague [malaria] & I shook six days in succession & I really though it would kill me & I grew very weak. Quinine would not seem to have any effect but at last I broke the ague up but it left me with a kind of low fever & even now about every third day I have that fever—more or less. Otherwise I feel pretty well but am not very strong yet. I done duty all the time but four days. Had the chill in a corner of the fence & the fever in another. Would have stayed in the same one but my colored boy Willis had made a good fire for me when the ague was on & when the fever came on, it was rather warm with the thermometer at 80 degrees in the shade. But Willis is one of the best of boys & brought me plenty of cool water & I was in the shade & was just as well cared for so far as any good could have been done or if I had been home.

About four o’clock the ambulance came back for me & I rode to our bivouac & in the morning marched with the regiment fourteen miles that day & six of that very fast—often on the double quick. We had heard that Jackson’s Cavalry were going to attack a train before us but when we came up, if they intended to attack the train, they wisely concluded not to do so as they generally do when anything like an equal force is ready for them. They are completely subdued down here. And when their haughty chivalry comes up to some of our Generals & beg for something for themselves & their families to keep from starving, the proud head comes down & the haughty Southern says a Yankee is just as good as they are themselves & would lick your shoes if you would let them. All they want is just what General Grant has given them & that is thrash them on all sides & they will beg like good fellows & will do anything you tell them. But let them have the power & then cruelty, persecution, & almost all the crimes that blacken the human family they will be guilty of. Talk of them dying in the last ditch? They won’t do it. All you want to do is to whip their armies & they will promise anything and if we get guarantees we can trust them. If not, we can’t.

I may be home in a few days & may not. Don’t be too sanguine of my coming. But I think I will come possibly. Am now feeling much better than I did a few days since & hope confidently that I have got rid of that ague so that it won’t come back again to trouble for it is very troublesome, I assure you.

In the matter of the money, if you don’t want it any longer, put the thirty dollars with the other & remember the interest we will average when I come home & not before (I fear you would not give me as much interest as I thought I ought to have) so lay the matter over until I come  home, be that sooner or later.

We have readily gone into a camp & have tents. I have mine & the men have theirs which is a great luxury, I assure you, once again. But the mosquitoes are terrible & won’t let a fellow sleep much at night. Kiss both the little girls for me & tell them their papa wants to see them so badly & hopes ‘ere long to do so. Give love to all. Very best respects to Mr. Shaw if you should see him any time soon (he stands very high in the estimation of your unworthy brother). Tell Mother that I have not yet forgotten her as she will find before this. Tell Jeff to keep head up & take good care of that Flying Cloud as I will want to borrow her if she is for lease & tell me that there are others in the Weatherby family who think some of her besides those at Chesterville.

I am sister, your very affectionate & unworthy brother, — P. Weatherby, 1st Lieut. Commanding Co. A, 20th [OVI]

[to] Han

A Prayer in Behalf of Jeff Davis

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The following hand-written lyrics are to a popular war tune sung by Union soldiers on the march. I don’t know who actually penned these words; there are several names scribbled on the back of this sheet which seems to have been written at the time of the Civil War. A transcript of the lyrics was published in The Union (Georgetown, Delaware) in 1865. See below.


The following song is a popular one among the soldiers in the field, and was sung during the present campaign on march and around among the camp fires. The “boys in blue” have no words of pity for Jeff. Davis: —


Oh may that cuss, Jeff. Davis, float,
Halle — Hallelujah!
On stormy sea in open boat,
In Iceland’s cold without a coat;
Glory, Hallelujah!

No rudder, compass, sail, or oar,
Halle — Hallejujah!
A million miles away from shore,
Where myriad briny monsters roar;
Glory, Hallelujah!

May sharks devour him, stem and stern,
Halle — Hallelujah!
A whale then gulp him down in turn
And the devil get the whole concern,
Glory, Hallelujah!

Oh, plunge the cuss’d secession swell,
Halle — Hallelujah!
In darkest pit of deepest hell,
To gnash his teeth and roar and yell;
Glory, Hallelujah!

In burning brimstone may he be,
Halle — Hallelujah!
Whilst little devils dance in glee;
And lock the door and lose the key
Glory, Hallelujah!

Good Devil, see you chain him well,
Halle — Hallelujah!
In torture worse than tongue can tell,
In hottest fire of blazing hell;
Glory, Hallelujah!

And ‘mind his roars and frantic cries,
Halle — Hallelujah!
Oh, make eternal ashes rise,
And blow forever in his eyes;
Glory, Hallelujah!

Oh, cuss each blasted Rebel knave,
Halle — Hallelujah!
On no account Jeff. Davis save,
That hell-deserving scoundrel slave;
Amen, Hallelujah!

The Union (Georgetown, Delaware) May 26, 1865


1862: Isaac Lewis Sampson to Thaddeus Chandler

This amusing letter was written by Isaac (“Ike”) Lewis Sampson (1833-1905), the son of Eden Sprague Sampson (1794-1874) and Mary (“Polly”) Colson (1799-1887) of Duxbury, Plymouth county, Massachusetts. Ike was married to Anne Ellis Peterson (1836-1900) in June 1853.

Ike supported his family as a shoemaker prior to the Civil War when he enlisted in Co. G, 38th Massachusetts Infantry on 20 August 1862. From the letter we learn that Ike was not with his regiment for more than a few weeks before he was sent to the Stewart Mansion Hospital with an undisclosed illness or debility and was subsequently discharged in January 1863—not long after this letter was written.

According to his enlistment record, Ike stood 5 feet, 7 inches tall, had black eyes, brown hair, and a dark complexion.

Ike wrote the letter to his friend, Thaddeus (“Thad”) W. Chandler (1840-1926), the son of Charles Henry Chandler (1813-1897) and Henrietta Hodgkins (1815-1901) of Duxbury. Thad was yet unmarried at the time. He was married in 1867.

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Sunday, December 7th [1862]
Stewart’s Mansion Hospital
Baltimore, Maryland

[Dear] Friend,

I have been thinking of writing to you and so I thought I would take the opportunity this blessed day of our Lord. I don’t know as I can write you much news but I will scribble some and if you can read it, you can do more than I can. I am sitting here with [several other] ones writing and there is a steady squabble telling such other what to write, This is all the paper I have or I would send you a whole sheet.

It is a very cold day. It snowed here last Friday and the wind has blown from the north ever since—cold enough to freeze you. I guess “old trap” couldn’t follow on this snow. Write and tell me how he hunts this winter for I don’t expect to find out without you do. I asked Ezra this morning how he would like to take a cotton tail. He said we had better wait till it thawed a little. You take him when you want him. Only carry him home at night so he won’t get in the way of staying to your house and don’t let him follow on back track. Now I must go and get my dinner.

Well, Thad, I have been to dinner and had some old horse or mule, I don’t know which it was. Pretty tough eating, I tell you. But never mind. Old Ike is good for it. I wish you could come out here and see us but never mind, I hain’t got but thirty-two more months to stop here, and then if we are both alive, we will take a hunt. I shall bring a dog home with me if I can make things work right—one that will take a coon or a fox either.

We are all right on our [   ]. If the doctor did not belong in Baltimore, I might get examined. But let them go it. I can stop if they will pay me for it. I don’t know as they will being I am discharged from the government. They tell me I won’t draw anymore pay. If that is so, I shall leave my boots behind as soon as possible—bet your shoestrings on that.

Well, Thad, I can’t think of much to write this time but I will write a longer one the next time. When I get home, I will tell you the whole proceedings of military life—in the hospital. It is three months last Sunday since I have done anything. I take things easy and grow fat—I have gained twenty-five pounds—go down to the city and see the fashions. And now I will stop my scribbling by saying goodbye.

Please answer this as soon as you get it. From your friend, — Isaac L. Sampson

to Thaddeus Chandler

Ward No. 11

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1862: C. S. Johnston to her Father

Unfortunately I have not been able to identify the author of this 1862 letter who signed it with the initials, “C. S. J.” and was most likely the wife of “Mr. Johnston”—a farmer residing in or near Bainbridge, Decatur county, Georgia. I have searched the census records just prior to and after this letter but cannot find the couple and their unnamed children.

She wrote the letter to her father but without an envelope and no mention of her father’s first or last name, it is impossible to trace the author’s identity through that method. She mentions the names of Will, Charley, and Bud who were most likely her siblings and probably Confederate soldiers.

The letter has redeeming value, however, in the description of the dire circumstances in which the family was living even as early as April 1862. Between the war and the weather-related crop failures in southwest Georgia, she tells her father, “You would hardly know me—I am so black and poorer than you ever saw me…We live on cornbread and milk.”

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[Bainbridge, Decatur county, Georgia]
April 16, 1862

Dear Pa,

I received your kind letter after looking for it until I had concluded you did not intend to write again. You have no idea how gratifying it is to get a letter from home. We are so far in the backwoods we seldom hear anything of interest and know but little that is going on in the world. Our mail comes once a week. Last week we had none so we don’t know whether the Yankees have taken Savannah or not. Our paper comes from there.

Last week the children were in high spirits. Mr. Johnston laughingly told them if the Yankees came to Apalachicola he would carry them back up the country and many times they wished the Yankees would take the place. A good many families from there came to Bainbridge. The [Apalachicola] river has been so high, if they wanted to, they could very easy run up to Bainbridge. We have had so much rain this spring, I am afraid we will all be sick this summer. The river never was known to be higher. The only creek we have has washed all the mills away. It is only two miles from us.

You complain of hard times. You have plenty and don’t know anything about it. We made a tolerable crop of corn but it is so light and takes so much to do us, we will not have enough. It took all that our cotton made to buy our meat and then lost it all, so now we have to do without. And we have neither sugar, coffee, or flour for six months. We live on corn bread and milk. I see nothing but starvation ahead of us. If any of us get sick, we will have to die for we can get nothing here without the money and that we have not got—not to buy clothes. If we live through this year and have our health, I hope we will do better.

The land that Mr. Johnston works now is good. That he had last year was poor. Everyone here says Mr. Traylor has the poorest place in the county. You would hardly know me—I am so black and poorer than you ever saw me.

Brother Will wrote to me before he left but he said nothing about his family [such as] where he would leave them. I would like to know. Where is Charley? We want to write to him but don’t know where to direct his letters. He was on the point of a move when he wrote and his letter was so long coming, we did not write. I have written to Bud but he takes no notice of it.

Pa, do write as often as you can. Give my love to Mother and Mary and accept a large share for yourself.

Your affectionate daughter, — C. S. J.

1862: William B. Thomas to Brother

This letter was written by William B. Thomas (b. 1838) who enlisted as a private at Baltimore in Co. D, 2nd Maryland (Union) Infantry. William’s records indicate he became ill in the fall of 1862 and was at Weaverton, Maryland “since October 27, 1862” which was after the Battle of Antietam. Sometime before January 1863, William rejoined the regiment and remained with them until 16 April 1863 when he was on detached guard at General Sturgis’ Headquarters. He reenlisted as a veteran in January 1864 and rejoined his regiment at Blains Crossroads in E. Tennessee. In 1864 he was promoted to corporal, to sergeant, to then to Commissary Sergeant in the span of little more than a year. He mustered out of the regiment in July 1865.


Naval Academy
Annapolis, Maryland
March 13, 1862

Dear Brother,

I take this time to write you a few lines. I am well and hope this may find you the same. I received your kind and welcome letter and was glad to hear from you.

I have no news to write but the rebel steamer Merrimack made her appearance last Saturday. She sunk the gunboat Cumberland and burned the Congress. The first shot the Cumberland fired, it killed six men on board of the Merrimack.

I wrote to Julia last night. I have sent her my miniature by Adams Express. If she don’t get [it], you get it for her. Be sure and get that likeness I sent to her. If I can get in town, I shall have my [likeness] taken and send it to you. I don’t think I shall come ever again. Sometimes I think I will come home and see you and then again I think I will again. I would like to see you very well. I have all the money I can spend and a little to lay up if I choose.

I expect to get married in two weeks if nothing happens. She is a Boston girl. I have wrote to her the last five years. She was on to see me last week. She told me that Charles Henry had broke his leg. She told me a lot of news, No more at present but remain your affectionate brother, — W. B. Thomas

Write when you get this letter, if you please.

Direct your letter to W. B. Thomas, Annapolis, Maryland, Co. D, 2nd Regiment

I shall send a few lines to Father. You can give it to him. Goodbye.

1861: Arnold G. Harris to Charles Harris

This remarkable letter was penned by Arnold G. Harris (1836-1888) of Huron, Ohio. Prior to the Civil War, Arnold was employed as a sailor. In May 1862, Arnold enlisted as a private in Co. B, 21st New York Infantry, but soon after was discharged to join the Navy. Given his prior experience as a sailor, he was immediately accepted as a Master’s Mate and assigned to the steamer USS Thomas Freeborn on the Potomac Flotilla. When he enlisted in 1861, he was described as standing 5 feet 6 inches tall, with blue eyes, brown hair, and a “ruddy” complexion that betrayed his appetite for strong drink.

At the time of this letter, Harris commanded the USS Island Belle, a converted tug used for carrying dispatches and providing surveillance. With incredible detail, Harris recounts his raid on a Confederate picket post at the wooded promontory of “Mathias Point” some 55 miles below Washington D. C. on a stretch of the Potomac river that was heavily guarded by a Confederate battery in the fall of 1861. He tells his brother that he and twenty men rowed ashore and “set fire to eight houses, twenty stacks of hay, and ten thousand bushels of wheat, and captured 36 head of poultry” without losing or even wounding a man. “They swear eternal vengeance against that Northern Son of a Bitch as they term me,” he added.

Later, in 1862, Harris’s boat ran aground in enemy territory and, rather than have the Confederates take the boat, he set fire to it. Unfortunately, his superiors were not pleased with the boat’s loss and Harris was discharged from Naval service—some say for drunkenness.

Curiously, however, Harris was reinstated the following year as the commander of a gunboat on the James river during which time he was detailed by the Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, to thwart and hopefully capture the notorious Confederate operative George Nicholas Sanders who was attempting to expand the Confederate Navy at the time (later suspected of being a Lincoln Assassination conspirator). Harris was able to use the fact that he was related to the Sanders family to become trusted by Sanders (no easy task) and, in a daring exploit, prevented vital Union documents from falling into Confederate hands.

In his obituary notice, it is stated that Harris “entered the rebel lines as a Union spy and remained several weeks, securing full plans of the enemy’s works [around Richmond]. While with the Confederates, they engaged him to take a vessel loaded with cotton to England and he started, but came into a Northern port…He was in command of the famous yacht Wanderer, which vessel attempted to run the blockade at Charleston, with George N. Saunders and important dispatches for the European agents of the rebels on board. He saved the dispatches for the Union commander by duplicating the can containing them and throwing the duplicate overboard. Then the Wanderer was ‘accidentally’ steered into the face of the Northern blockaders, and Saunders, Harris and others were safely landed, with all their chattels, including the rebel dispatches. After his return from the war, Harris killed a man named Mahoney, of Buffalo, in ‘self-defense,’ while employed as a member of the Buffalo police. [Source: 7 January 188, New York Herald] ¹

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

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The bow gun of the USS Thomas Freeborn on which Harris served before taking command of the Island Bell. Both boats were part of the Potomac Flotilla in 1861.



U. S. Steamer Island Belle off Mathais Point
November 3rd 1861

Dear Brother,

I have given up all hopes of receiving a letter from you but notwithstanding, I will drop you a few lines to let you know I am still in the land of the living but stand a very excellent chance of not being so long, for these confounded rebels have got me completely hemmed in—that is, as far as water is concerned. I can leave any time by leaving the steamer and taking the Maryland shore for it, but that I shall never do even if I have to make her my coffin before one of their batteries. I have got three months provision for forty men and seven hundred rounds of ammunition for the large guns so I can stand a pretty good siege and by the time that is out, there will be an opening somewhere for us to get out.

I made a glorious descent last week on a party of pickets in Virginia. They have been threatening me for some time by riding down on to the beach in parties of 25 and 30 at a time and shaking their dish cloth of a flag at us and as soon as we made a move to train a gun for them, away they would go across the country as fast as their horses could carry them so I got tired of such humbugging and went to work and found out where they quartered. Well I have got a large launch that pulls twenty oars with a rifle 12 pounder in her so I manned her with part white men and the rest negroes and started for the brick house of my friends, the pickets. As we neared them, I gave them a salute from the bow chaser, not forgetting to put a 10 second shell in her. Rip—she goes. Right bang through the house. Hello. What is that? Three men running for the stable? Stand clear boys while I bring my rifle to bear on him. Never mind. It’s too late. He has got in the stable.

Give way, Bullys, give way. Let us get ashore and nail them before they get their horses out. Bang, bang. Whiz, whiz. They are peppering at us. There the balls all go over our heads. Why there is a small regiment of them here. Give them another Shell Burrows from the chaser. Now all the rest of you stand by to jump ashore the minute she touches. Mind now and keep your arms dry. Away we all go ashore. The first place for the brick house. Hold on now boys. Half of you fire a volley through the windows while the rest of you wait for the return fire. Bang! went 10 rifles. No answer. There is nobody in the house who has got the Tar. Follow me all hands except four. You station yourselves at a respectful distance from the house and warn us if you see anyone approach.

Well to make a long story short, we set fire to eight houses, twenty stacks of hay, and ten thousand bushels of wheat, and captured 36 head of poultry and retired without losing or even wounding a man. Did not we do well? I think we did. They swear eternal vengeance against that Northern Son of a Bitch as they term me, but still they like to keep out of the way of those Northern pills as they term our shot. I have a negro spy over every night so I know all that is going on.

It is getting late so I must draw to final. I think you will be tired by the time you get through with this so goodbye.

Yours truly, — Arnold G. Harris, Commander US Steamer Island Belle

Potomac [river]
November 6th [1861]


Since closing this letter, I have been waiting very patiently for my messenger to return but he has not made his appearance yet. I sent him up to the Commodore five days ago on some important business and I am afraid he has been captured and if such should be the case, it will play the deuce with my arrangements—and I do not know how to send it in these one horse Maryland Post Offices.

I picked up that contraband last night and they tell me that after I left those houses burning that night, eighty men were laying in ambush for me to come ashore again. Catch a weasel asleep I guess, won’t they? What a flat they must take me to be, when I know there was 175 men not 3 miles from there.

So goodbye. I have got to watch a chance to mail. — A. G. H.

¹ I cannot independently verify these statements in the obituary with newspaper articles from the period except for the following which appeared in the Buffalo Express, in January, 1863 and was reprinted in the Chronicles of the Twenty-first Regiment New York State Volunteers by John Harrison Mills: 

“ADVENTURES OF A BUFFALONIAN IN DIXIE. The history of the war can furnish nothing bolder or more remarkable in the way of adventure than belongs to the experience of a young man—Arnold Harris, from this city, who left here in May, 1861 as a private in the Twenty-First Regiment, and now wears the insignia of a Lieutenant in the U. S. Navy. Lieutenant Harris was engaged upon the lakes when the rebellion broke out. Arriving in Buffalo the day of the departure of the Twenty-First, he came up town to witness the scene, recognized some acquaintances in the ranks of the regiment, stepped to their side, and became their comrade in an instant, marching to the depot, accompanying them to Elmira and there enlisting.

Not long after the arrival of the Twenty-First on the Potomac, he got transferred to the naval service, and was soon placed in command of the Island Belle, of the Potomac Flotilla. In this situation he performed important services for several months, and distinguished himself by his vigilance in maintaining the blockade of the river against smugglers from Maryland &c. One of his most daring exploits, in landing at Matthias Point, surprising the rebel pickets and destroying property of the enemy, we mentioned at the time. During this period, Lieutenant Harris made application for permission to undertake a spying trip into Virginia, to get information concerning the rebel batteries on the Potomac. The offer was declined, but its boldness was not forgotten at the Navy Department. A few months after the adventurous Lieutenant lost his little gunboat, in or about James River, we believe, and visited the Department to obtain another command. Recollecting his previous offer, the Secretary proposed to him a most hazardous mission to Richmond, having for its object the frustration of the projects of George N. Sanders, who had then just secured contracts from the rebel government, for a navy to be built in England.

He accepted the perilous mission, and soon made his way to the Confederate capital. Without any disguise of name or person, he succeeded in acquiring the confidence of the rebel authorities, and established himself on intimate terms with several of the most important officials. His situation, however, was dangerous in the extreme, and nothing but consummate coolness and adroit conduct enabled him to escape. Once he was arrested, and confined in Castle Thunder for seventeen days. Two Marylanders had recognized his name as that of the former commander of the Island Belle, and the hero of the exploit at Matthias Point. When brought to trial he coolly acknowledged the correctness of the identification, and claimed to have done the Confederacy more service while holding a command in the Federal Navy than he could possibly have done by openly joining the cause at an earlier day. His audacity triumphed all suspicion was overcome, and he not only obtained an acquittal, but continued to enjoy the confidence of the rebel authorities ; or, rather, of all but Benjamin, who was suspicious of him throughout. 

Shortly after his discharge from Castle Thunder, Sanders arrived from Europe, and the adroit agent soon found means to get himself engaged in the enterprises of that busy personage. Sanders having perfected his arrangements with Jeff Davis & Company, was to return to England with money and documents necessary to the carrying out of his Anglo-Rebel Navy schemes. His son, Reid Sanders, was to accompany him, and so, as he had contrived, was our friend Harris. The aim of the latter was to secure Sanders mail. He succeeded in having it arranged that George, with his friends, should proceed by way of Matamoras to Halifax, while Reid Sanders and he, with the documents and dispatches to be taken, were to run the blockade at Charleston, and get to Halifax by way of Nassau. In accordance with this plan, Sanders junior and Harris proceeded to Charleston, and purchased a yacht, which, by way of speculation, they loaded with turpentine, and started gaily out, one pleasant evening in January last, to slip through the blockading fleet, and make for Nassau. Great interest was taken in the adventurous enterprise, and before leaving the daring voyagers were entertained at a dinner with Beauregard and the leading celebrities of the city. Meantime, Harris had succeeded in communicating with one of the vessels of the outside fleet and putting its commander upon the watch. The yacht as she ran out of the harbor was speedily detected, and subjected to a cannonade which frightened Sanders out of his wits, and made him eager to surrender. The mail bag, heavily weighted with iron, was thrown overboard; but Harris had previously abstracted from it a portmanteau containing the important dispatches and documents, substituting in its stead his own, which happened, as a remarkable coincidence, of course, to be its exact counterpart. 

The capture of Reid Sanders with his dispatches, last winter, created no small sensation at the time, and will be well remembered. But how it came about has never, we believe, been told before. 

Our readers will agree with us, we think, that few personal undertakings of the war have been more audaciously conceived, or more cleverly executed. As Buffalonians, we relate the narrative of this most extraordinary adventure with no small pride. Lieutenant Harris was in town yesterday, making a flying visit to his friends. He left, we believe, last evening. He has another mission, of still greater importance, we suspect, upon his hands.”




1864: Terrence Gallagher to Billy Kelly

This letter was written by Terrence Gallagher (1827-1905) who came to the United States from Ireland with his parents Michael Gallagher (1799-1880) and Mary O’Brien. Terrence married Mary, the daughter of John & Hannah (McNamara) Horan in November 1851.

According to military records, Terrence enlisted in July 1862 at Boston in the United States Navy and was discharged on 24 August 1864. He held the rank of “landsman” which was the lowest rank awarded and which meant he had little or no experience at sea prior to his enlistment. It appears that Terrence served on the USS Colorado, a three-masted frigate that formed part of the blockading force off Mobile Bay from March 1863 to early February 1864 when she returned to Portsmouth Navy Yard and remained out of commission until October 1864.


Brookline [Massachusetts]
September 11, 1864

Mr. Billy Kelly,

I received your letter on the 10th. I write you these few lines hoping to find you in good health. I was down to your sisters last night. She wold like to hear from you. Your brother Jack is gone on board a Man of War. I send my best respects to Hogan and John Sullivan and Ben Frazier. I have no account of Farmer these last 10 days. The last I see of him we parted on the Portland Boat. I have been down to Portsmouth these last 8 days. Times around Roxbury is poorly. There is nothing doing.

Jack Conway is deserted. I met a fellow in Portsmouth that told me the whole up and down of him.

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The USS Colorado

I tell you, Billy, I was in the navy yard today. I was talking to Tom Harden and McGoven, and Brinnen has deserted and there is a reward out for him. He took and gone across the line across the water. I ain’t seen none of the Boys since I was discharged. I say, Billy, you know what ew were talking about aboard the ship? I got a big discharge in spite of their damn teeth. I want you to tell Hogan and Ben Frazier and Fred Aldrick, Bill Vickers, and [the] California I say, Billy Kelly, they can all kiss my arse [ass]. I want Ben to write to me. I send my respects to all the Boys. You won’t see me on the Blockade for awhile I don’t think. I am on a time now. I intend to stay at home till you come home.

I was in to Mother Bates’ and she is married. I’m going down to your sister’s to let her know where you are. Your young sister is down there sick, Billy. I was telling Margaret that you would send it when you got an opportunity—what we were talking about— and that she would like you to write to her. The bounty here has gone down till this draft comes off.

I was aboard the Colorado. It is all subs [substitutes] aboard of her. There was 4 fellows shot aboard of the Ohio trying to desert. I say, Billy, I tried to ship for the Colorado but I could not get aboard that—she was full. I hope you will get home in a month. I’ll be looking for you. Harden is madder than damnation with Hogan and the rest of the Boys when they didn’t write to him. He said that none of them wrote to him but Bill Vickers.

I have no more at present, Billy, but if you want any stamps, write to me in the next letter. Direct your letter as you did the last one.

—Terrence Gallagher

Write soon.

1862: Eli H. More to William Patrick Murphy

Eli H. Moore’s Headstone

This letter was written by Eli H. More (1839-1918), the son of Samuel More (1800-1856) and Elizabeth G. Mooney (1799-1856) of Carroll county, Indiana. Eli enlisted on 30 September 1861 as a saddler in Co. F, 1st Colorado Cavalry. He mustered out of the service on 11 October 1864—some six weeks before the Sand Creek Massacre led by Col. Chivington. [Note: Roster has his surname spelled Moore.]

After his service, Eli married Jane St. John (1838-1912) in January 1865 in Carroll county, Indiana, and took up farming. In the mid 1870’s he served as a postmaster in the county.

Eli’s letter contains a rare account of the Battle of Glorieta Pass fought on 27-28 March 1862 which was the decisive battle of the New Mexico Campaign.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Bill Schultz who kindly shared it on Civil War Letters Facebook on 18 June 2019.]

Screen Shot 2019-06-18 at 6.36.49 PM
The Battle of Glorieta Pass in New Mexico


Pike’s Peak
Colorado City, Colorado Territory
December the 26th 1862

Dear Friend,

With pleasure I embrace this opportunity of dropping you a few lines as I have not heard from you in a long while.

Well, William, we have nice weather here at present but nothing going on exciting for Christmas times except when some of the boys gobbles on a porker or keg of molasses or something of the kind.

We have a beautiful camp, splendid sceneries on either side. We have Pike’s Peak on our right with its towering summit capped with bright glistening snow. To the left there is a beautiful valley with nice round peaks rising up about forty feet in height and nice streams winding their way in every direction.

At the rear of us are sceneries that are worth one hundred dollars to any many that has any curiosity to see what Dame Nature has done. There are mountains and pinnacles of grey, red, and white rocks that look like the ruins of ancient churches. There is one place that I wish you could see. There is a pretty large red mountain [“Red Mountain”] apparently solid rock with a distance guessing at it of six miles round the base and I suppose it is to the top of the highest peaks about twelve or fifteen hundred feet high and there are [a] number of caves at the base that any man can go in with a horse by taking a little pains to cut the entrance some larger. And for miles under the rocks there is crevices under these about fourteen wide and how high cannot be told with solid rock on both sides. It is rounded by little peak probably a hundred feet across the base and five hundred feet high of nice smooth red rock.

Well, Pat, this soldiering is damned heavy. I sometimes think that Uncle Sam is gone up the flume or this rebellion would have been stopped long ago or a more show for having it stopped than there is. It undoubtedly is a soft thing for the northern officers. Our officers is principally made up of a class of men that depends on other folks making their living and now they can get much bigger wages than in time of peace that they glory in seeing it go on so. It shows to me plainly from McClellan, Burnsides, down to a Second Lieutenants.

It takes the Pikes Peakers to do the work up in earnest. They go in for killing or to get killed. At one battle down in New Mexico, I saw different men standing out in open ground and exchange shots till one or the other would fall. I will bet my head that there never was or ever will be as hard and bold fighting done as the Pike Peakers done at Apache Canyon & Pigeon’s Ranch. There were no great army on either side—not one twenty-five hundred of us that is regulars—and only twelve hundred Colorado boys and one hundred volunteers was worth more than the fifteen hundred Regulars. So you can count that there was thirteen hundred of us fighting forty-five hundred Texicans right in the woods where a man didn’t know whether it best to stick his head out from behind a tree or rock or not. And I never heard of five times our number in the states taking half as many prisoners or killing half as many as we did.

So you can judge for yourself how things are going on and write as soon as this comes to hand. Yours truly, — Eli H. More

To William P. Murphy

Direct to Denver City, Co. F, First Cavalry

P. S. How is your woman. If you please, give her my respects.

Good for three cents if the damned thing sticks.


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