Letter – Lucy Morse, 7 August 1861


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Letter written by Lucy H. Morse, to her husband William H. Morse of Company C, 3rd MI Infantry. She recently received a letter from her husband, which is the first she has heard from him in three weeks since the battle of 1st Bull Run. Lucy had feared that her husband was dead, and writes of the Confederates that she wishes she could help “pick out their traitor hearts.” Lucy updates her husband on several of their family members and friends, and asks his advice on some family matters. She writes that their child is growing strong, and is big for his age.

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August 7th 1861

Dear Husband as Curtis

is writing I will write a few lines to you to let you know that we are well Uncle recieved your letter last night and never was a letter recieved with more joy than yours. it has been three weeks to day since I recieved a letter from you and you may be assured that a letter has been auspiciously looked for since the Battle I wrote to you sunday but this may not be unexceptable Dear Will you do not cannot know how thankful I am that you are safe I was almost cresy [crazy] before I head from you for fear that you had shared the fate of many a brave soldier Oh; it seems cruel that so much blood must be shed

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but I hope the rebels will get all the fun they want before they get through with it I wish I could help you pick out thier traitor hearts they are worse than the unscivilised savage I read an account in the paper of one of our Boys finding one of the enemy in a fainting condition he took and laid him in the shade and gave him a drink out of his own canteen when he revived he arose and deliberately shot his benefactor what a wretch he must have been I think he must have been born without any heart Will Jim think I had better keep house and have Father come and live with me this winter I recieved a letter from Sandusky last week Aunt Amy sent my letter out to York State and Uncle Charles sent Father five dollars and

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said that Fathers land could be sold for a hundred dollars and if Father wished he would sell it and get the mony and send to him. Dear Will write and tell me what to do. I mean to have Father let Uncle Charls sell his land he might Just as well have it as to let it lay doing nobody any good with the mony Uncle sent Father I am going to get him a pair of boots and some shirts. Oh; Will I wish you could be at home now it seems so odd to have to plan for myself but you must write what you think is best for me to do if I keep house I can make Father Comfortable and I think I shall be hapier my self for I cannot come here to board if I drew any thing from the state

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and there is no one else I want to board with but I think will do as you tell me write as soon as you get this and advise me what to do for if I keep house I shall have to make diferent arangements Will our little Curly head is well and grows every day he is real large of his age every body thinks he is so pretty and forward he is petted by every one who sees him he runs away over to the tavern every time he can get a chance we have to watch him all the time I can not think of any more to write this time so I will bring my letter to a close by bidding you good by

Forever, Thine, Lucy

Curt has not had time to write yet so I shant wait for him you must writ as often as you can Curt will write just as soon as he can no more this time Good By

Luc Morse

William H. Morse, age 24, enlisted with Company C of the 3rd MI Infantry at Grand Rapids, MI on June 10, 1861. He was wounded by a gunshot to the knee at the Battle of Fair Oaks, VA on May 31, 1862. The regiment lost 30 men killed, 124 wounded, and 1 missing. He was sent to a hospital in Philadelphia, PA, but later died there on August 8, 1862.

Letter – William Morse, 28 July 1861


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Letter written by Private William H. Morse of Company C, 3rd MI Infantry, to his wife Lucy, from Camp McConnell in Arlington, VA. Morse requests that his wife apply to get money from the county, and asks if she is getting enough to eat. He has seen men offer a dollar for a drink of water on the battlefield, and observes that it has been hard for poor people to make a living during these times. He writes that his friends at home should rethink any decisions to join the army, as “the privations of camp life are far worse than the chance on a battlefield.” Morse mentions being in the battles of Blackburn Ford and Manassas, but writes that he doesn’t think he was any more afraid of dying than if he was at home, and that the 3rd Michigan was highly praised after Bull Run. He concludes by asking his wife to tell their son that his father is “fighting for the Constitution.”

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Headquarters Arlington Regt., third Camp McConnell Co. C

July 28 1861

Dear Wife

I again sit down to write a few lines to you when I wrote the other day I was in such a hurry I could not write much and as I have plenty of time today I thought I would write another I dont know as you will accept of another so soon but I will send it at a venture when you write again I want you to tell me wether you have received any

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money from the County if you have not you had better apply for some for you may as well have it as other families I know of other families drawing money that dont need it any worse than you do and if you have drawn any how much I should like to know how you get along wether you have enough to eat or not tell me wether you have heard from our stears or not. I sent you a little money the other day it was all I had but it may do you a little good money is no object here I have seen men offer a dollar $ on the battle field for a drink of water I shall have some more money before long I hope and I will send you some more poor folks can hardly get a living here it is very hard times for them I tell you

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tell Joseph V fairchild I should like their company very much but they had better stay at home for a soldier here and a soldier in michigan the privations of camp life are far worse than the chance on a battle field they may say I am homesick or afraid but I am neither a soldier has to put up with all kinds of fare durin time of war. I have been in two battles and I dont think I had any more fear of being killed than I would at home I have seen many brave men fall by the cannon and musket and I could pass by them without scarcely looking at them all the boys that came from around where we live are well we are in camp now near the City of Washington and I think

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we will stay here for some time I hardlg hardly think they will take us to battle again for a good many of our officers have resigned our old Captain got scared and left us just as we were going into battle and we fought a battle of four hours length without any captain the Michigan third ranks as high as any other regiment in the united states service We got all the praise of the first battle July 18 I wish you could been here and heard them hurrah for the Michigan third as we returned from bulls run back to Washington, I shall have to close for my paper is used up be a good girl and dont be scared about me kiss bud for me and tell him his pa is a soldier fighting for the Constitution and the laws. good bye Lu write soon

no more from Bill this time

William H. Morse, age 24, enlisted with Company C of the 3rd MI Infantry at Grand Rapids, MI on June 10, 1861. He was wounded by a gunshot to the knee at the Battle of Fair Oaks, VA on May 31, 1862. The regiment lost 30 men killed, 124 wounded, and 1 missing. He was sent to a hospital in Philadelphia, PA, but later died there on August 8, 1862.

Song – John Wiggins, 20 May 1861


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Fragment of a song/poem written by John W. Wiggins on May 20th, 1861, entitled “A Short But Knowing Song.” The lyrics express Wiggins’ frustration at being too young to enlist in the Confederate army.

A Short But Knowing Song

I am a [???] blade

I am a [???] blade

I am a [???] blade

And follow country for my trade

All on my breast I wore a star

The golden pearls of the thundering war

O kind miss wont you list and go

O kind miss wont you list and go

O kind miss wont you list and go

And follow the [???]

I am two [too] young I cannot go

I am two young I cannot go

I am two young I cannot go

I cannot leave my [???]

[line illegible]

your old enough some where youll do

you old enough some where youll do

We take 16 and twenty two

Wrote May 20th 1861

By John W. Wiggins

John W. Wiggins, age 19, from Cherokee County, NC, enlisted in Company F, of the 39th NC Infantry, circa February 23, 1862. He is listed as a sergeant as of November 25, 1862, and was wounded at Stones River on December 31, 1862, but returned to duty the next day. He was promoted to 1st Sergeant of Company F on March 1, 1863. He was fatally wounded at Chickamauga on September 19, 1863, and died in the hospital on September 21st. He was twice reported on the Confederate Honor Roll for valiant service, at Stones River and Chickamauga.

Letter – John Beach, 27 December 1861


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Letter written by Private John D. Beach of Company G, 55th IL Infantry, to his mother, from the Benton Barracks in St. Louis, MO. Beach describes the regiment’s Christmas dinner and that they received 5 revolving rifles. He writes that he received a letter from a woman named Hannah, and requests a photograph of her. He expects to receive his monthly wages in the middle of January, and requests that his mother reply to him soon, before they are ordered to move again.

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Decem 27

Benton Barracks

Dear Mother I now take my pen in hand to write a few lines to you to let you know that I received your letter just a few minutes ago and had one from Hannah the same time we had an Oyster Supper Christmas the Capt treated us yesterday we went down to the arsenal and received our arms we got rifle muskets we was to have five shooters or revolving rifles the boys say we have

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revolving rifles they warrant them revolve a man every time he shoots them they are five shooters they will shoot five time if we load them that many we will have them exchange I expect when I got your letter J Bennett came and says who is your letter from I told him from Hannah I let him see it and made him believe I did not get but one and he did not know the difference I do not show him my letters that likeness

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will be safe if she will send it I shall think a great deal of it I will send mine up in this letter to you and you give it to she can keep it at our house if she does not want to take it home but I want you to send hers just as quick as you get this I must close now I expect we will get pay off about the 15 of January I hope so I must write to Hannah I guess though I will wait untill she get up to your house she said she would be there New Years at supper I would

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like to be there to tell mary Hinco to write I will make things all right I will warrent no one to see any thing she sends me and they will not know as I know any thing about her I must close it is getting dark I will write more next time write just as quick as you get this for I do not know how long we will stay here no more my love to Mary Hinco I am pretty well rather white yet from you son

J Beach

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I saw plenty of secesh down at the arsenal they are dirty looking

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I never saw a pretty girl in St Louis yet, they are scarce

John D. Beach from LaSalle, IL enlisted in Company G, of the 55th IL Infantry on the August 23, 1861 as a private. He was promoted to corporal and re-enlisted on April 1, 1864. After being temporarily transferred to Battery A of the 1st IL Light Artillery during the Atlanta Campaign, he rejoined the 55th IL and was mustered out at Little Rock, AR on June 14, 1865.

Letter – George Buck, 25 September 1861


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Letter written by Private George R. Buck of Company K, 17th Illinois Infantry, to his mother, from Fort Holt, KY. Buck writes that he has not seen a Confederate camp since he has been in the service. He describes the various illnesses suffered by his comrades and his own recent health problems. He has heard that they will get paid soon, although he is skeptical. Buck mentions that he has plenty to eat and access to coffee. He describes the four large post guns at the camp. Buck writes that Colonel Leonard Ross is often not in camp, and the men think they will need a new colonel if he does not appear soon. Many of the men think that General Fremont “ought to have his ass kicked for letting Mulligan be so long without reinforcing him.” Buck thinks they will get whipped if the troops continue to be so scattered.

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Fort Holt Ky

Sept 25th 1861

Dear Mother

4 months ago today we were sworn into the U.S. service & I have not seen a secesh camp yet, or had a shot at them. Esq Hole & Jud Foster came over here today. George F. & H. F Hole came over here with them. G. Foster is quite better has got the fever broken. Hole looks very bad indeed but is conciterable better. I am about the same, got medacine this morning for the Diarea it has put a stup to my running so much.

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I was very sick last night with a pain in my stomach. Do not know when I will get well, but hope it will be soon. You must not fret on my account. It will do me no good & you the harm. I have gathered a lot of dry leaves from the brush piles for a bed – it does fine. I wrote a long letter to Ann yesterday, but suppose you will get this first. Morris has come back again he is quite well. It is said we will be payed off soon, some time this week, I dont hardly believe it. We get plenty to eat, & I traded off some coffe for sweet

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potatoes, which went fine with the boys. I tasted one & it was fine. Bill Boggs is writing home. They have 4 large fort guns planted at this place which look quite savage down the river. 3, 32 pounders & 1, 24, They have a large magazine here, it is under the ground but covered over with logs & sand 5, or 6 feet. We had 1000 men when at Alton & now can make but 550 fit for duty. Col Ross has some thing he likes better than this Regt., or he would stay with us more.

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He has not been with us but very little since we left Camp Pope. & for the last month about 4 days. He is gone now, & the boys think if he does not stay with us closer we had better get a new Col., I think so to. Bruner has the Billious fever & is at Cairo hospital. I will send thsi with Jud. Lots of the boys think Gen Fremont ought to have his A– kicked for letting Mulligan be so long without reinforcing him. Our troop are scattered about so we have [???] in a place, & so long as this is the case we will get whipped. Fremont will get his eyes opened after while I hope if he dont soon & they’ll send Co. K we’ll plug him, G.R. Buck.

George R. Buck was a resident of Havana, IL. He enlisted on May 5, 1861 as a private at the age of 21. He served with Company K of the 17th Illinois Infantry. He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on October 22, 1862. He mustered out June 15, 1864. After the war he returned to farming. He died in 1906.

Letter – Frederick Townsend, 16 August 1861


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Letter written by Colonel Frederick Townsend of the 3rd New York Infantry, to Brigadier General Ebenezer W. Pierce, from the New York Hotel. Townsend is writing in response to a letter published by Pierce in the August 5, 1861 Boston Evening Journal about a retreat at Big Bethel. Townsend disputes Pierce’s claim that the retreat was his idea, instead stating that he was the only colonel who did not advise Pierce to retreat. Townsend requests that Pierce correct his previous statement and explains that he advanced upon the batteries as suggested by Captain James Haggerty, despite his original orders to sustain Colonel Duryea. Townsend spotted bayonets across the field and, assuming they belonged to approaching Confederate forces, ordered his men back to their former position. When the regiment came into sight, however, he discovered they were two of his own companies that had been separated from the regiment.

On a separate cover, Townsend wrote that he never sent the letter for fear of causing a controversy in the newspapers. He has retained the letter for “future reference should the occasion require.”

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New York Hotel

August 16th 1861

General E. W. Peirce

Dear Sir

I am more than surprised that in a communication (in reference to the Big Bethel affair) recently published by you, in reference to the Big Bethel Affair you should state that you reluctantly consented – or acceded, I believe is the word – “to a retreat which was sounded first by Colonel

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Townsend, and followed by Col. Duryea.” Can you have forgotten a remark which you repeated in the presence of the Lt. Col. of my regt. the day after the affair, and in my tent, that I “was the only colonel” who did not advise you to retreat[?] And have you forgotten that ten minutes before you gave me the order to retreat I asked you to let Lieut. Greble take his guns where my regt. had been and have an assaulting column formed in three lines, and so make

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an effort to capture the battery (a plan assented to by Lt. Greble), and that you remarked to me that you were out of ammunition? Does this look like a disposition on my part to retreat? Have you forgotten too, sir, that I, moved by your apparent anguish, befriended you by stating to Genl.Butler that “I did not believe you were a coward, as had been represented, for I had twice spoken to you while under severe fire, and that you were perfectly calm.” And that you repeatedly assured me that I was your only friend, and that if I stated  this

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fact to Genl. Butler you would be under lasting obligation to me? And have you forgotten still further that I assured Genl. Butler that your first disposition of battle was well made – under the circumstances – and how you made use of this remark in a letter which you published in your own vindication[?] And have you forgotten too that when I (by your own express direction) moved to the rear, Col. Duryea had already marched off his regiment[?] How then could I have been followed by Col. Duryea? It is impossible for you to make it appear that I “sounded the retreat;” the contrary is susceptible [of] the fullest proof. I therefore

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ask it as a matter of simple justice that you should correct the erroneous impression (in reference to myself) conveyed in the communication referred to, in reference to myself

If you consider my sending my retaking colors back into the road (my second position) my second position which I had left in order to advance upon the battery, and directing the regiment to fall in upon the colors, as indicative of a disposition on my part to retreat from the battlefield, permit me to say that you were

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never more mistaken. I had advanced upon the batteries at the suggestion of Capt. Haggerty of Genl. Butler’s staff, who desired me “to feel the enemy’s right.” I told him that my original written orders were to sustain Col. Duryea, that I had just ridden up to him and he desired me to move my regiment (which was being in a lane on a line with his regiment to the left of the guns where it had been placed by your directions for about twenty minutes on a line with Duryea’s regt. and to the

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left of the guns) to move it close up to the guns and help him to sustain them. And that however But I would notwithstanding do as he Capt. Haggerty suggested, though I felt I was not altogether in the line of my duty in so doing. On reaching my advanced position through a severe fire, close to the shed and after remaining there some fifteen or twenty minutes, on looking to my left, I discovered bayonets gleaming in the adjoining field, as they

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projected here and there above the dense copse separating the two fields, and supposing it to be an effort on the part of the enemy (said to be, by Capt. Kilpatrick, 4000 strong) to cut me off as I being so far in advance of our guns and fearing their loss, I concluded that my duty required me to hasten with all dispatch back to the road my second position with a view to defeat the supposed intention of the enemy. For this purpose, and this purpose alone, I retired to my old position on the left of Duryea & the guns. I directed the color bearer to take the colors on the

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double quick back to the road I had left, and then faced the regt. about, directing it to reform upon the colors at double quick. I succeeded in reaching the road sooner than the supposed enemy where the regiment came promptly into line, when to my amazement, I found the supposed enemy to be two of my own companies which had gotten separated from the regiment by the copse when the regiment commenced the march in line of battle up the [fi]eld. I should state

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that before the regt. marched up the field, I, having detached two companies to deploy as skirmishers and after they were deployed well up to the sheds, I went up the field alone to the place where they were deployed to see whether it was advisable to bring up the remainder of the regiment, with the view of taking the battery. Concluding that there was a possibility of capturing it, provided the regiment should get up to this place where the skirmishers were before the battery became full from details furnished from their left battery – I rode down the

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field about two thirds of the way, and gave orders for the regt. to advance in line, which not being heard, I succeeded in making the Lt. Col. understand what I wanted by the motions of my sword, when he moved the regt. over the fence into the field. I waited where I had halted until it came up to me, and I putting myself in front of the color and led my men off the field, supposing of course that the Lt. Col. had gotten the whole [regiment]

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On returning to the road, I closed the regt. upon the guns as Col. Duryea had before desired and awaited orders and I had not for one moment the idea of retiring. It was at this time that I had the conversation with] suggested the plan of carrying the battery to Lt. Greble in the presence of witnesses. I had not for one moment the idea of retiring & didn’t retire until I got the order from you some two minutes after. You know the balance. Your reply at an early period to this communication will


Very [Respectfully]

                           Fred Townsend

-Written on a separate cover-

A letter to Genl. Pierce Cmdg. Off. at Big Bethel. I did not send it because I thought that it might lead to a newspaper controversy after my departure for the west – and being in Ohio, I should have but a poor chance at the public mind. I retain it, however, for the purpose of future reference should the occasion require.

Frederick Townsend from Albany, NY had enrolled as colonel of the 3rd New York Infantry April 25, 1861 at the age of 34. After serving at the Battle of Big Bethel he resigned on June 26, 1861 to accept appointment as major of the 18th US Infantry. Townsend was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 9th US Infantry on April 20. 1864, and resigned from the army on March 26, 1868. He was breveted lieutenant colonel for Stones River, colonel for recruitment, and brigadier general for war service. He died Sept. 11, 1897.

Ebenezer Weaver Peirce, was a brigadier general of Massachusetts Militia, in the service of the US April 22, 1861, mustered out July 22, 1861. He subsequently became colonel of the 29th MA Infantry, December 31, 1861 and was discharged November 8, 1864.

Letter – James Peckham, 9 July 1861


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Letter written by Colonel James Peckham of the 8th MO Infantry to his mother. Peckham is writing from the St. Louis Arsenal, and has been in the city for three weeks. He writes that the volunteer force was comprised mostly of Germans, which was distasteful to the other (primarily Irish-American) troops and leading to dissension in the ranks. Thus Peckham organized an American regiment. Peckham is determined to lead the regiment as Lieutenant Colonel despite strong discouragement from “the big guns”. He has however asked Morgan L. Smith to be colonel of the regiment, as he feels he doesn’t know enough about the military to take the position himself.

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Saint Louis Arsenal July 9, 1861

My Dear Mother, The clock has just struck one – or rather the guard at the prison has struck once upon the high steel triangle which is suspended in the centre of the garrison. I feel very little like sleep – being too tired to sleep, for I have just come down from the city on foot the cars having stopped running at 11 1/2 oclock. I am here in Camp in the St. Louis Arsenal, which place is located on the line of the southern boundary of the city. I have been here for 3 weeks with my Regiment. I say “my Regiment” – for it is emphatically my Regiment. When I returned from the East i found the volunteer force here composed almost exclusively of germans, and a strong antipathy towards them on the part of the American portion of the population. Many men were drifting into rebellion through this antipathy. The consequence of this I took upon myself to organize an American Regiment. It was a big thing to undertake by one who has plenty of cash, and I hadn’t a solitary cent. But my little bed room was made the Head Quarters & by proper management I soon had a formidable

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organization. I picked out my men for Captains & Lieutenants, Major & Colonel, reserving the position of Lt. Col for myself. Of course I worked hard and ingeniously sent a messenger to Washington & was accepted by the War Department. It is four weeks since that acceptance & today we mustered in the ninth company with the tenth company on the ground to be mustered in tomorrow, which will thoroughly complete us. I have had no outside assistance from anybody. The big guns have never honored us with a single kindly recognition – on the contrary they have shown a disposition to throw cold water on our flaws because it was my work. But I want it distinctly understood that when I undertake a thing it must go through, no matter whether others assist or not. I was elected to the Legislature not by the assistance of the party leaders but in spite of them. I am Lieutenant Colonel of the best body of 1000 men in the western service not because of outside assistance but in spite of it. Since I have been in Saint Louis I have never yet received one solitary word of encouragement except from

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Frank Blair. On the contrary I have been snubbed and abused and slighted and injured by every mothers son of them who occupy position & have means. But they know me by this time. At the office of the Missouri Democrat one evening quite a crowd collected. The question was asked who is getting up this “American Zouave Regt” the answer was “that fellow Jim Peckham” Another remarked that I “was a d—-d busy fool & burning up with brass & impudence” One man spoke up, who was by no means my friend & said “Well! say what you please but if that d—–d Jim Peckham as you call him is getting it up it is going through all right, for he has got energy enough to move hell out of its place.” Now they may affect to despise me as much as they choose yet they have to cave whenever I undertake a thing & they know it. I think I can brag a little now for I have been so soundly abused & so meanly slighted that to brag once in the while is pardonable. This jealousy which is arrayed as a solid wall of stone masonry against me is what better men

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than myself have encountered & triumphed over and succumbed to, as well. I could have been Colonel just as well as Lt. Col but I did not know enough of Military to take such a position and so I got an old army officer to to be our Colonel. This week we will be uniformed & next week will obey marching orders. Our destination will be South West Missouri. I have not heard from you since I saw you at Mattewan in April. What is the matter? I hardly think you are so busy that you cannot drop me even one line to say you are well or unwell. Whenerver you do take a fit to write direct to St. Louis. Put the address in this form & it will reach me wherever I go,

Lieut Col James Peckham

American Zouaves 8th Regt M.V.

Saint Louis Arsenal

St. Louis

Give my love to everybody. May God bless you all & preserve our country. I am in first rate health,

Affectionately, Your son


James Peckham was a member of the Missouri Legislature before the Civil War and was a strident Unionist when the state was debating to secede or not. He left the legislature and organized the 8th MO Regiment. Peckham served as the 8th MO Regiment’s Lt. Col. and led the regiment at Shiloh and Pittsburg Landing, TN, and at Jackson, MS. He later went on to lead the 29th MO. After the war he published a book on the history of the war in Missouri and General Nathaniel Lyon. He passed away in 1869 and is buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, MO.