Letter – Sereno Bridge, 19 January 1862


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Letter written by Private Sereno Bridge, Gilbert’s Company of Illinois Independent Cavalry [later Company H, 12th IL Cavalry], to his wife, from Benton Barracks in St. Louis, MO. The miserable weather has given him time to write a letter. Bridge describes the conditions of the camp. He also writes that the army chaplains are overpaid and not focused on the spiritual well-being of the men, while the officers are “unprincipled, profane” and “have no regard for God.” Bridge believes that if the war ends, it will be because of the prayers of citizens in spite of the “sin and iniquity” of the army. He worries that his regiment may be disbanded.

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Benton, Barracks Jan 19

Dear Wife I received your letter of the 11 of Jan on Thursday last and to day being Sunday and a damp foggy day and (not) so much is going on as usual I thought I would write you afew lines to let you k[n]ow we are getting along well in the first plase as you are a good deale worr[i]ed on a count of my health I will try and releive your anxiety on that acount for the preasant for to day I feel as well as at any time since I have been here, although as I have written to you before I have not been entirely free from a cough since I came here some days quite bad and others about well I have not lost a meal on the acount of sickness since I enlisted one of the men that came back

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from the hospital said he thought I had grown fleshy while he had been gone but I do not know how that is as I have not been weighed since I left Geneva you wanted to know how we lived here our living is about the same as in Geneva with the exception that the dirt is more plenty and I do not think quite as good as it was there you wish to know where the Chaplains in the army are now every Reg has a Chaplain and government pays them some $130, per month they weare a fine uniform have a horse and waiter if they like and rank next to the field officers in the army now that some of them are good God fearing men I have

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no doubt and are doing much good. but with a greate many of them it is somthing as it is with myself now being a private I can take care of the sick and do some little good but if I had gone home with straps on my sholders which Grandfather Bruce discovered that I did not have on, I should have proberly got above my buissiness and not done as much good as now I think if our Chaplains was paid about the saim as the common soldier and had to wear plain cloths we should have those in the army that would labour faithfully for the temporal and spearitual good of the men but it is a hard matter for a Chaplain to exert much influence in the army for the officers from the hiest [highest] to the loust [lowest] with

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a few exceptions are unprincipled profane men they have no regard for god nor some of them for man if this reb[e]llion is ever put down and our country saved it will be bcause there is riches praying peopple out side of the army and government enough to save it in spite of all the sin anickety [iniquity] that is committed in high places there is some prospect that our com[pany] ma[y] be disbanded but I harldy think it will at preasant if it should I do not think i should come home I think if our country ever has needed my servises it needs them yet I think now I should go to Kansas and join Jim Lanes expedition proberly you have seen an acount of it in the papers there was a Reg of Caval[r]y from Ohio just come in to the Camp that are going to join Lane’s forces I here that our Reg is on the road backe here again kiss the boys for me good by

S. Bridge

Sereno Bridge, from Elgin, IL, enlisted as a private in Gilbert’s Company of Illinois Independent Cavalry on September 6, 1861. He was transferred out on February 17, 1862 to Company H, 12th IL Cavalry, then on December 25, 1862 to Company G, 15th IL Cavalry. He was mustered out of service on October 31, 1864.

Letter – John Beach, 14 October 1863


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Letter written by Corporal John D. Beach of Company G, 55th IL Volunteer Infantry, to his mother, from Lagrange, Tennessee. Beach writes that his health is improving, but several of his comrades are ill. He describes how the Confederates nearly took General William T. Sherman and his men prisoner at Collierville. The “Rebs” fired at Sherman’s rail cars. The 13th Regulars, vacated the train to fight, and suffered a few casualties. Sherman is now in Corinth, and his regiment has just received orders to march there. Beach mentions that he sent his violin home when he was in Memphis.

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Lagrange Tenn Oct 14th 1863

Dear Mother

    I now seat myself on the ground to write a few lines to you to let you know that I am getting better I have not had the ague for about two weaks. Frank Bennett is verry sick He has some kind of fever Charles West is also sick but not as sick as Frank B. Calvin Songster is sick with the ague These three are sick in the hospital. I have not heard of Charles Patterson since we left him at Vicksburg on one of the hospital boats I expect he is at Memphis or St. Louis but I do not know whare he is. Fred Smith is

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not well The regt. left Lagrange last Sunday Fred went along. They went down towards Holly Springs That is 25 miles due south of here We went from here to Holly Springs last year When we came through here the Rebs came near takeing Genl Sherman and some more generals prisoners at Collierville That is between here and Memphis The Rebs fired at them and filled the cars full of holes One car had a six pound ball put through it Genl Shermans old regt was along with him that is the 13 Regulars They got off and gave them a fight We lost 11 killed and 40 wounded and one of General Shermans staff officers General Sherman is now

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in Corinth George Hawk passed through here day before yesterday and he has my thing in Corinth with him The regt has not come in yet We have just received orders to get ready to go to Corinth We will go to day I guess The chaplain is here and he brought one car load of things with him, but not a thing from Deer Park. The things are all at Cairo They was not put on the boat and so they were left But if we stay in Corinth aney length of time we will get them because they will come to Memphis the next time thare is a Sanitary boat comes down I have written three letters since I arrived in Memphis. I sent my violin

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home while I was in Memphis I directed it to Mary S. Williams, Ottawa La Salle Co Ill. I paid for it; one dollar and a quarter I hope our things will come through You tell Franks mother that he is verry sick I suppose if he knew it he would not like to have me let her know it They are in the hospital at Lagrange. I guess I am the onley one that has written home I expect the ague a gain in a few days But I may not have it I have not done any duty in the regt for over one year I do not do any duty now I guess our regt has been in a skirmish while they are gone I must close on account of room Charles West has just come in the tent He has written home that he is well, but he will have the same [sickness] more.

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Direct to J. D. Beach Co G. 55 Regt Ill Vol Corinth Miss

John D. Beach, from Lasalle, IL, enrolled August 23, 1861 in Co. G of the 55th IL Volunteer Infantry. He was promoted to corporal, and re-enrolled April 12, 1864, soon thereafter being assigned to Battery A, 1st IL Light Artillery of the 2nd Division, 15th Army Corps. Later transferred back to the 55th Illinois. Beach was mustered out at Little Rock, AR on June 14, 1865

Letter – Alfred Sofield, 6 March 1863


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Letter written by Captain Alfred J. Sofield of Company A, 149th PA Volunteer Infantry “Bucktails,” to his wife Helen from camp near Belle Plain, VA. Sofield writes of the impending arrival of a new chaplain, and a rumor that Captain Bryden was appointed provost marshal of the Congressional district. He also mentions the prevalence of disease within the camp. He goes into detail about the politics in the regiment concerning their lack of an acting major. Sofield received the majority of the votes for major, though he is unsure if he will get the position as the promotion would be made by the colonel. He writes that Belle Plain is only used as a government depot, and they are on picket duty for the next several days.

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Camp near Bell Plain, Va

March 6. 1863

8 O clock P.M.

My Dear Wife                          

     I have been waiting anxiously several days for a reply to some one or all of my letters. But the mail is in and again I am sorely disappointed. Yours of the 19th, 22d, & 21st ult. I rec’d at the same time, that is on Tuesday last. You may well believe I had begun to get nervous as I know you generally write to me frequently. And in this case it being so long, and the children being sick when I left, I imagined all manner of things, and of course was very much gratified to hear that you all, if not quite well, were so much better. I rec’d a letter from Capt. Bryden [Co. G] saying that Mr. Calkins’ [chaplain] papers had not reached

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Harrisburg. I went immediately to Col. Dwight and said it was very strange as he saw them mailed. The next morning the adjutant brought me the documents and said they had been mislaid. I took and forwarded them to S. F. Wilson at Harrisburg, and we now expect our chaplain will be with us about the last of next week. Did you see Wilson when he was in Washington, or was you at Alexandria at the time I heard yesterday that Capt. Bryden was appointed provost marshal of our Congressional district. Is it so? I hope it is. When we arrived at this camp we only numbered 530 men, and out of that small number 130 were reported sick this morning. One of Capt. Bryden’s

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men died today. It was a Blissburg man. I do not know his name, but if I can think of it in the morning will find out and let you know. There are quite a number of my men sick, but none of them dangerously so. Among the number is John Wilcox. Colds & diraeah are the prevailing diseases. We have no acting maj. There was a move on foot by which Capt. Osborne was to act in the absence of Maj. Speer. It was a move of Col. Stone’s, at least so says Col. Dwight. But the officers of the regt. just told the lt. col. that that would never answer, and it had the desired effect. The officers had a meeting a few nights ago and took a vote as to who they were in favor of, and I had all but three votes

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Two of those against me were by men voting for themselves and the other by a lt. of one of the other candidates, viz. Capt. McCullough. I cannot tell how the thing will as there has been a regimental order issued saying that promotions would be made by the col. without consulting the wishes of the line officers. But I think the col. will hardly dare to disregard the opinion of so large a majority. If he does, I have the consolation of being almost the unanimous choice of the regiment. Bell Plain is just a government depot. No other buildings there. We are doing picket duty four days out of six. I send out about half my company on that duty. They have to travel about 3 miles before reaching the line. We are doing duty on the outer line close by the Rebels. I think I wrote you of my being wet. After this when I go I have a horse to ride as the captains will only go as field officers, and we take turns at that, so I shall not have to go often. When in camp we drill from 8 to 10 hours a day. I am very impatient to hear how you succeed in your clerkship. I approve your course. I do not want you to return to Wellsboro until you can do so in the right shape, and

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independent of everyone. Now it is getting towards the 1st of April, and I believe the lease of Mrs. Micks house expires on the 16th of April. And if you should conclude to remain at Washington, I think you had better write to Horace Cook and ask him to have our things packed up nicely and stored in some good, safe place. I think we had better let C. S. Wilcox take the piano, and use it (if he will) till we want it. If he does not want Lewis Bodine says he would like to have it taken to their house. You can do as you think best about it. I only suggest what I hope to think of as in case you stay something of the kind must be done. I think of you almost constantly. And it causes me much more

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anxiety than my own situation does. I know your hands are more than full, but I have one thing to console me, and that is if any woman can get along where brains and good judgment is required, you can. Tell Willie that apples sell here for five cents a piece. The Lt. was Benjamin Hughes that died in Bryden’s company. Ma, kiss Willie, Jimmie, & Bennie and Willie, Jimmie & Bennie, kiss Ma, all for me.

     Now Helen, I want you to write immediately and frequently thereafter. I am always anxious to hear from you and particularly so when you are away from home & situated as you now are. And now good by for the present.

                                 Ever yours,


Alfred J. Sofield was a clerk/justice of the peace in Wellsboro, PA when he enrolled as a Union Army Officer. He served in the Civil War as Captain and commander of Company A of the 149th PA Volunteer Infantry. During the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, he was stationed along Chambersburg Pike north of the McPherson Farm. His unit under artillery fire from the Confederate batteries on Herr Ridge, and was struck by a round, which killed him as well as Private Edwin D. Dimmick and Corporal Nathan H. Wilcox.

Letter – Edward Clark, 31 January 1862


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Letter written by Chaplain Edward L. Clark of the 12th MA Infantry to William Dehon, from the camp of the 12th Regiment MA Volunteers in Frederick, MD. Clark’s letter focuses on the politics of the Webster Regiment. He begins by stating that the 12th MA and its colonel, Fletcher Webster, are “the envy of all,” though he annoyed that some members of the regiment are speaking ill of himself. He concludes the letter by mentioning that Dehon’s son, Lieutenant Arthur Dehon, has recently arrived, and praises the young Dehon for his diligence and hard work.

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Frederick, Md. Jan. 31, 1862

                       Camp 12th Reg. Mass. Vols.

Mr. Dehon

Dear Sir

     On my last visit “home” I tried frequently to see you, but failed every attempt. Mr. Butler requested me to write to you or himself concerning the regiment. I take therefore, great pleasure in saying that both at division Head Quarters and among the other officers our regiment and Col. [Fletcher Webster] are the envy of all. Col.[George H.] Gordon, [2nd MA Infantry] last of all men to say such a thing, confessed to me that our men were far superior to his own. You could hardly expect him to compare cols., but our own “boys” do with delight, and his boys with longing! In discipline, in materiel, in spirit, there is nothing wanting. Order and propriety are the orders of the camp.

     I need not tell you how much loved our Col. is, or how much we admire his kindness and greatness of heart. As a gentleman he did not surprise, but I have not ceased to wonder at the power of the man. In the one, all are pleased, but

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[in] the other only his friends are delighted, because they only feel it. I was called at home extravagant for the terms I used in his praise, but to you they would seem justice. From my personal observation I assure you that as a military man he stands here, as he does everywhere, for his social qualities.

     But one thing has annoyed me very much. If it could be met, I would bear it alone. As it now comes it is not only without foundation, but the more vexatious, because it misleads by opinion and influence. I feel confident that time would adjust it, but before then it might be unpleasant if not injurious. Could you imagine that within a plan to separate any who might have mutual interests and consequently lend somewhat of strength to each other, such and imputation might be cast and pressed day after day as this, that one has secretly injured the other. It is not uncommon, but unfortunate. Because it is called “secret,” no proof is called for. You are one of the Col’s. best friends. Do you think or know I have by my public or private letters or conversation cast a shade on my own Col. and regiment?

If you have a suspicion, please let me know on what it rests. If not, will you not write to the Col. and say so. Mr. Butler and Mr. Eaton expressed their entire disbelief in any such accusation, and Mr. Eaton mentioned as an example

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a certain report believed to have come from Dr. Clark, which was found out to be untrue. Now a chaplain is a scapegoat for the sins of a thousand. He is not always with Col. Bryan [Lieut. Col. Timothy M. Bryan] and Adj., and does not lean on such men. But they make him bear what they can. I know that I have quietly but resolutely set my face against such reports, not only among the authorities, but at home, and among business men. Therefore, I do not write for the sake of myself, but the Col. Beside this, my remaining with the reg. is a matter of so much uncertainty that I feel the more anxious to dispose all such things while I am still a chaplain.

     Mr. Butler gave me $14 for the express of my library to the regiment. It just paid the freight. At present we have 400 books and 500 magazines in circulation among our boys.

     I saw Mrs. Webster and family yesterday. They leave for home tomorrow or Monday. The col. hopes to get 8 days leave of absence and return with them. Mrs. W[ebster] will explain many things which I have not time to write.

     Hoping to hear at least a line from you,

I remain with deepest respect

Your old servant

E.L. Clark

                                  Chaplain, 12th Mass. Vols.  

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P.S. Your son [Lieut. Arthur Dehon] has so recently arrived that I had forgotten for the moment his joining our regiment. He applies himself with the utmost diligence to his “Hardee’s” and feels much delighted with his progress. He has been put on duty for several days. The men who always express themselves about such things in a democratic way, warmly give their approval! Of course, their opinion is quite independent of means, but one token of it.

     May I take the liberty of calling your attention to a little article “Charity” in the Courier. It may possibly give more fully the condition of the reg. in two respects – comfort and intelligence.

Edward Lord Clark, from Andover, MA, aged 23, enrolled as chaplain in the 12th MA Infantry on June 26, 1861. He resigned on June 16, 1862. Died Feb. 4, 1910.

Arthur Dehon was William Dehon’s son and a 2nd Lieutenant in Webster’s 12 MA Infantry.

Letter – Edward Clark, 5 September 1862


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Letter written by the former Chaplain Edward Lord Clark of the 12th MA Infantry to Mrs. Caroline Webster, from Andover, MD. Clark is writing to express his sympathies at the death of Mrs. Webster’s husband, Colonel Fletcher Webster. Clark speaks very highly of the colonel, and writes of how loved he was by his men. He concludes by mentioning the Websters’ daughter Julia, who also passed away.

Andover Sept. 5th


Mrs. Webster

Dear Madam

     I have thought that the sad news which has cast a cloud over the friends of our brave Col. might not prove to be true. It did not seem possible that he had fallen, but this afternoon the last hope has been disappointed, and I can only express my warm sympathy with you in this terrible affliction.

     While no words can relieve the sad pressure upon your feelings, I am sure that even the humblest praise cannot but be pleasing in the midst of sadness. And I should be ungrateful to him for his many kindnesses if I did not tell you how much we admired his remarkable talents and his splendid accomplishments. His generosity and his sympathy with even the poorest of his soldiers endeared him to the entire regiment. Many times have I spoken of the devotion of his men, and I never knew a Col. so universally

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loved and so cheerfully obeyed as our col. In all my intercourse with the different companies, under all circumstances, and at all times since we left home, I never heard an angry or disrespectful word spoken of him. His power over them was such that I believe they would have followed him everywhere, and yet they never feared him as a commander. With a warmth of heart, which knew no distinction of religion or politics, he drew all men to love him, so that I used to feel proud to observe how much of his father’s genial kindness came to men, and pleased to see how much he had for all beside.

     Never shall I forget the rides we took in the late afternoon at Darnestown. The ease and skill with which he explained to me many things I had not understood in my reading or studies; the warmth and earnestness he threw into his gestures and tones as he expounded the “Lord’s prayer,” and the “Sermon on the mount;” the interest he displayed in

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the details of his regiment- how they thought, and wished and hoped – the enthusiasm and pride he felt as he led his splendid men under some unexpected order, perhaps to a scene of trial; the fondness he expressed for his dear Julia, and all his warm friends at home. These and a hundred things besides are so recent, so fresh in my heart, that I cannot feel the loss enough, or be thankful enough that I have seen and known it all. I wish for nothing so much as to have done something for your husband. I used to think if we went into battle I should never lose sight of him. But this privilege I could not have. Now it is too late.

     When I returned, I was too sick to leave my room, and on my becoming better the Dr. sent me back into the country, so that hoping from day to day to return and see you I did not write.

     You have met two trials, and both together. I cannot tell you how bravely he fell, nor need I remind you that

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this would have been his choice. If I could see you, I should feel that words were a mockery, but I would rejoice to press your hand, and tell you that I should always respect and admire the warm, generous hearted and talented impulses, and zeal, of our own dear Col. While I remember your precious daughter [Julia] as I do the rare days of sunshine in our stormy winter at Frederick. They were not separated.

     With the warmest sympathy ad deepest gratitude for your personal kindness to me, I have the honor to remain,

                         Your obedient servant,

                            Edward L. Clark  

Edward Lord Clark, from Andover, MA, aged 23, enrolled as chaplain in the 12th MA Infantry on June 26, 1861. He resigned on June 16, 1862. Died Feb. 4, 1910.

Fletcher Webster was the only surviving child of the famous Massachusetts Senator and orator, Daniel Webster. He organized the “Webster Regiment,” the 12th MA Infantry in 1861 at the age of 47. He was killed in action on the afternoon of August 30, 1862 at the Battle of 2nd Bull Run.