Letter – E. Forrest Koehler, 13 August 1864


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Letter written by Captain E. Forrest Koehler of Company C, 114th PA Volunteer Infantry, to his brother, from the headquarters of the 114th near Petersburg, VA. Koehler writes that he not tired of service, only of the separation from his family. He is determined to stay until the “cruel rebellion” has been eradicated. He is glad his brother has been able to return home, but he dares not ask for leave as they have been actively fighting for several months.

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Hd Qrs 114th P.V.

                       Near Petersburg, Va, Aug. 13th/64

My Dear Brother

     Your letter of Augt. 8th was rec’d by me last night, and read with great pleasure, but it seems Jack that you have not received my letter of June 24th in answer to yours of April 16th received by me on the day I answered it-

However Jack let it go, it will turn up all right I suppose after awhile, but it does appear that you and I are very unfortunate in the receipt of each others letters, but never mind Jack, the time will soon come, I hope, when we will not need to write to each other, but will have the extreme pleasure of being home together-

     Oh! heavens, how anxiously I look forward to that time – Today I have been three years and five months in the service, (the same time that you have) but Jack understand me distinctly, I am not tired of the service, but I am really tired of the separation from my dear wife & child. To be sure Jack, I have been home, but what does it amount, during the whole time, I have been in the service I have spent 51 days at home, you

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to be sure have not spent so much. But yet we have both made very great sacrifices, but I know you will be like me, that is to glory in it, and feel that we have but done our duty to our country and at the same time feel, that we still owe her a debt that we can never repay- I often times feel as if I would like to leave the service, especially when I think about the “dear ones at home” But Jack I am determined to stay in the service until the “last armed foe expires,” and this cruel rebellion crushed out- You must not think that this determination of mine is made upon the spur of the moment, but it has been my object ever since the war commenced- I trust that my course will satisfy you of that Jack- If the rebellion is not crushed out, I do not wish to live, = I recognize but one flag, and that I have carried successfully through many a bloody field, and I pledge you my honor that it will never be disgraced so long as God spares my life-

     But there Jack, I will now change the subject and come down to speak of personal matters. I am very glad you have got home to your family, and I trust you will enjoy yourself very much – I should like very much to see you, but indeed, my [word missing]

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I would not like to apply for leave of absence now. My military career has so far been without a blot, and as we are now actively engaged in the field, I would not for my reputation’s sake, ask for leave especially when the enemy are in our immediate front – We are fighting every day, and have been since the 4th day of May last, (quite different from the Navy is it not?. But Jack don’t think I reflect – I know you do your share and your full duty -) – If an opportunity offers I shall certainly embrace it to come home, but I do not expect it, until next fall. If you are not put in commission try and come down to see me, I will give you soldier’s fare – You can easily get a pass and I would be very happy to see you. I think I could show you something that would surprise you – We need not go more than a mile before you would see how we work things, and from what you have already experienced it will give you great pleasure – See Judge Kelly, who is now home, and try to come down.

     I am a little hurried up, just now and cannot answer your letter fully – A very sharp engagement is now going on at the front and we are ordered under arms, whether it means

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fight or not for us, I cannot say, but if it does believe me, we will do our best

     Give my love to my mother & sisters and to your better half – Write soon and give me a much longer letter. The “Assembly” is sounding, I must stop – Love to all, I will in my next give you all the particulars.

     Believe me staunch for the Union at all hazards, and affectionately,

                         Yr Brother


I will write again so soon as this little affair we are about starting is over, only keep me posted where you are – Write soon – Tell me how I shall address you by your proper title – I send this to mother – Honestly Jack I have not got time to punctuate this or even read it over – Make it out as best you can – God bless you, stand by the flag – Union or nothing.

Capt. E. Forrest Koehler enrolled in the 114th PA Volunteer Infantry on August 23, 1862. A veteran of nearly all the battles of the Army of the Potomac, he survived the war and was mustered out May 29, 1865

Letter – Samuel Wolcott, 12 June 1864


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Letter written by Private Samuel Wolcott of Company F, 7th CT Volunteer Infantry, to his mother, from Hilton Head, SC. Wolcott writes of his consuming patriotism, and the fact that thousands of Union soldiers are currently in the field while he is separated from his regiment with little to do. He writes that he would be ashamed to remain where he is until his term is over, and is instead choosing to go to the front and fight. Wolcott writes a small anecdote about a friend of his who carried the Connecticut state flag through the field and kept it safe despite a charge made to capture it. Wolcott believes that “none but cowards will shrink from bearing their part,” and he plans to move on the first of the following month.

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Office Com[missioner] of Musters

Hilton Head, S.C. June 12, 1864

My Dear Mother:

     Your letter of the 5th ult. is before me; it having been received at twenty minutes past ten a.m. yesterday. Am glad to know that you have returned safe and well after your journey.

     The napkin rings that I sent in the box were poor ones and I did not think it worthwhile to send them in particular to anyone. If I have a chance before leaving here, I will get a dozen nice ones and send you. And now I want to write you a short essay on – I don’t know what, unless it is patriotism. I think when I was home you were telling me of a woman who had sent five sons to the war, and felt very sorry that she had but no more

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to send. I guess you have forgotten her.

Now, just imagine me, a soldier here away from my regiment, with hardly anything to do, and in good health, while the thousands of Union soldiers are marching, working, and fighting almost incessantly amid the clayes [clays] of Virginia. Have not they friends at home who sympathize with them and would, if possible, shield them from harm? Is their interest in the country greater than mine? Or, am I better than they? But, you say I may get shot if I go there. Are there not thousands of the best men in the country exposed to the same danger? And will not the same God watch over me there as here?

     I do not believe that I am a coward. If I am, I shall find it out in Virginia. And the sooner I know it the better. I should be ashamed to remain here until the expiration of my term, and then to return to Connecticut with the other boys, many of which

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could name a score of fields where they had met the foe and with honor to themselves and cause. But if I were questioned, what should I say? No, mother, instead of telling me to remain here, tell me to go to the front and there help achieve our liberties. And when the war is over, or my time expires, you will not be ashamed to greet me, knowing that I shrank from no duty. Yesterday I received a letter from one of the boys of my co. (Wallace E. Norton). At the date of his letter, May 29th, he had been in four engagements since he landed in Virginia. In the last one, a corporal, he carried the state flag, the staff of which was shot in two in his hands, and a charge made upon it to effect its capture. But he bore it safely from the field. And think if he lives to see the end of the war he will soon forget that day[?] As a partial reward for his bravery they made him a sergeant

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and doubtless there are hundreds of others as brave as he, who in doing their duty are bringing honor for themselves. Not that the honors won by the few make up for the maughling [mauling] of the ma[n]y. But when the work is to be done, I think that none but cowards will shrink from bearing their part. And believing this, I should go to Va. on the next boat if I could. But I cannot get away, and shall have to remain here until the first of next month, when I will write to you, if well, from the regt. Now don’t borrow unnecessary trouble about me, nor ask me even to avoid the dangers which as a soldier it is my duty to share.

                                Most affectionately,

                                   Saml. W. Wolcott

Samuel W. Wolcott, from Salisbury, CT, enlisted in Co. F, 7th CT Volunteer Infantry on October 17, 1861. In December 1863 he re-enlisted, and served until his death at Deep Bottom, VA on August 16, 1864 (just 60 days after this letter). The 7th CT suffered severely at this engagement, losing 7 killed, 25 wounded, and 4 prisoners.

Wallace E. Norton, from New Haven, CT, enlisted on August 29, 1861, was promoted corporal January 1, 1863; sergeant May 20, 1864; and Quartermaster Sergeant September 13, 1864. He survived the war, and was mustered out July 20, 1863 at Goldsboro, NC.