Letter – Reuben Rhodes, 28 July 1863


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Letter written by Private Reuben Rhoades of Company C, 19th ME Infantry, to his mother from McVeigh Hospital in Alexandria, VA. Rhoades writes that he is exhausted from marching, hence why he is in the hospital. He came to Alexandria on the railroad from Warrenton Junction. The army has gone down the Rappahannock River, but he is not in a hurry to join them. He mentions fighting at the battle at Gettysburg and the long marches that preceded it. He cautions his mother not to worry, as he is not “so awful sick.” The house that serves as the hospital is along the Potomac River, and he is able to look out his window and gaze at the steamboats while he rests.

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Alexandria VA. July 28

Mc Veigh Hospital 1863

My Dere Mother it is with plasure that I now rite to let you no how and whare I am weell as for my health it is not very good nor very bad but I am wourn out a marching and the most that I want is rest and I am in a good place for that. I come in to Alexandria last night on the cars from Warington Junction. the Armey has gon down on the Rapperhanock a gane [again] but I shant be in a hurry a bout going. I shell stay here till I get recuted up in good shape. wee have bin on the

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March for Six weeks without hardly adays rest and that is a nuf [enough] to ware most eny one out but I will be all rite before long but I shell stay here as long as I can and let the armey march to the devel [devil] if they want to. wee have marched over 600 miles and fought that battle at gettersburg that haint doing bad is it. I have not got but one letter from you since I left Falmoth wee could not get our male [mail] and not much chance to send one I have rote to you every chance that could get. now I dont want you to think that I am so awful sick for I haint and I dont want you to think so I am worn out and all I want is to lay still and recute

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up, and I have got whare I can have good care and well doctered and a good bed to sleep on, and it is rite byt the window and whare I can look on the Potomac and see the steembots go in and out, im up the thurd story of a splended brick hous, rit in the sity, now I have not got much more to rite this time I have jest bin to dinner and wee had new potatos and beets and onions and soft bread I call that prity good, now when you rite to me I want you to send me one or to dollers if you can get it eny way for I want a little change, rite soon and all the nuse and [w]ho was drafted from your son

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put on your letters

Mc Veigh Hospital

Alexandria VA

Reuben Rhodes, a citizen of Troy, ME, enlisted on August 25, 1862. He was between 18 and 20 years old. He served as a private in Company C of the 19th ME Infantry and mustered out May 31, 1865. After the war he returned to his parents farm and married a woman named Josephine. He died in 1923 and was buried in Fairview Cemetery.

Letter – William Smith, 1 November 1888


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Letter written by former Major General William F. “Baldy” Smith, Chief Engineer for the Army of the Cumberland, to General Henry M. Cist, from Philadelphia, PA. Smith writes that he thoroughly analyzed Ulysses S. Grant’s account of the battle of Chattanooga, which he wrote as a reply to General William T. Sherman’s “Grand Strategy of the War” that was published in Century Magazine. Smith never published his analysis, but promises to send a copy to Cist. Smith goes on to describe the roles played by Generals Ulysses S. Grant, Joseph Hooker, William T. Sherman, and George H. Thomas at the battle of Chattanooga. Smith writes of how Grant gave the order to attack the rifle pits at the base of Missionary Ridge, a decision that Smith refers to as “absurd.”

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1902 Pine Street Phila

Nov 1st 88

My dear General Cist,

Your favor of the 29th ult. reached me this morning. I have made a very exhaustive analysis of the account of the battle of Chattanooga as given by Grant and his satellites in a paper & wrote to reply to Gen Sherman’s “Grand Strategy of the War” published [in] the Century Magazine last Feb 7, (I think). I have no copy of it, having never published the paper as I intended in pamphlet form as I had no money to put up for such a labor to others’ interests. I will make a copy of that paper so far as it relates to the

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battle of Chattanooga and send it to you. If given out the whole paper in print you would see what an inconsequential writer Sherman is. He it was who began to revile the Army of the Cumberland in his memoirs and before and I always attributed to him the strictures that Grant pressed on it. I was on Orchard Knob during all the time, but knew nothing of Grant’s order to Thomas. It may or may not be true. The first I knew of such a design was the order from Grant in person to go and give the orders to Baird to attack the rifle pits at

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the base of the Ridge at a given signal. If you will read my paper carefully you will find that Thomas had his own views and had given his own orders apparently without consultation with Grant and that Thomas was waiting to hear from Hooker before ordering a forward movement from the A[rmy] of C[umberland]. I told Thomas in the early morning that Hooker would not send him word when Rossville Gap was carried as it would not be for his interest to do so. That he (Thomas) ought to have a staff officer with Hooker to be sure to get the information – About the time when Grant says he had ordered Thomas to make the assault Thomas and I had a short talk on

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Orchard Knob. It was the only time when I ever saw Thomas show worry and anxiety and it was because he could not understand why Hooker was not heard from. The order to assault the rifle pits was an absurd one. It was retrieved from disgrace and defeat because the soldiers went on and did the necessary thing and because also Hooker had crossed the ridge and was sweeping down it so that a lot of prisoners were taken between his command and that of Johnson. I will send you my paper and you may publish what you please of it.


Wm F Smith

William Farrar “Baldy” Smith, was born February 17, 1824 at St. Albans, VT. An engineer (USMA 1845 – 4th in his class), he was an instructor at the Military Academy prior to the Civil War. He was commissioned colonel of the 3rd VT Infantry in 1861. He served at 1st Bull Run as a staff officer with General Irvin McDowell before being appointed brigadier general of volunteers on August 13, 1861. Smith commanded a division of the VI Corps and then the corps itself from the Peninsula to Fredericksburg, earning promotion to major general July 4, 1862. His outspoken criticism of Burnside and his close ties to McClellan resulted in his removal, and the Senate failed to confirm him as a major general. In 1863 he was assigned to the Army of the Cumberland as its chief engineer. He was re-nominated as a major general, effective March 9, 1864. Smith commanded the XVIII Corps under general Benjamin Butler, and fought at Cold Harbor. Due to his failure to take Petersburg during the early fighting he was removed from corps command July 19, 1864. His continued outspoken criticism of senior commanders resulted in his resignation in 1865 (vols.) and 1867 (reg. army). In civilian life, Smith was the president of a telegraph company, then president of the NY city board of police commissioners, and worked as a harbor engineer for various govternment projects. He lived in Philadelphia for many years prior to his death Feb. 28, 1903.

Henry Martyn Cist was from Ohio, enlisting as a private in the 6th OH Infantry on April 20, 1861. He was commissioned 2nd lieutenant of the 52nd OH Infantry on October 16, 1861, and 1st lieutenant and adjutant of the 74th OH Infantry on Oct 22, 1861. He served on staff duty with Rosecrans as A.A.A.G. before being promoted to captain April 20, 1864, and major 13 March, 1865. Cist was brevetted lieutenant colonel, colonel, and brigadier general for Stones River, Chickamauga, and war service. He was mustered out January 4, 1865, and lived until December 16, 1902. He also wrote for Century Mag.

Letter – Christopher Gregory, 2 August 1863


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Letter written by Private Christopher C. Gregory of Company B, 38th VA Infantry of Brigadier General Lewis A. “Lo” Armistead’s Brigade, to Mr. Jason C. Swanson, from a camp near Culpeper Court House, VA. The letter describes the aftermath of Pickett’s Charge. Gregory writes they had a difficult time in Pennsylvania, experiencing foul weather and that they are currently being pursued by Union forces. He feels that the Confederate troops will never fight well again. Gregory thinks that their next destination will be Fredericksburg, VA. He briefly mentions women and marriage prospects, then continues to write about the heavy casualties suffered by the 38th VA. Gregory seems to be suffering from depression; he does not wish to have any company and writes that his “life is not much satisfaction.”

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August the 22 1863

Camp Near Culpeper, C.H. Va

Mr. Jas. C. Swanson Dear Sir

with plesur this Sunday morning to write you a few lines to in form you I am well. I hope theas may finde you injoying the same greate blesing as for news, I have now that is good we had a very Hard Time in pensylvania We hade so mouch bade wether it rained evry night and evry day but the beste crops I ever saw I never be fore saw surch crops of whete I wish we cold of stade thar. the ballance of this war but we have not gote trups [troops] or [???] the Yankees ar folliwing ous on the was very hevvy fyring laste night on the other side of the cothous [Court House?] I do not bleve our trups will ever fight Good again the[y] are to[o] dull I bleve Every Soulder thinks we are whipe [whipped]

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I am fearfull we ar whipe the yankees in pensylvania do not hartley [hardly] no [know] this war as [is] goin on bacon worth 12 c per pond [pound] whiskey 50 per gallon oats 25 to 35 per bushel corn per bushel 40 c evry thing lo and plenty of younge men. Substutes $300.00 and the niceste farms I ever saw but the parte of pensylvania we wente thrue [???] we pass & will for a longe time to com we birnt finces [burnt fences] our boys stold chickens & evry thing else I stole nothing but one old ruster [rooster] we march all night & all day I lifted one old ruster offor the ruste the yankees was all a round us all of the time it was verry [dangerous?] for a fellow to travel bout thar I wente to a old house & the[re] was 8 men in it up stars changing their dressing I reported it to a [???] who was closte by he put some gards over them I did not know whever the[y] was Yankees or not the yankees dide not [???] but one fire at my head one took a far shoute [shot] at my head he was in the mountains the was too

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withe one the [???] & one we have bin [told?] to leve hear for 3 or 4 days but have not gon yet I think we will leve hear soon I think we will go towards Fedricksburge I bleve if do go thar I will marry so[me] of them refigeses [refugees] the was marring all of the time when we was thar befor I have quite talking to the Girls I hartley ever lock at one I am seeing the dullis [dullest] times now I have ever have see[n] [since] the begin of the war for all of my company who I like ar cut down & ar no mor on this Erth. So I do not fele [feel] wright now with my company I cold once go to my company & talk with James [Burgess?] & pass off lonsome hourers & now my life is not mouch Sendes Jackson to me now I am onley living to see truble I now Hope this war will clos soon for I am wo[re] out with all things. I can not in joy my selfe mouch I am living a dull life hard life & I bleve this war will hold on a longe time yet. I met withe bill Gilberte when we started to merland [Maryland] he was in Culpeper then I stade with him one night

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He sed He was in hopes when we met again pece [peace] wold [would] be hear but he was kill in a few days after well [cook?] I mus[t] clos my badley writon letter I hope to hear form [from] you soon

Form C.C. Gregory To Ja C Swanson

Mr Jas. C. Swanson


Pittsylvania Cty


Christopher Columbus Gregory was born on February 17, 1837 in Pittsylvania, VA to Richard and Elizabeth Gregory. He was one of 10 children and joined the 38th VA Infantry with his brothers John, Nathan, and Richard. His brother Wilson was also in the Confederacy, perhaps the 18th VA Infantry. Christopher was the only one of his brothers to survive the war. After the war he became a blacksmith, married Mary Shough, and had at least 6 children. He died March 24, 1908.

Letter – Samuel Hallack, 17 November 1864


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Letter from Samuel Hallack to his friend L. Dodge. Samuel expresses his regret that Dodge has apparently lost his employment due to his political beliefs and that things like politics and religion should not have any influence in business. He thinks Dodge should not be out of work long and offers him a position where he is, though he thinks Dodge will dislike Lowell. He ends with a postscript regarding a conflict with a mutual friend.

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Lowell Nov 17th 1864

Dear Friend Dodge

I should have answered your letters before but have not found it convenient. I think that you have acted an honorable part and one that you will never regret. however much we may regret the termination of the campaign and would be glad to do anything in my power to make good all which you have lost by your political course, for I think that different opinions of politics and religion should have no influence in business matters, I am really sorry that you have lost your

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situation at Bridesburg but glad that business is good nearly everywhere for I do not think that you will need be out of work at all,

You can have a job here at 250 per day if you can do no better elsewhere still I do not think you would like Lowell as a place to live. I shall not stay here long although I have a very good easy situation but my health will not admit of my staying here. I do not know where I will decide to go.

I received a paper from Joe Hopkins with a carte visit of our Worthy President looking for your prayers and 500,00 more If you see him thank him for me and tell him I will write to him soon How are you firkin

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There is a great deal I would like to say to you if I could see you but do not feel able to write more at present. If you come this way be sure and call on me I will write again soon Mrs H sends her kind regards With many wishes for your prosperity I am truly your friend

Samuel Hallack

P.S. I think that you were right in regard to Archibald and he will see it some day, but he made a poor return for my friendship, I think his conscience will punish him at some future time with compound interest. SH.

L. Dodge is believed to have been an employee and possibly a manager at Alfred Jenks & Son in Bridesburg, PA. They made contract US arms and various patented arms such as the Jenks carbine.

Letter – Nieks, 9 January 1864


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Letter to L. Dodge from his friend Nieks at Harper’s Ferry. Nieks sarcastically inquires about Dodge’s dismissal from his employment (presumably from an obnoxious employer) and confides that he also is looking for employment. He admits that he is disappointed with the results of the campaign, but that they must stand up for democracy and truth and hopes that republicanism will crawl back into the hell it came from.

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Harpers Ferry VA

January 9th /64

Friend Dodge

How are you to day, and how do you get along since I heard from you, I hear that Lord [Caroll?] by the sanction of Prince Barton has dismissed you from the employ of his most royal Highness, and sent you adrift upon the dreary world outside the sacred enclosure of his Royal Highness’ workshops, political prescription I opine, Well how wages the world with you since? and what are you driving now for greenbacks? — The world has been running round several times

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last we met but by some mishap, I am continualy on the under side, and while I do not feel like complaining truth must be told, I cannot climb, I am now without employment, and shall be compeled to seek it, and may probably have to visit the north again, but, I think I shall keep clear of Bartons, — I must thank you for my Christmas present I received through our Friend Ault, and hope I shall be able some day to regail you with a token of rememberance,

Let me hear from you soon, for it gives me pleasure to have a line from from an old and true friend, remember

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me to all our acquaintance especialy to Blodget & Hopkins and our Brother boarders; tell me if you hear from Smith and how he is.

Well now [???] I shall not weary you with much more but must add a line on politicks, I feel much disappointed in the result of the campain but must ever believe that an unholy fraud as black as [???] dispaiR has been practiced, but a day of retribution must come, the principals of democracy are the source of truth and must prevail when republicanism will hide its deformed and hideous face and crall back to its native hell

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So you see I am yet hopefull but now we must shake hands and say good bye, and if you see a place where I can make a few pennys either by pen or file, let me know & I will join you

Yours Muchly


Excuse my paper

L. Dodge is believed to have been an employee and possibly a manager at Alfred Jenks & Son in Bridesburg, PA. They made contract US arms and various patented arms such as the Jenks carbine.

Letter – C. Alexander Thompson, 27 January 1863


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Letter written by C. Alexander Thompson, a civilian arms worker, to his friend in Bridesburg, PA, from New Haven, CT. Thompson is requesting a job with his friend, as a U.S. Inspector recently visited his own workplace and said that their work was done incorrectly. As they will need to alter their tools, Thompson will not be able to do any work for quite a while.

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New Haven Jan 27th 1863

Friend Dodge

You will probably be surprised at my writing to you for a job i was foolish that i did not come when you wrote for me but they promised to give me a good thing here but last week there was a US Inspector here and he said the work was all wrong so they have got to make an alteration in there tools and it will be some time before i will have

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anything to do so if you have not got all the men you want i will come immediately on receiving a letter from you i wish you would write so i can get a letter by Saturday if you dont want me i wish you would ask Tupper if he wants anybody give my respects to all and be sure and write and oblige

Yours Muchly

C Alexander Thompson

It is believed that Thompson worked for the New Haven Arms, Co., which manufactured the Henry Repeating Rifle. He is possibly writing to the manager of the Jenks and Son plant in Bridesburg, PA.

L. Dodge is believed to have been an employee and possibly a manager at Alfred Jenks & Son in Bridesburg, PA. They made contract US arms and various patented arms such as the Jenks carbine.

Letter – George Jones, November 1863


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Letter from George Jones to his cousin Helen Sofield, dated November, 1863. Jones is writing to express his condolences to Helen on the death of her husband, Alfred J. Sofield, who was killed in action at the Battle of Gettysburg. He writes about faith, and that God will support her through this difficult time.

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Dear Cousin                           Nov.

I intended to have written long ere this time, but I have been busy and have neglected it longer than I ought. Indeed, cousin, I can sympathize with you. I felt sorry when I heard of Alfred’s death. We talked of your troubles long before I received your letter. I often think of Willie, James, & Benny. Dear cousin, there is a care exercised over us by Our Heavenly Father that we fail perhaps to realize until we, through affliction or misfortune are brought to turn our minds or thoughts to things beyond this world. We can then trace God’s goodness to us through all

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our past life. Tho we were perhaps unconscious from where or how that care has been exercised over us, still we must acknowledge God’s care through all the past. It is said that all things work together for good to those that love God. Although you have been bereaved of a husband and your parents have long since been taken away, and we may utterly fail to see any Providence in these things, yet we are led more fully to realize the truth that there is a high power where we hope to gather strength, and to more fully trust in God.

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We will pray that God will be a father to your fatherless children, and the widow’s God in bringing you through all your affliction, and providing a way for your comfortable support – here below. We are all well at present. Lyman had the eggy five weeks after they came from the 90 days’ call of the governor. We are sometimes a little too hasty. I scolded Henry & Perry a little this week, and Henry run away and I have not heard of him since. Lee joined a conscription company which cost me $80.00. I earn it you know by hard work, and if I had known it would be lost I would much rather have given it to you. So goes the world. I will be happy to hear from you whenever you can make it convenient to write. 

                            From your affectionate cousin,

                                     George Jones

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 – Alfred Sofield, 29 May 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 a camp near Falmouth, VA. Sofield writes that the Confederates may be planning an offensive into Maryland and Pennsylvania. There was recently a news report that Vicksburg had been taken, though that proved to be false. His regiment had previously set up camp on the Fitzhugh Lee Farm, but were forced to move . He mentions the Battle of Chancellorsville, and how his company took several Confederate soldiers prisoner.

Camp near Falmouth, Va

May 29th 1863

My Dear Wife 

     I wrote you yesterday saying that we were under marching orders, and we are still, but our marching depends upon the movement of the enemy. It is supposed that the Rebels contemplate assuming the offensive, and their late operations indicate a movement by them into Maryland and Pennsylvania. Should they do so, we will probably go to meet them. We had the report that Vicksburg was taken, but later news proves it to have been a false report. The news today is quite cheering, although not as conclusive as I wish it was. I believe I did not tell you that we had moved our camp. We had just got nicely fixed up in a beautiful oak grove on the Fitzhugh Lee farm when the medical director ordered us to move out of the woods into an open field about a mile off. Well, we did so about a week ago, and found it one of the worst places for a camp that could be found in Virginia. But we went to work and after 6 days’ hard work of the whole regiment, have got it into pretty good shape.

     I rec’d yours of the 24th by today’s mail. You say the fruit trees are in bloom. Well, down

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in “Old Virginia” peaches are about the size of a hickory nut, and the fruit accordingly. Strawberries are ripe. The weather is very warm during the day & quite cool through the night. Have you rec’d a letter from me giving an account of our march etc. to Chancellorsville? You ask how many prisoners my company took. They took seven that they brought in beside three that they took and delivered to an officer of the 150th [Pennsylvania] Regt., and for which our regt. was not credited. I have not been troubled with diarhea much of late, enjoy very good health, much better than I expected to. The officers of the regt. are generally healthy. Lt. Fish has not been well for the past few days and applied today for leave of absence on acc of sickness. He asks for 30 days, and I think he will get it. I will try to get the photographs and send or bring them to you, will also send something from the Fitzhugh farm. I am getting quite and I may say very anxious to get home once more for a short time. think I could enjoy a clean pair of sheets by the side of my dear wife (have not had my pants off since I left Washington). Oh, I do want to see you all so much. I can’t tell you how much. I have no news to write. Write often and I will do the same. Kiss the boys & have them kiss you for me. Good night. 

                                    Yours in love,                                  


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 – John Morris, 28 June 1863


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Letter written by Private John A. Morris of Company B, 126th OH Infantry, to friends, from Maryland Heights near Harper’s Ferry. Morris writes how he longs for peace so that he and others may return home. The previous day, General Joseph Hooker ordered out two regiments and some artillery. General William H. French is currently in command at Harper’s Ferry. Morris heard that another division was ordered to Antietam, and he supposes there will be news of something happening in Virginia or Pennsylvania. He writes that the Confederates have been firing off their guns from a distance for fear of the Union’s heavy artillery. Morris addresses a rumor that his company was taken prisoner and killed. He thinks the war will come to a close within six months.

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Meriland Hights [Maryland Heights]

near Harper’s Ferry, Va June 28/ 63

                     Sunday morning

Dear Friends

This morning while sitting here in my tent my mind runs back to some past times when peace was in our land, and we enjoying ourselves as civilized people. But now it is different. A war is waging in our land. But we must look and hope for the future. hope that peace may once more be restored to our once happy land, and that we soldiers may all be permitted to see our once happy homes and friends therein. I am longing for that time to come. Then if I should live, can sit around the old family circle and have something better to eat, and hope right smart better cooks than we have here. I, for my part, am getting

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tired of cooking. Things is on the stir. On yesterday evening 2 regiments and some artillery was ordered out, we do not know where. General Jos. Hooker    was here on yesterday, and gave such orders. He is not here now. French has taken command of the forces at Harper’s Ferry, and it constitutes the part of the right wing of Hooker’s army & is considered or kept as strong reinforcement.

This morning I understood that one division was ordered to go to the old Antietam ground for some purpose. I think against this week rolls round you will hear of something being done in Va. or Penn. The Rebs are supposed to be fortifying the old Antietam battleground and South Mountain. Our cavalry pitches in some Rebs every day. Yesterday they caught 50-odd, and some wagons, ammunition, whiskey, etc. I think this raid is going to put an end to this war. Those Rebs we fetched from Winchester said it had to go one way or the other inside of 2 months. I understand they are getting up into

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the north a good piece. If they come into Ohio, you must kill or capture every one of them. It don’t look like as if they had as much sense as a brick, the way they are doing now. Our pickets yesterday could see some of them riding around at a distance, and last night could hear them firing off their guns. But they did not come very close upon us, for they are afraid of some things [heavy artillery] we have fixed upon Md. Heights, and other places around. I reckon you have heard of Capt. W. B. Kirk leaving his company. If he is at home I want you to tell me, tell what the people think of him around there. If I was there I could talk about something a little with you. But don’t say anything about it now. Pap, I have heard that you heard our regiment was all taken prisoners and cut to pieces. This was only a part of Co. I, and some stragglers taken. I don’t know of any one in our regiment who got killed. It will be in the Chronicle, if so. We are going to have

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inspection this evening by Gen. French. He is going to review his army in marching time. The boys are all able well, with the exception of Geo. Harris. He is not very well. My health is pretty good now. Well, mother, how are you getting along? I hope pretty well, for I know when you have not got letters from me regular, and things being in such an uproar you would be uneasy, if not almost sick. Rest easy and take things that may, for I think things will come to a close in 6 months time. The Rebs is going to get one of the biggest whippings ever they got. Well, Callie, how are you getting along? Having a good time, I reckon. I would like mighty well to take drive with you today, but I can’t do it, I guess. Tell Vorhees and George I send my love to them and I want to see them the worst kind of a way. I want to see all of you. I want you to write. Tell me all the news about the talk of our new governor, and conscripts, etc., how you are getting along with your work, harvest, & etc. Give my love to all and yourselves, especially to Aunt Ann. Direct to Harpers Ferry, Va., Md. Hights., Co. B, 126th Regt. O.V.I, as ever, your son,                                 John A. Morris.   

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I have not heard from you for a long time; never since the retreat. Write soon. I want to hear badly

John A. Morris enlisted at age 19 on August 11, 1862 in Company B of the 126th OH Volunteer Infantry. He was wounded at Spotsylvania, VA, May 12, 1864, and was mustered out of the service May 18, 1865. As a part of Major General William H. French’s 8th Army Corps, the 126th OH was ordered to Washington, D.C. on July 1, 1863, then to Frederick, MD, and it participated in the pursuit of Lee’s army July 5th -23rd.

Letter – James Peckham, 23 July 1863


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Letter written by Colonel James Peckham of the 29th Missouri Infantry, to his mother from Jackson, Mississippi. Peckham writes that his regiment will be leaving Jackson the following day to head to Vicksburg. Battle, disease, and desertion have lessened the number of men in the regiment, so Peckham thinks that regiments will soon be consolidated. He describes Jackson as being in ruins, and says that many dwellings were ransacked or even burned. There are exceptions, however: Peckham writes of a splendid mansion run by an African American couple that the soldiers have decided to occupy. The Mississippi River has been opened by the Union troops. Peckham mentions Abraham Lincoln, and rumors of a fight in Pennsylvania.

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Jackson Mississippi July 23, 1863

My Dear Mother,

Kate enclosed your letter to her in one of her own letters to me. I am surprised you do not get letters from me for I write you quite often. I allow no month to pass by without writing to you & when in Camp, write you sometimes weekly. We leave here tomorrow morning, returning to the vicinity of Vicksburg. the summer campaign being ended. I suppose this Army will be re-organized and a general consolidation of Regiments soon take place. My Regt. numbers only about 200 effective men. Battle & disease have made sad havoc among us. In one change last December (29th Dec.) we lost in the charge on Chickasaw Bluffs in the Yazoo River 200 men in about 20 minutes time. In the swamps opposite Vicksburg we lost in January & February about 100 by disease. A number have deserted. I have only six officers left, but a full staff is yet at hand. So unless we are filled up by a draft we must be consolidated. In that case if I get mustered out, all right.

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Jackson is in ruins. Dwelling Houses are left standing but even some of those which were deserted have been burned. Many dwellings of the rich have been deserted by them & our soldiers have carried off everything or destroyed everything in them. There are one or two instances exceptions. One splendidly furnished mansion was entered by my major first. He found two negroes in charge a man & his wife, almost white. When I went in I had a guard put over the House & since we have been here, now five days I have been lying off there. Magnificent furniture – beds – carpets – chairs – ottomans – sofas – crockery – silverware – wines & liquors & cigars in the cellar &c. About five of us have been living there like lords until now when we are under orders to leave at 3 oclock tomorrow morning. The negro man & his wife go with use & they helped themselves to what they wanted. I let them have a wagon & they half filled it. A new & splendid Axminster carpet which has never been in use was boxed up & I told the man Jim to take it along for me. It is large

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enough for a room 35 feet by 25. It is the richest carpet you ever saw. After Jim & his wife left, the guard was withdrawn & in ten minutes thereafter our soldiers had “gutted” the house. This process of “gutting” a house is done up in wonderful style by our men. It is curious to see a house that has undergone it. Everything is turned “topsy turvy”. Beautfiul carpets cut up to make flooring for tents, Pianos smashed so that the Bonnie Blue Flag may never be played upon them again! Marble-top tables & costly mirrors in as many fragments as they can be broken. Bedsteads costing of great value scattered through the spacious yards, with shreds of bedding covering the ground. The secesh of this town wanted war & they have had it. Some of the people are going away with us. Some of the rich who are afraid to stay have opened their houses & told soldiers passing by to come in & take what they wanted as the couldn’t carry it all with them. Mississippi secesh are feeling what war is. As I write the sky is

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illuminated by the light of burning buildings and rebel government property. the Rebs in their revenge upon private citizens & in order that we might not enjoy it have destroyed nearly as much as we have. We have been a short time in this work of opening the Mississippi River, but it is opened. The free north owns it all again, thank God, from the mountains to the Gulf. We are anxious about affairs in Pennsylvania. We have heard nothing from there except that there was a fight & neither party got whipped. This is the very moment Lincoln ought to have 500,000 more men in the field. We are too slow. Give my love to all the folks. Kiss all the children for me, if it don’t take too much of your time, as they are becoming “Legion.” God bless you & all the rest. Good night. I am to be up at 1 oclock.

Affectionately Yours Ever


10 PM July 23/63

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.