1847: James T. Bryer to David E. Bryer


               How James might have looked

This rare letter from the Mexican War was written by Pvt. James T. Bryer of Logansport, Indiana, who served with the “Cass Volunteers” of the 1st Indiana. Following their enlistment, Bryer and the other volunteers arrived in Indianapolis in June 1846 and took the train from Columbus for Madison, Indiana, on June 13th. In Madison, they joined in a parade with other volunteers in front of 20,000 citizens who lined the streets and saw them off at the wharf on the Ohio River. They disembarked at New Albany where they bivouacked at Camp Whitcomb until being transported to New Orleans, arriving 11 July 1846. A few days later, they left for Port Isabel on the Sophia Walker where they disembarked on the 21st. They moved to the mouth of the Rio Grande on 31 August 1846 where they remained except for a brief excursion to Monterey. In June 1847, they returned home to Indiana without firing a shot. “They never smelled gun powder,” someone wrote, “but it was not their fault.”

A biographical sketch for James T. Bryer says that he “was born in Fountain county, Indiana, 4 August 1828, came with his parents, Robert and Dorcas (Miller) Bryer, to Logansport, in 1833, and resided here until his death 11 March 1895. Mr. Bryer was married to Sarah E. Hensley of Logansport, 15 May 1852. To this union were born seven girls and two boys. Mr. Bryer was a soldier in the Mexican was, depuy postmaster under William Wilson during the Civil war, and held various county, state, and government appointive offices. From 1861 until his death he was editor or contributor to the Logansport Journal, and there was no more able writer in northern Indiana.” [History of Cass county, Indiana by Jehu Z. Powell (1913)]

James wrote the letter to his brother, David E. Bryer (1831-1904). See Cass Volunteers.



Matamoras [Mexico]
February 17, 1847

Dear Mother and Brothers,

I received David’s letter some time ago and waited till I had something to tell you before I answered it. I was glad to learn that you were all well and having so much fun. Wilford Vigus got to see that part of his letter about Nancy and the boys laughed at me considerable about her being so fat. I know that you must have had fine times Christmas and New Years but you did not see so many curious things as I did.

We are now quartered in Matamoras in houses and we enjoy ourselves better than we have since we have been in Mexico. We have good, dry houses and good bunks to sleep on and we would be very comfortable if it were not for the fleas but there is no pleasure without its pain. We have two men to cook for us all and we pay them seventy-five cents apiece a month. They are Nathan Hines and Dock [Lemuel H.] Keep. The boys are all well. The only complaint is that they can’t get enough to eat. Ben Pursell is well. He returned from the Mouth [of the Rio Grande] yesterday where he has been to see Capt. [Spear S.] Tipton ¹ who is there now. I don’t believe Ben’s own father would know him if he were to see him — he is so fat.

Col. [James P.] Drake is now commandant of this post and this is a very important station. We have to be a good deal more strict than we have been and we have more duty to do as there are about 50 men detailed for guard every day. For a few days past we have been engaged in making fortifications at the plaza — or public square. The fortifications will be finished today and the boys are glad of [it] for they had had to work and dig pretty hard. It is rumored that we are to be attacked and in fact we have had several alarms but they proved to be false.

Last Monday night we were all asleep not thinking of danger when we were startled from our sleep by the report of the sentinel’s gun breaking upon the stillness of the night — an omen of evil. Instantly every man was upon his feet and busily engaged in putting on his accoutrements and seeing that his gun was in good order. We waited anxiously to hear more about it from the sentinel and there was not a man but what wished we might have a little brush if nothing more. Presently [James Harvey] Tucker returned. He had been out to see what was the matter. He told us that the sentinel had seen a part of men coming up the street. He ordered them to halt but they paid no attention to him whatever. He fired upon them and they turned around and ran off. He said he thought he heard swords jingle as they ran. Some of the companies turned out and formed but we did not. We staid up awhile but hearing nothing, we went to bed again. We had orders from the Colonel to lay on our arms. We had been in bed about two hours when we were again aroused by the firing of a gun which we thought came from the picket guard but we were mistaken. It has been reported that there are several thousand Mexican cavalry in the neighborhood of this place but I don’t believe that the report is true.

In my last letter I told you that [I] was with Alex Wilson and expected to stay with him but it turned different from what I expected. There is very little to do in the store and a great deal to do as a soldier so I thought it best to do my duty and let the rest go. The boys tell me that I am fat and so I am and I feel very well. I think that we will remain here the balance of our time which is four months. We may possibly come home before the year is out, I shall be very glad to get home and when I do get there, I think I shall settle down and finish the cooper’s trade and try and so something for myself. You must write often and give me all the news. I have written three letters where I received but one since I came to Mexico.

I must tell you about [2Lt.] William [L.] Brown. I expect that there is a good deal of talk about him in Logan but I will tell you that he has proved himself a friend to me indeed and he has done more for our company than any man in it. You mentioned in one of your letters that Buckingham said that they (our officers) were a living on the best while we were a starving. This I say is not so for they eat crackers and so did we. I will admit that theirs was the best, but what of that. They draw better ones from the government and they are right in keeping them as they had not more than they wanted. If any of them were sick and wanted money to buy something nice to eat, where did they go for it? Almost all of them to Brown. And did he refuse them when he thought they need it and he had it? No. He wanted to drill us and learn us something but he was a little too petulant and cross which made the boys dislike him. Our captain was sick a good deal and Brown had the management of the company and he often had to be harsh to get some [of] the men to do their duty and that was another cause for their disliking him. I believe that he has the interest of the company at heart.

Captain [Stanislaus] Lassell is well. Also Lieutenants [David M.] Dunn & [George W.] Blakemore. I like Captain Lassell very well but he is not much of a captain. I like him better on one account than any of our officers — that is that he is the only officer we have who having volunteered as a private would have come along as such. I am now in a mess with [James] Harvey Tucker who is our Orderly [Sergeant] and John [B.] Grover — or the little French gentlemen as we call him. Harvey is a good fellow as ever was and as for John, I should be lost without him to quarrel with because we can quarrel and make up in five minutes at least once in a week. John is a picturesque-looking bird. You know how red his air is. Well he has an enormous pair of whiskers and one of mustachios twice as red as his hair and they are as bulky such as things generally get to be. this description will suit a good many of the boys — all but the red part. George Emerson has got to be as slim as a bean pole and looks twice as tall. He was sick a long time down at the mouth and he was very much reduced. He is now quite well. I expect that you will never see him again as he intends going directly to Rochester when we are discharged.

I was very sorry to hear that David’s hair had all come out but I can’t help it. Mine has been coming out a good deal since I came here. I have that same old lump on my eye but I think that it will not be there long. Say to David that his friend Jim Moore is now a corporal. I will give you a list of our non-commissioned officers. They are all of them very good officers and so their duty well Jack [Jacques] Lassell has not been able to do duty for a long time but he is now getting well and will soon be at it.

1st Sergt.  James Harvey Tucker
2nd Sergt.  John [Jacques M.] Lassell
3rd Sergt. Thos. Weirick
4th Sergt. H. W. Vigus
1st Corporal  B. Turner
2nd Corporal  Thos. Bring Hurst
3rd Corp. S. M. Faddin
4th Corp.  James Moore

The weather here is beautiful. We have a kind of a black bird here that are continually singing and chirping around. The Mexican farmers will begin to put in their crops of corn in about a week. This is quite a large place. It originally contained about twelve thousand inhabitants but since the war there has been a good many left.

It is Ash Wednesday amongst them today and they are tolling their church bells of which they are very fond. Their churches here are poorly constructed. They have three large bells on one and about as many of the other. These bells they chime three times a day regularly and on feast days oftener. The Mexicans are almost all low in stature but generally very well built. Their costume consists of a roundabout and pantaloons of some light material. Their pantaloons are made tight around the waist and they wear a sash. The poor class all wear white cotton drawers very wide all the way down and over their buckskin pantaloons, open at the side. The better class are very dandy but not so the poor ones. They are lousy, dirty, and ugly. Some of the women — or señoritas — are very good looking. We have a fandango here almost every night and the boys have a good deal of fun with the señoritas.

You ought to see a Mexican fence once and you would not sleep for a week as we say. It consists of two rows of posts or crooked sticks about two feet apart and filled up with brush which make a good, but ugly, fence. Dock [Lemuel H.] Keep sends his respects to cousin Ellen. Give my respects to all. Robert, you must be a good boy. I will write as often as there is anything new to write.

Your affectionate son, — James Bryer

Write often and send papers.

¹ Capt. Spear Spencer Tipton died at Puebla, Mexico on 28 August 1847.



1840: Jacob Thomas to William Freret

This letter was written by Jacob Thomas (1818-18xx), the Post Master of Linn county, Iowa Territory in 1840, wherein he appeals to the Mayor of New Orleans (and simultaneously the Post Master of New Orleans) to aid in the apprehension of a murderer. The mayor’s name is not stated in the letter but it was William Freret (1804-1864) who held the office from May 1840 to April 1842.

The victim was Horatio McCardle (1790-1840), the son of Collins McCardle (1765-1836). Both Horatio and Collins McCardle were enumerated in Des Moines county, Iowa Territory in the 1836 State Census. Horatio first made his appearance in Lee county in 1837 when he was granted a license to keep a tavern in West Point for one year. The license gave him “permission to sell spiritous liquors and wines by small measure during that time, and no longer.”  Following that endeavor, Horatio appears to have entered into an agreement to purchase a farm — over time — on Sugar Creek in Lee county from the alleged murderer, John J. Jones, described as “a very ugly man with a bad countenance.” It seems a dispute arose between the two once McCardle had taken possession, made his first payment, and then learned that Jones did not have clear title to the property, whereupon he refused to pay more until the title issue was resolved. This did not sit well with Jones who used every bit of his six-foot four-inch frame to intimidate McCardle into paying him before shooting him at near point bank range, killing him instantly. Jones immediately fled the territory, traveling down the Mississippi river to New Orleans.

From Thomas’ letter we learn that the murder took place on 30 October 1840 while most of the nation was in a frenzy chanting “Tippecanoe & Tyler too!” and other such campaign slogans. Perhaps the distraction of the presidential campaign helped Jones make good his escape. By April of the following year, Jones had not yet been apprehended but this did not prevent the Territory of Iowa from moving forward with a Grand Jury investigation into the murder culminating in the District Prosecutor’s conclusion that Jones “has committed the crime of murder…with malicious aforethought…by shooting him [McCardle] with a rifle gun.”

Years passed, the McCardle family sold out in Lee county and moved away, and neither Jones nor his family were located in the deep south where Jones was suspected of avoiding justice. Fifteen years later, however, the following article — or one like it — appeared in virtually all the major newspapers in the United States under the general heading, “One of General Jackson’s Soldiers Condemned for Murder.”

thomas1 1840 letter re murder_20171108_0001

The original newspaper clipping inserted into Jacob Thomas’ letter announcing the murder and a description of the fugitive.

It read: “An interesting trial took place in Burlington, Iowa, in November last [1854]. The accused was a man named John J. Jones, seventy-three years of age. He had been a soldier under General Jackson, and was with the old hero in several of his campaigns against the Indians. Jones was charged with murdering Horatio W. McCardle, a neighbor, some 15 years ago. He made his escape and was not heard of until a short time before his arrest. Capital punishment having been abolished in Iowa, the prisoner was sentenced to hard labor in the penitentiary during the remainder of his life. Jones, through his attorney, when asked if he had anything to say why sentence should not be pronounced, submitted the following statement, ‘May it please the Honorable Court, I am an old man, fast tottering to the grave. The frosts of seventy-three winters though they had not whitened my brow, have wrinkled my face and chilled my heart with many sorrows. Mine has been a checkererd life. And now, when about to be separated from my fellows, I may give a truthful version of the past. I had a family and a home — a rude home, it is true — and a plain and humble family, but they were my all. The deceased robbed me of the one and invaded the sanctity of the other. Two small sons, a lovely daughter, and a wife — a cherished wife. On returning to that home the day of the fatal deed, I learned the certainty of the maddening truth and hastened to the field, my rifle still in hand, I know not why I went. I had no fixed design [to kill McCardle]. He met me with a club — I shot him. And though I claim not to have acted in defense, I do assert that there was mutual combat. You know the rest. I fled — my family followed. But for the fifteen years I have lived at Lockland [Hamilton county, Ohio], I made no secret of the deed I had done. Those days are past and that loved one is gone — borne down with trouble, she sank into an early grave. That lovely daughter is now a helpless cripple, wearing a haggard face. Of those two boys who should have been the prop of my old age, the one is gone to join his injured mother, as witnesses against the dead destroyer of their peace. The other, and my heart sinks within me when I say — it lives — but not to me with an ear deaf to my calamity. He comes not near, but I forgive. To this honorable court, the jury, and to the attorneys and officers thereof, and to the people of this community, I return my humble thanks for their impartial hearing. I have never been a criminal of choice, but rather the creature of circumstances, beneath the weight of which far better men than me have sunk. I may have been too jealous of mine honor, but never have but once proved faithless to my trust. When my country’s rights were invaded, I answered them, and so I did mine honor. With General Jackson in all his Creek campaigns, I battled for my country and its laws…’ ” [See full text below]

In an attempt to establish John J. Jones’ service record, the only item found that might corroborate Jones’ claim of participating in the Creek Wars was a land warrant application for service in 1836 with Capt. R. Baker’s Georgia Volunteers. The warrant number was 55-80-48364 — but it was rejected.

Curiously, there appears to be at least one final notice of Jones. In the 1860 US Census, “J. J. Jones” a 77 year-old [born 1783 in Virginia] is enumerated in Lockland, Hamilton county, Ohio, with (presumably) his 35 year-old daughter [born 1825 in Nova Scotia]. In the “occupation” field of the record, the census taker appears to have written, “Felin Labor.”


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

Addressed to Mr. Mayor of the City of New Orleans, New Orleans, La.

West Point, Lee County, Iowa Territory
December 20th 1840

Dear Sir,

If an apology were necessary for writing to an entire stranger, the deep interest I feel in the subject upon which I shall address you is the only apology I can offer. By the enclosed slip you will perceive that one John J. Jones murdered Horatio McCardle — a citizen of this town. This murder was one of the most aggravated kind. I was perfectly well acquainted with both the men and drew the writings between them about the sale and purchase of the land in dispute.

Jones made his escape but has been taken since at Cairo and while the men were disputing who should bring him back and get the reward, Jones made his escape again. By a letter received here [in] yesterday’s mail addressed to his son-in-law which was examined in the Post Office, it appears he was making his way to Texas but will wait in New Orleans until his family comes. He requests his wife to write to him directed to William Sumers, New Orleans. Who will write to him (Jones) from thence but the presumption is that Jones will stay in New Orleans all winter or till his family come to him as he has not money to take him farther.

The description given of him in the slip is correct and in addition to that, he has lost several fore teeth out of the upper jaw. The color of his coat is blue mixed but nearly all blue. In his conversation he is very loud.

The murder was committed on the 30th October 1840. The reward offered is but one hundred dollars. I will give that sum to any person who will arrest and commit him and inform me that I can have him brought [here] or I will pay the expense of bring him to the person who will deliver him to the sheriff of the county.

In addition, I have written to the Post Master of New Orleans upon this subject and have solicited him to assist in [apprehending] Jones. The family will doubtless write to him directed to Wm. Sumers by which name he will go as he has changed his name several times since he left here. He won’t, of course, go by his right name. For your information, I will give part of the letter received from him.

Copy of the letter saved

“You had better come to New Orleans and I will leave some person to come round with you to where I shall stop. And if you don’t find the person when you get there (N Orleans), send to the Post Office and there you will find a letter which will tell you where I am. This letter will probably be directed to Mrs. Jones” but as he called himself Harty Don B. Brown in a previous letter, he may direct the letter to Mrs. Brown. By getting that letter — if there is such a letter in the office — you may ascertain where he is.  “Come on as soon as possible. Nothing more. Direct your letter to New Orleans to Wm. Sumers.” (without signature) ¹

I appeal to your honor to assist in apprehending the murderer by adopting such measures as shall appear to you to be best. Should anything of importance occur, you will confer a favor by writing to me.

I subscribe myself your humble servant, — Jacob Thomas

Hon. Mayor, City [of] New Orleans

¹ My hunch is that Jones never went to New Orleans, hopping instead on a steamer bound up the Ohio river to Cincinnati. Once there, he probably penned the letter to his wife and, with a toothless grin, asked some unwitting accomplice to carry it to New Orleans and drop it in the post office there, hoping to forever throw bounty hunters off his tracks.



The story of John J. Jones’ Trial and Sentencing for Murder in 2d Column (1855)

1863: Elizabeth Sprague Tenney to John Tenney

These four letters were written by Elizabeth “Lizzie” Sprague Tenney, the daughter of John Tenny (1799-1853) and his first wife, Mary Augusta Bartlett. Lizzie’s father was an 1824 graduate of Dartmouth and an attorney and County Commissioner in Essex county, Massachusetts. He was also a Representative and a Senator of the Massachusetts State Legislature. Lizzie had three full siblings — Margaret Tenney (1831-1839), Edward Jarvis Tenney (1833-1853), and Mary Augusta Tenney (1837-1905). After Lizzie’s mother died, her father married Augusta Elizabeth Sprague in 1844. Her father had four more children before he died in 1853. These four were named Margaret (1845-1905), John (1847-1905), Laura (1849-1922) and Augusta (1852-1905).

Lizzie wrote all four of these letters to her half-sibling, John (“Johnny”) Tenney (1847-1905). Johnny was educated at Andover Academy and went to sea at the age of 14. These four letters were addressed to him while part of the crew aboard the Samuel Appleton — a merchant vessel commissioned by Fisher, Ricards & Co. of New York City and commanded by Capt. Osborn while on a long voyage to Australia and Singapore. Johnny returned to the United States in 1864 and spent some time in the Navy before entering the insurance business and settling in Philadelphia.

“Sidney” is often mentioned in these letters. This was Joseph Sidney Howe (1832-1923), the husband of Mary Augusta Tenney (Lizzy’s sister). Sidney was a civil engineer and for over forty years the town clerk in Methuen, Massachusetts.

From these letters we learn that Lizzie was keeping house for her step-mother’s sister, Mary Louisa (Sprague) Fellows (1815-1875), in Chelsea, Suffolk county, Massachusetts. Mary was the daughter of Joseph Sprague (1771-1833) and Margaret (“Peggy”) Osgood (1778-1837). Mary was the wife of Col. John Foster Fellows (1815-1887) who commanded the 17th Massachusetts Infantry. Mary’s son was Capt. Charles Oliver Fellows (1845-1924) who served with his father in the 17th Mass.

Lizzie never married.


Chelsea [Massachusetts]
December 7th 1862

Dear Brother John,

I wrote you a very short letter a day or two ago thinking the mail left the next day and it was all I should have time for — besides I was feeling very much disappointed that your letter had been delayed. But now everything is all right. Your very interesting and gratifying letter has at last been received and if you enjoy those you get from home as much as we have enjoyed yours, then it would be very safe to say that letters are a great institution. I am so happy to think that you are getting along so well and that everybody is so kind to you. I can think of my sailor brother with a great deal of pleasure and your letter to Mother telling her of your determination to do right even if strong temptations are put before you will do her more good than you can tell. [page creased — missing text] We thank [Capt. Osborn] for his kindness and care for you and the great interest he takes in your welfare. He speaks very favorably of you to his wife and says he has no doubt but that John will always be a comfort to his mother. Charley [Oliver Fellows] says your experience as a sailor is not much like his first experience and he would most willingly throw up his commission in the army and step into your shoes. I am very glad you are not in the army for I think camp life is most ruinous to a young man’s morals.

You know that Gen. McClellan has been deprived of the command of the Army of the Potomac and Burnside has been put in his place. McClellan’s method of prosecuting the war was not satisfactory to the authorities in the land so he was ordered to retire to private life. Poor Little Mac. I pity him. But his farewell speech to his army was so manly and in such good taste that I could but admire the man even for that one thing alone. They are doing nothing now. There seems to be a perfect stagnation of all warlike [activities] for the present but I suppose it won’t last long.


Samuel Cook Oliver

Samuel [Cook] Oliver resigned his commission as Lt. Col. of the 14th Massachusetts and formed a company and was appointed Capt. in the 35th Massachusetts. In the Battle of Antietam which occurred in September and in which our troops were victorious, Capt. Oliver was injured in the spine by the bursting of a shell which paralyzed his whole body with the exception of his head and shoulders. ¹ He is much better now and can hobble about on crutches and the Dr. thinks he will in time recover the use of his legs. He has had a pretty hard time and is at Gov. Andrews’ house.

Have you heard that Uncle Joseph [Fellows] has a third son which they call Joseph? I suppose Mary will tell you all about dear little Carrie’s sickness and death. She had grown to be such a sweet little pet that we all loved her very much. She was very sick for a fortnight and then when the Dr. thought she might recover, the disease went to her brain and the angel’s bore her pure spirit to heaven. O she looked so sweetly as she lay so still in her little casket. One could hardly believe death could be so lovely. Poor Sancho missed her little playmate and at first seemed quite unconsolable. He would wander about the house looking sad and lonely till he saw something she used to play with when he would brighten up and look as if he expected to see little Carrie running about again.

I think your plan of writing a good long letter to all together is very good. It is easier to you and we all have the benefit of it and by writing in the way you did you would be likely to get a good long letter. still I must confess I should not feel at all troubled to have one all to myself. I hope you have no difficulty in reading  your letters from home. Put them over a clean sheet of white paper and you will have no trouble. I was surprised to see how well you had written your letter and how well it was expressed. I felt quite proud of you. The first thing I do when the paper comes is to look at the ship news to see if the Samuel Appleton has been spoken. The day after Thanksgiving, Mary (who was visiting me) and I had been in the city all day and I had no chance to look at the paper till after I went upstairs to bed and after I was undressed, I told Mary I could not go to bed till I had looked at the ship news and the first thing I saw was your safe arrival in Melbourne. I woke up Margie who was sleeping in another room to tell her the good news and we all had quite a gay time over it for we knew that the same steamer must have brought letters from you.

Good night and God bless you. From your sister, — Lizzie

¹ Capt. Samuel Cook Oliver’s was wounded late in the day at the Battle of Antietam. The regiment had lost more than 200 men and officers, including 69 killed and mortally wounded. “At or about six p.m.,” recalled Oliver, “when nearly and safely through that terrible day, by the explosion of a shell, a fragment of which cut a piece from my hat, another fragment nearly severing my badge of rank from my left shoulder, I was thrown violently backwards against a stone wall or batch of large rocks, rendering me for a while insensible. I was carried from the field utterly helpless.”  [See Sam Oliver Gets Married by Ronald S. Coddington]


[January 1863]

Dear Brother John,

This Sabbath evening the children have all gone to Sabbath School and Aunt Laura and I are all alone. I came up with Mamie to pass the day. Your last letters home have been probably lost. It is too bad that we should miss any of them but I suppose that is something that often happens when they come so far. The China arrived in New York a few days ago with a mail from Australia and we are on the lookout for your letters. I wish they could come before this is sent off. You can’t tell how much good your last letters did us all.

There is not much news to tell you about. The President issued his Proclamation the first of January liberating all the slaves in those states which have taken up arms against the government. The Rebels are very much provoked about it but what the final effect will be it is hard to determine.


Col. John Foster Fellows, 17th Mass

They have had several battles in North Carolina lately in which our troops have been successful. Uncle John [Fellows’] regiment [17th Mass Infantry] did finely and he is very highly spoken of in the papers. It is now thought that the war will be more actively carried on in North Carolina than in the other states. There has not been much accomplished of late and in very many cases the rebels have got the advantage. The aspect of the war is not very encouraging but we hope it will turn out best and this unnatural strife soon ended. Charley Fellows is yet at home an may be some time longer.

You will have letters from Mother by this same mail and from her you will learn some Andover news although I know she is not much of a news teller. Her Christmas presents were very handsome. Mr. Allen gave her $60.00. Mr. Wheeler and some few of the old students sent her $15.00 and Aunt Sarah Sprague sent her 25.00. Then Uncle Joseph Andrews ¹ gave her two barrels of sugar and everything else is outrageously high. It is a terribly cold day and one can hardly manage to keep comfortably warm even over a hot stove. I suppose it is the heat of summer where you are. I wish it was so here. I feel almost frozen.

How do you get along as [paper torn]… Do you keep your stockings well darned? I should like to see you mending and washing. I saw by the paper that your ship had sailed for Otago three months ago. This will reach you at or from Singapore. Three years seems a very long time when I think you may perhaps be gone that time and how much changed you will be. I can not realize it. But I am so glad that you are not in the army. It is so much better to be where you are under Capt. Osgood. I heard that the other boys on board the ship are discontented. I hope it is not so — poor fellows. I pity anybody who is homesick. I know what the feeling is and would not recommend it to my friends generally.

Mr. [William Burnet] Wright and Lucretia [Osgood] Johnson ² were married on New Years Day. Miss Johnson’s engagement with Mr. Fenn was broken off, I believe, before you went away and when Mr. Wright came home from Germany they were engaged.

Prof. [Calvin Ellis] Stowe[Calvin Ellis] Stowe‘s family will leave Andover for Hartford in the spring. I guess the Andover people will say “good riddance” for they are not great favorites there.

Now Johnny, I have almost got to the end of my sheet and what would I not give to see you tonight. Do you remember the time you came down here before Aunt Mary [Fellows] went to Somerville ³ when I was afraid  to come alone? I remember it well and wish you were here now. Always try to do right and be able to tell Mother in every letter you write to her that you have contracted no bad habits and it will make her heart glad for she has great hopes in you. I am expecting Mary here tomorrow. She will stay a week here and at Margie Hall’s and Sidney will be here most of that time too. I expect we will have a grand time together. Mother passed two nights with me last week. I wish I could be at home for mother misses me very much these long winter evenings. Aunt Laura & Mamie and all the rest here send ever so much love to you. I hope that very soon I shall have a nice bundle of letters sent down from Andover which have come from our sailor boy far over the water. God bless and take care of you and keep you from all danger and sin and bring you back safe to us, our pure-hearted, noble-minded brother. Mother and all of us will feel so proud of you. I wish I could put myself in this letter and go off to you. What do you suppose the postage would be at 3 cents for ¼ of an oz? What would 200 pounds cost? With ever so much love and ever so many hearty earnest prayers for your safety and prosperity. From your affectionate sister, — Lizzie

¹ Joseph Andrews (1808-1869) of Salem was a Brig. Gen. in the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He was the Adj. Gen. Commander at Fort Warren on Georgia Island in Boston Harbor from May 1862 to 21 August 1862. He also served as the 9th Mayor of Salem from 1854 to 1856. He married 1st, Elizabeth Maria Sprague on 10 October 1832. He married 2d, Judith Walker on 15 January 1857.

² Lucretia Osgood Johnson (1835-1886) was married to William Burnet Wright, Jr. (1838-1924) on 1 January 1863 in Baltimore, Maryland. William studied divinity at the Andover Theological Seminary from July 1858 to January 1860 and then matriculated at the University of Berlin in Germany. He traveled in Europe until June 1862 when he returned to the United States and was ordained pastor of the South Congregational Church at Chicago.

³ Apparently Lizzie’s aunt, Mary (Sprague) Fellows, suffered from mental health problems as she spent two years at the Somerville Asylum.


Andover [Massachusetts]
August 19th 1863

Dear brother John,

You see that I am at home and glad enough am I to be here. Martha has quite a large family although it is vacation. Augustus Emerton, ¹ Carrie, Freddy, Mary Osgood, Minnie & Josie, Aunt Laura & Mamie & Louise Fellows and four theologues besides our own family. It is beautiful weather now and Andover was never looking pleasanter than now. Mother’s new home is such an improvement on the old one.

We were all delighted to get your last letters and very happy to hear that you are so contented and cheerful. Singapore & Shanghai must be much pleasanter ports than Melbourne and there must be many new & strange sights to interest you. My mouth fairly watered to read what you said in your letter of pineapples, bananas, and other tropical fruits. When you get home we shall look upon you as a man who has seen a good deal of the world and who knows much more about many things than we have ever dreamed of.

Mother is pretty well but she has a great deal of care and a great many people to feed. I hope before a great while to be at home to relieve her. Aunt Mary [Fellows] is a great deal better and the Dr. says she will be well enough to come back to her family in the winter.

There is not much war news now. Everything has been very quiet since the surrender of Vicksburg and Port Hudson but there are great preparations going on for the attack on Charleston and I suppose that just as soon as the weather gets a little cooler, the troops will put forth all their energies and take that city. After that, I think the war will be pretty much over as far as fighting goes. Will Mason has gone to visit one of the boys who board here — Henry Cowles. ² Do you know him?

We shall be on the lookout for your likeness with a great deal of eagerness and depend upon seeing it. I am going to Lawrence this afternoon and will see about getting some likeness to send to you as soon as they can be got. We will send Sidney’s, Gussies, and mine all of which have been taken, and then will send the others when we can have them taken.


Capt. Charles Oliver Fellows, 17th Mass

Uncle John † & Charley Fellows are still at Newbern. Charley recently captured three rebels who were mounted & armed with carbines and swords and the Commanding General gave a gun & sword to Charley as a reward for bravery. Most of the troops that went off for nine months have returned and they have drafted for more men. In New York & Boston there was great resistance made to the draft but everywhere else it was very quiet. There were a good many names drafted in Methuen but we were very glad that Sidney was not among them. George & John Lawyer & John Merrill ³ and one of the Gordon’s who live near Sidney’s were drafted. Uncle Joseph Andrews has hired a house very near Cousin Mary Mason’s in Boston and will move his family there in October. Lizzie & Sam will probably stay in the old house in Salem at present. Sam is appointed Major in a new regiment and may leave for the war at any time.

You can’t tell, John, how much good it does mother and all of us to hear that you are doing well and are happy. The Capt. speaks very highly of you and says John is a good boy & faithful and trustworthy. It is a great comfort to hear such pleasant news of you and makes mother more happy than you can know. The children will some of them write you so I will leave the other half of this sheet for them. Mother will write too. I suppose there is not much news in Methuen. I wish you were here to go over to Mary’s with us. Guess Sancho will know and be glad to see you. With very much love to you from all. I am your affectionate sister, — Lizzie

¹ Augustus Emerton (1827-1901) was a resident of Salem, Massachusetts.

² Possibly Henry Augustine Cowles (1846-1864), the son of John Phelps Cowles (1805-1890) and Eunice C. Cowles (1811-1903) of Ipswich, Essex county, Massachusetts.

³ John Kelly Merrill (b. 1836) was the son of Washington and Abigail Merrill of Methuen, Essex county, Massachusetts. John’s occupation was given as “hatter” in 1860. At the time of the 1863 Draft Registration, his occupation was given as “teacher.”

† Lt. Col. John Foster Fellows (1815-1887) commanded the 17th Massachusetts Infantry. His son, Charles O. Fellows served with him in the 17th Mass.


Chelsea [Massachusetts]
September 16th 1863

My dear brother John,

The last letter I wrote to you was from Andover where we all went to pass the vacation. Eddie was at Mary’s almost six weeks. He had a splendid time there. He assisted about the farm work a good deal and had great times with Sancho. Did you know that Sidney has got a new horse? His name is is Tige and they say he is the fastest horse in Methuen. He ran away the other day and broke the chaise. Everything else about the farm is about the same as when you went away. Fanny, Old John, and Old Tom are still fixtures there. I am going up to Mary’s to pass a week next month and we are going down to Salem with Fanny & the chaise to pass the night. Mrs. Cabot is going down in her carriage at the same time. Don’t you think it will be pleasant?

Aunt Mary Fellows is a great deal better and will be well enough to come back to her family this winter. We are all very glad and there is nobody more glad than I am. Only think, I have been here more than two years and it will seem almost strange to have Aunt Mary back again.

There is not much news to tell you about. Sydney has told the little news there is about the war. There is nothing at all going on excepting the bombardment of Charleston. It has been feared that we should have trouble with France for they seemed to favor the rebel cause but the last steamer brings the news that there will be no intervention by France — that she will remain neutral satisfied for the present with the acquisition of Mexico. Every steamer that arrives we hope will bring some news from you. It must be very tiresome to stay as long at Singapore although it must be much pleasanter than your long stay at Melbourne. I suppose it would be very dangerous to attempt to bring the ship home now while the sea is so infested with rebel pirates. Tonight’s paper brings the news of the narrow escape of a Boston ship from China who fell in with pirates off the Cape of Good Hope. They got clear of them only by throwing overboard a part of their cargo & provisions and lighting the ship so that she could outsail them. I shall feel very anxious if you start for home while there are so many of the confounded pirates on the track of ships homeward bound from China. I hope the owners of the Samuel Appleton will conclude to sell the ship at Singapore is she is not seaworthy and then you would come home overland. On many accounts that would be very pleasant but still it would be pleasant to come back in the old ship for you have been in her so long that it must seem quite like home. There is one thing you may be pretty sure of and that is that you will find a warm welcome whenever & however you come. I hope you were not very sick and that you were not sick long. It must be pretty dubious to be sick on board ship so far from home. I hope we shall hear from you very soon. While you stay in Singapore you will probably hear from home quite often for we shall write every fortnight.

When I was at home, Kate Abbot came up one day to pass the afternoon with Margie. She is a real pretty girl and behaves more sensibly than most of the girls now-a-days. What a pretty girl her sister Helen is too. Did you know that Mr. Carleton has left the school and they have got a new teacher? The boys hated Mr. Carleton and they are glad enough to have someone to take his place. Uncle Sam looks as fat and as stern as ever.

This paper is so thin that I fear you may have trouble to read it but I shall try to get some more before I write again. The children all send love to you. Eddie is going to Newbern next month to make a visit. He is hoping to have a gay time as he calls it. Mother and all the rest were well when I left them about a week ago. You will have a letter from Mother by the next steamer. With ever so much love and best wishes for your safety and happiness, I must bid you good night. From your sister, — Lizzie

What do you think of my photograph? It is not quite as good as some others I had taken.

1864: “Newell” to Monroe K. Weller

This letter was written by a Quaker named “Newell” who apparently recently relocated from Rutland, Vermont, to Ogle county, Illinois. A search of the census records, however, did not result in a confirmation of the author’s identity. He may have left Vermont because of his pacifism during the war — the reference to “the attacks of the Blue Devils” is perplexing.

Newell wrote the letter to his friend, Monroe K. Weller (1834-1918), of Copenhagen, New York. Monroe was the son of David Weller (1806-Aft1865) of Denmark, Lewis county, New York. Mentioned in the letter is Monroe’s younger brother, Emerson P. Weller (1838-Aft1905), who settled in Rochester, New York. Monroe married Clamenza Anna Rogers (1846-1920).


White Rock, [Ogle county,] Illinois
Eighth Day, Second Month, being the month of Purification 1864
[8 February 1864]

Respected, honored and beloved sir,

Having this day received a dispatch from your excellency which beareth date the 31st day of the first month, now therefore I prepare myself to indite an epistle in reply to the aforesaid message. And so it appears from thy message that the daily recurring events do not differ widely from what they were when I abode in Rutland. Mens minds are a curious compound so I judge by my experience. I understand that A. Harwell said * “that if he hd no money he should rather go away and earn it than stay there.” Meaning where I was. My mind on that point needs no explanatory remarks at this time as there are now two epistles bearing date between the one you reply to Jan. 2 and this, which contain a few remarks relating thereto.

* Perhaps I should not say he said so but he “as good as owned it” I am told.

Self=preservation is the first law of nature for remarks on that head. I refer you to opinions expressed in previous letters by myself, both halves. As far as Vermont goes, I would let it go; but I could not be persuaded to go to. It’s true, ’tis an old country and this is new. So much the better for beginners. So I judge, but this is indeed a new country, subject to many of the inconveniences of a new country. I now judge it to be expedient for me to go to Iowa next summer and possess myself of all the land possible if I like it there.

As regards the girls in this country, we have a few that I have the honor to be somewhat acquainted with that pretty well answer the catalogue you mention. “Do I intend to make the West a permanent home?” Certainly I do. Let certain changes occur or not occur in New York State. It does not effect my present intentions. No, I think we had better stay here [and] let Rutland do as it pleases.

Of course winter is not the time to judge of a country but I think we shall stay. This part of our country should be filled up with intelligent, capable, honest, trusty, persevering, self-reliant men. Of my own qualifications I do not speak but I hope to fill my sphere somewhere as I have wisdom given me. My past life is known to you. The future is yet to be filled. Of matrimony I need not speak as my views and hopes, experiences, and realizations are now well known to yourself. Better to you than to any one outside of the firm. I still think it all I have recommended it to be surely 3 years might dispel the mists of the honeymoon if so easily dispelled as some have represented them. I sincerely hope my friend Martin may find the matrimonial alliance all he has hoped. And that you if ever you are tempted to put on the bonds of Hymen will not find them as irksome as some of our acquaintance appear to. But you will find that

Single or Double
Life’s full of trouble
Pleasure is a bubble, &c.  There is no universal remedy for the blues but the prescriptions of the Great Physician. The more man meditates on the things of this world, the more worthless do they appear.

My better half suggests that I tell you, do not take a rib while you stay there. Now her experience might be of some service to you but each one to their own notion. But perhaps in this connection it may not be out of place to speak of our hopes and anticipations for the future on page 9th of your communication I find. How are you progressing in the way of wisdom? It is well with you at the throne of mercy? Alas — my record is not entirely clear. I do not live as I should. Still I try to keep the pearly gates in sight, to live and labor for the eternal mansions that the Savior has prepared for those that love His appearing. Circumstances govern us all too much, but still I hope and strive and purpose so to do till this short life is over. I know we do not put the importance to these things that ought to attach to them. Still as life wears away let us strive harder to enter in at the straight gate.

A wife of proper habits and principles is a great help to a man in these things. Let me admonish you if ever you do look for a consort, to be careful on this point. Look well to this one thing. It is a balance wheel to the whole character.

Of the things in this present world, now I purpose to speak. I mean to work a small farm this summer or rather part of a farm. And take a look at this part of the world, select a nook for future operations, there station myself and operate, report to you, make a home, lend a helping hand to beginners and encourage them, live so as to be remembered by a few. I do not aspire to office or honors (as this world reckon honors) but to have the respect of a few. I could hardly be persuaded to go back to Rutland as I was situated. Say what you will, circumstances have much to do with the attacks of the Blue Devils and the success with which you can repel the attack. Few generals presume with ten thousand to meet him that cometh with twenty thousand. Just so do not presume to beat back the Devil’s Blue and the neighbors too. I would not have you infer that Western air is proof against them. No, no place is free from their attack. But when you choose your own ground, you ought to have the advantage. I purpose now to sell the lot in Pinkney and invest the means here as I think a good situation here as likely to rise as that. Not but that that is good property, but here we could improve it and have the use thereof. Don’t look for great things just yet as time is necessary to get under way.

My plans are hardly settled yet. Sometimes I think I will let Adelia’s land lie in Pinkny and go out on the wild land, keep stock and farm all I can, purchasing what I break, and let the cattle roam at large so make or break go in for 640 acres or so start a hedge around it &c. Perhaps get a steam plow &c., run a large thing, go in debt and dig out. Sometimes I think I will buy a little, invest her money, pay down if little with little, be content, and so go small, safe, & sure. I think I can go in for a large farm and injure no one, have chances to help others that I should not have in other positions by giving employment to the worthy &c. &c.

The coming summer I mean to devote to observations as to the shape of the earth in this state and perhaps in Iowa. Also the chances for myself and friends. The laws that govern the chances of success and failure. Wheat, corm & money. I did hope if Emerson concluded to stay at home you would come out and then we could go in where we thought best and to suit ourselves. So work out our former plans and calculations which others pronounced so visionary and fantastic.

Cattle are certainly kept easier here than in New York. If you get out where the land is not all taken up, there is a great chance to summer cattle you will see. In the winter they run to the straw stacks and care for themselves. They have kept some 12 or 15 head of cattle and 3 colts with less labor than you give to 5 cows. Hay if wanted is got for cutting.

Perhaps if I stay here through the summer I may find that I do not like so well. I wish you success in your undertaking. It is considerable I know, but perhaps you will be enabled to carry it out. I wish you and all connected with you happiness. Keep me posted as to how the ship sails if agreeable. I wish to continue the interchange of thoughts, feelings & purposes by frequent friendly letters as heretofore. Let us continue & keep alive the friendship begun and so far perpetuated. It may be that we may yet be spared and brought to dwell near each other once more. The ways of Providence are mysterious and often astonish us in their results. I say Providence, perhaps you doubt the agency of Providence in my coming here. Perhaps it did not send us but things have worked curious with us for the last 25 years whether it is chance or Providence. I believe our friendship has been as pure & firm as the majority of such attachments and we have been spared to each other while others have been called from earth away. Sylvester is no more. From what I hear, I judge Libbie must soon follow him. Then where are the company that used to reside in the Rev. B. G. P___’s parlor Where are all those that used to meet with us in chapel and recitation room? Scattered and gone. Let us at least perpetuate and keep alive our friendship. May it ripen and soften as years roll away and the silver of age begins to come upon me.

And now I close, hoping that one year as it rolls away may bring us prosperity and peace. That if our lives are spared, we may look back upon it as a year well spent. But leaving the events of the future with the All wise Disposer of events, I remain your sincere friend, — Newell

To M. K. Weller, Copenhagen, N. Y.

1854: Clark Jackson Shaw to Clark Carley Swift

This letter was written in 1854 by Clark Jackson Shaw (1825-1897) from Sacramento, California. He was married to Susannah Parker (1823-1898). Clark and Susannah are buried in Stockton, California.

Clark wrote the letter to his uncle and aunt, Clark Carley Swift (1807-1896) and Eunice (Lee) Swift (1815-1866) of Silver Creek, Chautauqua county, New York. Swift was a merchant in Silver Creek. Most likely Clark Shaw was the son of Clark Swift’s sister.


Addressed to C. C. Swift, Silver Creek, New York
Postmarked Sacramento, California

Office of California Steam Navigation Co.
Sacramento City, [California]
March 14, 1854

Dear Uncle & Aunt,

Your letter of Jany. 25th was received this evening. I am glad to hear you are all well & enjoying yourselves.

I can say likewise of our California friends. Lemuel is as usual. Willard & Elizabeth are well & still at Placerville, Eldorado county. He has given up selling goods & turns his whole attention to mining.

I returned last steamer to your village in a tin box by Express. “I hope you see me.” Do I look natural? “Ask Ms. Tew.” I paid $21 for those pictures — rather more expensive than at Silver Creek & had them both taken the same day. You must not let any of the girls fall in love with them pictures — particularly yours. I now have heard who Allen Howard married & I was surprised at Gurnsey’s choice altho she was a pretty girl. I think well of Cump’s choice. I came near falling in love with her myself. I think it is very strange that Uncle could not find Parker ¹ in Philadelphia. He has been at the Chestnut St. Theatre for the last 2 years & is well known by everybody most in Philadelphia as an actor. Tell Elyan I fear she does not try to look them up. I see persons here often who see them in Philadelphia.

You habobs at home are visiting the Crystal Palace, Capitol &c. while we poor Devils are left alone to work. You doubtless see by the papers that Sac[ramento] City has of late been made Capital of California. One of our boats was chartered to bring the archives &c. from Benicia at $5,000 taking 8 hours to make the trip.

Col. Snow is at Nevada about 75 miles from here. He has charge of a steam saw mill & will put up a quartz mill soon as agent for a Buffalo company. He says he did not think of coming here but about one week before he started. He is on a salary. I think he is over rating a certain “hombre” of my acquaintance in his estimate to your advisor.

Steam boating has changed of late in this country. All the boats in California have gone to a stock company — capital 2½ million. They now only have one agent in the different parts of all the boats. The agent at San Francisco gets $1,000 per month. At Sacramento $8,000 a year. At points above, $5,000. I am collector for Sacramento City, salary $2,000 per month & board which is equal to $3800 a year. My labor comes about 9 o’clock AM and ends at 3 P.M. So I have a good deal of time to attend to private affairs & can ____ course of the year look up some speculations.

Weather has been rather wet for a few days but is not very cold. On pleasant days [we] see the boys out with white vest. You would say they were forcing the season. This is a gay country for dress but I am old fashioned & plain as of old. We can see the snow on the mountains from here (75 miles) but it does not come down to the valley. They put water up in vats in the mountains & freeze it for ice for summer use. It sold readily here last summer at 2 to 30 cts. per pound. I have not received any paper from you.

Friend Purdue who worked for Ballard is in Sacramento. He is at work at his trade & is very well content. He gave me a pretty good history of Silver Creek since I left there.

T. W. Gould says he shall return April 1st. I think R. P. Johnson ² will be nominated for Mayor this Spring (here). If he is not elected, I think he will return to Whitfield.

I wish you could visit me in your travels & stay about a month.

If John is pretty keen & plenty of funds, send him out here. He could make money here with money. The only thing that keeps me poor is the want of funds to operate largely. Occasionally this is a good country for ch____ to operate.

I must close as I must write one more letter tonight — 3 & out. Tell Lee to write to me. Tell him to read my letters to you & imagine his name at the head. I write all I think would interest you all so you must say you have received a letter from me & consequently all must answer.

Your truly, — Clark J. Shaw

¹ Mr. J. Parker was the Acting and Stage Manager at the Chestnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia in the early 1850s.

² Rossiter Preston Johnson (1811-1886) was elected the 8th Mayor of Sacramento, California, in 1854.

1838: Benjamin Ellis to Gibbs & Jenney


Headstone of Capt. Ellis

This letter was written by Capt. Benjamin Ellis (1799-1878) to his ship owners and investors, Gibbs & Jenney, of Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Benjamin was the son of Ebenezer Ellis (1762-1845) and Priscilla White (1770-1840). He was married to Louisa Damon (1806-1866) and had at least four sons.

Ellis wrote the letter from the Bay of Islands in New Zealand in the midst of a voyage to collect whale oil. The voyage spanned the period from 30 July 1837 to 21 February 1839. [See Log Book of the voyage at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.]

William Le Baron Gibbs was the senior member of the merchant firm of Gibbs & Jenney, originally of New York City, N.Y., and later active at Fairhaven, Mass. His sister, Eliza, married Gibbs’ partner, William Proctor Jenney (1802-1881), in 1827.  Gibbs and Jenny were the owners of another ship named Sharon which was captained by Valentine Pease. It was supposed that Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick, based his mentally unstable character “Captain Ahab” on Captain Pease. As an interesting aside, it should be noted that Herman Melville had a cousin named Thomas Wilson Melville who sailed on three successive whaling voyages — the first of which was with Captain Benjamin Ellis onboard the ship Columbus from Fairhaven to New Zealand and return (June 1835 to February 1837).


Whaling Ships at the Bay of Islands in New Zealand

Addressed to Messrs. Gibbs & Jenney, Fairhaven, Massachusetts

Ship Columbus
Bay of Islands, New Zealand
February 15th 1838

Dear Sirs,

The Columbus arrived at this place the [paper torn] with the crew in good health except the steward who has since deserted. On the 4th we had a very heavy gale of wind which caused the loss of 2 new boats. We have on board about 900 lbs. oil — 50 of it sperm. The ship has a bad leak about the stern in rough weather. We have searched but cannot find it. The ship will need caulking soon. Have done part of it and shall do the remaining part when we get in the bay.

The ship did very well in the bays the last season. I am expecting to get a cargo of oil in the bays and the next offshore season. I have a good crew. Our new headers ¹ are not as good as the last voyage. We have sunk 7 whales and cut in 17. ²

Refreshments are very high. Potatoes $25 a ton. We have had very bad weather on the coast and since we have been in here. We are now ready for sea. Shall sail the first favorable opportunity. There has been no late news from any of your ships. I shall cruise for sperm whales a month or two and then go to the bays.

Wishing you health and prosperity.

I remain your most obedient servant, — Benjamin Ellis

¹ “Headers” is the term given the whalers who steer the small boats when closing in on a whale and afterwards killing it.

² To “cut in” means to cut the whale’s flesh into smaller pieces so that it may be brought on board and rendered into oil. When the captain wrote that they had “sunk 7 whales,” he meant that they had harpooned 7 whales but were unable to retrieve them and they sunk to the bottom of the ocean.


1864: Gilbert A. Talmadge to Caroline Wheeler


How Gilbert might have looked

This letter was written by Gilbert A. Talmadge (1842-1919) while serving in Co. C, 7th Connecticut Infantry. Gilbert enlisted on 6 September 1861 and mustered out on 12 September 1864 after three years service. He had previously served for three months in Co. K, 3rd Connecticut Infantry.

The 7th Conn. Vols. spent its entire enlistment prior to the Battle of Olustee (20 February 1864) in the Department of the South. Among other actions, it fought in the siege of Fort Pulaski, and the battles of Secessionville and Battery Wagner. During 1863, the regiment formed part of the garrison of St. Augustine and Fernandina, Florida. Because it was in the same brigade as the 7th New Hampshire, both regiments were often jointly called the “77th New England.” In January 1864, when this letter was written, the 7th Conn. Vols. was further weakened by the furloughing of over three hundred enlisted veterans. The regiment was left “quite forlorn with its depleted ranks” — many of them newly arrived substitutes who turned out to be bounty jumpers. They entered the Florida campaign with barely three hundred men. By that time, however, they were equipped with new Spencer carbines that bolstered their fighting strength.

This letter was written just one month before the Battle of Olustee in which the 7th Conn. Vols. entered the fighting with 250 men on duty and lost 80 killed, wounded or missing.

Gilbert was the son of Alson L. Talmadge (1810-1864) and Lucy Phelps (1814-18xx) of Meriden, New Haven county, Connecticut. Gilbert mentions two of his younger sisters in this letter; Carrie and Ellen.

Addressed to Mrs. Caroline Wheeler, West Meriden, Connecticut

St. Helena Island
January 19th, 1864

Dear Aunt,

I received your kind letter and picture. I was glad to hear from you and Uncle Edwin and to hear that you was well and was happy to get your picture and I wish that I had Uncles too and I would give anything if I could get Mother’s but I don’t suppose that I could persuade her [to] get hers taken anyway. And when I get where I can get one taken, I will have one taken and send to you. I can’t see as you have changed any since I left home. [Sister] Carrie — she thinks that I have not changed any since I left home. I may not [have changed] in looks but she will think that I have in action when I get home, I bet.

But [she will have to] wait 8 months longer and then I will come home and see the folks and I think that I shall stay there for awhile. I won’t say as I did when I was in the 3 month campaign for I see that men change their mind sometimes — at least I have — and I see that some has here. They have been out over 2 years now and they are going to try it for 3 years longer for the sake of coming home for 30 days and 475 dollars. But they can’t get this child till he has been free and I think that it will be hard to get me then. ¹

[When I was in] the three months [campaign], we did not know what war was. And now they that has been in the 7th Conn. Vols. in this department know what it is to be a moving around by this time. And they that are a going for 3 years longer are fools — [that’s what] I call them — but they call me a fool for not going, but I can’t see it. Everyone to their notion, I say. I won’t write anymore about [re-]enlisting.

You tell Mother that she does not think of me anymore than I think of her and no often[er] either. Oh! I wish that I was where she is tonight and give my love to her. And tell [my little sister] Ellen that she owes me a letter yet. And give my love to Uncle. I wish that I was where I could see you and him.

There is not much war news here to write here. Ed, he said that he was a going to write to you so that I won’t write much about him — only he is as tough as a buck. Write as soon as you get this. You can see that I have [     ] the when drying the ink. Accept these few lines from — Gilbert Talmadge

Direct the same as before.

¹ Re-enlistments commenced in December 1863. There were 333 re-enlistments — three-fourths of the original members of the 7th Conn. Vols. who remained on the regimental rolls. This letter was written just four days after the re-enlisted veterans sailed for home on a 30-day furlough.


Headstone of Gilbert Talmadge, Co. C, 7th Conn. Vols.