1865: Unidentified Civilian to his Mother

I believe this partial letter was written by a civilian tasked by the government to arrange for the transport of cotton bales from Eastport, Mississippi, by steamer up the Tennessee River for sale in the North in the days following the close of hostilities. The cotton was no doubt confiscated by the US Government during the Civil War and stored in warehouses throughout the South. Northern newspapers reported that a cargo of 250 bales of cotton from Eastport, Mississippi, arrived in Cairo on 19 July—one month after this letter was written. It is estimated that over a million bales of cotton had been accumulated in the cotton-growing region of the southwest during the Civil War.


Eastport, Mississippi, on the Tennessee River; Union encampment on hill at left.


Nashville, Tennessee
June 19th 1865
Monday, 10 o’clock A. M.

My dear Mother,

Yours of the 11th inst. just received. I hasten to answer and will give an account of myself since leaving here on the 9th inst.


Johnsonville, Tennessee

Receiving instructions from Mr. [James R.] Dillon ¹ on the morning of the 9th to proceed to the Nashville & North Western Railroad to Johnsonville, terminus of the railroad on the Tennessee river & by steamer from there to Eastport, Mississippi. I left here at 11 A.M., reached Johnsonville 5 P. M., learned that the boat would not arrive until sometime during the night. After eating some supper, looked around the place which consists of 6 large buildings for storing govt. property, depot, &c. and about 12 log & canvas houses which are used by sutlers, refugees, & niggers. The Hotel at which I stopped was two stories high, three rooms in each story. The lower floor front room was used as grocery. The other two for dining & cooking rooms. When I went to bed, they put me in a room with a dozen other poor mortals who were trying to rest on narrow bed sacks filled with corn stalks. I slept what little I could.

Was awakened at 3 A.M. & took passage on Steamer Jonas Powell for Eastport. Was able to procure a stateroom &c.  The boat is a very fine one, set a fine table, and everything is neat & clean. The speed of the boat is just enough to make the air cool & delightful. The scenery of the Tennessee [river] is rather monotonous although on the whole it is pleasant for its shores are thickly wooded with only once in a great while a clearing. We stop at every landing & traders who have come for the purpose traffic with the people who bring down butter, eggs, chickens, milk, &c. which they trade way for groceries & dry goods. Butter is worth only 10 cents per lb. & eggs the same per dozen.

I think I have met some of the lowest species of humanity. The women are round shouldered, sallow complexion, sunken-eyed, & very filthy in their appearance. The children are mostly half naked and chew snuff the same as their Mothers & sisters.

Reached Eastport 7 A.M. Sunday morning. After breakfast aboard the boat, walk to [Brig.] Gen. [Edward] Hatch‘s headquarters ¾ mile from the river. The General was glad to receive me, told me to stop in his tent & eat at  his table while I rec_____ed. I came to look after cotton but it not having arrived yet, may have to wait sometime. The officers of the General’s staff were very pleasant. In evening with General, called on a lady whom he said was the Belle of Eastport. By the way, I have forgot to mention Eastport is not so large as Johnsonville. Boasts of only 3 government buildings. No people live here—only a few in vicinity. I have spent my time profitably as possible by reading what few books I could find around headquarters. The people through all this section of country are very destitute. One mama & child starved to death last week.

[Letter unsigned; missing the end]

¹ James R. Dillon was a special treasury agent charged by the US Government with taking possession of the confiscated cotton reaching Nashville’s quartermaster depot managed by Chief Quartermaster Col. A. J. Mackay.


1861: Josiah Howard Hobbs to James Monroe Lovering

The first two letters presented here were written by Josiah Howard Hobbs (1834-1919), the son of Daniel S. Hobbs (1800-1883) and Judith G. Chapman (1801-1887) of Carroll county, New Hampshire. Josiah was an 1856 graduate of Dartmouth College and a graduate of the Albany Law School in 1859. In 1860, he was studying law. He was married to Mary Elizabeth Erwin (1841-1890) in 1878.

Hobbs wrote the first two letters to James Monroe Lovering (1817-1885), the son of John and Sarah (Leavitt) Lovering of Exeter, Rockingham, New Hampshire. James’ first wife was Nancy Brown of North Hampton. They were married in 1841. His second wife was Oriana (Mitchell) Wingate. In the 1860 US Census, Lovering’s occupation was given as “clerk.”

The third letter in this grouping was written by Nancy (Brown) Lovering to her husband, James M. Lovering.


Washington D. C.
January 5, 1861

Friend Lovering,

Last eve the city was much excited on hearing that the U. S. Frigate Brooklyn is now at Norfolk, Va. coaling up and receiving troops, destined for South Carolina service. The secessionists are very bitter in their denunciation of Buchanan. Doubtless the messages over the telegraphic wires inform you of the events which have transpired down south such as taking of Government Arsenals and forts.

Mrs. Lovering is as well as usual while Mary has almost recovered from her cold and is nicely this morning. Mr. Little & family are to leave Mr. Morehead’s domain. I send you a letter which Mr. Lovering handed me. I have sent the Tribune to your Father. There is no special movement on foot that I am aware of among the Republicans for meeting the present crisis save that all the Republicans of Congress met on yesterday at Mr. [Schuyler] Colfax Con. Room and meet again today. Their proceedings are kept a secret thus far. This meeting looks as if something is being mediated.

I am yours very truly. In haste, –Josiah H. Hobbs

James M. Lovering, Esq., Concord, N. H.


Washington D. C.
January 7, 1861

Friend Lovering,

In the contingency that Mrs. Lovering should not write you this morn, I have resolved to send my autograph.

The reinforcement of Fort Washington and the organization of citizen troops of course irritated the secession men. Even Mrs. Moorehead is a little excited because troops have been sent to Fort Washington.

The Virginia Legislature meets today and the rumor goes that the legislature would authorize the seizing of the fort forsooth. The F. F. V. [First Families of Virginia] have been anticipated and are consequently vexed. The impression is that the Pacific Railroad bill will be killed in the Senate by a close vote. Mr. [John P.] Hale ought to be here. It comes up today for final disposition. Affairs are all right in the Folding Room. Mr. Phillips continues a little anxious about the fate of the “Deficiency Bill.”

Matters at our Boarding House are coming to a focus. Mr. Thompson has changed his maid and is quite eloquent in praise of our landlord & lady.

I apprehend great men change their minds sometime. Buchanan for illustration.

Mr. Lovering and Mary are well. The latter has recovered fully.

Please remember me to Dana. I am very truly yours. In haste, — J. H. Hobbs

[to] J. M. Lovering, Esq., Exeter, N. H.


Exeter [New Hampshire]
June 16, 1861

My Dear Husband,

As the people have all gone to church and left me to care of the babe, and he being asleep, I will employ my time in writing you a few lines although I have nothing new to write, only it is very warm. I hope it is not any warmer with you than here. Miss Martha Gillman arrived here last week from Charleston, Virginia. She said the people were all leaving and going to the mountains for they expected a battle soon.

I don’t know how they know anything about it but they say that Marston can’t be elected Door Keeper again. I would try for it myself if I were you. Jimmie and Mary were very much pleased with their letters. I am glad you had such a nice time at West Chester. It seems a long time to the 20th of July but I see in the papers that they were going to try to attack Washington. Tuck asked me the other day if I wasn’t afraid that Davis would run off with you. He told me he thought that Davis would try to take Washington yet but he did not think he would succeed.

Your Aunt Sanborn was here to dinner so you see she has not gone home yet. Marston is in town today. David has been quite unwell the last week with pain in his side. Your Father is well. Stephen Dearborn has got most well but Wadleigh is very low [and] not expected to live many days. Mary has got a bad sore. It come out in a large bunch first and now her ear is very sore and runs a good deal. It is the scrofula, I suppose.

I want to see you very much. It is four weeks tomorrow since you left and it seems as thhough it was four months. The children are raised Ned. Tell Mrs. Litell that I will answer her letter as soon as I get time. I went up to Mrs. Collins the other day. They have a very convenient house and a very pleasant one. They have as many rooms as we but one, only some of them are not quite as large. They are putting up another piece of the stable so as to shut us up quite. Mary has been out all the morning trying to see Marston to bid him goodbye but I think she did not make out.

They think of celebrating the Fourth [of July], the children of the Sabbath School. Miss Carthan is at Springfield yet. I wish she would always keep off for it is much pleasanter without them. There is not much going on here. Take care of your stomach. Ask Litell who he has to go round with now. Read has left for I think they must miss each other.

Marston expects to leave Portsmouth Thursday for Washington from Boston by water. David and Tom are going to Portsmouth tomorrow to see them. We all send love. Goodbye. Write soon. I wish I was with you.

Yours affectionately, — N. B. Lovering

1862-63: The Death of Pvt. Isaac W. Barker

These letters pertain to Pvt. Isaac Watkins Barker (1841-1862) of Co. D, 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) who was killed in action during the Battle of South Mountain on 14 September 1862. Isaac was the only son of Thomas Fuller Barker (1804-1892) and his first wife Clarissa Watkins (1805-1854) of Blandford, Hampden county, Massachusetts. Isaac’s siblings included Martha Watkins (Barker) Horr (1834-1872), Helen B. Barker (183?-1887), Lizzie F. (Barker) Wright (183?-19xx), Vesta J. (Barker) Freeman (1836-1929), and Julia A (Barker) Warfield (1838-1922).

[Note: These letters are from the collection of Richard Weiner and are published by express consent.]


A scene of the fighting at South Mountain from the cover of John David Hoptak’s book.


This letter was written by George E. Blakelee (1836-1909) who later became a physician and a newspaper editor. He was eight years the editor of the state agricultural paper—the Ohio Farmer—before moving to Chicago and earning a degree in homeopathic medicine. He was subsequently the editor of the New York Tribune, the Farmer’s Home Journal, and the Weekly Novelist. He practiced medicine in New York for 16 years.

George was the son of Philemon Blakelee (1809-1853) and his wife Amanda (1812-1895). I have not yet verified it, but my hunch is that Amanda Isaac’s Aunt—either the sister of his mother or father. Census records indicate she was born in Massachusetts.

In 1860, at the age of 24, George resided in Huntington, Lorain county, Ohio, where he earned a living as a “carriage maker.” Residing in the same household and assisting him in the business was 18 year-old Isaac W. Barker. 

Huntington [Lorain county, Ohio]
October 8th 1862

Dear Father & Friends,


The Congregational Church in Wellington, painted by Archibald Willard in 1857

Sunday the 5th was a beautiful day. At one o’clock P. M. the people of all the churches and a great many that seldom if ever are seen at church convened at the Congregational Church to attend the funeral of our beloved Isaac. After the singing of an appropriate hymn and a prayer, [Rev.] Mr. [Ansel Russell] Clark took his text, Proverbs 14-37 and preached one of his best productions prepared expressly for the occasion. I furnished him with many extracts from Isaac’s letters which he used to good advantage. At the close of the sermon, a large choir arose and sang the hymn “Enon” in the Jubilee on the 266 page. The words are as follows.

“Go to the grave in all thy glorious prime, In full activity of zeal and power; A Christian cannot die before his time, The Lords appointment in the servant’s hour. Go to the grave; at noon from labor cease; Rest on thy sheaves, thy harvest work is done; Come from the heat of battle, and in peace, Soldier, go home; with thee the fight is won. Go to the grave, for there thy Savior lay In death’s embraces, ere He rose on high; And all the ransom’d, by that narrow way, Pass to eternity life beyond the sky.” [Author: James Montgomery]

There is not room on this sheet to write the hymn in verse order, but it is punctuated right. I selected the piece. The church would not hold the people that assembled. James & E., Ralph [Horr] & M[artha], Uncle A’s family, Mary & myself were the mourners.

Since writing before, I have received some verses composed by one of Isaac’s mates on his death. I will send a copy. Also some composed by Mother. James received a letter from Capt. [Howard S.] Lovejoy saying that Isaac was buried on Monday the 15th alone and a headboard put up at his grave with his name, company, and regiment on it. Also Capt. Lovejoy has sent the papers to Washington that are necessary for you to draw pay and the bounty, by your applying.

The draft came off in Ohio October 1st. Huntington had her full quota, so none were drafted from here. Wellington had 19 drafted. No one was drafted that you know. Lagrange had 13 drafted and Ralph [Horr] ¹ was one. They have broken up house keeping. [His wife] Martha is coming to Huntington to live and Ralph goes to camp this week.

We are all well and doing well. Crops are very good. I have 4 acres of corn, ½ acre of potatoes, have thrashed 24 bushels of wheat and 125 bushels of oats, fruit very plenty. My health is good. I have all that I can do in the [wagon-making] shop.

Yours as ever, — George E. Blakely

¹ Ralph Turner Horr (1835-1882) was the son of Roswell Horr (1796-1841) and Caroline Turner (1805-1894). He was married to Martha Watkins Barker (1834-1872). Ralph was a harness maker by trade.


This letter was also written by George E. Blakeslee and was most likely sent at the same time as the one datelined from Huntington on 8 October 1862.

No. 2

As to Isaac’s affairs, when he enlisted, he wished me to receive his wages and use them to settle up his affairs, debts &c., which I did. He also wished me to keep all his money after settling affairs in a bunch to use it as I thought best. I have invested his money in sheep and steers. The account is as follows:

Cash sent first time — $25.50
Paid for boots & Stamps — $6.50
Cash sent second time — $20.00
Paid James (April 1862) on debt — $10.00
Cash sent third time —  $45.00
Paid for boots — $5.50
Paid (July 1) for postage stamps  — $0.50
Received note against me — $9.00
[   ] balance on account — $2.00
[Balance] $101.50
Taking expenditures from the receipts $101.50 – $22.50, it leaves due Isaac $79.00

Now this money belongs to you. I have got it invested so that I cannot get it out without sacrifice until April or June, just which you may choose. I shall have two hundred worth of steers to sell in April(this is the time that drovers flock in for 2 year-old). I will agree to send you the $79.00 by the first day of May next if that will do you. All the money received has passed through James’ hands. I will get a certificate showing the account is correct. Isaac lent me the money without interest if I would settle up his affairs. I have done so, There is a note with me against Bennitt & Fields of $20.00 which I will collect if you order it and send the money directly to you, and also I will send some on any one account if I succeed well in collecting where it is due me.

Isaac’s trunk is here containing his clothes &c. What will you have done with it? It contains one pair of black pants, silk vest, black coat, 2 pair of boots & shoes &c. &c. Write all about it & oblige.

“They have laid him away” — written on the death of Isaac Barker by G. G. Field in camp.


G. G. Field’s poem was actually an adaptation of one that was written anonymously as a tribute to Confederate Capt. Henry Clay Gorrell of the 2nd North Carolina Infantry who died at the Battle of Fair Oaks in June 1862. It was published widely and became a folk ballad under the title, “May he rest in Peace.”

They have laid him away in the cold damp ground
On the banks of a southern stream,
Afar from his home in a stranger’s land
Where the ray of a southern sun gleams.

No coffin enclosed his mangled remains
No shroud save his uniform coat,
But his name is sustained in the laurels of fame
And on memory’s pedestal is wrote.

He sleeps all unheeding the cannons deep roar
As the song of the murmuring stream
The armies march o’er him in battle array
Yet he heeds not the musketry’s gleam.

For his country he fought, for his country he died
A martyr to liberty’s cause;
Fair freedom he loved & to see her prevail
He died while defending her laws.

In a little white cottage in the land of the North
They are waiting his coming again;
But they dream not his body all mangled and torn
Has been laid ‘neath the field of the slain.

Sleep, soldier sleep! in thy rough southern tomb
While above thee the soft breezes wave,
In the summer the birds they requiem sing
From the trees o’er thy patriot grave.

Now write me a large letter. Tell me how you want Isaac’s matters fixed &c. Give our love to all. Tell Dwight that his cupboard stands in the shop where he left it but have found no chance to get what it is worth. I will continue to try & send the pay as soon as sold. Yours as ever, — George E. Blakelee


This letter was presumably written by George E. Blakelee’s wife.

February 1, 1863

Dear Sister [Julia] and Brother,

I delayed writing to you on account of seeing Capt. [Howard S.] Lovejoy. He came here on furlough but I did not see him. I suppose E. wrote Pa all that Capt. Lovejoy said about Isaac. He speaks very highly of Isaac. He was a brave soldier. He was most too daring—too venturesome. That was the greatest fault with him. He was so elated with the idea of going into battle that he did not think of danger. He was anxious to do something for his country and he did. He died for his country. We ought not to wish him back for I believe he is happy but oh! I can’t help to murmur. The loss of such a good brother is so much. I wish I could feel more reconciled.

The boys in the 23rd are coming home on furlough now and when I see the boys coming home—all but Isaac—it brings such ugly, wicked thoughts in my mind. And some of the boys get wounded and come home. I wonder why it would not have been Isaac. This is wrong and I try to banish such thoughts.

How is Vesta? I hope she is getting along well. Is her babe well? The little darling, I wish I could see it. What are they going to call it. I wish she would call it Francis. Julia, you did not answer my question, where do Edwin [Freeman] and Vesta live?

I received a letter from [sister] Martha [Horr] last week. She wrote she does not hear from home only when I send my letters to her. Now why isn’t that some of you can’t write to her? Helen I should think might write to her as many presents as she has had from her. Martha feels bad and slighted. She would love dearly to hear from Pa. Julia, you inquired where Aurelia is. She is teaching in Brighton—gets 14 dollars a month. She boarded with me last fall and attended school. Libby is at home and health is quite poor. She has something growing in her nose. She has been to Cleveland to have it operated upon.

We have had a very open winter. It has been nothing but mud and slosh all winter. I can’t go anywhere—not even to my nearest neighbors. I can’t visit the girls because I can’t get there. For my part, I am heartily sick of Ohio. The old settlers say they never saw such a winter.

Julia, I saw in the Springfield paper the death of Eli Shepard—also of Marble Shepard. How is Mas Shepard’s health? Does Lucy live with her? Has she any children? Julia, next time you write, tell me all the news—girls who are married and who is not, and who has died. I feel very sorry for Mrs. Kyle. Give my love to her. Is Lucas tending upon her yet? What is Helen doing this winter? Is she attending school? Tell her to improve her time so she can teach. Isaac was so anxious to have Helen get education to teach. Cousin Libby Barker expects to teach next summer. James’ folks were well the last I heard.

Julia, little Mari is the prettiest child I ever saw—such an amiable disposition. I never knew her to show any spond[?] yet. I tell E. she is too good for this world. She says everybody tells her she won’t raise her. I suppose [   ] commences keeping house this week. George is very hearty and tough this winter. He has kept a hired man in the shop ever since last September. They have all they can do and work early and late. There are four other wagon makers in town. They have nothing to do. I don’t know why it is.

My health is not very good. We have had a bad winter for invalids. I think I shall go to Wisconsin next summer for my health. George says if I run down as I did last Spring, I must go. I have Isaac’s likeness—a first rate one. When I go to Oberlin, I am going to have a large photograph taken and put in a frame. I must close so goodbye. Give my love to all, Motherm and the little ones.

P. S. Ask Pa if there is a man living in Blandford by the name of Louis Davis and what kind of folks are they.


The following two letters were written by George Newell Burdick (1841-1874), the son of George L. Burdick (1808-1866) and his first wife, Harriet Bowers (1804-1843) of North Blandford, Hampden county, Massachusetts. George took Catherine Bates (1817-1856), the widow of Eli B. Warfield (1810-1840) as his second wife. Eli and Catherine’s son, Dwight Eli Warfield (1837-1912) is mentioned in the letter. Dwight was married in 1856 to Isaac’s sister, Julia A. Barker (1838-1922).

Blandford [Massachusetts]
October 19th 1860

Friend Isaac,

I received your letter a week ago today with much pleasure as I always do your letters. We had a cattle show here in Blandford about two weeks ago and a very good one for this town, I think. I wish you had been here. I think you would have enjoyed it very much indeed. I think Francis had better go to school. I should advise him to study the spelling book a little more though. I have had a letter from him since he went to Westfield to school. I supposed that he was a better scholar until I had a letter from him.

I think your chance is good for Lizzie Hall yet. You had better come out and try it and see. We have a singing school tonight. I wish you was here to go with me. We used to have some good times singing school nights and I hope we shall have some more but we cannot tell as to that. We know not how soon we may die, but if we do not meet on this earth again, I hope and trust we shall meet in a happier world than this.

I am glad you live so nigh church. I should consider that a great privilege though we are not so far off as some in town.

Dwight [Warfield] is here and he says he will carry this letter for nothing so I guess I will send it by him and save three cents. I do not believe you can read it when you get it for it is about equal to Francis’ writing. My hands are so stiff, I cannot hold on to the penholder.

We have got our fall work almost done. Then I am a going visiting some, I’ll bet you. I wish you was here to go with me. I think we should enjoy it very much.

Sylvia Siger is married to a man from Becket [named Simeon Cooper]. I guess there is not any more news. Give my love to Julia and Sis and accept a share yourself. Cornelia says she cannot write this time. Write soon. From your old friend, — Newell G. Burdick


Blandford [Massachusetts]
January 22, 1861

Friend Isaac,

I almost feel ashamed to answer your letter, it has been so long, but I don’t have much time; I have so much to attend to. We have Lyceums to he Centre now. I have had to speak once. The question was, “Resolved, that the secession of South Carolina is beneficial to the Union.” I was on the negative and got the question. D. Shurtleff spoke with me. He is smart.

I am not very well now. I have got a sore throat so I did not go to school today. We have got lots of snow here. We are having cold weather now. It was very cold and windy yesterday. The snow blew so we could not see but a little ways.

Since I received your letter, one of my friends has departed this life. It was Martha [F.] Hatch. She was buried a week ago tomorrow. She had the inflammatory rheumatism. It struck to her heart and she could not live then. She was a good girl. She had her ways but I liked her. I waited on her all of last winter and until after the 4th of July. I have spent many happy hours with her. Her people feel very bad indeed but we have all got to part with friends that are near and dear to us. But if they are only prepared, we feel very much different about it. She had a great many friends and she will be missed very much.

Franklin [Clinton] Knox and Lucy Ann Cartter are made one. Jane Lewis has got a son by Frank Knox. She is very sick with fever. They do not think she will get well.

Ursula [Maria] Herrick was married New Years to a man from Springfield [named Emory Cutler Hawes]. He is a widower with two children and a butcher. He used to be in company with Mr. Chaffee. Mr. Chaffee made the match, I understand. Asahel W. is teaching school in Thorndike this winter. Henry Blair is at home now. I do not know how he feels about his misfortune. I do not think he could have thought much of her. It is a good thing for her, I guess, for she is not very healthy and he wants someone that can work, you know. I do not know who he will get now, I am sure.

Give my love to Dwight’s people and tell them to write to me. Tell them we are as well as  usual. I am glad they like the West so well but should like to have them here. Write soon. So not wait as long as I have. Yours as ever, — Newell G. Burdick


1863: Jesse Smith Ormsbee to Ira Ormsbee

This letter was written by 44 year-old Jesse Smith Ormsbee (1818-1864) who enlisted on 15 August 1862 as a private in Co. G, 4th Vermont Volunteers. He died from wounds on 24 August 1864 at Charlestown, Virginia.

Smith was the son of Nathaniel Ormsbee and Sally Merritt. He was married twice. His first wife was Abigail Wheeler (1824-1848); his second wife was Mary Ann Loveyoy (1828-1892).

This letter was composed just after the return of the 4th Vermont to their camp at Brandy Station following Meade’s unsuccessful Mine Run Campaign.


Members of the 4th Vermont Infantry in Camp

Addressed to Mr. Ira Ormsbee, Marshfield, Vermont
Postmarked Washington D. C.

Camp near Brandy Station, Va.
December 5, 1863

Absent family,

I have got the opportunity to inform you that my health is good as common and hope these few lines will find you the same. I received your kind letter mailed the 24th November and 2 papers. I should [have] received it sooner but we have been after the rebs again. We started the 26th of November and crossed the Rapidan the 28th and recrossed back the 1st December and came back to the old camp the 2nd day [very] tired [and] was glad when we got back.

I hain’t got my box yet but I shall get it now just as soon as they bring Express’s.

Hain’t not much to write now. It is cloudy today but I don’t think that it is agoing to storm—not at present.

I don’t want to have that line to run so as to take any timber to amount to much on the north side of the rocky pasture. Have the line run with the old fence from the upper corner east upper corner of the pasture. I think I should let Dan have it for fifty dollars. I want the money paid over to Uncle Ira Smith and when they have the line established, divide the line to build the fence and have it put on record and have Ira Smith see to it and have a fence built.

I want you to send me some more postage stamps so if we stop here long, I can write oftener to my friends. I can’t think of any more this time so good luck to you all, — Smith Ormsbee

I want you to hand that letter to Ira Smith

1862-63: Oswald Jackson to Ella Moore Willing

These letters were written by Oswald Jackson (1838-1891) who entered the service as a 1st Lieutenant in Co. F, 17th Pennsylvania Infantry but transferred to Co. I, 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry [“Rush’s Regiment of Lancers”] where he was promoted to captain in August 1862. While serving in this capacity, he was detailed as an aide-de-camp to Major Gen. Erasmus D. Keyes with whom he served until August 1863 when he resigned his commission as a major. Keyes commanded the Fourth Army Corps headquartered at Yorktown.

Oswald (or “Ossie”) was the son of Isaac Rand Jackson (1806-1842) and Louisa Catherine Carroll (1809-1869) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ossie wrote the letter to Ella Moore Willing (1838-1923) whom he later married.

An obituary notice for Oswald Jackson, published on 9 December 1891 in the New York Tribune, states that he “was the head of the firm of Oswald Jackson & Brother, wine importers of No. 21 South William Street” and that he was “lost overboard from the North German Lloyd steamship Fulda on November 30 [1891].” Oswald’s education began in Brussels where his father “was at one time Unites States Minister to Brussels. He subsequently was graduated from Burlington University, Burlington, Iowa. On his mother’s side he was descended from the Carroll family of Maryland. In the Civil War, Mr. Jackson was aide-de-camp on the staff of General Keyes and rose to the rank of major. He began business first in Philadelphia but of late the headquarters of his firm have been in this city [New York]. Mr. Jackson was well known in yachting circles and had owned the Mistral, Iola, and Fenela. He leaves a widow and two children.” A day earlier, the Herald reported that it was assumed Jackson was swept overboard during inclement weather on board ship.



Yorktown [Virginia]
October 21st 1862

Dearest Ella,

Again at the same old place, writing to you from the same desk, but not in the same old way—not to my dear Miss Ella, with the “Miss” ever so small even, but with a right to a dearer title, one which looks so cold when I contrast it with the time when I could whisper it in your ear—so close, so close, that I feel almost inclined to blot it out & leave to your memory my store of names. I had the same feeling this morning when I wrote from Ft. Monroe & could look with no satisfaction whatever upon any letter as it commenced; it seemed to me them & does still that you had been with me all the time since I left you, and that our conversation but continued where it then broke off.

Do you remember how in the absence of great events I used to tell you of each little thing that occurred at home? I was thinking about it as I sat on the boat at the wharf after finishing my letter this morning & the train of thought was suggested by an unusual sight there—a lady strolling along the beach under the walls of the Fort with some happy man. I began immediately to envy him & to wish for you there so much that I determined to write you this, even should my letters overflow with such “little things.”

I wrote to you of my happy escape from the woman who would inflict herself upon me. Alas, it was but temporary for upon going on board the boat for York, there she was & twice, three times, did she seize me before I could escape, which I finally did by the sacrifice of the latest Herald & cautious afterwards in avoiding appearing in the cabin without first reconnoitering the ground. I wish you could have seen her when finally (this quite overcame me) she discovered a tender likeness to one of her own sons (he must have been a mighty good-looking fellow) and proceeded to scrutinize my features one by one. I am sure she would been a solemn warning to you & have cured you forever of any language of that very firm resolve to become a nurse for soldiers. Do you remember, darling, how you argued so foolishly about it when you went with me to drive—not the long drive Frank Wells found we had taken but before that? You shall only nurse one soldier now & I hope for your sake, you may never have him on your hands for he is a poor patient, I fear. So I got rid of the —– well, poor creature, & finished my journey, & Lucille together alone.

What a sad story it is but full to my mind of beautiful passages as my copy shows by this time. I had never before read it through but only in a fugitive sort of a way & was very glad of the opportunity for it changed my idea of the book entirely. How can anyone say Lucille is a coquette?—a woman as magnanimous as someone I know wanted to be, who could sacrifice her life to her love, pure enough to include those who would have been her enemies. But everyone seems to think different about this work & if we don’t agree, we must read it together & I will point out upon what I ground my views.

The General [Erasmus Keyes] & Howard were very glad to see me & I found them all alone, Suydam having gone on Monday to Norfolk. Everything is as usual except that we have moved into the house from our tents & Charlie & I occupy a sumptuous chamber looking out over the river & land beyond; a jolly room into which I am soon going to dream myself with you once more. There seems to be no prospect of anything occurring to prevent my coming home in November.

“Corbie” is well & full of life with a long winter coat on him like a Maltese cat & we have had, I hear, a frost already so that your mind may be at ease as to my happiness (comparative, of course) & health.

Good night, darling. May your dreams be as pleasant as I hope mine to be. Ever yours, — Ossie

Give my regards to Richard



Boston [Massachusetts]
November 12th 1862

I was very much disappointed, dearest, in not seeing you on Monday when I paid such an unseasonable visit but more sorry for the cause than disappointed that my wishes were not justified.

I thought you had entirely got rid of those tiresome headaches but I’m afraid you haven’t followed my instructions strictly in taking sufficient care of yourself.

I would not send you word that I had so short a time to stay for I knew it would be most prudent for you to keep still and I take to myself great credit for my self denial, which not even the chain & novelty of my wedding experience could altogether atone for.

The snow storm which raged a perfect gale at Yorktown prevented my leaving there on Friday & spending Saturday & Sunday with you as I had hoped & gave me so little time that Chetwood had almost given me up.

However, I got there in time to pay a visit to my fair & lovely bridesmaid & to join the groom at a supper at Delmonico’s—the last of his tributes to the honorable fraternity of bachelors.

I’d rather describe the minutia of the ceremony yesterday to you on Saturday when I shall see you at home, if you can wait so long; suffice it now to say that all went merry as the merriest marriage bell you can imagine, & that, having launched the fair couple into the rosy tide of their future, & seen Miss Hattie once more in the bosom of her family, I returned to my solitary magnificence at the Brevoort, dined (oh! what a jolly dinner they give you), & found myself at 8 P.M. seated in the New Haven cars for Yankeedom. But not before I had as usual indeed got in some of my day dreams for as I sat alone at my table and saw one after another around me filling up with parties who seemed to be a great deal to each other—some as young and almost as happy as one I dreamed of might be, I couldn’t restrain the fancies that would come into my head & I thought that when we came to New York, we might stay at that, my favorite house, & hoped my dream might soon come true.

After riding all night in the cars, got here this morning at 6 A.M. & most dutifully & pleasantly sit down to write you this note to carry you my truest love & to let you know when I will be with you. I shall leave here either this afternoon or tomorrow but I must stop & pay my long defered visit to Elizabeth N. J. on my way back so that I shall not see you until Saturday evening when I sincerely hope you will be well and strong. Do take are of yourself & try to get rid of those headaches of yours. With my best love to you, darling. Ever yours, — Ossie



Fort Monroe
Wednesday December 17, 1862

My Darling Ella,

I am writing to you once more from Voorhee’s hospitable counting room & cannot help recalling that first letter when all that I could say seemed so cold—so inadequate to convey what I felt. The feelings & thoughts which were warm then, dearest, have grown warmer & more mature, but I know now that you understand & believe in them & do not dread that my poor language will allow you room for dount.

I can hardly tell you how dear the recollection of the happy evenings spent with you at home was to me as I sat dreaming them over last night in the cabin, trying to fancy you still by me, with the pressure of your arm still around my neck & that soft little velvet cheek so close to mine. But my dreams all lacked the charm of reality, & made me sigh to think how long they must compensate me for my loss—a loss far greater did I not have ever with me the remembrance of your love, never to be taken away by my absence or by any time.

I have not said much about this to you, darling, perhaps not as much as I should have said while I was with you, but it is not because I have not felt it; it is my one great comfort—the thought of which consoles me always—that I shall some day, not very far off I hope, return to the presence of that love that I trust so much. God grant when that day comes that it may find you well & strong again, & free from those wretched headaches & attacks of weakness! Do take good care of yourself, my darling, & remember my many injunctions; I always dread when I am away lest, by some imprudence you will bring back that weakness which gives me so much anxiety. Do not forget to send me a true bulletin of your health & let me trust you in this as I do in all else.


Henry Jarvis Ryymond, Editor of the New York Times

It is always my luck in traveling to stumble over something amusing, or to meet some old acquaintance, either of the good old times of yore, or of these latter days, & so, on this journey, I did both. I had no sooner secured my seat in the cars that the next one was occupied by a very original ‘native’ from Vermont—a counterpart of the American cousin, who shortly opened the conversation by asking me about a dozen questions concerning matters generally esteemed, rather personal, & then giving me a detailed account of himself & family & of the business which took him to Baltimore. His unfeigned delight at meeting some acquaintances among the pickets guarding the road at Havre de Grace & Perryville, his rushing out to embrace them & his amusement at the way in which the people in “these parts” farm & care for their orchards were delightful; & he & Orley Farm carried me through to Baltimore without the usual ennui of that most stupid journey. I forgot to say that just behind me sat Mr. [Henry Jarvis] Raymond, the editor of the New York Times whom I met first at Williamsburg & afterwards saw frequently at Seven Pines.

After securing my stateroom on the boat (the right one, bye the bye), I found the Mr. Kent who was engaged to Miss Mary Cash, on board, going down with a detachment of heavy artillery for Fort Monroe, and afterwards in the cabin a very pretty little face with I discovered belonged to Mrs. Pease—the wife of one of the Quartermasters at Yorktown. Her husband presented me (she was considerably more interesting that he) & she told me she was going to dare the hardships of a soldier’s quarters in camp, so I shall see her again—not quite in our theatrical sense, however, of the phrase.

On my journey I have nothing more to tell except of the sound sleep which precluded even a dream, but I begin to suspect from what I hear, that the General has not yet returned to Yorktown. I am be mistaken & find him there when I land this afternoon but I can’t learn any certain mews of him. At all events, however disagreeable it may be, I shall have the consolation of having done my duty, and feel that it is better I should be here now altho’ inclination would have kept me, as you well know, by your side. When will this duty to which I have bound myself permit me to enjoy the fulfillment of my (may I say our?) hopes? I often wonder but cannot yet see clearly when I can. You, darling, shall be the first to know of it.

Give my love to Mother & all at home & tell the Cadwalader & Mrs. Camac that I was summoned away so hurriedly that I had not time to see them. And may I trouble you with a commission? I forgot to get one of those pocket combs for the mustache like the one you sent me from Newport. Will you send me one when you write which I need not say I hope may be very soon. With regards to Richard, I am always your own, — Ossie



Yorktown [Virginia]
Sunday, December 21st 1862

My Daring Ella,

How can your letters ever be otherwise than dear to me? I always fancy I can see that sweet, quiet little face that I love so much peeping over my shoulder as I read them over & try to fit their words to the lips that would speak them were my dream but real.

I am very glad you went to the opera & hope you never will let any ugly thoughts of this remote & desolate spot—desolate because remote—come between you & your enjoyment, for remember darling, that your pleasure is always reflected to me, & makes your letters always so looked for, doubly acceptable. I don’t mean that I want you to banish me at all from your thoughts. It is far too sweet to me to know I am there, but don’t let me think I ever prevent one moment’s pleasure to you.

I read Miss Kilgore’s letter through very attentively, altho’ I can’t say the young lady’s style does justice to your description of her attractive self, nor would I greatly fear to expose myself to her jealous rage. I send you back her epistle as you may perhaps need it.

If the Post did its duty, your wish for a letter from me the next day could not have been in vain, for I wrote telling you that the General, etc., had really returned, so he will be spared the dread effects of your displeasure. I told you too that Whitehead & I  were comfortably established ‘chez nous,’ in quarters most jolly. We were, for a night, the only occupants, but now the whole mansion is inhabited by Howard (who has gone to Baltimore today with Suydam & Chetwood to bring his wife down), Dr. Getty, Farnsworth, & Benson, and I send you a ground plant of the edifice. We were going to style it the “Bachelor’s Mansion of Happiness” until we found that a lady was coming to live in it which of course destroys the gracefulness of the allusion that you may know exactly how we are quartered.

Burnsides repulse was indeed a blow to our hopes but I cannot look upon in by any means as serious a light as the alarmists at home seem to have done. In my estimation, it was a military necessity. The troops could not remain where they were nor engage the enemy again without the probability of terrible loss—perhaps defeat—and all that was left was to withdraw back to the other side which was successfully done, the heavy loss being in the previous day’s engagements. I sincerely hope the Cadwaladers will hear no bad news from Charles. My invariable tendency is to believe all well until I hear something positive to the contrary. I know this is poor consolation to offer to anyone, but where the mails are so irregular as they must be from an army in their position, I can see no cause for real alarms at not hearing for some time.

We are so quiet here & seem to be so distant from any chance of action that the rumors of these far off battles seems fainter even than to you at home.

The expected Christmas Party has somewhat dwindled down since I wrote last. Miss Halsey & Miss Chetwood have “gin [   ]” & can’t come, & Miss Bowie’s advent is very uncertain upon which, between you & I, my room mate seems greatly to felicitate himself. So our party has resolved itself into Mrs. Suydam, Mrs. Howard, & Mrs. Chetwood, with the trifling addition of Suydam’s baby & nurse, & Mrs. Keyes own two small babies (brats), & ditto. The number, however, necessitates a division of the mess, & so Whitehead, Getty, Farnsworth, Benson, & I have formed a new mess to go into operation on Tuesday morning, entirely separate from the others & to be conducted on principles of thorough comfort & good living regardless of expense.

To say the truth, I am very glad of this arrangement for Mrs. Suydam is the only lady whom I care to see among those who are coming & I can manage to be with her just as much, and the mess was too large to be comfortable so we don’t mean to blush for our table before any in this whole country. So much for the change; may it equal our expectations.

Thank you, darling, for speaking of it as our home. Your presence there makes it home, for you know you are to make my home in the future.

I wish, darling, you would send me a good likeness of yourself; that little picture we had taken together—the only one I have—does you such injustice that I would not care to look at it had it not been so long in your possession before you gave it to me.

As far as our knowledge of the future goes, we seem to be located here for the winter but if any change should occur, I shall not hesitate to write & tell you. You know how I trust & I have no secrets from you for I know well that you can keep them if I should have any to write. I trust it may be one that will allow us to look forward to meeting again soon.

I found a letter from Mother awaiting me on the desk after dinner but it was written the same day. I’m sure Mother loves you as a daughter & as yours, & she had not got the letter I wrote to her. I shall write again tonight & hope to find time to send you a few lines tomorrow so that they too may reach you before Christmas. But if they do not, this must carry my dearest love & wishes for a happy, happy Christmas—a different Christmas from any you have yet spent in that you have one who can share with you every feeling, even to that of regret at our separation at this time most particularly.

How little we thought last Christmas that this would find us so near! Would that I could be with you as I shall be in my feelings & thoughts: to hold you close to my side as I whispered my good wishes in your ear & to tell you over & over again how much I love you & how dear you always are to me. Give my best wishes & regards to Richard & to Mr. Haines & “The Faithful One” & with one last wish for yourself, darling, believe me ever your own, — Ossie


Envelope and Cabinet Card Image of Oswald Jackson (ca. 1885)

Addressed to Miss Ella M. Willing, No. 1123 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Penna.
Postmarked Old Point Comfort, Virginia

Yorktown, Va.
January 16, 1863

Only to say goodnight to you, my darling, & to show you that we have been repeating our “lark” of yesterday, [Charles Crooke] Suydam, [Thomas Murray] Getty, ¹ Howard & myself visiting again the artist on [   ] & with as great success as before.

I sent my share of the result home to Mother in a letter which I wrote Charlie this evening, &  think it quite as good, if not better than the one I had taken yesterday. If you prefer it, you can trade with her. Dr. Getty presented me with his which I send you thinking it may interest you to know some of the strange faces by which I am surrounded here—especially so important as one as that of the workshipful [cat___], the [  ] man of our mess, in whose good pleasure we grow fat or lean. It is an excellent likeness of him—pipe & all—as Hattie can tell you. We also had a group taken but it was not very favorable & we propose to renew the attempt next week when the “melainotypist” tells me he expects to have a “sharper” camera. It has need to be a very sharp one indeed, I think, to get a head of us (joke).


Maj. Gen. Erasmus D. Keyes

We all went over to Capt. [James] McKnight’s ² quarters on the other side of the parade ground last night after I had written to you to test the quality of some lager (not intoxicating you know) which he had just received & to “warm” a new chimney for him. The wind was blowing so tremendously as I went over that it almost took me off my feet & I thought how lucky it was that I was going instead of returning for in the latter case the symptoms might have been suspicious. The lager, however, when at last I got there proved most fine & we enjoyed ourselves hugely for about half an hour when Suydam spared me the trouble of wrestling against the elements by carrying me home on his back all the way to Headquarters where I finished the evening by beating Mrs. Chetwood three or four games of backgammon. Lager beer, in truth, is an excellent beverage & always carries me back to my old days of boating on the Schuylkill where it proved so refreshing after a long pull, and to those later days of recruiting for our regiment when our stations were so often & judiciously selected at one of those temperate saloons.

Today has been the ditho. of yesterday & nothing whatever has transpired—nothing of moment even from the advancing enemy whose movements I promise to chronicle. Their pickets are reported to have made their appearance at Burnt Ordinary [now Toano, Va.] about 12 miles beyond Williamsburg—the same place where we bivouacked one night going up the Peninsula.

The peculiar formation of the Peninsula makes it a matter of very little moment to us whether the enemy come down to Williamsburg. We have only one regiment of cavalry—the 5th Pennsylvania—beyond Yorktown, & they occupy an old rebel earthwork called Ft. Magruder situated at a point which commands the only road leading from Williamsburg to Yorktown, for the country is so cut up by creeks & marches that there is only one road. A stout resistance could be made here against a strong force & if they were drawn in, the gunboats from the two rivers could make the place rather too hot for its rebel occupants. So we down here are very tranquil & composed is spite of these terrible reports.

My few words have drawn out into quite a long letter, darling, but I must break it off here that I may get the modicum of slumber Morpheus demands of us in this lazy spot. So, once more, goodnight dearest. May God bless & preserve you. Ever your own, – Ossie

¹ Surgeon Thomas Murray Getty (18xx-1867) was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in 1848 and served his medical career in the US Regular Army. He arrived at Yorktown, Va., in August 1862 and assumed the duties of Medical Director of the 2d AC, Army of the Potomac. He was formerly in charge of the General Hospital at Annapolis.

² Capt. James McKnight commanded Battery M, 5th US Regular Artillery. His battery was transferred from Yorktown to the Sixth Corps, Army of the Potomac, in late July 1863.


Addressed to Miss Ella M. Willing, No. 1123 Walnut St., Philadelphia, Penn.
Postmarked Old Point Comfort, Va.

Yorktown, Virginia
January 19th 1863

Thank you, cara mia [my darling], for the promised obedience! You may be well assured I shall not tax it greatly, or bear too heavily on the “docility” of mind. Indeed, it is only on this one subject which concerns your own happiness, dearest, as well as mine that I have ever asked for change, and on this you know so well what I wish, what ought to be, that I feel there can be no more need of words. As for your deceiving me, I smile at the very idea, for such a thought cannot dwell in my mind with thoughts of you.

I hardly know how to account for the eccentric arrival of my letters to you except on the ground that the efforts of genius are proverbially so. As for the one which you tell me bore the appearance of having been tampered with, I am entirely at a loss to imagine who could have done it; but should the culprit ever be found. You will have no cause to complain of the leniency of his punishment. I could thrash such a man within an inch of his life without mercy.

How pleasant it must be to have the Opera in Philadelphia! I would give anything to be at home with you now, & to take you every night, but such good fortune does not seem to be in store for me for sometime at all events. And since I cannot allow much space in my letters for lamentation, I may as well state  here that all present prospects of the Major’s shoulder straps have faded and gone “like a leaf on a tree,” for Lieut. Col. [Richard Irving] Dodge, U. S. A., has been assigned as Inspector General of the 4th Corps & this precludes my chance. But I don’t feel much agitated for I only looked upon it as a possibility, not by any means probable, & I, who am so rich otherwise, can well afford this trifling disappointment. So darling, pray restrain those restive passions until they are well won.

In all due deference to your opinion, I suppress my natural curiosity as to Richard’s movements until you see fit to communicate their object, but I cannot help wondering what in the world can have produced such an unwanted condition of things for I remember it is not yet February.

Poor dear Mother! She did not write me anything about her not being well in her last letter. I hope she is quite well long before this reaches you. Ask her what she means by such conduct & tell her I positively prohibit it in the future under pain of the severest penalties all kinds of long walks & constant exercise, my universal panacea for her ailments, to be inflicted on my return home.

And now for my journal for innumerable things have happened since I wrote to you last Saturday night. First & foremost, our house has been on fire! Just before going to bed that night, I thought I perceived a smell as if something burning different from the smoke which might have issued from the chimney, but it was very slight, & not being able to trace it to anything, I thought I must be mistaken & composed myself quietly to slumber. At daylight the next morning, I awoke & found the room full of smoke, so I called to an intelligent contraband whitehead & I employ named “Samuel Henry Harrison Hall” to investigate & report. At first I supposed that the soot in the chimney had caught fire, but Samuel etc. reported smoke issuing from under the hearth which caused rapid donning of garments immediately on the part of whitehead & myself. We found his report true & on tearing up the hearth discovered that a heavy beam under a double thickness of brick & mortar had caught fire from the heat of our tremendous fire above it & was burnt literally in half. As soon as the air reached it, it began to blaze but we easily put it out after about an hour’s work & the transformation of our room into anything but a cleanly abode. However, we managed to cover the absence of hearth by some boards & got a stove in position to last until today when we had masons & carpenters at work on it & took the obnoxious beam entirely out of future danger, building the hearth down to the solid ground & now our chimney glows again with its usual roaring blaze. It was a lucky escape, but its “right all right” again now.

Yesterday, Sunday, we crossed over [the York river] to Gloucester [Point] with the General accompanied by Mrs. Keyes & Mrs. Suydam, to review the troops stationed there. We had a jolly gallop after the review which was enlivened by the running away of Mrs. Chetwood’s pony—a most diminutive animal—which, however, had a strong head of its own, & was only caught by Farnsworth after a long run. We returned just about dinner time, hungry as lions, & did justice both to it & to a terrapin supper provided for us later in the evening.

Today was such a beautiful day that I determined to take my long promised ride to Warwick, so Benson & I started off about 11 o’clock taking a roundabout back road used by our army to transport stores, etc., across from Cheeseman’s Creek Landing. Parts of the road, where the long stretches of corduroy led through vistas of tall, straight pines, over the green moss-covered swamps, were [on] my way to Headquarters at Wormley’s Creek & where I could remember every tree & root & every bad place in the road. I hope to be able soon again to go over when I shall have time to visit all our old haunts.

The Court House is unoccupied & going to ruin, scored all over its walls with the names of men of our old corps, many a one of whom, poor fellow, has been left on the battlefields of  the Peninsula or in its more destructive swamps. It was quite sad to think over so many things connected with those old times when we had a campaign before us, for the first times, & our men, full of hope & energy, only chafed at the delay they could not understand.

I had to give up going to Young’s house—it was too late. So we came back over an old wood road which I used to travel on—very beautiful & so familiar, altho’ it is nearly a years since I have seen them, that all the scenes of those old times seemed to people the road again, & I could almost fancy the parties of workmen or see the pickets marching out to their posts & looked out at many a turn for the coming team that used to block the road & give us a break neck jump over the ditch into the swamp alongside. But none came & the occasional trace of a horse’s hoof was all that showed the road was ever travelled over.

How strangely I felt as I galloped over the road near to Warwick, every spot of which I remembered, even the officer who had charge of the details I could recall, & when I got in light of the old place which sheltered us so long. My very horse seemed to remember it too for he picked up his ears & trotted round to his old place in the yard behind the house as naturally as though he had been there yesterday. The house we inhabited is occupied by Ethiopians who I must say keep it in order which puts us to shame, but we wandered over it looking at the old rooms where we used to sleep before we emigrated into tents, a carte de chasse disagreeables, & tried to people the several corners with their former occupants (officers, I mean), for  each corner had its name. There was Lawrence’s. I wonder what he is doing now, far off in Florence. Blanchard’s, Suydam’s, & mine, & Villareau’s; how well I remember the letter I got from you in answer to my description of Mons. Achsle M. B. Comte ¹ etc. & its hope that I would improve my knowledge of French! I didn’t have much time for you remember he was so frightened at the Battle of Seven Pines that he left us soon afterwards & has not been seen since. The County Clerk’s Office is occupied by a sable family & the papers which were left by our men are scattered about on the ground. I picked up one—the oldest I could find—which I send you as a relic & memento of the day.

And now, darling, before I finish my letter, I must tell you once again that I always  look for your letter as eagerly as you can for mine, & next to seeing you love to hear from you, so do not ever think that you can write too often.

I suppose you must have received my many letters since the 11th, your last when you wrote; I am particularly anxious to hear of the arrival of those containing my own & Dr. [Thomas M.] Getty’s phz. [pictures], & of that which commenced my numbered series. Have you received them all?

Give my love to all at home & regards to the busy Richard, & believe me with dearest love, ever your own, — Ossie

¹ I have not been able to identify this person but assume he was one of several French Observers who attached themselves to McClellan’s staff during the Peninsula Campaign.



Yorktown, Va.
February 16th 1863

I more than kept my promise to you, darling, in writing twice yesterday, but I trust you may be induced to look leniently upon that my transgression as it was occasioned by the most pardonable desire that you might not have in your calendar a blank letter day, and so I am writing again to you this evening because I love to—to tell you what you know—that I have been thinking of you all day.

Somehow everything seems different to me now from what it was ever before. I am far happier, indeed I have that same feeling which I described to you last Friday (do you remember?), of “good will to all mankind” but I cannot feel as I told you yesterday, the same military enthusiasm that I once had. It seems as though something far more to be desired had opened itself to my gaze and I long for it more & more as it seems to draw nearer to my grasp.

I don’t know what difficulties might present themselves to my resigning from service, but I think they may be overcome if I fully make up my mind to it.

Of course I have not spoken to the General about it. These thoughts are a secret to all but you, from whom I have no secrets, and I write them to show you how nearly determined I am to make the trial. If the General should object, I may be able to arrange what I decide upon by returning to my regiment & resigning from there, but this I had rather not do if I can avoid it. My mind is this far made up—that if the opportunity was offered to me of resigning, I should do it today. But the subject is a difficult one to broach & I want to know what you think. Will you tell me?

You must not suppose, my darling, that this is a mere momentary fancy, or that if I so decided, I should regret the change & sigh for my active life again. I have grown very tired of this phase of military life which keeps us tied to this stupid place where I feel we are of no earthly use & where I am ashamed sometimes to think I am spending my life. If we were in active service, the case would be very different. I might think it my duty to remain. But here it seems only a base scheme to keep me away from you & from those who want me to be at home with them; & there I could do my country quite as much service as I can here, wasting my days in idleness or riding furiously around the country with the General without any object but mere physical exercise so to study. It’s next to impossible to keep any regularity of hours while liable to constant interruption. I’ve tried it & failed in the attempt most egregiously. Besides, I have nothing to study—nothing that I ought to study if I was going to remain in the service but tactics & military works, & they fail to absorb & rivet my attention as perhaps works of their interest & importance should.

The fact is I am, as you see, somewhat disgusted from our long idleness and to rejoin my regiment with the rank of 1st Lieutenant, after holding a Captaincy which I think I earned, & see many of those who were junior to me, senior now, would not be the very pleasantest thing in the world.

And then on the other hand is the happiness which I always think of at home, & Mother’s earnest wish that I should come back to her. She never could give her consent to my leaving at any time, and the only thing that which Mother smoothes over so readily at the depot when I spoke about it that makes me hesitate to charge a life I don’t like, for one O love, is the uncertainty of something to do. If I could settle this, my course would be easy.

This is a very egotistical letter, dearest, but I want you to know all that I think about tis matter, & I couldn’t well separate “poor I” from his history. Will you forgive the egotism for you, darling, are part of all those thoughts?

Today has been a bright, pleasant one, and I have as proposed, ridden both my horses, walked a little way (I don’t walk much), read Newcomes & subsided into our great life again & almost, not quite, for I can’t altogether subside as this letter tells you. I haven’t seen the ladies except Mrs. Howard whom I paid a visit to last evening & found ‘toute en blanc.’ I can’t say they seem to suffer more than myself which is little enough & care— like a worm in the bud—has not commenced to prey upon their damaged cheek.

Tell Mother I haven’t had a chance to try her recipes yet for domestic reasons but tomorrow morning Whitehead & I propose to attempt an omelette soufflé. May the fates smile propitious upon this our virgin trial, for upon it hangs the expectations of our future success as matters de cuisine.

And now, I come to a part of my letter which I can’t make up my mind to trust to this crossed page, full of other things. It may be an absurd fancy, but I must give it a page unwritten to itself.

[unsigned—missing last page]

Addressed to Miss Ella M. Willing, No. 1123 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Penn.

Yorktown, Virginia
March 8th 1863

How differently today has passed with us! I think I can see you, my darling, sitting quietly in your parlor at home with Mr. Harris. It’s too early yet for Mr. Welsh after your well spent day; you’ve been to church; converted Heaven knows how many little heathen souls from a moral complexion equal to the color of their skins to the bright knowledge of truth; and unconsciously led, perhaps, many of higher rank, by your good example. While I, in this far off, benighted land have been as great a sinner as any; have had no church to go to & little to distinguish this beautiful, bright, day, from any other.

It was ushered in by a rain & as I turned over, on making that discovery, to enjoy a second nap this morning (we only sleep twelve hours out of the twenty-four) congratulated myself that the General [Erasmus D. Keyes] would not, as usual, sally forth accompanied by his staff at the unsociable able hour. Then it cleared off, however, during breakfast, and the gents organized a party for West Point from which I escaped by the simple process if keeping out of the way for I don’t like the constituent elements of these parties of pleasure.

They all went from the other house except Mrs. S[uydam], & her husband, and they only got back to a later dinner. In the meantime, I had spent a quiet lazy sort of a day, taken a ride on horseback, had a little soufflé poached in my room, nearly knocking my chimney down & laid violent hands upon a little sail boat which I’m going to have brought up, expect an order tomorrow morning. An awful way of spending Sunday, I know.

Darling, I can see your little hands held up in holy horror at such conduct & hear the prayer that my sins may be forgiven. You’ll have to take me in hand & convert me from the error of my ways when I come home to you.

There seems to have been a jolly rant over yonder during the past four days (Mr. S[uydam] is said to have behaved very unpleasantly towards Mrs. S. during her sickness, in so much that Suydam has determined to move into another house with Farnsworth—his inseparable companion & bosom friend, who has written for his family to come down.

So there is dissension in the camp of the allies & it is being broken up. I thank Heaven an uninterested spectator congratulating myself on my fortunate & timely withdrawal from their midst, a feeling which only grows more strong each day.

And so with this little piece of scandal, I close my worthy letter. I had no mail tonight to have nothing to answer. Good night my own darling Ella,

Ever yours, — Ossie



Yorktown, Va.
March 12, 1863

My darling Ella,

I pursued my program for today as laid down in my prospectus of last night, manfully facing the ordeal of early rising & only detaining the boat some five or ten minutes. We are nabobs here, you must know, & when we propose to visit Fort Monroe, an orderly is sent down to inform the captain of the boat that such is the case and that he will not leave until we arrive.

The trip down there & back is generally very tiresome but Benson & Gammol went down with me today, & we beguiled the hours by the elegant pastime of watching pennies, an undertaking in which I’m generally very unsuccessful; but this time fortune befriended  me & I won every penny that any of my friends on board possessed.

When we reached the Fort, I went first to the Paymaster’s to get get some money for the General & his poor staff & to have a mistake corrected which he had made in cashing my accounts.

I was successful in every point & went away towards the Post Office with greenbacks & checks enough to keep me afloat for a long time. I found two letters from you, darling, so sweet & loving to me that that I love you if possible more than ever & I pitied poor Gammol who got no letter & stood watching me devour mine.

I’m glad, dearest, that you appreciate my feelings about the step I have taken & agree with you thoroughly in saying that I cannot do too much for so dear & kind a Mother; she is one to you too, darling, & loves you dearly as well. You will know by this time that I din’t go to West Point [Va.] but not for the reasons you beg me to consider for I’m afraid the knowledge of any such fun would be an irresistible attraction. I have been within 50 yards of a masked battery on horseback & the article has lost its novelty although I can’t say the reminiscence is a very agreeable one.

I have just been i to pay a flying visit to Mrs. Chetwood who is as pleasant & bright as ever, but the dignity I have assumed does not allow me to frequent the other house & experience has taught me the advantages of maintaining my independent position of outsider. I don’t want to be connected with any fraction of that distracted household in any way whatever.

Would it be very strange, darling, if Mrs. Frazer proved right in her conjecture? I would willingly oblige the world in a matter which chimes so admirably with my own dearest wishes. I long for that day when I can call you by that sweetest of names, my darling wife.

What relation is General Meredith to Wm. Meredith? I can’t remember anything about other people’s relations & often forget—a dangerous habit sometimes. And do tell me how Miss Cassie is. Is the dear girl well & happy? And what does your [   ] think now of the affair with C. C. Is it or is it not?

Charles Hacker is a very nice fellow & I’m sure you’ll like him. He was a good friend to me in business matters as well as otherwise when I needed one & I know that you have determination enough, darling, to detect sterling qualities beneath an exterior possibly not as graceful as some society [   ] can boast of but covering a better heart that nine tenths of these can’t dream of.

I can’t emulate my interminable letter of last night for I feel a little tired tonight but I must before I bid you goodnight disagree with Aunt Matilda’s postscript. Please don’t alter your hand writing. I love that delicate little hand & shall miss it so much if you do. The only thing I would suggest would be as I said last night, a thicker envelope for I’m so jealous of your letters that I wouldn’t have the shadow of a word be seen.

Good night, my own darling. God bless & keep you well. Ever yours, — Ossie



Yorktown, Va.
March 15th 1863

I was thinking, darling, this afternoon how very differently Sunday passes away with you at home where you are surrounded by everything that makes the day the universal quiet and rest from work, and the voice of the church bells which seems to tell those who might forget what day it is.

And I couldn’t help wondering whether I should relapse into civilized usage (again) or whether the barbarities of our nomadic life would cling too strongly to be quite shaken off.

I suppose when the time comes for me to be with you again, a happier time, dearest, that brightens as it seems to draw nearer, I shall wonder that I ever lived differently for I have often noticed how readily we accommodate ourselves to any changes but it seems strange to look forward to. Sometimes I’m afraid you’ll have terrible times eradicating the moral [   ] which this “evicted” life has resisted. I do hope you think you’ll have courage for the undertaking, my darling.

You must transfer your culture of the Ethiopian mind & teach me to forget our savage disregard of Sunday duties. The principal difference  here consists in the fact that the contrabands are not put to work & the labor on the fortifications is stopped; beyond this & the decrease of drill, the day is the same as any other.

We are always summoned to attend the General on his morning rides as today, for instance, when he either makes a circuit of the works & neighboring camps criticizing the police which department I have the honor of superintending, or crossing over to Gloucester for a st____ ride of ravines.

It was a very raw, disagreeable Sunday this, and must have pinched the noses of the good church-goers at home until they blushed at such week day liberties. I know it pinches ours as we rode against it and made us glad to spend the rest of the day before a comfortable fire until dinner time when Capt. [Johnston B.] Creighton of the Mahaska came to dinner with us. He has just met with quite a loss—not from his own vessel but from the [USS] Crusader, one of his fleet cruising off Mob Jack’s Bay.  Captain Andrews went up the Piankatank river with 36 men, two officers & a howitzer in, I believe, three boats & must have been gobbled up by the Rebel cavalry for nothing has been heard of them since. This was yesterday afternoon at three o’clock & the Crusader waited until this evening for them but they didn’t return. It was an unfortunate affair but the captain had often had no reason to anticipate anything of the kind. This bad news was somewhat relieved by the news of the capture by Grant of 5,000 men, boats & stores at Yazoo City which I hope may prove true but we have to receive these newspaper accounts with many grains of allowance, and I wait to hear it confirmed before placing much faith is such a rumor.

Goodnight my own darling. Give my love to Mother & all at home & my regards to Richard & your kind friends,

Ever yours, — Ossie



Yorktown, Va,
March 16, 1863

The melancholy capture of the officers & crew of the Crusader proved to be no capture at all, for they made their appearance late last evening, safe & sound on board the Sam Roton—one of the blockading fleet, relieving our minds of all anxiety on their behalf. I understand the captain is exceedingly irate at being left & reported captured, and I should think he had good cause to be although there may be extenuating circumstances which I don’t know that explain the conduct of the officer left in charge of the vessel.

I give you this finish, darling, because it is our only item of news. I have no letters to answer; both yesterday & today were blank days, & if tomorrow don’t redeem them (as I’m sure it will though), I believe I’ll suspend my journal and tat would be a terrible calamity. It would upset all my numbers & drop a day from my calendar. I know you don’t wish these horrible things to befall.

I spoke to the General today about the delay in answering my tender of resignation & he promised to write to General Thomas. Adj. General, if nothing was heard of it by Thursday. There are apt to be so many delays in matters of this kind that I am not much surprised at it in my case, but the uncertainty is very annoying. I feel like a sort of hybrid creation—neither soldier nor civilian—& live as it were, mentally from hand to mouth.

I hope you have better day to boast of at home than these unbearable, raw, chilly ones; not a real, honest cold, but an insidious pretense of something milder, chilling the credulity that tries to image it spring.

You don’t know how I love to hear all about you, darling. Every little thing that you do or feel & how very often I try to imagine what that may be. Everything seems to shake itself into something that reminds me of you & your dear face is near me in all work, on all my rides, in my heart always. When that day comes when all these thoughts become real & we are together never to part any more, how pleasant it will be to talk over all these long days with my darling always near me.

I hope it may come very soon for I grudge the hours that keep me away now & long for the time when I can call you really my own. Goodnight darling. With my dearest love. Ever yours, — Ossie



Yorktown, Va.
March 27, 1863

I can readily imagine the grin of intelligence which pervaded [   ] countenance as she struggled upstairs weary under the load of that ponderous mail. After missing her charge for so many days, it must have been a great relieve to her doubting mind to find that they ought to have come.

Some of them came very near meeting their fate as they lay dormant during the day of the storm & became supplanted in their news by others of later date, but I concluded at last to let them all go as the nest witnesses to themselves.

I got a letter from Mother too, darling, containing a long extract from the one she had just received from Hattie who must be delighted to be with her husband & to find him so deservedly popular with his officers. Frank Suydam brought me over a New York Times of the 25th which contains the account I send you of a reconnaissance made by him. It seems to have been a very creditable affair and I am glad to see that it has found its way into print for now-a-days newspapers seem almost to make and unmake public men, and everything appears to depend upon their favorable notice.

Currie [?] a broad fellow & a good soldier, I know, & I think he stands a good chance for promotion.

When I read of these exploits of my friends & old companions, it reawakens my military ambition and I can’t guarantee that some sudden fit may not bring me back at some future day into the tented field. Do you think, my darling, you would let me come? Mother declares that she never could, but if I do ever again entertain the idea, my ambition would lead me to aspire to a much higher than my present humble position. I think I could get the command of a regiment & I should try for that. Don’t think, dearest, that I by any means intend to leave you again unless in the event of some unforeseen emergency & you too would think it my duty to go.

I must come home now for several reasons which you know, my darling, and before I can go away again, I shall have two hearts to consult & to think whether I should be as fortunate as Currie in in having Hattie with him.

About the buttons, I’m sorry to say that both those coats have gone, first to Tom & then to the dogs. Not placing any particular value upon them & not dreaming at that time that I should ever have such a call for them, I uncontinently threw them away when the coats were worn out but I have plenty on a coat which was in my possession but not on my way back at those times, and if that won’t do, I can bring you home the saddle I rode & which came so near not bringing me off the Battle of Seven Pines. I’m sorry, darling, but when I bring my traps home, we’ll hunt up relics enough.

What a ridiculous child you are with your pretended whims & extraordinary ideas of your sphere of usefulness! You—a missionary indeed! I’d just like to catch you at it. Why the council of savage chiefs in their hooped skirts would fight among themselves for the honor of being the first convert until, like the Kilkenny cats, there would be nothing but hooped skirts left. Is it really impossible to find anything at home to occupy the charitable mind without turning your attention to Boreeoboolagah & making a [   ] of [   ] was right. She had found comfortable quarters—ones that I enjoy her much and her good tastes as a cat in unquestionable & does her credit.

Goodnight dearest. No news yet from Washington but I hope for some every day. Ever your own, — Ossie



Yorktown, Va.
March 30th 1863

I’m so sleepy tonight, my darling, that I can hardly see to write, but I cannot forego the pleasure of writing the few lines that will serve to record the proceedings of the day.

It passed quietly, without incident of any kind, until this evening when a telegram from Williamsburg informed us that the enemy had moved down in force to within three miles of that place. So a battery of artillery & 1,000 infantry have been ordered to hold themselves in readiness to march at a moment’s notice. This order sounds so familiar that it carries me back to the days of our active service but I have no idea that anything will occur to call for their movement and look for another dispatch tomorrow saying that the enemy had retired.

At all events, we are ready for them here & only wish they would come down within reach of our guns. We expect the General [Keyes] back tomorrow & I think I shall go down to Fort Monroe to meet him. He may have some good news for me from Washington.

I must beg you, darling, to excuse this scrawl; I’m fully sensible of its shortcomings, but to save my life, I cannot write intelligently tonight & would not have attempted it at all had it not been for my reluctance to let a day pass without writing to my darling.

Good night, dearest, with my fondest love. Ever your own, — Ossie



Yorktown, Va.
April 30th 1863

Back at Old Yorktown, darling, and seated at the same old table, writing home once more; but not as I used to write, for I am happier than ever before in all my life, except when I was with you, my love.

Everything I look upon glows in the colour de rose that my happy anticipations shed upon it and I catch myself judging all by the standard, “How will Ella like this?” [or] “I wonder if my darling will be please with it?”

I do hope she will and that when she comes to brighten my house & all my life with her sweet presence, I shall be able to make her comfortable and very happy too.

I have too much to tell you, dearest, that I hardly know where to begin, but it must be on commencement for my little note from Baltimore—that shabby looking little one—whose speedy arrival only could apologize for its appearance, told you nothing but that I was there.

Well, I searched the train there, but no Chetwood was to be found anywhere, so I subsided into a seat by a stout party whose smiling countenance prepossessed me in his favor, and I found him a most pleasant companion. You know my luck in always meeting some one I know, or who knows some of my friends in these journeys, and this was no exception to my custom for the stout party proved to be a Mr. Wright—a large “iron man” and I found that Capt. Biddle, formerly on McClellan’s staff, was connected in business with him. He was an old school mate of mine and I found my companion had been much at Harrisburg at the commencement of the war & knew all about our regiment and the Old “Grays” and many of my friends. And so the time passed quite pleasantly until we reached Baltimore when we parted at Barnum’s mutually (I think) pleased with each other.

I like to make these chance acquaintances. One seldom fails to derive some benefit from a man who is at all worth talking to & very often they prove useful afterwards.

We reached Baltimore early & I had time to get a little dinner at Barnum’s and found Col. Taylor of Gen’l Dix’s staff going down on the same boat. He came up with me, you may remember, and also a surgeon who was going down there to relieve Dr. Huntingdon, one of Charlie Lee’s friends.

I was desperately sleepy after our late hours at home and lay down about eight o’clock intending to take a little nap and then go down to rejoin my friends below, but Morpheus held me too firmly in his embrace and I slept soundly in perfect oblivion of friend or foe until just before the boat touched the wharf at Fort Monroe.

Taylor invited us to breakfast with him at his quarters, after which I strolled about, paid a visit to the Paymaster whom I found in funds, and mulcted for my April accounts and managed to pass the time until the Yorktown boat was ready to start.

I did not write to you from Voorhees as usual, my darling, because they were busy in the counting room, and I didn’t want to distract them, so you will forgive the day that will pass with no letter for you, and not the postman, won’t you?

They all seemed very glad to see me back here—especially “Old Getty” who I feared would leave before I saw him again. He said he was very sorry he should not be the expected inmate of my new house, and I told him of his picture that was framed & well known at home. Whitehead has been pushing the work along as fast as the rain would allow, and the roof is all in and many of the logs ready.

This evening we went off together and received a quantity of furniture, etc., and windows enough and glass doors too! to answer for the whole building. Isn’t that jolly? We have hearty laughs ourselves over the odd way in which my house is being brought together, and the discussion of the details of its plan is a matter of unfailing interest & delight which will only reach its climax when you, my darling, come to inhabit it.

The General [Keyes] was very cordial & polite in his welcome and Whitehead says he thinks he has nominated me for the majority, which Chetwood’s promotion to the Assistant Adj. Gen. a fait accompli, has left vacant. It may be so. I hope it is, but I have learnt to put not my faith in princes, and it may not be true. At all events, I decline to receive congratulations until I am officially informed.

The ladies are all well and blooming as the rose, and extended their most bewitching smiles but I have only as yet obtained a mere glance at their fair faces for I meant to spend his evening with you, dearest, and couldn’t possibly give any of it to them. I longed, darling, to ask you to send that “B_____” back to Miss Whitehead, will you please do it for me?

Don’t forget in making your preparations to arrange about the servants and to let me know whether you will bring both the cook & Hannah for if I have to find a cook here I ought to have time enough to look out for a good one. I will let you know when the mansion is sufficiently advanced for their reception and then everything which can be sent down such as the curtains—I’ll let you know the size of the windows, the table clothes, and whatever you would like sent in advance of your coming to give an aspect of home to our humble cot. Charlie will lend me some of his pictures to adorn our walls and whatever you send before (do not let it be too much). Will save so much trouble in bringing when we come ourselves.

I’m going to look out for a house for you, dearest, and mean to get one. A lamb for docility, a rocking chair for comfort, which two traits I hope to invite in some one fortunate beast & then reward him by allowing him to carry you. Goodnight ,y darling. How I wish I could say it as I did night before last. With my dearest love. Ever your own, — Ossie

Please send this enclose note to Charlie.




1863: Temple Franklin Cooper to Unity (Patrick) Cooper

collarThese letters were written by 58 year-old Temple Franklin Cooper (1805-1864) who served as captain of Co. K, 52nd Georgia Volunteer Infantry. Temple entered the Confederate service in early March 1862 and was captured at Champion’s Hill, Mississippi, on 16 May 1863. He died of erysipelas at Johnson’s Island, Ohio, on 2 February 1864. He was buried there in Grave #141.

Temple was the son of Joseph Perrill Cooper (1777-1842) and Sarah Anne Franklin (1778-1874). He was married in 1841 to Unity Love Patrick (1825-1896) and resided in Franklin county, Georgia, where he worked as an attorney before the war—his office being in Carnesville.



Knoxville, [Tennessee]
June 10, 1862

My dear wife,

I write you in haste as I just now returned to this place after an absence of six weeks. I got off a sick bed three days since & have marched day [&] night & am here feeble but much better than I expected to be. It is what is here called camp fever which is caused by excessive exposure in rain, night air, & then lying in camp in idleness, living on rich, strong diet without any vegetables. Why I believe I was nearly cured by one mess of lettuce. If I only had some vegetables that you have, I could get well.

I have received nothing from you for a month nearly. I suppose it was owing to my not directing you to address me at Knoxville as there is no mail above this place. But I do not know where I shall be in another day as our troops are being forced to Chattanooga where we hear they are fighting now. I shall start in the morning if I am no worse than now as my company has gone & there is not a commissioned officer in the company. [Crawford H.] Little is sick at home. [Richard Green] Gordon in the hospital. And [William M.] Bagwell just got so he could go. Out of 30 Lieutenants in the 52nd Georgia, only three reported for duty the last report & only 2 Captains out of ten so that you can see how we are suffering from mumps, measles, & camp fever.

Write me how they are doing up at home & how all our vegetables & oats are doing, so soon as you cut your oats. If there is a season in the ground, lay off the ground three feet in deep furrows & drill one furrow with little yellow corn & the other in the whippoorwill pretty thick & cover them with a small plow—not too deep.

When did you hear from Calhoun? How is daughter & J. P. studying? Send me a paper occasionally & write fully about all things, public & private. [My attendant slave] Buck has been sick a week—a pain over his eyes. I am going to take him to Chattanooga with me, I think. He sends you all howdy & says he is better. I am tired of this war indeed.

When Arminius or any other person comes down, look in my bundle of papers marked “Infirm Court Papers” (I think) & get a bond signed by Asa H. Ayers & Thomas Morris suing for a bastard child of Martha L. Westbrooks (I think) & let A. give it to Mr. Langston to collect, & take Langston’s note for it & you put in away & keep it.

Your affectionate husband, — T. F. Cooper


Addressed to Mrs. Temple F. Cooper, Athens, Georgia

Vicksburg, Mississippi
January 23, 1863

My dear wife,

Thinking the letter I wrote & sent you a few days ago by mail might have miscarried, I send this by Capt. [John Owen] Gailey of Co. A, 52nd Regiment Ga. of Habersham county who has been detailed to gather deserters & any others that he can to fill out our much thinned ranks in our army everywhere.

The enemy has appeared again in his boats on the Yazoo river about ten miles above. We are on the alert & watching the river day & night. As I gave you some considerable account of the geology & topography (look for these words) of Vicksburg. I can add but little on that subject. Has that batch of notes on Green & Isbel been found yet? Look in my Birds papers & send me a transfer signed by your Pa to a fi. fa. John H. Patrick vs. Clark W. Temples & John Bird. It may be in my pocket book or Hart Court papers. Send me also the bill of sale from Bird to your Pa & myself for Willis, As, & Wes. Draw off copies of them & keep the copies safely when you find the originals. The bill of sale from Bird may be with my bills of sale for negroes.

Has Calhoun ¹ written to you to sell his watch? If I should not return, send Willis with a pass to bring As & Wes back next October & sell Martin for $1500. Jas. for the same if you can. Direct Harrison Adams & Co. to send you $50 at the end of two months for McKin. If they send by mail, best cut the bills. Dr. Willis F. Westmoreland will have due you $70 at the end of two months, if Ben goes to Atlanta. If he don’t go, Jordan’s hire will be $16.50 per month. I have hired Buck to Lieutenants [Samuel H.] Vaughter, [James M.] Bagwell & [Richard Green] Gordon at $21 per month. He is to serve me also. They are to feed him & pay his transportations from place to place—I to clothe him—but it is all in writing if I don’t return. But all these hires of Martin, Ben, Jordan & Buck are uncertain as to their continuance as the termination of the war, the change of hospital, work shops &c. may stop their wages & the servants be returned on your hands &c.

Answer this & my other from this place fully. Tell Ben to preserve his health & J. F. his mind & to keep in mind & practice my last request. Viz: ‘Ama deum, Honora patum a matrum.’ [Love God, Honor Father & Mother]

Farewell. Your solicitous father & husband, — T. F. Cooper

P.S. Send 1/8 sheet papers & envelope occasionally. — T.F.C.

¹ Calhoun was Temple’s son, Lafayette Calhoun Cooper (1842-1880), who served in the Troup Artillery.

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.