These six letters were written by Ebenezer Hudson (“Hud”) McCall (1841-1922), the son of Rev. Hosea McCall (1810-1882) and Margaret Campbell (1815-1893) of Smithfield, Jefferson county, Ohio. Hud’s father was a career minister in the Methodist Episcopal church. He was first admitted to the Pittsburgh Conference in 1835. Hud was born in Washington county, Pennsylvania. In the 1850’s, the McCall family relocated to Ohio. In 1850, the McCall’s made their home in Coshocton, Ohio. In 1860, the McCalls resided in Hanover, Columbiana county, Ohio.
Hud wrote these letters to his father and to an older sister named Elizabeth (“Libb”) Ann McCall (1840-1912). He also mentions a younger brother “Willie”) who was William Hosea McCall (1854-1909).
Hud enlisted as a private in Co. C, 80th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (O.V.I.) in January 1864. He was appointed orderly sergeant in June 1864 and transferred to Co. E in July 1864. He was promoted to first lieutenant in April 1865. His handwriting was superb which enabled him earn an appointment as the adjutant of the regiment (before and after the war, Hud was employed as a teacher.) He mustered out with the regiment at Little Rock, Arkansas, in August 1865.
After the war, Hud married Emily M. Hull of Oneida, Ohio, and they had three daughters and two sons. In 1880, Hud was employed as a clerk in a dry goods store in Brown, Carroll county, Ohio.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Addressed to Miss Libb McCall, Smithfield, Jefferson County, Ohio
Camp near Huntsville, Alabama
February 29th 1864
I received your letter day before yesterday (Saturday) and was glad to hear from you as a matter of course. You was right is supposing that a soldier is always glad to get letters — yes, and they prefer long ones. I was happy to learn that you are prospering so finely and that you like your school, but I imagine it seems like a long time to you until the closing day. I suppose you have begun to count even the hours.
So far the weather has been very pleasant. Most of the time we could bear to be out in our “shirt sleeves” and bare feet, but today it is raining and the wind from home makes it feel a little cold. This is one of the most delightful sections of country that I ever was in. And it is so healthy. Its beautiful streams and mountain ridges remind me of the pictures we used to “choose” in “Fisk’s Travels.”
I have been here nearly a month and have not seen Fred yet. He is out about fourteen miles from here with the Pioneer Corps. They are building bridges and repairing railroad. I see Alf Davis nearly every day unless it is when we are on duty. Sometimes we have to go out and stay two days. Camp, forage, and picket duty keep us busy most of the time. The soldiers are sent out to get corn (forage duty) and while out, they supply themselves with chickens, bacon, fresh pork, &c. I have seen them shoot down a planter’s hogs right before their face, take after their chickens, and catch them while the poor women are supplicating them to let their fowls alone, but “secesh” tears avail nothing. I went into an abandoned house and could have captured some books but I did not like to take them. However, I have almost regretted since that I did not. Joe Reel got a nice set of plates and said he could have got some cups and saucers but he had no way to carry them. He gave me one of the plates which makes our coarse fare taste a little home-ish.
I just had to drop my pen and rush out to muster for pay. I don’t know when we new recruits will get our money, but it don’t amount to much as Uncle Sam don’t owe us quite a month’s pay. I guess I won’t send home very much of it anyhow. If we were to get our second installment of bounty, I would send it home.
Well, we are going to have dinner soon and I will have to make a terminus to my letter. Some day when I am in the humor, I will try to write you a long letter, giving you incidents of soldiering, &c. This is such a dreary day that I can’t catch the inspiration. Remember me to Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and don’t fail to write a long letter soon to your affectionate brother, — Hud
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Camp near Huntsville, Alabama
March 7th 1864
Yours of the 25th was received a day or two ago and I was very happy to hear from the folks at home. I was much surprised to learn that you had only received one letter from me headed Huntsville, Alabama, as I have written several since our arrival here. I think your letters from Ohio come to us much quicker than ours go to you. Your last was only about five days in making the journey. I suppose before this time you have received all that I have sent to you. I think I have sent four or five.
We get Cincinnati papers three days after they are issued and Louisville and Nashville papers one day. Although we have to pay ten cents per copy for them, I can hardly resist the temptation of purchasing one every day. I can hardly get anything so comforting as the “Daily Commercial.” I guess you need not send “The Advocate” as I can get it either from the chaplain or the “Christian Commission.” There is a soldier’s reading room in the city where a person in blue can get almost any religious paper he might wish without paying a cent. And besides, they will give us pens, ink, and paper to write letters if we only write them there, and after the letters are written, they will pay the postage if we are short of funds. I have never yet written a letter there as it is generally crowded with customers.
In regard to the religious exercises of the regiment, I am compelled to say they are few. There are neither prayer nor class meetings — only preaching every Sabbath afternoon. There is a great want of confidence in our chaplain [George Whitfield Pepper] among both officers and privates and let him try ever so hard, I don’t think he could accomplish much. The Sabbaths are generally spent in playing ball, marbles, or some other games, and it is sometimes a hard matter to tell when that Holy day comes. I think there are a few in the regiment who try to do their duty, but there is so much opposition that they can do little in the way of moralizing the mass. There is not much drinking as it is almost out of the question to get whiskey. After the boys were paid off, many of them went to gambling, but the Major soon put a stop to that kind of business. He — the Major [David Skeeles] — often kindly inquires about you.
I have not seen Fred since I came as he is about fourteen miles down the railroad with the Pioneer Corps.
I was sorry to hear of your continued illness and hope that by this time you have fully recovered.
As we have soon to commence drilling, I will have to quit writing. I will write a line or two to Willie and Maggie. I send you a scrap that I clipped from the Louisville Journal relative to Huntsville, &c.
Write to me aoften as I am anxious to hear from home. Through the mercy of God, I hope we may again meet in this life as I trust we shall in the “life to come.”
Much love to all. From your affectionate son, — Hudson
Address Company C, 80th O.V.I., 3rd Division, 15th A. C., Huntsville, Alabama
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Headquarters Co. E, 80th O.V. I.
August 1st 1864
I do not know to whom it is that I owe this letter, but I guess it makes no difference if it only goes home. I have received two or three within the past few days from the family, one of which contained two stamps. I guess I get all your letters now though they come irregularly. When I get letters, I mostly burn them shortly after receiving them. That’s the reason I can’t tell whether I should write to you or not.
We are yet here enjoying ourselves first rate and I hope we may remain at least while the weather is hot. We have had such nice rains and this afternoon the air is quite cool and pleasant. I have not had better living since I came into the service.
Several of the southern maids and matrons have been to our quarters today bringing with them various vegetables, together with milk, apples, pies, &c. They complain wonderfully about having to trade in order to get the necessaries of life, but there is no other alternative. They can get neither coffee, sugar, salt, pepper, nor flour, unless they get them from the soldiers. They are not beauties by any means but occasionally a tolerably good-looking one comes in.
A few days ago, an old lady and her two daughters called with numerous kinds of “track” which they wanted to “swap” with “we’ens.” The old lady asked if any of us used tobacco. A sergeant of our “mess” had a paper of “Kinnikinick” which we proferred her, and filling her pipe, she commenced a vigorous puffing, spitting, and talking. She said she married an Irishman by the name of Fell and that instantly brought to my mind the eccentric, chubby-nosed Audy whose acquaintance we made when you, Jennie, Jimmie, and I visited at Mr. Holdman’s. I inquired if the said Audy was a relative. She said she did not know. Her daughter was rather a pretty looking girl and the Capt. blames me with taking a fancy to her. She asked for letter paper and I gave her some, and some dainty white envelopes which I had purchased from the sutler of the 4th Minnesota Regt. Since we came here, the Capt. drew his allowance of paper from the government and he generally supplies me when I “run short.” If you have not sent those envelopes which I wrote for, you needn’t mind it as I have plenty now.
We have been drawing new guns — Springfield rifles. I did not get one so for the present I am without a weapon. Perhaps I will get a Non-Commissioned Officers sword though if we go to the “Front,” I would prefer a gun.
I received a Pittsburg Christian Advocate and a Western today from home. I was very glad to get them. An order has lately been issued by Gen. Sherman (so report says) prohibiting the sale of papers along the “line.” The Capt. and I intend to subscribe for two dailies — the Cincinnati Commercial and Louisville Journal. We have as near as good facilities for getting reading matter as we had at Huntsville.
I send you two photographs — one of Capt. [Daniel G.] Hildt, and the other of Corporal [William] Petree. ¹ The Capt. is not as old as I am! If any more of the family have “photo’s” taken, you must send copies to me. Did you hear that Olivia Nicholas of Hanoverton, Ohio, was married? It is a fact.
It is hard for me to write a long letter home now as I write so many. Write soon and often to your affectionate brother, — Hud
¹ William Petree enlisted at age 18 in November 1861 as a private in Co. C, 80th O.V.I. He was promoted to corporal in July 1862 and died 9 December 1864 near Dillon, Georgia.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
January 8th 1865
My dear Father,
I ought to write home much oftener than I do, and almost every day think I’ll write, but put it off until I’ll have more to tell. I wrote the last one to Libb but I am afraid it was never mailed. There was one came in the last mail from her and Willie which I will answer in due season.
This is the Sabbath and not the day for such work, but we received orders an hour or so ago to be ready to move at a moment’s notice, and when we’re about to start, we’re so busy that I have hardly time to do anything for myself. It is thought that we’ll move in the morning. Where we will go is a mere matter of conjecture with me. I should say to Charleston though I may be far wrong.
The weather is cool and blustery though we suffer no especial inconvenience from the cold. In my quarters we have no fire and yet we have lived so far quite comfortably. Very few of the men in the army have overcoats. I gave mine away at Huntsville and have had none since.
I believe the City of Charleston can be taken without much difficulty as it is hardly probable that the Rebels have any great force there, and their spare troops will be needed at Wilmington if our troops stay there.
Since I last wrote, our company has again changed commanders. Lieut. [Christian] Deis has been assigned to Co. G and Lieut. [James M.] Cochran commands Co. E in his stead.
The chaplain [George W. Pepper] has been holding services in the city since we came here. It was my intention to go to church this afternoon but a little military business prevented me. I endeavor to avoid all the work I can on the Lord’s day, but sometimes it comes up in a shape that I cannot well get out of it.
Sometimes during our last march it was hard to tell when the Sabbath did come. It is a difficult matter for one to live aright in the army as there is so much that must be done or violate orders of superiors who we have sworn to respect and obey them. I have tried to live even better than I did at home, but it’s hard to do. Here you can scarcely make the men believe that there are any Christians in the army. Once I was talking with some of them about soldiers swearing and instanced Maj. [David] Skeeles as one who did not. Oh yes, they said, they had heard him swear. I never did, and I heard him say he never had since in the army. When our Division reached the Ocmulgee River, Gen. Smith’s Adjt. was there to superintend the transportation of the troops across. Gen. [O. O.] Howard came down to the bank when the ferry boat was going over almost empty and inquired why the boat was sent over with so few in it. The boys (some of them) say he asked the question with an oath. I heard him plainly but did not hear him swear. I’ve always heard that he was a Christian.
If you could just hear the soldiers talk about Army Chaplains, you’d think them the greatest set of rascals in the world. They say a chaplain only comes for money. I do not know the motives that induced ours [George W. Pepper] into the service, but one thing is certain — he commands very little respect in the regiment. You must not think that I have any “grudge” against him, for he never did aught of harm to me.
Gen. Howard is — so I have understood — to leave us and Gen. Logan to take his place. Gen. Osterhaus is in command of our corps.
I have written the foregoing in a hurry and I guess have said almost enough for this time. Since we have been on the coast, it seems as if our mails are very small. I want you to answer soon. If we should stay here a day or two longer, I’ll try to write again before leaving. With much love to family, I am as ever, your affectionate son, — Hud
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
Addressed to Rev. H. McCall, Smithfield, Jefferson county, Ohio
January 16th, 1865
My dear Father,
I received a day or so ago your letter bearing date Dec. 29th and was surprised to learn that you had received no letter up to that time from me since our arrival at the coast. I have written several and some of them long enough ago to have reached you before the time of your writing. I suppose ‘ere this, a portion of them have reached you.
I was glad to hear of the good health of the “loved ones at home,” and of their prosperity, &c. I hope the Quarterly Meeting to which you referred had the happy effect of filling your church with new members and I guess it isn’t wrong to cherish the hope that it filled your pockets with “greenbacks.” I wish we could have protracted meetings here.
I was at church in the City yesterday (Sabbath). It was the Independent Presbyterian. The discourse was excellent. It has been a long time since I have listened to a better one. I did not learn the minister’s name but I judge from his speech that he is an Irishman. ¹ Yesterday was the fourth Sabbath that I have spent within the City limits, thought the first that I attended church. Something occurred on the other three to prevent my leaving the company. Generally the company commander would be away and I would have to take charge of the company. It is almost necessary for an Orderly Sergt. to stay in camp all the time.
Addie Brown (who had come over to visit us) and Alf Davis went with me to church. The building was a very large one and a great crowd had collected in the yard awaiting the commencement of exercises. Just as we were going into church, Addie got separated from us and we have not seen anything of him since. I suppose though he has got safely back to his command by this time. His regiment is with Kilpatrick stationed about eight miles southwest of us. Tell Sadie he’s healthy. That is most too much “gossip” for you but just “turn it over” to Call. She can dispose of it.
It is so cool that I can hardly stand it to write. We have no fire in our “hut.” It does very well in daytime but at night it’s most too cool. Goodnight. I must “make my bed.” That is generally a morning job at home but it’s the reverse here.
January 17th, Tuesday evening. We had orders this afternoon to move in the morning but they were countermanded. However, we are to move in a few days. A portion of the 19th Army Corps which has been operating in the Shenandoah Valley under Sheridan came to the City today. I hear the whole Corps is to come.
Military movements are a perfect mystery to me but I’ve had a faint idea that before many months we will scour the Confederacy through to Richmond. After the hazardous march through Georgia, it seems to me this Army can go anywhere. Indications are that we go first to Beaufort, S. C., and from there I suppose the expedition will set out.
I should have written to Willie this time but I guess it matters not to whom the letter goes, so it goes home. Your friends in the regiment are well. Write to me soon. I send within a photograph taken in Savannah, Ga.
Your affectionate son, — Hud
¹ The appointed minister of the Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah at the time was Rev. I. S. K. Axson, D. D.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX
South Carolina Swamps
January 24th 1865
My dear Sister,
We left Savannah on the 19th ult. and such swampy country and rainy weather I have seldom seen. On the “20th” we laid in camp all day during which time the rain descended almost in torrents. Besides, our camp was in a swamp so you can imagine our condition. My two bed fellows and I fortunately gathered up a few lath on which we slept with a little comfort. Many of the men lay right in the water — i.e., where the water soaked their blankets. We had scarcely crossed the Savannah river when the water raised over the marshy bottoms so that the 1st Brigade of our Division had to return to the City. It has rained every day since we started until today. From appearances, I think we will have a short spell of clear weather.
We are now encamped near some landing on some inlet or river, neither of which I can name. There is a probability of our staying here a couple of weeks. I will write more in a day or so. The mail is soon to leave here & I must close. I have a very poor place for writing.
With much love, I am your brother, — Hud
Via Hilton Head, S. C.