1861-1863: Joseph W. Warr to Family


Headstone of Cpl. Joseph W. Warr

These letters were written by  Joseph W. Warr (1836-1864), the son of Charles Warr (1808-Aft1860) and Sarah Ann Smith (1810-1863) of Fountain, Fillmore county, Minnesota.

Joseph enlisted in Co. A, 2nd Minnesota Infantry when he was 23 years old. He enlisted on 26 June 1861 as a private. He re-enlisted as a corporal on 28 December 1863 but did not survive the war. He died of disease on 1 February 1864 at Chicago, IL.

Joseph’s younger brother, Charles S. Warr (1843-1864), is mentioned in these letters. Charles enlisted as a private in Co. E, 7th Minnesota Infantry, on 15 August 1862. Like his brother, Charles also was promoted to corporal but did not survive the war. He died on 10 September 1864 at Memphis, Tennessee. He is buried in the National Cemetery at Memphis.

Th 2nd Minnesota Infantry was organized at Fort Snelling in June, July and Aug., 1861, and was mustered in by companies as organized. Co. A was ordered to Fort Ripley for garrison duty July 3, and was followed by Co. F, a few days later. B and C were ordered to Fort Abercrombie and D and E to Fort Ridgely. Maj. Smith having been appointed paymaster in the regular army, Capt. Alexander Wilkin, of the 1st Minn. Infantry, was appointed to succeed him in the regiment. The companies were recalled from the garrisons in September and left the state Oct. 14, under orders to report at Washington, but on reaching Pittsburg the regiment was directed to go to Louisville. From there it was sent to Lebanon Junction for guard and picket duty and in December, was assigned to the 3rd brigade, 1st division, Army of the Ohio, Gen. George H. Thomas commanding. On Jan. 1, 1862, it moved to Lebanon, where it joined the Mill Springs campaign and was engaged in an almost hand-to-hand fight with a regiment of the enemy at that battle, driving it back in confusion and later taking possession of its tents and camp equipage, of which the 2nd stood in need. Returning to Louisville, it moved towards Shiloh and reached there April 9, too late to participate in the battle. It pursued the retreating Confederates and was in camp at Corinth until June 22. Thence it went to Iuka Springs and Tuscumbia, encamped for a month, then proceeded to Winchester, Pelham gap, Murfreesboro and Nashville. On Sept. 14, it started for Louisville, which place was reached on the 26th, and in October, it was at the head of the column in pursuit of the retiring enemy, in a constant skirmish with the latter’s rear- guard. It was in reserve at the battle of Perryville; was then on short expeditions and guard duty at various points until Nov. 25; then in camp near Gallatin, Tenn., until Jan. 29, 1863, and at Battle’s farm until March 2. It participated in brushes with the enemy near Triune, and in June, four companies were engaged in keeping a body of the enemy’s cavalry from cutting up the rear of the column. It assisted in driving the enemy out of Hoover’s gap and on July 1, drove his picket line through Tullahoma. It occupied Winchester from July 18 to Aug. 16, was under fire at Chickamauga, assisted in the repulse of Breckenridge’s division and stood with Thomas in the heroic defense of Horseshoe ridge. Its loss in this engagement was 162 in killed and wounded. It was in the trenches about Chattanooga for two months, captured the first breastworks at Missionary ridge, and was in the assault which carried the crest. In the battle the 2nd lost over 21 per cent, while that of the other regiments in the brigade was 8 per cent. The regiment was specially mentioned in the official report for the “gallant manner in which it carried the rifle-pits at the foot of the ridge.” On Dec. 25, about four-fifths of the regiment reenlisted, being among the first in the Army of the Cumberland to do so, and on Jan. 8, 1864, the reenlisted men were furloughed home.




Lebanon Junction, [Kentucky]
November 5, 1861

Dear Mother and all,

I shall inform you that I am well and hope these [few lines] will find you the same.

We are still at the same place that we were when I wrote before and have had no trouble yet but cannot tell when we will have a fight but expect one every day. We were called out last Sunday night while at meeting to shoulder our muskets and fight. We have picket guards stationed out and that night we heard firing and we hurried to the pickets but found all right. The pickets at one place are at a bridge and the Rebels burnt it once this summer and got within 30 miles of Louisville but they were driven back again. Now they are within about 70 miles of Louisville but General Buckner — that is their general — says that he will dine in Louisville the 20th of this month or else he will dine in hell and every preparation is being made to make him dine in the latter place if he undertakes it. So I think there will be a large fight between now and then but I cannot tell which will gain the victory but I hope that we shall. And if we whip them out in this state, we shall move to some other state and so on until they will give it up, for they must give it up soon for their troops are in a sad state for they are out of clothing and their men are bare-footed — a great many of them — and not enough to eat. So some of them write back that went from here.

It looks hard to see such fine orchards and fine farms going to destruction. They are all throwed open and everyone goes in and helps himself. The men are in the army and there is no one but the Negroes left to take care of the farms and we have all the apples that we want and such other stuff to eat as we want.

I was on picket guard yesterday and last night but got in all safe this morning. Our pickets have had no trouble yet. The sentinel fired at a man the other night but did not hit him and he left and has not been seen around any since. I suppose he was a spy.

My health is very good and the health of the company is good. There is but one or two sick in the company. Abe Kalder is well and all others that you were acquainted. Give my love to all enquiring friends. Tell them I am bound to fight for the stars and the stripes and I hope to come through all safe and get back to see you all again. I shall write to Bill in a day or two and then to Hank so I shall keep them coming almost all the time. You may direct to Louisville, Bullitt County, Kentucky, 2nd Regt. Minn. V., [care of] Capt, J. P. Bishop

You must excuse my poor writing for I have to write on a little board on my knee and 10 or 12 around bothering and in a small tent.

Write soon, — Joseph W. Ware

[Sketch of American flag] Long may it wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave.

[P. S.] The firing that I spoke of was done by someone else besides the pickets but could not find out by whom. Suppose it was done by some Rebel to get us away from camp.


Camp near Nashville, Tennessee
March 14, 1862

Dear Mother & all,

I am happy to inform you that I am well at present & hope these few lines will find you enjoying the same blessing.

We are in the land of Dixie now — five miles from Nashville, Tennessee — but we did not have any fighting to do to get it. When they heard of the capture of Fort Donelson, they left here on double quick but did not forget to burn the bridges across the river — very fine bridges they were too. One of them was a suspension bridge & cost a large amount of money.

It is very warm this morning & looks some like rain. We have had very fine weather since we have been in this state. Not much rain & we have much better water than we had in Kentucky & a fine camping ground on the banks of the Cumberland River. I cannot tell how long we are a going to stay here but I hear this morning that we are ordered to move but I cannot tell how true the story is now where we are to move to. We are not supposed to know where we are a going until we arrive at the place of our destination. A soldier is not supposed to know anything but thank God we are only volunteers & will be out of this sometime anyhow. But they are enlisting men in the regular service for five years but I think I know of one that will not enlist in the regulars if he knows himself & I think he does.

Coffee is one dollar per pound & tea five dollars per pound & other things in proportion. But since the arrival of the federal troops, things are getting cheaper. This is in Nashville. Business is getting more brisk in the city. When we came to the town there was scarcely a store open. But now they are opening every day & commencing business again. We have had our pay for two months but there is two months more due in which we will get before long. I think a soldier’s pay is very small — so small that he can scarcely save anything. I thought I would be able to send you some more money when I got paid but while I was in the hospital, I borrowed money to get such things as I wanted & find that it takes up the most of my wages to pay up. There is very few that save anything out of 13 dollars a month. A man has got to pay for his washing & that is no small amount. I paid as high as 50 cts. for three shirts one week. A woman can make more money in the army than a man.

Charles, I hope that you are well & have had a fine time at school this winter & learned something now as it is coming Spring & time to go to work on the farm. You must do the best you can for Mother & I assure you, she will do the same for you. I thought for a spell that I would be to home in time to farm this summer but I hardly think so now. But I think I shall be to home this summer sometime & then we will have a fine time. We will catch some of them fine little trout. How often I have wished I could get some trout to eat. I suppose that you have had some very cold weather this winter. I have not seen the ground froze hard enough but twice this winter to bear a man up and that would be in the morning early before the sun got up. I am afraid when the snow goes off this Spring that it will take some of your fence off on the bottom there for the snow is so deep that it will surely make a flood & perhaps a large one.

Well, Charley, you must stay with Mother this summer & help her all you can & next winter if you want to go off awhile, I will be to home & then you can go for awhile. Goodbye Charley or Dr.

I believe I have no more to write at present. My love to Eliza & Emma. Write soon. Direct as you have done before.

— Joseph W. Warr


Addressed to Mrs. Sarah A. Ware, Casimona, Fillmore county, Minnesota

Lebanon [Kentucky]
October 24, 1862

Dear Mother & Sisters,

I received a letter from you today & I assure you that I was glad to hear from home & to hear that you was well. This leaves me enjoying good health.

We are in camp now for a short time — I cannot tell how long we will stay here. We have got our knapsacks today. We left them back at Bowling Green when we came through Kentucky about one month ago. We have no tents yet but expect them soon now & I think it is time for the frost takes hold of a fellow in the mornings. I expect you have some cool weather there by this time.

We have gave up the chase after Bragg for a short time. I think our Generals are not so sharp as they might be. They have run this army around now for some time & it has not amounted to anything that I can see. I think that Old Bragg is a smarter man than we have got in our army. But I hope that we will get him one of these days. It seems to me that we have an army large enough to whip them now. We must have three hundred thousand here in Kentucky now. The men do not seem to have as much confidence in General Buell as they did a year ago. General Buell is lame now. He was thrown from his horse the day of the Battle [of Perryville] & he is not able to ride yet but I hope he may soon get well & take the lead again for I have confidence in the old gent yet (altho there is many that have not).

I am glad that Charles likes his Company. I shall write to him (as you say) & give him the best advice I can (altho that may be poor). I think Judge Marsh  is a gentleman, as you say, & I think he will make a good Captain.

I expect that it is colder up where Charley is than it is down here but I hope they will get the Indians troubles settled down soon & then if there is any fighting to do, they will come South.

We are camped close to the 2nd Minnesota Battery & there is several boys in that that I am acquainted with. I was glad to hear that the money got through safe that I sent by Sergeant Cutting. He took a considerable amount for the boys of this company. You surprise me when you tell me about Hannah Watson. I think it is a fast age — as you say. Give my best respects to the Meanes boys. I think they are brave boys & have fought for their country & done well.

I was sorry to hear that your potatoes were poor. I would give a dollar for one peck of good potatoes but I do not care much about them. Everything is very high in the army. I paid one dollar for one pound & a half of butter today & was glad to get it at that.

Our first Lieutenant has resigned & gone home. He was a fine fellow & we did not like to see him go & leave us. There is 50 men in our country now —  officers & all. One year ago when we landed in Louisville, we numbered one hundred & three men. There has been 10 died & several discharged  & there is a number back sick in the hospitals. Such is the fate of war. I wish we could get our company filled up to the minimum number. It would seem natural again.

John Shipton is quite unwell but is with the company yet. I believe I have no more to write this time but shall write as often as I can. I hope you will do the same. Abe Kalder is well. Give my love to all enquiring friends. Tell Sarah Norman I am thankful for the few lines she wrote & when I write to one, I mean all. God bless you all. I would give a considerable to see you all but I live in hopes of seeing you all one of these days. No more at present.

Yours as ever, — Joseph Warr

Direct to Louisville, Kentucky

Mother, please let Bill Norman have my overcoat that I sent home. I would send him one but I cannot draw more than one at a time.



Camp of the 2d Minnesota Vols.
Chattanooga [Tennessee]
December 1st 1863

Dear sister,

I am again in receipt of a very kind letter written the 24th of the past month, and I can assure you that I was happy to hear from you and to hear that you was in good health. You said that you had not seen Emma for two weeks. I hope she is well also. I think that you and Emma can plan for yourselves very well and have done so so far. I hope will continue to do so until I return and then we will start the Old Homestead again, as you say you can hardly content yourself away from there. There is no place like home, be it ever so humble. I am glad that you will stay with Sarah this winter. I think she will do all she can for you and I guess Emma has a good place.

You was speaking about money to get you some clothes with. Now I think if the personal property is sold off from the estate, that there will be enough to pay all debts that are standing against the farm and some to spare. And if there is any [left], I think you girls should be allowed some to purchase some clothes with. You can see whether there will be any and if there is, I hope you will get some. And if there is none, tell me when you write again and I will see that you have some. The reason why I speak so is because I have arranged matters so as to keep what money I have until  my time is out and then I will have something to start with. I have been saving my money now for some time and I calculate when I come home to bring about three hundred dollars with me. It is but a short time now until we will be discharged and if you can get along with what you can get from the estate, I wish you would, and when I come home we will try and make us a home of our own and have none to molest nor make us afraid.

Well now, I suppose you would like to hear something about the condition of our Old Regiment as it has been in another battle a  few days ago. The enemy has been keeping a very bold front to us so last week General Hooker made a move on their left wing and our right and drove them off from Lookout Mountain and then the next day General Sherman attacked them on our left wing and drove them but there was hard fighting there as the Rebels massed their forces against him. But while that was going on, Old General Thomas was not idle for he made an attack on the center of the lines and drove them like sheep so we had them started and we kept them going. We captured 83 pieces of artillery — about all Bragg had — and I believe the last report that we had thirteen thousand prisoners. So it makes one of the grandest things of the war and Bragg’s army is completely demoralized and scattered. Our regiment’s loss is thirty wounded and five killed. None killed from Co. A and but three slightly wounded. Our loss in the whole army will number about three thousand killed and wounded. The enemy’s [loss] probably as heavy, if not heavier. This will give the Rebellion a heavy stroke. We now have the river through and railroad communication through to Nashville.

I had a letter from Charles a few days ago and he was well. He told me that Hiram Essington was dead. I am sorry to hear that. There is so much sickness in Minnesota. I suppose you show your letters to all of the family. That is right. Give my love to all enquiring friends and save a good share for yourselves.

Yours ever truly, — Joseph Warr


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