This letter was written by Corporal William R. Tittle (1836-1919) of Co. H, 55th Ohio Infantry. Tittle enlisted in December 1861 and served 3 years; he was mustered out of the service in December 1864. He participated with his regiment in the battle of Second Manassas, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Missionary Ridge, before making the march in Sherman’s army across Georgia.
William R. Tittle was the son of Jonathan Allen Tittle (1784-1856) and Susan Beatty (1797-1873) of Seneca county, Ohio. William learned and practiced the carpenter’s trade until his enlistment. He wrote the letter to his sister, Sarah W. Tittle.
Addressed to Miss Sarah W. Tittle, Melmore, Seneca county, Ohio
April 20th 1862
I take my pen to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope that these few lines may finde you all well. I would have wrote sooner but I have not had time any sooner. We had a very good time while we was at Romney but nothing hardly could be bought. We never went in our tents while we was there. The court house was a very good place. It looks hard to see the way things is going to destruction. The recorder’s office is open and all the records are there and most of them is torn to pieces and a great many of the books is torn up in both of the offices recorders and auditors is open for anybody. There are some very old records there but I suppose they think that when they gain the day, everything will become new. But I think they can never accomplish much. Some thinks the war will soon end, but I don’t know.
I have not been much disappointed yet and I am about as fleshy as common. The boys has not fatted up since we came to this state. You have been wanting to know what we get to eat and the reason I never wrote was I thought you would hear plenty to satisfy you all. You have heard some talk about our kind of living while we was in Camp McClellan. We had bakers bread all the time but when we [were] sent to Grafton, we had crackers a little while at first; then we got bakers bread till we went to New Creek. We had crackers to eat on the road. We had bakers bread most of the time while in camp but crackers always while on a march. Each man gets 16 ounces of bakers bread and coffee and sugar 2 times a day.
While we was at Grafton, we got black tea a few days. We got plenty of beans most of the time till lately but we had got tired eating beans all the time. But we get enough of them. We had some fresh beef but the most was old fat salt pork. The best way to eat it was raw. We have had all fresh beef since we left Romney. We did get potatoes every other day in Camp McClellan and about as often at Grafton but we get few now. We get rice middling often and we get hominy once and awhile and salt, candles, soap. We have never had any fresh pork nor salt beef. The bread is not very good. It is heavy and sour. The crackers is very dry and hard but we get along fine. A person can live on middling little if they are used to it. While we was at Grafton, we got syrup a few times and we would trade coffee for syrup. We get more coffee than we use [to]. We got green coffee awhile at Grafton and most of the messes bought mills rather than pound it. Some got tired of crackers and some got tired of bread. I think it is a good plan to change our bread.
I think a good deal of the sickness was caused by the march to Romney and Moorefield. When a man is drove so hard that he can’t hardly stand and [is] all wet with sweat, then stop[s] and sit[s] down on the snow till they would get cold. And in our trip to Moorefield we was almost starved on account of the teams not getting along as soon as they was [supposed] to, but we don’t have it so hard now.
Sunday [the] 12th, I and about 20 more out of the regiment was detailed for to build a ferry boat so that we could get across the river. The size of the boat was 50 ft long and 12 ft wide. We worked till Monday evening. We got it done an run it across a few times. The river is not very wide but deep and swift. [On] Tuesday [the] 15[th], we left Romney and moved towards Moorefield. We got across the river about 12 o’clock. One company could go across at a time. It rained Monday night and Tuesday morning and the roads was bad. We marched 7 miles and camped for the night.
Wednesday morning about 8 o’clock, we started and marched 6 miles, then stopped and made coffee and eat dinner. Then [we] marched 7 miles and camped Thursday morning. We marched 11 miles and encamped on a nice piece of ground on the west side of the river 3 miles below Moorefield. Here is where the brigade is to be formed. Wednesday the road got middling. It was very warm Thursday. Was warm and in the afternoon we had a thunder shower. Friday [the] 18[th] there was 26 of us detailed to go down the river after a ferry boat. It had got loose [and] they didn’t know where it was. There is a large island a little ways below the ferry. I got in a canoe and went round the island to see if it was on the other side and if they would find it, they was to hollow to us. We went down the west side to the point of the island and didn’t find it or see the boys in the canoe. They had found it and didn’t hallow to us. There was 2 have been with us. They asked if any of us could swim across to the island. It wasn’t wide but very swift. 2 boys belonging to Co. E said they would. They kept on their shirts, drawers, and one put on his boots and wouldn’t take them off. They insisted in him to take them off but he would not and went up a little ways above the point of the island and jump[ed] in. The one with the boots off went up further. He went across the other fellow, went down about 80 rods, and drowned. He hollowed for help but nothing could be done. His body has not been found. His name was George [W.] Minus. He was about 20 years old. ¹
Monday morning [the] 21[st], we have had a good deal of rain. It rained all day yesterday and last night and this is going to be a wet day. The ground is quite wet and very muddy. There is several regiments encamped near Moorefield. General [Robert C.] Schenck came to Romney Monday evening and has been with us since. He has his headquarters here now. When we left Romney, we was to go to Staunton but the order was countermanded. Then we stopped here. Where [we go] now, it is hard to tell. We got the ferry boat up to its place ready for us to go across. The cavalry fetched in 25 bushwhackers Saturday afternoon (19th). They had no uniform on. 22 of them had guns. They were squirrel rifles. They were a hard looking set of men. I don’t know what they will do with them.
The health of the regiment is very good. There is quite a number of Grafton sick out of this regiment. Col. [John C.] Lee got back the 8th. Major [Daniel F.] DeWolf is home sick. I have not heard of that box yet. I think it is doubtful about me getting it now. If i had known that you was going to send anything, I would have wrote to not send anything. I don’t know what I would do with it for we can’t hardly carry our clothes. Our load is about 50 pounds. I wrote home to Wilson and Batty from Romney. I received your letter the 19th and one at Romney, one from Ralph. I must close. Write soon. — W. R. Tittle To Sarah W Tittle
¹ George W. Minus enlisted at age 19 on 1 October 1861 in Co. E, 55th Ohio. He drowned on 14 April 1862 at Moorefield, Virginia, apparently because he valued his boots more than his life.