1865: William Francis King to Hannah E. (Massey) King

This letter was written by William Francis King (1824-1892), the son of Francis King and Eliza Thorpe of the District of Columbia. In 1835, William’s father relocated the family to Richmond, Indiana, and in 1837, to Centreville. His father and mother later relocated to Indianapolis where they died in 1865 and 1860, respectively.

When he was fifteen years old, William left his parents home to go to Richmond, Indiana, and learn the printer’s trade in the old Jeffersonian office. He worked at that trade until 1847 when he took up the study of medicine. He was elected justice of the peace in 1852 and served four years in that capacity. He then relocated to Williamsburg and practiced medicine. In 1863 he served as the Asst. Surgeon in the 124th Indiana Infantry for two years, most of it in Sherman’s army. Following that, he accepted a commission as Major and Surgeon in the 147th Indiana Infantry. He joined them on 3 June 1865 and mustered out 2 months later on 4 August 1865.

King wrote the letter to his wife, Hannah Everhart (Massey) King (1820-1885). He married her in 1851 and together they had at least six children — Mary Emily King (1851-1940), Caroline King (1852-1857), Helen King (b. 1854), Francis Edwin King (b. 1856), Alice King (b. 1858), and Isaac King (1860-1860).


Addressed to Mrs. Hannah E. King, Centreville, Wayne county, Indiana

Berryville, Va.
June 25th 1865

My dear wife,

I received your letter dated 18th this month day before yesterday. I want you to acknowledge the receipt of my letters by date so that we can see how many — if any — misses. This is my fifth letter.


Col. Milton Peden, 147th Indiana Infantry

I have been quite sick for about a week of which I informed you in my last letter but I am well again. I think I never improved more rapidly that I have in the last three or four days. I was up to the railroad yesterday on business. Yesterday was the anniversary of the birth of John the Evangelist, the Patron Saint, and patriarch of Masonry and was celebrated by the Masons in our regiment. They had quite a nice little time in the afternoon. The commissioned officers of the regiment were all invited. Many of them are masons and I was surprised to find so many of the privates members. Our company has twenty odd members. The Col. [Milton Peden] delivered a short address on the Methodist Church and we were then supplied with an abundance of ice cream and raspberries. The affair passed off very pleasantly. The officers returned to camp about nine o’clock p.m. and were surprised to find the regiment formed in line in their quarters in the shape of a torch-light procession. It was a splendid sight to see their evolutions in the distance. The thing was all gotten up by the men themselves under charge of the non-commissioned officers, and was well done. After moving through the different evolutions they marched up to headquarters and demanded a speech from the different officers of the Field and Staff. After some speaking and many compliments being passed that were really well deserved, the men were marched to their quarters.

This regiment is well drilled and as far as discipline and general appearance of the men are concerned, are decidedly better than any other that I have been intimate with. Today (Sunday) is inspection day and we have just got through with it. It was a fine affair and did honor to the officers and men. There was a premium of $2.50 and the honor of a Red ribbon to the soldier that had the best gun — that is, the cleanest and in best condition. Each company commander selected the best gun in his company and they even stacked the ten guns together and then the Major, commanding, selected out of the ten the premium gun. Then the Major commenced to examine. An officer took up each gun not knowing whose it was and held it for inspection. I held the gun that took the premium and although it was a small matter, I felt proud of it.

My intercourse so far with this regiment has been very pleasant. As I get better acquainted with the officers of the regiment and brigade, I like them better. There is more true military deference paid to officers here than with Western Army and a little more of what we would call style among the officers and men. On dress parade, both officers and men are expected to be very neat and clean and wear white cotton gloves with regulation uniforms. The men wear caps as do the line officers and the field and staff wear hats.

I think from indications that we will move in a few days to Staunton — at least that is the impression at headquarters. I was up to Summit Point yesterday and while there I bought a horse. I was compelled to have one. I paid $100 and promised to pay in thirty days $100 more. I have been trying for two weeks to buy one and I think I have got one altho’ high priced is better worth the money than any I have had offered to me. My brigade surgeon paid $250 for his and I would not trade with him. I am out of money now. I think we will be paid in a short time, probably the last of this month, when I can get some money. If I shall want some until I get paid, can you send me some until I get paid? I will write to Washington today to see about the pay for my horse which might be ready by this time. If we do not happen to get paid within a month from this time, I must make some arrangement to my my promise.

The government owes me for my horse $130 and for three months pay proper $240 and for one month as surgeon $147 [which] totals $560

You will see that I have not got rich since I have been in the service but I have the consolation to know that my family have had plenty to live on and my children have been sent to school and I think they have been happy and respected by their neighbors and acquaintances and above all that, our Heavenly Father has granted us the blessing of good health for which I am devoutly thankful and hope that my family, even to the youngest under your instruction and guidance, will give thanks daily. Give my love to all. Say to Charley and Alice I think of them often and to the dear children they are always in my thoughts.

Your affectionate husband, — Will F. King

P. S. I just saw a copy of the Richmond Telegram and I don’t know when I have been so provoked as at its low and scurrilous attacks on G. W. Julian. ¹ I would like to see a paper from Richmond occasionally and as it is the only Richmond [Indiana] paper that comes here, I want you to send me the Republican regularly. Give my love to Lib and Fletch, and Lide and Sam. — Will

Do not send me any money until you hear from me again.

¹ George Washington Julian (1817-1899) was a lawyer and politician from Centreville, Indiana.

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