These letters were written by Pvt. Ira S. Jeffers (1843-1932) of Co. F, 137th New York Infantry. Ira was the son of Leverett Jeffers (1819-1895) and Sophronia S. Scofield (1821-1870) of Binghamton, Broome county, New York.
The 137th New York Infantry saw its share of heavy fighting during the war. It participated in the battles at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Wauhatchie, Missionary ridge, Lookout mountain, Ringgold, Rocky Face ridge, Resaca, Cassville, Lost mountain, Kennesaw mountain, Peachtree creek, the siege of Atlanta, and numerous minor actions on the march to the sea and in the campaign of the Carolinas. Col. W. F. Fox, in his account of this regiment, says: “It won special honors at Gettysburg, then in Greene’s brigade, which, alone and unassisted, held Culp’s hill during a critical period of that battle against a desperate attack of vastly superior force. The casualties in the 137th at Gettysburg exceeded those of any other regiment in the corps, amounting to 40 killed, 87 wounded and 10 missing. The gallant defense of Culp’s hill by Greene’s brigade, and the terrible execution inflicted by its musketry on the assaulting column of the enemy, form one of the most noteworthy incidents of the war.
Another letter written by Ira Jeffers from Cassville, Georgia, on 21 May 1864 is transcribed and posted in Civil War Voices Soldier Studies.
A number of letters written by Ira Jeffers have been published in the book entitled, 8 Pounds of Butter and Cheese: Letters from the Civil War by Ira S. Jeffers, 137th N.Y.V. by Eugene Mongello.
January 22, 1864
I received a letter from you this morning dated the 10th and I wrote a letter to you yesterday so that i have not got much news to write today. I could have sold a part of my tobacco when we was at Chattanooga but we have got where we can get tobacco cheaper than we could there and besides that, we can send to Nashville by some of the engineers or other boys and get it as cheap as you can send it from home. The money that you sent in the other letter comes pretty good for I did not get but one dollar and a half besides the check when we drew our pay. I have got 9 plugs of my tobacco left yet.
Tell Grandmother that we have enough to eat here now. We have warm bread every morning from the bakery and good pork, coffee, sugar, and sometimes beans. Sometimes we buy flour and we make flour gravy which makes pretty good living.
In my letter yesterday I wrote to you about my watch so there is no use of my writing about it today. The Chaplin will leave it in the Post Office at Binghamton so you can get it about as soon as you get this letter.
January 23rd — I am not on guard today so I have been to work cleaning my gun and now I will try and finish my letter. I wrote for you to send me some stamps in my other letter and I wished you would then. I can write a good many letters for I have got paper and envelopes enough to last some time with what you send me. There is a good many that I would like to write to now that we are in camp so that I can.
The boys are all well today. Johnny said that he has had a letter from home lately but I guess he don’t get as many as I do. Our sergeant says that I get a letter in almost every mail with the same handwriting on and the same kind of envelope. I cannot think of anything more to write at present so I will close and go and get some wood for night.
This from your son, — Ira
I have sent you a letter from Cap. Sherman and one from another captain in this letter.
February 9th 1864
I received your letter this morning dated the 31st of January and it was not mailed till the 3rd of February. I did not know but what you had forgotten me for it had been almost ten days since I had received a letter from you. I do not know where the Chaplin lives but I believe he lives in Newark where George used to live, but he said that he should go to Binghamton. If father gets the watch fixed and don’t sell it right off, I think that I shall send for it again. The 66th Ohio Regiment that reenlisted when we was at Wauhatchie Valley has got back.
Ed Elwell is at Nashville sick with the small pox but we have heard that he is getting better. Hiram Bullock has been transferred to the Invalid Corps so he will not be with the regiment anymore. But the rest of the boys that you know, I think, is well. Milt Knox, Robert Winner, Johnny Thompson, and myself are all well at present.
There is rebel prisoners passing through nearly every day. Yesterday there was about 300 (three hundred) went through on one train. They are deserting all of the time just as fast as they can and not yet catched.
I have just eat my dinner which consisted of nicely cooked beans and soft bread and all the fault that I have to find with my dinner is that I have eat too much for comfort. I received my paper this morning dated the 3rd of February. It is about all that I get to read. I wrote in my last letter for Catherine to send me something to read. I would not care if the papers was 3 years old if they only had some good stories in. I have had a letter from Uncle George since we have been here and have answered it, and one from Wallace. I answered his yesterday and I am going to write one to Aunt Malvina just as soon as I can conveniently.
I would like to have you send me a pair of stockings — half cotton — and if you could get me a good pair, you can send them by mail for about 4 cents if they are done up in a snug package. Their government socks wear out so soon. Milt had two pair and they were as long as a half a dozen of the government stockings. I have not anything more to write this time so I will close.
This from your son, — Ira
Addressed to Mrs. Sophronia Jeffers, Binghamton, Broome county, New York
Near Atlanta, Ga.
July 31st 1864
I received your letter of the 17th 3 or 4 days ago but I had just write a letter to you. I do not have much of a chance to write here about these times. We are near enough to Atlanta so that we can shell it. When I wrote to you before, I was just going on fatigue duty to build breastworks in advance of the others. We have got them done and have been in them some time. They are shelling us nearly all of the time. They have commenced a kind of siege here now I should think.
General Hooker has been relieved of command at his own request and General Williams is in command of the Corps. The boys all hate to have him leave us. They think as much of him as they do of Sherman from what I hear. I guess that the Western Generals and Eastern Generals cannot agree any better together than the Eastern and Western men, but the men agree better than they used to.
It is very hot weather here now but for all that, we have to work sometimes pretty hard building breastworks &c.
Milt Knox and Bob Winner, Johnny Thompson, and myself are all well at present. I cannot write any war news this time as I know of more than what you get in your paper. We don’t get much war news till we get our papers from Binghamton. I get my paper as regular as I could expect and the other boys get the standard, and I have sent for another paper but it has not come yet. It is a religious paper called the American Messenger. I cannot think of much to write this morning but I thought that I would write enough to let you know that I am well.
— Ira S. Jeffers