1861: Ella Greattrax to Charles H. Greattrax


The Headstone of Charles H. Greattrax (alias Charles Grant) of the 7th Missouri Cavalry

This letter was written by E. (Greattrax) [     ], the daughter of Ralph Greattrax (1805-Bef1880) and Rebecca Holley (1809-1893) who were united in marriage on 1 September 1831 at Mount Washington, Berkshire county, Massachusetts. I don’t know the author’s first name but suspect her maiden name was Ella L. Greattrax as there was a letter waiting at the post office in Pittsfield, Masaachusetts, in 1857 for a woman by that name. The content of the letter suggests that she was married to a farmer named Charles by the time this letter was written in August 1861.

She wrote the letter to her brother, Charles H. Greattrax (1836-1862) prior to his enlistment in the Missouri Home Militia and subsequently as a private in Co. F. 7th Missouri Cavalry. As a simplification of his name, Charles went by the alias of Charles Grant. Charles was wounded at the Battle of Lone Jack, Mo. and died in a hospital at Jefferson City, Missouri, on 5 September 1862. He is buried in Berkshire county, Massachachusetts, next to another unmarried sister named Nellie Greattrax (1842-1869).

Mentioned in the letter is another sibling named Luther P. Greattrax (1833-1895), a blacksmith who was married to Lydia A. Meech (or Meach) — the daughter of John Meach and Melinda Dickinson. Their eldest child, Carrie, was born in July 1859.

The Pension Record (see below) for Charles’ service in the Civil War filed by his mother indicates that Charles was never married prior to his death in the service and that his father, Ralph Greattrax, had not been heard from since 1854 and it was not know whether he was dead or alive. I could not find him in any census record after 1840 but the multiple variations in the spelling of his last name make this a difficult task.


Flat Brook [Massachusetts]
August 13th [1861]

My Dear Brother,

I am so glad you are where we can write to you once more although you do not answer my letters. I shall keep writing, thinking perhaps by & by you will conclude to answer some of them. I was glad to hear from you yesterday and hear you were so well. I wish you was here. Then I could talk & tell you all I want to. But I can’t make my pen keep up with my thoughts so for that reason I can’t write all.

I came from Pittsfield three weeks ago and do not expect to return to that shop but I am trying to find a place somewhere else & I should not worry but that I could find one if the times were a little easier, but as it is, I don’t know.

I have not seen Luther in over a year. Then he went through Pittsfield with his family on his way to Vermont. His wife I saw last winter at her home in Egremont [Berkshire county, Massachusetts] with her children. They are very pretty. The oldest — Carrie — is a perfect little doll. She looks like her father.

This is a cold, stormy day with us & everything looks gloomy, and to the farmers in particular, for their grain is suffering to be cut. Charles has some grass cut and now this rain has come on. I am afraid it will spoil, but the weather we cannot dictate. Therefore, he will have to be content.

There is but little thought of or talked of here but war and not as much so here as it was in Pittsfield. No one could take as much interest in their business as before and there has been considerable many failures there this summer. There has so many gone to war from that place that it makes everything look gloomy. I was there all the time the Pollock Guard ¹ were drilling and they encamped there some six weeks. I guess they were a fine looking company in their uniform, yet it looked sad to think they were being prepared to be shot. Yet it is a noble cause. Our country must be sustained because our cause is just and our forefathers fought and struggled hard to free it and now it must not be again in bondage. No, our gallant young men have got to leave their pleasant homes and firesides to prevent the same and may be before we can conquer, the elder class of community will be called upon. We cannot tell, I hope and trust, that the stars and stripes will ever wave as they do this day. I for one would give up all my friends willingly but a mother’s wish ought first to be granted and Charley, don’t never enlist until you have been and seen us all for Mother could never bear up under such a blow. It would be terrible to part with a brother I love so well. Yet if Mother did not feel so, I should not say one discouraging word. But Charlie, always counsel with Mother. Then we will never have a sad reflection. I wish I had never given her more cause for grief than you have. But my sheet is full and I must close. Good night. Love to all. — Sister E.

¹ The Pollock Guard was organized in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and named in honor of William Pollock, a wealthy and influential citizen of the town who contributed money towards its organization in May 1861. The company went into barracks at the Agricultural Fairgrounds where they were drilled by former West Point cadet, Thomas W. Clapp who was later elected its captain. They became Co. D of the 10th Massachusetts Infantry.

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