1864: Hannah (Levitt) Eckles to Thomas Eckles

This letter was written by Hannah (Levitt) Eckles (1810-1894), the widow of Marmaduke Eckles (1811-1855). The Eckles emigated from England in 1850 with their numerous children, one of whom was Thomas Eckles (1847-1888), to whom she wrote this letter in August 1864.

Thomas Eckles was a member of Co. D, 140th Illinois Infantry. This regiment was organized at Camp Butler, Illinois, and mustered into Federal service on June 18, 1864, for a one-hundred-day enlistment. The regiment departed the same day for Cairo, by rail, and proceeded by rail to Memphis, Tennessee. From there it marched thirty miles east to the Wolfe River, where it was formed into divisions which were posted along the rail line to Holly Springs. After some three months it returned to Memphis where it did guard duty until ordered to Camp Fry, Chicago, where the regiment was mustered out of service on October 29, 1864.

Thomas’ older brothers, Charles and Marmaduke Eckles, both served in Co. D, 34th Illinois Infantry.

After serving with the 140th Illinois, Thomas re-enlisted in Co. D, 34th Illinois Infantry and finished out his military service with his brothers. After the war, Thomas Eckles attended Hahnemann Medical College in Chicago and graduated in 1869. This training was to qualify him as a homeopathic physician. In 1874, he married Julia A. Stanley and they had two children. Julia and both children died in 1877. He then married Mrs. Jean Smyser in 1879. He practiced in Iowa and Salt Lake City, Utah and then moved to Helena in 1882.


Prairieville [Illinois]
August the 5th, 1864

Dear son,

We received your welcome letter the 2nd and was glad to hear that you keep your health so good for it is one of the greatest blessings that you can have. Your letter found us all well. [Your sister] Hannah and me was busy whitewashing the house. I had just been saying that you did it before and I wished that you were here to do it again. So you see we do not forget you even when we are at our work. No, I do not forget you — no, not even when I am asleep. When I came to look, we had sent you seven letters, and in some of them were two letters. I know that [  ] gets a good many but they are mostly from home and I cannot tell what they find to write about so often. [Your brother] Charles wrote to you. Please send word if you received it. I wrote to you on the Fourth [of July] a good long letter. I don’t know whether you received it or not. We will try and write oftener.

I was real sorry to hear of Will’s death. ¹ It does not seem as if it could be so. Bamman [?] Bracken was wounded in both his hands and has since died. Do not get it in your head to enlist again but come home if you are spared. Please God, I pray and trust that you will have plenty of clothes for next winter and longer, so do come home, my dear boy, and settle yourself. You will see enough before your time is out.

We had a letter from sister Mary. She was well. Will’s funeral sermon is going to be preached tomorrow. Roll and Han went to Dixon last Saturday to see Mary Forsyth and had a good time. I tell you the colts look slick and pretty. [Your brother] Rob sold Jim for 100 and sixty 5 dollars a week ago and took him on Monday. He did not have a halter on when he got him and the man wanted Rob to give him one and Rob would not do it so he brought him back. Rob felt bad even after he sold him and Emily cried. The man was right mad at him.

Mr. Marsden is going to teach here next winter and Miss Penrose. I tell you, he is quite busy taking the girls around. Addie and Lucy have gone with him to Rock Creek and he is riding round every day.

I will tell you what we had for dinner today — prairie chickens and early corn, tomatoes, roasted apples, and bread and butter. Rob has been out shooting three times. Shot thirteen chickens. I would not go a [    ] so far away for you will be happening something. Roll is helping John [    ] … went up to Rock Creek last Tuesday. He was real tickled about it. Took one hundred and seventy dollars with him. Gave Hannah five dollars and said she was one of the best girls in the county because she had helped Rob so much.

Give my kind respects to all the Prairieville boys and I hope they will come home. We received one [letter] from you today [and] 2 from the other boys [Charles and Marmaduke] this week. With much love, I close.

From your Mother, — Hannah Eckles

¹ William (“Will”) Hacket of Palmyra, Illinois, served with Thomas Eckles in Co. D, 140th Illinois. He died at Memphis on 21 July 1864.

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