1863-65: Josiah Cole Reed to Elizabeth (Freeman) Woodard


How Josiah looked about 1860

These two letters were written by Josiah Cole Reed (1831-1884), the son of Samuel C. Read (1780-1848) and Catherine Browning (1790-1862) of Greenville, Ohio. Josiah enlisted as a private on September 24, 1862 and served in Co. I, 94th Ohio Infantry. After being wounded in the right arm at the Battle of Stones River, his superiors put him on light duty in the dispensary at Hospital No. 2 near Nashville where he, opportunistically, pursued his career in medicine, having studied for the profession for a couple of years prior to the war.

Reed remained at the hospital for two and a half years and committed himself to studying during the odd hours of the day and attending medical lectures at the University of Nashville. Almost immediately after being honorably discharged from the service in March of 1865 he made plans to meet with Lizzie before departing for New York to complete his medical training at Bellevue Hospital Medical College (Greenville, OH, May 20, 1865). He graduated in 1866.

Josiah wrote these letters to Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Freeman, the wife of George F. Woodard.  After George’s death in April 1863, Josiah and Lizzie continued their correspondence and in 1867, Josiah became Lizzie’s second husband.

After graduation, he practiced in Woodington, Ohio, until 1868 when he formed a partnership with Dr. J. H. Green in Troy, Ohio. In addition to his medical practice he also invented an improvised gas machine used as a light.


Addressed to Mrs. Lizzie Woodard, West Charleston, Miami county, Ohio

General Hospital No. 2
Nashville [Tennessee]
Tuesday, April 15th 1863

Mrs Lizzie Woodard
Dear Friend,

Your last welcome letter was received in due time and would have been answered ‘ere this but for the pressing duties that have occupied my time for the last two or three weeks. Our principas druggist having been taken away by his Colonel, the principal duties of this department have devolved upon me, and to one not regularly brought up a druggist, it involves no trifling responsibilities.

I am very sorry to hear of [your husband] George’s dangerous illness, for although I had not the pleasure and benefit of intimate acquaintance, yet I appreciated his worth as a man. And I can sympathize with you for I have spent many anxious hours by the bedside of near and dear friends, but I hope you will not be called to pass through the same ordeal that I have undergone in the end. I hope he may recover his health on the return of settled weather. In previous letters I said nothing about you two, from the fact that I was not at that time aware of your being home. This will be a sufficient apology for not remembering you in my letters. Give George my kindest regards and tell him I should be highly [pleased] to receive a letter from him when he is able to write. I received Minerva’s letter and will answer in due time.

We have no news here of any importance. We are looking for news from the east, but as usual, the news comes slowly from that quarter and I fear when it does come, it will be of the same character of nearly all former results in that quarter. It is supposed here by some that the Army of the Cumberland is waiting of the result of the Charleston expedition, and the Mississippi expedition, before making a forward move. There is skirmishing out in front occasionally — and sometimes pretty heavy skirmishing — but I expect you get the particulars of it sooner than we do for they are very cautious here about publishing any news about the army. We have a good paper here — the Nashville Union — a copy of which I sent your father some time ago. It is improving fast in quality and circulation.

There has been changes made lately in this hospital. We have a new Surgeon in Charge, and a couple of new stewards, but I do not think this change will affect me any. My prospect is good for staying but I am still subject to orders. My arm has been entirely well for some time, but I am troubled with rheumatism in my shoulders. Otherwise I am perfectly well. Drs. Green & Jennings are both here yet and are practicing successfully.

I am getting used to hospital life and begin to like it very well. My duties here are more constant than they would be in the field but they are not attended with so many hardships and so much exposure. I have good opportunities for learning also which is an item of no small importance. It is one of the best situations anywhere for one who has read Medicine a year or two and wants to complete his course. Of course I lack this necessary preparation, but I shall make so much as I can out of my opportunities.

I received a letter yesterday from my old friend — Josh Babb ¹ — who is now with the 71st Ohio at Ft. Donelson. Robert Dinsmore ² was well and sent his regards.

Since writing the above we caught a couple of mice. They got into a box of Farina and we covered it up tight, then wet a sponge with chloroform and threw it in. They soon keeled over and gave up the ghost.

Give my regards to all the family and to Miss Wolf, together with all the rest of the girls. As I am anxious to hear from George, please write soon and inform me how he is.

Your true friend, — Josiah Reed

[to] Mrs. Lizzie Woodard

¹ Joshua L. Babb served in Co. C of the 71st Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). He worked his way up through the ranks from Private to Captain of his company by April 1864. He was wounded by a shell at Shiloh. He was from Babb’s Mills, six miles east of Troy, Ohio.

² Robert G. Dinsmore served as the First Sergeant of Co. C, 71st OVI. A letter from Fort Henry in January 1863 by Dinsmore is posted at: 1863 Fort Henry Letter 

Officers Hospital
Nashville Tenn.
Sunday, Feb. 26th 1865
Mrs. Lizzie Woodward
Highly valued friend,
Your favor of the 19th came to hand yesterday and was read with more than usual interest and to prove to you my appreciation of it I will attempt an immediate answer. I know you will not look for such promptness, but I have as much time now as I will have in a week hence, and I can always answer a letter better immediately than to let it lay awhile unanswered. Besides it is always a pleassure for me to write to such friends as well as to receive their letters and by writing now I will yet answer a week sooner than if I would put it off one week. I am not so busy now as I was when I last wrote you. The lectures ended on the 15th and since then I have not studied so hard. However, I am still occupying all my leisure time in this way as I now have unusually good opportunities for dissecting.

Delay not your answer hereafter on account of fear of encroaching upon my time. My time has never yet been so fully occupied that the perusal and answering of your letters was not only a great pleasure but beneficial. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy as the old adage has it. All work and study with no recreation and no social enjoyment makes the wheels of time run very sluggishly. There should be a harmonious development of all the faculties of the mind but we have not the chance here to carry this out. All our associates are soldiers – one uniform mass of humanity, and hence our social enjoyment if it be worthy of the name, is of a very limited and monotonous character. We seldom get a glimpse of the opposite sex, except those connected with the hospital. Some of the boys get acquainted around through the city, and go out with society, but such society. Now under these circumstances you can easily imagine how highly a letter is valued, particularly when it comes from such friends, as I know you to be.

This is Sunday night and I feel ever so lonsome. I wish I could be with you this evening, if it were only for a few hours, how swiftly time would wing his flight. I would then tell you much which I now have neither time nor disposition to write. I am much obliged for the compliment you have been pleased to pay me. But I would be more highly pleased if I could only be persuaded that it was strictly true.

It seems you are having some serious sickness in your family – hope it may not extend to any other members of the family and that your adopted brother may soon recover. It seems you have formed quite and attachment for Miss Brown – it appears she was univerally loved by the school. This is what I love to hear for it is one of the best assurances that she has been doing a good work as a teacher. I wonder what has become of Miss Church? Have not heard of her for more than a year. Should like to have visited your festival in the evening and heard those duets and songs. Oh, I visited the theatre about one week ago, the first time for six months. We had the pleasure of hearing Maggie Mitchell on her favorite play — Fanchun or The Cricket. This is a very good play and she plays it to perfection. It was repeated here every night for a week with crowded houses every night. There are two theatres, one Opera and two or three smaller affairs, all crowded every night.

We have been having considerable rain this last week, the Cumberland [river] is quite high, mud plenty though not as much as there would be after a similar rain in most places in the North. This day was very beautiful but I did not get time to walk out and enjoy some of the benefits of such a day at this season.

Dr. Jennings talks of locating in Tippecanoe soon. If he does I hope he will get extensive patronage for he is not only a good physician but a tip top man. Three years of experience here in the hospital where he has treated 20 men to where he would one in civil practice, will be worth more to him than 10 years of ordinary practice….

Your advice with reference to restoring confidence upon the companion of one’s heart is highly appreciated —What could be the value of a union not founded upon mutual love and confidence. I could never consent to wed with one in whom I had no confidence. Within one year I expect to be with you again enjoying the comforts and luxuries of civil life. You say you wonder what changes will occur in my life within that time. Don’t know but do not expect anything of importance. The great epoch of my life I do not think will occur within that time. Had I more time and space I would give some very good reasons why.

On glancing at this letter I see so many omissions and mistakes that I am afraid to read it over for fear I will become so disgusted with it as to tear it up and then I would have to write another. I shall expect an answer to this in two weeks. Shall I be disappointed? Of course your convenience will not be overlooked. I only me(an) that I hope it will be convenient for you to answer immediately, that I may receive a good, long, sweet letter in two weeks.

Received three valentines but none worth anything
I remain as ever your true friend, —  J. Reed

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