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.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Addressed to Mrs. Lizzie Woodard, West Charleston, Miami county, Ohio
General Hospital No. 2
Tuesday, April 15th 1863
Mrs Lizzie Woodard
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.