1834: Stephen D. Ward to Benjamin Pearl

This letter was written by Rev. Stephen D. Ward (1801-1858), pastor of the Congregational Church in East Machias, Washington county, Maine. Rev. Ward was a native of New Jersey and graduated at Nassau Hall [Princeton] in 1819. He studied theology at New Haven [Yale] and taught there for a time before relocating to Maine. He served as pastor of the Congregational Church at Machias from 1834 to 1844.

Rev. Ward wrote the letter to Benjamin Pearl (1774-1840) of West Boxford, Massachusetts. Benjamin married Mary Hovey at Boxford on May 7, 1807. After Mary’s death, Benjamin married Sally Ayer of Haverhill, marriage intention date being Dec. 1, 1820. He died aged 66 years [Died Sept. 3, 1840].

This poignant letter conveys the intelligence of the death of Stephen Peter Talbot (1811-1834), the son of Hon. John Coffin Talbot (1784-1861)—a judge and state politician of East Machias, Maine. Stephen was among several passengers aboard the packet schooner Sarah Prince who drowned when the vessel shipwrecked on the Seal Islands [Newfoundland] early in the morning of 2 October 1834 [see article published in the Norfolk Advertiser published on 18 October 1834]. The vessel blew off course during a storm on her passage from Boston to Eastport. His headstone states that his body was retrieved and buried at East Machias on 12 October 1834. Stephen Talbot graduated from Bowdoin College in 1831 and was practicing law at the time of his death.

Addressed to Benjamin Pearl, West Boxford, [Essex county] Massachusetts

E. Machias [Maine]
October 9, 1834

Dear Sir,

I wrote this to inform you of the melancholy intelligence which reached us yesterday morning, Mr. [Stephen C.] Talbot, my friend & fellow traveller has finished his earthly career & that too in a very sudden & awful manner. The vessel in which he embarked for Eastport was wrecked & lost on the Seal Islands during the storm on the morning of the 3rd October. Seventeen of the persons on board were drowned & six saved. His body was found & buried by the survivors. Thus he with whom I parted but a few days ago with the expectation of meeting in a short time whom we saw so lately in the full enjoyment of life & health, now lies hastily & rudely buried upon a rock in the ocean. The vessel in which he was lost was the one in which I purposed to set sail until the intelligence of the death of my child induced me to take a more direct route homeward. Thus by a special interposition of Providence, my own life has been spared & the death of my child has been made the means of my preservation. So I suppose my brother Henry has set out upon his journey and not knowing whither to direct a letter to him, will you have the goodness to transmit to him the above intelligence if you know his direction. Please remember me to Mrs. Pearl & your daughters & to Mrs. Hovey & Family.

Yours sincerely, — Stephen D. Ward

[to] Benjamin Pearly, Esq.

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1865: Unidentified Civilian to his Mother

I believe this partial letter was written by a civilian tasked by the government to arrange for the transport of cotton bales from Eastport, Mississippi, by steamer up the Tennessee River for sale in the North in the days following the close of hostilities. The cotton was no doubt confiscated by the US Government during the Civil War and stored in warehouses throughout the South. Northern newspapers reported that a cargo of 250 bales of cotton from Eastport, Mississippi, arrived in Cairo on 19 July—one month after this letter was written. It is estimated that over a million bales of cotton had been accumulated in the cotton-growing region of the southwest during the Civil War.


Eastport, Mississippi, on the Tennessee River; Union encampment on hill at left.


Nashville, Tennessee
June 19th 1865
Monday, 10 o’clock A. M.

My dear Mother,

Yours of the 11th inst. just received. I hasten to answer and will give an account of myself since leaving here on the 9th inst.


Johnsonville, Tennessee

Receiving instructions from Mr. [James R.] Dillon ¹ on the morning of the 9th to proceed to the Nashville & North Western Railroad to Johnsonville, terminus of the railroad on the Tennessee river & by steamer from there to Eastport, Mississippi. I left here at 11 A.M., reached Johnsonville 5 P. M., learned that the boat would not arrive until sometime during the night. After eating some supper, looked around the place which consists of 6 large buildings for storing govt. property, depot, &c. and about 12 log & canvas houses which are used by sutlers, refugees, & niggers. The Hotel at which I stopped was two stories high, three rooms in each story. The lower floor front room was used as grocery. The other two for dining & cooking rooms. When I went to bed, they put me in a room with a dozen other poor mortals who were trying to rest on narrow bed sacks filled with corn stalks. I slept what little I could.

Was awakened at 3 A.M. & took passage on Steamer Jonas Powell for Eastport. Was able to procure a stateroom &c.  The boat is a very fine one, set a fine table, and everything is neat & clean. The speed of the boat is just enough to make the air cool & delightful. The scenery of the Tennessee [river] is rather monotonous although on the whole it is pleasant for its shores are thickly wooded with only once in a great while a clearing. We stop at every landing & traders who have come for the purpose traffic with the people who bring down butter, eggs, chickens, milk, &c. which they trade way for groceries & dry goods. Butter is worth only 10 cents per lb. & eggs the same per dozen.

I think I have met some of the lowest species of humanity. The women are round shouldered, sallow complexion, sunken-eyed, & very filthy in their appearance. The children are mostly half naked and chew snuff the same as their Mothers & sisters.

Reached Eastport 7 A.M. Sunday morning. After breakfast aboard the boat, walk to [Brig.] Gen. [Edward] Hatch‘s headquarters ¾ mile from the river. The General was glad to receive me, told me to stop in his tent & eat at  his table while I rec_____ed. I came to look after cotton but it not having arrived yet, may have to wait sometime. The officers of the General’s staff were very pleasant. In evening with General, called on a lady whom he said was the Belle of Eastport. By the way, I have forgot to mention Eastport is not so large as Johnsonville. Boasts of only 3 government buildings. No people live here—only a few in vicinity. I have spent my time profitably as possible by reading what few books I could find around headquarters. The people through all this section of country are very destitute. One mama & child starved to death last week.

[Letter unsigned; missing the end]

¹ James R. Dillon was a special treasury agent charged by the US Government with taking possession of the confiscated cotton reaching Nashville’s quartermaster depot managed by Chief Quartermaster Col. A. J. Mackay.

1861: Josiah Howard Hobbs to James Monroe Lovering

The first two letters presented here were written by Josiah Howard Hobbs (1834-1919), the son of Daniel S. Hobbs (1800-1883) and Judith G. Chapman (1801-1887) of Carroll county, New Hampshire. Josiah was an 1856 graduate of Dartmouth College and a graduate of the Albany Law School in 1859. In 1860, he was studying law. He was married to Mary Elizabeth Erwin (1841-1890) in 1878.

Hobbs wrote the first two letters to James Monroe Lovering (1817-1885), the son of John and Sarah (Leavitt) Lovering of Exeter, Rockingham, New Hampshire. James’ first wife was Nancy Brown of North Hampton. They were married in 1841. His second wife was Oriana (Mitchell) Wingate. In the 1860 US Census, Lovering’s occupation was given as “clerk.”

The third letter in this grouping was written by Nancy (Brown) Lovering to her husband, James M. Lovering.


Washington D. C.
January 5, 1861

Friend Lovering,

Last eve the city was much excited on hearing that the U. S. Frigate Brooklyn is now at Norfolk, Va. coaling up and receiving troops, destined for South Carolina service. The secessionists are very bitter in their denunciation of Buchanan. Doubtless the messages over the telegraphic wires inform you of the events which have transpired down south such as taking of Government Arsenals and forts.

Mrs. Lovering is as well as usual while Mary has almost recovered from her cold and is nicely this morning. Mr. Little & family are to leave Mr. Morehead’s domain. I send you a letter which Mr. Lovering handed me. I have sent the Tribune to your Father. There is no special movement on foot that I am aware of among the Republicans for meeting the present crisis save that all the Republicans of Congress met on yesterday at Mr. [Schuyler] Colfax Con. Room and meet again today. Their proceedings are kept a secret thus far. This meeting looks as if something is being mediated.

I am yours very truly. In haste, –Josiah H. Hobbs

James M. Lovering, Esq., Concord, N. H.


Washington D. C.
January 7, 1861

Friend Lovering,

In the contingency that Mrs. Lovering should not write you this morn, I have resolved to send my autograph.

The reinforcement of Fort Washington and the organization of citizen troops of course irritated the secession men. Even Mrs. Moorehead is a little excited because troops have been sent to Fort Washington.

The Virginia Legislature meets today and the rumor goes that the legislature would authorize the seizing of the fort forsooth. The F. F. V. [First Families of Virginia] have been anticipated and are consequently vexed. The impression is that the Pacific Railroad bill will be killed in the Senate by a close vote. Mr. [John P.] Hale ought to be here. It comes up today for final disposition. Affairs are all right in the Folding Room. Mr. Phillips continues a little anxious about the fate of the “Deficiency Bill.”

Matters at our Boarding House are coming to a focus. Mr. Thompson has changed his maid and is quite eloquent in praise of our landlord & lady.

I apprehend great men change their minds sometime. Buchanan for illustration.

Mr. Lovering and Mary are well. The latter has recovered fully.

Please remember me to Dana. I am very truly yours. In haste, — J. H. Hobbs

[to] J. M. Lovering, Esq., Exeter, N. H.


Exeter [New Hampshire]
June 16, 1861

My Dear Husband,

As the people have all gone to church and left me to care of the babe, and he being asleep, I will employ my time in writing you a few lines although I have nothing new to write, only it is very warm. I hope it is not any warmer with you than here. Miss Martha Gillman arrived here last week from Charleston, Virginia. She said the people were all leaving and going to the mountains for they expected a battle soon.

I don’t know how they know anything about it but they say that Marston can’t be elected Door Keeper again. I would try for it myself if I were you. Jimmie and Mary were very much pleased with their letters. I am glad you had such a nice time at West Chester. It seems a long time to the 20th of July but I see in the papers that they were going to try to attack Washington. Tuck asked me the other day if I wasn’t afraid that Davis would run off with you. He told me he thought that Davis would try to take Washington yet but he did not think he would succeed.

Your Aunt Sanborn was here to dinner so you see she has not gone home yet. Marston is in town today. David has been quite unwell the last week with pain in his side. Your Father is well. Stephen Dearborn has got most well but Wadleigh is very low [and] not expected to live many days. Mary has got a bad sore. It come out in a large bunch first and now her ear is very sore and runs a good deal. It is the scrofula, I suppose.

I want to see you very much. It is four weeks tomorrow since you left and it seems as thhough it was four months. The children are raised Ned. Tell Mrs. Litell that I will answer her letter as soon as I get time. I went up to Mrs. Collins the other day. They have a very convenient house and a very pleasant one. They have as many rooms as we but one, only some of them are not quite as large. They are putting up another piece of the stable so as to shut us up quite. Mary has been out all the morning trying to see Marston to bid him goodbye but I think she did not make out.

They think of celebrating the Fourth [of July], the children of the Sabbath School. Miss Carthan is at Springfield yet. I wish she would always keep off for it is much pleasanter without them. There is not much going on here. Take care of your stomach. Ask Litell who he has to go round with now. Read has left for I think they must miss each other.

Marston expects to leave Portsmouth Thursday for Washington from Boston by water. David and Tom are going to Portsmouth tomorrow to see them. We all send love. Goodbye. Write soon. I wish I was with you.

Yours affectionately, — N. B. Lovering

1862-63: The Death of Pvt. Isaac W. Barker

These letters pertain to Pvt. Isaac Watkins Barker (1841-1862) of Co. D, 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) who was killed in action during the Battle of South Mountain on 14 September 1862. Isaac was the only son of Thomas Fuller Barker (1804-1892) and his first wife Clarissa Watkins (1805-1854) of Blandford, Hampden county, Massachusetts. Isaac’s siblings included Martha Watkins (Barker) Horr (1834-1872), Helen B. Barker (183?-1887), Lizzie F. (Barker) Wright (183?-19xx), Vesta J. (Barker) Freeman (1836-1929), and Julia A (Barker) Warfield (1838-1922).

[Note: These letters are from the collection of Richard Weiner and are published by express consent.]


A scene of the fighting at South Mountain from the cover of John David Hoptak’s book.


This letter was written by George E. Blakelee (1836-1909) who later became a physician and a newspaper editor. He was eight years the editor of the state agricultural paper—the Ohio Farmer—before moving to Chicago and earning a degree in homeopathic medicine. He was subsequently the editor of the New York Tribune, the Farmer’s Home Journal, and the Weekly Novelist. He practiced medicine in New York for 16 years.

George was the son of Philemon Blakelee (1809-1853) and his wife Amanda (1812-1895). I have not yet verified it, but my hunch is that Amanda Isaac’s Aunt—either the sister of his mother or father. Census records indicate she was born in Massachusetts.

In 1860, at the age of 24, George resided in Huntington, Lorain county, Ohio, where he earned a living as a “carriage maker.” Residing in the same household and assisting him in the business was 18 year-old Isaac W. Barker. 

Huntington [Lorain county, Ohio]
October 8th 1862

Dear Father & Friends,


The Congregational Church in Wellington, painted by Archibald Willard in 1857

Sunday the 5th was a beautiful day. At one o’clock P. M. the people of all the churches and a great many that seldom if ever are seen at church convened at the Congregational Church to attend the funeral of our beloved Isaac. After the singing of an appropriate hymn and a prayer, [Rev.] Mr. [Ansel Russell] Clark took his text, Proverbs 14-37 and preached one of his best productions prepared expressly for the occasion. I furnished him with many extracts from Isaac’s letters which he used to good advantage. At the close of the sermon, a large choir arose and sang the hymn “Enon” in the Jubilee on the 266 page. The words are as follows.

“Go to the grave in all thy glorious prime, In full activity of zeal and power; A Christian cannot die before his time, The Lords appointment in the servant’s hour. Go to the grave; at noon from labor cease; Rest on thy sheaves, thy harvest work is done; Come from the heat of battle, and in peace, Soldier, go home; with thee the fight is won. Go to the grave, for there thy Savior lay In death’s embraces, ere He rose on high; And all the ransom’d, by that narrow way, Pass to eternity life beyond the sky.” [Author: James Montgomery]

There is not room on this sheet to write the hymn in verse order, but it is punctuated right. I selected the piece. The church would not hold the people that assembled. James & E., Ralph [Horr] & M[artha], Uncle A’s family, Mary & myself were the mourners.

Since writing before, I have received some verses composed by one of Isaac’s mates on his death. I will send a copy. Also some composed by Mother. James received a letter from Capt. [Howard S.] Lovejoy saying that Isaac was buried on Monday the 15th alone and a headboard put up at his grave with his name, company, and regiment on it. Also Capt. Lovejoy has sent the papers to Washington that are necessary for you to draw pay and the bounty, by your applying.

The draft came off in Ohio October 1st. Huntington had her full quota, so none were drafted from here. Wellington had 19 drafted. No one was drafted that you know. Lagrange had 13 drafted and Ralph [Horr] ¹ was one. They have broken up house keeping. [His wife] Martha is coming to Huntington to live and Ralph goes to camp this week.

We are all well and doing well. Crops are very good. I have 4 acres of corn, ½ acre of potatoes, have thrashed 24 bushels of wheat and 125 bushels of oats, fruit very plenty. My health is good. I have all that I can do in the [wagon-making] shop.

Yours as ever, — George E. Blakely

¹ Ralph Turner Horr (1835-1882) was the son of Roswell Horr (1796-1841) and Caroline Turner (1805-1894). He was married to Martha Watkins Barker (1834-1872). Ralph was a harness maker by trade.


This letter was also written by George E. Blakeslee and was most likely sent at the same time as the one datelined from Huntington on 8 October 1862.

No. 2

As to Isaac’s affairs, when he enlisted, he wished me to receive his wages and use them to settle up his affairs, debts &c., which I did. He also wished me to keep all his money after settling affairs in a bunch to use it as I thought best. I have invested his money in sheep and steers. The account is as follows:

Cash sent first time — $25.50
Paid for boots & Stamps — $6.50
Cash sent second time — $20.00
Paid James (April 1862) on debt — $10.00
Cash sent third time —  $45.00
Paid for boots — $5.50
Paid (July 1) for postage stamps  — $0.50
Received note against me — $9.00
[   ] balance on account — $2.00
[Balance] $101.50
Taking expenditures from the receipts $101.50 – $22.50, it leaves due Isaac $79.00

Now this money belongs to you. I have got it invested so that I cannot get it out without sacrifice until April or June, just which you may choose. I shall have two hundred worth of steers to sell in April(this is the time that drovers flock in for 2 year-old). I will agree to send you the $79.00 by the first day of May next if that will do you. All the money received has passed through James’ hands. I will get a certificate showing the account is correct. Isaac lent me the money without interest if I would settle up his affairs. I have done so, There is a note with me against Bennitt & Fields of $20.00 which I will collect if you order it and send the money directly to you, and also I will send some on any one account if I succeed well in collecting where it is due me.

Isaac’s trunk is here containing his clothes &c. What will you have done with it? It contains one pair of black pants, silk vest, black coat, 2 pair of boots & shoes &c. &c. Write all about it & oblige.

“They have laid him away” — written on the death of Isaac Barker by G. G. Field in camp.


G. G. Field’s poem was actually an adaptation of one that was written anonymously as a tribute to Confederate Capt. Henry Clay Gorrell of the 2nd North Carolina Infantry who died at the Battle of Fair Oaks in June 1862. It was published widely and became a folk ballad under the title, “May he rest in Peace.”

They have laid him away in the cold damp ground
On the banks of a southern stream,
Afar from his home in a stranger’s land
Where the ray of a southern sun gleams.

No coffin enclosed his mangled remains
No shroud save his uniform coat,
But his name is sustained in the laurels of fame
And on memory’s pedestal is wrote.

He sleeps all unheeding the cannons deep roar
As the song of the murmuring stream
The armies march o’er him in battle array
Yet he heeds not the musketry’s gleam.

For his country he fought, for his country he died
A martyr to liberty’s cause;
Fair freedom he loved & to see her prevail
He died while defending her laws.

In a little white cottage in the land of the North
They are waiting his coming again;
But they dream not his body all mangled and torn
Has been laid ‘neath the field of the slain.

Sleep, soldier sleep! in thy rough southern tomb
While above thee the soft breezes wave,
In the summer the birds they requiem sing
From the trees o’er thy patriot grave.

Now write me a large letter. Tell me how you want Isaac’s matters fixed &c. Give our love to all. Tell Dwight that his cupboard stands in the shop where he left it but have found no chance to get what it is worth. I will continue to try & send the pay as soon as sold. Yours as ever, — George E. Blakelee


This letter was presumably written by George E. Blakelee’s wife.

February 1, 1863

Dear Sister [Julia] and Brother,

I delayed writing to you on account of seeing Capt. [Howard S.] Lovejoy. He came here on furlough but I did not see him. I suppose E. wrote Pa all that Capt. Lovejoy said about Isaac. He speaks very highly of Isaac. He was a brave soldier. He was most too daring—too venturesome. That was the greatest fault with him. He was so elated with the idea of going into battle that he did not think of danger. He was anxious to do something for his country and he did. He died for his country. We ought not to wish him back for I believe he is happy but oh! I can’t help to murmur. The loss of such a good brother is so much. I wish I could feel more reconciled.

The boys in the 23rd are coming home on furlough now and when I see the boys coming home—all but Isaac—it brings such ugly, wicked thoughts in my mind. And some of the boys get wounded and come home. I wonder why it would not have been Isaac. This is wrong and I try to banish such thoughts.

How is Vesta? I hope she is getting along well. Is her babe well? The little darling, I wish I could see it. What are they going to call it. I wish she would call it Francis. Julia, you did not answer my question, where do Edwin [Freeman] and Vesta live?

I received a letter from [sister] Martha [Horr] last week. She wrote she does not hear from home only when I send my letters to her. Now why isn’t that some of you can’t write to her? Helen I should think might write to her as many presents as she has had from her. Martha feels bad and slighted. She would love dearly to hear from Pa. Julia, you inquired where Aurelia is. She is teaching in Brighton—gets 14 dollars a month. She boarded with me last fall and attended school. Libby is at home and health is quite poor. She has something growing in her nose. She has been to Cleveland to have it operated upon.

We have had a very open winter. It has been nothing but mud and slosh all winter. I can’t go anywhere—not even to my nearest neighbors. I can’t visit the girls because I can’t get there. For my part, I am heartily sick of Ohio. The old settlers say they never saw such a winter.

Julia, I saw in the Springfield paper the death of Eli Shepard—also of Marble Shepard. How is Mas Shepard’s health? Does Lucy live with her? Has she any children? Julia, next time you write, tell me all the news—girls who are married and who is not, and who has died. I feel very sorry for Mrs. Kyle. Give my love to her. Is Lucas tending upon her yet? What is Helen doing this winter? Is she attending school? Tell her to improve her time so she can teach. Isaac was so anxious to have Helen get education to teach. Cousin Libby Barker expects to teach next summer. James’ folks were well the last I heard.

Julia, little Mari is the prettiest child I ever saw—such an amiable disposition. I never knew her to show any spond[?] yet. I tell E. she is too good for this world. She says everybody tells her she won’t raise her. I suppose [   ] commences keeping house this week. George is very hearty and tough this winter. He has kept a hired man in the shop ever since last September. They have all they can do and work early and late. There are four other wagon makers in town. They have nothing to do. I don’t know why it is.

My health is not very good. We have had a bad winter for invalids. I think I shall go to Wisconsin next summer for my health. George says if I run down as I did last Spring, I must go. I have Isaac’s likeness—a first rate one. When I go to Oberlin, I am going to have a large photograph taken and put in a frame. I must close so goodbye. Give my love to all, Motherm and the little ones.

P. S. Ask Pa if there is a man living in Blandford by the name of Louis Davis and what kind of folks are they.


The following two letters were written by George Newell Burdick (1841-1874), the son of George L. Burdick (1808-1866) and his first wife, Harriet Bowers (1804-1843) of North Blandford, Hampden county, Massachusetts. George took Catherine Bates (1817-1856), the widow of Eli B. Warfield (1810-1840) as his second wife. Eli and Catherine’s son, Dwight Eli Warfield (1837-1912) is mentioned in the letter. Dwight was married in 1856 to Isaac’s sister, Julia A. Barker (1838-1922).

Blandford [Massachusetts]
October 19th 1860

Friend Isaac,

I received your letter a week ago today with much pleasure as I always do your letters. We had a cattle show here in Blandford about two weeks ago and a very good one for this town, I think. I wish you had been here. I think you would have enjoyed it very much indeed. I think Francis had better go to school. I should advise him to study the spelling book a little more though. I have had a letter from him since he went to Westfield to school. I supposed that he was a better scholar until I had a letter from him.

I think your chance is good for Lizzie Hall yet. You had better come out and try it and see. We have a singing school tonight. I wish you was here to go with me. We used to have some good times singing school nights and I hope we shall have some more but we cannot tell as to that. We know not how soon we may die, but if we do not meet on this earth again, I hope and trust we shall meet in a happier world than this.

I am glad you live so nigh church. I should consider that a great privilege though we are not so far off as some in town.

Dwight [Warfield] is here and he says he will carry this letter for nothing so I guess I will send it by him and save three cents. I do not believe you can read it when you get it for it is about equal to Francis’ writing. My hands are so stiff, I cannot hold on to the penholder.

We have got our fall work almost done. Then I am a going visiting some, I’ll bet you. I wish you was here to go with me. I think we should enjoy it very much.

Sylvia Siger is married to a man from Becket [named Simeon Cooper]. I guess there is not any more news. Give my love to Julia and Sis and accept a share yourself. Cornelia says she cannot write this time. Write soon. From your old friend, — Newell G. Burdick


Blandford [Massachusetts]
January 22, 1861

Friend Isaac,

I almost feel ashamed to answer your letter, it has been so long, but I don’t have much time; I have so much to attend to. We have Lyceums to he Centre now. I have had to speak once. The question was, “Resolved, that the secession of South Carolina is beneficial to the Union.” I was on the negative and got the question. D. Shurtleff spoke with me. He is smart.

I am not very well now. I have got a sore throat so I did not go to school today. We have got lots of snow here. We are having cold weather now. It was very cold and windy yesterday. The snow blew so we could not see but a little ways.

Since I received your letter, one of my friends has departed this life. It was Martha [F.] Hatch. She was buried a week ago tomorrow. She had the inflammatory rheumatism. It struck to her heart and she could not live then. She was a good girl. She had her ways but I liked her. I waited on her all of last winter and until after the 4th of July. I have spent many happy hours with her. Her people feel very bad indeed but we have all got to part with friends that are near and dear to us. But if they are only prepared, we feel very much different about it. She had a great many friends and she will be missed very much.

Franklin [Clinton] Knox and Lucy Ann Cartter are made one. Jane Lewis has got a son by Frank Knox. She is very sick with fever. They do not think she will get well.

Ursula [Maria] Herrick was married New Years to a man from Springfield [named Emory Cutler Hawes]. He is a widower with two children and a butcher. He used to be in company with Mr. Chaffee. Mr. Chaffee made the match, I understand. Asahel W. is teaching school in Thorndike this winter. Henry Blair is at home now. I do not know how he feels about his misfortune. I do not think he could have thought much of her. It is a good thing for her, I guess, for she is not very healthy and he wants someone that can work, you know. I do not know who he will get now, I am sure.

Give my love to Dwight’s people and tell them to write to me. Tell them we are as well as  usual. I am glad they like the West so well but should like to have them here. Write soon. So not wait as long as I have. Yours as ever, — Newell G. Burdick


1863: Jesse Smith Ormsbee to Ira Ormsbee

This letter was written by 44 year-old Jesse Smith Ormsbee (1818-1864) who enlisted on 15 August 1862 as a private in Co. G, 4th Vermont Volunteers. He died from wounds on 24 August 1864 at Charlestown, Virginia.

Smith was the son of Nathaniel Ormsbee and Sally Merritt. He was married twice. His first wife was Abigail Wheeler (1824-1848); his second wife was Mary Ann Loveyoy (1828-1892).

This letter was composed just after the return of the 4th Vermont to their camp at Brandy Station following Meade’s unsuccessful Mine Run Campaign.


Members of the 4th Vermont Infantry in Camp

Addressed to Mr. Ira Ormsbee, Marshfield, Vermont
Postmarked Washington D. C.

Camp near Brandy Station, Va.
December 5, 1863

Absent family,

I have got the opportunity to inform you that my health is good as common and hope these few lines will find you the same. I received your kind letter mailed the 24th November and 2 papers. I should [have] received it sooner but we have been after the rebs again. We started the 26th of November and crossed the Rapidan the 28th and recrossed back the 1st December and came back to the old camp the 2nd day [very] tired [and] was glad when we got back.

I hain’t got my box yet but I shall get it now just as soon as they bring Express’s.

Hain’t not much to write now. It is cloudy today but I don’t think that it is agoing to storm—not at present.

I don’t want to have that line to run so as to take any timber to amount to much on the north side of the rocky pasture. Have the line run with the old fence from the upper corner east upper corner of the pasture. I think I should let Dan have it for fifty dollars. I want the money paid over to Uncle Ira Smith and when they have the line established, divide the line to build the fence and have it put on record and have Ira Smith see to it and have a fence built.

I want you to send me some more postage stamps so if we stop here long, I can write oftener to my friends. I can’t think of any more this time so good luck to you all, — Smith Ormsbee

I want you to hand that letter to Ira Smith

1862-63: Oswald Jackson to Ella Moore Willing

These letters were written by Oswald Jackson (1838-1891) who entered the service as a 1st Lieutenant in Co. F, 17th Pennsylvania Infantry but transferred to Co. I, 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry [“Rush’s Regiment of Lancers”] where he was promoted to captain in August 1862. While serving in this capacity, he was detailed as an aide-de-camp to Major Gen. Erasmus D. Keyes with whom he served until August 1863 when he resigned his commission as a major. Keyes commanded the Fourth Army Corps headquartered at Yorktown.

Oswald (or “Ossie”) was the son of Isaac Rand Jackson (1806-1842) and Louisa Catherine Carroll (1809-1869) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ossie wrote the letter to Ella Moore Willing (1838-1923) whom he later married.

An obituary notice for Oswald Jackson, published on 9 December 1891 in the New York Tribune, states that he “was the head of the firm of Oswald Jackson & Brother, wine importers of No. 21 South William Street” and that he was “lost overboard from the North German Lloyd steamship Fulda on November 30 [1891].” Oswald’s education began in Brussels where his father “was at one time Unites States Minister to Brussels. He subsequently was graduated from Burlington University, Burlington, Iowa. On his mother’s side he was descended from the Carroll family of Maryland. In the Civil War, Mr. Jackson was aide-de-camp on the staff of General Keyes and rose to the rank of major. He began business first in Philadelphia but of late the headquarters of his firm have been in this city [New York]. Mr. Jackson was well known in yachting circles and had owned the Mistral, Iola, and Fenela. He leaves a widow and two children.” A day earlier, the Herald reported that it was assumed Jackson was swept overboard during inclement weather on board ship.


Envelope and Cabinet Card Image of Oswald Jackson (ca. 1885)



29 January 1862, Washington D. C. (WJ 9317)

13 February 1862, Washington D. C.

16 July 1862, Harrison’s Bar, Va. (WJ 9319)

23 August 1862, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9320)

21 October 1862, Yorktown, Va.

24 October 1862, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9321)

26 October 1862, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9392)

27 October 1862, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9323)

28 October 1862, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9322)

1 November 1862, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9324)

12 November 1862, Boston, Mass.

28 November 1862, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9325)

30 November 1862, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9326)

17 December 1862, Fortress Monroe, Va.

21 December 1862, Yorktown, Va.

26 December 1862, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9359)


8 January 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9327)

11 January 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9390)

16 January 1863, Yorktown, Va.

19 January 1863, Yorktown, Va.

24 January 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9391)

26 January 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9328)

1 February 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9329)

3 February 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9360)

6 February 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9330)

7 February 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9331)

16 February 1863, Yorktown, Va.

17 February 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9332)

18 February 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9333)

20 February 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9334)

21 February 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9335)

3 March 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9350)

6 March 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9361)

8 March 1863, Yorktown, Va.

12 March 1863, Yorktown, Va.

13 March 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9352)

15 February 1863, Fortress Monroe, Va.

15 March 1863, Yorktown, Va.

16 March 1863, Yorktown, Va.

17 March 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9353)

19 March 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9354)

26 March 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9393)

27 March 1863, Yorktown, Va.

30 March 1863, Yorktown, Va.

31 March 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9384)

1 April 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9358)

2 April 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9357)

20 April 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9382)

21 April 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9356)

22 April 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9389)

23 April 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9355)

30 April 1863, Yorktown, Va.

1 May 1863, Yorktown, Va.

2 May 1863, Yorktown, Va.

3 May 1863, Yorktown, Va.

4 May 1863, Yorktown, Va.

8 May 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9338)

8 May 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9339)

11 May 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9340)

14 May 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9341)

19 May 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9342)

5 June 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9388)

10 June 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9343)

23 June 1863, Yorktown, Va. (WJ 9344)

23 June 1863, “Nine Mile” Ordinary, Va. (WJ 9344)

1 July 1863, White House, Va. (WJ 9346)

28 August 1863, Philadelphia, Pa. (WJ 9347)

30 August 1863, Philadelphia, Pa. (WJ 9385)

2 September 1863, Philadelphia, Pa.

6 September 1863, Philadelphia, Pa. (WJ 9349)

8 September 1863, Philadelphia, Pa. (WJ 9348)

10 September 1863, Philadelphia, Pa. (WJ 9361)





1863: Temple Franklin Cooper to Unity (Patrick) Cooper

collarThese letters were written by 58 year-old Temple Franklin Cooper (1805-1864) who served as captain of Co. K, 52nd Georgia Volunteer Infantry. Temple entered the Confederate service in early March 1862 and was captured at Champion’s Hill, Mississippi, on 16 May 1863. He died of erysipelas at Johnson’s Island, Ohio, on 2 February 1864. He was buried there in Grave #141.

Temple was the son of Joseph Perrill Cooper (1777-1842) and Sarah Anne Franklin (1778-1874). He was married in 1841 to Unity Love Patrick (1825-1896) and resided in Franklin county, Georgia, where he worked as an attorney before the war—his office being in Carnesville.



Knoxville, [Tennessee]
June 10, 1862

My dear wife,

I write you in haste as I just now returned to this place after an absence of six weeks. I got off a sick bed three days since & have marched day [&] night & am here feeble but much better than I expected to be. It is what is here called camp fever which is caused by excessive exposure in rain, night air, & then lying in camp in idleness, living on rich, strong diet without any vegetables. Why I believe I was nearly cured by one mess of lettuce. If I only had some vegetables that you have, I could get well.

I have received nothing from you for a month nearly. I suppose it was owing to my not directing you to address me at Knoxville as there is no mail above this place. But I do not know where I shall be in another day as our troops are being forced to Chattanooga where we hear they are fighting now. I shall start in the morning if I am no worse than now as my company has gone & there is not a commissioned officer in the company. [Crawford H.] Little is sick at home. [Richard Green] Gordon in the hospital. And [William M.] Bagwell just got so he could go. Out of 30 Lieutenants in the 52nd Georgia, only three reported for duty the last report & only 2 Captains out of ten so that you can see how we are suffering from mumps, measles, & camp fever.

Write me how they are doing up at home & how all our vegetables & oats are doing, so soon as you cut your oats. If there is a season in the ground, lay off the ground three feet in deep furrows & drill one furrow with little yellow corn & the other in the whippoorwill pretty thick & cover them with a small plow—not too deep.

When did you hear from Calhoun? How is daughter & J. P. studying? Send me a paper occasionally & write fully about all things, public & private. [My attendant slave] Buck has been sick a week—a pain over his eyes. I am going to take him to Chattanooga with me, I think. He sends you all howdy & says he is better. I am tired of this war indeed.

When Arminius or any other person comes down, look in my bundle of papers marked “Infirm Court Papers” (I think) & get a bond signed by Asa H. Ayers & Thomas Morris suing for a bastard child of Martha L. Westbrooks (I think) & let A. give it to Mr. Langston to collect, & take Langston’s note for it & you put in away & keep it.

Your affectionate husband, — T. F. Cooper


Addressed to Mrs. Temple F. Cooper, Athens, Georgia

Vicksburg, Mississippi
January 23, 1863

My dear wife,

Thinking the letter I wrote & sent you a few days ago by mail might have miscarried, I send this by Capt. [John Owen] Gailey of Co. A, 52nd Regiment Ga. of Habersham county who has been detailed to gather deserters & any others that he can to fill out our much thinned ranks in our army everywhere.

The enemy has appeared again in his boats on the Yazoo river about ten miles above. We are on the alert & watching the river day & night. As I gave you some considerable account of the geology & topography (look for these words) of Vicksburg. I can add but little on that subject. Has that batch of notes on Green & Isbel been found yet? Look in my Birds papers & send me a transfer signed by your Pa to a fi. fa. John H. Patrick vs. Clark W. Temples & John Bird. It may be in my pocket book or Hart Court papers. Send me also the bill of sale from Bird to your Pa & myself for Willis, As, & Wes. Draw off copies of them & keep the copies safely when you find the originals. The bill of sale from Bird may be with my bills of sale for negroes.

Has Calhoun ¹ written to you to sell his watch? If I should not return, send Willis with a pass to bring As & Wes back next October & sell Martin for $1500. Jas. for the same if you can. Direct Harrison Adams & Co. to send you $50 at the end of two months for McKin. If they send by mail, best cut the bills. Dr. Willis F. Westmoreland will have due you $70 at the end of two months, if Ben goes to Atlanta. If he don’t go, Jordan’s hire will be $16.50 per month. I have hired Buck to Lieutenants [Samuel H.] Vaughter, [James M.] Bagwell & [Richard Green] Gordon at $21 per month. He is to serve me also. They are to feed him & pay his transportations from place to place—I to clothe him—but it is all in writing if I don’t return. But all these hires of Martin, Ben, Jordan & Buck are uncertain as to their continuance as the termination of the war, the change of hospital, work shops &c. may stop their wages & the servants be returned on your hands &c.

Answer this & my other from this place fully. Tell Ben to preserve his health & J. F. his mind & to keep in mind & practice my last request. Viz: ‘Ama deum, Honora patum a matrum.’ [Love God, Honor Father & Mother]

Farewell. Your solicitous father & husband, — T. F. Cooper

P.S. Send 1/8 sheet papers & envelope occasionally. — T.F.C.

¹ Calhoun was Temple’s son, Lafayette Calhoun Cooper (1842-1880), who served in the Troup Artillery.

1847: James T. Bryer to David E. Bryer


               How James might have looked

This rare letter from the Mexican War was written by Pvt. James T. Bryer of Logansport, Indiana, who served with the “Cass Volunteers” of the 1st Indiana. Following their enlistment, Bryer and the other volunteers arrived in Indianapolis in June 1846 and took the train from Columbus for Madison, Indiana, on June 13th. In Madison, they joined in a parade with other volunteers in front of 20,000 citizens who lined the streets and saw them off at the wharf on the Ohio River. They disembarked at New Albany where they bivouacked at Camp Whitcomb until being transported to New Orleans, arriving 11 July 1846. A few days later, they left for Port Isabel on the Sophia Walker where they disembarked on the 21st. They moved to the mouth of the Rio Grande on 31 August 1846 where they remained except for a brief excursion to Monterey. In June 1847, they returned home to Indiana without firing a shot. “They never smelled gun powder,” someone wrote, “but it was not their fault.”

A biographical sketch for James T. Bryer says that he “was born in Fountain county, Indiana, 4 August 1828, came with his parents, Robert and Dorcas (Miller) Bryer, to Logansport, in 1833, and resided here until his death 11 March 1895. Mr. Bryer was married to Sarah E. Hensley of Logansport, 15 May 1852. To this union were born seven girls and two boys. Mr. Bryer was a soldier in the Mexican was, depuy postmaster under William Wilson during the Civil war, and held various county, state, and government appointive offices. From 1861 until his death he was editor or contributor to the Logansport Journal, and there was no more able writer in northern Indiana.” [History of Cass county, Indiana by Jehu Z. Powell (1913)]

James wrote the letter to his brother, David E. Bryer (1831-1904). See Cass Volunteers.



Matamoras [Mexico]
February 17, 1847

Dear Mother and Brothers,

I received David’s letter some time ago and waited till I had something to tell you before I answered it. I was glad to learn that you were all well and having so much fun. Wilford Vigus got to see that part of his letter about Nancy and the boys laughed at me considerable about her being so fat. I know that you must have had fine times Christmas and New Years but you did not see so many curious things as I did.

We are now quartered in Matamoras in houses and we enjoy ourselves better than we have since we have been in Mexico. We have good, dry houses and good bunks to sleep on and we would be very comfortable if it were not for the fleas but there is no pleasure without its pain. We have two men to cook for us all and we pay them seventy-five cents apiece a month. They are Nathan Hines and Dock [Lemuel H.] Keep. The boys are all well. The only complaint is that they can’t get enough to eat. Ben Pursell is well. He returned from the Mouth [of the Rio Grande] yesterday where he has been to see Capt. [Spear S.] Tipton ¹ who is there now. I don’t believe Ben’s own father would know him if he were to see him — he is so fat.

Col. [James P.] Drake is now commandant of this post and this is a very important station. We have to be a good deal more strict than we have been and we have more duty to do as there are about 50 men detailed for guard every day. For a few days past we have been engaged in making fortifications at the plaza — or public square. The fortifications will be finished today and the boys are glad of [it] for they had had to work and dig pretty hard. It is rumored that we are to be attacked and in fact we have had several alarms but they proved to be false.

Last Monday night we were all asleep not thinking of danger when we were startled from our sleep by the report of the sentinel’s gun breaking upon the stillness of the night — an omen of evil. Instantly every man was upon his feet and busily engaged in putting on his accoutrements and seeing that his gun was in good order. We waited anxiously to hear more about it from the sentinel and there was not a man but what wished we might have a little brush if nothing more. Presently [James Harvey] Tucker returned. He had been out to see what was the matter. He told us that the sentinel had seen a part of men coming up the street. He ordered them to halt but they paid no attention to him whatever. He fired upon them and they turned around and ran off. He said he thought he heard swords jingle as they ran. Some of the companies turned out and formed but we did not. We staid up awhile but hearing nothing, we went to bed again. We had orders from the Colonel to lay on our arms. We had been in bed about two hours when we were again aroused by the firing of a gun which we thought came from the picket guard but we were mistaken. It has been reported that there are several thousand Mexican cavalry in the neighborhood of this place but I don’t believe that the report is true.

In my last letter I told you that [I] was with Alex Wilson and expected to stay with him but it turned different from what I expected. There is very little to do in the store and a great deal to do as a soldier so I thought it best to do my duty and let the rest go. The boys tell me that I am fat and so I am and I feel very well. I think that we will remain here the balance of our time which is four months. We may possibly come home before the year is out, I shall be very glad to get home and when I do get there, I think I shall settle down and finish the cooper’s trade and try and so something for myself. You must write often and give me all the news. I have written three letters where I received but one since I came to Mexico.

I must tell you about [2Lt.] William [L.] Brown. I expect that there is a good deal of talk about him in Logan but I will tell you that he has proved himself a friend to me indeed and he has done more for our company than any man in it. You mentioned in one of your letters that Buckingham said that they (our officers) were a living on the best while we were a starving. This I say is not so for they eat crackers and so did we. I will admit that theirs was the best, but what of that. They draw better ones from the government and they are right in keeping them as they had not more than they wanted. If any of them were sick and wanted money to buy something nice to eat, where did they go for it? Almost all of them to Brown. And did he refuse them when he thought they need it and he had it? No. He wanted to drill us and learn us something but he was a little too petulant and cross which made the boys dislike him. Our captain was sick a good deal and Brown had the management of the company and he often had to be harsh to get some [of] the men to do their duty and that was another cause for their disliking him. I believe that he has the interest of the company at heart.

Captain [Stanislaus] Lassell is well. Also Lieutenants [David M.] Dunn & [George W.] Blakemore. I like Captain Lassell very well but he is not much of a captain. I like him better on one account than any of our officers — that is that he is the only officer we have who having volunteered as a private would have come along as such. I am now in a mess with [James] Harvey Tucker who is our Orderly [Sergeant] and John [B.] Grover — or the little French gentlemen as we call him. Harvey is a good fellow as ever was and as for John, I should be lost without him to quarrel with because we can quarrel and make up in five minutes at least once in a week. John is a picturesque-looking bird. You know how red his air is. Well he has an enormous pair of whiskers and one of mustachios twice as red as his hair and they are as bulky such as things generally get to be. this description will suit a good many of the boys — all but the red part. George Emerson has got to be as slim as a bean pole and looks twice as tall. He was sick a long time down at the mouth and he was very much reduced. He is now quite well. I expect that you will never see him again as he intends going directly to Rochester when we are discharged.

I was very sorry to hear that David’s hair had all come out but I can’t help it. Mine has been coming out a good deal since I came here. I have that same old lump on my eye but I think that it will not be there long. Say to David that his friend Jim Moore is now a corporal. I will give you a list of our non-commissioned officers. They are all of them very good officers and so their duty well Jack [Jacques] Lassell has not been able to do duty for a long time but he is now getting well and will soon be at it.

1st Sergt.  James Harvey Tucker
2nd Sergt.  John [Jacques M.] Lassell
3rd Sergt. Thos. Weirick
4th Sergt. H. W. Vigus
1st Corporal  B. Turner
2nd Corporal  Thos. Bring Hurst
3rd Corp. S. M. Faddin
4th Corp.  James Moore

The weather here is beautiful. We have a kind of a black bird here that are continually singing and chirping around. The Mexican farmers will begin to put in their crops of corn in about a week. This is quite a large place. It originally contained about twelve thousand inhabitants but since the war there has been a good many left.

It is Ash Wednesday amongst them today and they are tolling their church bells of which they are very fond. Their churches here are poorly constructed. They have three large bells on one and about as many of the other. These bells they chime three times a day regularly and on feast days oftener. The Mexicans are almost all low in stature but generally very well built. Their costume consists of a roundabout and pantaloons of some light material. Their pantaloons are made tight around the waist and they wear a sash. The poor class all wear white cotton drawers very wide all the way down and over their buckskin pantaloons, open at the side. The better class are very dandy but not so the poor ones. They are lousy, dirty, and ugly. Some of the women — or señoritas — are very good looking. We have a fandango here almost every night and the boys have a good deal of fun with the señoritas.

You ought to see a Mexican fence once and you would not sleep for a week as we say. It consists of two rows of posts or crooked sticks about two feet apart and filled up with brush which make a good, but ugly, fence. Dock [Lemuel H.] Keep sends his respects to cousin Ellen. Give my respects to all. Robert, you must be a good boy. I will write as often as there is anything new to write.

Your affectionate son, — James Bryer

Write often and send papers.

¹ Capt. Spear Spencer Tipton died at Puebla, Mexico on 28 August 1847.


1840: Jacob Thomas to William Freret

This letter was written by Jacob Thomas (1818-18xx), the Post Master of Linn county, Iowa Territory in 1840, wherein he appeals to the Mayor of New Orleans (and simultaneously the Post Master of New Orleans) to aid in the apprehension of a murderer. The mayor’s name is not stated in the letter but it was William Freret (1804-1864) who held the office from May 1840 to April 1842.

The victim was Horatio McCardle (1790-1840), the son of Collins McCardle (1765-1836). Both Horatio and Collins McCardle were enumerated in Des Moines county, Iowa Territory in the 1836 State Census. Horatio first made his appearance in Lee county in 1837 when he was granted a license to keep a tavern in West Point for one year. The license gave him “permission to sell spiritous liquors and wines by small measure during that time, and no longer.”  Following that endeavor, Horatio appears to have entered into an agreement to purchase a farm — over time — on Sugar Creek in Lee county from the alleged murderer, John J. Jones, described as “a very ugly man with a bad countenance.” It seems a dispute arose between the two once McCardle had taken possession, made his first payment, and then learned that Jones did not have clear title to the property, whereupon he refused to pay more until the title issue was resolved. This did not sit well with Jones who used every bit of his six-foot four-inch frame to intimidate McCardle into paying him before shooting him at near point bank range, killing him instantly. Jones immediately fled the territory, traveling down the Mississippi river to New Orleans.

From Thomas’ letter we learn that the murder took place on 30 October 1840 while most of the nation was in a frenzy chanting “Tippecanoe & Tyler too!” and other such campaign slogans. Perhaps the distraction of the presidential campaign helped Jones make good his escape. By April of the following year, Jones had not yet been apprehended but this did not prevent the Territory of Iowa from moving forward with a Grand Jury investigation into the murder culminating in the District Prosecutor’s conclusion that Jones “has committed the crime of murder…with malicious aforethought…by shooting him [McCardle] with a rifle gun.”

Years passed, the McCardle family sold out in Lee county and moved away, and neither Jones nor his family were located in the deep south where Jones was suspected of avoiding justice. Fifteen years later, however, the following article — or one like it — appeared in virtually all the major newspapers in the United States under the general heading, “One of General Jackson’s Soldiers Condemned for Murder.”

thomas1 1840 letter re murder_20171108_0001

The original newspaper clipping inserted into Jacob Thomas’ letter announcing the murder and a description of the fugitive.

It read: “An interesting trial took place in Burlington, Iowa, in November last [1854]. The accused was a man named John J. Jones, seventy-three years of age. He had been a soldier under General Jackson, and was with the old hero in several of his campaigns against the Indians. Jones was charged with murdering Horatio W. McCardle, a neighbor, some 15 years ago. He made his escape and was not heard of until a short time before his arrest. Capital punishment having been abolished in Iowa, the prisoner was sentenced to hard labor in the penitentiary during the remainder of his life. Jones, through his attorney, when asked if he had anything to say why sentence should not be pronounced, submitted the following statement, ‘May it please the Honorable Court, I am an old man, fast tottering to the grave. The frosts of seventy-three winters though they had not whitened my brow, have wrinkled my face and chilled my heart with many sorrows. Mine has been a checkererd life. And now, when about to be separated from my fellows, I may give a truthful version of the past. I had a family and a home — a rude home, it is true — and a plain and humble family, but they were my all. The deceased robbed me of the one and invaded the sanctity of the other. Two small sons, a lovely daughter, and a wife — a cherished wife. On returning to that home the day of the fatal deed, I learned the certainty of the maddening truth and hastened to the field, my rifle still in hand, I know not why I went. I had no fixed design [to kill McCardle]. He met me with a club — I shot him. And though I claim not to have acted in defense, I do assert that there was mutual combat. You know the rest. I fled — my family followed. But for the fifteen years I have lived at Lockland [Hamilton county, Ohio], I made no secret of the deed I had done. Those days are past and that loved one is gone — borne down with trouble, she sank into an early grave. That lovely daughter is now a helpless cripple, wearing a haggard face. Of those two boys who should have been the prop of my old age, the one is gone to join his injured mother, as witnesses against the dead destroyer of their peace. The other, and my heart sinks within me when I say — it lives — but not to me with an ear deaf to my calamity. He comes not near, but I forgive. To this honorable court, the jury, and to the attorneys and officers thereof, and to the people of this community, I return my humble thanks for their impartial hearing. I have never been a criminal of choice, but rather the creature of circumstances, beneath the weight of which far better men than me have sunk. I may have been too jealous of mine honor, but never have but once proved faithless to my trust. When my country’s rights were invaded, I answered them, and so I did mine honor. With General Jackson in all his Creek campaigns, I battled for my country and its laws…’ ” [See full text below]

In an attempt to establish John J. Jones’ service record, the only item found that might corroborate Jones’ claim of participating in the Creek Wars was a land warrant application for service in 1836 with Capt. R. Baker’s Georgia Volunteers. The warrant number was 55-80-48364 — but it was rejected.

Curiously, there appears to be at least one final notice of Jones. In the 1860 US Census, “J. J. Jones” a 77 year-old [born 1783 in Virginia] is enumerated in Lockland, Hamilton county, Ohio, with (presumably) his 35 year-old daughter [born 1825 in Nova Scotia]. In the “occupation” field of the record, the census taker appears to have written, “Felin Labor.”


[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Richard Weiner and appears here by express consent.]

Addressed to Mr. Mayor of the City of New Orleans, New Orleans, La.

West Point, Lee County, Iowa Territory
December 20th 1840

Dear Sir,

If an apology were necessary for writing to an entire stranger, the deep interest I feel in the subject upon which I shall address you is the only apology I can offer. By the enclosed slip you will perceive that one John J. Jones murdered Horatio McCardle — a citizen of this town. This murder was one of the most aggravated kind. I was perfectly well acquainted with both the men and drew the writings between them about the sale and purchase of the land in dispute.

Jones made his escape but has been taken since at Cairo and while the men were disputing who should bring him back and get the reward, Jones made his escape again. By a letter received here [in] yesterday’s mail addressed to his son-in-law which was examined in the Post Office, it appears he was making his way to Texas but will wait in New Orleans until his family comes. He requests his wife to write to him directed to William Sumers, New Orleans. Who will write to him (Jones) from thence but the presumption is that Jones will stay in New Orleans all winter or till his family come to him as he has not money to take him farther.

The description given of him in the slip is correct and in addition to that, he has lost several fore teeth out of the upper jaw. The color of his coat is blue mixed but nearly all blue. In his conversation he is very loud.

The murder was committed on the 30th October 1840. The reward offered is but one hundred dollars. I will give that sum to any person who will arrest and commit him and inform me that I can have him brought [here] or I will pay the expense of bring him to the person who will deliver him to the sheriff of the county.

In addition, I have written to the Post Master of New Orleans upon this subject and have solicited him to assist in [apprehending] Jones. The family will doubtless write to him directed to Wm. Sumers by which name he will go as he has changed his name several times since he left here. He won’t, of course, go by his right name. For your information, I will give part of the letter received from him.

Copy of the letter saved

“You had better come to New Orleans and I will leave some person to come round with you to where I shall stop. And if you don’t find the person when you get there (N Orleans), send to the Post Office and there you will find a letter which will tell you where I am. This letter will probably be directed to Mrs. Jones” but as he called himself Harty Don B. Brown in a previous letter, he may direct the letter to Mrs. Brown. By getting that letter — if there is such a letter in the office — you may ascertain where he is.  “Come on as soon as possible. Nothing more. Direct your letter to New Orleans to Wm. Sumers.” (without signature) ¹

I appeal to your honor to assist in apprehending the murderer by adopting such measures as shall appear to you to be best. Should anything of importance occur, you will confer a favor by writing to me.

I subscribe myself your humble servant, — Jacob Thomas

Hon. Mayor, City [of] New Orleans

¹ My hunch is that Jones never went to New Orleans, hopping instead on a steamer bound up the Ohio river to Cincinnati. Once there, he probably penned the letter to his wife and, with a toothless grin, asked some unwitting accomplice to carry it to New Orleans and drop it in the post office there, hoping to forever throw bounty hunters off his tracks.



The story of John J. Jones’ Trial and Sentencing for Murder in 2d Column (1855)

1863: Elizabeth Sprague Tenney to John Tenney

These four letters were written by Elizabeth “Lizzie” Sprague Tenney, the daughter of John Tenny (1799-1853) and his first wife, Mary Augusta Bartlett. Lizzie’s father was an 1824 graduate of Dartmouth and an attorney and County Commissioner in Essex county, Massachusetts. He was also a Representative and a Senator of the Massachusetts State Legislature. Lizzie had three full siblings — Margaret Tenney (1831-1839), Edward Jarvis Tenney (1833-1853), and Mary Augusta Tenney (1837-1905). After Lizzie’s mother died, her father married Augusta Elizabeth Sprague in 1844. Her father had four more children before he died in 1853. These four were named Margaret (1845-1905), John (1847-1905), Laura (1849-1922) and Augusta (1852-1905).

Lizzie wrote all four of these letters to her half-sibling, John (“Johnny”) Tenney (1847-1905). Johnny was educated at Andover Academy and went to sea at the age of 14. These four letters were addressed to him while part of the crew aboard the Samuel Appleton — a merchant vessel commissioned by Fisher, Ricards & Co. of New York City and commanded by Capt. Osborn while on a long voyage to Australia and Singapore. Johnny returned to the United States in 1864 and spent some time in the Navy before entering the insurance business and settling in Philadelphia.

“Sidney” is often mentioned in these letters. This was Joseph Sidney Howe (1832-1923), the husband of Mary Augusta Tenney (Lizzy’s sister). Sidney was a civil engineer and for over forty years the town clerk in Methuen, Massachusetts.

From these letters we learn that Lizzie was keeping house for her step-mother’s sister, Mary Louisa (Sprague) Fellows (1815-1875), in Chelsea, Suffolk county, Massachusetts. Mary was the daughter of Joseph Sprague (1771-1833) and Margaret (“Peggy”) Osgood (1778-1837). Mary was the wife of Col. John Foster Fellows (1815-1887) who commanded the 17th Massachusetts Infantry. Mary’s son was Capt. Charles Oliver Fellows (1845-1924) who served with his father in the 17th Mass.

Lizzie never married.


Chelsea [Massachusetts]
December 7th 1862

Dear Brother John,

I wrote you a very short letter a day or two ago thinking the mail left the next day and it was all I should have time for — besides I was feeling very much disappointed that your letter had been delayed. But now everything is all right. Your very interesting and gratifying letter has at last been received and if you enjoy those you get from home as much as we have enjoyed yours, then it would be very safe to say that letters are a great institution. I am so happy to think that you are getting along so well and that everybody is so kind to you. I can think of my sailor brother with a great deal of pleasure and your letter to Mother telling her of your determination to do right even if strong temptations are put before you will do her more good than you can tell. [page creased — missing text] We thank [Capt. Osborn] for his kindness and care for you and the great interest he takes in your welfare. He speaks very favorably of you to his wife and says he has no doubt but that John will always be a comfort to his mother. Charley [Oliver Fellows] says your experience as a sailor is not much like his first experience and he would most willingly throw up his commission in the army and step into your shoes. I am very glad you are not in the army for I think camp life is most ruinous to a young man’s morals.

You know that Gen. McClellan has been deprived of the command of the Army of the Potomac and Burnside has been put in his place. McClellan’s method of prosecuting the war was not satisfactory to the authorities in the land so he was ordered to retire to private life. Poor Little Mac. I pity him. But his farewell speech to his army was so manly and in such good taste that I could but admire the man even for that one thing alone. They are doing nothing now. There seems to be a perfect stagnation of all warlike [activities] for the present but I suppose it won’t last long.


Samuel Cook Oliver

Samuel [Cook] Oliver resigned his commission as Lt. Col. of the 14th Massachusetts and formed a company and was appointed Capt. in the 35th Massachusetts. In the Battle of Antietam which occurred in September and in which our troops were victorious, Capt. Oliver was injured in the spine by the bursting of a shell which paralyzed his whole body with the exception of his head and shoulders. ¹ He is much better now and can hobble about on crutches and the Dr. thinks he will in time recover the use of his legs. He has had a pretty hard time and is at Gov. Andrews’ house.

Have you heard that Uncle Joseph [Fellows] has a third son which they call Joseph? I suppose Mary will tell you all about dear little Carrie’s sickness and death. She had grown to be such a sweet little pet that we all loved her very much. She was very sick for a fortnight and then when the Dr. thought she might recover, the disease went to her brain and the angel’s bore her pure spirit to heaven. O she looked so sweetly as she lay so still in her little casket. One could hardly believe death could be so lovely. Poor Sancho missed her little playmate and at first seemed quite unconsolable. He would wander about the house looking sad and lonely till he saw something she used to play with when he would brighten up and look as if he expected to see little Carrie running about again.

I think your plan of writing a good long letter to all together is very good. It is easier to you and we all have the benefit of it and by writing in the way you did you would be likely to get a good long letter. still I must confess I should not feel at all troubled to have one all to myself. I hope you have no difficulty in reading  your letters from home. Put them over a clean sheet of white paper and you will have no trouble. I was surprised to see how well you had written your letter and how well it was expressed. I felt quite proud of you. The first thing I do when the paper comes is to look at the ship news to see if the Samuel Appleton has been spoken. The day after Thanksgiving, Mary (who was visiting me) and I had been in the city all day and I had no chance to look at the paper till after I went upstairs to bed and after I was undressed, I told Mary I could not go to bed till I had looked at the ship news and the first thing I saw was your safe arrival in Melbourne. I woke up Margie who was sleeping in another room to tell her the good news and we all had quite a gay time over it for we knew that the same steamer must have brought letters from you.

Good night and God bless you. From your sister, — Lizzie

¹ Capt. Samuel Cook Oliver’s was wounded late in the day at the Battle of Antietam. The regiment had lost more than 200 men and officers, including 69 killed and mortally wounded. “At or about six p.m.,” recalled Oliver, “when nearly and safely through that terrible day, by the explosion of a shell, a fragment of which cut a piece from my hat, another fragment nearly severing my badge of rank from my left shoulder, I was thrown violently backwards against a stone wall or batch of large rocks, rendering me for a while insensible. I was carried from the field utterly helpless.”  [See Sam Oliver Gets Married by Ronald S. Coddington]


[January 1863]

Dear Brother John,

This Sabbath evening the children have all gone to Sabbath School and Aunt Laura and I are all alone. I came up with Mamie to pass the day. Your last letters home have been probably lost. It is too bad that we should miss any of them but I suppose that is something that often happens when they come so far. The China arrived in New York a few days ago with a mail from Australia and we are on the lookout for your letters. I wish they could come before this is sent off. You can’t tell how much good your last letters did us all.

There is not much news to tell you about. The President issued his Proclamation the first of January liberating all the slaves in those states which have taken up arms against the government. The Rebels are very much provoked about it but what the final effect will be it is hard to determine.


Col. John Foster Fellows, 17th Mass

They have had several battles in North Carolina lately in which our troops have been successful. Uncle John [Fellows’] regiment [17th Mass Infantry] did finely and he is very highly spoken of in the papers. It is now thought that the war will be more actively carried on in North Carolina than in the other states. There has not been much accomplished of late and in very many cases the rebels have got the advantage. The aspect of the war is not very encouraging but we hope it will turn out best and this unnatural strife soon ended. Charley Fellows is yet at home an may be some time longer.

You will have letters from Mother by this same mail and from her you will learn some Andover news although I know she is not much of a news teller. Her Christmas presents were very handsome. Mr. Allen gave her $60.00. Mr. Wheeler and some few of the old students sent her $15.00 and Aunt Sarah Sprague sent her 25.00. Then Uncle Joseph Andrews ¹ gave her two barrels of sugar and everything else is outrageously high. It is a terribly cold day and one can hardly manage to keep comfortably warm even over a hot stove. I suppose it is the heat of summer where you are. I wish it was so here. I feel almost frozen.

How do you get along as [paper torn]… Do you keep your stockings well darned? I should like to see you mending and washing. I saw by the paper that your ship had sailed for Otago three months ago. This will reach you at or from Singapore. Three years seems a very long time when I think you may perhaps be gone that time and how much changed you will be. I can not realize it. But I am so glad that you are not in the army. It is so much better to be where you are under Capt. Osgood. I heard that the other boys on board the ship are discontented. I hope it is not so — poor fellows. I pity anybody who is homesick. I know what the feeling is and would not recommend it to my friends generally.

Mr. [William Burnet] Wright and Lucretia [Osgood] Johnson ² were married on New Years Day. Miss Johnson’s engagement with Mr. Fenn was broken off, I believe, before you went away and when Mr. Wright came home from Germany they were engaged.

Prof. [Calvin Ellis] Stowe[Calvin Ellis] Stowe‘s family will leave Andover for Hartford in the spring. I guess the Andover people will say “good riddance” for they are not great favorites there.

Now Johnny, I have almost got to the end of my sheet and what would I not give to see you tonight. Do you remember the time you came down here before Aunt Mary [Fellows] went to Somerville ³ when I was afraid  to come alone? I remember it well and wish you were here now. Always try to do right and be able to tell Mother in every letter you write to her that you have contracted no bad habits and it will make her heart glad for she has great hopes in you. I am expecting Mary here tomorrow. She will stay a week here and at Margie Hall’s and Sidney will be here most of that time too. I expect we will have a grand time together. Mother passed two nights with me last week. I wish I could be at home for mother misses me very much these long winter evenings. Aunt Laura & Mamie and all the rest here send ever so much love to you. I hope that very soon I shall have a nice bundle of letters sent down from Andover which have come from our sailor boy far over the water. God bless and take care of you and keep you from all danger and sin and bring you back safe to us, our pure-hearted, noble-minded brother. Mother and all of us will feel so proud of you. I wish I could put myself in this letter and go off to you. What do you suppose the postage would be at 3 cents for ¼ of an oz? What would 200 pounds cost? With ever so much love and ever so many hearty earnest prayers for your safety and prosperity. From your affectionate sister, — Lizzie

¹ Joseph Andrews (1808-1869) of Salem was a Brig. Gen. in the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He was the Adj. Gen. Commander at Fort Warren on Georgia Island in Boston Harbor from May 1862 to 21 August 1862. He also served as the 9th Mayor of Salem from 1854 to 1856. He married 1st, Elizabeth Maria Sprague on 10 October 1832. He married 2d, Judith Walker on 15 January 1857.

² Lucretia Osgood Johnson (1835-1886) was married to William Burnet Wright, Jr. (1838-1924) on 1 January 1863 in Baltimore, Maryland. William studied divinity at the Andover Theological Seminary from July 1858 to January 1860 and then matriculated at the University of Berlin in Germany. He traveled in Europe until June 1862 when he returned to the United States and was ordained pastor of the South Congregational Church at Chicago.

³ Apparently Lizzie’s aunt, Mary (Sprague) Fellows, suffered from mental health problems as she spent two years at the Somerville Asylum.


Andover [Massachusetts]
August 19th 1863

Dear brother John,

You see that I am at home and glad enough am I to be here. Martha has quite a large family although it is vacation. Augustus Emerton, ¹ Carrie, Freddy, Mary Osgood, Minnie & Josie, Aunt Laura & Mamie & Louise Fellows and four theologues besides our own family. It is beautiful weather now and Andover was never looking pleasanter than now. Mother’s new home is such an improvement on the old one.

We were all delighted to get your last letters and very happy to hear that you are so contented and cheerful. Singapore & Shanghai must be much pleasanter ports than Melbourne and there must be many new & strange sights to interest you. My mouth fairly watered to read what you said in your letter of pineapples, bananas, and other tropical fruits. When you get home we shall look upon you as a man who has seen a good deal of the world and who knows much more about many things than we have ever dreamed of.

Mother is pretty well but she has a great deal of care and a great many people to feed. I hope before a great while to be at home to relieve her. Aunt Mary [Fellows] is a great deal better and the Dr. says she will be well enough to come back to her family in the winter.

There is not much war news now. Everything has been very quiet since the surrender of Vicksburg and Port Hudson but there are great preparations going on for the attack on Charleston and I suppose that just as soon as the weather gets a little cooler, the troops will put forth all their energies and take that city. After that, I think the war will be pretty much over as far as fighting goes. Will Mason has gone to visit one of the boys who board here — Henry Cowles. ² Do you know him?

We shall be on the lookout for your likeness with a great deal of eagerness and depend upon seeing it. I am going to Lawrence this afternoon and will see about getting some likeness to send to you as soon as they can be got. We will send Sidney’s, Gussies, and mine all of which have been taken, and then will send the others when we can have them taken.


Capt. Charles Oliver Fellows, 17th Mass

Uncle John † & Charley Fellows are still at Newbern. Charley recently captured three rebels who were mounted & armed with carbines and swords and the Commanding General gave a gun & sword to Charley as a reward for bravery. Most of the troops that went off for nine months have returned and they have drafted for more men. In New York & Boston there was great resistance made to the draft but everywhere else it was very quiet. There were a good many names drafted in Methuen but we were very glad that Sidney was not among them. George & John Lawyer & John Merrill ³ and one of the Gordon’s who live near Sidney’s were drafted. Uncle Joseph Andrews has hired a house very near Cousin Mary Mason’s in Boston and will move his family there in October. Lizzie & Sam will probably stay in the old house in Salem at present. Sam is appointed Major in a new regiment and may leave for the war at any time.

You can’t tell, John, how much good it does mother and all of us to hear that you are doing well and are happy. The Capt. speaks very highly of you and says John is a good boy & faithful and trustworthy. It is a great comfort to hear such pleasant news of you and makes mother more happy than you can know. The children will some of them write you so I will leave the other half of this sheet for them. Mother will write too. I suppose there is not much news in Methuen. I wish you were here to go over to Mary’s with us. Guess Sancho will know and be glad to see you. With very much love to you from all. I am your affectionate sister, — Lizzie

¹ Augustus Emerton (1827-1901) was a resident of Salem, Massachusetts.

² Possibly Henry Augustine Cowles (1846-1864), the son of John Phelps Cowles (1805-1890) and Eunice C. Cowles (1811-1903) of Ipswich, Essex county, Massachusetts.

³ John Kelly Merrill (b. 1836) was the son of Washington and Abigail Merrill of Methuen, Essex county, Massachusetts. John’s occupation was given as “hatter” in 1860. At the time of the 1863 Draft Registration, his occupation was given as “teacher.”

† Lt. Col. John Foster Fellows (1815-1887) commanded the 17th Massachusetts Infantry. His son, Charles O. Fellows served with him in the 17th Mass.


Chelsea [Massachusetts]
September 16th 1863

My dear brother John,

The last letter I wrote to you was from Andover where we all went to pass the vacation. Eddie was at Mary’s almost six weeks. He had a splendid time there. He assisted about the farm work a good deal and had great times with Sancho. Did you know that Sidney has got a new horse? His name is is Tige and they say he is the fastest horse in Methuen. He ran away the other day and broke the chaise. Everything else about the farm is about the same as when you went away. Fanny, Old John, and Old Tom are still fixtures there. I am going up to Mary’s to pass a week next month and we are going down to Salem with Fanny & the chaise to pass the night. Mrs. Cabot is going down in her carriage at the same time. Don’t you think it will be pleasant?

Aunt Mary Fellows is a great deal better and will be well enough to come back to her family this winter. We are all very glad and there is nobody more glad than I am. Only think, I have been here more than two years and it will seem almost strange to have Aunt Mary back again.

There is not much news to tell you about. Sydney has told the little news there is about the war. There is nothing at all going on excepting the bombardment of Charleston. It has been feared that we should have trouble with France for they seemed to favor the rebel cause but the last steamer brings the news that there will be no intervention by France — that she will remain neutral satisfied for the present with the acquisition of Mexico. Every steamer that arrives we hope will bring some news from you. It must be very tiresome to stay as long at Singapore although it must be much pleasanter than your long stay at Melbourne. I suppose it would be very dangerous to attempt to bring the ship home now while the sea is so infested with rebel pirates. Tonight’s paper brings the news of the narrow escape of a Boston ship from China who fell in with pirates off the Cape of Good Hope. They got clear of them only by throwing overboard a part of their cargo & provisions and lighting the ship so that she could outsail them. I shall feel very anxious if you start for home while there are so many of the confounded pirates on the track of ships homeward bound from China. I hope the owners of the Samuel Appleton will conclude to sell the ship at Singapore is she is not seaworthy and then you would come home overland. On many accounts that would be very pleasant but still it would be pleasant to come back in the old ship for you have been in her so long that it must seem quite like home. There is one thing you may be pretty sure of and that is that you will find a warm welcome whenever & however you come. I hope you were not very sick and that you were not sick long. It must be pretty dubious to be sick on board ship so far from home. I hope we shall hear from you very soon. While you stay in Singapore you will probably hear from home quite often for we shall write every fortnight.

When I was at home, Kate Abbot came up one day to pass the afternoon with Margie. She is a real pretty girl and behaves more sensibly than most of the girls now-a-days. What a pretty girl her sister Helen is too. Did you know that Mr. Carleton has left the school and they have got a new teacher? The boys hated Mr. Carleton and they are glad enough to have someone to take his place. Uncle Sam looks as fat and as stern as ever.

This paper is so thin that I fear you may have trouble to read it but I shall try to get some more before I write again. The children all send love to you. Eddie is going to Newbern next month to make a visit. He is hoping to have a gay time as he calls it. Mother and all the rest were well when I left them about a week ago. You will have a letter from Mother by the next steamer. With ever so much love and best wishes for your safety and happiness, I must bid you good night. From your sister, — Lizzie

What do you think of my photograph? It is not quite as good as some others I had taken.