1863: William W. Wilbur to John S. Wilbur

How Lt. William W. Wilbur might have looked

How Lt. William W. Wilbur might have looked

This letter was written by Lt. William W. Wilbur (1839-1910), Company E, 172nd Pennsylvania. He wrote this letter to his parents, John S. and Emeline Wilbur of Warren County, Pennsylvania. He married Anna Maria Bennett in 1865.

Lt. Wilbur was mustered into the service on 29 November 1862 (according to regiment records) and was mustered out with his company on 1 August 1863. The regiment proceeded to Washington D.C. in early December 1862, and was then transported to Newport News where it remained a week. They then marched to Yorktown where they relieved the 52nd Pennsylvania at the fort. They were garrisoned at Yorktown until early in July 1863 when they were ordered to Washington D.C. and then to Hagerstown, Maryland. They participated in the pursuit of Lee’s army to Williamsport, Maryland. They were then marched to Warrenton Junction and then to Harrisburg.

In the 1860 Census, 21 year-old William was enumerated in his parents household and his “occupation” was given as “law student.” Subsequent census records indicate he was successful in pursuing a law career and he was called by others a “prominent and able attorney.” In 1901, he is listed in the directory of Warren, Pennsylvania, in the firm of Wilbur & [William] Schnur at 220 Liberty Street with a home at 405 Fourth Street. The 1900 Census indicates Willliam was born in August 1839 and that his wife was born in October 1845.

LETTER 1

1862 Letter

1863 Letter

Addressed to J. S. Wilbur, Warren, Warren County, Pennsylvania
Postmarked Old Point Comfort, Virginia

Yorktown [Virginia]
May 25th 1862 [1863]

Dear Father & Mother,

I am just in receipt of your letter of the 19th. I did not receive the paper. I do hope I shall yet. Without papers or enclosed in envelopes, they hardly ever come. I am happy to know that you are all well as you are and hope mother will soon get better. You must write and let me know. Hoping her sickness is not serious. I will not worry. I do not get many letters now. I do not have much facilities for writing and as not many have a desire to write to me without a world of letters to coax them to write — and as I do not feel in a begging mood, I do not get many letters. However, I get along very well without them so it makes no difference. Of course you will write. Little Dora must continue her correspondence and Mary ___ must write also. I would like to hear from others but I have asked enough.

We are here and all in fine spirits. We get the news regular. We have just received a dispatch that Vicksburg was ours. Our forces seem to annoy the enemy at West Point [Virginia] very much. It is amusing to see their calculations upon the number of men, etc. Day before yesterday the mail boat between here and that place was fired upon, hit once, but not much damage. The gun boats went up and shelled them and burned all the houses in the vicinity.

Col. Kilpatrick of Stoneman’s Cavalry who came here from the raid made a raid a few days ago into Gloucester County with great success.You will probably see it published. We are now well prepared to make them raids.

I see you have my time out July 1st. I may have written so. we were mustered in November 1st. Nine months from that time will be August 1st. We shall probably start for Harrisburg the middle of July so as to get to Harrisburg and have all ready to be mustered out August 1st. The only difference between July 1st and August 1st is that I shall make $100 more so that it does not provoke me. This is the time I should have written before. It is rumored that we will be paid again shortly.

Stoneware such as Lt. Wilbur proposed manufacturing in Warren Co., Pennsylvania

Stoneware such as Lt. Wilbur proposed manufacturing in Warren Co., Pennsylvania

I have this project in view. Our 1st Lieut. A. Pentz ¹ has a pottery in Clearfield where he makes all kinds of stone ware from a fruit jar to a churn; in fact, all kinds of that ware. Warren would be a grand place to start such a business as there is no such work made near there. The work could be sold all through the county and adjoining counties and commissioned in all the little towns with a large sale house of it in Warren. You know how salable such ware is. He sells his ware at three times the cost and all he can make. I shall go out of the service with between $4 & 500 besides what I have already received. This, with an equal amount advanced by Pentz, would set us going finely. Could we make it work, I would have you oversee such a store in Warren and the sales throughout the county. What we would need would be this — an acre or so of fire clay with a piece of wood land adjoining it or within half a mile of it of from 10 to fifty acres — this all within three miles of town. A small spring of living water near the clay. The fire clay is to make the ware. The woodland to furnish wood. Had we this all together and handy, we could start it this fall. He is making money out of his in Clearfield. You see it is a money-making business and not much risk to run.

Now if we could get such a place and get it reasonable and the market is such as we think it would be, then I see nothing to keep us from making money at it. Pentz being a practical workman would oversee it as he has a partner in Clearfield. It would occupy some 10 hands — three or four good men, the rest anyone to cut wood and dig and grind clay. The clay should be at least 4 foot thick if it is not on top of the ground. Mr. Pentz had once before an idea of going to Warren and a prospective partner went there and found fire clay and all the other requirements. The timber should be oak & hemlock or either. I will tell you where I think such a place is, also fire clay, — across the river down where we went to get sand or clay, I do not remember which. We went with our team before the bridge fell. We went down on to the bend of the river across below town. I have thought if we could get this all as desired, it would give you a more agreeable business and the debts are now so we can handle them. However, if there is no such site, or if you do not think well of it whether there is such a place or not, or if you think there would not be a market, we will square off all the debts and try something else.

The clay and wood land there would not cost much and we could arrange things so as to still have money. I should still in this event prosecute my profession. I believe Ridgeway destined to be a central point. Now you will gather from this what we want to know — that is, is there such a piece of clay and wood land to be had. If not, how near can we come to it and at what price? How would the market be? They make these cans to preserve fruit. In short, you know what a quantity of stone ware is sold.

Please enquire all about this and write us in full by the earliest opportunity. You know fire clay is different from common clay. Also tell me what you think of it, etc. Please speak to no one about it.

I must close. Write very often. Your son, — Wm. W. Wilbur

 

Headstone of Lt. Andrew Pentz

Headstone of Lt. Andrew Pentz

¹First Lieutenant Andrew Pentz (1835-Aft1900) was from Brady, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania. In the 1860 Census, his occupation is given as “Potter.” He was first married to Elizabeth ____; second to Catherine Norton (1846-1883).

 LETTER 2

99

1863 Letter

Yorktown [Virginia]
June 3, 1862 [1863]

Dear Father & Mother,

Your last came duly to hand. It done me much good to know you are well and enjoying life. I am well as usual. Everything goes on the same here. West Point [Virginia] has been evacuated and the troops are now here. Some of them will probably stay here to take our places. They make it quite lively here now. There was to be a review today but the rain prevented.

We have now quite an army here. We look eagerly for the news from Vicksburg. I have The [New York] Herald of the 2 June on my table which announces the fall of Vicksburg through Rebel sources. Why in God’s name Hooker does not move and put his men and us here to some use, I cannot tell. Why the government does not use the draft is another mystery. They act like imbeciles. God damn them. Why don’t they make some move to help Grant now that the Rebs have been weakened here to send forces west? But no. We must guard West Point, Williamsburg, Gloucester Point, and a thousand other points with from 1 to 10,000 men. When if they were burned up and destroyed we could have the men to act in the field where as now they are only an expense to the government and the places they hold, if destroyed, would be of no account.

I look now for Hooker instead of advancing to fall back to Centerville and fight over the Battle of Bull Run.¹ It would be in keeping with its proceedings in Virginia. Well , enough of this.

You seem to misunderstand me about my time. It will expire August 1st. I shall probably get home the forepart of August/ We were mustered in November 1 — 9 months will be August 1. I have not received the ____  as papers do not come unless enclosed in an envelope.

Cherries are turning here. We have had a long season of dry weather but last night it rained. It is quite healthy here. Ellen says I shall loose Miss Clark. All right, plenty of others. Little Dora’s letters are very entertaining/ I see she improves in her writing. She must learn to write and spell correct and go to school and study well and she will make a fine lady.

I will write you again before long. Write often. Love to all. Your son, — Wm. W. Wilbur

¹Lt. Wilbur predicted Hooker’s course with amazing prescience. In fact, Hooker did fall back two months later and engage Lee’s army on virtually the same battle ground as First Bull.

LETTER 3

1863 Letter

1863 Letter

Yorktown [Virginia]
June 10, 1863

Dear Father & Mother,

Yours is received. I am happy to learn that you are well, etc. We are all well and in good spirits.

Warren Borough, Pennsylvania

Warren Borough, Pennsylvania

In regard to the farm  of Edgar, ¹ it is just what we want provided the fire clay will do. At the prices you speak of for ware in Warren, we could double our money while the trade throughout the county would command a better price. From the Titusville Works we could have nothing to fear for we could manufacture it as cheap as them and avoid transportation. So also in regard to the Erie Works. We could be be shipped on the Railroad as far as Lock Haven where there is no fire clay and where my friend lives. Pentz now f inds a market hauling it some 70 miles. We could start the thing with $500 each including the first payment. In regard to the clay, Lieut. Pentz says an experienced potter by name of Porter who now manufactures at Titusville told him 3 years ago that there was good fire clay there or near there and Porter’s son and Lieut. were about starting a shop there when the war broke out and put a stop to it. I know that since we have been in Warren no ware has been made so those potteries must have been 15 or 20 years ago when the manufacture of stone ware was but little known, and considering who tried the thing we have reason to believe their failure arose from lack of skill.

Perhaps in this manner earthenware was made long before stone ware, and those who first embarked in it were apt to try to manufacture stone ware in the same way that earthen ware was manufactured, and for this reason failed, as the work is quite different. As soon as our term is out, Mr. Pentz will go to Warren and get some of the clay and test it, and if found good, we will engage in it. I think you can get the refusal of the place for some two months or more when we could determine it without a doubt.

Thinking that Mr. Morrison and his failure, not to the clay, but to the way he manufactured it perhaps working it the way he would earthen ware, Mr. Pentz has enclosed a few questions to ask him and ascertain if possible if such is the case which answer please get and write in answer to this. Should there not be fire clay there of good quality, if there was any within two miles of there or 10 miles up the river so that it might be boated down, we could get this place and make it work. Please look to this also and soon as we can, Lieut. [Pentz] will go to Warren and examine the whole thing. I think we can get the refusal of the place until that time, which will be the best way at present, it it can be done, when if the clay will do, we will take the place on his conditions.

Please write as soon as you can get the information. I will write again soon. This is more a business letter than a home letter. My love to all. Your son, — W.W. Wilbur

¹ The only Edgar family living in or about Warren, Pennsylvania in 1860 was John Edgar (b. 1793 in England), a tailor in Warren.

LETTER 4

Yorktown, Virginia
July 7th 1862 [1863]

Dear Father & Mother,

Glorious, glorious news in addition to the dispatches from Pennsylvania culminating in the overthrow of Lee. we have just received a dispatch that Vicksburg surrendered July 4th. If the last is so, the Rebellion is virtually at an end.

I have just received your letter. I am now in fine health and the most splendid spirits. I only regret that we could not go to Pennsylvania and share in the glory. out time was not out as the paper stated. 28 this month is the time. We may start for Harrisburg at any time and serve our time out until the 28th there or in that vicinity. I do hope we can. I will write you whenever we leave this place. I expect soon to see you with the glad feelings that victory has crowned our arms and our country is saved. Great has been the rejoicing here over the victory in Pennsylvania. It has been celebrated with the thunder of cannon and all that could show our joy. The soldiers are jubilant. Tell the accursed copperheads of Warren that the lowest private would not exchange honors with the greatest of them. No sir, I would not give my feelings of proud satisfaction as my conduct for the honor of any man in Warren. Neither would the lowest private.

You speak of the copperhead meetings and that they ___ soldiers. It will soon play out and fearfully so to them. Wait with patience until our victorious armies return. Where then will they hide their shamed and traitorous faces from the just wrath and seething influence and rebuke if such a vast army of patriots. Wait patiently. I assure you they will get their deserts. They shall ask for even the honor of [Benedict] Arnold and not receive it. No sir, we soldiers will remember them and although I may no longer wear my country’s uniform, I still retain my sword and pistol and it shall defend the sacred honor of a union soldier. I do not say this myself. The great army of the Republic say it to them when we all return. I will point out their children’s children if I live and brand them as the spawn of traitor’s — not only I, but this great army.

Give yourself no trouble. I shall shortly be with you. All well and the happiest hours of our lives will I hope have then just dawned upon us.

Direct as usual, your son, — Wm. W. Wilbur

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About Griff

My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries. View all posts by Griff

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