1862: Capt. David Cunningham to Stuart Beebe Shotwell

How Capt. David Cunningham might have looked

How Capt. David Cunningham might have looked

This letter was written by Capt. David D. Cunningham (1837-1917) of Company B, 30th Ohio Infantry. Company B was organized by Captain Cunningham at Cadiz, Harrison County, Ohio in July 1861 and marched 130 miles to Camp Chase, Ohio where they were mustered into service on 14 August 1861. The 30th Ohio were transported to Clarksburg, Virginia [now West Virginia] to joined Rosecrans’ army. They wintered at Fayetteville, the county seat of Fayette County, where they worked on fortifications. This letter was written in February 1862 from McCoy’s Mill which was near the mouth of White Oak Creek on the road between Fayetteville and Raleigh, West Virginia. McCoys was roughly thirteen miles from Raleigh, West Virginia.

David Cunningham graduated from Franklin College (now Muskingum College in New Athens, Ohio) in 1857., read law with John A. Bingham at Cadiz, and was admitted to bar in 1859.  He became the prosecuting attorney of Harrison County 1865-1869, was a member of the Ohio State Legislature in 1871-1873, and was President of the Harrison County Bank in 1885. David married Laura Phillips (1836-1925) in 1859 and together they had at least six children. David’s passport application in 1909 gave his height as five feet 7½ inches.

Upon the death of Stuart Beebe Shotwell (1819-1890), to whom this letter was addressed, it was said he was “probably the largest land and property owner in Eastern Ohio, and one of the oldest and best known lawyers in the State.” Shotwell was also a graduate of Franklin College. His parents were William Shotwell (1798-1855) and Rhoda Beebe (1792-1876). Stuart married Nancy Gaston in 1851.

Another source: Major Cunningham’s Journal, 1862. David Cunningham. 30th OVI. Edited by Elizabeth Cometti. pgs. 187-211. West Virginia History. Vol. 34. January. 1973


McCoys Picket Post
February 3d 1861 [1862]

S. B. Shotwell, Attorney
Dear Sir,

As you have agreed to do all my collecting & knowing you can be depended on in all legal straits, I herewith send you a note which you will place on the road to speedy liquidation & as I know that lawyers like to have some earnest that they are not working in vain, I send you as a retainer fee not a bill on one of your suspended banks, but a sound Virginia currency.

We are a way out here in the woods almost shut out from civilization. The people have generally come back & taking the oath & say that we were misrepresented. The Bushwhackers — whenever they get hold of one of them — they make short work of him. Their orders are — & they execute it literally — to kill & spare not any citizen who has taken the oath. This is a fine time to avenge family quarrels. ¹

Cunningham's War Record from Pension File

Cunningham’s War Record from Pension File

They had quite a scare at Raleigh a few nights ago. Our forces pierced the walls of the houses ² & stood at the port holes all night awaiting an attack but it turned out to be only a scouting party of the enemy who came to reconnoiter. Our force had a covered way built to the spring & everything prepared for a regular siege but the enemy turned out to be a myth.

I am anxious for passable roads. I want to be moving. I am brought in daily contact with the citizens here & must say that their dial has been turned back a hundred years in intelligence & enterprise in comparison to our population. We are in sight of two grist mills — both log, one-story 12 by 15 buildings. [They] bolt [screen the flour] by hand.

The defeat of [Confederate General Felix Kirk] Zollicoffer has infused new spirit into the army. Now is the time to push our success to completion. We appear to be gaining at all points.

We are still without a field officer. We have not heard from Col. [Hugh] Ewing except that he is on the Examining Board. Capt. [George Henry] Hildt ³ has not yet got his commission [as Major]. It may be delayed on the road as our mail facilities are very uncertain. Col. Ewing everyone thinks here will be promoted but the vacancy made by his promotion will most likely be filled by someone outside of the regiment. Lieut. [Ezra] McConnell some time ago got Col. [Eliakim Parker] Scammon [of the 23rd Ohio Infantry] to recommend himself & the recommendation was sent to Col. Jones but that will amount to nothing. Gen. Skenk [Robert Cumming Schenck] is looked for in a day or two. I hope he may come.

Write and let me hear how you get along with my collection.

Yours &c. — D. Cunningham


Capt. Hildt, 30th OVI

Capt. G. H. Hildt, 30th OVI

¹ The familiar Hatfield-McCoy feud is not thought to have originated before the Civil War though the families lived near each other in this very region of Virginia (now West Virginia) and eastern Kentucky. McCoy’s Mill was operated by the McCoy family and it’s interesting to note Cunningham’s observation that the war in western Virginia seemed to be a good excuse for quarreling families to “avenge” their disputes.

² Union troops were quartered in the abandoned homes of secessionists in Raleigh and Fayetteville early in the war.

³ George Henry Hildt (1835-1914) had briefly homesteaded in Kansas Territory in 1857 [diary extract], and worked in St Louis, but returned to Ohio in 1859. He served in the 3-month 16th Ohio Infantry, enlisting as Private in Company F and being promoted 2nd Lieutenant on 6 June. He mustered out with the Company on 18 August. He then helped recruit another Company of volunteers which became Company I of the new 30th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). He mustered in as Captain on 22 August 22, 1861. He was promoted to Major of the Regiment on 28 January 1862. Major Hildt was in command of the regiment during the battle on September 17th after Lt. Col Jones was captured. Colonel [Hugh] Ewing had previously been promoted to brigade command. 



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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