Monthly Archives: October 2014

1865: Isaac Cordon to Mary (Knapp) Cordon

How Isaac might have looked

How Isaac might have looked

This letter was written by Isaac Cordon (1832-Aft1875) who served in Battery F, New York Light Infantry from May 1861 to June 1863. He subsequently re-enlisted in December 1863 in Company I, 9th New York Heavy Artillery and was with his regiment (fighting as infantrymen) at the Battle of Cold Harbor on 1 June 1864 when he was wounded severely in the left forearm.

Cordon was sent to Cuyler hospital in Germantown, Pennsylvania, where he recuperated over the winter of 1864-65. He then served in the Veteran Reserve Corps until his discharge from the army.

In the 1860 census, Cordon is enumerated as a 27 year-old, unmarried laborer — an immigrant from England — in Venice, Cayuga, New York. He married Mary J. Knapp (1843-Aft1888) in February 1864.

After the war, Cordon resided in Genoa, Cayuga County, New York. He is enumerated there in June 1865 with his wife, Mary J. Cordon. In 1867 he is listed in the Cayuga County Directory as a farmer and a laborer at a cider mill in Genoa.

After Isaac’s death, Mary must have remarried someone named Thompson as she filed a widow’s pension for Isaac’s service in 1888 from Nebraska.


March the 2nd 1865

Dear Wife,

Just received your kind letter and I was glad to hear that you was well. Your letter found me in good health. I have sent you five dollars on the 20th and some postage stamps.

It is nice pleasant weather here.

Mary, you let them concerns alone and I will put them through for taking them letters out of the [post] office when I get home. I will show them if they have any right to take my letters out or not. I will put them where they can’t get to the office to get my letters.

Mary, if you don’t get that five dollars, you must go to Northville and get some for I can’t send anymore for concern to get. Mary, I am sorry that you have got to leave the first of April but you must do the best that you can for there will be a time when I can be around again and it will come all right.

I think that they didn’t take that green field soon enough and they ought to took him long before this time. I am glad that they have got him and I hope that they will  keep him fast now [that] they have got him.

Mary, you must write as soon as you get this and write whether you have heard anything more about them letters. Mary, you must send me all the news that you can and tell me what is a going on for I like to hear what they is a going on and what the folks is a doing.

Write soon. This from your husband. To my wife Miss Mary.

— Cordon

1862: Vesta Wolcott to George Bowen Bartlett

The Bartlett's in later years

The Bartlett’s in later years

This letter was written by 19 year-old Vesta Wolcott (1843-1928), the daughter of Alanson and Caroline (McClure) Wolcott of Waterford, Washington County, Ohio.

Vesta wrote the letter to her friend (and future husband), Lt. George R. Bartlett (1842-1919), who was serving in Co. D, 63rd Ohio Infantry at the time. He was mustered into the service in October 1861 and was mustered out as the captain of Company A in July 1865. George was the son of Wyrum and Sarah (Kinney) Bartlett of Washington County, Ohio.

The 63rd Ohio Infantry was one of the first regiments to go down the Mississippi River and were engaged in battles at New Madrid and Corinth. After the battle at Corinth, Bartlett was detached as an assistant in the quartermaster’s department of the Engineering Corps, where he was responsible for supplying Grant’s army with the materials necessary for construction of the canal at Vicksburg. He later participated in “Sherman’s march to the Sea.”

From this letter, it seems pretty evident that Vesta was employed as a school teacher, probably in a rural school in the neighborhood of Flint Run west of Waterford. Righteous Ridge runs parallel to Flint Run on the west.


Tuesday, July 29th 1862

Friend Geo. B.,

I received your letter just one week ago today. I would have written sooner but thinking you were in Chillicothe yet and my letter would reach camp before you did, I did not write. I would have received your letter that same evening you whereat Mr. Vincent’s if Rachel had of gone to Bowen’s and inquired if I did not get it until you had gone. It afforded me much pleasure in reading it. Soldiers’ letters are welcome any time — especially from — well, it does not make any difference who.

I am a boarding to Mr. Swift’s this week. It is a very nice place although they are a little too much reserved to suit me. I boarded at Mr. Beckett’s last week and got acquainted with that soul dear that has come home sick He is gaining vastly and I guess intends to go back the last of next week. I saw his brother Winphrey’s picture. I think he is the best looking of any of them.

There was a Temperance Meeting last Saturday night. The girls around here all went. They tried to get me and Rachel to go but they did not succeed. Each and I had a beau Saturday night. We sat up until four o’clock in the morning. Then we went to bed and slept till seven, then to Sunday School at nine. After Sunday School we attended a prayer meeting at Righteous Ridge at eleven. I am sick of the Ridges. I think it is rightly named. I did not know but that mountain we had to go up would really lead us to heaven before we got to the top. After I got there I had the pleasure of seeing old Mrs. Lattimore dance a gig which was very amusing. If we had only had a fiddle there and someone would have played Yankee Doodle, she would have kept splendid time.

A CDV of Bartlett taken in 1864

A CDV of Bartlett taken in 1864

Oh, I forgot to tell you who our beau was. It was Jack Vincent’s little baby which was very sick with the lung fever.

Harriet went over in the holler a week ago today. She has not got back yet — or she had not yesterday morning. I think she is making quite a stay. I heard we had some ripe peaches to our house. Oh dear, it seems as if next Friday night would never get here. I am not homesick but I want some peaches. I expect you and Miles got some when you past our house. I wish you had eaten one for me.

I believe I remember the gypsies that you spoke about.

It almost makes me sick to think of this accursed war. They talk hard of drafting, I almost wish they would sometimes. There are a great many that are very much alarmed about it.

You said I must not complain of your letter — the length of it is nothing to brag on although it is on a large sheet of paper. It is no longer than some others you have written nor so long as some. You had better take a fools cap next time but be sure and fill it. Don’t leave it half-filled as you did this last letter. When you was home last, you spoke of getting your picture taken twice. George, please don’t slight me now. I have not time to fill this sheet quite full. It is going on nine o’clock and I have a mile to walk before I get to the schoolhouse.

As ever, correctly Vesta

Incorrectly Vestia

Included with the letter is George’s copy of Special Orders No. 1 ordering his participation in court martial proceedings, dated 16 January 1865.

1861: Corporal Leonard Doig to Cousin

Soldier of the 14th New York Infantry

Soldier of the 14th New York Infantry

This letter was written by 18 year-old Corporal Leonard Doig (1843-1912) of Company F, 14th New York Infantry. He was the son of railroad agent, James Doig (1808-1869), and Betsey Murray (1821-1888) of Oneida County, New York.

In 1870 Leonard was an unmarried bookkeeper with his brother Edward and boarding with the Orrin A. North family and 3 others in New Britain, Hartford Co., Connecticut. In 1880 he was a bookkeeper living with his brother Augustes in New Britain, Hartford Co., Connecticut.

Leonard left America on 24 July 1881 to travel on the European continent. In 1884 and 1885 he was a merchant at Cleveland Villa, Church Road, London. In 1888 he lived in London, England. returning to the US shortly after that time. Leonard departed Southampton and the ship New York and arrived at Ellis Island, NY on 14 Apr 1894. He returned to England and came back with his son Leonard Elliott on the ship St. Paul arriving alone at Ellis Island on 12 Apr 1897. He again went to England, returning with son Leonard on 7 Nov 1903 at
Boston on the ship Columbus.

In 1901 Leonard was a manager of hardware residing at 76 Hurstbourne Road, Lewisham, London with his wife Magdeline, children Florence and Leonard (chartered accountant clerk), and mother-in-law Harriet T. Elliott. In 1905 Leonard and his son Leonard were living with Augustus R. Doig at 26 High Street, New Britain, CT. In 1910 he was a bank accountant lodging at 96 Flushing Avenue, Queens, Queens Co., NY.

Leonard’s obituary appeared in the Watertown Daily Times on Wednesday, 30 Oct 1913:

FORMER OGDENSBURG MAN DIED IN EAST – LEONARD DOIG, VETERAN OF CIVIL WAR, DEAD IN MASSACHUSETTS – Boonville, October 30. – A telegram was received Tuesday morning by J. H. Doig announcing the death at 10 Monday night at Ashmont, Mass. of his oldest brother Leonard Doig. Leonard Doig was the eldest son of James and Betsey Murray Doig. He was born in Lowville, Sept. 19, 1843, and came to Boonville with the family when he was ten years old, where he resided until the breaking out of the Civil war, when he enlisted in Company F, under Capt. Charles Muller, 14th Regiment, N.Y.S.V., under Col., James McQuade of Utica. He served faithfully the two years that regiment was in active service, participating in every skirmish and battle during the bloody peninsula campaign, under Gen. George B. McClellan. After returning from the war he entered the banking house of Mr. Mirriam at Ogdensburg, where he remained for several years, and then removed to New Britain, Conn., where he was bookkeeper for the manufacturing firm of Russell & Erwin Manufacturing Co. Afterwards he was transferred to London, England where he officiated as manager of the firm’s London and continental business for many years. He returned to this country about 10 years ago, and has since resided in New Britain, Conn., and New York city. Mr. Doig was married three times and is survived by one son, Leonard Doig, and one daughter, Mrs. Florence D. Frost of Galveston, Tex. He is also survived by a sister Mrs. Angus C. Davies of Ashmont, Mass., and five brothers, James of New York, Edwin Murray of Denver, Colo., Augustus of New Britain, Conn., and Walter and John Howard of Boonville, N.Y.

In the Civil War, the 14th New York was made up of a majority of abolitionists from the Brooklyn area. It was led first by Colonel Alfred M. Wood and later by Colonel Edward Brush Fowler. The 14th Brooklyn was involved in heavy fighting, including most major engagements of the Eastern Theater. Their engagements included the First and Second Battles of Bull Run, the Battle of Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House. During the war, the men of the 14th Brooklyn were well known by both armies and throughout the country for their hard drill, hard fighting, and constant refusal to stand down from a fight. During their three years of service they never withdrew from battle in unorderly fashion.

On 7 December 1861, the State of New York officially changed the regiment’s designation to the 84th New York Volunteer Infantry (and its unit histories are sometimes found under this designation). But at the unit’s request and because of the fame attained by the unit at First Bull Run, the United States Army continued to refer to it as the 14th.

The 14th Brooklyn received its nickname, the “Red Legged Devils”, during the First Battle of Bull Run. Referring to the regiment’s colorful red trousers as the regiment repeatedly charged up Henry House Hill, Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson yelled to his men, “Hold On Boys! Here come those red legged devils again!”

In the early part of the war, when the 14th Brooklyn was in General Walter Phelps’ brigade, the brigade was named “Iron Brigade.” It would later to become known as the “Eastern Iron Brigade” after John Gibbon’s Black Hat Brigade was given the name “Western Iron Brigade”. At the conclusion of the war, all members of the “Eastern” or “First” Iron Brigade were given medals for their service within the Iron Brigade.


Arlington, Virginia
September 2d 1861

Dear Cousin,

Yours of the 18th was fully received and I should have answered it before but I have not had much time to write lately. Besides that, there has nothing occurred that would be interesting to you. I suppose that you have heard of our great victory at Hatteras Inlet in which Gen’l Butler took so many prisoners and consequently I can write no news in regard to that.

There is nothing going on her at present except now and then a skirmish with the rebel pickets in which there is no great loss on either side. I was out on picket the other day but did not see anything of any consequence.

The health of the regiment is very good, some few of them having the fever and ague. As this regiment is a favorite one, we do not have any of the more laborious kind of work to do such as chopping and digging. So if you would like to enlist in a good regiment where no doubt you will have plenty of fighting, I would be very happy to have you in Company A.

I hope you will excuse this short and interesting letter and write again as soon as convenient.

From your affectionate Coz, — Leonard Doig

1861: Mahlon VanDyne to Anthony VanDyne

How Mahlon might have looked

How Mahlon might have looked

This letter was written by 18 year-old Mahlon VanDyne (1843-1864), the oldest son of Anthony Wayne VanDyne (1821-1898) and Lydia B. Hendershot (1821-1905) of Washington, Belmont County, Ohio.

When this letter was written in late December 1861, Mahlon (or Malon) was serving in Company F, 63rd Ohio Infantry under the command of Capt. Charles H. Titus. The original 63rd OVI was organized on December 1, 1861, at Camp Worthington in Columbus and at Camp Marietta in Marietta, but only enough men were available to fill four companies. Hence, the 63rd was not officially designated as a regiment.

After his service with the 63rd Ohio, Mahlon enlisted in Company I, 12th Ohio Cavalry. This regiment was mustered into service November 1863 and attached to the Department of the Ohio. Mahlon died on 31 July 1864 in the military hospital at Camp Dennison near Cincinnati, Ohio.


Camp Putnam
December 30th A.D. 1861

Dear Father and Mother,

I seat myself this pleasant afternoon to let you know that I am well at present and I do hope that you are all well and enjoying the same good state of health. We have come back to Camp Putnam again. We left Camp Dennison on the twenty-eighteenth day of December and we arrived at Camp Putnam on the 28 and we are now a fixing up to stay here all winter but we don’t know how soon we be called on to go away. But I think we will get to come home now soon to recruit for more soldiers to fill up the regiment. I would like to stay with the boys but I expect to be sent home now soon.

Well, we expect to get our pay tomorrow or next day for sure and if we do, will send some of it home to you. Well Father, I received your letter just a few minutes ago and was sorry to hear that so many piled on you but if I had been there I would have had a hand in it too. But if I ever get home, I will whip Lige till he will wish he had never seen me before.

I want you to write and tell me how you are a getting along. You must try and keep out of them heathen’s way for they are dangerous than they seem.

I have seen a great deal of things since I have been gone which I wouldn’t have seen if I had stayed at home. There is only about three hundred men in camp now and it will be some time before it will be filled up. We have a pretty cold place to sleep at night but I expect we can stand it. There are three of our fellows in the hospital now — William Hendershot has got the measles and Peter [Beck] has got the consumption. Marshall Trigg is sick also. We don’t know what ails him.

Well Father, I will have to close my letter for this time but I remain your respected son. I would like to see you all first rate but I don’t know how soon I will get to see you. Tell Sis I got her letter and was glad to hear from her and my dear mother too. I want some of you to send me some postage stamps for I have not got any here very handy.

Direct your letter to Camp Putnam, Marietta, Ohio, 63rd Ohio Regiment, in care of Capt. [Charles H.] Titus, O.S.M.I.

Send them about the same way you have been sending them. From Malon VanDyne

1862: Susannah Swartz to Corp. Henry S. Swartz

How Susannah might have looked

How Susannah might have looked

This letter was written by 19 year-old Susannah Swartz (1841-1911), the daughter of Charles Swartz (1815-1860) and Magdalena Margaret Slyder (1809-1853) of York County, Pennsylvania. Susannah married Martin Emig about 1863 or 1864, after which they resided in Dover Township, York County.

Suzannah wrote the letter to her older brother, Corporal Henry S. Swartz (1838-1916), of Company C, 166th Pennsylvania Regiment — a 9-month’s service unit. The regiment was organized at York between 24 October and 8 December 1862. They mustered out of the service 28 July 1863. Swartz was promoted to Sergeant on 15 January 1863.

[Note: This letter is heavily edited. It’s clear that Susannah had a limited education. She spelled her words phonetically.]


[York County, Pennsylvania]
26 December 1862

Brother, I take my time and my pleasure to sit down to right a few lines to you that I am well at present and I hope that you are in the same state of health. Brother, it goes hard to write a letter to you because you are in so dangerous a place. I would sooner write to you if you would be some place else.

I got your likeness down [&] I showed it to old Mrs. Raffensberger. She cried and bid to you if you will only come safe back again. Brother, we never mind each other as much as we do now since we are so far apart. Every time that I see one of my brothers or sisters or mother, they ask when I got the last letter of you. They always wish to see you come safe back again. I bid to you to be a good boy because we can always hear or read that a good boy comes better through the world and a bad one, it seems to me, if it would be no more.

They are  marrying about here. Isaac, great God, married Sarah Myers. Rudy Sanders got married to a lady out of Wellsville. Manuel Traskell over in ____, the awfullest tomboy out in Berlin, Christ King up ____ forlorn. I don’t know the ladies name. Old Raffensberger and John Boling traded farms. John is going to move up till spring and Crist is going to move over at John Trimmer’s store and I am going to move down at George Groff.

I hired myself yesterday. I am staying here till spring. Then I am going away. I had been a fool long enough here. Last evening I got my certain. John was going to take me up to singing at ___town. It made Elizabeth R. cross that he didn’t take her along. She jawed awhile with him, then she went and jawed to the old folks they should let him take a horse. Then John came over and told me they are ____ so at home because he wants to take me to singing. I told ’em to take her along. He said he won’t do it to take her along. Then the old women came out on their front porch. The way they jawed, I was ashamed. It was full of people at the store and they all did hear her jawing and they all laughed at her.

I must close my letter; the paper gets too short. The people are all about here and we had no snow since you left York. We had ___ cold ___ and no rain since. It is raining tonight.

— Susannah

Don’t forget to answer me a letter back again. You don’t know how glad that we are when we hear of you.

1862: Mehetible Waldo to Mary Waldo

How Hettie might have looked

How Hettie might have looked

This letter was written by 20 year-old Mehetible (“Hettie”) Waldo (1842-1879), the daughter of Horatio Waldo (1815-1905) and Ann Eliza Conway (1807-1850) who came to Kansas Territory by way of Dubuque, Iowa from Vevay, Switzerland County, Indiana.  Hettie married Ephraim D. Bowen (1837-1879) on 25 December 1864 in Leavenworth, Kansas.

Hottie wrote the letter to her younger sister Mary Edith Waldo (1844-1915). Hettie refers to someone she called “Rie” in the letter who I believe was her older sister Maria Waldo (1840-1878). Maria married later that year (1862) to Albert Guile Draper (1833-18xx) in Leavenworth.

We learn from this letter that Hettie was teaching school during the summer of 1862 in Alexandria Township, a few miles south of Easton, in Leavenworth County, Kansas. She was boarding with the John Wright family. Mrs. Wright was born about 1830 in Kentucky. Her three boys were Edward (b. 1856), Charles (b. 1858), and Albert (b. 1861).

1862 Letter

1862 Letter

Addressed to Miss Mary Waldo, Wyandotte City, Kansas

Easton, Leavenworth County, Kansas
June 19th 1862

Dar Sister,

Only five day have passed since I bid you adieu, but oh! what long days they have been to me. It seems as though it were almost a month since I left home. I am now staying with Mrs. Wright. Arrived here last Saturday evening just before dark. I thought that I would certainly feel quite homesick the first night but I assure you I did not. I was so tired and sleepy after riding all day in the hot sun that I could not think of home or anything else but returned immediately after supper and was sound asleep the moment my head touched the pillow and slept the next morning until breakfast was ready.

Our journey was not a pleasant one by any means. When we started, the wind blew quite hard and we were too cold to be comfortable. But as soon as the sun rose, it commenced to grow warmer and warmer and by eleven o’clock the heat was almost in supportable. Took dinner with Mrs. Harris and remained there two or three hours before we started to the country. Rie was somewhat disappointed about the place where she was going but Mrs. B insisted upon her staying there and said she would find another place equally as good if not better than the first. Has Rie written to you? I have not heard from her yet.

Leavenworth has indeed greatly changed within the last four years. I would not recognize a building there — not even our old residence which is now right in the centre of the city. There is a great many magnificent buildings there. Father showed us where Dr. Marshall lived and wanted us to go there but we were so dusty and tired that we did not wish to then.

Last Sunday afternoon, Father saddled old Charlie for me and I rode up to our old place, down to see the school house, over to Mr. Moore’s, and a good many other places. Things have changed but a very little around here since we moved away. About all of the old settlers are still living here. A few new ones have moved in. Our old cabin on the hill looks as natural as ever with the exception of the little bedroom at the north side which was taken away by a gust of wind.

And now I must give you a description of my schoolhouse. It is in the great City of Alexandria which contains one house besides it. It is rather small, appears to be quite old, and needs repairing very badly. My first impression was that it was a dreadful desolate looking place. I thought I could not possibly spend my summer there but it is in a very pleasant place, surrounded by several large shade trees, and there is a good well just a few steps from the door so I do not think it will be so bad after all when the house is repaired, as it will be this week. I cannot commence teaching until next Monday. I do not know how many scholars I shall have yet though I presume some less than a hundred.

Miss McMurtry was married about six weeks ago to a Mr. Ringgold — a carpenter by trade. Lot and Green Sparkie are not married yet. Green is one of the greatest beau’s in the country. I have not had the pleasure of seeing him. Lot was out with Mrs. Wright and myself yesterday gathering mulberries. I did intend to send you a can of strawberries but I believe they are about gone. We found a few on the way coming from Wyandotte. Mrs. Wright has three little boys. They are all quite pretty. Their names are Everett, Charles, and Albert.

There is a regiment of soldiers camped near Easton. I believe it is the 9th Kansas [Cavalry] Regiment. I think that Easton must be almost as lively a place as Wyandotte. There are two or three stores there and quite a number of private residences. I intend to ride over there tomorrow morning.

Mrs. Wright says that I am not near as large as she supposed I would be. I wonder if she expected to see a giantess.

The country agrees with me extremely well. I have not fallen away the least bit. Mary, have you heard from that Lieut. of yours lately? I presume he will make you a visit this summer as his regiment is not away from Fort Scott. I hope he will.

How is Mrs. Reicheneker and her little girl? Tell her that I will write to her soon. Has Mrs. McMullin been to see you since we came away? I suppose the Wyandotte folks are making great preparations for the Fourth. I hope you will have a pleasant time. I do not know how I shall spend the day.

Ride wished me to go to Leavenworth but I do not believe I can. Do you still go to Kansas City as often as Parson Fish ¹ used to? I fear you do not have much time to go any place though. Is Lizzie married yet? How is that little stranger at your house? Father is going home some time next week. He was quite sick all day last Monday but is well now.

Write soon. — Hettie

Give my love to Miss Loomis. Write soon as you get this. I am so anxious to hear from you. Tell Bub that his colt is large enough to ride. Mr. Wright is going to break it this summer and then I will have a nice time riding. It will make a splendid horse. Do not let anybody see this letter. It is written so badly but I have not time to copy it.

¹ This was probably Reverend Paschal Fish of Wyandotte.

1862-3: Joseph Augustus Hodsdon to Hannah Elizabeth Hodsdon

George W. Keene also served in the 17th Maine

George W. Keene also served in the 17th Maine Regiment

These four letters were written by Joseph Augustus Hodsdon (1841-1863), a private in Company A of 17th Maine (“Red Diamond”) Regiment. He enlisted on 18 August 1862 and was killed in Rose’s wheatfield just north of the Devil’s Den on the evening of 2 July 1863 during the three-day Battle of Gettysburg. The 17th Maine was in de Trobriand’s Brigade, in Birney’s Red Diamond Division, of Sickles’ Corps at Gettysburg. They paid the price for Sickles’ poor judgement in pushing his line out onto the Emmitsburg Road ridge where their flanks were exposed. The regiment lost 18 killed or mortally wounded, 112 wounded, and 3 missing during the engagement in the Wheatfield.

Pvt. Hodsdon was the son of Ezekiel Hinckley Hodsdon (1817-1897) and Elizabeth Esther Prince (1819-1879) from Falmouth, Cumberland County, Maine. Other Hodsdon family children included Hannah Elizabeth Hodsdon (b. 1843), Celia Emeline Hodsdon (1845-1850), William Prince Hodsdon (1850-1854), James Davis Hodsdon (1853-1854), Annie Eileen Hodsdon (b. 1855), and Wallace (“Wallie”) Prince Hodsdon (b. 1861).


Fort Greble
August 25th 1862

Dear Sister,

This map shows the location of Fort Greble near the conjunction of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers as well as its proximity to the city of Alexandria, Virginia.

This map shows the location of Fort Greble near the conjunction of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers as well as its proximity to the city of Alexandria, Virginia.

After four days travel we arrived to our place of destination and we were glad enough too for we traveled night and day for three days and three nights. We had a nice supper in Philadelphia which was the first time we made any stop hardly at all. We stopped about four hours, then marched through the city to the cars. They they piled us into cattle cars as thick as three in a bed. While we were passing through the city, it was a shake of the hand and goodbye, both by men and women, old and young, but there — I cannot stop to give all the details for I have not time and perhaps it would not be of much interest to you.

We are in sight of the Capitol on the southern side about eight miles and on the south of us lays troops all around on the other side of the Potomac which is some six or eight miles from here. Our boys are all well, I believe.

Our company has the best Fort on the line. We all went down to the river and had a good wash, you may bet on that. It is very pleasant here. I hope you are all well at home. Have you rode any of late?

Tell George I want him to write to me if he will . You can give him the directions and also tell any of my friends that I should be glad to hear from them at any time if they would take the trouble to write. And if it is so that I can, I will return an answer to them. Do not let anyone see this for it would scare them. I don’t know as you can find this out but hope you will excuse me for we have not got the best of chances to write and my paper was all covered with dust and dirt besides being all wrinkled up. I shall not have time to write much more but will again soon as I can. I want you to write as soon as you get this and let me know how you all are. tell mother I want her to write too and I don’t care how many more of you write either.

I send a kiss to you all and love to every enquiring friends. Write soon and direct to Washington D. C., Co. A, 17th Me. Regt.

— J. A. H.


Camp Curtin near Potomac Creek, Va.
April 14th 1863

My Dear Sister,

I now take my pen to write you a few lines for we expect to move tomorrow morning across the river. We have had orders to have eight days rations dealt out to us and for every man to have one shirt and pair of drawers and socks. Our cavalry have crossed the river and if they are successful, we shall have to go. I am glad that I have got well so as to go with them for I want to do my part. I don’t know when I shall have another chance to write you so thought I must write a few lines today. It may be that I shall never have another chance but we will hope for the best and put over. Trust in God and say His will be done and pray to Him that if we are not permitted to meet again here on earth, that we may meet in Heaven where there will be no more parting and no more wars but where all is peace and happiness. I hope God will give me strength and courage and preserve me from danger but if I fall, I shall do so trying to do my duty and in a good cause. We know that many must fall but if we are but prepared to die, we shall have no fears about it or in what manner we die, if we love God and try to serve Him and ask Him to forgive us our sins and make us pure with the blood of the Lamb, He surely will do it.

We are to go in as light marching order as possible. We are to carry our overcoat and rubber blankets and a tent piece and leave our woolen ones behind. This may jar your feelings some but I know that you have a patriot’s heart such as everyone should have and when I think of the loved ones at home, I feel that I have something to fight for and dear sister, rest assured I shall do all I can to maintain our rights and preserve our free institutions. But I shall have to bring my letter to a close soon for I have got my knapsack to pack for inspection and draw my rations, get things ready in general.

I had a paper from you last night and in it I saw the death of one of my dear friends. I hope you will write me often for I shall want to hear from you often. I will write whenever I have a chance. Give my love to all and I will closely sending you all a kiss and ask God’s blessing to rest upon you all hoping I shall hear from you soon. I remain as ever your affectionate brother, — Joseph A. Hodsdon


Camp Sickles near Potomac Creek, Va.
May 20th 1863

Dear Sister,

I now sit down to write you a few lines as I have nothing else to do today but write or anything that I am a mind to. It was my turn to go on guard today so I got ready and went over to guard mounting and after the guard had been inspected, the order was to excuse the best looking man and have it go for his duty and as good luck would have it, it fell to me.

I have been looking for a letter from you for some time. Have received none since the battle. ¹ I hope you are not sick or anything of the kind.

I understand that the conference is to be held in our place in June. I wish I was going to be there to attend it with you. Josie Hobbs is going home on a furlough I suppose soon. I am glad of it for he is lame and can do no duty so he might just as well go as not.

How is Emma and Carrie Gene? Should [like] to see them much, and how do you like your school? I wish you could attend all summer but I suppose it would be too much for you. Besides, mother will want you to help her. You must ride all you can this summer for it will be a benefit to your health. But be careful when you are riding with any of the girls and not ride too fast at first for Old Tige is sometimes rather headstrong.

I suppose father has as much pairing as he can do. I hear that business is very good in that line and wages very high. Well I am getting pretty good — thirteen dollars a month and a plenty of hard tack and pork. But never mind, it won’t always be so, I hope.

I am well and fat as a pig and did we not drill everyday, I should get so lazy I could not move. I suppose the nine months men will go home soon. Well joy go with them. We will all go home in a few years if not in a few months.

How is dear little Wallie getting along this summer? I hope he is so he can go outdoors and play with Nellie. I believe I will not write much more now for it is getting near dinner time and I can think of nothing more worth mentioning.

Give my love to all inquiring friends and to father, mother, Nellie, and Wallie, and keep a good share for yourself. Write soon as you can. From your loving brother, — Joseph A. Hodsdon, Co. A, 17th Maine Regt.

¹ Joseph is referring to the Battle of Chancellorsville (1-5 May 1863) in which the 17th Maine Infantry suffered 116 casualties.


Camp Sickles, Va.
June 10th 1863

My Dear Sister,

I now seat myself to answer your letter of the 4th which I received tonight. I was very glad to hear from you. It seems a long time for me not to hear from someone of you oftener than once a week but I suppose you are so busy that you don’t have time to write. I am well and hope you are the same. Am sorry to hear that father is so afflicted but hope he get well soon for I know he is in a hurry to get his barn done and the rest of his work.

You asked me why Joel did not write you. I think it because he has not had a chance as they have been on the move now for the past two or three weeks. When I was over to see him, he said he was owing you a letter and that he was going to write you in a few days if he could get the time.

I should like to hear my dear little brother sing and my sister too but I don’t think I could do much towards it myself as I hardly ever attempt anything of the kind nowadays. Josie Hobbs is at home now on a furlough. I should like to be with you a spell to have a ride on horseback. I should enjoy it more than ever. You must be very careful when you are riding and keep your reins up snug and then you can handle your horse as you are a mind to.

I think that little verse you sent very pretty. Did you compose it?

We are under marching orders yet. I expect everyday we shall get orders to leave this place but I don’t much care for we shall get rid of drilling then — not that drilling is very hard but to me, but there is such a growling about it in the company.

But I must stop here for it is getting late and I have made crooked lines enough. Give my love to all and write soon as you can. A good night to you all and a kiss for all from your affectionate brother, — J. A. H.

P. S. Tell father I should like to have him get me a sheet of the finest sand cloth to polish my gun with and put it in a newspaper and send me. I can get a plenty of sandpaper here but no sand cloth. I guess I will send the receipt in my next letter. Yours, — Joseph A. H.

1859-1863: Martha H. Garrett to Anne E. Sheppard

A Tribute to Martha's mother

A Tribute to Martha’s mother

This letter was written by Martha H. Garrett (1839-Aft1911), the daughter of Thomas C. Garrett (1805-1888) and Frances Biddle (1803-1873) of Germantown, a suburb in northwest Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Martha’s siblings included, Elizabeth Biddle Garrett (1828-1908), Rebecca C. Garrett (1828-1908), Frances Garrett (1832-1910), Philip Cresol Garrett (1834-1905), John Biddle Garrett (1836-18xx), Sarah Biddle Garrett (1841-1849), and Hetty Biddle Garrett (1848-19xx). Martha’s father was a jeweler in Philadelphia.

Martha Garrett wrote the letter to her cousin, Anna E. Sheppard (1843-18xx), the daughter of John E. Sheppard (1802-1882) and Margaret Garrett (1809-1890) of Greenwich, Cumberland County, New Jersey.

In her 1859 letter, Martha describes a steamboat journey on Delaware Bay enrollee from Greenwich, New Jersey to her home near Philadelphia.

Martha’s 1863 letter includes a description of a walking excursion she took with her friends into the Wissahickon Valley — a rugged gorge through which a small stream flows before entering the Schuylkill River southwest of Germantown.

In her 1863 letter, Martha also speaks of her cousin, Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1897) — the son of Alfred and Hanna Cope (Edward’s mother died when he was three years old and he was raised by his step-mother, Rebecca Biddle). Edward became a celebrated paleontologist. In 1861 and 1862, Edward attended the University of Pennsylvania but in 1863 and for the remainder of the Civil War Edward traveled through Europe. Some biographers have charged that Edward, a Quaker, left the country to avoid the draft during the war but he later denied this.


1859 Letter

1859 Letter

Addressed to John E. Sheppard, Greenwich, Cumberland County, New Jersey
For A. E. S.

26 October 1859

Before Dinner. Prepare thyself, my dear cousin, for a long infliction from my pen — for I feel full of talk, and hardly know where to begin. And nobody need read my letter unless interested in me personally for I expect a part of it will be rather egotistical.

In the  first place, as the most important information, the family here were reported “all well” to me when I came, though I believe Fanny has a cold. I do very much wish I could hear a similar report from you (all well). Mother too wished her love given to you particularly, and wants you to write & tell here you are , very soon. To tell the truth, cousin Anne, I didn’t quite like to leave you so poorly as you were; and so, as I came, I looked carefully for all indications that it was the right time for me to come, and I’ve concluded that it was, exactly! (very satisfactory)

Now for my adventures since yesterday morning when I last had the pleasure of seeing you all. How strange it seems that it is so short a time since I left Greenwich!

After my last look at my kind escort from Greenwich to Salem, I soon went up on the upper deck of the steamboat and took a solitary promenade, admiring the surrounding scene as we slowly swept round from the creek [Cohansey River] into the [Delaware] Bay. Contrary to the signs of the times, when I was taking my ride with Cousin Phil, the sun came out in all its glory, making the air delightful, and the prospect beautiful as it shone reflected from the white sails & sparkled on the dancing, beautiful water — as John B. Gough exclaimed, with the pleasantest & softest emphasis on the beautiful — which emphasis, as I have not learnt what mean, octaves, cadences, harmonies, &c. I cannot convey to you in a description.

Well, I descended soon from my lofty position, & meeting thy Uncle Charles outside of the saloon, had a pleasant talk with him about the scenery & objects around us. He, like me, enjoys the water. Then I went into the saloon, bought some ginger-cakes & ate them, and by half past nine, was quietly working my zephyr-work; and I worked till about eleven, & accomplished considerable. And from eleven to twelve, at about which time we arrived! I enjoyed the water view & the conversation of thy Uncle Charles again. He was very polite and agreeable, and when we came off the boat, he engaged a porter to carry my carpetbag to the passenger car, and escorted me there himself.

And after a pleasant journey, I was at home by a little after half past twelve, much sooner than I had expected. Mother & Aunty & Sister had not yet returned from meeting but Lizzie Rhoads called here soon after I came & I suppose we should have missed her visit entirely if I had not been here. As it was, different ones came dropping in soon so that she saw quite a number of us. She was very bright and pleasant, and says she likes teaching and likes the study of elocution so that she can enjoy to some degree her Westonian prospect; but she says she expects a reaction after she gets in her new berth & finds herself deprived of home comforts. She likes ver much her lessons under Samuel Gummere, ¹ but says she don’t feel half the confidence in herself that she did formerly & that…. (here I stopped to dine) …when she was asked to read a piece in the newspaper, she was so busy thinking of the cons and ofs and falling cadences, that she could hardly see any sense in the article. Perhaps that is the way with Cousin Phil when he reads the Epistles of St. Paul. Mayhap I may be learning elocution too sometime this winter for Mother thinks it might strengthen and deepen my voice, and then we hear Samuel Gummere wants to teach classes to make a living and so it might be a favor to him to get some for him. I think if I learn to read by note, the chief use I shall make of it will be to repeat some pieces of poetry “in a singing manner.” I like to read by the sense.

Johnny was telling us at the dinner table about an elementary lesson in elocution that he gave this morning. A little boy — perhaps 6 or 7 years old — came to the chore and asked for 5 small table cards, and when asked what they were for, said for the stool he was in. Johnny asked if he could not say, “school”; “stool”, “say k” — “tay!” However, after a number of trials, he said “k”; then “say cool”; “too!” but after awhile he said “coo”; then “say coo”; but the boy had advanced as far as knew how to teach his tongue, & when asked that, he came back to “stool.”  But I’ve been digressing from my egotism.

I haven’t told how I was greeted at home. Fanny, as I expected, the darling, gave me a sisterly squeeze, and some such speech as, “well, it is nice in thee to come.” Hetty’s merry round face was spread over with a grin. Mother did look surprised at my coming so soon yesterday but appeared to have expected me, as I said I intended coming about that time, so they did not write to me on 2nd day. Johnny differed from you in thinking it was the right time for me to come home, & when I told Uncle Rich and you didn’t think it was, he said, “Of course they didn’t” but he seems glad to have me here to pet. He brought me some beautiful, smooth, wooden knitting needles of his own manufacture & of three different sizes. I shall certainly want to knot something now, and if Aunt Margaret don’t particularly want to knit Madgy’s bonnet, and if she can send me that brown zephyr, I’d like right well to do that.

Dear little Maggot! I’d like to have her by me here. I’ve no prospect of running out of employment. Sister Bess said the work got on rather slowly without me & she wants me to fix her bonnet, and Aunty wants me to measure a dress, and some of Hetty’s frocks want altering. She’s grown so thin. And as for me, I expect my winter clothes will need a thorough over-hauling and revision before I have many to wear.

We are to have one day of mantua-making this week and that not for Hetty. She has already had a dress made — a dark chintz. I lay down rather more than an hour yesterday afternoon thinking it might be allowable to make up for the early morning time, but I don’t know that I went to sleep. I looked over a box of my old letters & found among them another one from Anna Hodgron on the subject of French.

After dressing, I intended to start out to call on some of my city friends — a duty I am very apt to neglect but before I got off, Mary Anna Jenkins called to see me about some business. She and I, with Cary Williams, were appointed to prepare the report of last year’s operations at the “House of Industry” ² and she brought me a report that she had written to revise. I went out with her when she left and bought some trimmings that were wanted, & then I came back and spent some time before tea, & a good while in the evening, in the revision of the report.

Just after tea, I sat on Johnny’s lap awhile in the corner of the dining room and we sang “Isle of Beaty” — “I would I were a boy again” — “Shells of Ocean” — and “I would not live alway.” And then I sang “Brightest and best” and after 10 o’clock, when I was sitting in the family circle in the library, crocheting, both boys pulled up their chairs against mine and we sang “Off in the Stilly Night.” I heard the clock strike eleven last night before I got to sleep.

This morning was ironing morning for sister and me; and our old folks (Uncle Richard & Aunt Sarah and Mother) have gone to spend the day at Fairfield. Now, my darling cousin, I want thee clearly to understand that I’ve been doing as I’d be done by in writing such a superlative description of my doings. I want thee to tell me too all about  what you have done — who ironed and who didn’t, what frocks have been made, how you all feel &c. I don’t intend often to bother thee with such letters but I felt in the notion.

Brother Jonathan & Sister Becky were here a little while last fifth day; they and their little ones are well, I believe. Little Joe is wearing pantaloons in the afternoons! Uncle William and Aunt Elizabeth are pretty well as far as we know, and are expecting to come in very soon with Cousin William’s, to their new home — the last house on Arch Street, this side of the Schulkill [River], except a few little shanties.

About Aunt Sarah McCollin, mother told me to say that Uncle Thomas was so tried with Dr. Kite’s inattention that he called in Dr. Levich one day to see Cousin Margaret and put Aunt Sarah under his care; since which, she has been quite improved in health, and Uncle Thomas and Mother think it is owing to the change of treatment. Cousin Margaret is to be married next 3rd day. Cousin James Cresol was here another evening while I was away, and Uncle Alfred dined here one day, and Aunt Rebecca another day. They ere pretty well.

Mother is expecting to have quite a company here on 6th day to meet Cousin Elizabeth Paxson, so you may imagine us that night playing entertainers.

Please tell Cousin Phil that I did not blow across the promenade deck on my way home, and also that I wish he’d write to me & tell me about his interest, and if he chooses, give me some problems to solve. Perhaps we could help each other a little intellectually.

I’d like to take a peek at you, but I can’t. I want to see some of you here soon. I sincerely hope this will find thee better than I left thee.

Hetty’s love to friends in general & she’s much obliged to Madgie for the pop corn. Fanny’s love too & mine to you all. I can’t tell you much about Samuel Mason, Jr.

So at last I conclude, remaining thy attached cousin, — Matty

P. S. An interesting letter from Hattie arrived yesterday.

¹ Samuel Gemmere and his brother John resided at 222 Wood Street in Philadelphia. They were prominent members of the Society of Friends and considered distinguished scholars. They joined with Dr. John Grissom of Burlington to establish Pennsylvania’s Haverford College in 1833.

² The Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor was established in 1795 by Anne Parrish, a young Quaker woman who wished to address the issues of poverty which had become aggravated following the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793. She founded the society with the help of twenty-three other Quaker women. The women began traveling around the city seeking those in need, especially the widows and children of Yellow Fever victims. At first, help was given in the form of food, clothing, or money for fuel. Soon, the Female Society decided that more permanent help was necessary, and it would be more productive to give the needy a way to earn their own money than to simply hand out the essentials. The Female Society established a House of Industry, which employed women to spin flax and wool. In 1799, to accommodate those workers with young children, a daycare center was opened at the House of Industry, possibly the first of its kind in the country. The Female Society was incorporated in 1815, and established a constitution and by-laws. The House of Industry reached its peak around 1854, when it employed 154 women and had 73 children in the nursery. In 1916, the Female Society joined the Philadelphia Society for the Instruction and Employment of the Poor to establish the Catherine Street House of Industry. [Elizabeth Peters, 2013]


1863 Letter

1863 Letter

Addressed to John E. Sheppard, Greenwich, Cumberland County, New Jersey
For A. E. S.

Germantown [Pennsylvania]
3 June 1863

My Dear Cousin Annie,

I had the pleasure yesterday of reading a letter from thy Mother to Uncle William and have concluded to write to thee now without waiting longer for a letter. I have been hoping to see from Aunt Margaret to come of our household since she signified on the margin of Madgie’s last letter her intention of writing. I hope, if it is not yet carried out, it will be soon. Today, I understand, thee attends a wedding. Perhaps this letter will find thee so full of bright recollections of that occasion that thee will care little for other news, but perhaps too, the’ll feel ready to pass on to me some of the accumulated novelties of experience, & I may have my letter answered soon.

I was much interested in Aunt Margaret’s letter to Uncle William, and it was pleasant to gather from it that you were pretty well. I can only give a moderate account of the health here. Such variations, my cousin, of shadow and sunshine, within and without, in this world of ours! Thee and I, perhaps, have not gone deep into the shadows ourselves, as we have journeyed along, but we have seen them lying around us. I fancy thee wondering what has set Cousin Mattie to moralizing so! N’est Le pas, ma chere? Well, I am living curiously in sunshine & amid shadows now. The outer world is oh! so beautiful, the air so balmy, the grass so green, the flowers so bright, that it seems as though anyone might drink in happiness from nature’s loveliness. I have been enjoying it greatly. Went on 2 lovely excursions 7th & 2nd day evenings, and then yesterday. Mother felt so poorly and so disheartened with her care about Sister, & with Aunty’s dolefulness, that it seemed as though I scarcely ought to be light-hearted. Aunt Sarah has been suffering very much lately with gatherings in her ear & a sore boil on her knee, has been a good deal kept awake, & yesterday was in the depths. Today she appears wonderfully more comfortable. Mother exerted herself rather much house cleaning time & has had a great deal of nervous headache — but that’s better now. And sister don’t seem so doleful or dependent as she did some time since, but is still not well, and mother is sometimes very much worried about her. Samuel Pettle paid mother a visit yesterday afternoon, just when she seemed to be most needing comfort.

Now we have some prospect of Aunty & Sister going to stay at Marple for awhile — which change might do them good and at the same time their absence would give mother a little opportunity to recruit her spirits & energy (which, however, mostly bear up to outward appearing). Then Fanny wants mother to go down with her & spend a few days with you & I would be glad for them to do so. From Aunt Margaret’s letter, I inferred that she was expecting to come up wit hUncle John a couple of weeks hence & go to Whiteland if suitable. Mother sends love and a message that we’d like to have a visit from her, & if they go down, they’ll not go at such a time as to interfere; probably they would go before that. tell Aunt Margaret I consider that she quite owes us a visit, having checked us out of it at Yearly Meeting time. Fanny says, ask Aunt Margaret if she’s forgotten there are any people in this part of the world!

Tommy & I was at Uncle William’s & Stoke’s yesterday afternoon. Aunt Elizabeth has been spending the day in town & reported Cousin Mary and her little one are doing well. She said too that Cousin Margaret was rather better again, so perhaps it would do for thy father and mother to go there. Either way, I hope they’ll pay us a visit. We found Uncle Samuel and Aunt Jane & their little ones at Stoke’s. Joseph was at home, and looked very much changed. He had some prospects of going again to Minnesota, having Hetty to accompany him but now that is given up. And there seems no doubt now that his health and strength are decidedly failing. He spoke in whispers. There is something to me peculiarly sad in seeing hearty young men thus waste away. I thought of going to town on errands this afternoon, but having a little headache, have deferred the errands.

Remember Holma’s idea of labeling certain doleful effusions of his written when dyspeptic, “Pie-crust” & throwing them away? If this letters shows symptoms of mal-de-tete, thee might treat it similarly.

Brother Philip and I have lately taken to horse-back riding for health and pleasure. I think it is just the thing to do me good, quite nicely supplying the place of last winter’s skating — and my health is pretty fair now. I’ve taken 3 rides on 3 different horses; the last & crowning one was last 7th day evening when by previous agreement Brother & I started after an early tea & called for our Fairfield cousins, & with them rode about 2 hours from 7 to 9 in the lovely evening. We didn’t ride very far, for we walked our horses & chatted a good deal of the way. I was on the horse about 3 hours.

2nd day we took a delightful excursion to the Wissahickon as I want that we should again when thee comes to see us. The party consisted of Henry & Sarah Albertson, Mary Ann Mitchell, Lizzie Stokes, Emily Lewis, Sarah Dil__s, Mary Brown (Sidney’s sister), Mary Anna Brown, Maggie Haines, Cousin Lillie, Hettie & myself, & last not least, Wm. Taylor & Robert & Richard Brown — 3 youths that the Friends Albertson had a concern should mingle in suitable “Friends” society & so invited a few damsels of about 14 or 15 to take a summer stroll with them — not West-ham style, is it? We elders kept Henry & Sally company. Our Hetty was so antique as to stay with us most of the time & Sallie, who is sc____ against singing was so considerate as to let those school girls & the 3 youths with them on ahead much of the time & indulge in vocal delight. We were together a good deal tho! Cousin Philip know Wm. Taylor. I walked home with him & found him quite agreeable; he was pretty merry. Robert Brown is Lizzie’s brother & Richard lives at James Jones’ & is in his chose & has handed me a bill before dinner 2nd day.

Well, we started about ¼ of 5, went by a rambling, scrambling route over the country, & reached the creek quite high up where the road was over the other side of the stream & on our side was a most excellent place for romance, fun, & the tearing of dresses! Seriously, it was very beautiful & very wild — steep & rocky — shaded by glorious old forest trees, & abounding in luxuriant ferns & wild flowers. We sat & stood & scrambled & rambled. Lillie & Mary Ann Mitchell with a Botony book, tried to examine some of the flowers. I perched up above with a portfolio & tried to make a sketch.

Near 7 o’clock, sitting in a bunch on the sloping ground, we took our supper consisting of sandwiches & an indefinite variety of cakes; we were pretty ____ over it, as thee may infer from my receiving about a half mug of water mischievously thrown in my face by Henry Albertson after which impromptu ablution, he wiped our nose, mouth &c., so vigorously with his pocket handkerchief that I was feelingly reminded of the juvenile complaints when rather rough face-washings are experienced from _____ hands! Fact was, Henry suspected me to have been the ___ of a few drops that had descended on the top of his head some time before; Lillie had done it but at my instigation so I didn’t thin fit to grumble at the copious shower bath given to me. While we were still at the cakes, Brother Philip arrived, having walked over after tea — and before very long, we moved off down the stream, crossed the little white bridge, & lingered about, waiting for the moonlight, but it didn’t quite find its way into those depths of the Wissahickon valley before we left, tho’ that was about 9 o’clock. A merry party — dancers are supposed, had come to a platform erected on the hillside among the trees, & after listening a good while to the tuning of instruments, we wanted to hear them regularly strike up before we left — but they wouldn’t. WE walked home in the moonlight, Lillie came here to spend the night, sitting up pretty late to have a little visit; she went home soon after breakfast yesterday. Now, Nanny, when thee comes, I do hope we can go to the Wissahickon. Can thee scramble?

I wonder if you have been as busy as we? House-cleaning, I found, was quite an item; my special part, the turning out & sorting of effects, certainly consumed a good deal of time. But now, it’s done! the cellar, I believe ain’t cleaned yet, but that don’t concern me, & the closet corners through the house have been pretty well investigated. We’ve had a many-maker a good deal lately — that’s through now, only there is a quantity of sewing left to do, & I don’t see any prospect of an end to my plentiful employment in that line. I would like to have the long-talked-of visit from Sallie Garrett soon, if I can — & thee & Madge — I want to see you both — have a kind of chronic desire so to do.

Drawing lessons are over, for the present at least; I enjoyed them very much and intend practicing some still. I want to sketch and when I get a right pretty sketch made, maybe I’ll send it to thee to let thee see how I’ve improved since the time of the “spheres.” I wonder if I bore people showing them my drawing book, but I don’t think many have been thus bored unless they have expressed a desire to look, & there seems more interest in drawings from models than in copies of other drawings unless the pictures are really beautiful.

Botony is my study just now; face me this afternoon going over to Aunt Hannah’s to inquire of cousin Mary whether some certain Compositae really seem to belong to Liguliflorae or to the Tubuliflorae.

I have not written or received many letters lately, but had one very nice one from Becky Allen, in which she acknowledged the receipt of a cut cardboard shade I sent as a birthday present. Looking over my letters I found I have 9 letters from her in about as many months, so set her down as a pretty good correspondent. She & Dr. were looking towards going to the shore this summer but probably to Cape May.

Cousin Edward [Drinker] Cope writes very interesting letters from Europe where through his scientific interests he has made the acquaintance of a number & seen something of house-life. He was enjoying it much. I have heard great part of two long letters — one to Lillie written from Antwerp, & one to brother from Leyden.

Not long since, I came across Joseph Rhoads’ sentimental scrap “Not Let” in an old paper — the one I was so amazed at his giving me to read a year or two ago; I could not quite ____ and under what circumstances such a piece should be written but it has, in my opinion, real pathos & harmony in it & some time since I guess I’ll send it & see if thee agrees. It might give this over-weight. My letter is a medley. I gave you the shadows first, after wards the sunshine, for I had rather the latter ____ with you.

Love to all & believe me thy truly loving cousin, — M. H. G.

1865: John to Jane Augustus

Pocotaligo Railroad Depot in 1865 (Harper's Weekly)

Pocotaligo Railroad Depot in 1865 (Harper’s Weekly)

The identity of the soldier who penned this letter is not yet confirmed. My hunch is that it was written to Sarah Jane Duff (1842-1917), the wife of Presley T. Augustus of Ross County, Ohio, and that it was written by her brother. Jane and Presley were married in January 1860.

However, Presley served as a private in Co. E, 149th Ohio Infantry and was mustered out of the service much earlier than the date of this letter — unless he reenlisted.

The letter was datelined Pocotaligo, South Carolina, which was an important stop on the Charleston and Savannah Railway. The depot was located about one mile northwest of the settlement. When hostilities began in 1861 and the Federal capture of the Beaufort area in the Battle of Port Royal, control of the railway became an objective in disrupting the Confederate economy. Pocotaligo was the closest depot to Port Royal Island and was a sought-after target for Union troops to disrupt rail service. For a short time in 1862, General Robert E. Lee was assigned to South Carolina to protect the railway, establish defensive units, and prevent Union incursion onto the mainland from the Sea Islands. Periodic raids were attempted by Union forces to attack the railway at Pocotaligo, of which, the most serious one was deflected in October 1862. Pocotaligo fell to General William Tecumseh Sherman in early 1865 shortly after his army’s capture of Savannah in Christmas 1864.


Addressed to Mrs. Jane Augustus, Anderson, Ross County, Ohio

Pocotaligo, South Carolina
January 23d 1865

Sister Jane,

It’s been a long time since I have heard from you or anyone else from home. I have almost come to the conclusion that John is forgotten amid the rejoicings over the returned soldiers of the 18th. Can’t blame anyone under such circumstances. They are entitled to all the respect that can be shown them.

We are having awful times in the line of rain and mud. Has been raining for several days and all South Carolina is afloat. We have to wade to our waists to get to the picket line and then build pens and lay lap across to keep out of the water. The entire state far as I have seen is flat as a pancake. I would not give up our farm for the whole state. All it’s fit for is rice and sweet potatoes. Poor South Carolina. She is gone up.

I have almost come to the conclusion that friends are like shadows seen only in sunshine. Then I think the matter over of home. Though hearts first rest the seat of warm affections and of childhood hopes and the final spirits rest, oh what comforts, what ___ are derived from the thousands of home and fireside. Jane said that your brother John may be spared to again enjoy the old fireside — the home circle of Mother, Sisters & Brothers. Oft do I think of the good advice I have received, the prayers in my behalf, and wonder if any ___ for the wandering soldier. Now Jane, remember me at a throne of grace.

My health is good. Pres is well & sends his regards to all. My love to the family & Dan & Sis, excuse this short note. Do better soon. Your brother, — John

1861: Joshua Dawson Todd to James Todd

USS St. Louis by Gunner Moses Lane during her cruise in the Mediterranean from 1852 to 1855.

USS St. Louis by Gunner Moses Lane during her cruise in the Mediterranean from 1852 to 1855.

This letter was written by 44 year-old Lt. Joshua Dawson Todd (1817-1861), the son of Samuel Poultney Todd (1791-1858) and Rebecca Ann Dawson (1790-1861). Samuel had a career in the US Navy as a purser moving his family from Washington D.C., to Philadelphia, and to Brooklyn. Joshua wrote the letter to his brother, James Todd (1813-18xx) who worked as a clerk in Brooklyn.

Like his father, Joshua made his career in the U.S. Navy. He appears to have served on the U. S. Sloop of War St. Louis as early as 1850. In this letter he tells his brother that the crew of the St. Louis suffered significant illness while on their last cruise and that the ship was lacking critical equipment to make it effective. “We have been treated shamefully,” he told his brother. He also expresses concern for his widowed mother’s health who, unbeknownst to him, had already expired on 9 August. The Philadelphia Inquirer of 30 December 1861 reported that Lt. Todd died just four months later on Christmas Day “at his residence in Brooklyn.”

In January 1861, the St. Louis was part of the Home Squadron fleet based at Pensacola, Florida. The ship was recalled from Veracruz to return to Pensacola to stand guard during the turmoil which preceded the outbreak of the American Civil War. In April, she aided in the reinforcement of Fort Pickens; then joined in the massive blockade of southern ports. On 5 September, she assisted Brooklyn in the capture of blockade-running Confederate brig, Macao, at the mouth of the Mississippi River.


U.S. Ship St. Louis
August 20th 1861

Dear Jim,

I wrote to you day before yesterday but as the steamer Rhode Island has unexpectedly been detained, I add a few lines to go by the same conveyance. We are all looking anxiously for our relief and suppose we will sail for home as soon as the Preble arrives. She was at Key West when the Rhode Island left there two weeks since, and would sail in a day or two for Fort Pickens. The Flag Officer has orders to land us North as soon as a vessel can be sent to relieve us.

I think we have been treated shamefully. The ship should have been ordered North immediately after the reinforcement of Pickens. She had then been on the station and the worst part of it, two years and three months, and employed on the sickly coast of Nicaragua fifteen months of the time, officers and crew suffering from the effects of climate and long confinement on board ship. As an instance of the effects of climate, we have sent home sick during the cruise at least one third of the ship’s company and now have quite a number of men whose term of service has expired and who are fully entitled to their discharges. Besides we have reported months since that the ship was deficient in necessary articles to render her efficient and have made requisitions to supply them but without effect.

I mention the facts to you because many letters have appeared in the papers from other ships complaining when not a line has been written from this ship referring to the subject. As you may well believe, I am much distressed about our dear Mother and look anxiously for your letters.

Your affectionate brother, — Joshua

Spared & Shared 21

Saving history one letter at a time.

Spared & Shared 20

Saving history one letter at a time

Notes on Western Scenery, Manners, &c.

by Washington Marlatt, 1848

Spared & Shared 19

Saving History One Letter at a Time

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Saving History One Letter at a Time

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Co. K, 7th Rhode Island Infantry

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