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
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