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