This letter was written by 21 year-old William Porter Phillips (1842-1893), the son of John Phillips (1797-1859) and Eliza Gilmore (1807-1873). William was seventeen when his father — a grocer in Cadiz, Harrison County, Ohio, passed away. After the war, Phillips married (1867) to Mary Elizabeth Craig (1847-1921). He died in 1893 in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The 170th Ohio Infantry was organized in Bellaire, Ohio and mustered in May 13, 1864 for 100 days service under the command of Colonel Miles J. Saunders. The regiment left Ohio for Washington, D.C., May 17 and was attached to 2nd Brigade, Haskins’ Division, XXII Corps, to July 1864, and assigned to garrison duty at Fort Simmons, Fort Bayard, Fort Mansfield, Fort Gaines, and Battery Vermont in the defenses of Washington, until July 4. Moved to Sandy Hook, Maryland, July 4, and served duty in the defenses of Maryland Heights until July 15. Attached to Reserve Division, Department of West Virginia. Operations in the Shenandoah Valley July 15-August 24. Expedition to Snicker’s Ford July 17-18. Rocky Ford July 18. Second Battle of Kernstown, July 24. Martinsburg July 25. Moved to Frederick, Maryland, July 30; then guarded supply trains to Harpers Ferry, serving there until August 24. The 170th Ohio Infantry mustered out of service September 10, 1864.
Phillips wrote the letter to Richard (“Dick”) Lyons (1840-1902) of Cadiz, Ohio. Dick was the son of Robert Lyons (1803-1887) and Anna W. Bowland (1810-1844).
June 7th 1864
Richard Lyons, Cadiz, Ohio
Agreeable to promise, I write you a short letter. I suppose you have heard before this of our camping here. Sure enough, here we are about seven miles northwest of Washington. Our barracks are in the District of Columbia and the fort is in Maryland. I can step out of our barracks into Maryland.
We have good accommodations here. Our sleeping and eating quarters are good, plenty of good water &c. Our duty here is not very hard at this time. Our Col. ¹ is very easy on us. We have not drilled any for three days.
Our time at picket comes about twice a week. We are all glad to get out on picket as we get good grub while out and can confiscate all the provisions we want. The hen roosts are getting stripped bare and I am afraid that the crop of chickens will be short this year. Oh! Golly Dick, you ought to be here and get some strawberries. They are very plenty. Blackberries are going to be in profusion of all kinds of fruit. There will be a good crop.
You never seen such a God forsaken county. The people here are not as well educated as our darkies. They just talk like negroes. Young ladies are very scarce here and most d___m ornery. Sometimes we come across a good-looking gal. They will all play with their tails. Us green horns will all get the clapp if we don’t watch.
[Stuart] Beebe is in his glory at this time. He is orderly to the Col. and has an easy time. I have no doubt he would like to be treading some of the Cadiz girls.
Joe Clark has been enjoying himself but he is getting a little homesick and you would laugh to see him going around with that mouth drawed up. [Albert] Dewey is doing bully. Somebody stole his sugar yesterday and made him mad. Leizure [William C. Laizure?] still gets a few lines from that neighbor of yours (Mattie).
M[oses] K. Turner is trying to enjoy himself. Him and T[hompson] Craig bunk together. R[obert] Wilkin is at his old trade. He went out in the woods and captured two swarms of bees. He is now making a hive and we will have honey in a few days.
There is some talk of the 170th Regiment going to Fort Reno but we don’t know where we will go. We can’t hear nothing — only what the officers choose to tell us and that is d—-ned little. You have to ask to go to shit.
We have some good times here. Most of the boys try their hand at cards. We bought a fiddle and if we don’t have some tall dances you never had any. There is about twenty fiddlers in Co. K. and as many jig dancers. The boys keep very sober but it is because they cannot get anything to drink. The Sutler keeps ale but it is sour and don’t take. He keeps other whiskies for the officers. Money is getting scarce in Company K. I had $10 when I started; have 25 cts. left. [Robert] Clark is dead broke. [Stuart] Beebe in the same fix. [Albert] Dewey has a few cents. Billy Haverfield bunks with Porter. Our drummer boy [John] Stubbins feels as large as Ben Quest. He is the noisiest boy in the regiment. I like this kind of soldiering well and don’t want to see Cadiz for a few days.
The Capt. wants me for something and I will have to quit. Dick, write me a long letter and give me all the news. Tell S. George that I think he is treating me rather bad. I wrote to him from Bellaire [Ohio] and have not been answered. Give my best to Piety girls. Remember me to the boys. Who runs Catherine Tanner now? Who runs all the girls? Write soon.
Friend, W. Porter Phillips
Dick, I cannot get any stamps and will have to let you pay the postage. Tell F___ Tipton & Dewey to write. I want to go to Washington tomorrow. Dick, I wish you would come here and stay a few days. You would not want to go back to Cadiz. I have written sixteen letters and got two. Was you at Robinson’s wedding or Hatton’s. You may send some good papers, if you will. We expect box from Cadiz today. Our eating here is more useful than beans, meat, and molasses. Would like to have some of Wagner’s ginger cakes. Dick you must call down to Wiers. Was you at the Pic Nic? How does Brown Clark get along?
¹ The colonel of the 170th Ohio Infantry was Miles J. Saunders.