1863: Joseph Appleyard to Mrs. B. Gerrish

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A CDV of Lucien Smith, another private from Co. D, 4th New Hampshire Infantry (Dave Morin Collection)

These two letters were written by Englist emigrant Joseph Appleyard (1836-1864) who enlisted on 12 August 1861 as a private in Co. D, 4th New Hampshire Infantry to serve three years. A few weeks before his term of service would expire, Joseph was killed in the fighting at Deep Bottom, Va. on 16 August 1864.

From Joseph’s letter, we learn that his brother, Richard Appleyard (1838-1873), lived in Holderness, Grafton county, New Hampshire, where he worked as a mechanic. Richard later relocated to Lowell, Massachusetts, and worked in the mills. The Massachusetts Vital Records only tell us that Richard’s father was “Unknown” and his mother’s name was Hannah. Richard and Joseph probably emigrated to the United States together.

The first letter was written from Morris Island near Charleston, South Carolina. The second letter was written from near Petersburg, Virginia, about a month and a half prior to his death.


Morris Island, South Carolina
December 28th 1863

Mrs. B. Gerrish,

I used to board with you and when I left you I promised to write and let you know how I prospered. When I left you, I was going to Holderness, New Hampshire. I stayed with my brother till I enlisted to come out in the 4th Regt. New Hampshire Volunteers. It will be three years the 12th day of next August. We have been in South Carolina most all the time. We have been through the siege on the above named Island. We have seen hard times, I have been very lucky—had good health all the time. We have got about eight months longer before my term of enlistment expires.

We are within three miles of Charleston, South Carolina. We can see the church steeples and a number of the larger buildings. The rebels do not fire so much as they used to. They fire a little every day. We have been having some very stormy weather out here. One of the monitors sunk. I presume you have an account in the papers. You will have seen and account of the Iron Sides and three monitors being entangled in the rebel network. This is a falsehood got up by the rebels. Most of the obstructions have been washed out of the channel by the late storm.

Sumter I have been with ¾ of a mile of what once was a beautiful fort but now it is nothing but a mass of ruins and most level with the water. A few days [ago] a soldier was shot for desertion.

I presume things are altogether different now in South Berwick. Do you ever hear from that old man that [boarded there] while I was with you? He was going to England. I hope you are doing well. If the Lord spares me, I hope to see you again. I will close for the present. Give me reports to all the folks. Write soon and accept the same yourself.

Direct [to] Joseph Applegarte, Co. D, 4th Regt. H. H. V., Morris Island, S. C.

To Mrs. B. Gerrish



Near Petersburg, Va.
July 9th 1864

Mrs. Gerrish,

You will probably think that I did not receive your letter but I did on Morris Island, South Carolina. I left Morris Island, S. C., May 19th 1864 and stayed at Hilton Head, S. C., two days and then went aboard the steamer Arago and went to New York, stopped at the Soldier’s Home, visited the Barnum Museum, also the Central Park, also other places of note. Had a good time while there. I was there three days and took a boat for Fort Monroe, Va., and from there I went up the James River to Bermuda Hundred. Then I had to march four miles to the Convalescent Camp. My regiment had just started for White House, Va. They stayed there a few days [and then] came back to where I was [and] encamped. They stayed one night and started for Petersburg, Va., and they assisted in taking the outer works and were gone two days and came back to Foster’s Plantation [8 miles above City Point] and about the 10th of June I got to my company and was glad too.

June 23rd we started for Petersburg. We had to march about ten miles. The roads were very dusty. We have to carry everything. I tell you, I was tired.

We are within two hundred yards of the rebels now and have been since the 23rd of last month. Since we came here, we have had one man wounded and two killed in our company. It is dangerous for a man to show his head. I have had some narrow escapes. Two bullets were fired through my tent. A shell burst yesterday so near to me the concussion hurt me for a few seconds. One piece of the shell struck one of the boys canteen he had strung across his shoulder. The canteen saved his life. There are a number of such cases that I could mention but these will suffice for the present.

You remark in your letter which lay before me about me giving thanks to God. I do give thanks to God and have put my trust in Him and I find He has been a source of great comfort. I did not re-enlist, and my time will be out in September ’64. I hope and pray that the Lord may see fit to spare me. These are serious times and dangerous bullets and shell are coming all the time. The 3d, 11th, 12th and other New Hampshire Regiments are near us. I must close hoping this may find you well.

Accept of my kind regards, — Joseph Appleyard

Co. D, 4th New Hampshire Vols., Washington D. C.

To. A. Gerrish


1864: Calvin Hopkins Cleaves to Georgie Kenny

These three letters were written by Calvin Hopkins Cleaves (1844-1870), the son of Calvin H. Cleaves (1821-1860) and Ruth Ann Kenney (1824-1866) of Reading, Middlesex county, Massachusetts.

Calvin enlisted on 21 September 1861 in Co. F, 9th Maine Infantry. He survived the war—he mustered out of the regiment on 15 December 1864—but died unmarried six years later of typhoid fever while working as a clerk in Salem, Massachusetts.

Calvin wrote these letters to Georgianna (“Georgie”) Kenney (1844-1916), the daughter of Timothy Pickering Kenney (1809-1897) and Louisa Chapman (1810-1888) of Leominster, Worcester county, Massachusetts. Georgie was married to Dexter Butterfield (1842-1912) in December 1865. Dexter served in Co. H, 2nd Massachusetts Infantry from 1861 to 1864.


Addressed to Miss Georgie Kenny, North Leominster, Massachusetts

About two miles from Petersburg, Va.
May 8th 1864

Dear Cousin [Georgie],

We have bee pretty busy for a fortnight, I can tell you. If you wish, I’ll read you my diary. Please excuse me, I should have first said that I received your letter of April 29th last Wednesday while aboard a transport. Well, thus says history—

Monday, April 25th.  Marched to Alexandria and went on board the steamer Matilda.
26th. Sailed down the Potomac, arrived at Fortress Monroe at eight o’clock p.m. And in a short time started for Gloucester Point opposite Yorktown.
27th. Arrived there during the night, think about three o’clock. On coming ashore we found the remainder of the regiment which we left in D. C. when we went home. I think we are about to march on Richmond for we’ve a large army here.
29th. The regiment drew shelter tents; a shelter is a piece of cloth about four feet and one half square, & each man carried his piece on a march. If three men button their pieces together, a tent can be formed—the bottom of which will be about 5 feet by 6 & about 5 feet high; the shape will be like that.  [sketch] It will be 5 high as I said at first. Tis quite a small house for three men to live in together with their worldly possessions, arms, and equipments. But we say it’s all for the sake of country—& bounty, ha ha.
30th. Had our regular muster. By the way, it comes once in two months & all the troops on the Point were reviewed by General Ben Butler.
May 4th. The troops at this place went aboard transports. My regiment went aboard the steamer George Weems [and] started for Fortress Monroe and all arrived there during the night. At sunrise, the 5th, the fleet started up James river and landed during the night in the vicinity of what is called City Point.

The bugle has just sounded the assembly so goodbye for the present. Were only ordered into an open field. Orders have come to fall the woods in which we were encamped.

6th. This morning the different divisions were marching towards Petersburg. Our division marched in a round about way eight miles and halted for the night. Near sunset we heard artillery and musketry firing about two miles away and supposed it to be near Petersburg. Yesterday morning our Corps was put in motion and our skirmishers soon met those of the enemy and drove them back about a mile and a half—as far as the Petersburg Railroad. The rebs made several charges and though to drive the boys back but they found veterans who were used to the business and who were not to be drove, but who could drive rebels pretty handily.

Well, we drew the attention of the enemy while the Eighteenth Corps went around and burned the railroad bridge—this being the principal object of the advance in this direction—to cut off communications between N. C. and Richmond. Toward sunset, we withdrew to our position occupied in the morning. There were but three casualties in the 9th. I cannot estimate the total loss of the army. The day was exceedingly warm and many were sunstruck and many of the sickly ones dropped out by the way from their exhaustion. My ears being quite forward in growth when compared with the remainder of my person interposed themselves between the fierce rays of the sun and Mother Earth and got badly burned for their advancing proclivities.

Probably we shall march towards Richmond tomorrow. If you wish to know exactly where we are, please notice a small three cornered piece of ground formed by the James, another small river, and the Richmond and North Carolina Railroad. The bridge burned was across the small river ver near Petersburg you notice.

Please ask Cousin Ellen if she has received my letter. I wrote to het ar the same time I just wrote to you.

Now Georgia, if ’twas gallant, I’d be half a mind to get mad at you for insinuating that I was playing a trick on you about my photograph. Ha ha. But now don’t blame me for ’tis the fault of the artist if you have not got it yet. But I guess you have. Suppose I shall have to let you do as you have a mind to about sending that particular likeness of yourself. Girls will have their own way when they can—that’s a fact.

So, I’ll with draw my request but be sure and send me one of some kind. Oh yes, I’ll burn your letters. No fear but what I’ll do it. What do I care for them, umph. Ha ha. Now guess you are made. Well what did you doubt my word for when I said you should have my likeness? Now I begin to pity you so I’ll retract. I’m obliged to burn the letters I receive but you may imagine I am sorry to for I love to read them over occasionally. But I am liable to lose my knapsack as was the case yesterday when we went to battle and left them behind. And I know that my correspondents write letters to me and not to anyone who should find my portfolio containing them. So to do them justice, I’m obliged to burn them.

Tut, tut. If I cannot call my cousin’s fair, who on earth can? So now don’t dispute with me. Love to all and to yourself also and please accept this from your affectionate cousin, — Calvin H. Cleaves

To Miss Georgia Kenny



In the front trenches before Petersburg, Va.
July 25th 1864

Dear Coz,

I received yours of the 19th inst. yesterday & take the first opportunity to answer it.

Rained like sixty last night and I took some cold. When I got up this morning, I felt very still & chilly, but after having a hot breakfast (coffee & baked beans) & a good smoke, I feel as the Dutch man expresses it, “Much petter ish goot.” So I’ll try and answer your letter as well as I’m capable of.

The reb’s are throwing some shells but if they don’t depose their compliments in too close proximity with myself, I shall finish this in spite of their noise.

Yesterday they threw one very saucy shell which killed one man & wounded four—two of which belonged the 9th.

There is not much news to communicate at the present time but rather expect to see stirring times before I shall get an answer to this missive. Nay! ‘Tis about certain that something will soon be done here. If there is an advance made, the fight will be hard for the enemy is well entrenched. But there may be in use there the same policy that Grant used before Vicksburg—undermining forts. ‘Tis whispered around here that he is undermining two forts, but no one seems to know it in this regiment at least.

Our folks I think have the most artillery & mortars & they know how to use them pretty well for occasionally when the reb’s open fire on us, our battery’s concentrate their whole fire on the offensive guns and mortars and effectually “dry ’em up.”

Occasionally the boys on picket have some fun. They’ll agree not to fire & then jump out of their holes, swap coffee & tobacco & throw lumps of dirt at each other, get to talking about the war & sometimes get mad & have a fist fight. My love to all the folks and I remain your affectionate cousin—Calvin—who would like to see someone’s photograph a’for long.

Now that you’ve got mine, hope you’ll stop quarreling with me. Please excuse the large envelope for I’ve no other.



[August 1864]
General Hospital Point of Rocks, Va.

Dear Uncle & Aunt,

Halloo! excuse me just one minute, for one of the boys has just brought me a letter from Mother & I must see how she is getting along]. We Mother is quite smart; I expect the bracing air of that mountainous region is the best medicine she could have. Well I was thinking perhaps you might think I had ought to write you a letter. I had ought, that’s a fact, & I beg pardon for delaying it so long & will now try to make amends.

You’ve probably read an account of our defeat before Petersburg. ‘Twas a terrible slaughter—I never see the equal. And the rebs butchered the negroes just as fast as they could get their hands on them. And ’twas the negroes that caused the defeat. They made a regular stampede; they came back like a whirlwind & broke the ranks of the support all to pieces and before they could form again, the rebs were in possession [of] their works again & were loading and firing as fast as possible; & from each flank their artillery was pouring in a terrible raking fire and we lost as estimated by the papers 5,640 men—and that does not exceed it, I think.

At the beginning our boys were in the best of spirits and we had a vastly superior force & were confident of resting in Petersburg that night. But the negroes! the repulse! O, ’twas too bad. And my poor comrades were slaughtered for nothing. One of my tent mates was wounded on Morris Island in the foot & was in the hospital with me, and on the 30th he was wounded again in the same place. Poor fellow! ‘Twill about spoil his foot for ’twas not sound before it received another wound.

Well, Uncle Tim, how do your crops come on? If the weather has been as dry there as here, I fear that they will be rather small. In the state of Maine, potatoes are about a failure—so the folks write. Well, if you’ll now excuse me, I am your affectionate nephew, — Calvin H. Cleave & will write a line to George.

Dear Coz, I’m compelled to acknowledge the reception of your last letter; O dear! & I’m obliged to answer it; O dear! now you needn’t think I’m calling you dear cause I mean it for myself. You are a pretty good gal though, concluded ‘twould add to your peace of mind to send your photograph, didn’t you? Well I can but commend you for having foresight; tis quite a necessary element to possess is this world of calculation. By the way, guess I may as well thank you for it now as any other time; though ’twas very unmanly of you to keep me waiting for it so long. But I extend you pardon, so you need not have the pleasure of asking it. Now aint we good friends, Coz? Ain’t I a good feller to be so generous? Now I’m [an] awful lazy fellow and don’t want to go out behind a tree every time I look at a miniature; won’t it do just as well if I put my cap between it and everybody when I look at it? A sund stroke is the reason of my being in the hospital. I’ve never seen such intense heat as there was on the 31st of July. It nearly took my wind, but not quite.

Tell Etta that I’ve managed to pay interest for her peck of love for I scratched up a peck & a half to return. And tell her that I’ve obeyed her injunction to keep out the way of bullets & shells for I’ve got into the hospital—safe place this—ha. ha. Well now, love to the boys & I remain your affectionate cousin, — Calvin H. Cleaves

My address the same as usual. I’ve got nary stamp, Coz, so trashy as ’tis, you’ll have to pay for taking this letter or rather your father will have to. — Cal


Calvin was a regular correspondent with his cousin Georgie Kenny of Leominster, Massachusetts


U. S. General Hospital
Hampton, Virginia
September 27th 1864

Dear Cousin Georgia,

I received yours of August 24th last night; I had nearly dispaired of ever hearing from you again. The reason why I did not get your letter at an earlier date is that I moved from the Corps Hospital to this, and the boys did not know where to send my letters until I wrote to them, and I neglected to inform them of my whereabouts until a week ago.

Because I was daily expecting to go north, and I had them letters sent here, and I left before receiving them, I knew that I should never get them. But having learned something more definite about the time of my departure, I wrote and told the boys to forward my letters and last night I received nine. Big job on my hands & I want to detail you for my amanuensis! Will you accept the detail?

After I get these letters answered, probably I shall not have any more to answer while I’m in my Uncle Sammy’s service. Tell you why. Going to get my discharge soon. And everyone to when I write. Tell ’em not to write to me again. Reason—expect to leave this hospital this week for one farther North; situation not known and shall be continually changing hospitals till I’m discharged. And if letters should be sent to a hospital I had left, and they did not ascertain my whereabouts within a week, the letters would go to the dead letter office. Shouldn’t like that! So Coz, I’m going to tell you that you had better cease writing to me till I get home.

Humph! I don’t want your leather medal! Would not have it if I could! Got one better than that already. Uncle is very excusable of course; no doubt he has his hands full without writing. And of course Aunt is excused also; has any quantity of pies and pancakes to bake no doubt; would like to be there and punish some for her. Why, for the sake of consolation, could you not have said, marm’s baking custards and gingerbread; don’t you wish you had some?

Well Coz, I’ll now take my hat if you please and if you are inclined, I call this afternoon and let you darn up a sign of hard times in the sleeve of my blouse; and see if you can mend better’n I can. Love to all. And I’m your affectionate cousin Calvin.


1863: Andrew Jackson Cornelius to Mary E. Cornelius

This letter was written by Andrew “Jackson” Cornelius (1840-1867), the son William E. Cornelius (b. 1808) and Elizabeth Walters (b. 1818) of  Lewisburg, Union county, Pennsylvania. He wrote the letter to his sister, Mary E. Cornelius (1839-1920, who became the wife of Joseph H. Pardoe (1842-1923) in May 1866.

In October 1861, Jackson Cornelius enlisted as a private in Co. D, 52nd Pennsylvania Infantry. He reenlisted and served until July 1865 before mustering out of the regiment. Jackson died less than two years after leaving the service.

[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Michael Passero and is published by express consent.]


Hilton Head Island
February 13th 1863

Dear Sister,

I shall improve the present opportunity by informing you of my present situation and how I have been getting along since I last heard from you.

At present I am well and enjoying myself first rate. We are encamped at present in quite a pleasant place—Hilton Head Island—but do not know how long we will stay here. There is a great many troops stationed here and probably will attack Charleston before long.

We had quite a pleasant time coming here from Yorktown. Since we left Beaufort, North Carolina, we have been aboard the steamer 23 days and you can suppose we were glad to get ashore.

I saw Chas. McGregor’s son and James Pross. They look well and live fine for soldiers. If it was not for the hot weather, they say they would like it better.

On this island, most everything in the shape of game and fruit—oranges are plenty—alligators are plenty. Some of the boys captured one the other day seven feet, 2 inches long. Snakes are in abundance and the next 3 or 4 days of hot weather and they will be twice the no. that at present infest the soil.

The weather is hot here for the month of February. I can go all day in my shirt sleeves and sweat at the same time. Queer country this. The nights are cool and very heavy dews fall.

You can not expect a very long letter from me this time but shall write more next time. I think it is pretty near time I had a letter from you. I have not heard from home [since] we left Yorktown and would like to hear from you very much. We might leave here soon and go North again as there is such report is current among the boys. I wish we would. I would like it better here if they would allow us to go and hunt game but no such things are allowed. Some of the boys in the 9th New Jersey Regt. routed a lot of darkies and since then we are not allowed to go outside of camp without a pass. But I must close and hope you will write soon and I remain your affectionate brother, — A. J. Cornelius

Direct your letter to Co. D, 52nd Regt. P. V., Naglee’s Division, Port Royal, S. C.

Via New York

1865: Harrison H. Gibble to Henry Clay Gingrich

This letter was written by 43 year-old Harrison Gibble (1822-1898), a private in Co. A, 79th Pennsylvania Infantry. Harrison was the son of Lewis W. Gibble (1798-1851) and Polly Hummer (1800-1853).  He was married to Hannah Bentz (1817-1891) about 1845 and worked as a blacksmith in Manheim, Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, prior to and after the Civil War.

Harrison wrote the letter to Henry Clay Gingrich (1825-1907), also of Manheim. He writes of the movements of his regiment in the final days of the war and ends his letter by mentioning the suicide of David H. Showers—an “old soldier” in Co. I, 79th Pa. Infantry, who “hung himself on a sprout of a tree near camp.” According to the company roster, Pvt. Showers died on 16 April 1865.

[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent.]


Near Cape Fear River
[North Carolina]
April 20, 1865

Friend Henry C. Gingrich,

It is with pleasure to write a letter to you to inform you that we got the glorious news today that peace was declared and that we are to be sent home to our respective homes or states before long. Our army had much cheering when we got the news of the fall of Richmond and Petersburg and then the surrender of Gen. Lee. We almost got hoarse. But after the notice or order was read that peace was declared, it made almost the world shutter. How we cheered. Now is the talk in camp, “when do you think we will start to go home, &c.”

All the men are glad that we have conquered the rebs. Our army was doing hard work this last six months but it shows that it paid for doing it. We cut off all their supplies and drove them all the time in our front. We had Old Joe Johnston on a run all the time since we left Goldsboro till we stopped. We struck for the Capitol from Goldsboro and after we came within 15 miles of the city (Raleigh), the governor came to meet General Sherman and surrendered the town or city. The next day, we marched into the city till 10 o’clock A. M. and caught many of Old Joe’s rear guard. We then started next morning to follow his main army and came so close on him on all sides that he sent in a flag of truce for some reason and then we was ordered to stop and lay over till further orders.

So we laid still for 4 days and now we are waiting for orders to go to some other and more convenient place to camp. At present we lay 3 miles from the river to a town called Holy Springs. You can see the place by looking on the map of North Carolina. We have 23 miles to the Capitol.

Henry, I am glad that this unjust war is now coming to an end. It will make many a sad heart rejoice and will bring many a family to a more contented life, and all the troubles of war will be over. I got the sad intelligence of Mr. Hostetter and Frederick Ensminger. They have gone to their everlasting rest. I will come nearer to a close hoping that we Manheim boys may come home to meet you before the next 4th of July and spend that memorable day with you at home in some grove and help you to gather your hay and grain if you will be sactioned to raise any. We must now begin to think what to follow hereafter for our future days and throw away the musket—not to handle it no more.

The weath is fine. Thunder gusts most every other day and everything looks green and fruit trees full of buds all appearances to have much fruit. I will also hope to hear from you when convenient. Your friend, — H. Gibble

Direct to Raleigh, N. Carolina

N. B. Night before last a young man by the name of [David H.] Showers from Adamstown hung himself on a sprout of a tree near camp. Next morning we buried him. He was an old soldier and marched through all this long marches and after all over, hung himself.

1863: Robert Buchanan to Rusha Ann (Canipe) Buchanan

This letter was written by Robert Buchanan (1835-1868) of Co. K, 58th North Carolina Infantry. Robert was a 29 year-old farmer when he mustered into Co. B on 25 June 1862 for three years or the duration of the war. The descriptive roll indicated he stood 5 feet 10 inches tall. Soon after mustering in, he was transferred to Co. K. It appears Robert was with the regiment until 15 December 1862 when he went home on a “20 day furlough” but did not return to his company until 25 March 1863. Some two weeks after he wrote this letter from the company’s camp near Clinton, Tennessee, he deserted (7 May 1863).

Robert wrote the letter to his “dear companion”—Rusha Ann (Canipe) Buchanan (1839-1924) whom he married in 1852 and called “Rushie.” The couple had three children—Thomas, Sarah Jane, and Noah—prior to Robert’s enlistment. A fourth child, Mary, was born in September 1865. The couple made their home near Bakersville, Yancey county, North Carolina.

Robert’s apparent disgust with the war—expressed in this letter—was shared by a significant portion of those who fought with the regiment. When the war dragged on beyond the second year, many of them became disheartened by their absence from family and home and began to desert. In short—their heart wasn’t in it and many blamed the secessionist firebrands for dragging them into the war.

[Note: I was aided considerably in confirming the identity of this soldier by the article written by Rob Neufeld entitled, “Visiting our Past: Civil War letters reveal call to duty” that was published i the Citizen Times on 2 November 2015.]

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This Confederate Butternut Kepi was worn by William Jenks of the 58th North Carolina. It sold at auction for $16,500.


Camp near Clinton [Tennessee]
[Tuesday] April 21, 1863

Dear Companion,

I take my pen in hand in order to drop you a few lines which will inform you that I am well as common. My jaw still keeps hurting of me. I can say to you that I want to see you and the children the worst I ever did in my life and if I have the good luck to live and keep my health, I will come home before cold weather.

We are under marching orders but I don’t know where to. We hear that the Yankees has got the Virginia Salt Works but I don’t know whether it is so or not. We had to double quick back to Jacksboro last Friday [17 April 1863] and stayed there till Sunday [19 April 1863].

So I must close by saying to you I want you to write to me as often as you can for there is nothing that gives me any more satisfaction than to hear from you all and hear that you are all well and doing well. I want you to do the best you can for if I never see you anymore in this world, I hope that we will meet where there is no war—no secession, for I tell you that that was the very cause of it. So write, write, write and fail not.

I ever remain yours affectionate husband until death, — Robert Buchanan

to Rusha Ann Buchanan

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Saving History One Letter at a Time