1863-4: Louisa Noble to Lovina C. Moon

These two letters were written by Louisa Noble (1814-1869) a tailoress of Leyden, Lewis county, New York. She was the daughter of Reuben Noble and Lucinda Messenger. At the time of the 1855 State Census, Louisa boarded with the Thomas Baker family in Leyden.

Noble wrote the letter to Louisa C. Moon (1837-1917), the 27 year-old daughter of Alvin Moon (1807-1893) and Louisa Plumb (1813-1906) of West Monroe, Oswego county, New York. Lovina married Adam Moyer (b. 1834) in 1865.


Addressed to Miss Lovina C. Moon, Mallory, Oswego county, New York

Leyden [Lewis county, New York]
June 7, 1863

Friend Lovina,

It has been a long time since I received your welcome letter and I am somewhat ashamed to think I have not answered it before but you know it is a busy time of year for a woman that has a large family as I have. I have had a quantity of carpet rags to cut and my house to clean, a sick girl on my hands to prepare medicine and make syrups for, and various other things to take up one’s time. Of late there has been several sick in the neighborhood which has occupied considerable of my time—one man sick quite near me. He is very kind to me when he is well and I am trying to be kind to him while sick. I carry him all of his eatables.

I have not much news to write you. I believe I told you Mr. Skinner omitted his meetings here on account of his poor health. Well the old seceders cracked and crowed over his departure that he would not be caught here again. His congregation had so many of them left and it was this and that. I all the while grinned in my sleeves thinking what small potatoes they were picking up. So here a short time ago he sent an appointment. So two weeks ago today, on come the old whitehead as grave as if nothing had ever happened. He preached and finally summed up by giving them a long lecture on the rebellion and slavery and various other topics which he knew would loosen up their dandruff. I could not help laughing the man in the face. Old Tom Baker ² and another Rebel had sneaked in to hear him but didn’t they look daggers at him. I am not a Universalist but I must say I like Mr. Skinner. He is just the man that suits me. He has got a mind of his own and is not afraid to tell of it. If I could find another such a man, I should turn off Timothy and take him myself.

The phrenologist always tell I am of that disposition myself and I thank God I am. If I get my mind made up and every person living was against me, it would not move me one hair’s breadth. A person without a mind of their own is a poor, miserable skunk and can’t dance.

Next Wednesday and Thursday the Mohawk Universalist Society hold their association here. I wish your Father and Mother could be here.

We have had some warm, pleasant weather this spring but now for several days it has been cold. I fear we shall have a frost. Tell Mrs. Spencer when you see her that Mrs. Isaac Parsons has broken her leg below her knee twice in two. She is doing well. Also Wm’s son 12 years old died there a short time since but the old lady’s tongue kept loose all the while.

I have written in haste for it was half past eight when I commenced. I shan’t tell what time it is now. My love to yourself and your father’s family. — Louisa Noble

I should be very glad to see you here. Also your Father and Mother. Write again. So goodnight.

¹ Possibly Rev. Dolphus Skinner (1800-1869).

² Probably Thomas Baker (1799–1883)—a farmer in Leyden, Lewis county, New York. Louisa boarded with his family in 1855.


Addressed to Miss Lovina C. Moon, Mallory, Oswego county, New York

Leyden [Lewis county, New York]
April 22, 1864

Dear Friend Lovina,

I received your welcome letter last evening and I hasten to answer it. There has been no meeting here today so I have been at home all day. I have had two calls and this evening I have been out walking and made two calls last evening. We had a hard thunder shower with rain and hail. I thought it would clear off cold but it did not. Today has been warm and pleasant as summer. We have had but little snow this winter and yet we’ve had a plenty to make good sleighing. We have had a great deal of gloomy, cloudy weather with drizzling snows this spring—not much sugar made though everybody has tried.

I have no news to tell you though I should have a bushel if you were acquainted [with the people] here. There has been some sickness about here. One of my neighbors—a married lady—has died with fever. The funeral of three others—grown people—-have been held at the church all within a short time of each other.

The Universalists have hired a minister from Utica. His name is Cook—a real old Copperhead, I think. I shan’t trouble him much. Some of our Republican friends won’t sign a cent to hire him. They used Mr. Skinner so mean they may work out their Copperhead business to suit themselves. I shan’t help them. I hear he (Cook) throws out more or less about Mr. Skinner. He better look out or someone will take their foot from behind him a few times.

You talk about cheese factories. I read in my paper today that there was to be 25 cheese factories in this county this season. Butter has been very high—from 45 to 50 cents per pound. It’s down now to 20, I understand. Well, I have not had to buy. Everything is so high, I believe I shall have to put out my children and go to work myself. I hate to part with the little brats. I have had plenty of sewing to do all winter and spring and I have over two suits on hand now to make. They don’t calculate to let me have time to clean my house but I shall take it very soon too. I have got to paper some—my hall at least.

I have not heard from Mrs. Spencer in a very long time. I should think she had better start up her old trotters a bit. You ask when I am coming to West Monroe. I have had so many visits from that quarter that I think I had better drop everything and run right out there. However, I would like right well to make some of the West Monroe folks a visit. I often think of the last visit I had at your house. How I enjoyed it. I fear it never will be paid. I wish your Mother and Mrs. Spencer would come. I don’t know what should hinder you and [your brother] Byron from coming in the winter certainly. I talk of going to Brown’s Tract this summer. What do you think of that?

Well, if no one else will come, tell your Father to come and I will kill the fatted calf and we’ll have a real jubilee there. Tell him he need not laugh at that. If he does, he shan’t come. Sometime when he is peddling books, he may stray away out here perhaps. My love to Arvilla [and] also to you all and other friends. Write when convenient. Yours, — Louisa Noble


1863: William F. McConnell to Mary E. McConnell

This letter was written by Pvt. William F. McConnell who enlisted at age 28 in Co. B, 82nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) on 7 December 1861 to serve three years. He died at Nashville, Tennessee, on 5 August 1864 of wounds. He was buried in the Nashville National Cemetery (Section J, Site 14066).

It is believed that William was the son of Hugh and Mary (“Polly”) McConnell of Chatham, Medina county, Ohio. In the 1860 US Census, William was living with his widowed mother on a farm in Buck Township, Hardin county, Ohio, with his sister Mary E. McConnell, born 1840 (to whom he wrote this letter), and his younger siblings—one of whom was named Alpheus McConnell (b. 1843). Another sibling, Thomas McConnell (b. 1847) is also mentioned.

Mary E. McConnell—the recipient of this letter—married Robert Stevenson in December 1866.



[near Bridgeport, Alabama]
October 22, 1863

Well, Mary, I thought I would write you a few lines this morning to inform you I am well at present and inform you I received your letter. I was happy to hear from you once more again and to hear you was well and doing well. I received a letter from Alpheus this week. He said they was all well and Mother and Thomas had gone East to be gone six weeks. Mother sold the old cow to Layton for nineteen dollars and fifty cents and bought another one.

Well, Mary, I hain’t sent home much money yet. All I have sent home is $1.75 dollars. I suppose I could of sent home more. We get tired of living on hard tack and fat pork so we spend our money any time we see good [things] to eat. Everything is awful high here. I must tell you we have left Virginia and are now in the state of Alabama. Our duty is very heavy on us since we came here. We have to do a good deal of scouting to keep the rebels away. They are considerable many of them here among the mountains. We are guarding the railroad to prevent the rebels from destroying the railroad. The citizens here has a hard time of it—nothing to live on—only what the Union army gives them. They look hard and very poorly dressed. We don’t fare as well here as we did in Virginia. We had been living on one-third rations until last week [when] we got full rations.

We left Virginia the 27th of September and landed here the 2d day of October. They way we went through on the route coming here—we went through Columbus, Ohio, and went to Indianapolis, Indiana—from there to Jeffersonville, Indiana, and there we crossed the Ohio river to Louisville, Kentucky. From there into Tennessee to Nashville, the capitol of Tennessee. We changed cars there and run where we are now. We are in Camp Alabama near Bridgeport.

I don’t like it as well here as I did in Virginia. I don’t like the country as well and the grub won’t be as good and it is more sickly here along the Tennessee river. The boys has been considerable unhealthy since we came here.

Well, Mary, if nothing happens [to] us, our time will be out the 20th of September. We have eleven months more to serve yet. That and order from the War Department the first three hundred thousand men came out will be discharged at that time. But I hope the war will be over before that time come around.

Well, I hain’t much to write at this time. I will have to bring my writing to a close. You said Robert [Stevenson] had gone away. You tell him I hain’t forgot him. He must excuse me this time for not writing to him this time. You tell him I send my best respects to him. I send my best respects to them all.

I hope these lines will find you all well and in good spirits. Write soon, soon, soon.

— Wm. F. McConnell

Direct your letters to William F. McConnell, Co. B, 82nd Regt. OVI, 11th Army Corps via Nashville, Tenn.

1863: Thomas Crutchfield, Jr. to his Uncle

Thomas Crutchfield, Jr.

This letter was written by Thomas Crutchfield, Jr. (1830-1886).  Upon his father’s death in 1850, Thomas Crutchfield, Jr. took over operation of Chattanooga’s largest hotel, the Crutchfield House. It was located on Ninth Street but was destroyed by fire in 1867.  Thomas Crutchfield, Jr. became mayor at a time when Chattanooga faced tough financial times.  The city’s investment in so many railroad projects and officials refusal to levy taxes against its citizens had drained the city’s coffers throughout the mid-1850s.  Though 1859 saw the completion of the Union Depot, the city’s financial future looked dim, forcing the Mayor and alderman to secure a $50,000 loan from a New York bank.  The terms of the loan pledged the “property and faith of the city” for security.

In the late winter of 1861, as the country approached the Civil War, Thomas Crutchfield sold his hotel. Following the Civil War, Crutchfield opened a general merchandise store along Market Street.  Unlike other southern businessmen, Thomas Crutchfield maintained enough capital following the Civil War that he was able to become a shareholder in the First National Bank when it incorporated in Chattanooga in the fall of 1865. [See Crutchfield Family Papers at the Tennessee State Library & Archives]

Crutchfield owned a sizable farm near Chattanooga known as the River Farm from which he undoubtedly penned this letter to his uncle in Athens, Georgia, with whom he apparently carried on a regular correspondence during the war. See Letter dated 25 July 1863.

The Crutchfield House in Chattanooga


Chattanooga, Tennessee
14 July 1863

Dear Uncle,

I have written you occasionally and kept you advised of movements generally as best I could. As to army movements now, everything to the outside would seem to be in status quo. Lee, I am advised, is fortifying at Antietam. I don’t see how he can hold that position. It seems that he must fall back or lose Richmond. It is too long a line and can be too easily flanked and his supplies & reinforcements will be a source of no little trouble to him.

I think from the movements here it is the intention to make the Tennessee River from Bridgeport up the line in connection with the forces at the gap, thence on through to Lee in Virginia. I think Rosecrans’ next move will be to flank Bragg by way of Guntersville, Gadsden, Rome &c., by a heavy cavalry force, destroying railroads, bridges, &c. and I think Bragg fears a move of that kind as I am advised he has sent a heavy force to Rome. Chattanooga is being fortified all around and batteries are being placed on the river. From it, it would seem that Bragg intended to make a stand here and dispute the passage of the Tennessee.

There is much anxiety manifested upon the part of the citizens and soldiers as to the present military status of the Confederacy. Some are desponding while some still have bright hopes. There is great anxiety about Joe Johnston. It is generally conceded that he cannot hold Jackson [Mississippi] having only 22,000 men while Grant has treble or quadruple that, and it is generally a wonder why he made a stand at Jackson. There are many surmises as to what point he will fall back on, whether upon Mobile or Montgomery, or whether he will make a junction with Bragg with the view, ultimately, of consolidating the whole Confederate army in the central Confederate States.

I learn that the Atlanta paper has a telegram that Morris Island off Charleston had fallen. I am advised that no such dispatch has been received at our office here. Upon the whole, the “situation” looks quite squally. I have thought for a long time Vicksburg would be the pivot of the war and I have no cause as yet to change my opinion.

As a protection to my wife during my absence at the other farm, I got Judge Moore of Florence, Alabama (who is the president of the Military Court of Hardee’s Corps) and his wife to board at my house. Today the Judge brought out Generals [William Joseph] Hardee & [Leonidas] Polk to dine with us. Mrs. Moore thinks General Hardee was depressed in spirits, whether from National or other troubles, she could not divine.

We would be glad to hear from you, Hope you will not be annoyed with troops as we are, though I learn some cavalry has been ordered to Athens. I know not what for unless to recruit their horses.

All in usual health & join me in much love to all. Truly &c., your nephew, — Tom Crutchfield

Wednesday morning, 15 July 1863

No encouraging news this morning. Suppose that the news is suppressed from Charleston. Fears are entertained for its safety. There was a colonel of a South Carolina regiment at my house this morning hunting some place to put his family. He told us that when he was in Charleston only a few weeks since, that there was only five regiments there—two of them regulars and the other three volunteers. It is supposed that Morris Island has given way. If so, the reduction of Fort Sumter & Charleston is a mere question of time. It was from Morris Island at Cummings’ Point, which is on the point of the island, that we reduced Sumter. Everybody is alarmed and much anxiety manifested even among officials.

I am writing in Post Office & they want to close here [so] I must. Yours, — Tom

1861: John M. Carr to James Moffett Brooks

This letter was written by Virginia native John M. Carr (1825-Aft1870)—a Louisiana commission merchant and purchasing agent. In his letter to his uncle, he mentions the “ill-fated Princess” which blew up on the Mississippi river in February 1859. He was listed among the passengers and described as having been scalded, but a surviver.

Carr wrote the letter to his uncle, James Moffett Brooks (1804-1863) of Augusta county, Virginia.


Addressed to James M. Brooks, Esqr., Waynesboro, Augusta county, Va.

New Carthage, Louisiana
February 12, 1861

James M. Brooks, Esqr.
Esteemed Uncle,

Your favor of January came to hand on yesterday. I had written you a letter on the 10th and forwarded it on the 11th in regard to the business of Sarah’s and the mail on the same day brought me a letter from you on that subject. I have only to repeat that portion in relation to the purchase of exchange, pay the exchange, as I can soon make it back with interest.

I am happy to learn that you were all well and had plenty of hog & krout—a happy reflection. To know we are well and doing well and at peace with our neighbors is really consoling.

I just received intelligence of the burning of the steamer Charmer ¹—one of our packets built upon the ruins of the ill-fated Princess that was blown up two years ago. She was burnt on Sunday 10th not far below where the Princess was blown up. Mr. [Joseph H.] Coons, ² Sarah, Anna, & Mary went down the trip before on their wedding tour. Lucky for them that it was not this her last trip. Her cost was over $1000,000 and I am fearful but little insurance. What a loss to the parties and community. But few lives were lost, I am told.

We are all well today. Sarah and Mary was up to see Mrs. Anna Coons on yesterday. They live about 4 miles from us. Sarah had to have a hand in arranging Anna’s comfort &c. She has nearly worked herself into a shadow for those two girls, and I tell her she must not do it. Let them manage their own matters. A plump gobbler will be on the table today. Would like to have you and Aunt and all the family to enjoy it.

Our new president Jeff Davis went up yesterday. The cannon was booming and altogether things looked warlike. All join in love to you with best wishes for yourself & family.

I am truly, — Jno. M. Carr

¹ “The Steamer Charmer from Vicksburg to New Orleans with 3800 bales of coton, burnt to the water’s edge on Monday, ten miles below Donaldsville, La. Five lives are supposed to be lost.”

² Joseph H. Coons (1827-1870) was the son of John P. Coons (1790-1865) and Susan Bridenheart (1798-1865) of Orange county, Virginia.


1862: Laura Ann (Handley) Bomar to Miss McLean

Confederate cavalryman’s jacket such as would have been worn by Morgan’s men

These two letters were written by Laura Ann Bomar (1834-1912), the 28 year-old widow of James A. Bomar (1815-1860)—a former merchant in Hardin county, Kentucky. Laura wrote the letter to Miss McLean of Nashville, Tennessee—a stranger to her—hoping to get a message through to her brother, William R. Handley (1836-1915). Laura and William were children of Alexander Handley, Jr. (1809-1859) and Letitia Cleaver (1814-Aft1862) of Hardin county, Kentucky.

William enlisted in August 1861 in Morgan’s Cavalry Squadron at Munfordsville, Kentucky. After the Battle of Shiloh, the remnants of Morgan’s Squadron were consolidated into the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry. According to military records, William was placed into Duke’s Co. G. From a pension application record, we learn that William rode with Morgan until he was wounded and taken prisoner at the Battle of Lebanon—east of Nashville, Tennessee—on 5 May 1862. In this pre-dawn battle, Morgan’s men were caught sleeping by Union cavalry commander Gen. Ebenezer Dumont who engaged his 600 men against Morgan’s 800 men in a shootout on the streets of the small town. After two hours of fighting, Morgan’s men made their escape in a 15-mile chase that came to be known as “The Lebanon Races.” But those of Morgan’s men who were wounded and left behind—including William apparently—were forced to surrender when Dumont threatened to set the town on fire. According to Dumont’s report, he took 150 rebel troopers captive. From Nashville, William was transported to Camp Chase, Ohio, where he was held a prisoner until August 1862 when he was paroled. It appears that following his release from prison, William was permitted to return home to Hardin county, Kentucky to recover from his injuries. The second letter includes a statement that Laura’s brother was seen in Nashville and “recovering” from his wounds. I can’t explain this statement unless he was either mistaken or, more likely, saw William before he was transported to Camp Chase.

In the letters Laura hoped would be passed on to her brother, she wished him to know that his wife had died of typhoid fever but that his little boy was okay.

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



Pleasant Valley
May 24, 1862

Miss McLean
Dear Miss,

I received your letter this evening and was very glad to hear that my brother is on the mend. The news I have to write is very shocking indeed. My brother’s wife is dead, She died yesterday morning at six o’clock and was buried this evening in Millerstown [Grayson county, Kentucky]. She was sick three weeks [&] three days with typhoid fever. The baby is well and the rest of the family except Louisa. She has remittent fever but is not dangerous.

Will, I want you to take the oath [of allegiance] and come home and help to raise your family. Most every man in this neighborhood has taken the oath. I would not mind [your] taking the oath. If they won’t let you take the oath, come on parole and see us all. We are all well at this time. Ma and I have just come home this evening. We stayed with Lucy a week and Uncle Sam Cleaver ¹ waited on her and also Dr. [David C.] Phillips ² was to see her.

Alfred Murray is very low with the same fever [and is] not expected to live but a few days. If anything should happen, you will please let me know and you will oblige your friend. You will please write to me as long as you get this letter. I am your friend though a stranger.

— Laura A. Bomar

¹ Samuel Griffith Cleaver (1807-1896) was the son of David Cleaver, Sr. (1767-1829) and Letitia Griffith (1775-1856). Samuel was a physician/farmer in Hardin county, Kentucky in the 1860s.

² David C. Phillips was a physician in Hardin county, Kentucky. He married Mary Ann Handley (b. 1827) in August 1848. 


Pleasant Valley
June 7, 1862

Highly esteemed Miss,

I received your letter yesterday and I excuse you for not writing sooner. I think you a very kind lady for writing. Anyway we have not heard from my brother since you wrote before until yesterday there has been a man from this neighborhood to Nashville and seen him and talked with him and says he is improving fast. But he don’t think there is any chance to get home. I would write to him if I knew who to direct the letter to. You will please, if you can, send this letter to him. His Ma’s health is about like it was when he left home. The rest of the family are well except my little girl [Sarah (b. 1855)]. She is very sick but I think she will recover. His little boy is well and the rest of the family except Louisa. She has typhoid fever.

Willie has never heard that his wife is dead. If you can send this letter to him, just enclose the other letter in the same envelope and send them both. If you know whether they are going to send him off or not and where to, you will please write to me. I hardly know how to return my thanks to you for writing to me. It gave me great satisfaction indeed. I am very much obliged to you indeed for being so kind.

I am your friend and lover until death, — Laura A. Bomar

P. S. You will please excuse this envelope.


1861: Rebecca Lanier Saffold to Amanda Hicks

This letter was written by Rebecca Lanier Saffold (1845-1937), the daughter of William Oliver Saffold (1813-1875) and Mary Louisa Harris (1824-1904) of Madison, Morgan county, Georgia. Rebecca married Robert Taylor Nesbitt (1840-1913) of Savanna, Georgia, on May 4, 1865. Robert served in the Civil War as a soldier in Cobb’s Legion.

Rebeca wrote the letter to her cousin, Amanda Hicks, of Rome, Floyd county, Georgia. Amanda was probably the brother of Andrew Wesley Hicks of Co. H, 8th Georgia Volunteers.

Envelope and image of how “Becca” might have looked

Addressed to Miss Amanda Hicks, Rome, Georgia
Postmarked Madison, [Morgan county] Georgia

Madison, [Georgia]
December 30, 1861

My dear Amanda,

Your letter was received several days ago but amidst the bustle attending the arrival of little “new sister,” letters & letter writing were quite out of the question. Since that long-expected lady’s advent, I have been playing nurse & “Mother,” so assiduously that I have scarcely had a moment at my command. Are you surprised to hear that we have an “addition” to the family? Said “addition” though very small is a personage of so little importance & woe be to the one who does not pay her due homage. Even Miss Berta—though very loath to confer it at first—has come to the conclusion that “little sister” is prettier & smarter than she. But this last I am inclined to dispute for though “little Sue” may bear off the features of beauty, she can never be as smart as Berta. Berta sleeps with me now, & “sister Becca” ranks next in her heart to “Mama” & “Papa.” I wish you were here to hear some of her smart sayings & doings. She is not a pretty child but there is something peculiar about her face which redeems it from homeliness—something which will attract attention even among strangers. I think this peculiar something lies in the expression, in the eyes, which are a beautiful violet color. but I know you are not half so much interested in reading about the little “prodigy,” (a fitting name for her) as you would be in seeing & hearing her talk.

In your letter you ask about my cousin Bubly. How for your particular satisfaction I will say that I heard from him about a month ago and that his bodily health was at that time very good. At his Mother’s request, I knit him a comforter about three months ago. I received a note of thanks from her but he (ingrateful scamp!!) never deigned to notice the humble service. Now Miss Hicks, don’t laugh at my chagrin, for it’s only feigned. I expect the poor fellow did send me a message but cousin Mat forgot to deliver it & even if he did not, why I can easily excuse such neglect in a soldier. Speaking of cousin Mat, I don’t believe I have told you in any of my letters that she has been going to school at the Methodist College this fall term. This seems rather strange as you know her Father & Mother are both great Baptists. But they did not like Mr. [George Y.] Browne, the President of [the Georgia Female College,—]the Baptist College, so they sent Cousin Mat to the other college. Mr. Browne, finding he could get more lucrative employment out in Alabama somewhere, has moved to that state so that the Baptist College having no teacher will be closed this year & I suppose Cousin Mat will continue to attend the Methodist. Towards the close of the term, she had a long & tedious attack of the typhoid fever & it was only about three or four weeks ago that she entirely recovered her strength. When I saw her she was a little thin but in other respects you would never have known she had been sick.

Do you recollect Mr. [N. C.] Guernsey? I think he was in Madison the first term you went to school here. He was editor of the “Georgia Weekly Visitor“—a more sober, upright, religious man, could scarcely be found. He was the last man I should have selected to commit a rash or wicked deed. What then was my horror when not long ago Mr. Guernsey was found dead on the floor of his room, his throat gashed in two deep wounds on each side & the razor which he had committed the awful deed lying on the floor beside him. He had evidently murdered himself. The whole town wondered. Madam Rumor, ever busy, circulated various stories concerning him but these are believed only by the credulous few. The only reason that can be assigned for his thus plunging himself into the awful abyss of eternity is “Temporary Insanity.” How horrible! I did not recover from the shock for days & even now I shudder when I think of him. But let me pass from this to a pleasanter thought.

Ophelia Grinnell Marshall (1843-1928) and Henry William Booth (1834-1905); married 8 January 1862 in Madison, Ga.

Among the various rumors floating about town is one to the effect that Mr. Graves Harris will soon lead to the Hymonial altar Miss [Susan] Susie [Harriet] Sinquefield. Another is that Miss Mary William Burnette has consented to become the lawful & wedded wife of Mr. Key (Ella Key’s half-brother). As for the truth of these reports, I will not vouch but there is another, which I almost know to be true, viz: that Miss Ophelia Marshall is to be married on the 8th of January & to —- (well I might as well tell you) — Mr. Henry Booth. You remember Mr. Booth, don’t you? He clerked at Mr. [Robert A.] Prior’s store. He is as diffident & red-faced an Irishman as can be met with in the “auld country” itself. Well, are you surprised? Are you pleased? For myself, I must acknowledge that I was both surprised & did-pleased. Not that Ophelia’s marriage is such particular business of mine, but Ophelia & I are good friends & she is really a nice girl. Therefore it vexes me to see her throw herself away on such a piece of baggage. True, Mr. Booth is steady & money-making, but then (between you & I) he is destitute of that most needful commodity—sense. In my next letter I will write & give you an account of the wedding—that is, if I am invited. You of course must say nothing of this as I would not wound Ophelia’s feelings on any account.

Speaking of Ophelia makes me think of Charlie. ¹ Since I wrote last, he has returned home from Western Virginia. He has received a permanent discharge on account of ill health. I went to see him a few days after he came home. Poor fellow. He looked like he had suffered & suffered much. He was troubled with a dreadful cough contracted in the mountains which had become much worse from constant exposure. Everybody feared that he had come home to waste away in consumption. But since his arrival he has improved a great deal. The doctor says his lungs are not diseased & all think now that he will get well. I sincerely hope he will. About a week ago I sent him a waiter containing some dainties which I thought might tempt his appetite & when you come to see me, I will show you the nice note of thanks he wrote me.

You ask in your letter if I have sent my boxes to the soldiers yet? My answer is no. Mother’s sickness prevented me from sending them as soon as I expected. But she will soon be well & then I will send them as soon as I can get them ready. You also asked about Mr. [George] Pierce & Mr. [Pleasant] Wilson. I met Mr. Pierce not long ago. He looks much as usual. Mr. Wilson I have not seen in a good while. Christmas day I sent Mr. Pierce some Christmas dinner for which I received thanks.

How have you spent your Christmas? The bright weather reminds me much of last Christmas when we enjoyed ourselves. Do you recollect the serenades we had from the young gents & those we gave to the married people? The treats that were handed around & the champaign that was poured on your new dress? And do you recollect the Christmas tree & how we swapped jewelry boxes? And the Christmas party & how we came home disgusted with man-kind, & how we sat ’round the fire & ate the goodies we had brought home in our handkerchiefs while we discussed a certain young gentleman whom we had met at the “ball?” All these things I have thought over often & wished so much that I could see you again. I wonder when we will meet again.

There, I have got myself up to the crying pitch, but I feel so sad when I think how long it may be before I will see you. Please don’t regard this foolishness. When you receive this, it will be too late to wish you a “Merry Christmas,” but I may hope, dear Amanda, that you have spent a happy one. Please don’t wait long to write. As ever, your affectionate friend, — Rebecca S.

¹ Charles Oliver Marshall (1840-1880), son of Madison merchant Jackson Marshall (1816-1895) and Harriet Elizabeth Grinnell (1816-1901). Charles enlisted in Co. D, 1st Georgia Infantry in March 1861 and was mustered out on 15 April 1861. After regaining his health he reenlisted in Co. A, 12th Georgia Heavy Artillery Battalion in April 1862 and then was transferred in October 1862 into Co. A, 63rd Georgia Infantry.




1862: Nathaniel Wilson Harris to Lovina [McCoy] Graves

This incredible letter was written by Nathaniel Wilson Harris (1817-1885)—a physician practicing in Laclede, Linn county, Missouri. He was the son of Richard C. Harris (1791-1831) and Frances T. Wilson (1803-1882) of Bourbon county, Kentucky. At the time this letter was written, Nathaniel was married to his third wife, Anna Meriwether Jones (1835-1914); his first two wives having died. In the 1850 census, Nathaniel was enumerated with his family in Sherbourne, Fleming county, Kentucky.

A brief biographical sketch by the Harris family states that Nathaniel studied medicine at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky.

Nathaniel wrote the letter to his cousin, Lavina Virginia (McCoy) Graves (1822-1873)—the daughter of William McCoy (1795-1836) and the 2nd (and much younger) wife of Lance J. Graves (1793-1870). Lavina and Lance were married in Tennessee and lived for a time in Kentucky before purchasing a farm in the vicinity of what is now Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, in the mid-1850s but only stayed two or three years and returned to Marshall county, Kentucky.

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


Laclede, Linn county, Missouri
July 21, 1862

Dear Bena,

Col. Robert F. Smith left Hamilton to be a leader in the Civil War.
Col. Robert F. Smith, 16th Illinois

Since I saw you & your dear children in June 1861, I have often thought of you amid the trying scenes of this horrid war & wondered if you were well & how you were doing. Shortly after I saw you, on the night of 28 June, I with 15 others of this county was taken from my house, rushed off to St. Jo., kept there several days, & then without a moment’s warning, taken back by home & to Palmyra where we arrived 3rd July. I was retained there & the others sent to Quincy. The next day—the glorious 4th—I was released by Col. [Robert Frederick] Smith, 16th Illinois [Infantry] stating what I knew all the time—that they had nothing against me. It was so with the others for they were released in a few days without being required to take the oath. I took it freely as I had made up my mind to have nothing to do with the rebellion.

Since then I have been at home attending my usual avocation—half the time doctoring Union soldiers & their families [when,] at the same time, they—some fools of them—deride me as “secesh.” I care not for such things when my conscience is clear. Last Tuesday night a notice was posted on my gatepost that if I did not leave in five days, I would be hanged. This is the 7th day & my neck is sound yet. Such an act would not be attempted in daylight. The Lt. Col. commanding here ¹ told me to arm myself—which I have done—to kill any miscreants who attempted to assail me. You may be sure if they attempt it, I will give them a warm reception. There is no danger in my opinion, but I will be on the watch. My arrest was the work of some enemies I have here. Lies, not truth, the cause.

I saw many months ago in a paper that Duke Harris near Wellington was shot & wounded. I have never heard any more of him. He is my father’s cousin. I am anxious to hear from him. Inquire & tell me.

But few men in this county have gone into the Rebellion. I have always thought it folly to try & take Missouri out of the Union.

Tell me all about your children, self, & friends. I expect to go & see mother in September. Was there last August. Wife will not go this time—too hot. Tried it last year. Our daughter Luty is 15 months old [born April 1861]. She is very promising. My boys Henry 14 0born 1848] & Nat 4 years [born 1858] are fine healthy children. I am doing well, Bena, & hope to be able to educate & train my children. [And I] will if some miscreant does not deprive them of my protection.

A Post-war image of Hiram Bledsoe

Is Hiram Bledsoe—the Rebel artillery officer—a married or single man? I have heard both ways. ²

Was Mrs. Betsy Graves’ husband killed? I heard he was about the time Price took Lexington. I fear the horrors of this war are scarcely begun. Of course you have heard of [Gen. John Hunt] Morgan’s Raid into Kentucky. He certainly is a wonderful man. Our old county Bourbon, it seems, has had experiences of actual war.

We would be very glad to have you & family visit us. Try & make the acquaintance of my wife’s sister, Mrs. Dr. Webb.

May God protect you, my dear cousin. Truly yours, — N. W. Harris

Mrs. Lavina Graves, Lexington, Mo.

¹ This was probably Isaac Vinson Pratt of Laclede who was the first lieutenant-colonel of the 18th Missouri Infantry. This infantry recruited locals to guard the railroad bridges in Linn county under the watchful eye of the 16th Illinois Infantry—the first federal troops to occupy the county.

² Hiram Miller Bledsoe(1825-1899) was a native of Bourbon county, Kentucky. During the Civil War, he was the commander of the H. M. Bledsoe Battery of the 6th Missouri State Guard. He was wounded six times during the war, twice seriously. He was a favored son of the Confederate Generals Price and Shelby. Following the war Col. Bledsoe returned to Cass County, Mo. where he operated a farm and served one term as a State Senator. He was married to Mary D. Harrison of Callaway Co., Mo. in 1868.

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