These remarkable letters were written by Sgt. William Jasper Srofe (1842-1912) of Co. K, 48th Ohio Infantry. William enlisted as a sergeant but rose to first sergeant in December 1862, to 2nd Lieutenant in March 1863, and finally to 1st Lieutenant. From June 1863 through the end of the year he was in temporary command of Co. H. He was captured at the Battle of Sabine Crossroads on 8 April 1864 and imprisoned at Camp Ford in Tyler, Texas. He was not released until May 1865. Following his release, Srofe remained with his regiment [transferred to Co. D, 83rd] as quartermaster on garrison duty in Texas until being mustered out in May 1866.
William’s older brother, John V. Srofe (1836-1892) served as a 2d Lieutenant in Co. K, 27th Ohio Infantry from August 1861 to June 1862. He later served in Co. E, 7th Ohio Cavalry.
Several more of Srofe’s letters are published on “I am not whipped.”
See also — 1862: George Benton Aldrich to Friend
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Near Pit[t]sburg Landing, Tennessee
March 23rd 1862
I again seat myself at the pleasant task of writing you a few lines first stating that I am well at present — hoping these few lines may find you enjoying the same. We are encamped in the woods about four miles from the Tennessee river from here to river is a continual encampment. Ours is the 1st division, 4th brigade & on the advanced line. It is about 20 miles to where the Rebels are fortifying in great numbers supposed to be two hundred thousand strong. It is no more than 20 miles to the rebels’ encampment. Our forces here number about 125,000 and will be increased by about 40 thousand.
I have not heard from home since I left Camp Dennison (that is — got a letter from you) but have had the pleasure of reading & receiving several from the neighbors. I believe that all of you have forgotten me or think that I do not like to read letters for if you are not able to write, it seems that there are plenty of people about that you can get to write for you. You could surely get Kade Gibson to write for you if he is not too independent. I have written him several letters & never got any from him but that is played out & I am tired of writing & never get an answer though I always get answers when I write to anybody. But those that are kind to me, I can never get a letter from. However, I shall still continue to write to you as long as I can get a piece of paper & envelope.
I heard very bad news the other day but I cannot credit it until it comes more directly. It was told to a young man at Paducah, Kentucky, that Jno. Srofe was dead. I am very uneasy but still cannot believe it. If it is so, I think very hard of you for not letting me know it sooner. There is several of the boys that are not well but are not so sick as to be in the hospital but I think they will soon be well again. I attended the funeral of a officer today. He was a Lieutenant in Taylor’s Cavalry of Ohio. ¹
I visited the ground where the secesh buried their dead that were killed at the battle at this point. ² Some of them was buried about one foot deep & some not so deep. They had been buried about 3 weeks. I saw the faces of 2 & one breast looked very bad. One had been shot in the breast & above the eye. The stench was very bad. I have found 64 lbs. shells & balls here that had been shot by our gunboats two miles & a half from the river & frequently dig a piece of a shell out of the ground. I saw one tree (a poplar) about 2 feet over that a twenty-four pounder had gone through & how much further, I don’t know. We only lost 3 in the battle.
I must close my letter hoping that you will write to me as soon as possible & let me know the news — good & bad. So no more but still remain your affectionate son, — W. J. Srofe
Address me at Louisville, Ky. In care of Capt. [Samuel G. W.] Peterson, Co. K, 48th Ohio Infantry, Tennessee Army.
¹ 2dLt. James T. Porter (1834-1862) of Co. G, 5th Ohio Cavalry, died on 22 March 1862 at Shiloh Church, Tennessee. He enlisted at the age of 28 on 17 September 1861. He was born at Austintown, Mahoning county, Ohio, He died of “Camp dysentery.”
² Sgt. Srofe is referring to the engagement at Pittsburg Landing on 1 March 1862 in which the Union Gunboats Tyler and Lexington attacked a rebel battery of six guns. The gunboats were supported by some sailors and two companies of Illinois sharpshooters who landed and destroyed a house where the battery had been placed before returning to their boats.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Near Pit[t]sburg Landing, Tennessee
April 4th, 1862
I take the present opportunity of informing you that I am well at present hoping these few lines may find you enjoying the same blessings. All the boys are well from New Hope and vicinity. There has been nothing of any great importance occurred since my last letter I believe.
On yesterday morning our brigade (including the 48th, 70th, & 72nd Ohio Regiments) was ordered to march with one days rations in our haversacks & without baggage. We were soon formed & was on a march. We marched about 3 miles & came to a halt. Company A of the 70th [Ohio] Regiment & Company A of the 72nd [Ohio] were ordered out in advance as skirmishers. We were then called to attention & marched about 3 miles further when we again came to a halt & Company K of the 48th (our company) & Co. B of the 72nd were ordered in advance as skirmishers (the former companies having taken a different road). Our boys all appeared pleased to have the honor. We marched about 2 miles in advance of the Regiment or Brigade when we halted at a small creek & filled our canteens with fresh water (we numbered about 125 men in all under the command of Major [James S.] Wise of the 48th & Maj. [Leroy] Crocket of the 72nd. The 2 majors appeared to be very brave for they rode from 2 to 3 hundred yards in advance all the time.
They halted at a house in center of a field when they saw about 30 rebel cavalry in covering of woods. Major [James S.] Wise rode back to the brigade for another detachment but Major [Leroy] Crocket remained at the house close to the man & children to keep the rebels from firing at him but as they saw us marching up, they fired on him without respect to the woman & children. But we were there in time & opened fire upon them, their balls whistling over us but was too high to do any harm. The Major ordered us not to waste our ammunition but to fire when they saw an object.
The Rebels had run; cracky how they run. I had to laugh after they had fled to think how they spurred their horses. We then fell back to the brow of the hill. To keep them from out-flanking us, we deployed taking intervals of 3 paces. We sat down all watching for the rebels but Maj. Wise came up in due time with another detachment so the rebels concluded that they had better let us alone. We did not follow them for it was no use — we being infantry & they cavalry — nor did we go to see if we killed any of them. In about 10 minutes after the firing, the long roll was heard to beat [over] in the rebel’s camp. Our company & Co. B of the 72nd [Ohio] acted as the rear guards, being 4 hundred yards in the rear of the brigade & deployed in groups of four, taking intervals of 20 paces. We got back into camp about 6 o’clock in the evening making about 14 miles we marched in 7 hours. The boys all took it very cooly as much so as could be expected. ¹
We have a rumor today of an armistice for 30 days – no guns to be fired on either side for 30 days. If this be so, it will give the rebels a good chance to fortify at Corinth. I think if they are going to fight any more, why do we not march on? We have enough men here to whip them certain.
Well it is dinner and I am tired of writing & must close. Ever remaining your affectionate son, — W. J. Srofe
Still address me at Paducah, Ky. In care of Capt. Peterson, Co. K, 48th Regt. O. V. U.S.A.
You must excuse my many mistakes in writing on the wrong side of the paper. I would like for you to send me some postage stamps if you please.
¹ This march was described as a “reconnaissance” in the regimental history: “[On] Thursday, April 3d, our Brigade made a reconnoisance about five miles on the road to Corinth. We halted near a point where the road forked, and formed in line of battle. Two companies from the Regiment advanced as skirmishers, and were soon engaged with the rebel cavalry; but as the orders were “not to be drawn into battle,” the skirmishers fell back to the Brigade, and we returned to camp, arriving a little before dark.”