1862: Unidentified Mary to her Brother

These two letters were written by a unidentified woman in 1862. She wrote both letters to her brother who appears to have enlisted in a Pennsylvania regiment. The author was a niece of Abner and Ashbell Graves who grew up in Cooperstown, New York. Beyond that, I have not been able to narrow down her identity. I can surmise that her home was in Indianapolis; the first letter was written while staying with Abner Graves (1821-1895) and his wife Almira Roxana (Cleveland) Graves (1830-1906) in Lincoln, Logan county, Illinois.


Lincoln, [Logan county,] Illinois
January 24th [1862]

Dear Brother,

I cannot express to you my feelings my dear brother when I received your letters. Oh, if I could of done anything for you but here I am away out here and your letter was so long a coming. Have you got any supplies yet? It must be there has relief come to you e’re this.

Plumb went to see about sending a box to you but they would not take one. They said government had the road and was a sending things as fast as possible. I do think it is so mean that they can’t keep provisions enough there when it must be nothing but carelessness in them. I wish every soldier would lay down their arms and not fight another day. I would not blame them at all. I would not stay there and be starved to death. I think the poor fellows have enough to suffer without being starved to boot. I do think it is perfectly awful. There must be a lack somewhere that they don’t tend to things better. Oh I shall be so glad when you are out of it and this miserable war is ended. Do write to me as soon as you get this letter and let me know if you are alive. It seems I can never wait patiently to hear. I am so worried about you. I can hardly eat a meal comfortable. The victuals fairly choke me a thinking that you have nothing to eat.

Louisa says Plumb will send you a box as soon as he can get them to carry it but Oh dear, you may be starved to death before it gets to you. I think it strange you do not get my letters. I have written three or four, I guess. But do you write oftener? And do answer this if you get it, soon for I shall fly if I don’t hear from you quick.

I have been here to Abner’s seven weeks. It is not a very pleasant place but Ab is doing very well. He is to work for a very nice man by the name of More. He raises horses and mules and takes them to St. Louis. He is a making money fast. He gives Ab one dollar a day and allows him two and a half a week for his board and Ab has to work pretty hard but he likes it and likes the man very much. Elny [Almira] is as well as usual but her health is not good at all, but she works like every thing a dress making. She is drove to death all the time. Willie is well and is a getting to be a great boy. He grows up all long and no wide. I do not know how long I shall stay here. Ab and Elny are not willing I should go home until next fall but our folks at home have been sick some of them ever since I have been away and if they are not much better the next letter I get  from them, I think I shall go home. But if they keep well, I shall stay a spell longer yet. I don’t like it here at all but I feel sad for Elny—she is so lonesome—and for that reason I try and content myself.

Ab says he sends his best respects to you and he wants to see you so much and if you ever get out of the army, to come and see him. Ab has just sat some grease of the store to grease his boots and it was scalding hot and he went to take it off and he spilt it all over the back of his hand and burnt him awfully. I have just been and done it up in sweet oil. He looks pale over it but he tugs away at his old pipe. But he has had to lay it one side and got on to the bed. He came very near a fainting away, but he feels a little better now.

Elny sends her love to you and wants to see you and so do I. I would give lots to see you but I would give a great deal to hear from you now so do write as soon as you receive this and let me know if you have anything to eat.

From your affectionate sister, — Mary

Direct your letter to Lincoln, Logan county, Ill.

Ab says if you will come up here he will  let you have a Jackass to ride all the time.


Indianapolis, [Indiana]
November 28th [1862]

Dear Brother,

Your long looked for letter came at last and I was so very glad to hear from you and that you were well. I began to think you was never a going to write. We are all well and yesterday was Thanksgiving and we had a very nice turkey and we all wished you were here to help eat it. I received your letter yesterday, Oh, I am so afraid you do not have enough to eat. Do you? Do write and tell me. Oh, I am so very sorry you enlisted. How came you to? I presume you would not of been drafted. I don’t believe they will draft at all. The war—it is just as you say. I presume as long as some few can make money at it, they will keep it a going. But it makes me feel so bad every time I think of your being away off down there and am so afraid you will get shot. Oh dear brother, I wish you was safe back again. I can tell you I don’t believe you would go again. How long did you enlist for (do tell me).

I had a letter from cousin Hat and she wrote a considerable lot of news. Ferdinand Shaves [?] raised a company in Boonville [?] and is Captain and has gone to the war. Perhaps he is down by you somewhere. And Uncle Abner [Graves] ¹ is married to Mrs. [Mary] Brewster and Uncle Ashbell [Graves] ² is married to Polly Ann Short. Hat had been to to S. P. Y. a visiting. She saw Ed Boughton. She said they boarded at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. I had a letter from Ab a short time ago. They were well. He wanted to know if I had heard from you. You must write to him. Direct your letter to Lincoln, Logan county, Illinois.

I had a letter from Louesa Wadsworth. She said she had not heard from you. George had gone to Buffalo with Mrs. Jones to see if he could get work. Willis was well. She wrote me John Hatch was killed, Oh dear, I hope the war will stop before you have to fight, don’t you? Sis had a letter from Maria Fox and her brother Henry ³ was killed in the last battle of Bull Run and Oscar, her other brother had enlisted. † I presume he was in the regiment that left before yours did.

They had a Military Review yesterday. There was nine thousand soldiers. I don’t know whether they are a going to winter here or not but believe they are.

Bill is a clerking it this winter in a grocery store. He cried when he read your letter and said he was afraid you would see some pretty hard times. Plumb is a doing well and they are both getting as fat as bears, and little Clarence grows like anything and is a cunning and as pretty as he can be and talks most everything and says his words so cunning. We think he is a very sweet child. He stands here by his mother and she is a making pictures on a paper for him and every few moments he will bob his head against the stand and make me make some awful looking things as you will see. I just told sis I guess you could tell any time but had hit the stands. Sis says she will write to Cecil in a day or two and now dear brother, so write to me often and tell me all about how you fare down there and do take good care of your health and as soon as you can play sick and get back home. We all send our love to you and may the God of Battles watch over and protect you from all harm is the prayer of your only sister Mary. God bless you and return you safe to us again.

My dear friend,

As there is a little room left, I will say a few words. I am all right. In a good store as you ever saw doing about $12.00 per day. 10 clerks. Lots of fun, &c. &c. I suppose you are busy just now and I wish you were here instead of being in the army. I don’t think you can read this. Clarence is teasing for the paper all the time. Well tea is ready and I must close as ’tis Saturday and we are very busy now. Write me soon a good long letter and I will answer it. From your friend, — Plumb

Plumb will write and do you answer this as soon as you can. From your affectionate sister Mary. I wish you was here this winter. You could get any amount of work and good pay but I don’t see much of it. The ground is covered with snow but it is warm and I presume it will all [be] gone by night.

¹ Abner Graves (1801-1881) took Mary (Platner) Brewster as his second wife on 5 November 1862.  Abner lived in Peoria, Illinois.

² Ashbell Graves (1790-1864) married Polly Ann Short in 1862. He lived in Cooperstown, Otsego county, New York.

³ Lt. Henry B. Fox of the 10th Pennsylvania Reserves (39th PA Vols) was killed at the Second Battle of Bull Run. He was buried in the New Bethlehem Cemetery.

† Possibly Oscar Fox (b. 1833) who enlisted at Warren, Pennsylvania, in August 1862. He enlisted as a private in Co. C, Independent Pennsylvania.

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