1861-4: Whiting M. Wetherell Letters

This small collection of seven letters were written by members of the Wetherell family. Four of the letters (No’s 4, 5, 6 & 7) were authored by Whiting M. Wetherell (1836-1917) during the Civil War while serving in Co. H, 35th Iowa Infantry. Whiting enlisted as a private in August 1862 and was promoted to 1st Sergeant on 27 December 1862. In July 1863, he received a commission as 1st Lieutenant of the company—a rank he retained until mustering out with the regiment in August 1865. Whiting wrote all four letters to his wife, Anna Elizabeth Snyder (1840-1934) whom he married in Linn county, Iowa in November 1859.

Whiting was the son of Howell Wetherell (1796-1880) and Abigail Rockwell (1802-1867) of Canaan, Litchfield county, Connecticut.

Letters No’s 2 & 3 were written by Alta Irene Wetherell (1844-1902) to her brother Whiting.

Letter No 1 was written to Whiting by his cousin, “Miles” form Winsted, Connecticut. This may have been Miles Rockwell (1836-Aft1910) of Canaan, Connecticut.

An invitation to Mrs. W. M. Whiting to attend a party hosted by the officers of the 35th Iowa at Middleton, Tennessee in January 1864


Winsted, Connecticut
May 1st 1861

Cousin Whiting,

I arrived in town last Monday evening and found your letter of the 22d inst. awaiting me and I have been “biling” clear over ever since and cannot wait longer to lash your astounding and sublime impudence. Now, young man, I want to have you get it distinctly impressed upon your mind that my grit is “riz,” and that I intend to teach you a salutary lesson before I have done with you, and one that I think will quell your turbulent spirit. I am well armed; a dictionary on one side of me, and a jack knife on the other, and as you must know that the New England war spirit is exuberant just now, you can imagine a part of what is coming, and tremble for the consequences that you have brought upon your own head. Now let me state our ground of dispute. Away back through time, we have been corresponding, and to your short and racy epistles, I have usually penned long and characteristic replies. After taking unto yourself what one of the ancients has designated as a “good thing” the correspondence is still continued, and I not only write to your individual self, but also often pen a few cousinly words to the one whom I am convinced is in reality your “better half,” for her letters, and generally of a good length, and of the right stamp, and this alone I think would establish my assertion. Now the responsibilities of your married life or the dividing line which you have placed between it and my bachelor felicity, has caused you to write me letters that did not accord with my ideas of what they should be when you had added another part of yourself doubling it, and from which I thing I had the right to expect that your letters should increase in the same proportionate length instead of which, they decrease in length as though you had had a rib taken away from you instead of having been added to you, and when I venture to mildly intimate the same to you, you ferociously pitch into me, give me a deal of excellent advice—applicable to yourself—and cooly quote proverbs about “glass houses,” and other things equally to the point.

And now Sir, I submit to you if I had not treated you with all the indulgence that good Uncle Samuel has his unruly Southern children, and if you have not just about as much cause of complaint against me as they have against him? And further, don’t you begin to fear that I shall treat you in just the same manner that he purposes to treat them? That is—if you don’t back down as Maryland is doing, and which I imagine you are already in haste to do. Now I give you this long letter (isn’t it so) as Lincoln does the twenty days for the Rebels to disperse, and if you don’t own up, the the consequences be upon your own head for I shall pelt you with missives until you will surrender to escape them. Don’t let me hear anything more about my letters, but just write as I desire to have you, and let me write as I please. What say you to this, “Squar?”

I enclose the likeness of my first wife which you must keep safe and private and return to me in your next letter. She would train me if she knew the liberty I was taking with it, butI don’t care and will send you one to keep so soon as I can get it. I have not yet secured likenesses of my other wives but I don’t mind telling you that one of them is handsome and that both of them are smart. I see that you don’t understand just how I have got matters arranged concerning them, and I have not the time to explain it now, so must defer it until a more convenient time. I have had a likeness of myself taken for you and intent to forward it to you in a very few days.

The war excitement is great here and is continually on the increase. I sent you a paper yesterday that will show you what we are doing. Two companies have already gone from this place containing one hundred men from this town, and a third company is nearly filled. Our present Secretary of State went as a private from this town. The second company is a splendid one and will do splendid service. The proportion from this town for the number called from the State would be about fifteen, so you can imagine the enthusiasm that there is here.

I was at home last week and found that they were forming companies all about there. My father offered to go if I would take care of the farm. I would go very quick if my health would permit, and am willing to do all that I can as it is. My mother was much scared at my disposition to go if I could, and I suppose will not be easy so long as the war continues. The papers will show you what the feeling East. It is terrible, and will pursue the traitors to the death. A man can no more talk treason here now than one can loyalty South and there cannot be but one expressed sentiment here. We have got a Government, thanks be to the North, and they that conspire against it must meet the death of traitors. We have had some great meetings here but I have not time to speak of them now.

Business is dull here and will be for a time. I am going home on Saturday to remain two weeks and you can direct your next letter to either place, according to the time when you write.

Thanks for your last letter and write another long one soon. Regards to all. Goodbye. — Miles

If I had time and paper, I should add to my letter but will it not “pass” as it is?


Canaan [Connecticut]
June 22nd 1861

My Dear Brother,

We received your letter last night, and as I do not know when I shall have the time again, I am going to write a little now in answer to it for Amy is very busy, and the letter she wrote to you is probably the only one she will write in the year. She has a good deal to do to take care of her girls, and her husband and herself, and with ill health too. She intends to go to Mrs. Clark next week and get a syrup. (The one she had last fall helped her a good deal.) We were glad to receive your cheerful letter, I, particularly, for Mother’s “shady sides” make me wretched, though I do not want her to know it, for I suppose everything troubles her and it is a relief for her, of course, to write as she feels. She wrote in her last letter that she was doing washing and sewing again—that Albert and his family had been there, and nothing that she wrote about them was very pleasing. Then she wrote about Horace and father. After I had read the letter, for a little while I thought I should die, although I had not thought that anything was changed. I have enough here to get along with, but I am willing to know everything just as it is. Then that I should so treat you that you think you have offended me is very sad. Do not for Heaven’s sake and for my sake think so, in spite of my carelessness and thoughtlessness, and some other things which I cannot help.

This is Friday night and I am always glad when it comes, although my school days are pleasant days too. I have sixteen scholars now. I think I shall earn enough to take me to Iowa next fall by teaching a term and a half. I shall go to Grove’s after school is out. Grove wrote me a letter last week and wanted it sent to mother for he does not have time to write much. He is sure of work through the summer. He is working at the joiner business. He would have enlisted but his lame hand prevented.

This reminds me to tell you that Tyler Mix is a Lieutenant. ¹ He joined a Stockbridge company. And I have also a little bit of romance to relate to you. Tyler was engaged to marry Carrie Smith, and when he “went to the wars” a few weeks ago, “their parting,” as described by the chief gossip of Canaan, “who witnessed it from behind a fence, “was fu’ tender, and praying they would meet again, they tore themselves asunder,” &c. Well, she has labored courageously and lovingly and hopefully in her school here, daily paying the venerable parents of her beloved a visit—until today. Today, “like a thunder bolt from a cloudless sky,” has burst upon Canaan the astounding and gossip-making intelligence that Tyler was married a week ago in his soldier-dress, and beneath the Star spangled banner to somebody who is not Carrie. Now the school house on the corner is silent and desolate. I think I shall go and congratulate Carrie.

The sky is cloudy tonight but for two weeks we have had the most lovely weather. I wish you could just step over here now and see how beautiful is the land of Canaan. The mountain is splendid. I saw it last night by moonlight coming home from the reading-circle at Mrs. Purces.

¹ William Tyler Mix (1836-1862) was the son of Lyman Mix and Marilla Chadwick of North Canaan, Connecticut. He was married in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, on 13 June 1861, to Sarah E. Clary (1837-1911). According to the Hale Collection of Cemetery Inscriptions, Tyler was a sergeant (not lieutenant) of Co. K, 2nd Massachusetts Infantry. He died on 22 January 1862 at Alexandria, Virginia.


Canaan [Connecticut]
November 4th 1861

My Dear Brother & Sister,

It is a great while since I have heard from you but that is my fault, I know. While I was a Grove’s, I write several letters and sent them to the [post] office by George, and I have  feared since that [    ] of them did not reach it.

Mother has not answered the letter that I wrote to her then but I suppose that she is busy “fixing up” for winter, making father’s and “the boys'” shirts &c. though she don’t have “the boys” to work for much now. I hope that she not care much about my staying here this winer. If she does, I will go home now alone. I had not quite enough to take me and get a few things that I needed this winter. Grove thought I had better stay and Amy wanted me to teach her children and would give me the opportunity to take a few others so that I could earn a little more. When mother wrote to me last, she said she wanted me to come home. Then it was too late to go with P[   ] and his company and I had engaged my scholars for this winter. I have only five. The school we have here in the kitchen and bedroom and get along very well—better than I thought we would. I have been teaching nearly three weeks. Phebe Stewart (you remember the Stewarts.) Whiting commenced a school in the chamber of the house that used to belong to Elmore. Parsons lives there now. She had only one scholar besides her brothers and sisters. She went on two weeks and then had the scarlet fever and died. She has been dead two weeks nearly. Phebe was the oldest of the family. There are two girls besides her and two boys. She was engaged to be married to Hiram Briggs’ son. We have heard tonight that Ichabod Stevens’ son has the fever. I fear it will go through Canaan.

We did not go to the wedding. It was impossible. Have not heard much about it except that it was very quiet. I was at Aunt Ann’s the week before it happened. Aunt Ann wonders what mother thinks of her for not writing. She had a great many excellent reasons, but I have forgotten what they were.

Ann Fitch has invited me to attend the Teachers’ Institute with them next week in Sheffield. Of course I shall go. Mary is still an invalid—does not have her room. I don’t think Dr. Adam will marry her unless he is a good deal in love. Perhaps he will take Ann. She has taken a new air lately—has grown young again. Wears gay colors and mat get to be a “blushing bride” after awhile.

The minister here—Mr. Dean—is not liked as well as he was at first, of course. There is a Methodist preacher who is “the rage” here. he preaches at the depot and in Norfolk. There will be next week a donation visit for his benefit at the depot.

Darwin is calling his supper now in the pantry. He has been at work today for Charles Franklin. Amy and Ida are shelling corn. We are going to have some “hominy.” Annie and Abby are building a “cob-house.” Abby does not talk plainly yet, but she reads pretty well. She is the best child I ever have known. Annie is a queer one. Last night she stayed out a long time chopping wood to get rid of going to bed. Amy has got five cats—six with our neighbor’s. They are fed invariably twice a day with two saucers of milk. Amy’s health is better than it has been for several years.

The weather is uncommon warm. there are no apples this year in this region of any consequence. Darwin has got a barrel of cider. It is sweet and very nice. We have just been taking a little.

Sarah and I went to Hartford on the cars. Stayed only one day. I do not think I will try to get to Unionville again. Grove and Sarah must come here before I go home. I did not see Jane Parker in Hartford nor Mr. Rice. We took dinner at Charles Hubbard’s and Mary Rice with us. May is very fleshy. She looks so much like Uncle Horatio. She said she should come to Canaan in the winter.

It is now bedtime and therefore, I cannot write any more. I have dreamed a great deal of news lately about Lisbon. I should like to know if it is true and my dreams can be depended upon. You must not answer this letter in a good while in order to do just as I have done, although I want to be certain that you are all alive yet. I suppose that Horace has gone back to Albert’s. Please remember me kindly to all our family, and kiss Kate for me. Darwin and Amy send a great deal of love. Goodnight.

Your affectionate sister, — A. I. Wetherell


Camp Strong
November 14th 1862

Dear Anna,

Your letter of the 10th inst. came to hand in due season. Accept my warmest thanks for it. I hope you will write often. Don’t wait for me—you know how I am situated & that my time is taken up when the rest are doing nothing. I am busy marking knapsacks, canteens, &c., in printing passes & carrying out figures in the company books for we have a list now of prices of everything we have got of government. he knapsacks are not near as good as the one I got of Cap. I was lucky in getting it of him instead of waiting for these. We are nearly ready to go—all but the overcoats. I learned last night they had only just been ordered. If this is the case, we will not leave for two weeks or more. We need them badly, worse than anything else but money. The cold winds strike right one down on this bleak island, I tell you. I am not out much—that is one good thing—so I don’t suffer as much as those who are  obliged to drill every day. The Quartermaster is trying the “scrimping plan” on us , or in other words he is putting us on short rations, for what reason I can’t say as provisions are plenty enough.

For the last 4 days (till yesterday) we have had nothing but fat pork, bread & coffee to eat; ¼ ration of bread at that, & no money to go and buy anything to eat either. Pretty tough don’t you think? The boys grumbled some but that did no good so they finally “came to time” & now eat with usual relish what is set before them. I stand it first rate. The Cap. took me outside the lines & gave me a good dish of oysters & I & I have lived on that for 2 days.

Last night some of our boys thought they would start on an exploring expedition. They ran guard & were gone about 5 hours, coming in about 3 a.m. The cook in the morning found 16 chickens & 2 fat turkeys hanging in the chimney ready to be dressed. Of course nobody knew how they came there. They probably dropped down as manna from above. Few questions are asked & Co. H will have one good dinner, I fancy, before leaving for Dixie. Cap. started out yesterday & bought 5 bushels potatoes, 1 onion, & some cabbage for us beside 100# fresh pork—good for him, I say. So we will live again for 2 days at least. Maybe the Quartermaster will get his eyes open by that time. He has so much to do attending to the clothing (so he says) that he cannot attend to the provision department.

If we stay two weeks here, I think we will get some money, so you just keep what you have. I can borrow enough to get along with somehow. I have subscribed for one of those soldier records & enclose the pictures of our colonel, lieutenant colonel, major & adjutant. I will send those of the capt. & lieutenants as soon as I can get them. I have subscribed also for the Muscatine Journal for 8 months to be sent to my address at Lisbon. The first no. will be sent today to you so look for it every Saturday. I got 28 subscribers in this company for it. It costs $1.00 for 8 months, payable on first pay day. I sent by Johnson my coat & a box containing $2 worth of coffee & 25 in soap to be left at Rice’s. You had better send for them soon. I am glad that Kate is improving so fast. She is a very intelligent child. Teach her what she should know, Anna, & what will be of the most benefit to her. Write about her & Harry in every letter. It does me good to read about them & about yourself too. Write often. Don’t feel more lonely than you can help. I will be with you all again some day, if God is willing. I must close now & fall in for dinner.

Love to all the family. Accept the same yourself. I am as ever your affectionate husband, — Whiting


On board steamer Aariatic
November 9th 1863

My Dear Anna,

I propose in this letter to give you a short history of our trip up the river. I shall write in it from day to day & mail it when I get off the boat, or at the nearest [post] office. We left our camp on the 7th & marched into Vicksburg & soon got on board this boat bound up the river & of course to our Army Corps at “Iuka.” We were at the landing till 11 P.M. last night when we pushed off. It took ten boats to carry our Division. Here we go, one after the other, “all in a string” as the saying goes. At the time of writing we are at Goodrich’s Landing,” taking on wood. A gunboat is here to protect the boats as there are any quantity of guerrillas nearby.Whilst coming into town, a burning tree fell upon the wagon that was loaded with the officers baggage & mashed it into the ground. Almost all the things were ruined. My valise was mashed as flat as a “pan cake.” Almost everything in it was ruined & I lost some papers, letters &c. What was left was wrapped in a rubber blanket & brought with me. If I was in the habit of swearing (which I am not), I should have cursed roundly. As it was, I just took it easy & thought of the old saying that a bad beginning makes a good ending. I hope it will prove true as with the rest of my bad luck.

I got a letter from you stating that Kate was very sick & that Ed had lost his child. I cannot tell you how I feel about the matter but you can guess. I do hope she will be spared us. What shall we do if she is taken & how forcibly it brings to mind our little boy who has left us & to make the matter worse, here I am bound down, cannot go to you to help you. Tis too bad but I try to submit to it as best I can.

10th—We reached Lake Providence about 3 P.M. yesterday & waited there for the other boats belonging to our fleet to come up. Our boat is a fast one & can run by all the others. We stayed at Lake Providence till 9 P.M., then started & have not stopped since in all now pretty near Helena. I learn we are to stop there a day. I will write if we do.

The weather is cold—the first cold weather we have seen of any account. Back of Vicksburg, the grass is green yet & the birds still sing in the woods as in mid summer. The town of Lake Providence takes its name from a lake that connects by a canal here with the river. It is a very pretty village, has two churches, a bank &c. How desolate it looks. There is not one white person in it, man, woman, or child—only a few negroes inhabit it now. These are some of the effects of the rebellion.

11th—We have traveled 36 hours without stopping & are not at Helena yet, but the Capt. of the boat says we shall make it sometime this afternoon. We stopped for wood at a famous place for guerrillas & Co’s H & G were thrown out as skirmishers till the wood was loaded. The boat whistled & we returned on board, no guerrillas making their appearance whilst loading on the wood & we steamed on again. This is a very beautiful day—clear & still, like Indian Summer up North. I borrowed some money & I get one meal a day at the table. I eat hard tack for my breakfast & supper. Dinner is ready & I must stop & go & buy my ticket & eat my 50 cents worth.

12th—We made Helena at 3 P.M. yesterday. It looked natural, only there are three new forts built since the fight of July 4th, It is a very strong place now & I don’t believe the Rebs will attack it again for they could not take it if they did. Here for the first time in long weary months, I saw a Northern white lady. I tell you, she made me think of home & the one waiting for me there. It did my very heart good to look at her. She was the wife of one of the officers stationed here. The majority of the troops here now are colored. The negro makes a good soldier & has proved that he can fight & that his powers of endurance are equal to those of the white man, We stayed through the night, then steamed up the river three miles to wood up. I was detailed to boss the squad of 50 soldiers who were to load it. We loaded 30 cords or enough to last us to Memphis in about 2½ hours. Here we overtook eight of our fleet of boats & all started off together. We run all night & this morning are about half way to Memphis. Will get there today. Weather clear but cooler than yesterday.

Tintype of two privates among the personal effects of Whiting M. Wetherell of Co. H, 35th Iowa Infantry. Probably members of that company since they are holding Austrian M1849 Rifles which the 35th Iowa carried until November 1863

1 P. M., arrived at Memphis. I went off & took a good look at the town after an absence of over 6 months. I found it much improved. Lots of ladies on the streets & some of the largest stores I ever saw opened & doing a thriving business. The new buildings going up are estimated at over 150. This shows that Memphis is on the gain and more. Circus & theatre & other amusements to get the soldiers’ money everywhere. The regiment stayed on the boat all night but all the baggage was put ashore & got on the wagons ready for a start.

13th—We moved off the boat early & marched through the town & about a mile to the rear of it we were ordered to put up tents. Just got my tent up & am finishing this letter to send to you today. I hear we are to get new clothing & guns & two months pay also. I hope the news is true for we need all of them. We hear the news is true for we are to go out on the railroad to La Grange to guard it. I hope so for I don;t care about going to Chattanooga just now. I am dirty & tired so must stop writing. Love to all. Hoping Kate is by this time restored to health. I remain your loving husband, — Whiting

The Battle of Nashville depicting the death of Col. S. G. Hill, 35th Iowa


Battlefield [Battle of Nashville]
December 16th [1864] 8 P.M.

Dearest Wife,

You see by this that I am alive yet after two days hard fighting. The 35th [Iowa] has been in it all. Yesterday lost 8 men. Col. [Sylvester Gardner] Hill was instantly killed in the charge in the afternoon yesterday when our Brigade took two forts with 8 pieces of artillery & 1000 prisoners. I was out with my company all day today skirmishing & took the lead in the charge. A man from my company—J[acob Henry] Onstat ¹—having the great honor of being the first man to mount one of four beautiful brass guns we got in the charge. The 1st Division took today 8 pieces; our brigade 4 of the number. We were in some of the hardest fighting I ever saw. My usual good fortune alluded me. I [avoided?] serious injury. I was nearly knocked down & completely stunned with a shell which exploded near my head. It started the blood from my nose & gave me such a headache that I could not sleep.

No teams with blankets & mess just could reach us so we went supperless to bed on the cold ground. I just lay down with my feet to the fire & “went it” until morning. We were complimented by Gen. Thomas this evening for gallant conduct. I send you his picture which I got in town the day before yesterday. We are pushing Hood steadily. Thomas told us we had his army completely demoralized & that we probably should not have to fight anymore. I hope so, I am sure, for it is hard work.

We have our mess chest tonight & I am going to supper now. I found the teams were going back so I thought I would just drop you a line so you would not worry about me. They go back soon & I must stop now in order to send by them. I am quite well—only a little stiff from the hard work. I will write full particulars just as soon as I possibly can. In best love to all, I am your devoted husband, — Whiting

We have driven the Rebs 6 miles.

¹ Jacob Henry (“J. H.”) Onstott (1844-1930) enlisted as a corporal in Co. H, 35th Iowa and was later promoted to sergeant. He was the son of John Henry Onstott (1815-1893) and Mary Young (1825-1900) of Pioneer, Cedar county, Iowa.

During the war, Wetherell kept diaries (which were sold at auction recently). His diary entry for 16 December 1864, the day he penned this letter to his wife, read: “Deolyed Co. H as skirmishers and advanced at daylight. Advanced over a mile & found the enemy entrenched. Artillery firing most of A.M. 4th Corps made a charge in A.M. Grand charge by whole army at 4 P.M. 1st Division captured 8 guns & 3000. #rd Brigade got 4 pieces, several more wounded but none killed. Camped near the hills in Rebel camp. They fled towards Franklin.”


On the march below Franklin, Tennessee
December 20th 1864

My Dearest Wife,

I wrote you on the battlefield last on our second day’s fight. The next day we moved out only 7 miles on the Franklin Pike & camped for the night in the mud. We were in the rear on the march so did not leave next day until near noon and then marched to Franklin which we reached after night & camped in the mud once more. Yesterday we started & came through to this camp with only one rest. This morning we are not moving as it is very cold & muddy, but I expect we will soon start.

The cavalry have pushed the enemy all the time since we whipped them at Nashville, whipping Hood at every jump, and capturing cannon & trains of prisoners at every step. They are completely routed and I do not think they will be able to make another stand. A supply train starts back soon so I thought I must write a few lines to let you know I am well. I have been wet night & day for three days but I got dried out last night & I feel as well as ever. I have not had my clothes off this month. Last  night the enemy were across Duck river & going south as fast as possible. Whether we are to follow up or not, I know not. I can’t write more now. We have captured so far over 70 cannon & as I can learn 10,000 prisoners so far. In love to all, I am yours devotedly, — Whiting


Obituary courtesy of Terry Lindell, Prof. of History, Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa

3 thoughts on “1861-4: Whiting M. Wetherell Letters”

  1. Would you like a jpg of Wetherell’s obituary? Also, do you have any details about the auction in which his diaries were sold?


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