1864: Joseph Daniel Boardman to Parents

Confirming the identity of this letter’s author has proven to be a challenge. Written to his parents (otherwise unidentified), the author signed his named, “Yours &c., —Boardman.” Unable to find any military records for a soldier by the name of Boardman as either a first or last name, I searched the internet until I stumbled across an 1864 letter archived at the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies (University of Arkansas) written by “Joseph D. Boardman of Licking County, Ohio, while he was a patient at the Civil War Hospital in Fayetteville, Arkansas.” Digging deeper I found that the letter was written by Joseph Daniel Boardman (1832-1912) of Granville, Ohio, the son of Samuel and Minerva (Reed) Boardman. Samuel was a farmer and operated a sawmill. On November 9, 1856, Joseph married Josephine Julia Maynard. The couple had four children. Alma died in 1863 at the age of four, and Frank died in 1864, possibly before Boardman returned home. The other two children, Harry and Clara survived to adulthood. Joseph returned to Ohio following the Civil War and continued to operate the farm and sawmill with his father. He died on January 31, 1912.

Digging still deeper, I found the following abstract of the letter: “Written 29 July 1864 to his parents, Boardman writes about his concerns for the illness of his family members, referring to his wife Josephine (Josie), and three of their children, Clara, Harry and Frank. He speaks of reading Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove, by William Baxter, a book published in 1864. He reports that soldiers were suspected of burning several houses that had belonged to Rebels. He refers to an African-American servant, suggesting the possibility of bringing the man home with him to work as a mill hand.”

Curiously and uncharacteristically, the archivist failed to identify the military unit in which Boardman served, though he was clearly assumed to be a soldier. Looking at Boardman’s family records and finding no mention of military service, I have concluded that the following letter was written by the same individual but that he must have been employed by the government as a civilian contractor.

union soldiers 1st arkansas cavalry
1st Arkansas Cavalry (Union) at Fayetteville, Arkansas in 1864 (Washington County Historical Society Collection)


Fayetteville, Arkansas
16 April 1864

Dear Parents.

I wrote you at Springfield [Missouri] on Sunday last. We left Springfield the next morning—or rather at noon the next day—with an ambulance, 4 horses, & 15 men for an escort, camped about 10 miles from Springfield and we (by the way, the train was sent out to carry a Telegraph Corps to Ft. Smith via Fayetteville & a chaplain was coming down here) went to a house near & got breakfast, lodging & supper. Went the next day about 32 miles, camped as before about ten miles short of Cassville—all but 3 of the passengers, who went to Cassville to hold the mail & escort, until we came up which was done. These men, with us, [amounted to] 50 armed men which is too much for any gang of bushwhackers to attack.

We came out of Cassville about 20 miles and camped at a house which was filled with women. The men evidently were in the brush as most all of the men living on the road are. The road we traveled passed directly through the battlefield of Pea Ridge—a warm time they must have had at that battle & there was evidently a great difference in arms or ammunition in favor of our folks. We also passed the battlefield of Wilson Creek where Gen. Lyon was killed. I saw a pile of stones that was said to be on the spot where the Gen. fell. I had no time to go over the fields or was it safe for me to have gone away from the company at Pea Ridge.

In the 50 miles between here and Cassville, there is a house standing to about every ten miles. There was two villages on the road & quite nice places they must have been but there is not one house standing in either. There was a good many good farmer on the road [but] now the houses & a good part of the fences are destroyed. Good nice orchards all out to the common.

17th. Two men were in our tent the other day who had lived on or near Pea Ridge & had been hunted & robbed by their neighbors. One said they put a rope round his neck & stretched him up until—as he expressed it—was dead. They laid out in the bushes nights while they tried to stay at home. When anyone wants to send to the country for his folks or his property, they hire women to go and pay from $10 to 15 per day.

Fayetteville was a very pretty village—county seat—on high & rolling ground and some nice residences. We are in two wall tents, one at the end of the other, which makes one large room or two small ones at convenience. The tents are in a pretty grassy, dry yard on the grounds of the building used as a hospital. Have a wench for cook & use one room of the hospital for dining room. I made four or five dollars yesterday by buying a horse & selling to USA. I am still improving & feel well.

Yours &c., — Boardman

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