These letters were written by Uriah Massena (1842-1908), the son of Samuel Massena (1820-1874) and Barbara Cramer (1822-18xx) of Cameron, Marshall county, Virginia (now West Virginia), formerly of Aleppo, Greene county, Pennsylvania. Samuel Massena initially served in Co. D, 11th West Virginia (Union) Infantry and was taken prisoner at the Battle of Williamsburg (May 1862). After his release, Samuel returned home and later that year reenlisted in Co. A, 12th West Virginia (Union) Infantry. Once again he was taken prisoner at Winchester on 15 June 1863, was paroled at Richmond and sent to Columbus, Ohio in September 1863.
From these letters we learn that Uriah enlisted served in Co. L, 6th Virginia Infantry—a regiment organized for railroad guard duty and served on line of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad by detachments. Uriah survived the war and later moved to Jasper county, Indiana.
Urial wrote all of these letter to his aunt, Catherine (Cramer) Burkholder (1822-1906), the wife of Daniel Burkholder (1815-1858) of Somerset county, Pennsylvania. Mentioned in the letters by name wer Uriah’s cousins, Christian Burkholder (1840-1864) and Mary Elizabeth Burkholder (1846-1931). Christian was killed at the Battle of Cold Harbor on 3 June 1864 while serving in Co. K, 116th Pennsylvania Infantry.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Marshall county, Virginia
August 10, 1861
I take my pen in hand to inform you that we are all well at present, hoping that these few lines may find you all well. Our other sisters are all well. I have had a long spell of sickness was the reason that we did not write. We buried a young daughter.
I like the country well. All I have against it, there is too much war here. We can hear the cannons plain where we live. The soldiers are standing guard within two miles off from where we live. The 29th of July there was one hundred and 24 fires shot at our Union boys in Cameron two miles from where we live. Sam says he is going to enlist for three years.
Wheat is 50 cents, corn 20, buckwheat 62, butter 5 cents, eggs 7 cents, coffee 31 cents. We have a large field of corn. No more at present.
— Barbara Massena to Catherine Burkholder
Dear cousin Christian, I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well hoping that these few lines may find you the same. I enlisted and joined a light horse company. As soon as my time is out, I am coming to see you if I don’t get killed. Jackson is working on Stall’s run.
No more at present. —Uriah Massena [to] Christian Burkholder
Direct your letter to Rock Lick, Pennsylvania
Marshall county, Va.
Excuse for bad writing. Direct your letter [to] mother. Write soon.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Parkersburg, Wood county, Virginia
March 20, 1862
Dear Cousin Mary,
I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well at present hoping these few lines may find you well and in good health. I am still single and hope to stay so till I come back to the mountains again if my life is spared from the hand of the enemy.
Dear cousin, I would like to see you very well. Tell Rachel that I would like to see her very well. Tell her father I want him to forgive all I’ve done for I know that I done a great sin.
I must bring my letter to a close. So no more at present. This from Massena to Mary Burke
Be sure and direct your letter to Parkersburg, Wood county, Virginia. Care of Captain John Henry Dickey, 6th Virginia Infantry, Co. L.
An account of the 2d Battle at Burning Springs comes from a saved diary of Anthony Harris. Harris reported that the confederate guerrilla unit to which he was assigned attacked and burned the Fort Hill at Burning Springs, in May 1862. There are no official confirmations of this action. Curiously, the engagement described by Massena in the following letter seems to be differ considerably with that described by his captain, John H. Dickey, in a telegram to the Gov. Francis H. Pierpont which reads: “Parkersburg, 14 May 1862. General Kelly wishes me to telegraph you [that] he has found no enemy at Burning Springs reported at Big Bend. He intended to move on them yesterday by different routes. No damage done at Burning Springs but burning of govt. barracks. He is of the opinion there is no other force in that region but the refugees from that place and have returned under orders of Letcher to commence guerilla warfare. — Jno H Dickey, Capt.”
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Parkersburg, Wood county, Virginia
Burning Springs, Camp Union
May 16, 1862
Most dearest Aunt,
I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well & in good health. I must tell you my great troubles and trials. We have had great trouble with the rebels. On last Saturday [6 May 1862], they came to Arnoldsburg and took it & killed most all our men from there. They came to the Burning Springs and took it [Fort Hill]. General [Benjamin F.] Kelley took our regiment [and] marched up to the Springs which is about 5 miles from Parkersburg. There we had a fight. We lost 15 men killed and several wounded. God knows it was a hot time. There was but 300 hundred of us against one thousand rebels. We killed 30 of them and wounded 60 and took 20 prisoners. We drove them from the Springs. We expect another fight on the Big Bend of the west fork of the Kanawha [river].
Dear aunt, I am in great trouble. Oh Lord, would that I was out of the war. My friends that I love so well I never will see anymore but there is one thing—if we never meet in this world, we may meet in the next. My dear father was captured by the infernal rebels. He was took prisoner at Williamsburg, Virginia, last Monday. I have never been at home since the first of October last. There is one thing, dear Aunt, I must tell you. I got my fortune told to me and I am to get killed by the rebels. Oh, remember me. Keep this letter as long as you can. My eyes are filled with tears and my heart ready to burst. The Lord save me in endless days.
I can’t write enough on this small sheet of paper. I must take another. I must write a little to my dear cousin Christian. Remember me for tonight we expect another attack by the rebels.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
Parkersburg, Wood county, Virginia
June 9, 1862
My best respects to you. I seat myself to inform you that I am well and in the best of health. I received your letter yesterday dated May the 25th and was very glad to hear from you once more. I have the pleasure if telling you that we hain’t [had no] fight since the [one] up on Kanawha river and I hope that we won’t although [Gen. John B.] Floyd’s Army lays within ten miles of us. I think he will evacuate the place without fighting.
I have the best kind of news to tell you. My Pap has got home again. The rebels swore him not to fight against them any more and sent him home. I got a letter from him last week he said while he was in Richmond in the rebel jail, all he got for four days rations was four sea crackers and small pieces of old bacon. He hain’t going back to the army anymore. You said that you got a letter from mother dated April the 29th. Also you stated that she said [my brother] Jackson wanted to join the army too. I have now got furlough for ten days to go home and I know if I tell him how hard I have it and Pap tells him the same, he won’t try it. This is the first furlough that I have got yet since I have been in the U. S. A. service.
This morning we got a flag that cost two hundred dollars and we all took an oath to never let the rebels tramp it in the dust.
I am sorry to hear that Sabina & Mary King is dead but still the Lord makes and the Lord takes. I was very glad to hear from Betty King. I never felt as happy in my life as what I was when I got your letter last week.
There was one of our men shot himself accidentally. He never drawed one breath. His name was Andrew Whiskey. He was about forty years old. He had a large family.
Give my best respects to all my enquiring friends. So farewell dear aunt. This from your nephew, — Uriah Massena to his aunt Catherine Burkholder.
Dear Cousins and all,
I must tell you that I am very glad to hear that you hadn’t forgotten me yet although I am far from you, dear Christian. I think the time hain’t far distant when I can come & see you. Christian, there is one advice I want to give to you and that is so you never go in the army too. I think there is men want in the army now. I must tell you I have seen a heap of soldiers last week. I seen two hundred thousand soldiers on their way to Tennessee so far. Well don’t forget to write soon.
This from your cousin, — Uriah Massena.
Direct your letter to Parkersburg, Wood county, in care of Captain John H. Dickey, Col L., 6th Virginia.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
Parkersburg, Wood county, Virginia
August 19, 1862
It is truly with pleasure that I this afternoon take the present opportunity of addressing you a few lines to inform you that I am well at present, hoping that these few lines may reach and find you all well and enjoying the same good blessing as usual. I wrote a letter to you some two months ago while our regiment was at the mouth of the Mis Kindom [?] River. I hain’t received no letter yet. I sent profits [?] with the letter.
Our regiment is gone to Tennessee. I don’t [know] how long it will stay there. The talk is that it will be sent to Washington City soon. I hain’t been with my regiment for one month. I am at the post hospital at Parkersburg a tending on the sick and wounded. I have good times here. I have got a chance to study medicine. I have got fifty-two medical receipts that I paid 75 dollars for. If I live till the war is over, I will practice some. I will stay at the hospital until my regiment comes back.
My arm is about well. [My brother] Jackson is in the 11th Virginia Regiment, Company D. His company is at Ravenswood, Jackson county, Virginia.
My father is in the 12th Virginia, Company B. He was only at home a week or two until he went in the service again. His regiment is at Wheeling, Ohio county, Virginia. Mother is living at Cameron, Marshall county, Virginia. She is getting along well.
My dear aunt, you don’t know what war is in that good old state of Pennsylvania. If you was here, you would soon find out what it is when you can’t get out in the country without seeing dead men laying around one place or another. You may not believe this but it is the truth. I sincerely believe that the state of Virginia is burst and is going to ruin as fast as possible.
I believe the war will soon close for there is about twelve hundred thousand soldiers in the field of active service and there is about one hundred thousand that hain’t equipped yet. There is a great many thousand soldiers in this place. General Kotes’ whole brigade is here.
Dear aunt, if there was ten thousand soldiers here I would not forget you and the good old mountains. The next letter you write to me, I want you to sed me [ ] at L. King’s post office address for I would like to write to him. If you please, tell him that I want him to write to me. Tell him my post office address. Let me know how Peter Whiskey is getting along. My dear aunt, I hain’t been at a protracted meeting for two years. If I live until the 16th of next month, I then will be in the service of my country and the Stars and Stripes and I think I have done a good part at it and will do more if needed. My country shan’t go to ruin nor the Stars and Stripes shan’t fall until I fall. Who could think of living under the Confederate government? Not I. Who would not defend his country’s laws and maintain the laws made by our forefathers?
Give my best respects to all my friends. Write me a big letter. Tell Christian to stay at home and not go to the army for it is a hard place. Write soon as this comes to hand. Direct your letter to Parkersburg Post Office, Wood county, Virginia in care of Capt, John H. Dickey, 6th Virginia Regiment Infantry, Company L. Then I will get the letter. This from your nephew Uriah Massena to his aunt Catherine Burkholder.
I can’t hardly quit writing but I must right soon. Dear aunt, tell Mary A. to remember me. Farewell.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX
Parkersburg, Wood county, Virginia
October 23, 1862
It [is] sincerely with pleasure that I sit myself down this fine evening to scribble a few lines to let you know that I am yet alive and among the living while thousands of my fellow soldiers have gone to their long home while fighting the battles of their country and trying to save the Union and the Stars and Stripes under which our forefathers fought, bled, and died to maintain our, or their, just rights. I must quit this talk for awhile anyhow. I hain’t received a letter from you for three months. I am longing to hear from you once more in the world for I am alone here in this big army and it does me good to hear from my friends and relations although I hain’t sorry that I am in this good Union army for I know that the Union army is right while the rebels are wrong in their calculations and undertakings.
Pap has enlisted [again]. He is in the 12th Virginia Regiment. They are stationed on Buchanon River 34 miles from where part of our regiment is at. If God spares my life, you can look for me about the 1st of April 1863. I am awaiting my discharge and it may not be before that time. But as soon as I get it, I am coming right straight to your house. I hain’t able for my duty anymore. I have been nearly blind with the sore eyes and I had a hard spell of the fever and my wound all together has made me unfit for the service. Soldiering is a hard life to live, let me tell you, my aunt. It takes hearty and stout men to stand it. Dear aunt, I have seen a heap of bloodshed and seen hundreds and thousands of men killed. You can’t imagine how a battlefield looks. It is awful to tell.
I almost forgot to tell you that [my little brother] Jackson in in the 11th Virginia Regiment Infantry that are stationed with us at this time. I don’t think the war will last long any for the rebels are starving now and have been for a good while. Those starving are plenty in this country yet there must be good stuff in the rascals that could not stand it so long. I have been in the U. S. service 13 months and out of the 13 months, I have been at home 4 days and don’t expect to go home until I see you first, if I live.
Mother was well the last time I heard from her. Aunt Rebecca’s son Henry is in the 11th Virginia Regiment in the same company that Jackson is in. Times is dull at this time. Tobacco that I used to get for 5 cents is 10 cents here. Everything is high. Crops there is now put out in this country. Tell King and the rest of my schoolmates that I send my love and good wishes. I hope they are all for the Union. Oh God, but I would hate to hear that one of my schoolmates was a rebel for I—if it was in my power—I could kill all the rebels. But let us trust in God and we will conquer at last.
It is getting late. I must bring my letter to a close hoping that you will get this letter and that I will have the pleasure of reading them [whenever you can write]. My company is in general well at this present time. Now dear aunt, don’t forget to write soon as this comes to hand. Direct your letter to Parkersburg, Wood county, Virginia, in care of Captain John H. Dickey, Company L. That is the nearest post office. This from your humble nephew Uriah Massena
To his aunt Catherine Burkholder
Dear cousin Christian,
I must tell you and William something too. That is to remember your old schoolmate who is far from you this evening alive five hundred miles [ ] dead and my [ ] are rotting in the grave or on the battlefield. When this you see, remember who’s hand writes it. So my dear cousin, it is so. My dear cousin, farewell. This from your cousin, — Uriah Massena to Christian Burkholder