1862: Solomon M. Williams to Julius Peterson

This letter was written by Sgt. Solomon M. Williams (1832-Aft1900) of Co. H, 14th Kentucky Infantry. Sgt. Williams enlisted on 10 December, 1861 at Louisa, Lawrence county, KY and he remained in the service until 31 January 1865. Serving with him in the 14th Kentucky was Corp. Harrison Halbert (b. 1833)—also mentioned in the letter.

The 14th Kentucky was recruited from the collar counties of Eastern Kentucky, not far from Virginia (now West Virginia). The regiment spent the winter of 1861-1862 in West Virginia where they fought at Ivy Mountain and other lesser engagements. In the early summer of  1862, they participated in the expedition led by Gen. George W. Morgan to wrestle Cumberland Gap away from the Confederate forces ensconced there. They approached the Gap from the east side and arrived at the summit not long after the Confederates withdrew and retreated to Chattanooga.

Solomon Williams was married to Sarah J. Carey (1840-1895) in 1857 in Lawrence county, KY. After her death he married a woman named Grizzell with whom he was enumerated in the 1900 US Census. It should be noted that census and military records carry Solomon’s name as “Williamson” but the name “Williams” also appears in his military record.

Solomon wrote the letter to Julius Peterson (1831-1910 of Greece, Monroe county, New York. Julius was married to Fannie Phoebe Halbert (1835-1914), presumably the brother of the aforementioned Harrison Halbert.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published here by express consent.]

A Composite view of Cumberland Gap during the Civil War


Cumberland Gap [Kentucky]
June 20, 1862

Mr. Peterson
Dear Friend,

It has been some time since I have had an opportunity of sending a letter to any post office—or receiving any. I think it very likely there are some letters from you somewhere and they may find me now in a short time as I have got when mails can come.

We started from the Ford on the seventh and arrived at Cumberland Gap on the 19. We have traveled something like one hundred miles since we left Cumberland Ford—the roughest road you ever saw—but we have taken Big Creek and Cumberland Gap with only a picket skirmish. A great number of tents and commissary stores were destroyed in Cumberland Gap, and I am told 8 large cannon. I have only saw five, though I have no doubt but what as many as is reported have been found all spiked & one thrown over a bluff some 300 feet high. The fortifications are immense. A vast amount of work has been done and my notion is that it is the strongest position in the United States.

The Rebels left here for Morristown—a general skedaddle. My notion is they will leave E. Tennessee very soon. I think we will stay here some time and it may be we may not be under the necessity of going farther for it would be much better to stop than to lay waste a distressed country with an army, for when an army moves, a country suffers.

I have not had anything from Mr. Halbert for some time. I suppose he is on his way here and you will write to me and let me know all about when he started &c. I am very anxious for him to come and that very soon. He can now come through Cumberland Gap. We came from Big Creek Gap to this place by Fincastle and up Powell’s Valley. We find a great deal of large clover lots and meadows, and a great deal of provision to subsist on for men and stock.

I will not attempt to describe how we feel since we have landed on our native soil. Wives are coming daily to see their husbands, mothers to see their sons, and language fails to do the subject justice.

The Rebels are not doing any harm or but little. They are trying to make fair weather. They wish to be pardoned and permitted to stay at home.

I shall send for my wife in a few days if we do stay here. My mind is in such confusion that I cannot write a letter fit to send and will close. Pardon my confused letter. We are all very much excited.

Yours truly, — S. M. Williams

[Letter forwarded on back of letter]

Rochester [Butler county, Kentucky]
July 9th 1862

To Bro. William,

I have just received this and thought perhaps you would like to read it so I will send it to you. We are all well—all but Fanny. We have all been sick. I have lost by the three spells I have had about 3 weeks of time. Johnny has 3 spells & Fanny 2, and is now feeling rather like it again. I am trying to get a girl today but don’t have much luck. Write and tell when you are coming so that we can expect you. Yours &c., — Julius

Tell Hattie we will answer her letter soon.



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