1864: John D. Beach to Mother

How John Beach might have looked

These letters were written by John D. Beach of LaSalle, Illinois, who enlisted on 31 October 1861 in Co. G, 55th Illinois Infantry. He re-enlisted on 12 April 1864 as a veteran in the regiment and mustered out in 14 August 1865. According to his military records, John was born in Litchfield county, CT, in 1842. He stood 5’6″ tall, had light hair and blue eyes.

Connected with the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, there is a collection containing 191 letters written between 30 August 1861 and 25 July 1865 by John D. Beach, Co. G, 55th Illinois.


Larkins Landing, Alabama
March 14, 1864

Dear Mother,

I have been sitting around all the forenoon and I got tired of it so I thought I would write to you. I have got to be pretty slim now. I have the ague pretty often and it keeps me pretty poor but perhaps I can stand it until my time is out. We still stay on the south bank of the Tennessee river guarding a pontoon bridge. I do not know how long we will stay here. For my part, I hope not long because if they march, I will not have to go because I am not able to march. Neither is Fred Smith. I think perhaps he will get a furlough and go home but we cannot tell what they will do. If the leave this place and go on a march, we will be sent to some hospital and it would be better for us if they would march. Some thinks they will stay here [until our] time is out, If I had good health, I had as leave stay here as anywhere. We can fish now and when it gets warmer, we can go in a swimming here and have a handy place to wash our clothes.

There is about 75 confederates comes inside of our lines every day. There was some citizens (Union) that brought in some confederate soldiers. They were after the citizens to get them and take them to the army but the citizens turned on them and took them and brought them in. The women bring in eggs and trade to us for coffee. They also bring in milk so we sometimes make a rice pudding once in awhile. They charge a half a dollar a dozen for eggs, 75 cents a pound for butter. Once in awhile we get sight of some poor potatoes. We can get them sometimes by paying 25 cents a pound and that is more than I like to pay for them.

The Dr. has just come around and give me some more quinine. When I am sick, the boys of my squad takes good care of me—one fellow in particular. He always sees to me, makes me tea when he can get it, and washes me. When you write, just put in a word. His name is [Augustus] Fairfield.

I want you to send me tea every time you get a chance. If you can put a half pound in a little sack and send it to me, I would like it. No more. Write soon. — J. D. Beach


Larkins Landing, Alabama
April 7th 1864

Dear Mother,

I will now answer your letter which I received the other day. Today is a very pleasant day. The 55th is a Veteran Regiment and the Deer Park boys are in but one and that is Leander Saxon. He will be perhaps but I think not. He used to live at Edgar Baldwins. We elected new officers yesterday. Our Colonel—M[ilton] L. Haney—he used to be chaplain, Lt. Col. J[acob] M. Augustine. For Major F. W. Shaw. I will not name anymore of them. Our [“G”] company officers is for Capt., A[lbert] A. Whipple. He was 1st Lieutenant for 1st Lieutenant Peter Roberts, for 2nd Lieutenant Fred [W.] Smith. [Charles] Frank Bennett is a a Sergeant. Charles [L.] West is a Corporal. Calvin Songster a Corporal, and I am a Corporal. Don’t let anyone know that I told you who was elected. I expect we will be home soon. We will as soon as they can make out the papers. There is more than three-fourths of the regiment in as Veterans. I think I am good for three years more. I will try it anyhow. The other boys are all gone in and if they can stay three years more, I think I can.

I am on picket guard today and I am all alone now. The Colonel is to work as hard as he can to get our discharges made out and then we will go home and stay 30 days and perhaps 90. The Colonel says he will try his best to get us ninety days in the state. For my part, I do not think this war can last three years more. I think after this spring campaign, it will make a great deal of difference and if we go  home pretty soon, we will miss this spring campaign which will commence in a short time and we probably would have to march about one hundred miles at least so I think we had night as well see the thing wound up. We have done it so far and we had better finish. I think we will leave here in a week or ten days but we may not. Our general says we are the smartest regiment in United States. One reason is we elect our own officers and another is that we wait until the spring campaign commenced. He says now when the old veterans are down a fighting, that we will be at home and in a pleasant season of the year. I don’t want you to let anyone see this letter. Some of the boys to not want their folks to know that they are coming. They want to surprise them. I will close for this time. I did not get the things you sent yet. I am well. From — J. D. Beach


Huntsville, Alabama
June 8th 1864

Dear Mother,

I will write a few lines to you to let you know where I am. We arrived here in Huntsville last night about dark and we stayed in the engine house last night. The most of us stayed in an old mill. I expect we will stay here a few days and march out to the front. There is a division here in this place now. It is he third, I believe, and we will go out with the. We have about one hundred miles or more to march. That will be hard on us because it is so hot.

This makes four letters that I have written to you. I shall expect and answer pretty soon. I sent you a box from Nashville. I suppose you will get it all right after awhile. I wish you would send me that diary that I left home. It will do this year out and maybe I will be out of the service by that time. I hope so anyhow. News is good all the time yet.

How does Ada get along now? Please write and let me know. George [B.] Hawk and Charles [L.] West and I are writing all at one table. I guess they are writing home. I have not much to write about this [time]—only to let you know how we get along and where we was. I had the ague one day and that is all. I took some medicine that George Hawk gave me. It is Smith’s Tonic Bitters. It think it done me good.

I want you to write as soon as you get this and let me know about things at home and I will not write anymore this time. From your son, — J. D. Beach

P. S. Direct to John D. Beach, Co. G, 55th Regt. Ill. Vols. via Nashville, Tennessee


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