These letters were written by the Chapin brothers; eight of them by David S. Chapin (1829-1864), who served in Co. A, 25th Michigan, and two by Horace S. Chapin (1842-1891), Co. F, 9th Michigan Infantry. David enlisted in August 1862 at Marshall, Michigan. He died of disease at Knoxville on 7 January 1864. Horace enlisted a year earlier than his brother at the age of 20. He re-enlisted on 25 December 1863 and mustered out in September 1865.
David’s letters were written to his wife, Margaret (Terwillinger) Chapin, with whom he married in September 1856. The couple had two children: Henry S. Chapin (b. 1857) and Sophia A. Chapin (1859-1921). David is buried in the Knoxville National Cemetery, Section B, Site 285. Curiously, David’s cause of death was recorded as “Nostalgia.”
Horace’s letters were written to David. Horace did not marry until 1869.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
April 9, 1862
I received your welcome letter last night and I was very sorry to hear that you was not well and the children too. I am enjoying good health at present and hope that these few lines will find you the same. You must keep up good courage. I shall be home soon now. Our captain has come back. He says that I shall have a chance to come home now. He thinks that I am alright. He says I shall come the first chance if there ain’t [?]. He says he will send me on business for himself. He is good to me. I do the fair thing and tend to my business. He knows that I wrote to you about my money the other day.
We are going to have our pay in a few days again. Then I am a going to get you a new dress and the children something to bring home with me. I want to find you well when I come so try and get well. I wrote to you once a week and sometimes twice so don’t scold me for not writing oftener. I got a letter from Horace last night also. He says he is very well at present. I send you some off the tracts we get to read. I think they are nice to read.
The weather is getting very warm down here now. Everything looks nice. We have all kinds of garden sauce to eat. I should like to live here very well. It is a very nice place. I have got a nice soft [job] now. I get up at4 o’clock in the morning and take four men with me and go to the depot to guard the train so to not let the soldiers go that haven’t got passes. My boys are nice boys too. I have to work 3 hours a day. That is all.
I can’t think of anything [more] so goodbye. God bless you, my dear wife. We shall soon meet. From your dear [husband], — D. S. Chapin
This letter was written by Horace S. Chapin, 9th Michigan Infantry.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
April 22, 1862
I now sit down to inform you that I am well and hope that these few lines will find you the same. I am away down in Old Tennessee. The weather is very fine this afternoon. The trees all leafed out. Peaches are as big as hickory nuts and apples are about the same. Wheat is a heading out.
I have not had any letters from you since I have been in Tennessee and I think it is time you wrote to me. I don’t know. Please tell Uncle Samuel that I have to go on guard every other day and when I am off, I have so much to do that I don’t get any time to write to him or anybody else and wish to be [forgiven]. It don’t take only about 150 guards a day out of the regiment and there is one company down town as Provost guard.
Last Saturday one of the boys in the Kentucky 8th was on picket and secesh came along and he halted him three times and he did not stop. Then he went on across his post and turned around and told him that he would not halt for no damned Lincolnite nor Black Republican son-of-a-bitch and as the “bitch” came out of his mouth, he got a bullet through his heart. It went in at his left breast and through his heart and right lung and he dropped. Sensible? I don’t know.
David, I thought that you was a going to send me another song. You had better be about it soon or I will be home before it will have a chance to get here. We expect by the fourth of July and are going to have a dance at the Hernden Hall—that is, I mea that Co. F is going to have that dance. That’s what’s with Hannah. No more at present.
From your brother, — H. S. Chapin to D. S. Chapin
Put your letter in this—Bully for you—and send it back.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Camp [ ]
December 8, 1862
I now take the opportunity to let you know that I am well and hope that these few lines will find you the same. We have got marching orders tonight. We are going to Mumfordsville on the line between Tennessee and Kentucky, about 70 miles from here. It is down towards where Horace is. I expect to see him soon now. I hope I shall. It will be warmer down there, I hope.
The boys are all round me. There is four writing out of one ink stand. They don’t like to leave their camp here. We have got them fixed up good now and we hate to leave them. But we can soon fix some more where we go. You mustn’t worry till you hear from me. You know there is one that watches over me if I do what is right. You must think of me still in your prayers. I think I am improving every day. Tell Aunt Sophia to pray for me.
I suppose she does know one of our men got shot today. He was throwing some old guns into a wagon and he threw one against the box and it was loaded and it went it off. The ball went threw above his naval and came out side of his backbone. There were old guns they were taking to be fixed. They think he will die tonight. His name is Frederick Collins. He has got a wife and one child. He was a very careless man. I hope I shan’t be so unlucky as that. I have been lucky so far yet and I hope I shall be for time to come. I wish I could see you once more on earth. If I don’t, I shall try to meet you in that place where troubles are no more—where we shall meet at Jesus’ feet and meet to part no more.
So goodbye, my best and most beloved friend on earth. You don’t know how I miss you and how I long to see you. God speed the time when we shall meet again.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
December 15, 1862
I received your letter the 17th and was glad to hear from you. It does me good to hear from you and to hear you are well and the children too. I like to know that you and they are well. If the Lord spares me, I shall see you and the children again—the ones I love so well. If I can’t meet you on earth, I shall meet you where we meet to part no more. I shan’t forget you—no never. I am not worthy of such a wife as you. You are too good for me. I miss you now. I see now what a wife [is] worth. But if I should ever come back, you would see a different man than I was when you saw me last. I hope the Lord will spare s both to meet again on earth. A happy meeting it would be, would it not?
I am cooking yet. I wrote to you that we had marching orders the night before we started. We had a good time except the last day it rained all day. The mud was very bad. It made traveling very bad for our teams. I stood it very well. We marched 73 miles. The Colonel let us take our time. It is an awful country that we marched through. We passed by a cave on the road. I went into it. The mouth of it was about 8 or 10 feet wide. I went in about 10 rods. There is another one here where we are camped now. We are camped on a large hill—almost a mountain. We can knock the secesh as fast as they can come to us on our march.
I foler [am following the route that] Horace up. I see where [they] had camped last winter on Moldrof Hill and West Point and at Elizabethtown and Nolan. You know all of them names. All of them places—he was in camp in all of them places. He didn’t stop here, I guess. I can’t find out whether he camped here or not. Horace is only 40 miles from here. I am going down there to see him, I guess. The captain says he will let me go if he can. If he can’t, the rest [ ] try.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
December 23, 1862
An old letter didn’t answer. I shall send you a paper so you can draw my bounty if I shall happen to get killed or die, you can draw pension without any trouble. If you have this and my pension, I should die in the army you will draw 96 dollars a year, which makes eight dollars a month. You must be careful to take care of these papers. If you lose them, you can’t draw anything. So remember what I tell you. Send me some stamps in your next letter. This is my last stamp. I can borrow some. I haven’t borrowed any yet. We expect to get our pay the first of next month. Then you may expect to get some money. Has Les got his pay yet? He sent home 80 dollars. He says it is the first he has sent home. So he didn’t send any last winter. You know he said he sent home some money but he didn’t. I can get my likeness to him. I will send it to you when I get it. I need some stamps. I will get some off one of the boys to last till I get my pay. I forgot to put that down in that letter. So I will put them in this one.
So good night. Chancey is making some medicine for his cough. I’m going to fix the bed. We must go to bed and put out our letters. Write soon as you get this. From your affectionate husband, — D. S. Chapin
To Maggy dear. Good night.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX
January 8, 1863
It is with much pleasure I take my pen in hand to let you know that I am enjoying very good health yet and hope these few lines will find you enjoying the same good health that I be. The Lord is on my side. I’m writing a letter to send to you the [ ]. I can’t send it so I thought I would write another one so you will have to when they do come. Our captain is going to Louisville tomorrow so I thought I would write you another one to let you know that I am alive yet.
There has been fighting all around here but we haven’t been [in] no fight yet. I don’t think we shall be. I wrote in the other letter that the boys had gone on a march. They have got back. They didn’t have no fight at all. I haven’t heard from Horace yet. I [want] to hear from him very much. I don’t know but he is or has been killed for what I know. We can get no news here—only by telegraph—so I can’t hear from him that way. We ain’t going to Nashville now. I guess we had orders to go there and then we got orders that night to stay here again so we shall stay here again. So we shall stay here I guess now this winter. Eight men deserted the other day. Henry Kibler and 1 more an from our company has gone but they will get fetched back again. Tell Uncle Sam that Henry Kibler has deserted his company and the other man’s name is Orland Pike from Homer. He got Henry to go with him, I guess.
We expect to get some mail today. I expect to get one from you. I hope so. I do like to hear from my Maggy. You know I do. God bless you. One kiss would do me good from you once more. I didn’t tell you the last words I read in the testament. I will now the last of the old year. I mean it was. Rejoice ever more pray without ceasing.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SEVEN
Bowling Green [Kentucky]
January 22, 1863
I received your letter last night and was glad to hear you was so well as you are. I believe that God is on your side and mine too. He blesses us with such good health and I hope and pray that we shall soon meet again on earth if we will try to meet in heaven. I try to be as good as [the] David you spoke of in your letter. I have got a testament. I read chapters every day or evening. I like to read the Bible now better than I ever did. I pray night and morning too. God answers my prayers too. I know he does. I [wish I] could be there to go to meeting with you once more. It would do me good to hear Mr. Merckle preach once more. I should like to see and hear Uncle Sam ask a blessing once more. It would seem like home, don’t you think it would? I do. I have written you two letters and uncle one that you hadn’t got when you wrote this one that I got last night. I got the handkerchief you sent and the stamps too. I was glad to get something from you. I got the paper last night and two stamps in it. You needn’t send any more paper. I can get it here. You may send me 1 or 2 stamps at a time. That will do me t[his] time unless I send for more.
I hope you will find that ring you lost. I sent you my likeness too the 20th. I am going to send you another one in a few days more and I will send Horace’s likeness too. I got it the other day. I haven’t heard from home since the Battle of Murfreesboro. He was in the battle there. I haven’t heard from him since. Six companies of his regiment was taken prisoners. I heard he was taken or else he is dead. I hope he aint for he was a very wicked boy. I hope and pray that he may be saved but I am afraid he won’t. I want to see him if he lives yet.
I have quit cooking now. I have got a nice place for me now. I am taking care of the Colonel’s horses now. I have nice times too. There is 1 man with me. We have 8 horses to take care of. That’s all we have to do. When we are on the march, I have a horse to ride all the time. I live on the top shelf too. I and my partner eat where the Colonel does so you may know we live well. The Colonel, and Lieut. Colonel, and Major and adjutant are all good men. You better believe the best officers I ever see, The Colonel has just got here. The boys are hurrahing for him now. He has been good to me. He thinks I’m about right.
I have had the toothache two days and two nights. I catched cold in my face that night it rained so my coat collar got under my face. It was wet. I didn’t get wet myself . I had a good rubber blanket that kept me dry as powder. It is nice. I bought an oilcloth in Kalamazoo for a dollar. It let the water right threw so the night that we started from Louisville, I went outside the guard and bought me this rubber blanket for 1.00 dollar and sold my old oilcloth blanket for $2.50 so I made $1.50 very easy. I got the money yet.
We haven’t got any pay yet but expect to the first of the month. We have very easy living yet. We have baked bread yet. We haven’t lived on hard bread but three or four days since I enlisted.
We are at Mumfordsville now. We expect to stay here about 2 months and then we expect to go to Louisville again. I hope we will go back to Louisville again. I like it there better than I do here. It looks lonesome here. There has been two battles on this ground. Some of the boys that fought here are here now. They tell some hard stories. There is eight hundred rebels buried in one hole. Threw all in together. It is heaped up like a tater hole.
I am going down to send you three wild beans and two persimmon seeds and a pair of scissors. I don’t want the scissors any longer. I bough them at Burpes in Marshal. They have been the rounds so I will send them to you. They will do you more good than they will me.
Is my wheat thrashed yet? If it is, let me know how much you have got. You never wrote anything about it yet. I suppose you know I had that wheat that I raised. Yet you must write in your next. You have got along very well so far for a widow. I guess you must be getting fat now since I left. You keep so well—that’s what makes you feel good. So goodbye for this time. Write soon, Remember me when you pray for I will you.
From D. S. Chapin to his affectionate wife
This letter was written by Horace S. Chapin, 9th Michigan Infantry.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER EIGHT
February 13, 1863
I take the present opportunity to inform you that I am well and hope that this will find you the same. I received your letter night before last and was glad to hear from you. I heard that the Twenty-fifth [Michigan] was on their way for this place so I did not answer your letter as soon as I should have done if I had not heard that. The Second [Michigan] Cavalry is here. I have not been to see them yet. I was at Nashville a few days ago with the provision train and saw Lon Jennings. He is tough as a brick.
It rained most all day yesterday so it is quite muddy here—so much so it is impossible to get round without getting our feet muddy. But I wish it would rain all the time so we will not have to drill. I don’t like to drill myself very well and get rid of it when it is possible. But we have a hard-head of a sergeant acting orderly who watches us pretty close so we have to keep somewhere in bounds. I suppose your wife wants to know his name. It is Old Bangham from Old Rice Creek—that famous old neighborhood where the folks are all so pious that they shoulder their axes and wear them for bustles. I guess by this description you will know him. The man that wrote this page took the advantage of the time while I was out to shit but he wrote about himself and got so near the truth that I won’t try to better it.
I am glad that you like your position but if you don’t look sharp, there will be a nigger than will take it away from you. I suppose you have read Gen. Rosecrans’ order about having niggers for teamsters and hostler and cooks. That will be bully for the rich. Oh yes, Nel wanted me to tell you that she wanted you to write to he and Carrie. I can’t think of any more to write his time so goodbye for this time. Write soon and oblige Corporal Chapin.
to David S. Chapin
P. S. I got a letter from Uncle Richard. He is not very well at present and he said that Uncle Sand and Aunt Sophia had gone to Lansing on a visit and that Maggie’s health was not very good but the children were well. Give my best respects to all the boys and receive a share for yourself. I shall expect to see you down here soon. — H. S. C.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER NINE
Bowling Green [Kentucky]
February 26, 1863
I take my pen in hand to answer your letter I received the 13th. I have not been very well since [but] I am getting well now. Did you get my likeness? I sent it to you. You didn’t say in your letter. Tell that cousin of mine to write to me as often as she can. I would like to hear from her. Watson Mead is coming home soon. I am going to send Henry and Sissy a little china mugs and 2 swans. I thought that would [do] for two presents.
Maggy, you mustn’t worry yourself about me for I am getting better fast now. Tell Uncle Sam that I am a thousand times obliged to him for his kindness towards you and if I ever get [home] I will try to pay him. Tell him that letter he wrote me last was a true one, I don’t deny it. Oh Maggy, I wish I was there to pray with you. How happy we would be once more. I will have Mead leave them things to Peevy’s to the Book Store so you can get them there. So God bless you from, — D. S. Chapin
You must write oftener, Maggy. You get more time than I do. Let me know if you got the money I sent you. I sent you thirty dollars by the agent to Kalamazoo. He sent it from there. From your affectionate husband, — David S. Chapin
To his beloved wife, M. S. Chapin