This letter was written by John Fletcher Rupert (1839-1918), the son of David Rupert (1813-1873) and Eliza Clark (1820-1905) of Beaver, Clarion county, Pennsylvania. John enlisted as a private in Co. A, 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry in September 1861. He was promoted to a corporal prior to his capture at Plymouth, North Carolina in April 1864. He was taken to Andersonville, and later to Florence prison, where he escaped by bribing a guard in October 1864 only to be recaptured a few days later near Marion, South Carolina. He survived the war and mustered out of the service in June 1865.
Rupert mentions only one other soldier in his company by name—that being Oliver McCall. McCall was wounded in action on 14 December 1862 during the Battle of Kinston. His promotion to 2d Lt. was effective 25 January 1863. He was captured in Plymouth, North Carolina on 20 April 1864 with a large number of others from the regiment but was taken to Charleston for imprisonment.
New Bern, North Carolina
March 2, 1863
In the forenoon of this beautiful day, while my companions are out on drill, I post myself at my temporary desk to converse with her whom I left in Pennsylvania state, through this pen, ink, and paper medium. As I look out of the window of my barracks and the the dear blue sky, the sun shining down with nearly a mid-summer heat in Pennsylvania, the green cedars, waving in the soft breeze, I almost fancy myself in a peaceful country. I’ll turn my eyes to the other side of my barracks toward our parade of drilling grounds. Oh, it is only fancying. There I see the regiment drilling for the active field of battle.
But notwithstanding all the earthly pleasures I am cut off from—the associations of relatives & friends—the surrounding influences of those that strive to walk uprightly—although I am surrounded by the influence of vice in all its forms—card playing, drunkenness, profanity, and idleness, I feel to thank God that I am a soldier. I thank him that he has learned me that He is that Ruleth. This life of a soldier impresses on my mind more fully the uncertainty of a long life and the certainty of death. Amidst the roarings of battle I have had certain proofs of there being a “Rewarder of those who walk uprightly.” In the terrible engagement at Fair Oaks, “a companion of mine who I never knew to pray before,” was pierced through by a ball. As soon as he was sensible he was shot, he began to crave mercy for sins.” On another occasion, at Kinston, a fellow soldier, who scoffed and scorned at religion, was mortally wounded. The moment he became sensible he must soon die, he began to seek what he in health made light of. If I never had witnessed such scenes—if I had not become a soldier—I might have grown careless. I might have thought that my life was not exposed and delighted in laying up earthly goods and death might have taken me unawares “unprepared.” All things work together for good to them that fear God.
I said I was surrounded by wicked influences. My retreat is not quite cut off. There is a small company commanded—or wish to be commanded—by the captain of salvation. Our number is 8 or ten. We were shelling the hold of Satan last night in the form of prayer meeting. The result was we brought back a deserter, were blessed by the presence of our commander “by faith” and gained a complete victory over sin. Our prayer meetings are held in the centre of the parade ground. All can hear and visit of they wish.
Our barracks are nicely situated being near the North Carolina Railroad and Neuse river. The cars are constantly running to and fro. The cars are passing at this moment.
Our Orderly Sergeant Oliver McCall was commissioned for 2d Lieutenant of Co. A yesterday.
Yours of the 9th instant was received. I was glad to receive a letter from home as I had not received one for about a month. I am thankful to father for sending those postage stamps although I did not need them at present. As long as we are laying as we are here at a city, we have no trouble in getting anything we want.
I have the privilege of going to church here in the city. There are Methodist, “Southern” Presbyterian, and Catholic Churches. There is a chaplain of one of our regiments preaches in the Presbyterian church. I was glad to hear him last Sabbath. There is a large organ in the church. It is filled every Sabbath with soldiers.
We have no orders to leave. We may stay here the coming summer.
Dinner is now over. My dinner composed of bread, butter, coffee, & beans. The butter we have to supply at our own expense if we want it. It costs 40 cents per pound. I am happy to write that my health still continues good. Hoping sincerely this may find the reader as it left the writer. I hope ere long this Nation will put on the sack-cloth and repent in dust and ashes that the Lord may have mercy and sacrifice.
Your son, John F.
[to] Eliza Rupert