1862: John Henry Black to Jennie Leighty

This letter was written by Sgt. John Henry Black (1834-1922) of the Pa 12th Cavalry to his fiancée (later wife), Susan Jane (“Jennie”) Leighty. John was the son of Jacob H. Black (1804-1871) and Mary M. Swoveland (1812-1884) of Blair county, Pennsylvania.

Sgt. John H. Black, Co. G, 12th PA Cav

His letters to her are the subject of a book: A Yankee Horseman in the Shenandoah Valley: The Civil War Letters of John H. Black, Twelfth Pennsylvania Cavalry (Voices of the Civil War) Hardcover – July 20, 2012, by David J. Coles (Editor),‎ Stephen D. Engle (Editor).  “In many ways, John H. Black typified the thousands of volunteers who fought for the Union during the Civil War. Born in 1834 and raised on his family’s farm in Blair county, Black taught school until he, like many Pennsylvanians, rushed to defend the Union after the attack on Fort Sumter in April 1861. He served with the Twelfth Pennsylvania Cavalry, one of the Union’s most unruly, maligned, and criticized units. Consistently outperformed early in the conflict, the Twelfth finally managed to salvage much of  its reputation by the end of the war. Throughout his service, Black penned frequent and descriptive letters to his fiancée and later wife, Jennie Leighty Black. This welcome volume presents this complete correspondence for the first time, offering a surprisingly full record of the cavalryman’s service from 1862 to 1865 and an intimate portrait of a wartime romance.”

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


Pope’s Head Run
8 miles from Manassas
Headquarters of Company G

July 1, 1862

Dear Jennie,

On yesterday evening I had the good favor of receiving answers from you to four letters and Oh! What an amount of news they had—and that welcomely received too—and so today I must get to work and answer all at one time. Glad tidings to me it is that you are still in good health, but some how or other you still say you are discontented and down-hearted and that you think you will remain so so long as I remain in the Army. Pity for you, but it cannot be helped—especially at the present. You appear to be very conscientious about having company while I am away. There is no need of that at all, but still you may use your own pleasure. You can just have any amount of company at any time and it will be alright on my part for I can never be jealous of you should I have to stay away from home for a number of years. So do not feel anyways discontented while in company with anyone, and use all means you think proper to enjoy yourself and all will be right on my part.

I am not surprised to hear of people thinking that we are married if you keep yourself as close as you say, which no doubt you do. But just let them talk and think as they please and also do as they please. It requires time to disclose all things and so what benefit can they gain by judging. I don’t think that any of them would either gain or lose by it if we were married or should even happen to be at some future day. Do you not think so? You may think I say a great deal upon that subject, but you must recollect I am prone to such errors. And if I should speak beyond bounds, why just you dear Jennie excuse me for my folly and next time I will do better.

So Lue says she can’t make a good boy of her John. I am sorry for her. If she can’t, I don’t know who can. Tell her she shall make him call oftener and always make his visits real pleasant and agreeable and then all will be right. There is nothing that can equal the nicety of two persons keeping each others company and at the same time being agreeable to each others, but when harmony can not reign supremely with them, I would say in a few words that —— I believe I won’t say what I had intended to.

Sam Evans & Jacob Walters send their respects to you and report that they are well and getting along finely. I can’t see why you intend to spend the Fourth of July so quietly. You need not be afraid of losing any respect from me by enjoying yourself. But ear Jennie, as you are at home and I am acting the soldier, I leave you to your own good will to do just as you please and rest assured that it will please me.

Give my love to Lue and tell her I am well and getting along very well for wherever I can, I make myself at home and can enjoy myself—if there is anyone else comes. But all people are not of that nature. Still, it is my good fortune to be blessed with just such a nature.

My respects to your Mother & Aunt and all enquiring friends. Henry & Barney Engle are both well and doing fine. You have so often asked what was the matter with Jacob Walters. The doctor says it was the chronic bronchitis cause by practicing on the bugle. He has quit playing the bugle because he can not stand it.

Well, dear Jennie, as this is our mustering day, and I am kept very busy on such days, I will ask you to excuse this short and hasty letter and allow me to subscribe myself as heretofore your ever true and affectionate friend and always will remain so, though you should have no other in the world, — John

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