This letter was written by Stephen Perry Freeman (1838-1862), the son of Samuel Freeman (1806-1848) and Martha Ann Pitts (1806-1889) of Darwin, Clark county, Illinois. Prior to the war, Stephen worked as a farm laborer. He enlisted as a private on 14 June 1861 in Co. H., 21st Illinois Volunteers, at the same time as his younger brother, Harmon H. Freeman (1841-1864). Stephen was killed at the Battle of Stone River on 30 December 1862. His brother Harmon died in a Confederate prison at Danville, Virginia, on 6 February 1864.
Stephen wrote the letter to Lydia Jane Waller (1839-1879), the daughter of Elisha Waller (1798-1848) and Jane Leaman (1801-1865) of Marshall, Clark county, Illinois. Stephen mentions Lydia’s younger sister, Rebecca Ann Waller (1841-1912), in the letter.
Readers will recall that Ulysses S. Grant served briefly as the first Colonel of the 21st Illinois Infantry.
Addressed to Miss Lydia Jane Waller, Marshall, Clark county, Ills.
Camp Ironton, Mo.
January 29th 1862
I embrace the present opportunity of addressing you with a few lines to let you know that I am still on the land and among the living but my health is not very good at the present time. But I am able to be up nearly all the time. I hope when this comes to hand, that it may find you and your mother’s folks all well. The health here is tolerable good. The regiment nearly all left here today on a march of 20 days—all that was able to go—and I was one reported not able to stand the trip. But it is the first time I have ever failed since I left home.
They say they is some some two thousand of the Secesh down south of Greenville some eighty miles south of here and our Boys is gone to rout them again. There was our regiment and two pieces of artillery went from here.
The weather here is very back. It snowed here today all day. The snow is six or seven inches deep and very muddy also. The Boys is going to have a very hard tramp of it this time. I can’t tell whether they will come back here anymore or not but I expect that they will. I suppose they are to meet with some more of our troops at Greenville.
Times here tonight appears very dull. It puts me in mind of old times when I was a boy and my Mother would go away and leave me to take care of the house. So you can gain some idea how it appears with me tonight.
I have been looking for a letter from [your sister] Rebecca for the last six weeks and have not got any yet so I think something has happened or she would have wrote to me. I have wrote two letters to her since I got one from her. I don’t know but I think one of the Boys forged a letter and sent to her from the talk I heard. I would like to find out if they did or not. I don’t think I have ever wrote anything to insult her or anyone else. If she has gone one from me for the last four or five weeks, I want you to put the two together and see if they are both one hand write or not.
I would like to see you all again the best kind if I could, but when I will, I can’t tell. I hope you will write as soon as you get this for I am sure I would like to read a letter from you.
Give my respects to Rebecca and all the rest of the friends. If you write, address to Ironton, Iron county, Mo., the 21st Reg. of the Ills. Vol. in care of Capt. Harlan, Co. H.
Excuse all mistakes and bad writing for my hand trembles and I am very nervous so I close hoping you will write soon to me. So no more at present but still remain your friend till death, — Stephen Freeman
[to] Lydia J. Waller