"I am well and sober" - A Letter From the 118th Ohio
At the age of 27 Josephus Parker joined the 118th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment as a sergeant in Company B. He would served faithfully throughout the war, being promoted to second lieutenant, then first lieutenant, and finally as captain, before mustering out in June 1865 in Salisbury, North Carolina. Initially assigned to the Army of Kentucky, the 118th Ohio was a part of the XXIII Corps by the late summer of 1863 and the following year engaged in the various movements and battles of the Atlanta campaign before moving into central Tennessee where it participated in the battle for Nashville. But the war was not all about battles and campaigns, and many units were detailed to more mundane assignments. The 118th spent most of its first year of existence guarding railroads, including the Kentucky Central Rail Road that ran from Covington (just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati) to Nicholasville (south of Lexington).
While most of the men in Company B were from Hardin County, Josephus Parker was from Champaign County. The 118th was organized in Lima, Cincinnati, and Camp Mansfield, mustering into service in September 1862.
Parker wrote the following letter on June 4th, 1863 while stationed along the railroad near Cynthiana. I did correct some spellings for better flow but for the most part left the letter as written.
Bro. Mort or Dear Col
I received yesterday your kind letter of the 29th ult and I improve this early opportunity of replying to it. In the first place I will say that I am well and sober in fact I have neither been sick nor drunk for the past six months. What do you think of that for Parker! Does pretty well don't it?
Our Regt is strung out for guard duty on the K.C.R.R. from Covington to Paris a distance of about seventy five miles. We spent the winter in building stockades for the protection of the numerous bridges along this line and in gathering up deserters, returned rebel soldiers, rebel recruiting offices, spies & and we done a very good business at it. We brought to justice some hundreds of the rebellious cusses. Those men that were executed on Johnson's Island lately were formerly our boarders I knew them well.
As you are not acquainted with any of our officers I will tell you some of their names. Our Col is Samuel R. Mott formerly a lawyer of St Marys, Ohio. A first rate man and a good officer. Lieut. Col. Thomas L. Young formerly editor of the Shelby County Democrat at Sidney Ohio. A good officer perhaps the best military man in the Regt. Our present Maj. & Quartermaster are from the North Western Counties of Ohio both very good men, but I think about best man and officer combined in the Regt is Cap. Kraner of Co. B. (our Co.).
I like the service first –rate. Uncle Samuel gives us more grub than we can eat. Plenty of clothes and pays us promptly every two months. My rank is now 2nd Lt and assigned to Co. “B”. I recd my commission last week.
I recd a letter from Frank and Lize about a month ago. They did not say anything about Nick Wieman being married perhaps at that time he had not done it yet. Our friends were all well at that time. I would have liked to have heard that debate some.
I was to the Burg last August it was very lonesome there then. It is doubtless more so now.
Bully for the wee drop of the Craythine and I am glad that you drank my health hope you can always get it when you want it. I was in town last night and I drank a couple of times to your health and sucksess. Here Col is the place where they have an endless amount of Seven Year Old Bourbon they make it in Bourbon County a few miles above here. Whenever I get thirsty I go out to one of the neighbors and never fail to get something good to take.
I have never seen Col Ben Runkle since we have been (here) although 118th & 45th camped together for a couple of days. I was not there at the time and of course did not see any of them. When you see Ben ask him why the devil he didn’t Capture Col Clarke at Mt Sterling last Spring.
Old Harve certainly has a woman that is long for this world. I heard some time ago that he had a young boy if that is so I must regard myself as Uncle Seph musnt I. Rumor says too that I have little one but there in Hardin Co Contraband.
I guess I will have to close for the present. I want you to write again soon and I will try to write you something more interesting next time.
I guess I’ll go take another Scoon to your Success farewell.
Lt J S Parker
Co. B, 118th Regt OVI
Parker's open admission to drinking is rather humorous, and being stationed in the heart of bourbon country must have facilitated his fondness for alcohol. His letter is simply one of a soldier writing home about his experiences in the service, with honesty and humor. Drinking must not have had an adverse effect on Parker's performance due to his steady promotions during the war, and he lived a long life, passing away in 1917 at the age of eighty-three. He is buried in Kingscreek Baptist Church Cemetery in Champaign County.
The executions mentioned were of William Corbin and Thomas McGraw, who were captured recruiting for the Confederacy in northern Kentucky, sent to Johnson's Island, and executed under Burnside's General Order 38, despite a direct plea from McGraw's mother and Corbin's sister to Abraham Lincoln.
Samuel Mott served in the 31st Ohio before accepting a colonel's commission in the 118th. He would resign in February 1864. He is buried in St. Marys, Ohio.
Born in Ireland, Thomas L. Young initially served in the Benton Guards before joining the 118th. He would rise to the rank of brevet brigadier general, serve in the House of Representatives, and then governor of Ohio. Young is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati.
Samuel Kraner would be wounded at Mossy Creek, Tennessee on December 29th, 1863, and later be discharged for these wounds. he was from Baden, and is buried in Marion, Ohio.