For a long time, I was apprehensive of collecting Civil War soldiers' letters. The paper's fragility, paired with the fact that forgeries may exist, deterred me from collecting the paper items. But after being gifted my first Civil War soldier letter in 2018, I was captivated! I quickly realized that these primary documents offer valuable insight into the day-to-day lives of those who lived over 150 years ago. Plus, having the ability to research details about the writer enhances the piece and allows me an in-depth look at the artifact's original "owner," a perk that may not be possible with non-letter relics. Today, I have a total of 8 (and counting!) letters written by Civil War combatants, not to mention a letter in my collection that was written by a civilian. Three of my letters were written from the Eastern Theater, while five were composed by Western Theater veterans. Ready to read the transcribed version of the Western Theater-related letters in my collection? If so, keep scrolling!
John L. Hebron was born December 17, 1842, in Ohio to Alexander and Lydia Hebron. Hebron enlisted in the Union army--Company G, 2nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry--on September 5, 1861. Hebron's regiment fought in numerous battles, like Perryville, Stones River, Chickamauga, Resaca, and more. Hebron survived the war, married, and worked (according to a 1900 census) as a granite dealer. Hebron passed away May 25, 1914, and is buried at Union Cemetery in Jefferson County, Ohio. Housed in my collection are two letters written by Hebron, one from late 1861 and one from early 1862. Please note that original spelling/punctuation was used unless otherwise noted, and the transcription is italicized.
Camp Wood Dec 22
I now set down to write you a short letter I have not received any letter from you since we left Elizabethtown the mail has all gone to green river I received 2 that had been to Garrett Davis one with envelopes in we got our pay last night till the 1st of November 24 Dollars 25 cents I will send you 15$ [sic] home then I owe the sutler 3$ [sic] the balance I will keep myself if you get the 15 you can do what you please with it we get 2 months more pay the 1st of January and I will send most of that home Van Horne is making a package to send by Adams Express
There is not any of the boys sick since we left Louisville I have no cough yet I got the combs Mr. Powel sent I am much obliged to him I wrote a letter to John Waers that works at Hobbs tell me if he gets it
I got a letter from Sis at Elizabethtown that had been at Garrett Davis and answered it she complained about not hearing from you some of the boys that got their money yesterday morning have none now some are sending their home like me
I don’t know when we go to green river we are 9 miles from it now and 16 miles from Buckner there is 4 reg’ts over green river there will not be such a big fight at Bowling Green as the people think Buckner said that if we got over the river he was gone up well I guess I will stop this time give my respects to all inquiring friends and no more at present but I remain your affectionate son
John L Hebron
Direct to Elizabethtown Hardin County Ky and write right away if you get this JLH
Note: The proper apostrophes were added in the word “don’t.”
Camp Jefferson Bacon Creek Ky
Feb 7th 1862
I just received yours of the 4th I received yours of the 2d yesterday and was just going to answer it when I got the other there is nothing to write about as one day is the same as another[.] I have got over my sick spell all but a little hoarseness I don’t have to stand any guard when I am sick I get to stay in the tent so I am not exposed so much as you thought I was. I got a letter from John Waers yesterday and answered it yesterday afternoon I would have answered yours yesterday but I got tired writing. We have been living high for the last week or so it comenced [sic] with my box and before it was gone Joel Ferres got 3 boxs [sic] one as big as mine and 2 more big shoe boxs [sic] full and before that was half gone Ed Maxwell from Bloomfield got a big store box full the freight on it was 10 dollars But it is about all gone now
I have not heard from Sis for about 2 weeks[.] I don’t know why she don’t write oftener I got a letter the day we moved our camp that is the last time I heard from her well I don’t know of anything more to write this time so I will bring this to a close
From Your Affectionate Son
John L Hebron
Charles "Charley" Henry Howe, son of Ebenezer and Sarah Howe, was born May 4, 1845, in Massachusetts. On August 15, 1862, Howe enlisted in Company I of the 36th Massachusetts Infantry, though he was later transferred to Company G. Interestingly, soldiers of the 36th Massachusetts Infantry saw action in both theaters, taking part in engagements ranging from Fredericksburg in the East to Vicksburg in the West. According to one record, Howe's occupation was that of a cook. Howe was captured by Confederates and taken to the notorious Andersonville Prison. On August 27, 1864, Howe perished due to Scorbutus, or scurvy. Howe is interred in Andersonville's National Cemetery, plot 7025. A letter, written by Howe in early 1863, is housed in my collection. The transcription is below, in italics.
May 1st 63 [in pencil, possibly added later]
Due 3 [handwritten in ink]
Due 3 [stamped]
Mr. E.W. Howe
Camfield Chapn 36 Mass.
[stamp] Hustonville KY May 4
Letter Transcription (original punctuation/spelling used):
Bivouac near Stanford Ky.
May 1st 1863
My dear Father and Mother,
Yesterday morning our brigade had marching orders. We started at half past seven o’clock and marched untill [sic] an hour before sunset.
It was an awful hot day and many were nearly sunstruck, One man in our Company was struck blind owing to the great heat of the sun, and he cannot open his eyes this morning.
We halted at noon for one hour and made coffee. This refreshed us considerably and helped us through the remainder of the march.
We made twenty miles in all and most of us came in considerably lighter than when we started. I, for one, threw away my overcoat, two pairs of drawers, a pair of mittens, about half of that paper that you sent me, and twenty rounds of extra cartridge, besides a box with a pound of (melted) butter in it. in fact I threw away all that I could possibly spare for I was bound to keep up if possible, and I did so though I came the last eight miles with only one shoe on, my right foot having got blistered so badly in the first of the march that I had to take of[f] my shoe and trak [word crossed out] travel in my stocking.
I bathed my feet and legs in a brook as soon as I got here tr [word crossed out] which considerably decreased the swelling, but I find my self this morning with three large blisters on the top of my right foot and a large one on the ball of my “big toe,” it comes rather tough to get used up the first day.
The 27th Michigan the new regiment in our brigade started with us but had to stop the other side of the town for the night and when they came in this morning they couldn’t number five hundred men, because about that number fell out. ‘twas hard marching for new troops.
We only passed through one town before we reached Stanford, and that was Lancaster, a very pretty little place, but the two towns put together would not be half a[s] big a[s] Clinton
Yesterday was the day for us to be mustered for two months pay, and I understand that we are to stop here today to be mustered. I believe that we shall get two months pay sometimes this month, hope we shall for I am nearly dead broke, but it[’s] growing mighty hot and I believe I shall go in the shade and have a game of Euchre with someone. I wish I could “go Maying” with you today, but I shall have to wait untill [sic]next year.
E [sic] The air is very fragrant out here now, for the apple, peach, and [word crossed out] cherry and lilac trees are in full bloom.
Peas are up a foot high, beans potatoes and grain are well up; I saw a field of winter rye yesterday that looked as if it would be ready to reap by the last of next [sp? and word crossed out] this month. O, this is the country for me, there is no labor in farming compared with farming up north. Two men and a boy will plant and cover more corn [sp?] in three hours than six men could in a day in of [word crossed out] old Mass. The farmers do all their work with a kingt [word crossed out] kind of plow that they call a full-beam, and use no hoes at all.
I hope you are on the gain and will soon be able to go out doors and enjoy yourselves. This living in a house in summer aint [sic] what its cracked up to be, live out-doors if you want to be healthy [illegible word, like “Ged,” maybe?] I was never so healthy before.
Write often. With much love to all, (which includes little Wall.) I remain
William George Strausbaugh was born 1843 in Ohio to George and Susannah Strausbaugh. Strausbaugh enlisted August 13, 1862, in Company K of the 101st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The regiment fought in many major battles, like Perryville, Stones River, Chickamauga, and more. Strausbaugh served until December 13, 1863, when he was discharged due to disability in Bridgeport, Alabama. According to the 1900 census, Strausbaugh worked as a farmer. He passed away in 1925 and is buried at Block Cemetery in Seneca County, Ohio. A letter, written by Strausbaugh in 1863, is housed in my personal collection. Find a transcription below, in italics.
Mrs Susan Strausbaugh
[image of man with American flag, with words beneath image that reads, "In Triumph May it Wave."]
Letter Transcription (original spelling/punctuation used):
Camp Near Murfreesboro Tenn
June the 22nd 63
it is with pleasure I take this opurtunity [sic] of answering your kind letter wich [sic] I received the 20th I was glad to hear you was well and enjoying good health I am well and hearty as ever yet and I hope to remain so, for it is A pleasure to be A soldier as long as one well I hope this may find you well whe [sic] have very nice weather now I some ripe wheat yesterday one of the boys brought it from the other side of town
I will now let you know that there was 16 dipped yesterday in the they was all from the 38 illinois [sic] they had a meeting last night and there was 10 more came u [sic] forward I guess they will be baptized next Sunday
news is scarce now but whe [sic] are expecting hear from the fall of Vicksburg every day then I expect whe [sic] will be after old bragg [sic] again I am sorry I can [crossed out] cant [sic] think of any mor [sic] to write answer soon as you can
Wm G Strausbaugh
Albert Jenkins Barnard was born in 1841 to, according to sources, Albert and Elizabeth Barnard. Barnard's father died when Barnard was young, so in 1860 Barnard was living in Buffalo, New York, with his mother, brother, and their German servant, Ann Wheeler. At age 16, Barnard was working as a bookkeeper. On August 13, 1862--at the age of 21--Barnard enlisted as a Captain in Company B of the 116th New York Infantry. The 116th performed duties from Pennsylvania, at the war's beginning, to Louisiana a bit later in the conflict. Albert attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel May 29, 1863, and was discharged July 29, 1863. Albert survived the war, married, and in 1880, worked in the nuts and bolts manufacturing industry. According to Spared and Shared, Barnard was a junior partner of Plumb, Burdict, and Barnard, a company that manufactured nuts and bolts. Barnard lived up until 1916, and he's buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York. I have two letters written by Captain Barnard housed in my collection, though only one (the one I'm sharing below) was written in the Western Theater. The one I'm sharing was addressed to his younger brother, Lewis. The transcription includes original spelling/punctuation and is italicized.
Camp Niagara Baton Rouge
April 10th 1863.
How I should like to be at home with you today, to help celebrate the twentieth annaversary [sic] of your of your [sic] birth day. I wonder what you will do in honor of it. John, and I, drank your health in a glass of lemonade, his treat. he bought the lemons here in camp. We drank it in two “secesh” goblets, which some of the men captured, (that’s the word now,) at Monteseno Bayou. that is where Col Chapin put up in a nigger shanty. John says “give my love to Lew and tell him he is a bully boy with a glass ear; and that I am going to write him, soon, also the brigade.”
I fully intended writing before this, but you will see we have been moveing [sic] our camp; this together with my company books, which have not been touched since I was taken sick, have kept me fully busy.
We struck our tents last saturday [sic], and are now right in the town, and have as pleasant a camp as we ever had; are close to the river, and the ground is high as we can see some distance up, and down the river. The deaf, and dumb, asylum is directly in front of the camp, as is one of the pleasantest buildings that I have seen since leaving home. part of this is now used for a hospital this is the only objection we have in staying here. There are no troops here now, except Gen. Augurs division, which consists of nine regiments of infantry, two or three batteries, and a few cavalry. Unless you choose to call nigs, troops; there are three regiments of them here now, and they are armed; but do not drill much, as they keep them at work on the fortifications. they drill pretty well, but I dont [sic] believe they will fight.
Although the gurrillas [sic] bother our pickets some, and occasionally take a prisoner, we don’t fear a direct attack and eaven [sic] if they try that on, we feel confident that we can hold the place, with the help of the gun boats, five of which lie in the river abreast of us.
We all think it looks as if we were to stay here some time; perhaps the rest of this season. it is now so warm that it would be almost impossible for white men, to work on breast works, or do any duty of this kind in the day time. It is not so warm but that we drill yet, but you know digging, or marching, with a load on ones back is rather hard work.
Why! here we sit all day, without coat, vest, or collar.
A Steamer just arrived with a mail, but brings no letter for me, but there is another expected tonight, so will look for news from you tomorrow.
Mason doesn’t do much duty, he is trying hard to get home. has sent in his resignation three times, but each time it was disapproved. I really wish they would let him go: he is so discontented, and growls, so that it is very unpleasant; and when I was away he made John do most of the work. but he steps around lively now. I gave him a regular blowing up the other day.
I think possibly a box might reach me if you sent immediately and I want a few little things that I cant get here. I have tried hard to get a rubber coat; but there are none here or in New Orleans. If you can find one of the light kind I wish you would send it to me. some are very heavy. I think the difference is in the foundation one being cotton, and the other linen; though in this I may be mistaken. don’t get one unless it is light, and long, so that it will come down to my boot tops. I would also like three towels, a black neck tie, (narrow,) and two pair of those thin woolen socks such as I wore last spring. I know of nothing more unless Mother has a spongue [sic] cake that she can tuck in, or any thing else in the eating line. we live very well now as the commissary has most all the necessaries. we can draw from him, on tick, rice, beans, potatoes, meal, tea, Coffee, sugar, ham, salt pork, tongues, molasses, vinegar, salt, dried peaches or apples, and soft, or hard bread; so you see we can live high. This morning we had for breakfast, baked potatoes, fried ham, milk toast, and coffee. for dinner boiled ham, boiled potatoes, and a bread pudding; for supper, fried potatoes, fried pork, and rice pan cakes. Aint [sic] that pretty high living for soldiers? but we don’t have milk every day; they charge only twenty cents a quart for it. Dobbins is about the only man in the regiment who has any money, and he is nearly played out, but then we expect the pay master every day. And then the first of next month is the next regular pay day.
Saturday evening. – Oh! How tired I am, I have just finished a big days work. have been drawing, delivering, and charging clothing most of the day. I tell you Co. “B” will look gay on inspection tomorrow. I made every man wash his knapsack, and all his dirty clothes today. Another mail today brought me yours, and Mothers, good letters dated March 15th. I tell you it seems a long time since I heard from home, nearly two weeks. I also received the package of five papers; In your letter dated March 10th after telling about your call at Mrs Norton’s, you say Miss Hamlin is evidently sick of Hote S. and that you’ll tell me about it in your next. but I didn’t see it, in the next. Your description of your call is very funny, and I think I can imagine just how you looked. I am so glad you went, and now you must call on the Misses Norton’s on Deleware Street.
I received a kind letter from Hote Seymour about two weeks ago,--in which he stated that Dave Tuttle was trying to get the position as Major of this regiment; or rather that his friends were at work for him:- and offering to help me; as he said he would rather see me Maj. than any one else. I immediately answered his letter telling him that I could see no prospect of a vacancy; but within the last day or two I have heard that Col Cottier is getting ready to go home. this may not be so, but it came from very good authority. if it is true I may call on Hote sooner than I expected to when I answered his letter. I had rather you would not say anything thing about this, except perhaps to Hote. You may do as you, and Mother think best about that.
My eye’s feel as if it was bed time, and my candle is getting short; and I guess I have told all the news, so I will bid you all good night, with love to GrandPa, and GrandMa, and heap for yourself and our dear Mother, from
Your Affectionate Bro.
About the Author: Kass Cobb is a genealogist, history enthusiast, and college sophomore who is majoring in history. Kass first became obsessed with history in eighth grade through a unit on the American Civil War. She began researching her family's heritage and discovered that she is a direct descendant of eleven Civil War veterans, ranging from an "excellent soldier" and Andersonville Prisoner of War to a "patriotic Kentuckian" and United States Colored Troops soldier. Kass is passionate about sharing the stories of United States veterans, specifically those who fought in the Civil War. One of the ways she does this is by obtaining grave markers for veterans. When Kass isn't busy planning historical events for her community, placing signs at cemeteries, decorating her ancestors' graves, or researching her family's past, you'll find her antique collecting, studying her Bible, reading, singing, and enjoying nature with her many pets.