On April 17th, 1863, the Tiffin Weekly Tribune published two letters that had appeared in the Cincinnati Commercial. Apparently the two writers were friends, one back home in Butler County, Ohio, the other a member of the Sixty-Ninth Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment then stationed in central Tennessee.
Spicy Correspondence between a Butternut and a Soldier.
[The following correspondence has been sent us from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for publication. It is genuine - EDS. CIN. COM.]
SUNDAY, March 22, 1863.
DEAR BOB - I suppose you were in a harder battle New Years than I and Rash were with the skunk, and more serious, too. I suppose that before this reaches you that you will have been in another. From what you say, I suppose it was an awful sight to see the slaughter of men. You undoubtedly know of the heavy draft that is awaiting us. The people here are all of one mind - that is to resist the draft. They all say that they will rebel against it. I don't know how that will work, but if they do I am in. Do you think the soldiers will fight us if they were brought up here to take us? I don't. I think they would be wise if they would throw down their arms. Bob, we had a big Democratic meeting in Hamilton, yesterday, and the speakers all said there will be big fighting here soon. One said that Lincoln would be out of the White House in less than three months. Bob, there must certainly be some rough times here before long, Bob, you may know that us boys had a big lime in Hamilton yesterday. We listened to the speaking until we got tired, and the next was euchre and the bar. Well, Bob, I must quit for this time. Write soon if you don't get killed.
J. H. JR.
MURFREESBORO, April 2, 1863.
John - your cowardly and disgraceful letter is just received. You can better imagine than I can define my disgust at receiving such a contemptable and treasonable letter from one claiming to be a citizen of the American Republic. A man raised and educated under the auspices of the best Government ever enjoyed by any people; who has so degenerated in the scale of morality and love of country, is an object or contempt rather than of sympathy. I blush to think that one of my former associates, who but a short time since, boasted of love for his country and her free institutions. is to-day, from motives of dastardly cowardice, cringing in the attitude of supplication at the shrine of the Southern Confederacy. What has so recently came over the spirit of your dreams, that you can thus meanly repudiate both your God and your country. The sentiments which you express savor very much of human depravity. Have you lost all the pride of manhood? Have you become so demoralized as thus to acknowledge your-self at once a traitor and a disgrace to the free institutions of the country that gave you birth? May God, in his infinite justice, prosper the glorious cause for which the Federal arms are contending; while to the wretched torment of fire and brimstone, in the deepest gorge of hell, consign, not only the rebels in arms against our Government, but also - and three-fold more deserving - the unprincipled and cowardly wretches who openly avow themselves traitors, but who have not the moral courage to take up arms in favor of the rebellion for which they express so much sympathy. If such men as Vallandigham and his followers expect to receive mild treatment at the hands of the soldiers in this department of the army, they are laboring under a most woeful delusion. The scorching flames of hell would be to them a welcome relief if they should be unfortunate enough to fall into the hands of our justly indignant army. You greatly mistake the loyalty of those who so freely gave their blood at the battle of Stone River, if, for a single moment, you entertain the opinion that we would justify you in resisting the draft. We will, with one accord, lay down our lives in support of the cause for which we enlisted, but never, till the last armed foe expires, will we ingloriously lay down are arms, as intimated in your letter. We will return home for no other purpose than to bayonet, and, If need be, exterminate all such contemptable treason-mongers as you have described. This letter will no doubt conclude our correspondence, to which I do not object; and, since you have taken the liberty to write such an insulting letter to me, I propose to deal plainly with you, and, in doing so, allow me to say that all your boast about resisting the draft is mere cowardly bombast. You and all of your stripe lack the courage to raise an arm to oppose the draft. You will, no doubt, purchase a revolver, and talk loudly about resistance, as all cowards do; but, mark me for the expression, you will never use them. I despise a coward as I despise the Devil, and forever hence you are, in my humble estimation, a cringing coward of the lowest order. Only think for a single moment of a spirit so contemptable as to express the wish that we might desert the graves of our brethren to the desecration of rebels. Go on in your mad career of opposition to the war, but remember that the day is fast approaching when you will gladly give your right arm to be able to recall the treasonable acts of the past. If you desire to know how your letter was 'received here, you can readily determine from the following. One of the boys present when it was read, remarked that "If you were here your skin would be taken off and twisted Into whip-lashes, with which to lash your soul on the road to Hell." All denounce the author of such a treasonable letter as a mean, contemptable coward, who dare not fight for or against his country.
With every sentiment of profound disgust, I subscribe myself, forever, the enemy of traitors at home and rebels in arms, while I am unalterably for the Union.
R. M. McCOY.
Co. F. 69th Reg't Ohio Volunteers.
While it is unknown if these two men ever reconciled, I am under the impression that they did not, based on McCoy's scathing reply.
Robert M. McCoy was twenty-six years old when he enlisted as a private in Company F, Sixty-Ninth Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, He would serve until July 17th, 1865 when he was mustered out with the regiment in Louisville, Kentucky. Private McCoy would live until 1908, passing away on March 31st. He is buried in the Dayton National Cemetery.
Picture of Robert M. McCoy courtesy of and copyright © L.M. Strayer Collection - posted on the excellent Ohio in the Civil War website.
The Sixty-Ninth Ohio Volunteer Infantry was formed over the course of the fall of 1861 and into spring 1862. Its first battle would be Stones River. The regiment would see action at Reed's Bridge at Chickamauga, charge up Missionary Ridge, and then serve throughout the Atlanta Campaign (seeing heavy action at Resaca, Pumpkin Vine Creek, and Jonesboro) and into the Carolinas.