About Colleen Theisen

Outreach and Instruction Librarian. Lover of coffee, as well as 19th century photography, painting, tourism and print.

I have just learned that there is a possibility of sending out letters

Joseph Culver Letter, April 14, 1865, Page 1

Head Qurs. Co. “A” 129th Ills.
Raleigh, N. C. April 14th/65
My Dear Wife

I have just learned that there is a possibility of sending out letters, & I haste to write hoping it may reach you. We arrived at this place yesterday evening & have not yet started out & will not probably until to-morrow as it is already late in the afternoon. We left Goldsboro at sunrise on Monday morning [the 10th] moving in the direction of Smithfield, our corps being on the extreme left. We had several light skirmishes which retarded our progress; &, the country being very swampy, we moved only about 8 or 9 miles & went into camp. It rained considerable during the afternoon & evening.1

We broke camp Tuesday morning [the 11th] about day-light & moved very rapidly. There was only one light skirmish during this day. The weather was very warm & many fell by the way. Two of our Brigade died & several took sick. We reached Smithfield about 4 P.M., having marched about 20 miles. When we halted for dinner, I had but six men of my Company with me, all the rest had fallen out. At Smithfield we recd. the news (official) of the surrender of Lee’s Army.2

At an early hour on Wednesday [the 12th], we started for Raleigh,3 our Brig. acting as train guard until near noon. There was skirmishing in our front but done by Kilpatrick’s Cavalry. In the evening the cavalry captured over 60 wagons loaded with ammunition.4 It was the rear of the Rebel Army retiring from Smithfield. We marched about 16 or 18 miles & went into camp near Swift Creek at about 4 P.M.

Yesterday morning we started at daybreak for this place anticipating a hard day’s battle.5 After moving about 5 miles, we heard the cannon booming in our front, & we supposed the time was near at hand but we kept moving on & on until we came in sight of this place but found no enemy. It seems that the 14th Corps having had some ten miles the shortest route, were two or three hours in advance of us & kept up a skirmish with the Rebel rear guard.6 We are therefore in possession of Raleigh without a battle.

We have lost track of Johnson’s [sic] Army which accounts probably for our stay here to-day.7 Gov. Vance surrendered the city on the approach of our army.8 There are a vast number of Rebel sick & wounded here with their Surgeons, nurses, &c. I was through the City this morning. It is quite a small place, though in its prosperity has been beautiful. The Rebs blew up the depots.

Citizens say that Johnson’s Army passed through in great haste the evening before we came & that Johnson declared he would not fight another battle. They have no Official news of the surrender of Lee’s Army, Grant having destroyed their communication. Some of our boys saw a rebel soldier who was present when Lee surrendered but escaped afterward & reached his home. He was hid while Johnson’s Army passed through but made his appearance this morning. He said that all of Lee’s Army supposed Johnson had surrendered to Sherman. Unless Stonemann’s or Sheridan’s cavalry stop him, we will have a severe foot race yet.

The prospects look glorious. Let us praise God for all his blessings. We had good meetings after going into camp at Smithfield & Swift Creek & a most excellent one here last night. There were three forward for prayers, & God was with us.

We recd. to-day New York papers of the 7th with full acounts of the battles. This is doubtless a day of great rejoicing in the north as it has been set apart especially for that purpose.9

I have felt like getting home soon. I do not think we will have any more severe battles. So far as we have learned, Johnson’s Army is very much demoralized & have no intention of fighting longer if they can help it. May God grant us a bloodless victory. I am unable to see what they can gain by holding out longer. The train is expected from Goldsboro to-morrow, but, as all our mail was ordered to Fortress Monroe, I cannot expect a letter.10 We are all well. The weather is very pleasant though a little warm. We have a beautiful camp in a pine grove near the city.

Give my love to all. Kiss Howard for Papa. May Our Father in Heaven keep & bless you. With much love, I remain

Your affectionate Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. The XX Corps camped on the night of the 10th at Atkinson’s, one mile west of Moccasin Creek. During the day, Slocum’s advance had skirmished with troopers of the 1st South Carolina Cavalry, losing two killed and five wounded. Orders for the next day’s march called for General Geary’s Second Dvision to take the advance, followed by the Third and First Divisions. O.R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, pp. 155-157.
  2. General Sherman, in acknowledging receipt of Grant’s telegrams reporting surrender of Lee’s army, replied on the 12th, “I hardly know how to express my feelings, but you can imagine them. The terms you have given Lee are magnanimous and liberal. Should Johnston follow Lee’s example, I shall, of course, grant the same. He is retreating before me on Raleigh, but I shall be there to-morrow.” Ibid., p. 177.
  3. Mower’s orders for the day’s march called for the XX Corps to cross Neuse River, and march on the Leechburg road to the intersection of the Elevation and Raleigh roads, where it would turn north to Swift Creek. General Ward’s Third Division had the lead, with the 1st Brigade guarding the trains. Ibid., pp. 170-71.
  4. Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry, as it spearheaded the Union advance from Swift Creek toward Raleigh, skirmished frequently with Confederate horse soldiers of Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton’s command covering the retreat of Johnston’s army. Ibid., p. 186.
  5. Swift Creek was 14 miles from Raleigh. On the 13th the XX Corps marched in the following order : First, Second, and Third Divisions. Ibid., p. 185.
  6. Sherman’s cavalry entered Raleigh on the morning of the 13th, the city being surrendered by the mayor to General Kilpatrick. Johnston’s army, covered by Hampton’s and Wheeler’s cavalry, had evacuated the city on the 12th, retreating toward Hillsboro. Kilpatrick’s horse-soldiers ,not wanting to give the Rebels a chance to regroup, pressed on ten miles to Morrisville, and in doing so, smashed a number of roadblocks manned by Wheeler’s troopers. Ibid., pp. 197-98.
  7. On the 14th Generals Sherman and Johnston had agreed to a temporary suspension of hostilities, with the object of finding a formula for ending the war. Sherman accordingly promised to limit the advance of his main columns to Morrisville and his cavalry to Chapel Hill, while expecting Johnston to maintain his present position. Johnston’s army was camped in and around Hillsboro. Ibid., pp. 206-07.
  8. J.F.C. was mistaken. The mayor (not Governor Zebulon B. Vance) surrendered the city to the Federals. Ibid., p. 197.
  9. The War Department on April 9 had ordered “a salute of 200 guns to be fired at the headquarters of every army and department, and at every post and arsenal in the United States, and at the Military Academy at West Point, on the day of the receipt of the order, in commemoration of the surrender of General R. E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia to Lieutenant-General Grant and the army under his command.” Ibid., pp. 351-52. Meanwhile, President Lincoln was getting ready to call for a day of national thanksgiving.
  10. Working parties had been turned to repairing railroad bridges and trestles burned by the retreating Confederates. By the 17th the only bridge not rebuilt spanned the Neuse, and trains were running north from Goldsboro and south from Raleigh to the Neuse, where transfers were effected. Ibid., p. 238.
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Yours of the 7th inst. inquiring about my box is just received

Joseph Culver Letter, April 10, 1865, Page 1Office Chief of Artillery, District of Tennessee, Nashville, Tenn., April 10th 1865.
Dear Mollie,

Yours of the 7th inst. inquiring about my box &c. is just received. The box reached me more than a week ago, and I immediately wrote to Maggie and Mrs. Johnston, acknowledging receipt. I forwarded Morton’s box without delay. The Agent of Adam’s Express Co. told me that it would reach him in East Tenn. He has probably received ere this.

I did not mention this in my letter to Mr. Johnston, supposing that my preceding letters had been received. Mollie please inform me who paid the Express charges on my box and how much they were. I had a letter from Sammy and James Rollins day before yesterday. They are enjoying life as well as soldiers can be expected to do. The Battry is now at Cleveland Tenn. I had a call day before yesterday from Wm McCord. and quite a pleasant visit with him. He was on his way from Columbia, Tenn. to Murfreesboro. Will looks very healthy and robust- seems to stand the service well. He is about as tall as Sammy but rather heavier.

I wrote you a few days ago. Love to all. Good bye- in haste

Ever Your Affectionate Brother
Wm J. Murphy
Box 1182
Nashville
Tenn

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The whole Army will move on Raleigh in the morning

Joseph Culver Letter, April 9, 1865, Page 1

Head Quarters Co. “A” 129th Ills. Vols.
Goldsboro, N.C.
April 9th 1865
My Dear Wife

We have just recd. notice that the last mail leaves at 3 o’clock, and it is now 1/2 past one. The whole Army will move on Raleigh in the morning;1 it is about 50 miles. Whether we will have much hard fighting or not, God only knows. There cannot be many more battles.

I was very sadly disappointed in not getting any letters to-day; & now the last mail has come in, I shall not probably hear from you for several weeks. Yet I trust you are well. I thought my letter from Kinston [of March 24] would surely reach you in time for your answer to reach me before we left here. I believe I should have been fully satisfied but must content myself without. The last I recd. was of date the 23rd March & the one before the last the 16th, but I heard from you through Bro. Gaff of the 28th March.

We have been very busy to-day, & I was thinking I would write you a long letter to-night, but that prospect was blighted by the notice recd. a few minutes ago that no more mails would leave after 3 o’clock. We just recd. a letter from Henry Polk; he was at Annapolis, Md., on the 28th March & was to leave for St. Louis next day. His safety causes great rejoicing; he will doubtless get home.

Jim Chritten, Wm. Sutcliff, Winnie Kelley, & Sherman McQuown came up to-day. Mat DeLong will be here to-morrow.

We had a most excellent meeting this morning, & the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was administered. It was a blessed time. God grant that we may soon enjoy such a privilege at home with our loved ones. Wm. Bronson’s discharge papers came this morning, & he starts for home to-morrow. I do not think we will get to see him again. WE HAVE (I commenced a sentence but was interrupted & forgot what it was). Alf Huetson has just come in & brings glorious news. Genl. Grant has telegraphed us to move on Johnson[sic] & end this matter as soon as possible.2 Henry Snyder was sent to the rear yesterday sick;3 he is not very bad but was unable to march. All the troops are in good spirits & are tired of camp. We are well prepared for the campaign. The weather is beautiful.

I took my chair to the fire after breakfast this morning & reread & burned all your letters, 13 in all. It seemed sacriligious, but I could not run any risk of their falling into strangers’ hands. I wished very much to preserve them. I kept only the last one & hoped to place another in my pocket this afternoon & burn it, but I will carry this one to read occasionally.

We have just learned that John Harper has been exchanged so he will probably be at home soon.4 I find it almost impossible to write as there [are] so many questions to answer & things to attend to. Everyone is busy packing up. I will not get time or opportunity to write to the Sunday School or Church; I intended to do so this afternoon. You must remember me to them & tell them that I have been so very busy, but I have prayed for them every day since I left. I think Bro. Crist might have answered my letter but presume he had not time.

Give my kind regards to all my friends. I intended to write to Abbie & Lida Remick but have the same excuse to all. Want of time. My “Sentinel” has not come yet through. I saw one to-day of the 16th containing my Charleston letter full of mistakes. Before this reaches you, we will be beyond Raleigh, or at least fight[ing] for it.

We are to draw some clothing in a few minutes, & I must cut my letter short. There are so many things I wished to write about, but in the hurry I shall not be able. If it be Our Father’s will, I will make up for it when the campaign is ended. Be of good cheer, &, during the long weeks in which you may not hear from me, trust more in God. He will care for us. I feel that I can trust him wholly. If I should fall, we will certainly meet in a better and happier world, & you must teach Howard to remember me. Kiss him Good bye for me.

I feel very happy to-day knowing that God is ours and that his love is exercised toward us. I feel very thankful to our friends in Pontiac who are trying to make you happy by their kind attentions. Remember me particularly to Mrs. Johnson, Emily, Mrs. McGregor & family, Mrs. Smith, Lou, & all others who by their kindness comfort you in my absence. And now, dearest, I must say Good bye for a short time. Kiss Howard occasionally for me. I commit both you & him to the kind care of Our Father in Heaven. Write often. Should communication be kept open, I might possibly hear from you, & at all events, I will get them when the campaign closes. By orders just recd. our letters must be directed as follows.

May the richest of Heavens blessings rest upon you. With a kiss and much love, I remain through life,

Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver
(Kiss)
Co. “A” 129th Ills.
1st Brig., 3d Div., 20th A.C.
Army of Georgia
Fortress Monroe

  1. General Mower on the 8th had notified his division commanders that at daylight on the 10th they would start for Smithfield, taking the river road. The First Division would have the lead. Each division would be accompanied by its ambulance and tool wagons, and ten ammunition wagons. The remainder of the train, with the exception of four artillery ammunition wagons, would follow the XIV Corps trains. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, pp. 132, 145.
  2. The dispatch referred to is probably General Grant’s Burkeville telegram of April 6 which read, “We have Lee’s army pressed hard, his men scattering and going to their homes by the thousands. He is endeavoring to reach Danville, where Davis and his cabinet have gone. I shall press the pursuit to the end. Rush Johnston at the same time and let us finish up this job all at once.” Ibid., p. 109.
  3. For data on Henry Snyder see J.F.C.’s letter of March 24, 1865.
  4. John A. Harper, a 21-year-old carpenter, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a corporal in Company G, 129th Illinois Infantry. Corporal Harper served with the regiment throughout the war. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
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The cheering last night

Joseph Culver Letter, April 7, 1865, Page 1

Apr. 8th

The cheering last night was over Sherman’s official report of the fall of Richmond.1

J.F.C.

  1. On the 8th General Sherman notified his subordinates that he had “Official intelligence from General Grant of the defeat of Lee’s army and occupation of Petersburg and Richmond.” Grant’s columns were pursuing fragments of Lee’s army, “represented at 20,000, toward Danville.” O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, p. 132.
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We have had great rejoicing yesterday and to-day over the success of Grant’s Army

Joseph Culver Letter, April 7, 1865, Page 1

Head Quarters Co. “A” 129th Regt. Ills. Vols.
Goldsboro, N.C. April 7th 1865
My Dear Wife

We have had great rejoicing yesterday and to-day over the success of Grant’s Army, the capture of Petersburg and Richmond with 23,000 prisoners, guns, &c.1 There is also a rumor afloat that Genl. Lee has been captured by Sheridan,2 yet every one is so wild with joy that we are afraid to believe it lest it be only the production of some fertile imagination. We hope, however, that God is about to bring the war to a close. To His name be all the Glory.

I have never witnessed such manifestations of joy as we have witnessed within the past two days. The cannon were booming thunder until a very late hour last night. I quit writing to attend the meeting. When I commenced, it was raining, but the cloud passed & for 1-1/2 hours it was quite pleasant. We had a good meeting. There were eight at the altar and two converted. The attendance is very large, and, if the weather permits, we anticipate more glorious results during the few days we may remain here. We have made arrangements for Sacramental Service on Sabbath.

The trains are being loaded, and we expect to move on Monday. The successes of Grant’s Army will doubtless change our programme materially. Orders were received this evening to move light for a rapid march, &, if we have to get to the rear of Lee’s Army, it will be a severe chase.3 This Army has had so much experience in marching that I fear my five months’ idleness will be a decided disadvantage.

All the company are well. Asa Alden of Co. “G” was removed to the hospital quite ill.4 I sent a letter yesterday by McDonald of the 53rd Illinois whose time is out, & he was going direct to Pontiac.5

I was disappointed in not receiving a letter from you to-day, but Bro. Gaff had a letter of the 26th March in which his wife said she had seen you at church that day and you were well. Allen Fellows has been a little under the weather for a few days but will be all right in a few days. The health of the Regt. is good.

There has been a continuous shouting all along the lines of the Army to-night, & several Batteries have fired salutes. We recd. New York papers of the 3d & Newbern dispatches of the 6th to-day. We have details of the battles before Richmond on the 31st, 1st, & 2nd. All that we have heard since is what is termed grape vine. We were reviewed yesterday by Maj. Genl. Mower, our new corps commander. He is a fine looking Officer & has the reputation of being a good fighter.6

It has ceased raining again, & we hope the few [remaining days we stay here may be bright and pleasant. I have not been able to banish from my mind for the last two days the probabilities of a speedy termination of the war and the prospect of soon getting home. God grant that it may be so, yet it is not safe to be too sanguine. It is almost too much to hope for so suddenly, & disappointment would be terrible.

The mails will either confirm or deny these rumors to-morrow. We find it impossible to get a paper for a day or two after it gets here, the demand is so great. Again the cannon are booming all around the lines, & the cheering commencing in Goldsboro goes round from camp to camp until the sound dies away in the distance. It has heretofore been a certain indication of battle when so many rumors became rife in camp. It was so before every severe battle of last summer's campaign.

We hear the bands striking up in the direction of Goldsboro, &, if any news is passing, ours will be out when they reach here. I wonder if the Army will become quiet at all to-night. It is near ten o'clock. I am afraid that whiskey may have a hand in, yet none has been issued that I know of. Green was very happy to-day over the news, but said he was trembling for fear they might not prove true. [We] have heard of no enemy in our immediate front for several days, & refugees coming into our lines report Raleigh evacuated and all the Rebs gone to Lee.7

Stoneman with our cavalry & one Division of the 4th Corps is reported at Boon, N.C. which is about the same distance from Danville that we are, but the country very mountainous.8

I will not close my letter until I learn if there is anything new. The bands of the 14th A.C. on our immediate left are out playing, & the boys are getting up to learn if possible what the excitement is. The cannon still keep firing.

God has been very kind to us this far, though there has been so much wickedness He has not cast us off. I hope to hear from you by to-morrow’s mail. I think my letter from Kinston [dated March 24] informing you that I was near the Army must have reached you in time for your answer to reach me here, & I expected a letter every day when you knew I was with the Regiment. I wrote a letter to the “Sentinel” night before last, also one to Mother. I have been expecting news from Carlisle all week but have heard nothing yet.

How I would like to be with you to-night that we might rejoice to-gether over the glorious news. Kiss Howard for me. May Our Father continue his blessings toward us. Remember me kindly to all our friends. The Army is becoming quiet, & we have learned nothing yet. I will leave my letter open until morning & add any news we may receive. I can imagine yourself & Howard sleeping sweetly & with thoughts of home and joy I must say Good night.

Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. On the evening of the 6th, General Sherman had received a message from General Grant sent on the 3rd. It reported that the movements commenced on March 29 had “terminated in the fall of both Richmond and Petersburg this morning. The mass of Lee’s army was whipped badly south of Petersburg, and to save the remnant he was forced to evacuate Richmond. We have about 12,000 prisoners, and stragglers are being picked up in large numbers. From all causes I do not estimate his loss at less than 25,000.” The Confederates, he continued, were in full retreat, “and there is every indication that they will endeavor to secure Burkeville and Danville.” Grant was pursuing with Sheridan’s cavalry and five infantry corps. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, pp. 89-90.
  2. There was no substance to this rumor.
  3. General Sherman on April 7 notified his army commanders that “the capture of Richmond and retreat of Lee’s army to the west . . . necessitates a change in our plans. We will hold fast to Goldsborough and its [rail] lines and move rapidly on Raleigh.” General Slocum’s Army of Georgia was to be ready to move “on Monday straight on Smithfield and Raleigh by the most direct road.” Ibid., pp. 121-22.
  4. Asa N. Alden, a 30-year-old carpenter, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company G, 129th Illinois Infantry. Hospitalized in the division hospital on April 6, 1865, Private Allen was mustered out one month later at David’s Island, New York Harbor. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
  5. Dennis McDonald, a 16-year-old Pontiac laborer, was mustered into service on Feb. 24, 1862, as a private in Company G, 53d Illinois Infantry. Private McDonald was captured near Canton, Miss., Feb. 24, 1864. He was confined in Southern prison pens until exchanged at Charleston, S.C., on Dec. 11, 1864. Rejoining his unit, Private McDonald was transferred to Company B and was mustered out near Washington, D.C., May 27, 1865. Ibid.
  6. General Mower, formerly a division commander in the Army of the Tennessee, had been named to lead the XX Corps on April 2. He had been hand-picked by General Sherman for this position. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, p. 111.
  7. As it had been for the past two weeks, General Johnston’s army was camped in and around Smithfield. Consequently, the stories told by refugees that Raleigh had been evacuated and that Johnston’s columns were en route to join General Lee were false.
  8. Maj. Gen. George Stoneman with 4,000 cavalry had ridden out of Jonesboro in East Tennessee on March 20 to raid across the Appalachians into western North Carolina. By the 29th Stoneman’s horse-soldiers had crossed into North Carolina and had occupied Boone. The next day they advanced to Wilkesboro. Long, Civil War Day by Day, pp. 655, 658-59.
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I know it is much more pleasant for you to get out among your friends

Joseph Culver Letter, April 5, 1865, Letter 2, Page 1

Head Quarters Co. “A” 129th Ills.
Goldsboro, N.C.
April 5th 1865
My Dear Wife

Yours of the 23rd ult. reached me to-day. I am very happy to learn of your good health and that the condition of the roads gives you an opportunity to get around. I shall look for letters more regularly now. I know it is much more pleasant for you to get out among your friends, & I hope you will be happy.

I was not aware that Dr. Johnson was at all seriously ill.1 I hope most earnestly that he will heed the voice of God and yield submissive to His will. He might do much good in Pontiac. He shall have my prayers for God’s blessing. I am happy to hear that Bro. Crist received so handsome a donation. It must be very gratifying to himself & family to be so substantially remembered. I thought I had answered Sister Kate’s letter. I must try and write to her before we leave here.

You need feel no alarm about the insurance on our property. You recollect you have both policy & receipt. The last policy is a new one which accounts for the notice. Had the old one been only renewed, the notice would not have been sent.

I would like to receive a box from home as you desire, but I am in need of nothing, & it is not probable it would ever reach me.

We had a good meeting to-night, & God was pleased to bless several souls. The meetings in the 2nd & 3rd Brigades have not closed yet though it is nearly ten o’clock; I hear they are resulting gloriously. May God continue the good work.

Capt. Wm. Strawn of the 104th Ills, was here to see me to-night.2 He lives near the line between Newton & LaSalle County. You doubtless remember him.

The news from the North to-day are very flattering.3 We have Division Review to-morrow at 8-1/2 A.M. which indicates an early departure. It is generally thought, however, we will not leave until Monday, yet it may be before or after. Our Army was reorganized: the 15th and 17th Corps forming the Army of [the] Tennessee, the 10th and 23rd Corps the Army of [the] Ohio, & the 14th and 20th Corps the Army of Georgia. We belong to the latter & will be the left wing, &, as a matter of course, farthest from the coast.4 It is very probable that we will have very few mail facilities, but I hope you will write every day, & I will do so every opportunity.

Bro. Jim Gaff was here to-day; he is quite well. Capt. Reed has been ailing for a few days but is around again. The health of the Regt. is good. Bronson’s discharge papers have not been received yet, but I look for them every day. I think the idea of paying the Army before we leave has eked out. I see no signs of a Paymaster at present. We are almost fully equipped & lack only a few pairs of shoes. There is an immense quantity of “Grape Vine” afloat to-night, & there has been cheering all along the lines of the army for 4 hours past. Nothing reliable has been received, however, that I can learn. The Army is in jubilant spirits, & I should not be surprised to hear of marching orders any day.

Chris & Nate have been fast asleep for an hour. I wish I could look in upon you to-night. May God bless you & our babe & preserve you both in good health. May His richest blessings of health & happiness be yours and the enjoyment of many years in such home joys & comforts you have so patiently awaited and which you so richly deserve. Kiss Howard for Papa & love to all friends. With love and affection, I remain,

Your Husband
Joseph F. Culver

  1. Dr. Darius Johnson, having resigned as regimental surgeon, had returned to Pontiac to resume his practice. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
  2. William Strawn was mustered into service on Aug. 14, 1862, at Ottawa, Ill., as lieutenant of Comapny F, 104th Illinois Infantry. He was promoted to captain on July 26, 1863. Ibid.
  3. The Union advance toward the Southside Railroad gave promise of success. Sheridan’s cavalry and foot-soldiers of the V Corps had occupied Dinwiddie Courthouse and had secured a lodgment on the White Oak road. To cope with this increasingly grave threat to his supply line, General Lee was compelled to pull troops out of the Petersburg defenses and rush them to the point of danger. On April 1 at Five Fork, Sheridan’s cavalry, bolstered by the V Corps, routed the Confederates led by Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett. Early next morning, Grant followed up this victory by launching an all-out assault on the Petersburg defenses, while Sheridan’s columns blocked the Southside Railroad. Humphreys, The Virginia Campaign of ’65, pp. 322-62.
  4. Special Order No. 44 reorganizing the army was issued on April 1. The Army of the Tennessee would constitute the right and the Army of the Ohio the center. With General Slocum leading the Army of Georgia, Maj. Gen. Joseph A. Mower commanded the XX Corps. O.R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVIII, pt. III, p. 75.
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I find in my coat pocket eleven unanswered letters

Joseph Culver Letter, April 5, 1865, Page 1Office Chief of Artillery, District of Tennessee,
Nashville, Tenn., April 5th, 1865.
My Dear Sister Mollie:

I find in my coat pocket eleven unanswered letters and yours of March 10th among the number. I will not neglect it longer, though I can spare but a few minutes for letter writing today. I have written hardly a letter in the past month, but hope for more leisure in a few days. Parson Brownlove has been inaugurated Governor of Tennessee. The ceremony took place at eleven oclock A.M. today. I tried to hear his speech on the occation, but could not get out till he was most through and heard only the closing sentences.

This is a gala day in Nashville. But it does not compare with day before yesterday – the day on which the good news reached us of Richmond’s capture. The people here were wild with joy. Business was closed and Nashville got drunk. That is the usual mode of holding celebrations among the [genuine chivilry?]. There were but few long faces to be seen on that occation. I know of one school-marm that cried over the ruins of her dear Confederacy. I presume her tears were bitter ones, but I had no sympathy for her, or with her. Mollie, the war closes this month. What do you think of that? Frank and Sammy and I will be home in a few days.

I have not been promoted. My rank is no higher than Lieut. I did think that my salary would be increased, but it is not. I shall probably remain here during the remainder of my term of service. I have concluded that it would be better for me to connect myself with one of the churches here in Nashville and have sent to Mr. Johnston for a “letter” from our church. When that reaches me I will unite with the 2d Presbyterian church. I attend there now, and feel very much at home among that people: we have a fine large Sunday school. It is a thoroughly loyal church. They have “Sociable” on Tuesday evenings, to which soldiers are espeically invited. I have attended but one of them yet, but will go as often as my time will permit. The people are very friendly and sociable. I have many more invitations to call than I can attend to. I will soon have more leisure, then I will do some visiting. I have not yet heard from Frank, nor from Sammy recently. Our Battery is now at Cleveland Tenn. Mollie, I had a good long letter from cousin Lizzie Donaldson three or four days ago. I am indebted to Tom’s visit for that. She is teaching school now. Has a large school and an assistant teacher.

Mary, I’ve made thre acquaintance of a young lady here, whom I would marry (if I could) if she was a Christian. I don’t wish to convey the idea that she is a heathen – but she is unconverted. She is a northerner though her father’s family are now living here. She sings splendidly (that’s what takes my eye) and play on melodion finely. She is good looking, is about as tall as Maggie, 19 years old, but she is “without money and without price.” That last consideration, however, would not make the least difference with me. She is rather wild. I call to sing with her occationally.

Tell Leander to write to me. And all of you as often as you may.

With love, Mollie,
Ever Your Affectionate Brother
Wm J. Murphy

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Our Forage Expedition of which I spoke in my last letter was of short duration

Joseph Culver Letter, April 4, 1865, Page 1

Head Qurs. Co. “A” 129th Ills. Vols.
Goldsboro, N.C.
April 4th 1865
My Dear Wife

We have had no mail for two days. The last news I have from you is of the 16th ult. I hope to be more successful, however, by to-morrow’s mail.

Our Forage Expedition of which I spoke in my last letter was of short duration. We were not over two miles from camp & returned at noon.1 The weather continues to be very pleasant, and our preparations have been going on rapidly. It is a current rumor that we will start on Monday next [10th], & we are using every effort to be ready. We had Brigade Inspection to-day & will have Division & corps reviews during the week.

All the sick and wounded that could bear removal have been sent to Newbern & the coast. The detachments of this army are coming up from Nashville, Tenn., Charleston, & Blairs Landing, S.C. & will soon all be here.2 The troops are nearly all supplied with clothing, and a very few days will suffice to complete their equipment. The news by the New York papers of the 29th ult. are good, and I hope by God’s help we will soon see the end of the war.

We are having a glorious meeting in the Brigade. The Regts. have joined in a Union meeting, & we have a very pleasant place for worship. There were 13 forward to-night. This was our first effort united. I preached to-night from 95th Psalm, part of 7th & 8th verses. God was pleased to bless me, and we hope for glorious results during our short stay here. Pray for us.

The health of the Company and Regt. is good. Bronson’s discharge has gone forward, & I think he will be able to start for home in a few days.3 He is in very poor health, & I fear will not survive long. We have heard nothing of Henry Polk yet; we expect daily to hear of his return home. Several of the boys that were captured about the same time he was have reached their homes & have been heard from.

Capt. Horton arrived here to-day from Blairs Landing. Genl. Ben Harrison will be up in a few days & will doubtless command the Brigade in the coming campaign.4 Jim Chritten, Winnie Kelley, Mat. DeLong & Wm. Sutcliff are on their way & will be here this week.5

It is quite late to-night, but I could not lie down without talking awhile with you. There is a string band serrenading Lt. Col. Merrill of the 70th Ind. & the music sounds very sweet. The moon shines beautifully every night. Everything seems so calm and beautiful to-night that it seems almost impossible that such a thing as war can exist. How forcibly it reminds me of a night long ago when we sat at Mother’s door one night singing “With Maggie by our side.” Do you remember it? I wonder if Maggie [Utley] does. It was before you went to Cleveland to school. Those & many others that followed were happy days, yet I trust there are many more equally happy in store for us. God is kind and merciful, let us trust him still.

Nate [Hill] has gone to bed & is asleep. Christ [Yetter] is writing yet. I am sure he writes 4 letters to my one. I was not aware before that he had so large a correspondence. Mrs. Hill wrote to him a few days ago that she knew I was responsible for Jennie Gutherie’s refusing Kelley; I hope she is mistaken. I only spoke once to her about it & that was after her father & mother assured me that they would not be married. I am very sorry that I even spoke of it.

I must close for to-night. May God bless you. Kiss Howard for me. Remember me kindly to all our friends. As communication will be kept open with the rear, I hope to hear from you often. Good night.

Your affect. Husband,
J. F. Culver

  1. The 129th moved out early, marching in a westerly direction. After proceeding about two miles, they found a good supply of corn and fodder. While the soldiers were loading their wagons, one of the pickets was surprised and shot to death. Grunert, History of the 129th Illinois, pp. 225-26.
  2. The returning soldiers, along with many recruits, were disembarking at Wilmington, where they were organized into casual companies and issued rations by General Hawley. They then marched to Goldsboro. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, pp. 87-8, 91.
  3. William H. Bronson, a 25-year-old jeweller, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. Private Bronson was hospitalized much of the time from Dec. 1863 until receiving his medical discharge on April 10, 1865. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
  4. Benjamin Harrison had been brevetted brigadier general to rank from Jan. 23, 1865.
  5. Winfield S. Kelly, a 20-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. The autumn of 1864 found Kelly hospitalized in Nashville, Tenn. Rejoining the regiment in the spring of 1865, Private Kelly was mustered out near Washington, D.C. Martin DeLong, a 21-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. Wounded at Resaca on May 15, 1864, Private DeLong was hospitalized at Jeffersonville, Ind., and on rejoining the unit in the spring of 1865 was hospitalized in the division hospital. He was mustered out with the regiment on June 8, 1865, near Washington, D.C. Ibid.
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The condition of the roads and your few opportunities are sufficient reasons for your letters not reaching me sooner

Joseph Culver Letter, April 2, 1865, Page 1

Goldsboro, N C. April 2nd 1865
My Dear Wife

I recd. by to-day’s mail yours of the 16th inst. & was very happy to learn that you are well. Letters were recd. two days ago from Pontiac of as late date as the 21st, one from Mrs. Fellows, but she made no mention of you & I presume had not seen you.1 The condition of the roads and your few opportunities are sufficient reasons for your letters not reaching me sooner and perhaps are the reasons why mine are so long on the way.

The day has been very pleasant, & the night is beautiful. I preached in the 79th Ohio last night & to-night in our own. We had a good meeting. We will hold meetings every evening throughout this week. Four arose for prayers to-night. Pray for us. As I never recd. any account of the meetings after I left, there must be some letters that did not reach me.

I will try and write to Maggie [Utley] before we leave here but dare not promise positively. Tell her I will do the best I can. I thought I should write several letters to-day, but I was very tired & thought it best to rest in order to be ready for the morrow.

I was glad to hear that Howard is growing so rapidly as it is a sure indication of good health, yet I know he must be a great burden to you. I wish I could assist you to take care of him this summer, but, if God spares me, I will try & assist you more than when I was last at home. I feel very sorry when I think how little I done to make you happy while I was at home. You have not told me whether you expected to be able to visit Penna. next fall or not.

Alva Garner and Josephus Ullery took supper with us this evening. Both are well. I was at the hospital to see Mark Stephens yesterday; he is getting along very well & expects to go home on furlough shortly.

The Chaplain preached the funeral sermon of those who have fallen since the Regt. left Atlanta.2 All the detachments of Sherman’s Army from Chattanooga and along the coast are expected here in a few days. The Army will be made as effective as possible, and be prepared for the strongest opposition the Rebs. can muster.3 We have had all kinds of rumors to-day, the wildest being that Peace was declared & the Army ordered north.4 Our latest news is the New York Herald of the 27th containing a short account of Grant’s last battle.5 The prospects look flattering but not enough to dispel our anticipations of a severe campaign.

I have not yet written to the Sabbath School. I may try to to-night if I am not too late in closing this. Alf Huetson was here to-day. He inquired very particularly about you & wished to be kindly remembered. I will inclose a little shell that was picked up in “Fort Fisher” by an Officer of the 23rd Corps.

Among the numerous grape vines this evening, was one that our Corps was going to Washington to relieve Hancock’s Veteran Corps.6 Sherman has returned, & we are ordered to be ready to move by the 10th inst. which will be one week from to-morrow.7

Our camp is very nicely fixed up with pine trees lining both sides of all the streets. The boys have built comfortable houses and was there any prospect of remaining here long enough to justify it, we could make this camp very beautiful.8 We have good water in abundance which is a great blessing.

Some of the members of our Regt. captured on this last raid have been exchanged and are on furlough home. We hope to hear from Henry Polk soon.9 I have not yet written to his parents hoping to see or hear from him each day.

I hear trains whistling for the last hour. The rail-road is complete from Wilmington to this place giving us two avenues of communication with the coast.10

I see by the New York papers of the 27th inst. that both Wilmington and Charleston are soon to be made “Ports of Entry” which is certain evidence of the determination of the government to garrison and hold them. They will be garrisoned, doubtless, with colored troops while all the others will be sent to the front.11 There is one Division of Colored Troops here, but I have not learned where they are stationed.12 The Regt. of which Jos. Z. Culver is adgt. is in the Division;13 I would like to see him.

I sent ten dollars in a letter I sent by Wm. F. Sailor to be mailed at Chicago, Ills. Chris [Yetter] asked me just now whether you had forgiven him for the letter he wrote to you over a year ago; he says you have never written to him since. I had forgotten all about it but have an indistinct recollection of the affair.

We have just recd. orders to be ready to go on a forage expedition at 6-1/2 A.M. to-morrow. The whole Regt. is ordered out, &, as we will probably have a hard day’s march, I cannot write any more letters and must close this one soon. I hope there will be some letters awaiting me on my return. How cheering it will be.

I am glad you are contented, & I hope God will make you happy. I spent your birthday [March 17] in Charleston. Had I thought of it, I would certainly have written, but I have been very thoughtless lately. I know not why.

Remember me kindly to all our friends. Give my love to Maggie & family. What is Bro. John’s address? How I wonder how you are enjoying yourself to-night & where you are. I can imagine both Howard & you in bed sound asleep. May Our Father kindly watch over you & preserve you. Kiss Howard for me. I will write soon after my return. I do not know how long we will be absent but probably not over one day. Accept a kiss. With much love, I remain,

Your affect. Husband
“Frank”

  1. Mrs. Fellows was the wife of J. Allen Fellows, the regimental hospital steward.
  2. Abel H. Scott had succeeded Thomas Cotton as chaplain of the 129th Illinois. Scott, a 37-year-old minister, had been mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a sergeant in Company F, 129th Illinois Infantry. He was promoted to sergeant major on March 7, 1863, and was commissioned 2d lieutenant of Company F on June 11, 1863. Lieutenant Scott was wounded at Resaca on May 15, 1864, and did not rejoin the regiment until July 13. He resigned his commission in December to accept appointment as regimental chaplain. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
  3. General Sherman in the last week of March had reorganized his army into the Army of the Tennessee commanded by General Howard and the Army of Georgia led by General Slocum. The XX Corps, to which the 129th Illinois belonged, was a part of the Army of Georgia. Also reporting to Sherman was General Schofield’s Army of the Ohio. When Sherman’s “army group” resumed its advance, the railroads leading from Kinston and Wilmington to Goldsboro would be abandoned. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, pp. 75,80-1.
  4. There was no truth to the peace rumor.
  5. Units of General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia on March 25 had assailed Union positions east of Petersburg held by the IX Corps, Army of the Potomac. Fort Stedman was stormed by the Rebels, but they were unable to exploit this success. Counterattacking Federals soon recovered Fort Stedman, and the Confederates, having suffered heavy losses, were driven back into their Petersburg defenses. Humphreys, The Virginia Campaign of ’65, pp. 316-20.
  6. Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, plagued by his Gettysburg wound, in the autumn of 1864 had been called to Washington to recruit a “Veteran Reserve Corps.” His efforts met with slight success, and on February 27, 1865, he was placed in command of the Department of West Virginia. Consequently, there was no truth to this rumor. Warner, Generals in Blue, p. 204.
  7. The report that Sherman’s “army group” was to be ready to resume the advance on April 10 was correct. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, p. 65.
  8. A soldier of the regiment had written on March 23, “We have been fixing up some log shanties to stay in, four of us in a shantie.” The regimental historian recorded on the 28th a good many of the cabins, which were started on the 25th, “were done while others are approaching completion.” Through the South with a Union Soldier, p. 167; Grunert, History of the 129th Illinois, pp. 224-25.
  9. Henry Polk had been paroled at Aikens Landing, Va., on March 26, 1865, and ordered to Benton Barracks, Mo. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
  10. It was April 5 before the first through train reached Goldsboro from Wilmington.
  11. J.F.C. was only partially correct in his assumption that Charleston and Wilmington would be garrisoned by black units. The 1st Separate Brigade charged with occupation of Charleston on April 30, 1865, included four black commands among its 16 units. No black commands were currently attached to Brig. Gen. Joseph R. Hawley’s District of Wilmington, O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, p. 362.
  12. One of the three divisions constituting the X Corps, Army of the Ohio, consisted of U.S. Colored Troops. The X Corps was camped in and around Faison’s Depot, 20 miles south of Goldsboro, on the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad. Ibid., p. 50.
  13. Joseph Z. Culver was mustered into service on Feb. 29, 1864, at Baltimore, Md., as 2d lieutenant of Company K, 39th U.S. Colored Troops. He was promoted to 1st lieutenant on Sept. 13, 1864, and assigned to duty as regimental adjutant. Adjutant Culver was wounded on Feb. 12, 1865, but soon rejoined his command. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
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The Leader of the Brig. Band is discharged and starts home to-day

Joseph Culver Letter, April 1, 1865, Page 1

Head Qurs. Co. “A”, 129th Ills. Vol. Inftry.
Goldsboro, N.C., April 1st 1865
My Dear Wife

The Leader of the Brig. Band is discharged & starts home to-day & thinking a letter would reach you more directly through him, I hasten to write. I wrote to Lt. [John] McKnight to send you $12 that he owes me & which I had directed him to pay to [Christ] Yetter at Atlanta. I will inclose $10 — if you have no use for it, you can pay it on my acct. with Wm. B. Lyon & take his receipt for it.

I wrote to you a few days ago to get a bill of my purchases & send it to me. I think I wrote the same to Lyon when I wrote about Mother’s transactions. If we receive pay, I will ford. sufficient to pay Lyon & Smith both. I recd. a letter yesterday from Fanny Miller of the 19th inst.

We are all in good health, & the weather is beautiful. I have not had time to write up that diary for you yet. We have no late news. All the company are well. I expect letters from you by to-day’s mail. Letters come through from home, some in 10 to 12 days.

Rumor says we will leave here on the 12th, but no one knows as Genl. Sherman has not returned yet.1 No enemy have been seen on our front for a couple of days. Alva Garner of the 20th Ills. has just come & brings a New York Herald of the 27 Mch.2 The news are very good.

I have been talking until my time for writing has almost expired. Sailor3 leaves at noon from Brig. Hd. Qurs., & it is after 11. I must send this over, or it will be too late. Remember me to all our friends.

With much love, I remain, ever
Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. J.F.C. is mistaken on one point. General Sherman returned to his Goldsboro headquarters from City Point on the night of March 30. On April 1 Sherman alerted several of his subordinates to be ready to resume the offensive on the 10th. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, pp. 80-1.
  2. Alva Garner of Pontiac was mustered into service at Joliet, Ill., as a private in Company D, 20th Illinois, on June 13, 1861. Private Garner was wounded in the arm at Shiloh on April 6, 1862, and on returning to duty was detailed as a nurse in the hospital at La Grange, Tenn. He reenlisted as a veteran volunteer at Big Black Bridge, Miss., on Jan. 5, 1864, and was promoted to sergeant on Oct. 3, 1864. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
  3. W. F. Sailor was drum major of the brigade band.