About Colleen Theisen

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

I was most agreeably surprised to meet Bro. Wes. coming after me with a horse

Joseph Culver Letter, May 19, 1865, Page 1

Burke’s Station, Va.
May 19th 1865
My Dear Wife

As I was trudging along yesterday evening longing for camp, I was most agreeably surprised to meet Bro. Wes. [Culver] coming after me with a horse & permission for me to leave the column.1 I mounted & we came to this place, where I found Sister Hannah, Mary, Willie & the baby.2 All very glad to see me. We have but 7 miles more to camp.

The column left at 5 o’clock this morning, & I presume are at the place by this time. I will start in a few minutes. I hope to hear from you this evening or to-morrow. We are all very weary but will be recruited up in a few days.

I wish you could be here at the Review next week.3 I will write as soon as we get into camp. Bro. Wes & family are all well, so are all at Mother’s. It rained very hard last night & is cold this morning. I must close for the present with love to all. May God bless you.

Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. Wesley Culver was one of J.F.C.’s younger brothers, and he was currently stationed near Fairfax Station. Wesley had been mustered into service on Nov. 22, 1862, as assistant surgeon of the 56th Pennsylvania. On Feb. 26, 1863, he was medically discharged, because of a “dropsical leg” occasioned by an 18-foot fall from a tree at the family home which fractured several small ankle bones. By Oct. 27, 1864, his injury having healed, Wesley reentered service as assistant surgeon of the 202d Pennsylvania Infantry. March 1865 found him on detached duty, near Burke’s Station, with Companies D and I of his regiment. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
  2. Wesley was felled by “consumption” in March, and his wife Mary had come down from Carlisle to help nurse him, bringing with her their two sons, five-year-old Willie and Charlie who had been born in December 1864.
  3. It had been announced on May 18 by Army headquarters that there would be “a review with marching salute, of the Army of the Potomac, the Army of the Tennessee, the Army of Georgia, and General Sheridan’s cavalry” on Tuesday and Wednesday, the 23d and 24th. On the 23d would be reviewed the Army of the Potomac and Sheridan’s cavalry and on the following day, General Sherman’s two armies. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. Ill, p. 526.
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It seems a long time since I have heard from home

Joseph Culver Letter, May 18, 1865, Page 1Office Chief of Artillery
District of Middle Tennessee.
Nashville, Tenn. May 18th 1865.
Dear Sister Mollie:

It seems a long time since I have heard from home. I assure you I would like to hear from you semi-occationally at least. You must not think I have lost all feelings of interest in my friends at home. I love my sisters and brother and father as well as I ever did.

There is more need of my getting letters from my sisters at home now while in Nashville, than there is generally when I am away from home, because I have no “adopted sisters” here. I don’t call on my “singing bird” any more. Perhaps you don’t know who I mean it’s the girl from Michigan whom I mentioned in a letter to you a few weeks ago. Before I was aware of the fact I had conceived a very tender regard for her and to prevent its growth I am obliged to forgo the pleasure of her company. I have made two short calls within the last half month and they will be less frequent in future. This is greater self denial than I am accustomed to exercising. If she was pious I would not hesitate- I do not hesitate now, but I mean that I would act promptly contrary to my present course. I shall wait for her and if, in the course of events she becomes a member of the Christian fold before her affections are won by another, I shall request the privalege of folding her in my arms and of taking upon my self the responsibility of a family. You see, Mollie, my matrimonious prospects though very bright are not immediate. I wish you knew this girl.

I am acquainted with a number of southern girls, but I don’t ask rebel women to be my sisters, I dont think enough of them for that. though they are willing to smile graciously on the boys in blue. And as for marrying one of them, “that proposition”, as Pres. Johnston said about Sherman’s peace negotiation, “is not debatable”

Even if I did like them as a class and if there were no other objection to them than that they were rebels or had been rebels- no amount or kind of inducement could cause me to so insult the good, loyal, true girls of the north who have stood firmly by us and the country during all this struggle. A few Northern soldiers have been soft headed or mean enough to mary rebel women, but they are very few who have so disgraced themselves, and I hope they will remain in the south, we don’t want them North.

I have not heard from Frank or Leander or Tom since last you wrote me. My health has not been so good lately- have lost twenty pounds in a month. Write often.

With love & a Kiss I remain
Ever Yours

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We start at 11 A.M. for Alexandria

Joseph Culver Letter, May 11, 1865, Page 1

Head Qurs., Co. “A”, 129th Ills.
Near Richmond, Va., May 11th 1865
My Dear Wife

We start at 11 A.M. for Alexandria. We recd. no mail here & will not until we get through. We were saved the trying ordeal of a Review yesterday by the timely arrival of our good friend Genl. Sherman. The men are much rejoiced as the route advertised by Genl. Halleck would have been most tedious.1

I was in Richmond yesterday. Saw Libby Prison & Castle Thunder & rode through the greater portion of the city.2 I have not time to give you a lengthy description this morning. The half of the business portion of the city is in ruins by fire. It has been quite a pretty place. I rode out to the camp of the 39th Ills. and took dinner with Lace, the Leader of the Band.3 All the boys were over here, & I did not see them until on my return home. I met Charlie McGregor, Addie Wilson, & Jones.4 They are all well; Charlie looks very well. I had not opportunity to talk with them, but we will see them to-day as we pass through the city.

We were cheered a few moments ago by the news that a mail had arrived, but it proved to be a very small one—only two letters for my Company & none for me. We must be content to wait until we reach Alexandria.

I have a negro [freedman] for Bro. Utley on trial. If he proves to be worth anything, I will try & take him through; if not, I will drop him at Alexandria.

All the boys are in good health. We will be about 7 or 8 days on the way. The papers speak of a Grand Review of all the Armies at Alexandria, the 20th inst. I must close & pack up. We hope to be at home early in June.

May Our Father in Heaven bless us with life & health. Kiss Howard for Papa. Remember me kindly to all. I shall look anxiously for late news at Alexandria as it will only require 4 or 5 days for mail to reach us there from home.

Good Bye, God bless you,
Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. On May 8 orders were issued by Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, commanding the Military Division of the James, that the Army of Georgia would pass through Richmond on the 10th. It was to cross the James on the upper pontoon bridge at the foot of 17th Street, and pass through the city by way of 17th, Cary, 21st, Main, 13th, Capitol, Grace, and Adams Streets, to Brook Avenue. The XIV Corps was to have the lead, and the troops would be reviewed by General Halleck from a stand at the courthouse near Capitol Square. General Sherman, who had left his “army group” at Raleigh on April 28, rejoined it near Manchester on the 9th. His first order on arrival was to cancel the review. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, pp. 437-39, 446.
  2. Libby Prison and Castle Thunder were notorious prisons, where the Confederates held Union prisoners of war.
  3. The 39th Illinois was assigned to the 1st Brigade, First Division, XXIV Corps, Army of the James. Philip M. Lace of Pontiac on Oct. 11, 1861, was mustered in at Chicago as leader of the regimental band, 39th Illinois Infantry. He was mustered out on June 4, 1862, at Washington, D.C. Lace was reenlisted in the regiment on Jan. 12, 1864, at Joliet, Ill., as a private in Company H, in May he was detached as leader of the regimental band, and on Sept. 23 he was promoted to fife major. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
  4. Charles A. McGregor, a 22-year-old clerk, was mustered into service at Chicago on Feb. 22, 1864, as a private in Company C, 39th Illinois Infantry, and on March 22 was detailed to the regimental band. James A. Wilson, an 18-year-old clerk, was mustered into service at Chicago on March 15, 1864, as a private in Company C, 39th Illinois Infantry. Private Wilson was detailed to the regimental band seven days later. Henry T. Jones of Cook County was mustered into service at Chicago on Oct. 11, 1861, as a fifer in Company C, 39th Illinois Infantry. On Nov. 1, 1861 he was appointed principal musician, and on June 13, 1862 he was discharged at Washington, D.C. Twenty months later, on February 29, 1864, Jones reenlisted in the regiment as a private in Company C and was detailed to the regimental band. Ibid.
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We expect to start on our march to Washington in the morning

Joseph Culver Letter, April 29, 1865, Page 1

Hd. Qurs. Co. “A” 129th Reg. Ills. Vol. Infty.
Raleigh, N.C., April 29th 1865
My Dear Wife

We expect to start on our march to Washington in the morning at 5 o’clock, & though the last mail went out for the Corps, yet I will try & mail this in the 23d Corps which is to remain here for the present.1 It is raining to-night & bids fair to be a wet day to-morrow. I was in hope that we would rest until Monday morning [May 1], but, though we do not see it, doubtless the necessity exists for our immediate departure.

We are in good health & all ready for this our last campaign. The cannon have been booming at intervals of 30 minutes throughout the day, & all Officers of the Army assume the badge of mourning for 6 months. We have not yet learned the particulars of the negotiations. Many vague rumors are afloat, but we must wait until we get through to the north for more definite information.

Chris [Yetter] has not been well for a couple of days, but I think it is only a slight cold. Nate [Hill] has had headache for two days. Allen Fellows in playing with Billy Perry this evening received a severe cut in his hand from a knife Perry was whetting.2 His hand is doing quite well to-night, & I think will be well in a few days. I saw Bro. John Lee this evening at Church. We had a good meeting.

We were inspected & mustered to-day; only once more, & we hope to be done. Every day & every hour of the day, you may hear the boys talking of “Home Sweet Home.” I have been so busily engaged with papers that I could not enter into their enjoyment as much as I would like.

By the time this reaches you, we will be doubtless at Richmond, Va., or beyond it. I hope to receive several letters from you there. I would like very much if our house could be vacated so that we might go immediately to housekeeping on my return, yet I can give no definite idea of the time we will reach home. If convenient for Mr. Mathis, ask him to leave by the 1st of June.

It is getting quite windy, & the light will not last much longer, so I will close. Remember me kindly to all our friends. Tell Maggie Gutherie that I did not get time to answer her letter here. Kiss Howard for me. May the richest of Heaven’s blessings rest upon you & preserve us for future enjoyment in this life. With much love, I remain, Ever,

Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. General Grant, on the 29th, wired Washington that four corps would march from Raleigh to Alexandria, passing near Richmond. General Mower, during the day, informed his XX Corps that they would “commence the march to-morrow.” The First Division would take the lead, followed by the Second and Third. Mower hoped the march would be so regulated that the corps would be across the Neuse when it halted for the night. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, pp. 345, 348.
  2. William W. Perry, a 20-year-old drayman, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. Private Perry was detailed as regimental ambulance driver on Dec. 2, 1862, and did not rejoin the company until May 5, 1864. On Aug. 28, 1864, he was detailed for duty in the regimental medical department, where he remained until mustered out on June 8, 1865, near Washington, D.C. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.

We marched from Holly Springs to this place to-day

Joseph Culver Letter, April 28, 1865, Page 1

Head Qurs. Co. “A”, 129th Ills. Vols.
Raleigh, N. C, April 28th 1865
My Dear Wife

We marched from Holly Springs to this place to-day and are making preparations for our coming Campaign. We will leave here on Sunday or Monday morning next, “Homeward bound.” The last mail leaves at 11 o’clock to-morrow, the last opportunity to send letters from this place & the last we will have until we reach Richmond, Va.

Our present destination is supposed to be Alexandria (near Washington) though we may turn up somewhere else. We have 15 days’ supplies & have orders to average 15 miles per day which will take us fully to Richmond by the route designated for us.1

We had a mail both yesterday and to-day, but I recd. no letters from you. I recd. one to-day from Maggie Guthrie of the 10th inst.2 Your last was the 15th. The war is over, & I doubt not fills the hearts of the people with joy.3 I cannot express my own feelings. If God spares our lives, we hope to be in a few weeks quietly at our homes. We are very restless, & the days seem long that keep us from our loved ones.

I have been suffering for the last few hours from severe headache, but it will all be gone I hope by morning. I cannot say how soon you may look for us. We will doubtless be delayed at Alexandria a couple of weeks & possibly longer. I must try and get home to attend court the first Monday in June, & we may all possibly be there by that time.

The Campaign before us is a severe one. We sent to the rear to-day all that were not in good marching trim, of my Company, Haley, DeLong, Noyes, & Cook.4 They may reach home several weeks before us. All the rest of the Company are in good health. I cannot write much to-night but will try & add a few lines in the morning. Perhaps my head will feel better. Good night. May Holy Angels guard you & Our Father in Heaven keep & bless you.

Saturday morning, Apr. 29th

I arose this morning in the enjoyment of excellent health. We recd. the order of march this morning & will be in Richmond by the 12th or 14th of May.5 We will have no mail facilities until we reach there. We will leave here either to-morrow or Monday. Joy fills every heart, yet there has been no demonstrations. A few more days hard marching, & we will be at Home. I must close as I am busy on the muster rolls & must complete them by noon. Let us thank God for all His mercies. Remember me to all. Kiss Howard for Papa.

Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. General Sherman, on the 27th, notified his generals that the Army of the Ohio would remain in the Department of North Carolina, while the Armies of the Tennessee and Georgia would march to Richmond. The Army of the Tennessee would travel via Louisburg, Warrenton, Lawrenceville, and Petersburg, while General Slocum would route his Army of Georgia through Oxford, Boydton, and Nottaway Court-House; roads to the west of those followed by Howard’s army. The Armies of Georgia and the Tennessee would, before leaving Raleigh, turn in the contents of their ordnance trains, and use the wagons for extra forage and rations. The columns would “be conducted slowly and in the best order, and will aim to be at Richmond ready to resume the march by the middle of May.” On the 28th the commander of the XX Corps, General Mower, notified the troops that hostilities had ceased, and they would be marched at once via Richmond to Washington “to be mustered out of service and return to their homes.” While en route there would be no foraging upon the country and private property would be respected. O.R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, pp. 323-25, 341.
  2. Maggie Gutherie was the 17-year-old daughter of George and Sarah Gutherie. Her father was a prosperous Pontiac Township farmer. Eighth Census, Livingston County, State of Illinois, NA.
  3. In their afternoon meeting at Bennett’s on April 26, General Johnston had agreed to surrender all the troops under his command on these terms: (a) all acts of war on their part to cease; (b) all arms and public property to be deposited at Greensboro, and delivered to a United States ordnance officer; (c) all officers and men to give their “individual obligation in writing not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until released from this obligation;” (d) the officers to retain their side-arms, “private horses and baggage;” and (e) this done, all officers and enlisted men “to be permitted to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by the United States authorities so long as they observe their obligation and the laws in force where they may reside.” O.R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, pp. 313, 321.
  4. John E. Haley, a 23-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. Private Haley was mustered out with the regiment near Washington, on June 8, 1865. Joseph G. Noyes, a 28-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. He was assigned to a Nashville convalescent camp from Jan. 30, 1864, until June, and in April 1865 was confined to the Third Division hospital, XX Corps. Private Noyes was mustered out on June 8, 1865, near Washington, D. C. Charles Cook, a 42-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. Private Cook was captured by Rebel partisans on April 26, 1863, at Richland, Tenn. Exchanged, he rejoined the company at Gallatin, Tenn., on June 17, 1863. He was hospitalized in Atlanta at the beginning of the “March to the Sea.” Rejoining the regiment in the spring of 1865, Cook was mustered out on June 8, 1865, near Washington, D. C. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
  5. The troops were cautioned that upon leaving Raleigh, “the march will be continued from day-to-day until our destination is reached or until orders are given from these or higher headquarters to halt.” The XX Corps divisions would “habitually march and encamp from three to five miles apart.” The commander of the lead division would post guards to look after the security of all buildings and private property along the route. These guards would be relieved by the succeeding divisions as they passed. O.R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, pp. 341-42.
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I closed up my last letter on Sunday night to go foraging

Joseph Culver Letter, April 26, 1865, Page 1

Hd. Qurs., Co. “A”, 129th Ills.
In the fields near Holly Springs, N.C.
April 26th 1865
My Dear Wife

I closed up my last letter on Sunday night [the 23d] to go foraging. We left camp at 6 o’clock & moved in the direction of Cape Fear River. The country is much finer than any we have passed through lately. When we were 23 miles from the city, we recd. orders to return to camp immediately as our corps was to march early next morning.1 It was then 4 o’clock. We fed the train & started back, arriving in camp about 2 o’clock yesterday morning after 46 miles travel. We had 4 officers & 200 men of the Regt.

Early yesterday morning we broke camp & marched to this place. It is 13 miles from Raleigh & near Holly Springs. I have not seen the Springs yet. We will remain in camp to-day, but how much longer, I do not know.2

The rumors are so numerous & so vague that we have no idea of the condition of affairs. Genl. Grant is in Raleigh. We hear one hour that Johnson has surrendered which is discredited the next. Our movement in such haste rather implies an effort to intercept him if he attempts to turn our flank. We are marching light prepared for fight & are on half rations for 30 days. The boys are out foraging to-day to make up the deficiency.3 There has been a rumor afloat for the last two days that Genl. Sherman is relieved for halting at Raleigh & capitulating with Johnson instead of pressing forward. It will be a sad hour for this Army if it prove true.4

We met a great many of Lee’s army on their way home while we were out foraging Monday. I begin to think we have accomplished much more than we ever anticipated in this war, i.e., the subjugation of the South. Their spirit is certainly broken.

We are all in good health. This is a splendid country much resembling Northern Georgia. Large fine oak timber. It is a relief from the pine forests that have lined our march all the way through from Atlanta.

I recd. your letters of the 14th & 15th on my return Tuesday morning. I am happy to hear that your health is improving. Your letter of the 15th is the first intelligence I have recd. of Leander’s [Utley] success in his suit. Is he satisfied with the amount or does he value the mare at more; if so, find out the amount & I will pay it.

Father’s estate was settled April 1st, & the money should reach you by the 15th or 20th, yet it might be delayed a couple of weeks longer. Bro. John Miller will doubtless inform you when he pays over the money.5 If we stay here a few days & get fixed up a little, I will write again. Remember me kindly to our friends. Kiss Howard for me. May Our Father in Heaven bless you. Good Bye.

Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. General Grant, who hand carried the message from the government that the agreement Sherman had negotiated with Johnston and Breckinridge was unacceptable, had reached Raleigh on the morning of the 24th. Word was immediately sent by Sherman to Johnston, notifying him that “the truce or suspension of hostilities agreed to between us will in forty-eight hours cease after this is received at your lines.” Sherman at the same time notified his army commanders of the situation and alerted them to have their troops ready to resume the offensive at noon on the 26th. The movement against the foe would be governed by “the plan laid down in Special Field Order, No. 55, of date of April 14, 1865.” To facilitate operations, the army commanders on the 25th would marshal their corps ready to cross the truce line at the time indicated. O.R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, pp. 208-09, 293, 295.
  2. The XX Corps, with the First Division in the lead, had marched at 7 A.M. to Jones’ Cross-Roads. This was on the road to Avens’ Ferry, where it was to cross the Cape Fear River at noon on the 26th. Ibid., pp. 297-98.
  3. On the evening of the 25th, Sherman had received a message from General Johnston, announcing receipt of Sherman’s dispatch of the 24th, reading “I am instructed to limit my operations to your [Johnston’s] immediate command and not to attempt civil negotiations, I, therefore, demand the surrender of your army on the same terms as were given General Lee at Appomattox.” It and a dispatch received the next morning indicated that Johnston was agreeable to an agreement for surrender on the terms drawn up by Sherman on the 18th for “disbanding this army, and a further armistice and conference to arrange these terms.” Sherman accordingly agreed to return to the Bennett House at noon on the 26th for another meeting with Johnston. This resulted in orders for the army commanders to suspend their advance across the truce line and for the troops to remain in camp until receipt of further orders. Ibid., pp. 294, 303-306.
  4. Although General Grant did not do so, he was under orders to supersede Sherman in command. Grant did not have the heart to tell his friend this, nor of the instructions from the War Department directing the troops in the South not to obey Sherman’s orders. Barrett, Sherman ‘s March through the Carolinas, pp. 267-68.
  5. For additional information about John Miller, see J.F.C.’s letter of February 10, 1865.

I commenced to write about an hour before the mail left

Joseph Culver Letter, April 23, 1865, Page 1

Head Quarters Co. “A” 129th Ills. Vols.
Raleigh N.C., April 23rd 1865
My Dear Wife

I commenced to write about an hour before the mail left to-day, but Harry McDowell came in with the New York Herald containing an account of the Assassination & death of President Lincoln, and I laid the letter aside to read the particulars. It is now too late for to-day’s mail. The mail has not come in yet. I anticipate a good long letter from you; I have recd. none since yours of the 9th.

This has been a beautiful day and very pleasant. The first sound that greeted my ear on awaking this morning was the sweet warbling of a bird. I heard several sing very sweetly this morning. During the few years of the war, the birds have been very scarce in the neighborhood of the Army, at least, & to hear them again is a great treat.

Bro. John Lee has been sitting here for the last 30 minutes talking. He is in good health & recd. a letter from home yesterday of the 12th inst. I laid aside my letter to converse with him. I am not certain that I shall accomplish much in the way of writing until after church to-night as there are so many around. Alva Garner & James Maxwell are here,1 & there is a constant crowd around, talking of going home; but then the wind is so high that if it continues it will be impossible to keep a candle burning to-night.

It seems as if the war was over.2 Everything bears the impress of the Holy Sabbath. We had an excellent meeting this morning. Genl. Class at 9-1/2 & preaching at 10-1/2. Our Brig. Church numbers 195 members, ten joined to-day. The ordnance [sic] of baptism was administered this afternoon; I was not out. Our night meetings continue to be very interesting; there were five at the Alter [sic] last night & some conversions every day during the week.

The news of the death of the President is now established beyond doubt, and the developments implicate the ‘”Knights of the Golden Circle.”3 I am not surprised. Everyone here when the rumor first reached us exclaimed that it was the work of the Copperheads. We have spent three years in honorable warfare; this event foreshadows what we must anticipate at our “Homes.” It will be much more difficult to meet successfuly, & many innocent will doubtless suffer with the guilty. But the issue must be met, & the Army is preparing for it. Genl. Sherman’s order indicates the line of policy to be pursued.4 The order proclaiming Peace has been delayed beyond our anticipations, owing no doubt to the change of the Government and the additional time required to define the policies to be adopted.5

I was interrupted by the return of Alva Garner & James McCabe.6 They remained for supper, & I had no opportunity to write before Church as I was notified that I must preach if the Chaplain of the 70th Ind. did not come, & as it was late & quite cool, I thought I would postpone writing until morning, but I have just been notified to be ready to start on a Forage Expedition at 6-1/2 A.M. I must close my letter to-night late as it is (10-1/2).

Your letter of March 12th directed to Charleston, S.C. has reached me this evening. All the questions I believe have been previously answered save one, & that is that it is Clymer who wishes to join our Conference. He is to be married in June or July. I recd. a note from Lou Fellows through Allen this evening, dated the 9th inst., the same date of your last letter recd. She was expecting you to pay her a visit.

I have no late news from Carlisle. I hope to find mail here for me on my return. We go with two days’ rations. Bart, Allen, & Burton got up last night from Charleston.7 All our friends here are in good health. I must close for to-night. Remember me in love to all our friends. Kiss Howard for “Papa”. Write very often. I hope soon to be “Home” if it be God’s will. May His richest blessings rest upon you. Good Bye.

Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. It has been impossible to further identify James Maxwell.
  2. At 10 A.M. on the 22d, Generals Sherman and Slocum had reviewed the XX Corps. Two hours before, the troops, leaving their knapsacks in camp, had formed in the streets west of Fayetteville Street. The Third Division, preceded by the Second Division, had marched past the reviewing stand at the Market House on Fayetteville Street. As the troops tramped by, in light marching order, the bands played familiar airs. O.R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, pp. 268-69; Grunert, History of the 129th Illinois, pp. 238-39.
  3. The theory that the assassination of President Lincoln and attempts on the lives of Vice-President Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward was part of a conspiracy involving Confederate leaders and Knights of the Golden Circle had been fostered by Secretary of War Stanton.
  4. On April 17 General Sherman, in announcing the President’s assassination, had informed his soldiers, “We have met every phase which the war has assumed, and must now be prepared for it in its last and worst shape, that of assassins and guerrillas; but woe unto the people who seek to expend their wild passions in such a manner, for there is but one dread.” O.R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, p. 239.
  5. Secretary of War Stanton, on April 21, notified General Grant that President Johnson had disapproved the memorandum of agreement between Generals Sherman and Johnston. Grant would relay this news to General Sherman and direct him “to resume hostilities at the earliest moment.” Ibid., p. 263.
  6. James J. McCabe of Pontiac, an 18-year-old, was mustered into service at Joliet, Ill., as a private in Company D, 20th Illinois Infantry, on June 13, 1861. He was promoted corporal on April 25, 1863, and was wounded at Raymond, Miss., May 12, 1863, and captured and paroled 12 days later. He reenlisted at Big Black Bridge, Miss., as a veteran volunteer on Jan. 5, 1864. Corporal McCabe was wounded a second time at Kennesaw Mountain on June 27, 1864, and was promoted to sergeant on Oct. 31, 1864. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
  7. Robert Burton, a 30-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. Hospitalized at Bowling Green, Ky., on Dec. 30, 1862, Private Burton was medically discharged on Nov. 1, 1863, and reenlisted as a private in Company A in Chicago on Oct. 12, 1864. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.

Your letter of the 9th inst. I found on my table to-night

Joseph Culver Letter, April 20, 1865, Page 1

Head Qurs. Co. “A” 129th Ills. Vols.
Raleigh, N. C, April 20th 1865
My Dear Wife

Your letter of the 9th inst. I found on my table to-night on my return from Church, and, as I have not written for two days past & will probably be very busy to-morrow, I will write to-night. I feel very thankful to our Father that you are both [Mrs. Culver and Howard] in reasonable health & trust you may be very soon perfectly well. Good health is one of the greatest blessings our Father bestows upon us. My health has been most excellent with the exception of a few days shortly after we came into this place.

The prospects for Peace are very flattering & possibly by this time has been consummated. Genl. Sherman notified this army yesterday that all had been accomplished, & he was awaiting the approval of the Government at Washington.1 If Lincoln is still alive, we have no doubts; but, as a doubt was cast around the first rumor & we have no certain information, yet we are much in the dark not knowing what a new Govt. may demand. The probability of the President’s death has cast a greater gloom over the Army than the severest defeat of this war, &, while we fear the rumor may be too true, yet we pray God it may prove untrue.2

We held a mass meeting of the Brig. yesterday to receive Genl. Sherman’s order, &, though every heart rejoiced at the prospect of so soon returning home, yet the occasion more resembled the commemoration of departed ones than the anticipations foreshadowed by the order. Cols. Case, Dustin, Doan, & Genl. Harrison addressed the meeting. Three cheers were given for Genl. Sherman & the Union restored, then every one retired to his Quarters.3 You receive all the news long before we do, as we are very far from our base of communication, &, before this reaches you, you will know all the results of present negotiations.

We have Johnson’s army securely hedged in, but it is not impossible that he might turn one of our flanks and get away should the present efforts fail to bring Peace.4 We have gone into camp here & are very pleasantly situated. I am busy with my Ordnance returns & other reports, preparing for our muster out of the service.

I am very much surprised at Mrs. Remick’s representations. I agreed if absolutely necessary to give $10—on the instrument but never thought or spoke of doing more. Do not agitate the matter by raising the question. I am very much grieved over misconduct of that kind. I have overlooked a great deal for I felt deeply indebted to the family for their kindness in my extremity, &, while I have often earnestly desired that the most friendly relations might ever exist between my family & theirs, yet I have no wish paramount to your happiness. I hope I never have, & by God’s grace, I never will lay any restrictions upon your judgment in your choice or rejection of friends and associations. Your opportunities for judging social character far exceed mine. I do not think I ever have informed you my real opinions of the worth or demerits of their society, yet I hope you will not think me unkind or thoughtless. I have thought in my own case that our obligations might be of such a nature as to overbalance everything of self but would never yield at the sacrifice of happiness or even feelings of love of those I love as life itself & better than all else save God. Believe me then, I confide wholly to your own judgment the selection of your friends & associates believing that I can fully enjoy with you all social blessings & believing also in my heart that you would readily yield as much and infinitely more to any request I might make.

I shall rejoice with you to find Howard well & able to creep when I return. I wrote from Goldsboro concerning Asa Alden & presume you have recd. the letter ere this. He is in the Hospital there & is doing very well. We had a letter from Henry Polk to-night from Dwight. I suppose all know he is safe ere this. The boys are all well.

Allen Fellows was in my tent a few minutes ago inquiring the news. As you did not mention Lou’s name, we presumed she was well. He has not heard from her since we left Goldsboro though I have recd. two letters. Bro. John Lee was here to see me this evening; he & Bro. Gaff are well.

We had a good meeting to-night, five at the alter [sic]. God is still with us. Pray for us.

Remember me very kindly to Mrs. Johnson & family. I feel that I owe them much for their kindness to you & their efforts to make you happy. I shall not forget their kindness should I be permitted to return home. Remember me kindly to all our friends. I have had so many things upon my mind all day that I cannot write with that ease I could wish.

By Genl. Harrison’s return, Col. Case comes back to the Rgt. Cris [Yetter] & Nate [Hill] are well. Cris seems to be bored somewhat over Lib Keif’s fortune and his. Nate says he intends to get married & settle immediately. I suggested to the boys that there was one portion of the military drill they should study more closely now: that is the “guard against Infantry. ”

From present prospects, we all expect to start for home in a few weeks. “Home, Sweet Home.” These war worn veterans are well prepared for its enjoyments. I trust in God we may lose none of our numbers before that happy time arrives.

I must bid you “Good Night.” The wind is troubling my candle & will soon leave me in darkness. May Our Father in Heaven bestow upon you the riches of His grace & our hearts’ most ardent desires be speedily granted.

Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. On the 18th General Sherman had returned to the Bennett House, where he met with General Johnston and Secretary of War Breckinridge. There he prepared a paper outlining terms for surrender of all Confederate forces still in the field. The terms were very liberal and in general provided for “the war to cease; a general amnesty, so far as the Executive of the United States can command, on condition of the disbandment of the Confederate armies, the distribution of the arms, and the resumption of peaceful pursuits by the officers and men hitherto composing said armies.” It also provided for recognition by President Andrew Johnson of the “several State governments, on their officers and Legislatures taking the oaths prescribed by the Constitution of the United States, and where conflicting State governments have resulted from the war, the legitimacy of all shall be submitted to the Supreme Court.” This agreement, as it touched on both military and civil affairs, would have to be submitted to Presidents Johnson and Davis for their approval. John G. Barrett, Sherman’s March through the Carolinas (Chapel Hill, 1956), pp. 239-40. General Sherman on the 19th had issued Special Field Order No. 58, announcing ,”a suspension of hostilities and an agreement with General Johnston and other high officials, which when formally ratified, will make peace from the Potomac to the Rio Grande.” O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, p. 250.
  2. Although it had been announced officially, J.F.C. and many others were unable to make themselves believe that Abraham Lincoln was dead and Andrew Johnson had succeeded to the presidency.
  3. Bvt. Brig. Gen. Harrison again commanded the 1st Brigade, Third Division; Col. Daniel Dustin, the 2d Brigade; Col. Henry Case, the 129th Illinois; and Lt. Col. Azariah W. Doan, the 79th Ohio Infantry. General Harrison told the brigade that he hoped the Confederate leaders would not accept Sherman’s “terms of surrender, that we might get a chance to tame the enemy, who had given a terrible blow to the army by this foul murder, and that we might subdue the enemy, and drive the last remains of rebel spirit out of them.” Grunert, History of the 129th Illinois, pp. 236-37.
  4. In accordance with the agreement with General Johnston, a line passing through Tyrrell’s Mount, Chapel Hill, University, Durham Station, and West Point on the Neuse River would separate the armies. O.R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, p. 250.
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This is a sad day in the army

Joseph Culver Letter, April 18, 1865, Page 1

Head Qurs. Co. “A” 129th Ills.
Raleigh, N. C, April 18th 1865
My Dear Wife

Since I last wrote to you from this place we have been laying quietly in camp awaiting the result of the interview between Genls. Sherman & Johnson.1 They met yesterday at Hillsboro, & Genl. Sherman left this morning for the same place. It is generally believed that Johnson has surrendered his army but the arrangements have not been completed yet.

This is a sad day in the army. The news reached us officially this morning of the assassination and death of President Lincoln.2 We heard it rumored yesterday but did not credit it. I never saw so much sadness manifested. The whole army is silent as the grave. Groups are gathered here & there discussing the sad event. I have heard only one sentiment expressed, & it seems to be universal throughout the army. Woe to the South if this Army is compelled to pass through it again. Woe to the Rebel Army that compels us to fight longer, & Woe to the copperheads of the North. You cannot imagine what deep hatred exists against the latter class.

The army expects to be mustered out next month. We all anticipate spending the 4th of July at “Home.” There is no possible escape of Johnson’s army, & the news of Forrest & Rhoddy’s capture have reached us.3 As Johnson has command of all the rebel armies in the South, we expect their Surrender to Sherman before these negotiations close.4

Yesterday the news would have been received with wild acclamations of joy, to-day there would be no outburst at all. We have a meeting of the Brigade at 6 o’clock this evening to pay due respect to the dead. May God be merciful to us in our great affliction.

The weather is beautiful. Our meetings continue, & God is doing a great work for us. There were 10 forward Sunday night & 9 last night & numerous conversions. Over 160 have joined the church. The attendance is very large. I preached last night from Mark 16 Chap. & 16th V., & God was pleased to bless me.

All are in good health. I saw Allen Fellows this morning, Bros. Gaff & Lee yesterday. All well. I cannot find my ink & Yetter is on Picket, so you must excuse the pencil this time. My heart is too sad to write much to-day. We have recd. no mail yet. I will write soon again if we do not move. We will not remain here long as it is too far from our base of supplies. We will either go North or South. Write often. Give my love to all. Kiss Howard for me. May God bless you with His richest blessings. I remain, Very affectionately,

Your husband
J. F. Culver

  1. General Sherman, on the evening of the 17th, notified General Grant that he had just returned from a meeting with General Johnston at the Bennett House, 27 miles from Raleigh. There had been a “full and frank interchange of opinions,” with Johnston endeavoring to make terms for surrender of all Confederate forces still in the field. But to do so, he would have to discuss the subject further with Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge. Sherman was agreeable, and promised to meet again with Johnston at noon on the 18th at the same place. As he informed Grant, “we lose nothing in time, as by agreement both armies stand still and the roads are drying up, so that if I am forced to pursue we will be able to make better speed.” The one thing that both Sherman and Johnston feared was that the Confederate armies would “dissolve and fill the whole land with robbers and assassins.” O.R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, p. 237.
  2. Sherman’s headquarters on the evening of the 17th issued a special field order, announcing, “with pain and sorrow,” the assassination of President Lincoln by one “who uttered the State motto of Virginia.” To calm passions, Sherman informed his soldiers “that the great mass of the Confederate Army would scorn to sanction such acts, but he believes it the legitimate consequence of rebellion against rightful authority.” Ibid., pp. 238-39.
  3. A powerful column led by Maj. Gen. James H. Wilson had advanced deep into Alabama. At Selma on April 2, Wilson’s horse-soldiers had routed Lt. Gen. Nathan B. Forrest’s once formidable corps. Forrest and Brig. Gen. Philip D. Roddey had narrowly escaped capture by swimming the rain-swollen Alabama River under cover of darkness. Warner, Generals in Gray, p. 262.
  4. J.F.C. was mistaken. General Johnston commanded the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. But by involving Secretary of War Breckinridge in the negotiations he hoped to effect the surrender and parole of the remaining Confederate armies, as well as his own.

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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