About Colleen Theisen

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

The Post Master has just informed us that all letters sent in by sun down will catch the mail

Joseph Culver Letter, October 13, 1864, Page 1

Head Qurs. Co. “A” 129th Ills.
Chattahoochie River, Ga.
Octr. 13th 1864
My Dear Wife

The Post Master has just informed us that all letters sent in by sun down will catch the mail, &, as the sun is a few minutes high, I haste to inform you that through God’s blessing, I am still enjoying excellent health. No word from home yet. Oh, how wearily the days pass round. “We are waiting, weary waiting” for good news from home.

We recd. by signal from Allatoona Mountains the confirmation of the rumor of the capture of Richmond.1 God grant that it may be a permanent victory. Our Army is in motion, but we are still left.2 We expect mail to-morrow, & then we will have news.

May God bless you and our babe. Give my Love to Mother & Sister Maggie. May Holy Angels guard thee. Kiss baby for me. Good Bye.

Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. The message reporting the capture of Richmond was false. On the 13th General Ben Butler had made a forced reconnaissance of Confederate defenses on the Darbytown road, 8 miles southeast of Richmond, and found them formidable and covered by an extensive abatis. Humphreys, The Virginia Campaign of ’64 and ’65, pp. 293-94; Grunert, History of the 129th Illinois, p. 111.
  2. General Sherman on the 10th, learning that Hood’s army was crossing the Coosa 12 miles west of Rome, ordered his columns to converge on Rome. General Thomas was to mass his forces at Stevenson, Ala., to oppose a possible crossing of the Tennessee by the Confederates. At Kingston on the 11th, Sherman temporarily lost track of Hood. The Confederates had pushed to the northeast, their line of march hidden by Johns Mountain, and on the 12th appeared before Resaca and called on the garrison to surrender. The Federals refused. Leaving one corps before Resaca, Hood marched Stewart’s to Tilton and Dalton, capturing both towns and their garrisons. Sherman on the 13th put his “army group” in motion for Resaca, where he arrived the next day. Hood, having failed in his efforts to seriously damage the Western & Atlantic, retreated westward to Villanow. So far all he had accomplished was to draw Sherman 100 miles from Atlanta, but Slocum’s XX Corps continued to occupy that place. Cox, Atlanta, pp. 235-37.
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It seems an age almost since I heard from you

Joseph Culver Letter, October 9, 1864, Page 1

Head Quarters Co. “A” 129th Regt. Ills. Vols.
Chattahoochie River, Ga.1
October 9th 1864
My Dear Wife

It seems an age almost since I heard from you, and the prospects now are not very flattering as there is yet no communication with the north. I have commenced this letter in order to send by the first train that goes out. A longer time has elapsed since I last wrote, I think, than at any former time since I have been in the service. The interruption of our communication is much less serious than we anticipated as we have well authenticated reports that the railroad is free from farther molestation, and, as soon as it can be prepared, we shall again have the pleasure of hearing from home.

It looks just now very much like a premeditated affair of Genl. Sherman’s.2 For two weeks he was sending large numbers of troops to the rear, finally Genl. Thomas left also; but, instead of disposing the troops along the line of the road, all were massed at Allatoona pass awaiting the enemy. You will doubtless have full particulars of the Battle before this reaches you. We know but little yet save that Genl. Thomas defeated the Rebel Army with a loss of over 200 killed, many wounded, & several hundred prisoners.3 We have heard nothing yet of Sherman’s operations.4 Kilpatrick with the Cavalry has captured and destroyed the enemy’s Pontoon train and a large portion of their supplies.5

Our Corps, with a portion of each Corps of the Army, were left behind. We are very strongly fortified and would be able to withstand the Rebel army until the main Army returns. We entertained some fears about our supplies, as the Army took fifteen days’ rations with them, but there was no need of alarm as there is amply sufficient for any emergency. Our ration of bread has been increased to 1-1/2 lbs. per day and all else in proportion except meat, and the boys have all they wish. The health continues excellent. Every man in my Company is fit for duty, & Dr. Wood told me yesterday that he had only one patient in the Regiment. Large numbers of those in the Hospitals have returned, & my Company is larger than at any time since the Campaign opened.

The weather since the first of this month has been very wet until two days ago. It is now very cold, &, if it were not for the continual high wind, there would be a killing frost. It is with difficulty that we keep comfortable with overcoat on over the fires. If it continues much longer, we will build chimneys.

I presume Smith and Sutcliff have reached home ere this, as they left the 27th Sept., though they were probably detained in Chattanooga several days.

I have no doubt but you feel great anxiety not being able to hear from the Army. Bro. John [Murphy] is with Sherman.6 Sammy is in Chattanooga with his “Battery.” I did not see John as he passed here as I was on duty, but several of the boys in the Company saw and talked with him.

I am sorry now that I did not keep a diary for you, but it rained so constantly, & we were continually moving from point to point strengthening the fortifications that I neglected it. Allen Fellows has a complete one, which he will send home by the first mail.

We moved from Atlanta to the river on the 1st two days before the Army commenced to move. Alf Huetson was out to see us yesterday; he is very well and is much pleased with his comfortable quarters in the city. I have not answered the letters I received from Carlisle yet, but will try and have them in readiness for the first mail.

As it was too cold for [church] service this morning, we will probably have preaching this afternoon if the weather is favorable. The sun is shining very brightly, but the wind is raw & cold. My hand becomes so numb that I cannot write with[out] going to the fire occasionally. The roads are improving rapidly; they must have been almost impassible in rear of the Army for the past week. Green was much disappointed in not receiving his promised book; it was doubtless captured on the trains that were destroyed yet may possibly come yet. 7 o’clock P.M.

I stopped writing for dinner, & it was so cold that I postponed writing thinking it would be more calm. At three o’clock, Lt. Scott invited me to go with him to the house of a citizen where he had been invited to preach. The time passed so pleasantly that I have just returned. The congregation was composed of several families, refugees from Atlanta and the surrounding country. The parlor is very nicely furnished, & I sat there trying to imagine myself at home. Oh, how I wished that this evening could have been spent at home.

I learned on my return to the Company that [Major] Hoskins intends to start home in the morning & that all letters must be sent up to-night, so I will haste to send this by him. I find it hard to forgive him for not giving me this opportunity since he was at home scarce six months ago. But it is doubtless all for the best.

The bridge is completed, & the first train passed over about an hour ago.7 How earnestly we will look for mail now.

God grant that my loved ones are all well and happy. I have had the blues very badly several times during the past two weeks, but now I am living on hearing very soon from you. Kiss baby for me & tell him I would surely go to see him & Mama if it were possible. The picture [of the baby] will soon be coming, will it not? Give my love to Mother and Maggie. I would have written to the Sabbath School also if I had known Hoskins was going so soon. I did not think the way would be open for sometime yet, but I must close and gather up the mail. It is now past tatoo.

It seems so long since I had an opportunity to talk to you even by letter that I am loth to quit yet. Accept much love and a kiss, & may the richest of Heaven’s blessings rest upon you.

Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. General Sherman on the 29th learned that two corps of Hood’s Army of Tennessee had crossed to the north side of the Chattahoochie, about 25 miles southwest of Atlanta. To counter a Confederate thrust into Tennessee and an attack on his railroad supply lines, Sherman on October 1 notified his subordinates that he would reinforce General Thomas in Tennessee, and with the rest of his “army group” strike for Savannah and Charleston, believing that Hood would be compelled to follow. If, however, Hood turned his columns toward the Western & Atlantic Railroad, south of the Etowah, Sherman would fight him. Cox, Atlanta, pp. 223-24. Consequently, on October 1, the 1st Brigade, Ward’s division, was ordered to take position to protect the Chattahoochie Railroad Bridge. Breaking camp, the 129th Illinois passed through Atlanta and tramped up the Marietta road in a driving rain storm. It was dark by the time the regiment reached the river. After Colonel Case had detailed Company D to man a picket line, the rest of the regiment crossed the river and camped. During the night the rain-swollen river swept away the railroad and wagon bridges. A pontoon bridge was laid the next day, and Company D rejoined the regiment. Grunert, History of the 129th Illinois, pp. 107-08.
  2. General Sherman, on October 3, satisfied that Hood was striking toward Marietta and the Western & Atlantic, put his “army group” in motion. Slocum’s XX Corps would hold Atlanta and the Chattahoochie bridges and the other corps would march for Smyrna Camp Ground, south of Marietta. Hood, by this time, was near Lost Mountain with two of his corps, and the third (Lt. Gen. A. P. Stewart’s) was driving for the railroad. On the 3d Stewart effected a lodgment on the Western & Atlantic, capturing Acworth and Big Shanty. After paroling the prisoners, damaging the railroad, and cutting the telegraph, Stewart sent one division (French’s) to capture the post at Allatoona Pass and marched to rejoin Hood with the remainder of his corps. Meanwhile, the Army of the Cumberland (less the XX Corps) had recrossed the Chattahoochie and by nightfall on the 4th was camped in and around Marietta. Howard’s Army of the Tennessee was also north of the river at Smyrna Camp Ground, while the Army of the Ohio was preparing to cross at Pace’s Ferry. Cox, Atlanta, pp. 225-26.
  3. J.F.C. was mistaken as to details. General Thomas with two divisions had been rushed to Middle Tennessee to protect the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad against Forrest’s horse-soldiers. Their mission had been accomplished, and by October 6, Forrest had returned to his base, having seriously damaged the less important Tennessee & Alabama and Memphis & Charleston Railroads. On the morning of October 5, Major Gen. Samuel G. French’s division assailed the post at Allatoona Pass, defended by 2,000 men commanded by Brig. Gen. John D. Corse. There was a savage fight. When French learned that Sherman’s infantry was at Kennesaw, 15 miles away, he broke off the attack and rejoined Hood’s army at New Hope Church on the 6th. After the fight. Corse buried 230 dead Confederates and counted more than 400 prisoners. Union losses were 205 killed and wounded. Ibid., pp. 227-31.
  4. Sherman now massed his “army group” west of Marietta, while observing Hood’s movements, and turned out large working parties to repair the railroad and rebuild the Chattahoochie Railroad Bridge. Having concluded that Hood’s goal was to draw his “army group” out of the heart of Georgia, Sherman refused to be led away. General Corse was sent to Rome with his division, from where he could cover the Western & Atlantic between Resaca and Cartersville. Sherman now repeated a proposal, previously made to General Grant, that he be allowed to abandon the Western & Atlantic, evacuate Atlanta, turn his back on Hood’s army, and march for Savannah by way of Milledgeville and Millen. Ibid., 233-34.
  5. There was no truth to the report that Union cavalry under Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick had “captured and destroyed the enemy’s pontoon train and a large portion of their supplies.”
  6. John Murphy was still detailed to Bridge’s battery and had accompanied that unit on its return to Middle Tennessee.
  7. General Slocum on October 9 notified General Sherman that the railroad bridge, swept away on the night of the 1st, had been “repaired and the train has gone over.” O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXIX, pt. III, p. 163.
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We suppose that our communications are interrupted somewhere, and probably no letters go north

Joseph Culver Letter, September 30, 1864, Page 1

Head Quarters Co. “A” 129th Regt. Ills. Vols.
Atlanta, Georgia September 30th 1864
My Dear Wife

As there is no mail, we suppose that our communications are interrupted somewhere, & probably no letters go north.1 Bro. John [Murphy] was here last night & is well. Sammy [Murphy] has not gone to Chattanooga yet, but the “Battery” is expected to leave every day.2 Lt. Burton is going home,3 and, as Bro. John has recd. a portion of his pay, I got him to send you $20 by him. It will be expressed from Chicago.

We have not been paid as our money has not yet arrived, and, if the rail-road is injured as badly as reported, it may be a month before we receive it.4

We are all well. I wish you would please send me a box of cotton half hose by Sutcliff.5 If [Lt.] Smith got through without interruption, you have all the news from us.6 We are busy on reports; Yetter is learning. We are all well. With much love, I remain, as ever,

Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. To cope with Forrest’s cavalry and protect the Western & Atlantic Railroad, Sherman had rushed General Newton’s division to Chattanooga and Brig. Gen. John H. Corse’s to Rome, Ga. The force guarding the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad was also strengthened, while Gens. Lovell Rousseau and Robert S. Granger marched to intercept Forrest with 8,000 men. On the 26th Sherman learned from his scouts that Hood’s Army of Tennessee had broken camp and had marched west from Lovejoy’s Station, and was camped in and around Palmetto Station on the Atlanta & West Point Railroad. Upon receipt of news that Forrest’s column was closing in on Pulaski, 70 miles south of Nashville, General Sherman ordered General Thomas with Morgan’s XIV Corps to return to Tennessee. There he would push a column west through Stevenson to threaten Forrest’s rear. Forrest, after briefly occupying Pulaski on the 27th, had turned east toward the vital Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad. Fayetteville was occupied on the 28th, and small parties sent to cut the telegraph and railroad north and south of Tullahoma. Next day Forrest advanced toward the railroad, but at Mulberry, on learning that Thomas had massed a strong force at Tullahoma, he called a halt. Forrest now divided his corps: Brig. Gen. Abraham Buford with 1,500 men headed south toward Alabama, with instructions to wreck the Memphis & Charleston Railroad from Huntsville to Decatur, while Forrest with the main column turned west to raise additional havoc on the Tennessee & Alabama Railroad. Damage to the railroad and telegraph, north and south of Tullahoma, caused by Forrest’s raid on the night of the 28th was repaired in less than 12 hours. General Thomas on the 30th from Chattanooga telegraphed Sherman that “this place” is “crowded with officers and soldiers on leave and furlough. No more should be allowed to leave until the [rail] road is reported clear to Nashville.” Sherman was agreeable, and he notified his army commanders to stop all furloughs. Although damage to the railroad and telegraph had been slight, all trains had been pre-empted to rush reinforcements north to cope with Forrest’s raid. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXIX, pt. I, pp. 546-47; pt. II, pp. 459-532.
  2. Although Company M was under orders to follow Newton’s IV Corps division to Chattanooga, another month was to pass before the artillerists were able to board a northbound train. Report of the Adjutant General of Illinois, Vol. VIII, p. 667.
  3. Thomas Burton of Chicago, a 20-year-old clerk, had been mustered into service on July 16, 1861, at Cairo, Ill., as a private in Company A, 1st Illinois Light Artillery. He was promoted to corporal on Dec. 1, 1861; was wounded at Shiloh on April 6, 1862; and promoted to sergeant on July 1, 1862. Sergeant Burton was discharged on Oct. 14, 1862, to accept a commission as 2d lieutenant in Company M, 1st Illinois Light Artillery. He was promoted to 1st lieutenant on March 31, 1864, and was mustered out at Chicago on July 24, 1865. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
  4. Damage inflicted by Forrest’s raiders on the railroads over which Sherman supplied his “army group” was insignificant. But with Hood’s army across the Chattahoochee and striking north, this situation was about to change.
  5. Pvt. William Sutcliff, having received a 20-day furlough, had accompanied Lieutenant Smith. Regimental Papers, 129th Illinois, NA.
  6. Lieutenant Smith, having received his discharge, had boarded a northbound train for Chattanooga on the 27th. Grunert, History of the 129th Illinois, p. 106.
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Capt, I report progress

Joseph Culver Letter, September 29, 1864, Page 1WhiteSide Tenn. Sept. 29th 1864

I report progress – After hoping you and Co. “A” and in no danger William and I reached Chattanooga Some time during the Night of the 27th. here we learned that there was expected trouble ahead and from many furloughed and discharged soldiers that none could go on trains north except troops being sent to different points of expected danger. However a train left yesterday morning with the 88th Ill. on it they were ordered to this place we thought that we could not do worse than Chattanooga. So here we are, could be worse and might be much better. You are aware that the furlough of William’s bears date of the 27th. this is hardly just had we had no trouble as half of the 27th was past ere he started he too is marked present on the report of that day I thought by you attending [rpt.?] that the time delayed might be [illegible] good write to him or me in refference to it

I am in the telegraph office and learn from the operator that this road has not been cut unless done last night, That a heavy force of Rebels have taken Huntsville and Athens. Our forces are concentraiting at Tullahoma on those sent from [below?]. these indications of trouble here or at Bridge post. At this place The 88th Ill. part of the 1st Ohio and part of 9th Penn. Cavalry – the Regt. of which we were talking yesterday are stationed. Many rumors about the Rebel forces Some sa 40,000 We will move up just a fast as we can From what I can learn no train has been through from Nashville since Sabbath. One train came from Stephenson last afternoon. They sayed that one had started from the same place for Nashville in the Morning. I have not seen Capt. Coppage since I left Atlanta Could not find Sherman Mc[name] We shall be glad to get on farther may not get home for 8 or 10 days yet home or even from here

Nothing more

Your friend
J.W. Smith

J.F. Culver
Capt. Co. “A” 129th Ills.

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Another day has passed, another week commenced, and God has been and still is with me

Joseph Culver Letter, September 25, 1864, Page 1

Head Qurs. Co. “A” 129th Regt. Ills. Vols.
Atlanta, Georgia September 25th 1864
My Dear Wife

Another day has passed, another week commenced, and God has been and still is with me. I long for some news from home. No mail to-day, and consequently no letters for me. The Enemy captured and destroyed the mail train supposed to contain several days mail.1 I presume they have those intended for me. I still hope that you are well, but I cannot entirely remove the anxiety to know which continually haunts me.

The Sabbath Day has been unusually pleasant and happy. This morning I attended church in the city; this evening I preached at the Hd. Qurs. of Co. “G” from Hebrews, 2nd Chap. 2nd & 3rd verses. God was with me, & my soul is happy. We propose to commence a series of protracted meetings on Tuesday evening [the 27th] to continue so long as it may be profitable. Pray for us and ask all our friends to pray in Faith. We trust that God will pour out of his “Holy Spirit” upon us.

Lieut. Smith resigned some two weeks ago, and his papers returned home approved. He will start for home sometime next week. He was a good officer, & I am sorry to lose him.2 I shall try to have [Chris] Yetter succeed him but may not succeed. Godfrey is entitled by rank,3 but, having been promoted over Yetter without sufficient reason, I should much prefer Yetter, & I am satisfied the Company would also. Smith was loth to leave the company and service, but the condition of his wife’s mind and health left him no choice. He has been in perfect misery ever since he returned [from leave].

I thank God with all my heart for giving me a wife, who, while she is strong and earnest in her attachment, is willing to sacrifice so much for her Country’s good, who, instead of repining and mourning, can be cheerful and even comfort me. Believe me, I do not love you less than if you were less strong and self reliant; and, if I thought our Holy Father would not disapprove, I would pray to love you more. You have all my love, stronger than life and above all else, save God. I tried to imagine myself in the congregation at home, but there was so little resemblance. God is still the same in love and manifestations of mercy here.

All the Company are in good health. Nate Hill is still on duty in the city but was out to see us to-day. Alf Huetson was also here; he is well, & says there is a rumor afloat again that our Crops will be ordered to the Potomac.4 I cannot think it true so soon after this last call. We have no news to-day owing to the loss of our mail last night. We recd. by telegraph yesterday news of another victory in the Shenandoah Valley,5 also of rumors of Peace propositions from Jeff. Davis.6 The latter is rather improbable. If God will speed our cause until the close of the coming campaigns here and elsewhere, we may hope to have them in such a condition that such propositions may come within the bounds of reason. Just now I believe they would ask much more than we could honorably grant.

Atlanta is almost rid of citizens. You have doubtless read in the papers the correspondence between Genls. Sherman and Hood.7 To persons afar off the policy adopted may seem severe, but, under the circumstances, it was all that humanity could dictate. It was impossible to subsist them, & we have suffered so much from an inveterate foe in our rear that it has become a necessity to drive them before us.

The weather changed very suddenly last evening, and the night was very cold. We were scarcely comfortable with our overcoats this morning, but the day became very pleasant, though it is quite cool to-night.

Bill Myers of the 20th Ills. was here to-day.8 Alva Garner is sick in Hospital at Marietta;9 all the rest are well. [Lt.] Smith went to church in the city to-night with a squad of 12 of the Company. There is very encouraging revival in progress in several of the churches. May God increase the good work.

I saw a letter from Mrs. Paige to-day to Myers. She had heard of her husband’s death only through the papers & was trying to cheat herself into the belief that it was not her husband. May God deal kindly and pour the oil of consolation into her heart. Poor woman. With all his faults, she loved him dearly, and the future will look very gloomy to her. He was an excellent and faithful soldier and a very efficient officer.10

Let us lift our hearts in praise and thanksgiving for his boundless mercies to us. Give my love to Mother [Murphy] & Maggie and kiss baby for me. I would like much to see him.

I fear Green’s book & my stamps and tobacco have met the same fate of your last letters. May the richest of Heaven’s blessings rest upon you, and the Grace, Love, and Peace of “The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” abide with you. Write as often as you can make it convenient.

Your affectionate Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. Confederate columns in the latter half of September again struck at Sherman’s supply lines. General Forrest’s corps advanced from its base in northeastern Mississippi, crossing the Tennessee River on the 20th, and headed north, wreaking havoc on the Tennessee & Alabama Railroad. Athens, Ala., was captured along with its garrison on the 25th. Next morning found Forrest’s horse-soldiers striking toward Pulaski, Tenn., as Northern generals frantically deployed units to counter this thrust toward Nashville and the vital Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad. Brig. Gen. William H. Jackson, whose cavalry division had remained with the Army of Tennessee when General Wheeler departed on his August raid, had forded the Chattahoochie in the fourth week of September at Phillips’ Ferry. On the evening of the 24th, one of Jackson’s columns captured a train near Marietta. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXIX, pt. II, pp. 646, 881; Cox, Atlanta, pp. 222-23.
  2. Lieutenant Smith’s resignation was to take effect on Sept. 23, 1864. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
  3. William A. Godfrey, a 35-year-old carpenter, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a corporal in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. Corporal Godfrey was promoted to 1st sergeant on Jan. 20, 1863. He was hospitalized at Savannah, Ga., in the late winter and spring of 1865, but rejoined the regiment in time to be mustered out with the unit on June 8, 1865, near Washington, D.C. Ibid.
  4. There was no truth to the rumor that the XX Corps was to be transferred to the Army of the Potomac.
  5. Secretary Stanton on the 23d had telegraphed Sherman that on the previous day Sheridan’s army, following up its success at Winchester, had defeated General Early’s army at Fisher’s Hill. “Nothing saved Early’s army from total destruction,” he added, “but the cover of night.” Leaving 2,000 prisoners in Federal hands, the Rebels retreated up “the Valley in the greatest confusion.” O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXIX, pt. II, p. 442.
  6. In the summer of 1864 there had been several abortive efforts by well-meaning individuals to find a formula that would bring peace. Negotiations always broke down in the face of President Davis’ “sine qua non of independence.” Randall, Civil War and Reconstruction, pp. 614-18. President Davis at this time was at Hood’s headquarters, where plans were made and approved for the Army of Tennessee to take the offensive. Hood was authorized to advance and destroy Sherman’s supply line, before the Federals could complete their build-up preparatory to a resumption of the campaign. Cox, Atlanta, p. 221.
  7. See J.F.C.’s letter of September 13, 1864.
  8. William H. Myers, a 21-year-old Pontiac carpenter, had been mustered into service on Aug. 9, 1861, as a private in Company D, 20th Illinois Infantry. Private Myers reenlisted as a veteran-volunteer at Big Black Bridge, Miss., in the winter of 1863-64. On May 28, 1864, he was detached to the Pioneer Corps, Third Division, XVII Corps, Army of the Tennessee, and in August was promoted sergeant. He was mustered out on July 16, 1865, at Louisville, Ky. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
  9. Alva Garner, a 23-year-old Pontiac farmer, was mustered into service on June 13, 1861, as a private in Company D, 20th Illinois Infantry. Private Garner was wounded in the arm at Shiloh on April 6, 1862, and in January 1863 was detailed as a nurse in a LaGrange, Tenn., hospital. In the autumn of 1863 Private Garner was hospitalized at Memphis. On Jan. 5, 1864, at Big Black Bridge, Miss., he reenlisted as a veteran-volunteer. Private Garner was promoted to sergeant on Oct. 3, 1864, and discharged with his regiment at Louisville, Ky., on July 16, 1865. Ibid.
  10. Charles L. Paige, a 24-year-old Pontiac bookkeeper, was mustered into service on June 13, 1861, as a private in Company D, 20th Illinois Infantry. Private Paige was promoted regimental sergeant major on June 18, 1861. On Jan. 14, 1862, he was commissioned 1st lieutenant of Company D, and three months later captain. On April 20, 1863, he became acting lt. col. of the 9th Louisiana Colored Infantry, a position he held until rejoining his company in Sept. 1863. Captain Paige was killed in the battle at Atlanta, July 22, 1864. Ibid.
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I have not forgotten your request to keep this day as one of thanksgiving

Joseph Culver Letter, September 21, 1864, Page 1

Head Quarters Co. “A” 129th Regt. Ills. Vols.
Atlanta, Georgia, September 21st 1864
My Dear Wife

I have not forgotten your request to keep this day as one of thanksgiving to “Our Father” for the very many blessings He has conferred upon us.1 I thought yesterday that I would devote this day to you and to memories of the past, but was detailed as Brig. Officer of the Day, & in addition to that duty, I had to receive and issue clothing which consumed the entire day. I have therefore devoted but very little time to reflection.

My reading last night was in Psalms from the 111th including a part of the 119th. The events of the past two years are so numerous and varied that even a day seems scarcely sufficient to enumerate them. I regret that I have spent them so poorly, yet God in his Infinite Mercy has continually blessed me. My trials have been few and light. Part of the time my heart has been filled with love, yet much of it has been spent without profit.

To-morrow it will be two years since I left you in our home, delicate in health and alone to bear your burdens and suffer your trials and privations. God alone knew what was before us. Have we not gained confidence in that hand that has protected us and that power which has sustained us? We have not been without trials; God has visited us with judgments. Our little boy, who had scarcely learned to lisp our names, was called by a kind Father to His arms. To-night he appears as a beacon light to guide us home, and surrounded with all the beauties of Heaven he awaits our coming. Are not our ties stronger, our desires more eager, our hopes brighter?

Nature smiles as ever, but the particles that form her beauty fade and die and from the roots springs that beauty anew. So each successive year adds its testimony to the power and goodness of our Creator. We have also had witness of the love exercised toward us amid dangers seen and unseen; we have been preserved in life, in health and to each other.

God has also in his kindness given us another child to fill the vacuum in our hearts. The ties of love which united our hearts have not been loosened in all his dealings with us, but month after month we have each become more necessary to each other’s happiness. Let us look hopefully to the future. “Our Kind Father” will still care for us. The clouds, dark and lowering, which overhang our Country may dim our vision. We cannot divine futurity, yet trusting, hoping, loving, our “joy surely cometh in the morning.” Above the clouds, the sun is shining brightly. I imagine at times its rays begin to break the vista and its rays will enliven the whole system of our body politic.

It would be a long story to tell you by what system of reasoning I have gathered my hope or to enumerate all the incidents that have made up my results. God who has thus far prospered and cared for us will develop all in His own good time. He is doubtless solving the great problem that has so long vexed the whole human family, “That the power lies not in man but in Himself.” The establishment of this theory has cost us very dear, and the debt is not yet fully paid, but, true as the magnet draws the needle to the pole, will the hand of Omnipotence guide us safely through. “Let us praise Him for his marvelous kindness, for his wonderful works, and his boundless love toward the children of men.”

I was disappointed in not hearing from you by to-day’s mail. We recd. two days mail but only a paper for me. I have been thinking to-night of the many cares gathering around you, & I ought not to expect you to write so frequently. The tobacco, book, & handkerchief have not yet arrived. I presume they have been laid aside in some of the Post Offices & may be overlooked for weeks. It is not a very rare occurance.

Bro. Sammy and Jim Rawlins were here on a visit to-day & took dinner with us.2 Sammy is looking very well. John is also well. John Lee came to the Regt. yesterday.3 He is looking quite well & is able for duty.

There is a rumor here of a glorious victory in the Shenandoah Valley and of the death of Valandigham, both rumors lack confirmation.4

We were to have a review to-morrow, but it has rained so much to-day that it has been postponed. We are getting very comfortably situated here, though it is probable our stay will be of but short duration.

The city is almost deserted by citizens, almost all having been sent either north or south. We have an abundance of rations for present use, and the supply daily increasing. All the troops continue in good health. My own health continues excellent; I have been blessed very greatly. Oh, how I wish I was more worthy. Pray for me. I know you do.

I have no news from Carlisle yet. [Lt.] Smith is getting along very well, though he has not improved very rapidly in health. Nate [Hill] has been on duty since noon yesterday in the city. I do not know how long he will be detained there, but he is very pleasantly situated. He has charge of a guard at the Bakery. I will try & see him to-morrow.

It is still raining and the night is very dark. It is almost 11 o clock, & I must close. Give my love to Mother [Murphy] and Maggie, and kiss the children for me.

May “Our Father” bless you & your treasure with good health and happiness. The year is growing shorter rapidly. If I am not permitted to see you sooner, I hope through the kind interposition of Providence to be with you then. Let me find your love unchanged.

Good night,
Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. See J.F.C.’s letter of September 13, 1864. September 21 would have been Franklin “Frankie” Culver’s second birthday.
  2. James A. Rollins, a 25-year-old Pontiac Township farmer, was mustered into service on Aug. 12, 1862, as a private in Company M, 1st Illinois Light Artillery. He served with the battery throughout the war and was mustered out at Chicago, on July 24, 1865. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
  3. John Lee had been hospitalized since being wounded in the shoulder in battle at Peachtree Creek on July 20, 1864. Ibid.
  4. Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, on September 19, 1864, had defeated General Jubal Early’s army in the third battle of Winchester. General Grant, concerned by Early’s successes which had compelled him to send two infantry corps and a third of his cavalry to guard the line of the Potomac, on August 6 had placed General Sheridan in command of a force with orders to destroy Early’s command. Third Winchester was the first step in Sheridan’s campaign. There was no truth to the rumored death of Clement Vallandigham, leader of the “peace at any price” Democrats.
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There must be something wrong with the mails as they do not come at all regular

Joseph Culver Letter, September 22, 1864, Page 1

Head Qurs. Co. “A” 129th Regt. Ills. Vols.
Atlanta, Georgia September 22nd 1864
My Dear Wife

I was disappointed to-day in not receiving any letter from you to-day. There must be something wrong with the mails as they do not come at all regular or else our friends at home are forgetting to write.

It is still very wet and has been raining most of the day. The news of Sheridan’s victory in the Shenandoah Valley was confirmed this evening by telegraph from Sec. Stanton;1 we gave three hearty cheers. We recd. no papers to-day.

I had a letter from [Erastus] Nelson by Lt. Edgington who returned from Nashville to-day. He will lose the use of his left arm and will be discharged in a few days.2 Capt. Coppage of Co. “I” has been dismissed [from] the service for disobedience of orders.3 Capt. Martin has resigned; his health is very bad.4 Capt. Perry is still in the North somewheres. When we last heard of him, he was on his way to Lake Superior for his health; I presume he is resting upon the laurels he won in the rear.5 Lt. Smith is well as usual; Chris [Yetter] and him are fast asleep. Nate [Hill] is on duty in the city. All are well. Capt. Walkley has been appointed A. A. In. Genl. of the Brigade.6

Our review which was to have been to-day has been postponed until Saturday on account of the weather. I was to see Frank Long to-day while in the city; he feels rather blue about his prospects.7

Chris had a letter from Tom Smith to-day; he is still at Quincy, Ills., and is rapidly improving.8 Jim Chritten has the Jaundice but is not seriously ill. He is still at Kingston, Ga. [Pvt. W. H.] Bronson has returned to Chattanooga much improved in health; he has been home on furlough. Sutcliff’s furlough has not yet returned; if it succeeds, it will be a good opportunity to send money home. I must close & go to bed. I wrote last night until nearly midnight, & I shall not wake at reveille if I dissipate too much. Give my love to all. May Our Father in Heaven bless you.

Your affectionate Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. Secretary of War Stanton, on September 20, telegraphed General Sherman, “Yesterday, the 19th, Major-General Sheridan attacked the Rebel forces under Generals Breckenridge and Early near Bunker Hill, in the Shenandoah Valley, fought a hard battle all day and a brilliant victory was won by our forces. The Enemy were driven off twelve miles, 2,500 prisoners were captured, 9 stands of colors, 5 pieces of artillery were taken, and the rebel killed and wounded left in our hands.” O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXIX, pt. II, p. 423.
  2. Pvt. Erastus J. Nelson of Company A was severely wounded by a gunshot wound in the chest at the battle at Peachtree Creek on July 20, 1864. He was hospitalized at Nashville, and given a medical discharge on Oct. 8, 1864. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
  3. Joseph W. Coppage, a 38-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as 3d lieutenant of Company I, 129th Illinois Infantry. He was promoted captain of the company on Dec. 3, 1862. Captain Coppage, on May 18, 1864, near Cassville, Ga., had refused an order to take charge of the regimental picket line, and when confronted by Colonel Case, who reiterated the order, Coppage shouted “I’ll not [do] it, Sir, and you can show your favoritism as much as you please,” and “I wish you would arrest me; I know my rights, Sir, and will just say what I please.” Court-martialed, Coppage was dismissed from the service on Sept. 8, 1864. Ibid.
  4. George W. Martin, a 35-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as captain of Company H, 129th Illinois Infantry. Captain Martin resigned his commission on Sept. 13, 1864, on receipt of a surgeon’s certificate attesting to his disability because of chronic diarrhea. Ibid.
  5. John B. Perry was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as captain of Company C, 129th Illinois Infantry. Captain Perry was hospitalized at Louisville on May 20, 1864, suffering with chronic diarrhea, and on July 11, 1864, he was given a leave from the hospital. He did not rejoin the unit, as he resigned from the service on Jan. 7, 1865, on receipt of a surgeon’s certificate attesting to his disability. Ibid.
  6. Samuel T. Walkley, a 44-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as captain of Company B, 129th Illinois Infantry. Captain Walkley was detached on Sept. 16, 1864, and assigned to duty as inspector general of the 1st Brigade, Third Division, XX Corps. He was mustered out near Washington, D.C., on June 8, 1865. Ibid.
  7. Pvt. Frank Long was transferred from Company A, 129th Illinois, to Company H, 16th Illinois Infantry, on June 8, 1865. He was mustered out at Louisville, Ky., on July 8, 1865. Ibid.
  8. Wounded at New Hope Church on May 27, 1864, Private Smith was hospitalized at Quincy, Ill., until receiving a medical discharge from the service on May 18, 1865. Ibid.
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I have been very busy to-day fixing up Hd. Qurs.

Joseph Culver Letter, September 19, 1864, Letter 2, Page 1

Head Quarters, Co. “A” 129th Regt. Ills. Vols.
Atlanta, Georgia September 19th 1864
My Dear Wife

I have been very busy to-day fixing up Hd. Qurs. and this evening in preparing for Inspection to-morrow. We are now very pleasantly situated though we have not completed our work yet.

I saw both Bros. John and Sammy [Murphy] this morning; they are quite well. John is temporarily detailed in “Bridges Battery” and went on duty there this morning.1

You express some anxiety in yours of the 6th about my “Leave of Absence.” You have learned before this that my application failed. I have had quite a fight with the “Blues” for a few days past, but I believe I have conquered. Let us not forget “Our Father” for all his mercies and blessings.

I hope you have not had a return of the chills. This season opens up sickly, I fear, in Pontiac. May Our Father in Heaven protect you and our babe. I had anticipated much pleasure in a visit home & must confess that I was very much disappointed, for I felt confident of success. God doeth all things well and doubtless he has some good purpose to accomplish thereby.

The tobacco, handkerchief, and book for Green have not yet arrived.2 Green is looking very anxiously for his gift. Packages are generally delayed, & they will probably be along to-morrow or next day.

You say the Copperhead meeting has the appearance of being a success & wish to know if any one in Co. “A” will vote for “Mac” [McClellan], and what probability of the 129th getting home to vote. There is no probability of the 129th going home to vote; there will be too much on hand here at that time. Had McClellan accepted the nomination upon a strong war Platform, he would have had some friends and five or six of Co. “A” would have voted for him had opportunity offered. The Chicago Platform has no friends here that I know of, and McClellan’s effort to kick aside the Platform and still accept the nomination by a strong copperhead convention has left him very few friends, indeed.3 We prefer a continuation of the policy of the present administration & do not deem it advisable or necessary to make any serious changes. The Army is for Lincoln, though Illinois and Indiana troops cannot help elect him.4

I am surprised that a Copperhead meeting should be so largely attended in our county. I hope the friends of the Union are not idle.

The Chaplain [Brother Cotton] thought when he left us that he would rest a year but has accepted an appointment to Dwight. I should have liked much to have heard his speech in Pontiac. Did you hear it, or of it?

Tell Mother [Murphy] she does not long more for me to come home than I do to be there & kiss her for me. Sister Maggie [Utley] has never written. Give my love to her & kiss the children for me.

All the Company are well. We expected the pay-master here this week, but are told this evening that he will not be here until next week. Some of the men are becoming very impatient, & I fear some of their families are in want. There is something wrong as we should have been paid a month ago. Chris [Yetter] & Nate [Hill] are flourishing as usual; they are both striving very industriously to learn to play chess. What progress have you made? Green was almost as badly disappointed in my not going home as myself. He was intending to go along.

It is 20 minutes past 11 o clock; yet, late as it is, I must close my letter to-night or it will not get out in to-morrow’s mail, as I shall be very busy in the morning.

Sherman is still shipping citizens South. I told you a short time ago that the cessation of hostilities was to continue until the 22nd of October; it is only until the 22nd of this month.5

Francis Van Doren gives rather an amusing incident that happened a few days ago.6 He is driving team in the supply train and is at present engaged in moving citizens. On one of his Loads were two young ladies, one of which was very much grieved at being compelled to leave her home & was crying and lamenting her fate, when finally she consoled herself by saying “that she had a home from which Sherman could not drive her.” Her companion, who must have considerable spice in her nature, warned her not to be too certain as Sherman might yet “flank her out of Heaven.” It does seem hard to drive women and children from their homes when there are doubtless some who are innocent of any transgression of the laws, but it is a moral impossibility to subsist the citizens when we have so large an army & so extended a base of supplies.

I think it very probable that the Campaign will open about the 1st of October.7 There is no news from Grant. All is quiet there.8 We are still ignorant of the policy Genl. Sherman will adopt or the direction the Armies will advance. God, who has been so bountiful in blessings, is still with us, & we trust will guide us to certain Victory.

The Chicago papers report Genl. A. J. Smith [is] on his way here, but I think it must be a mistake.9 We have heard nothing of him through military channels. We are looking anxiously for the result of the draft.10 We would like to see the men coming along.

I recd. a letter from the editor of the Sentinel requesting me to write an article for the paper occasionally. If I get time before the campaign opens, I will, though I have but little inclination to engage in political discussions.

All the camp is quiet & the men sleep. The moon bright and clear shines sweetiy upon us and a “Beautiful Star” is twinkling close by her. We dream of home and wonder whether in God’s good Providence we are destined to enjoy its Sweets again. Who but “He alone” can tell, and yet we hope and anticipate trusting all to Him. Let us pray for Grace to be resigned to His will. May His richest blessings rest upon you and your babe.

I can imagine you both asleep now, & I would love dearly to see the reality of my dreams. Still “All is well,” & if we only wait patiently for “God’s good time” our enjoyment will be so much the sweeter. If not on earth, yet in Heaven we may meet. Remember me very kindly to all our friends and let us not forget that we are blessed far above thousands of those around us. May Holy Angels guard you.

Good night.

Your affectionate Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. Bridges’ Illinois battery, like Company M, 1st Illinois Light Artillery, was assigned to the IV Corps’ Artillery Brigade.
  2. Albert Green, a black freedman, had attached himself to J.F.C. while the regiment was at Nashville in the autumn of 1863.
  3. General McClellan, embarrassed by the “peace plank,” sought to repudiate it by placing the strongest emphasis on the Union in his letter accepting the nomination. He thus went before the country as a war leader. In the campaign which followed, Democratic speakers, taking their cue from McClellan, generally avoided mention of the “peace plank,” while inveighing against Lincoln’s policies and denouncing his so-called acts of usurpation. Randall, Civil War and Reconstruction, pp. 619-20.
  4. No provision had been made by the legislatures of Illinois and Indiana to permit soldiers to vote by absentee ballot. To have their votes counted, soldiers from these states would have to return to their homes to cast their ballots.
  5. On Sept. 10, 1864, General Sherman had issued Special Field Order No. 70, announcing that a truce is declared to exist from “daylight of Monday, September 12, until daylight of Thursday, September 22, … at a point on the Macon Railroad known as Rough and Ready, and the country round about for a circle of two miles’ radius.” O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXIX, pt. II, p. 356.
  6. Francis M. Vandoren, a 24-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. On April 27, 1864, he was detailed as a teamster in the supply train of the Third Division, XX Corps. In the autumn of 1864 he rejoined the company and was wounded at Averysboro, N.C., March 16, 1865. Private Vandoren was mustered out with the unit on June 8, 1865 near Washington, D.C. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
  7. Sherman hoped to resume the campaign by October 1. When he did, he proposed to keep Hood’s Army of Tennessee employed, and put his “army group” in condition “for a march on Augusta, Columbia, and Charleston, to be ready as soon as Wilmington is sealed as to commerce, and the city of Savannah is in our possession.” Meanwhile, the Union armies with General Grant before Petersburg and those with Maj. Gen. E. R. S. Canby on the Gulf Coast would be reinforced “to the maximum.” Grant’s force would strike for Wilmington and Savannah, while Canby would “send a force to get Columbus, Ga., either by the way of the Alabama or the Apalachicola.” O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXIX, pt. II, pp. 358, 412.
  8. Following the battles of the Weldon Railroad and Reams Station in late August, Grant’s armies, having cut the Weldon Railroad south of Petersburg, paused to regroup. Grant’s next attack was scheduled for the end of September, and would consist of thrusts at opposite ends of his long line. General Butler’s Army of the James would attack north of the James, while units from General Meade’s Army of the Potomac would thrust westward from the Weldon Railroad and attempt to reach the Boydton Plank road and the Southside Railroad.
  9. Maj. Gen. A. J. Smith with his detachment of the Army of the Tennessee had spent most of the summer of 1864 in Western Tennessee and northern Mississippi, keeping General Forrest’s cavalry corps occupied and away from Sherman’s supply line. Smith, having accomplished his mission, had embarked his troops at Memphis, on the first leg of their trip to rejoin Sherman. Once again, as in June, Smith had to be diverted. This time it was into the trans-Mississippi to cope with Maj. Gen. Sterling Price’s column which had crossed the Arkansas and was thrusting deep into Missouri.
  10. President Lincoln on July 18 had issued a call for 500,000 volunteers. To fill this quota it was necessary to resort to the draft. Long, Civil War Day by Day, p. 541.
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I am very sorry to learn that your health is not good

Joseph Culver Letter, September 19, 1864, Page 1

Head Qurs. Co. “A” 129th Regt. Ills. Vols.
Atlanta, Ga. Sept. 19th 18641
My Dear Wife

Your letters mailed the 9th & 10th were recd. yesterday evening. I am very sorry to learn that your health is not good, but hope it is only a slight attack that will very soon be overcome.

I spent most of the day yesterday with Bro. John. Sammy was not at home, & I did not get to see him. Both are in good health.

It rained nearly all day yesterday, & this morning it is very wet and damp. We have not got our tent fixed up yet, as we did not wish to work on Sabbath. Chris [Yetter] is waiting for me to go with him for lumber,2 so I will only write a line to inform you of my good health. To-morrow or next day at farthest I will write you a long letter. Give my love to all. Rumor says the pay master is here; if so, we will know it shortly.

May Our Father in Heaven bless you & Keep you both in health.

Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. The 1st Brigade took up the march from the Chattahoochee to Atlanta at 6 A.M. on the 16th, and, crossing the Peachtree Creek battlefield, reached the entrenchments they had occupied in front of the city at 8 o’clock. En route they “passed the graves of the fallen dear comrades, that were ‘sleeping the sleep that knows no waking.’ ” After a halt of several hours, the march was resumed, and the brigade passed through Atlanta, going into camp about one and one-half miles south of the city. After falling out, a number of men visited the abandoned Confederate works. “They were very strong and in their erection every modern invention in the art of war had been added.” On the 17th a suitable campground was selected by Colonel Case, and it was cleared of underbrush and debris. A number of abandoned frame dwellings nearby were razed by the soldiers, and the lumber and shingles used “in erecting tenements.” Grunert, History of the 129th Illinois, pp. 102-04.
  2. Colonels Case and Flynn on Sunday, the 18th, divided off the camp, assigning each company its area, within which “every four or five men were allotted a space of eight feet in width and twelve feet in length, to enjoy themselves in a glorious and noble style — in a straight line with the rest of the company.” Ibid., p. 104.

I take the opertunety to let you no wher I am and how I am geten a long

Joseph Culver Letter, September 18, 1864, Page 1Chattnooga Tenn
September 18 1864

My Dear friend I take the opertunety to let you no wher I am and how I am geten a long I am well all but my back and that is weak so that I cant do much duty I was taken Car of horses but it was hard work then the put me to cooken I would hav ben up to my Company before this time but I thot I could not [dun?] much thar ar som boys her that there times ar up and the went to the lutenen Cobburn to get him to send them to ther Company he said he did not like to spare them for that reason I dont Com for if I went to him to get my dis charg he would not let me go I hant had no pa yet I can draw as much Cloths as much as I want he said that he [lovd?] to get our pa when the pamaster Cume around Thar ar not much goen on her so I hant got much nuse to rite I have rote to the [Co it?] a good meny times but I hant had no ancer yet I dont get no leters a tall

drect your leters to in Car of Lutenen. W. J. Cobburn
Act. Quarter Master
Artilery Chattnooga Tenn
Shermans [H. Quarters?]
Capeten Josef F. Culver
Comand of Co A 129 Ill

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