About Colleen Theisen

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

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

Joseph Culver Letter, April 4, 1865, Page 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your affect. Husband,
J. F. Culver

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

Joseph Culver Letter, April 2, 1865, Page 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your affect. Husband

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

Joseph Culver Letter, April 1, 1865, Page 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I find myself in the debt of nearly all my correspondents

Joseph Culver Letter, March 31, 1865, Page 1Ans Mch 31 /65
La Vale Farm March 19th / .65.
Dear Uncle Joe,

A whole month, I am sorry to confess it, has passed since the reception of your last letter, not from neglect, but partly from want of time and the confusion of examinations, leaving school &c. I find myself in the debt of nearly all my correspondents.

The photographs you sent were I think excellent and I prize them highly.

[The Cub?] and I arrived at home on the 10th inst. and will remain until the 3rd of Apr. The time passes so swiftly it seems a very short vacation. We expect Charlie Zug and John Culver to return to school with us. Ira is home from the Army. He has not yet decided when he will return perhaps not at all.

There are a number of Soldiers home in our neighborhood, either paroled or exchanged prisoners. Some who had not been heard from months and during this time have been languishing in rebel prisons. How we long and pray for the day when you will all return. From the glorious news we are having I sometimes hope the time is not far distant. If Grant and Sherman continue successful surely the end must soon come. Our Township is making an effort to fill our quota, by offering bounty. I can hardly say I wish them to succeed, were it not that those who can best afford and really deserve to be drafted are almost invariably the ones who escape.

We had quite an excitement in school a few days before the close, occasioned by some of the ladies wearing rebel flags. We of course considered it an insult to the school and to the returned soldiers these as well as to a number of our students who had shortly before left us for the Army, and did not hesitate to express our contempt for them and the cause they declare themselves devoted to.

It is indeed a lamentable fact that the loyal States are polluted by so many of this cowardly class of people and there is no way to get rid of them and thus more speedily end the war.

We received a letter from Aunt Kate some days ago. She seems right well pleased with her situation. It will be much more pleasant in Summer. After having Aunty with us so long it seems strange to come home and not find her here.

Mother recived a letter from Aunt Lizzie Zug this morning. They are all quite well and expect soon to move to their new home.

We are having beautiful weather just now which is certainly very acceptable after a weeks rain. The roads have been almost impassable, but are now getting better. We hear to day that the Susquehanna is rising to an alarming height, occasioning not only a great loss of property but much distress, and serious fears are entertained that the bridge will be swept away. Many above Harrisburg have already gone.

The dwellings in the lower streets of the city are partly filled with water and those on the island gone. Is Aunt Mary in Pontiac? when you write to her give her my love, and also Young Master Culver His picture is the cutest little thing I have seen for a long time. All join me in much love to you and earnest prayers for your safety. Write as soon as convenient to

Your affect neice
Fannie H. Miller.
State Normal

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I hope Howard will become more manageable

Joseph Culver Letter, March 30, 1865, Page 1

Head Qurs. Co. “A”, 129th Ills. Vol. Inftry.
Goldsboro, N.C., Mch. 30th 1865
My Dear Wife

I was the happy recipient of three letters from you to-day, of date of 6th, 7th & 9th inst., all of which confirm what your former letters say that your health is good. I am very thankful for the good news. I hope Howard will become more manageable, possibly his teeth trouble him as you intimate.

I did think it possible Bro. John [Murphy] had some serious intentions of addressing Jennie Gutherie, but his letter sets that matter at rest.1 I shall expect you to keep the correspondence of Mrs. Maurice if you find it profitable. I have now more on hand than I can do justice to. I am happy to hear that Mrs. Collins has so far recovered that she can go out. I hope you will not rely too much on my getting home in June, as I think it doubtful.

I am sorry that you were compelled to testify in that horse suit. I would much rather pay for her myself. As it is probable Bro. Utley lost the suit, do you try & find out quietly what he values the mare at, and I will pay for her as soon as I can.2 I am surprised at Mathis’ conduct and will write to W. B. Lyon about it. Do not settle it again. I have an acct. at Lyon’s of things I brought for the boys & forgot to set down the amount.3 If you have an opportunity, I wish you would please get it for me, & I will send the amt. when we are paid. We expect pay in a few days.

Send for the bolt of muslin if you have sufficient funds to spare. I wrote in one of my letters a request for you to keep an account of the time you stay at Utleys with the time I spent there. Possibly that letter may not have reached you.4

The band of the 2d Brigade has been playing for an hour some very sweet airs. They were playing “Home Sweet Home” when I sat down to write; they have just ceased. We have a great deal of good music as there are six bands within a few hundred yards of us. We are quite well fortified here, but I have not heard of any enemy in our immediate front for several days.5 There was a rumor in camp to-day that Grant has taken Richmond at a loss of 25,000 men, but it lacks confirmation.6 The Rail Road is opened up with Wilmington, & trains arrive and depart regularly to & from both Wilmington & Morehead City.7

We recd letters to-day from Pontiac as late as the 20th March which is only 10 days. The men begin to count the days now for the 8th Sept. to come round.8 They talk a great deal about home & the prospects there.

Christ. [Yetter] went on duty (picket) in my place this morning to give me an opportunity to complete the muster rolls. It rained so much this forenoon, however, that I did not get through. Nate [Hill] is out visiting & has not come in yet.

You asked me in one of your letters what I used to cure the Inflamatory Rheumatism. I used nothing but cold water in the shape of baths three or four times a day at first — decreasing in number gradually. It is a never failing cure. I had the water poured from a water pot in a stream of 1/2 inch in size upon the affected parts, gradually increasing the height to 10 or 15 feet. It will certainly scatter the swelling & drive away the pain. I hope Bro. Harrington will try it & keep it up all summer.9 Harry McDowell spent an hour here early in the evening. He is very anxious for the expiration of his term of service so that he may enjoy the pleasures of home with a wife; he is devoted as ever. Jim Morrow & I had quite a chat last night; he had a great many questions to ask about his lady friends in Pontiac. Nate is just coming home, he has spent the evening with Charlie Peck.10 Charlie is acting Commissary of the Regt. John Wilson has not yet returned.11 Weiser (the bugler) has just heard of the death of his wife.12 She has been sick for several months; but, as he had no opportunity to hear from her, he did not learn that she was sick until the mail reached him here. She leaves 3 small children.

Saml. McGooden is not with the Army. He went home from Atlanta to have an operation performed on his eyes, & they have not heard from him since. I saw [William] McCartney yesterday, he is well & has stood the march very well.

There is a band about a quarter of a mile off, & the music comes this way carried by the breeze. It sounds so very sweet that it reminds me of those times at home when we could hear the band in the court yard. “When shall we meet again?” I like the song very much but hardly think it conducive to happiness to dwell on it too often. God, who has thus far shown us only love and mercy, will perform all his promises in His own good time. I stood out in front of my tent awhile to-night watching the stars & listening to the music & found myself at home directly. So for fear of the blues, I hastened into my tent & commenced writing.

There is quite a circle of the boys around the fire talking of their marches through Georgia & South Carolina. I can only be a listener & have but a faint idea of all their exploits as they take occasion to tell me many times each day.

I had a long letter from Saul yesterday.13 He says if this campaign does not end the war, he is coming into the service and California will put forth her strength.

The “Sentinel” has not reached the Company since I left. I spoke to Decker about it when I was home, & he promised to see to it.14 If you have an opportunity, please remind him of it. Send me the No. containing my Charleston letter. I have not had time to write to him or the paper since my arrival here. It is 20 minutes of ten, & I must close if I would write any other letters to-night. I hope Our Father will still preserve you in good health & make you happy. Remember me kindly to all. Kiss Howard for me. Tell our Friends to write. Accept much love, Good Night.

Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

P.S. I have had such a call for stamps that I must ask for a few.

  1. On February 28 John Murphy, who was stationed in Nashville, had written his sister, “Of course I’ll take your advice kindly, and not only that but I prize it very highly. But I have no notion of making overtures for the hand of Jennie Gutherie, and I think she does not understand it otherwise. I do not think I have been the cause even indirectly of a rupture between her and Kelly. Mollie, don’t you know that I can never marry a woman that can’t sing?” John Murphy to Mary Culver, February 28, 1865, Culver Collection.
  2. A suit had been brought against Leander Utley by certain parties for a mare in which J.F.C. had an interest.
  3. W. B. Lyon owned and operated Wm. H. Lyon & Son, a prosperous Pontiac dry goods store. History of Livingston County, Illinois, p. 640.
  4. The letter referred to is missing from the Culver Collection. Apparently, Mary Culver and Howard were staying with the Utleys, as had J.F.C. during his Pontiac leave.
  5. Upon going into camp, soldiers of the 129th Illinois, like those of other XX Corps units, began erecting cabins. On the 28th orders were issued by General Williams for his division commanders to “pay particular attention to the establishment of their picket-lines, having them so placed and with such connections right and left as will enable them to entirely prevent any person from passing them.” O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, p. 47; Grunert, History of the 129th Illinois, pp. 224-25.
  6. There was no truth to this rumor. But on March 29 General Grant sent two corps and Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan’s cavalry sweeping westward across Hatcher Run in an effort to reach the Southside Railroad and force General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to evacuate Petersburg.
  7. J.F.C. was mistaken about the resumption of through rail traffic between Goldsboro and Wilmington. It was April 4 before the bridge across the Northeast Branch of the Cape Fear was rebuilt, and the 5th before through trains again made the run between these two cities. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, pp. 65, 91, 96.
  8. As a three-year-regiment, soldiers of the 129th, unless they chose to reenlist as veteran volunteers, would be mustered out on September 8, 1865.
  9. Robert Harrington, running on the Union ticket, had been elected county clerk of Livingston County in the autumn of 1861, and was reelected four years later. After leaving office in 1869, he moved to Mississippi and from there to Beatrice, Nebraska. History of Livingston County, Illinois, p. 266.
  10. It has been impossible to further identify Charles Peck, unless he was Darius R. Peck, a 32-year-old engineer, who had been mustered into service on September 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
  11. John T. Wilson, a 24-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company H, 129th Illinois Infantry. He was detailed as quartermaster clerk on Oct. 1, 1862, and on Nov. 1, 1863, he was promoted to commissary sergeant. Wounded on Aug. 19, 1864, before Atlanta, Sergeant Wilson was hospitalized and did not rejoin the regiment, being discharged at Camp Butler, Ill., Jan. 24, 1864. Ibid.
  12. Joseph C. Weiser, a 31-year-old jeweller, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company H, 129th Illinois Infantry, and was mustered out near Washington, D.C., on June 8, 1865. Ibid.
  13. S. S. Saul moved to Pontiac from Pennsylvania in 1854 and taught school for several years. In 1857 he was elected county clerk, a position he held until 1861. Saul had been instrumental in prevailing on J.F.C. to settle in Livingston County. They had been partners before J.F.C. was mustered into service in September 1862. History of Livingston County, Illnois, p. 324.
  14. Henry S. Decker and James Stout were owners of the Sentinel, having acquired it from M. E. Collins in 1863. Decker, the editor, had moved to Livingston County from Chicago, while Stout was an “abolitionist of the most ultra character, at a time when it was anything but popular to promulgate the doctrine.” Ibid., p. 318.
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Your letters may have been delayed

Joseph Culver Letter, March 29, 1865, Page 1

Head Qurs. Co. “A” 129th Ills. Vols.
Goldsboro, N.C., March 29th 1865
My Dear Wife

By to-day-s mail I recd. letters from Bro. Sammy [Murphy], Chattanooga, Tenn. of Mch. 2, & from Springfield, Ills. of the 2nd also, but none from you. Yesterday I recd. yours of the 29th Feb., being the latest. We have news from Pontiac of the 8th & 10th inst. I hope, however, you are not ill. Your letters may have been delayed.

It is quite cloudy & threatens rain. Yetter went on a visit this morning to the 17th Corps & has not yet returned. John Lee just came into my tent; he is quite well. His last letter is dated the 1st March & came by Major Hoskins.

I read a number of your letters over just before dinner. I find some of them as old as October & one from Maggie [Utley] of Oct. 14/64.1 I thought of all the changes that have taken place since they were written; and, though the ways of Providence are past finding out, yet God has been very good to us. I think of Dear Mother very often.2 I felt very happy last night after I lay down, & I thought she was near me though I could not see her.

We have not yet heard when the Army is expected to be put in motion. Genl. Sherman has gone to Washington & will doubtless return with his plans for the coming Campaign completed.3 Unless the Rebel Army should retreat from our front, we anticipate a campaign similar to last summer, only doubly severe. I think it probable they will contest every inch of the ground stubbornly.

I recd. a letter from Saul to-day of Jan. 31st. He says if the war does not terminate with this Campaign, he will be in the Army. A few weeks may make a vast change in the aspect of affairs in this Country.

Jim Morrow was up at my tent last evening, he is in good health. Harry McDowell was here until a late hour last night, he is very well.

I heard yesterday of Thad. Keyser’s marriage. Rumor says Abbie Remick has returned, & she & Milt [Lyon] are to be married very shortly.4 Is it true? Has Ed. Cook returned yet?

Remember me to all our friends. Kiss Howard for me. Love to Maggie & children. Hoping Our Father will bless you, I remain, with love,

Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. The October letters were written before J.F.C. received the orders detaching him from the regiment and sending him to Chicago as a witness in the Beatty trial.
  2. Mrs. Nancy Murphy, J.F.C.’s mother-in-law, had died under the wheels of a railroad train on November 10, 1864. Mary Culver, from that day forward, was unable to mention her mother’s name. Culver, “Robert Murphy and Some of His Descendants,” p. 40.
  3. General Sherman on March 26, leaving General Schofield in command of the armies, boarded a train at Goldsboro for the trip to New Bern. There he embarked on the steamer Russia and landed at Old Point Comfort, Virginia, from where, on the afternoon of the 27th, he telegraphed General Grant and Secretary of War Stanton. Next day found General Sherman at Grant’s City Point headquarters. There they discussed with President Lincoln plans for defeating the armies of Generals Lee and Johnston and ending the war. When he returned to New Bern by boat on the 30th, Sherman was accompanied by his brother John, United States senator from Ohio. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVI1, pt. III, pp. 32-3, 42-3, 59-60.
  4. Abbie J. Remick on October 25, 1865, married D. Milton Lyon, son of William M. Lyon.

I must spare a few minutes from my papers to write to you

Joseph Culver Letter, March 28, 1865, Page 1

Head Quarters Co. “A” 129th Ills.
Goldsboro, N.C., March 28th 1865
My Dear Wife

The mail leaves at 4 P.M., & I must spare a few minutes from my papers to write to you. I recd. 4 letters from you yesterday, one from Hannah [Culver] and one from Cousin Electa Wallace, Mansfield, Ohio, with Photograph enclosed.1 I dare not take the time to answer your letters in full; they were very interesting, indeed. The latest bears date Febr. 29th. I hope you are enjoying yourself. I should have enjoyed the Communion Season very much. I earnestly hope all the converts may prove faithful.

You were not more surprised at Nannie Barrett’s joining our Church than I was when she told me her intention. She spoke to me just before I left the church the last evening; I advised her to study the discipline & then do as she thought best. I hope Charlie Murphy may not suffer from the dog’s having bitten him, yet I have very little faith in a mad stone.2

I am sorry to say that I kept no diary, but I will try & write up one the first leisure time I have. I cannot imagine wherein your “married life has been a failure” except in the realization of that enjoyment you anticipated.3 The pleasures of a home & its comforts we have known but a few weeks during our married life. It is hardly fair to conclude that all is a failure. I trust God will spare us for the enjoyment of many years of peace and prosperity when we may forget past sorrows in present enjoyments. Your married life has been experienced by very few in this country, so much of sorrow and so little of comfort.

I am glad to hear that the church has secured a new cabinet organ. I agreed to give $10 if necessary.

The boys are all well as usual. We are drawing new clothing, & the men will soon be comfortably clad. Quite a number have been barefoot, some for a couple of weeks, & must have suffered greatly.4 The wounded are getting along finely. We have learned nothing of Henry Polk yet; I will write to his father to-day.

Mother’s health is much improved. Hannah says she wrote to you. Green is flourishing & would like to see you & the baby.

I cannot tell what our prospects may be for getting home in June; it is doubtful. Tell J. W. Smith that I could not get to Savannah, Ga.; therefore I did not attend to his business. There are a great many things that I wish to write about & will in a few days if we are not hurried off. I hope Howard is entirely well. Kiss him for me. Remember me kindly to all our friends. Accept much love & may God bless & keep you.

Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. Electa Wallace of Mansfield, Ohio, was a relative of the Dunmires’.
  2. Charlie Murphy was the 8-year-old son of William and Adaline Murphy, whose farm adjoined Mrs. Culver’s father’s property in Pontiac Township. Eighth Census, Livingston County, State of Illinois, NA.
  3. Mary Culver in one of her letters had complained that her “married life has been a failure,” which elicited these reassurances from her devoted husband.
  4. The regimental historian wrote, “New clothes arrived this evening and were distributed, and it seems as though General Sherman did not intend to remain long, as the rumor of an advance was current.” Grunert, History of the 129th Illinois, p. 224. General Sherman on April 1 reported that the “suffering of the troops for want of shoes” could not be blamed on a want of foresight on the part of his chief quartermaster, but could be attributed to “mud banks, storms at sea, difficulties of navigation, &c.” O. R., Ser. I, Vol.XLVII, pt. III, p. 29.
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I recd. 12 letters brought through from Atlanta and 10 more by to-days mail

Joseph Culver Letter, March 26, 1865, Page 1

Head Qurs. Co. “A”, 129th Ills.
Goldsboro, N.C., Mch. 26th 1865
Sunday Eve
My Dear Wife

I rode from Kinston to this place yesterday on horseback, 37 miles, & arrive[d] just before dark. I recd. 12 letters brought through from Atlanta & 10 more by to-days mail, the last from you bearing date Feb. 20th. I am very happy indeed to learn that you are well & Howard also.

I am at home again; I found all the boys present in good health & most of them glad to see me. I wrote to you just before I left Kinston of the result of the battle on the 19th inst.1 J. M. Pemberton killed. Mark Stevens2 & F. M. Van Doren slightly wounded. Henry Polk was captured on the 15th inst. while out foraging. The boys have fears that he was killed, but I hope he will turn up soon all right.3 Green [the freedman] was the happiest boy I seen. Christ [Yetter] has been getting along finely. Nate [Hill] is flourishing. All of them are fat & hearty. David Jones died on the march from Savannah up; Mark Stevens is in the Hospital but Van Doren is with the Company.

7-1/2 P.M.: I quit writing to go to Supper, & after Supper the Chaplain came after me to preach. I preached from Romans, 6 Chap, 23rd verse. It was so cold that there was not a great many out though all the fires in the neighborhood were surrounded.

I saw Bro. [James H.] Gaff & [John S.] Lee this evening, both are well. Allen Fellows was also here to-day & is well.

We have just recd. orders to prepare immediately for another campaign.4 50 men of our 1st Div. were captured to-day while out Foraging.5 The Band of the 3rd Brig. is playing a beautiful air. It is very cool to-night, & I should not be surprised if there is a frost.

I will not undertake to answer your letters to-night. I have read all of them once over but have been busy making estimates of clothing, camp, & Garrison equipage for the Company, & there are very many reports to make & things to look after at the close of so long a campaign, so you must excuse me if I am not so punctual for a few days. I thought of very many things I wished to write about this afternoon, but my tent is constantly full, & I am interrupted so often.

Mat Harber is here from the Hospital.6 He says Mark Stephens is getting along very well. Col. Case commands the Brigade. We ate part of the fruit cake for supper this evening, & I gave its history. Our Regt. lays about two miles North West of Goldsboro. I have not been to the Town yet.

I would have been pleased to have seen Howard playing in the water. Kiss him for me. I have letters from Carlisle of the 14th Feb. Mother was better at that time. I will close for this time. The mail leaves at 5 A.M. to-morrow.

Remember me in love to all our friends. Let us thank God for his mercies & take courage. Do not give way to despondency; God will care for us. I hope you will be happy. Accept the love of your

affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. The battle to which Captain Culver referred is Averysboro, fought on March 16, not Bentonville which raged on the 19th and 20th.
  2. Mark Stephens, a 24-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. Wounded at New Hope Church on May 27, 1864, Private Stephens was hospitalized at New Albany, Ind. He rejoined the company in the autumn of 1864 and was wounded at Averysboro, March 16, 1865. Rejoining the unit, Private Stephens was mustered out near Washington, June 8, 1865. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
  3. Henry M. Polk, a 21-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. Private Polk was captured foraging at Blackwater, N.C., on March 15, 1865, and was paroled at Aikins Landing, Virginia, March 26. He was furloughed at Benton Barracks, Mo., on April 7, 1865. Ibid.
  4. On the 25th General Williams alerted the division commanders of the XX Corps to “at once have estimates and requisitions prepared and forwarded for a full supply of all articles needed to thoroughly equip their commands. The Corps must be put in condition for another campaign. A full supply of all needed articles can be obtained and full requisitions should be made.” O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. Ill, p. 2.
  5. A failure to file “after action reports” by the officers involved limits details of this affair.
  6. James Mat Harber, a 21-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a drummer in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. Drummer Harber was detailed on Sept. 13, 1864, as a nurse in the Third Division Hospital, and was mustered out with the regiment on June 8, 1865, near Washington, D.C. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
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We arrived here two days ago but had no opportunity to get to the command

Joseph Culver Letter, March 24, 1865, Page 1

Kinston, N.C. March 24th 1865
My Dear Wife

We arrived here two days’ ago but had no opportunity to get to the command.1 Our train arrived this morning & will start back to-night; we will go with it. I have seen several men of the Regt. to-day, but none of my company. The loss of the Regt. in the last battle [Averysboro] is two killed and 14 wounded. James M. Pemberton of Co. “A”, & one man (Bullman) Co. “H”, Killed; & F. M. Van Doren, Co. “A”, Sergt. Mason, Co. “E”, Corp. Onstott, Co. “H” are among the wounded.2 I could not learn the names of all. There were three in Co. “K”. Francis Van Doren is but slightly wounded. David Jones, Co. “A”, died in South Carolina of Chronic Diarrhea.3 Henry Snyder, Co. “A”, has been quite sick but is much better.4 One man said he heard that Sam Hill was captured but had been exchanged & was again with the Company.5 Major Hoskins is here & will go with us. All the Co. not mentioned are reported well.

All say that the Regt. never fought better. Col. Case commanded the Brigade & did well. He is reported slightly wounded but was able to run around when the train left.6 The Rebels were badly whipped & in full retreat.7 Sherman will stop only a few days for supplies. I feel in better spirits than at any time since I left home. There is a large mail (100 sacks), & I will hear from you soon.

It is very windy and dusty. My health is excellent. The boys represent the trip from Savannah as very severe, yet they lived well. The country has been very Swampy. The train brought several hundred families of refugees, & they sit in groups all around the field. It looks terrible. Both young & old without any one to protect or provide for them, surrounded with soldiers & doubtless often insulted by reckless men.

Remember me in love to all. Tell [John] Smith the result of the battle as soon as you can so that he can inform Pemberton’s family. He was a brave & noble soldier. May God bless & protect you & make you happy. I will write as soon after my arrival at the command as possible.

Good Bye.
Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. Captain Culver had traveled the 32 miles from New Bern to Kinston by rail. Goldsboro, where Sherman had rendezvoused with Schofield, was 24 miles west of Kinston. At 2 A.M. on the 24th the 129th Illinois had been turned out by an alarm, and five hours later the regiment broke camp at Waynesboro, on the final leg of its 55-day march from Hardeeville. At noon, the regiment entered Goldsboro, their route passing Sherman’s headquarters. Sherman stood bareheaded as the troops marched by with bands playing. The regiment, along with other units of the Third Division, camped two miles north of Goldsboro. Grunert, History of the 129th Illinois, p. 223.
  2. According to the regimental returns, two men were killed and 17 wounded at Averysboro on March 16. Two of the wounded subsequently died. The three wounded in Company K were: Corp. Andrew Salgman, and Pvts. Joseph Caley and Philip Wilderwood. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. I, p. 799; Regimental Papers, 129th Illinois, NA, RG 94. James M. Pemberton, a 23-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. He was killed in action at Averysboro, March 16, 1865, Edwin P. Bulmer, a 32-year-old shoemaker, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company H, 129th Illinois Infantry. Private Bulmer was mortally wounded in the chest at Averysboro and died the next day in a field hospital. 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. From April 27, 1864, until autumn, he was detailed as a teamster in the supply train, Third Division, XX Corps. Wounded at Averysboro, Private Vandoren was mustered out with the regiment on June 8, 1865, near Washington, D.C. Otis S. Mason, a 30-year-old blacksmith, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a sergeant in Company E, 129th Illinois Infantry. Sergeant Mason was wounded at Averysboro, and was hospitalized at Quincy, Ill., where he was medically discharged on March 25, 1865. John H. Onstot, a 35-year-old clerk, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a corporal in Company H, 129th Illinois Infantry. Onstot was promoted to sergeant on May 16, 1864, and was wounded at Averysboro. He was given a medical discharge while hospitalized at Madison, Indiana, on May 25, 1865. Compiled Service Records of Union Troops, NA.
  3. David Jones, a 37-year-old miner, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. Private Jones died on March 3, 1865, at Chesterfield, S.C., of a “congestive chill.” Ibid.
  4. Henry E. Synder, a 20-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. He was mustered out near Washington, D.C. on June 8, 1865. Ibid.
  5. Nathan W. Hill, a 24-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. He was promoted to corporal on Dec. 30, 1862, and to sergeant on May 9, 1863. Sergeant Hill was discharged on June 8, 1865, near Washington, D.C. Ibid.
  6. General Ward reported that at Averysboro, he “directed Colonel Case to move with the First Brigade well around to the left and feel for the rebel flank, at the same time directing Colonel Dustin and General Cogswell to press the enemy in their front. I cannot speak too highly of the manner in which Colonel Case executed this movement.” The 1st Brigade led by Colonel Case closed on the Confederate flank, just as Dustin’s men swept over their earthworks. The Southerners took to their heels, leaving three cannon and 100 prisoners, not counting 68 wounded, in the Federal’s hands. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. I, p. 784.
  7. Following the battle of Bentonville and the occupation of Goldsboro by Schofield’s army, General Johnston retired northward to the Smithfield area. Here astride the North Carolina Railroad, he would be in a position to cover Raleigh, if, as expected, it proved to be Sherman’s next goal on his march through North Carolina. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. II, pp. 1453-54.
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We arrived here safe and well yesterday evening

Joseph Culver Letter, March 22, 1865, Page 1

New Bern, N.C. Mch. 22nd 1865
My Dear Wife

We arrived here safe & well yesterday evening, and leave at 8 A.M. for Kinston.1 The information is quite reliable, though not positive, that Schofield has formed a junction with Sherman, and that we can go through directly.2 We will have to march from Kinston to Goldsboro — 25 miles, but that is a very small item if we can only get through.

New Bern is a very pleasant place of about 5000 inhabitants. The weather to-day is pleasant but rained last night. I stepped up to a Q. M.’s Desk, while Burk was getting breakfast, and have only time to write a line. May God bless you with health and happiness. Kiss Howard for me.

Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. The trip of 33 miles from Morehead City to New Bern was made by rail.
  2. On March 19, as Sherman’s columns marched east toward Goldsboro and a rendezvous with Schofield, General Johnston attacked Slocum’s wing, near Bentonville. The Confederates gained ground at the expense of the XIV Corps. Reinforced by the XX Corps, the Federals stiffened and held. Next day Sherman arrived on the field with Howard’s wing, and orders were sent by courier for Schofield to march at once from Kinston upon Goldsboro. On the 20th Sherman’s troops felt their way forward, and during the night Johnston’s army abandoned its position. The next day, the 22d, Sherman put his columns in motion for Goldsboro, which had been occupied by Schofield’s troops the preceding day. Sherman entered Goldsboro on the 23d, at the head of Howard’s wing. Cox, March to the Sea, pp. 186-96.
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