About Colleen Theisen

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

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

Joseph Culver Letter, April 20, 1865, Page 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

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

Joseph Culver Letter, April 18, 1865, Page 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your husband
J. F. Culver

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

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

Joseph Culver Letter, April 14, 1865, Page 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your affectionate Husband
J. F. Culver

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

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

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

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

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

Ever Your Affectionate Brother
Wm J. Murphy
Box 1182

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The whole Army will move on Raleigh in the morning

Joseph Culver Letter, April 9, 1865, Page 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph Culver Letter, April 7, 1865, Page 1

Apr. 8th

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


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

Joseph Culver Letter, April 7, 1865, Page 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Husband
Joseph F. Culver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph Culver Letter, April 4, 1865, Page 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your affect. Husband,
J. F. Culver

  1. The 129th moved out early, marching in a westerly direction. After proceeding about two miles, they found a good supply of corn and fodder. While the soldiers were loading their wagons, one of the pickets was surprised and shot to death. Grunert, History of the 129th Illinois, pp. 225-26.
  2. The returning soldiers, along with many recruits, were disembarking at Wilmington, where they were organized into casual companies and issued rations by General Hawley. They then marched to Goldsboro. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, pp. 87-8, 91.
  3. William H. Bronson, a 25-year-old jeweller, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. Private Bronson was hospitalized much of the time from Dec. 1863 until receiving his medical discharge on April 10, 1865. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA.
  4. Benjamin Harrison had been brevetted brigadier general to rank from Jan. 23, 1865.
  5. Winfield S. Kelly, a 20-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. The autumn of 1864 found Kelly hospitalized in Nashville, Tenn. Rejoining the regiment in the spring of 1865, Private Kelly was mustered out near Washington, D.C. Martin DeLong, a 21-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. Wounded at Resaca on May 15, 1864, Private DeLong was hospitalized at Jeffersonville, Ind., and on rejoining the unit in the spring of 1865 was hospitalized in the division hospital. He was mustered out with the regiment on June 8, 1865, near Washington, D.C. Ibid.
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