By the arrival of Bro. Gaff this evening, I received news of your departure for New York

Joseph Culver Letter, July 2, 1863, Page 1

Head Quarters, Co. “A”, 129th Ills.
Gallatin, Tenn., July 2nd 1863

My Dear Wife

By the arrival of Bro. Gaff this evening, I received news of your departure for New York, where I presume this letter will find you, I hope, safe & well. I have filled your proposition on my part quite well as I have written almost every day since you left. I think surely there must be some letters that I have not received, as only two short notes have reached me, one in pencil on your arrival & one written on Monday following.

I was very anxious to learn the news from Pontiac. I have succeeded in gathering some things from Sergt. Gaff. I am glad your trunks have arrived safe, & am much obliged for the “Initial G.”

I am unable to learn anything about the condition of our property, as Gaff was not there. I received a letter from Bro. Remick containing Statement of the disposition of monies in his hands. All very satisfactory. Mrs. Remick is very dangerously ill.

What disposition did you make of the articles Laurence wished to buy? & what condition did you find the property in? Please give me all the information you can, & I can suggest such changes as may be necessary.

I hope you have a delightful trip on the lakes.1 I should like to have been with you very much. Why has Bro. Thomas not written.2 Is he in want of money; if so, I earnestly hope you will inform me, as I think I can procure the amount at anytime if he needs it. I have only deferred because I thought he would as soon have it out at 10 per ct as not if he feels secure.

I received a letter from Bro. Sammy this evening. He acknowledges the receipt of a letter from Bro. John but does not say where he is.3 I also recd. a letter from Henry Greenebaum in which he says he has a cap for Frankie. I presume he has received it.

I have in the several letters I wrote to you at Pontiac mentioned matters of business which I cannot call to mind just now. I have sent at least 6 or 8 letters. I shall have time to-morrow, however, to think them up & will write soon again.

Did you get your shawl? I sent it by Mr. Earnheart a few days after you left. I shall be on duty to-morrow & have no opportunity to write. Among other items of interest from Pontiac. I am informed that a report is in circulation that I have been drinking hard & gambling heavy. How much credence has it claimed?

You have not told me how Mother [Murphy] received you. Is she with you? Give many messages of Love to our friends in New York.

I do not remember whether I ever answered Mary & Sarah Williams’ letters, & yet it seems to me I did but when I do not recollect.

I preached to a large congregation on Sunday night from Isaiah, 26th Chap. & 4th verse, a lengthy account of which I have written in a former letter.

Late advices from Carlisle report Lee’s entire Army there, & it is very probable it will soon witness one of the most terrible battles of the war.4 I tremble for the result. I greatly fear Father’s health will not stand the shock. I have no word from them & all communication is cut off. I shall write soon to Harrisburg & perhaps may get advices by private sources.

Write soon & give me all the news. I hope you will have a very pleasant visit. I came nearer being homesick since you left than any time since I have been in the service.

The cloud that overhangs the Country is growing darker. The news from Port Hudson to-night is the repulse of Banks’ entire army and the loss of 8000 prisoners.5 At Vicksburg I see no advance; heavy losses to our Army are reported.6 Harry McDowell recd. intelligence this morning of the death of his Bro. James in the army at Vicksburg.7 Nothing cheering from the East. Rosecrans army is in motion; several hundred prisoners were sent to Nashville from the front yesterday.8 He is within 2 miles of Talahoma & finds a large army entrenched there & there is heavy fighting in progress.9

A party of 60 guerillas made an attack on a mounted force of the 106th Ohio at Richland day before yesterday; killed one Lieut, two men & took several prisoners. Col. Case, Capts. Hoskins & Perry & Lieuts. Smith & McKnight started for Richland with over 100 mounted men last night to capture them if possible. I learn that they sent in 7 prisoners this evening, & five captured by the troop stationed there this morning.10 The Union people are all fleeing. I saw Carrie Rodomore’s brother on the train this evening on his way to Nashville.11 He is afraid to remain at home longer. He reports the family all well, but their house sacked & everything destroyed by the Rebels. All the Union families are suffering, but I think our force will drive out the invaders.

Our duties are growing heavier. A Negro Regiment is being raised here.12 Tom, Henry & Joe have enlisted so we are again without a cook, also Col. Case and Lt. Col. Cropsey.13

Ed Maples is on a visit to Troy, New York, & Bill [Russell] did not get home the 4th. I presume you have gone to New Hartford, & I will direct [my mail] in care of J. H. Case, Esq. as I do not know Mr. Williams’ name.14

Remember me kindly to all. May God bless & prosper you; Give you all good health & a warm reception.

Should that other event you anticipate not transpire, I shall try & make a visit to Father’s with you before you return if I can possibly get leave of absence.15 But should you be compelled to hasten home, you [might] prefer that I should be in Pontiac in January. I cannot expect to go twice. Tell me which you wish me to do & whether I will be required to furnish the new dress. I must have some notice beforehand.

Kiss Frankie for me & as many of the others as you desire or would desire me to kiss were I there. Did you stop in Cleveland?

With an earnest prayer for you, my dear wife & our Boy, I remain,

Your Affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. Mary Culver was traveling to New Hartford by way of Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo. She and her mother had booked passage on a steamboat between Detroit and Buffalo. []
  2. Thomas Murphy, Mary Culver’s oldest brother, was a Cleveland, Ohio machinist and boat builder. []
  3. Brother Johnny Murphy’s unit (Company M, 1st Illinois Light Artillery) was currently assigned to the First Division, Reserve Corps, Army of the Cumberland. The battery had participated in Rosecrans’ Middle Tennessee Campaign and was posted at Shelbyville, Tenn., from June 29-September 6, 1863. Report of the Adjutant General of Illinois. Vol. VIII, p. 665. []
  4. Two divisions of General Ewell’s II Corps of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had occupied Carlisle from June 27-30. J.F.C.’s forecast of “a most terrible battle” was correct. On July 1 at Gettysburg, 30 miles south of Carlisle, commenced the bloodiest three-day battle of the Civil War. []
  5. Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks’ Army of the Gulf on May 23 had invested a small Confederate army led by Maj. Gen. Franklin Gardner at Port Hudson, La. Banks’ troops on May 27 and again on June 14 had attempted to storm this stronghold on the Mississippi, 250 river-miles south of Vicksburg. In these assaults Banks lost 3,800 in killed, wounded, and missing. There was no truth to the report that Banks had lost 8,000 prisoners. Edward Cunningham, The Port Hudson Campaign: 1862-1863 (Baton Rouge, 1963), pp. 43-93. []
  6. General Grant’s Army of the Tennessee, after being checkmated during the winter of 1862-63 on the western approaches to Vicksburg, had crossed the Mississippi at Bruinsburg on April 30. Striking northeastward and then wheeling his army to the west, Grant, in an 18-day campaign that earned him recognition as one of the “Great Captains of History,” defeated the Confederate armies of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton. Pemberton’s army had been invested in Vicksburg. On May 19 and 22, Grant’s heretofore victorious troops had charged the Vicksburg earthworks to be hurled back with more than 4,100 casualties. Siege operations had commenced on May 25 and dragged on through June into the first week of July. Francis V. Greene, The Mississippi (New York, 1882), pp. 135-192. []
  7. William H. H. McDowell, a 21-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as sergeant major of the 129th Illinois Infantry, and was commissioned 2d lieutenant of Company E on April 17, 1863. On Feb. 22, 1864, he was detached and sent to Illinois on recruiting duty, rejoining the regiment on May 29. Lieutenant McDowell on Nov. 13, 1864, was detailed to the brigade ambulance corps, and was mustered out near Washington, June 8, 1865. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA. []
  8. Goaded by the War Department, General Rosecrans had put his Army of the Cumberland in motion on June 24. Soldiers of Maj. Gen. Alexander McD. McCook’s XX Corps drove the Confederates from Liberty Gap, while Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas’ XIV Corps cleared the Rebels out of Hoover Gap. Heavy rains slowed the bluecoats, as their long columns pushed deep into Middle Tennessee. Cist, The Army of the Cumberland, pp. 154-156. []
  9. General Bragg, his army weakened by the detachment of five infantry brigades and a cavalry division to Mississippi in a futile effort by the Confederates to relieve Vicksburg, permitted himself to be outmaneuvered by Rosecrans. The Federals, after forcing the gaps, had advanced on Manchester. Finding that his right had been outflanked, Bragg was compelled to abandon his fortified position at Tullahoma without firing a shot. Reports that the enemy was evacuating Tullahoma had reached General Thomas on July 1, and he ordered a forced reconnaissance. Feeling its way forward, a reinforced brigade entered Tullahoma and found the Confederates gone. Ibid., pp. 156-166. []
  10. Colonel Case filed no report, so J.F.C.’s letter constitutes the only information we have about this patrol. Regimental Papers, 129th Illinois, NA. []
  11. Carrie (Caroline) Rodamore was the 21-year-old daughter of Ann Rodamore, a Gallatin widow. Carrie’s brother, Jacob, was a conductor on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. Eighth Census, Sumner County, State of Tennessee, NA. []
  12. Early in 1863 the Lincoln administration adopted as its policy the organization of black regiments to be officered by whites. Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas was sent to the Western armies to explain and rally support for this policy. In 1862, prior to President Lincoln’s preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, the administration had discouraged efforts of several departmental commanders to organize black units. J. G. Randall, The Civil War and Reconstruction (Boston, 1953), pp. 503-505. The 13th U.S. Colored Infantry (2d U.S. Infantry Regiment [Colored]) was organized in July 1863 from laborers in the staff departments at Gallatin, Clarksville, Murfreesboro, etc. Tennesseans in the Civil War. . . 2 parts (Nashville, 1964), pt. I, p. 398. []
  13. Tom, Henry, and Joe were former slaves freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, employed by officers of Company A to cook for them and to keep their quarters policed. A special order had been issued by Rosecrans’ headquarters permitting each regiment in the Department of the Cumberland to employ for use by the government about 40 blacks as teamsters, cooks, etc. Regimental Papers, 129th Illinois, NA. []
  14. J. H. Case was a prosperous New Hartford farmer. In 1860, the 41-year-old Case was living with his wife, Charlotte, and their 5-year-old son Herbert. It has been impossible to further identify Mr. Williams, as there were a number of families with that surname in and around New Hartford. Eighth Census, Oneida County, State of New York, NA. []
  15. J.F.C. refers to the possibility that his wife was pregnant; if she were, she would give birth to a second child in January 1864. []

About Colleen Theisen

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