Hd. Qrs. Co. “A” 129th Ills. Vol.
Gallatin, Tenn., Aug. 19th 1863
My Dear Wife
I have been disappointed in not hearing from you for the last five days. I have written three letters since the receipt of your last to New Hartford & have concluded to write to Carlisle to-night in anticipation of your arrival there.
I received a letter from Sister Hannah this evening, informing me of the sudden death of Sister Jennie’s children,1 & Mother’s earnest desire for your presence [in Carlisle], which, together with your intention of visiting there this week, has induced me to write to you at Carlisle, believing my letter will find you there.
I am reminded of my promise to write you a long letter, but find myself at a loss to know what to write that will contribute to your enjoyment. There are a great many things I desire to write, more than either time or Space will admit. I sympathize deeply with Sister in her bereavement. How often I think of Frankie and you both so far away from me that in sudden or dangerous illness I could scarcely expect to see. But we have trusted ourselves to God, & we must not doubt his wisdom and goodness. I hope to hear soon that you are both quite well.
Mrs. Smith is still alive but no better. Every person is excluded from her room. I have been up every day but have not seen her. She suffers very much but is quite happy.
Hannah says Father [Culver] is no better. Quite a number of my old acquaintances have been drafted, among the number, Sister Beccie’s husband & Annie Good’s sister Lizzie’s oldest daughter’s husband.2 They have only been married a few weeks, & it will be hard to part. I think much more so than if he had voluntarily enlisted from a sense of duty. I do not know whether either of them will be able to find a Substitute.
Mother [Culver] expresses so great desire to have you with her that I feel almost certain you will be happy. You will meet so many of my old friends and companions that I scarcely know how to make mention of them.
Sister Beccie [Pague] still lives on the old homestead farm, a place endeared by very many hallowed associations. I have built almost all the fences, planted a large majority of the trees, and ploughed time & time again every acre of the land. My room was just over the kitchen, opening on the balcony. My bed is still there, or was when I was last at home. At the South East corner of the front porch stands a cedar planted by Sister Beccie & myself, many years ago. It was broken down once, but has after buffeting, storm, & accident, grown into a good sized tree.
In front of the kitchen, on the slope of the hill, stands a cherry tree under whose shade I have had many an hour’s rest at Noon in harvest time. In the garden stands a fine pear tree; we were never permitted to pull them, & we always tried to be first up in the morning to get what had fallen during the night. Then there are the flowers, the Lawton blackberries. I paid $3 for the six roots first planted but never got a berry. Perhaps they are not all over yet. It is now just pear time, & I hope you may find them plentiful.
In the rear of the Kitchen is a Willow. I recollect many years ago of carrying a switch from the old fish pond below Miller’s & planting it there. I wattered it every time I washed for 3 or 4 years, & now it has grown into a large tree. Sister will take pleasure in showing you all that I took particular pleasure in.
At the east end of the porch are two large Stone Steps, where the whole family congregated every Sunday evening. Father & Mother generally had their chairs. The older girls occupied the Steps, but my place was invariably on the grass. Very many times have I rolled over the little mound there. Many years ago the house in which I was born stood there. I recollect it well though I was quite small. It now stands at the lower end of the farm on the road going East. The oleander that was given to me when I was married is at Father’s.
Among the old friends of mine will be Miss Sistie Johnson, I know you will be pleased with the whole family. Dr. Johnson is one of my best friends.3 You will also very probably meet Miss Annie Underwood.4 You will remember I corresponded with her for a year or more after our marriage. If her temper is not soured by long teaching, you will find her very companionable. The whole family have shown me very many kindnesses. Miss Sarah Stewart, with whom I boarded while at College & the family Milliner,5 quite old but a true friend of mine; Mr. Martin’s family, also proprietors of the Farmers’ Hotel.6 I do not know whether Jennie is married yet or not. Tom Greenfield was reported once to have married her, but I never heard it confirmed.7
You will meet many dear friends, & I hope you will be very happy. You may find some old family relics, too, that are very dear to memory: Mother’s Bible & the old Family Bible. You will find both on a little red stand covered with oil cloth. Mother’s chair and the old arm chair in which I sat many weary months while recovering from an attack of rheumatism. There is an old wooden chest either at Father’s or at Sister Beccie’s that has a large number of papers belonging to me, also a desk in one of the drawers of which I left many little things. I always thought I would preserve them for my children if God ever gave me any, believing they would prove interesting to them. How I would like to look over them once more & think of “days gone by.”
Even while I write, memory is busy with recollections of the past, & I bless God that I find all pleasure and no pain in reviewing them. Oh, I have been so very happy amid those fields and flowers, those trees and rocks, that the recollection of them will never fade. If I could only be with you, for I fear there has been so many changes that you will fail to recognize my description of the old place.
Get Hannah & Charlie to write to me more frequently. I feel so anxious to hear from them all very often. I feel so certain you will love Mother, & she will be so happy to have you with her. Kiss her for me.
I hope Mother Murphy is with you, for I know she will enjoy the visit. I hope to hear from you very soon after you get there. Give my love to all. Charlie [Culver] will be very happy to have Frankie with him, and I know will show him all the sights. He will take you wherever you wish to go.
I hope you will be able to visit Mount Holley gap; it is only 2 miles from Sister Lizzie’s [Elizabeth Culver Zug’s] & Bro. Jacob Zug will furnish you all the assistance you desire.8 Give my love to all of his family. Then there is Bro. John’s wife & children,9 & Millers, a large family.10 Fanny must be almost a woman by this time. I feel confident you will have a happy time. Remember me kindly to Bro. Wes & his family.
In one of the Secret Drawers of Father’s desk, there is one or two pieces of California gold sent me by Bro. James.11 If not lost, I wish Mother would give it to you to take home & put in one of my little drawers. I wish very much to preserve it. Father knows where it is.
I believe you will find Sister Hannah a good companion, & I know she will take pleasure in going around with you, & Sister Jennie, try and console her in her great loss. I hope God will sustain her. Cheer up Father. I should like so much to see him once more & talk with him. I could write much more but must give you the news & will commence another sheet.
There is a rumor afloat that we will be sent [to] Nashville in a few days, but it lacks confirmation.12 I was relieved this morning from duty as adjutant & have returned to the Company. Phil [Plattenburg] will be able to resume his duties in a few days. Capt. Hoskins is sitting in a Court-Marshall so that I am alone. Alf. Huetson has not yet returned. Bill [Russell] is enjoying good health. He & Maples are about selling out to Scott McDowell & John Blackburn, they are both here.13
I expected Russell would not remain with us long but did not think of Maples leaving. I promised to write to Trudy (Scott’s wife) but have not yet had time.
I received a long letter from Mrs. Custer two days ago.14 Mr. Lawrence has left our house, and a family by the name of Coe now occupy it. They are from LaSalle County. I do not know them. I forwarded Abbie Remick’s & Emily Johnson’s letters in my former letters of this week, thinking they would be of interest to you. I will write a short letter to Mother [Culver] to-night, requesting her to ford. this letter to you should you have been unable to get there.
I shall wait anxiously for some word from you. I cannot promise anything from leave of Absence at present but hope to be able to see you in Carlisle. We are all in the enjoyment of good health. Allen heard from Lou a few days ago when she was quite well. Can Frankie talk any yet? Which did he learn to say first, Mama or Papa? Do you recollect your prediction? What prospect is there of its fulfillment? Give me all the news. May God in his Infinite Mercy bless and keep you. Oh, how much I desire to hear of your enjoying good health. May you ever be happy. Farewell
Your Affectionate Husband
J. F. Culver
- Hannah Culver’s letter, conveying news of the death of the Rev. H. C. and Jennie Culver Cheston’s two oldest children, is missing from the Culver Collection. [↩]
- On March 3, 1863, the federal government enacted a national conscription law. By this act all able-bodied male citizens between 20 and 45 were “to constitute the national forces” and were declared liable to military service. By harking back to practices employed in old militia systems, two provisions of a questionable nature were included — those pertaining to substitutes and commutation money. If a drafted man furnished an acceptable substitute he might be exempt from service; such exemption could also be bought outright for $300. Randall, Civil War and Reconstruction, pp. 410-411.
J.F.C.’s sister Rebecca (Beccie) was married to S. Augustus Pague, a Middlesex Township farmer. Pague and his wife were 29, and in 1860 they were living on the family farm with their one-year-old son Franklin. Eighth Census, Cumberland County, State of Pennsylvania, NA. [↩]
- Dr. Herman M. Johnson was a 47-year-old professor of English literature at Dickinson College and Lucena (Ludy) was his wife. Living with the Johnsons in 1860 were their seven children and two domestics. Ibid. [↩]
- Miss Annie Underwood was a 29-year-old school teacher. In 1860 she was living with her mother and three sisters. Ibid. [↩]
- Miss Sara B. Stewart was a 53-year-old Carlisle milliner. Ibid. [↩]
- David Martin and his wife Rebecca owned and operated the Farmers’ Hotel in Carlisle. In 1860 their four children, two boys and two girls, were living with them. The oldest boy, Samuel, tended bar for his parents. Ibid. [↩]
- It has been impossible to further identify Tom Greenfield. [↩]
- Jacob Zug, the 42-year-old husband of Elizabeth Culver, was a wealthy South Middleton Township farmer. In 1860 the Zugs were living with their seven children, ranging in ages from 7 to 16. Ibid. [↩]
- Mrs. Elizabeth Zug Culver, the widow of John Culver, with three of her children (Clara, Ira, and John) was living in 1860 with Jacob Zug and his family. Ibid. [↩]
- It has been impossible to further identify the Miller family. [↩]
- James Culver, the eldest son of Joseph Culver and his first wife (Elizabeth Cary Culver) had emigrated to California in 1849. James died there in 1863. Jennie Culver Cheston, “History of the Joseph Culver Family within the Memory of Mrs. Jennie Culver Cheston,” Ms., Culver Collection. [↩]
- The rumored transfer of the 129th Illinois from Gallatin to Nashville was verified on Aug. 21, 1863. On that date, Col. B. J. Sweet issued a post order, announcing that the regiment had been relieved from duty at Gallatin. Commending the regiment for its service, Colonel Sweet pointed out that “circumstances” had made him “intimately acquainted with the organization and history” of the 129th.
“The duties which have been assigned to it have been arduous and peculiar, requiring much of their time, its separation by detachments and details. They have been of such character that their performance required judgment, tact, alertness and decision. Taking part in no battles, officers and men have yet been tried by fire in numerous skirmishes; in scouting it has been diligent and always trusted by its commanders; it has developed the highest capacity to successfully circumvent and destroy guerrillas, doing duty equally well as infantry or mounted men showing a ready adaptability and quick courage to meet all emergencies. At times the Colonel commanding the Post has been obliged to require exhausting, constant and unpleasant duty of this regiment and found it failing never. He has therefore the fullest confidence in its new command and relations. It will make a history honorable to officers and men as that formed for itself in and around Gallatin.” Regimental Papers, 129th Illinois, NA. [↩]
- Ed Maples, who had held the position of regimental sutler since March 27, was thinking of selling out to John Blackburn and Scott McDowell. Blackburn had resigned his commission as lieutenant of Company E on Feb. 26, 1863. Bill Russell had been in partnership with Maples. Ibid. [↩]
- Rebecca Custer was the wife of Israel Custer, a Pontiac flour miller. In 1860 the Custers had two children, Charles and Laura. Eighth Census, Livingston County, State of Illinois, NA. [↩]