Head Qrs. “A” 129th Regt. Ills. Vol. Infty.
Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 18th 1863
My Dear Wife
Yours of the 11th inst. came to hand this morning, also a catalogue & 3 [news]papers for which I am much obliged.1 I recd. the Philad. Ledger a few days ago.
I know exactly where you are, as I boarded nearly a year at Mrs. McGary’s in that same house.2 Please remember me to them kindly; I am indebted to them for many favors. Are the girls married yet? I have not seen or heard of any of them for years.
I shall take great pleasure in sending you long letters whenever I have opportunity; it is no tax upon me to write to YOU.3 I try to imagine myself talking with you, telling you all I know that I think would be interesting, and then waiting patiently for your reply. We often talk about you here & Alf Huetson invariably, whenever he sees me do or hears me say anything out of the way, reminds me that it is not consistent with my wife’s views. I have, therefore, a good monitor, & it has become a fixed rule to comply with your wishes in all matters. It is a happy thought to be in possession of a loving, true & noble hearted Wife. It alleviates our sufferings, gives strength in trial and temptation, & joy & happiness in all the walks of life. My heart is filled with gratitude to God for his abundant mercy & so great a blessing.
I am sorry to hear of Father’s declining health. I am much afraid that before my opportunity for getting home arrives, he will have passed away. I am sorry Bro. Wes. does not exercise more energy in securing so good a position,4 but inactivity is his characteristic. I was in hopes that his accumulating a family would be an incentive to energy; if that fails, I fear nothing will arouse him. Allen Fellows recd a letter from his Wife this morning. She is quite well.
I am well acquainted with Mary Moore & Annie Brady, but they were only little girls when I was home & went to Sabbath School.5 Annie Brady was a very bright scholar & won many honors in the public schools in Carlisle.
How do you like Mrs. Proff. Johnson?6 You will find her very intelligent. I hope your acquaintance with the family may prove pleasant. I am not acquainted with Proff. Boswell’s family.7 Annie (Van Horn) Davis has been quite successful, or rather prolific.8 Give Lizzie Zug a kiss for me, she is an especial favorite of mine.
I believe I could guess in three times who made the remark to her about Frankie. It was either Mary Rheem, Em. Ensiminger, or Ell., the last named lives on the corner of the Alley west of Sister Jennie, at the lumber yard.9 I have forgotten her last name though it is very familiar. I recollect it now, it is Ell. Armstrong. The language is very like either of them. It is not very singular that either of them should recognize him [Frankie].
[Lt.] Smith has not heard from his wife since his return [from furlough] & feels quite uneasy. The weather is so cool this morning that my fingers are quite numb. Every body is wearing overcoats. I presume it will last until after the 21st, [equinox]: If it should continue long, we will be compelled to get a stove. The changes in the weather are full as severe and sudden as in Illinois.
Frank Long has just been here requesting a recommendation for a position in a negro Regiment, & it has broken into my thoughts considerably.10 I must finish my letter now, or it will miss to-morrow’s mail.
I had thought of a number of things I wished to write, but fear they have gone out of my mind entirely. I have received no letters since I last wrote to you from any source, but have been expecting to hear from Pontiac daily. Henry Greenebaum [a friend and Pontiac dry goods merchant] sent me another package of Collars, so that I am well provided. I am much in need of my boots & hope they will not forget to send them by McIntyre.11
I am sorry to say that I have not answered either Maggie [Utley's] or Sarah Williams’ letters yet, though I am strongly impressed that I wrote to Maggie last. If there was no drill this afternoon, I would write to both of them; as it is, I fear I shall not be able.
The health of the men is generally good. I sent you a Nashville paper yesterday containing an undeserved compliment. The troops were from the different companies & not all of Co. “A”, & we had no idea of eliciting any encomium.12 I shall in all probability be on duty on Sunday again, it seems to be my misfortune.
The boys are crying at some Provost Guards passing, “White Gloves.” They have a holy horror of all style. I fear it would require a great effort for us to comply with the regulations of the “Army of the Potomac.” The men complain now of being too much of a band-box Regt, yet our style falls far short of the requirements of some portions of the Army.13
I have not heard from Bro. Johnie yet. I presume he is quite busy. There has been some hard fighting at the front for the last four days, but we have not learned the result though the papers report Rosecrans driven back this morning.14 Yet it is not generally believed. We shall hear definitely in a few days, I presume.
Give my love to all the family. I should like very much to hear from Mother & the rest of my Bros. & Sisters, but they apparently expect you to do their writing. Kiss Frankie for me. I am happy to hear that you both enjoy such good health. I shall look anxiously for the music, we need something of the kind very much.
We have not yet been paid off but are promised to-morrow. I do not know why it is delayed. Write as often, your letters are not less interesting to me than mine are to you. Though I should be far happier to communicate more directly with you, yet I rejoice at this opportunity still left for communication & earnestly hope though distant to hear very often.
Remember me kindly to all our friends in Carlisle. Tell me all you hear & see, for rest assured that everything and almost every person are familiar to memory.
May Our Father in Heaven bless you & preserve you in health and happiness. I remain, Dear Mary,
Your Affect. Husband
J. F. Culver
- Mary Culver’s letter of Sept. 11 is missing from the Culver Collection. [↩]
- Mary Culver evidently had written J.F.C., describing a visit to Mrs. McGary’s. [↩]
- Mary Culver had expressed appreciation for the long letters her husband frequently wrote, contrasting them to her briefer ones. [↩]
- In an earlier letter, dated September 2, Mary Culver had written, “Wes and Little Willie was up this afternoon. Wes expects to report to Washington soon. He is quite lame yet and Mother thinks he never will entirely recover the use of his ankle.” Mary Culver to J.F.C., Sept. 2, 1863, Culver Collection. Wes Culver had fractured a small ankle bone by falling out of a tree the previous autumn. [↩]
- Anna Brady was the 19-year-old daughter of Ernest and Margaret Brady. The father was an agent for a Bible society. Mary Moore was the 17-year-old daughter of Robert and Ann Moore. The father was a Carlisle Township farmer. Eighth Census, Cumberland County, State of Pennsylvania, NA. [↩]
- Lucena Johnson, to whom Mary Culver had been introduced, was the wife of Professor Herman M. Johnson of Dickinson College. Ibid. [↩]
- W. A. Boswell was a 35-year-old professor of mathematics at Dickinson College. In 1860 he was living with his wife, Frances, and their three children. Ibid. [↩]
- It has been impossible to identify Annie Van Dorn Davis. [↩]
- Mary Rheem was the 25-year-old daughter of Jacob and Susan Rheem. The father was a wealthy Cumberland County speculator. Elizabeth Ensiminger was the 24-year-old daughter of Samuel and Frances Ensiminger. Her father was a Carlisle saddler. Ellen Armstrong was the 21-year-old daughter of Mrs. Mary Armstrong. She and her mother lived in Carlisle with her brother, a well-to-do lumber merchant. Ibid. [↩]
- Frank M. Long, a 20-year-old Pontiac blacksmith, had been mustered into the army on Sept. 8, 1862, as corporal in Company A, 129th Illinois. Long was promoted to sergeant on Jan. 20, 1863, and reduced to private on May 20, 1864, for repeated misbehavior in face of the enemy. On June 20, 1864, at Kennesaw Mountain, Ga., he deserted. He was arrested at Gallatin, rejoined the regiment near Vining’s Station, Ga., on Sept. 15, 1864, and placed in arrest. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA. The black regiments being organized by the United States were officered by whites. [↩]
- There were two McIntyre brothers in Company G, 129th Illinois, both of whom had been tinsmiths in civil life. Eighteen-year-old Charles and 24-year-old Robert M. Mclntyre were mustered into service as privates on Sept. 8, 1862. Charles, while posted at Chattanooga, on April 19, 1864, was ordered to report to General Steedman for transfer to naval service. Robert, on June 17, 1863, was detailed as a provost clerk at Gallatin, Tenn., and on December 7, 1863, was detailed for duty at the Nashville Quartermaster Depot. On April 28, 1864, Private Mclntyre was ordered to report to General Steedman at Chattanooga for transfer to naval service. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA. [↩]
- The Nashville Union for September 17 carried this article. “I witnessed an incident while attending a funeral today, that made a deep impression on me. “Company A, 129th Illinois, on picket duty under command of a lieutenant, presented arms as a funeral cortege passed. The little girl who was going to her long home could not know it, but it thrilled the hearts of her parents that strangers thus saluted their darling.”Such instinctive courtesy notes this gentleman eyewitness; and courtesy and valor have ever gone together. Those men will not be found wanting wherever they may be. In camp and field, in life and death may God bless them.” [↩]
- The 129th Illinois was not a “spit and polish” unit. On July 27, 1863, Lt. G. W.
Morris of the Inspector General’s Department had directed Colonel Case to have his
adjutant inspect the guard detail before marching it to the parade ground. He would see
that the muskets were loaded, and that they were “free from dirt, rust, grease, pieces of
tape, string or other unnecessary appendages,” and that their “equipments are in good
order and properly adjusted.” No clothing other than that prescribed by regulations would
be worn. Trouser legs would not be stuffed into boots; coats and blouses were to be
buttoned up to the chin; blankets compactly rolled and slung across the right shoulder.
Sergeants were to fall out with their muskets and sidearms. Inspector General to Case,
July 27, 1863, Regimental Papers, 129th Illinois, NA.
On August 3 Lieutenant Morris had reported that the 129th, “although well commanded did not come up to the standard even of volunteers. There is that lack of pride or interest that should exist, and which is necessary to the maintenance of Good Order and Military Discipline. All of which may be attributed to the fact that the officers are both negligent as to their own personal appearance and to the enforcement of the regulations among the men.” Granger to Case, Aug. 5, 1863, Regimental Papers, 129th Illinois, NA.
These complaints caused Colonel Case to take corrective measures, and General Gordon Granger soon observed a “decided improvement” in the military appearance, discipline, and drill (both company and battalion). Granger was especially pleased to see the company officers were stimulating that “feeling of pride so necessary to advancement in everything pertaining to the soldier.” Morris to Case, Aug. 6, 1863, Regimental Papers, 129th Illinois, NA. [↩]
- General Thomas’ XIV Corps in the period September 13-16 had held its ground in
McLemore’s Cove, awaiting arrival of McCook’s XX Corps on its right. Forced
reconnaissances were made to Catlett’s Gap and toward Blue Bird and Dug Gaps, and on
the 17th Thomas put his corps in motion and closed up on Crittenden’s right along
Chickamauga Creek. McCook by nightfall was in position on Thomas’ right at Pond
Spring, and Rosecrans had massed his army along a 12-mile front.
General Bragg in the meantime had marshaled his Army of Tennessee east of the Chickamauga, with its right near Reed’s Bridge and its left under Lt. Gen. D. H. Hill south of Lee and Gordon’s Mills. Wheeler’s cavalry guarded Bragg’s left and Forrest’s horse-soldiers his right. Cist, Army of the Cumberland, pp. 188-190. [↩]