I imagine to-night you are at the wharf in Cairo

Joseph Culver Letter, January 30, 1864, Page 1

Head Qrs. 1st Brig., 1st Div., 11th A.C.1
Nashville, Tenn., Jany. 30th 1864

My Dear Wife

I imagine to-night you are at the wharf in Cairo. I hope well and enjoying yourself.2 I wish I had requested you to telegraph from Cairo, for I feel considerable anxiety to learn whether you have arrived safe. Yet trusting in God’s protecting care and the fair prospect of your safe and pleasant trip, I do not intend to borrow trouble, though it seems to me, and in all probability will be, a long time before I hear from you.

I have been very busy ever since you left, so much so that I spent but a few moments at the house yesterday evening removing the things. Mrs. Drake sent me word about noon by Green that she wanted the room cleaned immediately.3 I sent her word back that I would give “it up when I was ready and no sooner.” She got angry at Green for locking the door and said, “We’ll not steal the things.” So when I went down, I was not in the humor to bandy words very long. I gave her the cook stove & pipe and called the account square. I found a sheet that she said did not belong to her, so I sent it to Mrs. [John W.] Smith & told her if it was not hers to take it home with her for you.

I paid Mrs. [Erastus] Nelson the $25 borrowed, & loaned Capt. Hoskins $25 and [Lt.] Smith $30—as Hoskins expects to go home soon after we leave, he will pay you. I loaned all the money I could spare, thinking you would find sufficient in Remick’s hands to meet your present needs. I had to buy a saddle & bridle as [Chaplain ] Cotton’s did not come. I got a very handsome bridle & saddle for $34—much finer than Dr. Johnson’s was when new, & he asked $30 for his old one.

Mrs. Harrison starts for Home on Monday morning.4 Our present orders are to commence the march at 7 A.M. on Monday morning [the 1st].5 It is doubtful, however, whether we get off before Tuesday. We are all packed up here & ready. The Regiments turned over their tents to-day, and to-night the Boys are trying the virtue of “dog tents” (shelter). I wished very much to see how they looked but could not get time to go up to camp.

I received a letter from Bro. Johnie this morning, also one from Bro. Sammy,6 the former I have enclosed. I hope I shall get to see Sammy, as he passes through here, as he will have to stop all night & till 4 P.M. the next day.7 I am very sorry I cannot deliver the kiss Bro. Johnie sends. It would give me great pleasure.

I feel more lonely to-night than I have since you left. I am all alone just now. Col. [Harrison] has just gone to bed, and all the rest are in the City.8 I feel glad you had so good an opportunity to get home, however, and had you remained, you would have had but little pleasure for I have been so constantly employed in the office here that you would have seen but little of me. I expect the box of butter tomorrow. Sammy writes that it was forwarded on the 22nd.

Nate Hill [of Company A] got home yesterday evening. He was very sorry you were gone; I told him you sent much love & he was very much pleased. I saw Christ Yetter [of Company A] this morning, but he was very busy packing up so that I did not get a chance to speak to him. It rained very hard last night and this morning, and the weather is still cloudy but much colder. Old Uncle Sam (who lives at Drake’s) was here this evening. He said he expected his two sons in Town (runaways, I presume) & wanted them to go with me. I got them positions as Brigade teamsters & will do what I can for Them.9 My horse is much better & will be able to stand the march, so I will keep him. I forgot to get “Green” the book I promised him to-day & will probably not have another chance. If so, I will get you to send one by mail.

I recd. no letters but the two referred to since you left. Old Nancy [a black servant] seemed anxious to talk to me yesterday evening, but Mrs. Drake kept close to her all the time I was there, so she had no opportunity. Little Mary Harrison presented to me a very nice little needle case & pin cushion yesterday.10

I could not think of much to have you say for me at home; I am somewhat unfortunate in that respect. When I wish to send most, I am at a loss out of the multitude of my thoughts what to say & invariably end by saying nothing. But I will trust to you to act as spokesman, for I feel that you are acquainted with my thoughts and feelings towards my friends. (The clock strikes ten). R. D. Folks is much better.11 I will try and get out to see him tomorrow. Give my love to all the family. Kiss Mother [Murphy] & Maggie [Utley] and the babies for me.

I bought a pair of Dr.’s Pill bags to-day, &, by cutting out the fixings inside, I have an excellent place to carry some paper and ink & rations. I intend to write on the march, and mail a letter whenever I have opportunities. Don’t forget to write to Mother Culver as soon as you have an opportunity. I wrote a short note before the mail closed requesting her to forward all your things. That if she was compelled to prepay the expressage to notify you of the amount so you could forward it to her.

I got those pants washed to-day that I spilled the oysters on & had gold lace sewed on them; they look as well as new ones. I cannot find my [books on] tactics & think they must be in your trunk. Take care of them; I can easily get another set out of this office. Did you take my slippers? I could not find them.

I spent for all the articles I purchased $48.90. I paid old debts amtg. to $72. I loaned $57, and for rations for the march and mess chest—my share about $10, leaving me about $25 dollars on hand which will I think be amply sufficient. I think my expenses at the front will be much lighter; I hope so at least.

I will look very anxiously for your letters and especially the first one. Remember me in much love to the Sabbath School, do not let the children forget me. Tell me how they are getting along. I pray most earnestly that God’s blessings may rest upon you. Try and be happy, & you will enjoy much better health than if you keep brooding over your trials and privations. Keep me posted in regard to your condition as it progresses.12

Write to me when you feel inclined to the “Blues.”

We have no late war news, except the report that a reconnisance made a few days ago before Chattanooga developed the fact that all the Rebs had left.13 It may portend some hand fighting at Knoxville.14
Large bodies of troops are moving to the front daily. But it is eleven o’clock, & I must close. I wish to write a few lines to Bro. Johnie to-night & also to Lt. Donaldson.

May Holy Angels guard you.

Farewell,
Your Affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. By Special Order No. 4, 1st Brigade, First Division, XI Army Corps, January 11, 1864, J.F.C. had been detached from the regiment and assigned as an aide-de-camp to the brigade commander. The First Division, XI Corps, commanded by Brig. Gen. W. T. Ward, was organized in early January 1864. Five infantry regiments (the 70th Indiana, the 78th Ohio, and the 102d, 105th, and 129th Illinois), constituted the division’s 1st Brigade. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA; O.R, Ser. I, Vol. XXXII, pt. II, p. 11. []
  2. Mary Culver had taken a steamboat from Nashville to Cairo, where she would board the Illinois Central Railroad. []
  3. Albert Green, a freedman, had been employed by J.F.C. as a “servant” during the autumn of 1863. He remained with J.F.C. throughout the war, and then accompanied him home to Poniiac. Green lived with the Culvers until he married.
    The Culvers had rented a room from Mrs. Drake during Mrs. Culver’s three-month visit. []
  4. Mrs. Caroline (Scott) Harrison was the wife of the brigade commander, Col. Benjamin
    Harrison. Twenty-four years later she would enter the White House as First Lady. []
  5. General Hooker on January 24 issued orders for General Ward’s division, currently guarding the railroad between Nashville and Christiana, to advance and relieve the division led by Brig. Gen. David M. Stanley, then protecting the railroad from Whitesides to Bridgeport. Stanley’s troops were to be redeployed on the line of the East Tennessee & Georgia Railroad, between the Chickamauga and Charleston. O.R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXII, pt. II, pp. 196-197. []
  6. The subject letters are missing from the Culver Collection. []
  7. Samuel A. Murphy had enlisted in Company M, 1st Illinois Artillery, and was en route from Pontiac to the Camp Yates, 111., reception center. Although J.F.C. could not know it, several months were to pass before Sammy was sent South to join his unit. Adjutant General’s Report, State of Illinois, Vol. VIII, p. 656. []
  8. Benjamin Harrison was a grandson of William Henry Harrison, 9th President of the United States, and destined, himself, to be elected to the Presidency in 1888. Born in August 1833, on his grandfather’s estate at North Bend, Ohio, Ben Harrison was graduated from Ohio’s Miami University with distinction in 1852, and the following year married Caroline Scott. Harrison moved to Indianapolis in 1854, where he practiced law, and in 1857 was elected city attorney as a Republican. At Governor Oliver P. Morton’s request in 1862, he recruited the 70th Indiana Infantry and became its colonel. On January 9,1864, Harrison assumed command of the 1st Brigade, General Ward having been named to lead the newly constituted First Division. Grunert, History of the 129th Illinois, p. 42. []
  9. It has been impossible to further identify “Old Uncle Sam” or his two sons beyond their being freedmen. []
  10. Mary was the little daughter of Benjamin and Caroline Harrison. []
  11. R. D. Folks, a 24-year-old carpenter, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as 1st sergeant of Company G, 129th Illinois. He was mustered out near Washington, D.C., on June 8, 1865. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA. []
  12. Mary Culver had become pregnant during her visit, and J.F.C. wished to be kept posted as to her condition. []
  13. A 450-man patrol led by Col. William P. Boone had left Rossville, Georgia, on the 21st, and, traveling by way of McLemore’s Cove, had crossed Lookout Mountain and Taylor’s Ridge, to attack and destroy a camp occupied by Georgia militia. A flag of truce party had left Chattanooga on the 22d, and by the 24th reached a point ten miles south of La Fayette, without encountering any Confederates. O.R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXII, pt. II, p. 233. []
  14. The Confederate Army of Tennessee now commanded by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston was camped in and around Dalton, Georgia, on the Western & Atlantic Railroad, 30 miles southeast of Chattanooga. Lt. Gen. James Longstreet with his corps was headquartered at Morristown, Tennessee, 40 miles northeast of Knoxville.
    []

About Colleen Theisen

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