I am very happy to learn that your “health is pretty good”

Joseph Culver Letter, March 17, 1864, Page 1

Head Quarters, 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 11th Army Corps
Lookout Vallie, March 17th 1864
My Dear Wife

Yours of the 11th inst. came to hand to-night.1 I am very happy to learn that your “health is pretty good,” which I suppose to mean that it is as well as could be expected under existing circumstances.

The weather here has been very cold for the past three days. The first day [the 15th] it was spitting snow, blowing and freezing, & I thought it would not last over one day, but next morning (yesterday) it was still freezing and much colder than the day before so that I had to suspend work & fix up a place to write in. I procured some timbers and built a house about 3-1/2 feet high, & set my tent on top. I have a fireplace in it, & by noon to-day I commenced operations again. This will account for my not writing for the last three days.

I am quite comfortably situated now, and though it is ten o’clock and all the Staff have gone to bed, I have set down to chat with you. I know there is a great deal in the letters I have on hand that remains unanswered, yet the number is so great that were I to undertake to overlook them to-night, I would have no time left to write. So I will promise to attend to every one of them soon, and ask your indulgence for this one time more. I have besides a host of other letters, all unanswered. You wished to know why I have not sent Sister Beccie’s [letter],2 & I am almost ashamed to tell you that aside from a very hasty glance when it came to hand amid the rain & cold at Tullahoma, I have neither read or seen it. I know you would pardon me if you knew how busy I have been. You know how well I love to be busy, and my health was never better than now, for which I feel very thankful.

The fire on the hearth looks so cheerful that I can almost imagine you present here. You will feel a great disappointment in my not getting home, but God orders all things for the best. Let me caution you against any disposition to fret or allow anything to bear heavily upon your mind. Be cheerful and, if possible, make yourself happy. Despondency, aside from affecting your own person seriously, may possibly live after you, & I feel anxious for you also on that account. You give me assurance, however, that you are happy, & I earnestly hope you will use every means to secure it. May God bless you. I shall try to pray for myself & you, as you request, & shall feel happy in the knowledge of the aid of your prayers. Bro. Johnie in his last letter wished to know how I was getting along spiritually.3 I have only had time to send him a few lines in answer as yet, telling him where I was. I have never heard from Lt. Donaldson yet.

All your friends here are well. Alf Huetson has been recommended for appointments as Topographical Engineer of this Brigade, & he will without doubt be appointed and I think before long get a commission. I do not yet know what his rank will be; I have not been around any yet. I can see the Camp of the 129th from here, and it looks very fine. The boys are all still busy fixing up.4 To-morrow we will have a Brigade Inspection & Review, and on Saturday we will be Inspected & Reviewed by Maj. Genl. Howard. Everybody is anxious to have it come off well, as most of the troops here think us “green,” “conscripts,” &c.5 I feel assured, however, that we will make a good impression. Our Brigade is larger than any Division I have seen yet.6

We hear no news from the front, except what we see in the Louisville and Nashville papers. One of the trains was captured and burnt yesterday near Estill Springs, & the train did not come in till this evening.7 We have not learned the particulars yet.

The Chicago Tribune has not come to hand yet. I shall be glad to get it. And now I must close; I do not think I can answer your letters before Sunday or Monday, but I will try.

Mitchell is so badly injured that I do not know when to expect him back. Give my love to all the family. Remember me kindly to Lou [Allen]. I am glad she is getting well so rapidly. Also remember me to all our friends. Good night my Love, good night, & may holy angels guard you.

Your Affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. Mary Culver’s letter of March 11 is missing from the Culver Collection. []
  2. Sister Rebecca Culver was married to S. Augustus Pague, and they lived on the family farm in northern Cumberland County. []
  3. Sergt. John Murphy, on February 19, had written, “How is it with your soul, Frank? Are you prospering spiritually? I am not doing very well now. The circumstances with which I am surrounded are very untoward.” W. J. Murphy to J.F.C., Feb. 19, 1864, Culver Collection. []
  4. Private Grunert noted in his diary on the 12th that the soldiers were chopping wood for huts and shebangs, while on the 20th, Private Dunham wrote, “We have got settled down again but don’t know how long we will stay, so we have got tip top houses maid. Four in a house.” Grunert, History of the 129th Illinois, p. 48; Through the South with a Union Soldier, p. 109. []
  5. Unlike the regiments of Harrison’s brigade, most of the units constituting the XI and XII Corps had participated in a number of battles, including Lookout Mountain, Wauhatchie, Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, etc. []
  6. General Ward’s two-brigade division numbered almost as many effectives as the other two XI Corps divisions combined. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXII, pt. III, p. 207. []
  7. On March 16, near Estill Springs, a southbound train was derailed by Confederate partisans led by Col. John M. Hughs. Before being driven off by a detachment of the 123d New York, the partisans burned three cars, robbed the passengers, and killed several non-combatants. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXII, pt. I, pp. 56, 499-501. []

About Colleen Theisen

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