I received your letters; also the pictures, socks & papers

Joseph Culver Letter, November 16, 1862, Page 1

Head Quarters, Co. A., 129th Ills. Vols.
Camp near Bowling Green, Ky., Nov. 16th 1862

My dear Mary

Yours of the 8th inst. I recd. on Friday evening last & yours of 3 inst. by politeness of Gagan on yesterday evening, with one from Maggie & Mother, Abbie Remick & Henry Greenebaum; also the pictures, socks & papers. Dear Wife, accept my thanks.

I am led to believe from the tenor of your last letter that the last three letters I wrote have never reached you, but hope they soon will. I shall answer your letters according to their date only remarking that I am surprised to find no notice of the long letter I wrote to the S. School in any of your letters & further that [Lt.] Smith is cutting meat for Supper on one end of the table & I can hardly write, but he is disposed to bother me & I shall have to grin & bear it. He is getting quite Saucy of late.

Bro. Johnny [Murphy] need have no fears about the Battery getting very far from Louisville. I apprehend they will go into Winter Quarters there.1

I have no idea how the report could originate that I was “coming home.” I should be very happy to do so but have no idea that such a thing will happen until we all return. Looking at the matter from this point, it is simply impossible.2

We are still in Camp. The Col. [Chapin] commanding the Brigade is dangerously ill, & we shall receive no orders until there is a change in affairs.

I did not see your letters until after I had opened the picture & to tell you what I said after opening the pictures I cannot save that I was surrounded by the whole Company & made no remark to any one, but thought all I can better tell you perhaps what I thought.3 It was that God had been very good to bestow such health & so dear a tie to comfort you at home. Having read your last letter first, it is not unnatural that I should look carefully at him, who has so largely engrossed your affections. I thank God to-day that he has so kindly Ordered all things & feel satisfied that your affection for me has not diminished. I pray that God may bless you both. He is generally supposed to resemble his father very much. I hope he may inherit his mother’s good disposition.

I have not forgotten what you wrote about baptism, but I have been resolving the matter over in my mind. I think I would like to be present when the rite is performed. If God spares my life to return, I should prefer waiting until that time; if not, you may use your own pleasure. I have always felt the pledges of infant baptism most solemn & responsible.4

Tell Mother [Murphy] she has my thanks for her kindness. I have the socks on to-day & like them very much. I shall endeavor at my earliest opportunity to answer her kind letter. I am well supplied with gloves, sufficient I think for the winter.5

The letters pertaining to the Boyer Estate should all go to Wolgamott, Justice. All other business letters give to Fleming. I hope the letter from Mr. Saul will soon be forwarded, please attend to it. Has Bro. Utley examined the dockets in J. R. Wolgamott’s hands? I think there must surely be some money there for you.6 I shall be happy to hear from him [Utley] soon. I have never had the least intimation of how my business is progressing. I hope he may be successful in buying horses as it is a very risky business, especially for the Army.7 I was rather at a loss to determine what the mark on the extra sheet of paper was, but by the assistance of Capt. Hoskins & Lieut. Smith we solved the problem.8

Now for letter No. 2 dated Nov. 8th

In the first place I enjoy excellent health & shall not overtask myself or expose myself unnecessarily. I do no more than my share of the labor I presume.9

I am very happy to hear of baby’s good health. I am not sufficient posted on (“infantry tactics”) to divine what disposition he evinces by his exceeding gravity. I am sure he can improve largely on his father & be saved from many difficulties.10

I admire your wisdom in your conclusions. I have rejoiced ever since my Enlistment at the probability of your having strong attachments to bind you at home & afterward at the Goodness of God in bestowing so rich a gift. Into your hands is committed the precious charge until I return to assist, & I feel that God has well endowed you for the performance of those duties. Should I never return, I pray that he [the baby] may be a consolation to you in his infancy, an honor to you in his youth, & your supporter & Comforter in his manhood & your old age. I feel willing to trust all to that God who has dealt so bountifully with us.11

You must dispose of your hogs & cattle as you see fit. I hope you may be able to realize some money out of them.12 With regard to the furniture, you must exercise your own judgment. I would rather sell it at a sacrifice now than have it abused. Get Benj. Fisher to break open my desk & put a new lock on it if you have not found the key. It will not cost much.13 Get a wagon for the baby by all means. After your careful consideration for me, I do hope you will not over exert yourself. If your back is in any way weak, be very careful. It may cost you years of pain & suffering should you receive any injury.14 From Mother’s letter, I should judge it most prudent to board with her.

I am glad to hear that you have had such fine weather.15 We have suffered much from the dust. To-night it is raining. I hope it will not rain very much until we get into Winter Quarters.

I had a letter from Henry Greenebaum with the package. I find the Band are all there, but aside from that he gives but little news; & now I have occupied every spare moment for more than half a day, for though it is Sunday we have many duties to perform. I received an invitation this morning to take dinner with several officers at a Mr. Ewings’ who lives near our Camp.16 We had a very fine dinner. I did not see any white people about the house & judge he has no family. Lieut. Smith tells me that his wife has a baby which accounts for her absence.

I have not learned what you intend to do with Sis. Remember me kindly to her. I shall write to her as soon as you answer the letter relating to her I wrote several days ago.

Bro. Cotton preached the funeral sermon of 3 of our Regiment who died in the Hospitals since we left Home. I do not know their names: they belonged to the Scott County companies.17 I fear we shall lose a member of our company; his name is Marion Rush from Reading.18 R. Syphers, who was sick when we left Pontiac, has been discharged, & I presume is at home. Rockwell is in Louisville trying for a discharge, & I think will soon be home. I do not think he will ever be of any use in the Army.19 Several others of our Regiment have been discharged & have gone home.

Give my love to Mother, Maggie & all the family. Tell all our friends we are getting along well. I learn Job Dye is elected & am glad to hear it.20 Tell Father [Murphy] to Congratulate him for me. Tell Bro. John to write me all the changes that have taken place since I left. I fear he is needing money, & I have borrowed $50 of him. Please let me know.

Tell Sis to write to me if she gets into trouble & tell her it is my earnest desire that she’ll serve God with her whole heart. She knows the dangers of temptation. May God in his mercy protect her. I shall answer Sister Maggie’s letter as soon as possible.

Write soon & now, Dear Mary, I wish you to consult your comfort in all your arrangements. Try & be happy & may the richest of Heaven’s blessings rest upon you all. Kiss baby for me & if I never see him, when he is old enough, tell him I desire him above all things to be a servant of God & strive in every way to do good; that whatever should be his calling or profession not to forget his God.

Hoping that God will preserve us, I remain

Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. William John Murphy, a quartermaster sergeant in Company M, 1st Illinois Light
    Artillery, and Mary Culver’s brother, had been invalided home when his unit was ordered
    from Camp Douglas to Louisville. He was suffering from hepatitis, and in mid-October it
    was feared that he would die. His condition had taken a turn for the better, and on the 4th,
    he had gone to the polls.
    Unknown to J.F.C., the battery had been transferred on Nov. 11 to Lebanon and assigned to the 34th Brigade. From Lebanon, the battery was marched to Columbia to guard against the raids of Colonel Morgan and other Rebel cavalrymen. Mary Culver to J.F.C., Nov. 3, 1862, Culver Collection; Report of the Adjutant General of Illinois, Vol. VIII, p. 665. []
  2. Mary Culver had written in her letter of Nov. 3, “The report is all over town that you
    are coming home, you and Capt. Perry. I tell them I know nothing of it, but I think it is not
    so.” Mary Culver to J.F.C., Nov. 3, 1862, Culver Collection. []
  3. The photograph mentioned is the one Mary Culver had forwarded of their son, Frank, born on September 21, 1862, 22 hours before J.F.C. had left Pontiac. In her letter of the 3d, Mrs. Culver had observed, the baby “looks larger than he really is … I want you to tell me just what you say when you first see” the photograph. “Even the children recognize the likeness of our baby to you.” Ibid. []
  4. Mary Culver, in her letter of Oct. 6, 1862, had inquired, “What was it Frank I heard you say once about having the baby baptized? Did you say, you thought you would not have him baptized in his infancy.” Mary Culver to J.F.C, October 6, 1862, Culver Collection. []
  5. Mary Culver had discussed plans to knit her husband gloves, as opposed to her brother’s suggestion that buckskin gloves would be more appropriate. Mary Culver to J.F.C, Nov. 3, 1862, Culver Collection. []
  6. J. R. Wolgamott was a wealthy retired Pontiac merchant. In 1860 the 39-year-old Wolgamott valued his real and personal estate at $48,000. Eighth Census, Livingston County, State of Illinois, NA. []
  7. Leander Utley, according to Mary Culver, was “so busy he hardly knows how to spend a moment in his spare time and at night he is too tired [to write]. He has no help & are having plastering and painting done and corncribs and woodshed built. He is going to furnish the army with some horses.” Mary Culver to J.F.C, Nov. 3, 1862, Culver Collection. []
  8. The mark referred to had been made by the baby. In her letter, Mary Culver had written, “Baby wants to write a letter on my page but I tell him he must take one of his own.” Ibid. []
  9. Mary Culver, in her letter of the 8th, acknowledging J.F.C’s of Nov. 1, had expressed anxiety about his health. She was “afraid” that he was not taking care of himself and “overtasking” his strength. Mary Culver to J.F.C, Nov. 8, 1862, Culver Collection. []
  10. Referring to their son, Mary Culver had observed, he was “well as usual,” but hardly ever laughed, and was going to be “very grave and thoughtful.” Ibid. []
  11. This paragraph was generated by Mary Culver’s statement that she used to think that she would want to die if her husband failed to return, but since the birth of their son she now thought that she “must live for my baby.” Continuing she wrote, “You did not know how sorry I used to be because we expected a little one. I thought it prevented my going with you. I now see how wisely all things were ordered.” Ibid. []
  12. Mary Culver had decided to rent their house and go live with her mother. She had discussed with the butcher the sale of their large hog, and he had quoted her a price of $3 a hundredweight. The smaller hog she would give to her brother Sammy. As for the cows, they would probably be sold. Ibid. []
  13. Mary Culver had locked her husband’s roll-top desk and had misplaced the keys. Ibid. Burton Fisher was a 27-year-old Pontiac painter. Eighth Census, Livingston County, State of Illinois, NA. []
  14. The baby was so heavy that Mary Culver found that it hurt her back to carry him any distance. She had suggested that they buy a baby wagon from Mrs. George Wolgamott. Mary Culver to J.F.C, Nov. 8, 1862, Culver Collection. George Wolgamott was a 38-year old Pontiac carpenter. []
  15. They were experiencing a beautiful Indian summer in Livingston County. Ibid. []
  16. There were several Ewings living in Warren County, Ky., in 1860. The one who entertained the Union officers at dinner was either John H. or James F. Both were wealthy farmers. Eighth Census, Warren County, State of Kentucky, NA. []
  17. The deceased Scott County soldiers were: Alexander Ridenbark, a 24-year-old farmer, mustered into federal service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company I, 129th Illinois Infantry. Private Ridenbark died of pneumonia at Danville, Ky., Nov. 3, 1862. Jacob Topper, a 29-year-old- blacksmith, was mustered into federal service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company H, 129th Illinois Infantry. Private Topper died of diarrhea at a Bowling Green hospital on Nov. 4, 1862. It has been impossible to identify the third Scott County soldier eulogized by Chaplain Cotton. Compiled Service Records of Union Troops, NA. []
  18. Marion Rush, a 21-year-old Reading farmer, was mustered into federal service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry. Private Rush died of typhoid fever in Bowling Green Hospital No. 1 on Nov. 19, 1862. Ibid. []
  19. Pvt. Almon A. Rockwell was given a medical discharge at Louisville on Nov. 21, 1862. Ibid. []
  20. Job Dye, a 43-year-old Pontiac merchant, was elected sheriff of Livingston County on Nov. 4, 1862, defeating S. H. Putnam, his Democratic opponent, by a vote of 1,036 to 902. History of Livingston County, p. 266. []

About Colleen Theisen

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

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