I wrote a long letter on Friday evening, but the train & mail was captured so that someone else will peruse it than my wife

Joseph Culver Letter, July 8, 1863, Page 1

Head Quarters, Co. “A”, 129th Regt. Ills. Vols.
Gallatin, Tenn., July 8th 1863

My Dear Wife

As communication is not yet open, I have received no letters from you, & I presume none of mine have reached you. I wrote a long letter on Friday evening [the 3d], but the train & mail was captured so that someone else will peruse it than my wife. I hope it may do them good. Some of the men of this Regiment were captured with the train, but I have not yet learned who.1 If the train coming South was captured, which is probable, Daniel Graff is likely among the number, as he was to have returned by it.2

We have had no papers, but several dispatches sent as we think by Morgan, as he had a Battery attached to the lines:3 one was of the entire overthrow of Lee’s Army in Penna; the other, the fall of Vicksburg on the 4th inst. with 24,000 prisoners.4 Report says that Morgan has retreated & that the road will be repaired in a few days.5 But we dare not rely on the reports not knowing who works the wires. Morgan evidently has in his employ some operative of the Road, as a stranger could easily be detected. Instead of destroying the train he captured, he sent it back to Nashville with all the ladies aboard, telegraphing at the same time that it was the regular train from Louisville. We have no news from any part of the Army that is reliable.

Lt. Culver left here for his regiment at the front yesterday.6 He promised to hunt up Bro. Johnnie & let me know where he is. I cannot understand why he has not answered any of my letters. You cannot imagine with what anxiety we await the first train for news from friends & loved ones & the Armies.

Russell’s health is improving; but he is not able to be about much yet. I have been reading during my leisure hours a history of the war by E. A. Pollard.7 I am sorry to say I never read such a collection of falsehood in my life. I wish very much to get a true, well written history. Perhaps in your travels you may find one; if so purchase & read it, & I can get it should I succeed in getting home this fall. Another thing I want very much is a pocket map of the U.S., reliable. Should you see any of Floyd’s [sic] Newspaper maps of the seat of War, please send me one by mail.8

I had a short ride in the country this evening with Col. Cropsey. This country is looking beautiful & reminds me so forcibly of Cumberland Valley that I long to see the old home once more.9

We are plodding on in the even tenor of our way lately; duties heavy but health good. I am getting quite fat lately which is unaccountable. I think I shall soon be up to my old weight. We are having quite a feast on blackberries, which are ripe & plentiful. I should like to have a mess of whortleberries. They are ripe now. I hope you will enjoy them. I presume you have ripe apples, eat a few for me. I hope you are enjoying yourself visiting the old haunts of pleasure.

I thought this evening while riding through the grove that perhaps you were roaming around those old hills, visiting old friends & thinking of the change the few years of absence has effected in your own condition & that of others. I earnestly hope you may have no regrets for the result & that your cup of happiness may be full.

I have not forgotten my tramp from New Hartford to Mr. Case’s through mud ankle deep; of the pleasant acquaintances I made while there. Indeed, had I been single, I am not sure that it would have been a wise policy to send me among those lady friends of yours there. As one of them has very large lustrous eyes that are quite captivating, I do not deem it prudent to mention names. Yet an initial acrostic may not be inappropriate such as:

Songs of Minstrels fill the air
While Nature blooming ever fair &, &c, &c

Do not get alarmed at my poetry for I never wrote a line correctly in my life, & I am rather far advanced in life now to be effected by the muses.

Remember me kindly to all our friends. I set down to have a little chat with you and have almost exhausted all the subjects at my command. I have written punctually almost every day. Indeed, I think I have not missed more than three or four since you left. I can hardly expect you to do as much as you will be very frequently without facilities to write.

Capt. Hoskins has been quite sick to-day. Mrs. Smith requests me to say that she would like to hear from you. She is well.

I hope Frankie is making good use of his time & opportunities; that he is enjoying good health & giving you little trouble. I wish I could encircle you both in my arms & get a sweet kiss in return. Sometimes I feel sorry that you are gone, yet I must confess that I could not wish you surrounded with the dangers we are liable to encounter here. I hope the time will soon come when separation will no longer be a necessity, & we in our quiet home can enjoy the greater sweets from our long absence, when our country will no longer need the sacrifice of all that is so dear to our hearts. Let us devoutly pray for a glorious future. I could not enumerate all the dreams of future happiness I have had should God in His Infinite Goodness prosper us.

I feel very sanguine that the great dark clouds will soon disappear & the reign of Peace be ushered in. May it come speedily.

Let us trust wholly in the promises of God & earnestly strive to do his will. I feel unusually buoyant & happy tonight, whether it is the precursor of a fit of the blues or the dawning of a glorious reality, I cannot tell; yet I will not forego the pleasures of present realities. Trusting in God for your happiness, I remain,

Your Affect Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. The train had been captured at Bardstown Junction on the 6th. After destroying the mail and robbing the express company safe and a number of passengers, Morgan released the train and sent it back to Elizabethtown. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXIII, pt. I, pp. 659, 702. []
  2. Daniel Graff, a 33-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois. Graff was promoted to corporal on May 9, 1863, and was mustered out at Washington, D.C., June 8, 1865. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA. []
  3. Morgan’s command included several skilled telegraphers, equipped with keys and batteries, who would tap into telegraph lines and send dispatches calculated to confuse the Federals. []
  4. The messages detailing Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg and of the surrender of Vicksburg were legitimate and had not been sent by Morgan’s scouts. On the 7th Secretary of War Stanton had telegraphed General Rosecrans, “Vicksburg surrendered to General Grant on the 4th of July. Lee’s army overthrown; Grant victorious.” O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXIII, pt. II, p. 518. At Vicksburg 29,500 Confederates had been surrendered by General Pemberton. []
  5. Morgan and his raiders had been dislodged from their brief grip on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, and on the 8th, having seized a steamboat at Brandenburg, crossed the Ohio and carried the war into Indiana. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXIII, pt. I, p. 705. []
  6. Lt. Charles Culver had been mustered into service as 2d lieutenant of Company H, 105th Illinois Infantry. He was currently serving on General Paine’s staff. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA. []
  7. E. A. Pollard, editor of the Richmond Examiner and caustic critic of President Jefferson Davis, in 1862 wrote The First Year of the War. This book, while critical of President Davis, was sympathetic to the Confederacy. []
  8. H. H. Lloyd & Co. of 25 Howard Street, New York City, in 1863 published a “New Military Map of the Border and Southern States.” The popular 33 x 92 inch map sold for fifty cents. []
  9. Reference is to the Cumberland Valley of Pennsylvania where J.F.C. had spent his youth. []

About Colleen Theisen

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

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