I have before me a photograph of Frankie & you

Joseph Culver Letter, September 14, 1863, Page 1

Head Qrs. Co. “A” 129th Regt. Ills. Vol. Infty.
Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 14th 1863

My Dear Wife:

I have before me a photograph of Frankie & you, & I try to imagine you both here, but it is hard work & poor success. I was made the happy recipient of three letters this morning on my return [from Stevenson] mailed on the 5th, 9th & 7th inst. The photograph is excellent, though I can plainly see the result of your sickness. I hope, however, from the assurance your letters give that you have recovered good health. Frankie looks wide awake with mouth & eyes open. I apprehend he attempted to exhibit his teeth but failed, not even the half tooth is visable.1 He will persist in prophecying & Mamma is to be gratified, so says the adage, & I can cheerfully say Amen!

I never knew that Father [Culver] wore a truss or that he ever had occasion to use one.2 I have a very distinct recollection of the conversation between Bro. Wes & myself on the wood pile, & also of the Tomatoe pies of which he spoke.3 Sister Kate has not assisted in household duties for many years at home, & I am not surprised that she does not assist now.4 She has for several years spent but a small portion of her vacation at Father’s & never entertained much friendly feeling toward Mother. I never understood why.

Your second letter was commenced on the 6th & mailed on the 9th. I am sorry that the performance of duty will prevent my writing regularly, & I may often fail to get a letter for you on Saturday.5 To-morrow morning I must go on Picket & will likely go south again on Thursday. The short time alloted for rest is consumed almost entirely in keeping the Company Books & papers in order. The old gentleman to whom you allude as having assisted in the administration of the Sacrament was Father Squires.6 I know him well.

You have seen Mary Postlethwaite. I should be happy to hear that her sister Charlotte has married agreeably.7 I have still hoped that my old friend Troxel to whom she was engaged would yet return for her.8 I received a letter from him just before the mails were stopped [in 1861] in the south mailed at Atlanta, Georgia, in which he made many inquiries about her. I gave him all the information I could, but rather think my letter never reached him.

You say it is rumored that Mary is about to marry Alf Sponsler.9 I can scarcely believe it, yet would scarcely be surprised at anything she might do. When I was home last, she was engaged to a Mr. Lee, a Lawyer, who has since enlisted & is now either Lt. Col. or Major in the Army of the Potomac. I wish her no harm yet have but little hope, with her volatile disposition, she will ever realize much happiness in this life. It is perhaps my duty to warn you to be a little careful; I believe she would not hesitate to compromise your happiness in any way she might find convenient should opportunity offer. Sisters Jennie & Hannah know her well & will, I know, be discreet.

I never received even an intimation that Lucy Dunmire was married.10 I wrote to her & also to her Father in the early part of the winter but never received an answer & presume they never received it as the mails were very irregular at the time.

I should be very happy to see both Mrs. Caldwell & Mrs. Lynch & wish to be kindly remembered to them & also to their Mother, Mrs. Roney.11 I hope you will see their mother, she always was a very warm friend of mine &, like Charlotte Postlethwaite, a devoted Christian. They live by prayer & possess faith in an eminent degree.

I would like to know the name of the gentleman to whom Sister Kate was once engaged.12 I was aware that such a circumstance transpired but never could learn the man’s name. Perhaps I may have known him; please tell me the name.

Alf Huetson brought my shirts & among them the one Mrs. Remick gave me which I wished to preserve. I am sorry that Frankie does not deport himself better but hope his mouth will soon be well, & then I think he will be less cross.13

I am sorry to hear of the sad condition of Harry Cheston’s sister-in-law. None know the full realization of blasted hopes & the crushing weight of sorrow occasioned by such irreparable loss except those who have been afflicted.14 Luther Van Doren’s body never was found; his poor mother has become almost entirely insane.15 Do you recollect John Horie? His Brother David deserted at Richland Station while you were there, & John died shortly after he got home.16 You saw him in the hospital at Gallatin. They were Brothers of Alf Huetson’s wife. Their mother, after John’s death & learning of David’s desertion, has become hopelessly insane. Huetson says he did not dare go near where she was while at home.

I had a letter from Mother [Murphy] this morning which I will enclose. I have not seen Lt. Smith since his return [from furlough]. He left with a train [for Stevenson] before I got home this morning. I learn that his wife is rapidly recovering.

Letter No. 3: I have written letters every time I was in camp & do not understand why you have not received them.17 I am sorry to hear that Father [Culver] is no better in health.18 He must suffer intensely. Does he ever speak of me & what? Tell him I will be home to see him this fall if possible.

I hope that your Crab-apple jellie will be “Grafted into” “this portion of the Army.”19 I hope the next letter will inform me of your good health.

I have almost consumed this entire sheet in answering your three letters, though I aimed to be brief. The early part of the evening was consumed in signing muster & pay rolls, preparatory to receiving our pay to-morrow; & the time has passed swiftly by till it is now ten o’clock.

Charlie Nelson died on Saturday morning [the 12th] & was buried here. I have not seen either Nelson or his wife to-day but heard that they are very much depressed. Sergt. Lemmon of Co. “D” died on Sunday morning.20 His wife was telegraphed for but has not yet arrived. He was home on Furlough but a few weeks ago & returned in excellent health. His disease was very similar to that of DeWitt’s, Perforation of the bowels.21

There is a revival in progress about half a mile from here among the Kentucky troops. I have heard them singing & praying all evening. Quite a number from the Regiment went over, but Capt. [Hoskins & Lt.] Smith both being absent, I could not go. I received the notice of the renewal of my [minister’s] license this morning. It is much more complimentary than I deserve, & I fear I have sadly degenerated. I shall try for the future, & live better. I have felt it a duty to preach occasionally but have had so little time to read that I have always concluded it was improper. I shall have to do something soon, or I fear I shall be lost beyond recovery. Pray for me.

Miller’s Battery is in the vicinty of Chattanooga.22 Rumor says that a battle is raging between General Thomas’ Division & Johnson’s forces, but it lacks confirmation.23 There is also a report that our troops have taken 11,000 prisoners.24 Deserters continue to come in; over 600 passed through our lines on Sunday morning. While I was in Stevenson, I brought 25 [deserters] up on the train with me whose homes are in Kentucky & Northern Tennessee.

Miss[es] Paines have returned home.25 They send many kind messages. The weather is becoming quite cool in the night, but is still intensely warm in the middle of the day.

If I do not get home this fall, I think you will find pleasure in a visit here when the climate becomes settled & cool. It is just about the sickly season. Our Regt. is in very good health though the cases of disentery & flux are increasing. Several of the boys are complaining.

I will have some photographs taken soon & send you some. I have recd. no word from Sammy or Thomas [Murphy] lately. I wrote to Mother [Murphy] again a few days ago for some things. I have no word from Remick or Russell yet about the rent of the house or the disposition of the furniture.26 Mother [Murphy] informs me that Mr. Wm. B. Lyons has taken possession, & I think he will take good care of it.27

I was at John Harper again to-day to sell me his Quarter Block, but scarcely think I can effect a purchase.28 I should like very much to have them as we might raise some fruit.

Connelly has just arrived from Sevenson; he brings additional news of the battle.29 Our Army is moving steadily forward, & the Rebels are slowly retreating & fighting as they fall back. Their train brought quite a number of prisoners.

I must close. It is almost eleven o’clock, & I must get up early to get my letter off. The boys are just returning from church. Give my love to all the family & Remember me kindly to all our friends. Kiss Frankie for me. Write as often as you can & tell me all the news. Every name you mention brings with it some recollections of the past, and every object has its interest in memory. May Our Father in Heaven preserve you in health & the enjoyment of life. The war will soon be over, & we can be at home once more. Let us continue to pray.


Your Affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. Mary Culver had forwarded a picture taken of her and Frankie by a Utica, N. Y., photographer. Commenting on it, she had observed, “It was taken just after I was able to get about and being very weary the expression of my countenance is anything but intelligent.” Mary Culver to J.F.C., September 7, 1863, Culver Collection. []
  2. On September 4 Mary Culver had written that Mother Culver’s “time is wholly occupied with” your father. “He was suffering a great deal this morning, but is better this afternoon, and walked outdoors a few minutes. A new difficulty has arisen. You probably know he has a rupture, and has worn a truss for the last ten years. The one he has been wearing does not help him now, and thus far they have found none which does him any good.” Mary Culver to J.F.C., Sept. 4, 1863, Culver Collection. []
  3. One day while the boys were at the wood pile, Frank had exclaimed, “Wes, I like to chop wood better than I do any other kind of work, don’t you?” Wes replied, “No sir, I like tomato pie a great deal better.” Ibid. []
  4. J.F.C.’s comments regarding his half-sister Katherine were triggered by Mary Culver’s statement that Hannah “has too much to do for such a little body. There are seven of a family beside so much company. It makes me feel miserable to see her work so hard knowing that I add to her cares and not able to assist her any. Kate might help her but don’t seem inclined. She is a strange genius.” Ibid. []
  5. Mary Culver began her letter, mailed on the 7th, “I received no interesting letter yesterday. I expect it will come tomorrow.” Mary Culver to J.F.C., Sept. 7, 1863, Culver Collection. []
  6. On Sunday, the 6th, Mary Culver had attended church with Hannah and Wes’ wife. “It was communion service and I enjoyed it very much. The minister, Mr. Black, reminded me very much of Mr. Pierce of Pontiac. He was assisted by an aged . . . preacher. I have forgotten his name but I presume you know him, he lives in this place.” Ibid. The “aged preacher” was Father Squires. []
  7. Mary and Charlotte were the daughters of James or Charles Postlethwaite, Carlisle wagon makers. Charlotte, who was 24 and three years older than her sister, was a teacher. Mary was a seamstress. Eighth Census, Cumberland County, State of Pennsylvania, NA. In her letter Mary Culver had written, “It is rumored that the Postlethwaite girls are to be married. Charlotte to a gentleman from Baltimore at the Holiday’s and Mary to some one who lives here in town.” Mary Culver to J.F.C., Sept. 7, 1863, Culver Collection. []
  8. It has been impossible to further identify Troxel. []
  9. Alf Sponsler was a cripple and had been injured in a railroad accident. His legs had been crushed, and he wheeled himself about Carlisle “in a chair made for the purpose.” He was a 40-year-old real estate agent. Mary Culver to J.F.C., Sept. 7, 1863, Culver Collection; Eighth Census, Cumberland County, State of Pennsylvania, NA. []
  10. Mrs. Culver had written, “Did you know Lucy Dunmire was married?” Lucy Dunmire was a Culver cousin. []
  11. Hannah Caldwell was the 44-year-old wife of Samuel Caldwell, a Carlisle chandler. Mrs. Mary Rowney was a 68-year-old widow, and in 1860 she lived with the G. W. Parks family. It has been impossible to further identify Mrs. Lynch. Eighth Census, Cumberland County, State of Pennsylvania, NA. []
  12. Jennie Cheston had told Mary Culver “that among the rebels who made the raid into Cumberland Valley was the gentleman to whom Kate [Culver] was once engaged . . . He was chaplain of a Regiment.” Mary Culver to J.F.C., Sept. 7, 1863, Culver Collection. []
  13. Mary Culver had informed her husband that Frankie “has lost his reputation entirely of being a good-natured baby since he came to Carlisle. Some days I hardly know what to do with him. His mouth is very sore [with an ulcer].” Ibid. []
  14. Harry Cheston was the husband of Jennie, one of J.F.C.’s sisters. Mary Culver had written that Harry’s brother’s death had caused the widow, a recent bride, to lose her reason, and it was feared she would be sent to an asylum. Ibid. []
  15. Luther Vandoren had drowned near Gallatin on June 10, 1863. []
  16. David Horie, a 29-year-old Woodford farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois. He deserted at Richland, Tennessee, April 29, 1863. John Horie, a 22-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as a private in Company A, 129th Illinois. Private Horie was discharged at Gallatin, Tenn., on April 22, on a surgeon’s certificate. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA. []
  17. Mary Culver had complained in her letter postmarked the 9th, “I did not receive a letter from you today and feel somewhat disappointed.” Mary Culver to J.F.C, Sept. 7, 1863, Culver Collection. []
  18. Mary Culver had written, “Father [Culver] suffered intensely all last night and a greater part of this forenoon, to-night he is easier. Dr. said this morning that he was better than he was a month ago. But Mother [Culver] does not seem to think so.” Ibid. []
  19. “I have been making crab apply jelly this afternoon,” Mary Culver had written. “I have two quarts and am going to graft it into the army, Providence permitting.” Ibid. []
  20. William S. Lemon, a 27-year-old Scott County laborer, had been mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as 1st sergeant of Company D, 129th Illinois. 1st Sergeant Lemon died of dysentery in the regimental hospital at Nashville on Sept. 13, 1863. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA. []
  21. It has been impossible to further identify DeWitt. []
  22. Miller’s battery (M, 1st Illinois) had left Shelbyville on September 6, and on the 12th was posted with Brig. Gen. James B. Steedman’s division, near Ringgold, Georgia. Adjutant General’s Report, State of Illinois, Vol. VIII, p. 665. []
  23. Soldiers of General Crittenden’s XXI Corps had occupied Chattanooga on the 9th, and had pushed on toward Lee and Gordon’s Mills; meanwhile, Rosecrans’ other corps, satisfied that the Confederates were abandoning the region, had forged ahead. McCook’s XXII Corps on the right drove for Alpine, while Thomas’ XIV Corps lunged toward McLemore’s Cove. General Bragg, after evacuating Chattanooga, massed his army near Lafayette, ready to take advantage of Rosecrans’ blunder and beat his army in detail. Orders were issued for an attack on Negley’s and Baird’s divisions which had thrust into McLemore’s Cove. By the afternoon of the 10th, 30,000 Rebels were closing in on the Federals. Negley learned of his peril, and, when the Confederate generals failed to coordinate their movements, he delayed the advance of one of the Rebel columns and extricated his troops from the Cove and retired to Stevens’ Gap. Cist, Army of the Cumberland, pp. 185-186; O.R., Ser. I, Vol. XXX, pt. III, pp. 564-567. []
  24. There was no truth to the report that Rosecrans had taken 11,000 prisoners in the fighting on the 11th. Union casualties in this engagement were 11 killed and 27 wounded. While the Confederates made no report of their losses, they could not have exceeded 100. O.R., Ser. I, Vol. XXX, pt. I, p. 259. []
  25. It has been impossible to identify further the Misses Paines. []
  26. His tenants having moved out of their house, J.F.C. had authorized James W. Remick and Willam Russell to find new renters. As the tenants had damaged their furniture, J.F.C. was hopeful of either selling or storing it. []
  27. For additional data on William B. Lyons see J.F.C. to Mrs. Nancy Murphy, March 27, 1862, Culver Collection. []
  28. John A. Harper, a 26-year-old farmer, was mustered into service on Sept. 8, 1862, as private in Company G, 129th Illinois, and was promoted to corporal in November 1862. Corporal Harper was captured on March 16, 1865, at Averysboro, N. C. and paroled by the Confederates at Aiken’s Landing, Va., April 2, 1865. He was mustered out at Springfield, 111., June 11, 1865. Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers, NA. []
  29. Joseph B. Connelly, a 36-year-old Pontiac farmer, was mustered into Company A, 129th Illinois, as a private on Sept. 8, 1862. Private Connelly was mustered out near Washington, D. C, June 8, 1865. Ibid. []

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