That dream of yours was doubtless very agreeable yet very far from the reality

Joseph Culver Letter, May 9, 1864, Page 1

Hd. Qurs., Co. “A” 129th Ills.
In the Field Near Tunnel Hill1
May 9th 1864
My Dear Wife

Yours of May [sic] 30th has just come to hand.2 I am very happy to learn that your health is good. That dream of yours was doubtless very agreeable yet very far from the reality. I am glad to learn that Sis & Bro. Johnson are better. I hope you may have many opportunities to ride out during the summer months.

I have never heard of any of Co. “G” dying of Small Pox. It is certainly a mistake.3 The 4th Corps to which Bro. Johnie belongs is in our rear, or was yesterday.4

The cannon are booming in our front this morning. The fight has commenced.5 We were called into line yesterday to move out and support a column in our advance, but our services were not needed.6 We may go to-day. We are lying here in readiness. The rumors from the Army of the Potomac and also from our front are glorious but too good to believe.7

We are all well but [Cpt. Erastus] Nelson, he has a slight attack of ague. Mrs. Smith [the wife of Lt. John W. Smith] is at Felicity, Clearmont County, Ohio. Tell Bro. Thomas [Murphy] when you write to him that I have no opportunity to write. My health is most excellent for which I feel thankful.

Yesterday was a blessed day [Sunday]. I felt very happy all day and do this morning. God has been very bountiful in blessings. May he bless you likewise.

Did you write to Dehlia Shellenburger and send your photograph? I did not have an opportunity to answer her letter. Capt. Hoskins is not very well but has a horse. The horse purchased for Col. Case was presented in presence of the Regt. yesterday evening. It is a very fine animal. Capt. Perry made the presentation Speech. It was good. Col’s. response was very fine. The Regt. is in good health and spirits.

I have written nearly every day since we left Wauhatchie. I think it’s doubtful whether any mail has gone North for the past few weeks. I think of you very, very many times during each day but am consoled by Faith in God. I know he will care for you and our child if anything befalls me. Be cheerful. We have a “Home in Heaven.” This life is but short, and Heaven is an “Eternal Home.” I have no presentiments of the approaching battle and feel perfectly willing to suffer God’s will. What I most desire is Wisdom and understanding to perform my duty well. I feel that God will help me and take care of me.

Kiss Mother and Maggie for me and remember me kindly to all. Enclosed find a kiss for my Wife, my love. May our Heavenly Father deal kindly with you and take care of you, and, if consistent with his will, spare our lives that I may again enjoy the happiness your presence and society affords and for which my heart is thankful. My past life spent with you has been so happy and full of joy that I feel God has specially cared for me. (Kiss)

In thinking over all this morning, I can recall no hour since our lives have been so intimately associated together that my heart did not feel grateful for God’s blessing. You may feel satisfied with your performance of the vow you voluntarily assumed. It has been most faithfully performed, and I feel a consciousness this morning that I have tried to perform mine. I still “love and cherish” if possible more than ever. My only regret is that my time was so much preoccupied that I could not devote more of it to your comfort and happiness. Trust still in God and praise him for all his mercies and blessings, and, under whatever circumstances we may be placed, praise Him ever. With much Love, I remain until it is God’s will to call me away,

Your Affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. The XX Corps broke camp shortly after daybreak on the 7th and, marching by way of Gordon’s Gap, crossed Taylor’s Ridge, and took position in front of Buzzard Roost. The First Division was posted at Trickum’s Post Office; Butterfield’s Third Division on the Dalton and Gordon’s Springs road; and the Second Division on the Ringgold and Villanow roads about three miles from Trickum’s, with its picket line connecting with the right of Butterfield’s division. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXVIII, pt.IV, pp. 45, 61. Private Grunert recalled the day’s march as an unpleasant one, “over narrow, dusty or rocky roads.” The weather was terribly hot. When the regiment took a break during the afternoon in a field, the troops quenched their thirst “in a milky, dirty creek, in which higher up some were bathing, others washing their feet.” The sun was setting when the 129th, after a 20-mile march, went into camp near Mrs. Swain’s. Grunert, History of the 129th Illinois, p. 55. []
  2. Mary Culver’s letter of April 30 is missing from the Culver Collection. []
  3. Mary Culver had mistakenly assumed that the two soldiers (Private Phillips and Corporal Scott) who had died of smallpox in March were members of Company G, 129th Illinois. []
  4. Troops from General Howard’s IV Corps on the 7th occupied Tunnel Hill, four miles north of the position held by the 129th Illinois. On the night of the 8th, cannoneers of Company M, 1st Illinois Light Artillery, manhandled two guns into battery atop Rocky Face, where the Rebels “thought no gun could be put.” Adjutant General’s Report, State of Illinois, Vol. VIII, p. 666. []
  5. On May 9 General Butterfield made a forced reconnaissance of the Confederate lines on Rocky Face. Mill Creek was bridged and crossed. Soon thereafter his skirmish line was shelled and orders were received from General Thomas to return to camp. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXVIII, pt. II, pp. 320-321. []
  6. General Hooker’s Second Division led by Brig. Gen. John W. Geary on May 8 attempted to force its way through Dug Gap. Confederate cavalry, reinforced by units from Maj. Gen. Pat Cleburne’s division, held their ground in face of slashing attacks. After suffering 357 casualties, Geary recalled his brigades and retired to the foot of Rocky Face. The attack at Dug Gap was made to divert the Confederates’ attention from General McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee which was advancing through Snake Creek Gap with the goal of capturing Resaca. Ibid., pp. 114-117; O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXVIII, pt. III, p. 721. []
  7. The Army of the Potomac on May 4 had advanced against General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. A terrible battle had been fought in the wilderness, south of the Rappahannock, on the 5th and 6th. Although Meade’s army suffered more than 18,000 casualties, General Grant did not turn back. The Army of the Potomac broke contact with Lee’s troops on May 6 and advanced to the southeast. A forced march was made by Lee, and he intercepted the Federals at Spotsylvania. From May 7 to 18 the two armies battled in front of Spotsylvania. []

About Colleen Theisen

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

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