17 May 2010

Amanuensis Monday: "The Civil War Letter"

(Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another. "Amanuensis Monday" is a blogging theme hosted by John Newmark at the Transylvanian Dutch genealogy blog.)

Growing up there were three items we all knew with evident family history value -- the family Bible, some Civil War era tin-types of ancestors, and "the Civil War Letter."  The letter is from my great-great-grandfather Charles Chesley to his wife Phoebe, who we have recently posted about.

The Civil War Letter was carried around in my father's coat pocket for many years. To this day he is not exactly sure why, all he knows is that he knew it had value as it offered him a form of connectedness to his roots as he moved around the country.  I think those of us who cherish family history know exactly what he means.

Here is the letter by letter transcription, all mistakes in spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. belong to my g-g-grandfather:

K Co. 8th Ill. Cav
Benton Barracks St. Louis Mo
June 28th, 1865

Dear Phebe,

I received your letter of the 18th last night while in bed and was truly glad to hear from home once more.  We left Fairfax Station on the morning of the 19th.  I was taken quite ill at Fairfax Courthouse but after remaining a short time I went on to Washington where I overtook the regiment.  That evening we got on the cars of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, laid over one day at Cumberland and then came to Parkersburgh, West Virginia.  There we took Steam Boat and landed at Lawrenceburgh, Indiana on the 25th where we again got on the cars, passed through the States of Indiana and Illinois and landed here yesterday evening and here we are in Missouri.  How long we will stay or where we will go next I do not know, we hear a great many yarns in reference to our destination.  Some tell us we are going to Texas, some say we go to Kansas.  I think we will go to Illinois, but how soon I do not know.  I cannot believe we will remain here any great length of time.  I see nothing fixing up here to remain, another thing we are not getting any soft bread, no cooking utensils or other conveniences for staying any length of time.  I ought to have told you that my sickness was only temporary.  I had a friend who stayed with me and I soon recovered, and had quite a pleasant trip considering the inconveniences we had to contend with, having no opportunity to cook.  Only at Cumberland where we did a little cooking, and the Sanitary Commission gave us coffee.  When we landed at Lawrenceburgh the citizens very kindly invited us to dinner at there houses & had they known we were coming they would have given us a jublie dinner.  It is the first, last and only town we passed through where we were treated like white folks or where the people seemed to appreciate the services of the soldiers.  We are encamped on the most beautiful place I have been in since I enlisted.  Very level, all the Barracks painted white.  I think the grounds contain about 40 acres, probably more.  There are a great many troops here, and as far as I can learn they are all homeward bound, except the Missouri troops and the Regulars, this makes me believe we will not remain here any length of time.  We have very beautiful weather, not very hot, yesterday was quite cool with a little rain.  I am at present in very good health but somewhat tired after our long trip of twelve hundred miles.  Yesterday evening after we got into our Barracks one of Co. D was shot by the accidental discharge of a Carbine through the carelessness of another of the same Co.  He lived about 15 minutes but never spoke or showed any indication of being conscious of what was passing around him.  If you write soon direct your letters to me at Benton Barracks St. Louis Missouri instead of Washington.  When we leave here I will write to you immediately on stopping at the next place.  Having nothing more of importance to write, and hoping you are in good health, accept the love of your devoted Husband.

C. H. Chesley
K Co. 8th Ill Cav
© 2010, Copyright Kevin W. Walker

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