Letters from the Civil War
We’ve been as accurate as possible in transcribing the letters and other documents from the Fountain family and some army friends of Jerome and Hiram (Hick). All spelling, capitalization and (practically non-existent) end punctuation are as written. If we weren’t sure what a word was or if we guessed what a word was the word appears in italics.
Often letters were signed “& C.” This may mean "etcetera" and appears to be a common way of closing a letter.
Any additional information added by us is within parentheses.
In this listing of letters, each is preceded by an italicized indication of what it contains.
JoAnne P. Miller and Darin Sheffer, transcribers
If you would like to read about the Fountain family CLICK HERE
(balloons being used in surveillance; gun accidents in camp)
Washington Aug 30 /61
Dear friend George
Your letter of the 23 came to hand on yesterday & was verry happy to receive it in reply to mine of the 18. this morning as the Sun is rising it is verry pleasant & quite cool. Charles & myself are well & are enjoying ourselves as well as can be expected. Hiram is well you probably have herd that Sam Degolier escaped from the enemy nearly two weeks ago or more & got back last week to his company. last tuesday just at Sundown the log rool was Sounded which gave the alarm that the enemy was approaching upon us, & Soon Some 3000 of our trops were on the march to meet the enemy if they Should attempt to make an attact on us, but the enemy did not attact us or have not yet, but our troops are all out yet that went out the other day with a large number more that have gone out since. It is supposed that the enemy are a go to make an attact uppon us to day, but it is now near nine Oclock and the enemy are Still quiet. our troops that are out are almost within conversing distance of the enemy, yestarday about three Oclock the enemy fired upon a house near the fourth regiment that Some of the New York boys occupy. this house is Situated on a high eminance of ground so that our troops can see the enemy or at least quite a portion of them, this they did not like & therefore fired upon it with their cannons but to no effect. then just before Sundown there was a balloon that went up in one of our camps near by so we could see the man quite plain that went up in it, his object was to take a vew of the enemy as he has a large glass so that he can see for quite a large distance around & correctly what the rebbels are a doing. whether they are getting reinforcements or whether they are marching to Some other point or place. this man with his balloon watches the enemy verry close so that we know pretty well what they are a going or at least the most of the time. last night about Six Oclock there was a man Shot through just at the pit of his Stomach & did not live but a few moments. he was shot accidently. there was one shot in the fourth regiment mostly the same way. there is quite a number of accidents that has happened in our regiment this week there has Some 90,000 ninety thousand new troops already come into the citty & are still a comming thicker and faster every day, this morning I understood that the fifth regiment got here last night this however is not reliable
George I do not think of any thing more to write at this time, So excuse this & Oblige
write soon from that Emerson
to G.G. Fountain
(visit to Sharp Shooters and Jerome; advice to George not to join army as private)
Fort Woodbury, Sept 23. 1861
If I wer to tell you that I am going to write you a letter you might say with perfect cincerety that you diden’t believe any such thing so I will let it go with simply saying that I am going to make the attempt So here goes In the first place let me reciept my mail since last I wrote It consists of one from Father & Mother One from Sis and two from you Thats from home Also one from Jerome & one from Dick S Yes & two papers from home including handerkerchief & Just what I neaded Allow me therefore to express my heart fealt thanks for all it done my Heart & Soul good to hear from you all and did I have time I would write a sheat chuck full to each one of you but as it is you must or at least aught to be thankfull that you get this Therefore consider it as much for you all as for one “in plain english Adressed to you all” It is now evening and such an one as old Michigan seldom if ever saw Beautiful beyond description I have just returned from a visit to the Sharp Shooters Found them in ranks ready to start for picketing so of I went with them to their post As for Jerome I asshure you that if I had met him in the road & could not see any thing but his face I should not have recognized a Fountain in him but you could’ent fool me on that gate of his They are to due forty eight hours duty & then they are going to come over to our camp They are all well excepting a little home sickness & C They have had one little scirmish with cecesh No body hurt I believe They are at preasent stationed at Chain Bridge & am lead to believe by what I read in yours dated Sept 14 that you entertain some serious thoughts of enlisting If so banish such thoughts at once and for ever Doe not under no consideration whatever enlist as a soldier If you want to come down here & see what we are doing just say so & I will send you money to come with but never enlist if I may be allowed to advise you Perhaps there may be some plase vacated in the regiment where the duty is light that can be procured for you If so I will write and let you know it but never enlist as a private for you can never perform half of the duties that is alloted them We have recieved our U.S. pay and am now waiting an opportunity to send it hom byexpress I will send you a speciment of our pay a Five dollar note There has been a little case of supposed disertion in our Company since last I wrote Lient & Private Willcox s took french leave while on Picket the other day They are now in search of them now I thought when I began this that I could write it chuck full but my stack of fun has entirely exhausted Tell Sis that this is written with her pen But I must close in order to get this into this morning mail My best respects to all Write again soon In haste
This from Hick
(on picket duty; funny story about a piece of stove pipe that looked like a rebel; Jerome saw Hick across the river looking good; he urges George not to enlist)
Virginnia Sept 26th /61
This for the first time since we left our old Camp had any chance for writing a few lines To you We left Our Camp Last Saturday in the morning Crossing the Potomack At Long Bridge then we started for Fort Smith where we Are Now how Long we shal stay I Do not know Last Tuesday 20 of Our men were Detailed to go on picket guard I was Among that Number where we stayed three Days had plenty to Eat such As it was hard Crackers and Bacon with Some Sesesh Luxurys such as A chicken figs and roast Corn the boys went scouting twice But Did not get Any rebels they got One shot At A rebel which sent him on a Blanket In A hurry Came a across a peace of Artilery made A rush for it & suckseeded in Capturing it when Lo & behold It was Nothing But An Old peace of Stove pipe fastened on An old shaving horse raised upon A Stump when the gave A Cheer for It & went Home. Just As we wer starting for posts who should I see But Hick standing upon the Bank by the side of the road was pretty glad to see Him Once more Never saw him Look Tougher in my Life Sayes he is pretty well satisfied with Soldiering as am I But I hope that you will not Be fool Enough to Enlist Becaus we Did you had better stay At home & when you have the war fever go up & see that pretty Little Black Eyed Susan But I guess that this will Do for this Time. O. the rest of the Boys that was left in Camp had A little Skirmish yesterday So they have got plenty to Do to Day Cleaning their, One of the Boys got his wrist hurt with A shell
Write Soon Yours In haste
Direct the same As
Jerome H. F.
(Jerome hasn’t had the ague in some time & hopes to not see it soon; he urges George not to let older boys[?] take away his girl; he wants to know if Sis got the money he sent)
Washington. D.C. Oct 4th /61
I having recieved A letter From you Last Eavining Stating that you had not herd from me in Some Time if such being the Case They have not gon where they should have gon As I have written from two to three Every week since I have Been here I am well At present having Not seen Any thing of the Ague in some time & I hope that I may not in some time to come But some of the Boys Shake evryday in the week, there is one thing that I want You to Do & that is not to Let Elder Blowess Coax your Girl away from you I hear occasionaly About It As it is Almost time for me to report At the guard house I must Close when you write I want you to Let me know whether Sis got that money that I sent her So good By
write as soon as possible
(the cavalry was in camp about a mile from Camp Burnside toward Chain Bridge, which spanned the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. to Virginia; the cavalry was at a skirmish at Bull Run/Manassas, a place where Confederate forces defeated the Union forces on July 21, 1861)
(John Campion wrote to George, telling him about a train derailment that hurt some people)
Washington DC Oct 7th /61
As the mail Came In I found A letter from you I was glad to hear from you, I am well At present, Pretty Darnd hot down Here for a few Days the Cavalry Boys Are In Camp About one mile from here Towards Chain Bridge Some of the Boys are Over Evry day I was over & made them A vaiset thee other day they are all well As usual & Eager for A fight when the Boys wer out at their Bull run Skirmish Some of them got some one Cali___ of which I sent you a peice for your woman Also a card for Neak tell her that I want her to write A few lines as she Can Just As well As not Excuse haste & a poor place to write Tell Father that he will have to watch his Calves
After this write soon
This from Jerome
October 7 /61
Dear friend George as I had an opotunity of writing a few lines to you I thought I would improve the time for a few moments I am well and tough as a bear it is very warm down here but when we get in to battle it will be warmer yet we came through fort Detroit all wright only the train ran of the track and jerked our heads a little nobody killed we are one mile from Jerome and we ron a way evry day or to and have a good old chat - george rite to me and i will answer
John L. Campion Washington DC first Michigan Cavelry company e
(Sis bemoans those not at home; Father wanted to be with his sons; some boys started for Jerome’s company)
Hudson. Oct 16th /61
Brother Jerome .. After a hard days work at the pleasant work of cleaning house I will spend the few leisure moments which I have before retiring in writing to one that is far from among the circle Jerome it looks rather lonely to gather around the fire at evening and look around and see the now vacant seats. Two unoccupied chairs then the thought is where are its inmates. Gone and gone where gone perhaps never more to return. but such is not our thoughts here (or not mine) for I look forward to better anticipations. better hopes. George received a letter from you to day, and in it you said you was tough as a bear weighing 164 pounds, now I must tell you what Father Said. He said he wished he was down there too he believed he would live with the sick headache every day. wich I believe would be one half of his life. To day there was some boys started for your company rather unexpected to some to see them start, but go they must and leave friends and all in tears, I want you too remember. this is the second letter (or thing) I have written since I have heard from you. So you must excuse me for it is getting late and I have got to get up and get in the morning Miss Perenelia B Miss Amelia B are coming here to morrow you know what she smells like _ _ _ _ _ So I wont tell but the clock has just struck ten an I must now say Good Night Write Write as soon as you get this.
Accept this from Sis
So Good night
(perhaps George sent seeds to Hick)
Fort Woodbury Va Oct. 31 /61
Yours of the 25th it was received this morning & alow me to remark that it was most than thankfully recd, the more so because of its contents which came through all righ. You say they are natural as life & I think as much! seeds which I know from experience.
If you have got any more send them along. They will be acceptible at any time. I was very glad to know the result of your experiment. I think the more you practice it the more you will like it. You also noticed the arival of the noted blow hardy Mast Webb. I’m glad I hant there just now, how ever you may give him my best respects. But the dance is now in full blast & I must close for the purpose of (to use Corporal Tanners maxim) triping the light fantastic toe. Write as soon as you get this if not B. 4
(Jerome was very sick & died on Feb. 10, 1862)
Camp of Instruction
Washington, D.C. Jan 31st 1862
Sis: I was down to the city yesterday and while there I called on Jerome and found him a geting along fine but he looks prety thin But sayes that he has not had a fever in a week or ten days. He has been quite sick a great deal sicker than we thought of at the time he sayes that he thinks that he can sit up long enough to write a letter to you but wished that I would this time as he had no paper or writing utensils we are going to sent this ____ the next time that we can get a chans I was over the river yesterday seen Hick and found him well. Yours in haste I remain as ever & C. Frank H. Cobb
if there is any changes for the worse I will write you. I guess that he will get along now and be with us again in a couple of weeks.
Frank H. Cobb
(Hick’s account of their recent movements; his prediction of rebellion from the troops if the rumor he heard about Lincoln dismissing Gen. McClellan were true.
On Nov. 5, 1862, Pres. Lincoln removed Gen. George B. McClellan from command of the Army of the Potomac. While McClellan built a capable army, he was a sluggish and timid commander. Lincoln feared he would never defeat Gen.Robert E. Lee. McClellan was replaced by Gen. Ambrose Burnside, much to the distress of the troops, who revered McClellan.)
Near Warenton. Va! Tuesday Nov 11th 62
Today finds me as usual enjoying good health & buoyant spirits. Although being somewhat worne down by long & continued marching yet I am ready to go an if be the wish of authorities “what be”! It has been some time since youhave doubtless heard from me & now I propose to give you an acount of what & where we have been. Starting from our camp near Sharpsburg on the eve of Oct 30 we marched until about 1 o’clock making within about 2 miles Harpers Ferry, bivoucking for the rest of the night. Starting pretty early we came that day about 2 miles into Virginia crossing at the Ferry where we remained until the morning of the 9th of Nov. While staying here we feasted upon the fat of the land in the shape of Sheap, Hoggs, Chickens Honey, & the like. In fact all the Country afforded. Striking our Tents we again resumed our onward march we made that day what is known as Snickers Gap near a little place bearing the above name. Were we also had fine times feasting upon what could be found & your humble Servt was not backward in helping himself although in some instances I could but pity the folks. as every thing in the shape of Earthly goods wer taken from them leaving them to get along as best they could. We remained here one day & two nights. Starting at early dawn we overtook before night what is known as White Plains Station a place of little or no account where an unmerciful snow storm overtook us as if sent to punish us for the bad deads we had done upon the road continueing all night & part of the next day: However we continued to “march along” cold though it was & bad walking in the bargain. From Whiteplains Station we moved until about noon camping down for the rest of the day & that night starting at 2 in the morning & moving to where we are now stopping awaiting we know not, but suppose that some great Straetic movement is on foot. It seams that the government has been undertaking some such movement in removing our Commander. But if they anticipated any such thing they have in my opinion mad a total failure Know you that. the Army of the Potomac is upon the eve of rebellion & if many more such moves as that is made a rebellion will be started greater than is in the south at the preasent time. At last so say the Soldiers & as one goes so goes them all It seems as though the Government wer bound never to end the war. Such is the judgment one arives at from the actions Certain it is that if things do not take a different turn there is not a few “that will play ant as soon as they recieve the pay due them but you nead not fear for me & don’t anticipate any such thing It is geting quite cold here for some time & it is quite hard work to keep warm during the night time But I must soon sow up Your Letter containing those letters has been read They came to hand while we wer at Whiteplains Station. I have not yet seen Capt Baker yet but shal at the earliest moment possible. I can’t think of any thing more to write so I will close Write soon and let me hear how you are geting along on the Farm if feel so disposed You will have either to set right down to it or hire one to do it for you & study this ant. It is quite late & I can’t go any farther so good night
From Your & C. Hick
(Hick thinks, by the action in camp, that there is a battle afoot; he thanks his family for a special letter from all of them)
Camp near Falmouth. Va.
Jan. 15th /63
Apearances indicate that another movement is about to take place The sick are being sent of Teams are being inspected & other nessary preparations are being made & I as usual thinking that purhapse no better opportunity will present itself for this purpose. I of course improve it Yours & Mothers letter was recieved in due time but there being no answer previous to this I shall have to acknowledge that I have been a little dilatory I was very much surprised at recieving such a large package by mail but thinking of some one had taken compashion on me & either procured my discharge or sent it to me, purhapse a commishion in some other Regt but judge of my surprise on opening it & finding it to be one large sheat & chock full of writing to & right from home all the way Why it was enough to make a fellow near crazy with delight “as I came near doing” The twoo dollars you sent me I had forgoten to mention. before but will now. It was recieved & spent for paper. envelopes stamps & the like. Also some little nessaries with which to celebrate the hollidayes with which was done in a most appropriate stile.
I have just learned that a twelve mile march is to be made tomorow. but which way it is to be made of course every body cant tell, certain it is we cant go forward that far without geting into trouble. Our Coln’el is away & the Dr is going ammunition & stores being loaded on the Cars so I judge by that that it is going to to be something besides a forward movement. The Dr & Fred are going to start for home in the morning & one of them will fetch this through therefore “do not think me in town if it be a drop letter”. Write again soon & I will try & reply in a way more befitting.
From Yours & C. & C.
(not much to write about; Hick’s colonel returned to camp & spoke to the troops)
Near Falmouth Va.
March 10th /1863
After considering the subject for a long time I have at last concluded to write although not having anything in particular to write about
Since we have been in camp after having performed our regular routine of picket duty I have been waiting for something to write about but in vain. I intended to have written from the same place that I did to A - & C - but we wer relieved before an opportunity was afforded.
It extremely dull times her now. Today it is Snowing some. Yesterday it was so warm that it was almost uncomfortable for one to be moving around.
Our new Colonel has got back at last. After dark the boys turned out & gave him three cheers. for which in return he spoke a few words to them which pleased them very much nearly all the men seem to like the change very much
I cant think of any more to write at preasent. I probably shall be more punctual in writing in the future
From Your Afect. & C
(Hick is upset that he hasn’t received a letter, but rethought his decision to not write until he got one; the Irish in a Massachusetts regiment plan a celebration for St. Patrick’s day; such celebrations raise the spirit … but also lead to drinking a strife; Wallis Ball visited; questions about a furlough)
Near Falmouth. Va. Mar 16th 63
When last I wrote I resolved then, that it would be the last time or at least I should remain silent until I should recieve something in reply. but I have concluded since then that it was rather a rash judgement. at least I have concluded to write again. We are expecting fine times here tomorrow.
One of the Regt’s forming the Brigade is composed wholely of Irish from Mass. Tomorrow being St. Patricks day they are going to celebrate it in fine stile by. Horse racing foot racing. Climbing Greased poll & Catching Greased Pigg whose shrieks I can plainly hear. in my tent. undergoing the prossess of shearing Wheather they will have a nott tied in his tail is more than I know. At least they are expecting high times, which kind of doings as this tend to enliven the spirits of the men. but after all I doubt not but what they at the same time are the breader’s of much evil There is generally more or less fighting going on among the men where is to be found here but whiskey in greater abundance In the whole such doings tend to stir up strife and contention between different Regt’s which lead to no good. I was visiting the S.G. the other day & whoo should I see there but Wallis Ball. He was visiting his brother He looks natural yet although he is somewhat bigger than he used to be
All the boys there are well so far as I know. In our own company the boys are feeling extremely well. I have not seen Dr. French for some time The last I saw him we had a very pleasant conversation together & on the whole I find him to be a very agreable companion. He has called several times at our tent & spent the whole evening with us. I am trying my best for a furlough now & think I will be able get one before long My love to Mother & the rest
Yours Truly & C
(the report of the St.Patrick’s Day celebration)
Near Falmouth. Va.
March 18th 1863
I have nothing of special interest to write at this time, therefore it must be somthing like duty that prompts me to do it. Such is the case, for I have been told by different individuals that you feel awfull when you dont hear from this child at least twice a week. We have had the Selebration & “such” a Selebration. -
First in the morning came the mock parad led by the 9th Mass. Conducted by the privates of different companies. Huge shoulder strapps made of paper & ____ Swords made of wood seemed to be the order of to be the order of the occasion. Then there was the Greased pole 40 feet high greased the whole length on the top of which wer a furlough for 10 days $10 dollars in money and an order on the briggade Comissary for two cantines of whiskey Next came the Sack Race. Distance 10 rodds for $10.00 dollars. There wer six competitors for the prise. They wer made to robe themselves from their necks down, in one stout Sack The only way they could navigate at all was by hopping & if one lost his ballance of course he fell. or rather tumbled down. It was a very exciting scene. the time intervening between this & the the pig chase was ocupied inrunning Horses and Mules. Gen’l Griffiths was preasant & participated in this sport with a right good will but. alass. there is no race without its thorns Their joy was soon turned to that of sorrow They had not been racing long when an accident occured that ended the performance of the day Several Officers among whom even the Q.M. of the 9th Mass had just started from one end of the ground at the same time that more had started from the other end among the others was a Doctor of the 32 Mass. Att the center & when they 9 & 32 came in colision with each other instantly killing both horses & injure the men so that the life of one is despaired of. Another man ran his horse against a government wagon dislocating its shoulder Owing to these accidents the performaces wer ended & the remainder of the day given to Drinking and fighting Many wer the drunken in the ditches & the black eyes sneaking of to their quarters. I have no particular desire to see St. Patricks day celebrated again. in such stile at least. Today we have raised a very handsome Liberty pole on our parade ground but we haven’t any collors to let fly from its top. That beautifull little flagg we fetched from home has been stolen from us. But I am going on in most to fast a stile so I will bring up now & have not recieved a single thing from home in the shape of a letter in so long a time that I begin to feel quite contented without any. But you may wright as often as you can
From Your Afect - & C.
(Hick tells his mother he is far more concerned with the health of his loved ones at home than his own safety; the troops were reviewed by a foreign general; Hick has a cold and feels this isn’t his best effort at a letter and begs his mother to not share it)
Near Falmouth. Va
Apl 12th 1863
Yours of the 18th rec’d this morning. I was very glad to hear from you and home once more the more because it was so unexpected. and because brought to me such glad tidings. that you wer all well. for if there is any one thing that impresses me with fear it is the news that some one of the Dear ones at home are unwell. I can recieve order to go upon the battle field although I wer certain of never returning. with a calmness not to be compaired with it. Oh, that some friendly cannon had hurled its deadly miscle. that would launch this being into Eternity rather than live to the dread realization
But as as an all wise Providance has willed it otherwise there is but one way. and that is to quietly submit. Oh the sad and lonely house. ____ None can tell!
We have had another review today by. I believe. a Swiss General. at least he was a forigner of very war like appearance
It has been extremely warm to day. and tonight it is raining
Tomorrow we get our pay it is said and then if the expected furlough comes at the expected time I shall be prepared for it.
You must not place to much confidence in what I write about a furlough. but bear in mind that there is nothing to be relied upon here.
I have a very severe cold accompanied with headache which. to me. is nothing agreable so it is with much dificulty that I write therefore you must excuse this if it not very interesing. therefore. please do not circulate this as a sample. With my best wishes for the future welfare of you all I still remain
Affectionately & C Yours
(the troops may have been preparing for the Chancellorsville campaign, fought between April 30 and May 6, 1863 and won by the Confederates; Hick sent some pay home; this letter was very messy, apparently written quickly.)
Near Falmouth. Va
Apl 16th 63
We are now under marching orders and expect to get under motion soon. We are supplied with 7 days rations. The Cavelry force went out some time ago and have not been heard from since.
It has been raining some for about 48 hours enough to make the roads quite muddy. All surpluss baggage has been packed in boxes and is to be turned over to Q/M. and sent off. The men are allowed to carry but little clothing and more rations. & have but little time to write. therefore cannot be very particular
We have received one pay and I have sent you $40.00 dollars by express You can get by enquiring of JM Word Post master It Consists of the allotment of $30.00 and a $10.00 Green back. You will hear from me occassionally as opportunities are presented
My best wishes for you all
Affectionately Yours & C
(further information about what may have been the march to join the Chancellorsville campaign; the Union army crossed the Rappahannock River)
Hast Wood Chapell. Va.
April 28th 1863
At last we is off We wer detailed & sent on Picket the 26th. The 27 we was ordered in and broke Camp starting about noon. marching until after dark last night. Our destination is supposed to be Kelleys or United States ford’s where we are to cross. It generally supposed that our movements will be attended with success. At least - we have the satisfaction of knowing that we are not to attack them in front again. Our force. so far as know. Consists of 5. 11. and 12 Confs’s At least the other Corps did not start with us. This is all I can write at this time for the Column is in motion.
I send this back by one of the boys that has given out and is to return to the Hospital I will write agan as soon as I get a chance
My best wishes for you & all Good by for the present
Respectfully Yours as ever & C
(the 4th Michigan Infantry was involved in the Battle of Chancellorsville on the date that Hick wrote this letter, so perhaps that’s where he was.)
Upon the field. May 4th 63
I am writing now from the Battle field I am yet unharmed We have had 3 days fighting None of importance going on today This is all I have time to write now
Co C of the S S has lost about 25 killed & wounded