The Fountain Family of Somerset, Pittsford and Hudson - Letters from the Civil War
(If you click on the words written all in capitals you’ll find additional information.)
Letters sent home from Civil War Union camps—and one from the battlefield during the BATTLE OF CHANCELLORSVILLE (April 28, 1863, from Hick)—share two soldiers’ views of war. According to the donor of these letters, their relative Edward Pickell, “The letters refer to significant events of the PENINSULA CAMPAIGN as well as reflecting the life of the common soldier, his thoughts and opinions as they were experienced.” JEROME FOUNTAIN and his brother HIRAM FOUNTAIN (called Hick) wrote about the drudgery and discomforts and also about the friendships that were important to them. They mention SAM DEGROLYER, Frank Coff and Wallis Ball, friends who served with them. Almost all of the letters remind those at home to write and write often.
MAJOR GENERAL GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN was popular with his soldiers. A military leader excellent at training soldiers, he was paralyzed with caution when making battlefield decisions. He was removed from the command of the Army of the Potomac after an embarrassing defeat to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Hick wrote a passionate letter about how the boys reacted when rumor reached them that this had happened (Nov. 11, 1862). In it he predicted that if this rumor proved true there would be a rebellion among the soldiers that would make the rebellion in the South look minor.
The letters written to their father contained information that they kept from their mother. Hick even wrote one to her (April 12, 1863) that expressed his deep concern for the safety and health of those at home, valuing their lives over his own. Several letters are written to their brother George, with both Jerome and Hick urging him not to enlist in the army. George died on Mar. 3, 1862 at 23 years, 8 months, of consumption (tuberculosis). The fact that he may have been ill with consumption for some time may be why his brothers urged him not to enlist.
The boys are said to be from Hudson, and sometimes from Hillsdale County.
Hick enlisted in the Fourth Michigan Infantry on June 20, 1861. The Fourth spent much time on picket duty, and many of the letters from him were written from near FALMOUTH, VA, where the Army of the Potomac helped protect Washington, D.C. He also wrote from FORT SMITH and FORT WOODBURY two other posts in the Arlington Line which were established to keep the capital of the Union safe. Hick was killed in action at Gettysburg, PA on July 2, 1863, the second day of that most deadly battle.
Jerome enlisted in the FIRST U.S. SHARPSHOOTERS on Aug. 26, 1861. From his letter of Oct. 4, 1861 and another written by Frank H. Cobb on Jan. 31, 1862 it’s clear that he suffered from malaria (“the ague”). He trained in the SIGNAL CAMP OF INSTRUCTION in Washington, D.C., and most of his letters are from there. He died of the disease in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 10, 1862.
Art Ruitberg of Williamsburg, VA offered additional information about the Camp of Instruction and Jerome's final resting place. To read it CLICK HERE.
To read about the type of photography used for the Fountain pictures and for more pictures of the Fountain family CLICK HERE.
To read the letters written during the Civil War by this family CLICK HERE.
The Fountain family was headed by John L. Fountain (51 years old in 1861)and his wife, Marilla (44 years old in 1861). Receipts include one for a double headstone purchased by Marilla after John’s death in 1865 and a letter from the U.S. government to Marilla on Jan. 8, 1868 giving her $100 as pay due Jerome.
A note in the Hudson Gazette on Mar.4, 1864 read "John L. Fountain, 54, died n Pittsford Mar. 3, of apoplexy. Had gone to get a load of wood, & was stricken in the woods."
Marilla's obituary, as was usual, didn't mention her first name, calling her Mrs. John L. (Goodrich) Fountain. It said she was born on Jan. 23. 1816 in Williston Rutland co. VT and died on Nov. 14, 1879 in Pittsford twp. It went on to say that "She & husband among early pioneers of this country, having settled on farm where she died in the spring of 1836. Her husband has been dead for 16 yrs. & 3 sons & 1 dau. have preceded her to the silent land. She has 4 daus. yet living. Funeral from her late residence Tues."
John and Marilla were buried in Goodrich Cemetery in Pittsford.
Gertrude Elizabeth Collins Coldren wrote a letter on Oct. 7, 1962 explaining her connection to the Fountain family. Her information came from Mary Skeuse of Pittsford, who was a neighbor girl whose mother assisted at the birth of Gertrude's father, George Frederick Collins. Sadly George's mother, aged 20, then died shortly after. Her name was Mary Fountain Collins. Mary Skeuse told Gertrude that Mary Fountain was "a beautiful Christian girl, always in the church choir and everybody was grief stricken at her death. Her husband had gone west to carve out a home for his family but never returned when his young wife died until dad was 14. I remember hearing that the Fountain family was disgusted with him for that as well as his failure to return the $500 they had sent with him to make that new home' that much more comfortable for their daughter,' now dead or the baby, still living."
Alice Jane Fountain Brown was the great-great grandmother of Stephen Schow. Stephen and his wife, Bonnie, contacted the Hillsdale County Historical Society to share pictures of several tombstones from Goodrich Cemetery.
Stephen and Bonnie Schow were able to add information about the Brown and Collins branches of the Fountain family because of their own genealogical research. If you would like to read about the Brown family CLICK HERE.
The 1860 census lists the children of John and Marilla living with them as George G, 21, Amelia R., 15, Cornelia L, 12, Alice J., 4, and Ella, 1. Mary Ella had apparently married a man named Collins and was not listed, although George F. Collins, 2, was. Many of the letters mentioned “Sis,” who may have been Mary. Stephen and Bonnie Schow speculate that Mary Ella may have died in childbirth, with the result that Marilla and her other daughters raised young George Collins. The last child of John and Marilla was born in the same year as Mary Ella's death and was named after her sister. From the Census, it looks like she was called "Ella."
Bonnie Schow also provided birth and death dates for John and Marilla Fountain and their offspring:
John Fountain 1809-1864
Marilla Goodrich Fountain 1816-1879
Mary Fountain Collins 1837-1858
George G. Fountain 1839-1862 (I'm betting on "Goodrich" for his middle name)
Jerome H. Fountain 1840-1862
Hiram B. Fountain 1841-1863 (He was known as "Hick")
Amelia R. Fountain Stedman 1844-1901
Cornelia L. Fountain Stedman 1848-1902 (She was known as "Nick")
Alice Jane Fountain Brown 1854-1900
Mary Ella Fountain Foster 1859-1914 (Mostly known as Ella)
Amelia and Cornelia married brothers.
To read the receipts, deeds and other papers from the Fountain family CLICK HERE.
The letters were donated to the Hillsdale County Historical Society by Ed Pickell. His grandmother (Mrs. Ruby Harper) counted Jerome and Hiram Fountain as part of their extended family. The letters were transcribed by JoAnne P. Miller and Darin Sheffer.