This letter was written by Merville Lysander Saunders (1839-1888), the son of Rev. Alanson Saunders (1796-1853) and Cornelia Converse (1812-1857). Merville served as a sergeant in Co. F, 2nd Ohio Cavalry from October 1861 until the fall of 1863. In September 1863 he accepted a commission as 1st Lieutenant of Co. A, 12th Ohio Cavalry, was promoted to Captain in October 1863, and to Major in October 1865.
While with the 2nd Ohio Cavalry, Melville saw duty in Missouri where the regiment scouted on the borders of Kansas. In February, 1862, they drove Quantrill from Independence, Missouri. In the summer of 1862 they served in the Indian Territory, and in the fall joined General Blunt’s campaign in Arkansas and Missouri, fighting at Pea Ridge, Carthage and other points. They moved to Kentucky, and raided East Tennessee before joining in the pursuit of John Morgan, following him twelve hundred miles until he was captured. While with the 12th Ohio Cavalry, Merville saw extensive action in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina.
He was married to Phebe Russell Osgood (1842-1925) in January 1865. After the war he settled in Cleveland and became the manager of the Howe Sewing Machine Company.
Merville wrote the letter to his cousin, Harriet B. Isbell (1833-1905), the daughter of Robert Isbell (1807-1871) and Charlotte Taylor (1808-1897) of Tallmadge, Summit County, Ohio. Harriet was married to John Pearse Howland (1828-1902) in 1853.
Addressed to Mrs. Harriet Howland, Ravenna, Portage County, Ohio
In Care of J. P. Howland
Postmarked Miamiville, Ohio
Camp Dennison [Near Cincinnati, Ohio]
December 14th 1861
Since we came here, my time has been so much taken up that I have not found leisure until now to write to you. We left Cleveland on Sunday morning the 1st day of this month and arrived here the next morning. We found our barracks in a very poor condition — so full of mud and dirt that it was almost impossible to get into them. But after working pretty hard for awhile, we succeeded in making ourselves tolerable comfortable. Our camp is situated on the flats of the Little Miami [River] and surrounded on all sides by high hills so that we cannot see a great ways on either side of us.
It has been very pleasant weather ever since we came here — considerable warmer than it was in Cleveland. I have been pretty well most of the time until with 2 or 3 days past, during which time I have been troubled with a severe cough and today have got considerable fever attending it. I think that I shall have a turn of being sick before I get through with it.
There is a good deal of sickness in the camp — several cases of the small pox, and a good many of the measles, typhoid fever, &c. I am clerk for the company for which reason I am kept pretty busy writing. I have to keep all the books, write the furloughs, passes, and all the business letters for the Captain which are pretty numerous, so you must not blame me if I do not write very often. Besides all this, I have 20 regular correspondents — enough to keep one busy writing letters. But my letters show for themselves that they are written in haste. We have all that we can do from morning to night, and I might well say that there is no peace for the wicked.
[Your brother] Henry made me a visit before I left Cleveland and we had a fine visit, for I was very glad to see him. When you write, please tell me whether Henry is at home so that I can write to him. My address will be: Co. F, 2nd Reg. O. V. C., Camp Dennison, Ohio
Give my love to all and write soon. Also accept these few lines from me with much love, — Merville