1861: John to his brother Milton

1861 Patriotic Letterhead
1861 Patriotic Letterhead

The identity of this soldier named John has not been confirmed but he appears to have been a member of the 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery encamped near Langley, Virginia, late in 1861. The content of the letter suggests he was in the artillery and he provides the names of several members of the aforementioned regiment. He wrote the letter to his brother Milton. He may have had a sister named Fanny also and it seems probable that a Rev. Moffit was from his hometown. There are too many soldiers named John in this regiment for me to search each one’s family, however.


Camp Pierpont [Fairfax County, Virginia]
November 8th [1861]

Well, Milt, as Thomas is writing to ____, I thought I would write a few to you and let you know that I am well at present and hope these few lines will find you enjoying the same blessing.

Oh Milt, it would do you good to be here at meal time and in the morning to see us a crawling out of our tents like a lot of pigs when the bugle blows for us to get up and prepare for roll call. After roll call about a half hour, the bugle blows for us drivers to clean our horses and fed them and then we get breakfast and then it is every fellow for himself — the best fellow foremost — for he gets the biggest piece of meat and the most crackers for they have tin plates and the cook puts our rations in them. But this morning they put a guard around the table and keep the boys back till everything was ready. You would of laughed to of seen us when they hollered “breakfast!” for every man tried to see who was the smartest. But the cooks worked us this evening for they numbered the tents and Tom’s and Sam Duff’s and my tent was number 8 and you would of laughed to of seen the boys when they hollered tent number. 1st come and get your supper for it was a raining and they was all in their tents and when they called on the first tent, each fellow stuck his head out of his tent to hear his number called. This evening was the first time they numbered the tents and when they called on number first, Tom got on his hand and knees and struck his head out of the tent and I got on top of him and when they called on number 8, I pretty near broke Tom’s neck to get out first.

Well I have told you all the foolishness I can think of. I got a letter from Billy Nims the other day. He said he was well and I saw Jim Reesoner ¹ the other day and he is as fat as a pig. He is in the 10th Regiment — the same one that John Cowan ² is in. I didn’t know that John was in it or else I would of seen him too. I want to go and see him and John Ferite on the morrow if I can.

The Reverend Mr. Moffit was here on last night. You better believe I was glad to see him. He only stayed a few minutes. It was dark when he came. Tom was out at his horses when he came and I was down in the cook house when he came. He came up to Tom and spoke to him and then they came down to the cook house and Tom called me out. I came out. You better believe I was glad to see him. We talked a few minutes, then we went and showed him the cannons and then he started back to the city and Tom and I went along with him as far as we dared for the guards.

You said you wanted to go in the infantry. My advice to you is never to go in the infantry for it is hard for them to travel and carry their guns and their knapsacks.

I must quit for it will soon be roll call and our candle is pretty near done. Write soon and tell me if you are a going to school from home this winter and how Fanny gets along. Nothing more at present, but remain your brother, — John

To my brother Milton

¹ James Resoner, Co. B, 10th Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry (39th Volunteers). Died 21 September 1862 [Resoner]; Recruited at West Middlesex, Mercer County, Pennsylvania.

² John W. Cowan, Co. D, 10th Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry (39th Volunteers). Wounded at Gaines’ Mill 27 June 1862. Discharged on Surgeon’s Certificate 8 March 1863.


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