This letter was written by English-born Robert Greenhalgh (1831-1909) of Philadelphia. The service record for Greenhalgh is confusing. A pension record for Greenhalgh states that he was a musician in the 1st U. S. Cavalry (Regular Army), but I believe he served in the reorganized 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry which was reconstituted after the original enlistment expired in September 1864. It was consolidated with the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry and 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry to form the 1st Pennsylvania Provisional Cavalry; then the 2nd Pennsylvania Provisional Cavalry.
I don’t believe Robert was mustered into the cavalry until March 1865 — a couple of weeks before this letter was written. He speaks of a $100 government bounty he expects to receive for his enlistment.
Robert was the son of English emigrants James Greenhalgh (1809-1875) and Ann Lees (1809-1868) of Philadelphia’s Precinct 7, 23rd Ward (Frankford Post Office) where in 1860 James worked as a dyer and Robert’s four sisters — Alice (24), Annie (22), Elizabeth (20), and Susannah (18) — worked as weavers. Two younger siblings — James (14) and Margaret (12) are enumerated in the household. In 1860, Robert (28) was enumerated with his sister (or wife) Mary (27) in the household of Samuel Jones where they were employed as weavers. Most of the members of this Greenhalgh family are buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. Robert’s death record shows that he was a weaver for most of his life.
March 17th 1865
Dear Father and Mother,
I received your welcome letter and was glad to hear you was all well as this leaves me at present.
We have just received orders to move to Point of Rocks — a small railroad station on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad about twenty-two miles from Harper’s Ferry. ¹ It is on the Potomac River. We have just received our equipments, and horses we will get in two or three days, I expect, as they have gone after them. It is quite likely we will remain in this vicinity for some time as we are on our own hook just now.
The brigade we belong to is with Sheridan. Our regiment being so small, we were left behind to recruit up. We received about one hundred more recruits the other day. Ten or more of them have skedaddled already.
If Annie has not sent that box she spoke of sending, tell her not to send it until I write again. I received a letter and paper from her last Sunday morning. I was glad to hear Headley ² had gone into business. I hope he may be successful.
The paymaster was here the other day. He paid off the regiment up to the 1st of January. Therefore, all that enlisted since then drew nothing. Therefore, I will not draw anything until next pay. Therefore, you might as well use what money you have at liberty as I recommended in my last letter. I fully expected to receive my $100 government bounty before this but it will be all right next pay I guess.
I think as you think about the war being played out but I think there will be a big fight first — either in Virginia or North Carolina — and then a general skedaddle if they get defeated.
Annie stated inn her letter that James expected a furlough so that I expect he may be home by the time you receive this. But if he is not, I guess it will be doubtful whether he gets a furlough this spring or not.
The men in Frankford liable to the draft I guess are a little excited about now as I see by the papers they have got to come to the scratch — either shoulder a musket or furnish volunteers.
You need not answer this [letter] as I cannot tell you where to direct to until we get settled in our new quarters when I will write to you again. I am afraid we will not have as good quarters as we are leaving but that is a soldier’s luck — get fixed comfortable, the off you go. Such things I expect. I calculate to try and take it all in good part just as it comes, rough and smooth. I think I will conclude for this time. Give my respects to all.
I remain your affectionate son, — Robert Greenhalgh
¹ In a subsequent letter, written on 29 March 1865, Robert described Point of Rocks as a “small place [of] about 30 houses, two taverns, 3-4 restaurants — oysters a dollar a dozen, a post office. The inhabitants are mostly Negroes. The B&O RR passes through here — trains run day and night. Our object for being here is to prevent rebels from crossing the Potomac.”
² Samuel Headley Boyer (1833-1908) of Frankford, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, married Ann Greenhalgh in Philadelphia on 5 February 1862.