1862-1865: Peres S. Randall Letters

Dr. Peres S. Randall & his 2nd wife Mahala

These thirteen letters were written by Dr. Peres S. Randall (18 March 1803 — 26 August 1867), a native of Maine. He was married to his first wife, Delclutha Cushman (1805-1838), on 4 October 1825. She died in Portsmouth, Ohio, after giving birth to at least seven children over 13 years [see names in family notes below]. The following year (1839), Dr. Randall moved to Prestonsburg, Kentucky, where he took Mahala May (1819-1901), the seventh child of Samuel and Catherine (Evans) May, as his second wife. She was 16 years his junior. Mahala and Peres were married at the May House on July 30th, 1839. We know this because the occasion was recorded in the diary of Reverend William B. Landrum, the Methodist circuit rider who performed the ceremony. His diary contains this entry: “On the next day [Tuesday, July 30th] I went to Samuel May’s [house] near Prestonsburg and performed the rite of matrimony between Dr. Randall and Mahala May, in the presence of a great many persons, and we had a splendid dinner.”

After their honeymoon, the Randalls settled in Maysville, Kentucky. When the war came, Dr. Randall enlisted in the Union Army and served for three years as a surgeon with the 5th Virginia Infantry [later known as 5th West Virginia], U.S.A. He also served with the 14th Kentucky Mounted Infantry, U.S.A., whose headquarters was at Louisa, Kentucky. Service records indicate he enlisted 14 September 1861 and was discharged at Wheeling, West Virginia, on 20 September 1864.

By his second marriage, Peres and Mahala had several children, two of whom are mentioned frequently in these letters — Georgia Ann Randall (1840-1902) and Peres May G. Randall (1849-1903). Georgia was married in 1858 to Richard Fletcher Vinson (1838-1910) in Catlettsburg, Boyd County, Kentucky. Their children were Victoria (“Vic”) Vinson (1860-1930), Jane Lura Vinson (1862-1927), and a son born in 1864 (but apparently did not survive, probably named William Peres Vinson). All of these letters were written to Georgia’s husband, Richard F. Vinson, the son of Col William O. Vinson (1816-1882) of Cabell County, West Virginia.

After Mahala’s father died in 1851, her mother Catherine lived with her in Maysville where Mahala’s husband, Dr. Perez S. Randall, practiced medicine. After Dr. Randall’s death in 1867 Catherine and Mahala moved to Lousia, Kentucky where Catherine later died.

The following family notes are useful for genealogical purposes:

Peres Randall & Delclutha Cushman were married October 4th 1825
Don & Alonzo born September 7, 1826 — died August 10th 1827
Jane Eliza born July 18th 1828
Henry Floyd born 26 June 1830 — died March 2d 1832
Diodate Cushman born September 4th 1832
[Kittie] Delclutha born August 15 or 16, 1834 (on Saturday) [died Sept. 1895 in Quincy, IL]
Doc. P. Randall was born 18 March 1803 — died August 26, 1867, aged 64 years, 5 months, & 8 days.



New Creek, Virginia
March 13, 1862

Mr. R. M. Vinson
Dear Sir,

I have written to you and I have written several times to E[lliot] K[ingston] Gavet but I cannot get an answer from either. It may be because I am away out of creation here in the mountains of the Potomac, but you may be sure I want to hear from you. I have never heard yet where Mahala and Perez are, I do not know whether they are at Louisa, Prestonsburg, or West Liberty. I suppose that in all that country, there is nothing to live on and I do not know whether they are suffering or not. You can imagine that I am anxious to hear from you all about these things.

Now Dick, when you get this, please write and let me know all. Write how you are getting along, how Georgia and Vic is, and all the news that you think would be interesting to me away here on the Potomac.

I have had a pretty hard time this winter but my health has been generally good for me. Kiss Vic for me and Georgia too. Tell Perez to be a good boy and I will see him as soon as I can (if I can see him).

Receive my best wishes for yourself & Georgia & Vic.

Respectfully yours &c. — P. Randall

R. M. Vinson

Write all you know about Jack May. ¹

¹ Col. Andrew Jackson (“Jack”) May (1829-1903) of the 10th Kentucky (CSA) was Mahala’s brother. He later organized the 10th Kentucky Cavalry (CSA).

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[Note: This letter was shared by Richard Weiner from his personal collection for express publication on this blogsite.]

Camp near Fort Ethan Allen
Milroy’s Brigade
September 19, 1862
Headquarters, 5th Reg. Va. Vol. Infantry

Mr. R. M. Vinson
Dear Sir,

I received yours a few days since and I write you the first opportunity. Of course I have been busy. I do not recollect when I wrote you last but I think we have done some fighting since.

Dick, I have seen the elephant. After we left Culpeper and after the Battle of Cedar Mountain, we marched north to the Rappahannock and there in a distance of 12 or 15 miles we fought about 12 days every day and sometimes fight all day & march all night till we were near worn out. Then marched to Bull Run where we fought 3 days—the first day not very much, but on Friday & Saturday we lost 16,000 men, about 70 from our regiment. I amputated a leg for Jacob Lockwood [of Co. G] and while doing it, a 24th [pound] ball went right past his head & shells striking & bursting all round us. One wounded man brought and set down within a few feet of me was cut nearly in two by a shell. Well, when the shells came too thick into our place called a hospital, why we left. We are now in front of Washington guarding the approach on the Virginia side while McClellan is fighting in Maryland.

Now Dick, have I not seen the elephant? There has been a petition got up by the officers of the Va. regiments to be sent back to Western Va., but I think it will hardly take place till the fall campaign is over. They intend to give Stonewall Jackson a threshing before they stop now. McClellan is hard after him so do not be surprised if you hear soon of our being after him towards Richmond.

Dick, I wrote to P. M. G. yesterday and sent it by Mr. Morse to Ceredo to the care of E. K. [Elliot Kingston] Gavet, with $5 enclosed. I wish you would see to it. I want [my son] Peres to have some clothes this fall and I want him to go to school.

My health has been poor since the first of June with Camp Dysentery—some days better and then worse again. Today tolerable well but my clothes are all a great deal too large for me. I am in hopes when cool weather comes, I shall be better. Mr. [Lorenzo Dow] Chambers is not well but keeps about. I have him with me. He is affected somewhat like myself.

Dick, I have had an opportunity to learn what it is to be a soldier. I sleep in the ground with a blanket. We have had to leave our tents, baggage, and all that hinders speedy marching, now to sleep on the ground, sick or well, rainstorm or thunderstorm, and a great deal of the time could scarcely get anything to eat. Most of the time hard bread and beef till you get get so you cannot eat at all and then give $1 for a small loaf of light bread. This is hard times. Still we are all cheerful (when we are well). I am going to try to suffer it out a while longer to try to lay up something for myself and to try to give P. some education.

Dick, I want you to write me all the news about the Rebs in town. I heard that Troy was killed. And write what the feeling in the country is about the rebellion, what your father is doing, and all the news. Write if P. needs more money to get him clothes this fall.

I was glad to hear that you were elected clerk. Write who is judge, all about Jake & John Rice, & the Judge Rice, and about the folks generally.

Give my regards to all my friends, your father and his family, and write soon and I wish you to see that P writes to me and you direct his letters and accept my best wishes for yourself and Georgia & the children.

Respectfully yours &c., — P. Randall

R. M. Vinson, Esq.



Ceredo [Virginia]
December 28, 1862

Mr. R. F. Vinson
Dear Sir,

As I have an opportunity, I drop you a few lines. We have no news. All getting along as usual. My health is not good. My diarrhea has become chronic — sometimes a little better and then worse.

I went to Ironton [Ohio] a few days ago. I found Perez doing well and well situated. He boards with Preacher Kelley and they are very well pleased with him. They say he is a good boy and his teacher says he is learning fast.

This was all very pleasing to me. I expected that you and Georgia would have been down on Christmas. I went to Catlettsburg [Virginia] to see but did not find you there. I would be much pleased to see you and Georgia but I do not know when I can come up to Louisa. I have no time to write more. Write to me and let me know how you are all getting along.

Yours respectfully, — P. Randall

Mr. R. F. Vinson

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Ceredo, Virginia
January 17, 1863

Mr. R. F. Vinson

I received your note by Capt. Murry about the house &c. I do not want to sell it at this time. Let Mahala have it or the use of it. If she does not live in it, she may rent it.

I wish you to see Mr. Thomas Wallace and try to get him to pay $20 he owes me to Bernard Poage or to Burt Hutchinson. I do not know which has the note. He owes me the $20 for tending on Will Jones’ wife. I wish you to see him and see what he says about it. I want it paid.

I want you to tell Mahala that Perez can not come up very well now. There was no water in [the Big] Sandy [river] at the time of the vacation but school has commenced again and I think she had better go and see him if she can. It will cost no more.

I wish you to write me and let me know all about this matter and how they get along. I have no news. My health is pretty good. No pay day yet.

Yours respectfully, — P. Randall

R. F. Vinson, Esq.




Gauley Bridge on the Kanawha [West Virginia]
July 28, 1863

Dear Daughter,

I take this opportunity to write you a few lines. It has been a long time since I have heard from you. I have heard that it was very sickly at Louisa [Kentucky] and that many had died there & I was the more anxious to hear from you so you must write as soon as you get this — don’t fail — and with all the news and the deaths, how your family and how Mr. Vinson and all are.

I received a letter from your mother about 10 days ago and it surprised me very much. She wrote as though she wanted to live with me again, though she did not say it in so many words. But she should call me husband. She also spoke of the Rebel “Lee & his motley crew.” What does this mean? She also wrote me that Perez should not go to Catholic School nor to Catholic Meeting.

Now Georgia, I want your opinion. I know that it is a serious thing for man and wife to part and more particularly after they get to my age when they can never expect to enjoy again domestic happiness while they live and you know what my happiness has been for some years. Now do you think she is sincere or does she think to “wind me round her finger” because I have a little money. I think that any couple better live apart than to be together and guard all the time. She says she can forgive those that have injured her but said not a word that she had ever injured me or anyone else. I wrote her that I had never injured her intentionally in my life — that I had never told her an untruth unless it was to keep down a fuss. I do not know yet what to do and as I have to stay in the army another year, I thought that you might have a chance to find out Mahala’s feelings and intentions better than I could.

We do not have a very pleasant time in this regiment. You know Col. [John L.] Zeigler is out and now they want to get all out that were friends to Col. Zeigler and it may be that they will try to get me out too. But let them work at it if they like.

I do not know what I can do when I leave the army but if I do not squander what little I have saved, I am in hopes to get along comfortably somehow. But you see I have no home now. The place in Louisa is sold, I suppose, and how long will that $400 last.

Now Georgia, I want you to answer this letter as soon as you get it and direct to Gauley Bridge, 5th Regt. Va. &c. and I will get it if we should move. But I think we shall stay here this fall, but we do not know. This is a hard place and very costly.

Your affectionate father, — P. Randall

Mrs. G. S. Vinson

How are the children and Richard &c.



Gauley Bridge [West Virginia]
October 29, 1863

[R. F. Vinson]
Dear Sir,

Has the mail stopped between Catlettsburg and Louisa or what is the matter. I have written you several times and sent you some Nos. of the Knapsack and not a word have I heard from you this summer or fall. Now if you get this, which I send by private conveyance, please write so that I may know if you are in the land of the living or not.

Well, I have enjoyed tolerable good health this season so far. We are staying here doing nothing  holding an outpost &c.

I was at Maysville a short time ago. Found Mahala well and getting along very well. She rents a house at $5 per month and lives well and pretty cheap. Mahala was very kind to me and seemed to be alright, and seemed anxious to do everything right and proper as any woman or wife ought to.

I want you to write about the sale of the lot. If the purchaser will pay for it, I will authorize you to put my name to the contract if that will do.

Now I want to know how Georgia’s health is and the children. Tell Georgia to kiss Vic for me. I want to see her very much.

We do not know yet whether we will stay here this winter or not. It is a hard but romantic place — all mountain scenery of the boldest kind. The celebrated cliff called the Hawk’s Nest is only seven miles from here up New River.

Now Richard, write all the news. Give my best regards to Col. Galup. Tell him I would ride a half a day to see him. Be sure and write as soon as you get this. I have many things I would like to write about, but not time.

Respectfully yours &c., — P. Randall

R. F. Vinson, Esq.


Gauley Bridge [West Virginia]
March 8, 1864

[R. F. Vinson]
Dear Sir,

Within a few days I have received two letters from you — one by Wm. Martin and one by Mr. Cox. This is all I have received from you since I saw you except one short one near two months after its date in which you said you had just written me a long letter and all the news which I never got. Now I have written you often till the last two months. I then gave it out.

Gen’l George Crook

I have no news to write at this time. We have Gen’l [George] Crook over us now in this valley and Gen’l Sigel over this division. I am acquainted with Gen’l Sigel — have been under him in East Virginia. He is a good man & general. We think there will be something done now in this division.

Mahala is here now on a visit. Has been for 3 or 4 weeks but is about to start home. She is alright, except the worst Secesh you ever saw. We are both well. I suppose Perez is learning very fast. I cannot say that I shall be able to visit you before my time is out next September. I shall if I can. I want to visit you very much & Georgia & the children.

Tell your father I do not hear much said about the Presidential Election but I think the most of our regiment will vote for Lincoln. They think he had better finish his job. They will not vote for a butternut nor one who is suspicioned of being one. I wish you to write me who the loyal men about your region of country want for President.

I wish you to write me if you think the debt for the house is good [and] if you think Murry will pay it. If so, I will make him a Deed at anytime and authorize you to give him a Deed. Mahala wants the money. She has a notion of trading. Please write me all about it, &c.

We are all for putting down the Rebellion in the shortest time possible without much feeling who does it — [just] so it is done and done quick. I hope that is the feeling or yourself & father.

Give my best regards to Georgia, your father, &c. and kiss all the little Vinson’s for me. tell Vic she has another grandpa and not forget him.

Accept my best regards for yourself and all friends. Mahala sends her love to all. Yours etc. — P. Randall

R. F. Vinson, Esq.



Gauley Bridge [West Virginia]
March 21, 1864

[R. F. Vinson]
Dear Sir,

I received a few days ago your kind and interesting letter and I suppose I can rejoice with you another very joyful occasion. You say you have grown so much in height and rotundity I fear that your coat will be so big you “can’t pay de tailor” but you must not think it is all done or that the trouble is all over. If he lives, the boy is to raise yet, and you must not forget the little girls. They are all little tender things yet.

Now let me caution you a little about Georgia. A great many women lose their health by trying to get about too soon and over doing themselves by work. They think [it] must be done and after they have once lost their health generally, it cannot be restored. So do not think it a hardship to favour her. You may save her health, yes, and money too by it, and a great many regrets. I presume your father as well as myself feels proud of the name.

I wrote you but a few days ago and I have written you many things which I suppose never reached you and I’m satisfied you have written me many I never got, but I want you to answer this and let me know all about the money due for the house & lot. Will Mr. Murry pay the balance? Can I authorize you to make the Deed, &c.?

Mrs. Randall has been here and made me a visit of some four weeks. She is alright except a terrible Reb.

We have no news here. Have been here all winter with nothing to break the monotony but a raid to Lewisburg which I suppose you have heard of. James Reeder and one of the Packs were taken prisoner by scouts a few days ago but Pack got away and come in after a few days but Reeder has gone to Libby [Prison].

Give my best regards to your father and Col. Galup if in your bailiwick and all enquiring friends. What did Mr. Ferguson think about Col. Jameson taking Camp Chase? Write all news you think would be interesting.

Yours fraternally, — P. Randall

R. F. Vinson, Esq.



Catlettsburg [West Virginia]
September 17, 1864

[R. F.] Vinson]
Dear Sir,

I arrived here this morning & shall start for Maysville [Kentucky] soon. My health is very poor — chronic diarrhea.

I wish you to write a Deed for Murry for the place there and copy it from Rice’s Deed to me except the two lots sold to Mr. Dodd, and send it to Maysville so that I can sign it and my wife so that I can get the pay. Please do it immediately for I must leave again for the East by the 27th of this month.

I want to see you & Georgia & children very much.

Yours respectfully, — P. Randall

R. F. Vinson, Esq.

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Maysville [Kentucky]
September 30th 1864

Mr. R. F. Vinson
Dear Sir,

I received your letter and was glad to hear from you and that you were all well. My health is very poor — some days can not sit up and then I can walk about for a few days. I must start back by Monday. I think, at least, I have a hard settlement to make with the government before I can be mustered out.

I was very sorry you did not send the Deed as I requested you. If you had sent it here, I could have signed and Mahala acknowledged it here. Then it would have been ready for Murphy. If I go up there and make the Deed there, it must come here for Mahala to sign and acknowledge unless we are both there. I can form no idea how long I shall be gone. I may have to go to Washington and probably to the army that I left before I can make a settlement.

I will try to go to Louisa when I get back at least if my health improves. I would have been very glad to have seen you all before I went back and I want to see Kitty and try to give her some good advice. When you see her, tell her by all means to try to please Mr. [Elliot Kingston] Gavet and get along pleasantly. If she does, he will do a good part by her and her children. ¹

George B. McClellan (a.k.a. “Little Mac”) ran as the Democratic Nominee in 1864

Ah Dick, are you for Little Mac? If he is elected, will they not withdraw our armies from all southern territory which will be virtually acknowledging the Southern Confederacy and give them their independence? Think of this — not that think there is any danger of his election but I do not want it said of me that I voted with the party to divide this Union.

I will try to see you as soon as I can.

I wish you would write the Deed and send it here so I can fix it when I get back and write also at the same time. Give my best regards to your father and all the family. I would be glad to see them all. I can not write with this pen. Maybe you can read it.

You may kiss Georgia & the children for me.

Respectfully yours fraternally, – P. Randall

R. F. Vinson

Mahala says she could do nothing with the pill. Did you leave the prescription here at the drugstore? If you did and the Dr.’s name could be found out, the compound could be obtained from him. — R

¹ Kitty was Katie Delclutha Randell (1832-1895), a daughter of Peres’ first marriage to Delclutha Cushman (1805-1838). She was married to Elliott Kingston Gavet (b. 1829) of Catlettsburg, Boyd County, Kentucky. She later married Hosea Harris.


Maysville, Kentucky
November 15, 1864

[R. F. Vinson]

I arrived home a few days ago sick as usual. Well I was very bad coming home and a few days after I got home but I am better now and I hope I shall get over it.

I did not get my business settled at Washington. The clerks had gone home on furlough. I may be able to do it by writing. Of course I did not get my pay. I saw Honest Abe and he looked as though he expected to be elected again. How is it? Do you think he is elected sure?

I did not stop at Catlettsburg as I came home. It was in the night and the boat did not stop. Mahala thinks that Georgia could come down and see her. You know when the steamboats are running on [the Big] Sandy [river] but we do not and I can not find out whether Sandy is up or not. So you can jump on a boat any time when they are running and just come and make us a visit and I think it would do Georgia good. I am the Dr.

I asked Mahala if she wanted to write some. She says no but I must write for you and Georgia to come and bring the children and Bessie so I shall expect you shortly.

If you do not start immediately, write as soon as you get this and write all you know about Kitty — how she gets along now, &c.

You have a business now that you are making something but I have not and money goes off mighty fast. I feel that I must try to be doing something to make a living or I shall run short by and by. What do you think about buying timber this winter and spring coming? I mean for me to furnish money and go in with you and try to make something. Or have you got so much money & a good business that you do not want to try speculation anymore? I dare not try it alone. I do not know enough about it. What is your father doing? Is he going to lumber any the season coming? (Write all about it)

We are as well as usual. Perez M. G. is going to school. Write how Georgia’s health is, the rest, and your father’s family, &c.

My best regards to all, yours — P. Randall

R. F. Vinson




Maysville, Kentucky
June 4, 1865

Mr. R. F. Vinson
Dear Sir,

I intended to have written you some time ago but I have been so busy that I have my ____ it. Well, I have bought a farm. It is a small place of 40 acres about 3½ miles from Maysville on the <t. Carmel Pike or a little off. It has a very little house on it and a great many fruit trees — peaches, pears, plums, and apples. There will probably be 10 barrels of Damsons and English Plums this year. I expect to move onto it next week. There is a hack runs out from Marysville in the evening and comes in the morning. The place is about 300 rods off the pike. I am trying to get in 3 or 4 acres of corn and other things &c.

Mahala says for Georgia to gather up her children and come right down and see her. She says she is a most dead to see her. If Georgia comes after we move to the Goddard House, take the Mount Carmel hack and right at the top of the hill, enquire for a man by the name of Adams. Our house is in sight of the road a little.

I have been very anxious to hear from you. I wish to know if any letters have come there for me. You can open them and if there is any from Washington, I want you to let me know at once. Any others, if they are not of any consequence, you need not be particular about.

I wish you to write me immediately if Dr. Swa____ has got the money of Mary and if any other money has been collected an if Dr. Yates has been paid anything. Ben Spradhin owes me $100 at Pa_____ville.

Well, I have to buy a horse right off to work on the farm. Write me if that mare can be got of John Allison or some other that will answer.

I want you to write all the news and what your prospect is in the oil speculation. Don’t be afraid to write what your doing in “___” — what others are doing — and all about it.

We are as well as usual. Mahala’s health is not good but she is going to farming. I do not know when I can be at Louisa but I must have a horse at once. I am trying to get in some crop but it will not be much this year.

Now don’t fail to write at once. Tell Georgia to take care of her health. Kiss the children for me. Tell Jenny I will sing for her when I come. Give my best regards to your father & mother and all the friends (write).

Yours respectfully, — P. Randall

R. F. Vinson, Esq.



On the farm 3 Miles from Maysville [Kentucky]
August 13, 1865

Dear Richard & Georgia Ann,

I have long been expecting a letter from you and I take this opportunity to write you a few lines. we are all well as usual with a large family and but little as yet from the farm in the shape of provisions. We have a little fruit that we have sent to market for necessaries &c. Mrs. Randall has been putting up some in cans such as peaches, plums, pears, currants, blackberries, tomatoes, &c. She has her cans labeled and some marked Richard, Georgia A., & some Vic and Jenny. I suppose these are the choice cans, &c.

I got a letter from Br. James. He requested me to write you and for you to write all the information you could about oil. Be sure and write me the facts and not exaggerated accounts and rumors like that at the mouth of Blain — a flowing well of 20 barrels a day. I want you to write if any have struck oil and the prospect &c. Don’t fail. I wish you to be sure and write if my accounts have been collected or any part of them — that Murry debt & others, &c.

I have been at work very hard. My little field of corn looks well for late corn & I have my hay, oats, and wheat stacked. Of course you will smile. I have cleared nearly an acre of new ground & have it sowed to turnip. They look well.

Georgia, your mother says she never wanted to see you so bad in her life and that you must answer this immediately and let her know when you are coming to see us. And she says you must bring Vic and Jane. If you could write the day you will be in Maysville, I will be there with my horse & wagon to fetch you out to the farm. If not, the hack will come out by at 4 o’clock in the evening.

Your mother says for you to sit down and answer this immediately for she says she is dying to see you. I suppose if you do not come there will be an earthquake or something else. Oh yes, she wants Dick to come too. Yes, and so do I want Dick to come. Now don’t fail.

Dick, I wish you to write how the Hall is progressing and all the news. If H. Davis is elected. The election news, for I expect I shall not hear anything from up there till you write. Tell me how your father is getting along and all the family and all other news that you think would be interesting, &c.

Give my best regards to your father, mother, Doc, & your sisters & all.

Mahala said I must tell you of a jar of brandy peaches she has put up. I think the peaches are near five inches in diameter, They are the largest I ever saw. She says these are put up for you. Of course Georgia will eat them.

Respectfully yours &c. — P. Randall



4 thoughts on “1862-1865: Peres S. Randall Letters

  1. Thank you so much, Peres Randall is my gg grandfather, this gives me some new info on him and the type of person he was,thank you, Darlena E Baldwin


  2. Thank you so much for publishing these letters! I am Darlena Baldwin’s cousin. We have heard much of Peres Randall and my sister Kitty is named after his daughter.


  3. Thank you, Darlena for publishing Dr. PEREZ Randalls letters. Hope one of my kids get the history and genealogy bug. Fascinating details of our history here.


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