I believe this letter was written by Herman (or Heman) B. Palmer (1841-1864) of the 3rd Wisconsin Light Artillery (a.k.a. “Badger Battery”) from Camp Utley at Racine, Wisconsin. He was the son of Edmund Palmer (1802-1868) & Anna Rice (1805-1878) of Almond, Portage, Wisconsin.
Herman Palmer enlisted in the Third Independent Battery, Wisconsin Volunteer Light Artillery as a Private on September 2, 1861. His unit served in the Western Theater of the Civil War and saw action in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, including the Battles of Stones River and Chickamauga. Having reenlisted with 32 of his battery mates as a veteran volunteer in early 1864, PVT Herman Palmer was allowed to go home on a 40 day furlough. Perhaps already sick when sent home, Herman Palmer died while on furlough in Almond, Wisconsin on February 22, 1864. [Source: Louis Mosier on Find-A-Grave]
Note: The signature on the letter reads “Harmon” but I cannot find any member of the Badger Battery with that first name. Neither can I confirm that Herman Palmer had an older brother named Hiram.
October 19th 1861
Your letter which you sent to Almond came here in due time and the one of the thirteenth came yesterday. They both found me enjoying good comfort and a gleeful life, having no regrets of enlisting except the feelings at home, but still I expected you all rather would not, but think you will not blame me. We have very pleasant weather. The sky is of one blue color & not a leaf in motion, but our camp is all alive.
Last night a few of us gathered together about one thousand of us & marched by the drum, went to all the officers tents, gave them three cheers and a tune. They expressed their thanks and some of them gave us a speech. We went to the officer who attends to the provisions & gave him three groans as he had once gave us poor meat and not but once. But this morn, he done better than ever and I think he will hereafter do better by us. You must not think we have been kept on bad fare for he gave us bad supper only once. We had a good lively time only once over a poor meal. The meat flew all over the eating room & principally at the officer which made them look cross. I received one chunk plum in the face. William says knock one Southerner over and leave Old Jeff for him. Think if he is left for him, it will be a long swag he will have.
Your letter is the only one I have had since [I] have been here. Don’t know but the folks in Old Wisconsin are all gone to the war as I have not heard from Almond since I left. Don’t know but they think a soldier is a soldier & don’t care for anything left at home, but I guess by your promptness in writing it is not so with you. I don’t know as I can write much as it was but a few days since I wrote to William. We have not our uniforms as yet but expect them tomorrow and one company of Germans have theirs and going to leave as soon as paid by the state.
Tell mother I don’t know of any comforts she can send me as the state furnishes everything & I have three pairs of socks with me that she knit and tomorrow will have a pair from the state and they are good ones too, and so I think I am very well clothed at present. That I would like her picture and all the family if it was not such a bother to carry them. You don’t know how much such little things will trouble one but the trouble would not be much if it was not the danger of losing them or breaking. I am thankful for the advice you sent to me but sorry that you feel so bad over my enlisting. Think if you felt different about it I could do much better & go forth with a much lighter heart. I wish you could look at it as if I was just going away on a visit and soon to return for so it looks to me. It appears to me as if I am soon to visit you all and have a good chat around the fireside — but no telling.
I have enjoyed good health and have gained for the last half of my time here a pound per day. I am getting quite fleshy. I think it very likely I would not have done as I have done if I had been at home, but nevertheless, it would have been a duty for me to perform as much there as here. I think it a duty for every young man in my situation to do for if I did not do so, everyone else should do so who would sustain the flag.
Hope you will write soon as I can’t tell when we will leave the place. There is the sound of the bugle & I must quit. Farewell, — Harmon