These letters were written by William C. Johnson (1840-1864), the son of Charles M. Johnson (1814-1886) and Melvina Peed (1821-1902) of Indiana. Prior to the war, William moved to Menard County, Illinois, where he enlisted on 18 September 1862 in Co. K, 114th Illinois Infantry. Many of the members of the 114th Illinois were particularly outspoken against Lincoln after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Capt. William Gibson of the 114th Ilinois was even dismissed from the service after publicly disparaging Abraham Lincoln and writing, “I hope to sink in hell if I ever draw my sword to the fight for the negros.”
A year before enlisting, William was married to Samantha DeWitt (1833-1918) in Petersburg, Menard County, Illinois. They had one child, Sylvester A. Johnson (1862-1939).
Family legend has it that William was bitten by a mad dog as he was returning home from the Civil War and died in Mason Co. Illinois on 29 November 1864. Can’t vouch for that story, however, as William’s three years service would not have ended until 1865. More than likely, William was ill and returned home on furlough or was discharged prematurely for ill health.
After William’s death, Samantha remarried Daniel Keith Merritt (1810-1874) in 1865; and after his death she married John Huffman (1823-1903).
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 1
January the 18th 63
I sit down to write a few lines to let you know that I am in good health at this time and I hope when you get this letter, it will find you and Sylvester well.
Well Samantha, the snow is 18 inches deep here at this time. We had a nice winter here in Tennessee. I did not know that it might snow here so much and it is very cold here at this time but I think that the weather would get warmer here in a few days. If it don’t, we are in a bad fix here sure. We have got our tents again. We was without any tents for two months, We laid outdoors all that time in the rain and cold. We had nothing to cover with neither. We made our bed in a tin cup and backed it on a pens rat and we made our coffee in our tin while our bred was baking and we fried our meat on a sharp [ ] before the fire. We live well here in Dixie. I don’t recon that you [ ] that lives in the North would not like to love that way if you could help it but we could [ ] ourselves now. But I will help myself sometimes.
Samantha, I saw Mister Rowe today. He told me that he sent a letter from Fred Wilson and he said that Richard Rumels had gone home again. I was glad to hear that he had got back again but I thought that he was going to stay with me till I got home. But he did not stay with me as he did promise to. I think that he had better stay at home after this for we don’t have any use for him here. We want good men here to fight for his country which he is living in at present. Samantha, write and tell me all about him and Thomas Spence and how they got home and what they told [you] when they got at home. I recon that they had a good talk to tell there.
Fox Longer [?] shot himself the other night [while on] picket guard. He shot one of his fingers off. He has got his discharge and he is going to start home in the morning, Lieutenant [Lucian] Terhune shot himself the other morning with his pistol. He shot himself through his foot. I saw the Col. taken out. The rest of the boys is well and [in] good spirits yet.
G. W. Sullivan is well. The negro question is getting too great for me and him. I did not enlist to fight to free the black scamps nor I han’t a going to neither but I dare not to say what I want to. But I think a great deal about coming home in some time. But I must keep this still for awhile. I will tell you more about it in the spring.
Samantha, I hain’t got any letter this week. The last letter I got from you was last Sunday and then I got 8 letters. Two from G. W. Johnson and 3 from you and one from Aaron and one from Jerry Castel and one from James Johnson and that made 8 letters in one day. The last letter that I got from you was dated the 9 1862. Them was the last I got from you. I want to hear from you again. I am uneasy about home. I want to get a letter from you so bad that I don’t know what to do.
Well Samantha, I just got done eating my dinner. I have got to [ ] a good [ ] now. I have to cook or starve. If I had you and Sylvester with me here I would be satisfied. I haven’t see as good looking a woman as you are since I left you. If you want to see me as bad as I want to see you, I don’t know how you can’t sleep for for I don’t lay down to sleep at night but you are in my mind for 3 months. I think all of the time about you and Sylvester. Samantha, I did love you and him and I hope that I will get to see you and him again. If I don’t on earth, I will see you and him in heaven. I will meet you in heaven if I don’t see you again here on earth. By the grace of God, I will meet you all in heaven at last.
Samantha, remember that you have a friend that it not fit to die yet but I won’t give up till I am fit to meet you and Sylvester in heaven. I want you to remember me in your prayers that I may meet you in heaven at last. I want you to raise that sweet baby of mine to love God while he is young for I hain’t there or I would. Samantha, treat him right for he needs it if I don’t get home. Tell him his father fights for his country.
— William C. Johnson
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 2
January 25, 1863
I received your letter this moment. I was really glad to hear from you. You letter found me eating my supper. I am in good health at this time and I hope when you get this letter, it will find you in good health. You don’t know how glad I was to get a North letter from you. It eased my sole and relieved me of a heavy grieving spell for I thought if I did not get a letter, I would not know what to do for I had not heard from you for so long that I began to think that I would not hear from you anymore till I would get to see you.
Samantha, it is raining all of the time here for Sunday and weeks days. We have a good time here in Tennessee. We have a good living here. We have plenty of sow belly and flour and are back here in camp.
Samantha, you said that you had the ague ever since I left there till the last week. I am very sorry to hear that you can’t get them crops in. I hope that you won’t have any more for I want to hear of your getting well again. You have had a hard time since I saw you.
I got a letter two weeks ago from Aaron. He told me about his boy. You said that Mary E. Landers had sent me some stamps. You said that she direct it to Company E. I went to Company E tonight and it had not come here yet. I think that I will get it yet. I got the stamps that you sent to me. I was glad to get them for I had known I had wrote and sent them that you had sent to me. You wrote to me that you had heard that Cory was dead. It is a mistake for he hain’t been in no fight at all. He was here the other day. Same clan is here now and another man from his company.
I got a letter of Richards tonight from his father. I got a letter that was sent to Richard tonight. It was from his father. I don’t think that he had gone home yet. I will send the letter to him. You say that you wished that I could come home. I do too but I can’t come yet and if I wait till I get sick, I will have to wait for a long time, I am afraid. I hope that I will get home sometime and if I do, I will stay there certain.
Samantha, you say that you could see so much pleasure if I was at home. I think that I would see some pleasure myself if I was there for I don’t see any pleasure here for I hain’t got you here. If I had you here, I would be better satisfied. You say that Sylvester is a great deal of comfort for you. I know that he is myself. I would like to see him for you and him is all I think about. I don’t rest a minute but you and him is un my mind. I want you to go to get his and your likenesses and send them to me in your next letter. You can get them taken together taken on a tin and send them in a letter to me. Don’t send a very big letter with them for fear that they won’t come safe. I got the letter that you sent by George Sullivan. I got them gloves that you sent by him. I was glad to get them for the weather was getting very cold here when he came to us. I will give you a nice sweet kiss for them when I get home. I would send one home but I am afraid that somebody would take it out. Then you’d not get it, would you?
Samantha, you said that you had not spent any of your money yet. It is no use to be saving of it. I want you to get anything that you want. If you want a cow, if you have the money yet, or two if you have the money. I think that I will draw some myself some of these days and I will send you some. Then I don’t want you to need anything while I am away from you. If I was with you, I know that you should not suffer for anything if I could help it. You said that you had wrote me five letters since I left there. I don’t think that is nothing. I have wrote you fifteen letters since I left Camp Butler and I hain’t got but four letters from you and one from [ ]. Samantha, I don’t have any pleasure [except] when I am writing letters to you or reading letters from you. I read my letters every day and at night. It eases my heart to hear from you. If I did not hear from you, I don’t know what I would do.
—William C. Johnson
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 3
[Mid February 1863]
I want you to send me your likeness and Sylvester’s too and send me some of your hair. I want you to plat it nice and send it in your letter.
Samantha, when I was on picket guard, our teams went out to forage to get horse feed and thee was three hundred rebels came onto them and took them all prisoner. They was [with]in a mile of our pickets. We had a little fight at Memphis the other day. It was across the river from us. We run a gunboat up the river to them and soon whipped them.
I got a letter from James Johnson the other day. His Pa was with them. I hain’t got much to write now long. I would like to see you very well.
I think that we will stay here all winter if we don’t go to Vicksburg and I don’t think that we will go there. If the regiment does go, I won’t go at all.
If you can get Sylvester’s and your likeness, you can send them here. If you can get a chance to send them by anyone soon, you may get them taken in a frame. And if you can’t send by someone, you can send them in a letter. If you do send them in a letter, don’t send a very big letter for fear that it won’t come safe. Write soon.
Remember your husband till death, — William C. Johnson
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 4
February 20, 1863
Today about 4 o’clock in the evening, the mail came that we had not got for months back and in that I got a letter from you and was glad to hear from you. Your letter found me writing a letter to you, I have wrote all the day. It has been raining all day. It was really good to hear from you but was sorry to hear that you was not very well but I hope when you get this letter it will find you in better health then. I did think that you would not write to me anymore but I found out that you think more of me than I thought you did. I said things in the other letters I am sorry for for I was mad because you did not write to me. But you did write to me but I had not got them till today. I want you to excuse me for writing to you [that way]. I won’t do it anymore at all. I will write as long as I live and I want you to do the same. I hain’t got time to write an answer to all of your letter tonight for I will have to take them at out soon. I will read them over again and write a good one to you when I get time.
Well, you say that Sylvester is so pretty. I want you to send him in the next letter that you write or send me his likeness. Send me yours too. You said something about a man telling you that you could get 15 cents per week and 40 cents for Sylvester. I think that is played at for I do not believe that it’s so. If it is so, I would know it. You can do as you please about it. If you can get anything to make, you better fix in living. I want you to do all that you can to help you along for it don’t look like I will get any money here to [send you]. You must do the best that you can for it don’t look like I can help you any at all for I hain’t had a cent since I left Camp Butler, Illinois. You said that you want me [to send you] something so I will send you my watch and you can keep it till I see you.
Samantha, I will take that back that I said about you not writing to me. Samantha, please don’t think hard of me for what I have said to you. I am sorry for it. I was mad that day. No more at this time but I remain your husband till death.
Give my love to all of my friends. Give my love to your father and mother and take some for yourself. So goodbye. The world is round, the sea is deep, the rose is red, the sky is blue, candy is sweet, but not like you. My ink in pail, and my love to you shall never fail here on earth. Please forgive me for my bad hand writing and I will try to do better the next time. — William C. Johnson
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 5
Camp near Memphis, Tennessee
March 5, 1863
I again take the pleasure to sit down to let you know that I am in respectable health at this time and I hope when this comes to hand it will find you and Sylvester enjoying the same blessing. Well, my dear wife, I have wrote you a letter over 2 weeks ago and sent it by Mister Caldwell. I don’t know whether you have got it yet or not. I think that it is pretty near time to get one from you and my dear, I have sent a letter by Mister Julian. I don’t know whether you have got it or not. If you hain’t, I want you to write as soon as it comes to your hand. My dear, I want you to tell me whether you have got the watch that I sent to you or not. If you have, I want you to write and let me know about it for I am b=very uneasy about the watch. I would not take another less than 20 dollars for it when I can get it repaired a little—that is, my time keeper. You wrote in one of your letters to send you something that I had got from the Secesh. I think that will do for a present till I get home and then I will give you a nicest kiss on your sweet lips that you may keep it to remember me by.
Well, my dear, I went to see [ ] Johnson the other day. I stayed with him two days and one night. He is well at this time. He looks well. He has had a hard time like myself since we have come out for he told me that he had a hard time and I very well know that I have had a hard [time] since I have been out. If I was at home again, I never would come down in the South to fight the rebels at all. We can’t whip them at all and it is no use in trying. When this war is over, it will be settled by a compromise and it will never be settled any other way while it stands. I was at the [ ] Ridge the same time that I was to see [ ]. I saw all of the boys out there. I saw the Rodgers boys and they was all well and hearty. And I saw Davey Craly. He hain’t been well for some time but he don’t look very bad yet. I saw Charley Gorge. He is fat as a hog and the boys is well there.
Dear, I want you to tell me what your father is going to do next year and where he is going to live too for I want to know all about it. Tell all the news that you can give me.
Well, my dear, if you want any [ ] seed, I will send you some in a few days as soon as I can get some more stamps.
G. W. Johnson sent around about a pint of seed. You can go and send to him and tell him that you want some and he will let you have some. He has got enough to plant five acres and if he would let you have any, write to me and I will send you some. If I can’t get any stamps, you will have them to pay for at the post office which will be 3 cents. I have not got any stamps at this time. I will borrow one to send this letter. No more at this time. Write soon. If G. W. [Johnson] picks corns back, send some letters to him. Give my love to all the folks and take some yourself. Goodbye for this time.
— William C. Johnson
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 6
Camp near Memphis, Tennessee
March 12th, 1863
I received your letter yesterday. Your letter found me in good health and I hope when this comes to hand it will find you and Sylvester in the same health.
Well, Samantha, I received yours and Sylvester’s likenesses. I was really glad to get your likeness, my dear sweet wife. I will tell you I got a nice case for it. I got Lest. Sith a case. It’s the same as that one of yours. It looks well now. I kissed it about a dozen times when I got it, Well, my dear, I was glad to hear that you had got the watch that I had sent to you. I got a letter from Mister Rumell last night. He told me that you was well and hearty and he said that the baby has got on fine.
Samantha, I have drawed 2 months pay and I will send you 20 dollars of it in this letter. Ten dollars of it is in two bills 4 dollars each. I owed some to the boys in the company or I would have sent more to you. I kept 2 dollars to keep for to get stamps with and I want you to use this for anything that you want to get you from needing anything and as soon as I draw I will send more to you.
Well, Samantha, I got the letter that you sent that her [?] in to me. I put it on my wrist right away as soon as I got it and will keep it as long as I live.
Well, Samantha, I will tell you that we are under orders to march soon as we are called on on a minute’s warning. Where we are going to, I can’t tell now. As soon as we stop, I will write and let you know where we are at and what we are doing. You can address your letters as you have and they will come up to us. When you get this money, I want you to let me know. I will be uneasy about it till I hear from you. Right all about it and whether you get the 20 dollars or not. Write soon and let me know all about it.
Well, Samantha, Wish just left here a few minutes ago. I went pretty near to his regiment. He is in about 2 miles and a half from here. Well, I will close for this time by hoping that I will hear from you soon. tell me where you are living at now. You will have to watch the post office well for I will send all of my money to you. Keep a good look out for letters from me.
No more this time but write soon as this comes. So [ ] give my love to your father and mother and the rest of your connections and take some for yourself. Goodbye for this time. Excuse my bad hand writing. My pen is bad and ink is pale, but my love to you shall never fail. I will write till I die. Wrote soon. I remain your true husband till death. write soon. — William C. Johnson
To his wife Samantha Johnson
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 7
[June 24/25, 1863]
I am sitting beneath a little oak tree writing a few lines. I am very tired now. I have just got done eating my supper. We marched 24 miles this day and it is has been very warm today. This is the 24th day of June. I did not get time to answer your kind letters which came to me some time that we left Memphis and I thought I would write some tonight. The weather is clear and warm. We had a nice shower today. It made the evening nice and cool.
Samantha, last night I laid on two fence rails. Tonight I have to lie on the ground beneath this little tree. The tree is very [ ] and has a very nice top and I can sleep sound beneath it so I will be done soon. I feel [ ] very much since supper. I made me a can of coffee and fried two slices of bacon and [ ] a onion in my cup so I had a fine supper. Now, Samantha, if you was here to sleep with me beneath this green tree, I would be satisfied. But you hain’t here. I hope that you will sleep well without me and I will do the best I can for I have a hard time since I came to be a soldier boy and I expect to have a hard time still as long as I am a soldier for Uncle Sam. But when my time runs out, then I will soldier no more if I live to serve my time out. Then I will soldier for Samantha the rest of my life.
My dear, it is getting too dark to write any more so I will close and lie down and rest. I will write some more the next time U get a chance & how I long to get home once more so I can sleep in a bed once more. I hain’t slept in a bed since I slept in your bed with you and Sylvester. Farewell.
Samantha, this is June the 25th. We have come 5 miles today. We have stopped in a little place called Moscow. It was once a nice little town but it hain’t nice now. There are no persons living here now. There are a great many troops here at this point.
Well, Samantha, my bed in under some little green brush that I have made a shed of. I am very war, at the present time. I just got my shed down and pulled my shoes and socks off to let my feet rest and to cool off. Some says that we are a going to stay here and guard a bridge here on a river called Wolf river but whether we will or not, I can’t tell whether we will or not. But when we will [know], I will write some more then to you. I hope that we are [done with] marching so much. If we don’t stay here, I am going back to town when they leave here for I hain’t able to march anymore hard for it is too warm for me to march in the hot sun with my load.
Well, I will close my lines now and farewell till I write some more.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 8
Camp on Bear Creek, Mississippi
July the 31, 1863
Again with the greatest of pleasure that I have the time to sit down to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope when this comes to hand, it will find you all well.
Well, my dear, we have gone into camp once more and I thought I would write you a letter. We have been marching for three months every day and now I think that we will rest till fall and some of the boys are going home on furlough and I can send this with them. I wanted to come home myself but I could not come this time. But the Captain told me that I should come home the next time. I can’t tell when that will be but I think I will come sometime next month. The furloughs are given for 20 days and I know I can start in 20 days from now. You may look for me home the last of August, I think. So I shan’t write much now for I can tell better than I can write it.
Well, Samantha, I want you to have a nice dinner for me when I get home. Put the little pot in the big one and have something fresh to eat for I have been living hard since I left you and that hain’t all neither. I can tell you all about it when I get there and I will do it too. You can tell Aaron that I am coming home soon and I wil come and see him then. I may start in 10 days, I can’t tell certain till General Sherman comes back from Vicksburg. Then I can tell all about it.
I will close my letter for this time. Rest easy till I get home. So goodbye. I will come as soon as I can. You meant to answer this letter for I will be at home before I can get the answer from you. I will send this by James Bracken. My dear, rest easy till I can get home. So no more at this time but remember your husband till death. Goodbye till I get home.
— William C. Johnson
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 9
[Early August 1863]
My dear sweet wife,
I received your letter this evening. It was dated July the 21, 1863. I was glad to hear from you but sorry to hear that you have had a chance for the measles. But I hope that you will get over it safe. If you take it, I want you to take good care of yourself and Sylvester and then there is no danger of the measles. Don’t expose yourself nor baby.
Well, my dear wife, you wrote me a very hard letter I thought. I don’t want you to think that I want you to go with paying my debts but I think that he could wait till you could have wrote to me and I was mad because you let him cheat you for the note was not for only but 30 dollars when I gave the note. It was for the face of the note and there was no interest on the note at all and so he cheated you out of three dollars on the money that you paid to Luther Simpson. I thought that you ought had not enough to not have paid without getting the note. You knowed that the note was down there and I would pay it off when I drawed my pay and that made me a little mad about that. You said that you would not have any more debts. That is what I want to hear. When they come to you for money, tell them to send the note here and I will pay it myself for no one knows anything about my notes.
Well you said that I had used hard language. Well, my dear, that was so but I was so mad I could not help it. Samantha, you said that you had been kind to me all your life. That is all true, but did I not treat you right or I did treat you right, Samantha, when I was at home. I thought that you would not pay anybody without telling me about it before.
Samantha, if you can find another cow that pleases you and you have the money enough to buy her and you just think about getting them fed this winter, make all your [ ] or if you see every other one, I want you to get everything that you want. If you want another cow, you can get one and if you hain’t [got] all the money, I can send you some soon. There is no danger of me scolding you if you buy anything that will be getting better all the time for you if you get another cow, you can sell the [ ] and they will bring you some money. Samantha, I thought you would never spend another cent for yourself no Sylvester. I want you to take my money and get you clothes and Sylvester too. You know that you did not want for anything when I was at home but what I got it for you and what things you need, I want you to get them shoes and clothes. And I never want to see you suffer or hear tell of it as long as I can walk. And you talk about getting your things with eggs. That is a nice way to talk to me. Just like I did not want you to use it for yourself but not pay my debts with the money for after you get everything that you want you won’t have any money to pay anything for me. If I can, you would. That is enough for me to do without paining and things, else I would be at home in about a month. Then I will straighten things out. Ten I would make things look well. So no more at this time but remember your husband till death. Yours truly, — W. C. Johnson
[Enclosed poem dated June 27, 1863]
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 10
Camp near Black River, Mississippi
August 11, 1863
Again I take the time to try to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and I hope when these few lines come to hand, they will find you and Sylvester enjoying the best of health. Well, my dear, it is very warm here now. The health of the boys is good.
Samantha, I got a letter to some days ago and then I thought I would get to come home to see you sometime this fall but the way things has turned out, I have got discouraged and give up the notion of trying anymore. I have tried every way I knowed how and I have give it up for a bad job.
Samantha, if I don’t get to come home soon, I will send you some money by the boys that come home next. I know that I can’t come till very late this fall and it is no use to keep money here and I will send some home to you for you have more need of it than I have. But I want you to keep it for yourself for no-one need it as bad as you for you don’t know what may turn up yet and you must look ahead. Be saving of it for my dear, this war hain’t over yet and before it is over, you will need it.
They are talking of having war with France and England and if that be so, you must be saving of your money. Don’t pay anyone money for me again for you need it worse than anyone else.
Now Samantha, don’t think I want you to [deprive] yourself and child for I want you to get everything that you want and need. If you hear anything, don’t you pay it on my debts. I will pay them myself when I come home. Samantha, I will come home this fall if I can. Samantha, if you want a cow, you can get another this fall but you must look a bout and see if you can get feed for them this winter and if you can’t get feed terrible cheap, you had better not buy anymore. Then you won’t take good care of your stock. Don’t let them starve nor suffer for feed. You had better not keep too much thing to feed.
Well, I must close my letter. Give my love to your father and mother and all the rest of the folks. So no more at this time but write soon. Remember your dear husband till death.
— William C. Johnson
Remember me when this you see. Remember that you have a dear husband that is far, far away — many miles between us at the present time. Goodbye my dear wife and child. Take good care of your sweet self. Write soon. — Wm. C. Johnson
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 11
Camp near Vicksburg
October 22, 1863
Samantha, my dear wife,
Once more I take my seat to let you know that I am well and hearty and I do hope when these few lines come to hand they will find you in the same health. Well Samantha, I received a letter from you some 8 days ago. I was glad to hear from you but I was sorry because I had no chance to answer it for we had just started in a march and had marched one day when I got the letter and now we have got back near Vicksburg again and I will try to answer it the best I can. There was one sheet of paper that was wrote over. Had a very [ ] thing on the top of it and my name in is on besides of that, it was a good letter. The date was 27 September.
The first I noticed was that you had a very hard chill and hadn’t been well. Since I am sorry to hear that you are sick, I thought when you got to Mason [City] you would get [ ] again. The next sheet was dated the 28th. It told me that Sylvester was as well as common and you felt a great deal better. I am glad to hear that. The next strip was dated the 28th telling me about my clothes. I don’t want you to study about me.
Well Samantha, we had a very hard march of this time. We marched for ten days. I think that we will stay here this winter to somewhere close about here. I got a letter from W. Demaken [?] the same time I got that from you. He is well when he wrote. I got one from G. W. Johnson the same time. He was well then.
Samantha you said that you had never got that 20 dollars that I sent to you. you said that you got the letter that had 5 dollars in it and the 5 [dollars] that was secesh. I hope that that 20 dollars hain’t lost. I hope that it will come up yet.
Samantha, you needn’t look for me home this winter for furloughs has played out now. Samantha, don’t think hard of me for not writing sooner to you for I hain’t had a chance till now. Now I will write again regular [paper torn]
If she gets her letter , it will tell you what I want. Well I must close my letter by telling you to write son. Give my love to your folks and the rest of the family. Take some for yourself. No more at this time. write soon. Goodbye my dear wife. Remember me. I still remain your true lover till death.
— William C. Johnson
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 12
Camp near Vicksburg, Mississippi
November 2, 1863
Once more I take my pen in hand to let you know that I am as well as common and I hope when these few lines come to you they may find you and Sylvester in the best of health. Samantha, night before last I had a very hard attack of the cholera morbus and it come in of killing me. It was the hardest one I ever had in my life. You can’t tell how much I suffer[ed]. I could hardly walk yesterday at all. I believe them ___s will kill me yet. O how I long to have you here to wait on me. When I was sick the other night, Samantha, I thought awhile that my time was near at hand. But the good Lord took the hard cramps from me; then I got better. Then I thank[ed] the Lord for saving my life. Samantha, I feel a great deal better than I did yesterday. I think I will get well again.
Samantha, I received a letter from you last night. It was dated the 19 of October. I was glad to hear from you. It was wrote in 10 [days] after them other letters was. That is the way I like to get letters — a batch every 10 days — and then I can rest easy. You said that you could not get corn for 10 dollars per acre. You would have to pay more than that. I am sorry that you have to pay more than that. I wrote some time ago for you to get corn right away for I knew that corn would rise. Now Samantha, if you haven’t got any yet, get it as soon as you can. Don’t put it off till you can’t buy any. Get it at any price for corn is going to be high.
You wanted to know what I thought about the war now. I can tell you very well it is a hard place here but I don’t think it will last much longer. And for putting Lincoln in for 4 years more, they can’t do that — not by a vote. If he has an election, he won’t gather votes in the army and ask for the negro votes. That is not so at all.
Samantha, I have drawn two months more pay and I will send you 10 dollars in this letter and I will send some more in the next letter. I am afraid to send any more at a time. Well, I believe I will close my letter. Give my love to your father and mother and the girls and take some yourself. Tell Sarah that I wrote her a letter some time ago and she hasn’t answered it yet. Tell her to answer it right soon as this comes to hand. No more at this time. I still remain your husband till death.
— William C. Johnson
Samantha, excuse my bad hand writing for I don’t feel well this morning. I don’t know what is the matter with me. I don’t know anything about Spring to. You will have a hard letter to read. I don’t know whether you can read it or not but do your best and maybe you can read it after studying awhile.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 13
Addressed to Mrs. Samantha Johnson, Mason City, Mason county, Illinois
December the 15th 
Once more I take my pen in hand to let you know that I am well at this time and I hope when these few lines come to hand they will find you and Sylvester in the very best of health. Well, Samantha, I received a letter from you this morning and I was glad to hear from you. You told me that Sylvester was sick. I am very sorry to hear that but I hope that he will get over it soon. Your letter come to me in four days from the time it was mailed and that was right quick for it to come.
Samantha, the weather is very cold here at this present time. Samantha, we have a good house to stay in but our duty is terrible hard. I am on duty every other day but the duty hain’t hard. We stand guard in the house. We are guarding prisoners in the [military?] prison [with] 3 companies and the other 7 companies is on Provost duty here in Tennessee.
Well, Samantha, I must tell you about my health. I was taken sick for a week after we came here. I caught cold on the boat a coming up the river and I got over that in a day and now I am heartier than I have ever been in my life. I am so fat that I can’t hardly walk and my weight is 175 pounds and I am as stout as a horse — as good-a-lookin’ man as there is in this city for I have heard the women say so myself. I sent my picture to White’s wife and she said that I am the finest lookin’ man that she has seen for a many of a day. That is the way that the women talks about me.
Well, Samantha, I wrote a letter to your father and one to Sarah and one to Rebecca and one to Jane Smith and hain’t heard from them. I would like to know whether they think themselves above writing to a soldier or not. If so, I will find it out some way or another. If they are above writing to me, I will tell you that I want to see this war go on till the last one are in the service and then they will know how a soldier feels now [when] their friends is all at home and they won’t write to a soldier. So if they won’t write to me, it is alright.
Well, Samantha, I want you to write soon again to me. Tell me of the news. Samantha, I will send you a nice present for Christmas if I can get it here. Likely I will send a small lock to you and if I send it, I will send it to Petersburg and I will send it in the name of Jery Casteel if I send it. You may look for it about the 10th of next month. Keep a sharp look out then. I will send a coat and some presents to you. The coat I got before I left Vicksburg. It is worth about 15 dollars and they won’t let me wear it here and if I can’t sell it here, I will send it home. So no more at this time.
I still remain your husband till death, — W. C. J.
December the 15
My dear sweet wife,
Samantha you said that you would like to see me. I wonder if I don’t want to see you too as well as anybody in this world for I would give 50 dollars to get to come home on a furlough. You said if I know how you love me, I would get a furlough and come home to see you. Samantha, my dear wife, don’t you know that I can’t some when I want. If I could, I would come so quick that you would not look for me that soon. Samantha, I would give anything to get to see you and Sylvester. You think that I don’t love you but you are under a heavy mistake there for I love you the best of anybody in the world. Samantha, I love you with all my heart and would do anything for you that laid in my power to do. So what is is the use to say that I don’t love you for I would give all I have in this world to be with you and to have some more baby [ ] together.
Samantha, if you love me as I love you, no [ ] can cut our love in two. No. No. Oh my dear wife and child, how I long to see you both….. Well, I must close my letter. Write soon. I still remain your true husband till death, — William C. Johnson
A verse of my song. My dearest love do you remember when we last did meet, how you told me that you love me when you [ ] by my feet. My love to you and the rest of the family. Farewell for this time. — William C. Johnson
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 14
March 13th 1864
Samantha, my dear wife,
Again I take the time and pleasure of trying to write to you to let you know that I am well at this present time and I hope when this letter comes to hand, it may find you in the same health.
Well Samantha, I have been looking for a letter from you for some days past from the box I sent you to you but I have not saw it yet. But I hope that I will hear from it soon. We haint had any mail for several days that has passed and gone. I feel today like i would like to hear from you again. I trust I will get a letter tomorrow morning from you. I shan’t finish this letter until some time tomorrow for I think I will hear in the morning from you.
Well, Samantha, I would ask you to send me your picture—and Sylvester’s [too]—but it is too much trouble for you to get them for me. It was no trouble to me when you wanted me to send mine to you. I done it with the greatest pleasure in the world. I felt happy when I received the letter when you wanted my picture and it made me feel good when I sent it to you. I felt like I had done what you requested me to do.
Samantha, we have had a good time since I have been in this city. It is right cold today but never the less I trust to my Maker for time to come. I am a soldier for Uncle Sam and a soldier for the Lord and I will fight for Him till I die. Hinder me not, for I will serve the Lord and I will fight for him till I die.
Samantha, there is some talk of us going to the East to Richmond to take that place and if we go there, I don’t expect ever to get home again for that is a hard place to take. But when we are ordered to go anywhere, we are the boys that always goes and we can take that place so nice that it will make them Yankees feel cheap when we get there. We are the boys that fears no noise although we are far from home. U. S. Grant will be with us when we get to Richmond and then it will be taken or die.
Samantha, I will not write anymore till morning and see whether I get a letter or not. On tomorrow I will finish my letter. So I will say no more tonight. Farewell till tomorrow. — W. C. J. to his wife.
Samantha, it is morning now and I did not receive any letter from you yet. I don’t know what to think for my life. I wish I could hear from that box I sent home. I don’t want to lose it if I can help it. Write soon. No more at this time. Tell me all the news—if Aaron comes down. Send me something nice for a present, beings you never have sent me anything yet. Farewell for this time. Write soon and let me know how things are getting along. I still remain your husband till death.
— William C. Johnson
to his wife, Samantha Johnson
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 15
March 26, 1864
Once more I take my pen in land to let you know that I am well and I do hope when this letter comes to hand it may find you in the best of health. Samantha, I have been looking for a letter from you for some time but I hain’t heard from you for a long time. I don’t know what is the reason I don’t hear from you. The last letter I had from you was dated the 8th day of February but I think that you have been mistaken in the date or else it was a very old letter for I got one about 2 weeks before that and it was dated the 14th day of February.
Well Samantha, it is a raining here tonight very hard. The weather is very cold. Samantha, if I don’t hear from you today, I will begin to think that you don’t want to write to me anymore for I hain’t had a letter from you for so long. I am afeared that there is something the matter at home or I would hear from you some time but if you think yourself a bore writing to me, it is all right. I think as much of you and I ever did in my life and will write to you as long as I live. And if you don’t want to answer, then you can let it alone.
For my part, Samantha, I will tell you what makes me write this letter to you. I write a letter every week to you and you say that you do the same. If you write to me that often, I do not get them at all. Samantha, I sent a box to you. It was started January 31, 1864. That has been two months since I sent it and I hain’t heard whether it has come to you or not. But it went to Petersburg, I know that for there was a box sent to Hoser Jacob Killion the same time and he told me that it was at the berg for Mongombre [?]. Tell him that there was a box there for him and I know that mine went too for they went together from here and if one went, the other done the same. I don’t believe that you care whether you got it or not or you would have went there every week till you got it. The box was there when you wrote the letter to me and sent it by James Tayler for when they came there, [Michael] Killion told me about it. Samantha, you must take a little interest in my things while I am gone from home for if you don’t, they won’t be taken care of. And Samantha, if you would write a letter to me every week, I know that I would get something, sure. I have a small idea of staying here in the South when my time is out and if I do that, I want you to come down here. I think that I can make as much money here as I can there and I like this country better that I do the North anyhow.
Samantha, there is one of our boys has just got a furlough to go home. He is going to start right away on his furlough. Its for thirty days and then he will be back here. Samantha, I want you to go and see him. He lives at Petersburg. His name is Frank Lepkinger. He married a girl by the name of Francis Jons. I want you to go and see him and you can find him, I think. If you go and see him, you can find out where we are and a lot about me. And if you have anything to send to me, he will bring it to me for you. Anything you have, send it by him. Samantha, it would not make me mad if you you would send me something nice by Frank Bennet. You hain’t saw me for so long.
Well Samantha, I won’t write anymore today without I get a letter from you and if I get one his evening, I will finish it. So I will close for this time. I would like to have lots of things from home but I won’t say what it is now.
Samantha, I received a letter from you last night. I was glad to hear from you. You told me that you had not got that box yet. Samantha, I don’t see why you don’t go and get it. You say that you sent to the burg and it hain’t there. It appears to me like that you never have went to see about it yourself at all. I know that if you had went after it yourself, you would have got it. But instead of you going yourself after it, you would send word by someone that did not care whether you got it or not. The box and things hain’t worth very much but every little bit helps such a man as I. I know I would like to have the cot I sent in the box anyhow and I sent my picture in the box and I don’t want to lose that. I am glad that I did not send my watch in that box. If I had, it would’ve been a right smart loss for the watch is worth $75 just as one cent is worth another.
Samantha, if that box is not at Petersburg, you will find it in Springfield or Jacksonville. If you don’t get it against the first of April, you needn’t try anymore for then I will make the Express Company pay me if it is lost. Samantha, if that box is lost, I will think it is your fault for you might have went and seen about it yourself. It won’t do to trust to anyone but to do your business. If you don’t tend to it yourself, it won’t be taken care of at all. If you had went to the berg when you got my first letter, you would have got it and if it was not there, you ought to wrote to Springfield or to Jacksonville and then you would have got it without a doubt.
Samantha Johnson, you said in your letter that Mister Conant semt word to you that he wanted that money I owed him and you sent him word that you would hae notion to do with it. You said if he wanted to take the things that Mother gave to me, he might do it for all you care. Samantha, my dear beloved wife, who would have thought that you would have said that he might take them few things that my old mother gave to me. I would not have believed it if you not wrote it to me. Just think, Samantha, one minute how you would feel if you was in my place, Samantha, if I had said that to you about your old mother if she was dead. I have got enough to pay my debts at home without it taking my mother’s furniture and if I hain’t, I can raise the money in 5 minutes to pay for it And if I had not the means to pay it, I would work till I was clear nine days before I would see them sell that way. I will write to Conant and tell him to send the note to our captain and I will pay it when it gets here to me. Mr. Conant is a man, every inch of him, or he would not want done as he has by me. He hain’t such a man a morin a writ [?]. If you had had that, I never would said a word against it for he is a nice man. The reason I said what I did to you about that other debt was because he tried to ask the [ ] with me and you knew that he did not treat me right and you know that Conat has asked the man with me and I will do the same by him.
Well, I will close my letter by hoping to hear from you soon again. You must excuse my short letter and the next one I will write a long one to you. Give my love to the family [and] take a share to yourself. No more at this time. Write soon. I still remain your husband till death. Don’t think hard of what I have wrote to you. Farewell, — William C. Johnson
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 16
My dear wife,
Once more I take my pen in hand to let you know that I am well at this time and I hope when this letter comes to hand it may find you and Sylvester well and hearty. Well Samantha, I hain’t much to write at the present time—only I would like to see you and Sylvester the best in the world. Samantha, Thomas Peterson got a letter from home today and he said that Aaron had enlisted in the army. He said that he was coming here to our country. He said that he was going to start the 30th day of March and if that is the case, I want you to send my things by him if he hain’t gone before you get this letter.
Samantha, I have got a [ ] with a young lady here in this city by the name of Burnell. She is a Christian. She stays at the Christian Commission room here in this city She is a Christian. I was up to her room one day with one of our boys. I had been there but a few minutes. I was reading some papers that laid on a table. Presently she came to where I was sitting at the table. She took her seat in front of me. She spoke politely to me. She asked me what regiment was mine. I told her. She said what company? I told her that. She said, “You stay close to the soldier’s home, don’t you?” I told her that I did. She says, “I thought that I had seen you.” I told her I guessed that she had for I had seen her several times in our quarters. She says, “Are you a Christian professor or not?” The answer I made her, “Now Ma’am, I hain’t one at that.” She let on about getting religion. She talked to me about one hour. She says, “I will go an get a tract. It will suit you.” She brought it to me and she said, “Read this.” And I went to reading it. It was my [ ]. I read it pretty near all and told her that it was true to make a [ ] and then she talked to me for a long time and then she went to her shelf of books and brought me a book. She said, “Will you read this book?” I told her that I would. She lent it to me. She told me to return it when I got ready. She tried to get me to take her advise and turn to God but I told her that I would not till I got out of the army. She told me that I need it worse here than I did when I was at home. She has gave me good advise if I had taken it. This room is for the benefit of the soldiers that can read books or papers, or write letters and not cost them anything. They have prayers there twice a day and singing the same. It is for the benefit of the wounded and sick soldiers that is in this city.
Samantha, she is a fine little woman and sure, if we stay here this summer, she may make me a better men. Every morning and evening she comes by here and another lady and there are several men that stays there with them. If she makes a Christian of your husband, you won’t be mad at herm will you Samantha? I won’t stay the way I am now much longer, I hope and pray Samantha. I thought that you could tell me about the bible but she tells me more than you ever did in your life. Well, I must hurry and get done writing and go and hear her pray again. She will pray for me.
Samantha, you said that you had found out that my box had come to the burg. Samantha, I am truly glad to hear that for I was afeared that it would not come safe. But it has and I am glad, Samantha, I wrote some harsh words to you about the box. I was sure it was lost. Samantha, you wrote about them pictures and Sylvester you said that Dan would not take you to the city to have them taken. I think that Dan is hard upm sure. Maybe he will want something done for him someday but he won’t get it from me. Samantha, I won’t be here always. I hope when I get back home again, I will know he gets me to do turns for me. Sure as you and I live, they are better times a coming. It will come sometime.
Samantha, by your letter it seems to talk like you have a hard time at home. It appears that Dan or some others don’t treat you very well, I expect that you have a hard time but Samantha, Keep up. Don’t get discouraged. Do the best you can till I come on. Then I will be with you the rest of my time. Keep in good heart. Don’t get discouraged for you have got a good friend that will help you when he is with you, and the time will soon come when he will be there with you. Samantha, if I was there today, I would straighten things out sure. I would let people know that I am a man in principle and in strength and a man for my country and the other men that stayed ay home while I am a fighting for them just as much as I am for myself and if you ask them for a turn, they are the last man that you can get to do it for you. Samantha, them kind of men must not sass me when I come back for if they do, I will cause them trouble, sure.
Samantha, I guess that we will stay here this summer. Tell you father that I wish that I was at home again. Tell him if I was there, I would work for him [and] that my time will be out some time and if he wants any help, tell him that I am there. And if he wants my help, to call on his [water stained & illegible].
Samantha, I sent you a letter. It was dated March 25. It had 10 dollars in it and in this letter I will send 10 dollars more to you. Take it and use it for anything that you want. Did you get a letter with a black ring in it with two stars on a [ ] piece of silver init? The [ ] has W. C. J. on it. I sent it in a letter. I don’t know whether it would go home or not but if it has, write and let me know if it has. Well, Samantha, I will close my letter giving love to your father and mother and take some yourself and if there is any left, give it to Sara and Morgue and the rest of the family. So no more at this time. Write soon. I still remain your husband till death. I will send a paper to your father with this letter. — William C. Johnson
In this letter, William C. Johnson describes the fighting of the 114th Illinois in the disastrous Battle of Brice’s Cross Roads (or Tishamingo Creek) near Guntown, Mississippi, on 10 June 1864. He tells his wife of his narrow escape in being captured by the Confederates.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 17
June the 16th 1864
Once more I am permitted to write you a few lines to let you know that I am tolerably well at the present time [and] hoping these few lines may find you in the best of health. Samantha, it has been some time since I saw a letter from you. You don’t know how glad I would like to hear from you. I hain’t had a letter from you for a half a month and that is a long time for me to not hear from you.
Well, Samantha, we [ ] them off of a cat [?] down here in the State of Mississippi and on Friday of 10 and 11 says of June, we fought the rebels. We left on the battlefield 16 boys and a many of them. We left some of the best men that we had in the regiment or company. I will send the names of the boys to you, We lost out of the regiment 215 men. We lost more than half of our men in that fight. We was whipped very bad. we went out with our 22 pieces of cannon and we lost all of that. We lost between two and three hundred wagons loaded with provisions and ammunition. We lost all of that. We lost everything that we had. We left our tents that they had the wounded in them. We had one of our boys in it and they left it in the middle of the road.
Samantha, that was a hard fight. I came mighty near being taken with the rebels. They told me to halt and surrender but I ran on as fast as I could for my life. They were within two rods [10 yards] of me when they told me to stop. They shot at me but they did not hit me but come close to me. One of the balls went through my hat but I never halted for that for I knew that they would kill me when they took me and I thought I would go as long as I could and I made my escape by the hardest. We came back in one day and 2 nights and we was 2 hundred 25 miles from here. We never slept a wink nor ate a bite until we got here at this place and that was from Thursday night till Monday morning so that [ ] the way that we done well.
We hain’t drawed any money yet but we will in a few days longer, I hope, and then I will send it to you all I have to spare. So I will close my letter. Write soon to me and often. Tell all of the folks to write to me. So no more at this time. I still remain your true husband till death. Farewell Samantha, my dear wife.
— Wm. C. Johnson
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 18
September the 10th 1864
Duvall’s Bluff, Arkansas
Once more I am permitted to write a few lines to let you know that I am well at this time & I hope [when] these few lines come to hand they may find you well and hearty.
Well, Samantha, it has been some time since I have had a chance to write to you. I wrote a letter to you when we was at Memphis. I wanted to write more but I had no time to write. We was only 2 days there till we had to leave and come way down here. I don’t know whether they will get through or not but I will try it anyhow, let it go or not.
Samantha, I han’t much to write at the present. They say that there is a big squad of rebels here but I don’t see how it is. I hope that we won’t have any fight with them for I am tired of fighting.
Samantha, I don’t want you to think hard of me for not writing to you more often than I have for I have not had the chance to write much lately for we have been on the [move] about all the time. You must take it easy for I will take care of myself and I don’t want you to be uneasy about me. I can’t write as often as I want to. I think there are several letters at Memphis for me. I don’t know when we will get back but I hope soon for I am tired of this marching.
Samantha, we hain’t drawed any money for a long time and some says that we will draw our money here. And if we draw here, I won’t draw any money here for I hain’t any chance to send it away and I don’t want so much money with me for 7 months money is right smart money for me to carry here. I would draw it if I had a chance to send it home. It is more than I want to carry here.
Well, I will close my letter by hoping to hear from you soon. No more at the present time. Write soon. I still remain yours until death.
— Wm. C. Johnson
to his dear sweet wife Samantha Johnson. You won’t forget me Samantha….