1864: George W. Plummer to Julia A. (Chase) Plummer

George W. Plummer’s Headstone

This letter was written by George W. Plummer (1837-1871) of Whitefield, Lincoln county, Maine. He wrote the letter to his wife, Julia A. (Chase) Plummer (1840-1896), the daughter of Edwin Chase and Sarah Chase. At the time of the 1860 US Census, George was enumerated with Edwin Chase’s family in Whitefield as a 22 year-old hired hand on the Chase farm.

George W. Plummer enlisted for 9 months on 10 Sept 1862 in Augusta at age 25 in Co. F, 21st Maine Infantry. According to his record at the Maine State Archives, he was married, had dark complexion, blue eyes, brown hair, was 5′ 8″ tall, and was employed as a farmer. He was mustered in 13 Oct 1862; honorably discharged and mustered out 25 Aug 1863 in Augusta.

George and Julia had two children — George E. (b. 1861), and Frank W. (b. 1862) — before George went to California. After George returned to Maine in 1866, he and Julia had two more children — Henry (b. 1867) and Annie (b. 1869). In 1867, George applied for a veteran’s pension claiming he was an invalid. He died at Whitefield of consumption.

It appears that George had a younger brother named Thomas H. Plummer (b. 1843) who served in Co. F, 21st Maine Infantry also. Thomas died at Mound City, Illinois of fever on 8 August 1863.

Maine Farmer, 18 February 1864

From this letter we learn that after his 9-month term of service in the 21st Maine Infantry, George went to California where he was a laborer on a ranch or farm south of San Francisco. He does not indicate why he chose to separate himself from his family for an extended period but it appears that it was to avoid the military draft. In February 1864, the Maine Farmer published the revised Maine statute for drafting which made it abundantly clear that the new draft would no longer exempt men between the ages of 20 and 45 years of age who had not served at least two years in the military or naval service of the present war. If drafted, the only recourse a draftee had was to pay $300 to the state for a substitute which clearly George did not have. George speaks of not being able to leave California even if he wanted to. My hunch is that he signed a contract for labor that paid his expenses to California for a one or two-year period of indenture.

[Note: This letter is from the collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent]


San Bruno [California]
October 29, 1864

Dear Wife,

I now take my pen in hand to write a few lines to you to let you know that I am yet alive and well & hope those few lines will find you all enjoying the same blessing. I received a letter from you last Thursday & today is Saturday. I was sorry to hear that you have sprained your wrist but very glad to hear that you was all well.

Well, my darling one, you said in your letter that I was drafted. I expected I would be before this war was over. Well, if I had been there, I suppose I should of went for it would have been impossible to get a substitute & you know that would’ve been rather hard to pay the last dollar we had for me. [But] here I am & here I shall stay. If they want me bad enough to hunt me up, they can have me but I will put them to a heap of trouble before they get me.

Cummings has gone to the city today. I sent for some gold dollars. If he gets me any, I will send one in this letter. Dinner is ready. I must go. I will finish this tomorrow. Good afternoon, my love. — G. W. P.

October 30th — Sunday morning — How do you do today? I am well but awful lonesome. The wind blows very hard. I think it will blow up a storm, There is a new moon today at 10 o’clock. It is half past 10 now. If you are as lonesome as I am today, I pity you. Here I am way among strangers & in a strange land & can’t come home if I wanted to ever so much. Oh well, one year hain’t much.

Oh Julie, the wild geese are thicker here than you ever saw grasshoppers in Maine. There is ever so many out hunting today. Hain’t they wicked? This ranch is going to be broke up the first of January. I don’t know what they are going to [be] doing then. I think they will go to farming. Farming will be tip top if there is any rain this winter. Everything is very high here now.

I wish you would come out here next spring. I can’t come home to see you now, can I? Shit on the draft. Hurrah for Dan Norris and the rest of the boys. It is hard for them but they have got to stand to it. Where is Abe now? I don’t hear a word from him. Have they got a boy yet? Hurrah for Mrs. Russell’s boy. Julie, is our stove where I put it in the pig pen? You must look & see if it hain’t getting very rusty.  If it is, you must have it put somewhere else. I would not have it get very rusty for anything. I may live to use it again sometime.

Friend Cummings got me 3 gold dollars. I will send one in this letter. If you can’t put your money at interest, you can put it in my little drawer & lock it up. That will be a good place for it. I want you to keep what gold you get pretty close. Don’t let anyone know that you have got any.

You must direct your letters in care of J. C. Green & I will be more sure to get them. As this sheet is about full, I will draw to a close. My love to Father & Mother Chase & all the rest of the children. Kiss the babes for me. You have one good kiss from me and lots of love with it. That is all this time. Write often.

From your husband, — Geo. W. Plummer



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