Israel's Letters Home
Cuba, New York, August 28, 1862
I am as well as usual and am enjoying myself as much as anybody could. I was examined the day we came out here and everyone that I have seen passed the examination except Elder Whiting, and he was thrown out. We are boarding at Stevens Hotel and will not leave here until next Monday. A lot of the boys have gone home and will be at Friendship next Monday to go to Portage. As for me, you need not worry any for I shall take care of myself. It rained last night and this afternoon. There is no news that I have heard of and there is nothing going on, so I will stop for the present.
September 7, 1862
As it is Sunday I thought
I would write you a few lines to let you know that I am all right and so
is Fred. We have been here 3 days and like it first rate. There was on
regiment here when we came but it went to Washington yesterday and now
there are three companies left. They say we shall get our uniforms this
week but no pay until we are ready to start away. As for me, I shall come
home when I get my clothes if I can get a furlough and money to come with.
I have been on guard twice since I came here. As for eatables, we have coffee, potatoes, beef and baker's bread, and sometimes we get butter. I was down at the falls today and went in swimming. That is about all, and so I will close.
I. P. Spencer
Direct to Camp Portage in care of Captain Cole, or you need not write
until you hear from em again for it may not reach me.
September 9, 1862
As I have just come from
dress parade and the Captain said he did not believe any of the men could
go home after next Monday on furlough and all that wanted to go now could.
I shall come home, but not until I get my uniform, and I will stay at least
two days. However, I am about out of money, at least, I have not enough
to carry me home and will will not get anymore until we are ready to start
I am enjoying myself and so are the rest of the boys. John Crandall and Alvin White are corporals. M. M. Loyden is first lieutenant. The other lieutenant's name is John Webster. The other officers I do not know well enough to tell their names.
As for some money, if you can send me three or four dollars it will be alright.
From your son,
I. P. Spencer
October 1, 1862
Fairfax Court House, Va.
As today is Saturday and
this afternoon is set aside for washing and cleaning up, I thought I would
let you know how I am getting along. I am well and so is Fred. There are
a good many that are sick and last night one dead man was taken to Washington
in the ambulance. He died of typhoid fever. He was in Company E, I think,
but I do not know his name.
Today I have written to Mort, besides washing my shirt, drawers and stockings, I guess they are clean.
Reuben Fish shot his finger off in the joint. He is doing well. You spoke of desertion in this company. There are two, Charles Harmon and H. Churchill. They were both from Cuba and Harmon was a sergeant and Churchill a corporal. They went while we were at Portage and after they had gotten their bounty, but I guess there has been nothing done towards getting them. One of them had $20 of A. Mead with which to buy a revolver, but Mead never received it.
They say that we shall get our pay next week, as the paymaster is here and the payroll is being made out. You spoke of my owing William Cranston. The amount is 63 cents, and if he says its more don't pay him anything. Money is scarce and its more scarce in my pocket and postage stamps are scarcer.
There is no news of any consequence here. Yesterday I saw Secretary Stanton and his girl, and she is darn good looking. Last night there was firing of cannon for about one-half an hour down towards Centerville. The next time you see John Beers, tell him if he don't write to me he will get a good flogging when I get home.
This is all for the present.
Direct as before.
Oct. 4, 1862
In Camp near Thoroughfare Gap
Today as we are not on
the march and I will try to tell you what a time we have had.
We left Fairfax day before yesterday and marched with knapsack, pack, overcoat, tent and clothes we marched about seven miles and stopped to rest. We stayed there twenty minutes and were up again and started and went about three miles. We camped about one mile beyond Centerville. Some of the boys pitched their tents and some of them laid down on the ground. We got up in the morning and one we went, passing Bull Run about nine o'clock. I saw a lot of cannon balls, some shells and lot of graves. Some of the boys picked up an arm cut off at the elbow with the fingers drawn up and some decayed. But to go on, we passed through Gainersville and on through Haymarket. While going through Haymarket some of the boys stopped and went into a house and threw out a lot of rebel clothing and knapsacks and everything that you could think of that the rebels left here yesterday morning.
Our cavalry had a brush with them and drove them five miles beyond the gap and on to the devil for what I care. We stopped about two miles from the gap and pitched our tents and expected to go on this morning, but we have not moved yet.
There have not been any Union troops through here in a good while. Our men hold the gap now. There are six regiments of infantry and six batteries of artillery and I guess they will hold it. I am all right and most of the boys are also, but I am somewhat sore from carrying my knapsack. We must go out on battalion drill this afternoon. This is about all I can think of now. If you can read this you will do better than I can.
Camp Seward, October 5, 1862
I am all right and still on top of Virginia soil. We got here yesterday, coming five miles after four o'clock. There is no news here nor anything else except soldiers and mules. There are about 100,000 soldiers within four miles of here in tents. Last night all of our regiment had to sleep on the ground and you had better believe there were not many but what did sleep. As for me, I slept like a log. This is about all I can think of now.
I. P. Spencer
October 6, 1862
Having been told to keep
still by the doctor on account of a swollen leg, I thought I would write
you a few lines to pass away the time. We are on Arlington Heights overlooking
the city of Washington. All around are entrenchments and guns. There is
one ditch within ten rods and four brass 12-pounders. They were put there
right after the last Bull Run fight.
It is reported that there was a rebel general in Washington yesterday to settle up this affair, and it is ordered not to drill the new regiments now.
As for the way we came here, we got our arms at Elmira and started about eleven o'clock and away we went for Dixie. At nearly every town we had to stop about an hour and the men would get off the train and then when the trail was ready to start the men had to run like the devil to catch up. One was left behind and one man of our company lost his cap. At Baltimore we stopped for supper and had a fine old time all along the road. From Williamsport guards are stationed to protect the railroad. Our guns are the Enfield rifles. Where the 23rd New York is I do not know. This is all for the present. Direct to Israel P. Spencer, 136th Reg. Company A, N. Y. Volunteers.
October 13, 1862
As I am out to picket
and have time to write to you I will tell what I am about and so on. We
are camped in the woods about one mile from where when I last wrote. We
have fine weather here and no rain at all. We have roll call every hour
and have had for two days, and if a man is not here at every hour to answer,
he is sent to headquarters and has to stand on guard twelve hours, on guard
carrying two guns and a knapsack filled with stones twelve hours a day
for three days. I have not heard from Morton in a good while.
Today I went to headquarters with two men on horseback. They wanted to go through the lines and did not have any pass, but it was no go. If you were here anc could see what we eat and how we live you would wonder that anyone wants to be a soldier. We have hard tack and once in a while some coffee and raw port, but seldom can you get any of that. The boys are roasting their port now on the fire and it is salty enough to kill a man.
The 27th New York is within five miles of here and we expect to see some of the boys tomorrow, as we have sent for them to come over once in a while. I think if I could get hold of a Johnny cake or ginger bread you may believe it would not last long. It would be worth one dollar here.
As for Father, you had better not try to come down here this winter, but when we get settled at winter quarters maybe I shall send for some things, and if you can send me a pair pants I would like that very much. The boots that I wear are about gone. It is so stony here it takes the soles right off. If you can get them made and not be too much trouble, I wish you would get them long legs and soles one inch thick and nailed all over on the bottoms, or if you can get any composition soles get them. You can probably buy they at Porterville or Friendship and they will not cost much.
Well, I must stop and roast some pork for supper. I am
Yours as usual,
Israel P. Spencer
Oct. 22, 1862
FairFax Court House
Since I am not feeling very well today and having nothing else to
do, I thought I would write a few lines to you. Today the wind blows like
the devil. I sent some stamps in a letter because they will not pass here
and I sent my likeness and did not have time to write anything in it and
so it went. I do not know of any particular news to write about. I want
you to send me about one dollar in three cent postage stamps, as I have
none except two or three. Get the stamps that are clean and have gum on
them or they will not go on the letters. I had a letter from Mort this
week and he is well and stirring around.
That is all for the present.
Nov. 6, 1862
In Camp at or near Manassas Gap
As I have time will write
you how I am getting along and where I am. I am well as usual.
We are in camp near Manassas Gap and on the line of the railroad. Yesterday we were all surprised to see a train of ours pass up on the road, the first that has been along this road in about one year. Today two more trains passed. This morning we were ordered to march and then the order was countermanded and so we are still here. The boys have just come from battalion drill. There has been heavy firing off toward the gap and it is said that McClellan has driven the rebels back ten miles. We fared very poorly when we first came here. We did not have anything to cook in and it was all salt meat, but now we have some pans and kettles and we can get a meal fit for the king. We have some fresh met and the boys confiscate most everything they want.
The other day E. Bliss and some of the other boys in our company went out and brought in a drove of sheep and a yoke of oxen and a cart and some sheep that they had butchered. Those that were alive they had to take over to General Steinhaur's headquarters, but the boys will know how to handle the matter next time. They will kill it and fetch it in on their backs and then they can hold it. We also got a lot of apples and they tasted very good, but they were such apples as you would hardly look at at home. They were little things about as big as a robin's egg. There was also about $30.00 in rebel money that some boys in some other regiment got away from the woman of the house.
Just now there was another train passed up on the road loaded with hay and they are following it up. When we first camped here the fences were all good and now if you want any rails for wood you will go about half a mile to get any. There are about two brigades or eight regiments of infantry here. The town of Haymarket was burned that other night by our troops.
That is about all the news that I can think of. Write as soon as you get this.
P. S. Tell father I am out of money and if he can spare $3.00 or
$4.00 I should be glad to get it, as I must borrow a postage stamp to put
on this letter, for I am out.
November 7, 1862
In Camp near Warrenton
Last night we were ordered to be ready to march with two days' rations and we got up at three in the morning and packed up everything and then had to stand around until ten o'clock. It was cold as the devil and it snowed some you can believe. We marched about six miles without stopping and then when we did it was to camp. It snowed all day and did not stop until after bedtime.
This morning I had some fresh mutton and it was certainly good. It is some that the boys in our company got yesterday. Cannon are on the boom this morning. This is all for the present.
November 11, 1862
The day after I wrote
my last letter we packed up and started for this gap as they thought the
rebels would make a break to get through here, we marched about five miles
and got here about four o'clock. We struck tents and started for some fence
rails of course, and the way they went was a caution. It is about five
in the afternoon now and I am on picket duty within sight of camp. The
boys are cracking walnuts as there are lots of them here and they are very
good. The cannon are booming all the time and you can hear them very plainly.
We understand it is Burnside.
The cavalry men drove in 150 horses today that they had taken from the rebels. Last night the went out and got eight canteens full of milk and we had some bread, or hardtack as the boy call the crackers. Some of them went out about two miles to get some honey, but when they got there it was all gone and they had to come back to camp in a hurry as the pickets were out on the road and the dogs set up such a howling that you could hardly hear yourself think.
Last night I got a letter from you and was glad to hear that all were well. I have not had but two letters from home since I left Arlington Heights, and I have written more than four. Captain A. T. Cole is no longer our captain. John Webster is first lieutenant, Abner Cole is second, an so the officers have been raised up a notch or two.
I have not seen Fred in over a week as he was left at Fairfax. Some of our officers are in danger of something if they ever get in a fight. One is Lieutenant Colonel Faulkner, as he drew a revolver on a man in our company. He was a corporal at that. I will try to inform you how it was. James Ballard from Richburg was sick and fell out of the ranks, and Corporal Gardner was out to help him and the Colonel ordered him back in the ranks. Gardner told him that the captain had told him to take care of Ballard and he would have to do so. The Colonel has his revolver cocked and threatened to blow his brains out if he did not get in the ranks, and the Corporal went back again.
This is all for the present.
November 15, 1862
It is now morning and
I have just been down to wash and shall write to you to let you know that
I am as well as usual. Fred is sick at Fairfax, and I have not heard from
him in quite a good while.
You cannot guess what I had for supper last night. A. Hicks, the corporal of the guard, went off to a house and got some warm bread. There were eight pieces and cost 30 cents, and I got one of the pieces and you better believe it was good, but I had to get trusted for it as the ways and means are all gone with me. This morning I went out and got a cup of milk.
Last night there was one of the boys from the 27th over here and he said that the 23rd was within seven miles of this place on towards Warrenton. I hope Mort will come up here if he can because I cannot leave as it is against the orders of General Smith, our brigade commander. Tell Father I want some postage stamps if he can get them. I would like to be home this winter to help eat the apples, as they must be good. I will stop now.
P. S. You have doubtless heard that McClellan is superseded by General
Nov. 20, 1862
Encamped on the Leesburg Turnpike
I have been on the march
almost every day for two weeks, and do not expect to stop in quite a while.
We started from the Gap three days ago and at first the order came to march
while we were on drill and near dar, so we had to fix up right away and
start off. We came six miles and tents were struck and I had to go on guard.
We came into camp in the morning and started on and stopped at this place
where we are camped in the woods. It is raining very hard at the present
time and has been most all day long. We are on a retreat, I should call
it. The whole of General Siegel's corps are falling back.
The night before we left the Gap we were ordered to lay on our arms and to have them loaded and ready for use. We came away from there in such a hurry that most of the officers did not find any places to put their baggage and when the sutler went back he was ordered to burn all the things that were left. Lieutenant Webster of our company lost $100 worth of clothing and our Second Lieutenant lost everything but what he had on his back. The sutler did burn all of the things that he found and a lot of provisions and then left a lot of ammunition, about 40,000 rounds of cartridges that he did not dare to burn as he was afraid of getting hurt.
I do not know where we are bound for, nor do I care. I cannot give you any news that is reliable . It is said that there has been a fight on the other side of the mountain in General Burnside's army, but I do not know how that is. It is also claimed that the war will end by next spring, and I hope it will.
When did you ever see me take a chunk of fat port and say it was good? But now I am satisfied if I can only get my hands on it. This fighting for the Union is all a sham and it is nothing but guarding rebel's property. About all our Colonel does is to trot the men around with their knapsacks on, but they will hardly obey his orders. Today Captain Cole was here. He has not been here nor with us since we left Fairfax. He said that Fred was in Alexandria in the hospital but not very bad.
The next day's rations I have got five hardtacks. They are as big as the soda crackers you got home.
Tell Father to get those boots made if he will and send them in a box and have them a little larger than my fine ones were.
That is all from the present.
November 22, 1862
In Camp as Before
I am as well as anybody
could be. Yesterday I marched seven miles and back without anything to
eat. They started the regiment off at nine o'clock in the morning for Fairfax
Station and we got back to camp the only thing we had to eat was some beans.
I have not seen Mort nor heard from him since we left Fairfax about three
Father, you said that you would send me $5.00 in the letter but it happened that there was only a $2.00 bill on the Bank of Oswego. I was somewhat afraid that someone had made use of the other dollar, but do not know. If you put in three dollars there is some mistake.
I have heard a report that Burnside has take 25,000 prisoners and if so he has done first rate. I have not heard from Fred lately. George Perry, Crandall, M. L. Finch, J. I. Finch, H. White and H. Wakeman are all in the hospital and most of them are at Washington, although some are in Alexandria.. We have lots of work now. It is fall in all the time, and a fellow has all he can do to keep up with the orders. This afternoon I will have to do some washing and it will make the fingers ache because it is very cold. Write soon and send me some postage stamps.
Israel P. Spencer
November 27, 1862
As I have time will let you know how I am and where we are. We are located on the road to Fairfax Station and are encamped for a few days. We are at work on the road today. I have been chopping and there are eight others from my company at work. We work eight hours a day and will keep at it until we make three miles of road. I don't feel well at all on account of dysentery. Day before yesterday we had the hard luck to be routed out at midnight with orders to march at daylight the next morning, and of all the swearing I every heard it was then. It was raining like the devil. Everyone hated to get up, but it was no use complaining. We had to do it, and so we got ready and started with two days rations and went seven miles and stopped, where we are now. It is somewhat cold in this part of the country. This morning when I went to wash the ice froze on my hair before I could get around to comb it. My ears and feet are as cold here as they have ever been in old York state. This is all for the present.
(Attached to this letter is the following schedule:)
August 27, 1862 Date of the mustering roll.
Sept. 3, Went to camp at Portage
Sept. 18, Drew my suit of clothes
Oct. 2, Started for Washington
Oct. 4, Arrived at Washington
Oct. 5, Encamped at Arlington Heights
Oct. 15, Encamped at Balls Gross Road
Oct. 16, Encamped at Fairfax Court House
Oct. 24, Marched twelve miles from Fairfax Gap
Oct. 25, Passed Bull Run
Oct. 26, Passed through Haymarket and camped 2 miles from Thoroughfare Gap
Nov. 6, Marched 6 miles and camped 4 miles from Warrenton
Nov. 8, Marched 8 miles and camped at Fairfax Gap
Nov. 13, Roll call every hour for three days
Nov. 13, Ordered to match at one o'clock, went one half mile and camped in the woods
Nov. 17, Started at dark and fell back 5 miles
Nov. 18, Fell back 10 miles
Nov. 19, Fell back 12 miles and the whole of Gen. Siegel's corps did likewise, stopping within two miles of Fairfax.
Nov. 26, Marched 8 miles and struck tents and went to work on the road where we now are.
Nov. 27 &28, At work chopping and clearing the road.
December 1, 1862
Dear Parents and all,
I received your letter
November 23 and on from Fred at the same time. I was glad to get the stamps
enclosed in your letter. I am at work today chopping and helping clear
roads. To get enough to eat, such as it is. Yesterday they sent us out
to work and instead of working we went off in the brush and sat by the
fire all day as it was warm and comfortable there. We have a very conformable
shanty for a tent. One side is a part of the roof from a barn and our tent
on the other side and end, and a fireplace in one end. This forenoon I
cut four small trees down that would not measure over six inches through,
and that is the way we all work in the woods.
I should like to be at home and get a clean meal and see how it would taste. It is no wonder what has become of the 136th when you know that there is not over 400 men able to do duty and half of them are complaining. Today I invested five cents in some cornmeal for supper, and if the boys get it and make some pudding it will go very well.
If you send my boots before you get this all right, but if not don't put in a great deal of eatables as I may have to move soon and may have time to eat them. I would not have room to carry food but I hope that we shall go into winter quarters before long. I am as well as usual.
December 5, 1862
I am as well as usual.
We are still at work on the roads but shall not stay here much longer as
we are going into winter quarters not far from here. There were some rebel
prisoners went by here the other day and they seemed to feel very well.
They were all dressed differently and for all of that they looked like
quite a fairly tough set of men.
The president has issued his proclamation and I have heard some of it read. I think it has given the rebels a good chance for settling this matter and he gives them 37 years to get rid of the negros and pays for them in the bargain. If they do not feel inclined to settle the war in this way, some other way will probably be mentioned.
Out of 100 men that are supposed to be chopping in the woods, I cannot hear a single one, and I guess they are all sitting down by some fire as I am. The rest of our squad are all writing. It is very cold here now. Last night after dark we went down to the creek and washed our clothes. Al Mead found a boiler and we took it to heat the water in. It is snowing here now, having commenced about twelve and keeping up at a very good rate.
I have heard of there being three rebel congressmen in Washington to discuss something or other, and I hope it is of peace, if three is any such thing, and I believe there is.
Well, the snow is four inches deep now and somewhat cold. This is all I can think of for the present. If you can get a pair of cotton or woolen gloves that are lined and can get them fairly cheap and you think they will wear, send them to me, as it is very cold and a fellow has to keep his hands in his pockets to keep them from freezing. Last night it was so cold I could not sleep half the time. I was bothered considerably with cramps in the legs.
It is too cold to write any more until I get warm. I concluded the best thing to do was to go to work and build a fire in the tent, so we did that in short order, and we now have a fire, but all of the smoke I ever saw it is here. This is about the meanest job I believe that I ever got into, and they may all go to the devil if I can ever get out of this, and I hope we will be next spring. This is all I can think of now.
December 9, 1862
I am glad to know that
y ou are getting along well as y ou are and I hope you will be with us
in a few days, but y ou will have to hurry up as we are under marching
orders tonight and expect to go in the morning. If we do, you will not
get this in quite a while as I shall not have a chance to send it. I got
a letter from home tonight. They were all well and said you were getting
along fine. Sanford Davie was sent to the general hospital tonight on account
We are now in camp some two miles from Fairfax on the Warrenton Turnpike. Had just fixed up a comfortable place and along came a man with an order to march. That is the way we have been served several times.
I have a box of things at Washington or on the road, and if they arrive and you hear of it and can get it, just take what you want and bring what you can along. I shall have a pair of boots in it and I want them very much.
From the way you spoke of living I guess you do not think of hard tack and raw port or bad bacon. This is all for the present.
From your brother, who wishes you were here.
Israel P. Spencer
December 13, 1862
Encamped at Dumfries
I am as well as usual. We started for Fairfax the 10th and went twelve
miles and encamped at Wolf Run. We started the next day and went 10 miles
more and camped. The third day we came twelve miles and stopped here, so
you see from the way we have traveled that a fellow must be somewhat tired
out. It was the worst road I have ever seen. The mud was four inches deep
and would stick like gum. For the most part is ran through the woods and
over the hills.
The news is that Fredericksburg has been burned. We can hear the heavy guns all the time in the direction of Fredericksburg. If they have burned the city they will have it in a short time. If you have not sent the box of things you need not be in a great hurry about it, as I will be where I cannot get it for quite a while. The rebels were here yesterday when we came in. The report is there were about 1500 of Stewart's cavalry here and that they ran when they saw the artillery that came in advance. We expect to march today but do not know for certain.
The boys are all in good health and cooking their dinner.
December 16, 1862
As I have not heard from
any of you in quite a while I will write. We are not far from the scene
of the action before the city of Fredericksburg and are on short rations.
There are not half of the boys that have had anything for supper. As for
me, I have a few hardtack, just enough to last until morning, and then
we will draw some more. Once in a while they let off one of these big guns.
Loyden has been down as near as he could get and he said that the roads
all along wee lined with troops. He saw the city and it has not been burned.
He saw the rebel entrenchments and their pickets were out in the lots.
I expect it will not be long before we shall be ordered to go forward.
There is a whole of General Siegel's corps, some 80,000 men, here, and something will be done very soon.
This is all for the present.
December 16, 1862,
Encamped 4 miles from Fredericksburg
We are now within three
or four miles of Fredericksburg. We came here yesterday, after a hard ,
muddy march, tired and worn out. We have had scarcely anything to eat for
two days. Just one week ago we started from Fairfax and h ave been on the
go all the time since, most of the time in the mud sometimes knee deep.
I h ave thrown away my boots as they were all worn out at the toes and
I now have a pair of shoes. I have heard that Ft. Darling has been taken
and that Burnside is back on this side of the river. He does not make much
Siegel's Army Corps is here. In fact, there are about 80,000 men in this immediate vicinity. There is not much going on about here and it is very dull.
December 18, 1862
As I have not h ad a chance to send this since I first started it, I will tell you where we are. We are near the river and the city and not far from the rebels. Burnside has been defeated behind Fredericksburg and all the men have fallen back across the river. What the next move will be I do not know, nor do I care. I am as well as usual.
December 23, 1862,
Encamped near Fredericksburg
As I have time to write
I will improve the opportunity. I hope that you are all well and enjoying
yourselves. I suppose you girls are going to school. Spelling schools are
not such bad things after all. I wish I was there to go with you and make
a road through the snow. We get very little snow here, but it is quite
cold. I think one would freeze in about two hours without a overcoat unless
he could get to a fire.
The regiment is out on battalion drill. We have to go on drill twice every day. The rebels lie over on the other side of the river in their redoubts doing nothing, nothing, nothing, and our men on this side are doing the same. The talk now is of peace, and I guess we will get it or we would not stay here doing nothing.
In the next letter that you write I want all the red pepper you can send in it. Do it up so it come in the letter and some black pepper would not be refused if I could get hold of it.
There were some of the boys from the 23rd up here the other day. They were in the fight. They said that Morton had a very slight flesh wound in the arm from a piece of shell. Some of our boys went down to the regiment and saw him. He was getting around and wanted me to come down there, but I was out on picket and could not go. He has probably gone to the hospital by this time and will stay around until time for the regiment to be discharged and then go home. I h ave no idea he will ever go back to the regiment again, as their time is so near out. Now there is no use for any of you to think he is wounded very bad, for it is only a scratch and will be all right in four weeks. This is about all I can think of at the present. We get very little information. Once in a while a man comes in camp after dark with papers which he sells for ten cents a piece. You will oblige me very much if you will write soon.
I. P. Spencer
January 1, 1863,
I received your letter
of the 23rd and am glad you are all well. I believe I have answered it
before and have told you what I want. I wish some of you would answer soon.
It is fine sunshiny weather here this afternoon. You have probably seen Sanford Davie as his father took him him. Daniel Garthwait is dead. He was in the hospital, but where, I don't know. We have drawn a rubber blanket and it is a good thing to have.
I am somewhat under the weather yet but I hope to be well in a few days. We were mustered for pay today, and instead of sending $10 I only sent $8. If I have any left I will send the balance later. I have not heard from the boots nor any of the other things. Fred wrote that he had a lot of things that I. Davie left in his care that belong to some of the other boys.
I wish you would send all the black pepper in my letters and papers that you can. My writing paper is getting scarce and no money to buy more with. There is a chance for a fellow to draw all the clothes he wants now, but as for me I have all the stuff I need. I threw away my knapsack nearly two weeks ago and the first one that crosses my path is mine. I shall carry it hereafter if there is nothing in it.
There is no news of any consequence that I have heard of. The last rumor was that J. Davis had made some terms of peace. The boys say they read it in the papers that he said each party should pay its own expense and the South would come back into the Union, but I guess it is only a report. I want you to write and tell me that kind of weather you have up north and whether you have had any sleighing. One thing is certain we have not had any snow sleighing here, but lots of slaying at Fredericksburg, as you have heard. Captain Cole has resigned and gone home and Loyden has done the same, as the Colonel has put in as a captain an officer out of another company of the same rank.
I want you to send me an almanac of some kind so I can stick it on my account book. Mort is in the same hospital that Fred is in. I had a letter from him and he said he was getting along fine, except that he didn't like the smell of the place. I want to know what is said about the war now and when they think it will be settled. You don't send a paper once a month. The last one I had was December 4th. If I can get one every week I would like it very well. I wish I was at home and at school. I guess there is no one there to quarrel with the school master this winter as I am gone. The boys are drawing their hardtacks and there is a devil of a noise, as there has not been anything to eat today.
This is all so I will close by wishing you a Happy New Year.
January 6, 1863,
I received your letter
of the 27th and I am still on the go. I have to out to drill in the morning
and afternoon. I don't believe that you got all my letters as I sent one
about three weeks ago with a ring in it I made for Charley and have never
heard from it. I sent a letter to Mort last night telling him to get his
discharge if he can and I believe he can, as I do not think he will ever
be able to follow the regiment up an do duty. The boys that came from around
our place are all well. It is said that we shall draw our pay this week,
some say for two months and others say for four, but no one knows until
we get it.
It has been raining and the indications are that bad weather has commenced. We are in camp in a mud hole but it seems to be the luck of this regiment to get in the very meanest hole for a camping place. Every one of our commissioned officers has gone home, and we have a Lieutenant from another company to look after us, but I think he is a fine man. His name is Buel from Company E. He has two brothers in the rebel service. He went down to the river the other day and saw one of them. He was a Major, and they had a long talk together.
In your next letter tell me how that box was directed and who had things in it as there a lot of boys claim they have things in my box. I told Fred if he got it to take out the boots and paper and send them by mail. I have only three sheets of very poor paper left, as for stamps I have 7 or 8 yet. Our sutler has not been with us since we started from Fairfax and when his teams do come they ought to tip them over and drive him off the grounds. The man himself is here but it is to get his pay from the boys as he thinks it is almost pay day.
The hardest thing to get here is tobacco. A man can't get it even if he has the money as there is none to bought. We have a lot of coffee, though, and when out on picket down by the river we often make a sign to the rebels and they meet us half way in the river and trade tobacco to us for coffee, as they have plenty of tobacco and we have plenty of coffee. I think this will be stopped very soon. I want you to send me a chunk of camphor gum as there are plenty of sore throats about. I have had a slight sore throat myself. Send it and the black pepper in a paper. I will stop now and write to some of the rest of the family.
From your son,
Well, Charley, how do
you like to go to school this winter and how do you and the old horse get
along. I guess you have not had any sleigh rides by the talk, as you have
not had any snow yet. Can you make the old black dog draw in the wood for
you, or do you have to bring it yourself? You must go to school every day
and learn to write and put in a word or two in the letters to me once in
a while. I sent you a ring a good while ago, but I don't believe you got
it. It was made of laurel root. Who do you sit with this winter and how
do you like Briggs, the teacher?
That is all, from your brother,
January 12, 1863,
I am out on picket duty
on the river and am down by a fire. It is very cold and disagreeable. Last
night it was impossible to keep warm.
You may as well stop sending things to me but you can send them to Fred or Mort, but as for me I never can get them unless the boys come from the hospital and can fetch them. If you can send me some money and some postage stamps, I would like it, even if it is not more than one dollar. We do not know when we shall get our pay, and if Fred does not send me some paper I shall have to stop writing, as the sutler has not been with the regiment since we left Fairfax. Tell Mother she need not send the honey to me as I cannot get it. If you could send me a lot of black pepper I would like it very much. I would also like to have a knife, as I had the misfortune to lose the one I had before. If you would roll it up in a paper it will come all right.
I got a couple of newspapers and it was quite a treat as it was the first reading that I had had in a good while, and it seems quite natural to look in the old paper once more. Tobacco is the scarcest thing you ever saw. It cannot be bought for love or money. Once in a while the commissary has it and I could get some if I had money, but as I have none, I shall have to go without. Be sure to send me the knife.
I. P. Spencer
I received your letter
of the 11th tonight. I am a good deal better than I have been for some
time back. I went to the sutler and traded out what few tickets I had which
were only 30 cents worth. There is a call for dress parade and I must stop.
Well, the thing is over and I will go on with my letter about the money or tickets. I got some writing paper, only six sheets for ten cents, and it is not the best of paper at that, as you can see. It is very cold here, but as long as we get clothes and shoes enough to wear we don't care. We have four days' rations on hand at present and the camp is full of rumors that we are going to march. If this is so they will have a fine lot of men in two days unless they get some better shoes. A lot of the boys are not able to do duty as they have no shoes fit to get out of the tents with. George Perry and S. Pierre are as bad off as if they were bare footed. I have a fairly good pair of shoes that I got when we were on the march and threw away my old boots as the soles were all worn off at the toes. The box of things is at W. Evens in the city and as the boys have gone to Baltimore I don't see how I can ever get the pepper or the other things. If it had left at the express office as it should have been I think it would be here now. The Lieut. Colonel has been down to the city and forwarded three wagon loads of boxes and they arrived here quite a while ago. If the box does not come I may send for another pair of boots and have them sent by mail, or perhaps Captain Cole may come back and they can be sent by him.
You may keep on sending the black pepper and have it ground but don't put in so much as to require two stamps. Put a little in the paper and some in the letters. Almost every day some General is visiting the position. Today General Franklin and General Smith, both of them Major Generals, were here and peeped and squinted around, but what they made out I don't know. We have to go out on battalion line every Tuesday and Friday nights at 8 o'clock.
This is all, from your son,
Mort and Fred's directions are, Newton University Hospital, Lexington,
January 24, 1863,
I received your letter
of the 22nd and was glad to hear from you. I am all right and in good health.
Today I came off from picket guard and not a wink did I sleep last night
on account of not taking out my woolen blanket. It has been quite squally
at times here. It has rained for the last two days and the ground is well
soaked up. It is also cut up by the artillery that has been here has gone
away. There were about 30 pieces here and they planned to cross the river
and drive the Rebels out, but the rain knocked it all in the head. So I
did not have the chance of giving the Rebs a shot. There was a lot of infantry
and the whole of Burnside's force as I understand it have fallen back and
will probably wait until the weather gets better before they advance again.
The 23rd or 27th were here or near by, and I some of the 27th boys from
our town. They were well and hearty. The 23rd was some three or four miles
off and so I did not get to see them as I did not know where they lay.
I had a letter Mort and Fred. They were both on the gain. They said they
had not had a letter from home since they went to Baltimore.
You need not write any more about any pictures, for it is impossible to get them taken here as there is no shop within forty miles so far as I know, and if there was it would not help, for none of us have any money or any prospect of getting any very soon. As for my writing to other girls all the time, you are mistaken on that score, as I have only written to one and to her but three times, and if I have not the pleasure of doing it who h as, I should like to know. This is all on that subject.
I wish you would put in a lot of black pepper in one of the papers that is sent. Don't put in so much as to pay any extra postage on it, but send what you can.
The Rebels have a sign on their side of the river which reads "Burnside stuck in the mud", and so it is. Tell the folks that they will hear of another defeat of the Army of the Potomac in less than one month if I am not mistaken. This is all. From
January 29, 1863,
I received your letter
of the 22nd last night and was glad to hear from you. I am as well as usual
and so are the rest of the boys from our place.
It is the worst kind of weather here now. Day before yesterday it commenced raining and rained all day. Yesterday it snowed all day and night, and today the wind blows very hard. There is about two and one-half inches of snow on the ground and it is very sloppy. Shoes are not very good things to wear in such weather, as they wet through as soon as you step out of the shanties and then you might as well try to keep the devil in a bird's nest as to keep warm.
I received your letter with the pepper but most of it had spilled out. The money which ws in it was all right. I received the papers and found some camphor in the package, which was very acceptable. From
January 29, 1863,
I have already written to Ett and will write a word to you. It would make you laugh to see me put hardtack in water at night so that it can soak and in the morning slash off a slice of pork as big as a shingle and put it in a plate and fry it. I then put the hardtack in the grease and fry it, then slide the pork and hardtack on another plate and they try to eat it, but it will not do to say to much on the subject of eatables. I received the postage stamps in the nick of time, as I did not have one left. I received a letter from Fred and he was not any better. He said that he had been exposed to small pox. From
January 31, 1863,
Banks Ford, Va.
I received your letter
of the 28th tonight, also paper and was glad to hear from you. I am as
well as usual and can eat my rations and not half try, either. The postage
stamps were all right. The knife has not arrived yet but it will be here
before many days.
It is very cold here. They talk about the Sunny South, but it is about equal to the old state of New York. It commenced snowing this morning and while it did not last long, the north wind cuts one through. It was very cold out on picket duty where I was. I received a letter from Fred and he was about the same as usual. He said the D. Baxter had got his discharge and is going home.
Now for something about the regiment, its officers, and the doctor in particular. He is the damnedest and meanest man that ever drew a breath of life. The other day one of the boys in Company e accidentally shot himself in the arm as he was coming off from picket duty. The bullet went in below the elbow and came out near the wrist, and the doctor did it up so tight that it mortified and the poor fellow was in his grave the fourth day after it was done. It was cold weather and I do not believe the doctor washed the wound out or did anything else, and it is the way he has served a good many of the boys in the regiment who had their fingers shot off. He would let them be until they got so sore they would yell and then he would rip them off.
There is no news of any consequence that I know of. If we get a paper we have to pay 10 cents for it. Today we drew three days rations, and how may hardtack do you suppose we got? There were just 32 and a small hunk of fresh beef. This all I can think of at present.
From your son,
I. P. Spencer
(Attached to this letter is the following:)
List of Officers as near as I can get them now, as we are detached duty.
Commander of Corps General Siegel
Brigadier General Smith
Division General Steinwher
Regiment Col. Wood
Company Capt. Buel
(There was also attached to this letter a pencil sketch with this notation.)
This is our position as near as I can get it and the position of
our pickets and the rebels.
February 10, 1863
Stafford Court House
As we have been on the
march I thought I would write and let you know how I am. I am as well as
usual except for the diarrhea but I think I am about cured of that. We
have been on the go all the time. We started the 8th from the Ford where
we lay and went about 6 miles and camped in the darnedest mud hold that
you ever saw in your life. The next day it rained all day long and the
mud was four inches deep all along the road. We went some 8 miles and camped
at the Stafford, where we are and they say that we are to stay here some
The night before we started we signed the payroll and expected to get our pay next day but the orders came that night to march and we have not been paid yet. I received the gloves and knife today. They were very good and came in the nick of time, as a knife is the only comfort that a man has here. I will send some tobacco that I got from the rebels, and they said it cost $2 a plug.
From Israel Spencer
(With this letter there are a few bits of tobacco wrapped in a piece
Feb. 16, 1863
Stafford Court House
I received yours of the
10th today and am as well as usual. Today we were reviewed by General Hooker,
so you see I have seen the old fighter myself.
We were paid off to the first of November. I got $24.26. There was a check of $15 and I shall send it in this letter. I will keep the rest, as I am owing some of the boys and the sutler and I shall want some to keep me from starving. I have not had anything to eat today but some ginger bread that I bought this morning, and that went for breakfast, and now it is four in the afternoon and we have nothing to eat in the company yet.
The talk is that we are going to be traded off for another regiment of Dutch. I hope this is so and then we will go to Washington or Alexandria to do Provo guard duty. Siegel seems to want all the Dutch under his command. You should have been here the other day to see the doings. The whole division was out and the Dutchmen were all riding all over taking orders. You never say a man so mad as our Colonel was. A Dutchman came with an order and the Colonel could not understand him, and they both got mad as the devil and the Colonel told General Steinwher to send someone that could talk English, and so he did the next time.
There is no news and so I will stop by saying that I am most awful hungry.
P. S. You can get the money on any bank by signing your name on the back of the draft to let them know you have have received it.
February 22, 1863
Stafford Court House
I am in good health but
am somewhat sore and have a slight cold. I have just come in from picket
duty, having gone out yesterday in fine weather and all of a sudden i t
commenced snowing, keeping it up all night. This morning the snow was about
ten inches deep and no other but a bush house to go into and that was only
to keep off the wind on on side. You may believe that it was not much fun
to wade in ten inches of snow with only a pair of shoes wet as the devil
six miles from camp, nothing to eat and your blanket frozen as stiff as
a board. We finally got relieved and started for camp. It is still snowing.
I have sent Father $15 and he has probably received it before this. When he gets it let me know as quick as a letter will come. There were a lot of cannon firing today as a salute for General Washington's birthday. This is all I can think of now and I will stop because the fire smokes so hard that it makes me cry all the day.
I. P. Spencer
Monday morning, February 23,
The sun is out and it
looks as though we would have a warm day. The snow will probably go in
a hurry. This morning we have to shovel the snow out of the street between
the tents, and I have been out and done my share. Last night I had some
warm biscuit for supper. I had five and they cost 25 cents. Tell Father
I have not seen anything of those boots and do not believe that I ever
James Ballard received a box that was started the 2nd of February and it came a week ago. As I tent with him I make out to get some of the butter and cake and honey. Just now I would like to have some of the warm sugar that we make at home and be out there and go to the sugar parties.
Well, Charley, how do you get along with your old cat and old dog Watch? Does he draw the wood in for you as he used to? Can you ride the old horse as fast as she can run? If you don't go to school and behave yourself you cannot have the breast pin that is in this letter, and you must not stay after school any more but run along home.
This is all, from
I. P. Spencer
February 25, 1863
Stafford Court House
I am getting along as
well as usual with the exception of being somewhat under the weather on
account of eating too many apples. They cost five cents for all you want
to eat. We also get small biscuits at the rate of eight for twenty-five
cents, and the a quarters worth will make just one good meal for a fellow.
It is fine weather here and the boys are all out in the shirt sleeves. It is a the queerest place for good and bad weather I ever saw, for every time the wind changes the weather does also, which is quite different from Old York State.
Thursday morning, 26th
Well as I said. This morning it is raining like the very mischief and it will make a nice mud hole around here. It will be good to mix mortar in, for some of the shanties must be muddled up and it will come in handy.
This morning it is a fair
prospect of having some more rain. The old shanty smokes like everything,
but not much worse than being around the old log heap. I received a letter
from Mort and Fred last night written the 23rd. They were both as well
as usual. The doctors had taken Fred's name to go to the convalescent camp
Take a note. They were giving furloughs to some of the noncommissioned officers, and if the orderly sergeant of our company goes home I want you to get me a pair of boots and have them tapped and take them over to Aleck McVeagh at Wellsville, and inquire for Isaac A. Kruson, and give to him as he said he would bring them to me. If he goes I shall send a line for him to leave at some post office on the way. He will only be gone ten days.
I am as well as usual and hope you are all well. This forenoon we harnessed up to be mustered and instead of being mustered we had a battalion drill and went into camp, but in less than one half an hour we went back and we mustered for pay. I am on guard today. Yesterday I saw the worst thing I have seen since coming here. It was down at the road and in the mud lay a horse. The mud was deep enough to cover him all up and a nigger was trying to get him out, but it was no use. He would get about half way up and then go head-long down in the mud again. They worked about an hour and at last put a chain around his neck and hitched a horse to it and dragged him two rods and rolled him over on a brush pile. He got up but was so weak he could hardly stand. They took him down to the creek to wash him off. You never saw the mud so deep and sticky as it is here. This is all I will write today as paper is scarce and costs lots of money.
I. P. Spencer
March 1, 1863
Camp as before, in the morning
Well, the weather has
changed again and it is raining very hard. Last night I was surprised to
see Fred come after dark. He is very fleshy and looks well. When he got
here last night he was about tired out. Harley Hitchcock came with him.
Yesterday we mustered, as I have said before, I think. Uncle Sam owes me
$52, and they say we shall get it by the middle of this month. Money is
scarce with me. I owed the sutler some and the boys a bit, and having paid
up and got some tobacco the rest went to stop hunger, and it went very
I have not had any letter from you since the 15th and shall not send any until I get an answer from the money that I sent. The first letter that you or any of you write just number it commencing at number 1, 2, 3 and so on, then I shall know whether I get them all or not.
Hardtack, hardtack, I never shall forget
The day when I was well-fed, I may get soft bread yet.
I. P. Spencer
I received your letter of the 24th and was most mighty glad to hear from you. If you send me a box don't send one that will weigh over 50 pounds and put another pair of boots in it if you like. There were three loads of boxes came in last night for the regiment. There is no news and so I will draw this letter to close.
From I. P. Spencer to Mr. Job Spencer
Remember to number the letters as I have. This is No. 1
March 10,. 1863
Camp near Stafford Court House
I received your letter
of the 3rd. I am well enough except for the bad case of diarrhea. Fred
is in the same condition. You spoke of those boots in your letter, but
as I have said in two or three letters before I have never received them
and have given them up and I bought me another pair. I got them of Charles
Cleveland of Ritchburg, paying $7.00 for them. When we get our pay and
if he does not stay until we do get it, I will send you money enough besides
the allotment to pay for them.
It is snowing today and the ground is covered with mud and the shoes that I had were all out at the toes, which is the reason I had for buying the boots.
I received a letter from Cresh the other day written the 31st of January, and where is has been all this time I do not know. I want you to send me some postage stamps as I have to borrow one to send this letter. You need not send any more paper in the letters as I have a lot of it on hand.
There is a good deal of talk about our being in with the nine months' man, but if we get out in three times nine we will do very well I think.
I must draw this to a close and get some wood or go without any fire.
From your son,
Israel P. Spencer
March 14, 1863
Camp in the woods in brush houses,
four o'clock in the morning
I received your letter
of March 7 No. 1 and was glad to hear from you. As for Fred and myself,
we are both in good health at present. We left camp day before yesterday
with three days rations in over haversacks and started for the picket line
to go on duty. We happened to be lucky and get on the Grand Guard No. 2.
There are one hundred men on this post and we have to stand only four hours
on guard in the whole time and go on patrol guard four times. They patrol
every two hours and it is near three miles to the outposts of the picket.
We went into camp in the third day about noon and drew something to eat
and it commenced snowing and thundering. It was the first thunder and snow
storm I ever saw or heard of. Today it is not very cold but most of the
boys have very bad colds. This morning we took one of our boys up to the
hospital. His name was James Ballard from Richburg.
You need not pay for those boots that I have down here which were bought from C. Cleveland until you hear from me again, as I may get my pay here and if I do I shall pay him and he may try to get his pay of you in the bargain, but don't you pay him as I said before until you get word from me.
There is a good deal of talk about our being nine months men and a good many think that we are. The Colonel has been to Albany on business and was to get a lot of commissions for some of the officers that had been raided up a peg or two, but he did not get any of them, which makes us think that we are nine months men. You may think that I am losing weight because I cannot get enough to eat, but you are some mistaken for today I weighed 190 pounds with my gun and cartridge box and with them off 170 pounds. So you see I am in good running order. That is all I can think of, so I will stop.
I. P. Spencer
March 18, 1863
Stafford Court House
I will write you a few
lines but am in somewhat of a hurry. C. Cleveland is going home in the
morning and will take this to you. I want you to pay him for the boots
that I got of him, the price being $7.00. It is a big price now but not
so much as I would pay for shoes that I would wear out in the time that
I think the boots will last. When we get our pay I will send you an extra
$7.00 to make it up.
Fred is in good health at present. Last night there were three men came in our company from the hospital and among them was Henry Wright of Boliver. There is a good deal of cannon firing lately from some cause or other. The news is that Vicksburg has been taken and Yazoo City also and that some 1800 prisoners have been taken. It is also reported that the people in the south have told Jeff Davis that he must settle this war on any kind of terms or they will stretch his neck for him. This is all for the present.
I. P. Spencer
March 30, 1863
On Picket, three miles from camp
I received your letter number three in due time. Fred and I are in good health at present and I am in hopes we shall both continue to be as long as this cruel war lasts. The weather is fine today, the sun is shining warm and I am sitting on my rubber blanket with my back up against the old log barn trying to write these lines. I imagine that we will do some fighting as soon as the weather settles so the army can move. There are a lot of men around here who offer to bet almost any amount that the war will be settled in less than two months, and I hope that it will be so. James Ballard is dead and his brother is taking him home. He died of inflammation of the lung, being sick only six days.
It commenced to snowing about midnight and kept it up until noon today. The wagon came out today and brought two days' rations of soft bread.
Well, we are back at camp, having been relieved today, and the regiment that took our place said that we had marching orders, but I have not heard of them in camp yet, so I think it is an April Fool. The colonel of one of our regiments in our brigade, the 33rd Mass., got them out in line for a march and everything, and then told them he believe it was the first day of April so they stacked their arms and went back to camp. The box hasn't reached here yet but I hope it will come in time.
April 10, 1863
In Camp near Stafford Court House
I received your letter
of March 29, No. 4. Mort has been here two days and he is in good health.
He went back to the regiment yesterday. It is only about eight miles from
here to where they are. There was a review yesterday of our division. There
were about 16,000 men reviewed by General Howard. He commands the Eleventh
Corps. Today I understand General Hooker is to review the men. It is a
fine day for it if he does. The boys are out pitching quoits and some of
the officers are sitting in the sun.
You don't seem to get our letters in a good while after they are written. I do not know what the reason is. We have had no papers in a good while. Fred had a paper sent to h im the other day. It was an August paper of 1862, and was mailed at Genessee. I have sent for a company chart and it will be sent to your from Washington. It cost $1.00 and I want you to write as soon as you get it. This is all for the present.
I. P. Spencer
April 15, 1863, Out on Picket
As I am writing to do
at present I will inform you as to how I am getting along. Today is the
third day out from camp. The day that we came out the first brigade had
orders to march and our brigade had orders to be ready next day at 9 'o'clock
to start with 8 days rations, 3 in the haversacks and 5 in the knapsacks.
We went into camp and packed up everything but in the morning it was raining
like the mischief so we did not have to go, but had to come and relieve
these boys that relieved us. It has rained all day and part of the night.
The first brigade, I understand, is at Kelly Ford, some 25 miles from here,
and intend to cross the river there.
There was a sergeant of the cavalry picket shot last night by some bushwhackers. He was on his horse and hit on his leg and the bullet went through and killed the horse. Today there was an expedition started for Kelly Ford, consisting of mules and two or three boxes of hard tack on each, there were about 30 mules and 3 men out of this company.
I suppose we will leave this part of Virginia as soon as the roads settle and that will not be very long. We have turned over to the Government our overcoats and all the extra clothing that we had. We h ad to do this to make room for fifty hardtacks, this is five days' rations. The peach trees are in bloom here now and the other things are growing and lock very green. This is all for the present.
From you son,
May 8, 1863
In Camp near Stafford Court House, Va.
I am in the old camp, having arrived here yesterday at ten o'clock. I received your letter of No. 8 in due time on the other side of the Rappahannock while lying in the rifle pits, and was glad to hear from you. Since I wrote to you last, we have received our pay, but did not have time to send it as we had to march the next morning and there was no mail going out. We marched to Kelly's Ford and struck our tents and stayed some two hours. then we got the order to go back up and so we did. That night we crossed the river and then lay on the ground. Next day we started and traveled all day and lay on the ground as usual. The next day is going through a piece of woods we ran into a masked battery of the rebels planted some 100 rods from the road. They commenced to shell us, but is was no use, the whole brigade got by and not anyone was hurt, but you had better believe that after the first shots there was some nodding of the heads but now we are all used to that and do not care much for them. The next day we crossed the Rapidan River and from there we went to the place where the fighting was done, but we did not get into the midst of it. Well, to cut the matter short, I saw five rebel flags that our men took and a lot of prisoners. They are a nasty set of men and were all drunk with whisky and gunpowder and seemed not to care for anything. Our brigade lost everything but our knapsacks and the rebels must have got a lot of things. I have the headache very badly and my lungs are quite sore so I will close.
P. S. We fixed up our checks and gave them to the paymaster to send home and if they get they will do well.
(This letter was written after the battle of Chancellorsville)
May 27, 1863
Stafford Court House, Virginia
I received your letter of No. 12 and was glad to hear from you all. Fred and I are in good health and so are the rest of the boys in our company. Today we have moved about half a mile and are now in the woods back of the 33rd Mass. The boys are all busy fixing up their tents and on the old camp ground they are making a fort on the very top where the Colonel's headquarters were. The are raising the devil in particular, throwing up rifle pits and everything. They have done one thing I am glad of and so is the rest of the brigade. They have removed General Barlow and Col. Smith of the 73rd Ohio is to be commander of the brigade in the future. There is considerable excitement about Lee's crossing the river and coming on to attack us. Let him come, he will meet a warm reception. The day I got your letter the picket line was drawn in and the artillery was out most all the time. It looks as if they expected an attack. There is no news as I have heard of and so I will not make any. I suppose you have had the pleasure of seeing Mort once more and that he looks as natural as ever. The postage stamps were all right. Write as soon as you get this.
I. P. Spencer
P. S. Lee Scott has been here for the last three or four days. He
is tough and hearty.
June 4, 1863
As Fred has been writing I will also write. This morning at three o'clock we were ordered to pack up and be ready to march in a half an hour, but having the order not to strike tents I made up my mind that we are not going a great ways off and so it proved. They moved us over to the battery and put us in position to support it and down we sat. In a short time they had the whole division in line of battle and as soon as they were moved on the right and left began to file right back and so ended the battle. There are two batteries and they are building a magazine near here. Yesterday for a birthday party I stayed on guard by myself and had a bully time. (This is his 19th birthday). Most of the regiment is out on picket duty, 23 being from our company. Our company with two others on the right had only the orderly sergeant to take charge of us on the march. We will not have to lose the things we left over the river and the housewives we had in our pockets.
I. P. Spencer
P.S. If Martha Crandall wants to see any of my writing don't let
her as she will want to compare it with some other writing she has got.
June 16, 1863
Camp at Centerville, Va.
I feel as though I could
write as well today as any other and will do so. We have been here about
twelve hours and were all very tired and sore when we arrived. We left
Stafford the 12th of this month and went to Hartwood Church and stayed
all night. From there we went to Catlett Station and then to Manassas Junction
and then to this place. You might as well believe that there were some
tall walking done, twenty-two miles in the heat of the day and warm enough
to roast a nigger.
There are as many reports in a day as one could think of now. The talk is that Lee has taken Harpers Ferry. There are three or four corps here, the 11th, 12th, 1st and I do not know what other. The expected the rebels would come in here, but I guess they have gone up the valley the side of the mountains. They sent the sick and all that would not be fit for service in five days away this morning. The troops that were here are some that were surrendered at the Ferry last fall and they say they have not been exchanged yet. * The 126th New York is here. I will stop now.
* This refers to Union troops that had been paroled under promise
that they would not take up arms until formerly exchanged.
June 21, 1863
Camp within 7 miles of Leesburg on
Goose Creek, Va.
We are all well as usual
and hope to continue so. We got here the 17th. It is quite a growing country,
there being corn, potatoes and grain in quite large quantities. This stream
is a good deal larger than our creek at home. We went through it and the
water was up above my knees. It is the only fording place for many miles.
At other points it is over one's head.
All day long there have been cannons firing in the direction of Leesburg. We have not had any mail for quite awhile and there is not much to write about as we get no papers. It is reported that Lee has been cut off at the gap.
When we first got here there was a flock of sheep off a little ways; the boys being somewhat hungry, out of about fifty sheep, there are none left now. Fresh meat is a good demand and as the market is good and the price the same, we fare quite well. There is some firing on the picket lines. One man out of the 73rd Ohio died yesterday and another was brought in today shot through the foot. We have had lots of hard bread to eat and had lots to throw away.
Write as soon as you get this.
Israel P. Spencer
June 27, 1863
Camp near Middleton, Md,
Fred and I have stood the tramp very well. The last I think that I wrote to you was when we were at Centerville, Va. We crossed the Potomac at Edwards Ferry and then it was that I saw the difference in people. Everything is thriving here. There seems to be lots of wheat raised in this state, in fact, more than I ever saw. Night before last we stayed at a place called Jefferson. We had marched thirty miles and got into camp at ten o'clock at night and at one in the morning we got out and went on picket duty. It was raining very hard and not at all pleasant. Yesterday we went only seven miles. This is a very pretty place. There were more that a few flags waving as we came along and the way the girls made them fly would be a caution to all the rebels. They say that the rebels are fortifying at Hagerstown and we are to go there, but not knowing what the plans are. Write soon. From,
P. S. The citizens cannot cook enough for the boys to eat, so Uncle Sam does not have to feed us at the present. Everything is cheap when you get it.
July 22, 1863
Camp of the 136th
on the ground near the Blue Ridges, Virginia
I am as well as usual,
and so are the rest of the boys that are here. I received your letter of
July 12 and you may as well guess that it did not stay sealed long after
I got my hands on it. We have been on the go ever since the 12th day of
June, the time we left Stafford, and have come something over 200 miles
in that time. We came here day before yesterday, but I do not know how
much longer we well stay. We will probably move just as quick as they build
that the rebels burned, and it may be today.
They may talk of old Virginia, but give me Maryland or Pennsylvania. Some of the boys have disappeared and if they do not look out they will get a piece of cold lead for it. Alvin White has not been seen for eight or ten days. He left at Hagerstown, Pa. Some of our officers are going home to get some of the drafted men to fill up the regiment to 700 strong. We stack some over 300 guns at the present time. At Gettysburg we lost 118 killed, wounded and missing. This is the last sheet of paper and the last stamp left, and you will have to send some to me if you can.
When you write again tell me who is drafted in Boliver and Genessee. When we went through here before on the other side of the river never a flag did we see, but as quickly as we have driven the rebels out of the free states and got on this side of the river again it is all flags, but as soon as the army gets past here then you may guess that the flags will come down and there will probably be considerable bush-whacking again. That is the way they do things.
You have most likely heard the names of the wounded in this company before this so I will not mention them. There are a lot of blackberries around here and once in a while we get some to eat. We have a hunt most every day for graybacks, such as crawl around on a fellow's clothes, and the devil himself cannot keep them off. If Mort knows what will kill or keep them away, I want him to tell.
I see in the papers that the Second Division of the 11th Corps was held as reserve at the Battle of Gettysburg. It is not so. If they call it reserve I never want to be in a reserve again. We were where the cannon to the number of 200 were all the time firing over us, and the rebels firing at them from the other side, and once in a while they would knock a hole in the stone wall that we were behind. Many of our men were wounded in this way.
This is all I can think of at present. From
Note: Attached to this letter is a pencil sketch of some of the positions at Gettysburg. He was wounded at Gettysburg but says nothing about it. He thinks an earlier letter may have been written and lost. He has, however, written a description of the battle as he now recalls it, which follows:
Leaving Boonsboro Gap
4:40 p.m., Sunday, June 28th, moving by way of Frederick, arrived at Emmitsburg
5:00 p.m., June 29th, 38 miles. June 30th, general muster show 23 officers,
529 men present for duty.
July 1st, 1863, our division left Emmitsburg in the morning and arrived at Gettysburg at 1:30, making a forced march of thirteen miles without stop. They were fighting close to Gettysburg when our division arrived. Our brigade, the second of the Second Division, 11 Army Corps, was formed in a line of battle in the cemetery and moved to the front until we reached the Tauneytown road. It was here we lay during the whole three days' fight. There was a stone wall along the road which we used as breastworks. When we first arrived on cemetery hill we could see the cavalry skirmishers fighting west of us. About all we had to do was as skirmishers, but there was a whole lot of danger in that. It was all cleared land and mostly level, and we could see across the valley between the two lines of battle. J. A. Mead, Mart Finch and Lon Crandall were slightly wounded, as well as myself, with a scratch across my left should. There were none of Co. A killed. George White was shot through the roof of his mouth, C. Mimes through the hips, another got his nose cut out between his eyes. This being the real first battle that we had been in I saw things and heard of others I never ever dreamed of before. Men at the hospital hid in every conceivable place. I got my scratch on the second while on the skirmish line. There were a few Johnnies in the corner of a fence not more than 20 rods away. We commenced to yell to them to "come over" and they yelled "come over", but instead we and they sent bullets. Well, someone took a shot at me but came very near missing. I helped another fellow who was helping a man who was shot through his mouth, and the blood was running so he could not talk. Well, we got over to the field hospital and my shoulder smarting very badly. I pulled off my jacket and looked at the wound a minute and said to come of the fellows, " I am going back", and so I did. During the shelling on the second day we were hugging the stone wall pretty close, when a shell or solid shot hit on the opposite side and knocked a rock loose, giving me a black eye. I said to Geo. Ingraham, "Lets get out of here", but looking behind us, there was Col. Wood pacing back and forth as though there was not a rebel cannon within a hundred miles of us. We sometimes thought the old man could not hear good. At any rate, we stayed. The 1st night after the fighting was over the most awful sounds and noises came from our left and front. For hours all we could hear would be someone cursing or praying or calling for water. We did not leave Gettysburg until July 5th, and then we went in a southerly direction, passing through where the principal part of the hardest fighting had taken place on the third. Muskets were piled up by the cord, or as one would pile up cordwood, most of them having bayonets fixed.
We followed up the retreating rebels through Middletown, South Mountain by Boonsboro to Hagerstown.
July 26th, 1863
Warrenton Junction, On Picket
Fred and I are both as
well as can be expected. We have had no pork for nearly a week, nothing
by fresh beef and not enough of that, so last night as our edibles had
run short, and being on picket, we charged on a beef and now we have meat
and hardtack enough but no sugar. We came in to this place yesterday by
way of Baltimore and started in the morning before breakfast, getting here
at noon, about 15 miles. We expect to stay in this camp, or in some camp
somewhere about here until we get rested. We are somewhat short on sleep,
having been on guard two nights now, only sleeping two hours in eight.
There are only about 32 men in our company for duty now, but I expect the
regiment will be filled up with the drafted men. I hear that E. Millard
is drafted and I hope he will have to come and stay as long as the war
is going on. The railroad is just a little ways from here, and if we stay
here we will probably get something to eat and wear. The shirt that is
on my back I have worn ever since June 26. Don't you think it needs washing??
If you don't I do. But I have said I will never wash it and I will not.
There is no water around here fit to drink, so we have to get the best
I have written this letter on some leaves cut out of my account book as I am out of paper, envelopes and stamps, and an empty pocket isn't worth much to buy things with.
From your brother,
Israel P. Spencer
Catlett Station, Virginia August 16, 1863
I am as well as usual.
Fred wrote you a few days ago and sent you $40 in allotments, as we had
received our pay. The weather is very warm here and once in a while we
have to do some drilling and dress parade. The rest of the time all we
have to do is to lay in the shade and keep as cool as possible. Today we
had some green corn for dinner and it was very good. There is a lot of
it around here, and the way to get it is to have a squad of boys go in
swimming and bring the corn back, together with rails to cook it with.
The guerillas are raising the devil with the sutlers here. They robbed the 33rd Mass. sutler of all he had coming from Alexandria boat. The other day our sutler started off for some things and lost five horses and wagons. I wish he had lost h is hide, the darned rascal charges 15 cents for an apple pie as big as a tea saucer and 25 cents for a ginger cake. I guess it would do him good to tear him up again as we did the other day at Stafford and steal what we could of him. Fred was detached and sent out to the division train as a guard and will stay there until further orders.
We had a report yesterday in camp to be ready to march on a minutes notice, and in a short time the orders came, but we have not gone yet, and it is three in the afternoon. The cavalry have been on the move and were to report at Hartwood Church during last night. It is reported that the rebel Gen. Stewart and cavalry are at Dumfries. If he is he had better back up across the Rappahonnock as fast as possible.
Some of the 136th N. Y. went out about a mile from camp to get some boards and the rebel cavalry came up and the men scattered into the woods. The rebels got six miles, but three of them would not move and the boys brought them back. They lay at Manassas Junction. There is no news so I will close. Write soon,
This morning we were told to go on picket and so we were up at 3 o'clock in the morning and just got out to the railroad.
Last night our division
moved. It came up here where it stopped and why is more than I can tell.
This is the easiest place that we have been on guard in. There isn't much
to do and we can sit down all the time. The officers have their headquarters
at the house of a citizen who says he is from New Jersey, and we can get
milk and some other things there. Yesterday there was a car off the track
which was loaded with hardtack and candles, and we got all we wanted after
breaking the car open.
August 25, 1863
I was glad to get your
letter and see that you had your oats all in, in good condition. I am as
well as usual at present but have had the diarrhea very badly. Fred is
over at Bristoe Station, some 7 miles from here. We came here yesterday
and relieved the 73rd Ohio. We were doing guard on the railroad but the
Dutch of the 3rd division didn't like our style so they had us removed.
We are acting as sort of safe guard here. All of the houses have signs
of "British property under safeguard by General Meade." it is not a very
large place but it is situated on sort of a knoll with a brick church in
a nice little grove where we are camped. Today we have cleaned up and about
a day after tomorrow we will have to leave or something will not be right,
for we have not stayed in one camp over one week on an average and most
of the time not that long.
We have to patrol some six miles two ways in the night and one company has to stay in front of the Colonel's quarters every night. Last night we stayed there and tonight will be Company B's turn. If they call this a Union place it is the most hoggish one I ever saw. Only 30 cents for a quart of milk and two cents an ear for corn. I will see them in hell first. Besides we got orders here not to burn any rails unless they are so rotten and broken up they are not fit for anything, and if we steal anything the devil is to pay if we are found out. Tonight I saw something I never saw before. It was a man on an ox driving four others with a line and drawing a load of hay. I received the paper that you sent and the envelopes. You need not send me any more at present, as I h ave no place to carry them and have enough to last a month at the rate of one each week. As the mail is going out in the morning I will close. We get mail every three days.
September 1, 1863
Camp at Manassas Junction
After waiting nearly two weeks for a letter and not receiving any I thought I would write to you. We are at the Junction and doing nothing at present, and have put up but very few tents. The weather is freezing cold and most of the boys are putting in for wool blankets, but I do not think it will pay at present, for if I should get one and have a good long march I would throw it away. The 130th New York is here. They have new uniforms and some of them have their sabers. They say they came up here to relieve us and they will go off some where to drill. They will be the 19th Cavalry. There isn't must news to write about. There is a string of sutlers going by which is about 3 miles long. If you can spare me four or five dollars it would come in quite handy as I am out of the wood and it takes change to buy it. This is all at present. Write as soon as you get this without fail.
September 14, 1863
I received a letter last
night from home and thought it best to answer it as soon as possible. Fred
and I are as well as usual. Fred is up at Catlet station some ten miles
from here and it is so I cannot send anything to him unless some of the
boys come down from there. I have two letters and I paper for him.
Last night we got our overcoats and shoes that we went off last spring. There were about half of them that were spoiled, and all of them were musty. I have Fred's and my own. There are a lot of the boys in the hospital and their coats are here and we have picked out the best ones and taken them for ourselves. There were two sacks of shoes that we did not get and never will I reckon, but I was one of the lucky ones and had mine put in a box and got them in time to save me from going bare footed.
The guard duty that we have to do takes all of the men at once, and there are not enough to relieve us. It is three days on guard, come in and stay one night and out in the morning again. They were fighting at Brandy Station yesterday. Our men were driving the rebels across the Rappahannock somewhere. We could hear the cannon here. It is reported that the rebel arm is falling back.
I received the money and stamps last night. Night before last we received orders to be ready to march at a minute's notice but we have not gone yet.
I. P. Spencer
September 20, 1863
As you have been grumbling
so long because I have not written to you more often, I will now write
you a short note just to let you know that I have not quite forgotten you.
I am as well as usual and hope you are enjoying yourself by a good warm
fire. Last night I came in from three days picket duty. It rained all one
day very hard, and no it has cleared up and is quite cold. My feet are
very cold and I guess I will have to go to the fire very soon and get warm.
I should think that drunk of J. W. Fisk was a dear one and that he would be apt to let wine alone after a few more times like that. I would not care if I had some of it. I reckon I could take about a quart this cold morning.
There is not much news about the Army of the Potomac. They say the 11th corps is detached from the army to guard the railroad. The 1st division is down at Charleston and one brigade of the 2d is at Alexandria, and the 3rd and our brigade is all that is left on the road. We expect the paymaster in a few days. You may guess I shall not cry.
I reckon we get some things here that you don't have, one thing is peaches, we buy them or steal them, don't make any difference to some. We milk the cows after dark so as to get milk free of expense. I would like to see the little colt and the old dog. I wonder if they would know me. This is all I can think of at present, so I will stop. This is the longest letter that I have written for a good while.
From your brother,
Israel P. Spencer
September 24, 1863
We started from Manassas
at three this afternoon. I saw Fred yesterday and he was well as usual.
We have our pay. I shall send my allotment of $20 with this letter. In
the morning we start for Alexandria on the cars from there we are going
to Charleston or to reinforce Rosencran's. They have turned over all the
teams. I had some notion of selling my check to pay my debts but on consideration
I concluded to let the debts go until the next pay day, but if you think
best you may send me some of it.
There is no news from Charleston except that Rosencran's hardly holds his ground and nothing new from the front of the Army of the Potomac. They have been expecting a raid through here and I would not wonder if it happened when we move on. Andrew Bacon of our place is dead. He had chronic diarrhea. His folks live on there by Rock City somewhere. When you next hear from me I shall be out of Virginia and you had better not write until I write again, so good-bye.
From Israel Spencer to Father
October 2, 1863
Camp at Bridgeport
on the Tennessee River, Alabama
I am well as usual. As
I said in my last letter from Virginia we got orders to dig out and so
we did. I will start and try to tell you what kind of a journey we had.
We started from Manassas Junction in the morning and went to Washington
and stayed there about half an hour; we then went to Annapolis Junction
in Maryland and started for Harpers Ferry. The mountains that we saw on
this trip beat any that I ever saw before. We crossed the Potomac at Harpers
Ferry and went into Virginia again and there we went through mountains,
in fact it was all mountains until we got to Wheeling on the Ohio river.
There we got out of the cars and went across the river on a ferry boat.
On the Ohio side at Belair, they had coffee, bread and meat for us. Then
we boarded the cars and continued on and stopped at Columbia where we got
a warm supper and then on through Dayton, Ohio and into Indiana. We went
through a place called Centerville where the ladies said they only had
three hours notice but they had all we could eat. We had supper in Indianapolis,
the capital of the state. We then cross the Ohio at Jeffersonville and
went over into Kentucky, crossing on a steamboat. At Louisville we had
supper and stayed some three hours and had a fine time. From there we went
through Nashville, Tenn., during the night. We passed through 19 tunnels,
the Cumberland tunnel being the longest, one mile. We finally arrived at
Stephenson, Alabama, staying there about an hour. We then came on to Bridgeport,
arriving about three in the afternoon.
Well no about the country. Tennessee and part of Kentucky are like Virginia, being all bare and desolate, but Indiana and Ohio have the best country I have ever seen. It is fine level land, and there is no end of potatoes, every farm having 6 or 7 acres of them. Some of them have been caught by the frost. Sugar seems to be very plentiful and corn is in abundance, and above all some darn nice gals.
Six days on the road and six nights, with 40 or 50 men in one car is what we hd to put up with. You may thing that a fellow could sleep, but not so. I did sleep two nights on top of the cars, but the rest of them got but little. There is only one brigade here as yet and it is reported that the rest of the troops have orders to stop where they are until further orders. They say that the cavalry has been 8 miles out in front and have found nothing and they think they can get there twice again as quick as we can. If it is so they will raise the devil. The rebels went into Manassas the next night after we left there and burned the Bull Run Bridge and tore up the railroad. There was magazine blown out about an hour before we got here and killed ten men and wounded 15. There were 15,000 shells in it. This is all from the present.
136 Regiment N. Y., Co. A, Nashville, Tenn.
There were three men killed out of our regiment coming down here.
They got drunk and fell off the cars.
October 7, 1863
Camp on the Bank of the Tennessee River
I am well as usual. Our
camp at present is within a few feet of the river. It is about 50 rods
across at this place and then there is another stream as big as this one.
There is no settlement here of any kind. The cars only run as far as this
place because the bridges across the river were burned at both ends. There
are a lot of men a work on them.
The rebels are on the other side camped in a big range of hills. They have no artillery and we have only two batteries, one of them being our brigade battery. We got notice yesterday that we must be saving of our rations as the rebel cavalry had burned the railroad and we have to live on half rations for a spell. It is reported that the 11th corps must go on the railroad and guard 26 miles of it, but we can't move yet as we have no teams to carry the baggage nor have the officers any horses. There is no news of any fighting that we have heard of.
There was considerable excitement here today on account of a nigger's wrestling. He challenged the whole regiment and the 55th Ohio besides and threw 6 or 7 men. Then there was on the boys in our company got hold of him and came very near breaking his neck, so the nigger got up and left. He belonged to some part of the western arm and no of them, white or black, like the Army of the Potomac. There is one regiment here that blows a great deal about fighting and yet it has not been in a fight and has been in the service two years. You may direct your letters to Nashville, Tenn.
I. P. Spencer
October 8th. Last night we received orders to get ready to march this morning with 7 days rations. We were to go down the river to protect foraging parties, but when we came to go after the rations there were only enough for one-half day and so we have not gone. The distance they say is 40 miles. Well, if the Colonel had to go on foot we can stand it and I hope that we can go.
I. P. S
October 18, 1863
Camp of Company A, 136th New York
After three weeks and
not hearing anything from you I thought I would write a few words and let
you know of our whereabouts. I am well at present and so are the rest of
We left Bridgeport about a week ago and marched to Stephenson, ten miles. We stayed there all night. The next morning we got on the cars and went about six miles and then commenced leaving the company along the road. Ours we the first to get off. It was a fine place, and the ones that we relieved went back to Stephenson. We stayed there one night and were relieved by the 73rd Ohio. We got on the cars and went to Anderson and stayed all night, and a big thunder storm drowned us out of the tents during the night. In the morning we started to come here, which was only six miles, but it rained like the devil all the time. We finally got here and struck our tents amidst what seemed to be the remains of an old slaughter house from the smell. There were two companies of the 8th Illinois here that we relieve. They had not gone yet when we got here, and as live hogs are in abundance we will not want for fresh meat. WE are on the banks of a large stream, and have to guard the bridge and do some picket duty besides. We have had no rations for four days and don't know when we will get any. All we have is corn cake and we make it ourselves. There is a lot of corn in a barn a short distance from here and we go and get it, shell it and take it to a mill which is not over 50 rods away. The miller will grind it for us. Last night I took over a grist and had it ground.
Let me tell you what kind of people we are among. The men are quite decent but the women and girls are the ugliest I ever saw. The girls go bare-footed with their breasts all bare and their dresses up to their knees, and they will ask anyone for a chew of tobacco any time. They smoke and swear like I never heard before. I never saw any men that could best them in any of these three things. There seems to be a good many of this class of people in this valley. There is not much news, although we heard a few days ago that the rebels had a fight among themselves. I hope it's so. Fred was left at Bridgeport with the division commissary. He had the diarrhea quite bad when we left. This all at present.
Direct your letters to Nashville, Tenn.
You may send me one sheet of paper in every one of your letters.
November 5, 1863
Camp under the guns of Lookout Mountain
Fred and I are in good spirits thus far. You will observe that we are not far from the rebels. We are so close to their cannons that they can shoot down and do no harm. This morning our regiment moved up a little closer on a little hill and commenced throwing up rifle pits. Once in a while they would throw a shell but no damage was done. Today for the first time there has been firing on the picket line since we have been here which as been five or six days, but I guess it will not amount to much. Fred was up here today and got a letter the same date as mine. You speak of sending me some money. Send it to me as I shall get it first for I am with the regiment and he is not. You have never told us whether you received the last allotments that Fred and I sent you before we came down here. I want to mention it in your next letter. We are on less than half rations and have been ever since we came down here, ten hardtacks for two days and small ones at that. Our pickets and the rebels are within four rods of each other. It has rained all the forenoon at looks like it would rain the rest of the day. There is no good of addressing your letters to the 11th Corps, just 136th N.Y., Company A, Nashville, Tenn.
Yours, Israel Spencer
I am well at present with
the exception of a bad cold. Fred is all right. It has been raining hard
all day and the mud is very bad. Last night at about 11 o'clock we were
routed out to draw rations and be ready to march on a minute's notice.
Somehow or other we did not go. We were to leave our knapsacks and the
camp guard we to be left. Some of Sherman's men have passed us. The rebs
have not fired a shot from Lookout in three days and we think they are
We got our pay the other day but as I did not have enough to pay my debts I will not be able to send any home. I had drawn $11.00 for my clothing so I got only $14.40 and the old sutler played sharp and got what I owed him. He should have had it at Manassas but I did not take the pains to go and see him. I was only able to pay half my debts and have on $3 left.
Last night there was a rebel deserted and came over in our lines. He growled a great deal at the usage he had received over there and said that they did not get half enough to eat. He belonged to a Mississippi regiment. The postage stamps were al right. I believe there were eight in my letter and the same in Fred's.
Yours as ever,
December 19, 1863
Camp on Raccoon Ridge or in the Old Camp
I am well as usual with
the exception of a bad cough and cold. We arrived in camp day before yesterday
bare-footed and hungry. It has been four weeks since we broke camp and
started out. I will commence at the beginning.
We left camp and went over to Chattanooga. Stayed there all night and the next day at abut two, we were ordered to march and leave our knapsacks. We were formed in line of battle and started for the rebel lines. We drove the pickets in, formed a line, then threw up breastworks and skirmished for two days. The we moved away on the left and stayed there one night and in the morning the rebels were gone, so we had to go about seven miles to get across the creek. If we could have crossed where we were it would not have been over twenty rods. We followed the rebels one day and of all the stuff scattered along the road I never say the beat. Mud holes were filled up with shot, shell, caissons, guns and cartridges in great amounts.
We then made a raid on the railroad at Red Clay Station, tore up about four miles, burned the station, went bad seven miles and stayed all night. It rained very hard during the night. In the morning we drew three days rations to last six days and started for Knoxville. We had to go like the devil, and the rations soon ran out and then we had to commence foraging for a living. At Charleston on the Knoxville and Atlanta Railroad we captured three cars, one of them being load with flour, one with meal and the other with salt. We got some of these for rations. At London we had to cross the Tennessee River on one of the strangest bridges you ever saw. They had gone around the country and picked up all the wagons they could fine and had put them in the river and had put planks on them so two men could go abreast. At the banks of the river they had made wooden horses and put in the river with planks on them. Then we went within one days march of Knoxville and stayed two days, but found that the rebels had left so we had to turn around and come back. I will not attempt to describe the roads, but they were awful. Half of the men were bare footed without even stockings. To have been gone four weeks next Sunday without anything but our rubber blankets rain or shine. This is all I can think of for the present.
P.S. I received a letter from Morton last night, of December 9, and was glad to hear from you all. He said it was reported that I was a waiter for some general. It is not so and I do not see where the devil it started from.
December 28, 1863
As it has been a long
time since I have written to you and not being very busy I will let you
know that I am well as common. Last night I was on guard at Brigade Headquarters,
it rained very hard all night. We have nearly finished our new camp and
will move on, in a day or two.
I wish you would send me some black thread and a pair of suspenders, if you can. I have clothed up once more and I have to sew up everything before it will stay. We have no thread to do it with, so I will wait until I get some. As to the suspenders get some good long ones, I don't care whether there is any rubber in them or not.
We never get a paper here so I hardly know what is going on. Have had no letters from any of you since December 9th, nor has Fred. I wish I could be home now and take a nice sleigh ride. It is so still here that you could hardly think there were any of the noisy solders about. Alvin White and John Crandall are playing checkers and having quite a time. You may imagine that I don't think of the old dog at home once in a while. There are a lot of them around here and every one gives them a kick and curse and away they go, but if I could see the old black dog I would give his old paw a lasting shake. This is all I can think of now.
Israel P. Spencer to Mother
Jan. 12, 1864
I am not very well at
the present on account of the diarrhea. I have only had one letter from
home in a month, but I suppose it is because we do not get all the mail.
Fred says if you have no postage stamps so you can write, he will send
you some. I tell you it is most lonesome without any mail or papers or
news of any kind.
Today the boys are cleaning up the street and fixing things in general. We have been in this camp over a week and have not had roll call as yet, but it commences tonight with dress parade. Last New Years's there was a fatigue order sent, out of our regiment, to work on the road. We went on the road and found there was nothing to do so went back to camp. All that sneaked away were report and now they have to work sixty days when if they had returned to camp they would be all right. There are two of them out of our company. Every morning when they start to work you can hear the boys calling to them "Hello, New Years".
I will close now, hoping you are well and will write within two weeks. I have written not less than six letters and have not received any answer yet.
January 16, 1864
As I have just had news
that the Captain is going home in the morning I thought it would be a fine
chance to get a letter through. I am as well as usual.
Some of the men in the 55th Ohio are coming into our regiment. There are about fifty of them and they had some new recruits in the regiment and these men enlisted again so there was no room for them so they have joined ours. I do not know how long the Capital will be gone, but most likely some time, as he is not very well. He lives in Cuba some where, and if you like you can go and see him. Fred and I are going to have our pictures taken and will send them home.;
I neglected to get them today and now I am sorry for I could have sent them with the Captain.
I. P. Spencer
Sent through in care of Captain Abner S. Cole, Company A, 136th N. Y. V. They have the cars running from Bridgeport to Chattanooga. The first trail went along day before yesterday.
Send me some more postage stamps
January 20, 1864
I have had several letters
lately and will answer them. My suspenders came the other night and also
a quire of paper and some envelopes for Fred. There is considerable excitement
in camp on account of a rumor that we are about to march and I would not
wonder if we did. Some say it is to Knoxville and some say it is to Plymouth,
N. C., in order to get up to Richmond with General Butler. There we will
wind up however I do not know.
I should think the folks in our town were foolish to pay every man $300 to enlist. If they do not think enough of their country to come down here and try their grit with the same bounty as the rest of us get, then let them be drafted. For one I do not think much of those bounty men. There is one bunch in our division, the 33rd New Jersey, and they are not worth the powder to blow them up. Some of them froze to death since we have been in this camp. I wish everyone that has to come out of our place would be drafted and would not get a cent of bounty. Fred has been sent back to the company.
January 28, 1864
Lookout Valley, Tenn.
I have just come from
two days picket duty and as I have received two letters from you I will
We had a very good time on guard. There were twenty-five men, three corporals and one sergeant. It was the heaviest detail that has been made in a good while. It is very warm here for January, in fact it is warmer than I ever saw it in Allegheny Count in the summertime. I think that it will be almost impossible to live here in the summer.
I would not wonder but if there was a movement made on the rebels this winter, if the weather keeps as it has been. All roads are in the best condition that they have been in for a good while. The 14th corps , or some of it, went by today but I do not know where they are bound for, probably Knoxville.
This afternoon we had inspection and it was a very strict one. This is all from
February 14, 1864
I have been on duty for
three days and am some tired and sleepy. There are as many reports in camp
as you have fingers, and I will tell you some of them. We are going to
march soon, some say to Chattanooga, some to Athens, up on the railroad
some sixty miles from Knoxville. We went there last fall and it is a nice
place. But there is no knowing whether we will move at all. However, it
looks like a move, as the 15th Corps has left Chattanooga to go up to Knoxville,
so the story runs, but if they move our Corps they will find it most devilish
small. There is at present but five regiments in our division and there
should be ten. The regiments are all small.
Well, Pa, I expect to get paid off in a day or so, and whether I shall be able to send any home I cannot tell at the present, but if I do it will not be a very large amount. I owe at the least calculation one month's pay and we get only two. The captain is around again and says that Captain M. M. Loyden is getting up another company in Rushford. If he does by it as he did by ours, he will do well.
I took a trip up on Lookout Mountain the other day and had quite a view of things. It is a very hard clim. I went to the village of Summersville on the top, which is a fine place with farm houses, most of them being painted white. There was a little gray cuss had the impudence to ask me for a chew of tobacco, and I handed him a fairly good chuck, being all I had, and the little devil put it all in his clamshell at once. I noticed he had a five of Confederate money and I stole it from him to put it in my pocket of coins, and I will send it to Charley in the epistle.
I suppose that the 85th regiment is at home now and having a fine time. I will bet if they had been chased around as much as we have some of them would not enlist again. I hope they will not get into another fort, for they may as well do some of the shooting and get some of the shots as any other regiment. Write as soon as you can conveniently.
Feby, 24, 1864
Lookout Valley, Tenn.
I am as well as usual.
We are having fine weather at the present time and I hope it will continue.
There is very little to write about in the way of news. The officers seem
to think that the rebels are going to make a raid in this valley, for last
night they gave orders for the men to stay in camp, because there was rebel
cavalry about and no telling when we would be wanted, but I reckon it is
all a big scare. Let them come if they want to, they will find us in time
Some in our division will have to go up to Ringgold to guard a wagon train but I do not know which regiment will go. Just our luck to be taken. We will have a drill this afternoon but I will get off on account not having any coat to wear. If they do not get me one I will not go on duty.
We have soft bread to eat nowadays and it goes well. There is nothing else to write about so I will stop.
Feby. 28, 1864
Lookout Valley, Tenn.
I am as well as ever and
so is Fred. This morning there was a picket went out of our regiment, 250
in all, but as luck would have it I did not have to go and neither did
Fred. Yesterday there was a review but as I came off guard that morning
I did not get into it.
We are looking for the 73rd and 55th Ohio back every day and when they do get h ere we shall have it some easier on guard duty for now it is two days on and off four off.
We had some fun the other day. The captain's nigger broke open a letter, took out $15.00, spent most of it and then owned up. They put h im in the guardhouse and kept him there about a week and then they took him off in the woods and gave him a good flogging and told him never to show his face in our regiment again, and I do not believe he ever will.
March 5, 1864
Lookout Valley, Tenn.,
As I have nothing to do
at the present time I will write you a letter.
I have just come from guard duty. We had two men under arrest at the guardhouse and it was a very curious guardhouse. It consisted of a stake driven in the ground and a pole five inches through fasted on the top of it and we put both of the men on the pole to ride. They had to sit astride of it. One of them gave out and got off but the point of the bayonet soon caused him to go back again. After he had been there about three hours he made up his mind to obey orders so we let him go. The other one is a tough cuss and he sat there from eleven until tatoo, which is at nine o'clock, and he went on again at six in the morning but if he stands it much longer I shall wonder. You can see from this how they punish men here.
March 11, 1864
Lookout Valley, Tenn.
Dear Folks at home,
I received your letter
of March 8th and was very glad to get it. It is quite cold here now and
this morning it began to snow again. I was on guard last night it was very
cold. Fred is out now.
WE have been having a glorious time for the past week. We have had a drill or a review every day. Yesterday we were reviewed by General Hooks, the day before by General Steinwehr and the day before by Colonel Wood, commander of the brigade, but I hope that kind of business is over. It is reported in the papers that the 11th and 12th corps will go back to the Potomac again and I hope it does for it will be much warmer here this summer than in old Virginia.
I am out of postage stamps and will thank you to send me some.
March 23, 1864
Lookout Valley, Tenn.
I am as well as usual.
Yesterday it was a fine day as I wish to see but this morning when I woke
up I found the snow from five to seven inches deep. I was taken rather
by surprise you may guess. It is not very cold but it continues to snow
like the devil. It snows at the rate of four inches an hour. We will have
to send a picket out of our brigade today and it falls on the veterans
to go. I imagine come of them are cursing their luck and I suppose some
of the new recruits think it is very tough to go out in the snow storm
like this and stay two days.
I suppose that the folks are making sugar up home, and here it is snowing and at the same time the peach trees are in full bloom. If I had a horse and cutter just now I would take a ride, that is if, I had a pretty girl to sit by my side. There are plenty of girls down here but it is against orders to go and see one. This is all I will say on this subject and so I will stop.
April 6, 1864
Lookout Valley, Tenn.
As I have a few lonesome
moments to spare I will not let them go without writing. I as as well as
usual. We have been having a very hard rain storm, but it seems to be about
over. It has been raining for the pst two weeks.
About the only news that I have heard of is of Col. Bushback's raid in Georgia and that did not amount to very much. I happened to be on picket at the time and was ordered to drill. After the drill five of us started out at about three in the afternoon, being ordered to go to the stockade on the railroad. Well, we kept going but we found no stockade, but being bound to obey orders we went until dark and by that time we were some eight or ten miles from the picket line and were within three and one-half miles of Trenton and some five miles over in Georgia, so we turned around and started back. We went a couple of miles when the command to halt came. We obeyed the order and soon a cavalry picket came up, be we got by him and soon found our way back to the reserve about eleven o'clock in the night. They were going out to look for us but had given us up as captured. However, it was the mistake of the officers and not ours as they told us to go to the stockade instead of the trestle.
Well this is all I can think of and so I will bring this letter to a close.
From your brother,
April 8, 1864
Lookout Valley, Tenn.
I am in good health, although
I am quite sore today on account of going over to the station yesterday
and lifting barrels. The news is that the 11th and 12th corps are consolidated
and that General J. Hooker is to have command and Howard is to take charge
of the Fourth Corps. I am darned glad of it you may be sure, for if Howard
has any sympathy for a soldier he has never shown it in my eyes, but if
there is anything that Hooker can do he does it.
The report is that they are going to consolidate the regiments and brigades. If so they will put the New York troops in together and we will have a good-sized regiment and a big brigade, for there are nine regiments in our division. Last night the officers had a spree over at Joe Hooker's headquarters, and I expect it was a big one. They had a dance in the bargain. The fiddler they got out of the 55th Ohio. It is not very often they get up anything of the kind for there are not always ladies to be had for partners. Good-bey for the present.
April 18, 1864
Lookout Valley, Tenn.
I received your letter
of April 11 and was very glad to get it. We had a review the other day
by General Thomas. He is a short, thick-set man and very grizzly. We gave
him a salute of ten guns, and off he went again.
About the only diversion we have is an occasional base ball game between regiments. The most exciting game was one between the 33rd Massachusetts and the 154th New York. They played for over five hours and the 33rd Massachusetts came out best by three. We are to have a brigade drill this afternoon and so I will stop for today.
Well, the drill is over and what do you suppose they did to me. Nothing very bad, but the lieutenant colonel was mighty cross. He said that I looked to the right when it was left dress, and so he ordered the captain to stick me in the guard house. When we came from drill the captain went and saw the officer of the guard and up came a man after me. Down I went to the guard house and stayed there about twenty minutes, and then he let me go. Bully for him! It is the first time I was ever under arrest, and I cannot tell whether it will be the last time or not. This is all now.
Note: The Lieutenant Colonel was Faulkner.
April 26, 1864
Lookout Valley, Tenn.
I have been waiting with
all the patience in the world for a letter from home and it has not come.
It is very warm here today and the wind blows like the mischief. The musicians
got back this morning from home.
We have just learned that we now belong to the Third Brigade, Third Division, 20th Corps, Major General Hooker commanding the corps. General Butterfield commands the division. This is a fine set of officers. The crescent that we are to wear is the half moon and star to show that the 11th and 12th have been joined together.
Yesterday we had on of the hardest and meanest drills that I ever was in. It was a brigade drill and we were at it about four hours and the poorest drilling I ever saw. The last two hours the men did not seem to care where they went or what they did. Yesterday there was a division drill but I got out of that by being on guard.
This morning they had couple of our boys down on the wooden horse to ride again.
There is some chance of us staying here all summer and as for me I would just as soon stay here s to go to the front.
This is all for the present.
May 6, 1864
Encamped in Pleasant Valley, Ga.
I am as well as usual.
We are within three miles of Ringgold and are camped in the woods behind
a big hill. The rebels are on the other side. Our pickets are on the top
of a ridge and can see the rebels on the other side.
There was cavalry doing the picket duty here when we came in. The rebels had advanced three pickets on top of the hill at night and the cavalry fell back to the creek at the foot of the hill. The next morning they advanced and drove the rebels back and killed several of them. Kilpatrick is down here and the cavalry men say that he had had command but four days and that they had two fights already. The like him very well.
The rebels captured 200 of our men and shot them on the spot. It was a captain on Wheeler's staff that did it, and Kilpatrick has sent in a flag of truce to have them give up the captain or he will not take any more prisoners from that command but will shoot them on the spot. There was a man and woman tried to get through the lines last night, but were captured and were sent to Kilpatrick. There is going to be a fight here before long.
As it is getting so dark that I cannot see, I will stop.
Note: A letter is gone describing the battle on May 15th. Battle
Altoona Ridge, Ga., May 30, 1864
I will take this opportunity
to write a few lines while I can. I have been in the rifle pits for three
days and nights and with but very little sleep. Our brigade is on the front
line but expects to be relieved tonight. We are also on short rations.
This is the seventh day since we came up with the rebels at this place, and how much longer they will stay here is not for me to say. They made a charge on our lines last night be were driven back. Our regiment has lost over 100 men since we started on this campaign. This is all I can think of at the present.
The sharpshooters send their respects over to us very often but I do not care about accepting them.
Note: A letter is gone describing the battle on May 15th. Battle
June 12, 1864
I am not in the best of
health just now, not having enough to eat, nor do any of us get any tobacco.
All I have had for the past week is what I have begged of the boys, and
that is gone now. It has rained for the past twelve days and how much longer
it will continue the Lord only knows. We are somewhat in the rear now,
but it is not likely we will stay here long after they begin to fight.
I have not seen any reports of our loss in this campaign, but the talk
is that our corps, the 20th, has lost from 400 to 600 more men than the
rest of the army put together. There has not been much fighting going on
for the past few days, a little shelling and skirmishing only.
Now, Mort, if you can send me a pound or two of tobacco and do it as soon as you get this I will be most mighty glad to get it. When we ever get paid off again God only know, but if we had money it would do us no good here. The cars are run to within five miles of us, but we got no rations. Fred is somewhat down at the heel as well as myself. We get no news here except such as you have probably heard. I will stop, hoping this will get around as quick as lightning and that you will send me the weed some quicker. The last letter I had from home was so long ago that I have forgotten its date. Write soon.
Israel, in haste
June 22, 1864
Camp in the woods with 3 miles of Marietta, Ga.
I have very little to write about just now except to say that I sent for a hat when we were at Carville about a month ago and have not received it nor have I had any answer from the letter. I am as well as usual. We went on a reconnoiter yesterday and stayed all day long, coming back at dark, and then drew our picket lines.
Dear Father, and all the rest,
I am well and there is very little news. For the last month we have been fighting most all the time, driving the enemy back slowly. The rebels made a charge on the first and second divisions of our brigade day before yesterday but were driven back with very heavy losses. Our brigade made a charge and took a hill and had just fortified it, when we were relieved by the 4th corps. We lost a good many out of our brigade. We are on the extreme left of our corps now and in second line of battle and the rebels have killed some even back here with their sharp shooters. Our first line of breastworks are within 100 yards of the enemy, so you can see about how near we are together. I will stop now, wishing you all a good-bye for the present.
It seems awful warm today.
July 21, 1864
On breastworks 4 miles from Atlanta, Georgia
I will take this chance
to let you know that I am well as usual.
I will tell you what happened to the 20th corps. Yesterday at 4 in the afternoon just after the pickets had got into position the rebels made a charge and attempted to drive us back. There were 4 companies out of our regiment skirmishing for another brigade. On the left of our division the rebels came on in two lines of battle and we held our ground as long as anyone could. They got so close you could see them wink, and we fell back 4 or 5 rods and met the line of battle on our side coming up. We brought the rebels to a halt and commenced driving them back. Charge after charge was made be we held the ground. The rebels lost every heavy in men and officers.
Today their men have been gathering up the dead. They have buried over 400 dead rebels in front of our division and have not finished yet. The four companies of our regiment, of which Company A was one, captured one battle flag of the rebels, so you can guess how close they came to us before we gave back. It is enough to say that they were driven back at every point. Our brigade captured 2 stands of color, the 136th N.Y. one and the 26th Wisconsin the other, and the report is that the division got 7 in all. Our loss in Company A is Alfred Mead, Hiram Hitchcock, Morris H. Coasts, all being wounded, but none of them very badly.
This is all, so I will stop.
Yours in haste,
I. P. Spencer
P. S. The fighting lasted from 4 to 7 o'clock and was very hard fighting.
Note: Battle of Peach Tree Creek
July 26, 1864
Near Atlanta, Ga.
As I have nothing to do just now I will improve the time in writing to you to tell you of my whereabouts. I am on top of the ground as yet. In my last letter I told you about the fight of the 20th. The rebels then fell back to the defenses of Atlanta and of course we moved on after them. We got in position, then our brigade was sent up on the right of our corps to support a battery of 20 pounders, and here we are. They are sending shell in the city most of the time. There is heavy cannonading over on the right. Indications are of some hard fighting. This is about all the news. Major General Hooker has left us. That is the greatest loss we have had. He started for Washington this morning. The rebels have their forces in sight of here. They send over their best respects in the shape of a 24-pound shells. Sorry but they seldom do any damage. I will stop now by asking you to send me some postage stamps.
I. P. Spencer
August 8, 1864.
Camp near Atlanta, Georgia
I am well and so are the
rest of the boys from our place. I received your letter of July 20th in
due time with the money and you may bet that it came in the nick of time,
for the weed has been mighty scarce for the last two months, and if a fellow
can get a chew he is going right straight through and not stop.
There is nothing new here. It is the same as of old only we keep going nearly all of the time. Last night we built new works and this morning we moved in advancing about 100 yards. One more such move will bring the first line on the last ridge and then on the next is the rebels works. We can see the city forts and in fact everything from where our pickets are now and if we move up to them we will not be over 600 yards from the rebels. Even now the boys shoot over and now and then hit one of the grey-coated devils.
Yesterday on the right of our forces advanced and captured two lines of rebel works, and it the night the charge to take them back but could not make it.
The best gun in the service is to my eye is the Henry rifle. It shoots 16 times before you have to load it and then you clip in 16 more shells and you can do it as quick as we can load one of the old Springfields. These 16 shooters are the tools when the Johnnies are coming.
This is all. Write soon.
August 10, 1864
Camp near Atlanta, Georgia
Since I last wrote to father our line has advanced to another ridge
and we have had a detail for fatigue. I have been on duty all the time
two days out of three and it is so through the brigade. We work all the
time either throwing up breast works or fixing in the batteries. We have
some good sized guns here, the heaviest being 32 pounders, with 24 and
20, and they may have some heavier ones. The Johnnies have some and every
once in a while they shoot over a 64 pounder. They hardly ever do any damage
although once in a while they hit a man.
We have got so we can pick u p the rebel skirmishers and when we do they never know it. In the night we advance our line and creep up on their line and jump up and give a yell and they give up. We have gobbled them a good many times in this way and when we do we take every one of them. This is all the war news, so I will stop.
I. P. Spencer
Camp near Atlanta, Ga.
Not knowing what else to do to pass the time away
I will write a few lines to you. We are all well except W. W. Stannard,
was wounded day before yesterday in the hand but not very severe. This
forenoon there was one hit in Company F and they have taken his arm off.
We have to be very careful how we get around here or get hit, so we can
take our choice whether to lay low or get shot. We can see the enemy's
rifle pits. They are but a short distance away, but it does not seem to
be the policy of General Sherman to charge their works. At least, it has
not been so thus far on this campaign, and I hope it will not change. The
slaughter they would inflict on us would most likely beat anything that
we have done to them. We have only one line most of the way and we ought
to have at least three to take their works.
Last night at ten we got orders to harness up and lay down as the rebels were seen to form a line in front of their picket but they did not see fit to make an attack. It may be that they thought we were going to, as the artillery were shelling the city all night.
It is fair sort of weather here at present with the nights not very cold. I have not slept with anything over me for a month. Green corn is very plentiful if a fellow wants to go 15 miles in the rear to get it. I have not had as much as a taste yet and I do not expect to, as it is getting old.
It is reported that we are to be relieved and go back across the river, but I can't see it yet. Lieutenant Colonel Faulkner started for home on leave of absence three days ago, but could not leave Marietta on account of the railroad track being torn up by the rebel cavalry, but they say it is fixed up again. We are without port at the present time, not having drawn any in ten days. What the cause is I do not know, unless the scurvy is around and the doctor has ordered it not to be issued for so many days. I should like to have some stamps if they could be sent. Write soon.
September 8, 1864
As I am not on duty today
and have nothing that must be done in a great hurry I will write to you.
Yesterday W. W. Stannard was here. His hand is getting along all right
but he thinks it will make his two fingers stiff. If it does he is out
of this war for he can't do anything with a gun or can be get a cartridge
out of his pockets. I am in hopes he will get back all right.
We have 17 men in our company for duty, and the rest of the companies don't come up as high as that. It keeps us on duty night and day and makes me feel as though I would like to get some sleep. Our corps is around the city doing garrison duty and we are strung out so as to have our regiment cover about twice its length. We are between the August and Macon Railroad and the city. The works run in a sort of a zigzag shape so as to have a cross fire in every direction with a fort on every corner.
I tell you it was a fig thing for Sherman to get this place, and the way it is fortified with heavy works all around makes it all the more important. If we had been obliged to charge the works it would have been a long time before we could have driven them out, but as it was they went out and a detachment out of the 2d and 4rd brigades was the first to come into town.
The way the stuff was scattered around was a caution. The citizens said there was a brigade of cavalry in there and they just tore down and burned everything. We marched in and stacked our arms in the depot house and went out to look up some of their tobacco and it was but a few minutes before it came piling in by the arms full, so we got all we could carry. That was the 2d of the month. Well I have all the tobacco I can carry at any rate. I also have a rebel knapsack and it is full and fairly good one too. I got this ink that I am writing with out of the knap sack. It is a pint.
Last night's orders were that the campaign is ended for one month, signed by W. T. Sherman, Major General, Commanding. Well, I must go on police duty and scrub up around headquarters. I am entirely out of paper and I want you to send me some with envelopes just as soon as you get this, or you will get no more letters from me. It has rained almost every day since we came here and looks like rain now. We expect to be paid off before long and if so you may expect to see some money. They owe us 8 months pay by the 25th of this month. That is quite a pole.
This is all. Write soon.
Sept. 11, 1864
Atlanta, Ga., Camp of the 136th N. Y. V.
I am as well as any soldier
can be with enough to eat and plenty to do and that is about all one can
ask for. If a soldier does not get enough to eat he is always grumbling
and if he has too much duty e grumbles also. But we are getting along very
well here. While we don't have everything that we want, yet the food is
good and it is so arranged that we do not have so much duty as present.
Last night they took men out of our regiment to supply the places of men out of the 5th regiment. They will come back tonight and we will not have to furnish any more in four days. That is some length of time for us.
There is considerable excitement in town today on account of General Sherman's orders that citizens including men, women and children, must leave this morning at nine o'clock for the north or south. There was a good man that went south and some went north so it has left the city pretty clear of such trash. You see it would not do to let them stay here as they would have to be fed and then there were some of the worst kind of rebels among them, so if they were allowed to stay no knowing what the very devil they would contrive to get up.
I will not send this out today and as to that I don't know when I may get it out, at any rate not until I get some envelopes and paper. Our camp is in a grove of young pine trees and we have plenty of good huts made out of boards. I will stop now and take a smoke and have a game of euchre.
As I have time to write
today I will tell you what I did yesterday. Night before last I was detailed
to go out with the train for forage so we got up at three o'clock in the
morning, get some grub and started for the train, which is down through
the city. We reached the train about sunrise and two of us got in each
wagon. We went some ten miles before we came to a corn field. We drove
in and loaded up and started back. WE got a lot of green corn, something
we have not had before this year. Coming out we passed an old house and
the boys went over in the garden and got some ripe pumpkins and some green
water melons. An old woman came out and began to jaw and swear but it did
not good, in fact made it all the worse. When we came back she had her
arms full of green squash and seemed afraid we would take them.
We got back to the city about sundown and if I had not be able to ride I don't think I should be here now for I was about played out from some cause or other. I feel so bad that I believe I would rather sleep than do anything else. Today we have had inspection. We shall have some green corn for dinner but I doubt if I am able to eat any at all. I presume you have heard that William Crandall is dead. He was killed the second of this month, being in the 14th corps and in the regular service. I received a letter from Hattie Lewis some time ago. They were all well.
We don't hear anything of getting paid off.
September 23, 1864
As I feel like writing
today I will do so. It has been wet and soggy for a few days past. I am
not very tough at present. I have been what you would call quite sick for
me ever since I got it from that foraging party and have not done any duty
since. What was the matter I don't know, but it seemed to be ague and fever.
All they can give a sick person here is quinine for every kind of complaint.
Something was the matter with my head, for it seemed as though there were
two persons of me instead of one. But one night I got in a heavy sweat
and it helped me a great deal. The next morning I felt like a new man.
We are to be relieved tomorrow by General Slocum if it is not raining so
hard that the officers dare not get out. This is all I can think of.
Hoping to get an answer in the course of six months, I am your son,
September 25, 1864
I received your letter
of September 10th. I am getting better and am in hope I shall get through
without any more breakdowns. Fred is all right. It has been raining most
all the time for the last two days. There is no news and the only talk
here is pay day, which will be shortly, as we signed the payroll today
for 8 months pay. We have as yet only five new recruits in this regimen.
Talk here is that it will be filled up soon. If so, woe be unto us for
we will have to drill forever.
I should think that Genesee had forsake itself, or else the men in it do not care a curse of the honor of the town, because all they do is to talk of going out and enlisting for the big bonus. I would like to see some of them here.
Tell mother to make the housewife on the back of oil cloth. You wanted to know wo commanded our Corps. Major General Slocum, and the drunken old cuss Brigadier General Wood commands the division. Col. James Wood, Jr. commands the brigade and now as both Wood and Wood have gone home on a furlough, the next highest ranking officer is Colonel to take charge of the division and the Lieut. Colonel to take charge of our Brigade. This is all.
September 29, 1864
As I have a few leisure moments to spare I will improve them to the best advantage by writing to you. Yesterday forenoon we had company drill. It seemed very odd to go out and drill once more as we had not had any in four months. I hear that you have your back p because I have not written to you before. Well, now, I can't do everything at once, and if I am not most badly mistaken I wrote you last, but it makes no difference, only I want you to stop your grumbling or I won't write to any of you any more, that is, unless I get some more paper and envelopes and stamps, and some money from the government before long. We have signed the payroll up for 8 months pay just four or five days ago but when we will get our pay I don't know. Silas L. Pire is around again after an absence of 14 months. He has been back at Dalton for four months.
Your brother, Israel
October 12, 1864
I am fairly well at present.
We have not had any mail here for over two weeks and the Lord only knows
when we will get any. I suppose you have heard of everything that has transpired
for the last three weeks better than we have. You may believe that we have
had something to do lately. Ever since the rebel army started in at our
rear we have been working like the very devil. WE have built up a new line
of works around the city, and on the site where we have been working we
have built up some 12 or 14 forts.
When we first began we were on short rations of everything, and now we have a quarter of a pound of hard bread per day with one pound of beef and no pork of any kind, but the rest of the stuff comes as usual. The men when they go to work get one gill of whiskey each day. The last report we have heard from the rear is that the rebels cut the road again, day before yesterday near Kingston. They are trying as hard as they can to starve us out of this place by keeping the railroad torn up, but I reckon they will have to work at that game some time. The paymaster has been here but they say he is out of money and we will have to wait until there is a train from Nashville.
This is all that I can think of today, so I will stop.
Well not long after I said I would stop the mail came in and I received the paper and housewife and one letter written September 4th. I shall be on fatigue tomorrow at four in the morning, so I shall leave this letter for Fred to finish. Write soon.
October 15, 1864
As Id has been writing
I will do the same. I have just got off from picket duty and will be on
again tomorrow. It is said that Hood is back on the railroad and Sherman
is after him with the whole of his army except our corps which has been
left to guard the city and build fortifications. Our division has to build
12 forts and each fort has nine guns and breastworks from one fort to the
I received the package of handkerchiefs and paper. You wanted to know how the Arm of the Cumberland would go on election. I think they will give Old Abe a majority, but here is no telling for some people change their minds about every half hour. Company A, 24 for Abe and 14 for little Mac.
Fred R. Spencer
Note: This letter was attached to the letter of October 12, and is
inserted for its historical interest.
Sunday, October 25, 1864
I received your letter
of October 9th while on picket duty. I am as well as usual except for the
ague. We only get papers here every two weeks or so because the Johnnies
keep the roads torn up all the time. The trains have been running fairly
well for the last 24 hours.
Our regiment has gone out on a foraging expedition. In fact the whole brigade with the exception of just the pickets that were out at the time they started have gone. This picket consisted to 29 men out of regiment and of course the sick were left here. We have to go on picket every other day. The foraging party went out the morning of the 20th to be gone five days, so if nothing happens to them they will be back tomorrow night. They went out with the division train in the directions of Stone Mountain. The trains have been out there before and there is an abundance of most everything, such as corn, hogs, sheep, sweet potatoes and bacon. I wish they would bring in three or four tons of the last named stuff for we have not seen any, no even as much as a sample of any in the last three weeks, nor any salt meat of any kind. All we get is a little beef and three quarters rations of hard bread. Our extra rations almost play out as soon as they begin.
I will tell you what I had for dinner today; a little beef and beef soup with the hard tack mixed up in it, and that all put in the spider and boiled until the hard tack gets soft. This was mixed up with some flour which was put in to thicken it, and so we ate it and drank our coffee. You know I had a great dislike for flour gravy when I was home, but I have got over that.
We have very cold nights here. Last night there was a white frost, so those say who got up in time to see it. What in the very devil could have possessed Still Monroe and Lewis to go to passing counterfeit money I should like to know. I suppose though that is just as a man thinks of it. If he is sharp enough to get away with a little he will strike for a big pile and away he goes to a dungeon.
This is all now for the present.
Reports were out last night that our brigade had a fight and this
morning they sent out two more brigades and a lot of ambulances.
Nov. 4, 1864
Atlantic City (Atlanta, Ga.?)
I have not been very well
for a couple of weeks. The ague seems to have gotten hold of me and does
not want to let go and the fever has set in with it. It has been keeping
me off duty for sometime. Last night I went on camp guard. It was very
cold having rained a couple of days.
I suppose you have received the money that I sent to you before this time. I didn't draw it from the Paymaster but told him how much to send and where to send it. $75 is all that I have sent. They say that we are going to get two months more pay soon and settle up our clothing account of last year. If that is so I shall have some coming to me.
Last night orders came to march at six o'clock this morning with three days rations and in light marching order, but it was countermanded. We are going out on a reconnaissance they said to Lees Mills, 35 miles from here.
Well, father, you and the folks must not worry if you don't hear from me for sometime as there is something going to be done here before long. It will be either a grand raid into Georgia or else a retrograde movement. We have had orders to turn over what we did not want to carry and have it sent back to the rear, and have done so. We have a lot of new clothing and such things as we could get. You may expect to hear of something new from this part of the globe.
I am out of postage stamps and can't get any here. I have borrowed one to get this through. I got a letter from Mort yesterday and he is in Wisconsin where Tom Kenyon is but don't know how long he will stay there. Be sure to send me some stamps in your next. Write soon.
Note: This letter anticipates the march through Georgia.
November 6, 1864
As Fred wanted to write
and couldn't on account of his having to on picket duty, I will write for
him and myself. Fred is well, but as for me, I am not of the toughest kind
this fall. I have not done but one week of duty for three weeks and will
not do any more until I feel better than I do now.
Day before yesterday we packed up and started on what we thought was going to be a great raid into Georgia but we wee mistaken. We went out about a half a mile beyond the picket line and went into camp and stayed there until last night and then came back. The pickets were attacked while we were out by some cavalry; they killed one man and wounded two out of the 33rd Indiana. What the move was intended for it more that I can guess unless it was to make the rebels think we were going on through. On things is certain we will go somewhere before long as everything looks that way.
I got the paper and envelopes yesterday that father sent me. I now have enough paper but no stamps. The weather is very cold and rainy at present and it looks like it will change to snow.
I have received Et's letter but can't answer it until I get some stamps.
Note: Cut off from all communications with the north until Savannah,
Ga., was reached, Dec. 25th.
December 25, 1864
I am as well as usual
although I feel rather uncomfortable on account of having eaten to much
I suppose you have heard of the fall of this place. We came in here on the 21st. I was on picket duty and started out very early. The rebels had left a good many cannons here, in fact they left all of them, I guess, for I have seen over 40 pieces 12, 24 and 64 pounders, and I saw on six pound piece. Most of the guns were not spiked and what were the boys pulled out with their fingers.
The rebels got out of here in a great hurry. This place was taken a great deal easier than we expected. Their works were built on the edge of the swamp or rice field so it could be overflowed but they could not overflow it for they did not have men to do the work with.
We have not fired a shot at a rebel since we started on this campaign, as we had orders not to shoot because were shy of ammunition.
We ran out picket lines right up to the fort where there were three guns and it was intended to charge it the next night. There is a big swamp in from of the fort and we had a straw bridge most ready to put down. It would have been ready when the men were.
We have not had full rations as yet, but it will not be long before they will come as the boats have begun to run here. We are putting up winter quarters but I don't think we will stay in the very long The weather has been very cold here but is begins to get warmer now. Our next jump will be to Charleston.
I see by the papers that Thomas has given Hood a good thrashing at Franklin, but General Sherman is the man. If they don't get out of the way he goes around them and begins to crowd.
I have only had one letter from home since we have been here. Write soon as you get this and let me know whether you got the money I sent. I will stop by wishing yo a Merry Christmas.
January 8, 1865
Camp on the Charleston Pike, South Carolina.
Fred and I are well. Our
division is some eight miles from the river in a clear field. On the 31st
of December we left our quarters, went down to the dock and crossed one
branch of the river, and when we got over to the other side the rebels
pickets were on that side so we got dinner and then it clouded up and commenced
raining. The wind blew so hard that they could not put down the pontoon
bridges and we started back to camp. When we got here the first division
had moved in so we had to stay out, which was something that did not set
very well with us.
Well, we stayed there until the 2d of January and then tried it again, but in a little different shape. We went to the river and boarded a steamboat and went around the place and come up over the hill.
We have about half enough to eat, and what we do get we have to find most of it ourselves. We can get a lot of rice and hull it ourselves.
We have been receiving some clothing for the last three days, but just a little at a time. I have not had anything yet and I have but one shirt and a pair of rebel pants. They can all go to the devil for me, because I am not going to crowd around all day for the sake of a lot of clothes.
I have not had a letter from any of you since we took this place, neither has Fred. I don't see why the mail does not come through. I hear that the second and third year men get $300 bonus when their time is out and their wages raised to $20 a month. There is a good deal of talk about our going veteran, but there are only a darned few that can see it that way. I sent you a Savannah paper a short time ago. There is some talk of General Butterfield taking command of the corps and I hope he will. Write as soon as you get this.
I. P. Spencer
P.S. Hereafter direct your letters to I. P. Spencer, Company A, 136th Regt., 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 20th Corps, left wing Army of Georgia, via New York. It will cover the whole of the envelope but these are the orders from the mail agent. A flag of truce came up the road today in answer to one we sent out three days ago. I should think this place as been an old battle ground. There are old breastworks and two big forts on the road with good sized trees grown up on them and the trees are marked with quite a number of bullets. They have grown some two inches since the bullets were shot into them. It could not have been done since this war began. You remember of reading over two years ago of some niggers running a steamboat by the name of Planter our of Charleston harbor. That is the boat that we came across the river on. The same darkies run it with only one white man, the mate, on board.
Note: The river mention is the Savannah. From January, 1865, on the move through rain and mud night and day until Goldsboro was reached, March 23. No mail of any kind for about two weeks.
March 31, 1865
Camp 136 N.Y. Goldsboro
I am as well as usual
except a lame arm it it does not amount to much. Yesterday I was sent back
to the regiment, as I was not bad enough to be sent to the rear any further.
They have decided to send the wounded off to some general hospital. It will not be long before you will hear of the Army of Georgia starting out again. The sick and wounded must all be sent away with ten days and it acts to me as if we were going to dig out of this place. If we do, in my opinion, we will go towards Weldon and for a junction with Grant. If we do this you may expect to hear of some hard fighting. They are getting in a big lot of rations here. We don't believe we will be paid off at this place, but we may be. I am out of money and have been since we left Savannah, and am most out of postage stamps, having only three and one of them goes on this letter. I would like to have some and also some black thread as we have lost all we had.
This is all I can think of now.
Israel P. Spencer
March 23, 1865
In Field Hospital near Goldsboro
I will take this opportunity
to let you know how I am getting along. I am about as well as the general
average of the boys. Fred was well when I left the regiment, which was
the 20th. When we were at Fayetteville Fred wrote home of you a letter
and we were all right then, but since that time we have been cut up some.
In the first place, the captain and two boys out of our company by the names of Brown were taken prisoners. That ws the 14th. On the 16th we got into a fight at a place called Smith Far, and lost three men wounded, one killed. On the 19th we were again in a fight, and lost six wounded. I will give some of the names; George H. Crandell, S. L. Pire. These were all that you know. They are not very bad off. Then there is a chap by the name of I. P. Spencer. I reckon you have seen him before. He got a scratch on the left arm, but is is not so he cannot feed with both hands. This is all for the present, so I will stop.
Yours in haste,
I. P. Spencer
March 30, 1865
I am all right. I am in
an old building that was once a Fair Building but since the war it has
been converted into a hospital. It is about one hundred rods from the rest
of the hospital and we have to go up there for our meals or else go without.
It is not a very pleasant thing to go without food even if it has to be
stolen, and I reckon I can do my share of that. If a soldier cannot jayhawk
for his own living he is not good for much, to the best of him. Since I
have been here we have had enough to eat most of the time, and when not
I would draw rations for two or three. Most of the time, however, I get
along on the rations issued.
My wound is all healed up and I shall go to the regiment in a couple of days in nothing happens. It is about three miles from here. I have seen some of the 85th regiment N. Y. V. I was up there the other day and say I. Lewis. The boys from Bolliver and Genesee were all well and most of them in good spirits. In the fight at Kingston they must have thrown away their knapsacks and run, to take their own words for it. There is no news now except that I am told the rebels are driving our pickets back all the time and getting their main line up as close to us as they can, but how it is I do not know. There is one thing certain, however, they are not a great ways off for the foragers dare not get out at the front for fear of being taken in. Night before last they brought back a darky here who was shot in the back. He died the next morning. He ws the only one that got away from the rebels. All the rest were taken prisoners. Write soon.
April 15, 1865
In Camp at Raleigh, N.C.
There is a good many rumors
hereabout. It is said that Johnson has surrendered to Sherman and I guess
there is something in it or there would not be so much talk about it. We
arrived at this place day before yesterday without any opposition on the
part of the rebels. Ex-Governor Morhead surrendered up the city.
We started from Goldsboro on the 10th of April and had some tough marching. It commenced raining this morning and still continues to rain. This morning we got orders to march at six and the troops got in motion. Some of the train got out as far as five miles and the orders were countermanded. The 15th Corps got out 10 miles and had to come back. The last report says that Hardee is in town. It is reported that Governor Vance gave up this place. It is well fortified.
We are in camp near some lunatic asylum. There are quite a number in it and some are no more crazy than I am. By order of General Sherman one has been let out. He send a couple of letters to General Sherman. There is another that calls himself Christ. There are a couple of letter in the company which he wrote to General Sherman in which he sets forth a lot of prophesies and lot of other stuff. They were a fun-making lot. They sing and make speeches that keep the boys laughing all the time.
I have not been over to town yet but they boys say is is the nicest place they have seen. There are a lot of prisoners in here and still coming in from Lee's army. They say if ever they fight again it will be under U. S. Grant. The country between here and Goldsboro is a nice as I have seen in the southern states. There is a good deal of wheat sown and it looks fine. This is a sheet of rebel paper. How do you like the looks of it?
As soon as you get this write and you will oblige me. No more left wing but Army of Georgia.
Note: The paper mentioned is yellow and of very poor quality.
April 28, 1865
Raleigh, N. C.
To all at Home,
I will write you a few
lines now to let you know how we are all getting along in this part of
the world. It is very quiet here and nothing at all to dick up any excitement
as there used to be. I suppose it is about the same as though peace with
declared. I am in good health and am anxious to get home.
The 20th Corps was reviewed by W. T. Sherman today for the last time. I suppose he is going to Washington. He looked pleased to see the men go in front of him in such good order. We left camp at eight o'clock in the morning and went to town, marching through the streets in company front formation and got back to our camp at about noon. It was done up in military style, too.
Well, what do you think of having the war settled and the rebels dug out? Grant broke the back bone and Sherman pulled the insides out. Johnson wanted to surrender only just what he had with him but it was no use. He was commander in chief of the Confederate Forces and Sherman wanted them all and I guess he has them.
I have had no letter from home since we came here and this is the last one I shall write to any of you while I am in the army for we will start from here next week for some places to take transportation to go home.
Private Company A, 136th New York
April 28, 1865
Raleigh, North Carolina
Have just received your
letter of April 7th and will answer it at once. Everything is quite lively
here at present. Joe Johnson, Commander in Chief of Confederate forces
has surrendered to Bill. On the 25th of this month we got orders to dig
out at six in the morning. We went 12 miles towards Holly Springs, somewhere
in the vicinity of the rebels. We reached there, stayed one day and in
came a report of Johnson's surrender and ti was confirmed so we came back
today. It was very good traveling.
The have sent for all the sick that can't stand a tedious campaign and the wagons have turned over all the ammunition and the train has received orders to start to Washington next Monday and I suppose we will follow. Major General O. O. Howard has issued orders to his army saying that peace has been declared. I hope it is so. Do not write any more for we will be home before long. All well and in good spirits. Good bye.
May 10, 1865
To all whom it may concern,
Know ye that I, I. P.
Spencer, am at or near Manchester, Virginia, and expect to start for Washington
on Foot and Walker Line tomorrow morning if I have not gone before. We
left Raleigh the 20th of April and arrived in this vicinity on the 9th
of this month, going some fairly good speed and with a good head of steam
on all the time. 25 miles in a day, or 18 in a half day, when the orders
were from General Sherman not to go over 15 miles a day. So you see what
we get for having drunken officers to take command of us.
Our division was behind the first day, then we went 25 miles and got ahead across the Roanoke River, and have been from three to five miles ahead of the rest all the time. It was a regular race to see which should get in here first, but quite a number of men were lost so I hear by marching so fast. It is a dam shame to kill men in this way after they have stood all through the war and may the curse of more than one soldier rest on the corps commanders. On the next march to Washington the men say they are going to go to suit themselves and when they get tired fall out.
We were ordered to start this morning, but for some cause we did not. We have to go through Richmond in review, that is, in company front, to suit General Hallock and the rest of the shoulder straps. Five day rations and a big knapsack is our load, fixed up with sore feet. I shall probably be at home about the time you see me around the house and not much before.
I. P. Spencer
Private in front rank in battle.
June 5, 1865
Camp of the 136th Regiment N. Y. V. I.
General Orders No. 4
Colonel commanding desires to say to the men of the regiment that while on duty they must all wear caps and if caught with a hat on they will be severely punished. All hallooing and shouting must be stopped by order of Brevet Brigadier General J. Wood, Commanding Regiment.
C. H. Metcalf, A. A. G.
You may see how we are
used by having our time most out and having a dammed fool of a brevet to
command us, but there is a day of reckoning and every little debt will
be picked up and he have to pay the costs. He sent word last night to stop
all the noise in camp, but it only made the matters worse. The whole regiment
commenced to yet, "Caps", and everything else the devil could think of,
and kept it up until after ten o'clock. Let him look out for rotten eggs.
I am as well as usual and so are the rest of the boys. Yesterday I went over to Fort Slocum to se the bank play. Had a pretty good time. Got a little tight and raised the devil. Uncle Al has been up here twice and stayed once all night. We do know when we will have to start for home. Some say in a week and some say two weeks, but it cannot be any too soon. Not that I am sick of it, but I am tired of the officers.
That is all.
I. P. Spencer
And so ends Israel's letters to home. He and Fred were together most of the war, and they both returned home together.
Information by George Spencer