From Wisconsin to Andersonville - 1862-1864 (Translated 1958, 1959)
W. L. Damkoehler, 1961
This volume is a collection
of some twenty-five (25) letters written by Ernst
Damkoehler, who was a Private, Company I, of the 26th Regiment, Wisconsin
Vols, during the Civil War.
They tell, in an intimate way, a little of the life, the privations and the frustrations of a Union Soldier during a fateful period in our countryís history. The conflict at times appears to be in the background, over-shadowed by the personal problems, and ends suddenly.....as in death.
The first letter was written on September 1, 1862, and the last one was written at "White Sites", Tennessee on April 17, 1864.
Not long after this date, he was wounded, captured by the Confederate army and taken to notorious Andersonville Prison, where he died of his wounds on June 26, 1864. He is buried in Grave 2522 in the Wisconsin Section of the National Cemetery near Americus, Georgia.
Ernst Damkoehler came to this country in the 1840ís after having served in the French Foreign Legion in North Africa for a number of years. Prior to that time, he was in the service of the Prussian army.
He settled near East Troy, Wisconsin, and was joined there by his sweetheart, Mathilda, who came from Celle, Germany. After their marriage, they migrated by ox-team to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. There, they built a log cabin and farmed for a number of years. Their union was blessed with six children during this time, the last being born after his father enlisted around September 1, 1862, in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
This youngest child, whose name was Harry, received these letters from his mother, Mathilda, in 1900 and passed them on to me, as the oldest great grandson, in 1940. They were translated from the German by a number of friends -- a machinest from Milwaukee (Martin Boehme); an exchange teacher from Kleinebriete, Germany (Dr. Ralph Bojar); and an electrical engineer (Carl Endres) who had come to this country in 1928. To each of them, we express our appreciation for their kind assistance.
December 7, 1960 LISTING OF LETTERS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER IN BOOK LETTER NO. LOCALE DATE 1 Milwaukee, Wisconsin 9/1/1862 2 Fairfax Courthouse 10/19/1862 3 On March Between Hampton Warrenton (Blue Ridge Mts.) (Virginia) 11/10/1862 4 Gainesville (Virginia) 11/11/1862 5 Stafford Court House (Virginia) 12/22/62 6 Stafford Court House (Virginia) 1/17/1863 7 Maria Church (Virginia) 2/2/1863 8 Near Stafford Court House (Va.) 2/23/1863 9 Stafford Court House (Virginia) 4/12/1863 10 Stafford Court House (Virginia) 4/14/1863 11 Stafford Court House (Virginia) 5/13/63 12 Brooks Station (Virginia) 5/28/1863 13 Goose Creek (Virginia) 6/22/1863 (Near Leesburg) 14 Near Warrenton Junction (Virginia) 8/4/1863 15 Warrenton Junction (Virginia) 9/7/1863 16 Tennessee - Opposite Lookout Mountain Battery 11/8/1863 17 Tennessee (Near Lookout Mt.) 11/9/1863 18 Presumably Lookout Mountain, Uncertain-Between Tennessee (Part of a letter) Nov. 9 & 25th 19 Near Chattanooga, Tennessee 11/25/1863 20 Lookout Mountain Valley 12/8/1863 21 Uncertain, (Presumably Lookout Mt.) 1/3/1864 22 Presumably Lookout Mountain Believed to be (Portion of a letter) January 11, 1864 23 Schell Mount, (Tennessee) 2/21/1864 24 Schell Mount, (Tennessee) 3/7/1864 MilwaukeeLetter #1______________________________________________________________________________
Sept. 1, 1862
My Dear Mathilde:
You perhaps will wonder
at receiving a letter from me from this place, when you thought for sure
I was in Oskosh. I will tell you later of our adventures after our departure
from Sturgeon Bay, but first my heartiest greetings to you and the children.
After I wend aboard ship in Sturgeon Bay, I went on the other side of the
boat to save my strength. I did not have the heart to look at you again
and to keep quiet. We went from there to Menominee where we stayed overnight
and arrived in Green Bay on Sunday afternoon, where we stayed overnight
and arrived in Green Bay on Sunday afternoon, where a proposition was made
to us at once to unite with the Green Bay Company. They wanted to give
us the chance for First Lieutenant. The Green Bay Company was put together
from all kinds of trash from the city, and spoiled advocates were candidates
for officersí positions. You can imagine my unwillingness and canít blame
me that I did not want to enter into such a Company. My resolution soon
was made. I made an appointment with all Germans and we decided not to
enter into this Company, but to go at once to Milwaukee to the 26th Sigel
Regiment. With the help of Alois Klaus, former Lieutenant of the 2nd Wisconsin
Cavalry, and now on the Committee for re-routing our regiment, we received
passes from the Major at Green Bay to go to Milwaukee. The story was betrayed
by Charles Wilkens who was drunk. Because Lee was in Oskosh a telegram
was sent to Oskosh at once to give us away. Alois Klaus got wind of it
and we were quiet the next day, we agreed to it to enter into the Green
Bay Company with the others to prevent suspicion. The next morning after
breakfast we drove to Two Rivers by horse and wagon and from ther to Milwaukee
by boat, where we arrived Friday evening, George Bayer, Phillip Feldman,
Adam Heilmann and I. I had recommendations to the Colonel (Jacobs) and
we received the warmest welcome. The next day we were sworn in the United
States Service and now have comfortable quarters at Landa Restaurant, along
with out Captain, an old gray-bearded soldiers. Tomorrow, Monday, we get
$25 from which I will send you $15. Ward Bounty, not counting our $40 before
we leave the state.
My Dear Mathilde, I donít know yet if it is not the best to buy things for you and send them together with the other stuff. I am going to find out the prices first and if it pays to send things from here. I canít close this letter before I have received the money. I only made up my mind today, Sunday, to write this letter because tomorrow the Regiment should march out with full power and perhaps I will have no more time to close this letter.
We are all well and if we never see harder times than these here, one can stand it. As soon as our Regiment is completed we will leave for Sigel.
Now, Dear Mathilde, I will close for the time being to finish this letter tomorrow.
Thursday, Sept. 4th, 1962
Even if I promised you
to finish writing the letter this past Monday, conditions existed which
made it impossible.
The Paymaster was on a trip and we received our money only yesterday evening. Because I know you are in real need of the money, you donít have to give Mr. Harris anything. In a short time I will send you the Bounty of the Ward and I donít think it will be too long before I send you the other $40. We have had here all kinds of expenses. We had to buy our caps and duty utensils, and there are plenty of opportunities to spend money in other ways. I also sent you a box of Cheesmannís pills and hope they do you good.
I donít want to write much about our military system. After each drill we march into a beer hall where we are treated by the officers with money we were cheated out of. It is still better than in an American Regiment, where the officers keep everything.
My dear Mathilde, there came alarming rumors from Sheboygan that the Indians were getting restless. As soon as you anticipate the smallest danger move away. When I know you are in danger I could desert in order to protect you, but I hope it is only a rumor. I will write to Gustav and if there should be danger, you move to him. When I think about it I believe I would have been just as smart to stay with you and would have risked it to be drafted like all the other neighbors, but now it is too late. I donít want to torture myself with these thoughts.
With thousand greetings and kisses to you and the dear children,
26th. W.V. Wenzelís Guard, Milwaukee
P. S. Arrange your conditions as you think best. Answer soon. Yearningly I am looking forward to your answer.
Fairfax Courthouse, Oct 19th, 1862
My Dear Mathilde:
I will now fulfill my
promise to write to you as soon as we had somewhat settled down. As I hastily
wrote you in my last letter, which I hope you received, we marched away
from the camp situated in the proximity of Washington on the next morning
and went to our destination (Fairfax Courthouse) about 15 miles south of
our former camp. We arrived there in the afternoon and were received by
the Brigade General Carl Schurz and after some maneuvering occupied our
camp. However we had to sleep without tents because the baggage wagons
had remained behind but we were happy to be able to rest up a little after
all this activity. The hardships of hunger and camping under the open skies
with a terrible rain and other inconveniences were without limit. A fourth
of each camp is sick, suffering from diarrhea, fever and colds. Adam Heilman
was sick and Philip is till sick now. (These people began to cry and thought
they would surely not see their homes again in short lost their head without
having seen the danger). As far as I am concerned, thank God, I am well
and cannot in the least complain. We now have plenty to live on and the
service is not strenuous. The officers and lower officers observe me as
much as possible and I calmly wait for difficult things. They may not make
me a corporal. I have been promised that as soon as a vacancy is open,
I am supposed to become a Sergeant, and in case our captain should leave
our Orderly Sergeant will become an Officer and I will take the orderlyís
place. Still all this is only promises. I for my part will do my duties
faithfully and calmly wait for the rest.
The next day after our arrival, we put up our tents, cleaned our things, and made ourselves as comfortable as possible. The next day, we had a big review before Sigel, but before that the Regiment was reviewed by Brigade General Steinwehr, who praised the Regiment a lot because of our Prussian drills with the weapons. Afterwards Sigel came, held an enthusiastic address to the Regiment, and amid thundering hurrahs the review ended. Nothing has been revealed about our further destination other than that we were to be joined to General Steinwehr.
It is said that the enemy is supposed to be about 10 miles from here. On the whole, we learn only very little; even the officers learn nothing. As a result, I cannot write you anything new about that. The outlook for a battle soon is also not at hand. The enemy is frightfully afraid of Sigel and Sigel is now too weak to attack, so we will probably stay quiet some time longer if Sigel is not attacked. I for my own part am calm and to tell the truth I wish that we would have a battle tomorrow and stay at the battle and bring the war to an end. This is all that I can write you in relation to myself and our Regiment. As soon as anything interesting comes up, I will write you again immediately. We are situated in a lovely place, on a slope so that rain or water doesnít bother us in the least. Liquors are contraband and very difficult to receive. Bad liquor was sold, but was forbidden by the Command because it caused diarrhea. But I was invited by our lowest Lieutenant Weringer to drink a glass with him and he procured an excellent glass of bitters, which I can assure you did not taste bad at all to me.
He informed me in confidence that our Lieutenant-colonel Lehmann will be transferred to another regiment and is taking our Captain Landa along. He, Werninger, will be made Captain and things would be arranged so that I should become an orderly, if there is not too much opposition. Then I would be first in line for advancement to Lieutenant.
How, dear Mathilde, I desire only of you that if you perhaps receive no letter from me for some time, not to be disturbed. There are times here when it is almost impossible to write, but that should not in the least keep you from writing to me. In case that anything should happen to me, I have it arranged with our officers and with Adam and Philip to inform you of any accident that should happen to me. Write me an answer right soon and do not always wait for an answer from me. However I will do what I can and write when I have an opportunity. Write me about everything that interests me; about the slaughtering, about the potatoes, and harvest, and so forth, but especially how you and the dear children are getting along. Excuse me, dear Mathilde, that I wrote so scantily last time, less than I wanted to write and that also this time the letter is not so thorough. But it is really no pleasure to lie on the knees before a knapsack and write.
Goodbye, dear Mathilde, be convinced that I will do what I can for you and the children. Goodbye, greet the children and our acquaintances and a thousand kisses to you from your ever-loving
P. S. Oct. 21st, 1862
It was not possible last
Sunday for me to get the letter out to the office and I thought I would
be able to do it Monday.
Sunday evening we received an order to pack up on Monday morning, because Sigel wanted to hold an inspection over his whole division. Monday morning at daybreak we went four miles below Fairfax where Sigel held the inspection. When the inspection was finished, we marched another two miles to the same place where, a year before, the battle of Bullrun was fought and were returned to our camp late in the evening without having had a chance for spare time the whole day. This made me late in taking care of these few lines. We have drills seven hours a day and the other time of the day is filled up in cleaning our things and other tiring things, so this afternoon, I was excused from drill in order to take care of this letter. Again from your
Nov. 10th, 1862
On the March Between Hampton and
Warrenton, Blue Ridge Mountains
My Dear Mathilde:
Although I have already
written two letters without receiving an answer, I canít forbear to write
a few lines to you in a hurry. The first letter I wrote to you from near
Washington, the second from Fairfax Courthouse and this one on the march.
I will hope that you received both letters and I donít want to refer back
to them, only I want to tell you that, as I wanted to take the last letter
to the Post Office, I received your dear letter and I added a P.S. to mine.
Especially I hope that all of you are well and healthy and that, perhaps sickness, did not hold you back from writing. A few days after my letter left, we received marching orders, and marched only a few miles from Fairfax where we stayed for some days, while Sigel found himself on a reconnaissance tour. After that we marched through Centerville, then over the battlefield near Bull Run through Hampton where we camped only a few miles away. The last march took us 2 days; the road constantly went up and down hill because the whole country here is very hilly. In Hampton, or better yet before the Blue Ridge Mountains, our Company went on picket watch and some sad event happened in our Company. Our Lieutenant Orth, who was with us on watch, wanted to inspire the Posts in the evening and was shot in the abdomen by one of our men there, who mistook him in the darkness as a "Secesh". (Secessionist). The parties were shot through and by probing of the urethra blood showed up and the doctors called this wound very critical. I was with him all night and cooled his wound.
This was a hard blow for me. About 14 days ago, Lieutenant Berninger was transferred through some plotting of our Company and some good-for-nothing by the name of Smith was put in his place, and now Orth is lost to us. Both were my friends and they had the best in mind for me. As I wrote to you in my last letter, it is almost impossible to get ahead. Had I been a saloon or barkeeper in Milwaukee I would have a fine future, but knowledge and merits donít count. This last sad accident was only due to the inexperience of the Lieutenant and of the soldier. With some instructions it could have been prevented.
On the whole, you must not think too highly of the patriotism of the troops as it is often described in the newspapers. It was pretty hard on them. Many times when they were sure of the victory they were commanded back and they had to look on while "Secesh" pulled himself unhurt out of the snare. It was the same at the last Bull Run affair, where Sigel beat the enemy with 15 thousand and the next day had to retreat after M. Dowel, the traitor, was pushed against him. As you know through the papers the whole army is marching forward. The next day, the 9th, further marching orders. We marched in the mountains out of which the Rebels had fled by our arrival. On the way it started to snow and after our arrival here we had to clear the place from snow first before we could pitch our tent. Today, while I am sitting in my little tent, everything is white outside and my fingers are pretty cold.
Today we are sitting still. It took all day for the through march of troops. It is Bankís Army Corps. Daily we hear the thunder of cannons and perhaps in my next letter, if I come out of it, I will be able to write you a lot of things of interest. As it is known, Banks, Burnside and Sigel are united to grab the enemy here at the left wing, which is retreating now toward Richmond.
My dear Mathilde, todayís writing was meant to give you a sign of life from me. I am well and able to take the fatigue. Write to me about the election, drafting, etc.
Today I received the newspaper from Harris, for which you can thank him in my name. Would like to have it regularly.
Goodbye, thousand regards and kisses to you and dear little ones from:
Gainesville (Virginia) (Translated March 31, 1959)
November 11, 1862
My Dear Mathilde:
Received your dear letter
of the 29th yesterday evening and was very happy to hear from you, but
my happiness was very restrained due to the bad news you wrote me about.
(Here there are four lines which the translator was unable to read because
the letter was written in pencil and was worn in the fold. They have to
do with her being in need of help and his feeling so sorry that he is not
able to help her). There are so many promises made by every party and not
many are kept.
The rumor is going around that we will get paid in a short time. Some insisted the Paymaster was here already (three lines here translator said were no longer legible) because we are now on the march and as it is known, the enemy will hold the line at Gordonsville. The paymaster will also have a good excuse for not paying us. Other rumors say again that we for sure would stay here to make winter quarters and to guard the railroad from Gainesville to Warrenton. As it may be, my dear Mathilde, as soon as we get paid I will send you my whole pay. First I want to send you two dollars which the Captain owed me. He had to give it back to me at once after I received your letter. I was thinking of buying a pair of gloves for myself since the weather is so rough, but I think I will get along. You will have to get the affair with Fr. Arlt about the wagon in order, and if he should not be able to do the logging, you will have to take the wagon back. I hope that Harris helps you with advice and action. You are now in my place and you have the right to look out for your own advantage, though dear Mathilde, donít go too far and make unnecessary enemies. George Bayer just now came and paid me one dollar of the money which he owes me and now I am able to send you one more. I hope it is Godís will that I can send you a little more soon.
Yesterday, I sent a letter to you from New Baltimore dated the 10th, but it was really only the 8th. The following morning we made a side trip to Gainesville, where we still are. Yesterday we should have had a parade for McClellan, but at the same time came the news of his dismissal from the Potomac Army and that Burnside had received the command.
My Dear Mathilde, the whole war is only a humbug and had I known as much three months ago as I do now I would not have enlisted under my own free will.
The support from the State should be yours, only momentarily there seems to be no money. Did you talk to Battershill yet about your money? Try it. And how is it about the house? Did you sell it for lumber? Make sure the house is straightened up and write me about everything, real long letters. You will have time and better opportunities than we have. We now have small tents like we had in Africa, and only fixed up to sleep in. These are only about 4 feet high and arranged for 3 men, and each one has to carry his part with him. George Bayer drives an ambulance, for which he gets 25c extra each day. Until now I could not make up my mind yet to apply for such a job. At the moment, to write to you of prospects of advancement would be nonsense. Our Regiment gives no consideration to knowledge and earnings. To the contrary, it seems to me the most stupid ones are chosen.
My dear Mathilde, I will close. Excuse me for writing with pencil. There is no room to put the ink well without upsetting it. Farewell, and regards to the children.
In case something special comes up, I will write again.
Stafford Court House, December 22, 1862
My Dear Mathilde and Children,
I am sure you have been
waiting for a long time for a letter from me, but it isnít my fault and
I will tell you why. Received your letter about a week ago after it had
been in the Regiment for a week. Iíve been unable to get it because I was
transferred from that Regiment. Since I know you are eager to hear the
reason I will tell you right away. Iíve received your last letter in Gagentville
where we expected to be in the front line, but were disappointed. A few
days later we marched back to Pentreville, where we expected to take winter
quarters and stay there all winter. The soldiers were angry at the thought
of being around all winter.
One day our company came from Piequet and our orderly told me that there is an opening in the Ambulance Corps. You guessed it, the Corps is the one which carries the wounded back from the battlefield. The one holding the job now is leaving and he will give me the chance to take his place. I took it thinking to get a better place, but was disappointed that my job turned out to be a carrier. Usually the crew consists of fellows unable to fight in the Regiment and rough people on top of it. I was assigned to George Gagaís wagon. There wasnít much to do. My job was to empty five gallon jugs and refill them with fresh water. At times I didnít know what to do for pastime. One day I met Jacobs and he told me he talked to Brig. Commissioner Wendt about having me transferred into his dept. It was a bit of red tape to get out of my division because I was entered into Brigade, but finally got it and now of December with 25c raise a day. There is plenty of work and at times hard work. We have received the whole ration for the second Brigade in Shartz Division and distributed among the Regiments and different detachments. We work through whole nights and up to now havenít had time to wash my clothes. P. H. Feldmann did my washing and was glad to get paid for it in coffee and this is the reason dear Mathilde that I had to keep you waiting.
Despite the hard work I feel good and am physically strong. I canít spend money, but I will have to buy myself some boots. Itíll take a monthís pay, but it is impossible to work around the wagons in shoes. Iíll have to wait for 14 days, but I have to wait for the boots and in 14 days will have to march as reserves from Burnside to Fredericksburg. All other troops left have enough wagons. We left five oíclock in the afternoon and two oíclock at night until five in the morning we rested. There were thousands of wagons and they moved along slowly. In the evening we usually slept on top or underneath the wagons or I should say shivered in the cold weather. In four days we reached Fredericksburg. The way on both sides of the streets were hundreds of horses and mules. In February we learned that Burnside was lost after thousands died and we reserves are on this side and marched back to Stafford Court House. We are here for the last three days. Now I am sitting in my cold tent drinking coffee with sugar so that I can write to you. Captain Wendt left and Ob. Schmitt is our Com. This my dear Mathilde, is what happened lately.
My dear wife and children, in two days it is Christmas and I wish you your health and my best good wishes for a happy new year. May our dear God give that this war may end and in favor of the Union so that we who are married may be united to the circle of our families. It would be nice if we did get paid once, there were rumors. We will have to wait until February and then Congress will maybe worry about us. If you are in need, sell the sled or anything you think is right. Go to Harris. Pay day will come.
Dear Agnes, you made me happy writing to me those few lines. Be always a good child to your mother. Write again next time when your mother writes. And you Dear Walter and Clara, what I would give only to see you again. My dear wife as long as I am in our business, I most likely wonít see much of the enemy, you worry, you will not be the only widow to mourn over a husband. Be sure I will do my duty.
Adam Thalmann is very sick in the hospital. Iíve seen him for a minute tonight. It is sad to see somebody sick.
I am glad Fritz Alt will care for the land, it will give you a little income.
Dear Mathilde the paper is being used up and I would like to write to you much more, but my fingers are cold and the night I am unable to get more paper.
George B. owes me two dollars and fifteen cents. You can get it from his wife if she has the money over. It is all right with George.
Live well and write often and long letters. You have time and means and I will try my best to write soon. Goodbye and keep dear.
P. S. Excuse my penmanship and I have the paper all mixed up.
Stafford Court House, Jan. 17, 1863
My Dear Mathilde:
Received your last dear
letter from Dec. 29 some days ago, and was very happy to hear from you
and to know that all of you are still well and hope you have also received
my letter which I wrote to you a few days before Christmas and in which
I told you that I am employed in the Brigade Commissary since Dec. 1st
where I received a daily increase of 25 cents. Since I wrote this last
letter, nothing new has happened. Christmas and the New Year went by quietly,
but not so good for me because a few days before New Year I had a terrible
rheumatic tooth and headache and a bad catarrh. I was afraid I would have
to go to the hospital. I advised the Commissary to put another man in my
place for a few days but he didnít want to do this. He told me I should
take it easy for a couple of days and the others have to see to it to get
done without me. He could not see to take a strange man in his business
(office), and after a few days I was fine again.
It is impossible for me to write much today my Dear Mathilde, we again have march orders, nobody knows where to, and more likely we are at the evening before a battle. Though for us, that is here in the office are no prospects to earn any laurels because we have to stay back a respectable distance. We are now busy with packing and you my dear wife, have to be satisfied less lines, but I could not have the heart to let you be without any news. Since a few days ago, the rumor is going around again that we shall get paid, but I believe it will be drawn out until February, and you my Dear Mathilde, will have to be patient even though it makes my heart bleed as I wrote you in my last letter to sell the sled or see to get an advance from Harris.
I am so much the more sorry because I am well off, at least well fed and well clothed. I bought myself one pair of boots. Otherwise I donít need anything and my whole pay will come to you.
My Dear Mathilde, you wrote me that you were sorry that I didnít not go to the First Regiment. I could have shared the chance with Molton, yet my dear it is better perhaps this way. I am respectfully employed and am not exposed to any dangers and I prefer to be free as being taken prisoner. Who knows what for it is good that I am in this regiment and you should not complain..............
Feb. 2, 1863
My Dear Mathilde:
Your last letter I still
received in Stafford about 16 days ago and I would have answered same right
away if there had not been reasonable rumors that the paymaster would arrive
in a short time, and so the writing was delayed from one day to the other.
He came on Jan. 29, but we were very disappointed because we thought we
would get paid up to Jan. 1, but only were paid up to Nov. 1, which gave
me a sum of $18.20. After I paid my debts which amounted to $4.92 I am
sorry to say, it left me with the small sum of $13.00. My dear Mathilde,
you can imagine how my heart bled, that I could not send you any more under
your present circumstances. I have been very economical. For the $4.92
I had bought two handkerchiefs 30 cents apiece and a knife for 11 shillings.
The rest was for tobacco and you will not be surprised that I have used
so much if I tell you that we have to pay 20 cents for a small plug of
tobacco, perhaps half as heavy as I could buy it before. We also did not
receive our extra pay yet but should get paid for the month of Dec. in
a few days and then regularly every 3 months. My dear Mathilde, donít lose
your courage as I heard for sure, the Paymaster shall be back this month
yet to pay us up to Jan. 1 therefore further 2 months, which further $26
shall come to you shortly.
My dear wife, until not I only wrote about material things and it is now time to answer your dear lines and also to write you some of the news of our unbloody theater of war. I received you last letter a few hours later than when I put my letter in the mail, which your probably received long ago, otherwise I would have written a little more.
I am sorry your health is so bad. I hope it is only temporary and that you will be able to give me a better report shortly and perhaps the happy birth of a Prince or Princess and then your health will be better again too. I hope that you donít put too much work on your neck by tilling the land. Of course it would be worthwhile if you could keep some of the land for yourself, but your health comes first. Later, according to how you feel, you can fix it up as you like. Even though I can send you only a little money, it makes me very happy that the "little" still arrives at the right time. Take care of yourself and rather keep Agnes out of school if there is no other way. She can make up for it later. I am glad the children are behaving themselves so well and are helping you. Dear Agnes and Walter, Mama wrote me that you alternate with making the fires and that you are good otherwise. Keep it up and be kind to your Mama and your reward will come. I am writing you my thanks now. Now one thing more I have to mention. From many soldiers in the Regiment I heard that their wives had received assistance from the state: if your conditions permit you will have to call on Harris once more. I donít think it is right for the State Treasurer to give out assistance to women who already get assistance of 5 to 8 dollars a month from their towns or wards and our women, who, due to the poverty of the county canít get assistance, still donít get any help from the State. You have to explain things to Harris as I write it to you and refer to the local support, that you get none and women in other towns both. After it is once in order with our pay I hope that you shall not suffer any more.
Aaron Molton will be very disappointed if he thinks he can stay here. The case will probably be, that the Secesh have more prisoners from us than we have from them and therefore he could not be exchanged. I wish him with all my heart that he can stay with his family.
Adam Heilmann was discharged from the hospital but had a relapse and was sent to Alexandria or Washington. Until now we donít have any news from him.
About the allotments, I have to write you that all our names from Sturgeon Bay were not entered, also a blunder of Captain Landa, but it is just as well. The only difference is that I send you the money, otherwise it would have been deduced by the paymaster and he would send it to the respective addresses. I would rather have a pitiful death before I would agree to that. I donít think you can complain about my extravagance. Now we are almost 5 months in the field and if I would not have bought the handkerchiefs and knife, my expenditures would have been small enough. I think Feldmann has more debts than I. My capital is still $8, because I did not yet receive the $20 over $18 from our Captain.
Write the addresses of your letters as usual (only in care of Captain Schmidt, Brig. Commissary). This way I get the letters earlier because the letters go from the Brigade to the Regiment and have to be sent back again to the Brigade.
As I wrote you in my last letter, we had march orders, that means be always ready for department. We had to give out rations every 2 days to the Regiments which only happened every 5 days and you can imagine our work, and always the uncertainty when to start marching. At last after 5 days it is said "Forward", no one knew where. The roads were pretty good. Burnside, now Thorkas (Thomas) Army wanted to cross the Rappahannock at Fallmouth and Fredericksburg, but after one dayís march a terrible unfavorable weather started. It started to rain, the next day an awful snowstorm. All the pontoons to build bridges and artillery were stuck in the mud and the Secesh Pickets amused themselves by putting big signs on long sticks which they held up high (Burnside is stuck in the mud). In short, our Army had to back up from the river because they were about 1/2 mile away from it and we are staying here for further orders, till the roads will be better and I hope we will have a big success to obtain some kind of decision against our enemy.
Under the circumstances, we are pretty well set up here and hope that we can wait here during the rest of the bad weather. The dismissal of Burnside from his command you have found out through the papers and I think it was a wise move. The armies had no trust in him and I heard many say they would not fight under Burnside. McClellan is in good standing with them and I believe myself that if McClellan would have stayed at the rudder, brilliant results would have been obtained.
Now my dear Mathilde and children I have to close. Thousand regards and kisses from me and dear Agnes, you will make me happy, if you would send me a few lines every time when Mama writes. Your last letter was written much better and I donít have to repeat to you dear Mathilde that you will be writing ambitiously.
I will hope that I can send you more by the end of this month. With pleasure I look forward to your next letter and will hope that the enclosure will arrive in good order.
Once again, adieu to you Dear. Regards to all acquaintances, from:
Ernst Damkoehler. (Translated May, 1958)
Headquarters Second Brigade, 3d Division
Near Stafford Court House
February 23, 1863
My Dear Mathilde:
Hope you received my last
letter in which I sent you thirteen dollars. Daily I am awaiting an answer
from you, but since I have time today to write to you, I donít want to
let the opportunity go by.
A day after I wrote my last letter from Maria Church, we received March orders and moved back here in two days. It was terrible weather. The first day it snowed continuously, and the second day it rained and we had to suffer a lot with the bad weather and messy roads, but Thank God it did not hurt me any. Also, we had a terrible storm here for a couple of days and today the snow is one and one-half feet deep. You can imagine how miserable it is to work the whole day in this weather, but our shift canít stand still. I can assure you, dear Mathilde, that the blood ran out of my fingers from the strenuous work of rolling the heavy kegs in the terrible mud, besides sometimes carrying one under my arm. Every evening I was so tired that I could not sleep due to exhaustion and pain. I really thought of going back to the Regiment. Only the thought in mind that I could earn more money here and that I could provide better for you, my dear, held me back. I hope that with the coming Spring and nicer weather my work will become a little easier.
That apart (it is late in the evening and I cannot continue to write). That the Potomac Army is shipped out, you probably know, but what happens to us the Lord only knows (..?..) for us is here and as soon as the roads are a little passable, the artillery and train will move. (Some say to Tennessee, others to North Carolina). In any case, not many troops remain in Virginia. It would also be unwise to get our heads banged together in those mountains. When our Army goes into another State, the Rebels will also be forced to leave their forts and re-route their troops more to the South or Southwest. Anyway, when the good weather comes, it will be nice for our troops to have something to do. This marching and then lying around again affects the discipline of the soldiers.
You probably read about the decision of the Illinois Legislature, but I hope you donít believe in it. I hope that you have enough patriotism to bear our longer parting instead of seeing me coming home to such an eerie peace. I am still as good a patriot as I was the first day of my enlistment. Dear Mathilde, I donít want to complain to you, for you know I thought if over well before becoming a soldier.
(Yesterday evening I was called off from my writing again because we had to take inventory of all our goods until late at night).
I received news from Theodore from a soldier from 58th Street in New York. They were together in the hospital in Philadelphia and he is sure of his discharge. He heard that they undertook an operation on Theodore, which turned out pretty badly. Instead of his water taking the natural course, it had to come out of an opening between the legs. His address is National Hospital, Bee Street, between 3rd and B Streets. his thought was to go back to Wisconsin and I would not be surprised that he comes to you.
Yesterday morning George Bayer paid my $2.75 from which I send you $2.25. With the rest (50 cents) I have bought tobacco. I hope the Paymaster keeps his word and comes around this month to pay us up to the first of January. I did receive my extra pay for December (5 1/2 days) and paid for my boots with it. Up to the first of February I again have $15 to my credit and up to now I have not one cent debts. If our pay should be put off until March and we only get paid up to January first, I will be able to send you $40.00
My dear Mathilde, you probably know how depressing it is for me to know that the time comes nearer when our family circle will increase, and the time of pain is in the future, and I canít stay at your side. Perhaps I am not even sure of a homecoming. Dear Mathilde, always have good courage, and then with the good courage you can bear a lot. I hope to receive shortly some enjoyable news from you.
I canít plead with you often enough to write more often. It would give the greatest pleasure to me to write you every week, if I could only spare the time. If I get back to the Regiment I will write more often.
Thousand regards from your,
P. S. I took the 2 shillings to buy postage stamps.
Stafford Court House, April 12, 1863
My Dear Mathilde:
I wrote you two letters
already and could have had an answer to the latter. With anxiety I have
been waiting for two weeks already for a letter from you, but always in
vain. You canít imagine in what unrest I find myself and not a moment passes
by that my thoughts are not with you. What is the reason for the long silence?
This uncertainty could drive my crazy because I know what situation you
are in. Philipp was with me a couple of days ago and said that G. Bayer
received a letter from his wife, in which she wrote him that she was with
you and you were expecting your confinement in a few days. Soon thereafter
came Adam Heilmann and brought the sad news of the death of his sister,
the wife of George Senft, and since this moment I feel like somebody hit
me on the head and will not have any rest until I get news from you.
About 14 days ago someone from our Regiment went back to Milwaukee with his discharge. He offered to take along a package from me containing a new gray overcoat which you have probably already received by express. At the same time I hope you also received the $14 which I sent to you about 4 weeks ago. You can use the overcoat for the children and I believe I will make a strong suite for both youngsters.
Nothing has changed with us and we are still at the same place. Since a few days ago, we have had beautiful weather. The streets are getting dry and we will surely have to march in a very short time and soon we will encounter the Rebels and may God permit that the battle turns out in our favor.
A few days ago the rumor went around that Charleston was taken but later turned out to be untrue. It would have raised the morale of the soldiers much if the Rebels had been taken in by such a dangerous blow. With curiosity, we are waiting for the daily papers and almost every day we expect to be able to read the good news of the fall of Charleston. Yesterday, our Army Corps had a big parade in front of the President, which was favored by beautiful weather. Naturally, I was only an onlooker and had a nice view from a hill to the place opposite the president. The wife of the President and his family were also there. After the parade was over they went back to Washington.
My dear Mathilde, I wrote you in my last letter that I intended to stay for a length of time there in the department but it didnít take much and I would have gone back to the Regiment because a few days after I mailed my letter the Commissary told me that after March 1st no extra pay would be paid (as I mentioned in my last letter) and the ones which did not want to serve without extra pay could go back to the Regiment. I told him that under such circumstances I would go back immediately. He shrugged his shoulders and did not say anything further. The next morning he saw me packing my things together, called me over and asked me if I wanted to go; I stuck with the same answer and explained the reasons, when he told me that I should stay. He would do all right and take care that I should get my pay later on and now everything is the same as before.
When I was talking about the parade before I forgot to remark that our Army is in tip top condition. Almost all had new uniforms and also all looked well nourished (fed) and I think there is no army in the world provided for better than ours.
However, in the month of May our Army will suffer an important split, because 20 to 30 thousand (mostly 2 year service) will get their release and I think that a lot of them will serve again. The biggest part will go home. Yesterday, General Shurz went with the President to Washington and in general we think that he will get a command in Kentucky under Burnside and his Division goes with him. I donít believe much in rumors, the future will decide. I wrote you in my last letter that General Shurz would get the Corps, but it is not so. Our new Corps Commanderís name is Howard. He lost an arm in a former (previous) battle and at this moment Shurz as major general has only one division to command. No news from Sigel. Our paymaster did not come yet either but we are waiting for him. This is about all the news I can tell you. As soon as we go on the march I will keep a diary then I will be able to write to you all my adventures.
Adam Heilmann is still ailing but he told me today the Doctor now has hopes to cure him.
Easter Sunday was an uncomfortable day for us because we had a terrible snowstorm and at the same time it was issue day for the Brigade, but I will hope that this was the last snow and that the weather will now become more stable.
Now my dear Mathilde, I have to rush for the finish. May it be Godís will that you and also the children will receive these lines in the best of health.
I hope that when you are over your afflicted condition your paralysis of your arm will also cease and make it easier for you to write to me and I hope to get letters more frequently.
Farewell, my dear. May God take you under his protection and let us have soon a happy reunion. Thousand greetings and embraces by your:
Ernst Damkoehler (Translated and typed May, 1958)
Stafford Court House, April 14, 1863
My Dear Mathilde:
Again a few days want
by without any news from you, but I canít resist to write some lines to
you this night.
We received marching orders today and it was a day of work and unrest for us. We are not sure yet if we will march tomorrow or not, but we have to be prepared every moment. As is known, 12,000 men of our troops, mostly cavalry, crossed the Rappahannock and have been under fire all day and it depends what success they have to lay out our march route. Most likely we will march to Culpepper. As is known, Jackson should be at Warrenton Junction with very strong power and I am convinced that it will come to a decisive battle in a few days. As it looks to me, the secesh will once more risk a Bull Run Battle where we were badly beaten twice before. May it be in our favor this time.
My dear it is my aim this evening not to write you a long letter. This evening I am very tired but I donít have any rest until I write a few lines to you. Who knows, my dear Mathilde, where your next letter will find me. Now we are at the eve of big events and how many a good friend will in a short time be among those who offered their lives for our righteous affair. Dear Mathilde, I also propose to go along if I get permission from the Commissary and I find out when our Regiment is getting into the fire. I donít think it can do any harm to give a little encouragement to our Regiment. According to our last inspection the copperheads seem to be pretty well represented. At the same time I donít think that the Regiment will give the performance as I first believed.
After 2 oíclock. The 82nd Ohio arrived and were drawing rations from us and I am so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open. At the same time I know nothing new to write because I only sent a letter to you two days ago. May these lines reach you in good health. The paymaster was not here yet either.
My address is as before: 26 Reg. Wisc: V c/o C. Schmidt, Sr. Comm. Second Br. 3 Div. 11 Army Corps.
Dear Mathilde, I canít beg you enough, at least to answer my letters. If you knew how many worries you could spare me you would grant my wish. Farewell, Dear Mathilde and you little ones. Many regards from
More. Would have written more but the office is closed and I donít have any more paper.
Stafford Court House, May 13th 1863
My Dear Mathilde:
Because I have time this
morning I will write you a few lines. Yesterday we received our extra pay
again for the months of March and April. If it is at all possible, I will
take the $15.00 this afternoon to the Express. Yesterday we had a big distribution
day and I think, I will have time this afternoon, to ride to Aquia Creek
Landing, to take care of the money. I am always happy My Dear Mathilde,
when I can send you money and it is always a satisfaction for me to have
the assurance that you are protected against shortages. I with I had the
time. I could and would write a lot today.
The first time, since I departed from you, I was dreaming about you real plain. Saw you sitting at the window and when I can came in the house, you had disappeared. Only the little Ernst I had in my arms kissing him and he told me Mama is gone, then I asked him, where are the other children and he said they are upstairs and I only saw so little of you and the other children. Dear Mathilde, what I would give to be with you only once for a short time, but when this time will come! I am afraid that this war will last longer than we all imagined unless unforeseen circumstances happen which bring the war to a faster end. About the results of the last battle at Fredericksburg, you probably will have better information than we. Just think about the "humbug". Baltimore's Republic Newspapers want to make all believe that we are on the other side of the Rappahannock, being busy with the pursuit of the enemy. We know and are glad that we could make a safe retreat across the river.
At the same time, you probably read about the bad endurance in the fire of the 11th Army Corps (which is generally true). Even soldiers with little understanding saw the bad arrangement of the Corps. The little artillery which was with us was placed in such a way that they would have had to shoot down our troops first before they could do any harm to the enemy, and naturally, after our Infantry retreated, the artillery was not covered any more and several cannon were taken by the enemy. Our Regiment stood up well after it was ordered back twice, and only after it was partly surrounded and was in a terrible crossfire it fell back, only to collect itself again behind a hill, to give the enemy a couple more rounds, from where it had to retreat then, because all Divisions, at least for a mile long in back of it, were engaged in a wild fight. The number of dead and wounded are sure evidence how the Regiment stood up and even though the whole Corps which had covered the retreat last summer at Bull Run under Sigel and saved the whole Army from being imprisoned, has lost its good name through the stupidity of a General, Howard, still our regiment is well respected. Now enough of that.
Already different efforts are made to get me back in the Regiment as a Sergeant, but I just quietly take it in. (Part of a letter. Translated & Typed May 1958.)
Near Brooks Station, May 28, 1863
My Dear Mathilde:
Just now I received your
lovely letter of the 19th of this month. I was very happy to hear from
you and to find that all of you are well, and especially that the money
arrived safely. I think that in a couple of days you will receive $15.00
more which I sent off by Express on the 14th of May. I was a little worried
about the first $90.00 because it was know that 150 thousand dollars were
stolen from the Express Company. This was supposed to be the money for
our Army Corps. At the same time I had a few hundred dollars more with
me which I sent to Milwaukee for other people and no news came that the
money arrived. About eight days ago, our Receiving Clerk got the news that
the money arrived and I relaxed. A few days ago, Phillipp received a letter
from his wife in which she told him that the money arrived and at the same
time about the accident which could have ended in death. I also want to
remark that I received your letter of the 9th of May and at the same time
one of the 8th of April which I thought was lost and which showed the postmark
DayPosville (Red River). Now only the one of April 3rd is lost.
Hourly, we are awaiting the Paymaster who will pay us for the next two months and you can figure on $25.00 within eight days after I get it. We will probably be paid at the start of next week. It is a pleasure for me that we now get paid regularly and I hope this moment that all your worries are over, even if the Government doesn't pay any more extra pay. The Commissary paid us out of his own pocket and promised to keep on doing it as long as we stay with him.
I would have answered your last lovely lines earlier, but every hour I was waiting for a letter from you. Just this afternoon I wanted to start writing because I had such a longing to talk a little with you when your letter arrived. I don't have much to write because nothing new has happened. Every day the same monotony.
We changed our Camp and now we are perhaps a mile from the first one. This was done for health's sake. During the winter a terrible mass of Unrot was accumulated and now in the hot weather it started to poison the air. Our new camp is wonderful! It's in the middle of the forest with a famous view towards Falmouth and the surrounding country. Naturally, we left some trees standing to have some nice shady places and we fixed everything so that we might live as nicely as possible, even though we knew that we will have to make a third try in a short time near Fredericksburg. The only thing that reminds us that we are awaiting a march order is that we always have to have on hand eight rations. Our troops are in good spirits and I am sure the biggest part of them are looking forward to getting together against Lee another time. They all seem to be sure of winning.
Even if the Rebels claim the victory, there is not question that if Lee wins such a victory, his army will go to the devil. Hooker was blamed in different papers, but has the confidence of the soldiers. It is only the miserable set up of our Corps because of General Howard that we had to retreat in such a shameful way. In all the reports from Carl Shurz and Kryzanoski our Regiment was outstanding. At least they give the Regiment some justice. At the same time, we can't deny that the favorable reports from the Mississippi Department gave our troops much encouragement. According to today's papers, it is inevitable that the Vicksburg lines will be in our power within a few days. Therefore, the Rebels are pretty well finished, because they will be cut off from Texas where they received all their supplies. At any time we can throw a mass of troops at any of the Southern states so that the Rebels will become disgusted.
My dear Mathilde, although I said I didn't have much to write, my paper is coming to an end and I have to rush to answer your lovely lines. In your earlier letter, my dear Mathilde, you write about plowing land for wheat. How is it? Doesn't Hensing fix up the land, and what about the new land? Did Fritz Arlt finish his logging? If not, you will have to tell him that I did not think he would disappoint me by not fulfilling his promises. He said he would do everything possible for you and you should expect him to do what he owes you, for I gave him a good deal too.
I see you your letter of the 9th that you were bitten by a poisonous spider and am glad that you didn't have any serious after-effects.
I also read that you received the coat in good condition. Oh, dear Mathilde, I wish I could more often find the opportunity and I surely would make the winter more comfortable for you. This way, I have to forget about it. Perhaps in the fall, if I am still alive, I can get a furlough. If only the trip would not cost so much, because I know you are in need of everything I can afford. I hope it is going to be all right.
Have you received my last letter, dear Mathilde? I wrote to you from Hardwood Larch that our Corps was in the firing, but you could figure I was not in with it. We are still several miles from the Rappahannock. I begged the Commissary to let me go along, but he would not give in. He said he wanted to have a dependable man in the rear and he was sure that if something came up I would do my duty and my position was just as honorable as if I had been directly in the battle. Our Commissary was in it and he promised to take me with him the next time. But don't worry, dear Mathilde.
I am very sorry that you lost so many potatoes in Kurba's cellar. If it is possible and you can afford the money I would have our cellar fixed up. But don't forget to dig a ditch in front of the house and fill it in with stones, or better yet, have a good new roothouse built. When you make your decision, write me about it. I believe it would be a good improvement and would only cost a couple dollars more. You can talk it over with any of the neighbors whom you trust and then build it, but build it at least two feet into the ground. Then the earth which you will need for covering will leave a ditch deep enough to keep the house dry.
I am very happy that little Harry is such a good child. Oh, dear Mathilde, what I would give to see you all for a short time!
It is right that you bout German schoolbooks for the children and I hope that they will make good use of them.
In your letter of April 8th you wrote me the story from G.B. which I ignored. I wrote you in my last letter the way he wanted to blacken you toward me my dear Mathilde, and I hope you will not spill any bad blood about it.
I have to close now, my dear Mathilde. Don't forget your promise to write every week.
In a few days I hope to be able to write a few lines and include $25.00.
Greetings to all and kisses to you and the children.
Greetings to Harry. Sometimes you can tell him here and there something of my letters that would interest him.
(Translated March, 1958)
Goose Creek - June 22, 1863
(Possibly "Goose Neck")
My Dear Mathilde:
It is a long time, my
dear Mathilde, that I did not write to you and did not receive one (letter)
from you. Yesterday evening your letter from June 3 was handed over to
me. I also should not forget that I received you dear lines from May 23
before we went on the march but had not time to answer. I received them
after I had sent off the last money of $25. You will have received by now
the first $15 and the last $25, which I mailed by express. The last was
$60, altogether for you, George Zayer and Ph. Feldmann and mailed June
7. The first $15 was sent out May 14, and I should think that it could
have arrived by June 3, when you wrote your last letter. I hope that you
received both sums. Almost two months have gone by and as soon as we get
our extra pay I will not miss to send it to you at once. I borrowed $5
but only spent 25c of it. At the same time, there is the probability that
we will get paid next month for 2 months further if we are in a place where
the paymaster can reach us.
Now I will hurry to answer your dear lines because my mind is alert and it is said that the mail goes out tomorrow. .... for 8 miles while we were on the march, it was the first time ... -day that we received mail in the camp. I don't want to be too much ...by the first letter. I was very sad that you were offended about what I wrote, what G. B. said. I would not have mentioned it if I didn't have as much time to ... The God Lord is ...(lines are blurred).
No my dear Mathilde, be assured none of those reports will ever enter my mind. We are not married 12 years and I got to know you from the best side. I also believe no further efforts will be made because the attempt to make you look bad towards me was a failure. Perhaps it will come in reverse, that they will maybe try to make me look bad towards you. I would have liked it much better that you did not express your opinion to anyone. I can't write at this moment to F. Arlt; say hello and tell him I was happy about the sympathy which he showed for you and herewith I will let the story rest about G.B. You did not have any cause to write me the whole story. It is just as I thought as I also have mentioned in my letters.
That you will call the little boy Henry or Harry I like very well, but I would like it much better if I could see the youngster once. Who knows if the little one is allowed to get to know his Father.
In you last letter you write a lot about the expenses which the farm has made to you. Now it is a little too late to do anything about it. If I should not be back by next year you can arrange it for yourself as you like it. You will have an opportunity to compare the expenses against the income and if you see that it doesn't pay you can let the money lay. In any case you will have to work somewhat for yourself, until next year, when the children will be much older and so much more help. Should it not work out, you will then have to place Walter somewhere where he can work according to his physical fitness. If it would be my fate that I have to stay away 3 years or don't come back at all, he would become so unmanageable that it will be hard to make anything of him.
Yes, if the children would be kept busy in school it would be another thing, but children have to do something useful one way or the other, spiritually or physically. I always expected from Agnes that she would be a great help to you. Tell here that I am very happy that she has a helping hand for her mama and that I will bring her something nice when I get back home.
Don't worry about bringing in your harvest. You probably have enough money to get somebody even if Taensing doesn't want to help.
Now, Dear Mathilde, I also have to write something from here. We know very little and don't get any papers. June 9th we marched from Stafford and went toward the west to Kratlet Station where we arrived late at night. The third day we marched all day and went to Centerville. It was said Lee wanted to break through there. Our Corps drew up and the train went back a few miles between Centerville and Fairfax Courthouse where we stayed two days, the horses all harnessed and ready to go. The second day I had to give out rations to our Brigade which stood on picket watch at Bull Run and came back in the evening pretty tired. The following morning at 3 o'clock we broke up and went through. Centerville eastward to Gooseneck. It is near Leesburg and Edwardís Ferry. It was a march of about 27 miles and a terrible heat. This past Saturday our Commissary was ordered to draw rations in Fairfax Station for the whole Corps. A distance of about 30 miles. Sunday morning we left with 50 wagons. Captain and I soon left again and rode forward and even we were admonished to take great precautions ........ along good .... Both of us are .... (too blurry) reached Fairfax Station in good shape, from where we rode back 14 miles, after our business was finished and our wagon loaded. We stayed overnight with a "secesh" family. The Captain slept in the house and I in the yard, revolver and sword beside me. The horses were in a small pasture next to the house. We let no one come out so that they could not speak with other neighbors and the night passed by real quiet. During the night by horse was kicked by the others and was so lame that we were forced to wait for the train. I had to tie my horse behind a wagon and make the whole trip by foot. Yesterday afternoon I came back pretty tired.
Yesterday evening I got your dear letter but it was written so small it was impossible for me to read it by light and I had to postpone it until this morning. After I did my work, and I heard that tomorrow mail was supposed to go out, I started to answer your lines. But I still have to tell you a little adventure which I had to live through in Stafford. Two days ago, before we marched off, two teams of horses were stolen. I got ready for the pursuit and brought one back the other morning, but riding through all the camps, I could not find a trail of the other horse. Here and there, horses run around which are sick and the owners don't care about them any more. The Captain told me, if it was possible to find such a one, to exchange it at the Quartermaster of our Brigade. I took along our old black teamster and we did not ride far when we thought we had found such a horse. After we rode back a little, we were pursued by some of the Cavalry who owned the horse. They called to us to stop, but we did not, then we heard a shot, but we ran off. Our "old one" (probably the old teamster) was caught and taken back as prisoner. I rode back at once to explain our error but as I got there they also took me along, but not for long. As soon as we got on the road I gave the fellow riding beside me a push so that he fell off the horse and rode full speed to the left, toward home where I at once reported the whole affair. The General Krysinowski made arrangements right away to get the "old one" loose. The next morning he came back by himself, because the Cavalry had to march that night and during the excitement he escaped. The same afternoon, we were also on the march.
Dear Mathilde, I have to close. I had to finish writing this letter early this morning to be able to send it our yet. Farewell, also my dear children. Thousand regards and kisses from your Father.
Excuse my bad writing. I am sitting in the wagon to write and can hardly move around, and I have a miserable pen.
E. Damkoehler, 26R. Wisc. V.T. 11th Corps via Washington. You can't write the letter to a certain place. Via Washington is enough. From there it will be sent to the Corps.
Camp Near Warrenton Junction, August 4th, 1863
My Dear Mathilde:
I received your last letters,
the latest one of July 26th about half an hour ago. In both letters it
is stated that you did not receive the few lines which I wrote to you shortly
after the battle of Gettysburg. I am still among the living after this
dreadful battle. I wrote the letter to you while on the way and approximately
on the 6th of July and sent it when I had the opportunity to Emmetsburgh
to have it taken to the post office there. I wrote you that on the first
day I was on the battlefield and in our Commissary, and even if I took
no active part in the battle, we were exposed to very strong fire. In the
afternoon, we received a report that the Army Corps was going back to a
safer position and at the same time, our horses during the night almost
fell from exhaustion. The next day the Corps went back as far as Westminster
where I stayed one day with the Captain and on July 4th went back to Gettysburg
with him. From this time on we remained with the Brigade until Lee made
his crossing of the Potomac at Williamsport, and then we rejoined the Army
Corps. There were marches, with the greatest exertion attached. By day
and by night I was almost continuously in the saddle. I could describe
the battles well, but I don't fell in the mood for that and wouldn't even
have the time if I tried to do so. Many times already I have begun to write
you since I received your previously received letters, but each time I
had to give it up and the paper is ruined.
But today I must, and I will write you even if I have to stay up al night. Before this, we had an opportunity to write at night, for seldom, even on the marches did we have to work all through the night.
My best Mathilde, you can imagine what a sorrowful mood your last two letters have placed me in. I have many times been almost beside myself. Your position is one to be lamented, many times over, worse is mine. How many times I have cursed the moment in which I determined even to risk my life to help our government. If I had remained at home I could have helped you in your sickness, and could have looked after the children so they wouldn't become wild. And I am so far distant from you all, I can hardly write words with certainty that you will receive them and must realize that you are suffering and in need of help which I cannon give. My dear Mathilde, you have become an essential for my life. As long as I know that you are well and free from care, I could bear the sorrow, but now it is unbearable for me. Even my life is a burden to me, and still I know it is my duty to keep this life for you.
I cannot be opposed to your wish to go to your brother Theodore, although under other conditions I would not consent to it. The trip will cost a lot, and I do not want under any circumstances to be placed under obligation to your brother. And there is also the big question, how will you get along with your sister-in-law. These are all things which you should keep in mind. If you should not get along well with them, then perhaps you would have to take the long trip back home again. Our extra pay is very small at the most, I cannot send you more than ten dollars a month, until perhaps we are given extra pay again. The paymaster is here now only to pay us for two months. When we went on the march I had to buy myself a revolver for ten dollars of which I paid four dollars. Moreover, I had to borrow some money, because the last time I had sent you every cent. So I borrowed three dollars of which I still have two. So, in all I have eleven dollars to pay. The rest - $15.00, I will send to you; just how I do not know at present. Perhaps I will enclose it in this letter. Then you cannot expect any more money until we are paid again. What makes it worse for me is that my revolver was stolen from a wagon; I have nothing to show for the ten dollars I spent for it. If I had received your letter before the last one sooner, in which you wrote about your sickness, I would not have bought the revolver. I didn't know at that time that our extra pay would be deducted. So it seems that misfortunes come together; you need more money now and my debts have increased. I will just hope that the fifteen dollars will be enough to pay the harvest workers. But dear Mathilde what will you do with the produce if you go away? You have given out much money for workers already and I hardly believe that you will receive half of the same in cash again. Still, let everything happen as it will, as long as it contributes to making you healthy again. That is my only wish and may the dear Lord grant it. Your brother Theodore still has not written to me. If he did write, I would carry out your wish and answer him. I still cannot find out anything about Ph. Feldman. I can still not learn anything except that he was wounded. But whether he is dead, or in what hospital he is, I can't determine. I want to hope that he is alive and that he had no opportunity to let it be known to his wife. You also have not written me what prospects you have from the harvest. I do not know how I should work it with this letter. It is possible that this letter can no longer get to Sturgen Bay, and if I lay the money in it, the letter could get lost and the money with it. And I do not know if I will get the chance to send it by express. Any rate as soon as you decide, and your position is not otherwise than to leave Sturgeon Bay, you might write me by what means you intend to travel, and the address. You write that you would like to have my view about whether or not we will be coming home soon. It is impossible for me to form an opinion if the war will end soon or not. I should be able to do that; if everything is done as it should be, the war could be brought to a close end. It seems, however, that this will not happen. As it seems to me, the South must be split out of the Union until the next Republic President is elected. If the South were I the Union, and were well-advised, these politicians who do not have the welfare of their country at heart, but use all means to obtain their own greedy gains, could easily put an end to the tragedy. Whether my opinion is the right one, the future will prove. Would to God that I were wrong.
August 12th. Despite my best intentions, I was not able to finish the letter. And at the same time I decided to wait a few days after pay day because then the letters would cause less attention. I did not have the chance to send it by express. Enclosed is $15.00. The paymaster is supposed to return before long to pay us for July and August. I am sorry that I cannot send you more. The next time you will receive $20.00. Yesterday I saw George Bayer. He was asking about news from home. I told him that you had written me that his wife had given birth to twins. He was beside himself with joy and did not know what to do. He does not know the date of the birth. Naturally some celebration will not be lacking.
As it seems to me, our army will stay put for some time and be assured that I will use some time to write to you again. I have not been well the last few days. I had diarrhea, but I feel better now. Our army should be enlarged with the draftees, and then things will begin again. In the beginning of September when the terrific heat has lessened, operations will be taken up anew.
But, my dear Mathilde, I must now come to a close quickly. Love me, my best Mathilde. May God soon give you back your health which you need so much.
Goodbye, and a thousand greetings and kisses from your ever faithful Ernst. Greet the children many times and write again real soon.
(Translated February, 1958)
Warrenton Junction, Sept. 7th, 1863
My Dear Mathilde:
Although I did not receive
an answer to my last letter, which I wrote on about the 12th of the past
month, I have to write to you, because for more than 3 weeks I was unable
to read or write anything. I mentioned in my last letter, in which I sent
(included) $15. and which I hope you received that I was not well, but
was on the way to getting better; but the next morning I woke up with a
terrible fever together with summer complaint. I was forced to go to the
doctor without getting relief. Though the diarrhea ceased, the fever went
up and regulated itself in this way, that it started every morning at 7
o'clock combined with headaches, which aces could not compare with the
aches I was able to stand before. The aches were concentrated on the left
side and eye and lasted towards afternoon. The other times when I did not
have any pains I was so worn out that I did not do anything else but sleep.
I was forbidden to read and write. I would not have been able to anyhow.
God be praised and thanked, since a few days ago I am pretty well again
and I can't resist to write to you dear, and I will hope my dear Mathilde,
that you also may receive my lines in better health. Although my dear Mathilde,
I still did not receive any calming news about your health, I can write
a little more encouragingly. The same help which I gave you before I can
give you from now on.
After Captain Schmidt tried out different ones to take care of his horse and to do other little jobs for him, he offered me to take over; even though at the start it took and effort to be a servant, my love of you surpassed the opinion. I receive $10. a month more and am still in the department, but I am spared all the hard work and my position is bettered instead of worse. The Captain has a lot of faith in me and I hope he has no reason to regret it. (I just wanted to mention, as I spoke of my sickness, that I was reduced from 150 pounds to 126 pounds). Today, we were paid for two more months and you will receive the money this time by express. I send you the two months pay and also $2. which I had left over, all total $28. The next time it shall be $40. again. You can't imagine, my dear Mathilde, how glad I am that I can send you more than expected this time. I hope you can now look to the future without worries.
My dear Mathilde, I can't write very much. My eyes are aching terribly and I can't see what I am writing. I have to limit myself to the most important facts.
I came to my mind that if your sickness did not originate from your irregularity with which you were tormented since our marriage and that your blood is in such a condition that you have to take special care of your treatment, I would advise you to consult a good doctor verbally or in writing. I trust you understand me, what I mean.
Another thing that makes me happy is the extra pay and that I don't have to lose all hopes to pay you a visit at home next winter which would have been impossible if it did not turn out this way.
My dear Mathilde, because I don't know that you are getting my letters in Sturgeon Bay, I will address them to J. Harris who will know your address.
I did not hear anything from Ph. Feldman and I am certain that he was left dead on the field.
Further, I can't resist to mention that it came to some discussions between myself and G. Bayer where he assured me that this which he heard about you came all from Mrs. Arlt. This story was too disagreeable to even investigate any further and hope that you also won't mention it, as the matter is put aside long ago and even should be forgotten.
Farewell, Dear Mathilde. It is not possible for me to write any further. Many regards also the children from your
Tennessee, Opposite Lookout Mountain Battery
November 8th, 1863
My Dear Mathilde:
Received your dear letters
of October 4th and 9th yesterday and you can just imagine my enjoyment
at hearing from you again. Sadly the news of your well being again gives
me a source of unrest and apprehension. I had hopes, in your last letter
which I received in Rappahannock Station, that you would be much better.
Now I beg you my dear Mathilde, get the thought out of your mind that it
could lead to consumption just because there was a case in ......family.
I will hope for the best and to see you again well and happy.
Now, my dearest Mathilde, I will write about here and our last experiences and then you will see the reason for my silence. About September 22nd we received orders from Warrenton Station to go to Rappahannock Station to watch the bridge and the railroad and we expected to stay there for some time. We collected a lot of boards and where building huts and made it real comfortable for ourselves when all of a sudden an order came to break camp at once. Our brigade train left at three o'clock in the afternoon, while we went to work until one o'clock at night and then march back to ... Station with the troops, where the troops came out of the cars and where we were also awaiting transportation. The Captain and the men got on, but not our team and the horses. So, I got the pleasant job of accompanying the wagon to take it via Centerville, Fairfax, to Alexandria, where the streets were overrun by guerrillas, and I also had orders to ride through day and night to reach Alexandria on time. We did not know our destination yet. Some believed we were going to Charleston, others to reinforce Rosecrans, and we thought we'd get directly on the train or steamboat and speed was necessary. The same day, in the afternoon, I arrived in Centerville where I was held up by the Picket Line which had orders from the Government not to let a wagon through without an escort. Meanwhile, Moseby was out raiding the whole neighborhood and they believed I would hardly travel a few miles without being taken prisoner, but I had to carry out my orders, so I rode back to Centerville and after my introduction arrived a pass from General Rufus King, but he cautioned me not to try to risk riding through. When I came back to the Pickets two wagons had arrived, so I decided to wait until the next morning when the General told me that the next morning a battery would go from Centerville to Alexandria, with which I arrived happily in Alexandria, where the Captain met us a few miles ahead, glad to see me because he thought we had been attacked. In Alexandria we started .... in the horses and teams, only the Captain kept his horse which he decided to take along. Our things were taken to the depot to be loaded at once. Then our things were under the open sky, exposed to sun and rain and thieves. The young people went after their pursuits in town and left me with the responsibility and worries of the baggage. We had to stay two days and two nights before we got ... after two clerks and our cook had driven ahead with some ... At last at eleven o'clock in the evening of October 3rd our things were loaded up and also the Captain's horse. We went via ..., Harper's Ferry, though West Virginia to Ohio. At Belle our things were taken over a pontoon bridge to the other side of the river where we were staying for the night. The Captain and Lauderman, who were with me until then, left me there and took ... train and I was all alone. We went through Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky to Nashville, Tennessee, where I found the other party again. .... had arrived there four days earlier and had a good time in Nashville, while I arrived half sick and tired out. My dear Mathilde, I could write pages if I wanted to give you a good description of our oppressions on the train where we were packed together like herrings. Then we had to stay in Nashville for two days to get our teams again. The Captain took lodging in the city and worried about nothing, only when he wanted to ride out I had to get his horse, take it to the front of the hotel, and wait there until he came out. So, I had no time to clean myself up, had to send out my laundry for cleaning, and also had not a moment's time to write. I am crying with anger because I was not able to write a few lines to you. Now I have to make this short. After three days our train ... shape and we should make the rest of the way, 180 miles to Bridgeport on the Tennessee River. After our first day's march ....Station LaVerge) where we arrived in terrible rain, the Captain gave orders to report to the Corps at once and left with three clerks brought by train, while I again had to stay with the wagon and worry about his horse, but did keep with me our cook and our old negro. It took us two full weeks to make this trip, continuous rain, through mountains consisting of solid rock where hundreds of wagons and teams were lost. Perhaps you have read in the papers about Rosecrans passing over the mountains, him in good weather, use in everlasting rain. In short, it was a terrible fatigue for animals and humans. Finally, we arrived in Bridgeport without having had the least mishap. The Captain was very happy to find everything in good order. He told be unofficially that he was just as dirty and lousy as the others. Here I thought we would get at least a little rest, but the next brought more work in pitching the tents, unpacking our things, etc.
I thought for sure I'd get an hour's time to write to you loved ones, but on the same evening our orders came, that our Corps and part of the ... should make a ..... to Station in the mountains. Our troops marched off at night. Right after that came another order that a team of 40 wagons with two days' ration should follow to Shellmount, stopping at 8 miles from Bridgeport, where our troops should be, where we could give out rations and then go back to Bridgeport, where we were expecting our troops in a few day's time. At nine o'clock in the morning, we left Bridgeport with the train, that is, Captain took Ludemann and I on horseback stayed with the train for a while. ... it became too boring for the Captain, we rode ahead to catch up with the troops. In Shellmount where we expected them to be, our troops marched ahead by daybreak where they soon made contact with rebel pickets, pushing them ahead to the streets of Chattanooga. After a short conference, we rode after the troops. (We had so little to eat for use as well as the horses, as we had expected to come back to Bridgeport the same day). About two o'clock in the afternoon, we overtook the 75 R. Penns. of our Brigade, which stood picket at Shellmount and believed they would soon make contact with the other troops. We took time to let the horses graze, received some cornbread from a farmer, and luckily, we had some coffee with us. Between four and five o'clock we started out and at dusk reached a Division of the 11th Corps, who told us that the 11th had marched further about 4 miles. Not knowing the roads, and without a leader, we decided to stay overnight and then go to the Corps at dawn. We stared a fire and covered ourselves with our saddle blankets and after we got a cup of coffee from some soldiers, we believed ourselves very comfortable. At eleven o'clock at night, the 12th Corps was attacked and when I heard the fire I got up and saddled the horses, but did not believe they would attack (it was October 28th). We lay down again by the fire. All of a sudden our pickets were driven back and the rebels marched twice as fast. Not even 200 steps away from us we heard yelling as they made the charge and at the same time fired several volleys into us. We were directly by a Battery and the train of the 12th Corps for which the Rebels had especially.... We also received the whole hail of musketry and I can't understand that not one of us or the horses were wounded. It took time to jump up and put the bridles on the horses and we ... combatants) took the safest way out and rode back to the mountain.
Pushed back about four
miles, after a message to the quartermaster, he ordered all the teams to
get ready. The attack was so sudden that all our troops that stayed behind
the railroad, counter-attacked and pushed back the rebels with much loss
and we took 150 prisoners. We recaptured back the battery and train which
they took in their first attack. The next morning, we advanced forward
with the train and reached our Corps at noon in the range of the Lookout
Mountain Battery. The Rebels could see us and open shell fire on us but
without doing any damage.
In the evening Capt. Schmidt was appointed Post Commissary by General Howard and the next morning we went to Valley Ferry. There our bread and good was used for the first time. The 11th and 19th Corps was in the valley cleaning up. On the way we took three more prisoners that got lost at night during the fight. They gave up after we showed them our revolvers and now we handed them over for somebody else to take care of them.
When we came to the Valley Ferry, we had to wait until eleven o'clock for the boat. That night we had to sleep in the open and it rained. The next morning we rode back to Lookout Mt. I caught a fat sheep in the mountain and tied it behind the saddle where we got hold of kettles and enjoyed a good meal. At noon a train left from here to Bridgeport where our wagons are. And we had to bring them back, so we took a horse at night and passed the train halfway where we stayed until the noon came up and continued our horseback ride. At seven in the morning we reached Bridgeport. Too bad our wagons left the day before and we by-passed them at night without noticing them. We stayed for the day and rod back to Lookout the next morning.
After changing camp I am now on the Pellegs Ferry Road and at last do I have a chance to write to you. Here we have the same rationing which are crackers, sugar and coffee and one half pound of meat. No rice or beans. Our troops are half-starved and work day and night digging trenches. Here is an example of what soldiers do for hunger. Yesterday we sent wagons to the Ferry to get rations and on the way back one of the wheels broke so the driver left the wagon with twelve boxes of rations at a farm house by the roadside. The soldiers heard about it and broke into the farmer's house to steal the food. We got wind of it, and the captain and myself rode there and all that was left was four boxes. Since we couldn't take them back on the horses, I had to stay behind to guard them. About 9:00 p.m. some thirty-forty soldiers broke into the house, and held me captive until all four boxes were out of sight; that is why I couldn't finish writing yesterday. It is worse for the riding horses. We have no corn for them. They are eating in the fields now while I am writing. As soon as we are getting a few wagons and troops together the battery is throwing bombs at us. I believe there won't be much fighting this fall. It will take all winter to repair the railroad lines between Bridgeport and Chattanooga. We haven't enough soldiers to guard that long supply line. By January 5th we expect to have three hundred thousand men. Until the we can't think of advancing. Dear Mathilde, that's enough about me. I want to know you are in good health. I can't figure out any furlough, we are directly in front of the enemy. We can talk to each other and at any time they are likely to attack. We must have patience in being separated a lot, but right now thank God I am all right. I am now set for the winter. Bought a pair of new winter clothing and a shawl. I borrowed two dollars for it. Hope to send you some money in my next letter. You will probably tell me in your next letter that Walter went to your brother. Parents hate to part with their children, but it is best so because he needs strict guidelines. I would like to be with you come next winter. Little Harry will be a big boy if I am lucky enough to get home. It is really good luck to be for years and years, day after day under the ... of health, and, a few will be lucky to see home again.
I was happy to get your lines ... It's been a long time.
Dear Mathilde, the potato harvest is over and you will have all the time to write next winter. I will be waiting for your letters. I hope you will always be well. I will close now so that I can send this letter away because I know how much you are waiting for it.
Live well and write soon to your:
E. Damkoehler Cor. L 26 Wis. Inf.
11 Corps. Howard. via Nashville
c/o Capt. M. Schmidt Commissary
Part of a letter (Translated May, 1958)
At the moment when I wanted
to take this letter to the quartermaster to mail it, I was handed your
letter from October 11th. It was a great enjoyment for me to hear from
you and I could not resist to tear open the envelope again to answer you
some things out of your letter. My dear Mathilde, you don't write anything
about your and the children's health and I take it that you are still well.
I was very surprised that your Brother Theodore made you the friendly offer
to go to him. As you know Theodore, I hope you don't think to take his
offer because, not looking at the sacrifice of money, it would not better
your situation. But thank your brother many times in my name for his friendly
The conduct of your cousin Louise towards your brother is detestable. Only a real mean character is capable of such an act. As true as the sun is shining above us, I would take revenge. It is my consolation and should stay my consolation to believe to be loved by you and I expect that you are true to me in any respect as long as I live. This consciousness makes my life, beloved (dear). And also you, My Dear Mathilde, be assured that nothing in the world can lead me astray to be untrue to you. In the distance when one is separated one knows best the value of one's loved ones. Oh, Dear Mathilde, I also have to take the blame that I caused you many unhappy hours, due to my fury and other faults. What I would give if I could undo it! Will God allow that we see each other once more, things will be different. That you will forgive me for so many wrongs, I am certain - right?
I am sorry that you did not make much money on the steer, because at present I am not able to do anything for you because I did not get the Ward Bounty as I wrote in my last letter and for the same reason George Bayer could not pay me the $5.00. Be careful and pay nothing on old debts at present, because we don't know how long we have to wait before we get paid again ... though it is sure, that you will receive the $5. from the State, for the moment the fund is exhausted and you can't admit yourself to any former obligation.
Now Dear Mathilde, I will close this time to get the letter in the mail. Farewell a thousand times, keep loving
Lieutenant Weringer told me he always gets soft when he gets letters from home. The same goes for me. I am not able to write any further. You, Dear Mathilde, are surrounded by your children and don't feel the separation as badly as I.
Relaying my Address:
Ersnt Damkoehler 26th Reg. Wisc. Vol. Infantry, 11th Army Corps (Sigel)
Opposite Lookout Mountain, Near Chattanooga
November 25, 1863
My Dearest Mathilde:
About one week ago I wrote
a letter to you and included $30. because a well-known sutler (harness-maker)
from here was ready to go back to Louisville, and I thought to send the
money with him, but he could not get his papers and so the letter is still
in my possession. He gets his papers now and will send the money with him.
The Adams Express goes only to Stevenson and I was afraid to send the letter by Post.
I hope you get the money in time to buy what you need for Christmas.
Must tell you good news. Lookout Mountains are ours. We are in the midst of the battle. The capture of Lookout was a sensational sight. Our boys started at the right time and drove the Rebels like wild rabbits out of their holes. The "hurrah" calls of our boys lasted to late in the evening when the hill was in our permanent positive possession.
About 3,000 prisoners were brought down this morning from the hill and there should be 3,000 more in Chattanooga. The big battle rages now on the other side of Chattanooga, but our boys are sure of victory. After this battle is over, we will have to advance again.
More later. Farewell and hold in your heart,
Your Loving Ernst
(Translated February, 1958)
Lookout Mountain Valley, December 8, 1863
My Dear Mathilde,
This morning I received your lovely lines of November 17th. The letter came unexpectedly. Although I had written on November 13th, I could not expect an answer so soon. My enjoyment to hear from you, darling, was so much greater, now that the news of your health is such that it could cause one great happiness. Oh, what I would give, if I could be at home. I never could see it before when I left you and you looked so well and strong that your health would be destroyed so soon. About 10 days ago, I wrote you a few lines and besides sent $30. You probably have received both letters now. I gave the last letter with the money to a harness-maker who went from here back to Louisville to purchase material and who will take care of the letter from there. The last lines I wrote to you on the day of the capture of Lookout Mountain, where I was an eyewitness. The result of the victory, which we won, was not known at that time. In short, Bragg's armies were completely beaten. You would not expect me to tell you the details because you can read better correspondences in the newspapers. After the battle our 11th Corps marched off and until now we don't have a report where it is located. There are different rumors going around. Some believe it is in Knoxville, with Burnside, others believe that it went with a part of Sherman's troops through Western Virginia to Richmond to operate together with Meade. My opinion is that they are engaged in a raid and after a short time they will come back here. In all cases there will be great results obtained in our favor. All the armies probably would have advanced further if there had been a possibility to supply them. Now, I wrote enough and will hurry back to answer your lines. I am very glad that Walter bettered himself and will hope that he continues to help you more and more, especially how you write about your brother Theodore who will work next winter at Craft, Walter would fall with the rain into the gutter. At this time it looks like your brother thinks you want to get rid of Walter due to other considerations and it will be a consolation for you to have all the children with you. I believe in a month I can send you $40. and I hope that the money will make you carefree for the winter and that you can purchase such clothing as is appropriate for your health. I don't believe that you will get much better during the winter. I believe that you will be completely well in the Spring. I am sorry your harvest was so bad. In you place I would rent out the farm as fast as possible. I wrote you in my letter of the 13th of the importance of it. Now, my dear Mathilde, I come to a point which is worthwhile to think about. Is it advisable or not for me to take a furlough? It is my biggest and heartiest wish to visit you during the winter, but my dear Mathilde, the trip could cost me about 30 to 40 dollars. My stay would only be a short one. I would arrive tired from the long trip and would have almost no time to recover till I had to leave again and I believe that the second departure would be harder for me than the first one and then as your provider, it is not justified to spend such an amount of money just to enjoy the pleasure of a short reunion and then perhaps lose my job which I hold not and it would only hurt you later on. All these points have to be considered before one makes a hasty step ahead. If we would be in such a circumstance to get over such sums then I soon would be ready with my resolution, that is if I can get a furlough at all. Be sure, there is no husband who loves his family more than I do mine and for this reason I put the privation on you. I at least will wait on the answer to this letter and will let you tell me what I should do. You know best if we can afford such money. My pay for the next two months would be used up and I would not be able to send you any money before March. Now I want to close, my dear. Please write real soon.
With wishes for your well being, I remain,
Your Ernst Damkoehler
My address is the same as before via Nashville.
(Translated February, 1958)
NOTE: This is a portion of a letter.
Jan 3d, 1864
..... And enjoyed very
much at last to receive a detailed letter from you, even if the news was
not the kind that one could enjoy. It was my intention to write on Christmas,
but could not find the time.... Even then it was impossible for me. I hope
today, Sunday afternoon, to have enough time to answer your dear letters.
Before everything else (this part of this line has been destroyed with
age - illegible). How did you spend Christmas and new Years? Nothing new
happened here. m Our Corps came back ragged after a terrible march from
Tinesville and is now here in winter quarters until further orders. There
has been much excitement here between the old Regiments, the ones whose
time runs out next summer. Almost all Regiments had to enlist again for
3 years, for which the New York Regiments received a bounty of almost $900.
The ones that did not want to enlist again were forced, so to speak. Now
you can imagine, Dear Mathilde, that one can't think of an early finish
of the war.
Now I will answer your dear letter. I saw with pleasure at the start of your letter that you felt somewhat better and I had hope that your recovery was certain, but how soon was my happiness at an end!
It would be for me the
happiest day of the year to hear of your recovery. I am glad that you received
the money before Christmas and could get the most needed things for yourself
and the children. And instead of half a pig, you can get a whole one, because
payday is coming up again and this time I will send you my whole pay ($46).
You can imagine what impression it left on me, that deficiency in clothing
and other needs is the cause of your sickness. It was still my desire to
surprise you this winter, but was really cured with receipt of your last
lines. It would be an inexcusable sin to spend money on me to enjoy a reunion
if my whole earnings are not enough to clothe you and give you the most
needed necessities. Would it not be a sin to spend money for trips when
the family did not have a bit of meat in the house for the last six weeks?
I can only speak of luck that your letters came at the right time because
I just wanted to ask for a furlough and once it was granted couldn't very
well cancel it. I will hope that Little Harry is better and that he gets
his teeth fairly easily. Poor ... will ... so take a let. at least may
the Dear Lord......
Your wish to take care of myself as much as possible, I can grant you only partially. Even though we are not so much exposed to fatigue as the soldiers, in the Regiment, due to our business we are exposed to wind and weather. Our fate is gold towards the one of the soldiers.
Philipp Feldmann is taken off the Company List and will be declared dead. The Mrs. will be doing well to undertake the necessary steps to get the back pay and pension. I read that Corst Feldmann was drafted and bought himself free. How will it be when the $300. bill is used up? Some one who laughed in his fist and called us nuts will make a grimace when he has to leave as a drafted man. It serves them right. The war was started and it takes soldiers to finish it.
Now I can answer your questions right away concerning my color. I am for war as long as a Rebel stands in the picture. If the South wants to make peace, well and good, and it should accept the offered terms. To make peace now after our conquered advantages would be treason to our country. Every good Democrat is for war and I did not expect that you wanted to put me in the category of the Copperheads. Almost every soldier, who found out the burden and fatigue of the war, wants to come home honorably and not insulted. There are just these miserable cowards who prolong the war and who are in the way of the Government... because they know beforehand that our Government can't step back. The most of the old Regiments enlisted once more and if the Government brings 300,000 men more in the field this winter to start a strong campaign this Spring, we hope to make an end of the Rebels during the course of next summer.
Send Harris my best congratulations on his election as Senator. Door County could not select a better choice. At the same time I thank him for his last Advocates.
Now Dear Mathilde, with regard to the farm, I don't quite agree with you to plant the farm with Timothy. First, the first year you will not have a harvest and only expenditures. The second year when you could expect a harvest I come home, that is, that I am left over it would be a terrible job for me to turn over the new land again. The old lot around the house would be very good if you could have it planted early enough with oats and Timothy. It would be another thing if I had some money to spare, to have perhaps 5 acres turned over which I could clear in the fall when I get home. Then it would be another think. I leave it up to your free will. You are on the farm and you have to make the best o it during my absence. It would be the best for you, if you .... (the rest of this letter has been lost).
(part of a letter) Translated June, 1958
To rent out the farm. What are people think and racking their brain, when I would do after the war? I will come home and stay with my family.
... and hope with the
help of the Lord everything will go well. It was not possible for me to
finish this letter though this evening on my birthday, after all the others
are in bed and the weather is a little better, I will try to finish it.
Since January 1st we had so cold it would have been an honor to any northern
I was talking to our Registrantís doctor, Dr. Hubshmann, but he thinks it would be very difficult to prescribe something to a patient whom one did not see once before. He thinks mineral baths would be the best. Keep yourself clothed warm, especially wool under things.
Now I will write something from here. Captain Schmidt who belongs to the 58th N. Y. Regiment and which regiment was enlisted again from the start, went home on furlough for 30 days and Lieutenant von Debrezin took his place as commissary. All the personnel was recommended, so much by the Captain hat no changes were made in the department. A few days ago, he gave me $20. which I would like to send to you, but because in a short time will be pay day I prefer to send everything. It does not cost any more to send $50 than it would for $20.
Tomorrow the regiments of our Division are going on furlough again. I wish them luck but I would not want to be in their place. They will be sworn in for 3 years to fight to suppress the rebellion or any other enemy whoever it may be. It seems to be the sin of the Government, to assure itself that these Regiments, to lead them later on against another enemy, perhaps I, for my part, have enough with 3 years and would I have anticipated that it would have lasted so long, I would never have enlisted. Now I want to hurry to finish this letter because something else may come in between again.
Today, I received a newspaper from Harris. He writes about a terrible snow storm which already must have started with your writing of your last letter because his paper is from December 17th. I hope it did not hit you unprepared.
Give Agnes my heartiest thanks (the good girl) and I expect again another letter from her.
With a thousand greetings to you an the children I remain as always, your:
As soon as the paymaster gets here I will write you again and if we get paid for the surplus of the clothes I think I can send you $60. But there are enough soldiers which drew so many clothes that 2 months pay is not enough to pay their debts.
Schell Mount, Feb. 21st, 1864
My Dear Mathilde:
At last, my dear Mathilde,
I have the opportunity to answer your lovely letter of January 26th. I
would have answered some time ago, if it were not for the unbearable cold
which we had here for a length of time, that held me back. As we came here
from Lookout Valley it was the nicest summer weather. We did not equip
our tents for cold weather and for some time it was so cold that one could
not get warm near the fire. Today, the weather is very comfortable and
we are looking forward to a warmer period.
I hope you received my letter (with contents of $50) from the 15th of this month from Adams Express; also a letter from the 11th of January with $10. from which I have not received an answer yet, but I hope you received it.
It was a great consolation for me when I received your lines and found out that you lived through all the terrible cold without any happenings. As the reports in the newspaper from everywhere brought to light all the casualties which the cold claimed I was overtaken with an awful fear. I thought, perhaps you were not supplied with wood and that you could not get any help in this terrible cold and other thoughts went through my mind. I was freed from all these worries and fears through your writing.
At this moment, I received your dear lines of February 2nd and send you my heartiest thanks for them. Of course, these are only a few lines, but they tell me anyhow that are well or at least that your health did not get worse.
I have to give you some good advice. Have a big pile of wood chopped, but don't touch it, and then get some more chopped from which you make use of it and keep one pile always in reserve. As soon as one pile is burned up get some more chopped. The last money which I sent you will permit you to do this. I would have sent you $10 more but since there was always the talk lately about marching, I did not want to be without any money at all, even though I don't think that I have to use the money. It is advisable to be prepared and in a short time it is payday again and I believe until then that you will not suffer any deficiency.
I send you my best thanks for your wishes to the New Year and to my birthday. I will hope that it was the last one through which I have to live here on the field. Though my position is pretty good and in civil life I could not hope for a better one, the separation from my family will not let me find my position satisfactory and I gladly will be happy with much less and share it together with you.
I can see from Agnes' letter that you have a new oven and as it looks, you are satisfied with it. I wish you had had it earlier. It would have given you good service in this cold period.
It is impossible for me today to answer Hermann's letter. I also would guard myself to recommend Sturgeon Bay to him too much, in case he did not like it. later on he can't accuse us that we enticed him to go there. In any case it would be best for Hermann to go by himself and look the country over before he comes home with his young wife. Although I like the country very much, the tastes still are different.
But now I still want to write something from here. Although nothing in particular happened here you can see by the heading that we left our former place and are now in Shell Mount, railroad station between Bridgeport and Chattanooga about 6 miles from Bridgeport.
Our 26th Regiment is transferred into the 3rd Brigade (Heikers) and for some time I was afraid that I was called back to the Regiment, but until now nothing new. I told you in the few lines which I sent you with the money that I was appointed an issuing clerk because there came complaints against Wolff who had this post before and he was sent back to his Regiment (26th). Although I bettered myself, I was sorry as he left because he had to give up his post in such an unjust manner. Even though he had many peculiarities, I always got along with him very well. It is a very nice place here, right on the Tennessee. We have here the Post Commissary and besides our Brigade we have perhaps 800 citizens to take care of (these are old men and women and families). All the families which are real destitute receive half rations of bacon, flour and bread. The rest of them can buy as soon as they get the order from the Provision Marshall. I feel so sorry for the poor women, of whom so many were forced to become bad. Others err through frivolity (in all it is a detestable picture how the people are humiliated).
Almost every day our young people pay visits to the farms in the environs and for what reason no one can guess easily. The poverty among the people is too great. Most of the people are from the Southern army and due to their worthless money they can do almost nothing for their families. Their farms are destroyed, fences burned down, chickens, cows and pigs were stolen by the soldiers and only the pitiful picture of half-starved women and children was left behind. It will take a long time for the country to recover after the war is over.
Now I want to close for today. Thousand regards and kisses from your
Because I am more tied down in the store, I will fill in my time, if it is warm enough for writing in the store, to write your letters, if march orders don't disappoint my intentions. Because our Regiment is now at White Sites, I wish that you would send the future letters to the Brigade. It takes too long till I receive the letters.
(Translated August 13, 1958)
Schell Mount, March 7, 1864
My Dear Mathilde:
Received your dear letter
from February 26th this morning and though I expected your longer letter
which you mentioned in the few lines enclosed in Agnesí letter, the one
today caused me not any less happiness. I especially was glad that the
sickness of the children passed by without leaving any after-effects. At
least you talk of hope that the danger is past. Just keep Little Harry
warm so that I can meet this sweet boy in good health, should I have the
luck to come back home. (By the way, with your letter today, I also received
a few lines from Caspar Lorch to which I shall come back later).
February 13th I sent you $50.00 and also paid the postage, and I should believe that the money arrived by the 26th when your letter was mailed. I hope you received the money. Soon thereafter I did send you a longer letter in which I wrote you that I was now employed as Issuing Clerk in the department. Although in general I did not better myself, but is a respectful position and is more in proportion to my former post. At least, in money matters I am only assigned to the generosity of the Commissary where also the Lieutenant Von Debrezin was very noble and paid me already $25.00 for the short time I am holding the job. A sure sign that he is satisfied so far with my work and I hope he further will be. So, my dear Mathilde, in a short time you can look forward to another delivery of $50.00.
Captain Schmidt came back with his Regiment, the 58th New York, which was enlisted from the start again and took his place as Commissary again, and naturally, we kept our old positions. The Captain made it understood to me that he perhaps will take back Wolf, who had the job before and make me Receiving Clerk. Then I have a job I always wanted. Then I would have my own horse and would get to deliver all the rations from different stations to our store, where I would have more exercise and pleasure. Now I am tied down from morning Ďtil night in the store. But I am also satisfied if it stays as it is.
A short time ago I also received a letter from Joseph Harris of Madison in which he wanted to find out when Adam Heilmann got in the Invalid Corps. I wrote to the Regiment, but as of now did not receive an answer yet.
Caspar Lorch should write to his sister-in-law, Ph. Feldmannís wife, to turn to W.W. Yale, Notary Public, Milwaukee, Walkerís Point. He corresponds with our Adjutant George Traumer and can always get such information as he wishes and needs to help women to get their money.
Now the rumor is going around that the 12th and our Corps and two other Crops will be shipped back to Virginia. Well, keep it up. Everything counts for the 3 years, What you are talking about, concerning re-enlisting, I can give you a short answer, that 3 years are more than enough for a father of a family just to show his patriotism. Wish to God the time were past and I should never again think about parting from my family. Now only 3 days more and half of the time is past. If I was not married and being with the same position I probably could be talked into it.
Most of the 58th New York went through their $500. Lots of them burdened with nauseous sicknesses and now have a new service of 3 years ahead of them. Enough to make one crazy, and as it is with them, it is with all the Regiments. It was a shame how married people tumbled from one bad house into another.
In case we should go back to Virginia I shall send you two wool blankets from the next station. After Wisconsin last fall I ordered a blanket to have it for the winter and now, since the weather gets warm, I received the blanket a couple of days ago and I donít want to drag two blankets around with me all summer.
Now dear Mathilde, I have to ask you, as soon as I send you money to make a report to me of the reception because you can imagine that I am worried if I donít get the acknowledgment.
Friend Lindemann who was with us here in the department and belonged to the first division was called back to Charleston to his Regiment and because of it there is a place open as Receiving Clerk. I was very sorry when he left.
Harris sent me in his letter a circular which said that a Company would be put together to build the canal. Should this be the case, then our future would be taken care of. However, I am afraid it will be the same this time as it was many times before, but we will hope for the best.
Since we are here, I canít write you any war news. Of course different times everything was made ready and we were waiting for a raid of the Secesh Cavalry, but they always left us in waiting. Although if all indications are true a forward movement of our Army is not far off. The weather is excellent and the roads are in the best of shape and I believe that one is only waiting for the arrival of many more Regiment to start again "pairing up." Today again many more Corps passed by which are marching in the front. Our corps are in good spirit and sure of a victory and I sure think that it could not fail to put the finish to the rebels during the course of this year, and then my dear Mathilde, the time of the reunion will not be far off. I only wish you could rent out the farm and move to the village so you get rid of all your troubles. Then you could also send the kids to school more. Donít neglect to help Agnes somewhat in writing, etc., so she is not staying behind all the rest of the children.
Finally, dear Mathilde, I hope that your condition will be better next summer. Write real soon again.
Regards to the children and acquaintances and keep in love,
E. Damkoehler 2 Br. 3 Div. 11th A.C. Care of C.M. Schmidt, Com.
Last Letter Received (First translation)
White Sites, April 17, 1864
My Dear Mathilde!
Received your beloved
letters from March 20th, also from April 1. It is impossible for me today
to answer both your letters, but I sure will send you a few lines to let
you know that I am alive and in good health.
The news I have to write to you today is not very good. Our Brigade and also the 11th and 12th Corps are dissolved, and named 20th Brigade. With the dissolving of our Brigade the Commissary Department is also out of existence, and in a few hours we also have to report to our Regiment. I was supposed to go this morning to the new Regiment but through the influence of Captain Schmidt, I have to stay till the new Regiment arrives and transfer the goods to them. We have our hands full to straighten everything out and make a final report.
I have a lot more clothing now than I can use in the new Regiment. I have permission from our Commander to send the clothing home by Adams Express, two blankets and other goods. It cost plenty money to send all that stuff home but I think it is worthwhile, otherwise I have to throw it away.
I think it will be hard for me in the new Regiment, then in the last year I did not march 10 miles and I am not used to marching and carrying a big load on my back.
I am sorry that I cannot send you any money now. The paymaster comes next month and we get paid for 4 months, and with the money I would receive from our Captain I think that I can send you quite a sum of money.
Our Regiment belongs to the Battlefieldshen Division, and the address of 26th R., Wis. Vol. Co. I, 3rd Div., 3rd Brig. 20th Army Corps.
I will close my letter now, and will write you tomorrow how everything is.
Thousand kisses for your and the children.