Rebecca wrote to her brother Thomas on December 31, 1864. She mentions having heard rumors about their unit and where it might be. A sense of tension seems to be present in her letter-concern about her brothers and their possible involvement in battle.
Amboy Dec. 31st.
I have been trying to get time to write to you all this week but have been so busy that I could not get at it. To-night I thought I must make the attempt. You must not think I am neglecting you. I thought of you every day but could not get time. I have been making a dress for Alma, just finished it this afternoon and been helpin mother make your shirt. We have heard from you but once since you arrived at Memphis. No I am mistaken-Mother got a letter from you last Friday night and another last Saturday night both written after your arrival. I have written to you twice since you left Camp Butler. I do hope you will get those letters which were directed to Vicksburg. Let us know whether you do or not.
There have been various rumors afloat concerning your regiment. We do not know whether any of them are to be believed. Some say you were all in the battle near Nashville. That I don't believe. The paper speaks of an expidition or two, starting from Memphis, and we conclude your Regmt. was among the number, as you spoke of an expected move. But we cannot learn of any enemy forces in that neighborhood, but I presume we shall know all about it when we hear from you again. You will have a good chance to learn, travelling about the country. Keep your eyes open, and profit by any knowledge you may gain.
Examination and Anniversary passed off very pleasantly. The former did not prove to be such a very desperate affair after all our fears. I have not seen any of the school girls since Christmas Eve, so I do not know whether that occasion proved itself such a horrible thing. I got along with my part rather better than I expected. I did not forget what I was going to say. Each of the other denominations had Christmas Trees that evening, and we did not expect to see much of a crowd at our house, but it was well filled. I was told the money taken in amounted to about $55.00. Alma has a programme. I guess she intends sending it to you.
Father has not got through husking corn yet. The weather is
so severe he does not make very swift progress. It has been very
cold part of the time this week. I presume you will scarcely know
what cold weather is this winter.
Alma has had another attack of sore throat. She was quite sick yesterday. She seemed better this morning, but I guess is not so well to-night.
Mother has a sore eye but 'tis getting better. We all complain as much as ever you see. We will send some papers soon I guess. It takes us so long to read our papers through, that the news is old before we are ready to send them to you. I suppose you have heard of the capture of Savannah. Old Abe had a pretty nice Christmas present, didn't he?
Did you get any Christmas presents. I didn't. I got a new dress
a week before. Cousin Tom [Schuyler] has got tired of his place
in the store. He went to Freeport last week and obtained an agency
for "Adam's Insurance Co." He has been helping father
husk corn this week a little. he went to town this afternoon,
but has not yet returned, although it is now after eight of the
clock. He is a greater tease than you were. Pinches me until my
arms are black and blue, and tickles me 'til my ribs are so sensitive
I don't know what to do. I will have to get them insured I guess.
He is going to insure live stock as well as buildings. But now
I guess I must stop. Mother thinks I write a great deal of nonsense.
But I can't help it. I am sort of nonsensical girl anyway. Cornelia
Williamson was married to one of the Pyles [?] last Sunday. Write
to us often.
From your sister, Reba.
[Marginal note] I guess if I dont hear from you pretty soon I wont write again until next year.
Thomas and Wilson, meanwhile, had completed their Memphis expedition
and returned to the boat to travel further south. Thomas' diary
described their trip.
Sunday, January 1, 1865. Sno Raine [their boat]. On board a steamboat again for a voyage. Left camp this afternoon with every thing with us. wrote 1 letter and read a family letter from home. It does not seem at all like Sunday much less New Year.
Monday 2 Did not leave today the Sno Raine is cooling up expect to leave to night.
Tuesday 3 Left Memphis about 8 oclock. Sailed fast all night. wrote 2 letters to be mailed at Vicksburg which place we will reach about 10 oclock pm.
Wednesday January 4, 1865 Passed Natchez that fore noon there is not much to be seen along the banks. we have gun boats here and there. saw 1 monitor (Yankee gun boat)
Thursday 5 In Camp about 10 miles from N Orleans at a place called Kinnerville on an old sugar plantation the Country is cultivated on both sides of the river Orange trees and all tropical fruit flourish.
Friday 6 Our tent blew down today. We had dress parade tonight and orders new and old. I put in for some clothing. wrote 2 letters home.
Saturday January 7, 1865 was on fatigue today went into the swamp for wood saw Cane brakes and the Green rushes used for palm leaf fans. Jimmy is unwell and I spend my last cent this morning.
Sunday 8 Had regimental Inspection this afternoon. A guard was put around camp at noon some of the boys been foraging too heavy. No meeting to go to I enjoyed reading my testament and tracts better than ever.
Monday 9 It rained all day heard a part of the Regt received pay for 4 months today but when we will get it I cannot tell. I'm Strapped.
Tuesday January 10, 1865 A month today since we left Camp Butler. we have seen lots of country since then and been blessed with good health.
Jane Fisher wrote to Thomas on January 4, 1865. As with Reba's last letter, she also expressed concern about the location of the regiment and what there were doing.
Amboy January 4th 1865
My dear son Thomas, It is a long time since I have written to you, various matters have prevented me until now; and it seems a long while since we heard from you. Yours of the 19th in which you speak of rumors in camp of orders to march, which was received on Christmas eve, is the last we have heard from either of you, except the report that the regt. had gone on a scouting expedition. The report of course, has given much anxiety and we want to hear from you badly. As we got no letters from you last week, we think you must have gone with the Regt. I do try to hope, that ere this, you have returned, safe and sound; but no doubt you experienced many hardships and privations.
We mailed another shirt to you on Monday last. I hope you may receive it in due time.
We went with a funeral that day, to Binghamton. A daughter of Mr. Heaterington (who lives on the Blair place) was buried. She died quite sudenly of inflamation of the brain. She was about 15 years old-cut down in the morning of life-most likely without any preparation for another world. How sad a thought. May it excite us to greater dilligence to try to be prepared whenever the "Son of man shall come..."
Did you ever get the letters, that your father and I wrote you, just before you left Camp Butler? In that I sent you a nice little piece which I cut out of an old paper. I thought it so well suited to your case. I would like to send you some "Christian Times" if I know that you would be at Memphis to receive them. Tell me in your next it you know.
I have not written you any family news, and as my paper is full and I must write to Jewell, I will omit it here, and you can what I write to him if you wish. Please write when you get this without delay.
Goodbye Thomas, be a good boy, and may the Lord Bless you and keep you from all evil prays your loving Mother.
On January 9, 1865, Reba wrote to Thomas. She acknowledged hearing about the raid in which Thomas participated before Christmas. She talked about the Fowler relatives back in Pennsylvania (Thomas' grandmother was a Fowler). She wrote:
Monday Jan. 9th 1865
My dear Brother
Now put on your "specs" an prepare yourself to decipher these pencil marks, for have no pen or ink here and having time, I thought I would try and answer your very welcome letter which I received this morning. We have been very anxious to hear from you but our suspense is now at an end.
I am glad you enjoyed your raid and returned safely to camp. I suppose that was a pretty fair trial of a soldiers life. But you seem to have been pretty well impressed by it. Wouldn't you rather be in Hawke's store weighing butter and measuring calico? By the way I must tell you how highly Ben compliments you. He told Tom S [Schuyler] that you were the best clerk he had ever had in his store. So you see Ben is not quite as indifferent as you thought him. He has now gone to New York and Philadelphia. Will be gone about a month.
I have commenced going to school again to-day. The school has opened under quite encouraging circumstances. This is the first day and we have 35 scholars, and expect more will soon come in. Most of our old school-mates are here and a good number of new scholars. Ella and Nellie sit right back of me. Mollie Webb sits with me, and Frank Lee directly in front. Warren will come to-morrow and sit with Frank.
We are going to have some new studies. The class in Geometry is now reciting. I intend studying Algebra, Philosophy, and English Composition. I shan't study as hard as I did last term. I am boarding at Mrs. McGraw's. I think I shall like her pretty well. Mrs. Boyles has resigned her position in the Grammar School. Miss Warriner is teaching the school for a short time, until a suitable teacher is obtained. They wish to engage a gentleman. What a pity I am not a man! I had a letter from Sadie Leilly (?) the other day. She wished to be remembered to you, also did Louise Reoff. Sadie wrote that Rankin Fowler's address was Collinsville P.O. Lycoming Co. Pa. Jas is in Tamequa Carbon Co. where he is clerking for Nathan. She wrote me a long letter. She is teaching near Bloomsburg [Pennsylvania].
Tom Schuyler has left the store and gone into Insurance business. I think he was a very foolish man to leave such a good position. He was getting $50.00 per month, had a good boarding place, and seemed to be giving satisfaction. He cannot be convinced however that his head is not level. But between you and me Tommy, I dont think he is quite as smart and agreeable as some other folks. However I like him pretty well. I have had lots of sport with him. He is a perfect tease. And, I flatter myself, thinks I am about perfect. He has now gone to Springfield,. I should not be at all surprised, from what he told me last Friday, if he gave up his present business in two weeks. He does not seem to have any stability. I gave him a perfect "curtain lecture" then.
There is to be a donation for Mr. Webb next Wednesday evening.
But I must close. School is almost out. Tell Wils to write to me soon, also Jimmie if he wants to. Write soon to your sister. Reba
For the next several days, Thomas spent time in camp with ordinary duties. When the weather was bad, he complained that the days were "dull and tiresome in the life of a soldier...patience is greatly needed here in the mud and slop." He enjoyed receiving letters and packages from home. On January 23, 1864, the troops had some diversion in the form of a visiting circus. Thomas commented that, "...the Haynes Circus is in Kennerville and lots of the boys have gone tonight." He attended on January 30th and said "the show was quite good."
On to Mobile
On February 3, 1864, the soldiers received their orders to move. Thomas send his overcoat and blanket home by Parkers Express Co. They then marched to Lake Ponchartrain. The rain continued to bother them. On the 5th, they lay under their rubber blankets to keep dry. It was a "muddy and wild night." On February 7, they marched to Lakeport and got aboard the boat "Warrior" and sailed across Lake Pontchartrain for Dauphin Island. They disembarked and marched two miles further to camp "in a very sandy place at the mouth of Mobile Bay." The men camped in their tents, cleaned their guns, and had a dress parade. Thomas commented that Col. Coates was in command of the brigade.
Thomas received letters from various friends of the family back in Amboy. One letter, written on February 5, 1865, by M. T. Barrell, a member of the same church as the Fisher family. He did not use much punctuation in the letter and the spelling is rough. From the text, it is apparent that he is the father of "Jimmie," the soldier who wanted to leave the Army and return home.
Dear Thomas & Wilson
I have been writing to Jimmie & Father and Nellie dont get home yet I thought I would pass the time by writing a few lines to you. I should love to write to the soldier boys if I was capable of it. If I could say anything to cheer them on in their privation of everything that is dear to them. When will this wicked war be ended & the rebellion be put down & the oppressed go free, and the dear ones return to their homes. God only knows & in his own dere time it will be accomplished. We could wish you were here to attend meetings. They are quite interesting. they have just come home from meeting. They had a marriage in church tonight. Mrs. Wiley was married. She married her brother-in-law. Goes east on the train to night. An other meeting appointed Tuesday evening. I hope dear boys you will try to be faithful soldiers of the cross of Christ as well as faithful soldiers of your country. God is the same every where. We can worship him in the tent the same as in the sanctuary. he will draw near to us when we draw nearr to him. May you ever be found at the foot of the cross of Christ & bear about in your boddies daily the image of your Lord & Saviour. May God ever bless you with the influence of his holy spirit. As ever your friend. M. T. Barrell
On the same evening, another member of the family, perhaps
M. T. Barrell's father, wrote the following letter to Thomas.
More details about the church services and activities are provided.
Amboy Feb. 5, 1865
Dear friend Thomas
I here by other letters that you have not received anny from me Well it is not becaus I have not written to you but I will again for fear you will not <?> the one I last wroat you I am very glad to here that you are all geting along so well. The sentiment you expriss in Helens letter pleased me very much. that you desired to live a Christian life. That is what is required of us all. I hope you been faithfull & you will never be sorry that you made the attempt to secure the Lord. We think of your Soldier boyes every Morning & evening around the family alter. Our prayer is that you may all be kept from the vices that you are so much exposed to & be spared to be returned home again. O yes we count the months as they pass. Will not that be a happy time if we are spaired to enjoy it. We have a very interesting Class yet. There was 26 there to day but did not see Jim there. We are haveing some yard meetings. The Congregations & our Church meet in union Prayer meetings last week. Alternate at each house. they meet at our house to night. One night there was about 30 rose for prayers. I hope we may see a good work here. There is great need of it. Elder Webb has asked for a dismission from this Church to take place when his year is the first of May. What the church will do for preaching is all in the futiour. But we trust there will be someone sent to us. We have had a very pleasing winter. No slaying but good wheeling as I ever see. Very icy until last week. it has rained some & the going is rough. Give my best love to your conrade Morse & all the boys that went from Hear as you have offered and retain a large for yourself. Respectfully your friend Henry Barrell.
(change in handwriting style) Tommie I will answer your kind letter very soon. As soon as I can possibly get time. Nellie.
Life established a type of routine for Thomas. The days alternated between warm, sunny and rainy days typical of the Mobile area in February. On February 13, Thomas commented in his diary that they "fixed up our Chebang a little" anticipating more rain. The next night, it rained "like sixty" with the waves "roaring and dashing on the beach making a grand sight." For dinner, he drew rations of kraut, beans, tomatoes, and cucumber pickles.
On February 22, Washington's birthday, the soldiers celebrated in proper military fashion. A salute was fired from Forts Morgan and Gaines -- 68 guns.
Camp meetings were established for the soldiers, and Thomas began attending them. He enrolled in a New Testament course and mentioned listening to sermons from the Chaplain from the 21st Iowa Regiment.
Troops continued to arrive in the camp. On March 4th a brigade from Ohio camped near Thomas' unit. Target shooting began, and Thomas was somewhat discouraged by his expertise -- "no better luck than before," he said. A few days later, he said that he hit the target two times out of three "by accident, I guess."
On March 9, the soldiers were instructed to turn in anything that could not be carried. Cannonading could be heard from Mobile Bay all day. Thomas went into the bay to gather oysters and received a disciplinary mark since he had been absent without permission. A heavy thunderstorm hit on March 15, and a lightening strike killed one of the drummer boys from the 46th and injured several other men. On March 17, the brigade left camp about 2:00 p.m. and sailed over to Mobile where they reestablished their camp.
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Copyright 1993 Thomas H. Fisher, Tallahassee, Florida 32312
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