A summer spent with Civil War soldiers' correspondence

Belle Montgomery

Sergeant Major
Joined
Oct 25, 2017
Messages
1,866
Location
44022
#1
Notes from the archives of the Virginia Museum of History and Culture

Every day for eight weeks I entered the Virginia Museum of History and Culture through a hidden side door. I weaved through a dim hallway past unused furniture and exposed pipes until I reached the elevator. My floor was 2, but only in the abstract, because my office had no windows. Each day I was greeted by the drab accoutrements of office life — sticky notes, paper clips, a gray Formica desk, the Windows start-up sound.

I spent the summer reading and organizing correspondence from Civil War soldiers. On my desk at the VMHC sat eight large boxes groaning with letters inherited from a defunct archive. The yellowed documents had been stuffed willy-nilly into folders. Even preserved as they were, the years had not always been kind to the pages, and the yellowed, beaten, tattered, faded letters were often difficult to read. My job was reorganizing the artifacts according to the system of the VMHC.

The job sounds boring, but it isn’t. How can I explain the allure of a summer spent digging through this interminable stack of old papers? REST OF ARTICLE: http://www.cavalierdaily.com/article/2018/09/a-summer-spent-with-civil-war-soldiers
49aed54d-dda8-41a6-8da1-0e58f498f6b0.sized-1000x1000.jpg
 

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Joined
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Messages
633
Location
Northwest Missouri
#4
This is a typed copy of a letter my Gx2Grandpa wrote to his wife from a Union Army hospital in St. Louis. He was a Corporal in the 34th Iowa I.R. and was infected with smallpox during the early stages of the Vicksburg campaign. It is not clear exactly when he was infected, but it appears to have occurred near Helena, Arkansas. The letter indicates and good number of his regiment were infected and sent back to St. Louis. @Booner is aGx3 Nephew.

1863
Mar 29
Benton Barachs
St. Louis, MO
Dear wife and children:
I am by the blessings of the Almighty God still alive and in moderate health. You cannot tell how thankful I was to get out of the hospital and get out where I could breath the pure air and enjoy some privileges. It seemed that the whole island on which our hospital was situated was pregnated with the poison of small pox.
I am now with the Regt. They are still here. They did no leave as I notified you they would. The order was contramanded by some means. How long they will remain here no one knows. You doubtless would expect that I would be discharged from the way I have written to you heretofore but I think it rather doubtful now. Dock Davis says I am too good a man to discharge. He says that he had rather discharge 50 such men as some such as he has discharged. You can tell by this something about my reputation in the Regt. Dr. wants me to stay for a nurse in the Regt hospital if my health improves satisfactorily for a short time to come. I shall not urge my claim for a discharge. If I can be of service to my country without too much exposure and suffering to myself, I am willing to stay. Dr Davis says he only wants to discharge me in time to get home to die. He was joking only. Our company [is] no. 45 in camp. There have been a great many discharged and some 20 have died. Many or some are still in the various hospitals from Helena to Chicago. There are about 30 of Company C fit for duty. The health of the Regt is beginning to improve some little.
Wm Neill is still here. He is in good health. He has had the [diarrhea?] too but has got well.
This is Sunday morning. I want to go to church some time today as it has been some time since I enjoyed such privileges. The service of my master is still my delight. I ever expect to continue in his service till I am discharged from his services on earth and transferred to my reward in heaven. The way I have been situated for some time it has been truly hard work for me to collect my thoughts and turn them heavenward. A person would think that a hospital ought to be a civil and religious place but the smallpox hospital seems to be nearest the lower regions of any place that I have ever been.
But amid all the surroundings I have been enabled to keep the polar star in view. The Lord has been truly good to me. I want you to read again the 91st Psalm as it relates to my experience and condition and the goodness of God to me. Oh how pleasant it is to look back and recount the mercies and favors of God to me and to implore his protection and care.
Dear wife do prove faithful and instruct our dear children in the ways of righteousness. Daily make this the chief business of your life. Oh how hard I want to see you and the children but can’t tell when I shall, but I still live in hopes that I will sometime. I would have you come to see me but there is so much smallpox in and around the city that I would not have you to come for anything for the smallpox is the most terrible disease known. I want you to do the best you can. I am in hopes that I can send you $50 before many days. The sox you sent me are a splendid thing. They are to nice for a soldier.
Dear wife I am sorry that you are not more punctual in writing. If you knew how much good it does me to get a letter from you, I think you would be more prompt. When it comes to going two or three weeks without a letter and we [are] no further apart than we are it makes me feel bad. 2 letters a week would not displease me in the least.
I have never got an answer to Derbs (? Perhaps short for Hosea Durbin Heath, his oldest son) letter yet. I would write oftener if you would.
There are some pox marks on my face yet but I think they will mostly go away yet.
I was down and spent a day with your sister the other day. I was most warmly and courteously received. She has a most interesting family. They, I think, are in very easy circumstances. I eat a most splendid dinner with them. Mr. Green was out of town on business. I did not get to see him. I saw all the rest of the family. She has a little girl that reminded my very much of old Lant. She made up with me and we had quite a romp. I was much pleased with my visit and think I will call again if we stay here any time. I saw and read your letter to her.
I must bring my letter to a close. I want you to write soon as I am quite uneasy about you owing to the great amount of sickness and I am afraid that you have exposed yourself so much that will be sick.
Ben Heath
Mary A Heath
Direct to me here and to the Regt and co.
 

Belle Montgomery

Sergeant Major
Joined
Oct 25, 2017
Messages
1,866
Location
44022
#5
This is a typed copy of a letter my Gx2Grandpa wrote to his wife from a Union Army hospital in St. Louis. He was a Corporal in the 34th Iowa I.R. and was infected with smallpox during the early stages of the Vicksburg campaign. It is not clear exactly when he was infected, but it appears to have occurred near Helena, Arkansas. The letter indicates and good number of his regiment were infected and sent back to St. Louis. @Booner is aGx3 Nephew.

1863
Mar 29
Benton Barachs
St. Louis, MO
Dear wife and children:
I am by the blessings of the Almighty God still alive and in moderate health. You cannot tell how thankful I was to get out of the hospital and get out where I could breath the pure air and enjoy some privileges. It seemed that the whole island on which our hospital was situated was pregnated with the poison of small pox.
I am now with the Regt. They are still here. They did no leave as I notified you they would. The order was contramanded by some means. How long they will remain here no one knows. You doubtless would expect that I would be discharged from the way I have written to you heretofore but I think it rather doubtful now. Dock Davis says I am too good a man to discharge. He says that he had rather discharge 50 such men as some such as he has discharged. You can tell by this something about my reputation in the Regt. Dr. wants me to stay for a nurse in the Regt hospital if my health improves satisfactorily for a short time to come. I shall not urge my claim for a discharge. If I can be of service to my country without too much exposure and suffering to myself, I am willing to stay. Dr Davis says he only wants to discharge me in time to get home to die. He was joking only. Our company [is] no. 45 in camp. There have been a great many discharged and some 20 have died. Many or some are still in the various hospitals from Helena to Chicago. There are about 30 of Company C fit for duty. The health of the Regt is beginning to improve some little.
Wm Neill is still here. He is in good health. He has had the [diarrhea?] too but has got well.
This is Sunday morning. I want to go to church some time today as it has been some time since I enjoyed such privileges. The service of my master is still my delight. I ever expect to continue in his service till I am discharged from his services on earth and transferred to my reward in heaven. The way I have been situated for some time it has been truly hard work for me to collect my thoughts and turn them heavenward. A person would think that a hospital ought to be a civil and religious place but the smallpox hospital seems to be nearest the lower regions of any place that I have ever been.
But amid all the surroundings I have been enabled to keep the polar star in view. The Lord has been truly good to me. I want you to read again the 91st Psalm as it relates to my experience and condition and the goodness of God to me. Oh how pleasant it is to look back and recount the mercies and favors of God to me and to implore his protection and care.
Dear wife do prove faithful and instruct our dear children in the ways of righteousness. Daily make this the chief business of your life. Oh how hard I want to see you and the children but can’t tell when I shall, but I still live in hopes that I will sometime. I would have you come to see me but there is so much smallpox in and around the city that I would not have you to come for anything for the smallpox is the most terrible disease known. I want you to do the best you can. I am in hopes that I can send you $50 before many days. The sox you sent me are a splendid thing. They are to nice for a soldier.
Dear wife I am sorry that you are not more punctual in writing. If you knew how much good it does me to get a letter from you, I think you would be more prompt. When it comes to going two or three weeks without a letter and we [are] no further apart than we are it makes me feel bad. 2 letters a week would not displease me in the least.
I have never got an answer to Derbs (? Perhaps short for Hosea Durbin Heath, his oldest son) letter yet. I would write oftener if you would.
There are some pox marks on my face yet but I think they will mostly go away yet.
I was down and spent a day with your sister the other day. I was most warmly and courteously received. She has a most interesting family. They, I think, are in very easy circumstances. I eat a most splendid dinner with them. Mr. Green was out of town on business. I did not get to see him. I saw all the rest of the family. She has a little girl that reminded my very much of old Lant. She made up with me and we had quite a romp. I was much pleased with my visit and think I will call again if we stay here any time. I saw and read your letter to her.
I must bring my letter to a close. I want you to write soon as I am quite uneasy about you owing to the great amount of sickness and I am afraid that you have exposed yourself so much that will be sick.
Ben Heath
Mary A Heath
Direct to me here and to the Regt and co.
Very heartfelt and touching. Thank you for sharing!
 

Karen Lips

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jun 24, 2008
Messages
3,814
Location
Waxahachie,Texas
#8
This is a typed copy of a letter my Gx2Grandpa wrote to his wife from a Union Army hospital in St. Louis. He was a Corporal in the 34th Iowa I.R. and was infected with smallpox during the early stages of the Vicksburg campaign. It is not clear exactly when he was infected, but it appears to have occurred near Helena, Arkansas. The letter indicates and good number of his regiment were infected and sent back to St. Louis. @Booner is aGx3 Nephew.

1863
Mar 29
Benton Barachs
St. Louis, MO
Dear wife and children:
I am by the blessings of the Almighty God still alive and in moderate health. You cannot tell how thankful I was to get out of the hospital and get out where I could breath the pure air and enjoy some privileges. It seemed that the whole island on which our hospital was situated was pregnated with the poison of small pox.
I am now with the Regt. They are still here. They did no leave as I notified you they would. The order was contramanded by some means. How long they will remain here no one knows. You doubtless would expect that I would be discharged from the way I have written to you heretofore but I think it rather doubtful now. Dock Davis says I am too good a man to discharge. He says that he had rather discharge 50 such men as some such as he has discharged. You can tell by this something about my reputation in the Regt. Dr. wants me to stay for a nurse in the Regt hospital if my health improves satisfactorily for a short time to come. I shall not urge my claim for a discharge. If I can be of service to my country without too much exposure and suffering to myself, I am willing to stay. Dr Davis says he only wants to discharge me in time to get home to die. He was joking only. Our company [is] no. 45 in camp. There have been a great many discharged and some 20 have died. Many or some are still in the various hospitals from Helena to Chicago. There are about 30 of Company C fit for duty. The health of the Regt is beginning to improve some little.
Wm Neill is still here. He is in good health. He has had the [diarrhea?] too but has got well.
This is Sunday morning. I want to go to church some time today as it has been some time since I enjoyed such privileges. The service of my master is still my delight. I ever expect to continue in his service till I am discharged from his services on earth and transferred to my reward in heaven. The way I have been situated for some time it has been truly hard work for me to collect my thoughts and turn them heavenward. A person would think that a hospital ought to be a civil and religious place but the smallpox hospital seems to be nearest the lower regions of any place that I have ever been.
But amid all the surroundings I have been enabled to keep the polar star in view. The Lord has been truly good to me. I want you to read again the 91st Psalm as it relates to my experience and condition and the goodness of God to me. Oh how pleasant it is to look back and recount the mercies and favors of God to me and to implore his protection and care.
Dear wife do prove faithful and instruct our dear children in the ways of righteousness. Daily make this the chief business of your life. Oh how hard I want to see you and the children but can’t tell when I shall, but I still live in hopes that I will sometime. I would have you come to see me but there is so much smallpox in and around the city that I would not have you to come for anything for the smallpox is the most terrible disease known. I want you to do the best you can. I am in hopes that I can send you $50 before many days. The sox you sent me are a splendid thing. They are to nice for a soldier.
Dear wife I am sorry that you are not more punctual in writing. If you knew how much good it does me to get a letter from you, I think you would be more prompt. When it comes to going two or three weeks without a letter and we [are] no further apart than we are it makes me feel bad. 2 letters a week would not displease me in the least.
I have never got an answer to Derbs (? Perhaps short for Hosea Durbin Heath, his oldest son) letter yet. I would write oftener if you would.
There are some pox marks on my face yet but I think they will mostly go away yet.
I was down and spent a day with your sister the other day. I was most warmly and courteously received. She has a most interesting family. They, I think, are in very easy circumstances. I eat a most splendid dinner with them. Mr. Green was out of town on business. I did not get to see him. I saw all the rest of the family. She has a little girl that reminded my very much of old Lant. She made up with me and we had quite a romp. I was much pleased with my visit and think I will call again if we stay here any time. I saw and read your letter to her.
I must bring my letter to a close. I want you to write soon as I am quite uneasy about you owing to the great amount of sickness and I am afraid that you have exposed yourself so much that will be sick.
Ben Heath
Mary A Heath
Direct to me here and to the Regt and co.
Did he survive the war?
 

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 4, 2015
Messages
2,024
Location
Boonville, MO
#12
I'm wondering if my message went through. I'm writing it from a cabin outside the north rim of the Grand Canyon----no internet or tv---some of the younger folks in my group are having a hard time without either one of our modern conveniences.


Thanks for posting that letter. I have a copy of it somewhere. I'm assuming, like all the Heath's, he was a Methodist.

(I'm on 4g)
 
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