Unsolved Mystery: Union ancestor Depew poignant last letter

Kwms

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2021
Very pleased with the knowledge and enthusiasm here on CivilWarTalk. May I please ask for suggestions to find a Union soldier whose Regiment and name fail to match muster rolls?

Civil War letter discovered in my great grandmother's family Bible is a young father's firsthand account of five hard battles and two months on the Mississippi River, yet his last name Depew fails to show in federal military or civilian records and his first name is illegible from a fold across the paper. The letter identifies him as 1st Lieutenant in Co. F Kentucky Volunteers (its soldiers referred to the 3rd Regiment although it had been re-designated the 7th Regiment). He asks that family should direct letters to Memphis, Tennessee, to follow the Regiment.

This family letter has many clues, poignant in the heartfelt writing style of those times. However, neither muster rolls, pension files, hospital nor census records match a Depew or Depeau for his 1863 death year. To his mother, he asks that she recollect a wife and little children mourning his absence, and that God may bless dear sisters, Deborah and Relda.

My ancestor's identity eludes discovery, although his accounts of places and dates match history:
He inventories for his father the captured Confederate Army, its weapons and property that matches accounts from McClernand's taking of Ft Hindman in the Battle of Arkansas Post and a previously unsuccessful six day battle that winter at Vicksburg.

On the letter's January 29, 1863 date, Vicksburg is in sight once again as he writes from Camp Gear, but the camp is not listed on siege maps. Although fine when he left West Virginia, he writes his health is not very good. "Will you pray for me that I may fight the battles of my country and be able to return to my family in peace again." Noted at the bottom the letter: "Died one month later."

His identity remains unknown as I continue attempts at tracing my great grandmother's previous generation for cousins or great uncles, as no other direct line seems to explain her possession of this letter from her father's maternal grandmother Mary Polly Depew. What have I missed in trying to identify him, or what may I have mistakenly assumed in my search? Suggestions and observations would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Keith Williams
 

lupaglupa

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Upstate New York
What a great mystery! There are lots of ways to come at this. I looked at the records for the 7th KY - the only 1st Lt who died in 1863 was Thomas Buchanan. I could not find a family record for him to check the names of his sisters.

You seem certain that the name in the letter is Depew. Is that from what you can see or the association with Mary Polly Depew?
 

Kwms

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2021
What a great mystery! There are lots of ways to come at this. I looked at the records for the 7th KY - the only 1st Lt who died in 1863 was Thomas Buchanan. I could not find a family record for him to check the names of his sisters.

You seem certain that the name in the letter is Depew. Is that from what you can see or the association with Mary Polly Depew?
Definitely Depew is legible on the letter. My grandfather’s mother (Mariah Cox Williams) was a Depew descendant through her father (Mabry Tucker Cox) and his mother, Mary Polly Depew (before Mary Polly Depew married George Rhea Cox). It would seem that the letter writer’s surname would have been a male second cousin or great uncle who passed the letter down, perhaps inside a family Bible. There is a Jacob Depew in the family, but death date is off by a few years.

Thank you for your question; you are most kind to have replied. I’m missing something here or I am focused too tightly on the clues to match to detailed regimental records.
 

Kwms

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2021
Depue is another spelling version that may have been used perhaps? Could he have been attached to that regiment in some auxiliary capacity that would not have him listed on the muster roll?
Good thoughts on Depew/Depeau/Depue which I’ve checked. A military historian at National Archives said he could have moved among companies for a promotion and perhaps died before the next (monthly?) muster roll.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2021
Just curious as to how Lt. Depew ended up in a regiment drawn from Mercer County, Kentucky, (in the middle of the state) when it sounds like his home was in West Virginia? That's a lot of mountains to walk or ride over to enlist.

This states that the regiment "Moved to Young's Point, Louisiana, January 15–23, and duty there until March."
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/7th_Kentucky_Infantry_Regiment_(Union)

This might have useful info on Young's Point and the burial of soldiers who died there
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/un...o-died-at-youngs-point-louisiana-1863.106958/
 

lupaglupa

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Location
Upstate New York
There is something that is being missed here - some apparent fact in the letter is leading us astray. Is it possible for you to share the letter itself? I know that can be very hard to do, especially if it is fragile, so I will certainly understand if you don't want to scan or photograph it.

But there is, somewhere, a missing piece. When the name you are looking for is not in the company you have them linked to, then some of the information is skewed. Seeing the original text would help figure out what that is.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2021
I think he served in WV, not that he was from there. Mercer Co., WV, was one of the heaviest Confederate counties in WV. Mercer Co. KY is next to Gerrard Co. KY, which is where most of the recruits were from.

https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/7th_Regiment,_Kentucky_Infantry_(Union)
This was the link I was looking at which is on the Mercer County, KY website. Maybe recruits from this county were used to fill up the depleated ranks later in the war. There is a logical explanation for everything!

http://sites.rootsweb.com/~kymercer/CivilWar/Union/7inf/

Good thoughts on Depew/Depeau/Depue which I’ve checked. A military historian at National Archives said he could have moved among companies for a promotion and perhaps died before the next (monthly?) muster roll.
Good call. Somewhere in the archives there must be a list of promotions for that regiment around that particular time.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2021
So his regiment was stationed at Young's Point in January, 1863, (see reference above) which was a supply depot and training camp for USCT. His reference to "Camp Gear" would fit into the idea that he was in a supply depot.
 

Kwms

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2021
There is something that is being missed here - some apparent fact in the letter is leading us astray. Is it possible for you to share the letter itself? I know that can be very hard to do, especially if it is fragile, so I will certainly understand if you don't want to scan or photograph it.

But there is, somewhere, a missing piece. When the name you are looking for is not in the company you have them linked to, then some of the information is skewed. Seeing the original text would help figure out what that is.
The letter is a typewritten transcript by a family member in the mid 1970s, and could well have errors since the handwritten original has been lost to time. “Seeing through a glass darkly” definitely comes to mind.
 

Kwms

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2021
So his regiment was stationed at Young's Point in January, 1863, (see reference above) which was a supply depot and training camp for USCT. His reference to "Camp Gear" would fit into the idea that he was in a supply depot.
I had wondered about “Camp Gear” and your connection to supply depot makes sense. What is USCT ?
Thank you for suggestions on promotion lists from Union 7th KY which I will search for at Natl Archives. Also most appreciative of your links to the threads on burials from Young’s Point.
 

Kwms

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2021
I think he served in WV, not that he was from there. Mercer Co., WV, was one of the heaviest Confederate counties in WV. Mercer Co. KY is next to Gerrard Co. KY, which is where most of the recruits were from.

https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/7th_Regiment,_Kentucky_Infantry_(Union)
Not sure what to make of his words, “My health was fine when I left West Virginia.” Your suggestion to where he served and where he came from might fit with his referring to leaving home from West Virginia or perhaps as I understand you to think, that West Virginia was a point of reference within his time of service. Thank you for the thoughtful suggestion; it broadens my consideration of how to continue this search.
 

lupaglupa

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USCT is United States Colored Troops - the African-Americans who volunteered to fight for their freedom.

It's a shame the copy is a transcript. That does make it more challenging. I cannot find an overlap between the facts of the letter and soldiers named Depew. That doesn't mean the facts as presented in the transcript aren't correct - just that the records don't reflect them.
 

John Hartwell

Major
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Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
Not having the original letter is a serious handicap. It leaves open so many uncertainties.

Can you post a scan of the transcription, so we can see just how it is worded? There may be hidden hints in the text that someone here might recognize.

DePew, Depue, DuPew, DePugh, Pugh, Depeau, Dupeau ...

USCT: U. S. Colored Troops (serving under white officers).
 

Kwms

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2021
Not having the original letter is a serious handicap. It leaves open so many possibilities.

Can you post a scan of the transcription, so we can see just how it is worded? There may be hidden hints in the text that someone here might recognize.

DePew, Depue, DuPew, DePugh, Pugh, Depeau, Dupeau ...

USCT: U. S. Colored Troops (serving under white officers).
Here’s the transcript and thanks to each of you for your kind interest and good suggestions.

Camp Gear
Vicksburg, Miss
January 29, 1863

Dear Father and Mother:

I will write you a line informing you my health is not very good, but I thank God is not worse. Hoping and
trusting these lines find you both well.

Father, I have been on the Mississippi River for two months. My health was fine when I left West Virginia.
I have been in five hard battles. The Lord has brought me through them all safe. I fought six days in
succession at Vicksburg. We failed to take it, but fell back to the mouth of the Arkansas River, went up it
sixty miles, had a fight, captured the entire Army, took 7000 prisoners, 7000 stands of small arms, 20 pieces of artillery, and two-hundred thousand dollars worth of property. We have come back in sight of Vicksburg again and have been reinforced. I think we shall not fail perhaps, but it is a strong place.

Mother, do not forget your son who thinks of you oftimes and prays that your old days may be your best
days. Pray for me and recollect a wife and little children that are mourning my absence…Deborah and Relda, dear sisters may God bless you.

Will you pray for me that I may fight the battles of my country and be able to return to my family in peace again. When you write, direct your letters to Memphis, Tennessee, to follow the Regiment.

Father and Mother, if I never see you any more, I hope to meet you in heaven.

Your Devoted Son,


______ Depew
1st​ Lieut. Co. F
3rd​ Regiment
Kentucky Vol
 
Joined
Dec 31, 2010
Location
Kingsport, Tennessee
Very pleased with the knowledge and enthusiasm here on CivilWarTalk. May I please ask for suggestions to find a Union soldier whose Regiment and name fail to match muster rolls?

Civil War letter discovered in my great grandmother's family Bible is a young father's firsthand account of five hard battles and two months on the Mississippi River, yet his last name Depew fails to show in federal military or civilian records and his first name is illegible from a fold across the paper. The letter identifies him as 1st Lieutenant in Co. F Kentucky Volunteers (its soldiers referred to the 3rd Regiment although it had been re-designated the 7th Regiment). He asks that family should direct letters to Memphis, Tennessee, to follow the Regiment.

This family letter has many clues, poignant in the heartfelt writing style of those times. However, neither muster rolls, pension files, hospital nor census records match a Depew or Depeau for his 1863 death year. To his mother, he asks that she recollect a wife and little children mourning his absence, and that God may bless dear sisters, Deborah and Relda.

My ancestor's identity eludes discovery, although his accounts of places and dates match history:
He inventories for his father the captured Confederate Army, its weapons and property that matches accounts from McClernand's taking of Ft Hindman in the Battle of Arkansas Post and a previously unsuccessful six day battle that winter at Vicksburg.

On the letter's January 29, 1863 date, Vicksburg is in sight once again as he writes from Camp Gear, but the camp is not listed on siege maps. Although fine when he left West Virginia, he writes his health is not very good. "Will you pray for me that I may fight the battles of my country and be able to return to my family in peace again." Noted at the bottom the letter: "Died one month later."

His identity remains unknown as I continue attempts at tracing my great grandmother's previous generation for cousins or great uncles, as no other direct line seems to explain her possession of this letter from her father's maternal grandmother Mary Polly Depew. What have I missed in trying to identify him, or what may I have mistakenly assumed in my search? Suggestions and observations would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Keith Williams
One of the first white settlers in upper East Tennessee was Isaac Depew. He had several grandsons that fought on both sides

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/lilburn-depew-fought-on-both-sides.118149/
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/celebrities-with-civil-war-ancestors.185999/#post-2421088
 
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