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Letters Home from a Civil War Soldier

Updated on February 3, 2013

I had in my possession two letters written by a Civil War soldier to his family while he was recovering from wounds in a hospital.

One is dated March 17 and the other June 20. Also included is a separate short message written to his daughters. The date written in the letter looks like 1869, but from the context and a date written on an envelope in a different hand, I believe it is 1863.

These letters are from F A Johnson to his wife and children in Steuben County, Indiana. These are well written and may well have been his last written words, as the Civil War Veterans Memorial in Steuben County lists an F Johnson who did not return from the war. He describes his recovery and some of things he has seen, and gets quite philosophical at one point.

Convalescent Camp Nashville March 17th 1863

My Dear Jane I take my pen in hand to scribble a few lines to you and the children. I am about the same as I have been my back and hip are very week yet yesterday I washed myself, 2 shirts, pair of drawers, pair socks and fetched the water and it was the larges days work I have done since I have been here and it was all that I wanted to do. I have the only that I have had this winter worth mentioning and it is not worth naming only to fill up space. Samuel Oberlin has been rather under the weather for a few days past, but I hope it will not amount to anything serious or alarming the weather makes me think of planting corn I have not of any being planted yet in fact they will have to ferrel up their land where the armies have been before the can plant much. This may seem hard to you at home but here it is nothing and in fact the think they escape well it nothing but their fences are destroyed. I have seen where houses have been burned along the road where we have been on the march others riddled with cannon balls and grape fences and everything swept clean so you see that it is not only the soldiers that suffer but the inhabitance the most of our army robs the south and the rebs rob the unions so it is dog eat dog so between the two the county is eat up but such is war the innocent suffer with the guilty and the innocent the most. It seems to me it the weather keeps pleasant there will be another forward movement in a few days. I think, I hope these few lines may find you and the children in the best health and spirits. Write as soon as this comes to hand and let me know how and who is drafted this time in our township for want of anything of interest to write I must close by writing to the girls Well Nancy how do you do to day and how much have you grown since papa went away. How is Johnny does he cry much. I hope not. You must be a good girl and help mama all you can Emma papa was so sorry to hear that you had been so sick that he did cry but he was so glad to hear the you were getting better and he hopes you are well by this time and as good as ever again

From your affectionate husband and father Francis

PS I have to frank this as I am out of stamps and money but you need not send any for I think that we shall be paid in a few days as least

F A Johnson

My dear little Emma how do you do. You are 9 I think. Pappa got your ? leaves and kissed them in ? of you. Pappa was glad to get them now you must be a good little girl and pappa will hold Emma on his lap like he did when at home. This from your pappa.


June 20th 1863

Hospital No 4 NashvilleTenn

Dear Wife and children I take my pen in hand once more to let you know that by the mercies and blessings of God I am still alive but very weak yet not being able to sit up but a short time yet and not able to walk at all yet but am verry thankful that I am as well as I am. There has been two deaths in this ward since of Typhoid pneumonia. In this I propose of giving a account of my sickness at the stockade and my being brought here. I doctored with a citizen doctor at the stockade until I agreed to be sent here for I had a perfect horror of being sent to a hospital. I was carried down to the rail road on my blanket for I had got so week that I could not walk and was brought to the Chattanooga and Nashville Depo then was reported to convalescent camp. The doctor sent an ambulance and I was taken to the office of the medical director who sent me here. I must go back a little. I was taken of the cars by two negroes and two white men and laid on the side walk to await the ambulance. While lying there and old white wooly headed negro went and brought me a cup of the best tea the I ever saw and three nice biscuit and some butter but I could only drink half of the tea and could not eat any of the biscuit at which he seemed greatly distress and wanted to know if he could do or get anything for me that I could eat. I told him no. he said he wished he could do something for me. I thanked him and told he could do nothing more. These are all little incidents that occurred, who do you think was kind enough to break the glass in our window and tear up the floor and…..

Be that they will destroy or spoil it that I left in the stable. Please go and see some day when you feel strong enough and see how the orchard is and the prospect of the wheat and how the stock is and other things are generally. Please tell A to keep a eye the lumber and the work in the stable as he has opportunity. Where has he planted corn this yeat and how much there. I has just came some letters for me and I must look at them. One from A and wife of May 31st one from you of June 13th another dated May 27th in which you sent me an envelop which I will send this. And Wednesday evening June 10 Wesly Dirrim came to see me. The other day he says that his wife and Jacob Flentz wife are getting goods from Hales at Waterloo on the appropriation made by the county. Now if they can get you certainly ought to also. It seems as though they have the management of concern. if you need anything try and get all you can there you can get an order from them for five to ten dollars at a time. Tell A to help you a little if he can. I must close and read the letters ? to the hospital No 4 ward

Your affectionate husband Francis.

These letters were stuffed in a drawer in my desk for years. I thought someone else would appreciate them more than I and give them the respect they deserved. I sold them on ebay to a person from.....Steubenville, Indiana. I think they are now where they belong.


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    • shea duane profile image

      shea duane 4 years ago from new jersey

      Wow, this is so interesting. I've been doing some family research, and I'd love to find family letters from this time period. Great hub.