Thursday, May 27, 2004

S. Brooks to Thomas Brooks, Massachusetts, 1812

This stampless letter has a faint circular date stamp for BOSTON with the stars / asterisks at the bottom, a handwritten 10 cent rate, and is addressed to Mr. Thomas Brooks, Lunenburg, Massachusetts, and is a one page 'Honoured Parents' letter written by S. Brooks.

The headline is Boston, May 11th, 1812.

Some abstracts:

"I am well and hoping these few lines may find you the same. I got down verry safe and went to Mr. Rogers the same night and gave him your letter, he read it over several times and made strange of it, he had no notion of moveing out of the house, and never said he had, he said he might live in the house this nine years but as the times where now, he did not want to live in the house only by the quarter. Thomas is well and sends his love to the family."

"I bought John a trunk and a wach [sic] and a picturbook."

Senator Asa Biggs, North Carolina, 1865


"All the valuable part of my Library was destroyed or carried off by the Federal Forces when they occupied my former residence in 1862." Asa Biggs, Nov. 30, 1865

This is a letter written by North Carolina Senator, Asa Biggs from Tarboro, North Carolina only a five months post war. The letter is addressed to Messrs. W. H. and O.H. Morrison.

Asa Biggs has quite a political history. He was an ardent supporter of slavery and states' rights, he approved of secession and resigned his federal position in 1861 to take a seat in the Secession Convention. He served as a Confederate district judge from 1861 until the end of the Civil War.
One of his three sons, Henry, was killed at Appomattox on 8 Apr. 1865. Another, William, also served in the Confederate Army and later became editor of the Oxford (N.C.) Free Lance. Biggs's other children included Asa Thomas, Lucy E., Patricia, and Cottie. Never wealthy, he often despaired of being able to provide for his large family. Reading the letter offered here, one gets a sense of his despair.

Biggs moved to Dalkeith in 1863 to settle on land he had acquired there. After the war he practiced law in Tarboro, (the city from which the letter is written) until he moved to Norfolk. A devoutly religious man, he experienced a religious conversion and described it in an autobiography written for his children in 1865 (published in 1915 by the North Carolina Historical Commission). He died in Norfolk and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery there.


"Tarboro, N.C., Nov. 30, 1865

Messrs. W. H. & O. H. Morrison:

Gentleman -- I am located at this place and expect to resume the practice of my profession and open a Law School to make a living. All the valuable part of my Library was destroyed or carried off by the Federal Forces when they occupied my former residence in 1862. I desire to replenish as far as I have the means and I now write as proposed by me to one of your firm while I was in Washington to inform you of the Congressional books left me and to ascertain if I can make an exchange for some Law Books. The Congressional Books are of my former residence in Williamston and a friend has sent me the following catlogue....

Can you take them and if so what is the most liberal price you can allow? I can box them up carefully and send them from Williamston via Norfolk, Va., and the books you send me can be forwarded via Norfolk to the care of Kader Biggs & Co., Norfolk Va....

I suggest this route as it will be less expensive, being water carriage all the way. I desire first to procure all the Statutes of the Unitied States during the war and the Decision of the Supreme court during gthe same time and afterward I can fill up my set of Reports & c.. I desire also to obtain the latest edition of any reiliable work on the Internal Revenue Acts, the most complete one I have seen is a publication by Bontwell, late commissioner of Internal Revenue. I desire also to procure a supply of staionery, one ream of good letter paper, one foolscap, 1/4 or 1/2 ream of conveancing paper and some envelopes and pens. In reply please state at what price you can furnish these articles so that I may see if I shall have the means to pay as I desire to confine myself to my resources for payment. Hoping to hear from you at our earliest convenience.

I am respectfully your obt. servant...Asa Biggs...

P.S. I find I have lost my copy of Brightley's Digest. I shall like to obtain the latest editio nof that work or any other which gives a Digest of the Statutes and if the recent statutes are included, I shall not need the Statutes themselves.

Lydia Giles, 1882

Letter written by an exciting and adventurous, female sailor, and pioneer who made the Overland journey through the Sierra Nevadas in 1880. The letters are written by Lydia Ann Giles and addressed for the most part to family members in Tenants Harbor, Maine. She sailed the world over with her husband, Captain Henry Giles who worked for J. M. Grace & Company, San Franscisco, shipping and commission merchants

***Liverpool, England--July the 13th, 1882***

My very dear sister Will commence a letter to you to say we are nearly ready for sea. Shall said about the 17th . I have received one letter from you and quite a number of papers. Hope I will get another letter before we said. I though I would not come home this time as my health is good and they all seem to be getting along well enough without me.

Henry is well and has got quite a corporation on his. He sends his regards to you and Joseph. Captain Speed and wife are staying with us now. Their ship is in the Graving Dock. .We stayed with them when our ship was in the Graving Dock. We had rather stay on the ship than board on shore. Captain Murphy has stayed us one night.

We have been off sight seeing over to London and Buxton. Captain speed and wife, Henry and I, Mr. Fox and wife met us in Buxton. Went to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Works in London. Rode through the principal streets over London bridge and Westminster bridge, through Hyde Park, round Roblen Row. Several times saw through the Tower of London. Stood on the spot where Anne Boleyn was beheaded. Saw the block and beheading axe and headsman’s mask. Was in the dungeon where Guy Fawkes was imprisoned and where the Royal Children were murdered—the two sons of Edward the Fourth. The instruments of torture, saw the crown jewels as Aunt T. B. says they were immense. Went to Windsor, was through Windsor Castle, all but the grounds, private apartments. From Duxton we went to Bakewell Church. This sacred pile is very ancient. Tradition assigns it a date anterior to the conquest. The old Nave is supposed to have re-erected about 1100, upon a still older foundation.

..... I hope you will not think that I have taken this large sheet to write the history of England on, but if you would like it, I will write a few descriptions of these places when I have more time. I came back very tired, but well satisfied. Enjoyed every minute of it. Although my lame knee ached very bad, being on my feet so much.

Our friends Mr. Gracie and wife, Mr. Meeks and wife, took us to Prescott in company with Capt. Speed and wife. Had a pleasant time. I sent you a paper with a necktie. Hope you got it all right. Tell Eddie I got him a Monkey in London. Not a live one. Kiss him for me. Will send it to Eddie by mail from San Francisco. Take good care of yourself and don’t go round among the sick too much. Laura is coming down to make you a visit soon. Don’t let her go round too much.

My love, best wishes to you.
Write to San Francisco in care of J.W. Grace & Co. Write about the first of November. I will send for a paper when we leave by the Pilot,.

Many thanks for the Opinions, your affectionate Sister, L. A. Giles.
Had a present of 17 Round Books and a case of scissors with my name on them in gilt….”

Monday, May 17, 2004

John Little, New York, 1883

Name: Terry Schliewe
E- mail:

Franklinville, NY
17 July, 1883

Our Dear Son James:

We would like very much to hear from you once in a while, your Mother is afraid you are not doing well because you never write and she worries about it. Now cannot you send us a card now and then, how you get along for health and worldly good not forgetting the world to come above all things. I send you a few cards, with this mail, the last we heard was from Orrie, said his mother was not well hope she is better now.

We are all very well at present. Margaret and Stephen are with us yet but go back to Corry next month. Kate has been visiting for the last 3 months at Muncie Indiana to Thos. Duncans. Peter’s Uncle Peter has just gone after her. Francis assists me in the office the business of the office has increased a good deal now and will be a Presidential or salaried office after this quarter. Johnie and family live at Little Valley the county seat, we have a call from him every week or two when he has business this way. He rides on the Railroads free.

Your Aunt has sold her house in Olean and gone to live with her daughter Margaret in Wisconsin. Hugh is sick with consumption and remains in Olean. Your Mother had a cousin with her husband from Scotland visiting their son who is a cashier in a wholesale house in Keokuk Iowa. He owns a farm there his parents visited him 3 or 4 weeks then went home to Glasgow his name is Gavin Herbert. 6th of August next if spared I will be 69 years old. Your mother was 67 last June we are now old. Time will be short with us and it behoves us and all of us to be wise concerning the latter end I trust you are.

And now James let us hear from you about your crops your family and your financial affairs, and prospects if you get the papers I send. Your mother often almost every day regrets that you do not write.

Write, Write. from your affectionate Parents, E & J Little

Notes: This letter was written by John Little of Franklinville NY to his son James Little of Canby MN. James served in the NY 6th Cavalry Company I and left NY to homestead in Yellow Medicine County in MN. John Little Sr was the Postmaster in Franklinville from 1861 till his death in 1886. He refers to his son Johnie, who was John Little Jr sheriff of Cattaraugus Cty btwn 1883 and 1885.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Top Genealogy Blogs

Olive Tree Genealogy Lorine McGinnis Schulze (the Olive Tree Lady) answers questions about genealogy and provides tips for finding those elusive brick-wall ancestors

The Paper Trail Eclectic mix of old documents - you may just find an ancestor's will, land record or general store receipt here!

Past Voices Letters, letters and more letters! Letters from Civil War soldiers, from wives to husbands, sons to mothers, sisters to sisters... This blog contains poignant old letters full of genealogy tidbits.

Ancestors at Rest - The blog for website. Contains death records of all kinds - funeral cards, death notices, cemetery receipts, obits...and more

Family Bibles - Another blog of Family Bible entries and pictures of the births, marriages and death pages

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Saturday, May 08, 2004

Civil War: Charles McDowell, a Canadian in NY 9th Artillery, 1865

Name: Lisa Saunders
E- mail:

To Nancy Wager McDowell from her husband Charles McDowell (A Canadian who enlisted in the New York 9th Heavy Artillery of the 6th Corps):

DURING THE SIEGE OF PETERSBURG [Near Petersburg] January the 1-1865

Dearest Wife

Old Eighteen and Sixty Five has got around and I ain’t much sorry either. But time passes fast with us now. It soon will be spring. Now we have easy times. It is awful muddy now. The most we do is to get our wood and that ain’t very hard work. I wouldn’t care if it would keep muddy all winter.

There has been a good [many] soldiers buried around here. You may go any way you are a-mind to and you will see graves throwed up. When we went after wood the other day, we found a man's skull laying a top of the ground. He hadn’t hardly any dirt throwed over him.

I counted twenty- six ball holes in a tree about a foot through. This was done the time we took the railroad and they charged on us but they got badly whipped. Some of our regiment got taken prisoners last night. Co. M and some of the other company went out yesterday morning on picket. Our company didn’t happen to go, and about two O’clock this morning, we was waked up by the yelling and shooting of the rebs. They made a charge on them. I haven’t heard exactly how many of our regiment there was taken. They say thirty-five or forty-two killed, and five or six wounded. Our boys brought in a few of the rebs. They come on them by surprise.

There is a good many deserting from the rebs most every night and come over here. I think this war will end this winter. It looks more like it now than it ever did before since I enlisted, but we can’t tell this war business is very uncertain. But I find most every one thinks so. I hope so anyway. I would like to have it come to an end this winter.

You would have laughed to have seen us tumble out of bed when the rebs charged on our picket line this morning. We tumbled over one another pretty fast. We was soon in a line. We didn’t know but they would try our line of battle but they knowed better than to try that. If they had they would have had a nice time.

You said you would like to have me come home on a furlough. I would like to go home as well as you would like to have me come but I don’t know whether there will be any more furloughs given or not. I think it will be a pretty hard thing to get one. Isae Woodruff started for home the other day. He had a furlough for fifteen days. He has been trying for one ever since his father died and if it hadn’t been for his father dying, he couldn’t have got one.

You say we can afford it as well as any body. Well I think we could, but if we save the money that it would cost me to come home, we can have so much more to spend. You know we will want to go a- visiting some when I get there. We might happen to get back to Washington yet this winter.

When we get orders to move, we don’t stop to tell long stories. We hear Dunbar and them other fellows is coming back to the regiment. I hear that Lee has give Lucy all of his property to keep till we comes back, then I suppose he will take her too. I wonder if he washed his face since he has been home. Robert Trevor is most well. Old Jef Davis is at home now.

I helped carry Jef in when he was wounded. I couldn’t help but laugh and felt sorry for him to hear what expressions he made. He said it was too bad. He said there was a reb captain come up to him after he was wounded and commenced turning him over to search him. He asked him what he wanted and he said his money and Jef told him [he] would get it for him. He said he put his hand in his pocket and handed his pocket book and the captain took the money out and throwed the pocket book down and a boy came along and he gave him the pocket book for a drink of water.

He would almost cry when he told about that. He said he thought it was too bad after shooting him to take the last cent he had. He said they took twenty-four dollars and ninety-five cents, which he had worked hard for. And he said there was some more come up to him and said, “You are wounded, are you old fellow?” And Jef said, “Yes.” “Well,” they said, “we will be a long with the ambulances and take you to Richmond you dammed Yankees. We will give you Fishers Hill!” Now I bet you Jeff’s eyes stuck out then. And, he said, in about two hours he seen them going back pell mell as hard as they could run and the Sixth Corps after them. He said then he felt glad. This was about now he laid there on the ground till next day noon before we found him.

That is what hurts the men so, laying on the ground so long after they are wounded. They took lots of money from our boys that day. I could have made a thousand dollars if I had a-went around an got our wounded and killed and searched them, but I wouldn’t do such a thing but there is lots of them that does do it and the boys had lots of money then.

There is a good many of our wounded a- coming back to the regiment now. There was two come today that was wounded to Monocacy, besides a good many new recruits. There was one come a few days a go, just like John Tree. You know him. The one we had so much fun with when we was at Fort Foote. The boys had lots of fun with him and night before last we left and we ain’t seen him Since. I don’t think they will look for him much.

It’s a- getting so cold. I don’t know but we shall heft to set up tonight and keep a fire. It is a-freezing fast. But we had the good luck to make a haul on a couple of blankets the other night when we was guarding baggage. I find a man has to look out for himself here. If he don’t, nobody else will look out for him. My cousin was over to see us the other day. He is pretty sick of the war.

I think I must write a letter to Canada before long. I haven't wrote to them since you left. Don’t you think it is too bad it has been so long since I wrote? I feel most ashamed to write now. I shall heft to apologize pretty well. I must write within a few days. Anyway I have had three or four letter from them this summer. Uncle Hiram has been a- trading farms lately. As soon as my time is out I think I shall go and see them Sometimes when I get to thinking about my native land and what good times I have had there it makes a feeling come over me that makes me feel sad.

Little did I think when I left home that I would be gone for seven years. Oh how I long to see my sister Margaret and all the rest, and if I get out of this alive it won’t be long before I can see her. She thought [my likeness] an awful sight. She feels pretty bad about us. She is afraid we will never come home alive but I live in hopes that we will come out all right.

And I must tell you what we had to eat for News Years. We didn’t draw no rations yesterday and we hadn’t nothing for supper last night, only coffee and nothing for breakfast this morning only we got an order and went and bought some bread. So we had bread, beef and coffee, and drawed rations after breakfast. So we had hardtack, coffee and pork for dinner. ain’t that pretty good? It’s getting so cold I must draw my letter to a close hoping soon to get an answer. We expect to go on picket now every day but I hope not till it gets a little warmer. I have just heard that they only captured twenty- three of our men.

From your ever true and affectionate husband C McDowell

Notes: The above letter is one of about 150 Civil War letters I found in my mother’s attic between Charles and Nancy Wager McDowell and their families. Charles McDowell was born in Simcoe, Ontario, Canada on 15 Feb. 1837. His family later moved to Norwich, Ontario, Canada. As a young man he and his brother David McDowell moved to Geneva, NY where Charles married Nancy Wager 24 Dec. 1860 when she was just 15. Despite his father's pleas (John McDowell of Norwich, Ontario) Charles enlisted in Lyons, New York in 1862. He served in the New York 9th Heavy Artillery under Secretary of State Seward's son, William H. Seward Jr., of Auburn, NY. The regiment was nicknamed "Seward's Pets" because the Secretary of State frequently visited his son's regiment and often brought along Lincoln. In the letters I read of a remarkable devotion to one another despite war’s infidelities, scandals and ever-present threat of death as well as Charles’s devotion to his new country. I also gained new insight into a wife's role in the camp life, a Canadian family’s views on the war and their participation, hangings, prostitution, amputations, desertions, theft and murder among Union troops, personal contacts with Lincoln and Seward (of "Seward's Alaskan Folly"), battles of Cold Harbor, Jerusalem Plank Road, Monocacy, Opequon, Fisher's Hill, Cedar Creek, the Siege of Petersburg, Moseby's Men, and the Shenandoah Valley Campaign. Among my family’s papers I also found photographs of most of the letter writers as well as Nancy Wager McDowell's obituary which reads: "MRS. MCDOWELL IS DEAD - SHOOK HANDS WITH LINCOLN. With the death of Mrs. Nancy Wager McDowell...the town of Sodus probably loses the distinction of having a resident who could boast of having shaken hands and talked with the martyred Lincoln…She was married in 1860 to Charles McDowell, a native of Canada, who came to America when a young man. Mr. McDowell was a member of the Ninth New York Heavy Artillery in the Union Army and it was while stationed near Washington that his wife had an opportunity to speak with the President. Mrs. McDowell passed nearly a year in that vicinity and many were the pies she baked for the soldiers stationed at the capital. Typhoid Fever caused her to return to Alton to the home of her parents…" ("The Record," Sodus, Wayne County, N.Y. September 18, 1931) Charles McDowell died 17 April 1913. Their two children were May Belle (born 4 Aug. 1871) and Gilbert (born 6 Mar. 1883). Gilbert’s children were Gilbert and Russell (grandfather).

The letters, along with background information and era recipes are found in my book: Ever True: Civil War Letters of Seward's New York 9th Heavy Artillery of Wayne and Cayuga Counties Between a Soldier, His Wife and His Canadian Family

If you would like to see pictures of Charles and Nancy McDowell and read more letters, please visit my website at

Wednesday, May 05, 2004



"I presume that we shall be obliged to go front in the spring camping. If so all right, but in less than six months I shall be free, then I shall keep so one day, I think, and let others try it. It is thought by many that we are likely to go with the Army of the Potomac, but it is evident by the move that we shall go soon somewhere, but we are all anxious to see the country. Charles R. Collins, March 28, 1864 4-page letter addressed from Camp Near Portsmouth, Va., March 28, 1864 and written to his,

Mother and Brother. The letter is written and dated through April 6, 1864, a few short weeks before his capture. a letter written by an Honor Roll victim of the deplorable Confederate prison in Andersonville, Ga.Charles R. Collins was from Chicopee, Massachusetts. He mustered into Company D , 27th Mass. Infantry on May 14, 1862. He was captured on May 16, 1864, at Drury s Bluff, two years later. He died at Andersonville Prison on August 24, 1864. Charles Collins is buried at Andersonville National Cemetery, Grave 6714.


Camp Near Portsmouth, Va., March 28, 1864

Dear Mother and Brother--

I shall endeavor to give you a detail of another move on the 19th. We had marching orders. Our two companies was relieved in Portsmouth by a portion of the 4th Rhode Island and on the 21st, the remainder of the Regt., except our Company, was relieved in Norfolk by the remainder of the 4th Rhode Island and the 13th N.H., and on the 22nd we had orders to move. It began to snow about eleven and blew as hard as ever you saw it in your life and about noon we started with all of our worldly effects upon our backs with our guns and equipments. Thus we marched 4 ½ miles to our camping ground. The ground was covered with snow. The boys undertook to pitch tents, but the wind took them down as fast as they could put them up. But fortunately the 10th N.H., Camp was near by. Our officers told us to seek shelter where we could find it, as they were away to relieve a Regiment that was away on a furlough. We seen rough shelter within this nearly deserted camp. We was wet cold, and hungry, but we took a little stimulent which kept the spirits up alike [with] all soldiers. The snow fell about one foot deep.

The next morning you might have seen us wading through the snow with our governments on (that is shoes) to get wood to keep us warm. We went about 1/4 mile & on the 24th we went and shoveled the snow to put up our tents. As luck would have it, our old boards came from our old tent and we stockaded our tent 4 ½ foot high, and we have got a Cibley stove in our tent, but as it has no bottom alike all such, we placed it on the terra firma and thus it will stand. Our family consists of five in number. Therefore, you can see that we have a jolly crew. Our floor consists of a few short boards flung on the ground. On the 25th it commenced to rain and blow tremendous hard and continued to the most of the night. It drowned out a number of tents, crews, but we was all right. Thus you can see what pleasures the soldier s experience. But these moves we call excursions, huts we are amongst the observers to be observed and have the pleasure to see the lay of the country and making for ourselves a new home.

We have a beautiful camping found now. In front is a long line of breastworks and to our right is encampments at intervals, a number of miles. To our left is a creek. Near the bank is a house which is used for a hospital, still over the creek to our left, the breastworks extend to the River with forts at intervals throughout the entire line in front of the breastworks. The most of the way is a strong abuts which will trouble the Rebs to charge through. Our duties will be light I think. I have had nothing to do yet, but shall soon. The 26th, it come off clear and nice, but the wind blows alike all March weather. But this morning, it is a beautiful morning. I presume that we shall be obliged to go front in the spring camping.

If so all right, but in less than six months I shall be free, then I shall keep so one day, I think, and let others try it. March 29th, as I am off duties, I am compelled to resort to my such palace to shield myself from the inclemency of the weather as you may be fully aware that the weather here is windy and alike that of ours at our northern homes in the month of March, and at those times, loneliness of spirit takes possession of my mind and at those times, I resort to pen and thus give a description of the passing events. Last night we had orders for the Second Brigade to march with three days rations and one hundred rounds of cartridges as our Regt. belongs to thus. You can see how we stood but before we began to get ready the order was countermanded. This is our style.

It is thought by many that we are likely to go with the Army of the Potomac, but it is evident by the move that we shall go soon somewhere, but we are all anxious to see the country. April 6th. Yours of the 6th has been received in due time. I have just returned from a march from Trenton. We was two days. We saw no Rebs. I have just received a letter from Aaron. He sent Laura s photograph. The children are well.

The last letter I had from Chicopee [was from] my little ? was sick with the lung fever, but she was out of danger. Frank Gleason has got his discharge but I have his brother that line and he was agoing to send it to him. I saw in your letter that you had received it so long that you was almost ashamed to write, but I can always find him, so answer letter now if you want to hear form me again very soon. You must write because we expect to take the field soon. I have made up my mind that I will not write any more letters unless I can have my letters answered. You can take lines in the night or at least on the Sabbath day. I can excuse no one. The women can write.

You must excuse all the mistakes and give my love to all, and be sure to write often. You know that you are fine and I am not. This from a Brother & C.R.Collins.

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