Civil War Letters revisted
ED NOTE: Back in the day over at WoM I wrote about a young woman of Lorain ( a daughter of one of the founding families her name was Fanny Gilmore. I have decided to reprise this article here on my blog as we take the “Magical History Tour” of Lorain.
Letters to a Young Lady (Civil War)
This young lady, of what eventually became Lorain, had an interesting life. Fanny was the daughter of one of the “first families” of the community, wife of the hero of the steamer the John M Osborn- Captain Thomas Wilford, rescued from a sinking ship with her two little girls only to lose one child to typhoid-Fanny McQueen Gilmore (Wilford).
On February 12th, 1961 The Cleveland Plain Dealer -Sunday Magazine ran an article by Florence J Bartenfeld titled “Civil War Letters to a Young Lady”. The article is too lengthy to reprint here in its entirety however; I am pleased to give you a sample of the letters sent to of a young woman of this city from her family and friends as they lived through the Civil War.
“Tucked away in an old chest on the third floor of the Charles F. Bartenfeld home on Washington Avenue Wilford-Bartenfeld Home
for many years were bundles of old letters tied with ribbon.
When grandchildren interested in stamp collections queried Grandma about old stamps, the letters and albums of picture post cards were brought out . A few faded pink stamps, bearing George Washington’s profile were removed and given to the budding philatelists.
Excerpts from some of the letters: The letters are copied as written with no attempt to correct spelling.
From Frank Shupe (Fanny’s cousin- Amherst) Camp Dennison May 19th-1861
“It has been one month since I enlisted and I aint ded yet. All I ask for is good health and I guess I will come home alive and kicking.
Thare is not much excitement here but soldiers keep coming here. Within two days thare has 4 regiments of soldiers come here and now thare is about twelve thousand soldiers here in all. I wish you were here to see us drill. It would make your eyes bung out to see 12,000 men all together….
A week ago I was up to town and see one man stab another because he refused to drink whiskey with him. What they done to him I dont know. That is all now. Give my best respects to all the folks and especly the girls…
Fanny’s brother Byron, who enlisted in the 103rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the summer of 1861 (19 yrs) wrote frequently
Byron Gillmore- Cumberland River June 11th 1862
We are rite in the face of the enemy. They are on one side of the river and we are on the other. The rebels pickets and our pickets talk together and some time they fire at each other. The pickets have been firing ever since daylight….
Maybe I will get a chance to draw a bead on a Reb. I shant fire until I am sure of my game so they had better look sharp and keep out of reach of my old musket…..
June 1862 Cumberland River
The night before last we crossed the river and slept there all night and then came back again. We forded the river both times. The water was rather wet but warm so it pleased the most of us. We had just got our pay that day and some of the boys in Co.K lost all their money. They pulled their pants off and throwed them over their backs and their pocket books dropped out. Mine is all safe……
I guess Gen. Gillmore is not coming back here again….
General Quincy Adams Gillmore, a first cousin to Fanny and Byron. Byron writes:
“It is my opinion he would fight as long as there was a man left”
Byron Gillmore Dec 12th 1862 Lexington Kentucky
… The report was that there was 20 thousand rebels up at Big Hill about 50 miles from here…. I hope it is so and they will come and attact for there has got to be some fighting done and we might as well do it now as any other time and then we could see whether General Gillmore would fight or not. It is my opinion that he would fight as long as there was a man left. He is not only brave but he understands his business about as well as the next one
January 23rd 1863
No I told you a rong story I am not well I have a very hard cough at preasant ….I don’t think it would be a very good plan the one Celia proposes to come home and get married. I am not 21 yet and I said I would never marrie until I am 21 years old and I never will that-so
June 11th 1863
I dont know but I will go back to my company before long if Captain Burger dont stop swearing at me. He came down to our tent yesterday and commenced cursing because one of us wasnt up at the office…………… he said he would send us all back to our companys. He has told us that a dozen times. I dont care if he does.
John Connolly -Strawberry Plains Tenn. Dec 31st 1863
Friend Fanny ,
Your letter of Nov 18 was received……………..but we have had some pretty hard marches and not much to eat and not much to wear. I know it has been a good while since Byron and I wrote but it has been a good while since we could write .
Old General Longstreet has been around here with his forces so that we couldnt write or anything else. He came pretty near making us stop eating. I guess he would only for General Sherman with his reinforcements from Chattanooga. I hope you will excuse all mistakes and poor writing. This paper is poor stuff and it is the best we can afford down here in Tenn.
Byron Gillmore December 10th 1864 Nashville Tenn.
Dear Sister Fanny:
I am enjoying myself here in Nashville very well only I cant get enough money to spend that is the only drawback….
Old General Hood is still in our front, what his intentions is I dont know but I dont think that he is fool enough to attract us at this point. If he does he will get hoodwinked , I think
Frank Shupe January 4th 1865 Camp Chase, Columbus
I don’t want you to think I am discuraged but this is the worst place I ever saw. It has raned ever since arriving and the mud is knee deep. I have walered around like a brick mason and I shall be glad when I leave here. I had rather take the chances before Richmond than stay here….
Thare is the biggest lot of thieves here I ever saw.Thare is pickpockets and cut throats from all parts of the world. …
I wish you would send me your photograph you know you promised me one and if any of the good looking girls have any to spare you can tell them they can send theirs and I will be much obliged.
I wish our regiment would be assigned to Quincy’s ( Gen Gillmore) command . …..
Nelson Foster Bowling April 2nd 1865, Bowling Green Kentucky
… Our great privation is there is no good looking girls here that a fellow can sit and chat with and that you know is one of the greatest privations there is . When you see a good looking girl she wont speak to a soldier anyhow so that we are in a bad fix. The most of the girls around here are Secesh anyway (note Secesh a southern sympathizer)
I only know two families around Bowling Green that are not Secesh and there is good looking girls in both families. But they live outside the picket lines and a fellow might as well go to Heaven on horseback as to get outside the picket lines so there I am again. But I am in hopes that I will not have to live so always.
The way I write this letter is this. I have to lay flat down on the ground and my paper is laying on a small piece of board and that is the way I have to write my letters. Not always can I get a piece of board to write on. I have wrote a good many letters on a tin plate. ………
…The fact is a fellow must not think of home a great deal for if he does he will be sick in less than a week. There has been a good many died in our Regiment and nothing else ailed them but homesickness.
Charles Shupe: April 25th 1865 Camp Chase,
Well I have just been to breakfast, had a military meal for the first time since I received furlow. I had hardtack, coffee, cold beef. You had better believe it went somewhat again the grain but I guess I can stand it for a short while 4 months perhaps.
I have been around to examine the guard line and found a hole that I can slip through in case I want to take French (leave) and come home. If they do not give me furlow pretty soon I think I will do that.
I have your picture with me and it is the only thing that keeps me alive but I suppose it will ever do me any good. Hoping it may sometime.
May 7th 1865 - Columbus Ohio
Oh Fanny, such a school is this. I shall be glad when it is out then I shall return home again a different man from what I was when I left home. Never to join military discipline again.
Fanny this place is a second Andersonville GA. the vermine about as thick and closely guarded. So there is but little difference.
There is one thing to console me, that is my time is nearly expired then I shall never enlist again or get married for longer than nine months. Then I can have a furlow and go where I please: Charles Shupe
Although Fanny had letters from many young men she did not marry any of them. She taught in Lorain at a school house situated at the southeast corner of Fourth Street and Washington Avenue. In 1870 she married Thomas Edward Wilford.
She died a few days before her 90th birthday