1863-64: William Riley Snider to Family

These four letters were written by William Riley Snider (1837-1880), the son of James Snider (1813-1887) and Lucinda Kelley (1813-1852). William served as a corporal in Co. G, 111th Illinois Infantry. According to the Illinois Veterans Index, William was born in Clark county, Indiana. When he enlisted in August 1862, he was a married farmer residing in Centralia, Marion county, Illinois. He stood 5 feet 10 inches tall, had dark hair, blue eyes, and a dark complexion. 

William was first married in January 1859 to Mary A. Myers (1843-1862), the daughter of John Myers (1822-1886) and Margaret Jones (1821-1877) of Centralia, Marion Illinois. Their only child, Alva E. Snider (1861-1864), died on 9 May 1864. After the war, William returned to Illinois and married his first wife’s younger sister, Martha E. Myers (1848-1878), on 16 October 1866. After Martha’s death, William married a third time to Sarah Elizabeth King (1842-1918) who outlived him by 38 years.

William Riley Snider’s Letter from Chattanooga with tintype of unidentified Illinois Soldier


Paducah, Kentucky
August 25, 1863

Dear father and mother,

I take my pen in hand to let you know how I am well at present and hope these few lines may find you all well. Well, I have nothing of importance to write—only to let you know that we are still alive and at Paducah yet and expect to remain here for some time yet.

Well, I have wrote a good deal to you all since I have been down here and it seems to do no good. And Some day you all will wish that you had a took my advise for you are a going to have trouble up there and that before long if you don’t change your way and mind. You may think that I have turned a little black or at least I am called a Black Abolitionist now. I don’t care what they call me [just] so as they don’t call me a traitor to my country. I have not changed a bit for I am a true Union Democrat and expect to die so—but never a traitor to my country nor sympathize with a traitor for our forefathers have fought, bled and died for our country and now let us save it and not let a pack of traitors steal and smuggle it away from us. No never! Let us fight until the last hour and all that can rally to the cause. Do as John A. Logan tells us. He is not afraid of getting black, nor does he care for what they call him just as they don’t call him a traitor. And he is a good Democrat just the same as I am and as everybody else ought to be, for I tell you, your country is in danger now and now is the time for you all to do something and break up that [Knights of the Golden Circle] lodge at Central City. If you don’t, you will all be sorry of it for I tell you, you are in danger. Well, I shall stop for this time for I want to send it by Miss Finn.

Don’t take this letter as an insult, but just a piece of good advice. Well, I must stop so I remain your affectionate son until death, — William R. Snider

To John Myers and Family

Write soon.


Paducah, Kentucky
October 27, 1863

Dear Father and Mother,

I seat myself this afternoon to inform you of my health. My health is only tolerable. I have had some fever for two or three days though it seems to get better and I think it will move off before long. I got here the next day after I left there. I got to Cairo that night at 3 o’clock and left the next morning.

Well I have nothing of importance to write. They put me on picket guard the same day that got here and I just came off this morning and I don’t feel muck like writing so I shan’t not write much this time.

Well when I got to Cairo there was no snow though it had rained and it was cold and chilly though it has cleared off and now is fine weather. I guess we will stay here this winter. Well I guess I shall stop for this time for I guess you know how my mind and feeling is. I am lost and lonesome anywhere I go. I never had such a time to endure in my life. I thought I had seen trouble before but I never knew what trouble was before.

I want you to write as soon as you get this letter for I want to hear from you all. Tell the folks all to write and not wait for me, I shall stop for this time.

— William R. Snider

to John Myers and Family

Oh my poor Nelly Gray and S. W. Myers and W. R. Snider


Pulaski, Tennessee
November 18, 1863

Dear Father and Mother,

Once more I take the opportunity of writing you a few lines to inform you of my health. I am well at present and hope these few lines may find you all well. I have not received any letter from you since I left home though I shall write to let you know where I am and how I am.

We have been here about a week and how much longer we will stay, I don’t know. I guess that we won’t go where we started for our Boys has routed the Rebs from there though we are in forty miles of the enemy now and we don’t know what hour we may be attacked for we are now in the enemy’s land.

Well, I guess that it is no use to write anything about our travels in this letter for I told Pap to let you read that letter that I wrote to him and that will tell you all about it.

We have lost one man out of our company since we left Paducah. He was taken prisoner by the guerrillas at the Gravelly Springs in Alabama. He was a new recruit that we got at Paducah by the name of J. D. Thomason. There was 3 taken prisoner and one or two wounded in our regiment and two in another regiment. I guess that the ones that they took prisoner out of our regiment was hung. They got several horses and mules out of our train. ¹

Mrs. Myers, I want you to take care of Mary Ann’s things there for me until I come home—what you and Marthy don’t want—for I can’t bear for them to be scattered. The colored bed and cow I don’t want sold. And take good care of my boy and I will pay you and Marthy for your trouble. You must all write to me for I am so lonesome since Mary died that I can’t be contented nowhere. I get no such friendly letters like I used to while my dearest one was alive—not saying that your letters is not friendly for they gave me great satisfaction to hear from you all, but Oh, that near and dearest one is gone and it seems like it almost grieves me to death. But I have a hope in that high heaven that soothes my soul and keeps me in good spirits.

And dearest mother, I hope to meet you there. Them sweet words that my dearest one spoke on her death, I shall never forget. No, not on the battlefield. I want you to not let my child be a bad boy for if I never get back, I want you to raise him and if he don’t mind you, don’t be afraid to correct him and make him mind.

Well, that is all, I believe. we don’t know when we will leave here. Tell Mrs, Finn that John Finn is well. I shall stop for this time, — William R. Snider

To John Myers and Family. Write soon.

¹ The roster reveals that Joel Thomason joined the company as a recruit on 24 June 1863. Joel was later transferred to the 48th Illinois Infantry so he was apparently not hung, but exchanged and eventually rejoined the regiment.


Chattanooga, Tennessee
May 30, 1864

Dear Father and Mother,

I take the opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you know how I am and in answer to yours the date I have forgot.

I am now in a feeble manner for writing to you though I expect you are a getting uneasy about me. I was taken sick in a day or two after the battle at Resaca and was sent back here to Chattanooga to what is called a field hospital of the 15th and 16th Army Corps. I was taken with the chronic diarrhea at Kingston, Georgia—45 miles on this side of Atlanta. I left the regiment the 21st and on the 23rd they army all moved forward towards Atlanta and the report is now that they are in Atlanta.

I was glad to hear from you but such news as I got was shocking to me. It is hard to part with one so dear. I am not able to write an answer to you as I should wish. I am some better than I was. I have got so that I can sit up in the bed and write a short letter so you must not expect a long letter. I can’t tell you any of the particulars this time.

When you write, direct your letters via Chattanooga. You must excuse me this time for I am so confused in mind and troubled that I am almost crazy. The death of my darling child is hard to undergo though I hope the time is coming when troublesome hours will be wiped away.

I shall have to stop for this time for I am scarcely able to write. So when you read this, hand it to father’s folks for I am not able to write anymore today and I guess you would all like to hear from me.

I still remain your affectionate son, — William R. Snider

To John Myers and Family

James Snider and family


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