This letter was written by John Eisemann (1842-1902) of Co. D, 133rd New York Volunteers. John enlisted on 19 August 1862 to serve three years. He was mustered in as a corporal and rose in rank to sergeant before he was mustered out of the regiment in June 1865. According to muster rolls, John stood 5 feet 9½ tall, had black eyes, dark hair, and was employed as a jeweler before he enlisted.
Census records tell us that John’s parents were emigrants from Germany. They must have spoken and corresponded in English, however. I believe John’s father was Michael Eisemann (b. 1812)—a New York City policeman in the 1840s and 1850s. In 1855, his residence was at 53 Attorney Street in NYC. This Michael Eisemann was married to a woman named Sophia (b. 1813). By 1870, Michael Eisemann was employed as a cabinet maker.
In the 1880 US Census John was employed as a “watch chain maker.” In 1872, he married Barbetta Seidel (1856-1936).
Camp at New Iberia, Louisiana
December 13th 1863
I received your letter about a week ago in which said that you were all well as this leaves me the same. The reason I did not answer your letter before that was that I was waiting to get paid. The paymaster was here and paid many regiments. He would have paid us before yesterday if [several words illegible] almost everyday so yesterday he paid us. I suppose you will know there is 42 dollars worth of clothes allowed to us the first year and all you draw over that you must pay from the time we camped at the town of Plaquemine. The clothes was given us at the low price, but after that the price was raised and no more allowed. Overcoats that was 7 dollars is 9 now, pants 3.30 is 3.55, drawers 50 is 88, shirts 84 is 100 and so everything is raised. But they did not allow us any more. But our Lieutenant allowed us 57 dollars so when we got paid yesterday and the paymaster had deducted from our pay all over 57 dollars that we had, he said he would take 15 dollars out of our next pay leaving us 42 dollars of clothing. We all have had a great deal of clothes. My bill amounts to some 60 odd dollars. Therefore, I am in debt to the Government some 20 dollars. Therefore I will get very little money this and next pay and can send home but very little. I want to keep a few dollars for I want to get a pair of earrings made. Also a badge. I think the earrings is good for my eyes although I can’t complain about them.
I also want to get my likeness taken and a little money to spend. You don’t know the comfort a soldier feels when he can buy something good to eat once in awhile such as butter which is 50 cents a pound and cheese which is 40 cents, and sweet crackers and all kinds of good things. It makes me think I am sitting at the supper table at home with all of you around me. I will never forget how often Mother used to say to me when I would grumble about anything that I would not like that sometime I will be glad to get it. Well do I think of the time but still I don’t regret it that I am here. No, why should I? It has learned me a lesson I shall never forget and in after years I can hold my head up and proudly say, look on the honor roll at Washington and you will see the name of John Eisemann for bravery before Port Hudson.
Don’t direct your letters any more to the 3rd Division, 2nd Brigade for I don’t think the 2nd Brigade will last any longer. We are the only old regiment in it and it consists of only 3 regiments. Father always talks of being promoted. I have been promoted 4 times. I think I could get a commission in the Negro Regt. if our colonel would approve of it. I will try it sometime. Father, ain’t your influence high enough with some big politicians that can get Gov. Seymour to send it to me?
I ain’t heard anything about them 5 dollars you sent here by Express. They sent me notice and I wrote they should send it to me but they did not.
I will send about ten dollars.