These six letters were written by Perry C. Farlow (1842-1863), the son of Alfred Farlow (1821-1895) and Anna Marie Taylor (1819-1879) of Dodge county, Wisconsin.
Perry enlisted on 21 August 1862 in Co. K, 29th Wisconsin Infantry. This regiment was organized at Camp Randall, Madison, was mustered in Sept. 27 1862, and left the state Nov. 2. Upon reaching a point on the east bank of the Mississippi River, opposite Helena, Ark., part of the regiment joined an expedition into the interior, after which it was engaged in picket duty and expeditions until Dec. 23, when it moved to Friar’s Point and established a camp. Four hundred of the regiment marched into the interior and put to flight part of Forrest’s force. On Jan. 11, 1863, the regiment went to Devall’s Bluff, Ark., where it captured artillery, arms, stores and prisoners. The 29th Wisconsin served until June 1865 but for Perry, it was the end of the line. He died of typhoid fever in the regimental hospital at Helena on 5 February 1863—one of 242 enlisted men in the 29th Wisconsin who died of disease during the Civil War.
Perry often mentions an “Uncle Sim” in his letters. This was his mother’s younger brother, Simeon Nash Taylor (1828-1908) of Dodge county, Wisconsin.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
September 4th 1862
I wish you would make me a small party next Saturday as the Captain will not let us off any other night except Saturday and if you will ask the boys to come, let me know how many to ask and send back word by Robert McCracken and oblige your much loved son, — Perry C. Farlow
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
October 14th 1862
Dear Father and Mother,
I have not got time to write much for it is almost dark and I am going up town tonight. I got through all right and drawed my overcoat and pants after I got here and am going to draw our undercoats and knapsacks tomorrow. Our guns will be here in a few days. And if you want to see us before we go, you will have to come down here right off for we will not stay here more than a week, if we do that. Our cooks had orders last night to cook three days rations so to be ready to start but I don’t think we will go inside of a week. But the Colonel said we would not stay here more than ten days more, if we do that. And I wish you would come out here and tell the folks round there to come for I have not got time to write to all of them. If we are to go before you can come from this letter, I will telegraph.
I cannot write anymore this time. Be sure and come right out as soon as you get this. Let Uncle Sim know and have him come out if he can.
From your son, — Perry
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Camp Solomon opposite Helena, Ark.
November 20th 1862
Dear Father and Mother and all the rest of the folks,
I seat myself once more to inform you that I am well and enjoying hood health at present. This is the third letter I have written to you since I left Madison and have not got an answer from any of them yet, and if you was down here awhile, I guess you would like to have me write to you. I have had three letters since I came here and two of them was from—well, no matter—I think you can guess if you try very hard. But I should like to hear from you but when I got them letters, I heard from you through another. But I want to hear directly. I have written a letter most every day since I came here and if I don’t get some soon, I am going to stop writing for awhile and then they will begin to think something is the matter and will begin to write. But enough.
There has 400 out of our regiment gone from here. I don’t know where they have gone to. Kib went with them. The Captain would not let me go but maybe it is just as well for I think the boys will smell powder before they get back. There was 8 thousand went from the other side of the river. They left last Saturday night about five o’clock. They went down the river.
This morning there was 3 regiments come down the river and stopped on the other side. I don’t know where they all came from but some of them came from Iowa. Our regiment is alone yet on this side of the river but we are enough for Mississippi. We went out foraging yesterday. We got three beef cattle and three or four hogs and one mule and one load of corn to feed the horses and we are bound to live while we stay here. And after we leave here, we will do the best we can but if we always get as good living as we have had since we have been here, I will be satisfied. We have better living here than we did in Madison.
I have not been sick a day since I enlisted and I never felt better in my life than I do now. We have pretty hard times standing picket since the boys went away. The last time I was on picket, I took one guerrilla and fetched him into camp and yesterday there was two came in under a flag of truce. Their business was to go across the river to exchange prisoners.
I wrote to Uncle Sim the other day and told him to have you send me some reading matter. I wish you would get me some good stories and send to me. You need not send more than one at a time but if you will send me some one in a while [excised portion of letter]…
….am not nor have not been since I came here but once and then I soon changed my mind for it is no use for a fellow to get homesick down here.
You have probably heard of the skirmish at Helena. I read about it in the Milwaukee Sentinel. It was not at Helena. It was about 25 miles from there. It was a lot of boys from Helena that was out scouting and had been for three days when that skirmish took place. You can hear the news a good [deal] quicker than we do down here but we get them after awhile for a good many boys take the Tri Weekly Sentinel, but the news are about a week or ten days old before it gets here.
I have not got anything else to write of any account. I wish you would write me a good long letter and do it soon for you don’t know how much I want to hear from you. I shall write often and I want you to do the same. If you write to me as often as I write to you, I will be satisfied. This is from your son, — Perry C. Farlow
To his Father, Mother, Brothers, Sisters, and all the babies.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
Camp Solomon opposite Helena, Arkansas
November 30th 1862
Dear Father & Mother,
I wrote you a letter a few days ago and have not had a letter from you since but as I had nothing else to do, I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know I am well and enjoying myself as well as I can which is first rate. There has some of our boys been very sick but they are all getting better.
I suppose you have pretty cold weather up there but we don’t down here. It is nice weather down here and very warm. It has not been cold yet. It has froze a little two or three nights since we got here. It rained a little here today but I don’t think it will rain much.
I suppose you had great times up there last Thursday Thanksgiving and talked a great deal about us and wished we had some of your victuals to eat but we did not think so for we have plenty to eat and good rover water to drink. It is a little muddy but that is nothing as long as it tastes good. It is better than the spring or well water is down here. We have beans and rice every day and sometimes potatoes and plenty of hard crackers. We are going to have flour so we can make bread and pancakes now. We have eat all together till day before yesterday when we divided up in squads of twenty-four each which I like much better.
Our pickets was fired on night before last by the guerrillas. They fired two shots and our pickets fired nine. There was no one hurt on our side and I guess not on the other. I have been on picket four times since I come here and have not had any trouble. I don’t know but I think you have a very wrong idea of picketing but I will tell you. We go out in the morning at eight o’clock—one Lieut., two sergeants, three corporals, and 53 privates (in a large army, it takes more) and we have to go about three quarters of a mile from camp and post three men in a squad and put them about ten rods apart, and they have a reserve a little ways from the picket line. It takes 12 privates, one sergeant, one corporal and the lieutenant to stay there and the other officers stay along the line. One man stands on a post and keeps a lookout and the other two can sleep. They have to stand two hours at a time. The officers do not have to stand at all but they have to go along the lines twice in the day time and twice in the night and the rest of the time they do not have to do anything as so we can sleep as much as we please.
I had a soon go on picket as to drill all day. I do not have to come on picket only once in ten or twelve days. It is bad when it rains for we have to stand and take it but I have got an Indian rubber coat so I can keep pretty dry. I have not had to stand only one night when it rained.
I commenced this letter this morning and I could not finish it but I will do so tonight. It clouded up a little while ago and we are having a regular thunder shower and when it does rain here, it is awful muddy in our campground. I wish you would do as good as someone I know up there. I would get a letter from you every week. You have no objections to that, have you? I can’t help it if you have for I cannot help writing to her and she can’t help writing to me. But enough of that. Write often and when you write, tell me all the news. I will write often.
One thing more. The Major offers to bet $100 that we will be back to Madison in less than six weeks but I don’t believe it. The band is all going to be discharged but one fifer and two drummers so Robert McCracken will be home in a few weeks.
This from a soldier and your son, — Perry C. Farlow
Give my best respects to all my friends and no one else for I don’t want everyone to know how I get along. — Perry C. Farlow
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
December 9th 1862
Dear Father and Mother and all the rest of the folks at home,
I received your letters this afternoon and I was very glad to hear from you all as I had not got but one letter from you since I got here and I began to think you was not a going to write to me anymore but I did not believe it.
We are still in our same old place and am like to be for a while yet. It is the nature of a soldier to be moving after they have stayed about so long in a place and we are ready to move but it may be better for us to stay here now we have got settled. You said you thought we would get use to stealing. I don’t call it stealing down here. I call it taking things.
It has not froze more than half an inch any night since we came down here so if your plowing was down here, you could do it without any trouble. But give me Wisconsin yet—but you must not think I am getting sick of my job for I am not. I like it more everyday. We have good living and I am getting so fat I can hardly get around and the Captain has gained 21 pounds since he came down here.
I suppose you seen the eclipse on the moon last Friday night? It was total here. The way I come to see it, I was on picket. You may think it is dangerous business standing on picket and so it is if a fellow does not tend to his regular business. But if a fellow does, there is not much danger.
Since I last wrote you, there has one or more company of artillery come on this side of the river. They are from Missouri. I have not seen any Illinois regiments yet but I will go across the river in a few days and try and find the 95th Regt. Ill. Vol. If he is over there, I can find him.
I have not news enough to write you all a separate letter and if I could, I could not answer Wright’s letter for I cannot print as good as he can. Tell him we don’t want any jobs of husking corn. We do not have to husk very [much] for we take that that is husked and we can’t eat raw dogs yet for we have plenty of other stuff to eat yet. But when we get so we can eat raw dogs, I will let him know.
We have had cotton cloth tents all the while till now but we have just got the duck tent which is very nice. Our old ones was good for nothing when it rained.
There is several of our boys that are unwell and some that are very sick. B[enjamin L.] Hales, Mr. [Sumner G.] Sanders, Simon [A.] Terwilliger, [and] J[ames] P. Tripp is in the hospital and [Samuel] James Hodge is in there too. There was one of our boys died tonight a little after four o’clock. He was well and up round last Friday and Sunday night he went to the hospital and tonight he died. His heart was affected. His name is John Nash. You can see that record. He is as good a boy as there is in the camp. Mr. [William V.] Perry is very sick. I don’t know what ails him. Alvin [W.] Hamilton has got the measles. He was taken with them last Sunday.
Mother thought I would have a good many letters but she did not mention all that I get. I get more letters from there [from my friend and] she will get more letters from me than anyone around there but she is not as dear to me yet as my Father and Mother. Do you remember John McMaster that use to work for you eight or ten years ago? He is 2d Lieutenant of Co. C, 30th Wisconsin Regt. I run across him the next day after you was out to Madison. There is two brothers more in that same regiment that used to work for you in harvesting at the same time. And I saw James Foster while I was in Madison. He lives about fifteen miles from there. Those other fellows use to live over beyond Horicon, just beyond the corners. I forget their names.
I suppose you know that tomorrow is my birthday. My next birthday, I think, I will be up there and won’t I have a spree if you get that woodshed up that you are going to make. Kib is pretty well today but he had one of his cramping spells but it did not last long. It only lasted him about an hour. This will not go out till day after tomorrow and I will write some more tomorrow. It is most time for roll call and you know we have to go to bed soon after. — Perry
December 10th 1862
As I said I would write you a little more today, but I have not got much to write. There was an expedition went out foraging today—some from our regiment and some from the old regiments on this side of the river. They took about 50 teams. They got 40 loads of corn, a large drove of cattle and hogs, about twenty mules, and some horses. They started about seven o’clock this morning and did not get back till dark tonight.
That boy [John Nash] that died yesterday was buried today and it was a solemn thing. We had an escort of ten with three guns and our company formed next behind and then the rest of the regiment. The band played a very solemn tune and when we got the corpse laid in the grave, the escort fired three volleys and then we went to our quarters. The boys feel very bad at his loss.
Mr. [William V.] Perry is better tonight. I am going to sit up part of the night with him. I have not seen Guss but once since I came down here but I am going over and see him if I can. He is about six miles from Helena. I wish you would tell me where Uncle Joseph Farlow lives for there is three or four regiments from Iowa and if I knew where he lived, maybe I could find out something about him.
Alex Voorhees is in Salem, M.
Tell the children to write to me. I have not got time to write to them this time for I want this to go out tomorrow and the mail will go out in the morning. I will try and write some to them next time. This from your affectionate son, — Perry C. Farlow
¹ I can’t be certain if this is the same soldier but suspect that John Nash (b. 1839) was the 21 year-old farm hand enumerated in the household of Irish emigrant John Sullivan in Clyman, Dodge county, Wisconsin in 1860. The census record indicates Nash was born in Vermont.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX
January 10, 1863
It has been a little over a week since I got a letter from you but I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know what I am doing. Yesterday morning we had marching orders for Helena. We started a little before dark and got to Helena about 8 and it was so dark that we laid on the boat all night and this morning we came to our camp ground upon the hill where we made our short stay before (unlucky place) and about ten o’clock we had orders to be ready to start at six tonight for someplace—I don’t know where but someplace I am sure.
Kib says he will not write to you this time because you have not answered that one that he wrote to you in one of mine before. I have not got time to write anymore this time but I will write again in a few days. Direct your letters as before and I will get them sometime if nothing happens.
This from your son, — Perry