This letter was written by 32 year-old Corp. Robert Neville (1832-1898), Co. E, 103rd OVI. of Mayfield, Cuyahoga county, Ohio. Robert was an English-emigrant farmer who married Mary A. Atkinson of Willoughby, Lake county, Ohio. Robert enlisted on 16 September 1862 and remained with the regiment until they were mustered out of the service in June 1865 at Raleigh, North Carolina. He rose in rank from private to corporal.
Robert’s younger brother, Leuty J. Neville (1838-1896), served for a time with the 103rd OVI too. He was a lieutenant in Co. D but resigned his commission in February 1863. Robert and Leuty were the sons of John Henry Neville (1802-1874) and Hannah Leuty (1809-1890) who emigrated from Yorkshire, England in the mid 1830s.
Waynesburgh [Waynesborough], Tennessee
January 6, 1865
My Very Dear Wife,
I must try and write in answer to yours of December 21 and the 27th though I am this morning feeling very indisposed from the hard marching of the last week—particularly the last two days march [of] 45 miles. Since writing my last, I have enjoyed myself well, both mind and body. Had a very good New Year of roast turkey and a can of peaches. The turkey cost nothing—only for roasting which was 25 [cents], the peach is 1. The turkey we got roasted on Saturday and three of us had a good supper of it, then enough of it for breakfast. My tent mate went out foraging on Friday and I told him that he had better get hog instead of chickens or turkey but he brought in two chickens and one turkey for his share. Well at this I felt rather grieved for I had never picked or dressed any fowl [before] so thought I should make a very poor job of it but we had very good luck and had one chicken for breakfast fried. The other my tent mate let another one of the company have for some tobacco. The turkey I have spoken of above. The peaches I brought on Saturday and kept them until Sunday P. M. and eat then as a desert with ½ lb. crackers that I bought at the same time. These I bought at 50 cents a pound.
At Columbia we had our tents well fixed up with fireplaces fixed very comfortably but we had no sooner finished than we heard that we was going too which we did on Monday, the 2nd of January, from Columbia to Mount Pleasant through a very rich, fertile country about the best I ever saw. On the road we passed the late Gen. [Leonidas] Polk’s farm [Ashwood Hall] and his fine brick church where he used to officiate as Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
The march that day was an easy one of 11 miles. Got into camp early and the boys went out for fresh pork and chickens. I got an excellent supper at one farm house for 25 cents. The old lady of the house had a queer idea of the war. She claimed that if someone of the rebel army would kill Jeff Davis and someone of the yankee army will kill Lincoln, why then she thought there would be nobody to set men to fighting. When the soldiers came and got her chickens without paying for them, that was a hard thing for poor folks and renters at that. I did not think they were so very poor for the supper was good and a variety. The man has been a good sympathizer with the South but the prospects are not so favorable as they were three years ago and time, I think, has worked its changes and his mind and feelings. His son-in-law has taken the oath since Hood’s defeat and rout. This whole country is in pretty much the same fix. The rich planters who have lots of everything call on us for safety guards and protection.
The 2nd we moved about 2 miles only and drawed rations for three days and on leaving the 4th, we left nearly all of our pork and beef we drawed. Have plenty of fresh. The inhabitants picked it all up so it was not all thrown away or rather we made an exchange.
Our march of today, January 4, commenced by passing up a deep ravine up onto a long barren ridge without a house in the whole distance of 15 miles. Then we came into another hollow through which passed what is called Buffalo Creek. Here was some half dozen houses and oh! what ignorant people. The water I never saw clearer. Can see all the pebbles at ten feet deep. In crossing the creek, I came near falling in for I walked a pole 35 feet long but the remainder had more timber to cross on. It was near 8 o’clock when we went into camp. We had a very beautiful day—so very cheerful. I thought of the fine, frosty mornings of January that I have once enjoyed at home. The letter I received from you, Kate and Henry the night before—choice letters they were.
As to you stopping at home a long time, I think doubtful. I think that I will not direct this to Willoughby [Ohio] for I don’t know when this will get through and as to where the move will take us to is more than I can or others conceive of. We have all kinds of rumors—Mobile, Mississippi, Missouri, Potomac, Corinth. The fact is we [are] all on the march and going somewhere.
The 5th, yesterday, was indeed a hard day. We marched very fast, commenced at sunrise and got into camp at 7 P. M.—24 miles. There are a good many new recruits with us and they are being left every half mile on the road. The country through which we passed was much the same as the day before—a perfect barren wilderness. The Laurel Hill [Cotton] Factory and old iron foundry we passed on the road. At the factory were a large number of white female hands still left. The weather was very fine that day until 4 P. M. when it commenced raining though not hard.
Today we are all finely housed up with a good fireplace and from the cold, stormy blasts of the day. The Mayfield boys are all well. We are doing some washing and I am better than I have been for some time, weighing 172 pounds. The boys say I am fleshy. Henry has written me a very encouraging letter of himself. I am glad to hear this. I expect that one days march which will be tomorrow, we will be at the Tennessee River at Clifton.
Clifton on the Tennessee River, January 8th — We made a very pleasant march from Wanesboro [Waynesborough] yesterday. Mr. Whight [John S. White], our late Adj., goes home tomorrow and takes all letters. All well.– Your husband