These two letters were written by William C. Evans (1832-1903), the son of Jared B. Evans (1808-1891) and Jane McCreight (1811-1870) of Brookville, Jefferson county, Pennsylvania. William wrote both letters to his wife, Sarah G. Johnston (1822-1910), the mother of his two little boys, Charles Evans (b. 1859) and John (b. 1861).
In 1850, William was appointed associate judge to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Judge Jenks and was subsequently elected. He built a large brick block on No. 65 on Main Street in Brookville which was destroyed by fire in 1874.
The “Descriptive List of Drafted Men called” from Pine Creek District, Jefferson county, Pennsylvania, indicates that William C. Evans was 31 years old when he was drafted into Co. F, 82nd Pennsylvania Infantry, in early August 1863. He had blue eyes, brown hair, a light complexion, and stood 5′ 7″ tall. He was transferred from Co. F to Co. A on 4 September 1864. [See also 1863: William C. Evans to Sarah (Johnston) Evans]
The first letter included here was written from Centerville, Virginia, following the march from Culpepper and during what was called the Bristoe Campaign in October 1863. At that time, the 82nd Pennsylvania was in the 1st Brigade, Third Division of the Sedgwick’s VI Corps.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
In Camp near Centerville [Virginia]
Saturday [October] the 17th 1863
I received yours this morning & I tell you that I was glad to hear from home & the children. If the cow does so well, why keep her. Get Christ Long to get you a couple of loads of straw and feed her carefully & get some other feed from T. B. McLain, Esq.
We have had some hard marching & the Rebs were after us but we are too quick. We beat them to Manassas Gap & got ahead of them. There was I guess near eighty miles of wagon trains & we got them here all right. We have been waiting for the Rebs to come & attack us. We have dug ten miles of breast & rifle pits since Thursday and if the Rebs come, they will get a warm reception, I can tell you.
I have washed my white flannel shirt, drawers, & socks today and I think that I am a very good washer from the looks of them. We washed in Muddy Run, I think, from its appearance of the water.
Maybe you can get Mr. Canady to buy you a couple of good loads of straw & get him to get your coal for the winter for you can depend on him. You will get a coal house built nearer the house & get it built larger so it will hold more coal & wood for kindling.
I tell you I was glad when I got a letter from home. I felt so glad I came near weeping for joy. I have not heard a word from you till the present time. I want you to write to me as often as you can & send me the likenesses of the children on paper if you can. Get them taken as soon as possible. You will direct your letters as I sent you before.
We are whipping the Rebels in small fights ever since we have been on the retreat from Culpepper & have taken four Battery of cannon from them & five or six hundred prisoners or more. We are now just drawing two days rations & expect marching orders immediately but I cannot tell. We have now six or seven days rations to carry.
Tell Mother to write to me. I am still here & still bless God for his goodness to me. I pray to Jesus for you & the children & all my classmates & for mother & father & brother & sisters. Tell Mother I want her to pray for me & for Father & the family. I want you to be sure & teach the children to pray that they may be kept by the Grace of God.
I get all I can eat & more too of rations—coffee, sugar, & bread & crackers & soft bread, potatoes, & salt. Soap, candles & beans & rice. I cannot find any fault with the amount I have to eat at all for the Army is well fed & well clothed.
Have all my friends to write to me. So I will now bid you goodbye & God bless you & the children & keep you by His grace. Sarah, I want you yo keep up the family worship, night and morning. You will get Sarah Shields to stay with you if you can. [unsigned]
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
In camp near Georgetown, D. C.
July 24, 1864
To my dear wife & children,
Thanks be to God our father, I am well and in good heart & can say the Lord’s will be done for I feel satisfied that He does all things well and for the best & what is for our own good. Sarah, be of good cheer & trust in the Lord our God & all will be well with us & our children for His promises are to us & our children & children even to the fourth generation. He is ever faithful.
I just received a letter from you & was glad to hear that you were all well. I have you all in my prayers daily that God will bless my wife & children & make us a happy family. Indeed, my desire is to love & serve the Lord Jesus Christ—He being my helper—and by His Grace, I am happy to inform you that I am trying to do so here although I am surrounded by all manner of evil. But thank God, I feel that His grace is sufficient for where sin abounds, there is more grace abounds for Jesus knows His sheep & He takes care of them. He is the good shepherd. All praise to His Holy name.
Yes, dear wife, I feel that I shall never be able to repay Him for His great love. I feel happy today, praise God, for His great kindness to us with all the necessaries of this life & gave us His only begotten son, the Lord Jesus Christ, that we might have eternal life hereafter. The first thing [I did] when I got up this morning was thank God for his great mercies to us.
I have no news of any worldly matter to write to you about at this time. I want the children all taught to pray & kneel down before their mother and ask Jesus to bless them. He will bless little children for He is the same today, yesterday & forever. He took little children when He was on Earth in His arms & He blessed them. He will do the same now. Teach them that Jesus will hear them & regard their prayers as well as if they were full grown persons & that He wants them to pray & is glad when they do so. Be kind to them if they are naughty at times. Reprove them with kindness to them & when they grow up to be old, they will praise God for His kindness in giving them such a good & kind mother & how they were taught to kneel down by her side & pray. I will tell you, they will not forget it the longest day they live. And now is the proper time to train them & teach them.
We are responsible to God for the manner we bring them up & if we do our duty, God will bless our efforts, no matter how weak they are if we do it in the proper spirit & I feel satisfied that He will help & bless us too in doing so. And it is nothing more than our duty to do so. The Lord is with me even when writing these few lines. He has blessed me even now.
Give my love to brother Butler & wife, & read this letter to him & when through, tell the old man to kneel down with you & the children & ask the Lord Jesus to bless us as a family & He will do it. From your husband, — Wm. C. Evans