1862: John N. Sherman to William Sherman

These letters were written by John N. Sherman (1844-1927), the son of William Sherman (1818-1897) and Mary Elizabeth Smith (1825-1892) of Webbs Mills, Chemung county, New York.

John served in Battery F, 1st New York Volunteer Light Artillery, from 10 September 1861 to 20 June 1865 (3 years, 9 months, 10 days). In the final quarter of 1862, Battery F was stationed at Yorktown, Virginia, with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Captain William R. Wilson’s Battery was part of the IV Corps, Department of Virginia.

After the war John married Sarah Ayers and took up farming near Southport, Chemung county, New York.


[Yorktown, Va.]
October 8, 1862

Dear Parents,

I received yours yesterday and was glad to hear from you. I am not very well at present as I have got erysipelas so that I can’t sleep nights and I have got no appetite. We went out foraging yesterday a horseback. I was on guard the day before. I went out with two others—Tip Wicks for one. We went to a house and got some milk and Johnny cake and a couple of biscuits and butter for which I paid ten cents. I have just sent out 5 cents to buy milk. I got about two-thirds of a pint of milk. It’s 15 cents a quart. That was the last cent I have got, How I wish I had 15 or 20 pounds of your good sweet butter to eat on bread. I could relish it so well. Butter is 50 cents a pound here and soft streaked and strong at that. I think of sending for a box after I get my pay and send it home as most of the boys is sending home for any. I do not know when I’ll get my pay. I do not think I shall till I am mustered. The others have been mustered and they expect it every day now but they may not be paid off till they are mustered again. That will be before long. I shall get 8 months pay, I think, when I get paid. That will be a hundred and $104 dollars. I shall keep 4 dollars and send home the rest. Then I want you to send me a grand box when I send for one. I will put down what things I want in a letter.

When you write again, tell me whether you are like to be drafted or not. I think Marsh’s boys have showed their smartness. I suppose they thought they would get clear of volunteering and draft but they have run afoul of a snag. But I hope will not see as hard times as I have seen but I do not know anything about it. How they will get used, it will [be] according to the officer, I suppose. They have gone in the infantry. I pity them if they have. I count that the worst branch of the service. I would not be an infantry man for a good deal. I am sure they would rather go in some other branch of the service such as artillery or cavalry. When you write again, tell me what branch of the service and what company and the letter of the company and the no. of the regiment. I know they had rather a good deal be in artillery or cavalry.

You wrote about Colts. I want to know whether you bought them for me or for yourself. If you have them for yourself, I would like to have that colt of Vaughns. I would like to have it anyway for I think that is going to make something extra and that is what I want. Never mind if you have bought those other colts. I will send some money to pay for all of them and more too when I get paid. I if have got fodder for them and I think Vaughn will take less than what he asks now, you will perhaps think strange but I want that colt. If you send me a good horse after I send home the money, there will  [be] no need of my spending.

I do not know but it would be well enough to note down a few things that i want in the box. First I want what butter you can spare if it is 20 pounds and send it in a can or a crock. Second, I want ten pounds of the best patent hive honey in a tin can or in a box as it sits on the section. If you get it in a box, get a full one so it will not have a chance to jamb. I mean as it is in the box ___ and all, and if in can stra___. Third, 5 pound of bologna sausage. Fourth, one good sturd cake. Fifth, a few sugar cakes. I guess you can get a box of honey of Snider. I think he would let you have it for me. Sixth, a few pounds of dried beef. Seventh, what good apples you can spare. Eighth, a little jelly. I will not mention anything more at present. I will send the rest in my next.

Write as soon as you get this. From your son, — John M. Sherman

Give my love to all enquiring friends.



[First part in pencil]

In St. Joseph Hospital
August 12, 1862

While as on my bed I lay thinking of home and friends, thinking of friends so far away [and] wishing war was at an end.

[second part in ink]

_____ Yorktown
October 9, 1862

I thought I would write a few lines to you. I am well with the exception of erysipelas. I have got that pretty bad so that I cannot sleep most nights till about 12 o’clock. I do not know as I can give you any encouragement about my pay. I have seen the Captain about my Descriptive List. He says I do not want any. I think I shall have to be mustered before I can get my pay. I do not get paid till I am mustered. I shall get 8 months pay. That will be one hundred and 4 $104. I intend to send you all of it but four dollars.

I have good times here—good soft bread, warm from the oven, potatoes, meat, molasses, beans, rice. I can get all the oysters I want for 20 cents a quart. Butter is 40 and 50 cents a pound.

The captain is better than he used to be since he went home. He seems to have some interest in the boys. Says he heard something to wake him up.

[the following paragraph appears to be in a different hand; may have been written on the sheet of paper by someone else & Sherman used the sheet for a letter.]

….But your agitated countenances and your heaving breast informs me that even this is not an _______ joy. I perceive that a tumult of candid feeling rushes upon you. The image of the dead as well as the person of the living throng to your embraces. The scene overwhelms you and I turn from it. May the Fathers of all mercies smile upon your declining years and bless them. And when you shall once more press the hands which have been so often extended to your succor in adversity, or grasp in the exultation of victory, then look abroad in the whole earth and see what a name you have to contribute to give to your country and what praise you have added to freedom and then rejoice in sympathy and gratitude which b___ upon your last days for the improvement of mankind…

When I get paid, I am going to send home the most of my money and I am going to send home after a box as most of the boys sent for boxes and got them.

I shall want some shirts, some butter, paper and envelopes, stamps, some honey, some stockings, some pocket handkerchiefs, a good fish line, and a lot of hooks.

— John N. Sherman


Yorktown [Virginia]
November 23, 1862

Dear Parents,

As I have been waiting patiently for an answer from 4 letters that I sent you and have not received any answer, I thought I would write again to you. I don’t know the reason of your not writing. I am afraid something has happened. I am afraid mother is dead or father is drafted. If such is the case, I do not want you to keep it away from me but let it out. The letters may have been detained by mail. I have looked for an answer every day but no answer comes. I have not got a letter since I got my box and before.

I feel some better that I did some weeks ago. A week ago I [had] no appetite for anything and I felt pretty bad.

We have got a new Lieutenant in charge of our battery as the Captain is unable to take charge of the battery. There is nothing going on much here—only mounting guns and mortars. There is 3 or 4 of our company on fatigue every day—Sunday’s excepted. That is to mount guns and build tent for the Colonel and other officers of here in the fort. We have not got our pay yet but expect it every day.

I have nothing too much to write. I wish you would send me some stamps. I have a great appetite for potatoes yet. I could eat a half peck in two meals. I can eat potatoes 3 times a day for every day. Let me know all the news to home. We do not hear much news here. I wish you would send me a paper once a week for I have nothing to read—only a testament and I do not want to read that all the time.

I have nothing new to write at present. From your affectionate son, — J. N. Sherman

There was two regiments crossed the river today to look for a regiment that went out scouting and they have not returned and they are going to look for them and Newton Fuller put some apples on the stove to stew and went to see the soldiers cross the river and while he was gone, his apples burnt up. — John N. Sherman

If you had said Harvey Smith instead of Harry Smith, [I] should knowed who you meant.

November 25—I received your letter on the twenty-third as I had a letter wrote ready to send off the next day. I intended to answer it immediately but I have had the fever and ague for two days now—the worst kind. Yesterday I had shakes for 3 hours hard as I could shake and I had to harness up and go and drill an hour or two. I went to the doctor this morning and took 10 grams of quinine [and] 5 grams of cayenne pepper. Then at noon I tool another dose of the same. At 4 o’clock another dose. I feel pretty bad today. My lungs and sides hurt me so. I can hardy breathe.

My appetite is some better than it was but most everything that I eat at noon and night lays on my stomach all night and burns like a coal of fire. If I only had some potatoes, it would just suit my appetite. That is most [what] my appetite craves. But I trust I shall get my discharge. I am going to try for it when I get my pay. I trust that kind Providence will intercede. If it is His will that I should get it, I shall get it. I feel to say, “Lord not my will, but thine be done.” I must now bid you farewell.

— John N. Sherman


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s