These letters were written by Charles Thompson Boomer (1834-1871), the son of James M and Lucy Boomer of Charlton, Massachusetts.
“Charles T. Boomer, was a member of Co. A, Seventh Kansas Cavalry, and enlisted in the summer of 1861 in Walnut Township, serving until the close of the war, sharing all the dangers and hardships of his regiment, and was discharged in the fall of 1865. He entered his company as a private and re-enlisted as a veteran, and rose to the rank of Sergeant. He was wounded twice while in the service, once severely, and his death, which occurred in April, 1871, was directly attributable to the exposure and hardships he endured while in the service. He was born in Worcester County, Mass., in October, 1834, and lived in his native State until his fifteenth year, when his parents removed to Kendall County, Ill., and where he resided until the spring of 1858, when he came to Kansas Territory, where he pre-empted a farm on which his brother now lives, and resided in the neighborhood until he entered the Union army. After his discharge he returned to his brother’s farm in Illinois, where he resided for three years, and then entered the employ of the American Bridge Company. He continued with this company about three years. And in 1870 returned to his farm in Kansas to improve it, and where he lived until his death, in 1871. He was favorably known far and wide to all the old settlers in the northern part of the State for his sterling worth and manly qualities.” [Cutler’s History of the State of Kansas, Brown County, Part 20]
The regiment, under command of Lieutenant Colonel F. M. Malone, took an active part in the campaign in Missouri against the rebel General Price, during the fall of 1864, and participated in all the principal engagements. At Independence, Mo., the regiment charged against a superior force of the enemy, and succeeded in completely routing them and captured two pieces of artillery.
After the campaign against Price, the regiment was stationed by detachments in St. Louis District, where it was employed in fighting guerrillas until the 18th of July, 1865, when it was ordered to report at Omaha City, N. T., where it arrived on the 31st of the same month, and from thence marched to Fort Kearney. The regiment, however, had scarcely reached the latter station, when it received orders to return to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to be mustered out of service, where it arrived on the 14th of September, 1865, and on the 29th of the same month received its final discharge, after having served a term of three years and eleven months from the time of its organization until its final muster out of service.
The following partial letter written by Charley Boomer describes the fighting of the Seventh Kansas Cavalry on 5 May 1863.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
….Well I don’t know but I may as well go on with this. I think that it was Tuesday that we got to the swale east of Tupelo when we began to hear shots ahead. The 1st Missouri was head with mountain howitzers. We drove them across the creek and into town. Then the 7th [Kansas Cavalry] came up. We dismounted 5 companies or squads for we didn’t have ½ the regiment and we sent them into town followed by 3 companies of the 15th Illinois Cavalry Mounted. Well, when our boys opened with their 5 shooters, the secesh thought that they never would stop but they had to run. Capt. [Charles H.] Gregory, Co. E, ¹ was in command. He ordered the 15th [Illinois Cav.] to charge and they wouldn’t do it. They would stand and fight but their officer refused to charge.
Well, the boys drove them and took a lot of prisoners and I suppose that Old [Florence M.] Cornyn thought that the fighting was all over for his men had got scattered all round and the battery was going to unhitch which when he heard a yell and we knew that they were coming. We formed and fought on horseback in the open field while they were dismounted and in the brush. We had to fall back so that our guns could bear on them. The first shot that I fired I saw my man fall and one of the boys that saw me had saw him fall. Soon after that Ed Vaughan fell from his horse shot through the right lung so may live.
When we got to the guns, they began to pour in canister and the rebs thought it best to retire. And if we had had a good officer there, we would have made a perfect rout of it. They must have run awful as it was far. We were out on the road after a little and I believe that we saw 75 saddles. The road was only wide enough for 2 and they rode 6 deep and lots in the brush. We left at midnight, marched all night till midnight. They lay all day till 2 P. M., them marched till 10, then we the next day. We are camped in the old breastwork about 2 miles southeast of Corinth. Oh, we took 90 prisoners. ²
I am happy to hear that you are all well and that you are getting along so well with your work and I believe that we are getting along with our work about as well. We have news too. The 5th are all well. I think that Burnside will support Old Rosy [Rosecrans] if he gets into a tight place.
I should be very happy to accept Mary’s kind invitation and will try to call as soon as I can and I mean to call all round too. But I may get a call that will stop all the rest. But I hope not. I got a letter from [brother] Merrill this morning. He was well. His regiment had got back and have moved to M_____ and are in reserve.
Aaron appeared to be in good spirits. He says that the war is alright. Solon was well also. W. J. Willitt, Reuben had the mumps but guess that he is all right by this time. Well Jim, I believe I’ll quit as I have 4 or 5 letters to write. Just send to Nellie. Remember me to all. I have written to Merrill and C____.
I tell you we have see some rough times. They say here that Vicksburg is taken. I hope it is so and then that Hooker is giving them hell at Fredericksburg. I brought one down with my rifle at Tupelo. [But] then you know I was owing them a shot. Tell Father and Mother that the prospect looks brighter than it has for more than a year and we have got good fighting men to lead us so keep up good heart and we will be home soon.
¹ “Company E was originally organized at Quincey, Illinois in the month of August 1861, by Capt. George I. Yeager. The members of the company were mostly from Chicago.” When Captain Yeager “became very unpopular with his men and was forced to resign on October 8, 1861,” First Lt. Charles H. Gregory was commissioned captain. “Capt. Gregory was a man of the greatest bravery and dash and had a knack of doing just the right thing at just the proper time. His gallantry produced brilliant results and much of the credit earned by the regiment was due to him.” [Source: Story of the Seventh Kansas, p. 15]
² “After severe skirmishing a greater portion of the way, the brigade arrived at Tupelo, Miss., on the 5th of May, succeeded in driving the rebels from the town, and occupied the place. In the afternoon a force of rebel cavalry was reported advancing on the town. A portion of the Seventh Kansas Cavalry was immediately sent out, dismounted, to meet them. As they advanced through the timber, they came suddenly upon the rebel line, just as it was forming, a little beyond the opening and immediately opened a heavy fire upon the rebel ranks, which sent them flying in great confusion, killing and wounding a large number. The Tenth Missouri Cavalry charged the enemy, mounted, and captured a number of prisoners. In the meantime, the rebel General Gholson, with four thousand militia, charged from the south, intending a surprise, but the charge was gallantly met by three companies of the Seventh Kansas Cavalry, and a battery of light artillery–howitzers–of the Tenth Missouri Cavalry, and after severe fighting, succeeded in repulsing the charge of the enemy, driving him from the field, completely demoralized, with a heavy loss to the rebels in prisoners.”
Another account from the Story of the Seventh Kansas (p. 42-43) says that, “the rebels were preparing an elaborate plan to capture our whole command, and they had the force to do it, but Cornyn did not do his part to make it a success. Instead of deploying at the bridge and being two or three hours forcing a crossing, the Seventh Kansas charged it in column, was over it in five minutes, and the enemy were caught with their forces divided. Company A of the Seventh came suddenly on the flank of a rebel cavalry regiment moving down under the shelter of some timber to take the Tenth Missouri in a similar manner when Lieutenant Sanders attacked at once, and the surprised Confederates were driven down on the Tenth Missouri who charged and the entire rebel regiment was captured…Company A lost but one man killed, Corp. Edwin M. Vaughan.”
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
October 5th 1863
Dear Brother Merrill,
Your letter of the 1st was received on the 3rd just after I had found out where you were. I didn’t see any of your regiment. It must be camped out south of here. I am doing as well as could be expected. The ball went into my leg about ½ way between the knee and ankle on the right side and came out just above the ankle on the left and broke the small bone in two, I suppose. We were about 60 miles from C that way—rather a rough ride. I don’t much think that I shall be next to Memphis so I will enclose you a $5.00 bill. You must go home if you can. I expect to before I get ell but I can’t write much more.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Pilot Knob, Missouri
February 23rd 1865
Dear Sister Nellie,
Your kind letter of the 17th came to hand today with 3 others—one from Emma & Nellie L. and from Sue and one from Lois, so you see that I got against. Well it would be pleasanter to receive them one at a time but that is the way the girls do. They generally all get in a writing fit together. Emma sent her picture. She is fine. She is a little beauty and she and Nell [ ] say that Neely got a Valentine from pilot Knob and they lay it to me. And by the way, I got a pair of sicks from my valentine. Do you know who sent it? If so, let me know but don’t let them know of it so that I can answer it without her knowing how I found out.
That picture of Mr. Arthur is fine. He has grown considerable within a year. Tell him that I shall write soon. I think that Dora sent the socks. It seems as though you were having pretty fine times with all kinds of doings. I am sorry that you don’t have a beau so much as would be convenient but hope that you will some of these days.
I went into St. Louis last Saturday night. Had 2 men and six prisoners. Got along fine. Had a good time with James Lucius & Owen and came out Tuesday. I believe that I wrote you from there. If not, I did to some of you. I will write to the girls soon.
Lt, Campbell of our company, a sergeant, 2 corporals, and 12 men went out to Fredericktown 21 miles on the Cape Gerardo road to stay in place of the 2nd Mo. Missouri State Militia whose time is about out. I think that James will stay with Lucius another year. I think that hte war goes on finely. The fall of Charleston is good news and the fall of Columbia is good too. And soon I hope that we shall hear of the fall of Lynchburg. But it will all come in good time. I am glad to hear of the number of recruits that are going in for the most that enlist now, the sooner the war is over. That is the way that I look at it.
I hear old brother Hanly just a shouting at the meeting house. They have meetings here every night, I believe. Who is this Mr. Deland? It seems that I don’t know him nor didn’t hear Owen nor Lucas speak of him.
Well, Lois says that young Bill has at last found the way that he long has sought and married because he found it not: but you musn’t repeat this so she will get told of it, and he says that the stately halls are in trouble about the draft. I am sorry for him but present indications are that there will be no draft in Illinois. I am glad to hear that the folks are all well at home except Miss Alice and am very sorry to hear that the young lady is unwell. Hope that she will soon be better. Please give my regards to Dell Perren & lady. I am glad that they are married. Remember me with love to all and accept this with love from your affectionate brother, — Charles T. Boomer
I send enclosed a Confederate $5.00 note for you to keep for me.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
May 4th 1865 ¹
Dear Sister Nellie,
As I have to sit up for another hour and I am too sleepy to do nothing and have nothing to read, I will just pen a few lines to pass away the time.
Well the war appears to be nearly over. I hope it is at least. There is a small force of our regiment going out tomorrow morning with a flag of truce to Pocahontas, I suppose to negotiate with Jeff Tompson for his surrender. Well I hope that they will be successful. I don’t go but am a guard tonight and have to sit up till midnight. It is now 15 minutes past 11. I do hope that we will all me mustered out before long now [that] the war is about over. I am getting impatient of military restraint and shall be very glad to hear the order for us to go home to be discharged. But I suppose it will come in good time when our Uncle [Sam] will let us go—when he thinks he can spare us.
Well we have had a long time of it and though we as a regiment haint seen quite so much service as some have, still we can tell of a good deal that will be interesting a few years hence. If I am blessed to get home, I don’t think that I shall ever regret that I entered the service of the United States in the time of their greatest need.
While writing the above, one of the men has come in and he says that the hospital steward say that Kirby Smith is surrendering on the same terms as Lee did and that ½ of the army is to be mustered out in six weeks and it seems to me that we will be included in the first half. Won’t it be gay if Johnny should come marching home by the Fourth of July? I suppose that you remember the song?
But all even that are in the army now and well can’t come but I don’t think that there can be much more fighting. We are very comfortably situated here. We are at the south foot of Shepherd’s Mountain, just at the edge of a very pleasant village overlooking a pretty valley all surrounded by mountains from 5 to 650 feet above the level of the plain. The valley is very good land and I think that the scenery around here is grand. But after all, I don’t think it is quite equal to our prairie at home for beauty though the Gran Mountain and Pilot Knob are worth a man’s time and trouble to see.
I hope that you are all well at home and that you get along finely with your school. Has Mrs. Carter tried to send any more of your scholars home lately? I should think that she ought to know you better than to try that on you. Owen told me that Nellie L. was doing better when he heard from her last but she thought of going home in September and he thought that someone else would be in Bristol about that time. I hope that Father, Mother, Mary and all the rest of the home folks and friends are well. We are having beautiful weather now but it has been cold. Farmers are very late about their crops. Are just beginning to plant corn. Lots of them haint got half of their plowing done yet but are very busy at it now. Well, it ain’t 12 yet but this is full so I will have to close. I know that a good many of your letters are written at this hour of the night but I don’t often write so late at night. This is an extra [letter] so you aren’t obliged to answer—only write the same as though this didn’t come. Just 12 o’clock. May 5th.
With love to you and all, — Charles T. Boomer
¹ Just four days after this letter was written, the Provost Marshal reported, “Iron Co., Pilot Knob, Sgt. Boomer of Co. A, 7th Kansas Cavalry, stated that he took 7 men to the house of Permelia Long, and his party traded shots with her husband William Long and Elijah Long, 05-08-1865”