These letters were written by Elisha Q. Harding (1818-1863), the son of Samuel J. Harding (1794-1856) and Sarah Bird (1791-1872) of Eaton, Wyoming county, Pennsylvania. Elisha married (4 November 1851) his relative, Cordelia Harding (1827-18xx), the daughter of Jesse Harding (1802-1891) and Nancy Miller (1800-1871), also of Eaton.
Elisha and his wife Cordelia were enumerated in Hawkins township, Phelps county, Missouri, when the census was taken in August 1860. At that time his occupation was recorded as “Railroad Contractor.”
Elisha died on 24 February 1863 at the age of 45. He was buried in Massillon, Stark county, Ohio.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Addressed to Mrs. E. Q. Harding, Tunkhannock, Wyoming county, Pennsylvania
St. Louis, [Missouri]
August 31st 1862
I arrived here last evening in good health and avail myself of this opportunity to acquaint you of the fact, having little further of interest to relate. My journey was rather dry and uninteresting, devoid of casualty or remarkable event. Stopped off at Ft. Wayne, stayed three days, found friends westerly well—that is to say nothing the matter or worse than chills or fevers. O____’s boy James has gone to war. Saw H[artman] B. Du Barry. He is major of a regiment [88th Infantry]. Left Ft. Wayne the night I arrived so he is “off to the wars again.” All enquire after you and sends respects &c.
In traveling along my journey, I noticed at almost every town and hamlet crowds of men not infrequently interspersed with women moving rapidly to and fro, drums beating, fife’s whistling everywhere evidencing the busy preparation of war. I saw little else—heard little else. It is the all absorbing question of the day. War, war—you see it in the measured tread of men, hear it in the martial strains borne upon the breeze, in the conversations of men and in the blab of drunken loafers, feel it in the jostle of the throng and in the crowded cars. Crowd? It’s no name for it!! We were jammed. But as it is for the good of our country and I believe in the cause, I do not murmur but rather rejoice that our country has not companies, but crowds of men to defend her. Would to God that these crowds had competent leaders to direct them. Then should we see rebellion not only crushed but annihilated. All through the free states was noise, bustle & confusion.
How changed the scene here [in St. Louis where] all is quiet—little talk of war. It appears to be an unwelcome subject. Men speak in whispers, look doubtful, and shake their heads. Union men are not confident and secesh doubtful, if not despondent so we have little excitement here. At present, stores & shops close at 4 P. M. and clerks drill two hours when they return and open shop & business goes on again. I believe all subject to military duty have to drill the aforesaid two hours. There is but little apprehensions of an attack on this city at present. All is quiet—too quiet. One feels lost for excitement.
I shall remain here most of the time until I return so that any letter you may write, direct to me at the Planter’s House, St. Louis. Write me often and keep me posted of war & politics in Wyoming [county]. Give my respects to family & friends. Hoping soon to meet you again, I remain truly yours, — E. Q. Harding
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Saint Louis [Missouri]
October 17, 1862
I arrived here last evening and received yours of the sixth inst. Am sorry to hear of so much sickness in your community but am glad to hear that you escape. I hear of but little sickness in this country—general time of health. At Rolla, we have suffered until last week for rain—fields, forests, and atmosphere [were] literally covered and filled with dust. But that has passed and we have fine, pleasant weather now. Am still in the mule business but expect to close this month.
We have large and powerful army in Missouri but no enemy to fight. Our troops are hovering along the border of our state looking anxiously for the hidden foe but as yet have been unable to rout him from his lair. Old Secesh is hard to hunt—wild and wary, cautious, tenacious, voracious, volatile and vicious—though not invincible [but] still almost invisible. Our boys, however, hope soon to be able to find him as the forest is nearly stripped of its foliage and will soon expose his nakedness to view. I doubt if they will ever be able to overtake him in force. He will dodge, scatter, skulk, and hide away until our troops are tired of hunting for him when he will collect and form again, make a sudden dash on some weak or unprotected point, seize supplies sufficient to protect him from starvation and shield him from the cold. [But] when pursued, will again return in ‘goode order’ keeping what he has got and getting all he can. It is a mere accident if we catch him at all.
Business in the city is very brisk. Hotels filled to repletion. Roomed last night in 99. Today in 38. Down some lower but still in a miserable little room, dark and dirty, though the best they can do so I must not complain—especially as I only pay two dollars per day for board. I shall return to Rolla tomorrow where I expect to remain for several days at least. How long depends something upon the mule trade.
You enquire if you are to meet me at Elmira [N. Y.]. You can do so if you like although I cannot tell the exact time that I shall arrive in Elmira but you can wait there until I come. I shall probably be there about the 8th or 10th of November. Hoping then and there to meet you, I remain as ever, yours truly, — Elisha Q. Harding