This brief letter was penciled in haste by 16 year-old Edgar Dierdorff (1845-1863)—the son of Isaac Dierdorff (1803-1850) and Rebecca Sweany (1818-1897) of Bethlehem, Stark county, Ohio. Edgar wrote the letter to his Stark county friend, Jacob M. Boroway (1842-1918), who later enlisted in Co. A, 107th Ohio.
Edgar enlisted in Co. E with the formation of the 61st Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) in April 1862. The boys in the 61st OVI were recruited from nearly every county in the Ohio. Nine companies (900 men) were German speaking immigrants and two companies (200 men) were Irish Catholics. The regiment was organized at Camp Chase, Columbus, Ohio, 23 April 1862, and ordered to West Virginia on 27 May where they joined Fremont’s army at Strasburg, Va., on 23 June 1862.
At Chancellorsville in May of 1863, the 61st OVI took the full brunt of “Stonewall” Jackson’s flank attack. They were part of the 11th Corps, most of which disintegrated in panic before Jackson’s men. Only nine men of the 61st OVI lost their rifles, however, suggesting that most of them stood and fought rather than throw down their weapons. One casualty at Chancellorsville was Edgar Dierdorff who was wounded on 2 May 1863 and died on 17 June 1863. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
[Late June 1862]
We stayed at Petersburg [now West Virginia] over a week and then went to Moorefield. The same day we started from Fremont’s army. We got to Strasburg on the 21st of this month. We stayed there in sight of the town till the 24th when we moved 5 miles further north to a town called Middletown. It is about as big a town as Milton. Strasburg is as large as Strasburg near the falls.
Now I must bring my letter to a close for the present time. When you write, tell me all the particulars and direct your letter to Edgar Dierdorf, Co. E, 61st Regt. OVI in camp near Strasburg in care of Capt. J[ohn] A. Leiter
To Jacob Baraway
[P. S.] Tell the boys if they want to see hard times to enlist and go a soldiering. I send my best respects to all enquiring friends. Write soon as you can.