1862: Henry Clay Elson to William Penn Elson

This letter was written by Henry (“Harry”) Clay Elson (1842-1923), the son of John Harris Elson (1806-1898) and Sarah Osee Wilson (1815-1892) of Stark county, Ohio.

Harry enlisted as a private on 12 November 1861 at the age of 19 to serve three years in Co. H, 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). He was promoted to a corporal in April 1862 and to a sergeant in June 1865 before mustering out with his company in October 1865 as a veteran.

Harry wrote the letter to his brother William (“Will”) Penn Elson (1837-1921). He mentions two of his brothers—Corwin (“Cor”) R. Elson (b. 1837) who was serving in the 51st OVI, and John “Harris” Elson (1840-1863), who also joined Co. K, 51st OVI.

Harry’s Letter with Image of Harry (ca 1864)


Camp near Spring Hill, Tennessee
March 26, 1862

Brother Will,

I received a letter from you. It is kind of strange that you never received an answer to the letter you sent me. I sent you a letter when at Bowling Green the same day I wrote home shortly after we left Bowling Green for Nashville, Tennessee, which place we reached after a march of six days. Bowling Green contains about 3 or 4 thousand inhabitants and contains some splendid mansions. There is a splendid pike through from city to city.

When we arrived at Nashville, the 51st was guarding the city. I got to see Cor[win] and all the boys that I knew.

I received a letter from Harris too. He was at Cincinnati in the barracks waiting till their recruiting officer would get ready to move to Nashville. He is fetching a pair of boots for me but I do not know whether I will ever receive them or not for we are 45 miles south of Nashville and the 51st is at Nashville and we are expecting to get marching orders every day.

At Nashville on the 17th, after looking so long in vain, we at last got our pay. I received $46.80. Out of that I expressed $40.00 home. The other day I bought a can of peaches and had a big feast. The peaches was as large as my fist and the best I ever tasted.

John Bly got a letter today from Dave Chaddock. He is at home on furlough. He has been sick. His regiment—the 32nd Ohio—is within 2½ miles of our camp. They have just come from Western Virginia.

The weather is getting pretty warn down here now. What do you think it will be after while> One thing sure, if the Rebels keeps retreating, they will soon have no where to retreat and then we will have them. The companies are all out on skirmish drill. I was on guard yesterday, That excuses me from duty today.

I must close and write a few lines to Harris. No more at present but remain the same old thing. Write soon.

— H. C. Elson

Direct to Nashville, Tennessee, 19th Reg. O. V. USA, Co. H, care of Lieut. [Uriah W.] Irwin


One thought on “1862: Henry Clay Elson to William Penn Elson”

  1. Hi,
    I would love to know where you found this and if there are any other letters from them to each other during the war.
    I wanted to state that Henry, (John) Harris and Will are brothers, Corwin is their cousin. Corwin is the son of Richard Elson, John’s (1806-1898) brother. I descend from Richard.
    Henry was severly wounded in the Battle of Stones River, Murfreesboro, TN, Jan 2, 1863 and taken prisioner. Spent three weeks in Libby Prison. John ‘Harris” died from his wounds in the same battle.


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