1864: Smith Brothers to John Archibald Smith

These letters were written by Lucius Clark Smith (1834-1915, John Wesley Smith (1838-1923), and Isaac Newton Smith (1842-1912)—three sons of John Archibald Smith (1803-1883) and Mary Ann Beach (1809-1878) of Plain Township, Franklin county, Ohio.

The three brothers served in Co. B, 133rd Ohio Infantry—a Hundred Days regiment that began its service on 2 May 1864. The regiment was immediately ordered to Parkersburg, W. Va., where it arrived on May 8. From this place it was ordered to New Creek, thence to Washington, D. C, and on June 7 was ordered to Bermuda Hundred, where it arrived on June 12. On June 16 the brigade to which it was assigned was ordered to destroy the Richmond & Petersburg railroad. The regiment was assigned to the support of a battery, which opened a cannonade on the enemy, and then with other troops, succeeded in holding the Confederates in check for 5 hours. On July 17 it embarked at Point of Rocks and proceeded to Fort Powhatan, where it was employed on work on the fortifications and in repairing telegraph lines. On Aug. 10 it proceeded to Washington, thence to Camp Chase, where it was mustered out on Aug. 20, 1864.

See also—1864: Isaac Newton Smith to John Archibald Smith

lucius
Letter by Lucius Clark Smith with pre-war image of him

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Addressed to Mr. Archibald Smith, Hope, Franklin County, Ohio

New Creek, Virginia
Sunday, May the 15th, 1864

Dear Father and Mother,

I wrote a letter to you from Parkersburg in a great hurry and I thought I would wait till I had more time but I begin to find out that if I don’t write soon, I won’t write. Sometime I won’t get to write at all.

When I wrote, I did not write anything much. We went to Todd Barracks where we stayed for a few days. Then we went to camp Chase where we stayed two nights. It was Saturday night at one o’clock we were all waked up in an awful hurry and drew our uniforms and three days rations and put on our uniforms and bundled up our clothes and threw them down by the officers tent and fell in for the march. We marched to Columbus to the arsenal and threw away our old guns and accouterments. Then we marched to the cars. The whole town was all alive with people and dust and amidst the cheers of thousands, we started for Parkersburg.

We went to Loveland where we changed cars for Parkersburg. The country down the Miami [river] is good land but as soon as we leave that river it is poor land. I saw Chillicothe by starlight.It was lit up with gas and looked to be quite a place. Then we went on to Swich where we stayed all night and got started about ten o’clock. The whole of Southern Ohio is poor land.

Just as we got to the river we went through one of the longest tunnels I ever saw, Some said it was seven-eighths of a mile long. When we got to the [Ohio] river, we marched down to the ferry boat and went over and it just turned me around so that I have not got right again. I can’t tell what direction I go at all. When we got to New Creek, we went as tired and sleepy as could be to stay all night in the mud with but little fire and in the morning we was about used up and ever since that we have moved from the fort down to the barracks back and forth.

But I must tell you about the railroad. It is one of the awfullest roads that ever was. We passed through twenty-eight tunnels—every one not less than half a mile long—right through the solid rock.

I want you to see about my old clothes. [   ] Adair was detailed to haul them out to Albany. Some says that he brought part of them and others say he brought al of them. I put my boots in my bundle and drawers and pants and tied them up in my blouse and pinned a piece of paper on it. When you write, tell me whether you have heard anything about them or not. We all have a bad cold of course by lying on the ground. Last night, me and Newt and five others stood on picket at Point of Rocks on the Potomac near 200 dead horses and it rained as hard as I ever saw it rain almost all night. We stood 24 hours about two miles from camp and in the morning we went to camp wet, hungry, and sleepy, and commenced this letter. You will have to excuse me from writing often for you don’t know how we have to [  ] round.

You must write to me for I can’t write much. When you write, you must write everything you can think of. Tell the girls to write and Billy. Bu the appearance of things, I guess we will stay here some time but we may get orders to leave in five minutes. There is a whole regiment right by us tented in the mud and it is raining as hard as  it can pour down.

Well I must quit. I suppose Lucius has wrote letters that you have got so you know the address. So goodbye for this time. — John W. Smith


New Creek Station
May 15 [1864]

Dear friend,

As I have a little time today, I will write some as I have not written before. I am well at present except a cold which I took at Parkersburg, Va. from sleeping on the ground. It has rained almost every day. One night we had to sleep on the cold ground in the rain all night in the fort at this place as they expected the rebels that night. But we are in good quarters now.

John and myself and Lucius and some other was on picket last night and it rained very hard. I got my blanket wet and got wet through but I feel pretty well after all. The rest of the boys are all quite well. Lucius has got a cold. Raining hard as ever today. Soldiers are going past every day for the East. Two regiments stopped here—one last night and one this morning—and more going past.

Well, this is a hard looking country. Nothing but hills and stone, small birch pine trees and cedars. There is some plants in this the same as in Ohio—Black plant and lots of it [as well as] various other things.

We have not received any letters from home since we left. I want you to write and let us know how you get along. How things are going. Have Aunt Eliza’s folks been down to see you yet or not? Have you got any [news] from the West yet? As there is a good deal of noise and knocking around, I guess I will stop. Write soon. The other boys has given you the address so no more at present. From I. N. Smith


TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Addressed to Mr. Archibald Smith, Hope, Franklin County, Ohio

New Creek Station, Va.
May 16, 1864

Dear folks all,

I wrote to you while at Camp Chase and Parkersburg. John & Newton have also written, We left Parkersburg last Tuesday morning and arrived at his place the next day evening. We went into some very comfortable wooden quarters; cleaned them up as they were extremely dirty. After supper, we were drawn up into Battalion order, furnished with 40 rounds ammunition and marched up to Ft. Fuller where we laid on our arms in the mud and rain all night expecting an attack from guerrillas. Was not permitted to go down to breakfast until pretty near noon. During the day, we moved up on the hill outside the fort and put up cloth tents. Next day moved down to our old quarters where we now are. Part of the regiment are now quartered up on mountain by the fort.

The guerrilla excitement is now dead, but some hundred pickets are kept out all the time. I was out night before last and had a hard time of it as it rained almost constantly. We were some two miles from camp upon a mountain guarding a road. We had no shelter—only our rubber & woolen blankets. We cut hemlock to lay on. The guards go on at 8 morning and come off some time next morning. It has rained almost constantly ever since we came here and the river is very high.

The men are now recruiting some but for the first three or four days after we came, we were nearly run to death by continual duty almost night and day. Two new regiments came yesterday which will lessen our duty. I have heard old soldiers say that they never were driven through as we have been since we left Camp Chase, but I think we will have easier times now as we are somewhat settled. It may be that we will stay here but I don’t think we will unless Gen. Grant is very successful at Richmond. I would rather move than stay here.

I got excused from duty today. I have a cold settled on my lungs and have coughed until I am so sore that I can hardly move. But I am better now. The doctor gave some cough syrup to use. Newton also has a cough but it able for duty. John is well but does duty with great reluctance. He like to move when and rest when he pleases too well.

New Creek is at the junction of New Creek and North Branch Potomac—a little valley surrounded by mountains. I want you to write and let us know [how] things are going and whether you have got our clothes. I sent one overcoat and one rubber blanket home in the cars baggage from Camp Chase. Tied up with a rope inside is Newton’s clothes. You will find leg bells on out and inside of them. Bobs took a rubber blanket home for John. John & Newton sent home in a box got up by the company each an overcoat from Parkersburg. You can ascertain who has it by someone in [New] Albany [Ohio] when it comes. I wrote about the clothes once before but for fear you did not get the letter, I write it again.

You need give yourselves no uneasiness concerning us as we are all in good heart and spirits. I have not been the least homesick yet. Have not had time. From three to five thousand men are passing through this place daily. You need not expect to get letters put up in any kind of nice order as the chances will not permit. I want to hear how Uncle Abram is getting along with the team and work. Write immediately and direct to Co. B, 133rd N. G. O., New Creek Station, Va., In care of Capt. Wilson.

— L. C. [Lucius Clark] Smith


TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Addressed to Mr. Archibald Smith, Hope, Franklin county, Ohio

New Creek, Virginia
May the 22nd, 1864

Dear friends one and all,

It is with pleasure that I attempt to answer your letter which came to hand today, Sunday. I began to think you had forgotten us. No doubt you are busy enough, but I don’t believe that you are any busier than I am. We have squad drill at 9, company drill at 10, and battalion drill at 2, and dress parade at 4 o’clock today. Sunday, we have inspection and dress parade.

We have good quarters—pine log cabins with bunks fixed up. We are on the North Branch Potomac river bottom & it is most all sand. I can take a ramrod and run it down in the ground the whole length but that is only the bottom & would [I would] not give Plain Township for all of Virginia that I have seen. It is nothing but hills.

Our regiment has log houses but there is two regiments here in dog tents. There has about twenty-five regiments passed this place in about two weeks on to the front. We don’t have quite enough to eat. Sometimes we have meat and good bread, coffee, and beans and rice with sugar, salt, pepper. Chris Hurlocker and Joseph Smith are our cooks.

You said that Kate Eukens was over to our house when you wrote. Tell her and Jane, Eliza, and everybody else that I give them my best bow and hope to hear from them. Tell them that I am not in trim to write too much at present. Billy, I wish you were here to save bullets for me. There is plenty of them here. From one till two o’clock, there is a continual rattle of guns. The pickets come in and fire off their guns against the bluff on the Maryland side of the river. I want you to tell Liza to shear my cat’s tail so that I will know him when I come home—if I ever do.

I send you a map of our town if you would like to see it.

newcreek

You need not send any money for if I had it, I would only spend it. Tell Billy that I want him to clean up the gun once in awhile.

From John W[esley] Smith

P. S. Tell all about the clothes.

[in a different hand]

Sunday, 22 May

About them overcoats we sent home by Express from Parkersburg, Va. They were boxed up and tied up with twine and our names on in two or three places and sent to Columbus, Ohio, to Frank Johnston. I expect that you will find there as Sam Burger said that Johnston had the receipt for them. We paid 40 cents apiece for sending them.

We are all well at present. Some rain today but warm weather. I will write soon. So no more at present.

— I. N. [Isaac Newton] Smith

compare
Comparison of Smith’s hand drawn map to one drawn by military

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR

Washington, District of Columbia
June 9th 1864

Dear father and mother,

I sit down to write you a few lines to inform you that we are all well at present. We left New Creek on the 6th of June. I went one trip to Greenland Gap—a distance of 25 miles—in one day and back. The next I come back on one cup of coffee and two handfuls of crumbs. I have just been all through the Capitol and seen all the sights.

You said in your letter that I had ought to keep a memorandum of what I see. If I was only so situated that I could, I would. Tomorrow we go to the front at White House, Va.—27 miles from Richmond. We go from here by the boat. Take care of my things and sell my molasses and keep the money and if I want it, send it to me. We are to take only a few things that we want. You will have to send us paper and envelopes and stamps when we write. And now I want you to write once a week so that we will know whether the letters miss carry or not.

We have rode one day and 2 nights on the cars and are very tired and worn out. So I guess I will close. So goodbye for this time. From John W. Smith

Dear friends,

I take the short time we have to stay to write to you. I have been well except a little diarrhea but are some better now. We arrived here last night and this morning we got our breakfast at the Soldier’s Home and will stay here till tomorrow, the 10th. At 10 o’clock [we leave] for the White House, Va. I cannot give you the particulars. You will see them in the Ohio State Journal, I expect, better than I can give them.

I have not been up town much except to the Capitol which is a very fine place. We are not allowed to take much clothing with us. Any letters from friends I want you to open and answer. If you could get a good map, you can tell where we are any time. We have to leave some clothes here in a place the officers have got. I expect you think that we are going off entirely but we will try and do our duty and take care of ourselves as well as we can. So goodbye. From I. N. Smith

Washington D. C.
June 9th

P. S. I will try and get vaccinated if I can by the surgeon. — I. N. S.

Camp at Bermuda Hundred, Va.
June 15th 1864

Dear Folks,

As John [and] Newton has written some, I put in a few words before the mail goes. John is some better. Newton is about the same. I suppose they have said what ailed them. I am well only worn out. I have had but six hours sleep for two days work all day and and night. Lay in the line of fortifications yesterday. We made a road for Gen. Grant to pass over to Petersburg. They are, I suppose, now at it. I think we will [see] hot times soon. But I guess we will stay in the works. I must close or miss the mail. Direct to Bermuda Hundred. Rest same as before. — L[ucius] C. Smith


TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE

Washington D. C.
August 13th 1864

Dear folks all,

We left Fort Powhatan Thursday [the] 11th, arrived here last night and are now at the Soldier’s Home. Maybe we will leave today but I rather think not. Our sick came on a hospital boat this morning. I have just got Newton into the hospital—Judiciary Hospital Ward Five, Washington D. C. He is doing well only very weak so as to be unable to come along. I think he will be able to come home in a week or so.

Mr. A. F. Janes died last night on the boat coming up [and] is going to be embalmed. Capt. Wilson has just come up [and is] hardly able to be around. John was sent away to New York a day or so before our regiment came past. He is about well. I have worked very hard since daylight. It is now noon. Soon as you know we are in Columbus, come in. We will probably be there a day or so, Hoping soon to see you all, I am as ever yours, — Lucius C. Smith

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camp_of_22nd_pennsylvania_(ringgold)_cavalry,_union_army,_new_creek_(keyser),_w.va
1865 Photo at New Creek; Fort Fuller is on hill in background

 

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