1862: Merritt Abbott Brown to Friend

This letter was written by Merritt A. Brown (1837-1918), the bugler of Co. A, 4th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Recruited in Northampton county, PA. Merritt mustered in on 11 August 1861. The company records indicate that Merritt served until 15 October 1862 when he was discharged on account of disability. His Find-A-Grave obituary indicates that he was “slightly wounded at Gettysburg” which suggests his discharge date should be 1863 rather than 1862. Merritt was married to Catharine Ann Lance (1841-1919). They are both buried in Reading, PA.

Merritt and his half brother, Miller Horton Brown (1842-1862), were half brothers. Their mother, Aurilla Waller Abbott (1816-1850), first married John Craigh, and Merritt was born on 10/14/1837 probably in Luzerne Co., Pennsylvania. She then married James D. Brown (1817-1886), and Miller Horton Brown was born on 12/22/1842 in Luzerne County. James Brown must have adopted Merrit, since he used the name Brown throughout his life.

Merritt’s half brother, Miller, was killed at Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862, by a shot through the head while carrying dispatches for General Butterfield. He was described in Hyndman’s book as a “young, ambitious and dashing boy.” His death was the first in actual combat for the company. His body was never recovered.

Letterhead on Stationery used by Merritt A. Brown, dated 22 March 1862


Washington [D. C.]
March 22, 1862

Dear friend,

I take my pen in hand for the first time to let you know that I am well and hope that these few lines will find you the same. We are stationed in Washington and have been since last August. We now are Provost Guard in the city. We are now stationed in a large building near the Capitol. We have a nice place here for the men and horses but the men is not satisfied. They want to be sent onto the field of battle. They are bound to see the elephant.

There is a big fleet ready to leave here. All they want is the order but I hope that this great rebellion is nearly at a end for if it lasts much longer, it will be a big injure to our country. But I hope that we will catch the leaders so that we can hang them for they have destroyed our peaceful country.

I left my wife and family to fight for my freedom and I would like to see it settled before I give it up. But I suppose that you know more about the war than I can tell you. You see the papers everyday. But if we was in the enemy’s country, I might be able to tell you something that would not be in the papers. We have plenty of secesh in this city. They have about 800 in the Old Capitol [Prison] and they are as sassy as the mischief. But they feed them too well. They talk strong about discharging our regiment but I don’t know how it will be. But our boys either want their discharge or sent on, one of the two. We have good men and good horses and well-drilled, and set for service [at] any moment.

Catherine Aften wanted to know why I did not write to you. She thinks that everybody likes to get a letter as well as she does. I would have wrote before now but I hadn’t the directions before. But I will bring my letter to a close hoping to hear from you soon. Please excuse all mistakes and bad spelling. From your affectionate friend, — Merritt A. Brown

Please direct your letter to Merritt A. Brown, Co. A, 4th Pennsylvania Regiment of Cavalry in care of Captain Ed Tombler, Washington


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