These three letters were written by Elijah Carpenter (1830-1906), the son of Reuben Carpenter (1807-1876) and Mary Clouse (1810-1841) of Crawfordsville, Montgomery county Indiana.
Elijah wrote the letter to his sister, Eliza Jane (Carpenter) French (1833-1916), the wife of Robert Berry French (1825-1864) of Decatur City, Decatur county, Iowa, who was serving in Co. E, 35th Missouri Infantry. Eliza and Robert were married in 1853 and had five children—one born each year between 1855 and 1860 when the census was taken; four girls and one boy. Eliza was born in Indiana; Robert in Kentucky.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
October 2nd 1862
I received your letter this evening which gave me much pleasure to hear that you all was well. This leaves me enjoying the same good blessing. I was much disappointed to hear that Robert was in the 35th Regiment of Missouri ¹ under Col. [Thomas F.] Kimball. I supposed that he had gone in an Iowa Regiment and was in Burlington, Iowa. Colonel Kimball is from this county. He was in the service last winter in Missouri and I guess he makes a very good officer. They have been in St. Louis several days. I heard from the regiment most every other day. The St. Joseph Journal (the daily) comes here to the tavern where I am boarding every other mail and I get to read it.
They were cheered at all points on their way to St. Louis and they all arrived safe except one man who got up in his sleep and went out and walked overboard in the river and was not seen any more.
William & Martha is going [to] move up to Anderson. They will start next Tuesday if nothing prevents. William has been up and cut grass and put up his hay. He took Sarah Ann up with him. Father and family was all well.
Dear sister, you must not get out of heart. Put your trust in God. He will direct you and yours for the best. I feel in hopes that the war will end by next spring but there is no telling when it will close. Things look very dark as to when it will have an ed. I can not tell you when I will be up to see you. I want to come before it gets very cold and see you and go to Oceola and see my children. I believe I told you in my last letter that Father Miller had moved to Osceola, Clark county. I got a letter from them last Thursday. They were all well.
I do not know what I will do yet—only that I intend to go to school this winter some place. I intend to educate myself while I have a chance. At this present time there is no school in Bedford but there will be one before very long. For the last few days I have been working at one dollar and twenty-five cents per day carpentering and will do, I expect, for the next 2 or 3 weeks.
I will have to bring my letter to a close for it is getting late. All the people had gone to bed before I commenced writing. Goodbye for the present.
Write often, Your brother, — E. Carpenter
¹ Thirty-fifth Missouri Infantry (3-YEARS) —- Col., Samuel A. Foster, Lieut.-Cols., Thomas F.. Kimball, James A. Greason, Horace Fitch; Maj., Thomas H. Penny. The regiment was organized on Dec. 3, 1862, and on Jan. 10, following the muster in, arrived at Helena, Ark., where it remained for the greater part of that year. In the battle of Helena on July 4, 1863, it lost heavily. At Trenton, Ark., July 25, a detachment of the regiment was surrounded by some of Shelby’s men, but Col. Brooks, who was in command, cut his way out three times before finally succeeding in getting out of his perilous position. In the last attempt Brooks was killed. In the latter part of the year the regiment was engaged in scouting the country about Helena and on the Mississippi side of the river, capturing a number of prisoners horses, etc. It continued in this line of duty until April 3, 1865, when it embarked for Little Rock, where it was engaged in picket and camp duty until June 28, when it was mustered out. The men arrived at Benton barracks, St. Louis, July 12, received their final pay and returned to their homes. Source: The Union Army, vol. 4, p. 268
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
February 15, 1863
I received your letter about one hour ago. I was very glad to hear that you was all well at present but very sorry to hear that you had lost one of your children. But sister, it is alright. God knows what is for the best. It is better off than either one of us. Sister, let us follow the example of the Apostles. May we imitate their faith, their piety, their charity, and the love. Then shall we pass through things temporal in such a manner that we shall finally gain the thing eternal and through the mercy of an all perfect Redeemer be admitted as worthy guests at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Then we will meet that little infant that has just gone, never to part anymore.
Sister, reconcile thyself and do not let the things of this earth trouble you. It will be but a few days more until we will be called away to try the reality of another world unknown to us at the present.
I wrote to Robert soon after I came home from Decatur but have not heard anything from him yet. A few days since I saw the Colonel of that regiment and made inquiry about him but he knew nothing of him—only that he belonged to the regiment. The Colonel [Thomas F. Kimball] is a secesh and resigned and came home. The officers got down on him so that he could not stand them so he had to resign.
Sister, you stated in your [letter] that you heard that Jane and I were married. That is not so and more than that, we never will be. And I have stated before in your presence, I expect to get married someday but [only] when I have knowledge. I have no one in view. In the last 8 weeks I have sat up & talked to five different girls and some of them more than once. But sister, there is no Marys among them. I am still going to school. My school will be out in 3 weeks more and then I expect to go to Osceola to see my children and it may be that I will come by Decatur and see you. I do not know how it will be yet.
After I got to Osceola and see my children, I expect to go up in Adams county near Quincy and build a large barn for Mr. Burch at one dollar and fifty cents per day. Then I do not know what I will do. I shall either take up a school or work with my tools or go to Pike’s Peak. I have not yet determined.
Your brother until death, — Elijah Carpenter
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
June 24, 1863
Through the kind Providence of God, I once more seat myself to inform you that my health is good. I am still in Bedford carpentering at the present, I am working for W. D. Bray (the landlord) putting up another barn in the place of the one that burnt up when I lost my mare and tools.
Have you heard from [your husband] Robert lately? If you have, I would like for you to write soon. I would like to know if he was in the Vicksburg battle.
I believe that I have not much news to write to you at this time. I received a letter some days time from Sarah Ann Carpenter. She stated that they were all well and that she was going to school.
War news I believe are a little exciting. The Pennsylvania raid [by Lee’s army] seems to cause quite a talk in the street, and the fall of Vicksburg are anticipated with much anxiety by most all citizens. Then I believe we have some few that cares but little about it.
I have not heard from Father Millers since shortly after Jennie’s death.
So no more at present. I remain your affectionate brother, — Elijah Carpenter
To E, J. French, Decatur City, Iowa
P. S. Write when you can conveniently.