1861: William C. Meffert to Friend Charley

This letter was written by William C. Meffert (1842-1918), an emigrant from Germany who was learning the harness making trade and boarding with Edwin Schofield of Dodgeville, Wisconsin, when he hung up his apron and enlisted in Co. H, 3rd Wisconsin Infantry. In this early-war letter, William signed his last name “Meffeart” but it eventually evolved to “Meffert” which is the name recorded on his headstone.

When William penned this letter in August 1861, he wrote his friend, “Tell all the folks that they may never expect me back till this war is stopped for I intend to see the last of it.” True to his word—though he even served for a time as the color bearer of the National flag for his regiment, William remained with the 3rd Wisconsin until 18 July 1865. Presumably he was with the regiment when they lost 60% of their men in Miller’s cornfield during the blood day at Antietam.

William’s diary is apparently housed in the Wisconsin Historical Society.

William Meffert’s letter was written on stationery with this rare patriotic image and message, “One Constitution, One County, one Destiny.” These words were attributed to a speech given by Daniel Webster in March 1837. 


Camp Carroll [near Frederick, MD]
August 26th 1861

Friend Charley,

I now take the pleasure of answering your letter which I received last night, the 25th of August. It was written on the 15th. It has been a long time coming but the letters take the same time coming from other places.

Dear Charley, I was very happy to hear from you. I hope that you will tell the boys of Dodgeville that it is impossible for me to write to all of them but I should be very happy to hear from them for we all here like to hear from home—especially from Dodgeville, our old place. I should like to be there about twelve hours but not any longer. A great many of the boys here would like to be back home again but I don’t see what for. I like this country first rate. We have rather poor grub but a soldier must get used to that. I am getting fat here and lazy. We don’t drill anymore and living here without anything to do will make anyone lazy.

We are now encamped about thirty-five miles from Harper’s Ferry near Frederick City. We left the Ferry Saturday the 24th of August. Sunday night we got here. Monday they had a little brush with three hundred secessionists cavalry. There were but a few of our troops left there. Our whole division left there but I nor anyone else here can tell where they are a going. I think that in a few days we will have some work to do.

Yesterday I received a letter from Cornelius. They are all well there but they are not going to join us for they are a going to stay at the fort. This morning when we were drummed up, I turned over where I was lying and wrote you these few lines. This is the way that we do most everything—that is, lying on the ground. The boys are all running around half asleep howling for something to eat. That is that way that we do every morning. We hire cooks for to cook for us and if they don’t do it up brown, we kick up a muss.

We are all pretty well here at the present. Give my best respects to the Rand boys and tell them that I should like to hear from them. Tell all the boys that if they have a leisure hour to sit down and write a few lines to me. Tell my folks that I am well and pretty lazy doing nothing. Tell all the folks that they may never expect me back till this war is stopped for I intend to see the last of it. My best respects to everybody.

Your friend, — Wm. C. Meffert, Co. H, 3rd Regiment W. V., Frederick, MD


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