This letter was written by Capt. Benjamin S. Henderson (1826-1886) who commanded the “Union Company” of the 8th Regiment Indiana Legion during the fall of 1861. This Legion was composed of volunteers from Clark and Scott counties in Indiana. Henderson’s recruits came from the vicinity of Hibernia township, Clark county, Indiana, bordering the Ohio river.
The 1860 US Census informs us that Benjamin was a farmer and a native of Kentucky. He addressed the letter to “S. Kelly” who I have not been able to identify but there was a Kelly family that lived in or near New Washington, Indiana at the time.
New Washington, [Clark county, Indiana]
December 27th 1861
Mr. S. Kelly
I received your letter of the 20th inst. I was glad to hear that you was well and soldiering. I hope that health and success may follow you through this great struggle and that you may return home safe and join your friends again.
I have labored hard for the last five months. I am in command of a company in the 8th Regiment Indiana Legion here on the border on the Ohio river. I was detailed 8 weeks by the Governor as a recruiting officer for the 49th Regiment at Jeffersonville. The regiment is now full and gone to Kentucky. I am now back in command of my company again. The news is favorable for our government at the present.
We have had a glorious victory in Kentucky last week. 500 of our men was attacked last week by 3,000 rebels and 6 cannon. One regiment was cavalry and two regiments infantry besides the cannon. Our five hundred tigers routed them completely. We lost 8 men killed, 16 wounded. Rebels loss [was] seventy killed and a great many wounded. It was a part of the 32nd Indiana Regiment that done the fighting. ¹
[In] another victory in Virginia, rebel Johnson has been routed—him and his whole force driven out of western Virginia. Western Virginia is now clear of rebels. We will make a forward movement soon and when this great army does move, it will wake the natives. There has 200 cannon went through Louisville the last 2 weeks. One of the cannon was 120 pounder. Write as soon as you get this letter.
Yours truly, — Cpt. B. S. Henderson, commanding.
I got a letter from Mister D. Kelly last night. He states he was in the skirmish in Missouri last week and they made a good haul of prisoners and property. Bully for our boys in Missouri.
I wrote this letter in great haste sitting hunkered down with a newspaper folded on my knee. I expect it will be hard to read. Write soon.
¹ This is a reference to the Battle of Rowlett’s Station (17 December 1861) in Hart county, Kentucky in which the 32nd Indiana Infantry—Indiana’s “1st German” regiment—successfully defended the Louisville and Nashville Railroad bridge across the Green River.