1865: John M. Lovejoy to his Relatives

These letters were written by John M. Lovejoy (1843-Aft1880), the son of Andrew Lovejoy (1790-1850) and Sally (1805-Aft1880) of Roseboom, Otsego county, New York—some 50 miles west of Albany, not far from Cooperstown.

John enlisted as a private on 7 August 1862 to serve three years in Co. G, 121st New York Volunteers. He was mustered in on 23 August. Two years later he was wounded in a skirmish on 21 August 1864 and was promoted to corporal on 1 January 1865. He mustered out with his company on 25 June 1865 at Hall’s Hill in Virginia. According to enlistment records, John stood 5 feet 7½ tall, had red hair and blue eyes. He was a farmer by occupation.

John’s older brother Allen Lovejoy (1839-Aft1905) is also mentioned in these letters. Allen mustered into Co. G, 121st New York Volunteers at the same time as his brother. He was transferred to Co. C, 22nd Regiment VRC in January 1865.

See also: John Lovejoy, November 8, 1862 and John Lovejoy, October 26, 1862. See also Burkittsville letter is window into the past, posted July 15, 2009; and Battle of South Mountain Collection.

[Note: Letters 1-4 are from the private collection of Jim Doncaster and are published by express consent.]

Letter 1

Camp of the 121st New York Volunteers
Near Warrington, Va.
August 30, 1863

My Dear Mother,

Once more I attempt to write a few lines to you to let you [know] I am yet on the land of the living. I am well and with Company G of the 121st Regt. I arrived here yesterday. It is some two over weeks since I left Allen in Rhode Island and since then I have not heard one word from home or from him. I have wrote three letters to him & this will be the third I have wrote to you. If you have answered my other letters and directed to where I write from, they will reach me sometime for they will be forwarded on to me. I want you to write to me as soon as get this for I want to hear from home very bad.

The boys were very glad to see me once but Co. G don’t look much as it did when I last was with them. There is only about twenty men in the company that was there when I last saw them. Peter and Etick Simmons are here and look tough as bears, but the most of the boys of my acquaintance is either dead or in the hospital or discharged or deserted. Our brigade is encamped about four miles from the rest of the army near a town called New Baltimore. Our camp is 3.5 miles to the west of the Village of Warrenton.

I was very glad to get out of the Distribution Camp at Alexandria for it is the most filthy I was ever in. I was there just one week from the time I came there still I started for Warrenton. I like this place much better than any I have been in since I left Rhode Island for I have been just about starved ever since I left Rhode Island till I got here. We have all we want to eat and can cook it to suit ourselves. One thing I know, I can make a better cup of coffee than I ever drank in the hospital. we draw soft bread, coffee, sugar, pork, potatoes, beets, beans & rice, and if we don’t cook it good, we have no one to blame but ourselves for to being too lazy.

As long as the regiment is in camp, we will have good times. But there is no telling how soon the regiment will be on the move again. I expect there will be one more hard battle in Virginia before the rebels will give up the job. I have not much news to write this time but I hope as soon as you get this you will answer it and write all the news—if there is any. And if they have drafted, tell [me] who is drafted for I want to know who is the lucky ones. And also tell whether Jonathan has got his discharge. I also heard that Henry was arrested when he was at home and sent to the regiment as a deserter. Now write and tell me whether it is true or not.

Hoping this will find you well as it leaves me, I will close. Give my best respects to all the friends and I remain as ever your affectionate son, — John M. Lovejoy, Co. G, 121st New York Volunteers

Letter 2

Camp of the 121st Regt. N. Y. State Volunteers
Near Brandy Station, Virginia
January 6, 1864

My Dear Mother,

Your long looked for and very welcome letter which Mary wrote for you the 30th ult. came to camp yesterday and was thankfully received and cheerfully read by your son in the Army of the Potomac. I was very glad to learn that you are yet enjoying a comfortable degree of health. As for me, I am well with the exception of the hiccups which I have quite hard this evening. You may see by my writing that I have the hiccups for there is a hic here and there. I guess it will all be over by morning. The cause is I have been laughing heartily tonight at some of the boys who was making fun for the rest.

I heard by a letter which I received from Kate Hanson that you was visiting around on the hill but did not know you had left Boston Hollow with the intention of staying away. And I hope you won’t leave there for good. I hope you an Almira will yet be friends and live in peace. It was sad news when I heard through Allen that there was any hard feelings between you and her. And my desire yet is that you will yet be friends. If you should separate, it would make no difference between the brotherly love which exists between Allen & I. Him and I cannot be made hard friends if half of a notion should conspire against us. And it is my desire that you live in peace till we return. I don’t want either to be domineering over the other nor either to be afraid of the other. I know the disposition of both of you and know your minds are not alike. But now, dear Mother, for the love of your sons on duty of peril, absent from their homes [and] perhaps never to return, I entreat you and Almira to live in friendship. I have wrote a letter to her telling here how I wish you both to do. I tell you, I feel bad for Allen for every letter I have from him is full of entreaty to me to tell you and Almira to live and try to cheer each other during our absence instead of having any hardness existing between you. Oh! Mother, if you only knew how it pains your absent boys to hear of discontent between you, I think you both would sacrifice your own happiness to cause ours.

You spoke of a furlough. I guess a furlough for me is an impossible thing. Only one in a company have been granted in this brigade and now they are suspended. But for how long a time, I do not know. If it is possible for me to come home before Spring, I shall do it. But if not, I shall be contented to stay where I am until this cruel war shall end which I hope is not far distant. I now have great faith to believe that ere another years shall have rolled round, this wicked rebellion will cease to exist. A few days ago I wrote to you asking you to send me a box. If you send one, put in some pins large size and some thread and a darning needle if you please for they would come very welcome to me to repair my clothes with when I have time and will save drawing new ones. I have no existing news to write for everything is now quiet in the army here.

It is very late—bed time—and I have wrote in a great hurry so I will have to close for tonight although I would like to take time and fill my sheet. But please accept this hurried letter and I will write soon and try to do better. Write soon and I as ever remain your affectionate and ever loving son, — John M. Lovejoy

Co. G, 121st N. Y. Vols.

P. S. Last week I wrote to Cooperstown and have had my paper sent to me in the army. I received the first one last night so you need not look for it at the Post Office anymore. Yours, — John M. Lovejoy

To his mother, Mrs. Mollie Lovejoy

Letter 3

Camp 121st N. Y. near Petersburg, Va.
Sunday eve, February 12th 1865

My Dear Mother,

I now improve the first spare moment I have had to answer your welcome letter of the 5th which I received this morning. I have been on guard all day yesterday and today in charge of a squad of 9 prisoners who I had to keep to work cleaning camp and chopping wood for our headquarters so you see I have been quite busy all the time. In fact, I have not been off duty 4 hours since I came back from our raid which we all started on one week ago tonight.

I feel much better in regard to my health than when I wrote the two last times and I think I should be entirely well if I had not been on duty so steady for I am now near tired out. All hands have now more duty than we had before the raid when we was in our old camp. Now we have to do about a third more picket and have to arrange our new camp and have to bring all the wood we burn about [ ] miles and it is green pine at that. Still I have no fault to find. I feel very thankful to God for sparing my life through another scene of death and that I again enjoy the blessings of health and I sincerely hope when this reaches you that you and all of Uncle’s family will again be well for I feel sorry to hear of any of my friends being sick.

I spoke of having charge of a lot of prisoners. I did not mean Rebels as you may suppose. They were members of the 121st who are sentenced to do fatigue duty under guard for 30 days for neglect of duty in the late engagement and being absent from the first roll call after the fight. I will not mention any names so I will make no hard feelings but I do think some are punished without a just cause while I think others deserve it. Enough about that.

I received a letter from Allan today. He is well and writes a good letter. Sends his respects to all. There is not much news to write for I have wrote about the raid in a letter I wrote to Cynthia a day or two ago. I could not tell all I should try and it would take a week to write it. I was about sick all of the time so it was unusual hard for me. But I feel satisfied that I am yet alive and not in the hands of the enemy. Once during the day I came very near getting in the rebels’ hands and to tell the truth plainly, I would prefer death to being taken prisoner now.

If I have a chance, I will fill another sheet before the mail leaves tomorrow [and] also write some to the little girls. I hope you are well now and praying God to grant unto us health and to meet again. I close for tonight.

The weather is cold for this climate. Write soon to your ever dutiful soldier boy, — John M. Lovejoy

Letter 4

Camp 121st Regt. N. Y. S. Vols.
Near Burkes’ Junction, Va.
Sunday, April 15th 1865

Dear Cousin Cynthia,

Your ever welcome letter of last Sunday came to hand this morning and I read and re-read it with great pleasure, feeling glad I was yet well remembered at home although far away from home and friends. In my last letter I told you where I was the 2nd inst. and when you was writing the letter now before me I was in the field shouting and feeling glad over the victories God seen fit to crown us with. Today we all feel to mourn to hear of the attempt to murder our President. I hope he will live.

In another letter you spoke of the death of Lorenzo Myers. Truly it must cast a gloom over the Simmon’s family for he has left a young wife to mourn for him and if I mistake not, Capt. Howland’s death will be very deeply felt in the same family for I have good reason to believe Tenyek and Ellen Simmons was engaged to be married. He had a ring which he told me was hers and I think she will yet receive it for I know where it is. Many will mourn for him but none will feel his loss more than John M. L. for we were intimate friends. I am glad to hear my unknown friend, S. S. Burroughs is yet alive and I do hope out of the reach of Rebels. I hope he has either been paroled or exchanged and that I can yet have my wish to see him. If you hear more from him, let me know.

I believe I wrote to you that Henry L. Barnard called upon me before left our winter quarters. I have later news from him. The 6th inst. the whole of his regiment was taken prisoners except one drummer. I talked with him and he said Barnard was with the regiment. Therefore, if they have not been retaken or paroled, he is again in rebel hands. I hope to hear from him soon. He is a “Noble Man.”

About Ed Damon’s photo, I sent it because I had more than I cared to keep by me and I knew if I sent it it to you, I would know where to find it if I live to come home again. I tell you, he wrote me a good letter and I have not answered it yet. I am ashamed of myself but I did not have time before we opened the campaign.

The victories gained by our armies during the past three weeks are of the greatest importance to us. They tell plainly what men of a determined spirit can do if they only will. But amid all, we must remember God is the God of Battles, and rules the Destinies of Nations. Our present situation is now all one could ask for. Gen. Joe Johnston who commands the only Rebel Army left is now in a tight place between the victorious armies of Sherman and Meade, Ord, Sheridan, and Thomas. He has not a place he can fall back to without fighting for it and we hold the railroad and soon his supplies will give out. He must fight, surrender, or else disband his army and we may look forward to a speedy termination of the war.

Reports have come (I do not know whether official or not) that Mr. Lincoln is not dead but that his wound is a very dangerous one. I hope he may live to pass sentence on his would-be murderer. He is a good man and I believe has done what he could for the good of his country.

Second Edition. Sunday Eve.

Dear cousin, since writing the first sheet I have had my supper and now I will write a little more as I concluded the other sheet rather abruptly and I do not fancy so briefly leaving any subject unless compelled to.

Then you tried to picture out to yourself Richmond [and] Petersburg under the “Old Flag” and our poor suffering heroes in Union hospitals? Well, Cynthia, I am glad you know no more about war than you do and surely you can know but little. I could have told a hundred fold more than I did when home, but I dared not for the sake of friends reveal all the horrors I then knew which are connected with the wicked rebellion traitors have brought about. I thank God I am yet sound & well while many are now daily passing away from wounds received in action during the past 2 weeks. I may yet be called upon to battle for right and freedom, but I think our fighting in this army is now over. I hope forever.

I have not heard from Carleville in a long time. Still I would like to hear from David & Cecilia first rate. I had letters from Kate Hanson & Tenetta M. Hoyt today and have answered them. I have filled 4 sheets of paper today and this is my 5th. My letters are all quite brief and penmanship vulgar for I take no pains and if it does not suit, I alone am to blame. I expect by the time you get this letter, you will see Allan home on a furlough unless he gets disappointed again.

Another report has just come in about the President. It is that he died 9 o’clock this A. M. (“Unofficial”).

Our regiment is about to receive a number of recruits. Co. G has 25 of the new men. Their descriptive lists came today. I heard they will be here tomorrow. Three of them are conscripts; the others are substitutes. I expect they will all be hard cases to deal with. Wherever you work this summer, I hope you may have a good place and enjoy yourself well. Should not we give endless praise and thanks unto God for his many mercies unto us in granting unto us victory and also the blessings of health? And let us pray his blessings may yet be over us. I know I am not as faithful as is my duty, but I pray for pardon for sins of omission as well as commission.

You say you are as formal as ever or will try to be. All right. But still as you say, day by day I feel I am bound stronger and stronger. All is yet well. And I think all will go well. If those are trusted who are fit to he trusted.

Not many knows John M. Lovejoy to perfection. I am the same as ever and so you know who I am. I have not heard from P. M. Snider in about 2 months and do not know as I shall have an answer to my last letter. Neither do I care. It will save paper and stamps.

Well, Cynthia, I will close for tonight for it is late. I expect we will love soon towards Petersburg. Hoping yet to meet you in Old Otsego, I will close. I have yet 4 months and 6 days to serve to finish my time. And I hope we will see no more fighting. But if we meet no more on Earth, let us try and meet in Heaven where parting will not come. Write soon and often and long letters and believe me ever your unworthy but true friend & cousin. Truly yours, — John M. Lovejoy

Please excuse poor writing for my accommodations are poor. I have no desk to write on or table either. Yours, — John M. L.

Letter 5

Camp of the 121st Regt. N. Y. S. Vols.
Near Danville, Virginia
Sunday, April 30th 1865

My Dear Mother,

Again your son “J. M. Lovejoy” takes a passing chance to let you know he is yet numbered with the living. I am well and am now improving the first opportunity in one week of writing to you. No one can imagine how I would like to hear from home and dear friends. I have received answers to all my letters from Camp near Petersburg but hereto none I have wrote since that time. I wrote the 10th from Clover Hill and am anxiously waiting for a reply.

I will now tell a little about our march of last week from Burkesville Station to Danville—a distance of about 125 miles [that] was made in 5 days. When we left Burkesville Station, it was reported that the Rebel Gen. Jos. Johnston was 160 miles from Danville and was marching towards that place. When we reached here, his command was only 40 miles away at Greensboro, N. C. Next day we received official reports of his surrender on the same terms as General Lee. It is said the march of the Sixth Corps to Danville was the cause. If so, I am satisfied.

Today we was mustered for 2 months more pay. I have now due me 4 months pay ($72.00) which I hope to get before another muster. I would have liked it well if I had applied for a furlough and come home. Then I might have escaped this trip. But since I am here, I am pretty well contented and will willingly stay my time out if I have to for I now feel more confident than ever that our fighting is done in this Rebellion and hope soon to visit our homes and greet our friends with Peace and a Whole Union restored. I hope if Allen came home on furlough you had a good visit with him. I have not heard from him in over 3 weeks.

Four weeks ago today I was in the Battle before Petersburg. Three weeks ago Gen. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Lt. Gen. U. S. Grant. Two weeks ago we was greatly grieved to learn of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. One week ago we left Burkesville Station to defeat Johnston. We have done it and now we are here in comparative quiet. It is not at all probable we will remain here long for it is a long way to bring supplies and they have to come from City Point by rail and the railroad needs much repairing. It is greatly out of order.

Yesterday, last night, and until 10 A.M. today I was busy helping Sergt[-Maj. Norman W.] Herdman make out the company muster rolls and I am quite tired. But I thought I would write to you and let you know your absent son had not forgotten home & friends. Mother, the prospect looks brighter than when I left home December 1st, ’64 and I do hope and pray God will spare me to again return to you, never again to take up arms to defend our “Starry Banner.” Pray for me as of old, dear Mother, and let us trust God always for He will do by us as He seemeth just & good. I have many temptations here that at home I would be free Fromm but I will try by the assistance of Divine Grace to keep my eye on the road leading to Eternal life. Hoping to hear from you soon and learn you are well, I close.

Give my love to all enquiring friends and believe me, I am as ever your affectionate, dutiful soldier boy, — John M. Lovejoy.

Corporal, Co. G, 121st Regt. N. Y. S. Vols.

Letter 6

Camp of the 121st Regt. N. Y. S. Vols.
Hall’s Hill, Va., near Washington D. C.
Saturday evening, June 24th 1865

My dear Cousin C[ynthia],

Still in the State of Old Virginia. I shall try and pen you a few lines by way of my appreciation of you as a true and constant friend of J. M. L. We the 121st are not yet mustered out but the mustering officer is not at Regimental Headquarters and Capt. Van Scoy has the rolls of Co. G at headquarters now having them overlooked. I shall know before I sleep whether they are right and acceptable or not. If all is right, we will be mustered out tomorrow at 9 o’clock A. M. and Monday—if transportation can be furnished—we will leave Washington for New York.

I have just had a chat with Capt. Shelden J. Redway of Co. A and he says that we will leave Washington Monday but may expect to be in the City of Albany on the 4th of July. Then we will be paid off and leave for our homes.

Later. The Captain returned with the rolls about two hours ago and since them, him and I have been at work correcting and filling up in place deficient. The Colonel came into the tent a few moments ago and said that he had promised to have the rolls ready tomorrow at 9 o’clock. I will close for tonight and will finish my letter tomorrow for it is now about the hour of midnight. God bless you my dear girl is my earnest prayer. Ever yours, — John M. Lovejoy

Sunday A. M. 10 o’clock, June 25, 1865

Dear “C,”

Again free for a few moments I will attempt to write a few more lines. Ever since the break of day I have been writing for the company except long enough to eat a small breakfast and wash myself. I expect to have to go on Sunday Inspection yet today. Our muster out is to come off at 4 o’clock today if nothing happens and tomorrow we take the cars at 9 a.m. for the “Empire State.”

I think I will try a new pen for the one I have just been using is now worn out and truly I am ashamed of the penmanship and also the composition. But I know to who I am writing and I know you will excuse all my negligence and errors, will you not?

Five of our new recruits left us last night on french leave. They did not like the idea of being transferred to another regiment after we went home and so they deserted in the night. I think no more of them for that.

The day is very warm and I expect it will be still more sultry at noon. But I hope and do firmly believe this is the last Sunday we will have to spend in Old Dominion. An order was received yesterday to begin mustering out the Veteran troops. I think that will include the Veteran Reserve Corps. If so, Allen will be home before his time is out.

I don’t suppose you have heard from Mr. S. S. Burroughs, have you? I fear he has fell a victim to the terrible death of starvation in the prison pens of the arch traitors of the Rebellion. But if he was a true Christian as I trust he was, he is now better off than those who are called to mourn his untimely loss. But all must at some uncertain time pass the trying ordeal of death and how very essential that we should be prepared to meet the most high judge. Let us put our whole trust in Him alone andhoping the day is not far away when we may meet, I will close, remembering that I have a true friend away in the village of M. You know my heart and my inmost thoughts and remember I am unchangeable, but am ever truly yours, — John M. Lovejoy

Address: Co. G, 121st N. Y. Vols., Albany, New York

June 25th, 5 o’clock. The 121st has been mustered out. We leave for Albany tomorrow morning. I will write again when I arrive there. Ever yours, — John to Cynthia

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