These three letters were written by Albert S. Coomer (1843-1863), the son of David G. Coomer (1814-1904) and Phebe Clark (1814-1906) of Morrow county, Ohio.
Albert enlisted at the age of 19 on 6 August 1862 to serve in Co C, 96th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). He died of disease on 12 January 1863 before his regiment could see “the elephant.”
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
September 2d 1862
Dear Father & Mother,
I will try for the first time to write you a few lines. We are all well and ready for the secesh. We left Delaware yesterday morning about 10 o’clock and got into Kentucky last night about sundown and the people in Covington got us some supper and found us a place to sleep. Some slept in one place and some in another. We was well used here—better than we expected.
This morning we had [to] march again. We marched out of the city about ½ a mile and loaded our guns and went ahead and stopped about 3 miles from the city on the top of a big hill where we found some entrenchments and so on &c. There is some big cannon here but they ain’t mounted yet. But I think they will be today or tomorrow. We are on picket duty today. I think we will go back to Covington tomorrow and another company come here.
I don’t know how long we will stay around here—maybe a week and maybe not two days. There was some excitement here this morning but there is nobody hurt yet and I guess there won’t be in this place. This would be a nice place if it was not for the big hills. They are mighty hard to climb with load on a fellow’s back.
We had a little fun here this forenoon. The boys on top of the hill seen some horses come about 1 mile off and they thought it was some cavalry a coming and they come and told us. Then we was marched up in line of battle and 5 or 6 men went to meet them and when they come up, we found them to be a drove of mules and then we was bored.
I must close. Look over all mistakes for I can’t write a letter very well. Direct to Covington, Kentucky, Company C, 96th Regiment O. V. I. in care of Capt. [Levi] Reichelderfer.
Write as soon as you can.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Camp near Newport, Kentucky
September 14, 1862
Dear Folks at Home,
We are still encamped on this hill near Newport waiting very patiently for the Secesh. As yet we haven’t seen any signs of them. We are making big preparations for them and I think if they have spunk enough to attack, we will give them what they want or what they don’t want just as you’re a mind to have it. Last night we had a good sleep. Every night besides last night we have been ordered out in the night. One night we laid in our rifle pits and slept all night in them. I like a soldier’s life very well with a few exceptions. One is I don’t like sleeping out without tents. We have had to do this ever since we have been here. I don’t complain any, however. I and Jim stand it first rate.
I haven’t caught the least bit of a cold nor been the least bit sick since I have been. Father, you know I sold my rubber. Well, I have taken a notion to buy another one and I want you to send me $10 right away. I will run the risk of getting it. I can get a revolver as good as the one I had for $12.50 and I think I had better buy it. When I come to look it all over, I believe I will need it. Try and send me the money so I will get it this week. If you possibly can, try and write as often as you can and we will do the same. We haven’t received but one letter from you yet and I guess we have wrote a half dozen or less.
No more at present. — A. S. Coomer
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
On board the Ida May
Monday Morning, November 2, 1862
Dear Father, Mother, Brothers and Sisters,
This morning finds us much farther from home than we were a few days ago. Well, as I told you in my last letter which I suppose you will get long before this comes to hand, we went on board the Ida May the night of the 20th and the morning of the 21st started on our long journey. I don’t know as I can tell you where we are now. If you have a map, then you can tell pretty near. We are about 5 miles below the mouth of the Wabash river. The boat stayed here all night and is here yet waiting for coal. I don’t suppose we will get started from here much before 10 o’clock. The captain of the boat says this is the only place between here and Memphis to get coal so we will have to take a good supply.
We are landed on the Illinois side. Just tell the folks that I went over into Illinois this morning and took a good old shit. O yes. I most forgot to tell you about the box of grub. We got it just the night we started from camp to the river. It cost us $3.00 dollars to get it. It came to Nicholasville and they sent it after us. I expect if we hadn’t got it as we did, they would have sent it clear down to Memphis after us. And by that time, I expect it would cost us $10. Well I am glad it came for the things that was in it has been worth more than it cost us. There was several cans of something spilt out. I don’t know what it was. Honey is all right. Chickens all spoiled and the most of the sweet cake.
Well, I must go. I am on guard today. I will finish after I come off guard as I will have plenty of time. I expect to mail this letter at Cairo.
Well, 2 hours has rolled away. I am off of guard and sailing down the river. Before I forget it, I will just say tell the folks that we have got the box of grub and are very thankful to you all for it. Kate, I couldn’t tell the cake she sent from the rest of the cakes. Tell Black’s girl I thank them very much for them 2 apples they sent me. I suppose the rest of the girls sent us something too but everything was mussed up so we couldn’t tell tother from which.
Well, we have lived on the top shelf all the way down from Louisville. Our butter is all gone but we have plenty of bread yet. It is getting pretty dry but still it goes a little better than hard crackers. Well folks, this is a very comfortable place to ride. If a fellow don’t look out in the water, he can’t tell whether he is going or standing still. We saw a handful of guerrillas this morning across on the Kentucky shore. They came down to the river and when they saw us, struck back into the bushes like a pack of sheep killing dogs. Day before yesterday a man came down to the river while we was passing and hurrahed for Jeff Davis. Confound him. I felt like putting a bullet through him. We got new guns the day we left Louisville. I don’t know whether they are good for much or not. Perhaps we will have the chance of trying them before long. Well, I must quit.
I remain as ever, — Ab. (your boy)
I don'[t know whether you can read this or not. Write soon.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
Camp Elm Wood
November 7th 1862
Dear folks at home,
As Jim is writing a letter to you, I thought I would put in a few lines. I suppose he will write all the news so I shall have but little to write this time. I am well today and in pretty good spirits but would very much like to see home once more. I am not homesick but it seems to me that it is foolish for us to lay around camp and do nothing. I would little rather lay in camp though than fight for I don’t expect we are in quite as much danger. For my part, I don’t feel any different today here than in did in Old Kentucky.
The 96th hasn’t seen an armed rebel yet and I don’t see much signs of seeing any very soon. The talk is that we are here as a reserve and I suppose if we are needed we will have to strike out. I don’t care how soon we go. I for one would like to go right ahead and fight the cursed rebels and try to get through with it sometime.
Well, Father, you say you would like for us to write about 2 sheets full every time we write. I don’t believe I could write 2 sheets full in two days unless I have something more than common to write about. You know I always was a kind of a numskull and I am still the same boy. As for giving you any description of Tennessee, I might as well try to fly for our devilish Colonel won’t even let us go out of the guard lines to shit. I kind of think if ever we get into an engagement, our old cOlonel will get his trotters knocked out from under him. Our Lieutenant Colonel and Major both are fine fellows and are well thought of.
Our Captain is a man every inch of him and is well thought of by the whole regiment. He has always acted like a father to us and would never allow his boys to suffer if it was in his power to prevent it. One day while we was marching from Covington to Falmouth, we run out of provision and came along by a right nice lot of fat hogs. Says Captain, “Boys, yonder is a nice lot of hogs. You are fools if you don’t go for one.” This was enough for us so one of the boys loaded his old musket and went for one and of course they fetched it and when we stopped at night, we had a good old roast.
I would like very much to have been to that Coomer convention. No doubt but what you had a big time of it. I think when I and Jim get home, we will try and have another one. I am sorry Mother thought you was so much disappointed when you saw I am Jim coming. You needn’t make calculation on us coming home as long as we keep well. Jim has had the headache for a few days but I am in hopes he will get well of it before long. I have been as hearty as a buck ever since I have been in the service. The worst sickness I have had was a few boils. I have a little fellow now on my setter but I don’t mind that. I have got used to them.
Well, I guess I will quit for the present. Perhaps by the time I write again, I can fill a whole sheet.
Yours affectionately, — A. S. Coomer
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
Camp Elm Wood
December 18th 1862
Believing you are as anxious to hear from us as we are from you, I thought I would write a few lines this morning. I started a letter yesterday morning to Chancey and one a day or so ago to Malvina so I guess if one don’t go straight. the other will.
We was out on a grand review yesterday at Fort Pickering. All the troops around about Memphis was there and several big generals. I saw General McClernand, Morgan Sherman, Smith, and several others that I did not learn the names of. [John Alexander] McClernand is a sharp looking man, I tell you. He is a good-natured looking fellow and I think there is some fight about him and I have an idea he intends to do some of it before many days by the movements. We are under marching orders now. We received orders Monday to be ready to march today but I don’t see much signs of it at the present. We may go in two hours. Orders come very unexpected sometimes. We thought we was to winter at Nicholasville, Kentucky. We went to bed all right at night and was routed up at 12 o’clock to prepare grub for 3 days and marched in the morning at 6 o’clock for Louisville. So you see how the thing works. We are just like a drove of cattle. We don’t know we are going until we start nor hardly ever know where we are going until we stop.
Well, I hope to God the thing will be done with sometime. This thing of being a soldier is not quite so pleasant as it might be. I went into it with my own free good will though and will try and make the best of it. If I was at home and out of this scrape, I believe I would be contented to stay there awhile. I did have some hopes awhile ago that the cursed war would end before long but I guess there is no such good luck.
There is a report this morning in camp that the Army of the Potomac has been whipped pretty bad [at Fredericksburg]. If that is the case, the war is elected for 3 years sure. I think if they would only send for the 96th [OVI], Richmond would be taken without the least trouble. Old General Smith said yesterday that the 96th Ohio and the 23rd Wisconsin was the best regiments on review. The 23rd Wisconsin is in our brigade.
Well Father, I have spoiled my boots and I don’t know where the Devil I done it. Burned the backs out of them entirely. The first I knowed of it was last night. I was sitting down pulling off my boots and when I got to the feeling the legs, the whole backs came out. I must have got my behinder pretty close to the fire. Well I’ll tell you what I want you to do. Preacher Scott has gone home on a furlough and if you get this letter in time to send me a pair of good boots, I want you to do it. If you haven’t time to make them, you must buy them in town. You can get me a good pair for $5.00 and if I have to buy them here I will have to pay 8 or 10 dollars. The poorest kind of boots costs 6 or 8 dollars and I don’t think it will pay for much here if I can get them from home. You may not get this letter in time to send them. If you don’t, it will be alright. I will try and get along until you have a chance to send me a pair. As soon as you get this, you must go and see Scott and find out when he is going and whether he can fetch them for me or not. I think if this letter is not mislaid some way, you will get it in time to send them. He is to report to the regiment the 5th of next month so I think there will be plenty time. I will tell you what kind of boots I want. Get a pair of French kid if you can with the legs about as high as those you made me at Camp Delaware. If you make them yourself, you may put on light double soles clear back and then a good solid half sole on the outside. Make the heels broad and wide and about as high usual. Let the sole stick out well all around. Now if you get this letter in time to send me a pair of boots, be sure and do it for I need them now the weather weather season is on hand. My boots are good yet if I hadn’t been fool enough to burn the backs out. They will answer for dry weather boots.
There is some prospect now that we will get some money before long. If we do, I will try and help you to 50 or $60 and maybe more. Uncle Sam is due to us about 4 months now. It is doubtful though whether we get more than 3 months pay now.
Well, Father, there is a pretty strong prospect now that we will go to Vicksburg and if we do, it’s more than likely we will see the elephant. We will try and take good care of ourselves and maybe we will have the good luck to come out all O.K. Well, I will quit, hoping to hear from you soon.
Affectionately yours, — A. S. Coomer