Posts from the ‘Letters’ Category

The Upper Peninsula in the CIVIL WAR

U.P. men enlist with the ‘Michigan devils’

By JOHANNA BOYLE – Journal Ishpeming Bureau (

The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE – The year was 1861. In April, after declaring that they would secede from the United States, forces representing the 11 Confederate states attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

The events of the war are a popular subject in the study of American history – slavery, the conflict between North and South and the battles, of course.

While you might not find mention of the Upper Peninsula in many histories of the Civil War, the seemingly remote region felt both the positive and negative effects of the fighting that is normally associated with events that happened far to the south.

From 1861 to 1865, 90,000 Michigan men fought in the war effort, including 1,209 from the Upper Peninsula. Houghton County contributed 460 soldiers, while Marquette County sent 265.

“Most of them were infantry and calvary because the people up here were farmers, miners and woodworkers,” said Gary White, commander of the Albert and James Lyon Camp No. 266 of The Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, an organization which researches and tracks Civil War veterans. “They could endure a long march. They were tough.”

Michigan’s First Infantry was originally organized and recruited throughout the state beginning on April 15, 1861, for 90 days of service. When it became clear the war would last longer than 90 days, the infantry was reorganized on June 28. The infantry began leaving Michigan on Sept. 16, which was when men from Marquette County left to join the war.

Seventy-nine volunteers from Marquette County served with the First Michigan Infantry, fighting in 51 battles and sieges.

The first group of men to leave departed Marquette on a ship called The Planet, which carried them to Detroit in late summer of 1861.

More would follow them, however. While Marquette County sent 265 men to fight in the war, only one of those veterans who left Marquette and died in the war has so far been identified as being returned to be buried here.

Albert T. Jackson

Albert T. Jackson enlisted in Company B of the First Michigan Calvary as a corporal on Aug. 8, 1861, at the age of 27. He transfered through several companies before being wounded on Sept. 19, 1864, at Winchester, Va. He died of those wounds on Nov. 12 and is buried in Park Cemetery.

Another young man also enlisted in Jackson’s company – Edward M. Watson. Copies of his letters back to Marquette to his mother and sisters are housed in the John M. Longyear Research Library in Marquette.

Watson, who left Marquette as a 21-year-old, began by writing to his family describing life in the various camps he was stationed in, meeting other soldiers from Marquette and the battles he fought in.

In a letter to his sister Til from Nov. 23, 1861, while he was stationed at Camp Rucker near Washington, D.C., Watson writes about wanting to go visit the “Marquette boys” who were stationed nearby as part of the First Michigan Infantry.

“Al Jackson wants to go too, by the way. Al is the best drilled man in the company and every man knows it too. I shouldn’t wonder if he was promoted some day. He deserves it for he studies the tactics more than any one of us, he lent me one of his books and told me he wanted me to study it,” Watson wrote.

Watson himself didn’t seem to start out as strongly as a soldier as Jackson, telling his sisters about being reprimanded for not waking up on time or for carrying out his duties incorrectly.

Often Watson wrote about missing Marquette and the people there.

“This week Wednesday though is Christmas. I wonder what we will have for dinner? Bean soup and pork like enough, how I should like to be at home about dinner time on that day, it makes my mouth water to think about the good things,” he wrote in December 1861.

Early in 1862, Watson and the others from Marquette began to see some fighting action, which he related in his letters – at first, with an air of excitement of finally leaving camp and joining in the battle.

“It seems the rebels have got a prety (sic) good opinion of our fighting propensities, for when they retreated through Strausburg they told the inhabitants that the Yankees were coming and the Michigan devils were leading them,” Watson wrote. “The people down here have been told the awfulest stories about what we are going to do when we got here and how we were going to treat them, that would actually make a timid person shake in their boots to hear the worst of it …”

Watson was eventually wounded in action, shot in the neck on Dec. 10, 1863, in Morristown, Tenn. In 1864 he was promoted to captain, but was not mustered. He retired as a 1st lieutenant due to his wounds.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.

Coming next: Wednesday, in part two, the series will look at the impact of the war on the region’s iron mining industry.

Ore for the war – The Upper Peninsula in the Civil War Part II

by Johanna Boyle, Marquette Mining Journal

NEGAUNEE – You only have to walk through Ishpeming or Negaunee to see the impact mining has had on the area, from street names like Iron and Hematite to now unused mine pits that dot the landscape.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Marquette County and the rest of the Upper Peninsula didn’t just send men to fight – iron ore from the region also went to help build cannons and ammunition.

Iron ore was first discovered near Teal Lake in present-day Negaunee in 1844 by a surveying team led by William A. Burt, a United States deputy surveyor, who noticed their magnetic compasses were thrown off by what turned out to be the ore in the area. In 1845, a party from downstate Jackson formed the Jackson Mining Company and began hauling ore to Marquette.

Then the Civil War erupted.

“It was Michigan’s iron ore that assured the economic and industrial success of the cities, which manufactured iron and steel materials. Yet until the time of the Civil War, the history of all Marquette Range mines was one of struggle and discouragement. However, the large requirements for iron brought about by the War caused a demand for iron ore from the Upper Peninsula that for the first time made these mines successful financially since they became a patriotic necessity,” wrote historian Victor F. Lemmer, in an article in the Skillings’ Mining Review in 1960. Lemmer, founder of the Gogebic County Historical Society, also worked to publish information for the Michigan Civil War Centennial Observance Commission on the impact of the war on the Upper Peninsula.

In 1857, the Jackson Mine, located in Negaunee, made its first regular shipments of iron ore, totaling 12,442 tons. By 1860, three iron mines were operating in Upper Michigan – the Cleveland, the Jackson and the Lake Superior.

In 1861, the war began, with a curious result. Total iron ore shipments from the region dropped to 49,909 tons for all the mines, down from 114,401 tons shipped in 1860.

“This was no doubt due to the attitude of the people resulting from the feeling that the mines must close to enable the men to fight to save the Union,” Lemmer wrote. “However, in 1862 as need for implements of war manufactured of iron and steel became more and more apparent, the shipments of the same three mines totaled 124,169 tons.”

By 1865, the end of the war, there were eight mines operating, with total shipments totaling 193,758 tons.

“The iron produced is soft and strong, answering equally well for mill or foundry use… It is too soft for railheads, but is unequaled for the base of the rain and for merchant bar and is now being successfully used for bessemer steel,” said a Maj. T.B. Brooks, an assistant of the Geological Survey of Michigan in 1870 of the ore produced by the Marquette range, as quoted by Lemmer.

Compared with copper that was mined in the Keweenaw Peninsula, mining on the Marquette Range was “easier,” Lemmer wrote, and “all the miners had to do initially was to break up the ore with crowbars, pickaxes and sledgehammers; and shovel it into wagons. It was easy to smelt. Iron of the best quality was produced.”

Today, with the only active mining in the county being carried out by Cliffs Natural Resources at the Empire and Tilden mines, the remaining mine pits serve as tourist attractions and reminders for longtime residents of the area’s history, but in the 1800s, the mines also served to bring in population to the remote area.

In 1860, the total population of the Upper Peninsula was 21,599 people. In 1864, that population had increased to 26,139, an increase of 21 percent.

By 1870, Irish, Cornish and Swedish immigrants made up 30, 27 and 18 percent of Ishpeming’s population, with waves of immigrants from other countries, such as Italy, until the yearly 1900s. In 1910, 38 percent of Ishpeming’s population was foreign born, many still drawn to work in the mines that began around the time of the Civil War.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.

COMING NEXT: Thursday, in part three, the series will look at how two of the U.P.’s forts, Fort Wilkins and Fort Mackinac, were involved in the Civil War

The Upper Peninsula in the Civil War – Part III

by Johanna Boyle, Marquette Mining Journal

Originally published June 30, 2011

MACKINAC ISLAND – Beginning with the attack on Fort Sumter, the American Civil War’s battles often played out around military forts and garrisons in the southern United States. Although battles might not have been fought in the Upper Peninsula, the region’s two military forts did play a small part both during and after the war.

In the eastern U.P., Fort Mackinac, located on Mackinac Island, was first constructed by British forces in 1780 after Fort Michilimackinac, located in what is now Mackinac City, was determined to be too vulnerable to American attack. The fort was returned to the Americans after the war of 1812.

In the years leading up to the Civil War, the fort became increasingly obsolete as the frontier moved westward. During the Second Seminole War (1837-1840), the Mexican War (1848) and the Santee Uprising (1857-1858), soldiers were sent from the fort to give support, as they were during the Civil War.

“There wasn’t much action up here,” said Steve Brisson, chief curator for the Mackinac State Historic Parks. “The company that was here left right away.”

With the soldiers stationed at the fort sent to help guard Washington, D.C., one soldier was left behind to guard the fort, Brisson said.

In 1862, however, the fort saw some new arrivals in the form of three civilian prisoners of war, guarded by a company of Michigan volunteers, known as the Stanton Guard, named for Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who determined the location for the three prisoners.

“He wanted to get them out of Tennessee,” Brisson said.

Washington Barrow, Josephus Conn Guild and William G. Harding were all wealthy residents of Tennessee, sympathetic to the Confederacy, Brisson said. After being arrested in April of 1862 by Andrew Johnson and refusing to sign an oath of allegiance to the Union, the three were sent to Detroit and then to Fort Mackinac.

“They were well treated. They were allowed to roam about the fort and the island even,” Brisson said, provided they were accompanied by their guards. “They occasionally dined with the commander of the guard. They weren’t in a prison cell.”

Although they were allowed to send and receive mail, by the end of the summer Barrow and Conn Guild both agreed to sign the oath of allegiance and were released. Harding, however refused and was transfered to a military prison in Ohio later that year. After the departure of the prisoners, the Stanton Guard was disbanded, leaving the sergeant as the lone caretaker.

“There was the community here. It wasn’t exactly the middle of the wilderness,” Brisson said, comparing Fort Mackinac to Fort Wilkins in Copper Harbor.

After the war, soldiers returned to Fort Mackinac, which was closed in 1895.

Fort Wilkins, on the other hand, was pretty much abandoned during the Civil War.

Established in 1844 to help safeguard mining interests in the Keweenaw Peninsula, Fort Wilkins helped keep the peace in what was a remote area, said fort historian John Griebel.

“It was pretty much wild,” Griebel said. “Having the fort here kept law and order.”

After several years, however, many of the mines surrounding the fort had been exhausted and by 1864, troops were removed from the fort, which stood vacant until 1867.

Following the Civil War, however, the fort saw activity once again, housing troops that had enlisted for a longer period of service. Fort Wilkins housed troops from the Veterans Reserve Corps, made up of men who had been wounded but were still on active duty.

“Fort Wilkins became a place for the misfits,” Griebel said.

In 1870, the fort was closed once again with 19 men stationed there. During the summers, however, visitors can see what life was like at the fort before and after the war thanks to re-enactors. This year on Aug. 11, 12 and 13, re-enactors portraying members of the Michigan infantry will hold a three-day encampment at the fort, doing demonstrations and displays of Civil War-era life. At other times during the summer, the fort’s regular re-enactors showcase life before and after the war.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.

COMING NEXT: Friday, in part four, the series will look at the impact of the war on local railroads.

Upper Peninsula in the Civil War – Part IV

‘Iron horse’ played key role in Union victory

by Johanna Boyle, Marquette Mining Journal

Originally published July 1, 2011

MARQUETTE – In the 1840s, iron ore was discovered in what is now the city of Negaunee. Although the ore was at first easy to mine, with miners having to “break up the ore with crowbars, pickaxes and sledgehammers; and shovel it into wagons,” in the words of U.P. historian Victor F. Lemmer, getting it out of the Upper Peninsula was a different story.

Although railroad promoters began discussing the idea of a railroad from Negaunee to Marquette in 1851, a plank road was first completed using mules for power, and was replaced in 1854 by an iron-strap railroad, with the full rail system completed in 1857.

Then the Civil War began in 1861.

“The requirements of the Civil War brought about the realization that the movement of iron ore by hundreds of thousands of tons from the mines to the furnaces required steel railroad systems on a large scale,” Lemmer wrote in the Skilling’s Mining Review in an article on the Civil War and its impact on Michigan mining.

With the opening of the Sault Ste. Marie locks on 1855, the building of a permanent dock for the Marquette Range in Marquette in 1859 and finally the extension of railroads across the Upper Peninsula, it became easier to deliver the U.P.’s ore to the war markets.

“As the Civil War progressed and the dependence of the North upon Upper Peninsula iron became greater, a railroad was begun to link Marquette with Escanaba and thus assure northern industry of iron ore during the winter,” Lemmer wrote of the route completed in 1864.

Menominee and Escanaba were connected by rail in 1872, which was later extended to L’Anse. Houghton and Ontonagon railroads from the southern portions of the U.P. in 1883 and 1889.

The building of those railroads meant work, bringing immigrants from the rest of the country.

Commander of the Albert and James Lyon Camp No. 266 of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, Gary White has his own ties to those who arrived to construct the railroads.

White was adopted into the Goodman family, which was descendant from a man named Peter Fitzpatrick who arrived in the area to help survey for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad running between Marquette and Escanaba.

Fitzpatrick, who is buried with his wife, Kate, in the Ishpeming cemetery, arrived in Negaunee in 1859 looking for work as a railroad surveyor.

“He snowshoed up,” White said of the trek Fitzpatrick made from Green Bay, Wis.

Born in Ireland in 1839, Fitzpatrick was 9 when his father, a school teacher, died. With his mother and siblings, Fitzpatrick traveled to New York and then to Detroit and finally Green Bay.

“He was always working,” White said. “Even when he was going to school, he paid for school by carrying fagots (bundles of wood).”

When the Civil War began, Fitzpatrick refused to fight.

“He would do other work. He wouldn’t go out there and actually fight,” White said, adding that the decision was due to Fitzpatrick’s family morals.

When the war made necessary the connection of Marquette and Escanaba, Fitzpatrick went to work as a surveyor. After the completion of the railroad, he continued working for the Chicago and Northwestern as a dispatcher until he retired in 1902.

While working as a surveyor, Fitzpatrick came across property he liked in what would become Little Lake. That property still serves as the family’s camp. Fitzpatrick and his wife had 10 children. One of the daughters married a man by the name of Goodman, whose family established a lumber mill in the Gwinn area.

Although he wasn’t involved in any battles, Fitzpatrick’s part in constructing the U.P.’s railroads brought a family to the area, stemming from the impact of the Civil War on the area.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.

COMING NEXT: Saturday, in part five, the series will look at the soldiers who came home after the war.

Upper Michigan in the Civil War – Part V

Marching home again: Vets come to the U.P.

By Johanna Boyle, Marquette Mining Journal

Originally published July 2, 2011

NEGAUNEE – During the American Civil War, Marquette County and the rest of the Upper Peninsula sent soldiers and iron ore, feeling the impact of the conflict despite being far north of any actual fighting. When the war ended, however, the county saw an influx of new residents, many of whom had fought in the South.

Whether drawn by work in the mines or in the forests, men came to Marquette County and established new lives after the fighting.

Negaunee resident Alan Nelson has been working to gather the histories of those Civil War veterans with a connection to Negaunee, finding a wide variety of stories and reasons they came there.

“I’ll be darned if I know,” Nelson said with a laugh when asked if he had found a central theme that drew veterans to the area. “That was something I’d been wondering about.”

Some found work in the mines, some cutting lumber, some on the railroads and a few set up their own businesses.

“There were miners and there were lumber workers,” Nelson said. “There was a whole variety of things besides that.”

One of the most interesting stories Nelson has so far come across is that of Samuel Cary, the only known African-American Civil War veteran to have lived in Negaunee.

“That is a fascinating one,” Nelson said.

According to Nelson’s research, Cary was born in Ohio sometime between 1833 and 1838. He enlisted in the army in December of 1863 and was mustered into Company A of the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry, a black cavalry unit, when it was formed in 1864.

Coming to Negaunee shortly after mustering out following the war, he is listed in the 1870 census as working as a barber.

“He was an inveterate gambler,” Nelson said.

In 1896 he bet his barber shop against $100 in a championship prize fight and lost everything, eventually ending up a barkeeper in Ishpeming.

Cary was married in Negaunee to a white woman named Elizabeth Tifft, 10 years before such a marriage would have been allowed by law. Married at the Negaunee Methodist Episcopal Church, the story did not end as happily for Tifft, who was confined to an asylum 12 years before Cary died of a stroke in 1898.

While many men who fought in the war were born in the United States, some came from other countries.

Martin Heiser was born in Germany in 1830 and immigrated the United States in 1855. He lived in Hancock and enlisted in the 16th Michigan Infantry in 1861 and was mustered out in 1865. Coming to Negaunee after the war, he remarried and worked as a carpenter, building a home on Peck Street and working on the interior of St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Negaunee.

Others were drawn to the beauty of the area.

Nelson also uncovered the story of Peter Trudell, born in Quebec, Canada, in 1840. Trudell came to the United States to help fill the shortage of working men created by the draft, first working in shipyards in Ohio. After enlisting in Chicago as a bugler, he saw no action and mustered out in 1864. Later, after returning to Canada and then the United States once more, he began working as a sailor on the Great Lakes, eventually settling in Negaunee after becoming “impressed with the area,” Nelson said.

He worked as a pumpman at the water tank for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad at the Negaunee roundhouse and later opened a newsstand inside the city’s post office, which he operated for 20 years.

Although they arrived for different reasons, veterans of the Civil War came to settle in the area, leaving their mark on their new communities.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.

U. P. Civil War Connection

By Ashley Palumbo WLUC-TV 6, Marquette, Michigan

Originally printed July 12, 2011

HOUGHTON – Though the Civil War was fought along fronts more than a thousand miles away, the Upper Peninsula played a significant role in the Union’s eventual victory. Dozens of names are on a plaque at Veterans Park in Houghton – a public reminder of the 73 men who served their country and lost their lives during the Civil War.

“In the three counties that make up the Copper Country, about 850 men were either drafted or enlisted to go into the Civil War,” says Michigan Tech history professor Larry Lankton. “That’s about two-thirds of the total number of soldiers from the Upper Peninsula.”

But the U.P. provided much more than manpower. Between the Keweenaw’s booming copper industry and the growing success of iron mining along the Marquette Range, Upper Michigan helped supply the military with two very essential metals.

“Copper was used for everything from buttons to buckles to bronze cannons,” Lankton says.

“Iron ore was put into gun metal as well as cannon balls, rails, railroad tracks, steam boilers and also steel for bridges,” says Barry James, curator of the Michigan Iron Industry Museum.

The Jackson Mine in Negaunee was one of only three iron mines operating at the start of the Civil War, but by 1864, ten new companies had formed and production had increased by 80 percent, despite a shortage of workers.

“Many men were going off to fight in battles and join the Union army,” James says. “The others coming to take their place didn’t want to work in mines in certain locations, so many would work in places that were safer.”

As with other wars, social unrest was common across the U.P. workers went on strike, drinking and violence were rampant, and the Quincy Mining Company formed its own militia to protect the property. But the consequences of the war weren’t all bad.

“The government hadn’t been involved prior to the Civil war in doing much on behalf of citizens that were suffering financially, but they felt obliged to provide some kind of economic relief to the families of soldiers,” Lankton says.

You can look at artifacts and learn more about U.P. mining in the Civil War era at the Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee.

Rare Aiken Letter for sale

Democrat attorney encouraged John C. Fremont to challenge Lincoln in 1864 election

A rare 1864 letter by Frederick Aiken, the attorney who later represented Mary Surratt in her Lincoln Assassination conspiracy trial, is up for sale by Seth Kaller Historic Documents. Owning historic documents is not for the feint of heart – or budget.

From their website listing (click on the link if you are interested in purchasing):

Frederick A. Aiken, former Secretary of the Democratic National Convention, applauds General John C. Frémont’s nomination by the Radical Republicans. He suggests that Frémont will have the blessing of the Democrats if he goes up against Lincoln for the Republican nomination. Aiken went on to serve (unsuccessfully) as defense attorney for Lincoln assassination conspirator Mary Surratt.

First page of the 1864 Aiken Letter

Aiken Letter page 2

Complete Transcript:
   “Washington D.C. June 12th 1864.
Up to the present time I have not heard from any democrat in this city an unkind word concerning yourself since the action of the Cleveland Convention. The Platform promulgated by that convention and your brave, truthful and powerful letter of acceptance have completely disarmed all bitter and personal hostility at the hands of the democratic party and if the choice or alternative with us was either Mr. Lincoln or the nominee of the Cleveland Convention we should to a man take the latter. We shall do all we can to elect our own candidate but we certainly shall not find time to wage war against you: and if we are successful we shall be generous. At
 [text loss] last meeting of the National Democratic Association here, the mention of your name by Hon. T.B. Florence was received with genuine and [2] hearty cheers. What I want to say is this. The democrats are willing to help you all they can as against Mr. Lincoln and if I could be put in communication with the chairman of your national committee I think I could make a suggestion that would do infinite good and not be attended with great expense.
I was the Secretary of the National Dem. Executive Com. (Breckenridge & Lane) during the last Presidential election and have experience in such affairs.
I have the honor to be
Very truly & Respectfully
Yr. ob’t serv’t
F.A. Aiken
To / Maj Gen’l John C. Fremont

[docket:] Enclosed as JCF / 15th June 1864”

Historical Background:
On May 31, 1864, Republicans and abolitionists who were dissatisfied with Lincoln’s management of the war met in Cleveland. Among them were such powerful figures as Schuyler Colfax, Frederick Douglass, Horace Greeley, and Wendell Phillips. The Cleveland Herald ridiculed the gathering of “sly politicians from New York, impetuous hare-brained Germans from St. Louis, abolitionists, and personal friends and parasites of Frémont.” In addition to advocating a constitutional amendment immediately ending slavery – something Lincoln also supported – the Cleveland Republicans put together a platform that included a limit of one term for the chief executive and confiscation of all rebel lands in the South. They also nominated John C. Frémont as their presidential candidate, and New Yorker John Cochrane for vice president. They confusingly called themselves the “Radical Democracy.”

Lincoln and his advisors were not overly concerned about the third party. Army Chief of Staff Henry Halleck called the Cleveland meeting the“Ragtail convention,” and professed that Frémont merely wanted to be bought off. If the aim of the organizers of the Cleveland Convention was to influence the mainline of the Republican Party, then they failed. The Republicans met in Baltimore on June 7 and 8, and renominated Lincoln, replacing Hannibal Hamlin on the ticket with Tennessee Unionist Andrew Johnson.

In this letter, Democrat F.A. Aiken (1810-1878), a high-ranking advisor in John C. Breckenridge’s 1860 presidential campaign, suggests to Frémont a clandestine collaboration with the Democrats to defeat Lincoln. It was one of the few times in American history that a sitting wartime president stood for reelection, and Lincoln faced considerable opposition. The war was not going well in the late spring of 1864. Nine days earlier, the Battle of Cold Harbor – Grant’s worst setback in the Overland Campaign – had reached its bloody conclusion. In his southward march on Richmond, Grant acquired a reputation of callousness in the face of mounting casualties (already 60,000 in the month-long campaign). If Frémont, who was very popular with German-Americans in New York and the Midwest, could manage to divide the Republican electorate, he could throw the election to the Democratic candidate.

Early in the war, Lincoln had removed Frémont from military command in Missouri because he had unilaterally declared martial law in the state and threatened to confiscate the property, including slaves, of Southern sympathizers. Lincoln gave Frémont command of an army in western Virginia, where he was defeated by Stonewall Jackson in the Battle of Cross Keys. Frémont refused to serve under General John Pope in the subsequent army reorganization, and Lincoln never again gave him a field command, contributing to the Pathfinder’s personal grudge.

The Democratic Party did not hold its convention until the end of August. With the campaigns against Richmond and Atlanta still stalled, the Democrats nominated another discarded general with a loyal following – George B. McClellan – to run against Lincoln.

Efforts to broker a deal between McClellan and Frémont were unsuccessful – the two had little in common except their hatred of Lincoln. On September 2, William Tecumseh Sherman finally defeated John Bell Hood and occupied Atlanta. This event, coupled with Philip Sheridan’s subsequent successes in the Shenandoah Valley, helped ease voters’ concerns about the war, and propelled Lincoln to a convincing reelection victory in November. Frémont abandoned his political campaign on September 22, 1864, after agreeing to a deal in which Lincoln removed Frémont’s enemy, U.S. Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, from office.

John C. Frémont (1813-1890), “the Pathfinder,” was a legendary explorer who achieved military victories in California during the Mexican War. He entered politics as California’s first senator and then became the first Republican presidential candidate in 1856. Frémont was a controversial political general during the Civil War, commanding the Western Department from St. Louis in 1861, and West Virginia in the first half of 1862, before being pushed out of service.

On this date in 1861: Lincoln suspends writ of habeas corpus

Today’s Highlight in History:

(AP) On April 27, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln, citing public safety concerns amid the Civil War, suspended the writ of habeas corpus in an area between Philadelphia and Washington. (Lincoln later lifted the order, but the
n suspended habeas corpus for the entire Union in September 1862. Habeas corpus was restored by President Andrew Johnson in December 1865.)

Letters trace Civil War for writer’s forebears

This April 5, 2011 photo shows Dr. Bowman Bigelow Breed with a pipe in an 1861 photograph at Camp Essex, Md., next to letters written to his wife Hannah during the Civil War while he served as a surgeon in the Union Army. Their "precious letters" _ which managed to survive the ravages of time and several family fires _ would total nearly 1,000 by war's end. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

BOSTON (AP) — Alone in his hotel room after a solemn dinner with his brother, the newly enlisted Army surgeon took up pen and paper to make the first installment on his promise.

“I have a few moments,” he wrote to his wife, just 10 miles up the coast in Lynn. “I am in such a whirl that I can hardly think much less write.”

Just four days earlier, on April 12, 1861, Confederate artillery had fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, igniting the Civil War. On April 15, President Abraham Lincoln issued an urgent appeal “to all loyal citizens,” seeking 75,000 volunteers to quell the rebellion.

The very next day, Dr. Bowman Bigelow Breed — my great-grandfather — was on a train south, bound for Boston, and for war.

This 1861 picture provided by the family shows Hannah Breed, wife of Dr. Bowman Bigelow Breed, in Lynn, Mass. Hannah and Bowman, a surgeon, vowed to write to each other every day while he was serving in Union forces during the Civil War. Their "precious letters," as each called them, would total nearly 1,000 by war's end. (AP Photo/Breed Family)

Bowman and my great-grandmother, Hannah, vowed to write to each other every day, “if only a line.” And they kept their promise as well as one can during a time of war. Except for brief furloughs and the few months when she would join him at one of his postings, they were apart from the fading echo of those first cannon shots in South Carolina until an assassin’s bullet ended Lincoln’s life four years later.

Their “precious letters,” as each called them, would total nearly 1,000 by war’s end. Having survived the ravages of 150 years and several family fires, they were doubly precious to me.

Growing up in Lynn, I had listened eagerly to my dad’s vivid stories about the Civil War and the grandfather he never knew. But until two years ago, when my oldest brother, Putnam, handed me a heavy cardboard box containing the letters, I had no idea where those stories came from.

When I removed the first bundle and carefully untied the dry-rotted string, I found the letters in remarkably good shape — stained, faded, some with holes gnawed by vermin, but legible.

As I read them one by one, it became clear they traced the war’s entire arc, as viewed from battlefield and home front.

My ancestors’ missives were a pleasant revelation. Chatty and erudite, playful and poignant. And, for a pair of supposedly stodgy Yankees, surprisingly passionate.

Once just sad-eyed faces staring out from sepia-toned photographs on a mantelpiece, Bowman and Hannah have become living, breathing people to me.

And during our own time of war, I can read in their words the struggles of any number of young American couples — separated by a sense of duty, but longing for peace and “a home together.”


Bowman was the first of four successive generations of fighting surgeons in my family, stretching to Putnam, an Army doctor in Vietnam.

I often wondered how my father, at the age of 28, could have left his wife and three children to go off and fight the Japanese. After reading Bowman’s letters, which Dad must surely have read as a boy, I think I have a better understanding.

In this April 5, 2011 photo, AP National Writer Allen G. Breed holds a stack of letters written between his great-grandparents Dr. Bowman Bigelow Breed and Hannah during the Civil War while he served as a surgeon in the Union Army. These "precious letters" _ which managed to survive the ravages of time and several family fires _ would total nearly 1,000 by war's end. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

“It is for you I would labor and bear the pain of separation even if in the end I could secure to you the honor I seek,” Bowman wrote from a muddy encampment outside Baltimore in the war’s first months. “We bear an honored name and my ambition is to transmit it at least unsullied.”

Bowman was the seventh of 10 children born to Isaiah Breed, a Lynn shoe manufacturer, banker and politician. Hannah Putnam Pope, the daughter of a wealthy farmer, selectman and school committee member from nearby Danvers, was a school teacher.

They had been married barely a year and a half when war broke out. Their first child, Isaiah, was just 10 months old.

Hannah was 32. Her husband had just turned 29.

Bowman could easily have paid a “commutation fee” and had someone serve in his place.

Instead, he was among the first to enlist when, within hours of Lincoln’s call, the Lynn Light Infantry and the Lynn City Guards were organized, forming part of the 8th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Militia.

After gathering with the rest of the regiment at Boston’s Fanueil Hall, Bowman went to dinner with his brother, Rodman, brother-in-law Charles and a friend.

“They made me a present of a revolver,” he told Hannah in that first letter, written from the American House Hotel. “I hope I shall never have occasion to use it!!”

That first enlistment was for just three months. But he and Hannah soon realized that their hopes for a swift end to the “unnatural war” were in vain.


The mails were remarkably fast and regular then, even in wartime. Letters sometimes arrived the next day — but for Hannah and Bowman, that often wasn’t quick enough.

“Oh it is hard to be thus separated. Life is not life, living thus,” she wrote.

After one silence, he complained: “No letters or paper. If I do not hear tomorrow I shall begin to feel anxious fearing you are not so well. Oh darling these leaden footed hours, when will they bring you to my heart and arms.”

Each seemed to live for the postman’s arrival, delivering their “daily chat.”

“The pleasantest hour of the day is that which brings about dusk your ever welcome letter,” Bowman wrote in late June 1861 from Camp Essex outside Baltimore. “The touch of the hand in tracing the lines seems to leave a sort of electricity on the paper which pervades it always. Did you nere come upon the handwriting of some one long since gone and have the touch of the paper thrill you with a long forgotten sensation.”

When Hannah teased Bowman that his last letter had been more of a “note,” he teased back: “You have been counting words have you!”

Deeply religious, they ended most letters with a “God bless you.”

At home, they would spend at least part of each evening reading the Bible together. Early in their separation, they laid out a schedule by which they could read a passage “together each night.”

“I have read (and) read again the 91st Psalm,” he wrote. “God will give his angels charge over us to keep us in all our ways. Trust in him my dear one. A great cloud of prayers goes up for us from ten thousand homes and they will be answered.”

Like generations of soldiers before and since, Bowman was away for many of the milestones in his young family’s life. Hannah did her best to make him feel as if he were there.

“Have I told you that Baby said Papa, Papa?” Hannah wrote in July 1861 of little Isa. “I have been determined that that should be the first word and I have accomplished it.”

In one note, Bowman declared, “I believe in sending kisses on paper.” Thereafter, he would receive letters with little circles drawn on them and the words “baby’s kiss” or “Isa’s kisses.”

After their second child, Bowman Sinclair, was born June 14, 1862, Bowman expressed his longing to be there, but accepted that it could not be: “I must content myself with imagining just how you look and what you are doing.”


With Bowman away at war, Hannah and the children lived with his mother, Sally, in an old mansion with red glass sidelights that flanked the front door and gave everything “a rosy hue when you looked through them.”

Not so, Hannah’s outlook. Back home, she was prey to every rumor.

During the summer of 1862, the papers had been reporting that “they were displaying rebel flags in Wash’n.” At the end of August, after the Second Battle of Bull Run, Hannah fretted that the Confederates would soon take the capital.

“One day we read that our army is safe. This is asserted with confidence, the next of this terrible reverse. Oh Lord grant success to our arms. When oh when will this end?”

This undated picture provided by his family shows Dr. Bowman Bigelow Breed. Bowman, a surgeon, and his wife, Hannah, vowed to write to each other every day while he was serving in Union forces during the Civil War. Their "precious letters," as each called them, would total nearly 1,000 by war's end. (AP Photo/Breed Family)

Bowman could hear the cannonading from his rooms at the Armory Square Hospital. The next several days were a blur of activity, with Bowman “Going from one ward to another cutting off arms and legs sometimes two or three operating at once.”

When he did at last have a moment to write, he did his best to allay his wife’s fears.

“I cant write any news as I have not had time to read a paper and do not care to listen to the thousand and one rumors which are floating about,” he scrawled. “I have no idea that the city is in any danger but if the rebels do come they will find us hard at work.”

In the week after the battle, Bowman and his staff would triage and treat more than 1,500 casualties.

“Let us pray,” he wrote to Hannah, “that all this blood has not been spilt in vain …”

After the Union’s early defeats, Hannah wondered: “Can it be that our officers as a general thing are insufficient as soldiers. Oh this wicked wicked war. Oh the distress and misery wh it has caused.”

Bowman’s assessment: “If there be a hell more sleepless in its agony than any other it should be reserved for those whose personal ambition brought this upon us.”

They shared a contempt for the Confederates — “I wish the rebels in the Gulf of Mexico,” Hannah declared — and a wry sense of humor. Their descriptions of those around them sometimes bordered on cruel. Social reformer Dorothea Dix was called “vinegar faced” in one of Bowman’s letters; in others, his acid pen turned to the president.

Lincoln once stopped by Bowman’s quarters for an inspection. All reports of the president’s awkwardness, he wrote, were “mild compared with the reality. Some of his gestures would make the fortune of a circus clown.”

During a subsequent visit with Lincoln at the White House, Bowman reported: “The President always looks shabby, but last night he was outrageous. The buttons were all off his shirt bosom which gaped open so that you could see his flannel shirt. … His hair of course was flying in every direction.”

Appearances aside, Bowman concluded that Lincoln was smarter than many gave him credit.

“He does not act fast enough to suit the popular wish,” he wrote. “I cannot but think that his conservativeness will be found better in the end.”


Bowman, whose commission as a major was signed by Lincoln, gained a reputation as kind of a fixer, cleaning up and organizing bad hospitals. During the war’s first two years, he made the rounds of the busiest hospitals in the capital: The Finley, Circle, Judiciary Square and Armory Square — where the poet Walt Whitman “spent many days & nights” with the wounded and dying.

After graduating from the Massachusetts Medical College of Harvard, Bowman had continued his studies in Dublin, Edinburgh and Paris, where he was exposed to some revolutionary techniques — such as the transfusion of blood — that would serve him and his patients well in the coming conflict.

Hannah shared Bowman’s sense of patriotic duty. But that commitment was sorely tested in August 1862, when he declared that he felt honor-bound to leave Washington to go into the field with the 8th Massachusetts.

To Hannah, who had hoped to soon join her husband in the capital, it seemed “like a dark and awful dream.”

“I cannot yet See why it is your duty but I Earnestly hope for your Sake as well as my own that I may,” she wrote, so frantic that she omitted words throughout the letter. “This I can Say. I would not have you do anything wh’ you consider mean or dishonorable, or not act from a Sense of duty: rather let my heart bleed and bleed — yes, break!”

Bowman was mindful of the sacrifice he had forced on his wife, saying she bore “the harder burden of endurance.”

Closing hopefully, he wrote: “Days fly and the good time comes fast.”

As it turned out, the 8th was not accepted into the regular Army at that time, and Bowman did not go. Hannah began making plans to join him in Washington, but another crisis arose, this time on the home front.

During the spring, Hannah began to notice that Isa was becoming increasingly “restless.” By midsummer, the little boy who had been so playful had ceased to thrive, growing ever thinner and paler.

“Every noon when I write I think how I will certainly write this Evening, but when Evening comes I invariably feel So Sad and discouraged about Isa that I cannot write.”

As September turned to October, Isa seemed to be improving. He was showing an interest in solid food again.

“I am Sitting by dear little Isa,” Hannah wrote on Oct. 9. “He Seems as well today, but weak and languid. It is intensely warm today. If we cd only have cold frost weather I think that he wd gain Somewhat. …

“Oh to be with you.”

The next day, Bowman wrote home from his new post at the Finley Hospital, saying he wished he could help care for Isa. “I long to have you here and yet I don’t want you to start a day before you think it is perfectly safe.”

The letter was not stamped until the following day. By then, Isa was dead.

But there was little time to mourn amid the press of war.

On Oct. 28, Bowman received orders to “proceed with out delay” to the captured North Carolina seaport and railhead of New Bern, where he would be medical purveyor for the 18th Army Corps.

He sent word to Hannah to “come on.”

The folks back home were worried about Hannah and baby Bowmy being so close to the rebels. But Bowman assured her that “we shall hold our own” and even added that their new location “is not a desert. There are quite number of ladies here.”

When Hannah and the baby arrived shortly after Christmas, Bowman was away on an expedition that gave him a glimpse of combat. Upon his return, he said, “I never wish to See another.”

Setting up housekeeping, Hannah quickly fell in with the many New Englanders there — including a Massachusetts couple working with the local freedmen. She made the rounds of the doctors’ homes and even visited the rebel prison.

Before long, Hannah, too, would get a close-up look at the war.

Confederate Maj. Gen. Daniel H. Hill, had promised his men that “they Shd Eat their breakfast in New Berne on the morning of the 14th of March,” the anniversary of his losing the city.

Hannah watched from the riverbank as gunboats shelled the woods on the opposite side, she reported in a letter home. An artillery captain friend of Bowman’s “blazed away for a few minutes for the amusement of Mrs H and myself …”

The Breeds survived the rebel assault, but tragedy would soon find the little family.

On May 7, a little more than a month shy of his first birthday, Bowmy Sinclair died. The cause was never made clear. The body was shipped north for burial, but it wasn’t until late August that Bowman received a 30-day leave to escort Hannah back to Lynn.

When Bowman returned alone to North Carolina, Hannah descended into despair. On one “rainy dismal day” in late October, she went to Pine Grove Cemetery to see the newly placed stones on the “two precious mounds.”

“Those little graves were constantly before my Eyes,” she wrote, “and I almost felt that I wished to be by their Side.”

Not finished mourning Bowmy, she was already heavy with their third child.

“I feel Sometimes as if with the whole load of Sorrow for our part and anxiety for our future, I Shd become insane. To me Everything is dark,” she wrote. “Oh why do I write in this way. I will write no more. better no letter than Such an one as this. … almost Say better no wife than Such an one as I.”

Six hundred miles away in New Bern, Bowman did his best to comfort her — but had to acknowledge his own tears: “They blind and choke me while I write.”

And they stained the page.


My great-grandparents were both opposed to slavery and sought to uplift the “contrabands” — escaped slaves under Army protection — who came to work for them, teaching them to read and do figures. But they were not immune to prejudices, and a few of their letters contain common racial epithets.

Bowman had his doubts that the ending of slavery was the war’s guiding principle. After the deaths of two children and 2½ years of near constant separation, his resentment boiled over at learning of a friend’s plans to come South to help educate newly freed slaves in South Carolina.

“We want men with guns or officers with swords on this crisis,” he wrote. “You may tell him so from us, and God knows we have as much right as anyone, from duty done, or sorrow endured, to speak with authority on this matter.”

Bowman was constantly jockeying for a position closer to home, often soliciting the help of his kinsman, Congressman John B. Alley — who had taken him to the White House and introduced him to Lincoln. When he was ordered to Missouri in December 1863, it was the last straw.

Bowman immediately appealed to Alley to have the order countermanded, but was prepared to resign if that did not work, “bitter a disappointment as it will be to my hope of serving honorably with the army till the war was over.”

“God alone knows how much we have borne in the last three years and I do not regret it,” he wrote. “It was duty, but there is a point beyond which Endurance ceases to be a virtue. If I come home we shall find something to do. Better to live on a crust than to Endure the agony of such a separation.”

But when the request was denied, Bowman did not resign. And in February 1864, within two weeks of the birth of their third child, Alice, he reported for duty as head of the infamous Gratiot Street Military Prison Hospital in St. Louis.

The city was home to several of Bowman’s college classmates, with whom he dined and attended Masonic meetings. But he made it clear that they were poor substitutes for “my dear one.”

“This would be a very pleasant Sunday if you was here with me,” he wrote in one particularly tender letter, “but you bring all the light to my sun and beauty to my surroundings. When you are away I have but half an Eye to see with or Ear to hear with.”

That spring, Hannah and Alice joined Bowman. When he was put in charge of U.S. General Hospital No. 1 in Nashville two months later, she and the baby followed him to Tennessee.

Alice seemed to thrive at first, and by seven months, she was already trying to walk. And so it was a brutal shock when the baby died on Oct. 1.

“Thirteen weary days” passed before Hannah could muster the will to write to her mother-in-law of the loss:

“God has taken her and again left our hearth desolate, and we have constantly to say to our hearts ‘be still, be still.’ — and one prayer. Help us oh Father to say thy will not ours be done. — This is all our inner life. Give us something to do, our outer life.”

Her grief was mingled with guilt as she deflected suggestions that it was the “unhealthy locality,” and not, as she thought, some complication of teething — a “dreadful crowding of the teeth” — that killed little Alice.

“B. had every board whitewashed and every dirty hole filled with lime, and disinfectants poured all about,” she wrote.

Her only consolation was that “we were and are together, to comfort and sustain each other.”

They were still in Nashville in April when word came of Lee’s surrender.

“I can hardly hold the pen steadily enough to write,” Hannah wrote to her mother-in-law. “I have just come from congratulating one of my rebel neighbors. … B. had fireworks and a brass band and big supper at the Hospital but it seemed to me this best news of all — the war must be at an end — and we may all go home soon.”

Lincoln’s assassination, just a few days later, changed everything.

“Our whole sky seems black with grief,” Hannah wrote to her sister in Danvers.

Six men were shot in the street, Hannah wrote, “for Expressing satisfaction at the President’s death.” When a medical cadet remarked that he “did not care,” it was all Bowman could do to restrain his own men.

“They seized him and dragged him to the Hydrant for a ducking and there is no knowing to what Excesses they might have gone had not B. interfered,” Hannah reported. “He allowed them to strip off his straps and made him beg pardon on his knees.”

But it wasn’t until April 27, when she learned that Gen. Joseph E. Johnston had surrendered the Confederacy’s last active forces near Durham, N.C., — not far from my own home in Wake Forest — that Hannah allowed herself to exhale. It was a bittersweet moment.

“How Sad that our good old President Sh’d have been murdered,” she wrote home. “That he Shd not be here to Enjoy with us a time of peace. Sad for us but gain for him we may hope.”


Brevet Lt. Col. Bowman B. Breed was mustered out of the service in August 1865 and returned to private practice in Lynn. He gave up medicine in 1872, when the effects of malaria contracted during the war forced him to switch to a less taxing occupation — newspaper publisher.

After so many losses, he and Hannah would be blessed with three children — again, two boys and a girl. All would live to adulthood.

On Dec. 16, 1873, Bowman died of Bright’s disease at the age of 41. My grandfather, Nathaniel Pope Breed, was born two months later.

To support herself and three young children, Hannah would have to return to teaching, and take in boarders.

Years later, Grampa — who served as an Army surgeon in France during World War I — would file a petition for a widow’s pension on Hannah’s behalf. But because Bowman had treated himself, there was no record of a wartime illness.

After many years of rejections, Hannah was eventually awarded $12 a month. She collected it until her death in 1915 at age 86.

She never remarried.

Allen G. Breed is a national writer for The Associated Press. He can be reached at features(at)

Extraordinary Letter: William A. Louks, 56th Ohio Infantry Regiment

Originally posted on Soldier Studies – a great website to find 1860s letters from soldiers.

Colonel Peter Kinney organized the 56th Ohio Infantry Regiment at Camp Morrow, Portsmouth, Ohio, where it was mustered in on December 12, 1861. During Grant’s Vicksburg campaign the regiment saw action at Port Gibson and Champion Hills, capturing 2 guns and 125 prisoners. At Champion Hills it lost 135 men killed and wounded. After the fall of Vicksburg, it followed Johnston to Jackson and next moved to Natchez, joining Banks’ Red River expedition where it endured heavy casualties in the retreat with a number of officers and men captured.

Regiment lost during service 3 Officers and 55 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 2 Officers and 156 Enlisted men by disease. Total 216.

On Monday, August 31st, 1863, while stationed in Carrolton, Louisiana, Louks wrote a letter home to his wife Mary.

The letter is fascinating for several reasons. First, Louks discussion concerning politics and the Constitution are not common and when we do find political discussion it is not with the depth of knowledge Louks conveys. He is obviously very articulate and opinionated. It is also a significant letter as Louks offers detailed description of what the battlefield was like during a fight. Louks was also wounded severely at Port Gibson and discusses the agony of battle and of losing a comrade.

Letter Highlights:

“You ask me to look at the unconstitutional arrest. I wish you would have showed me one (though I do not doubt that a good many loyal men have been arrested and imprisoned by designing men who have went to the provost martial and swore lies to affect his purpose) yet we can not doubt that there has been a great deal of good done in the way of arbitrary arrests for there certainly has been a great many traitors arrested and may more be made to shut their mouths for fear they would be arrested Some object to this because it seems like taking away the liberty of speech, but should I or any other man be allowed to preach treason in the faces of loyal men.”

“I know that it would not be much like hunting rebels here where every woman and child that you see you must feel that they are your enemy and most of them even thirst for your blood for a good many of the women seem more blood thirsty than the men do.”

“I too well remember the day I lay upon the ground with one of my comrades lying almost at my feet in his blood uttering his last groans while to my side lay two more, one mortally wounded while the other had a frightful shot clear across his shoulders and my right arm was paralyzed by a ball through my shoulder. But even then with balls flying thick and fast around me I did not feel like having peace on rebel terms and don’t yet. But I hope to do what I did then, fight them with one hand if f can not use two. We have a peace that may be called peace.”

To read the entire letter…

[Regiment History Source:]

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