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Glimpse of Union Army life: Soldier letters home shared


Township resident's family member's Civil War experience; Read all eight Civil War letters.



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January 09, 2013 - One hundred and fifty years ago this month, Pvt. Theodore Wood, a Union soldier, penned a letter home.

Wood described his life over about three years of the Civil War that included marching hundreds of miles, sleeping on the ground and his encounter with African-Americans. A glimpse of Wood's military duties and endeavors were recently at the Brandon Township Library as part of a Civil War display provided by Brandon Township resident Sara Ault.

"The eight letters from Uncle Theodore were saved by my grandmother in a few big trunks," she said. "Then my mother received the letters and she just can't throw anything away—it's a good thing. I looked at these letters as a piece of American history as much as our family history. It means something to all of us—it's an eyewitness account of the Civil War through the eyes of a soldier writing home."

The letters written to Wood's brother George and sisters Orsy, Ellen and Emma were transcribed by Ault as they were first written by Wood.

"Theodore was my mother's great- uncle," said Ault. "He served with the Wisconsin 32 Regiment and he returned to live in Minnesota after the war. I am not too sure of the reason, but he moved from Minnesota to Haywood, Wis. where he joined the Army sometime in 1862 with four other local boys. We have no enlistment papers for Uncle Wood."

The 32nd Wisconsin was organized at Oshkosh, Wis. and mustered into Federal service Sept. 25, 1862. The regiment was mustered out on July 8, 1865.

"The first letter is from January 1863— I would assume he enlisted during the fall of 1862," she said. "Just from the tone of the letters, he was a young man looking for adventure—he joined the Army to kick some Confederate butt," she said. "Like many people at the beginning of the war they thought it was going to be over in just a few months. But four years later it was still going on. These people were farmers and Army life sounded a lot better than growing crops and milking cows all day in White Bear Lake, Minn."

"He never fought in any battles, at least he did not write about them. The 32nd's mission at least in part was to keep the Mississippi River open during the war," she said. "The 32nd regiment did not see a lot of action during the war. They lost 27 men in battles and 254 to disease."

Ault still has family members in White Bear Lake, Minn., a suburb of St. Paul.

"Theodore was an Army grunt in a grunt job," said Ault. "The other boys he signed up with were talking about re-upping for another stint. Theodore went home and was a farmer again."

Letters:

(Typed as written… spelling and grammar not corrected)

Camp near Jackson

Jan 13 1863

Dear Brother George H. Wood,

I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines I am well and I hope that these few lines find you the same I am away down in the western part of Tennessee and have been all over the western part and all over the northern part of Mississippi and have gon into camp for the winter I think if the rebels don't attack us and drive us out I think that we will stay here and I don't think that the rebels will drive us out although thare is an attack expicted But if they drive us out they will have their hand full for thare is about 40 thousand troops here or near here and that is quite a jobe to drive 40,000 men out of breast works George be a good boy and do what is wright

Dear sister Orsy E Wood

I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines and I hope that these lines will find you well I received your letter and was glad to hear from you I have marched about 300 miles since the 26 of November that is quite a ways to walk at first when we started my feet got sore very sore but they got used to marching and now the old 32 cant bee beat in marching or most anything elce be a good girl and do the best that you can T. G. Wood

Dear sister Ellen Ann Wood

I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines and I am well and I hope that these few lines will find you the same I received your letter the other night and was very pleased to hear from you but was sorry to hear that your was not not well but I hope that you will soon get well I do not (k)now what to write hardly but I guess that you would like to here a little something about the little niggar wenches I have seen lots of them since I came down here and some of them is as white as some of the girls in Wisconsin and some of them are as black as little niggy doggy and some of them are as smart as crickets but I completely hate the sight of them bee a good girl and do the best that you can T G Wood

Memphis, Tenn May 13th, 1863

Dear Sister Emma,

I am out on picket today and I received a letter from you yesterday and was very glad to hear from you and to hear that you wer all well at home I am well and hope that these few lines will find you all well You sed that you had received a letter the second of may. It had aught to be thare before that for I rote one to you the 29 of april and it had aught to be thare be fore that you wanted to know how the boys do when they get a box from home wheather they divided with the rest or ate it all themselves well james and abe and tom had a box sent from home and it had some little things for Alfred and Lewis Horton they are all in 2 tents right side by side just big enugh for 4 men in each Tom Abe and James and I tent in one and Alfred and Lewis and William and henry cuff live in the next tent and we have got a table between the two tents and they just set the things on the table and we all pitched in as long as they lasted they divide with those that they tent with and a few that come from around where they did you wanted to know wheather I would like to have you sende me some things to me I should like to have you sense some things first rate I should like to have you send me some of those old coton shurts that I wore last summer if they are not worn out too bad and some good heavy writing paper and a few of those envelopes such as you send me youre letters and get one of those large oister cans or some tin box of the kinde and pack it full of butter and put in pleanty of bread and what else I dont care but don't put in any thing that will wet the things any bottels of anything that will brake for James had some hors readish sent him in a large bottle and wet with vinegar and it got broke and spoilt some of the? and wet everything don't put up any kind of liquid in the box in Jims box thare was an large oister can 4 inches square and 6 inches deep filled with butter and it was nice it was not soft or any thing that's all at preasant yours faithfull

From TG Wood to EJ Wood

Write soon

Memphis Tenn May 30th 1863

Dear sister I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines. I am well and hope that these few lines will finde you the same. I received a letter from you day before yesterday and was glad to hear from you and to hear that you are all well and had got the springswork done and to hear that the wheat looked well the wheat and oats are all headed out and the corn in nea hight and the peaches are beginning to turn and will soon be ripe thare is no plums in the woods or trees either the apples are more than half grown we have good news from grants army at Vicksburg the last few days thare is not much news that I know of I have traded around and got 2 watches one is worth $15 and the other is worth $12 and I am a going to send the one that is worth $12 to you as a present it is a watch like that one that Josephine lost only it a good dial better it is a silver cased one and open faced cylinder escapements watch it wants a cristal in it and it wants a cleaning I will get a cristel in it and you can get it cleaned up thare for half the price that I can down here so I will not get it cleaned it is hard work for me to write to day I can not think of anything to write so you must excuse me this time

To emma J wood from Theodore Wood

I heard that you had heard that we had left Memphis we have not and have not thought of it the other day I got a litter from old Mrs Whitfield it did not amount to much any way Emma I should like to know what she has been telling to Uncle O about me please write and tell me all about it

Theodore Wood to Emma

Dec 12th 1863 Camp near Jackson

Dear sister I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and I hope that these few lines will find you the same I have not felt well for a few days but I am well now we have been marching a good while but I think that we will stay here some time I received the first letters that I have had in over a month last night and thare was 6 or 7 from home and and one from Harriett and one from Lucy Wood and one from Josiphine Bessett and one from William and one from John Whitfield and one from Timothy Tasker in all thare was about a dosen so you know that I have got some writing to do and one from William Andrews and one from Edwin Pierson abe got 17 letters and the captain got about 25 or so and some papers we have marched about 300 miles on foot and besides we rode some on the cars and in all of our tramp have not seen an armed rebel you wanted to know how many days that we have marched and how far we have marched and how far we have marched in a day the farthest that we have marched in one day was on a forced march of which we marched from hally springs to grand junction which is 48 miles we started at 10 oclock at night and arrived at the Junction at 2 oclock the next day but the most of the time we marched about 15 miles in a day the number of days that we have marched I can not tell but in all we have went by railroad and on foot is about 420 miles and we have slept out on the ground without any tent and I don't know of one man in the regt. That has caught cold and when we lay out on the ground and have no tents we are healthier than when we have good tents and we feel better to Alfred write is not well and James Babcock is not with the Regt and has not been for 3 weeks we left him at grand junction and when we left thare he was not well enough to go with us and so we left him and have not heard of him since so I do not know how he gets along or where he is VC?, the boys that left thare that experienced religion all stick to it well and I do not know of any one that has back slid I heard that William Andrews had back slid if if is so till him for me to never to desert the blod stained banner of Christ truly yours to EJ Wood from T G Wood

Grand Junction, Tenn Dec 24th 1863

Dear Sister Emma

I sit down to write a few lines to lit you know that I am well and hope that these few lines will find you the same I received a letter from you yesterday and heared some bad news that was the death of Grandpa it was pretty suden but he was getting pretty old and as he was prepared he is likely better off than he was before thare is a day when all must Die, well things are changing every day just one year ago we marched into this place and thare wasnite a little town here but now thare is not more than 4 or 5 houses here and does not look like the sam place and I suppose that it is the same up thare well I suppose that it will look some different around thare to any one that has been gon a year or two it will be quite different by the time that my 3 years are up and some are talking about enlisting over again for three year of doing the was for the bounty of $400 but I will not enlist again until my time is out any way then it will be time enough for me to get in to another scrape after I get out of this. I wish you a merry Christmass as I did not finish this last night I though that I would finish it now well I suppose that you would like to know what I had for Christmass dinner today well I had sow belly and hard tack as we call them they are hard cracker and bacon and tea that is a soldiers fair that was a fine dinner but I think that I should rather be at home and eat such rations as you draw rite tharr than to eat Uncle Sams rations will it will soon be the 14 of Feb when our half of the three years will be up and it does not seem but a short time since I enlisted well you must ex cuse me for I do not feel like writghting and can not think of anything to write Please write soon from your Brother Theodore G. Wood to Emma J. Wood please excuse all mis takes and bad spelling xc

LaFayett Tenessee,

Monday, Jan 25th 1864

Dear sister Emma I sit down to write a few lines to let you know that I am will and hope that these few lines will find these find you the same I received a letter from you the other day and was glad to hear that you are all well it is warm enough to go in my shorts sleaves and it does not freeze any nights this is the first time in my life that I ever saw such warm weather in this time of the year yesterday was Sabbath day and it was paday for me was payed two months pay and I receied $6 so I suppose that Father will receive $20 or the allotment of $10 amonth for 2 months in a short time, it seams that Sunday is not any better than any other at least they pay no attention to it any more than as though it was not a day set apart by our redeemer will I think that Sarah Ghiny has sold herself pretty cheap but I suppose that she is satisfied and that is all that is required and Liddy Williams has made a boald strike but if they are satisfied I supposed that is all right the story is that the new recruits for Co K is in Memphis and the sotyr is that the Regt is going to Memphis in a day or two but I do not know thare is so many story's in circulating will I supposed that father has got a good team by your tell but I believe that you never told me how much father paid for his horses please tell me in your next and you sayed that I had never spoke of Arrys picture in my letters will you did not get all my letters if I have not spoken of it in any of them for I have I spoke of it it my letter well I think it is a good picture and I thank you for it I have just heard the news that the regt is to start for Memphis and then to take transports for New Orleans and then up by river or nearly to Mobile and if we do so thare will be no use to have you send me anything t for if we go it may ??? it will never reach me please ixcuse me for writing so short a letter for I have not got time to finish please write soon and direct as usual as we may possible not go but the prospect is good for going yours truly Emma from Theodore G Wood

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