|William McCormick Soldier's Profile
|16th OVI Home Page
|The following letters were transcribed from the original letters of William McCormick, a private in the 16th OVI. This transcription was kindly provided by Joni Crane, 3rd great-grandaughter of Private McCormick. The McCormick family passed the letters down through the years until they were acquired from Alice Armstrong (McCormick) by her grandson, David A. Hilliard. The letters were donated to the United States Library of Congress, Rare Manuscripts Division, with copies retained by the family. Joni Lynn Crane, daughter of David A. Hilliard, transcribed the letters from the originals, and published a booklet entitled "A Kiss to Johny and Clary", which presents the letters and other information about William McCormick and the 16th OVI. Included below are the letters and also an introduction by Ms. Crane.
Transcribed and Edited by William's Great-Great-Great Granddaughter, Joni Lynn Crane
For decades, members of my family have passed along a pile of letters from one generation to the next. My father, David A. Hilliard, received these letters from his grandmother, Alice Armstrong (McCormick), daughter of John Bechtel McCormick. He opened a few and found them very difficult to decipher. Knowing they might have meaning to me, he brought them to my home. As we began reading the letters, we could feel the happiness and pain of the authors, as well as the receivers of these letters. I have been haunted by the stories these letters tell as they are indeed first hand experiences, not of the famous Generals, but of the common men and women who are my ancestors. It is not important that these people were not known for their individual acts of heroism, it is only important that their sacrifices are remembered and that their pain was not in vain.
I hope all who read these letters will value the lives they are able to lead, for their opportunities are due in part to the sacrifices of brave soldiers, wives, and families like these.
Joni Lynn Crane
Dear Wife (to Lottie),
I take pleasure in informing you that I am now able for duty. I have just finished my washing and will now endeavor to give you the news.
In the first place we have three funerals today. S. Updike, belonging to Capt. McClure's company, he died yesterday and also two of Capt. Richeson's men. One is John McKean of Fredericksburg and the other is young McIntire from Bristol, the R.R. Agent's son at that place. They all died with what they call amonia or in plain terms, exposure.
I think we will leave this place soon. I want you to put up a package for me and send it along with the bearer of this letter. He belongs to our company and will bring it through for me. I will enumerate to you what I want.
I want two boxes of Wright's Indian Vegetable Pills, a small bottle of Daris Pain Killer, Two cotton shirts and my summer vest. Letter paper and envelopes and if you have it, yours and the little ones likeness on one plate.
Since thinking over, I will send this by mail to you so that you can have those things ready by the time Corp. G. Hornmer calls for them. He will be in Fredericksburg in eight or nine days from the date of this and Lottie, if you can put up those things in a small box and send without discomforting yourself, you will do me a great favor. But if you have not yet the money to spare for these things you need not send them.
I still have a cough but otherwise I am doing well. We have to drill six hours everyday and it is very hot here although it is the mountains, the sun pours down the heat in the middle of the day.
I will send you a few lines in by Corp. George Hornmer, and you can when he gives you the lines, give him the package for me. Put a card on the package with my name on it.
Give my best respects to all inquiring friends. Tell Jas. Corswell and Robert Scott that I intend writing to them soon and I am going to write Father Scott a very nice letter.
Lottie, I have been true to you and will be to the end. I don't hardly ever think of or wish for a you know what. It seems as though soldiering cures men of their amorous senses. My undying love to you Lottie and a kiss to Johny and Clary. Write soon yours ever,
P.S. We have had a chaplain appointed for our Regiment. He has not yet arrived. It is the Rev. Matlock who used to preach in Millersburg. We had preaching last Sunday by the Rev. Carter from Center C----, Wayne County. My best wishes to Jos. Miller and family.
Dear Wife (to Lottie),
It is with pleasure that I am laying here in my tent writing to you on this the day of our anniversary of marriage. This day six years ago we were married and for me to look over my life in that period and think of how I have used you, it makes my heart bleed and for me to be away from home now and in a distant state and not to be at home so that we might have the pleasure of spending our marriage day together - but I hope and expect it will be the last anniversary of our marriage that I will be absent from you and the children.
Day before yesterday we were marched to within sight of the Rebel Brest works at Cumberland Gap. While on the way, our battalion got word that the Enemy, one thousand strong, was after us and we were halted and under much excitement.
Col. Bailey ordered us to load, load, load. Our boys took it very cool and loaded. The officers were more excited than the men. One Battalion of Regiment had been sent on in advance and we supposed the Enemy had cut them off and we were ordered forward at the double quick. We went three miles in a short time which brought us within a mile of the Enemy Entrenchments.
We had a very plain view in and around the Gap of the Enemy's works. Our advance Battalion under the Col. DeCourcey and Maj. Kershner were all right. We were brought up the line of battle and after standing fifteen minutes we were ordered to lay on blankets (which we had in rolls round our shoulders) and take a rest which we relished very much after marching so much.
After our rest we were ordered back to camp. We got into camp at 8 o'clock at night after a march of twenty eight miles. We intend to attack the Enemy soon and I think we will have to charge on their fortifications at the point of the bayonet. If we do, there will be a great loss on both sides as they are very strongly fortified. If they were not cowards, they would have attacked us when we were within a half mile of them and fourteen miles from the balance of our forces. But they did not through fear. Nothing more at present, I am well and hearty. My love to you and the children.
P.S. Johny and Clary must not forget their Pa, and Pa will bring them something nice when he comes home. Send postage stamps. I have received no answer to my three last letters - write
Dear Wife (to Charlotte),
I received yours of the 23rd and was glad to hear from you. We have moved back on the north side of the river, two miles from where our last camp was, we moved yesterday.
I have been sick for a few days, I have a very bad cough which hurts me very much. If I do not get better soon, I shall have to go to the Hospital at Basbinsville Bart. I think I will get along very well if I get no back set.
I also received a letter from your brother William today. You say that I never said anything about that nine month scare of yours, well I thought I did. I think if you look over your letters from me, you will find that I did say something. At any rate I burned the letter according to your directions.
I wrote you in my last about our advance on the Rebels fortifications. We were compelled to fall back to this point where we will remain until we are reinforced, which will be some time yet.
I would like you to let me know if Esq. Peppards has done anything with that Mellhnich affair or not. Let me know just how things stand and I will be better satisfied.
You had better pay Jos. Miller the balance of rent on his house and I want you to draw your proportion of money that will be coming to you from the Relief Fund.
William wrote to me that he was going to move to the East of Fredericksburg on the first of April and he also said Johny was at fathers and he appeared to enjoy himself very much.
In writing to me always send an envelope and sheet of paper enclosed in your envelope as paper cannot be had here nor can we get envelopes. So you see, if you want to hear from me regular, you will have to comply with my request.
I received a half dollars worth of stamps in the letter I received last week from you. Direct all your letters as you did this last and they will come through all safe. My love to all of the friends and to Johny and Clary. Pa sends a kiss and to Ma his hearts fond affection. I must close for this time. Write soon, I remain your husband ever,
P.S. If you can get a package of envelopes and one quire of letter paper and send it by mail to me at a cost of twenty or thirty cents, do so and it will last a couple of months. We have to pay five cents for a single envelope and five cents a sheet for paper here. Yours, WMC
|Actual envelope containing a McCormick letter. A poem (written on the envelope) reads:
"Times of Joy, and times of woe, Each an Angel's presence know, Guardian Angels hover round, peaceful Home, and Battleground."
Dear Wife (to Lottie),
I again am permitted by kind providence as to write you again. Oh Lottie, the horrors of war. Since the first of April we have traveled from Milliken's bend to Grand Gulf below Vicksburg and through the state of Mississippi. To this point during that time seven field battles, in every one of which our arms were victorious, and this is the seventh day before Vicksburg. Besieging the place which we will capture with all the rebels in it.
We have taken up to this time about 12 thousand prisoners and sixty pieces of artillery, with any amount of small arms. Our regiment has lost about 50 men in killed and wounded. So far, our Pioneer Corps has 5 wounded, but none killed as yet.
I have become so used to death and suffering that it hardly seems real to see hundreds of my fellow soldiers dead and dying from fearful wounds. I have been unwell for 2 weeks, and you would hardly know me if you were to see me now as I am in poor health. Our skirmishes are within 100 yards of the rebel's main works, and our batteries are planted within 300 yards of their works. We have them completely surrounded on all sides, and it will be impossible for any of them to get away. Our losses have been very heavy in the several engagements, but the rebel loss has been a great deal heavier than ours. We are camped within range of the rebel garret and have the pleasure of having a shell burst in amongst us every day or so, but we are used to it, and do not mind it much.
Dear Lottie, I sent you by the hands of Mr. A. J. Kaufman, of Wooster, of the Times of Botsford Kaufman and Co., twenty dollars, and I have sixty dollars more to send you by the first opportunity.
Dear Lottie, you must not think that I have forgotten you, for you are in my thoughts daily. The reason I have not written was because there was an order from our General to the effect that no letters would be sent North until he had Vicksburg in his hand, and as it is as good as in our hands, I take the privilege of writing to you hoping that you may receive these lines.
The rebel citizens feel very anxious of gaining their independence as a confederacy, but I think their hopes are founded on a sandy foundation. When Vicksburg is ours, which it will be, the Mississippi River will be in our hands from its headwater to its mouth. George McCormick's regiment has been in all the fighting, but I have not heard anything from him whether he is living or not.
Dear Wife, there will be great suffering in the south the coming winter for their crops are all destroyed and property confiscated. As we approach most of the rebel soldiers, privates are willing to quit, but their officers will not let them. This war is about played out. The rebels say if we get Vicksburg, they may as well give up. I expect, if I am spared, that when we get done fighting, that I will get a furlough, as we have seen and done hard service for nearly two years, and we are entitled to a furlough.
Give my best wishes to all the friends and let them know that I am for God and my Country, for Truth, Justice, and Right, in all things pertaining to this glorious Union. But am emphatically down on Butternuts at home and may God forgive them, but I never care for the trouble they are brewing in our nation. Write, and direct to:
My unfaltering devotion and love to you and the dear children to whom I send a greeting kiss. Yours ever in the bonds of love,
P.S. Excuse this poor scribbling for I am weak and nervous from disease of chronic diarrhea and dry fever.
Dear Wife (to Charlotte),
I again write to you amid Roar of Cannon. I am not any better in health but I hope this will find you and the little ones well.
This is the tenth day before Vicksburg. They may hold out a week longer but we will capture all of them for our lines are strong and they cannot get out and the provisions must be getting very low.
I bought a box of tobacco and got a teamster to haul it through for me and I have made just forty dollars on it by selling it out by the plug, the soldiers will pay most any price for tobacco when they are out. I have been buying and selling as the opportunity offered and I have just seventy dollars in money now and have twenty two dollars lent out to some of the boys which I will get next pay day.
There is a Mr. Dorland of Ashland County here at this time, he will start home in two weeks and I will send you sixty five dollars by him and he will leave it in the bank at Wooster for you. It will be published in the paper I think, and then you can tell when to go after it.
Let me know in your next letter if you received that $20 I sent you by Mr. Kaufman or not. I received a letter today from Mr. Jim Rodgers who appeared to be considerable interested in my affairs which I have answered in a manly way.
We have captured up to this time eighty pieces of Field Artillery and about twelve thousand stand of small arms and have taken upward of eleven thousand Prisoners.
The Rebel loss in the different battles we have had lately is about twelve thousand in killed and wounded and our loss I don't think is quite so much say ten thousand.
Oh the Horrors of this blood was to see the dead and dying - to see wounded after laying one day and night on the field with a wound in the arm or leg which if cared for sooner would of saved their lives, but after laying in the hot sun become all blowed with maggots rolling all over the wound since many such sights are to be seen. Oh how many poor boys have lost a leg or an arm and many more their lives. If God spares me to get home, I shall try to live to his Honor & Glory and lead a consistent life.
Just let one go into our Hospitals to see the dismembered limbs and hear the groans and see the tears of suffering roll down the pale cheeks of our heroic boys who are suffering all this for our country. I have become so immune to it that it does not effect me like it did at first.
Give my love to all the friends and may our Father in Heaven preserve us all to meet again is my prayer. A kiss to Lottie, Johny and Clary, Good by, write soon, I have had no letter from you for five weeks, my undying love to you dear wife.
Miss Lottie McCormick,
With feelings of sadness mingled with pity, I have seated myself to inform you of the death of your husband, William McCormick.
He was, as you are aware, on "detached duty" with the Pioneer Corps for some time. Since our arrival here we have been engaged in erecting fortifications.
Last night we worked in close proximity to the Enemies works only 80 yards from one of their main forts. The night being very light - we were discovered, and fired on by the Enemy who were concealed in their entrenchments. In the 2nd or 3rd volley William received a mortal wound - the ball entering near the lower extremity of the right lung and passing out just below the left shoulder blade. He also received a buck shot in the right arm just below the elbow. I was near him at the time he was wounded and helped to carry him off the field. He was wounded a few minutes before 12 o'clock and died about one. He remained conscious until a few moments before his death.
In reply to my interrogations as to what word he wished to send home - he requested me to tell his "companion" and friends that he died for his Country. He also requested me to retrieve his pocket book trinkets and send them home, and finally he entreated us, his messmates, to bury him decently all of which requests shall be fulfilled. His pocket book contains twenty eight dollars. I will send this to you with other things with Mr. Garret Dorland whom he gave sixty five dollars a few days since. It will be left with R. R. Donnelly of Wooster.
In conclusion let me say that William McCormick as a soldier has always been punctual and faithful in the discharge of his duties. As an associate, he was respected and beloved by all who knew him. In his death, his comrades loose a cheerful, kind-hearted messmate - his Country, a brave and true Patriot - his consort, a noble husband - and his children, a fond and indulgent father.
With warmest sympathy for self and children and with an ardent hope that kind heaven may enable you to bear this sad calamity with Christian patience and resignation, I subscribe myself,
Cyrus B. Anderson
Mrs. Lottie McCormick,
Your note of June 21 has just come to hand and I will reply to your inquiries without delay - Your husband - Madam, is interred on a beautiful knoll on the south side of the main road - two miles east of Vicksburg or not far from the "two mile bridge" on the Vicksburg and Jackson Railroad, Warren County, Mississippi.
He was buried decently - had a good coffin, which "by the way" is more than can be said of most others who fell in Rear of this "Rebel City."
William, as I have said in my first note, had many friends - was esteemed by all his associates. He of course had his faults as most others do but they were few and I think they deserved ones pity more than censure. I have been acquainted with your husband for several years - always agreed very well together except on "political questions", men you know will differ.
You wished to know how William had enjoyed himself - well his health had not been very good for over a month which dispirited him to a certain extent, but at the time of his death he had almost entirely regained his wonted vigor both of body and mind.
I am none of those who believe in foreordination, but I must acknowledge that there was something strange connected with William's death.
On the evening of June first we had eaten supper and were about starting to work when William remarked to us, his messmates, that he felt a strange fear in going up there to work, that he was almost certain of being shot. We advised him not to go, but he replied that if he did not go, he would be accused by the commanding officer of playing off, he therefore went and you know the sequel. It seems from this that he had a strange and unaccountable foreboding or presentment that he was to die.
Fearing that your patience is already wearing, I must hasten to conclude, I am happy to announce to you the glad tidings that Vicksburg is at last ours. The enemy surrendered yesterday about noon. The victory is a glorious one, but dearly bought. The greater part of our army are now on the way to Jackson to meet Johnson's forces. Our troops are all in fine spirits.
With great respect I remain
Cyrus B. Anderson
P.S. If Marion H. Dodd still lives in Fredericksburg, please give him my regards - tell him I am well.
Your favor of August 2nd which came to hand during my absence has been handed me and I shall proceed to answer your questions with pleasure.
The "Confederate Script" of which you spoke is worth nothing here - is not passable.
You spoke about William having twenty- two dollars standing out among the boys, I have endeavored to ascertain who was owing him but as yet have not found a single one. There are any number of men in the army who, for a paltry sum, are ever ready to deny their indebtedness provided they can do so without being detected. Transactions among soldiers, as a general thing, are simply verbal and unless the men who owe your husband are honest enough to forward you the money - you can set it down as lost.
The letter you referred to has either fallen into the hands of someone or been lost. Captain Patterson of the Pioneer Corps says the letter never came to his office.
In answer to the interrogatory whether William ever complained of being neglected or mistreated by you, I am happy to say that I never heard him speak of his wife except in terms of endearment. Have often heard him regret his inability to make you more comfortable pecuniarily as well as sorrow at the deprivation or loss of your society and that of his children.
Absence, you know, serves to strengthen our affection. It also makes us appreciate better, the blessings of home. Speaking of home reminds me of having just returned from its fond endearments. Was on a brief visit to see my family (who by the way live five miles East of Wooster) I had intended to give you a call but my furlough being so very brief I was unable to do so.
While in Wooster, I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. McCormick, (William's father) to whom I related the circumstances connected with William's death.
I have nothing more of special note to add everything being quiet in our department, I therefore beg leave to close,
C. B. Anderson
P.S. Andrew Sprowl from your vicinity is well, the 16th Regiment is now at Brashin (Brashear) City - I will rejoin it tomorrow.
|William McCormick Soldier's Profile
|16th OVI Home Page