Saturday, January 3, 2015

Letter #43 -- Camp Near Petersburg, VA -- November 20, 1864




As I mentioned in my last posting, I am stretching out the posting of the letters, in order to prevent long gaps.  The November 20, 1864 letter is from six weeks ago, but with the next one being in the middle of February 1865,  I thought that this was a pretty much even spacing.


The letter this month, is a bit interesting, in so much as John is losing some of his formality in the writing process.  In this letter, like the next, he doesn't bother to sign it, nor does he indicate the location of the writing.  He simply tells his parents to send their letters as they have before.  In other words...the siege and encampment at Petersburg, Va. has become long...and boring for him.  He is now "driving team" and hence his discharge paperwork as a "Waggoner".  This is a direct result of his wounding at the Second Battle of Bull Run and his inability to march long distances.  The army still needed good battle tested men, and John was that type of soldier.  His disability made him a good candidate for teamster work, as well as trench fighting.  This disability in his leg would nag him the rest of his life making employment/labor difficult.  That coupled with his weakened condition from the many lung ailments he contracted during service, contributed to his early death at age 37.

The letter warns his parents that many "friends" will try to borrow money from him, via them, based on so called promises John made.  This was common during the war.  Most soldiers had sent their pay and bounties home to be saved for after the war.  This was common knowledge of local folks and people would try to take advantage of these relatively large sums of money.  John made it clear to his parents...no loans to friends.





Apparently, the saga of the broken watch has come to an end with the watch being lost or stolen on the shipment back to John.  Any suspicions that John had of his friend George Artz...who was entrusted with the watch...are dispelled by George paying John the $30 value of the lost watch.  A pretty good and trusted friend.






John also does a bit of bragging in this letter, by telling his parents to tell his friend's father Peter Fetterolf, that he is driving up to six mules.  That gives the home town folks a feel for the level of responsibility that John has and the difficulty level of driving team.  Driving one or two tandem mules is one thing, but driving a team of six is significantly more difficult.





                                                                                                                                         November the 20th, 1864



My Dear Father and Mother,

            I take my pen in hand to write this few lines to you to let you know that I am well at present time and I hope that this few lines will find you in the same state of good health.  I received your letter this day and I was very glad to hear from you and to hear that you are all well at present time and have all got plenty work.  We have much rainy weather out here, but we had no snow yet.  If Peter Fetterolf is at home yet when you got this letter tell him to write to me and let me know where he is.  Tell him that I would send my best respects to him and to all the rest of the boys.  Tell them that I am driving team.  Tell Peter Fetterolf that I had command ober (over) six mules.  Don’t give none of my money to nobody without I tell you to do so for there is some men at home that want to have some money from me and I wouldn’t let them have any.  They might come there and tell you that I sent them there and it wouldn’t be so.  For that reason give none to nobody unless I tell you to do so.  I lost thirty dollars by sending my watch home with George Artz and he was to send it back to me.  But it either got lost on the road or he didn’t send it to me.  But I think he did else he wouldn’t put my money to its place as he did.  I have no more to write for this time.  So I will bring my letter to a close for this time for this a raining day.  So this few lines from son John W. Derr.

Answer soon and direct your letter as before. 









Jim D.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Letter #42 -- Camp Near Petersburg, VA -- November 1, 1864

Yes...this one is being posted after November 1st...however...there is a logic to it.  This part of the letters is pretty much spread out with only three letters between November and February and nearly a two month gap from late November to mid-February.  So...I'm stretching them out a bit.  There are only eight more letters left, including this one.  My mission is almost done and I am a bit saddened by that fact.  That said...there are a few projects I am beginning to develop related to the letters, including a book with the unvarnished letters printed in both original and typed format.  There will be a forward and an explanation of the events of the 48th PVI, but little or nothing of commentary on the letters themselves.  I'll let the reader do their own analysis and conclusion on them.  The second project...long overdue...is a full up novel based on these letters as well as the archival documents regarding the life of John W. Derr.  As I have written in previous posts, his story does not die when he did in 1876 at the early age of 37 years old.  It continued on with his widow, sons and a scandalous family secret that I was able to uncover after being hidden for 75 years.  More on that later...




The letter of November 1, 1864 is a follow-up to a previous thread of correspondence regarding money being loaned to John Kramer.  A few letters back, John directs his father to loan money to Kramer providing that he get from him a promissory note...or bail.  Later John begins to have second thoughts about loaning the money, and tells his father that unless Kramer comes to ask for the money...don't offer it up to him.  Well...it appears that Kramer has indeed come for the money...and John references it here in this letter.



In the previous letter, John had given a fellow comrade, George Artz, $150 to bring home for safe keeping.  This letter confirms that John's father had  indeed received that money.




John is also interested in home life.  He asks what his brothers and father are doing around the farm.  He inquires about his good friend Josiah Fetterolf and whether the butchering season has begun.

John also teases his little brother for not writing and calls him "a little scochmen"...or...Scotsman.  A common term at the time for a person who was thrifty...or cheap!

Lastly, an interesting statement is written by another hand on the letter...it reads:

 “Bidding Dealer, Men & Boys Clothing, Hats, Caps and Fancy Notions opposite H. Adams Hotel, Mr. Samuel Wampole, Battery L, 3rd Heavy Artillery, Fortress Monroe, Center Street,” and “Elizabeth Weaver but if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your father forgive your trespasses.”

The Samuel Wampole, might be the Samuel he inquires about in this letter.  I am unsure of Elizabeth Weaver or the meaning of the phrase after...





                                                                                                Camp near Petersburg, Va.
                                                                                                November the 1st, 1864



My Dear Father and Mother,

            I take my pen in hand to inform this few lines to you to let you know that I am well at present time and I hope that this few lines will find you in the same state of good health.  I received your letter and I was glad to hear that you got my money.  You didn’t write whether Artz brought it there or not.  But I suppose he did else you wouldn’t got it.  It is all right that you gave Kramer the money.  I also got nine postage stamps and the darning needle safe in the letter.  I got no particular to write today so let me know what all the boys and Father are working.  I forgot the direction to Samuel.*  If you got it send it to me and I will write to him.  Let me know how all the folks are getting along around home.  Tell old Fetterolf to write a letter to me for it is near butchering time now again.  Then that is the time for him to write.  So I will bring my letter to a close for this time.  This few lines from your son.

John W. Derr to his Father and Mother

Answer soon and direct your letter as before.  I will put a fine picture in this letter for my brother William, the little Scochmen (Scotsman).  I don’t never hear from him.

                                                                                                John W. Derr

* two notes in someone elses handwriting were included in the letter.  “Bidding Dealer, Men & Boys Clothing, Hats, Caps and Fancy Notions opposite H. Adams Hotel, Mr. Samuel Wampole, Battery L, 3rd Heavy Artillery, Fortress Monroe, Center Street,” and “Elizabeth Weaver but if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your father forgive your trespasses.”










Jim D.



Saturday, October 11, 2014

Letter #41 -- Camp Near Petersburg, VA -- October 6, 1864

The letter of October 6th is a short note home telling his parents to expect money from his comrade George Artz who is coming home on leave along with his other fellow soldier, Solomon Yarnell.  It totals $150.00 which he is naturally concerned about.  Using modern day inflation calculators...$150.00 in 1864 would be equivalent to $2275.50 in today's dollars.

John was fairly diligent about sending money home and so the bounties he received in his first and second enlistment along with normal smaller amounts being sent home during the course of the war, he is naturally interested in how much money he has saved up.  Every $1000 would be worth approximately $15,000 in equivalent dollars today....or 15 times the 1864 face value.


Reverse
Fractional Currency Note owned by John W. Derr













John is also looking for news from home...asking his father what he's been doing around the farm.  At this point, he undoubtable is longing for home.  With the war coming to an end in just 5 months...he must be anticipating getting back to normal life...



                                                                                                Camp near Petersburg, Va.
                                                                                                October the 6th, 1864


My dear Father and Mother,

            I take my pen in hand to inform this few lines to you to let you know that I am well at present time and I hope that this few lines will find you in the same state of good health.  I received your letter with the fifteen dollars in it and now we got paid a couple days back.  And George Artz and Solomon Yarnall went home and I did send 150.00 dollars home with George Artz to give to you.  I want you to let me know whether you got it or not for I wouldn’t like to lose it.  This is all for the present time.  This few lines form me.

                                                                                                J. W. Derr

Answer soon and direct your letter as before.  Please let me know how much money I have got at home in all.  Give my love to all inquiring friends.  J.W. Derr to Peter Derr.  Let me know what you are working at now a while home.













J. Derr