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





Thursday, September 18, 2014

Letter #40 -- Camp Near Petersburg, VA -- September 9, 1864

Letter #40 provides zero insight into strategic or tactical war elements, rather, it is a letter from a common soldier reflecting common life in the army during the war.  John writes home to follow-up on his ongoing discussion about lending money to Kramer, asking for his parents to send him some of his own money, news of a cousin's impending visit home, a broken watch, postage stamps...and a darning needle.  Very common subject matter for a soldier who has spent the last three years in the army.

John is increasingly regretful about having promised Kramer a loan...in fact he indicates that he hopes Kramer never follows-up on the request.  Could he have promised the loan during a time of stress...or perhaps whiskey?  We will never know...but it is clear that he regrets having made the commitment.  He certainly wants a signed promissory note from Kramer to seal any deal that might be made.  He leaves that up to his father.

John missed the paymaster payout for the month...owing more than likely...to his assignment as a wagoner or a teamster.  He was probably on a run with his team, when the paymaster arrived and was certainly disappointed to have missed him.  He is low on cash, and requests that his parents send him some of his savings, until he can get paid.  In researching these letters, and in researching the pension records in the National Archives, there are many muster roles and payouts that were missed by John.  I always wondered why...now I know.  Note the reference again to sending and accepting only "greenbacks"...or money backed by the United States government, vs. local state and county currency.

His friend and comrade Solomon Yarnell was coming back to the Deep Creek area from the battlefield and John took the opportunity to send his broken watch home with him to give to his parents.  There is a possibility that Solomon would take the watch for repairs, but there is no record of that ever happening.

I am not sure who the Catharine is that he mentions in the letter, but his cousin Levi Derr will be furloughed soon and he informs his parents, so they might tell Levi's parents.

The request for a darning needle is pretty common for the era.  People repaired socks when they got a hole in them...and soldiers repaired their own socks in the field.







                                                                                                Camp near Petersburg, Va.
                                                                                                September the 9, 1864


My dear Father and Mother,

            I take the present opportunity 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 kind letter today and was glad to hear from you and to hear that you was well.  I got that letter with the postage stamps in it but that was the last one until this one.  You wrote that Kramer didn’t come for the money yet and I don’t care if he don’t come at all for it or not.  But if he comes you will give it to him because I promised it to him if he gives you good bail.  I haven’t been paid since I am out.  The regt. was paid and I wasn’t there so I didn’t get paid.  I want you to send me fifteen dollars in the next letter but you must send me “greenbacks” or else I can’t pass it.  And direct your letter right so it won’t get lost and send it as soon as you get this letter from me.  Solomon Yarnall will come home in a couple weeks then I will send my watch home with him and he will give it to you and you will take care of it till I come home or maybe he will come out again then I will get him to fix it and fetch it along again.  But if he don’t come he will let it at home.  I think Catharine hasn’t come home yet or else you would said something about it please and let me know where she is and I will write to her mother.  Put me a darning needle in a letter and send it to me but don’t put it in with money.  Send it in another letter.  I let you know that cousin Levi Derr went home on furlough from here.  It may be that he will come up there.  This is about all for this time.  This few lines from your son.
                                                                                                John W. Derr

Answer soon and direct your letter to John W. Derr, Co. D 48th Regt. Pa., 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Army Corps, Washington, D.C.

















Jim D.