Thursday, May 24, 2012

Letter #13 - New Berne, North Carolina - May 24, 1862

As May, 1862 came to a close, JWD spent most of the month battling a bad catarrh (severe cold) and bronchitis.  His letters at this time do not indicate this, but the pension affidavits from the pension application of his widow Magdalena in 1878, indicate that he suffered during this period from these afflictions.  This was the second major illness suffered by JWD in his short period of service at that time.  The first was in the November/December 1861 time frame.  These multiple illnesses along with others later in the war (illness after digging the Petersburg Mine) contributed to his early death in 1876.  Though interesting and pertinent, the worst of his service problems would come in just a few months when he was wounded at the battle of Second Bull Run (August, 1862).  Needless to say... JWD's first year of service in the army was the worst of his life.

Letter #13 on May 24, 1862 is a typical JWD letter.  Filled with personal concerns regarding money and requests for packages.  This letter, amongst others, highlights how difficult communication was during this period of time.  Today, we take for granted the ability to rapidly and effectively communicate with any person around the globe.  Not so, in 1862.  Many letters were repeated since a guarantee of delivery was not always possible.  You can see the frustration in both parents and JWD as they try in desperation to tell each other information and respond to questions.  For a people who never traveled far from home...the inability to rapidly communicate in person must have been extremely frustrating.

And now...Letter #13....

                                                                                                Camp near New Berne,
                                                                                                North Carolina,
                                                                                                May the 24th, 1862

My Dear Father Peter Derr,

                        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.  Further I let you know that this is the third letter that I wrote to you and didn’t get no answer yet from you.  I wrote one letter home with ten dollars in and I wrote for some shirts that you should send to me, and I didn’t get no answer yet but if you didn’t sent them yet you don’t need to send them now or later but I am sorry if them ten dollars didn’t come home.  Now I wish you would answer me this letter and let me know whether you got them ten dollars or not and let me know whether you did send them shirts or not and if you didn’t send them you don’t need to send them.  For I must come to a close.  Answer me this letter.

                                                                                                Your respectful son,
                                                                                                John W. Derr

Direct your letter to John W. Derr, Co. “D”, 48th Regiment PA., Burnsides’ Expedition, North Carolina, in care of Capt. W. W. Potts.

Jim D.


  1. I could just imagine how difficult it was to find a bronchitis treatment without the advent of technology. Well, it's impressive to know that he still stood tall despite all the obstacles he had to go through.

  2. Agreed. I believe all of our ancestors suffered through maladies that today we can remedy in short order. They were a much tougher lot in those days.