I decided to delay publishing Letter #36 until closer to the 4th of July. The reason is that this letter has a very nice reference to Independence Day and how the men of the 48th planned to celebrate. The war...now in it's third year...was more than most of these men had anticipated. As a result, any opportunity to celebrate or bond with the cause of the Union was enjoyed. Especially...as John indicates...where that celebration would be done in front of the rebels. Essentially...shoving the celebration in the traitorous faces of the enemy.
Letter #36 contains the normal discussions regarding his money, stamps, as well as a belated thank you for butter and sausage that his parents had sent back to him via his cousin John D. Weikel. Weikel is mentioned in previous letters as having been missing in battle, but later we find out that he is well and returns to the regiment.
During my many years of research on these letters, this particular letter had confounded both myself and my father. In the letter John references his "Dear Wife". For the longest time, we both thought that he had been married during the war. We now know, through further research, that he was not married at this time. He was apparently trying to be humorous by saying "if I want to write to my Dear Wife or somebody else's wife"...his version of randy humor.
John also talks about how they are under fire day and night "under the bullets and shells"...so it was a difficult and dangerous during this particular letter writing. His reference to this year's 4th of July celebrations and one from the prior year (during their provost duty in Lexington, Kentucky, are highlighted in this letter. That is why I wanted to save it for closer to the 4th of July. "This fourth of July we will celebrate with the roaring of cannon and muskets along the lines of battle. While we had fine times of it last year, we was eating and drinking as much as we liked and what we would like. But that is all over and gone."
Again...a very interesting letter.
Camp 8 miles from City Point, Va
July 1st, 1864
My Dear Father,
I take the present opportunity 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 yesterday and was very glad to hear from you and to hear that you was all well and I am glad that I am the same when this letter leaves me. I always forget to tell you that I got them things what you did send with John Weikle, the sausage and butter, but I did get it safe when he came back. I will also enclose 50 cents in this letter and will send it to you and I want you to buy me some postage stamps and send them to me in your next letter for I am entirely out of them and I want to write to the girls sometimes. Then I must have some stamps to put on my letters and also if I want to write to my Dear Wife or somebody else’s wife. I think that is enough for this time of that subject. I think you are busy at making hay at home till this letter comes to hand. Well we are laying out here under the bullets and shells every day and night. But we are still enjoying ourselves well and are hoping that we may soon be with you at home and enjoy ourselves with the and this cruel war be over. This fourth of July we will celebrate with the roaring of cannon and muskets along the lines of battle. While we had fine times of it last year, we was eating and drinking as much as we liked and what we would like. But that is all over and gone. But this hand (ain’t) over yet today, but it will till this letter comes to your hands. I wish you wouldn’t forget to see John Kramer about that money what I wrote to you in my other letter and let me know about it. I have to bring my letter to a close for this time. This few lines from your son.
John W. Derr
Answer soon and direct to J.W. Derr, Co. D, 48th Regt Pa, 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Army Corps, Washington, D.C.
Happy 4th of July everyone!