s 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,
My Dear Father and Mother,
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.
Answer soon and direct your letter as before.