Civil War Letter #4 – Henry Loses His Temper

43rd Ohio Volunteers

43rd Ohio Volunteers

Henry has had it up to here!  He’s marched hundreds of miles. Seen friends and relatives die and fall injured all around him. Slogged through swamps. Subsisted on minimal grub and worn rags for clothing. He has not been paid by the army since he enlisted nearly three years ago.

And those busy-bodies back home, who didn’t choose to fight the war, dare to complain about the way he treats his new bride? Henry Allen Butts is so angry when he writes this letter that his never-terrific handwriting becomes so agitated that a transcriber 100 years later has a hard time making out what he said.

Note: I am passing this letter on as the transcription reads–with lots of blanks . In a very few instances, I have filled in a blank where it seems obvious what the word is. As usual, I have added some punctuation and capitol letters at the beginning of sentences to make it easier to read. Otherwise his original syntax is left undisturbed.

Camp

April 25 1865

Dear Wife and friend,  I put myself to anser your kind letter wich I receved this week. I em glad to hear that you was well but I was [sorry] to hear that Allen ____ ____ cerriperlous but I hope he will be well of it before this letter ____ _____ to you.  You stated in your letter ____ you got no letter since the 6 of January.  I don’t no [know] mail is the reason for i wrote three letters from Goldsboro*  but i suppose ____not time to come wen you wrote your last letter. I [hope] you have got them____ before this time.

[Note: Due to some helpful crowd sourcing on Facebook, I now believe that “cerriperlous” is Henry’s version of erysipelas. It is a streptococcal skin infection that comes from conditions that might be common in Civil War rural Ohio.  A Google search will yield you more information, if you’re curious.]

I em well and I hope ____ ____ will find you the same blessing.

Watch out—here it comes. A curse for those naysayers at home.

You stated in your letter that the people was talking about me not writing to you.

Tell them who ever th[ey] may be to mind thear oune buisness – that I write wen ever I get a chance. i hope some of them will be as far from home some day as i em and see as many hardships as i have and have as littel chance as i have had and mabe th[ey] won’t write as often as i have.

Them people can set in their houses and get good grub and wen night comes stay in thear warm beds. If it rains th[ey] are in the dry but we must lay down on the ground and take what comes.  I hope if it____ _____ is ____another war th[ey] will have to come out and rain ever other day. This is all the bad luck i wish for them.

Calming down a bit, Henry gets to the good news–he is seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

The weather is warm and pleasant. I am in good hart for I expect to see you soon. We ar under marching orders. We will leve in a few days for Peatersburg VA the [17th Army?] leavs first.

I will close. The boys are all well. Direct your letters to Raleigh P C Co K, 43rd OHIO 17 AC. Don’t direct your letters by way of Washington.

Hear is a five dollar bill of rebel money .

Your husband,

Henry A. Butts

As soon as i get paid i will send you some. I heve not receved my pay since i come in the army.

Confederate money

Confederate money

Henry’s 43rd Ohio Volunteers are camped near Raleigh North Carolina, as General Sherman carries on negotiations with the Confederates. Although General Lee had surrendered to General Grant on April 9th, the war dragged on here in the Carolinas and even longer in the West.

General Sherman reached an agreement with General Johnston for surrender on April 18. However, when the document was forwarded to Washington, Sherman was berated for being too easy on the enemy. Meanwhile, news of the April 14th assassination of President Lincoln had reached the army, so it was clear that the North was not in a charitable mood.

Bennett House, North Carolina

Bennett House, North Carolina

The two generals were back at the table on the day following Henry’s letter home. On April 26  Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston would sign at Bennett’s Place, a humble farm house, a final agreement marking the biggest surrender in the Civil War. Henry was right on target when he said he would soon be home.  His company was mustered out 2 1/2 months later, July 13, 1865, at Louisville, Kentucky.

Between the surrender at Bennett’s Place and the 43rd’s travel to Louisville and journey home to Ohio, they would join with all of Grant’s army in a triumphant Grand Review in Washington D.C. on May 29, 1865. It is unfortunate that we do not have Henry Allen’s description of that glorious day. (This is the last surviving letter home from Pvt. Butts.) It is said that General Sherman took special pains to have his men bathed, trimmed and well dressed, since they had the reputation of being scruffy lot.  Their long marches and constant skirmishes had not left time to worry about their appearance.

Henry was one of the fortunate ones who made it home  in good shape. 4 officers and 61 enlisted men from the 43rd were killed or mortally wounded. 2 officers and 189 enlisted men died from disease.

This year is a special anniversary. You can attend the festivities marking the 150th anniversary of the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston to General William T. Sherman at Bennett’s Place in North Carolina this coming April. Follow the link for information.

*Since two of those letters from Goldsboro survived, we know Anna got them, but the third is missing and it is possible it never got to Ohio.

See Henry’s letter #3 here.

6 thoughts on “Civil War Letter #4 – Henry Loses His Temper

  1. Tom Fair

    Bunny

    It is really wonderful to read these letters. It puts one mentally in a time travel mode! The pictures also aide the imaginary time travel back to 1864.

    Tom Fair

    Reply
  2. Helen Holshouser

    i thoroughly enjoyed reading all the letters and your links to other info is very helpful. I live between Goldsboro and Raleigh, NC, so this was very moving to me. I had grandparents fighting in Petersburg also, so sad. Thank you for sharing this story. Helen

    Reply
    1. Vera Marie BadertscherVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      Helen,glad you enjoyed it. I was just wondering if a person with Southern lineage would find my writing slanted?
      And, have you read the book,This Astounding Close? Incredible book about the Carolinas campaign and treaty. I highly recommend it. Lots of letters and journals in addition to detailed research.

      Reply
      1. helen Holshouser

        Thanks for the recommendation of the book. It was painful to think of , to hear firsthand the account of a Union soldier marching all over our South. But since I had Yankee relatives as well, it just touched me all the way around! Such a sad event. If you haven’t seen it, you might find my most recent blog post on the Civil War interesting as well. Serendipity. heart2heartstories.com

        Reply
        1. Vera Marie BadertscherVera Marie Badertscher Post author

          Helen, I read your piece on your family in the Civil War. Your famy was kind of the country in microcosm.
          A British writer and I once toured the Chattanooga battlefield together. Having heard some Tennessee harangues about how the North destroyed a culture, he asked, “How long do you think it will take for people to get over?” I said, the war seemed not to have truly ended. He
          replied, “Well it took about 300 years in England.”
          So I guess we are half way there .

          Reply

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