Tag Archives: letters

52 Ancestors, Letter #1: Dear Wif–Civil War letter to Anna Mariah Smith

Anna Marie (Ann Mariah) Smith 1835-1917

Henry Allen and Ann Marie Butts

I am having great difficulty finding definitive information about Ann Mariah or Annie Smith, my great-grandmother. (To make it even more fun, her mother was Mary Smith–yeah, you try to find the documents for Mary Smith!!) I have Annie’s picture when she was an older lady, and I know that she married my great-grandfather Henry Allen Butts, who wrote to her in these Civil War letters I will be sharing.

However, her name is in question (Anna in some census reports, apparently called Annie by her husband and family, Mary, Marie or Mariah middle name in various family trees. Although I have not discovered a birth record, everyone (including my father’s notes and the 1900 census) agree she was born on April 12 1835 and her maiden name was Smith. Census reports say she was born in Ohio and her parents were born in Maryland. When did she die? My father’s notes say 1915, but the Ohio Deaths index says April 23, 1917.

When were she and Henry married? My father’s notes and other family members and family trees say August 23, 1863. However, the 1900 census, taken in June of that year, says she and Henry had been married 35 years. Furthermore, Homer Blubaugh’s history of the family reports that the marriage license on file at the Knox County Probate Court, they were married on August 23,1864. If that year is correct, they would have been married only one month before the birth of their first son, Giles Allen. This could point to a scandal of sorts, and clarify their accepting attitude when daughter Mame later got pregnant out of wedlock.

At any rate, less than a month after baby Giles Allen (called Allen in his father’s letter) was born, Henry Allen  joined the Union Army. (Enlistment date: October 16, 1864). Three months later, December 18, he writes the first of the surviving Civil War letters to his bride.

Dear Wif, it is a pleasure to me that I em permited to seat myself to anser your ever welcom letter which came to hand yesterday. i was glad that you and dear little Allen was well. your letters found me well and enjoying myself as well as i can enjoy my self better since i herd from you for it hes bin a long time to me.

This Civil War letter is written during the Siege of Savannah.  Henry Allen Butts was part of reinforcement troops joining General William Tecumsah Sherman and after training in Ohio, they had taken steamboats south and  between mid-November and mid-December they marched across Georgia, in Sherman’s destructive March to the Sea. See more about his troop movements here, and details of the 43rd Ohio here.

Sherman's March to the Sea

Henry Allen Butts joined Sherman’s Army in November, in the March to the Sea. From WikiMedia Commons.

i must tell you the reason i did not hear from you sooner we started on this march the 15 of november and landed hear on the 10 of this month we had no comunication all that time but it all right now we have had a hard march over three hundred miles. some nights we did not get time to lay down and hardly time to eat but we ar through and i em glad.

Although Henry Allen is not strong on spelling and punctuation (I have added periods at the ends of sentences for clarity) he gives a vivid picture of his battle experience, and shows us a kind and thoughtful husband.

i did not think that i wold write to you this day for we laid under the rebels fire boath Saturday and Sunday and the shells and balls flew thick and fast. thear was one shell bursted about ten feet from me and broke three of our guns so i begin to think that was coming rather close and i got behind the fortification. i was out on the bank at the time getting a drink. thear was 7 of our regt wonded. none in our company. we came out safe and i hope we always will. i don’t think we will here eny more fighting before Savanah for after the fight last Sunday we moved 15 miles to the right to guard the steamboat landing perhaps we will stay hear some time.

Two days after Henry Allen wrote this letter, the Southern General William Hardee fled Savannah. Meanwhile, the infantry private was glad to stay in one place for a time. We know from historic reports that Sherman’s army was running very low on supplies, and as either the Southerners or the Union army had destroyed most resources, could not live off the land they occupied. I was amused to see that Henry Allen agrees with Erasmus Anderson, whose letters I printed last year, about the Southern sweet potatoes. And obviously missing home, he nevertheless plays down the danger he faces.

Sherman's March to the Sea

Sherman’s Headquarters. Drawing from Harper’s Weekly 1864.

we have a nice camp and plenty of good water and plenty of coffee that is the only thing i like the army for.  this is the most beautifull cuntry i ever seen. it is all sandy land and nothing but pine timber. this is a grate of state for s(w)eet potato we have plenty of them to eat. i wich you had some but you and me will have some wen i come home. i hope that day is not far distant . my dear don’t think hard wen you don’t get a letter for thear is times we can’t send a letter. i will write to you as often as i can.

Henry Allen does not frequently mention other people in his letters. But in this first surviving letter, he does mention “Henry.”  A distant cousin, corresponding with my brother, identified “Henry” as the older brother of Annie Smith Butts. “I. Stull” [Stall] might be a relative of Henry Allen on his mother’s side. I have not identified “Landon,” nor traced Henry or I. Stull (who could be Jerimiah or William Stull, both listed with K Company.)

you stated in your letter that henry had bein home. i was glad to hear that he got home to see his dear littel ones.  you also stated that Ma cs [?} wanted you to come and live with them. i don’t want you to go thear or any other place. you stay wear you ar. i can make enough to keep you without living amoung strangers. i want you to stay wear you ar if i have to pay your bording all the time i am away. i don’t want people to say that my wife had to work out amoung strangers. dear wife i want you to send me four plugs of navy tobacco as soon as you can. the boys is all well. I Stull is with the company. give my love to all friends. landon got a letter.

 As was the case with Erasmus Anderson’s letters, Henry Allen closes with some instructions for his wife and a request for some tobacco so he could roll his own cigarettes.

Note:  According to Wikipedia definition of “Navy Cut Tobacco“: Navy tobacco is a Burley leaf pipe tobacco. In colonial times sailors twisted tobacco into a roll and “tied it tightly, often moistening the leaves with rum, molasses, or spice solutions.” Stored in this way the flavors melded. To smoke it a slice was cut, known as a “twist” or “curly”. Eventually all twisted tobacco, and then pressed tobacco, became known as “Navy” “because of the convenience for sailors and outdoorsmen who favored its compact size “and long-lasting, slow-burning qualities.” Navy Flake tobacco is pressed into bricks and sliced into broad flakes.

From Henry Allen’s Letter, we know that his wife Annie is loved and cared for. The four letters that survive are spaced close together, so I suspect there may have been more. We also learn that she has offered to go to work in someone’s home so that he will not have to pay for her room and board, and that his pride prevents that possibility.

After Henry returned from the war in May 1865, he purchased 12 1/2 acres of land for $400 near Millwood, Ohio. Despite the fact he now had his own place, Henry continued to work as a laborer.  According to family recollections compiled by Homer Blubagh, they had a large vegetable garden and she was well known for her beautiful flowers. She and Henry had five more children. The last child, Rebecca Jane (Jenny), was born in 1874 when Anne was 39. Jenny is the only person of that generation that I remember meeting. I was very young and she must have been in her late 70s when my family visited her in Mt. Vernon Ohio.

Later in their lives, Henry and Annie lived near the grain elevator in Danville Ohio.  From later recollections of relatives, we know that Annie was very devout, frequently walking several miles to church down a country lane, carrying her youngest at the time.

  • Their oldest, Giles Allen, known as “Uncle Golly,” (b. 1864), did not leave home to marry until he was 23.
  • In 1891 their daughter Mary Isadore, “Mame”, “got in a family way” and she and Henry Allen took in Mame’s illegitimate daughter to raise.
  • A year later, her next son, Monas Isaac, “Mon”, (b. 1867), was married, and Mame married Clifford Kaser (my grandparents).
  • Son Francis Cerius,  “Frank” (b. 1872) was married in 1894.
  • Daughter Rebecca Jane, “Jenny” (b. 1874) was married in 1898.
  • The next year, Annie and Henry’s daughter Ann Elizabeth, “Bessie”, who was engaged to be married, died of appendicitis (“inflammation of the bowels”) at the age of 26.

My great grandmother Annie Smith Butts died in April 1917 at the age of 82, and was survived by her husband, Henry Allen Butts.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Paul Kaser, who is the son of
  • Mary (Mame) Isadore Butts Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Ann Mariah Smith Butts.

Research Notes

  • Letters home from Henry Allen Butts. I do not have the originals or copies of the originals. I only have transcripts which my brother obtained from a man named Colopy who had the originals and lived in San Diego. There was a Colopy who was a grand daughter of Ivan Henry Smith mentioned in the letter.
  • Letter from Marie Smith to my brother, Paul William Kaser (1983). (copy in my possession).
  • Hand written notes (circa 1970) by my father, Paul Kaser, made about birth,death and marriage dates .
  • Transcripts of a Butts Family Bible provided to me by Jane Butts Kilgore in 2003, owned at the time by James E. Butts. Other carefully researched information on the Butts family was also sent to me by Jane Butts Kilgore.
  • “A History of the Henry Allen Butts Family” by Rev. Homer Blubaugh, Saint Mary Church, Lancaster, Ohio.  This is a combination of documented and anecdotal information about the Butts family from Ohio. Some was gathered at family reunions. Some is downright wrong, but some is quite interesting. My copy was sent by Butts descendent Helen Findon in 2003. The document says Revised May 11, ’92 – Rev. Homer Blubaugh. Copies in the authors’ possession.
  • For information on the 43rd Ohio: http://www.ohiocivilwar.com/cw43.html (consulted 1/13/2015)
  • For rosters of Ohio Civil War soldiers: http://www.ogs.org/research/results_ohcwss.php
  • A Compendium of The War of the Rebellion, Vol III, Regimental Histories, page 1599 and page 1517. Relevant copies of pages provided by my brother from library copy.
  • Letter from The War Department,  Adjutant General’s Office to Mrs. Truman Bucklew, Killbuck Ohio, December 6, 1934. In the author’s possession.
  • Application for veteran’s tombstone (from Ancestry.com) and personal visit to St. Luke’s cemetery in Danville, Ohio.

This is the 2nd in my 2015 stories in the 52 Ancestor’s Challenge.

Letters From E–The Civil War Letters of Erasmus Anderson

Letters From Private Erasmus Anderson, Union Army, Ohio 16th Volunteer Infantry, and the end of his part of the war.  If you missed this Civil War series, here is an easy guide to lead you through the sequence.

Erasmus Anderson Civil War Letter

One of the letters from Erasmus Anderson to his wife “Suzi” 1862

Letter One:Cheerful Beginnings, Cincinnati, Ohio, September 10, 1862

In a Bad Humor at Camp Dennison, Camp Dennison, near Cincinnati, Ohio, October 7, 1862

Hard March to Kanawha Valley, Kanawha Valley Virginia (now West Virginia), October 26, 1862

November in Charleston, Charleston Virginia (now West Virginia), November 5, 1862

December in Memphis, Memphis Tennessee. Undated, but army camped twenty-three days, starting November 26, 1862.

The Civil War Wounded and The Hospital Ship Red Rover , Mississippi River, January 5, 1863

Civil War Deserters, Mississippi River, January 20, 1863

Politics and Peaches, Army of the Mississippi, February 17, 1863

In the Dark Woods of the Mississippi, No location, Undated letter, could have been between January 13 and 20 on boat on White River.

Vicksburg Campaign Starts ,Richmond Louisiana, April 8, 1863

Water, Water Everwhere on March to Vicksburg, Carthage, Louisiana, April 20, 1863

At the Perkins Plantation , Louisiana, April 27. The last existing letter.

The Union Army Marches into Battle in Mississippi April-May 1863

From Battle to Battle Fighting through Mississippi to Vicksburg May 16-22, 1863

The End of the Erasmus Story May 22, 1863

December in Memphis-Erasmus Anderson Letter #5: Laying in Camp

Memphis, Tennessee.

Sudy, we have a kind of breeze today coming down from your way which is rather cool and it is snowing a kind of a soft snow which is not a very common thing here.

Erasmus Anderson Civil War Letter

December in Memphis, letter  from Erasmus Anderson to his wife “Suzi” 1862

The person who transcribed this read the first word as ‘Sudy,’ but it doesn’t look like that to me. What do you think? Is ‘Sudy’ a nickname for Susanne? What is that fancy first letter?

I am including this photo so you can see that even when he is in camp, and not entirely happy, E. manages to write beautifully, and orderly script.

On November 13, 1862, after a three-day march to the Ohio River and another march to Cincinnati, the Union soldiers of the 16th O.V.I. boarded boats and headed over to the Mississippi River and south to Memphis, Tennessee. The 16th occupied two boats–the Key West and the Mamora. Although this letter is not dated, it is clear that Erasmus wrote it after they had alighted from the boats on November 26, and before they had an inkling they would get back on boats again on December 20 to sail toward Vicksburg. They were to spend most of December in Memphis.

A boat probably similar to one Erasmus rode December Memphis

A transport boat probably similar to the one Erasmus rode on. Matthew Brady photo of The Lookout on the Tennessee River . From the National Archives.

Along the way, as they marched back up the Kanawha Valley to the Ohio River, and traveled by boat down the Mississippi, they saw reminders of previous battles, for as Cpl. Theodore Wolbach tells us in “Camp and Field”,

From the beginning of the war, Ohio soldiers had operated in West Virginia.  The historian tints the face of war with glory, but the soldier sees the ghastiliness of the background where his comrades sleep in the mysterious shadows.

This particular letter interests me as much for what it does not say as for what it does. A large portion of the letter shows that E’s mind is back on the farm. He opens with an evaluation of the land of Tennessee.

The people are busy here gathering in their cotton.  The weather is always nice and warm here only when it is storming and it is a nice beautiful country and I think a good country for a poor man to live in, niggers and all.  A good cotton picker can make ten dollars a day.  A man can get a dollar a cord for cutting wood and boarded and a man can get from 2 to 3 dollars and board for all kinds of work.

The pay, overdue by 4 months, finally arrived while the men were on the river, according to Wolbach, and that has led to all kinds of trouble with illegal purchases leading to inebriation leading to arrests and to desertions.  But it also means the men have been able to buy things they have been deprived of and peddlars did a good business in guns, boots and even counterfeit Southern money when the army stopped briefly at Cincinnati. Now they are in Memphis, everything is for sale–but expensive, as Erasmus notes in his discussion of sweet potatoes.

sweet potatoes

Everything we can buy is 3 prices except sweet potatoes which we think cheap at $1.00 a bushel.  They are so big and good. I want you to save some seed if you can and if I don’t get home in time you can put them to sprout for I want to have some if I am at home next fall.

E. is longing to know about the farm, rather than talk about his experiences in the army. Between the lines, he is surely saying “Do you miss me? Am I needed on the farm?”

I want you to write and tell me all about everything, tell me how you get along for wood.  If you had a wood machine and whose you had and how they sawed and where they got it and how you are getting along with your corn and how the sheep is getting along.  It will pay you to shear sheep next spring, but the pasture was all burnt up so I don’t expect they will do very well this winter.

When he does talk about his present experience, he doesn’t tell us anything about the 12-day trip on the rivers.  That surprises me, since one would think such an observant fellow would have found a lot of new things to see.  If you want to learn some of the intresting sights and experiences, you’ll have to read Wolbach’s “Camp and Field” pages 46 to 49.  As for Erasmus, he didn’t like the experience, but doesn’t seem to be doing a sightseeing around Memphis, either.

December in Memphis-pre war

Memphis before the Civil War. By Boyd Jones on Flickr.

There is a good deal of sickness in the regiment now, and I will not tell you about them you don’t know.  We were kept huddled up on the boat too long for the good of men.  Only think of 4 or 5 hundred men all on one little boat, all cooking on one bit of a box stove and you may have some idea of the confusion there is in such a place.  Then another thing is eating trash that they are not used to and it takes but little hurt them then.

Wolbach has an interesting story about “eating trash”.

..peddlars selling Washington pie–soft sweet filling like gingerbread, “was popular with the boys until it was discovered that the refuse being carried away from camp by the slop-gatherers contributed to the making of the pie.” 

Erasmus didn’t know about that, or didn’t care to mention it, now that he is back on land, He even gets a bit humorous.

We have the best times here we have seen yet.  We draw good bread and part of the time fresh beef which goes mighty good and most of the times warm [weather] which makes us feel as good as snakes in a spring sunny day… We are having good times here now for if a soldier ever had good times it is when he is laying camp, for it is not while marching, that is sure.

Erasmus mentions people whom Suzi knows, and I am trying to track down if they are neighbors or relatives (any help gratefully accepted).  In this letter, he mentions “Jake”–last name illegible “has had his trial but has not his sentence yet.” Although the name on the written copy of the letter does not look like Korn, there is a Jacob Korn in the company that was released on habeus corpus in December 1962.

E. also mentions that John has sent a letter to Julia, and he once again mentions E. [Ephraim] Cellars who has come to his regiment.

And, typically for Erasmus, he is thinking about how the war is going and when it will end.  He tells Suzi not to bother with sending newspapers–but he does not mention, as Wolbach does that there are newspapers peddled on the streets of Memphis which the soldiers avidly read.

It is hard to tell when this war will end but I think if we can’t whip them between this and spring, I think England and France would be perfectly justified in putting a stop to this wholesale butchery….[and later he adds]I don’t know how long we will have to stay but the boys all think it will be over by next summer. I know they all want it over…Hoping the time will not be long till I can return to them I hold dearer than my own life.

E. Anderson

See Letter #4: November in Charleston.

And Letter #6: Civil War Wounded

Notes: I apologize if you are upset by Erasmus’ language, but it is the language that he used and I think it is important to be true to his own expression, and the times he lived in. I do not believe there is any particular malice intended, although I believe it demonstrates that he is not fighting to free the slaves. He is not here as an abolitionist, but as a patriot who does not want the country divided.

Besides the Civil War letters which I use with the permission of a descendant of Erasmus’ widow and her second husband,, sources here include:

  • A site devoted to the 16th OVI that is a real treasure trove of information about Ohio’s soldiers in the Civil War. That site is the source for Cpl. Wolbach’s “Camp and Field” report which was published in the 1880s.
  • Ancestry.com where I find birth, census death, military and other records of my ancestors.
  • The Matthew Brady photograph of a river transport ship comes from WIkipedia, and I suggest you click on the photo to learn more about it, and restrictions on its reuse. Sweet potatoes and Memphis photos are from Flickr, used with a Creative Commons license.