This letter was written by Charles Cadwell Aiken (1839-1915), the son of Samuel Malstead Aiken (1807-1885) and Adeline Sarah Fox (1811-1892) of Sheridan, Calhoun county, Michigan. Charles came to Michigan from Wayne county, New York, in 1844 with his family where they settled on 160 acres northeast of Albion in Calhoun county. Charles was married in 1863 to Katherine (“Kate”) Milligan Brown (1845-1931), just two weeks before he entered the service.
From an obituary notice we learn: “Charles enlisted in Albion in March, 1863 in Battery L, 1st Michigan Light Artillery. He became 1st Sergeant of Co. K, 9th Michigan Cavalry, serving first in Kentucky and Tennessee, a participating in the pursuit of Morgan’s Raiders. The winter of 1863-64 he spent in the hospital at Detroit but recovered in time to join his company with General Sherman on the march to the sea, during a part of which he was in command of his company. He also fought in the Battle of the Wilderness. At Aiken, South Carolina, early in 1865, his horse was shot and Mr. Aiken was badly ruptured. As a result of injuries during the service he was an invalid for many years during the latter part of his life, but such was the loving care of his wife that his years were prolonged well beyond the allotted three score and ten.”
[Note: Charles interchangeably refers to himself in the first and third person throughout the letter; he also spelled his surname “Akins” which varies from the public records.]
Addressed to Miss Lill M. Akins, Albion, Calhoun county, Michigan
Camp near Nicholasville, Kentucky
April 22, 1864
Lille, Sister, Dear,
Charley just received your kind and loving letter. I was so glad to hear that you was all well and enjoying yourselves the best that [you] can. This is the first that I have heard from home since I left. Charley was beginning to think that you all had forgotten him. Three weeks ago today I got to Camp Nelson and the time has pass[ed] away pretty fast. It will be just one week ago tomorrow since I came here to Nicholasville, Kentucky, and I don’t know how long we will stay here nor I don’t care much. We have got a very nice camp ground and have got it clean[ed] up very nice, and we have enough to eat and to drink and not much to do.
I have not done anything yet—only to cook my grub and see what is agoing on. They is about twenty regiments of cavalry scattered around here. Most all of them is dismounted—have no horses. My regiment has not a few but I expect we will all have horses before we leave here and get our pat too. The regiment was paid off two months ago—all but two companies. One company is one of them and some says they will be paid off tomorrow. If they do, I will get my pay with them but I don’t think we will before the first of next month, it is so close at hand. They are a making out the rolls to muster now. We will muster the last day of this month. Then Charley will have quite a nice little pile of greenbacks but I intend to send the most of them home. Don’t you think that will be the best way? Of course you do, and does Charley. Yes indeed, every time.
Charley has got two letters from his wife; got one yesterday and one day before yesterday. The first one was mailed the fourteenth and the other one was mailed the eighteenth and yours was mailed the nineteenth all of this month. I have not got any letters that I told you all to send to Camp Nelson but perhaps they may come around yet. I hope so for it does Charley lots of good to get letters from home. And when I have half of a chance to write, I like to write to you all.
Charley is now sitting in his tent. There is two of the men stars in here with me. We have got a tent about twice as large as the other boys have for us three commands the company. We have not got any commission[ed] officers in our company so we have pretty good times of it. We went to work and made us a bunk out of some rails, drove some crotches in the ground and put some pieces across, and then laid rails across, and put some straw on, and then one blanket on top. So we are up off from the ground.
Well, I can’t think of much more to write this time and it is a gittin’ time to go to bed. The bugle has blown for lights to be put out and I think I have written a letter or two every day since I have come here to someone—but I have nothing else to do much—only to write.
Tell Pa I will send him some money just as soon as I get it and that will be pretty soon. And tell our folks not to be disappointed if they see Charley home now before long. Yes indeed. And tell the folks that Charley is well and quite as fat as a pig. It seems to agree with me first rate so far and I hope it will as long as I stay down here. Tell Bill that I think the war will end in about one year from tonight and tell him not to be in a burry to get married yet awhile. I was very glad that you and N___ both bore inspection and came out as well as any of them, I will have to git both of you a nice present this summer. You did not tell me whether N___had a school or not. Tell Bill I sent him one dollar in Martha’s letter and that I saw Capt. Phillips. He came up here to see me. He is making money like dirt. His headquarters is at Lexington, Kentucky. I think I will go down in a few days to see him. Tell Bill all of the boys from Albion is well. Childs is a Lieutenant in a colored regiment and I expect to be one in this regiment if nothing happens. But I don’t care much about it anyway. I had rather come home and work on the farm. I could make more money—that is so.
Well Lill, I will bid you goodnight. Pleasant dreams to you all and give my love to my dear wife and tell her to keep good courage and I will do the same. Write soon.
Charley thinks some of getting his likeness taken and I don’t know which one to send it to hardly unless I send it to ma and I guess that I will. Please write and tell me what you think about it. No more this time. Goodbye.
From your Brother Sergeant Charley C. Akins to his affectionate sister Lill.
Tell Pa & Ma they must not work too hard and Charley would like to have them write to me. Tell Cornelia and Martha and Mary I would like to hear from them first rate.
These two tintypes were sold with the letter and may have been members of the Aikens family. At left, possibly Charley’s mother; at right, possibly his sisters.