1862: Samuel May Fleming to Augustus Stair

This letter was written by Sgt. Samuel May Fleming (1838-1916) of Co. A, 78th Pennsylvania Infantry. Samuel enlisted as a musician in October 1861 but was quickly promoted to sergeant. He was discharged on 4 November 1864 after three years of service.

Samuel was the son of James Fleming (1810-1864) and Elizabeth Shirley (1808-1889) of Washington township, Indiana county, Pennsylvania. He wrote the letter to Augustus Stair (1829-1909), a stone mason who was a near neighbor to the Fleming farm. It should be noted that Samuel spelled Augustus’s name as “Steer” as did census takers, but the name on the headstone is “Augustus Stair.”

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Addressed to Augustus Steer, Chambersville, Indiana county, Penna.
Postmarked “Nashville, Ten.”

Camp Bill Sirwell
Maury county, Tennessee
April 12, [1862]

Friend Gust,

I take the present time to write a few thoughts to you after my respects to you and your family. I am well and hope you are enjoying the same donation. Well, Gust, it is a good while since I got your letter. I ought to have wrote sooner but if you will excuse me, I will tell you a little of what’s going on down here.

We are encamped about 35 miles south of Nashville along the railroad engaged in guarding the bridges. Our regiment has about 30 miles of railroad to guard. Col. [William G.] Sirwell has had his headquarters at Franklin. There is three companies here under the charge of Capt. [William] Cummins.

One of the greatest and bloodiest battles of modern times was fought at Pittsburgh Landing near Corinth, Mississippi, 70 miles south of here. It resulted in the complete rout of the rebels. The arch traitor General [Albert S.] Johnston was killed. Beauregard had his arm shot off. It was a glorious but dear bought victory. Our loss in killed and wounded from 18 to 20 thousand. That of the rebels 40 thousand.

The citizens around here takes it very hard—the women in particular. Many of them had sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers in the fight. The panic is awful. They think they [were] wiped out. There is no hope for the success of their cause. You may expect to hear of the funeral of Rebellion ‘ere long. It’s thought by many that this is the last battle but time will tell these things. The victory at Island No. 10 was a glorious one too. At that place, there were 3 Generals, 6 thousand prisoners, 100 siege guns, besides a large number of field pieces and other stores captured.

We have a first rate time here. Nothing to do except go on guard every 4th day, plenty to eat, and all in good health. The citizens around here uses us very well but they are all secesh. The women comes to camp to see us and to gratify the curiosity they have to see a Yankee.

This is the prettiest country ever I saw. It beats Old Pa. in everything & quality. The corn is planted and some of it is up. It would make you laugh to see hiw they farm. Old negroes, very poor oxen and mules with old harness—not harness but old backbands made out of cloth, old rope lines tied to the bridle bit at each side. Worse yet, they have nothing but old wooden plows that you would not score out with.

But I must soon close for the mail will go out before long. It is very pleasant weather here. There is a little rain now and then but that don’t trouble us much. We enjoy ourselves in fishing, pitching rings, wrestling, and various other employments.

Let Father read this if you please. I have nothing more to write that would interest you. Excuse all mistakes and bad writing. I wrote to Gill yesterday and I will write to Sady in a day or two. Give my respects to Adam Carnahan. I wrote to him a letter a long time ago. I don’t know whether he got it or not.

Tell the Home Guards to not be scared. They are in no danger yet and I think they will get leave to stay at home to reap the rewards of their C. Y. [cowardly] conduct.

Nothing more at present but remain your friend, — S. Fleming

To Augustus Steer

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