These three letters were written by David Washington Humphrey [Humphries] (1843-1871) who enlisted in Co. H, 78th Pennsylvania Volunteers and was mustered into the federal service on 12 October 1861 for three years. He was promoted to a corporal on 17 December 1863 and mustered out with the company on 4 November 1864.
David was the son of William Humphrey (1799-1864) and Elizabeth Dunbar (1804-1890) of Worth, Butler county, Pennsylvania. He wrote the letters to Julia Ann Studebaker (1845-1913) whom he married on 29 December 1864 after being discharged from the service.
All three of these letters were written from Camp Starkweather which was located near Summerville on top of and at the north end of Lookout Mountain where the regiment spent the winter of 1863-64. The regiment did not participate in the Battles of Lookout Mountain & Missionary Ridge although they were eyewitness to the battles from their post inside of Fort Negley near Chattanooga.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
January 3rd 1864
My Beloved Julia,
I am once more permitted to address a few lines to you to inform you that I am well and sincerely hope these few lines may find you enjoying the same great blessing. I have not much of importance to write but I will try and scribble something to interest you.
I was on picket the night before New Year’s and when I came into camp on New Year’s morning, I got your letter but I could scarcely read it. It rained all day the day I was on picket and at night it got as cold as Greenland and we could not sleep a wink and I caught cold in my eyes so that I could not keep them open five minutes all day on New Year’s, but one or two nights sleep made them all right again. The weather has been middling cold up on this mountain ever since we came up here.
There was a ball up here on Christmas and one on New Year’s nights but I did not go to either one. I guess they did not amount to much. Everything is very dull up here. We very seldom ever get any papers and for that reason we do not know what is going on in the lower world. This mountain is three thousand feet above the level of Chattanooga. A person can see six different states from this mountain—Kentucky, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee.
This is Sunday and I did not know it until about one hour ago. We hardly ever know when Sunday comes until it is over. I received a letter from Ruth the same time I got yours. We have not got our boxes yet but I think it will soon be here. We are living pretty well now. We have biscuits every meal. I baked a lot today. You ought to see me in the dough mixing them up. I can make very good biscuits over the left. Well I must get some more paper. This sheet is full and nothing in it after all.
It is not much wonder you had such a storm up there after Jake getting married but such things will happen in the best regulated families.
I wrote to you about ten days ago and I suppose you have got it before this time. I have give up the notion of reenlisting. Tell John that I want him to write to me. I think that will be a very nice dress that you sent me a sample of but all that spites me is that I can not see you wear it for some time yet. But I hope the time is not far distant when we will meet again—but we will have to wait patiently for the wheels of time rolls very slow. But when we do meet, I trust it will be a happy meeting.
Well, my love, I must soon close for the present hoping to hear from you soon. Write soon for I love to hear from you. Excuse all mistakes, blots, and poor writing, if you please. I remain yours as ever, — D. W. H.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
January 17th 1864
My Dear Miss Julia,
I am now seated to reply to a very kind and welcome letter which I received from you on the 15th. Your letter found me well with the exception of a very bad cold, hoping that these few lines may find you in the best of health. I will proceed to inform you of what is going on in this wooden country.
The army is quietly encamped here in winter quarters. The cars came through to this place on the 15th for the first and I think we will soon get full rations again and I hope how soon it may be. The weather is not so cold now but it was awful cold about New Year’s. Lots of the boys froze their feet up here about that time but I think our coldest weather is over now. And when the weather is once over, our time will soon run around. It is said by some men that ought to know that our time will be out the 1st of June but I think we will have to stay until the 12th of October—the time that we was mustered into the U. S. Service. I heard yesterday that Col. [William] Sirwell is coming back and I hope it is so for we have very hard times getting along with Lt. Col. [Archibald] Blakeley.
D[avid] L. McNees and me has not got our box yet but expect to get it in a few days now. D. L. was telling me the other day that he heard that John Bennett was coming to this regiment. In your next, tell me if it is so or not. Lieut. Sam McBride is commanding our company. Capt. [Hugh A.] Ayres is under arrest upon some charge that D. L. McNees preferred against him and I suppose he will be tried by a court martial after he was reduced to the ranks. I have a notion to pull his nose for writing about my promotion. I did not want any person at home to know that.
This is Sunday and we will have inspection of arms and I must soon get ready for it.
Tell John that I have a crow to pick with him when I get home for what he said about you if he does not take it back. I am afraid they are imposing on you in my absence but if I get home, I will make it all right.
The orderly just now says there will be no inspection. Bully for that. Well for something else and I am at a loss to know what.
In your next letter, let me know who all is going with the girls and if any person is likely to be married and if so, who to.
Well, Julia, you want[ed] a long letter and I suppose I must write you a long letter but I will not say there will be much sense in it. 28 months ago today I left home—a day that I will remember as long as I live. That was the last time I beheld you in all your beauty. I thought you looked sweeter on that morning than I had ever seen you before and I wish I could see you this morning as I did then. But that cannot be yet awhile. It was a hard parting but duty demanded it. We all owe a great duty to our country and that must be performed first and then if we can have the pleasure, let us have it. But I will not enlist again now. Let them that has not been out come and serve their three years and if there is need of anymore, then I am willing to try it again. But I think the coming summer will end this war or at least it ought to if it is managed right.
Well, dear Julia, I must now close. I have nothing more to write—either sense or nonsense. Excuse all mistakes for I expect they are numerous. Write soon for I love to hear from you.
I will now close for the present. I remain yours as ever, — D. W. H.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Lookout Mountain, Tennessee
April 24th 1864
I am now seated to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 10th instant. I was very glad to hear from you and to hear that you are getting along so well and hope you will soon be well. I am enjoying excellent health at present. I may as well tell you now that I have very little news to write. There is nothing transpiring here that will interest any at home but everything that takes place at home interests a soldier.
The weather has become quite pleasant but still not too warm to be comfortable on the mountain. There is various reports about what we are going to do. We have a report that we will go out to the division; next that we are going to be provost guards for General Thomas. The regiment that is there now (the 10th Ohio) will leave for home next month—their term of service having expired. But no one knows what we will do. The 13th Michigan ¹ is up here now. They are pioneers. Their Colonel [Michael Shoemaker] has assumed command of all the forces on the mountain. He has an older commission than our colonel.
We drill about four hours every day now. We have a very large regiment now. We have all of the 79th Pennsylvania Volunteers that did not reenlist and a great many recruits that came for them and we have got some recruits for our own regiment. There was three came for our company today. They are all from Butler.
Well, I must soon close. It is after tattoo now and I will be on guard tomorrow. I received a letter a few days ago from Ruth but there was not much news in it. She had the toothache when she wrote.
When you write, give me all the news. Anything from home will be interesting to me. Write soon for I love to hear from you. I will now close for the present, hoping to hear from you soon. I remain yours, affectionately, — D. W. Humphrey
¹ Engineer duty at Chattanooga during the winter of 1863-64 and stationed at Lookout Mountain constructing military hospitals until September 1864.