1862: John Butler to Phebe Cass

This letter was written by John Butler (1841-1863), the eldest son of Jacob Butler (1817-1877) and Fanny Southwick (1824-1890) of Candor, Tioga county, New York. John enlisted at Candor on 18 August 1862 to serve three years in Co. H, 137th New York Infantry. He did not live long, however. He died in a military hospital of typhoid fever on 20 January 1863. Enlistment records indicate he stood 5 foot 10 inches tall, had light hair and blue eyes.

Butler mentions two other members of his company; John Silvernail (age 26 in 1862; discharge 2 August 1865), and William Snyder (age 18 in 1862; mustered out 9 June 1865). Both were from Candor.

Butler wrote the letter to his friend, Phebe Cass (1846-1868), the daughter of Samuel Cass (1824-1903) and Jane Harlan (1818-1881) of Candor. She died unmarried when she was 22 years old.


Addressed to Miss Phebe Cass, Straits Corners, Tioga county, N. Y.

September 9th 1862

My dear friend,

I now take my pen in hand to let you know that I am well at present and hope that these few lines will find you the same. I received your letter the 28th of October and was glad to hear that you was the reason that I did not write before. I could not get time. The day that I got your letter, we moved and it took us till night to get here and the next day we had to build up our tents and we had to keep moving around and then we had to go out on picket yesterday and we got back just now.

It is Sunday and we had fun. We killed a hog and skinned it and friend it and we had a good meal and we had some hens and the way we got them, we went and took them out out of the hen coop and we seen the rebels about a half a mile off from where we was but we could not shoot at them—they was too far off. But when we are at home, we are about 4 miles from them. But I can fetch them if I can get a shot at them.

We set up a mark the other day and 42 of us shot at it and no one hit the mark but me and I hit it in the center of the mark the first time.

The boys is all well that come off the hill—only John Silvernale,  he has got the measles, and William Snyder has got them [too].

I wish that I could see you and the rest of the folks but I can’t see you yet, but I hope that I shall see you all again. I received Catherine’s letter last month and was glad to hear from her. This is all—only write as soon as you get this.

From one of your best friends, — John Butler

To Phebe Cass

Direct your letters to John Butler, Washington D. C., 137th Regt. Co. H, NYSV in the care of Capt. E. F. Roberts.


[Included with the letter was the following poem sent to Phebe Cass, I suppose in remembrance of John Butler, that was claimed to have been written by “C. H.” The poem is a poor transcription of the a poem entitled, “For the Soldiers of the Potomac” claimed to have been written by John Fogerty in Hammond General Hospital published in “Brothers ’til Death, edited by Richard Trimble, page 85.]

The Soldier of the Potomac

Down where Potomac waters
Neath the sunbeams’ smile
Lay a Soldier weak and sighing
In delirium wild
Through his veins the raging fever
Wild and swift did seam
And the soldier bearer was wandering
Mid the scenes of home

Fond mother, dear father
To the soldier come wondering
For his brain was wildly
Mid the scenes of home

On his ear there fell the chiming
Of the old church bell
Come his mother’s tones so holy
That he loved so well
Hear the murmur of the brooklet
In te quiet dell
Scenes of sport in joyous childhood
On him cast there spell

Fons sister, dear brother
Greet the soldier now,
And he feels his mother’s kisses
On his aching brow

Farewell mother I am going
To my home of joy
Place my head upon your bosom
Kiss your darling boy
Lay my form within the churchyard
Where I loved to stray
Near the church wherein my childhood
First I learned to pray

Fond mother, dear father
To the Soldier come
For his brain was willy wandering
Mid the scenes of home

Bid my Mary, ease her weeping
When forever I am gone
Bid her oer my grave not warmer
Sadly and forlorn
Slow the Soldier’s eyes was closing
Faintly came his breath
With a murmur twas but Mary
Slpt the sleep of death

Weep comrades for the soldiers
Who have left your band
Make his grave beneath the will ow
In the Southern land.

Written by H. C. [Possibly Henry Cronk of Candor who served in the same company]

To Phebe Cass, Candor



November 23, 1862

My dear friend,

I now take my pen in hand to let you know that I am well and hope these few lines will find you the same. I have been sick two weeks with the measles but I am better now. Alford has had them too but he is better now. I received your letter the 14th and was glad to hear from you and [to] hear that you was well at present and all of the rest of them.

Mr. Stitson is here now and George Woolford is here too. They are a going to leave tomorrow for home. I got a letter from Catherine and from Ann Mackey today and they are all well. I would’ve wrote to you before if I had not been sick. I would like to see you and I may see you sometime. I hope I can see you before long. I hope I shall.

Our men shelled the rebels yesterday and they run. One of our men run over to the rebels and they give him a pass to go home and they say we will have to shoot him. It is Old Towner and I guess some of you know him.

The boys is well the most of them. Souil White is a dying now. He is in our company. He is the first man that has died in our company. We can see the rebels every day and that is good. I am well for them.

This is all this time only. Write as soon as you get this. From one of your friends — John Butler

To my friend Phebe Cass

John Silvernales is sick and he will have to go to hospital I guess. Goodbye.

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