William Jasper Andrews and John Calvin Andrews were brothers who
both fought in the Civil War. Thirty-three
letters written to or by them during the Civil War have been
preserved. The following commentary was written by Robert Schwier.
A few comments about the letters:
War letters, when quoted, are generally transcribed exactly as written
including spelling and local slang (even including Indiana "isms".)
was actually not considered all that important at that time and
dictionaries were not all that common. Some of the spelling was quite
interesting. Jasper still used the sf, as the Germans still do, in
place of ss in words.
In some cases, Jasper used
stationery which he got from somewhere which had some printing on it.
In those cases, I used a font that approximated the pre-printing on the
letters. Letter numbers 1-2,
1-16, 1-17, and 1-18 are examples.
In one case, letter #1-3,
Jasper finished writing to his brother, another soldier, Madison
Nolan, who appears to have known John, added a note on the letter.
Seeing the original helped to decipher this one.
in some cases Jasper was very factual on numbers, in others he was
apparently influenced by the rumors always prevalent in the ranks.
There are some very interesting comments and observations in the letters and a few are very heartrending.
Letters #1-3 and 1-4
tell about the initial sickness in most ranks. Farm boys generally led
a secluded life and did not develop much natural immunity. When they
enlisted and were thrown together, often as many as half would come
down with measles, mumps, the flu, etc. until they developed immunity.
These diseases are not considered serious for children, but can be life
threatening for grown men. Generally city boys, like those from New
York, were immediatly ready to fight since living in the city had
exposed them to all of these things early in life.
December 10th & 11th, was one of the Union’s great disasters and
Burnside lost 12,653 men to the South’s 5,309. Jasper had the figures
about right in letter #1-4
#2-1 We don’t know which brother this letter was addressed to, John or Jasper. It is interesting to note that George, who was then about 20, was returning to school and James Anderson was his teacher. Phillip Jones died and “his sale goes off tomorrow.” I assume this means his farm and belongings are being sold, probably at auction, to settle his estate.
tells how they were put in camp in a low place and the rain flooded
them out. They made a raft in their tent out of stolen fence poles and
covered it with straw and "slept fine." Life was very basic in those
This letter is the first from the Porter
family. Relia (given name
Aurelia) was 20 years old at this time. She does not write a real happy
letter – “…it seems to hard to for the young men to go off, and just be
killed by hundreds and without accomplishing anything after all.” At
that time, the war was going poorly and everyone was in low spirits.
She speaks of going down to “scrape lint.” I have found that the
medical people at that time asked the public to scrape lint off of
cloth and then the lint was collected and used for wounds. A handful of
lint would be wetted and pressed onto the wound. It was felt that the
“wet lint compress” helped “suck out poisons” and aided healing.
#2-3 Where the salutation does not identify the addressee, but there was an envelope, I placed the address from the envelope at the top of the letter. Measles was often a lethal disease during the Civil War, especially when contracted as an adult. The battle of Murfreesboro occurred Dec. 31, 1862 and Jan. 1 & 2, 1863. Rosecrans lost more men, over 12,000, and did not run the battle very well, but Bragg, the Southerner, gave up the field and therefore, most of Tennessee. So the North felt they had won. It was a bloody conflict and only on the last day did the North really whip the South who was trying to cross a small stream. The Union had 58 cannon with grape shot directed against the oncoming Southerners who were concentrated together due to the terrain (one third died within a few minutes.) Lincoln sent Rosecrans great congratulations, in part because he didn’t understand the battle, and in part due to the need of the country for a “win.” Note that often ago is written “a go” and about “a bout.”
#2-4 Attia Porter was 15 at this time and already had a “beau.” Note that Relia wishes she were a boy so she could go to war. Judge Porter was a strong abolitionist and the girls generally seemed to follow his lead. She does again write things not designed to help morale by suggesting she could only be proud of an officer. On thinking, apparently, she then modifies this statement in the next sentence. Relia tries some Victorian level flirting in asking for special information from John. There is no indication of why she wants this information. I do not know the relationship of “Cal Andrews,” “Cousin Ethan” or “Cousin James.”
#2-5 This letter is interesting because it shows the abolitionist views of the family. Apparently, most of the Andrews family was also Republicans (abolitionists.) Your Great Aunt Marjorie wrote her master’s thesis on the question of Southern sentiment in Indiana during the war. It turns out there was a strong, but abortive, movement to form a third country composed of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and perhaps Wisconsin and Michigan. The Democrats (sometimes referred to as “copperheads,”) had won the legislature in Indiana during the bad part of the war and Governor Morton, a Republican, went to Lincoln for help. They found that the legislature could only be convened on the request of the Governor, so, for the next two years, Morton never convened the legislature; Lincoln gave the state money to run the government; and secession was never debated or voted on! ! ! In the southern part of Indiana, slavery was not considered too bad. Wealthy men often had a “man servant” who was a slave and they hated to give up this little perk of the times. The Porters had a black man, apparently an escaped or freed man, to help around the house and the girls liked him. Another reason for Southern sympathy in southern Indiana was that most of their produce went south. The war cut off their markets until the railroads could handle the shipment of their product to the East.
Hunt Morgan, leader of "Morgan’s Raiders," was a particular scary
problem for most Union men in the west. He appeared and disappeared
almost at will. In this case, Union General Rosecrans was particularly
pleased that Morgan was far north in Kentucky bothering Jasper and his
fellow soldiers and out of the way. Rosecrans was just beginning to
move from Nashville to Murfreesboro leading in time to the Union
victory at Stones River. At any rate, Morgan was very brash and
apparently wired false information to the local Union General which led
to Jasper marching back to base and avoiding a fight. A lot of the
letters refer to Morgan and the fear he put into the men. Jasper also
refers to "those Butternuts" with disgust, which refers to people in
Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio who favored ending the war and allowing the
South to secede.
tells of his visit to Fort Donaldson the day after the fight. This
battle was the first real Union victory and gave Ulysses S. Grant the
nickname "Unconditional Surrender Grant." This was a case of Jasper
getting his figures all out of wack. Grant had 27,500 men and the
Confederates 17,500. This is still not very many Union men since
normally a 3 to 1 advantage is needed when attacking a fixed position.
Actually, in most clashes before the surrender, the North had lost more
men than the South. Grant lost about 3,000 casualties (including
wounded) and the Rebels 2,000.
#2-6 This letter gives an interesting picture of the costs of products during the war. Wheat today goes for about $2.50 per bushel and 140 years ago it was selling for $1.15; amazing! considering the change in other costs over the years. Every so often the government would issue a request for men, this one was for 600,000 and George thinks that no one will be left to do the farming. Apparently George thought that John was good with the ladies.
tells of the small battle that resulted in all of the 85th Regiment,
except Jasper’s Company D, being captured. Their General was placed
under arrest for his actions. This problem was common in the regiments
posted in the rear where the main generals put their less qualified
senior officers. It was very frustrating for the men however.
Attia realizes that Grant is working to take Vicksburg. (They got it on
July 4th at the same time as the Gettysburg victory.) It was felt at
that time that the army in the East, (Army of the Potomac) did nothing
but lose and they were generally right. However, General McClellan was
an outstanding organizer with a lot of charisma and the men loved him.
He was great in peacetime; just not good when there was a war. He
always thought he was outnumbered and was adverse to risk of any sort.
Her story about the lottery to find people to write to is interesting.
#2-8 George used some real patriotic paper for this, and other, letters and at the end you can read my summary of the picture and an excerpt from the Star Spangled Banner in the upper left corner. He describes a battle that Jasper was in, but we do not have Jasper’s letter so far as I know. Letter No. 1-7 was to his Father and tells of a battle that they lost. Letter No. 1-6 tells of Jasper arriving at Fort Donaldson a day or so after the battle. Neither of these seems to agree with this letter from George to John. There may have been another battle, regarded as a skirmish by historians and not recorded officially anywhere.
#2-9 Attia refers to “butternut” girls. This is a phrase common at the time to refer to people who are in favor of the South. There were quite a few in southern Indiana and in Corydon. Note she refers to the “grand victory in Pennsylvania” which is, of course, Gettysburg. She, like most others, again expected the war to be over shortly by taking Richmond. A Union officer captured a horse and sent him to the Porters to care for until the war is over. Judge Porter really is a Republican and went over to Leavenworth, (Indiana I think) to fight, but was too late. She refers to their “little Contraband” which is the black person they have around the house. This word indicates he was an escaped slave.
tells a lot about the general feelings of the men and reading the
letters you can see how Jasper gets optimistic when things go well and
downhearted when they go bad.
Note that the Andrews had only 24 acres of wheat and 18 acres of oats
plus “some grass.” By today’s standards, that is certainly not much of
a farm, but it was supporting the whole family. George describes the
final capture of Morgan and his men in Ohio. This raid went on from
July 2nd to the 26th when he was captured in Liverpool, Ohio. Actually,
the Union was very good in catching him since they anticipated his
actions and kept the Ohio River guarded so that he had to keep moving
and couldn’t get back south. Finally he ran down and they caught him.
He had been ordered not to cross the Ohio in the first place, thereby
irritating the Southern command. Apparently quite a few of his men were
sent to Indianapolis and the newspapers carried the information that
George relates in his letter.
#2-11 If you read no others, this letter is worth reading. Attia describes the Battle of Corydon in considerable detail. There is a book written by Frederick Porter Griffin with the not-too-catchy title "134 Years With Three Generations Of Porters And Griffins In The Governor's Headquarters." The description of the incident is on page 17 of the book is as follows:
"Judge Porter was a staunch supporter of the North in the Civil War. He was too old to serve in the Union Army, but he helped to defend Corydon against the Confederate Raiders of General John H. Morgan on July 9, 1863. Following the battle, word reached Corydon that a white-haired elderly Home Guard had been killed in the skirmish. His daughter, Aurelia, together with a girl companion, started for the battle field. When they reaached the Mauckport hill at the south edge of Corydon, General Morgan's main force had filled the road and was descending the hill. General Morgan inquired of the girls as to where they were going; they stated their purpose to investigate the possibility of Judge Porter being killed. General Morgan was very polite; he offered his regrets in the matter, and sent Basil Duke, a Confederate officer, to accompany the girls so they would not be molested. Upon reaching the battle field, the girls learned that Col. Jacob Ferree had been killed, not Judge Porter. The Judge and others of the Home Guard were able to make their escape from the Rebels, and successfully hid themselves and their Henry rifles. They returned to their homes the following morning when the Rebels were well to the north."
Attia does not give Morgan
credit for this gentlemanly action on his part. Also very important was
the fact that Judge Porter did not lose his Henry rifle. The Henry
rifle that Judge Porter had purchased was one of the first repeating
rifles and was quite important to the Union late in the war. Many of
General Sherman’s men had them and the Rebel semi-humorous saying was
that “Sherman’s men loaded on Sunday and fired all week.” Attia refers
to Morgan giving the “copperheads” a hard time. This apparently was
caused by the belief, generally held by the South, that as they went
north, the people would join their cause and “swell the ranks.” In
truth Morgan, and even General Lee in Maryland, found that while people
might not like the war, they were not ready to fight for the South
either. In the case of Morgan, a hot head, he could get mad about this
problem. As was common, the Rebels confiscated “their property,” the
Porter’s black hired hand, but of course, he escaped later and returned
to the Porters.
#2-12 This letter from John to his brother talks surprisingly openly about women. Apparently, the men were marrying in Arkansas and then sending the new wives home to Indiana. Historians writing about the Civil War often mention how the war caused the men to travel great distances and meet other people with different cultures and views and the country really became more cosmopolitan after the war. Marrying and sending the wives home would be part of this. There is a veiled reference here to Lewis Wellman perhaps having an affair while in the service and expecting problems when he goes home. [The maternal grandfather of John and Jasper Andrews was Lewis Wellman. He would have been 75 when this letter was written. The Lewis Wellman referred to here is probably another relative.]
the serious Union defeat at Chickamauga, Grant was placed in command in
the West. Shortly the victory at Look Out Mountain and Missionary Ridge
followed. When he took over, the Union was holed up in Chattanooga and
Jasper tells about the work to rearm the men there for the comming
fight in letter #1-12.
#2-13 John refers to “old Marmaduke.” I can find no reference to such an engagement as he mentions and probably it was a small one by Civil War standards. Cavalry officers were a wild lot, perhaps similar to modern fighter pilots, and Marmaduke was one of these. He was a West Point trained General and led a group of Southern horsemen all over the Missouri Kansas area. This part of the war was a dirty mean little war with repeated atrocities. Anderson, a guerilla fighter, took a small town and killed every male in the town and was proud of it stating, “I ask no quarter and give none.” Marmaduke was aristocratic and inclined to a short temper. While fighting with another Southern cavalry officer, General Walker, he felt that Walker had not supported him and called him a coward. Walker replied with a challenge and the terms were “pistols at ten paces to fire and advance.” Walker was mortally wounded in the second firing. Shelby Foote refers to this event with disgust as “The conditions of honor having been satisfied in accordance with the code – which, presumably, was one of those things the South was fighting to preserve as part of its ‘way of life’ – presently, after a period of intense suffering by the loser, the Confederacy had one general less…” Eventually Marmaduke was captured and, to show the concern of the North, the soldier catching him was given an honorable discharge on the spot. John refers to the mean nature of the war in this area when he says, “the Rebs burnt the town up well”
Letter #1-14 is
apparently the last letter from his brother John. When read with letter
they tell the heartrending story of the death of his brother from
sickness. In the Civil War more men died of sickness than from battles
by a significant margin. The Union lost just under 360,000 dead, but
only 67,000 were killed in action and an additional 43,000 who died of
wounds later. Therefore, disease caused 63% of all losses for the Union
in the Civil War. The Confederate figures are more difficult to
determine since many reports were lost or burned when Richmond burned
at the end of the war. John also tells of the Invalid Corp which did
exist and how it was used. The letter from George, #1-15, is a real "grabber"
and one wonders how Jasper reacted to the letter since he obviously did
not expect it.
This is the only letter written by Elias Andrews, the next younger
brother of George. He tells of the death of John in more detail than in
letter No. 1-15
written by George. It is heart rending and must have been a great
burden for the family. Elias ends by trying to encourage and support
Jasper at this time.
#2-15 This short letter to Jasper is serious and really tender as he talks about when the “Clatering of arms or the roaring Cannon is heard no more.” You really should read this one.
was written in Atlanta after it fell on September 1, and indicates that
Jasper must have been a part of the large series of battles leading up
to Atlanta. The comments from the Andrews family indicate that he was
known to have been at the battle of Resaca in Georgia. Since no letters
were saved for this period, we can only speculate on how many other
battles he was in. It was here in Atlanta that he made corporal. The
letter shows how the soldiers thought and Jasper was typical of most.
They liked McClellen, called him "Little Mac" because of his stature.
McClellen had a huge ego, was a poor leader and was sacked by Lincoln.
As a result, the Democrats ran him against Lincoln on a platform of
accepting secession. However, Jasper, and most soldiers, thought "too
much blood has been spilt to quit now."
shows what happened on Sherman’s "March to the Sea" and Jasper
obviously had a great time. Most of his data on the capture of Savannah
Letter #1-18 shows
his feelings for President Lincoln and his sorrow and gladness mixed
together as the war ended.
hope you enjoy reading the letters; I have immensly! The Civil War was
the first war fought where the men in the field were generally literate
enough to regularly write letters home!
Robert W. Schwier
Note: parts of this commentary accompany many of the letters.