Transcription: Civil War Letters of Private David Coon (1824-1864)

Transcription: Civil War Letters of Private David Coon (1824-1864)

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Page 51…

have heard some say that he will be among the missing. I understand we are to leave here to-day.

Write as often as you can and tell me how you are getting along. My appetite is very poor lately. I sometimes get a cup of milk to eat my dry bread in, which I have to pay five cents for. I can’t get along without spending some money, but not all, as some do. I should like to take supper with you tonight, but what’s the use of talking?

Later. I think we shall not leave here to-day. Our quarters are surrounded by a high fence with guards all around. We can just see the Capitol dome, but I presume we shall not be permitted to go into the city.

There was some letters came on this morning from Camp Randall, but none for me as yet. As we were packing up our things to send home this morning I got a chance and bought a pair of colored shirts for $2.00, which I keep for myself and send mine home, and another dark colored one which I bought for 50c, making three shirts and one blouse. My blouse is marked “D. C.” on the sleeve lining, and the shirts on the flaps.

As I was starting from Camp Randall, I sent you a letter with a ten dollar greenback.

Yours affectionately,

David Coon.

P. S. –

This is all the paper I have, but shall get some and write as often as I can. I hardly think we shall be put into battle without more drill, but will probably be used for guarding prisoners, etc., etc.

 

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In the field near Fredericksburg,

May 20, 1864.

Dear Wife and Children:-

For the want of ink I take a pencil to write a few lines to you, hoping it may find you all well and in different circumstances from what it leaves me. I have heard nothing from home for nearly a month. I wrote you a few lines from Baltimore, and also one from Washington, which place we left on Monday on steamboat, and landed at a place called Bells Plains, where we camped over night, and Tuesday, after drawing rations and cartridges, started for Fredericksburg. The weather was warm and we were very heavily loaded, and some of us were unwell and weak. And, Oh, it brought the tears to my eyes many times to see the great waste of clothing, blankets, and all kinds of good clothing cast away by the roadside and many times stamped into the mud, and small share of which, if you had it, would make you comfortable for a year to come. I advised the boys to hold on to their things if possible, and they advised me to throw a part of mine away. We expected to camp when we got to Fredericksburg. It was about sundown and we were all very tired. We went on through town, expecting to camp ; and we went about two miles, I should think, but before we got there it was dark and I, and others too I suppose, fell out by the way. I lay down by the side of the road and rested a few times, and finally got mixed up with other regiments, and had some difficulty in finding them again. Finally came up and found them making coffee, joined them and made a cup of coffee and drank it. I spread my blankets and just got laid down as I

 

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supposed for the night, when orders came to start on again, which we did, except a few, who were not able to. We then marched until towards morning, when we laid down until daylight. Now, my dear children, I know you would be very sorry to see pa marching and carrying such a load in the hot sun and sick at that, and glad to lay down in the dirt as soon as we had a chance to stop, without a chance to take the load off, but lie down and rest on my knapsack.

Well, Wednesday morning, we started and marched about two miles near where there had been a battle that morning early, and we expected to go into the fight, and I concluded that I couldn’t stand up under my load any longer, and took off my knapsack and gave it in charge of a drummer boy in our company, as our surgeon expected to stay there and this boy was to stay with his party. But we soon got orders to march and so I never saw my things again, but next morning I picked up an old rubber and got a piece of blanket.

This morning there was a Massachusetts soldier shot in our hearing for desertion and cowardice.

Monday, 23rd. Friday night, about midnight, we fell in and marched until about four o’clock P. M., Saturday.

24th. I close in haste. Marched a hard march yesterday. On the battlefield now. God bless you all. Good-bye.

D. Coon.

 

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On the Richmond side of the

North Anna River, May 26, 1864.

My dear Wife and Children:-

I started a letter to you on the 24th. I sent it without finishing, and thinking that if you should get it before you get this you might be concerned about me, I therefore hasten to write again. I am now prepared to write more encouraging as I am now in better health than I have been for several weeks, and have come to my appetite. About a week ago I couldn’t eat anything that I had or could get. I went out one evening to an encampment of artillery nearby, and picked up a fresh beef bone and scraped off a little meat and made a little broth which tasted good, and did me a great deal of good. Oh, how much good it would have done me those times if I could have been at home to have something that I could eat. Since then we have drawn plenty of fresh beef and all that I could eat was broth and coffee. I would have given anything for a cupful of Indian meal to make me a little gruel. I went to a house Sunday to try and get little, which I might have done, but there were some officers there who drove me away without any.

The day before yesterday, as we lay behind some breast works I saw at a little distance some cavalry men with something in a bag that I thought might be meal that they had confiscated. I could not leave my place so I sent a boy over to see if they would sell me some. They, like good fellows, sent word that it was flour and they would not sell any but if I was sick they

 

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would give me a cupful. I sent over my stew pan, and they sent it back full, about two pounds. I have made three meals out of it and have enough for about two more. I make it into minute pudding or pancake, and am getting stronger and can being to relish my hard tack made into a stew with fresh beef and my coffee goes pretty good.

When I have been on the march in the hot sun and so weak and sick, and have seen wounded men being carried off on stretchers, I have wished that I could change places with them, for then I thought I could at least get a chance to rest. Yestereday and to-day we have ahd a chance to rest some. There has been some pretty hard fighting  around us, but we have been kept back making breast works, &c., out of danger, except occasionally a shell going over us or a stray bullet striking near us. The night before last about midnight, Co. A was marched about three fourths of a mile and stationed by a barn. In the morning I with six others, was sent to guard a deserted “secesh” house where there were shade trees and gardens full of roses and flowers of every shade, ice houses and fancy fixings, with a few negroes, &c., but the provisions had been taken. The owners had left two days before. We had been there two or three hours when the Company was fired on and fell back, and we were ordered to fall in.

Mr. Vergin is sick and sent back to the hospital. I have received nothing from home since before I left Camp Randall, but write as often as you can; they will come on after a while. Direct to Co. A, 36th Reg., Wis. Vol., 2nd Div., 2nd Corps,

 

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Washington, D. C.

We are having a pretty good time to-day lying in our tents. Some pickets skirmishing in hearing.

I suppose Hiram is at home. I want you all to write me good long letters if you have to put on two stamps. I have the letters which you sent me in Camp Randall, which I read as I have time. Must stop now, the order is to strike tents.

Friday morning, 27th. One-twelfth part of my three years’ service up to-day. Last night after dark we marched back to the other side of the river, and stopped in a field where we had been three days before. There was one company of the regiment on picket duty yesterday, and three of them were killed and some wounded. There is more or less fighting every day with marching and maneuvering. I am feeling pretty well now, appetite very good. This morning for breakfast I took some pork cut up fine and fried it, then made some batter with a part of my flour and put it into the meat and gravy and made a thick pancake.

When you write, send me a little ink powder if you can. I suppose you would like to know how I feel in my mind. I can say that I am trying to be a soldier of the Cross, and perfectly resigned to my Heavenly Father’s will, and the greatest comfort I have is in reading my testament and reflecting on the mercies of God. And when I have been drawn up in line of battle, expecting an attack, I have felt no fear, feeling that even the hairs of my head are numbered, and that I cannot fall without my Heavenly Father’s will.

 

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Now, my dear wife, pray for the soldiers and yourselves, and, my dear children, give your hearts to the Saviour, and if we are never permitted to meet in this world, may we all meet in Heaven.

Give my best respects to all of the neighbors and friends, and especially to Mr. Clark. I must close for I presume we shall soon have to fall in again.

From your affectionate husband and father,

David Coon.

P. S. – Afternoon.

A few minutes after writing the above this morning, as the regiment was dressing into line to start on a march, a rebel shell struck about the center of Co. A, and took down six of the company, killing one, one has died since, and it is doubtful about two others. It came within about twenty feet of me. We are now resting a little while. Good-bye. May the blessing of our Heavenly Father rest upon you.

 

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Coal Spring Harbor, Va.,

June 5th, 1864.

My dear daughter Emma:-

How old are you to-day? I have been thinking a good deal for a few days how it was with us about five years ago now, and perhaps you would like to know how it is with me now. I received a letter from home to-day, the first I have had for some time before I left Camp Randall. I was really glad to hear from home once more, and that you and Flora were enjoying yourselves visiting friends, for I like to have you all enjoy yourselves if I don’t. I tell you that I suffered a great deal, which, if you have read the letters I sent home since I come to this country, you know something of, but I can tell you no words that I can write can give you an idea of it. How would you feel to see your father lying in a ditch behind a bank of earth all day, with rebel bullets flying over his head, so that his life was in danger if he should raise on his feet, without a chance to get anything to eat, and about four o’clock, P. M., starting with several hundred others and running across an open field towards a rebel battery with rebel bullets, grape and canister, flying like hail, and men falling killed and wounded all about him, and finally all hands ordered to fall on our faces so that the storm could pass over us, and then be obliged to lie in that position until covered by the darkness of night so that we could get away, and then start on a forced march in the night without any chance to get any supper, and so weak that he could scarcely walk. And the awfulest dust to travel in that he ever experienced,

 

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and whenever an opportunity occurred to stop, if but for a minute, to see him lie down in the dirt, and if allowed to stop for a few minutes, so exhausted as to fall asleep, traveling in that way until late in the morning before getting a chance to stop and get breakfast. I have not undressed myself since leaving Camp Randall, usually sleeping without shelter and sometimes in the rain. With poor health and poor appetite for food of any kind. Oh, how I do long for the privilege of sitting down with you all at home where I could enjoy a good meal of victuals with my dear family, but perhaps that privilege I may never enjoy, for many of my companions in arms have already fallen. Oh, my dear daughter, your father may be lying dead on the field of battle and you may not know it. Even now, while I write, sitting in a ditch with the deadly bullets flying over my head, they are striking the bank behind me. O, Emma, Emma! How can you have the heart to go to dancing parties, against your kind mother’s wishes and advice and your own conscience and judgment? How can you add to my grief and trouble by such a course?

I am sorry I can’t write with ink, as I perhaps may never write to you again.

Your affectionate father,

D. Coon.

 

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Coal Spring Harbor, Va.,

Battlefield, Va., June 6, 1864.

Dear Son Herbert:-

Yours of May 20th I received yesterday, and was very glad to hear that you were all well, and that you were getting along with your work so well. I do hope that you will have good success this year. My dear son, I do think you have the greatest of reason to be thankful that you have the privilege of staying at home, for if you were in my place, exposed to all of the dangers and hardships that I am, I should feel very sorry for you indeed if I knew your condition. Full one half of the regiment that we started from Wisconsin with are already dead, prisoners, wounded, sick and disabled in less than four weeks. You complained of being tired, and no doubt do get so. I used to , but find that after all knew but little about what the word meant until lately. We all thought we fared hard at Camp Randall, but would be very thankful for such fare again. It is thought that this campaign will be successful, but it is awful for the men. Our Colonel was killed on the 3rd in a charge on the enemy’s works, besides many others killed and wounded. Our Heavenly Father has protected me from the dangers of bullets and shells, but I am very poor and weak, and it seems that if we have any more such marches as we have had I must give out. We now lie right in the hot sun behind our works, with bullets whistling over us. This morning one of our company was wounded and a man of another company killed by the same shot from a sharp-shooter while attending a call of nature. Our Colonel is not pitied much because it


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