Archive for Wednesday, April 19, 2000

Letter tells new tale of family history

April 19, 2000

The following is a letter that my grandma sent me last week. It is addressed to my great-great-grandfather Otho Wilson, who my grandma said lived in Pennsylvania at the time.

What it has to do with life today is what you get out of it. It's timely almost 135 years ago to the date. And for me, it's part of a family history that didn't exist until now. The letter was found by a distant relative it would probably take me a calculus refresher course to determine his relationship to me but I'm eternally grateful.

The letter is hard to follow at times. It is typed word for word, and run-on sentence for run-on sentence:

Burkeville, Virginia

April 17, 1865

Mr. Otho Wilson, highly esteemed friend, it is with more than ordinary satisfaction that I communicate to you that your letter of the 6th has been duly received and with great satisfaction for we have been for the last 15 days that we got no mail. We have had one of the most severest campaigns of the war. All though it has accomplished something. We have taken the Revel Capitol and have subdued the entire Army of Virginia. General Robert E. Lee has surrendered on the 9th of this month near the Spotzwood Home 25 miles from Danville on the road from Richmond. He surrendered 31 thousand men and from the time he left Richmond, his losses, killed and wounded and taken prisoners was upwards of 30 thousand and I suppose he would not yet have surrendered but he was entirely surrounded and could not move either way. I do think that was one of the most exciting times that I have ever witnessed during the war. Every body cheering, cannons roaring, susick (sic) different descriptions. Some was praying, and some was singing, some, of course, was trying to enjoy themselves with the captured spirits what was captured, some in a short time was so intoxicated that they knew nothing of the surrender. We have all kinds of men in the Army ... some good, some bad, but thank Heaven I make but little use of whiskey or any thing of the kind.

Nothing remains for us to do only to subdue Johnston in Tennessee and I think W.T. Sherman can handily do that.

I have been in 2 severe battles since the 2nd of this month. I was among the men that made the great and desperate charge before Petersburg and one among the first men to move the enemy's works. We belong to Wrights Corps (VI) and Keifer Brigade and also on the 6th the date of your letter about 2 o'clock p.m. a brisk skirmish commenced between our calvary when about 3 the infantry came up and a General Engagement was brought on and last until dark when their entire force was surrounded and taking prisoners which was some 13 thousand and many killed. It has been considered amongst the hardest battles in the campaign. I have been lucky enough to escape with only a slight stroke on my right knee from a piece of wood from a shell striking a tree nearby where I was do no damage more than it was almost impossible for me to walk upon it for some three days, but I am now as sound as ever. We are in camp now for the purpose of clothing and fitting out when we will again take up a line of march for Richmond and from there I know not where. But I think we will be discharged before a great while all things we only have 4 months to stay when our term will expire.

I had a letter from Father the 26th and they are all well. You spoke of me coming to see you. I cannot say what I may do yet. I can tell as soon as I get home providing I am spared to again return. Mr. David Snider, son of Philip Snider, sends his regards to you and says that he was near where you live in the winter '63 and would have called to see you had he known that you lived there. He belongs to our Company. He is talking of going to the West when he gets out of the service and if I do not get into business at home I will be likely to go with him and I will be likely to give you a call. So I shall close for this time hoping to hear from you soon. I remain yours truly until death

P.W. Stickman

P.S. Sad news from Washington. A. Lincoln and Secretary Seward and son have been assassinated. The President has since died. Seward is better. His son David recovers. Sad loss indeed.

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