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Letters from the 8th WV Infantry & 7th WV Cavalry

[The 8th WV Infantry was what was called a mounted infantry in that they rode horses to move the regiment, but they fought in battle dismounted. The 8th mounted WV Infantry was reorganized as the 7th WV Cavalry on January 26, 1864. N. Elvick]

8th Va. Regiment Buffalo, Va., Feb 10th, 1862

Mr. Harper:
     I received a substantial donation from the kind Ladies of Gallipolis, of a box containing fifty-one pairs of nice warm army mittens, and twenty-eight pairs of thick warm socks, such as will keep soldiers' feet warm, together with a lot of canned fruits, jellies and other delicacies for the sick boys in the hospital. And on the part of the boys I am authorized to, and for myself, we return our warm acknowledgements, and at the same time assure them their kind acts are already known to most of the men of the Regiment, in the kind attentions some of our sick boys received when in the hospital at Gallipolis.
     F. MATHERS,
     8th Va. Regiment     

The Gallipolis Journal
February 13, 1862

[For the Gallipolis Journal]

PRESENTATION. The officers of the 8th Regiment, Va., Vol. Infantry, in consideration of the indefatigable exertions of Major John J. Oley of said Regiment, in bringing order out of confusion in organizing the Regiment, and bringing it to its present state of efficiency, made him a partial compensation for his laborious exertions, by presenting him with a magnificent horse and eqipments. Adjutant Polsley, on behalf of the officers, presented the horse with a few brief and appropriate remarks, to which the Major replied with a very affecting speech, remarking that he hoped he would have the opportunity to win their confidence upon the battle-field as the present offering proved he had gained it in the camp.
     Julien E. Curtiss,
     Capt. Co. E 8th Reg. Va. Vol.

The Gallipolis Journal
April 3, 1862

[The battle referred to in this letter would have been Cedar Mountain, which was fought near the northern Virginia town of Gordonsville in Orange County and actually closer to Charlottsville than to Culpepper. It was classified as a Confederate victory. There were 2,500 casualties for the Union and 1,400 for the Confederates. The writer, Geo. W. Brown, ended up as a captain. He is buried in Pine Street Cemetery in Gallipolis. Click here for obituary. N. Elvick]

Camp in the Woods, Culpepper Co. Va., Aug. 15, '62

Dear Brother:
     I received your letter yesterday, and was truly glad to hear from home. As you can see by the date of this, we have again moved our camp, having arrived at our present position yesterday evening. We are now about 12 miles from the town of Culpepper, which is pretty much of a place, and connected, I believe, with Washington city by railroad. Doubtless you have seen an account of the battle which took place seven miles from this town on the 9th. Our brigade was not in it, but we got up close enough in the evening to hear the musketry, and it certainly was the heaviest I ever heard; the best description I can give of it is to compare it to fifty wagons going at a rapid rate over a hard and rough road. We heard the muskets when about seven miles away, but the artillery we heard a great deal further, and nearly all day. We left Sperryville a little after dark on the 8th, and marched 'till after sunrise on the 9th, and were then 13 miles from the battle-field. We then rested two hours and a half. I went to sleep at least a dozen times while marching along the road. After eating our breakfast (crackers and coffee) and taking a nap, we were again put on the march, and notwithstanding it was very warm we managed to move along till we got within about two miles of Culpepper C.H., when we stopped and rested again for about two hours, and eat [sic] dinner (crackers and water, and neither article in abundance). We then marched to town, through it to the south side, stacked arms, eat [sic] supper (crackers and water). After supper we turned back and marched about a quarter of a mile on the same road we had come, and then took another road. Just after turning back, we met our provision train, and were halted long enough to get something to eat, but not long enough to eat it. By this time it was dark. After dark we marched about four miles and halted for an hour or so, to give us time to eat and sleep a little. We eat [sic] our bacon raw, with crackers and water, because we hadn't time to make fires and cook it and get any sleep. After about an hour's rest we marched two miles further, and within a mile of the battle-grounds, where they were still fighting. It was now about 11 o'clock, and I went to sleep listening to the hiss of the balls and shells, which we could hear very plainly.
     The next morning there was a little skirmishing among the pickets. On the 9th the rebels got the best of the fight in the forenoon, but when Banks was reinforced they turned it the other way. Pope commanded in the afternoon, or at least I was told so. I heard that Gen. Banks was severely hurt by his horse throwing and jumping on him.—Nothing can convince me but that the secesh suffered most in this fight, but our loss was very heavy. I have heard it said that they lost five killed to our one. Yesterday on our march here we passed over the battle ground, and in some places the stench from the dead horses was intolerable. At one place where the rebels had a battery, I counted eleven dead horses, and at another there were from 15 to 20 in sight, and I could not tell how many graves of men. I did not see where the most of the rebels were buried, and where the hardest fighting was done. The rebel graves I saw were most brutally done. In one place a lot of them were laid together on top of the ground, and then dirt dug up on each side and thrown over them, but not enough to cover them entirely, and some were not buried at all, but left where they fell. Our men were decently buried, and in many places boards were placed at their heads, on which were their names, regiment, and State.
     You want my advice about enlisting. Well, I hardly know what to say. I do not believe you can stand it, but you predicted the same thing of me. Exposure hardens me, while it gives you colds, &c., and I give you my word for it, we have exposure enough. If you do enlist, never expect anything but a hard time, and you may possibly be agreeably disappointed once in a while; but if you are going, go at once. I can neither tell you to go or stay. The country needs men undoubtedly, and you say they need you at home.—Where you think they need you most, go. I would have gone into the army sooner, had I not felt I was needed at home as bad as the country needed me. We are having plenty to eat now, and I am enjoying excellent health. [There are three stars placed here as though some of the text has been omitted.]
     We were told yesterday when we got here that the rebel army was about three miles from here, but I do not know how true it is. I have received three Journals since leaving Sperryville.
     Your affectionate brother,
     Geo. W. Brown

The Gallipolis Journal
September 4, 1862

[From the Gallipolis Dispatch. The writer here is Lieut. Jacob M. Rife, who entered the service as a private and eventually mustered out as a captain. Captain Curtis is buried in Pine Street Cemetery in Gallipolis.]

Death of Capt. Julien E. Curtiss Camp near Washington, Sept. 8, '62

     D. Reed, Esq:—It becomes my painful duty to inform you of the decease of your relative, Julien E. Curtiss, Capt. 8th Va. V.I. Captain Curtiss was mortally wounded at the battle of Bull Run by the explosion of a shell, and died in four hours afterward. You will remember that the fighting became terrible on Saturday afternoon when it was ascertained that the rebels were on our left flank. It was at this time that the 8th Va., in command of Capt. Curtiss, (all senior officers being absent sick) was ordered to support one of our batteries. Hardly had the men taken their position, and lain down, when a shell bursted near by, a piece of which struck, and wounded Capt. Curtiss, who was standing behind his horse in front of his command. He was at once carried from the field. I saw him an hour after he was wounded; he was pale as a sheet and certain of death. He requested that his body might be sent home; if this could not be done he hoped he would at least be buried where his friends might find his grave in the future. After bidding his Sergeant good by(e), who alone was present at his death, and requesting him to say farewell to the officers and men of his regiment, then making other requests with reference to his family, he committed his soul by prayer to his God, and gently passed into Eternity. He was buried on the road between Centreville and Bull Run; it being then utterly impracticable to send his body home.—The grave is in a beautiful locality and marked so that it can be found at any time in the future, unless the rebel vandals remove every sign or mark from the spot. Our enemy hold that whole country now and have in their keeping many a loved one's grave.
     The Captain died nobly, died as every soldier should wish to die—fighting for his country. It affords me great pleasure to be able to say, that for some time before his death, he saw, and felt, the need for a change of heart, and that his last moments were spent in implorations for that salvation which can alone be obtained through Jesus Christ.
     Yours truly,
     Lieut. J. M. Rife, 8th Va. Vol. I.

The Gallipolis Journal
October 16, 1862

[The only John Morehart listed in the entire Union army was in the 57th OVI, which was in Arkansas in April 1863, so probably overlooked when the roster was compiled. N. Elvick]

8th Regiment VA V. I., Bull Town, Braxton co., West Va., April 13, 1863

Mr. Harper:
     I thought it might interest you and the readers of the Journal to know what is going on in this part of the country, what kind of people it is inhabited with, and how they live. This place is about fifty miles from the nearest Railroad depot, and shut off entirely, as it seems, from all the balance of civilized mankind.—In the first place, the people, with a few exceptions, are all secesh, and well do they deserve that name, for a more degraded and ignorant set of human beings cannot be found in the civilized world. I do not believe that they could be equalled by those of the "Five Points." Churches and schoolhouses, there are none to be found, the people hardly know what they are used for. It is a striking fact, that wherever these are not used, there vice and degredation is [sic] is prevalent in all the forms imaginable. But these people are not altogether to be blamed for this, they have been kept in ignorant subjugation by this rebellish aristocracy of the South, who wished to bring about their own selfish ends by keeping the poorer classes of people in perfect ignorance.
     The country through here is full of bushwhackers, horse-thieves, and marauding parties of every kind. I had the pleasure of capturing some of these the other day, while out on a scouting expedition. Among other things found upon their persons, were some letters, some of which were of considerable importance. I send you a few of them (which I think are fair specimens of all the balance) to show you some of the penmanship of the rebels of this country; it is not everyone, however, can do as well, for not one out of twenty can write his own name. If this is the case all over the South, and I think it is, is it to be wondered at, that these people are all secesh, and that they were led into this rebellion by those whom they were taught to obey from their youth, like slaves? It is to be hoped that the separation of Western from Eastern Virginia will bring about a great change in this respect, that the people may become enlightened and civilized, and Western Virginia may yet become one of the foremost States in the Union. I am, &c.,
     yours, respectfully,
     John A. Morehart, 1st Lieut. Co. I, 8th V. V. I

The Gallipolis Journal
April 23, 1863

[This letter was mostly a transcription of an oral rendition and was transcribed as originally printed, with the original syntax and punctuation. This was written after the 8th Volunteer WV Infantry was reorganized as the 7th WV Volunteer Cavalry. The writer, Samuel Estep, is buried in Kyger Cemetery in Cheshire Township. You can read his obituary here. N. Elvick]

Loup Creek, W. Va., Oct. 30th, 1864

Mr. R. L. Stewart: Dear Sir:
     In these few lines read the story which will give you an account of the sufferings of two of the noblest sons of Ohio.—By the name(s) of C. C. Wolf and Mark Neads, both members of Co. C 8th Regt. O.V.C., enlisted at or near Dayton; and to make it plain, I will give it in their own words as they related it to me. We were in camp at Beverly, W.Va. and on the 24th of August, we with 19 others were sent out several times to the front to, ascertain if possible the approael of the enemy, it being rumored that the rebels were approaching. We had gone but a few miles beyond our advance pickets, when we passed the rebs concealed in a corn field without knowing the fact. After we had passed the rebs went on down to camp, surprised the pickets, drove them away, and took their horses and coming after us fell upon us on Greenbrier river captured eleven and carried us off to Richmond, which place we reached on the 28th being only four days on the route after our capture.
     After we reached Richmond we were first put into Libby prison and so thoroughly searched and robbed as to completely divest us of everything worth having. Here we remained for some time but the guns of Gen. Grant becoming much louder and more incessant proved to the rebels as well as us that he was nearing the city. We were moved to that Earthly hell Bell-Island.—Here our real sufferings commenced. We were compelled to lie on the ground now getting a little cool without any blankets or even tents to shelter us from the dew and our rations consisted of six ozs. of corn bread, three oz. of meat and one-half pint of soup per day. We remained in this condition until the 4th day of October when we were placed on cars and started for some Southern prison we knew not where but as we were marched from our prison to the depot we passed by an old foundry or Rolling mill and being deprived of everything like knives we each of us managed to conceal about us a small piece of thin scrap iron with which after we had been on the cars until after dark we managed to cut or rather saw a plank out of the bottom of the old car in which we had been stored and during the night several made their escape through the hole thus made before we attempted it. When near Stanton river over which the Danville R.R crosses the cars stopped to take on wood and water. We scrouged ourselves down through the hole laid flat on the road until the cars started. They ran over us without injuring us any and left us to make our way to Yankeedom as best we could.
     So we started and traveled a Southwestern direction up the Stanton River travelling altogether by night until we reached the mountains.—During all this time we had nothing to eat only as we could get it generally from the negroes but after we reached the mountains this 'played out.' Then we had to travel over the highest and roughest mountains of Virginia which almost stripped us of what few old clothes we did have. We now lived most of the time on chesnuts, and grapes and such other mast as we could find. Occasionally when we thought safe we would enter an apple orchard, potatoe patch, cornfield, &c. Such was our daily living until we reached our lines. Such was the account they gave of their capture imprisonment and escape. They are here with us to night at Loupcreek where received very kindly by Maj. H. Slack of the seventh regiment West Va. Vol. Cavalry Commanding Post he will give them rations and transportation to Head-Quarters at Charleston where they will probably get permission to visit their homes and friends, before rejoining their regiment. This is a circumstance only similar to many of the same kind and even worse and how wretched must be the fate of those who have to linger for months or even years in these Southern hells. I am,
     Your most obedient servant,
     Samuel Estep, 7th W.Va. V. C.

The Gallipolis Journal
November 11, 1864

Transcribed by Eva Swain Hughes

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