Civil War Letters from Watson Anderson, 102nd Ohio Vol. Infantry, POW, DOD

Cdv of Watson Anderson along with his records from the National Archives.

41 letters, two of them to W. Anderson, the remainder from him. Plus 31 more items, a few are pre-war letters to Anderson (many “Dear Nephew”), many are post-war, several from the 1870s. There are also poems/song lyrics, and other ephemera. Over 280 pages (only 8 to Anderson, the remainder by him) of war news, camp news, religious views, and more!

Earliest from Sherman W. Beer, Batavia NY, July 28, 1862. [4pp] He describes going to Buffalo, “…visiting the principal places in the city – among which were the ship building – they were making an ‘iron clad’ steamer that would be ready to launch in a few days – it was really worth seeing…” He then describes Batavia (NY), noting that a great many retired NYC business men moved there, living in “palaces” and finely dressed. He then notes that the wheat and fruit crops are better than at Ashland (OH) or Mansfield (OH), and gives an idea of the churches in the town.

Letter of Aug. 23, 1862, Camp Mansfield, [4pp] marks his third day as a recruit. He describes the living conditions, physical exam, drilling, etc. for his family (sister, parents, cousins, etc.)

Aug. 30, 1862, Camp Mansfield. [4pp] Problems with pay and furloughs. He was promoted to corporal of the guard and had already taken two men to the guardhouse. Also talks about the chaplain.

Sept. 5, 1862, Covington, KY. [4pp] Received gun and 40 rounds of ammunition. Describes the march to the railroad, the trip through Columbus and on to Cincinnati. There they left the train and got on a steamer to cross the river into Covington, the first time he had seen a steamer. “Saw a few contrabands in the streets this morning. One black young man told us he had just been chased by the rebels from Lexington. He wanted badly to shoulder a gun and fight for us, but said they would not let him. He said however he would go along with us & wait upon somebody.”

Sept. 25, 1862, Camp near Louisville, KY. [8pp] Talks about packing up all of his gear to move, “….we go it like pack horses.” Runs into cousin Joe, who was in the 101st, and had been assigned to the same Brigade as the 102nd.

Oct. 31, 1862, Park Barracks, Louisville. [4pp] Notes that he is a happy there as anywhere.

Nov. 11, 1862, Bowling Green, KY. [4pp]Tells them about his life as a corporal of the guard. They are quartered in a building used by Gen. Buckner (CSA). Talks about his rations, line of march, etc.

Dec. 20, 1862, Camp near Russellville, KY. [4pp] “I wrote that I hoped Morgan would not attack Bowling Green for fear we might be defeated and get routed out of our comfortable winter quarters. Morgan didn’t come but we had to leave for all. Somebody let on this place was in danger so we had to be sent off down here to defend this good for nothing secesh town.

Jan. 3, 1863, Camp near Clarksville, Tenn. [4pp] Only 4 Union votes polled in the city. In the morning the rebel Prisoners cheered Jeff Davis and the Confederacy. Found stores of rebel provisions, including 12000 barrels of flour. A few days later a group found a cave with more provisions stored in it.

Jan. 12, 1863, Camp near Clarksville, Tenn. [8pp] writes about the victory at Stones River.

New Quarters, Aug. 21st 1863. [4pp] Describes building clapboard quarters, with cartridge boxes, guns, etc. hanging on the walls. Some guys still living in tents, going barefoot, unkempt, etc., risking a mark at next inspection.

Aug. 28, 1863, Fort Bruce [Clarksburg, Tenn.] [6pp] Mentions Col. Given leaving the regiment, Col. Boone, a nephew of Daniel Boone, reasonably well liked. Describes a 30-mile tramp that began as a trip for wood, but resulted in the capture of many rebel prisoners.

Oct. 10, 1863, Cowan Station, Tenn. [12pp] Extensive description of marches to get to this place. (many of these later letters in printed envelopes to his sister)

Oct. 17, 1863, Elk River Station, Tenn. [12pp] Men sorry they voted for Vallandigham (Ohio Copperhead), who can’t be a Christian if he’s pro-slavery, and other political views. Daily prayer meetings, card playing among the men, much more.

Nov. 21, 1863, Nashville, Tenn. [5pp] Camp life (got a new “camp stove” to keep them warm, $2.00), much religious content.

Nov. 28, 1863, Nashville. [4pp] Upper corner missing, but no text – “Excuse my burnt paper, Accidents you know will happen.” (All scorched sheets also water stained – where he apparently put out the blaze.) So he writes around the hole and about the small blaze. “I have commenced teaching in the evenings a class of little boys – contrabands – have given them a but a few lessons yet but they have already learned the alphabet and are beginning to spell in the old “elementary. I would long ago have been instructing them but we had no books and I had to wait until we were paid off so that I could get them. I was not a little surprised at the way the boys [soldiers] took on when they learned my intentions and that I was actually going to carry them out. Oh! How they were shocked! They allowed they wouldn’t have thought it of me that I would so demean myself to become a “n****r teacher. Said it would be a disgrace that would stick to me as long as I lived…. I rejoice and thank God that he has given me another opportunity of doing good.

Dec. 3, 1863, Nashville [4pp] (another scorched sheet) He applauds Lincoln for declaring a day of Thanksgiving, but thinks that there should be a day of thanks to God at the end of the year for all of his blessings. He is sending home $20 for charitable donations. He then goes on to describe Thanksgiving in camp. He talks about the sermon given. He also mentions the previous week’s sermon, saying that slavery was a sin. “Only three years ago what would have become of the minister that would have ventured to have uttered such a sentiment in that very same pulpit…” Smallpox raging in the city; one man in camp came down with it. They tried to move him out quickly. He also describes the theaters and other entertainment (circus) in Nashville.

Dec. 12, 1863, Nashville. [8pp] More camp life and life in Nashville. More religious hopes and observations.

Jan. 11, 1864, Nashville [7pp] Same type of camp life and religious content. Praise for the chaplain of the regiment.

Jan 18, 1864, Nashville [4pp + 4pp + tract] Gives a brief account of a court martial of an officer. The man refused to speak to Gen. Rousseau, because he was a “n****r officer.”

Feb. 6, 1864, Nashville [ 7 ½ legal sized pages] Relates the death of two more men in his company. Much of the letter is religious.

Feb. 15, 1864, Nashville. [7 1/2pp] Similar camp life and religious content.

Feb. 22, 1864, Nashville [8pp] Much religious sentiment, Praises Gen. O.O. Howard and an article on a speech of his in the Presbyter. Also relates a conversation between Bill Cosgrove and Gen. Howard during the battle on Lookout Mountain (Bill was in the reserves behind the main battle line.)

Feb.29, 1864, Nashville. [8pp] Quarter master “under arrest for cheating us out of our rations and will probably be dismissed.” Everyone to parade ground, the company called out. Orderly Hagey (?) made presentation of sword to Lt. Beer. The Lieut. Took the sword and said “he would ever draw it in defence of the rights of any member of the company, as much as he would his own. His voice trembled so that he could hardly talk.

March 19, 1864, Nashville. [4pp] Heard from Clarksville. Fixing up the college where they had had a hospital. The 83rd Illinois has carried on the job of educating the negroes, many are escaped slaves. There were at least 1100 being instructed.

March 30, 1864, Nashville [4pp] One of the new recruits by the name of Johnson got smallpox and gave the nurses the slip. He was found in his underwear huddling in a corner of an old house. “They say he will not recover.

Apr. 2, 1864, Nashville [6pp] Describes huge warehouses full of grain, with sacks of grain stacked forty or fifty feet high outside covering over an acre. Part of the government preparations for at least another year of war. Plus he is happy to re-enlist, not let someone else do it.

Apr. 19, 1864. Nashville [6pp]. “Praise the Lord! Oh, the rich[e]s of His goodness and his grace! Oh, covenant keeping God – the God of our grandparents hath showed mercy unto the third generation. Yes I trust unto the thousandth generation. Oh I love to think of our ancestors away back back when they were driven out of Scotland into Ireland by persecution for loving the Lord. God hath kept his promise unto them and has been a God for them and their seed after them….Why do you hate the idea of me re-enlisting to help save the good old flag and the blessed Government God has graciously given us though it should still be a sacrifice to let me go.

May 9, 1864, Tullahoma (Tenn.) [12pp] Describes an encounter with a Kentucky recruiting officer who was railing against deception used to get men to enlist, claims that the administration was engaging in unconstitutional acts, liberating slaves would bring ruin on the country, etc. When the Kentuckian said “…the [Africans] were an inferior race and never could take care of themselves, I told him I had worship[p]ed before the throne of grace with negroes that loved and served God… who were on the road to heaven….I told him I couldn’t hear a man show sympathy with rebels. He flew up like an old turkey gobbler and wanted to know if I meant that he was in sympathy with them. I told him he talked like it. …in all honesty of heart too I believe that he only wished there was plenty of men that thought and believed as I did. But McClellan would be our next President…”

His views are in striking contrast to those of a Tenn. Union refugee that I met with last week…. He has been twice taken out by bushwhackers to be hung. He told them he was ready to die and so they let him go. He says that Lincoln has been too kind to the rebels. He goes in strong for putting away at once slavery the cause of the war.

May 17, 1864, Tullahoma [8pp] Describes the death of Orderly Kagey (of disease). “They say that a beautiful smile remained upon his countenance after he had passed through the dark valley and shadow of death. We are do glad that he got a furlough this spring, thus giving his friend the happiness of seeing him once more.

May 24, 1864, Tullahoma [7pp] Another religious and political letter. “The time will come when slavery is rooted out and with it the generation of wicked Aristocratic slaveholders.” Mentions that the population of the town is now only about 200 people, from an earlier 4000.

May 31, 1864, Tullahoma [6pp] Advice to youngest siblings, in very religious terms.

Incomplete letter from sometime in the summer of 1864, [8pp] talks about the veterans going home on furlough, slaughtering a pig, which triggered a response from the owner, and the men told him before to keep his hogs out of their camp.

June 16, 1864, “At no place on the Tenn. River Way down in Alabama” [16pp] “No place” is also known as Dodsonville. Talks about guys (many of them) being “sun struck” while marching south. “It is a hard sight to see one who has been sunstruck. Where we stopped for dinner the first day there was a poor fellow lying by the road side that had been. He belonged to Co. F – seemed wholly unconscious – was panting as sheep do in a hot day.” Much of the letter describes the march from Tullahoma to “no place.”

June 21, 1864, Dodsonville [AL]. [8pp] They are among Union loyalists, and glad to be among friends rather than enemies, but he “…cannot see that we are doing any good towards putting down the rebellion.” He mentions a Methodist minister there, a local man who did not have much education, but made up for it with religious passion.

June 28, 1864, Dodsonville. [8pp] Talking about how badly soldiers’ letters are cared for. He just received one from his sister written four weeks earlier. Brought some older mail to them up the river, but Co. H was not there, so the river patrol buried it and left it. The guys in Co. H only got it because hogs were rooting it out of the ground and they happened to see them doing it.

July 5, 1864, Dodsonville. [8pp] Joe’s (his cousin) death. Describes their fourth of July celebration. “While we were yet in bed in the morning our Brass Band commenced playing the sweetest and best airs. I don’t think I ever realized to such an extent before that the right kind of music call the affections into play, especially when they are sanctified by Divine grace.”

July 6th, 1864 [likely still at Dodsonville]. [6pp] Mostly religious, pleading with his mother to accept Christ

July 14, 1864, Dodsonville [4pp – legal sized] a lot of interspersed poetry/religious readings. Goes into more detail about the minister he had met before. He had a young woman living there who had lost her father and other family members. She had two brothers who were conscripted in the Confederate Army, but they escaped and made it to Union territory in Illinois. He did not think she would survive long.

July 28, 1864, Dodsonville [4pp – legal sized] “It is solemn to listen to the deadly roar of artillery as we have been doing this afternoon, yesterday also, and almost the whole time during three days of last week. The Fighting is on Coosa river some thirty miles from here. IT was said that Gen. Rousseau commands our forces, but there must be a mistake as the papers (?) report him in Nashville.” He goes on that he is glad they are far away – 30 miles is close enough “All the time we were at Clarksville I had such an unaccountable longing for active service, to be with the main army so as to meet the enemy…. But this summer I tell you I have been thoroughly cured. Since cousin Joe was killed and such continual fighting as there has been I can sincerely thank God we are so graciously foreward and spared.” He notes that fall fare is becoming available – apples, cider, roasting ears of corn are in the market.

Aug. 2, 1864, Dodsonville [4pp]. mostly religious. Mentions siege of Atlanta

Sept. 6, 1864, On Board the cars Nashville & Decatur RR. [9pp] left Dodsonville Sept. 1, to Nashville then to Athens. Got word rebs were burning the railroad. They were detailed to repair the railroad that had been damaged. “…[The] construction train foremost loaded with ties, rails, tools and contrabands away we went again. This time we reached the scene of disaster – the road had been torn up badly – a Government sawmill had been burned, telegraph torn down and so on and so forth. The hands went to work and the rest of us went to sleep… Again 10 oclock the next morning the road was repaired and we ran on a little farther to the next tear up and running back and forth for ties, rails and rations the second day put in,…Monday we started on the back track as it was reported the rebs were breaking for our rear and sure enough we hadn’t gone but a little ways until the track was found on fire – the alarm was given but all 4 trains being hitched together and going very fast it was too late to stop in time, off the cars went helter skelter on each side of the track and dear me! What a jumping it did make! Of course they had to pitch clear off the top of the cars to the ground. The conductor sprained his ankle badly - it will lay him up for months – others of course were injured but none so seriously.” He describes a house near the burning part of the track. The soldiers took everything in it. Citizens were required to report damage to any tracks that they saw, and this old man didn’t. “The rebel Gen Wheeler and a son of theirs in his command took supper there the night previous, then burnt the road in the morning.” So they planned to punish him by burning his house.

Friday they were headed to Pulaski, Tenn. Then a few days later back to Linnville. “One morning when we waited up here we found a number of trains at our side loaded with 12 regiments. They came from Murfresboro on the other road – had been two weeks on the cars after Wheeler! It is a new way of fighting, isn’t it? …The people through here as far as we can learn are generally secesh. Of course, the slave must have been plenty – the blacks are still numerous but an order has been issued forbidding them to work without wages.” Much more war news.

Toledo, Oct. 23, 1864. To Anderson from his aunt. [4pp] “…Joseph’s wife was living with his father’s folks & going to school. I suppose you heard of his death. It would be sad news to his friends but Oh dear how many sad hearts this war is making a great many of my neighbours have lost husbands & brothers & so on. What do you think, will this war soon be over or not…. The Guerrillas have come into Iowa from Missouri & have killed several men. There were two officers killed by copperheads gang no very far from here while they were hunting up son of the drafted men they arrested them & put about 40 in prison & intend to hang the leaders. I wish they would hang all of them for they are a great dead wors[e] than the reble for they sneak about & kill in cold blood without any provocation….”

Watson Hugh Anderson enlisted in the 102nd Ohio Vol. Infy. as an 18-year-old Corporal from Ashland, Ohio. The 102nd served in the defenses of Covington and Louisville, Kentucky, then moved to Nashville, Tennessee. It then went to Tullahoma, TN to guard the railroad before crossing the Cumberland Mountains into Alabama. It spent most of the summer of 1864 defending the Tennessee River, engaging the enemy throughout that time. The 23rd of September, about 400 men were sent to reinforce the fort at Athens, AL. On the 24th, a large number were killed and wounded and the remainder captured and sent to Cahaba prison, including Anderson. They were paroled at the end of the war and placed on board the Sultana. About 70 of them lost their lives in that disaster. Anderson must have fallen ill as a prisoner, for he was sent to the Western Sanitary Commission hospital at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri - used by both sides. He is reported to have died of disease on April 7, 1865 (a mere two days before Lee’s surrender).

Estimate: $2,000 - $4,000
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