This letter was written by Darius Johnson (1828-1877), the son of Cyrus Johnson (1785-1853) and Margaret Armstrong (1786-1881) of Conquest, Cayuga County, New York. Darius came to Pontiac, Livingston County, Illinois in 1852 and soon had a large practice. He was married to Rebecca Wood (1833-1922) in July 1854. Their boys — referred to in this letter — were Leander Johnson (1859-19xx) and Fordyce Benjamin Johnson (1860-1926). At the time of his death in 1877, Darius was county coroner. He served as a trustee of the University of Illinois at Champaign.
Darius was commissioned an officer in Company S, 129th Illinois Infantry on 20 September 1862. He was the First Assistant Surgeon until January 1864 and then promoted to Surgeon when Dr. Harvey C. Johns resigned. In February, 1864, they marched to Wauhatchie Valley, Tennessee, and then participated in the Atlanta Campaign and Sherman’s “March to the Sea.” Darius resigned his commission and went home to Illinois on 9 April 1865 — the day Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia
Darius addressed the letter to his brother, Thomas Johnson (1814-1890), who was married to Anceanda Bassett Craw (1818-1892) in March 1840, but the letter seems to have been written to his nephew, Morris Johnson (1841-1912). Morris, at age 22, and Laurence Johnson (1845-1893), at age 18, both enlisted on 29 December 1863 in Co. A, 9th New York Heavy Artillery.
Addressed to Mr. Thomas Johnson, South Butler, [Wayne County] New York
Pontiac [Livingston County, Illinois]
December 14th 1861
It has been a long time since I received your letter speaking of the death of your sister Mary. I can say I deeply sympathize with you in your sad bereavement but trusting your loss is her gain you must try and be reconciled. My family are well & we think we have got two of the smartest boys in the nation. Leander can talk as plain [as] I can. Says his name is young Doct. Johnson.
You can tell my mother that my money matters are quite easy. We have a good house and plenty to eat & some money to spend and some drawing interest also. I have a good practice and besides, I won $115 from the Democrats this fall. I called it taking Democratic Blood. I don’t believe in betting but the devils kept tormenting me [such] that I had to resort to that course to protect myself. And when they found out that I would bet, they let me alone. I tell you I use to bluff them. After I got to betting, I would bet every cent I had in the world if they had come to time, but they got weak in the knees when you showed them the money and told them to come down. I used to tell them I had plenty of money, horses, land, town lots, county orders, or anything they wanted to put up. Then they would have a pious streak and say they did not believe in betting. Pious set those Democrats are. But no more today.
Yours as ever, — D. Johnson