1862: Eli Smith to Fulton Smith

How Eli Smith might have looked
How Eli Smith might have looked

This letter was written by Private Eli Smith (1839-1875), the son of Nicholas B. Smith (1799-1885) and Catharine Fricky (1796-1878). He wrote the letter to his older brother, Fulton Smith (1830-1921) back home in Tioga County, Pennsylvania.

Private Smith enlisted 18 September 1861 in Company G, 45th Pennsylvania Infantry. This letter was written following the Battle of Antietam where Col. Welsh’s Brigade — composed of the 45th Pennsylvania, 8th Michigan, 46th New York, and 100th Pennsylvania — were engaged late in the day. After crossing Burnsides Bridge, they advanced on Sharpsburg until turned back by A.P. Hill’s troops.

In the battle at Cold Harbor, most of the 45th Pennsylvania advanced at daybreak on June 3, 1864 against entrenched Confederates where they were met with “a murderous fire of musketry and grape and canister but never wavered, moving forward steadily under a direct assault and cross fire until less than a hundred yards” of the enemy. Eli Smith in Company G fought in a ravine running partially at right angles to the Confederate line where “the fire of the enemy was directed with fearful effect” causing numerous casualties. Less than a fourth of those present in Company G escaped being hit. For Private Smith, this would be his last battle. He received a wound in the leg so severe that it required amputation to save his life. [Source: History of the 45th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, by Allen Diehl Albert]

1862 Letter
1862 Letter

Addressed to Mr. Fulton Smith, Cherry Flatts, Tioga County, Pennsylvania

October the 30th 1862

Dear Brother Fulton,

I received yours of the 30th of this month. It came truly to hand which I was glad to get it. I was on picket today with the company. Last Sunday we left Maryland, we starting for Virginia. It rain[ed] all day and night. The win[d] blowed very hard all night. We was wet through as we could be. We pitched our tents and laid down for the night. There is room for 3 or 4 in a tent. The ground all wet.

I was sorry to hear such bad news as that was. It must be very hard for them to have so much bad luck as they do have all the time for a great while. I am glad to hear that the rest of you are as well as you are now. I am glad to hear that you can get the mash [?] to flow this fall. It is a good place to work on and to raise grain too for I have work[ed] on it very hard when I work[ed] for Ellis. Henry that you know, he got a large number of sheaves of oats on it. I wish that I was with you to help you there.

Thomas Welsh, Colonel of the 45th PA Vols.
Thomas Welsh, Colonel of the 45th PA Vols.

Yesterday we march[ed] 6 miles to a place call[ed] Waterville and stopped for the night. Leyman Thompson is back sick and Andrew Backus is too. ___ Backus us well. He would like to see you all very well now. All of the rest of the boys are well.

It [is] very warm today here. Went and got some milk to eat. It goes very good for us to get at this time. We are gone to Richmond now. We will be apt to see some fighting before long. I think I will close this letter for this time. I send my love to you all. So good bye. — Eli Smith

Direct to Co. G, 45th Regiment Penn. Vol., Care of Col. [Thomas] Welsh, Washington D. C.


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