This letter was written by Benjamin Rohrer (1821-1909) of Baughman, Wayne County, Ohio, to his wife Sarah (McFarland) Rohrer (1826-1916). From the letter we learn that Benjamin has traveled from Ohio to the hospital at Fort Ethan Allen outside of Washington D.C. to visit his son, Allen K. Rohrer (1845-1864), a private in Company E, 169th Ohio Volunteer Infantry since May 1864. Though this letter expresses hope for Allen’s recovery, he would die on 6 August 1864.
Dysentery is mentioned and may have been the cause of Allen’s death, though a periodic “iodine wash” of Allen’s face suggests he may have had something like erysipelas as well. Several other members of Company E from Wayne County that were acquaintances of Mr. Rohrer are also mentioned in the letter. Included with the letter is Benjamin’s pass, issued by the Headquarters Military District, giving him permission to visit his son at Fort Ethan Allen — a rare artifact from the Civil War. From the pass we learn that Benjamin Rohrer was 44 years of age, stood 5 feet 5½ inches tall, had dark hair and grey eyes.
Addressed to Mrs. B. Rohrer, Baughman, Wayne County, Ohio
Hospital Fort Ethan Allen
July 31st 7 o’clock eve
Jacob Snider [Jacob S. Snyder] has been detailed to be one of the regular nurses in the hospital. His time will commence at 12 at night and go until 12 at noon — he and 5 others. Then 6 others commence and stay till 12 at night. Among these is Frank Fraise [of Company D].
Allen has had but one discharge since 5 this morning & has had no pain in his bowels nor any soreness and not a soul that looks at him but says there is nothing about his case that is discouraging for he has a bright eye. His eyes do look better than they did when I came here, There have none but the two died out of this company ¹ and but one out of the Orrville Company but that is too many. I heard this evening that quite a number of furloughs were sent back from headquarters and not signed & Allen’s along.
It is not light enough to see the line from where I am writing so I write by guess. There was a Mr. Williams here about a week when he took sick. He came to see two of his sick sons, has applied for furloughs for them & suppose they have shared the same fate as Allen. He laid about here yesterday & today and this evening he started for home. There are two other men going with him, however. But I would hate to start if I was as sick as he was. But if I would get sick, I would start home too if I could because I could not do anything for them for Allen.
James Evans is not so well today. He is up and around though. John VanKirk [of Company D] has got about well. Jacob Robinson is well & John & Peter Ecker also & William Wilson, but William Weaver is quite sick. Henry is doing well & James Stinson too.
Yours affectionately, — Benjamin Rohrer
August 1st 7 o’clock morning.
Allen rested well last might after 10 o’clock. I anointed his face all over with iodine at 9 o’clock and that smarts awfully when it is first put on and continues for half an hour. He had one application this morning that I think will about stop it. His dysentery is checked also. His hearing is not any better. He has been extremely patient. Never refused to take anything. — B. Rohrer
¹ The two from Company E who had died previous to this letter were 35 year-old Samuel Joyce, and 18 year-old Elias D. Martin. They both died on 12 July 1864 at Fort Ethan Allen.