24 February 1865: “Sunday night about 6 P.M. we got the word officially that Charleston was ours…”

Item Description: Letter dated 24 February 1865 from Jonathan Lewis Whitaker to his wife, Julia A. Wells Whitaker. He was a physician from Orange County, New York serving with the 26th United States Colored Troops near Beaufort, South Carolina. Whitaker writes about receiving word that Charleston has been taken.


Item Citation: Folder 3, Jonathan Lewis Whitaker Papers, #03674-z, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Item Transcription:

The U.S. Christian Commission,

Sends this sheet as the Soldier’s Messenger to his home.

Let it haste to those who wait for tidings.

General Sherman’s Army

26th Regt. M. Y. C. J. Army Corps

Beaufort SC Feb. 24th 1865

My dear wife

I have considerable work to do today and so I can take but little time or pains in writing this letter. But I hope it may be acceptable to you, what there is of it, as it comes from one in whose heart love and affection remains as strong as ever, if indeed it does not gain new strength as days and months and years roll on.

I received a letter from you mailed the 15th on the 21st it marking a shorter trip I think than any of your letters ever did before only six days from New Milford. In that letter you state a fact which surprised and under the circumstances worries me a little. You say that in the last two letters you have written you have enclosed $10. each. I have received neither of those letters yet, and they have been out now from fifteen to twenty days. I am inclined to hope they will turn up yet, but it is somewhat doubtful.

I am sorry you sent it. I did not ask you to send it, and did not need it now, as I got plenty for the present from Peter + Han. The mails here now are very irregular, and we cant depend upon anything. Before Shermans army came here + before Savannah was taken our mails were very regular, but now every body is complaining they dont get half their letters. They go to Savannah, they go to Sherman, they go to North Carolina + other places. Sometimes they come back + sometimes they dont. Until they get in better condition dont send anything of value in the mail, but write all the oftener, I write to you every mail. You say in yours of the 15th that John R had returned from Orange Co + that Em was better. What is the matter of Em? + what was John to Orange Co again for? You will have to write some of your news twice over if I dont get the missing letters. We have not been paid yet but the prospect is good for getting next month. I am very well and ? every day.

We have good news to send you from this department this week. Sunday night about 6 PM we got word officially that Charleston was ours, and soon we heard the big guns from Hilton Head + Savannah being fired in honor of the great event + then we had orders to fire ours, and 108 heavy cannon were fired at sunrise on monday morning making us feel as though we were in a big fight. The news from every quarter is most cheering, and all of us are in the best possible spirits on that account.

Some are sanguine enough to believe that the war is going to end in a month or two, but I’m afraid there is some great battles to be fought first. Poor, foolish, people! Why will they be so desperate, so cruel in an unworthy cause, as to compel their underlings to fight against their will; that their soldiers all desire peace on any terms cannot be doubted, but they are still kept in arms by their superiors against their will. God grant to soften the hearts of the leaders of the southern people, and bring them to see the hopelessness of their cause, and incline them to yield to the laws of that government they so long have violated. I will now close for the present, as my time just now is limited, and this must go in the office to day. We get along quite smoothly now, Dr. Jewelman has returned from the front. There is but little doubt but we stay here all summer. It is getting to be quite like spring, people are digging up their ground to plant their cotton, and gardens. I shall commence on our garden in a few days.

Kiss the babies for me and tell them all to be good and mind mamma + Grandma, and remember papa, and tell them that some of these long days if God spares his life and strength he will come home again and see you all.

Till then darling, I can only write and receive writing but that is a blessed privilege. Let us try and be thankful for our Heavenly Father for what we do enjoy instead of mourning + fretting over what we have not. Remember me to all our friends


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