Adkinson Family Civil War Letters

Excerpts for Discussion Nov. 30, 2012

The following letters are available at the Duggan Library Archives, Hanover College (Hanover, Ind.).


Joseph McHenry Adkinson Letters


Joseph McHenry Adkinson, letter to sister, 18 July 1863, Adkinson Family Civil War Letters, 1:12:10, Duggan Library, Hanover College (Hanover, Ind.).
Transcribed by Jessica Davidson, HC 2013

Camp Near Burlin
Saturday July 18th , '63

Dear Sister

Yours bareing date of the first came to hand last night[.] I felt very old before receiving it but after reading it I felt much better[.] We have marched continually for the last six weeks not stoping to rest more than one day in any one place and not often that long[.] We came here yesterday at noon[.] Hope we will stay a day or two at least that the horses may rest alittle which they need very much as they have had but very little to eat and the roads are muddy as it has rained all most evry night for the last week[.] Now Effie it would do you good to see how we live here it is so grand to live after our stile we have alittle tent some four feet square that is two pieces of this side drawn over a pole in the center and peged down at the corners to the ground[.] Some times we have some straw but more frequen two rails to lay on this two or three skins tumble and sleep ever so sweetly until morning then arise and shake themselves as a horse would do after taking anap on his bed of hay, then breakfast is to get[.] This is composed of salt pork rosted on a stick (which isent very bad after all) some hard tack and coffee and sugar[.] The coffee I don't use but suply its place with water sweetened and on this we live very well. It is very helthy die[.] Our horses have oats and corne and hay and grass some times and at others nothing at all and but very little of that[.] My rideing fat horses is played out for the present[.] Hope If I get home once more to be able to ride one once more[.] You and Nan musent let Father sell the little Black but coax Mother to let you ride her very often[.] Don't let her do any thing faster than in pace as that is the gate I wish her travel[.] Don't care how fast she does that and tell Oliver I want him to have her pace just as fast as he can and do it right for this is to be one sorce of happiness to me should I be so fortunate as to get home[.] I would like to be with you, you don't know how well to well to tell but as a year is soon gone I shall soon be there[.] But one year here is as long as two or three at home where one has evry thing that is necessary for his comfort and happiness[.] Dont think me sick of my contract for I feel that I did but my duty in comeing here and then there is the conscripsion. It makes one more content[.] Oh it would do me so much good to hear that six or a half dozen moore field rats had drawn the lucky ticket there[.] Oliver Smith first[,] Squire Hulley next[,] Fletcher Bellamy next and so on[.] It would be more than huge and I feel that I could indure every thing and fatten on it too[.] I can imagine I see them now the first with a sigar with his head swelled to an immoderate size and his fiddle in his arms propped back in his chair with his Mother boxing at his ears[.] Every thing plain before me and I feel as though the next word would be come to dinner[.] Oh I long to hear that word spoken by agood cook once more and that at home to joke you all and see you and Minnie and Nancy laugh first becose you could then[.] I have such a rich joke on Oliver and Will to see Will limping round with soar toes[.] Ann tramped his toes so that he could limp easy and by the means escape the draft[.] How I should like to have seen him grin and make long faces and herd her tell him it hurts but you must stand it or the draft which is worse[.] So Willy bare it patiently for my sake which he did no dout and then Rinda think it is so ridiculous that that Hillsdale rat should bring the contemped of the whole crowd upon her by sitting with her in church[.] As a just punishment she had forced him against his will to walk some four mildes and not on a pavement[.] She thinks she has lernt him a lesson which he never will forget though, he should live till he dies[.] You may think it strange how I become sourse to our happiness Rinda and useto keep up a correspondence of all importance[.] I must close yours as I want to write to Mary and Father and Mother[.]

Your Bro


Joseph Adkinson, letter to Mary Adkinson, 22 October 1863, Adkinson Family Civil War Letters, 1:12:14, Duggan Library, Hanover College (Hanover, Ind.).
Transcription and annotation by Brandon Doub, HC 2013

Douglas Hospital Washington DC
October 22nd, '63

Dear Sister Mary,

I seat myself to write you a short letter[. ] I am still here all though almost as well as ever[.] I am detailed here as nurse. You may think it strange that I would undertake such a task[.] My reasons were that by doing so I would be out of the rain and not have to sleep on the damp ground nor be exposed to all kinds of wether gerneraly[.] Here I have my bed and groob regular with exercise enough to make me enjoy it and that Hugely to I tell you I haven't yet bin out in town[.] Want to go out next Sunday to Catholic church have some curiosity to see and hear them once at least[.] The sisters that nurse are all Catholicks[.] All ware the black vail[,] are very strict[,] insist on my going to mass which is held at six on the morning[.] Haven't bin yet perhaps shall soon[,] don't know[.] Have bin to meeting 2 since I came here herd 2 good sermons the first since I left home[.] Now some things over six month that seems to me like a long time to be from home but I must stay 9 more before I can come back to enjoy the blessings of a quiet and happy home[,] one of the best things that man was ever blessed with[.] One dosent know the blessing of home until he has bin deprived of them for in time[.] Then they begin to show in their proper light there is nothing so good as a home blessed with a Father & Mother and sisters who all lived in peas & love together[.] My though of home are my hapiest hope that at some time I shall again be a member of such a home is my most cherished hope[.] Evry other fades into oblivion at the approach of this[.] I then to once more used those old places where I have to church so often gone and mingle once more among those that I useto[.] All this is in the futur and then you will be allmost grown to a woman while the rest will be married and out of the way[.] How we will saddle up the horses and take pleasure rides where we wish to go, so don't get married and spoil all my fun[.] Now Mary I want you to write and tell me all the girls secrets[,] who is going with who and if they are getting to thick to stir with a stick[.] Now you [under stang] I want to know all about Home & how much Father & Mother stand the times [&] what Father thinks of the war.

Your brother

Mc to Molly

P.S. Direct your letters to Douglas Hospital Washington D.C., Ward 8[.] Write all of you[,] I have plenty of time to read them, Mc

Joseph Adkinson, letter to his sister Mary, 6 November [no year], Adkinson Family Civil War Letters, Duggan Library, Hanover College, (Hanover, Ind.)
Transcribed by Allyson Craig, HC 2013.

Douglas Hospital Washg DC
Fryday Morning November 6 [illeg.]

Dear Sister

Your most wellcom & interesting letter came to hand yester evining I was glad to hear such good news and so much of it there was the most news in it of any I have received in any place for some time it give me some light as to what was going on at home but enough of this I am still here [and?] well and fat as ever[.] in tend to get my picture taken and send it to Jane sometime if ever[.] I am very glad Mother has at last som picture[.] now she ought to Orinda's and have them in the same case[.] Rinda ought to be taken standing two[.] Oliver was very clever to send you his photograph[.] think he mite have rememberd his Brother Jo yet such things are trouble some out here[.] Tell Effie I would like to know whether she has [any Lady?] that I sent home cased up or not as I feel some lively interest in her well fair as our acquaintance was rather romantic and she may be a sister of yours yet[.] Levi & the rest of the boys are all getting almost well[.] Levi is well but he is such an old grany he dont know it[.] he lays on his back and calls for the pot night and in day light he is up all day running evry place[.] he sickens me[.] Well Mary I hope to be talking face to face with you in 9 months[.] now that time will soon pass away[.] I close by asking you to give my best respects to Grandpap Hart and Long Hall with pinkeyed Baby[.] write often[.]

your [Brother?]


D. D. McKee, letter Francis Adkinson, 3 June 1864, Adkinson Family Civil War Letters, Duggan Library, Hanover College, (Hanover, Ind.).

Point Lookout, MD
June 3, 1864

Mr. Francis Adkinson

Dear Sir,

I wrote a letter a few days ago for your son, Joseph, who is in the hospital at this place. And at his request, I write you again in answer to a letter which he received this morning from his sister. It is the first he has had from home since he has been here.

I am sorry to say that he is not getting along as well as we hoped he would when I wrote for him a few days since.

On yesterday morning the wound commenced bleeding and the nature of the wound was such that the doctors on consultation decided that it was necessary to amputate the leg, which was done yesterday about 12 o'clock. He was placed under the influence of chloroform. I saw him a few moments after the operation. He was cheerful and not as much prostrated as I expected. I saw him twice during the afternoon and evening and he appeared to be doing well. I saw him again this morning at 8 o'clock and he appears to be comfortable. He told me he had received a letter from home and wished me to answer it.

I know it will be sad news, and yet it is best you should know it at once.

What will be the result in his case, of course we cannot tell. God only knows. It is but right however, that I should say that the doctors think the probabilities are that he will not recover.

While there is life there is hope. He is in the hands of the infinitely wise God who does all things right.

I have been trying to direct his mind to the Savior, the great physician of both soul and body, and my prayer is that the Lord will prepare him for life or for death.

I will write to you again if any material change takes place.

May the Lord bless and sanctify to you this and all his dispensations is my wish and prayer.

Yours truly,

D. D. McKee

D. D. McKee, letter Francis Adkinson, 5 June 1864, Adkinson Family Civil War Letters, Duggan Library, Hanover College, (Hanover, Ind.).

Point Lookout, MD
June 5, 1864

Friend Adkinson,

I wrote you on yesterday rather discouragingly about the case of your son. The case is still a very critical one but I am happy to say that the indications this morning are more favorable than they were yesterday and more so than we hoped they would be.

I will keep you informed every day or two of his case. I do so because I know the anxiety of friends.

Yours truly,

D. D. McKee

D. D. McKee, letter Irvin Adkinson, 6 June 1864, Adkinson Family Civil War Letters, Duggan Library, Hanover College, (Hanover, Ind.).

Point Lookout, MD
June 6, 1864

Mr. Irvin Adkinson,

Your brother Joseph Adkinson is in the hospital here. He handed me your letter to answer.

He was wounded in both thighs. The right leg was amputated on Friday last. The wound in the other thigh was slight and is nearly healed. His case is a very critical one. The doctor told me he had but little hope of his recovery. I thought yesterday he was better, but he is not so well today.

Yours truly,

D. D. McKee

D. D. McKee, letter Francis Adkinson, 7 June 1864, Adkinson Family Civil War Letters, Duggan Library, Hanover College, (Hanover, Ind.).

Point Lookout, MD
June 7, 1864

Mr. Francis Adkinson

Dear Sir:

I suppose you will be expecting to hear from me as I promised to write every day or two in reference to your son.

I did not give you much encouragement in my last and I am sorry to say that my worst fears have been realized. Joseph died today at 3 o'clock.

Day before yesterday he seemed to rally, but during the night he had a chill and yesterday morning as soon as I saw him, I felt that there was no hope. Last night he had another chill and this morning when I called he was scarcely able to speak and he continued gradually to sink. He did not appear to be in much pain but appeared exhausted.

I had spoken to him several times on the subject of religion. He admitted its importance and on yesterday I earnestly pressed upon him the necessity of an immediate attention to the matter. He said he would think about it and asked me to talk with him again. But this morning he was so feeble that I could not learn distinctly which were his feelings or prospects. I called to see him about half an hour before he died. He recognized me and spoke to me. I spoke to him the promises and invitations of the Savior and told him in the dying pain he might seek and find the Savior. He whispered "this is my dying [hand]." I stood by him until he expired and held his hand in mine.

He has passed away and is in the hands of that God who does all things well.

To the compassionate Savior I would direct the deeply afflicted family. And may the Lord bless and sustain you and sanctify to you all this severe affliction, is my prayer.

Be assured of my sympathy with you all in your Savior.

Your friend
D. D. McKee

P. S. I cut a lock of hair and send it. His property and money is in the hands of Dr. Miller, one of the surgeons and will be forwarded by express if you so order it.
D. D. M.

D. D. McKee, letter Irvin Adkinson, 14 June 1864, Adkinson Family Civil War Letters, Duggan Library, Hanover College, (Hanover, Ind.).

Point Lookout, MD
June 14, 1864

Mr. Irvin Adkinson

Dear Sir:

As you requested, I have drawn up a very brief memoir of your brother which I herewith send you.

Died on Tuesday, June 7, 1864, in the Hammond General Hospital, Point Lookout, Maryland, from wounds received in battle on the 12th of May, Joseph Adkinson of Mooresfield, Switzerland Co., Ind.

He entered the service in the summer of 1861. The regiment was immediately ordered to join the Army of the Potomac, where it has remained ever since. He, with his regiment, shared in all the previsions and dangers of the campaigns of '62, '63, and '64 and having helped to earn, he shared in the honor that belongs to the 3rd Indiana Cavalry.

His regiment formed a part of the cavalry force led by Sheridan in his raid around Richmond and it was in one of the battles fought in that raid in the Chickasome swamp that he was wounded.

He was brought to the hospital at Point Lookout on the 16th of May and for a time his wound appeared to be doing well and he was anticipating a speedy recovery.

But secondary hemorrhaging occurred to a point which amputation of the leg became necessary. But this proved [ ].

Although for a day or two he and his friends entertained hopes of his recovery, yet the shock was more than his system could bear. He was seized with a chill and in a few hours the scene cleared.

He said but little as to his hopes and prospects for the future, yet we have some ground to hope that his thoughts were turned in his last hours to the Savior of sinners. Thus he died another victim to this cruel and wicked rebellion.

D. D. McKee

D. D. McKee, letter Francis Adkinson, 24 June 1864, Adkinson Family Civil War Letters, Duggan Library, Hanover College, (Hanover, Ind.).

Point Lookout
June 24, 1864

Mr. Francis Adkinson

Dear Sir:

Your letter of the 17th was received this morning. You will probably have heard before this reaches you that your son from New York, whom I had written before Joseph's death telling him of his condition, got here a few days after his death. He received, from Dr. Miller, Joseph's money and property.

And at his request I wrote a brief obituary of your son and sent it to him a few days after he left.

I did not hear from your son the particulars or the circumstances of his wounding, whether on horseback or not. I am under the impression it was received on foot as both thighs were hit by the same ball. The wound on the left leg was slight - - - it was the right leg that was amputated. He was willing for it to be done. In fact they do not compel any to submit to operations. They state the case to them and let them decide. He was very cheerful and hopeful. I thought he was going to recover and I never had any other thought until the bleeding commenced anew after the amputation. The next day he said to me he felt that he had a better chance now than before. And I felt very hopeful until the second night after the amputation he had a chill. The next morning I saw a marked change for the worse and the night following another chill and in a few hours he died.

He spoke to me of the family at home and appeared to feel much interest in home matters. His grave is marked with his name and regiment on a board at his head. There is an order prohibiting the removal of bodies before the 1st of October.

I desire no other compensation for which I am able to do for the gratification of the friends of the deceased soldiers than to feel that I have contributed something to alleviate the grief and to be permitted to mingle my sorrows with theirs.

May the Lord bless you and every member of the bereaved family and sanctify to you all this bereavement.

Yours truly,

D. D. McKee


Cyril Tyler Letters


Cyril Tyler, letter to his mother, 7 Dec. 1861, folder 21, box 1, Adkinson Family Civil War Letters, Duggan Library, Hanover College (Hanover, Ind.). [1]

Camp Benton Dec. the 7th /.61
Dear Mother,

I received your letter and was glad to hear from you.  I wish I could see you and Father and all of you[.]  I would like to be there some Sundy and get to meeting there, and set down to the table with you all once more it would seem so odd to eat a good meal of victuals[.]  I wish them new boots was here that I got made just before I came away.  I would like to be there and go a hunting deer or turkey a few days and be my own boss and see how it would seem.  sometimes the oficers will be pretty easy with us.  Then some of the men will cut up a rusty then they will come down on us like a thousand of brick.  Captain Lovell is going to [be] promoted to major in a vermont Regt[.]  that will knock us out of one of the best captains in the Regt.  Our cooks have been ordered to cook up three days rations and the talk is we are under seated orders and have got to leave this place  for some place soon we don’t know where, the Mass. 19th are on the moove now.  I won’t write any more this time write soon good bye.

From your affectionate son
Cyril H Tyler

P.S. enclosed you will find one dollar in gold I want you should have your likeness taken and send it to me I haint but little or I would send the rest one. no more at present
C. H Tyler


[Cyril H. Tyler], letter fragment, undated, folder 21, box 1, Adkinson Family Civil War Letters, Duggan Library, Hanover College (Hanover, Ind.). [2]
Note that the letter fragment below is written on the back of a printed form apparently intended for organizing battle formations.


The fights begun Saturday by the enemy surprising & whipping Caseys division & Lenches division was brought up & they would first drive the enemy. Then they would get [drove] & our men was drove clear back to the back side of the field & there made one more desperate stand & there we found them when we came up.  Really pressed on all sides they was pretty near whipped when we come up & our brigade was the first to drive them. The papers give Genl. Richardsons Division the praise of helping driving the enemy the first day.  but its a mistake thay did not get on the ground till after the first days fight.  but the second day he done well.  the hardest fighting that ever was don on this continent was done the second day [after noon?] 8 hours.  The fighting was awful both sides holding their ground & constantly being reinforced.  McClellan came up just as the fighting was coming to a close & some cheering I never heard before.  The dead aint near all buryed yet.  The woods is full of dead men & horses.  They are all rotting & smell awfully.  The weather is hot.  Theres no telling how many is killed and wounded.  C.H. [Tyler]


[The writing on the reverse is partly illegible.]

Our regt list 110 killed wounded & missing
none killed in our com, 2 wounded
Porter Elias Joselby & self was the only boys from that place in the action. 

Porter says tell his folks he is well.



James T. Copeland Letter


James T. Copeland, letter to Julia Eddy, 9 Mar. 1865, folder 19, box 1, Adkinson Family Civil War Letters, Duggan Library, Hanover College (Hanover, Ind.). [3]

Franklin House

Thursday Morn. March 9th, ‘65

Dear friend,

Enclosed within this you will find what you requested of me. I should like to have had the pleasure of making an “even trade” with you, but will try and content myself with taking your promise for payment. If I remember rightly, you promised me a “fac simile” of yourself, and I shall not forget it until I receive the long looked for and desired “picture.”

You must excuse me friend Julia for being so tiresome in my attentions, but it is the promptings of my heart, that have caused all this – perhaps - unlooked for attention from me. Our limited acquaintance is all that I know of that should prevent our intimacy - unless you have better reasons for not extending our theis far happy acquaintance. -

One remark which you made upon last evening, I shall not soon forget, and I trust that you will not alter your opinion, until “this cruel war is over” - as I feel somewhat interested in that matter myself.” As to what the remark was, I shall leave your own recollections and thoughts to prompt you. Perhaps if you were in earnest about it - you still remember or at least can form some supposition as to what I have reference to. That remark shall be remembered by “your humble friend” until he shall be permitted to return to his home crowned with laurels of victory over the leaders of this unholy rebellion.

I have no doubt but that I shall soon feel quite lonesome after my return to “the Sunny South,” but I shall endeavor to let the recollections of time spent while in the City dispel all my lonely thoughts. I trust that you will neither think me bold nor forward in sending you this poorly written and uninteresting missive, but it is just such an one as you would have received from my pen ere this had our limited acquaintance tolerated it. I do sincerely hope that you will not misconstrue anything composing this uninteresting epistle, as I am sincere in what I say and mean just what I have hinted at.

“You have no notion of enlisting in matrimony,” you say until the war is over. I have an request to make as I intend that I shall remain single just that long myself. My desire is that I shall enjoy the pleasure of dancing at your wedding and I promise you that you shall have the pleasure of dancing at mine. Please excuse my bold and uninteresting style of writing and please do not take offense at the contents of this. I have written just what I desired to communicate upon last evening, but my timidity would not permit my doing so. I shall write to you immediately upon my arrival at my destination, and I desire that you will please answer. I will again request that you carefully peruse this, that you may thoroughly understand my meaning, and please take no offense. No more at present. Good bye - I trust not forever.

Your sincere friend, JTC

P.S. Julia, I am quite sorry that I had not sufficient time to do as I promised, but will send it to you in my next. I desire to send this letter any way and shall do it without the picture.

Yours &c,



1. Civil War soldiers had limited options when it came to eating.  Tyler's rations likely consisted of a variety of salted meats like bacon, ham, or beef. Soldiers' limited diets likely had an effect on their health.  Tyler's desire to consume a meal of “victuals” is an indication that he misses the cooking of his mother, as most soldiers would.  Marching rations were much less nutritious than camp rations.  On the march, a soldier would likely have about a pound of some type of meat, a small amount of break, coffee, and tea.  Food obviously was something that came to Cyril Tyler’s mind when writing to his mother, who likely was the main source of his food before he left for the war. Source: Dorothy Denneen Volo and James M. Volo, Daily Life in Civil War America, (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing, 2009), 143. Transcription and annotation for this letter (Cyril Tyler, letter to his mother, 7 Dec. 1861) were by Nicholas Brunner (HC 2016).

2. The battle described here must have been the Battle of Antietam. Cyril H. Tyler talked about how hot it was, so the time of year is right for the Battle of Antietam. Also, General McClellan is mentioned and General McClellan was in the Battle of Antietam. Source: Civil War Trust, "George B. McClellan," (accessed 26 Nov. 2012). Transcription and annotation for this undated letter fragment were by Matthew White (HC 2016).

3. This letter (James T. Copeland, letter to Julia Eddy, 9 Mar. 1865) transcribed by Austen Pitman (HC 2016).

Hanover Historical Texts Project
Hanover College Department of History
Hanover College Visitor's Page

Please send comments to: