Civil War Letters
from the Elias Riggs Monfort Papers
Excerpts for Discussion, Apr. 3, 2015
The following letters are available at the
Duggan Library Archives, Hanover College (Hanover, Ind.).
Other transcriptions and page images from the Monfort collection are also available.
Maggie Monfort, letter to Elias Monfort, 23 Jan. 1862, folder 1, box 1, Elias Riggs Monfort Collection, Duggan Library, Hanover College (Hanover, Ind.).
Transcription by Ricky Windell, HC 2017.
Glendale Female Col. January 23rd
When you read this you will probably be on your way to Virginia. And I shall be at home thinking of you. Shall I ever see you again? It may be that you will return, or it may be that God has designed that you shall fall on the battle field if this is the will of God we must submit. but I shall earnestly beseech him every day to spare you and return you to us again. and if my prayers will avail any thing, there shall many go up to the throne of grace. And liable as you are to be killed almost any moment, should you not always be prepared Are you prepared? I fear not. Do you not think you ought to be? _ _ _ _ Then when will you prepare your self by humbly falling at the throne of God and asking him to pardon you and direct you in the way in which you should go? If you do this you will be so much happier. My dear brother I know that you do not expect to die unprepared but now is the time. You may never have another chance, for God says "Boast not thy self of tomorrow for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." tomorrow may never come to you. Your life may be o er before tomorrow. Oh then, why not prepare so that if such be the case you may be ready to meet God and render a good account of the talents he has committed to your keeping? Now dear brother do think about this matter. I beseech you. and [crossed out: for] if I Should never meet you again in this world, let me hope that I may meet you in heaven. a ransomed soul. Do not think I would have [you] fear death, and shrink from offering up your life for your country. but all I want is that when called upon to leave this world you may be able to feel that you have a home in the skies and a friend in Jesus. who can never be taken from you. But I hope that you may be spared through the whole and be instrumental in bringing peace to our distracted country. Be careful of yourself and your men. do whatever you consider your duty to yourself and your country. but keep yourself out of unneccessary danger. Be kind to your men. if you see one wearied with his heavy burden, lighten him if you can. if you see any one hungry share your bread with him. and whenever you see any way of helping any poor soldier do it and you will make them love you more. and wish to assist you in anyway they may be able.
And now, dear brother, I have no more time, and all I wish is that you may do your duty and take care of yourself. Write as often as you can.
Goodbye. Your affectionate sisterMaggie E. Montfort
Elias Riggs Monfort, letter to Maggie Monfort, 24 Jan. 1863, folder 2 box 1, Elias Riggs Monfort Collection, Duggan Library, Hanover College (Hanover, Ind.).
Transcription by Jack Shine, HC 2018.
Bell Plains Jan 24th 1863
Your kind letter came to hand to day. You say you wish I could see what a beautiful view you have now at Glendale, & I wish you could see what a beautiful view [strikeout: who] we have here. Mud versus Snow. Just as the little branches peep out from under the snow, [so?] the mules & boys peep out from under the mud, as if afraid to venture far, & some times nothing is visa ble save the tips of their ears. And as the wind scatters the the snow & dri fts it in heaps twists & curls it in fantastic shapes, So is the mud twisted & curld in fantastic shapes by the floundering artilery drawn by those superb & magnificent animals the mules & by the weary & worn yankey whose only Motto is E xcelsior. “This is indeed beautiful enough to please the highest conception of a vivid imagination.” Your ears are greeted with the sound of mery slay bells. & here also does the music rase with a volumptuous swell.” The sound of the driver singing to their teams when they get stuck in the mud mingled with rich tones of that musical instrument his whip & the merry laugh & the home sick soldier the rich martial music comeing from [strikeout: the] a split fife & a broken drum O it is delightful. W ho would exchange the life of a soldier in a winter campaign for the palaces of of a king. We had a delightful time here last night the rain poured down in torrents & the wind whistled by as if he were hurrying on to contermand some wrong order which might do some michief & taking our tent for a baloon he took it with him together with about 3 / 4 of the tents in the regim ent but we have been out in service long enough to look on the bright side of any thing & so we look at the brightest side of our blankets but some could not stand it the captain was one of these them the air was filled with music such as the drunkard sings when mad. This also was a delightfall time I never shall forget it. Only one thing marred the pleasures of the evening entertainment & that was we were deprived of female society to enjoy the music with us it far exceeded any of Madam Rive briliant concerts
Orders come to march
I must close
E R Montfort
J. Gordon Taylor, letter to Emma A. Taylor, 24 Feb. 1863, folder 7, box 1, Elias Riggs Monfort Collection, Duggan Library, Hanover College (Hanover, Ind.).
Transcription and research by Brandi Buchanan, HC 2018, and Falyn Moncrief, HC 2018 (and Sarah McNair Vosmeier)
Feby. 24th, 1863.
My dear “Em,”
Herewith I present for your careful perusal the second installment of my interesting journal. I have now been a week in this place and my first impressions have undergone no change by the sojourn. The one thing lacking now is something to do, as loafing here is intolerable. I do not complain at all, however as my condition might be much worse. I am well housed and well fed and wish all of our poor soldiers could enjoy the same comforts. Have received three letters this week, two from you dated the 8th & 15th of Feby. and one from Kate and Lettie, also of the 15th but I ought not to tell it twice as it comes in, in the record of events.
Tuesday, Feby. 17th, 1863. It has been a dark drizzly day, hence I have been out but little. Went this afternoon to the Camp of the troops under Gen. G’s command which is about three miles from town. The road was a perfect sea of mud and I was covered from head to foot, almost literally buried in the “sacred soil of Tennessee.” Found the troops camped on very good ground, on a good hard sod, rolling so that the water does not stand as it would on level ground and thus they escape a great deal of mud. Every available point on our way out was strongly fortified. A fence is now a curiosity everything burnable having been confiscated. Where once were beautiful groves are now unsightly stumps and the houses that were sheltered by their shade look the very picture of desolation. It has once been a beautiful country round about Nashville but the penalties of rebellion have fallen heavily upon the land and its glory has departed. Visited the Capitol. It is a beautiful building built of the Tennessee marble and standing upon a high hill – “Capitol Hill” – in the center of the city, is visible for miles around. In its solid walls are buried the remains of the Architect “Wm [William] Strickland” and a noble monument it is. Little did he dream the day would come when traitor hands would use their utmost endeavors to undo his work. At present it forms an almost impregnable fort. Cannon are planted on very side of it, earthworms surround it, log stockades add to its strength and the marble halls echo to the Jests of soldiers, the ring of the musket, and the clanking of sabres. When will the nations of the earth learn war no more.
Wednesday, Feby. 18th. It has rained all day and the way my time has been spent may briefly be expressed thus, “Sleeping I dreamed” etc. &c.” I had the blues most decidedly but did’nt feel very bad after all. Concluded after waking, that as I could not stop the rain the best way was to let it fall. Went to bed and dreamed I saw dry land and in my exultations over the sight thereof I awoke. It was’nt dry at all for it was raining harder than ever.
Thursday, Feby. 19th. Received a letter from Em. today. Took it very coolly. If anyone had met me on the street they never would have guessed I’d got a letter. The street was too muddy to get down and roll in, so I just put it in my pocket – the letter, you know -- not the street –. It hasn’t rained today though I know it wanted to. Nothing but that letter stopped it. Took dinner with Lieut. Richards and had a sociable time. He was in the same Reg. [regiment] and Co. [company] with Henry Ast, but did not think much of him. Says the “Lord” gets sick too easy when there is any work to do. Met a brother of Andy Bloom who belongs to the 2d Ky. [Kentucky] Reg. Now Em, now’s your time to get the second edition revised and – I was going to say improved but think I’ll leave that out. Saw Jim and Bob Morgan also and had a chat with them. Acquaintances begin to turn up. Met Mr Clark one of my “Camp Monroe” associates who, growing tired of Capt. Hearbt, has procured the suttership of the 1st Tenn. Cav. Mr Eshelby is near town too and I shall call on him soon. Heard of an old College Hill student in the Q. M. Dept. and when every other resource fails shall go down and bore him a while.
. . . .
Sunday Feby 22nd. Stayed in my room all day, as I did not feel well. Do not want to be sick and will not if I can in any way prevent it. By taking care of myself today, hope to be well tomorrow.
Monday, Feby 23rd. Better this morning. The Citizens had a grand celebration today and I went up to the Capitol to hear the speeches, but the crowd was so great I could not get in. Having failed in that got a horse and went out to camp. . . . Got home after dark, in a first rate humor, and took a cup of coffee with Lt. Richards, and then called on Jim Morgan. We are messing with Lt. Richards now. By the way, what an appropriate word that is, for a set of men keeping house together. "Mess." The very name is suggestive of the reality. You know somewhere in the Rhetoric it recommends - or does not recommend - which is it? - to make the sound the echo of the sense, and here you have it
[In block letters:] Finis.
Now you have the second chapter before you. If it suits you, it does not me and I have this to say, if the next is not an improvement, I'll raise a tombstone over my Journal. I am well again and so is Pa and we both send our love: Remember me to, Anna, Dot, Sallie and all other inquiring friends but when you do so, just put this "Miss" where it ought to be. If I ever have a chance I will become better acquainted with Capt. Yaryan & Lieut. Castleman - is that his name - and will whisper to you in all charity - what I see of them. No General yet. Don't care if he stays away a month. We Know he's safe as Capt. Russell will see that he does not get into difficulty. And now good bye. I sent Kate a paper this morning. After a letter eleven days long I think she might send me a letter by herself - and then you Know there’d have been more room for "Lettie" - Give her my love. She and Lettie [crossed out, "my"] may decide for whome the love is intended. Kind of mixed up but it will give them something to do you know.
Truly yours fraternally in the bonds of a never dying affection
J. Gordon Taylor, letter to Emma Taylor, 12 March 1863, folder 7, box 1, Elias Riggs Monfort Collection, Duggan Library, Hanover College (Hanover, Ind.).
Transcription and research by Cheyann Fletcher, HC 2018, and Darien Miller, HC 2018 (and Sarah McNair Vosmeier)
Franklin, Tenn. Mch 12th, 1863
Yours of the 2d was received this evening and I suppose had been waiting for me a day or two. Since I last wrote we have as the heading of my letter shows, changed our Head Quarters, how and why you will learn as my journal progresses.
. . . .
Wednesday, Mch 4th. A cold blustering morning with a flurry of snow after which the sun came out brightly but with little effect upon the temperature. Found a letter from Ma waiting for me at the office, the first I have received from her since I came here. Met Charlie Ast on the street and learned that Nellie and Henry were at the St. Cloud, so I made a call without any delay. Henry seemed glad to see me and we had a good long talk over old times. From him I heard of several of the old College boys. Capt. Key who I think was in “Metcalf’s” class, died a few weeks ago of typhoid fever. Lieut. Ludlow is at Murfreesboro well and hearty. “Braden” is also at M. He is Lieut. in the same Co and Reg. to which “Key” belonged- 105th-O.V.I. - “Hickman” was killed not long ago. He belonged to the 8’ Ky. Cav.” Farmers’ College has done well for the country in war matters whatever she may have done in a literary line. Nellie Ast spoke to me very pleasantly, the first time she has condescended to notice me for several years. However here one forgets old differences and the sight of a familiar face is enough to make friends. They are going to Murfreesboro tomorrow. Henry is Acting Adjutant on Col. Miller’s staff.
. . . .
Friday Mch. 6th. Called at the hotel this morning to see the Gen. and found to my surprise that he had gone to Franklin, taking all of his staff with him, save Capt. Russell & myself. Our forces then were attacked yesterday and nearly 2,000 taken prisoners, and the Gen. has gone to see what he can do retrieve our loss. Have been at the hotel all day waiting for dispatches from the Gen. About three o’clock Lt. Beaham came up with orders for us to join the Gen. tomorrow, bag and baggage, so our nice housekeeping arrangement is all upset. It has rained steadily all day preparing the men for our march tomorrow. Can go by the cars if I choose but prefer going by pike. May have to retreat and it will be a good thing to know the country beforehand. Had a letter from “[Tom?]” today, good as her letters always are. Sent all my “traps” out to Camp this evening so that I may not be delayed when starting time comes.
Saturday Mch. 7th. My orderly who brought my horse in this morning told me we could not move on account of the rain. There is a creek about five miles from here which has risen to be impassable with our baggage train. Came out to Camp where I now am, the rain pattering upon the roof of my canvass house threatening to keep up here still another day. Spent most of the day in town helping Capt Russell who goes on the cars at five in the morning. Pa felt very bad about my leaving and I too was sorry that I had to go. How lonesome he will be now, more so than before I came. Wrote to Ma yesterday telling her of our intended move.
Sunday. Mch 8th. Of all the Sundays which have been ignored since I have been in the service of Uncle Sam, this has appeared the least like “the day of rest.” I have been utterly unable to realize that there was any such day. We rose early and started off on our first or rather my first march about nine o’clock. There was a good pike all the way with a beautiful country through which to travel, and the day at first so unpromising turned out very Spring like. We found the creek that caused our delay yesterday very high, but with skillful driving, much beating of the poor mules and more swearing from the men we succeeded in crossing without accident. Reached Franklin at four o’clock and immediately pitched our tents in the yard of a Mr Roselle, a rebel of course, who plead hard to be exempt but to no purpose. Lt Beaham who is the manager in such affairs was inexorable. Found the Gen. well. Have been unable to learn any of the particulars of the late fight, save that our troops were overpowered by a largely superior force of rebels and many taken prisoners. Our total loss was 1406, killed wounded & prisoners.
. . . .
When you see Lida again tell her that if ever I come home, I will call at her house for a dinner the first thing, and as she is so fond of it I hope she will have a good dish of hash on the table. By the way we had a very good dish of it today for dinner which put me in mind of home. . . . Give my best regards to “Dot” when she returns. Her slippers help to give a home like look to my tent and have been a great comfort. Remember me to, “Anna” “Sallie” “Maggie” “ Mary Hibben” and others whom I may know, and do not forget me yourself nor allow Kate to become unmindful of me.
I am going to send you a batch of letters to keep for me some of these days as it goes too hard to burn them. I’ll send them by Pa if he goes home next month.
You must keep in better spirits. I used to be sort of sentimental once myself but have gotten bravely over it. All the world is not bad and if it was what good would it do to grow desperate over it. I tell you when I see what the soldiers have to put up with, I can not say a word about my own condition, and yet there is no complaining. Take the world as you find it, make the most of it as it is, do not worry yourself because you cannot stop it when it seems to be going over. You know it will all be right some time however dark it may be now. Clouds as heavy have disappeared, Storms as fierce have settled to a calm, and it is only by meeting and overcoming the obstacles that we learn to appreciate peace and quietness. If you make up your mind that you will not feel lonely, that you will see but the bright side or that you will see obstacles in your pathway only that you may know how to overcome them, it will be as you will it. When you are tempted to complain think how many have more cause and are yet cheerful, when you are lonesome remember those who have given up every home c omfort and the society of friends near and dear, and yet are not lonely.
And here let me say a word as to your notion of going to the hospitals. Having had an opportunity to know more than many can learn, I would say to every young lady stay at home unless you have a friend suffering and it becomes your duty to administer to his wants. But I did not intend making this a lecture and will say good bye hoping to hear from you again soon.
Direct as before as we send messengers to N. daily for our mail thus receiving it sooner than if directed here. It is only 20 miles to N.
Give my love to Kate & take a large share for yourself and remember me to those at home to whom I shall soon write.
J. Gordon Taylor to Emma A. Taylor, 17 June 1863, folder 8, box 1, Elias Riggs Monfort Collection, Duggan Library, Hanover College (Hanover, Ind.).
Transcription and research by Josh Ford, HC 2018, and Sakib Haque, HC 2018 (and Sarah McNair Vosmeier)
Head Quarters “Reserves Corps”
Triune Tenn. June 17 1863
When this reaches you, you will probably be at home, enjoying a rest after the labors of the year. It makes me homesick to think of the “little white house” now, with you all so pleasantly situated. . . .
The news of yesterday in regard to Hooker and Lee was not very encouraging and a dispatch received this morning says a battle going on at the old Bull run field, which if the prestige of the place has any influence, will result in disaster to our arms. We feel secure about the army before Vicksburg, as it has been heavily reinforced, but all are anxious for its fall that the troops there may be elsewhere employed. Of our own future I can say nothing. We came to Franklin three months ago, expecting to stay but a few days, and now are at Triune where the prospect for a protracted sojourn is daily becoming better. I have long since ceased to complain or criticize, as I can see what obstacles are to be overcome and could the newspaper wiseacres be here and see and know what is done, they would go home with greatly different ideas as to carrying on the war. They would then devote their energies to prosecuting the war and to encouraging those who are daily dying that others at home may enjoy peace. This miserable wrangling about “party” would be done anyway with and men like Vallandigham, with his peace party would be given as food to the birds of the air, and all who mourned their fate be banished as traitors to the country. When I see such proceedings as the “Democrats” were engaged in, in my own native state, I begin to despair. We have arrived at the condition of Sodom and lack the “little leaven” that would save us from destruction. I am not one to give up but I feel as if all efforts were to prove in vain, and the utmost that can be done, is to show the world, that it cannot be charged against those who are now in the field. Thanks to the provisions of the State of Ohio, her soldiers are allowed a vote, and if fraud and corruption does not interpose, they will secure a republican, war-prosicuting Governor. The Copperheads at home have written and are still writing their treachorous suggestions to the men in the army, until there exists a wide spread disaffection in the ranks. But enough of this. I expect you think I have a fit of blues come over me this morning. “There is a good time coming” though to see it may require more faith than I can at present muster, but will try to – “labor and to wait.” This is a long introduction to the Journal part of the Epistle, but it is at last reached. . . .
Thursday June 11th. This morning the quiet was broken by the booming of rebel cannon and the shrill scream of the shell, as they rushed past impatient for victims. We soon were on horseback and in a few minutes after the Gen. had a battery working in reply. He sighted the guns himself and the position became very interesting. One shell struck within five feet of the Gen. another exploded among the caissons fortunately doing no damage, branches of trees dropped all around us, but we were not alone. Our guners worked bravely and soon the rebel fire began to slacken and in about twenty minutes it ceased altogether. It was the first time I had been under fire and as the first few shells flew much too high I did not care much, but as they began to get the range they came lower and lower until the chips flew from the trees about the heighth of my breast, and finally to plough up the ground around us, and then I thought it would be more comfortable elsewhere. I looked at the General who was working away and kept with him thinking I could stay if he could and as each shot was fired he would encourage the men until all encouragement wore away and they worked as coolly and quietly as if they were simply at drill. In a hollow between the rebel battery and our own, was posted a regeiment of our cavalry, and the firing was all done over their heads. At first they were very nervous but the sight of the General and a few words of encouragement restored order. His presence seemed to restore confidence and they all seemed to feel that where he was there could nothing hurt them. During the fire a body of rebel cavalry rushed out from the cover of the woods, across a large meadow evidently intending to cut off and capture a squad of our men who were thrown out as skirmishers as they were galloping across the Gen. trailed a gun upon them and fired. The shell struck in their very center and one rebel dropped from his saddle, another shell followed and still another and in confusion they all scattered and ran into the woods, evidently tired of their undertaking. When the battery was silenced, our cavalry went out in pursuit and after driving them across, the Harpeth [River], returned. We lost five killed and eleven wounded, killing nineteen rebels capturing three and wounding how many we of course do not know. Returned at two o' clock with a good appetite, glad that matters had turned out so well. . . .
Tuesday June 16th. Received letter from Pa and one from Kate yesterday. I did not know the O.F.C. [Ohio Female College] commencement took place so early. Did Farmer’s College hurry their’s up too. Shall expect an account of the proceedings from "Tom" in a day or two. I wrote to her last Sunday. Here ends the chapter. A dull one it will prove too. We are enjoying very warm weather now, the thermometer standing at about 98 or 100. I do not complain as this is what suits me. We live high now, having peas, seed, potatoes, cherries and such in abundance. As soon as I know where we are to be I will write you. I showed your letter to the General, but he did not seem to think there was much chance of your coming soon. But now good bye. Kiss all for me and give them any amount of love. I hope you remembered me to all the girls at parting.
Your aff. Brother
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