Letters from Cousin Oscar
Oscar Wilber was 24 when he enlisted in the 154th New York Regiment in August of 1862. He was unmarried but was the eldest son of his widowed mother and had been the family wage earner since his father's death in 1852. Three younger brothers and an invalid sister were left at home with their mother to manage the small farm on the Five Mile Run. Many of their neighbors were relatives and all were long time residents.
The first letters are dated 1862.
October the 5th 1862
Dear Uncle Nathan Wilber
I think now I will write a few lines to you. I am well at present and I hope you are the same and youre family. We stoped to Elmira and got our guns and cattrage boxes. We got these in the morning and stayed there till noon and then we started for (Washington crossed out) Baltimore. We got to Baltimore the next day a bout eleven oclock. We stayed there till a bout nine o clock at nite then we started for Washington. We got there in the morning. The carrs (train) run very slow from Baltimore to Washington. I guess they was afraid that the railroad mite have been torn up but there was nothing disturbed.
There is a great many solgers guarding the railraod from Baltimore to Washington. We stayed to Washington till a bout five o clock then marched across the Potomac River. It is a bout a mile and a helf a cross it. We are from fore to six miles from Washington but we can see Washington sity and old Abe Lincoln has got a very nice house.
Washington aint so level a country as I expected. It is roling land a good deal like McClures farm. It is a very sitely place. A white sandy soil and very warm and sultry. I have seen more than I ever new (knew) before. I like Cattaraugus (county) the best. It is a good deal beter land I think than this place where we are camp Seward Arlington Heights.
There is tents and solders gest as far as you can see. I dont know how meny ther is here but they are as thick as flies.
I am in a bout thirty miles of Bently(his brother-in-law). I saw a man that was in Bently copany at Washington. He says that Bently was wounded but not very bad. I think I shall see him yet. There has been lots of solgers here that knows him.
We can see the forts from the camp. I have been up to one of them but they would not let me in only around the outside. It is a strong place. There is some cannon there that a man can crall in to. Where we are the farm loks very deselate. Nothing has been raised on them since the war I guess. It is cut up very bad with riffle pits. They are fortifying all the while most. I see them diging riffle pits yesterday.
October the 14, 1862
Dear Uncle Nathan Wilber
I thought I would write you a nother leter. I am well at present and hope these few lines will find you all the same. I wrote you a letter a weak a go and have not received no answer yet. I should like to here from you all. We have left Camp Steward. We got to Fare Fax Court House Monday a bout noon. It is a bout twenty one miles from Washington a bout seventeen miles from Camp Seward. We are under Gen. Sigel now and i gess we shall have to fite. You know that he is a man that will fite. You know he has been boxing with the Rebels for some time. We expect to leve here tomorrow morning. Some think that we shall go to Richmond but I don't know where we shall go but our Captain thinks we shall have to fite right a long.
All I have to say a bout it I dont want no one to troble a bout me. All I want you and Ant Rachel to pray for me and all the rest of the solgers. I wish I was a good Christian. I try to live like one but you know that there is everything to lead a man a stray but i shall try to do the best i can. I think this war will close by spring and I expect to come home yet. Write and tell me iff you got that leter I wrote last weak. Write as soon as you get this. I will write a few lines to Mother and you hand it to her.
I am well and hope these few lines will find you all the same. I am in Fairfax Court House a little ways off from the Rebels but the Lord will save us iff He thinks best. I dont troble much a bout it. I should like to see you all. I have got to go on drill now and I cant think of enything to write.
I wrote you a leter last weak and I haint receved no answer yet. Have the boys got through harvisting yet. Nathan you write and tell me a bout that corn whether it was taking care of or not. Nathan write all the news. Write me a good long leter. Goodby Uncle.
All the rest of you must write. You have more time than I have. Some may think a solger has a good deal time but that aint so. We have to drill or stand on guard or something most all the time. Write soon. Oscar Wilber
Wallace how are you a geting a long. Have you got through Harvisting yet. Wallace I should like to see you. Wallace write me a leter. Anson and Nelson be good boys. I should like to see you to(w) boys. You know that I cant write all of you a leter but you here from me every litle while. Boys you and Mother write to gether. Wallace you can write alone.
November the 5 1862
Dear Uncle Nathan
I will try to write a few lines to you and let you know how we are giting along. We are well at present. Nathan I got youre leter to day. I was glad to here you was all well. You wrote that they was a goin to draft out there. I hope that you wont have to come altho I would like to see you but I dont want to see you down here. I will write a little what I have seen and then you can tell for youre self whether you like to be here or not.
We left Fairfax Court House the second day of November a bout noon. We marched ten miles that half a day then we camped and stayed till morning then we startid a gain and we marched fifteen miles more then we camped down in a place called Carters Switch. This place is beyond Bull Run.
Now I will tell you a little about war. First ining I saw a man leg standing up in a man's boot. It had been shot off just below the knee and I saw a lot more that was covered about six inches deep and lots of ded horses that had been shot and the nex thing I saw was a man that had ben covered up and the rain had washed off the dust off of his face. O how that looked. You dont know how I felt but I expect that I shall half to get used to it.
Well I tell you the next thing I saw that was a man's arm that had been shot off and dried down. It was shot off by the elbo and the next thing I saw was a man's head. Uncle Nathan Wilber you dont know how bad it looked. The Rebels beried their ded beter than they did oure men. The moast of the Rebels was covered out of sight and a good meny of ours wasent.
Well I wont write eny more a bout that for I suppose that you new the Bull Run was an afful battle and you new that there must be a good meny ded men there. Now Uncle Nathan I will tell you beter news. I will tell you what we had for super that is I mean oure regtment. We took a lot of Rebels catle and oure boys went at them like wolves and we shot six or eight down in one minute and we drest them off and had som for super. You would of laught if you had of been here to see (the) work. Oure company killed two. Oure boys say that they shiped them a Bull Run for they killed a three year old bull. He tried hard to get away but he couldnt. The next that our Regtment killed was a two year old heifer and cows. Yesterday our boys went and killed a lot of hens to eat and today we went back of our camp about a mile and a half and we got two hogs. They would weigh about three hundred a peace and skined them and dressed them off and beside we killed two pigs and one sheep and we took a swarm of bees up. I dont know how meny the rest of our Regtment killed. Our men is taking something every day. They have took a number of horses. I will write more on a pice of paper...Uncle I want you to sell them sleds and that youk(yoke) and staple and ring and if Ransom(a cousin) hant got that other staple and ring have him git it and sell them all and send me the money and I want you to right(write) me how much money that Philow(Philo, his cousin)left his hol(e) share came to and I want you to see to it for me. You (k)now that I am not there.(no signature)
Nov. the 21th 1862
I thought that I would write once more to you. I have been sick with the mumps but are giting quite smart. I think that I shall get well. Milo(a cousin) has ben sick but he is beter. We have to fair prety hard. Some nights we have to lay in the mud and water two or three inches deep. Uncle Nathan you knot know nothing how a soldier has to fair. Hes out doors in the rain and mud all day and when night comes to lay right down in the wet mud with a little thick cloath tent for a house and the rain will run right threw it. We had a bout one thousan of men in our regtment and I dont believe that we have got six hundred men that is fit for duty now. You dont know nothing a bout sicknes out there. If we could have your barn to sleep in we would think that we was well provided for. We have to fair harder than youre cattle does. Some days all we get to eat is one cracker a day and a little piece of beef. Some times we have enough to eat but as a general thing we fair very hard. Do you think you would live as we do. How could you sleep to lay out doors with one blankit over you. Uncle Nathan if you are drafted you better hire a man to come in youre place if it costs you all you are werth to hire him for what is a man's property worth when he is ded. Nathan I think I shall get home yet alive. Pray for me that I may and I will try to pray for myselph. Nathan what is the reason that you dont write. I have wrote a good many to you and you haint wrote but two or three since I have been a soldier. Nathan I wish you would send me two dollars in money for I haint a sent of money. Send it in a letter. Write as soon as you get this. Goodby. Derect your letter to Washington D.C. 154 Regt.Co.G.NY. Sv. in care of Capt. M.B.Cheny. please to forward. We have got back to Fairfax Court House.
November the 22 1862
I received your kind letter today. I was glad to here from you and here that you all wer well. Aunt I have been quite sick with the mumps but I have got almost well. It made me very weak but I am gitting prety stout now. A good meny of oure boys have had the mumps and some of them has been very sick so that they had to go to the hospital. They wanted me to go to the hospital (but)I toled them I should not go till I was werse than I was now. I think that I got along better than if I had of went to the hospital. Milo has been quite sick and he has got beter. I think we shall have oure health now if we are carful. Aunt youre letter come quite unexpected. I dident think that you would write me a letter. O how glad I am to here from home. I wrote many a letter and have not recived no answer yet. I wrote one to Uncle Nathan last night. I wrote that he hadent wrote more than 2 or three letters to me. I dont know how meny he has wrote but I dont think he has wrote more than 3. I have wrote eight or ten letters to him. Aunt Rachel tell hm to write me a good long letter. Tell him I wish that he would send me two dollars in money. I have got out of money. When I was sick I could not eat hard tacks and I had to b(u)y something that I could eat. Cheese is thirty cents a pound, butter 40 cents lbs. pies 25 cents a piece, tobaco from one dollar to ten shillings a pound and so you may know where a soldiers money goes to. We have expected to draw oure pay for more than a month but I have got tired of looking for it. We may get it in two days and we may not get it in two months. If I dont get some I shall have to stop writing. I am glad that I have got a place to send for money for I know that Uncle Nathan Bank is good as the gold. Well I have wrote enough of that. Aunt Rachel we have got back to Fair Fax Court House. We have been to Theriuogh Fiar Gap that was a way below Bull Runn. when I get home I will tell you how Bull Run looks. I dont know how long we shall stay here. I dont think we shall stay here long. Uncle Nathan I want to write me a good long letter and write all of the news. Write how our folks is geting along and how my cattle is geting along up home. Yearlings I mean. Aunt Rachel I have got them gloves yet. I think a good deal of them. I mean you shall have your pay for them. Aunt I must close now. Give my respects (to) all of family and all inquiring friends. Good By. Write soon. Direct youre letter as before.
Oscar F. Wilber
November the 27 1862
I recived youre Kind letter last Knight. O how glad i Was to here from you Mother i begain to think that you had all forgotten ME. Mother We have got back Near fair fax Court house. We have been to therough fair Gap. We Stayed there one Weak then We had orders to March back here to fair fax. i don't know how long We Shall Stay here. Mother i don't think that We shall be in a battle for a good While. it May be that We Never Shall have to fight. i hope Not Eny how. for My part i don't Want to fight. i think this Ware Will be settled by Spring. that is the opinion of the Moast of the Soldiers. Mother i think that i Shall be home by Spring.
Mother i hope that this letter will find you all well. Mother i have been sick with the Mumps but i have got beter Now. i feel well Enough only i am Some weak yet but i am gaining strength.
Mother tell uncle barber that Milo is out around but he is very weak. i think this Climate dont agree with him very Well or Derious Wilber. Dey has got the Glanders and he has got a bad Cough. Mother i aint as fraid of being Shot as i am of Sickness. Edmund and lyman is Well. Charles Wilber has been Sick but he has got Well. Danford hall aint very Well. (all these men were cousins) Mother i have been Well all the time onely When i had the Mumps. Mother i feell prety Well Now. Mother dont troble a bout Me. i Will be home Next Spring then i will tell you all the News. Mother it is Dull times here. We dont have No Much Ware News. probly you have More News than we do.
Mother i am Sory that you had to Sell that heifer. you wrote that Nathan Sed he Would take what he give for her. Mother b(u)y her back if you have to pay ten Dollars for her. Mother tell Nathan that i haint got Eny pay yet Nor i don't know when We Shall get Eny but i think that We Shall Soon. tell him that i Will pay him out of that Money that i let him have if he Want to do so or if he dont Want to Do So tell him When i get some More Money i Will pay him out of that. Mother you Need the use of that heifer Next Sumer. if i had of been at home i Would Not had her Sold. i thaught a good Deal of her. Mother be Shure and b(u)y her back for Me if he Will Sell her and if i Never get home you Shall have her to remember Me.
if grand Mother has got Eny hay to Sell i Will trade one of them Notes for hay. if she haint got Eny to Sell then b(u)y Some of Some one Else. it May be that uncle Nathan would like to Sell Some. Mother you have got them Notes that i had a gainst Nathan Wilber and fisher. if Nathan dont Want to Do Eny other Way you Can trade them. one Note that i had a gainst Nathan Was Eight dollars and Seventy Cents. i think it Was. you Know for you have got them and the other against Nathan Was twenty Dollars and Mother i Sent Sixty Dollars in Money by uncle barber Wilber to uncle Nathan Wilber. i don't Know Whether he has used it or Not. Nathan wrote to Me that he had payed Wilber hall that fifteen Dollars. Mother i wrote this so you Would Know how it Stood With Me and Nathan. it May be that Nathan has toled you. i will finish on another piece of paper. phylura (his sister, wife of Bentley) i Will Write as Soon as i Can to you. have you herd from Jenney and Amy. Write and tell me all the News. i have Wrote to them but have Not recived No answer. tell Wallace to Write to Me. you all Must write. you have More time than i DO. (no signature)
November the 27 1862
Dear Uncle Nathan
As I was a writing to our folks I thought that I would write a few lines to you. I feel midling well today and i hope this leter will find you and family all well. Uncle I haint got no news to write to you. It is dull times here. Nothing much going on. Nathan if you will sell that heifer that Mother soled you I will by her of you. I toled Mother by her for me I will pay you out of that money that I let you have if you want to do so or when I get some more I will pay you out of that. I think a good deal of that heifer and so I would like to by her. I wrote and told Mother how oure maters stood. Nathan if you just as like (to)do so write and tell me. Uncle Nathn you mite tell Mother how much money I let you have and how much you have paid out for me and she mite keep a count of it. I don't know whether you want to use that money or not. (Use means invest) You never have wrote enythng about it. If you dont intend to use it you mite tak(e) youre pay out for that heifer. Nathan did you get that letter that I wrote to you to pay Willard. Nathan it may be that you have used that money if you have it is all rite. I toled you to if you wanted to. Nathan if you want to make that trade you may trade with Mother. I toled her to by some hay of some one to winter her with. If Grandmother wants to sell it I will by it of her and if she dont and you want to sell some I will by of you. Write as soon as you get this.
Dec. 23, 1862
Dear Uncle nathan Wilber
I recived youre kind letter about a weak a go but I could not get no time to answer it. The mail dident go out till yesterday. Nathan I am well at present and hope this letter will find you and family the same. Nathan I recived that moeny you sent two dollars and two postage stamps. I was glad to get it for I had got out of money. Nathan we are to Fredericks Burge the City of Fredericks Burge is in site of us. It is about a mile off. the Rebels is in site of us. Our pickets is on this side of the river and thears on the other. Nathan our company and one moar is a supporting a battery at present. We shall remailn here till the regtment mooves a way. We are about eighty rods from the Regtment. Nathan General Burn Sides Army had a hard battle here with the Rebels. Burn Side lost 10000 men. He lost a bout ten men to the Rebels one so they all say. the old Regtments call Fredericks Burge General Burn Sides Slaughter Yard. They think he didnt do right leading his men up in that way. Nathan the Rebs is fortified strong and oure men has to take the open lots for it. our men couldent hardly see them onely ther heads and sholders they stood in their riffle pits. It is hard work to hit a man if you cant see him. Uncle Nathan if the Rebs would come out fair we could whip them but as it si oure men cant do nothing in front of thear batteries. All the way we can do enything with them is to flank them that is to cum up on one side of them. If General Sigle had go here three days sooner we would of ben in that fight We should of been here if it had of been good going. It was aful bad going. the mud was a bout six inches deep. Gen. Burn Sides army took lots of tobaco from the Rebs. I have got some of the tobaca. they broke open one band and they got three thousand dollars of green backs. I mean oure money that the Rebs had took from our men and oure men got three thousan dollars in gold and silver. OUre men held the citty of Frederick Burge one day. They took a good deal from the rebs. If i had that six thousan dollars that our men took I should think I was quite well off. Now Nathan I must close and write a few lines to Mary.(a cousin) Uncle Nathan write as soon as you get this and write of all the news. Good by. Write as you get from Oscar Wilber to Nathan Wilber. Direct your letter as before. Good by. Oscar Wilber.
Dear cousin Mary (Nathan's daughter)
I will write a few lines to you. Mary I am well at present and hope thes few lines will find you the same. Mary I recived your kind letter and was glad to here from you and that you was well. Mary if you will excuse me for not writing more I will try and do better next time. I should of wrote more to you if I hadent got to write a few lines to Uncle Barber Wilber. Now Mary be a good girl and write soon as you here from me and Aunt Rachel to. Good by Oscar Wilber