These letters were written by 18 year-old Francis Rawn Shunk (1843-1863) who served in Company B, 73rd Pennsylvania Infantry, otherwise known as “The Pennsylvania Legion.” This regiment was organized at Philadelphia originally as the 30th Pennsylvania but its designation was not changed until late September 1861. All three of these letters were written when Frank’s company was still in the 30th Pennsylvania.
One of Frank’s letters chronicles the variety of arms that were first issued to the men in this regiment. Regimental records state that it was not until January 15, 1862 that the altered Springfield muskets issued in September 1861 were exchanged for Austrian rifled muskets.
Unfortunately Frank did not survive the war. He was struck down at the Battle of Chancellorsville on 2 May 1863 when the 73rd Pennsylvania was surprised from the rear around 5 pm. near the Chancellor House by Stonewall Jackson’s flank attack which by that time had nearly spent itself.
Francis (“Frank”) was the son of Zephaneath Shunk (1819-1858) and Mary Raysor (1816-1895) of Upper Providence, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. His sister was Hannah Matilda (“Tilly”) Shunk (1845-1927).
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Aug 25th 1861
I almost forgot to tell you about the place where we are encamped. Well, we are encamped in a woods and have a very nice place here. We have plenty to eat and drink and more of it. We [have] plenty of fun. We are encamped where most of the three month men were and we are surrounded all around by northern troops in all directions. By what I can understand, Small’s Regiment & several other regiments are encamped not more than 2 miles from our camp. The Rhode Island regiment is not more than 100 yards from our camp.
The picket guards that we have surround around us about 3 miles from camp. They have caught 4 rebels and burned down a building — one of the Rebel’s building — and I think that we will get a chance at them too.
Now I will close and go to church.
F. R. Shunk
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Sunday, September 15th 1861
Mother, sister & all,
I now on this bright and pleasant Sabbath morning take this present opportunity of embracing a few lines to you to let you know that I am enjoying good health and hoping these few lines will find you enjoying the same blessing for without these blessings we are miserable creatures in this world.
Well, I received your letter yesterday evening and was very glad to hear from you but it seems very strange that you did not receive my letter which I sent for an answer to the one you wrote to me before for I sent an answer right away after I received your letter and now I will try it again and if you do not receive this one why I cannot be able to write soon again for I am entirely run out of money and paper and thing and is no prospect of getting any more soon way things are going now. We was to be paid the first of this month but now it is the 15th already and we have not seen anything that looks like money.
Well, we have been in the service something over two months and have had three different kinds of arms in that time. The first arms that we got was old muskets that had been flint locks. They came from the arsenal at Bridesburg about 3 miles out from Port Richmond. When you would shoot two or three loads out of them you could hardly bear to hold on to them by the barrel — they would burn your hand like everything. The second set of arms was also old muskets [that had] been rifled and then was called rifle muskets and they was not worth three cents for one half of them would not crack a cap. There was something else wrong with them. But we have pretty good pieces now I think. We have never fired any loads out of them yet. We do not know how they will work. We only got them this day a week. We marched out to the arsenal for to get them and the captain tells us that we will not go into the field of battle with these arms yet for he said that he was a going to have what he was promised or else none at all. He said that we was to have the Enfield rifles for company A and B was to [be] rifle companies.
When we was out to the arsenal we saw Jacob Williams and Jack Larkins.¹ They were well at that time and sent their best respects to all the folks up there, Tell mother I will now tell you that we got first rate living. You can go out and he farmers will give you anything that you ask for of they have got it. I and [David] Gandy was out yesterday and got some potatoes and red beats and I am cooking the beats now so I must go and see how they are coming along so I will be back directly.
Well, the beats are done now and I will get some vinegar and have them for supper if they get sour enough. Mother, we have had tomatoes everyday for dinner this week, cut up in vinegar and they go bully.
Well, I guess it is very near time for me to stop writing for I will have to go on guard at 12 o’clock. No more at present but Tom and Charley and George and all the rest of them send their best respects to you all and I also send my love to all inquiring friends.
I am your most obedient son, — Francis R. Shunk
Tilly, please give my love across the fields. You know who I mean, that’s so.
Soldier’s love to all.
¹ Jacob Williams and John (“Jack”) Larnkin both served in Co. F, 27th Pennsylvania and were from Upper Providence Township where Frank was from.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
September 25th 1861
Dear Mother, Sister & Friends,
I now will state to you that I take this present opportunity of embracing a few lines to you to let you know that I am well and hoping these few lines will find you enjoying the same blessing through the goodness of God for without these blessings we are miserable creatures.
Well, mother, we are situated in a very pleasant part of the country. Our camp is laid out on top of a hill. We can see several camps around us where we are. Murphy’s & the New York and Massachusetts regiments are all around us. We are in the same division. We are in General Bank’s Division but where we are now there is no telling how long we will stay where we are now. We may move away in a day or two.
Well, when we started, it was on Saturday night and [we] marched very near all night and marched all day Sunday and arrived at our place of destination where we are now. Well, we passed several of our Pennsylvania regiments on the road. We passed the [30th PA?] regiment where the Phoenixville [Chester Co.] boys is in for I have seen Ike, Dennis, George Force and several of the other fellows. And then we passed Col. [William Benson] Mann’s [31st Pennsylvania] Regiment too on Sunday and we saw Sam and Crist Riley and Bill Hallman and they are all right, well, and they look as hearty as young bucks. Our regiment lays about ten miles from the Phoenixville boys and about 5 miles from where Bill Mann’s Regiment is.
Well, talk about marching. On Saturday night it rained all the time we was out on Saturday night and it was very muddy too.
Mother, I must close for drill but you and all of the folks must write soon.
No more but still remain your affectionate son, — Francis R. Shunk
Please direct your letter to Mr. Francis R. Shunk, Co. B, 30th Reg. P. V., Gen. Bank’s Division, via Washington
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
Headquarters 73rd Reg. Penn.
Gen. Blenker’s Division
March 8th 1862
Mother, Sister & all,
It is with pleasure that I once more take this present opportunity of embracing these few lines to you to let you know that I am still enjoying good health and hoping when these few lines may reach you, will find you enjoying good health also. You must excuse me for not writing to you sooner as we was under marching orders this last two or three weeks.
Well, we have had marching orders this some time as I said before and now we lay in Virginia under Col. Koltes and a bully Colonel he is. I like him very well. Well we had orders to march for about two weeks and at last we did march to Washington. We [were] laying at Camp Hicks all winter and a getting acquainted with almost [all] the folks around Frederick and New Market and then we had to leave that place.
We stacked our arms out in the field in front of our camp and then the Lieut. Col. and adjutant marched us over into Virginia into their camps in ? At first we did not like it very well but now we are very well satisfied. Our officers are all very Dutch but at the same time we can make out what they say you must excuse me for not writing and for writing so poorly.
Address Mr. F. R. Shunk, Co. B, 73rd Regt. P. V., Col. Koltes’ Reg., Gen. Blenker’s Division, Virginia
In care of Capt. J[ohn] R. Haslett