1863: Rhoda to sister

How Rhoda might have looked

How Rhoda might have looked

This letter was written by someone name Rhoda who lived in or near Seneca, Illinois, in 1863. She wrote the letter to her sister Sarah. Unfortunately there are no last names mentioned throughout the entire letter and no accompanying envelope to aid in the identification of the correspondents. The letter is datelined Seneca and the author talks of going to Tonica which is not far from Seneca in Illinois.

I presume the “George” mentioned in Rhoda’s letter was her husband, son, or some other close relative. It isn’t clear if the soldiers Lemuel (“Lem”) and his brother Warren were relatives or only acquaintances of the corresponding sisters. It seems obvious that either Lemuel or Warren (probably the former) was married to the woman named Emily who was left a widow.

The battlefield in which Lem was killed and his brother Warren was wounded, if not killed, is also not stated; it may have been the Battle of Chickamauga, fought September 19-20, 1863, as there were a large number of casualties in that engagement and it involved many western regiments.

The correspondents may have been a part of — or related to — the Grandy family. There was a Lemuel Grandy killed at the Battle of Chickamuaga. Lemuel was in the 36th Illinois, Co. K, and service records indicate he was from Wayne in Kane County. Lemuel may have been the son of Elijah Grandy, Jr. (1799-1870). Elijah’s brother, Ira Grandy (1802-1885) ¹ had a farm in Wayne, Illinois at the time. Lemuel (b. @ 1841) is enumerated with Elijah (his father?) in the 1860 Census in Berrien, Michigan. Elijah married his second wife, Lucy Palmer, in 1836 (her first husband was William Wheeler). If Lemuel was Elijah’s son, then Lucy must have been his mother. Other sons may have included Warren, the brother who served with Lemuel in the 36th Illinois (military records indicate there was a G. W. Grandy in Co. K), and possibly an Elisha. Could it be Elisha and his father Elijah that were gold seekers on the Salmon River in Idaho in 1863? Family records are just too scanty to confirm any of these conjectured relations.


Seneca, [Illinois]
November 1, 1863

My dear Sister [Sarah] & family,

I received yours of the 28th yesterday, confirming my worst fears. We also received one from George in which he said he saw one of the boys that belonged to the same company. He said the last he saw of Warren, he was sitting beside his dead brother, wounded. George drives an ambulance. He said he helped to haul off 3,000 of our wounded. Oh! he says it is an awful sight to see so many suffering & dying. Poor Lem. He says what will become of his wife & child. They are better off than thousands of others. George said he understood that Lem was trying to rally the men when he received a shot in the forehead. The blood spurted two feet high. Poor fellow. He with thousands of others have laid down their lives & what does it amount to? I for one am heart sick & discouraged. I can see no prospect of a speedy termination of this unholy war. I wish I had more faith & confidence in our rulers. Poor Emily. Where does she have her home?

I am in hopes to see you all this fall but I may be disappointed. I intend to go to Tonica as soon as they are done husking which will be two weeks good weather & from there to your house if I can get there.

I received a letter from Elisha yesterday. He is well & in good spirits. He is mining on Salmon River.² His father is about thirty miles from him.

Sarah, do write me a long letter. Tell me all about the folks, the crops, & how you get along. Can’t some of you come over soon? I want to see you all very much & I never was so determined on anything in my life as I am of taking the trip I have spoken of. Still I may not go. I do not go anywhere. I have to work hard & there never seems to be time for me to get away. I wish I could for a little while. We are all well. Give my love to all — Emily in particular. All come over when you can. Write often. Good night.

— Rhoda

¹ Story about Ira Grandy called, Passing in Review: Reminiscences of Men Who Have Lived in St. Charles. Durant, Pliny A. St. Charles Chronicle, June 26, 1903, p. 1.

“In a humble frame house on the western outskirts of St. Charles, opposite the southwest corner of the old school house “green”, there lived for many years Ira Grandy and his wife, also their children until the latter had grown up, married and gone away. The place was unpretentious and the family never possessed a great amount of worldly goods, but the inhabitants of the old home were rugged, hardworking, kindly hearted people, who were among the best known of all the residents of the town.

Ira Grandy was born in Waitsfield, Washington County, Vermont, in 1801, (actually January 23, 1802) and about 1824 married Luroncy Sibley, daughter of John Sibley, a native of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, who had located in St. Charles, Missouri in 1840 and who died here December 26, 1853. Mr. Sibley built the stone house, now the home of Mr. and Mrs. Lafayette Strader.

After their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Grandy removed [from Vermont] to Genessee County, New York, and in October, 1853, came west to St. Charles. For some years they lived on a farm in Wayne, DuPage County, but most of their time was passed in St. Charles. They had many friends and there was no more hospitable home than theirs. Mr. Grandy, for the last twenty-five years of his life, was almost totally blind and it fell to the lot of his almost equally aged wife to care for him, a task which she dutifully and nobly performed…”

² Gold mining began on the Salmon River in Idaho in 1861 at the Florence Diggings.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: