1864-65: Enos Reed Family Letters

Louisa America Reed

Louisa America (Walker) Reed

These five letters were written by Louisa America (Walker) Reed (1842-1911), in Jefferson County, Iowa, the daughter of farmer Samuel Walker and his wife, Sarah Allen. In April 1862, she married teacher Enos Reed (1836-1925), son of James Reed (1814-1845) and Asenath McWilliams (who later remarried and became Asenath Long). Just three months after their marriage, Enos Reed enlisted as a private in the 34th Iowa Infantry. With his regiment, he participated in the Vicksburg Campaign and the captures of Fort Morgan and Fort Blakely, and was promoted to commissary sergeant on November 12, 1864. Louisa remained on their farm in Black Oak Point, Iowa, but made extended visits to her family and parents-in-law in Belinda, Iowa. Reed was not mustered out of the service until 15 August 1865 at Houston, Texas.

The Reeds’ first child, Olive (“Ollie”) was born January 19, 1863. After the war, the family settled in Liberty, Kansas, where Enos worked as Superintendant of Public Instruction, 1867-1870. Sometime before 1880, they moved to Palmyra, Kansas, where they lived permanently. The Reeds had a total of ten children: Olive (b. 1863), Alice (b.1868), Almeda (b. 1870), Walker (b. 1873), Anna (b. ca. 1874), Herbert (b. 1875), Ida (b. 1876), Lenora (b. 1878), Alma (b. 1879), and David (b. 1880). Olive and three other daughters worked as teachers, while the sons became farmers.

Enos Reed

Enos Reed

The William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan houses a collection of Louisa Reed’s letters written between 1863-1894. “Louisa Reed’s correspondence to her husband provides news from home, updates on Olive’s activities and development, and observations on the war and on maintaining their home by herself. In nearly every letter, she devoted an affectionate paragraph to Olive’s “mischief” and the new ways of playing the child had discovered. Reed also frequently referred to family members and neighbors, recounting her visits to them, but intimated that she sometimes felt “lonely in company” (January 4, 1863). Throughout her correspondence, she showed herself to be astute in management of the home and farm, frequently broaching the idea of selling off livestock and buying land before the end of the war, when she believed that land would become more valuable.

Enos and Louisa in front of Kansas Farm House in later years

Enos and Louisa in front of Kansas Farm House in later years

“Although Reed’s correspondence more frequently addresses personal than political topics, it documents tensions in Belinda over the validity of the war, with frequent references to the Copperhead movement. On February 7, 1864, Reed wrote that war supporters had threatened to tar and feather a particularly vocal Copperhead. She also briefly described fundraising efforts at a “union meeting,” and expressed her support for the Union cause. In another letter, she criticized men who both opposed and profited from the war (November 13, 1864).

“The conflict over the war is further dramatized by several letters from Asenath Long to her son, who, according to Louisa, attended “every meeting of that kind [Copperhead] within fifteen miles” (January 15, 1865). In Long’s correspondence, she expressed her anti-war sympathies and her strong feelings against African Americans: “if it was not on the account of the Negro we could have peace now…if I have raised sons to die for the Negro I shal [sic] go with sorrow down to my grave…” (August 7, 1864).”

[Source: Clements Library, University of Michigan]

Envelope addressed to Enos Reed, Commissary Sergent, 34th Regiment, Iowa Volunteers

Envelope addressed to Enos Reed, Commissary Sergent, 34th Regiment, Iowa Volunteers

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE

No. 8

Belinda, Iowa
February 21st 1864

My Dear Husband,

I received the missing letter last night. One of the shells (the large red one) was broken and the letter had been torn open. I expect someone imagined that there was something valuable in it and thought they would appropriate it to their own use. Ollie was very much pleased with the shells. I was sorry about one of them being broken.

Melissa took Ollie over to Jim’s in Emma’s little wagon. She is coming back now. She is here now and Ollie is asleep in the little wagon. I made her a doll the other day. She thinks it is awful nice. Its name is Lize Quartz.

They had another Union Meeting at the south school house last night. They have got over $100.00 made up in this township for the local bounty. Mrs. Wallace’s name was down for $1.50 to be paid in mittens at 75 cents per pair. The people have not got long to deliberate about volunteering. I hope the draft will come and take off some of the Copperheads. Melissa and Harv sent on and got a deck apiece of union playing cards. I expect you have plenty of them in the army. The suits are eagles, shields, stars, and flags with Col’s. for Kings, Goddess’ for Queens, and Majors for Jacks.

We have not heard anything from Dave yet. I am afraid that it was all a mistake about the prisoners being paroled.¹

You spoke of having one consolation while remaining idly in camp and that is that the three years is rolling on. This has been my consolation all this long time and I care not how fast it rolls on provided one object is gained and I know you will second me in my desire to see rebellion perish before your term expires. Home will not be home to the soldiers until the object of their ambition is gained and peace spreads its benign wings over all the land. This has indeed been a tedious separation and it is not over yet,

“but what’s the use of sighing
when time is on the wing.”

Ollie has got the old deck of cards and she is playing solitary. I expect Father would like to take a game with his little daughter. She can speak a good many words real plain and is growing prettier and sweeter every day.

We got a letter from Liz Liggins last week. They are all well. Melissa got a letter from Cyrus and he sent home a miniature for them to keep for him until he comes home. Pa says that it is Matty Turner’s picture. Coony knows her. I will send you a pair of socks by mail at the same time that I send this letter. They are some of my own spinning, coloring, and knitting. Let me know whether you get them or not.

Your loving wife, — L. A. Reed

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO

No 16

Black Oak Point, Iowa
April 17th 1864

My Dear Husband,

I have just gor home from meeting. The Rev. Mr. Good preached. I am happy to say that the congregation was not quite all Copperheads. There was one who I am sure was not of the above named persuasion and two doubtful (i.e., Jim and Mead). It is scarcely necessary to add that the man who spoke to such a congregation is generally considered a little tinctured with the red metal.

I received a letter from you last Thursday in which you acknowledged the receipt of a pair of woolen socks that I sent to you by mail. I was a little afraid that they would not go through safe, but thought I would risk it, as I did not know when I would have a chance to send them any other way.

How glad I would be if your opinion about the close of the war should prove correct. I still hope that it will all end in a few months, but I am afraid to put too much confidence in the belief lest I should be disappointed. This paper was clean when i commenced writing but I quit writing awhile and Ollie limbed up on my chair and made hand tracks on my paper. I put her up to one end of the table to keep her quiet and give her an old ink stand filled with water, a book, and an old pen holder, and she has been amusing herself imitating me. She will poke the pen holder in the ink stand and then scratch over the book with it. She has drank the water all out now, throwed the ink stand down, got down herself, and is lying on the floor squalling and kicking up her heels. She was the “observed of all observers” at meeting today and the preacher stopped once in his discourse and said, “I want the attention of the congregation if it is possible.”

We have had another week of cloudy, cool, wet weather. It is a very late spring. There is not enough grass for anything to live on yet. Harv has not got any more wheat nor any oats sowed yet. Pa and Jim Harden and Harv tore the roof off our house and propped up the plate and nailed the roof on again. Harv said that he believed the weight poles would have rotted the boards before fall.

Uncle Brum and Alf Molesworth had a fight the other day. It was something about their sheep and herding ground. Uncle Brum got his eye blacked and his face pretty badly scratched. Nevertheless, I guess that he got the best of the bargain. He says that he made Alf holler enough three times, and Alf confesses that he said enough.

It is getting pretty near night and I will come to a close as I have not much news to write. I expect that Ollie gets as many kisses as some children who have a Pa and Ma both to caress them. You know I have to give her all the affection that I would give to you and her both were you at home. I still remain, your loving wife, — L. A. Reed

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE

No. 20

Black Oak Point, Iowa
May 14th 1865

My Dear Husband,

I am at home and alone today. Harv went to Chariton yesterday and has not got home yet. I expect he staid at Jim Molesworth’s last night. Pa was over here this morning. He said that the mail boy brought the news from Knoxville yesterday that they have taken Old Jeff. I hope the report will prove correct.

I did not hear from you last week but our last Hawkeye [newspaper] states that the 2nd and 5th, 15th and 17th, and 14th and 20th Army Corps are to be reviewed by General Grant at Washington some time about the first of June. I hope we will soon hear of the 13th Corps being reviewed and mustered out of service.

Harv has got our own ground planted and is talking about putting in some corn on Harding’s place. He got Dad’s planter and Zane a day and a half, and he will have to plough for Dad tomorrow and next day. We had very nice working weather last week but too cold for anything to grow. About half the garden seeds that I had planted rotted in the ground. It rained last night and is cold enough today to have a fire and keep the door shut.

May 18th.

I am at Pa’s this morning. I came over yesterday evening. Pa has gone to Chariton today. Ma is fixing a bonnet. Jennie is mending a stocking. Ollie is playing with Emma Liggin’s little wagon. Melissa is studying postal laws and I am writing. The mail has not come yet. I hope we will hear yet some good news today. Melissa got a letter from Puss Walker last Thursday. She said that Warfield was married on the 20th of March last to a widow with one child — a boy four years old.

Three hours later. This morning’s mail did not bring a letter for me. Pa got one from W. S. Dungan of the 34th [Infantry]. ² It was written aboard the transport Peerless. All __ and dated the 23d of April. He did not say anything about the regiment — whether he was with it at the time he wrote or not — but told all about the capture of Blakely.

I have not anything more to write about now, but I am going to stay here until tomorrow evening and perhaps I will write some more before the mail goes out.

Your loving wife, — L. A. Reed

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR

No. 22

Black Oak Point, Iowa
May 28th 1865

My Dear Husband,

This is a beautiful day. Harv has gone to Sunday School like a good boy and Ollie and I are writing. There is going to be preaching at the school house this evening and as I have not been over south to see the folks for a good while, I guess that I will go to meeting. Jim and Mead went to Pella to take their wool to the factory last Friday and will come back tomorrow or next day. Harv got up seven of our sheep and put them in Pa’s stable to shear them last Tuesday evening and went Wednesday morning to hunt for the other three, and Melissa and I thought we would get two or three sheared by the time Harv got back. We went at it and got them all sheared before noon and Harv hunted all day for the others and could not find them. He has not hunted any for them since and says he will not until he gets done putting in corn at Harden’s. We have eleven pounds of washed wool from seven sheep and if the other three turn off as well, we will have fifteen or sixteen lbs. Won’t that be a big turn off? Pa’s folks have between forty-five and fifty lbs. of clean wool from ten sheep. I sheared one sheep and my hand give out. I don’t know how Melissa stood it to shear the other six.

I feel too lonely and lazy and sleepy to write. I wish you was here to keep me company. I thought awhile back that the prospect was good for you to home very soon, but I am fearful now that you will have to go to Texas under Sheridan. I do not apprehend much danger or hard fighting in that quarter but if you have to go there it may cause considerable delay in your being mustered out of service. I hope I will get a letter from you tomorrow, but I have got to be very well satisfied if I get one every two weeks. I do not write much of importance lately, but I sometimes think that I would be glad to get a letter once a week if they contained nothing but information of your health and whereabouts. I wish you could have better facilities for mailing letters and more opportunities to write, but as it is, I do not expect to hear from you very regularly.

Jim Harden says that Jenny is getting along very well with her school and she has the promise of the public school already if she will take it.

I have twenty-six young chickens and would have had fifty by this time if the hens would set good but we have not got corn for them to run to and I think they go off and stay and pick around so long is the reason they don’t do better. I wanted to raise a good many and have some big enough to eat by the time you & Dave get home. We have had very dry weather for awhile and I think people who have predicted a wet season will soon begin to fear that we will have the reverse.

Ollie has got some spools fixed on a wire and a string tied to them. She will drag them around and her kitten will run after and play with them. She amused herself in that way nearly all day yesterday. I just now went out and got her an oak limb with balls on it and there was one little one. She is talking to it and says in a very fine voice, “Oh little one! Cute little feller! Oh, nice little thing. Is that little one? Oh, here ’tis little feller. Dat’s little bally.”

May 29th

I have been dropping corn today. Harv has about six or seven acres ploughed at Harden’s and he got Dad’s planter this morning and couldn’t get anybody to drop for him and as it is only to be ploughed one way, I thought I could drop good enough. I left Ollie at Harden’s. She is there yet. Harv and I come home to feed the horses and get our dinners. It will take us an hour or two to get done and then Harv will take the planter to Able’s and I expect I will go with him as far as the Post Office.

Three hours later at Pa’s. No letter for me or anybody else from the 34th [regiment]. We got done planting corn and Harv has gone to Able’s with the planter. This is such a poor pen that I will not write any more with it.

No more at this time from your loving wife, — L. A. Reed

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE

No. 24

Black Oak Point, Iowa
June 11th 1865

My Dear Husband,

Every newspaper brings accounts of soldiers being mustered out and coming home. Oh, how many glad hearts there will be when their soldiers all come marching home. But alas! how many more will be sad at seeing the comrades of dear ones who have fallen in the strife. And how many will feel worse than sad when they read and hear of so many poor sufferers dying at Andersonville and Belle Island and know that some loved one died there. How thankful all whose friends have escaped such suffering should feel.

Yesterday was a general muster day. Harv went to town and has not got back yet. I expect he staid at Jim Molesworth’s last night. Ira come over here yesterday evening and staid all night. He waited for Harv to come this morning until he got tired and just awhile ago started to Sunday School.

We have not got any rain yet although it has been raining all around. They had good rains in Marion County last week and we have seen heavy rains going around south and east of here. Harv got back from Marysville Tuesday evening. He got his grinding but did not get good flour. I received a book (The Confederate) from you last Thursday.

If I had money, I would get material and make some shirts for you and Dave against you get home. I sent the coarse wool to Marysville to get it carded thinking that I would spin it and have some socks knit for you when you get home. But Harv had to leave the wool there and it will not be carded for six weeks.

June 12th 1865

I am at Pa’s this morning. I came over yesterday evening. I was up at Stockdale’s awhile in the afternoon yesterday. The mail has not come yet. I hope we will hear that you are on the way home. Frank ____ley went by here this morning going for the doctor. Their child is very sick. Mother is here. She comes after the mail. Their folks are all well. The mail has come but we did not get any news from the 34th [Regiment]. It is cloudy and raining some today. I hope it will give a good shower before it clears off. I have no news of importance to write and will quit for this time.

Your loving wife, — L. A. Reed

¹ “Dave” is David V. Reed (1842-Aft1901), the younger brother of Enos Reed. Like Enos, David joined the 34th Iowa Volunteers, Company K, and was in the battles of Vicksburg, Mobile, and others, He was captured by the Confederates on 29 September 1863 (Atchafalaya, La.), and taken to Tyler, Texas, where he was incarcerated for a period of ten months. In 1864, he was exchanged, and three days afterward participated in the battle of Sterling Plantation. He was mustered out in 1865, and returned to Lucas county, Iowa. There he remained on a farm until 1867, when he moved to Labette county, Kansas, and located upon a farm in Liberty township were he engaged in general farming, stock raising, and fruit growing.

² Warren S. Dungan served in Co. K of the 34th Iowa Regiment also. He was from Chariton, Iowa. Appointed Lieutenant Colonel Sept. 16, 1862. Mustered Oct 15, 1862. Transferred to 34th Consolidated Battalion, Nov. 12, 1864. Mustered out August 15, 1865, Houston, Texas.

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