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1864 January 2: “I take my pen between my digital extremities to hold written converse with you”

January 2, 2014

Our first letter of 1864, from Wyman X. Folsom with the 7th Minnesota Infantry.  As with other letters he wrote, he does not use periods at the end of sentences or capital letters at the start of sentences, so we have created sentences where they seemed to make sense.

The original letter is in the W. H. C. Folsom Papers (River Falls Mss S), in the University Archives and Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Saint Louis Mo
Jan 2nd 1864

Dear Father,

                            Again I take my pen between my digital extremities to hold written converse with you.  The 7th Minn. still lives, nothing but time can kill our regiment but a [sett?] of men never went forth equal to them in folsom-letter-1864-1-2 word [rowdyism?].  I am sorry to say it but I am quite certain I am right, it is composed of men that care for nothing.  We have two companies that cannot be but in the United States Army for vulgarity.  I am ashamed of them.  One of the Companies is Capt. Libby’s.¹  [paragraph break added]

We are having very cold weather now.  Thermometer stands twenty three below “zero“.  Old residents say they never have seen it so cold before.  There is good sleighing in the city.  The train from Alton² is two days behind [hand?] owing to snow drifts.  Col. Marshall³ is at Alton, cannot get here at present untill [sic] the road is open.  It is snowing some to day.  Good many of the boys froze their feet night before last, none of us froze our feet in Minnesota last winter.  If it is as cold in Minnesota in proportion as is here you deserve pitty [sic].  It must be a good  time for teams in the woods this winter.  I hope you will all due [sic] well.  Lumber markets are empty, and lumber only enough can be got in this winter to supply them.  Who hauls your supplies?  [paragraph break added]

I wrote to mother day before yesterday.  Owing to the railroad being blockaded I have not received any letters for a week.  Am expecting a good lot soon.  I am afraid we are not going to get a Col. as our men are leaving the regiment faster than they are coming in.  Recruiting is progressing very slowly I guess in Minnesota.  We have as yet received no recruits from there that I know of.  David Canaday4 though has joined Company “C.”  Dave makes a good soldier.  Long may he wave as a member of our gallant little company.  There is a good many more good soldiers in Chisago County5 and my prayer is that Levi Folsom, Levi Stewart, Frank Eddy,6 and a few more I might mention may be drafted and made to go in the ranks and stand their chances.  O !  I am down on all their shirks [shirkers?] and there is a good many in Taylors Falls.  Father as you say there is a good deal more honor in serving my country as a common soldier than an officer .  Nine out of ten of our commissioned officers will to home and be cursed by every man in the regiment.  I may say our whole army has got a very poor set of officers and Capt Burt7 notwithstanding, he is a good military man, never will get a vote from Company “C” when we get home, not for any office.  He misused us when we first started out and the boys never will forgive him if he ever runs for any office.  They will show their regard for him by their votes.  Mr. Martin8 is not very well.  George Lea9 is getting about well.  The boys in our company are as a general thing quite well.  Doctor Smith10 sends his kind regards to you and mother.  I must now close.  Write soon.  Give my regards to all.

Your Obt. Son,
. . . . .Wyman X. Folsom
. . . . . . . . Co. “C” 7th Regt M. V.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Saint Louis
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mo.

1.  Asa Libby, from St. Cloud (Minn.), was captain of the 7th Minnesota Infantry’s Company I. He will resign in less than a month—January 27, 1864.
2.  Alton is in Illinois. In the Civil War, a Union military prison was there in the Illinois’ old first state penitentiary. From 1862-1865, 11,764 Confederate prisoners were housed there. Conditions in the prison were harsh and the mortality rate was above average for a Union prison. An index of prisoners records is available online at Alton in the Civil War.
3.  William R. Marshall, from St. Paul (Minn.), had been the lieutenant colonel of the 7th Minnesota and was promoted to colonel on November 6, 1863.
4.  David A. Canaday .  He was living in Grantsburg, in Burnett County, Wisconsin, in 1890.
5.  Taylors Falls is in Chisago County, which is across the Saint Croix River from Polk County, Wisconsin.
6.  Levi Woodbury Folsom (1821-1912) was a cousin of Wyman’s father, W. H. C. Folsom. Levi was 40 years old in 1860, so too old to get drafted in 1864.
Levi E. Stewart (b. abt. 1830) was living in Taylors Falls in 1860; he does not appear to have served in the Civil War.
Franklin S. Eddy (abt. 1830-abt.1875) was living in Taylors Falls in 1860; he does not appear to have served in the Civil War.
7.  William Henry Burt (1824-1866) was the captain of Company C of the 7th Minnesota Infantry. In 1864 he will be promoted to major.
8.  Charles Martin (1841-1896).
9.  George B. Lea (b. abt. 1835).
10. Lucius B. Smith (1824-1864). He will be killed July 13, 1864, at the Battle of Tupelo. He was the first doctor to practice in Taylors Falls.

Wyman X. Folsom letter of January 2, 1864, from the W. H. C. Folsom Papers (River Falls Mss S) in the University Archives & Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Wyman X. Folsom letter of January 2, 1864, from the W. H. C. Folsom Papers (River Falls Mss S) in the University Archives & Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Linda Bryan permalink
    May 23, 2014 12:45 pm

    Asa Libbey’s military unit was indeed disgusting. Capt. Libbey would be court martialed for his conduct at Crow Wing during the Aug-Sept stint that their unit did during the Indian agency crisis there. He was drunk frequently and he even rode his stalliion into a tavern at Crow Wing.

  2. Linda Bryan permalink
    May 23, 2014 12:51 pm

    Could the mystery word be “rowdyism” corrected to “rowdism” or something like it? Asa Libbey’s military unit was indeed disgusting. Capt. Libbey was court-martialed for his conduct at Crow wing during the August-Sept stint that their unit did there during the Indian Agency crisis of 1862. He was drunk frequently and he even rode his stallion into a tavern at Crow Wing.

    Libbey had recruited a unit and according to an interview with him, his men chose him captain. He and Capt. Burt were apparently rivals for power.

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