September 2004 

"MY DEAR WIFE"

Vicksburg  Dec 11th 1863
My Dear Wife!
    Your affectionate letter under the date of 3rd inst is just received.  It arrived while out on dress praide and after reading it I found it almost dark enough to light a candle.  It has been a time for a few days past of frequent interest with us in extra drill and then omission of drill to burnish our guns and the brass on our accoutraments preparitory to review and regimental inspection of drill, arms, acoutriments, knapsacks, canteens & haversacks, clothing, tents &c&c.  Yesterday we spent most of the day in getting ready for our regimental inspection, drawing new-clothing &c  Today has been spent in reading some in "Baxters Saints Rest"  I am much comforted in its perusal   I have read the introduction & the compilers preface and the 2 first chapters greatly to my own edification.  May the Lord grant to bless it to my further growth in grace   the balance of the day was spint in inspection and drawing a few more tents for our Co.  I have drawn since I came to the Regt in clothing 2 pair Drawers 1 cap 1 Pair pants 1 dress coat that all and it is enough but I have requested 1 overcoat.   shall get it about last of the preseant month.  then I shall be provided for for the winter.  The inspector said Co G was the best Co in the Regt {Bosh}   I am quite as well as I ever was in my life consulting my feelings for which I have much to  be thankful for to the kind providence   It is now about 11 days since I got and answered your last letter.  I have bee looking for a letter several days which has come to hand and you have my thanks for it.  I am thankful that you are enjoying a little better health at the time of writing, and pained to see that the children had been unwell.  I have had reason a good while to know that something was wrong internally or you would not have such bad feelings and turns of sickness.  Oh dear one hard as it is to bear.  the day will come when we will acquise in it and kiss the rod that smites us now.  God is good.  Let us strive to feel that truth more freely.  It is doubtless the Liver that is the source of your sickness and lame saide.  Poor little Martha Ann how she loves me.  And how I should love to press one warm kiss on her sweet lips.  She looks so natural in the pictures you sent me and my little Eddie looks as sober as a little judge looking at the artist eating up the Rattlebox.  I love to take a peep at them.  I know dear one that you do not tell me these things to make me feel bad.  But like the story of Sister Vantrace's Butter it is to lusty to keep.  There is something peculiarly solumn in the departure of Mr & Mrs Hubbard for the far distant East.  I fear we will never see either of them again in this world.  They have been kind to us and we will miss them.  But such is life!  Susan Mitchell is truly kind to you.  May the Lord reward her ten fold is my prayer.  God has raised you up a truly disinterested friend.  Oh!  That I had a heart truly to thank my God for his Goodness and mercy which endureth for ever.  I shall take the liberty to write a note to her I think and in close it in this and have you send it to her either by hand or by post   Mother I fear you wrong yourself in sewing for others, but I know heart and its anxieties.   be careful Dear Wife.  I am glad Mr Hannah is so kind but it is just like him. {He is kind indeed}  Mother I rejoice to see that you are making our home so comfortable in adding so many little things to it.  Have you got Mr Hubbards Scotts Commetery on the Holy Scriptures.  as you mentioned once or not how many vols are they   You have done well on the bedstead I am satified.  I like the plan you have adopted in regard to keeping Lilly   I think good oat straw and scalded meal will be good for her as she will milk well on it and hay she will not eat very well before New Years.  and in case she is bound to dry off you will be able to judge bye that time.  About the watch   if it comes her I can get 25$ for it and not a cent less.  Something must have been broken as a charge of 2.50 is considerable.  Yes if Mr Whitehead does not bring the watch I shall understand it perfectly well.  You may rest assured dear wife you are not for gotten in my humble and unworthy requests at a throne of grace.  The piece of Eddies pant cloth I will sew inside of my new pants behind a button so that I can sew through it and the button to strengthen the cloth so I will frequently see it and think of him.  I hope I shall be home next spring if it be the Lords will   still I do not hardly dare think the Rebellion will be put down by that time as I begin to think more and more that nothing short of subjugation will bring those proud Spirits to their senses.  You will rejoice with me when I tell you that it is my privelege to attend meeting in Vicksburg every Sabbath that I am not on detail.  I heard a sermon from the words "They shall not be afraid because of evel tidings".  a quotation from the Psalms  The preacher ws the Revd Jerumah Porter Chaplain of the 2nd Ills Battery.  he spoke of the consequences of evel tidings and the different effects of the same on the People of God and the men of this world and then the righteousness of our cause and its effects on our nation which would produce Righteousness and the fruits of it would be peace and assurence forever.  It is good to go to the house of God in the conquored city and hear Gods word faithfully dispensed tho we are seperated for a while.   When R. Hannah returns please send me a pair of good Suspenders, a good pair of white worsted knitt ones or a pair of good stretching indian rubber   you will get them as cheap again as I can here.  I have nearly 2 dollars yet and I have nothing to buy save an apple or two once and a while   I have on hand more than a pound of butter and when Mr Whitehead comes with what you send me I shall be provided for for a good while.  you may send me a little white thread and a little Blk linen thread.  I have not quite used all I took with me from home but it is rotten but the white thread seems as tough as ever   do not send but a little as I shall doubtless get home this winter or spring.  tell Mr Waterman to send me a good stout jacknife not to heavy but one stout and a good rivit thro it that will do for any work   one or two bladed if he pleases and charge it to my acct    I do not think of any thing else now.  I am affraid you will think I am asking a good deal.  but it is better for us to buy in the cheapest market.  Such a knife as I want will cost from 6/-to 1$ at Belvidere   here it will cost 12 or 14 shillings, so you will readily see the difference.  Do not give yourself any unnecessary uneasiness about me    trust in that God who has brough us thus far safe in our journey   Now Good bye   Kiss the children.  I think I shall write to them the next letter.  You husband that loves you  Samuel Pepper.

 

Co G 95th Regt Ills Vols Infty Vicksburg Mississippi Dec 13th 1863
To My Dear Children!
    Mary Elizabeth, Samuel Edward and Martha Ann
Good morning dear children.  I hope you are better of your colds and fevers ere this.  Mother said in her letter that the children had all got severe colds or had just or partially recovered from them.  Little Ann had suffered most but was better, and Eddie was better.  still he was not well enough to go to school this week.   Now dear children it is a rainy sabbath morning.  I have Washed and eaten my breakfast   You will be pleased to know what I had to eat.  Well I will tell you   When our cook hollowed out Co G to Breakfast I took my tin plate and tin cup to the place where our cooks have there fire, a little distance from our tents.  Got some coffee in my cup and some beef and soup in my plate then I took my little bag of sugar and sweetened my coffee and with plenty of good bread I had a good breakfast.  Then I took up my Bible and read the XIX and XX chapters of Exodus and then in prayer that God would be pleased to solemnize my mind and enable me to keep holy the sabbath day and that he might bless and preserve the life of your dear mother to be a comfort and blessing to you and that God would incline your hearts to love and obey her and early in life make you the saving objects of his grace and spirit.  Then I read several pieces in the little paper our Chaplain distributed yesterday while I was down in the city on detail unloading the sacks of oats out of the Division waggons who were haling them from the river bank where they were taken off the boats.  The paper is very much like the "Childs Paper"   I wish you had it to read.  Well now my thoughts turn to you wondering if it rained in Belvidere and you could not go to church and Sabbath school.  I hope you will be able to go.  I know you often wonder about the soldiers - shall I tell you how we get along.  Since we have been at this place it has been very pleasant weather.  sometimes dusty sometimes muddy some times warm some times cold.  I am on detail 2 or 3 times a week.  Some times on Picket watching for the the Secesh and sometimes on fatique duty then when we are not on duty we are expected to answer to Roll Call five times a day.
    These calls are made from drums and fifes.  Then the Orderly Sergeant Calls Co G into line for Roll Call at break of day first then at nine for Co drill then at 2 P.M. fro Battalion drill then at 4 1/2 P.M. for Dress Praide then at 7 1/2 P.M. and unless we are excused by the Capt we have a black mark made against our names and are put on extra duty.  Suppose you will wonder if Pah ever get an extra duty - no dear children I always try to do my duty so I do not have that to do, but we have some soldiers that are wicked and disobedient and contrary and this is one way to punsih them to make them do better   some will get dunk and some will say wicked naughty words to their officers and have to be put in the guard house.  We have our Camp laid out in the shape of a village with our tents pitched in straight rows  Co B & Co G one on one side and one on the other side so the street is turnpiked up in the middle.  Each tent has a small brick fireplace in it so that we can have fire in them.  each tent has from two to four in it.  Our tents are mostly what are called the wedge tent   I suppose from their shape being like a wedge.  Some of them are raised up with boards nailed together like a square pen and the bottom of the tent fastened to the top of the pen making it like a square room with out any chamber or floor over head.  We suspend 2 straps from the ridge pole overhead and hang our guns on them.  They are out of our head way.  Then our bunks are made of cane such as fish poles are.  laid on sticks of wood and placed side by side until it is wide enough for two to sleep on then there is another bunk fastened over that wide enough for one to sleep on which is mine.  but while Mr Corporal Hannah2 is away Mr. Arbuckle and I sleep to gether and make a large shelf or clothes press of mine.  It comes very handy to lay our things on.  I should think there is as much room in it as half our kitchen or about as large as the bed room.  Then we have a small shelf for to write on and little cupboard to put our bread butter and sugar in &c&c so you see we are as comfortable as we can be.  How long that will be I do not know may be as is generally believed all winter.  General McArthur is our Division commander as in commander of the District or post of Vicksburg and he will not let us go unless he is relieved of his command as he say when we go he is going with us.  He is from Chicago, Ills  is a Bonnie Scotsman   wears a scotch cap so we know him at a distance when we see him on horseback   he has keen black eyes and dark complezion.  Our camp is on a side hill as steep as the mound on which you live   at the head of each street on either side is the Captains tents   a cross street between our streets and them making the width of a street between them and us they are on a straight line first like ours only they have a larger tent and generally 2 of them  on a knoll gehind them are the Staff officers tents.  The Band tent the quartermasters tent, the commisarys tent, the Cols, the Adujents, the Regtl Postoffice, then the Chaplains, the Drs, the Stewards, and in the rear of them are tents for their cook &c&c.  Now about wood to burn there is a detail of one man to a Co to cut wood and the teams draw it.  each co has its own wood pile and to that we may go and cut for our fire places in our tents   this is always near each Co cooking fire   Then these men who chop this wood in the woods have to chop for the Headquartes and the Hospital  they cut it 12 feel long or as long as it can be handled the best.  The kinds of wood are Basswood, Oak, white and black, ash, willow cottonwood, white wood, sasafrass, sweet gum, &c&c  Now we have 2 Negro men enlisted and sworn in as co cooks and one co commisary who over sees the cooking and draws our rations Mr Pebles (1).  Suppose you would like to know about the little black children for they are nearly all we do see.  black men and women and children are as common here as white people are at Belvidere.  These colored people are very ignorant cannot read or write.  But many of the men and women are studying the spelling book just like the little boys and girls in school.  Then there are men and women sent from the northern states as Missionarys who are teaching large schools of these little black children and preaching the word of saving truth to the men and women.  These have escaped from slavery they live in old sheds, Back rooms, wood houses, negro huts old tents in fact any place   many of the men are teamsters for our army or cooks   The women do the soldiers washing mending &c for which they get paid.  Most of the people of Vicksburg are gone south of our lines and their houses and stores are used by our Genls as head Quarters.  Their beautiful gardens are camping grounds for officers guards & orderlies and their horses.  there is scarcely a garden in Vicksburg that has not from 1 to a dozen tents in it.  These gardens have the greatest variety of evergreens in them I ever saw any where.  I would say Sambo what you call this tree.  Dont know massa would be generally the reply, and so there are several of the evergreen bushes I have seen in England that I had entirely forgotten that are common in this city.  Well now dear children I am writing you a long letter.  Let me say to you before I conclude love and do for you dear mother all that is in your power to do to lighten her burden in life.  never cause her to feel gad because of your disobedience.  Never be guilty of telling a naughty wicked lie or call each other ugly names or quarel & fight   be kindly affectioned one toward another.  forgive others that your father who is in heaven may forgive you.  Never do wrong on purpose   to be forgiven always remember that the eye of God is upon you, and that he sees you all the day and watches over you by night.  I and keep this constantly in mind that if mother has to tell me any thing bad about you any of you that it will give me pain.  I hope I may be furloughed home sometime and I want mother to say that Mary Eddie and Annie has been good   be still when you are at the table and when you are in school mind what your teachers say to you and be good towards them.  When you go to church be good children, learn and recite your sabbath school lesson well and God will bless you and make you his dear children.  I shall wait till Mr Whitehead comes before I write any more in this letter.  I send you my love and a kiss for each from your loving affectionate father   Samuel Pepper
Dec 19th     Dear Wife.  Tis Saturday night.  Mr whitehead has just arrived and opened his boxes to a anxious group of Soldiers myself amongst the number.  After reading your kind letter of the 6th and receiving the pail of butter can of black currants and the little can of jell much to my mind.  I send you my hearty thanks for your care and kindness for me.  I have not space to answer your kind letter but would try and do justice to it in my next.  I have not put down my watch amongst the articles mentioned as I have just had it handed to me by Mr W.  he got them through ver little expense attached he said 10c each would cover it but as he brought my watch I shall give him more as he deserves it.  I mailed you a letter 7 or 8 days ago in answer to yours of Dec 3rd and you will see by the part written for the children that I had expected Mr W 3 or 4 days ago and I waited to say in this that he had arrived before I mailed this - We have had a great rain here and cold frosty nights since for 4 night Mr Hildrup(2) Mr O.H. Wright are here and Albert D.J. Cashiere tells me that Wm Lawyer is in the City.  A vague rumor says that we are going to Yazoo City soon but cannot give credence to it yet as a man can hear about any thing he wants to here.  We have just read the Presidents Message and Proclamation   it is worthy of him   You must please excuse this.  Kiss Annie for the stamps and I will for the jell.  Susan must read this to the children   Yours  Saml Pepper

1.   Orris Peebles was a married harness maker when he enlisted on August 7, 1862 into Company G of the 95th Illinois.  He had been born in Chataragus County, New York.  Peebles mustered out with is regiment on August 17, 1865.  Adjutant General Records - Muster Rolls for Illinois Regiments in Civil War - Roll#47 - 15
2.   Jesse  Hildrup, a citizen of Belvidere, Illinois was born May 14, 1829 and died on April 15, 1934. Belvidere City Cemetery Records

These letters are from the book "MY DEAR WIFE" - The Civil War Letters of Private Samuel Pepper.  Company G - 95th Illinois Infantry 1862 to 1865.  Transcribed and edited by Franklin R. Crawford.

Samuel's wife Mary Jane kept all of Samuel's letters (about 140 of them) from the war and saw to it that one of the children kept them also.  The letters eventually came into the possession Mr. Emmett Sullivan & Miss Bessie Sullivan who, in their later years, passed them on to the editor with the hope that they would eventually be published for all to read.  All of the letters in the book are original except the ones from the year 1864.  As he had done with all of them, Mr. Sullivan had had them photocopied but somehow, some time, the originals of the 1864 letters were lost or misplaced.  It is only because of his foresight in having all of them reproduced are these bits of history available today.   While there are no more copies of the original book  "MY DEAR WIFE" if there is enough interest, more could be printed.  You may contact Mr. Franklin R. Crawford through The Muffled Drum Press, 1996 Orth Road, Caledonia, Illinois or you can contact him via email at  IllinoisCW@aol.com 

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