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Letters from the Front
By John Fazio
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2009, All Rights Reserved

About the Letters...

The following letters were given to one of our members by a kindly fellow from Tallmadge, Ohio, named Bob Lowry, after the member addressed a group there. They appear to have been written in 1862 from Ft. Scott, Kansas, by a Union soldier named George C. Ashmun, who was from Tallmadge, though some of his letters were addressed to West Virginia and Indiana, too. Interestingly, there are still Ashmuns living in Tallmadge. Additionally, a Google search revealed a publication in Ohio Mollus - Sketches of War History, Vol. Two, transcribed by Larry Stevens, titled “Recollections of a Peculiar Service,” by Second Lieutenant George C. Ashmun. This may or may not be our Ashmun, though an intelligent guess is that it is.

All punctuation and spelling were left as in the originals.

About the Letters' Author...

George Coates Ashmun

This is what is known about Ashmun. He was born on January 31, 1841, in Tallmadge, Ohio. During the Civil War, he served as a musician in the 2nd Ohio Volunteer Cavalry and was then recruited into a special Ohio unit charged with providing personal bodyguard services to President Lincoln. He was a lieutenant in this unit and took part in Lincoln’s second inauguration. After the war, he became a physician, described as an “allopath,” specializing in public health. He was educated at Tallmadge Academy and Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine, graduating in 1873, and was affiliated with St. Vincent’s Hospital. He taught at the University of Wooster Medical Department, Charity Hospital Medical College, CWRU School of Medicine, and Cleveland Medical College. He later served as a surgeon in the Spanish-American War with the 5th Ohio Infantry. During World War I, he served with the Case School unit of the Students Army Training Corps. He died on June 25, 1929 in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

About the Letters' Setting...

Fort Scott was named in honor of General Winfield Scott and established on May 30, 1842 at the Marmoton crossing of the Fort Leavenworth - Fort Gibson military road.

Fort Scott, Kansas

It was among nine forts originally planned to line the area between the Great Lakes and New Orleans to separate proposed Indian lands and white settlements. Normal daily activities included the general construction of the fort and drill by Dragoons (horse soldiers). On occasion, mapmaking expeditions were made. The post was virtually abandoned in April 1853 when the garrison was transferred to Fort Riley and other western posts. The buildings were sold at public auction on May 16, 1855 as the government did not own the land. After the outbreak of the Civil War, Fort Scott was reactivated in March 1862 and again assumed importance as a military outpost. In 1865, the fort was once again abandoned.

- John C. Fazio

 

Part 1...

 

Ft. Scott, Ka
March 9th/62

Dear Mother,

Here we are camped near Ft. Scott with the rest of our brigade the ninth and twelfth Wisconsin. We got here last night about five o'clock & have had another tough time for both men & horses. We left Kansas City Tuesday morning marching about twenty five miles a day in it - it is about one hundred & twenty five miles - but one can’t tell exactly for the road lies across the prairie almost all of the way. I tell you what it is like. These prairies make one think of Lake Superior every time I look across them - You can’t imagine what a country this is for land. 

We saw prairies on fire everyday & one or two nights. Friday night we camped within two miles of “Kansas Third” & a son of T. H. Batoford came over to see us - he is in that regiment When we left - Kansas City - it was the blusteringist kind of March weather & continued so until Thursday morn When it cleared off pleasant & staid so until last night, although it was anything but pleasant riding yesterday for the dust was so thick we could scarcely see & last night you wouldn’t have recognized any of us for we were as black as niggers. The wind blew furiously all day yesterday & last night it rained all night. Men & horses can have only half rations & no chance to forage.

Marble was unwell & staid in K. City - we expect him along in a day or two. My old horn got bruised some coming thro but have fixed it up this morning all except the cap to the middle valve which is out on the prairie. We are to stay here but a short time & then go on to Ft. Smith & try our hand with the rebels - I don’t suppose we’ll see much more cold weather this season as we are getting south pretty fast - the frost is all out of the ground here.

I got your letters & one from Hit Brooks Wed night while we were camped in the woods & they did me lots of good) & suppose there is another for me some where on the route. The mail goes three times a week from here but I guess when we leave here the mail will be scarce. Ft. Scott is no post at all, only in name & as a military post - there are about five thousand men encamped here. We haven’t seen a newspaper of any account since the 23rd of Feb. - The war may end & peace be declared & we not know anything about it. It is evident that we are bound for Texas or some other place & shall go immediately - I don’t care where (This next part is written along the side and top of the first page.) they send us but wish they would hurry up & then let us go home. I have got over my cold almost entirely & except being tired from the march, am [](well?) I rec. a letter from H[] but I don’t know when I can answer it. If “Hunter” gets back from Washington in a day or so we shant stay here more than three or four days - I will write again at any rate before we leave. Give my love to all the folks. Write soon to your own

George
Direct to Ft. Leavenworth

 

Ft. Scott, Ka
March 9th/62

Ft. Scott, Ka
March 14th 1862

Dear Son,

I have wanted to hear from you before writing you again but the mail came in last night & brot nothing for me so I concluded to write again - all of the Band boys excepting me got letters & a paper I know there must be a letter for me somewhere & should be not a bit sorry to get it - I saw a paper this morning with an account of the burning of Columbus, Ky. It is reported here that “Curtiss” & [] have shipped “Price” again.

(next page)

Ed Ingersoll got a letter this morning dated the 6th of Mar. from Hudson saying it was reported that Mcclellan had advanced on M[] gap We are all speculating on how long we are to remain here & how long it will be before we will be discharged - our Quartermaster offered to bet fifty dollars we would be discharged in sixty days & Capt. Burnett who has just come from Ohio says Gen. [Governor?] Tod told him that we would be back by the first of July but I can’t believe it will be so. I expect they will send us off into some part of the country, I don’t see what is to hinder our from going down to New Orleans immediately & I can’t imagine where we are to operate. Doubleday told the officers this morning that we should leave here just as soon as we are paid again which would be in a few days.

(next page)

This forenoon I went out & dug a bushel of coal within a few rods of our camp on the bank of a little creek - it comes out so that we can take a pick & dig what we want - I’d like mighty well to buy about ten acres here & keep it until there is a market for coal here for I know there is any quantity of it easily to be got at here. We have had splendid spring weather until last night when we had another thunder storm & today it has been quite chilly & awful muddy - We had had a good chance to find out what a prairie wind is for March is the same windy month here as in Ohio. Marble hasn’t got along yet & we haven’t heard from him since we left Kansas City - I’m afraid he’s had trouble since we came away for the “Jay Hawkers” have been there. Capt. Burnett went to Ohio to get recruits from the sixth (this next part is written at the top of the first page and is difficult to read) Ohio cavalry and was on his way back with 65 men when about 50 miles from here an order came for them to back to Kansas City - protect the government property there - all the armies [] They had were [] Maj. Willson has resigned & Burnett is [] Charlie got a paper from Mary Br[] saying Dan’l & Den Treat had been to P[] He also had two letters from “Norm & Frank” saying they were doing big times - If we are home by the fourth of July will have a time as big as any of them - Love to all

George
Write often

 

Ft. Scott
Sunday April 6th/62

Dear ones at home,

Marys letters mailed the 22nd got here this morning on account of the rains, the mail has been behind time it is just a week today since it came in. Not very long, but we “set our hearts” as much on our letters that if the mail doesn’t com, as comes & don’t bring us a letter we are weary. I suppose by this time you are busy cleaning house this last week, which we do by morning. There’s nothing like having plenty of room - on account of the rainy

(next page)

weather in camp was getting quite muddy & as warm weather was coming on. The Drs. that we had better change our ground - it also gave the men something to do & helped keep them contented. Thursday we pulled up & moved about a quarter of a mile but the ground was poor so that yesterday we moved again & I’ve got first rate ground besides being a little nearer town. The first word came to Gen. Doubleday that a large body of rebel Indians were coming to attack this Post & scouts were sent out in search of suspicious individuals but nothing was seen & now we heard that it was a hoax. Gen. Doubleday rec. an order a few days ago for us to reinforce Curtiss & [] but I heard last night that orders had been

(next page)

countermanded Puringtons battalion leave tomorrow for somewhere, but do not yet know where. They are ordered to draw seven days rations & a great many of the boys think we are to start homeward so seven days will take them to Ft. Leavenworth. [] is very sure that unless we can go home before the weather comes we shall never see home again.

He is well enough to do duty but isn’t strong & is very homesick Charley looks as fleshy & hearty as I ever say him. I am as well as ever for aught. I know it makes a fellow feel a little “old” sometimes to sleep on damp ground. I have the headache once in a while - about the same as at home. I drink coffee as much as I want & I don’t think it hurts me. I’ve got so that I

(next page)

Like it with hard crackers. We fare very well here, fresh beef every day. I sent a little paper to you the other day, but don’t know as it will get there before this does. You will see in the list of advertised letters one from me it was from William Stone he has been in Wyandotte since last July but has been unwell so that he has not been able to perform duty in his company. He wrote that he thot of going home this spring - If I’m not mistaken this war will soon be over & be home, I should like mighty well to farm it this summer with you. I dread the hot weather out in this country. If they would only let us do our [] go home. I should like it much. It is a great deal pleasanter to be on the march when it is pleasant than to be lying still - We have to play for a funeral this afternoon & dress garb the days are all the same here give my love to all the same relatives & tell everybody to write. Kate wrote that Mrs. Gardner wondered why

(this next part is written on the top side of the first page in two columns)

she didn’t hear from us as she wrote to us a long time ago.  The last I heard from them was before we left camp D— & answered it - the same day we got a letter from Charlie Lyman today out our letters, so I guess we shall “quit”  I have just heard that Purington doesn’t leave tomorrow. write often to your own

george

 

Part 2...

 

Ft. Scott
Aug 21st 1862

Dearest Mother

Although I have not yet received any letters from you or Son & Mary, still I expect one at least tonight and as the mail must all be in before the mail is distributed, I have to write and mail my letter before I can know whether I am to get one or not. We have heard nothing reliable from our regiment yet, but there is a report that they have gone to Lexington and will not be back here at all as they hope to be transferred from this department to some place east. There have been reports circulating since the troops left here, of fights at different places, but we can’t find out anything certain about it — in fact I think it quite doubtful whether they have had anything more than little skirmishes. Today I have had my first experience in taking care of a man with the delirium tremors and I have seen enough to last me sometime. Sunday they brought “Gib” over to the “Post Hospital”

(begin second page of letter)

where I am and I guess the excitement of taking care of him has done me good for I feel almost well again. The Doctor thought when “Gib” first came over that he was going to be very sick but he seems to be doing very well and I hope will get along without being any worse. The necessary papers for having the Band discharged have been made out and it looks a little as tho we might get out after a while but I’m afraid we shall be dissappointed in someway. We have a new chaplain for this post who is to preach regularly in the Hospital — some Home Missionary I think who does this as extra duty. I think he is a very good man but is not a man to suit the sick for he is one of the sleepiest of speakers & seems to think men can think much better because they are sick. How do you get along while the children were gone? I thought of you and them everyday and imagined how you were and where they were. They must have had a splendid time so many going up they were acquainted with. Now the most we can hope for is to get home by the time of the state fair and if we do then I shall think we are doing well. I must wind up as I have to go to camp and see about some of my papers. Write often when your eyes will let you. Love to all.

Your own
George

 

The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable