Friday, May 15, 2009

The Civil War Letter

Today my son received a civil war letter from a Gettysburg tour guide. Several weekends ago he and a group of family and friends hired this fellow to show them around the town of Gettysburg and hear history from a man who has lived his life in his family home in town. Apparently the tour guide told a compelling tale of the civil war letter written to his family telling where their relative was buried. The soldier, from the north, was buried beside a confederate. A map was included. Once the winter snow had melted, the family made the trip to remove the body and bring it back to Gettysburg for burial.

My son was so thrilled to get a copy of the letter and the map. It was real documentation from another century. Of course I found it interesting, but hanging on the wall of our living room is OUR family’s civil war letter. Talk about real documentation! The letter was written for my paternal great great grandfather, Sampson Frum Pool while he was stationed in Martinsburg, Berkeley County, (West) Virginia, May 23, 1863.

The letter came to me by a very circuitous route. I think I first heard of it at a family reunion around 1998. My Aunt Faith, who seems to have the bulk of her mother’s family, related items. Over the years she has slowly released them, primarily to me. Faith recalled that she had a civil war letter and had sent it to one of my cousins. It was to be part of a history report.

You know how tenacious we genealogists can be… about a dog with a bone! I probably drove two of my cousins crazy over the years with my pleas to locate that letter—to no avail.

About three years ago, my cousin Phyllis and her new husband, moved from Kalamazoo to South Lyon, Michigan. One night around 9:00 the phone rang. It was Phil. I knew immediately when I heard her voice what she was going to say. She had found the civil war letter while she was unpacking a box from the recent move.

I was so excited to have confirmation of the news and anxiously awaited the daily mail. Finally it was delivered. When I lifted the manila envelope from the mail box, I was heartsick to see that the flap was not sealed. With some fear and trepidation I looked inside. There was a handwritten note from Phil and thankfully, the civil war letter. How it made it to my mailbox is a mystery. Anywhere along the way from South Lyon to North Olmsted it could have fallen out of the envelope and been lost forever. We were definitely meant to have this treasured piece of our family history.

The letter was written for my great great grandfather by another soldier, John W. Hall and addressed to his mother, my ggg grandmother, Ann Louise Frum Pool. It is interesting to read that Sampson was receiving mail from home and from his father, William Lanham Pool, who was also serving with a different company in the war. Although stationed in Martinsburg, Sampson’s detail was traveling by train between Hagerstown, Maryland and Winchester, Virginia. He lists the train as Charles M. Addison’s, who is perhaps the officer in charge or another soldier from Morgantown that the family knows. Sampson was in the "thick of the war".

Great great grandfather is most concerned that his brother, Bill (William Asby Pool) purchase some farm equipment well before harvest or it will be sold out. He gives the following instructions for the care of his colt while he is away--The colt is to be put out in Dr. Camel’s pasture and not to be ridden.

It is apparently difficult to get paper and envelopes for letter writing. I find his closing line so compassionate. “I send my love to all my inquiring friends and receive a good share for yourselves.”

Perhaps our civil war letter does not have the intrigue of the Gettysburg tour guide, but it does give a snapshot into our great great grandfather’s service in the civil war and his home life. From my perspective….that’s compelling.


  1. Oh my gosh what a great thing to have. I sure people would share a little more when it comes to family histories.
    I had one 2nd. cousin who sent me en envelope packed with photos and I had never even met her. That is how it should be.

  2. What a fascinating story. You must be so pleased and relieved that the letter arrived safely!
    I had long heard of two great uncles - one alleged to have painted the crowned heads of Europe and the other who was a one-legged poet.

    Not so long ago, I found a watercolour by the first of Carmel, California (When the dealer heard I was a related to the artist, he gave me a discount). Later, a cousin who I had never met sent me an envelope stuffed full of the poet's poems - she didn't want them - and a photograph of a man with one leg, leaning on a crutch!
    Best wishes