Do They Miss Me at Home?: The Civil War Letters of William McKnight, Seventh Ohio Volunteer Cavalry

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Letters home from Quincy's Civil War soldiers

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If you would like to read more about this check out the Privacy Policy page. Writing Across Worlds: Contemporary Writers Talk Writing Across Worlds brings together a selection of interviews with major international writers previously featured in the pages of the magazine. Slight punctuation, however, was required to maintain consistent flow.

Periods were sparingly used to allow more accuracy and convenience in reading. When a period was inserted, the word starting the following sentence was capitalized. Additionally, ellipsis points were used in place of illegible words and phrases. The editors take full responsibility for any transcription errors. During the Civil War, letters were among the few connections to home that soldiers had; their importance increased as the war advanced and troops found themselves farther from family and friends.

They make us better men, better soldiers. Thwarting loneliness and homesickness, Civil War letters were mailed in large numbers. On the Union side, 45, were sent daily via Washington to members of the Eastern armies and an equal number went off from soldiers to those at home. Ninety thousand more passed daily via Louisville for and from soldiers in the Western armies. Several accounts indicate that ordinary soldiers were perhaps the most prolific writers. William McKnight of Langsville, Ohio, was one such common soldier who contributed to the thousands of letters sent daily.

During his time in the service, McKnight penned dozens of letters, primarily to his wife, Samaria. In total, there are letters in the collection. The vast majority are from William to Samaria, whom he also refers to as Mary and Molly. The remaining correspondence is primarily from Samaria to William and from other family members to William see appendix A. The pervasiveness of loneliness, suffered by thousands of soldiers, is documented in histories by Civil War scholars such as Gary Gallagher Gallagher et al.

In one of his first letters home, McKnight confesses, I had to get up and leave the table to hide my tears warm tears of love for you and the little ones at home. In addition to loneliness and family matters, McKnight writes of his patriotic beliefs, a sense of duty and honor and commitment to his country.

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I think it my Duty and Calling and that he perseveres for the sake of [his] family and Country. Andrews the[y] have reached home.

They have disgraced themselves by their conduct. McKnight encourages Samaria, Put your trust in him who is able and willing to save and who has always showered Blessings on our heads.

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Surely goodness and mercy has followed us al the days of our lives. His wil be done. In May , McKnight confesses, I had rather a narrow escape. One that we are all shure of sooner or later. He sticks to me all the time. He never spoke. Higley was instantly killed at the head of his Comd. I have visited his grave thre times since we came here. The last time placed with my own hands a Decent tomb Stone to mark the resting place of him we all loved.

McKnight frequently questioned whether folks from Meigs County had paid their debts for the blacksmith services he provided before leaving for the war. On August 4, , McKnight writes, I would like to know whether you have money enough and how you get along. Nearly a year later, on May 10, , McKnight pens, I want to send you plenty of money to live on so if you are deprived of my Company you wil not suffer bodily nor those dear little ones come to want as I hope they never may and I am going to send my over coat home and some money enough to by the little ones and yourself some summer ware.

I felt as though I had not done enough for my family but I have been in such circumstances that I could not help it. After the war, much of the burden of caring for soldiers and their families shifted to the government. Historian Megan McClintock states that this had a tremendous impact on the federal budget.

In , they moved across the county to Langsville and proceeded to have six more children: James born in , Mary born in , James II born in , Mary Jane born in , Elizabeth born in , and Samuel born in Thomas died in , followed by Jane in Martha and Myrtha would have been nearly nine months old before William first saw them, just weeks before his death at Cynthiana, Kentucky, in June Courtesy of Lois Mohler. Three of the Braley sisters.

The Ohio Valley played an essential role in the eventual Union victory.

Civil War Letters

Ohio contributed a substantial number of men to the Union cause and initially responded to the war with great excitement. We will furnish the largest number you will receive. Thousands of Ohioans responded to the call. Columbus at the time was a city of less than twenty thousand and was quickly overwhelmed by some thirty thousand troops. In April , Governor Dennison was turning away thousands of potential Ohio troops, but a year later it became necessary to coerce and bribe men into service. To be compelled to serve, therefore, made one appear unpatriotic. A total of , Ohioans served in infantry regiments and 13 cavalry regiments, in addition to several artillery regiments and various independent units see appendix B.

During the war, ninety-nine Ohioans achieved the rank of general—including major general, brevet major general, brigadier general, and brevet brigadier general—and exercised commands in accordance with the rank. Grant, Rutherford B.

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  • Most served in the western theater in central Kentucky and Tennessee. Not only did Ohio provide a significant number of soldiers, but also its farms and factories played important roles in the eventual Union victory. In the s and s, Ohio was one of the leading agricultural states in the country—over half the state was being cultivated, and the majority of adult males were farmers. In , the state exported nearly two million barrels of flour, over two and a half million bushels of wheat, three million bushels of other grains, [and] half a million barrels of pork.

    The war initially caused a sharp recession in Cincinnati; however, factories quickly turned to new markets and the manufacturing of war materials. For example, John Van, a fledgling manufacturer, in patented the 5 Army Range, which was the first all-steel portable stove used in the field for hot rations; in a modified form, it is still used by the Army.