1862: Boyd H. McEckron to Adaline M. Parmenter

2nd Wisconsin Cavalry at Benton Barracks in St. Louis (1861)

This letter was written by Boyd H. McEckron (1834-1898) while serving as quartermaster sergeant in Co. E, 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry during the Civil War. Boyd enlisted on 2 September 1861 and served until 28 November 1862, when he was discharged for disability, being unable to walk. His army life was passed mostly in Missouri and Arkansas in the campaign against the guerrillas and bushwhackers.

Boyd was born in Hebron, New York,  the son of Alexander S. McEckron (1799-1880) and Anna Donaldson (1800-1861). He was educated in Delaware Academy, Delhi, New York, receiving a thorough education in the higher English branches, in French and the sciences. Before entering the academy he had nearly learned the carpenter and joiner’s trade, which he pursued for several years during the summer, but followed the profession of teaching school during the winter. From 1866 to 1868 he was engaged as bookkeeper and foreman for D. A. Goodyear — a lumber dealer at Portage City, Wisconsin. In February 1868, he paid a visit to his native home in New York, shortly afterward removing to Kansas and homesteaded land in the Republican valley, near Ames, in Cloud County, where he lived until 1874. Then he removed to Concordia after receiving the appointment as registrar of the United States land office, which position he filled to the entire satisfaction of the public for over nine years.

In 1868 he was elected superintendent of public instruction in Cloud County. Before the expiration of his term he was elected representative to the legislature from Cloud county in 1870, and unanimously re-elected in 1871 and again in 1873. In the latter term he was chosen speaker of the house of representatives. He was always a Republican, his political career beginning with the birth of the party. His first vote was cast for John C. Fremont for president.

He was married April 16, 1864, to Miss Adaline M. Parmenter (1842-1897), of Randolph, Wisconsin. She was a native of Niagara County, New York.

In 1881 Mr. McEckron bought an interest in the Palace drug store. In 1883 he assumed entire control, buying his partner’s interest, and continued in the business until his death.


Addressed to Miss Ada M. Parmenter, Portage City, Wisconsin
Postmarked Jefferson City, MO.

Jefferson City [Missouri]
May 20th 1862

“Mon Cheri Ami”

“Bon soir Madaoiselle Ada, comment vous portez vous? J’espere qu vous vous portez bien ci soir, e votre ami Georgia, c votre frere.” [Loosely translated means: Good evening Madaoiselle Ada , how do you wear? I hope that you are well this evening, your friend Georgia, and your brother.]

You will notice we have changed our location since I wrote last. We are now at the capitol of Missouri. I have read of, and, in my school-boy days, studied about Jefferson City, the capitol of Mo., but now when my own eyes have looked upon it, I confess that I never was more disappointed in my life. The city is about half as large as Portage and the only building in it that is anything more than ordinary is the capitol, and that is nothing extra. It stand upon a sharp elevation on the riverbank, and is rather a sombre looking affair; its gloomy appearance reminds me of a penitentiary rather than a house of representatives.

Sketch of Jefferson City (Harper’s Weekly, 6 July 1861)

The country in and around the city is one continuation of bluff after bluff, steep, rugged and disagreeable looking. I am fond of the picturesque in nature, but that is altogether too romantic for my taste. We have pitched our tents on a point of land very much elevated; more than is desirable. But I presume we will not remain here long; possibly not a week from this date. Our next rendezvous, in all probability, will be Springfield in this state; about one hundred and fifty miles distant from here.

But you will have heard enough about my present situation to convince you that I am homesick and the appearance of the country is not the only cause. I received your ever welcome little messenger, but an hour or two after I mailed my last letter to you.

We left Camp Benton at seven o’clock Saturday morning, May 17th, and landed at Jeff. City about daybreak Monday morning. I enjoyed the ride vey much, sitting nearly all of the time in daylight on the hurricane deck, viewing the scenery which is romantic in the extreme, there being very little cultivated land bordering on the Missouri [River] between here and its mouth. A few slavery plantations are about the only exception. I should have enjoyed such a trip infinitely more of the course, vulgar society which cannot be avoided in my present situation, had been wanting, and its place supplied by the society of a friend, just like Ada. In fact — yourself and none other.

My friend [Carmi W.] Beach ¹ and I were fortunate enough to secure a state room and good board by paying our own passage which made it more pleasant than it might have been. There are many little incidents of interest which I should like to mention, but I trust I shall yet have an opportunity to give you a verbal history of it all. I shall hope so, at least.

I am going to ask a favor of you, Ada, which perhaps you may not think favorably of. It is this. Will you exchange miniatures with me? I should like very much to have your likeness and if it is your pleasure so to do, I will send mine with the next communication. Please consider and report favorably.

There is one place where steamers stop to wood up on the river about half way from here to its mouth, that the people are very unfriendly to Union and Union boys. The pilot of the “Issabella” (the steamer we came on) told me that not two months ago when passing there he had to keep a file of wounded men on either side the pilot house while passing, and that one boat was fired into. Mounted men were seen following us on shore as we approached this place and thirty men from each of the two companies on board were ordered to load their rifles and be prepared for any emergency. Your humble correspondent was the first to grab and load a rifle, and I would have given an X to have had an opportunity to use it and my revolver an hour or so. We saw some men in the woods back of where we were loading on wood but none nearer. We wanted the captain to let us scour the woods a little while, but he would not, so no one nor nothing was killed except a great large black snake — “as long as a piece of rope.” But we had sights of fun over our first battle as we called it.

It is getting very late and I am so sleepy that I cannot write straight, and my ideas are full as crooked as my lines. Please write soon. Goodbye! Confidentially and faithfully yours, — B. H. McEckron

P. O. Address:

Co. E, 2nd Battalion
2nd Regiment Wisconsin Cavalry
Jefferson City, Mo. or wherever stationed

[P. S.] I should like very much to take that race on horseback that you spoke of and the sing I should be particularly pleased with. Remember me to your Uncle Ingle’s people and your own also. I have made this sheet of paper look about as bas as I can so I will close. I think letter writing may be arranged under two general heads. First, when a person has anything to write and writes it. Second, when a person has nothing to write, and writes that. I belong to the latter class. Please excuse the penmanship. My ink is very poor and I am sitting on one box and writing on another.

¹ Carmi Warren Beach (1841-1888) enlisted as a sergeant in Co. E, 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry, and rose to the rank of Captain before mustering out in January 1865.


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