This letter was written by William Cartwright (1834-18xx) of East Liverpool, Columbiana county, Ohio. William was born in Staffordshire, England, and came to the United States with his parents, William Cartwright (1801-1876) and Eliza ___ (1811-18xx), with other siblings in 1845. They settled in East Liverpool where they engaged in the manufacture of pottery.
William and his brother, Samuel Cartwright, served in Co. I, 143rd Ohio Infantry — a 100 days unit — during the Civil War. They both enlisted on 2 May 1864 and mustered out with the company on 13 September 1864. After the war, they went into the pottery business themselves Holland Monley.
William’s older brother, John Thomas Cartwright, was a veteran of the US regular army, having served with Gen. Taylor in the Salt Lake Campaign. He re-enlisted in 1863 in the Ohio National guards and was made major of the 18th Battalion. He subsequently resigned that position and re-entered the the regular army as captain of the 27th USCT. He was killed in the Battle of the Crater on 30 July 1864. In a letter to his family, William wrote the following regarding John’s death:
“You have heard the sad news about John before you get this letter. The quartermaster of John’s regiment told me that he wrote you two letters so I know you know all the particulars. It was this past Sunday afternoon that we heard that John was killed. We could not credit it at first but were afraid that it was true. One of our captains was going up to City Point and he promised to learn all that he could about John… He came back the next day and told us it was true so Tyler and I got a pass to go to the front. We saw the Quartermaster and he told us that John was killed making a charge on Saturday morning. The 27th [USCT] has six of seventeen officers shot and they think only one will get better. The rest are all dead and it was a perfect slaughter. The 9th [Army Corps] did all the fighting. If they had been supported as expected, Petersburg would be ours…We have John’s clothes, sword, and papers which we will bring home… Your brother, — William Cartwright”
In this letter, written less than two weeks before the Battle of the Crater, William tells his brother to “keep up a good heart” feeling certain the war would soon be over.
Addressed to Capt. John Cartwright, 27th U. S. Colored Troops, 1st Brigade, 4th Division, 9th Army Corps, Virginia
Postmarked Old Point Comfort, VA.
Wilson’s Landing [Charles City County, Virginia]
July 17th 1864
I have just received yours of the 12th. I am sorry to hear of you not being very well. I hope that your hardest work is over. I think you won’t have to travel round so much as you have done. I think Lee can not go much farther than he is now. We all feel sure of Grant’s success and there is not much danger of the rebels getting back from Washington. We have news this morning that our forces have captured five thousand of the rebels and the balance are in a pretty tight place, I believe this war will soon stop before next spring. Keep up a good heart and we will have good times yet. You will have to be governed by circumstance if your health is not good. I would not stay anyhow if the war is likely to close and your health is better it may make some difference. John, you must be the one to judge and do what you think is best. For my part, I would like you [to] be at home. It would take a pretty good office to get me to soldier. You will see how things go on this fall. Our time will soon be out now. We don’t expect to move from here until we go home. We think we will have to stay three or four weeks at the outside. Our full time will be out on the 19th of August.
We are all pretty well except Fred Nagle. ¹ He is pretty sick. I am first rate. I can eat most anything that comes before me. Sam and Ralph [Marsh] are first rate. I received a letter from home yesterday. They are all well.
There is no particular news in Liverpool. Most of the potteries are not doing much. We hope you will get a pass to come and see us. Do if you can anyhow. All our regiment would like to see you. Send me word how your company is getting along and how many men you have lost. We had two killed a few days ago. They were colored soldier cavalry. They were in the outside picket and they had gone half mile farther on and were fired on by about ten men. We expect they were citizens that had laid [in] wait for them.
We are getting along now better than we did at first. We don’t have to work so hard and our grub is a little better but we have suffered considerable since we left home. But nothing to the men in the field. Some four men have lost as much as 25 pounds but the health of the company is getting better. Keep up a good heart but I know you will do that and we will have good times yet. We will write to you every week and send you all the news we know.
I forgot to tell you that G. Harker ² is not expected to live. He is worse. They think he will die. It will be a bad job for the pottery. It makes Ben [Harker] ² feel very uneasy. Write us again soon. We feel anxious to hear from you. Direct as before.
We remain your affectionate brothers, — Will & Sam Cartwright
¹ Frederick Nagle transferred from Co. F on 15 May 1864 and died 2 August 1864 at Wilson’s Landing, Va.
² George Simeon Harker (1824-1864) was the son of Benjamin Harker, who came to the United States from England in 1839 and located in East Liverpool where he established the Harker Pottery company. The first product of this pottery was the yellow ware now known as the Rockingham ware. Benjamin Harker (1826-1881), a brother, served with William and Samuel Cartwright in Co. I, 143rd Ohio.