This letter was written by 22 year-old Henry H. Otto (1842-1910) to his parents, Henry Otto (1798-1872) and Margaret Hainley (1815-1891) of Woodbury, Bedford county, Pennsylvania. Henry and his older brother, Jacob W. Otto (1836-1865), served together in Co. C, 205th Pennsylvania Infantry. Both brothers were wounded in the final weeks of the American Civil War — Henry at Fort Stedman on 25 March 1865, and Jacob at Fort Sedgwick, on 2 April 1865. Henry survived his wounds; Jacob did not.
Camp near Hancock Station, Va.
December the 30, 1864
It is with the greatest of pleasure that I seat myself down this morning to drop you a few lines to let you know that I am well at the present time and I hope that these few lines may find you and all the rest at home in good health at the present time and getting along as well. This is the first time that I have taken the opportunity of writing to you. I thought it was hardly necessary for me to write to you all when I send Mary one every week and also Jacob writes to you once in awhile so I also mention something about you all in every letter that I write too up there. My paper is not very plenty and also my stamps gets very scarce so I can’t write to everyone that would like to.
Well, I must let you know how the army is getting along. The army is in good health and in good spirits and hoping that the war will be over till spring. There is a pretty good appearances of it being so on account of so many rebels coming across to our lines. There is an average of one hundred per day so I think that would weaken their army down very fast. I think that they will get tired of the business before long. They are cannonading very heavy in the direction of Richmond and they fire some heavy salutes at the forts opposite our camp but they have not throwed any into our camp. The rebels lines is not very far off of ours. They could throw shells into our camp from their forts but ours settles them.
There is a fort called Fort Helm [Sedgwick] but the most of them calls it “Fort Hell.” They opened out on one of the Johnnie’s forts and blowed it all to pieces and it made them very angry so they commenced to shell one of our forts called Rice. But they did not do much by throwing shells. They could not accomplish anything so they had to quit the business and leave it alone.
I received a letter from John Wilke on Wednesday and he stated in his letter that there was nine bushels and a half of wheat coming to him yet and he was at the mill after it and Mr. Park told him that there was none for him there and that you had it all ground out. He wrote to me that he stood in need of it very bad and that you should replace it for him as soon as you can. I suppose that times is pretty hard with you and I want to know whether you got that Christmas note yet or whether he paid you yet. And I want you to get along as well as you can till I get back again and save up all the money that you can. And when we get back, we can try and buy a farm with our money so that we will have a home of our own. They are talking about selling the [Samuel] Hainley farm and I want Mother to try and get it sold she can get her share out of it and the sooner the better if it is this winter so she can save it up for to help pay for the place. And I also want [brother] John to save his money too for to help pay for it for you all will reap some benefit of it.
Well, Father, I will bring my letter to a close for this time for I have no particulars of any account to write to you. So I will close by sending you all my love and best wishes and Jacob is well also and joins in sending to you all his love to you all. So nothing more for the present. Write soon and let me know how times is.
Your sons, — Henry H. Otto and Jacob W. Otto