1865: Jacob Stein to Allene Elizabeth Stein

This letter was written by a member of Col. Isaac B. Kirby’s “Asheville Expedition” but I have not been able to confirm his identity.   The author has signed the letter with his initials which look like “J. S.” and he has addressed the envelope to his cousin, Allie Elizabeth Stein of Sandusky City, Ohio (though I can’t find her in census records).

On 3 April 1865, Colonel Kirby of the 101st Ohio Infantry was ordered to “scout in the direction of Asheville.” He set out from Greeneville, Tennessee, with 900 troops and an estimated 200 partisans and Confederate deserters who had taken an oath of allegiance to the United States. After camping at Warm Springs on the first night, Kirby decided to leave the cannons and wagons there under heavy guard and proceed toward Asheville with only the infantry, hoping to capture the city without much resistance. He was instructed to make a demonstration, press the battle, and capture the city if it could be done without serious loss of life. Although Kirby believed that he was confronted by an enemy force of at least 1,000 soldiers, his command was repulsed by a scant force of 300 Rebels on 6 April 1865.

The author states that “our regiment” was left behind at Warm Springs on the way to Asheville along with the wagon train. There were two Ohio infantry regiments on Kirby’s expeditionary force — the 90th OVI and the 101st OVI — but both of these regiments were known to have participated in the fight at Asheville. There were four other regiments in the 1st Division, 1st Brigade of the IV Army Corps (Army of the Cumberland) but it is not known whether they participated on the march to Asheville. Accounts of the expedition say that only the “cannons and wagons” were left at Warm Springs under a “heavy guard” — a heavy guard probably not constituting an entire regiment.

This leaves me to surmise that the author may have been with an artillery unit. There was a Jacob Stein who served in Co. K, 1st Ohio Light Artillery, and it is known that they were attached to the Army of the Cumberland in April 1865, but I have not confirmed they were along on the expedition. If they were, he seems to have been the likely author.


Addressed to Miss Allie E. Stein, Sandusky City, Ohio

Camp in the Field
East Tennessee
April 14, [1865]

Dear Cousin Allene Elizabeth,

I have but just returned from a hasty march into North Carolina. We left camp on the 3rd inst. and in two days were at “Warm Springs” in the above state. Here our regiment was left with the train while the rest of the brigade proceeded to Asheville — its destination — some forty miles beyond. We remained here four days spending the time most pleasantly in bathing in the steaming waters of the springs, wandering in the beautiful gardens attached, visiting the kind host and hostess at the Hotel de Ville upon the grounds, or climbing the sugar mountains sides and gathering beautiful bouquets of flowers from the banks of the beautiful and romantic stream that hoves their base. This is one of the most celebrated and embracing summer resorts in the South and in peaceful times was much resorted to by the chivalry of the South.

Guests on the portico of the hotel at Warm Springs, N. C., ca. 1873; University of North Carolina Collections

The lady of the house [Carrie Rumbaugh] favored us with some of her best ballads accompanied by the piano, in good taste, and a little incident occurred to us there which will make our visit long remembered. While bathing in the spring — which had been formerly set apart for the ladies, I found among the pebbles of the bottom a gold ring, not intrinsically valuable in itself, but a souvenir from the Warm Springs of North Carolina worthy of prizing.

Day before yesterday we returned to camp, greeted by the glorious news that Richmond had fallen and that Lee had surrendered. We are almost beginning to think that war will be over before our time is out which would be such a pity. We would thus be thrown out of steady employment which we fear we are not fully prepared for! Don’t you sympathize with us?

I was also welcomed on my return by a letter inscribed in that hand we have become familiar with and welcome as a sun bearer into the shadow of our tent. I am sorry that our letters do not reach you more regularly but then we have great hopes that four months more will alleviate time and space now occupied by Uncle Sam’s mail.

Our operations in the direction of Virginia have ceased and we daily expect to be transferred to some other field. Rumor has it west of the Mississippi but we hope not for we have an idea we wouldn’t like the country. Huntsville [Alabama] would suit us far better. You must take good care of our friend, Newton, as he is in very delicate health and a very (I understand) “susceptible youth.”

In plain English, yours — J. S.


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