This letter was written by Lorenzo DeForest Boyce (1833-1864) of Co. C, 13th Wisconsin Infantry. Lorenzo served with his father, Volney P. Boyce, in the same regiment. Lorenzo was promoted to corporal sometime before his death from disease in 1864.
Lorenzo wrote the letter to his cousin, Mary (“Molly”) E. France (1840-1893), the daughter of Wilhelm France (1808-1892) and Elizabeth M. Kent (1813-1889). Mary later married James Snider Little (1839-1888), also of Sharon, Walworth county, Wisconsin.
The 13th Wisconsin left “Camp Tredway,” Janesville, on the 18th of January 1862, nine hundred and seventy strong, under orders to report at Leavenworth, Kansas. The regiment went by rail to Quincy, Illinois, crossed the Mississippi on the ice, marched to Palmyra, Mo., and moved again by rail to Weston, Mo. where it arrived on the 21st and remained two days. Leaving Weston, it marched to Leavenworth City, arriving on the 23rd of January, and remaining in camp in that place for two weeks. On the 7th of February, they began their march to Fort Scott.
Addressed to Miss Mary E. France, State Line, Walworth county, Wisconsin
Postmarked Leavenworth, Kansas
Leavenworth City [Kansas]
February 4, 1862
I am very tired tonight — almost to much so to write a letter. But it is so very quiet in our ranch tonight that I thought I would improve the opportunity. I may fail in concluding it tonight, however, yet I will have the satisfaction of knowing that the commencement is made.
I hardly know what to write about as I presume that you have read the letter that I wrote to Pa in which I gave the particulars of our journey from Janesville [Wisconsin] to our present quarters. The Kansas 1st — that brave regiment of men who fought so nobly in defense of the Union at the Battle of Springfield, Missouri — returned today. The Home Guards of the City — the Kansas 3rd, the Wisconsin 9th and [Wisconsin] 13th was ordered out before dinner and remained until after 3 before we returned to our quarters for anything to eat. The majority of the soldiers [in the Kansas First Infantry] looked as though they had seen very hard times and I venture that they were very thankful to see their home and friends again. Nearly half of their regiment was killed and wounded upon the battlefield. There was weeping, wailing, and rejoicing among the vast concourse of inhabitants and friends that went out to receive them. How many family circles there are broken and heart strings rent asunder by this confounded rebellion. I wish that it lay in my power to bury them all below the bottomless pit, there to howl out their existence through an ever ending eternity.
Wednesday, February 5, 1862
You see that I did not finish my letter last evening and I am glad now that I did not for today we have had orders to be in readiness at 8 o’clock Friday morning to march to Fort Scott, 150 miles — a little west of south from here. It will take us nearly 8 days to march there — a pretty long tramp for us, is it not? Th majority of them are dreading it very much. It has been raining very hard all the afternoon and still continues. It may be the means of delaying our journey as it will make the roads very bad.
We will have to leave 12 or 15 of our company sick in the general hospital. Among the number that you know is Oliver [Myers] and Seymour Rice. Oliver is very sick and I think that the surgeons do not know what is the matter with him. I am fearful that he will be sick a long while. We are very sorry to have to leave him behind. He will be very lonely and we shall miss him very much. The heartiest looking men cannot always stand the most. He is feeling very badly tonight and wants me to stay with him until he gets well. I shall do so if the Colonel will give his consent.
Levi [E.] Allen is feeling quite unwell tonight. I hardly think that he will be able to stand the march. I have got mostly over my cold and am feeling as cute as a briar. How long it will last, I do not know. I think but very little of our surgeons. Dr. Dickson is worth a steamboat load of them.
Lieut. [Daniel L.] Lamoreaux fell off from a boat of commissary goods last Friday and hurt his arm and shoulder which he has not been able to use since. He has the appointment of regimental commissary which takes him from our company at present.
Captain [Augustus H.] Kummel is the same old Dutch fool as usual — only a little more so. He knows less and less every day.
Tell Uncle that the very largest and best kind of mules can’t be bought for from 40 to 50 dollars a piece. I reckon that I shall preempt a span of them just before we get ready to come home. Tell Aunt that the very best of butter sells for 25 cents at present and it is not fit for wagon grease at that. It would scare them to see such butter as hers in market. They would not know what it was. That last roll that I got of her lasted us for 8 days after we came here. I am fearful that we shall not see any more such butter for the three years to come.
Apples are very plenty and can be bought for 25 to 50 cents a bushel. Tell Tinker that if I had had any way to send it to him, I would have bought him a little pony, saddle & bridle. It was all sold for the small sum of eleven dollars. He was a regular beauty and would have been just the thing for him to went sparking with.
I did not undo my clean clothes until the Sunday after we arrived in Leavenworth when I found your letter in the pocket of the shirt. I was as tickled to get it as a little boy would be with a new hat. By the by, it was the first letter that was received from Sharon. You haven’t any idea how anxious we all are to hear from home. John got a long letter from Nell tonight and Walt one from Fayette. But it is getting late and I must close.
Now Molly, you must write to me very often and write very long or I am fearful that I shall get homesick. Enclosed you will find an envelope directed as I wish you to direct them until I inform you to the contrary.
Good night! eat a large pancake for me now and then.