1861: Eli H. McFeely to his Father

This letter was written by Eli H. McFeely (1839-1923) who enlisted as a private on 16 April 1861 in Co. H (“the Steubenville Guards”), 2nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) — a three-month organization. He was discharged on 31 July 1861 after participating in the Battle of Bull Run.  He re-enlisted in Co. G, 2nd OVI — a three-year organization — on 16 August 1862 and was later transferred to Co. E, 18th OVI.  He was discharged from the service on 10 June 1865 at Chattanooga, Tennessee.

During the 21 July 1861 Battle of Bull Run, the 1st and 2nd Ohio Infantry regiments fought side by side in Brig. Gen. Robert C. Schenck’s brigade, though they were outclassed by Cump Sherman’s brigade in pushing across the stone bridge and into the fray below Henry Hill. Eli was married to Catherine Annie “Kate” Long (1844-1926) on 24 December 1861.

After his discharge from the service, Eli returned to Ohio and lived with his wife until 23 May 1880 when he kissed his wife goodbye never to return.  According to his wife, the couple had a friendly relationship but Eli’s grief from the loss of a child made him impossible to live with. The 1900 census shows wife Catherine living with some of her children and grandchildren but Eli had already left by this time. Records show that he had been in Arkansas, and Kansas and ended up in the National Military Home for Disabled Veterans in Leavenworth, Kansas where he died in 1923.

One of Eli’s daughters — Nellie McFeely — married Victor Hebron, the son of John L. Hebron of Steubenville who also served in the 2nd OVI.

TRANSCRIPTION
Camp Upton, Va. ¹
[Last week of] June [1861]
Father,
I received the letters on Tuesday but had not time to answer them until today. We have not got any further into Virginia yet but I think we will move in a day or so for Col.  [Alexander McDowell] McCook [of the 1st O.V.I.] said we would leave here inside of forty-eight hours but for where he did not say. The report here is that Col. Hardee ² is with his cavalry at the gap and is putting up batteries but whether it is so or not, I can’t say. There was some cavalry passed here this afternoon taking the road that way. I could not see how many there was. There is not any use to take prisoners any more for they let them go as soon as they are took. We go sometimes eight and ten miles for one and let them go as soon as [we] get them here. I suppose you have seen by the papers that Col. [Lewis] Wilson has resigned ³ and it has been a great loss to the regiment for he was the only officer that was liked and everyone would have staid as long as he but he will come back and get a company out of the regiment. He has got a captain’s commission in the Army. The First Regiment got paid yesterday and [we] will tomorrow. I must close for it is getting dark. I will write on Sunday. Tell Charley McMillan that I got his letter today and will write soon. All of the boys is well. No more at present.  — Eli H. McFeely

¹ Camp Upton was six miles northwest of Alexandria, Va. It was on Riley’s Hill, near Taylor’s Tavern, on the Leesburg & Alexandria Turnpike. The 2nd OVI arrived at Camp Upton in the evening of Tuesday, 18 June 1861. They remained at that location until 16 July 1861.

² The Washington papers reported on 21 June 1861 that, “Col. Hardee is at or near Fairfax with batteries and 400 cavalry.” This report proved to be a false rumor. Confederate Brig. Gen. William J. Hardee served in the Western Theatre of the war; not in Virginia.

³ Col. Lewis Wilson (1830-1892) resigned from the 2nd Ohio Infantry on 20 June 1861 to accept a commision as captain in the 19th U.S. Infantry. After Wilson resigned, Lt. Col. Rodney Mason took over the regiment and was in command during the Battle of Bull Run.

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