This letter was written by 18 year-old Pvt. Columbus Knapp (1846-1865) while serving in Co. K, 44th Missouri Infantry. He mustered into the service at Rolla, Missouri, on 18 September 1864. Enlistment records indicate he stood 5’7″ tall, and had dark eyes and dark hair.
This letter was written less than a month later while still at Rolla, Missouri. He was admitted on 14 December 1864 at Hospital No. 8 in Nashville suffering from “Febris Intermittens.” He was later transferred to Louisville and then Jeffersonville, Indiana. By January 1865 he was transferred to the USA General Hospital in St. Louis where he apparently contracted small pox. He died there on 13 April 1865.
Columbus was the son of Samuel Knapp (1823-1908) and Eliza J. Barr (1824-1860). Columbus wrote the first letter to his younger sister Mary Ann Knapp (1846-1898); he wrote the second letter to his widowed father.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
October 16th 1864
I take my pen in hand to let you know that I am well at this time and I hope when these few lines come to hand, they will find you well. I received your letter and was glad to hear from you and to hear that you was well. You said that Pap sent me 3 one dollar bills in William Davis’ letter. I got them. The clothes I sent my clothes with the boys and the box was sent to Tom Dolins. My name is on them. The things I sent [were a] hat, coat, [and] pants.
Mary, you wrote to me that you wanted me to write the truth about home. I would like to be at home better than here. I want Pap to write how he is getting along with his hogs and corn.
Tell all of the folks up there that I want them to write and tell David [to] write to me. I want you to write how Uncle John is getting along.
We have been looking for Old Price ¹ here but he hain’t a coming this time. We are well fortified at this place. We have two forts — one of them will turn the devil. I hain’t been in the other one yet. We have had a bad time stand[ing] guard for about two weeks. We stood every other night and worked on the fort when we was on guard. Mathis Newman is well. So no more at this time. Write soon.
Columbus Knapp to Mary Ann Knapp
¹ At the time, Gen. Sterling Price was leading a raid through Missouri known as Price’s Missouri Expedition with the objective of taking back Missouri from Union control. His raid sputtered out after the Battle of Westport on 23 October 1864.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Headquarters Co. K., 44th Regt. Mo. Vols.
St. Louis, Missouri
November 10th 1864
I seat myself this morning to write a few lines to you to let you know how I am getting along. I can say that I am well at present and I hope these few lines will safely reach your hands and find you all well. After my respects to you, I will inform you that we started from Rolla in the evening of the seventh and rode on the cars as far as the road was repaired and then we had to march a distance of twenty miles and we had to carry all our clothing, blankets, one days provisions, our guns, cartridges, [ ] and our whole outfit. When we got to Franklin, we got aboard of the cars again and went to the Depot and from there to here. We landed here yesterday the 9th.
I will inform you that I received a letter from you on the 6th day of this month and was glad to hear from you. That was the second letter I have received from you. You stated that you had not received a letter from me since I left and I will state that this is the fourth letter that I have written to you since I left. The officers say the paymaster will be here today to pay us but I do not know whether it is true or not. But I am sure we would all be glad if he would come and pay us for we are nearly all out of money. We are in Benton Barracks and it is a nice place for soldiers to stay.
We left several of our men at Rolla sick and we also buried two men there that belonged to Co. K. There was considerable snowfall at Rolla on the 2nd of this month and Co. K was out with a train of wagons and you may know we had an awful time for the night before it rained all the night and we all was already wet and cold.
If you have sold your hogs yet I want you to send me one dollar for a person without money does not fare very well while on the march and I think it is doubtful about us staying here long and I am not sure we will be paid this payday.
Tell David Barr I send my best respects to him and that I would like to see him. I heard he was out trying the militia another pull. I am now ten pounds heavier than I was when I left home. I want to know how you are getting along with your corn and other things this fall.
I want you to write to me as soon as this reaches your hands and I will write more the next time. I send my best respects to all inquiring friends.
Nothing more at present. Direct to Columbus Knapp, Co. K, 44th Regt. Mo. Vols., Benton Barracks, St. Louis, Mo.
To Samuel Knapp