These two letters were written by Charles “Perry” Goodrich (1831-1921), the oldest child of Charles and Clarissa (Buck) Goodrich of Stockbridge, Madison County, New York. Charles came with his family to Wisconsin Territory in 1846 when he was only 15. The family purchased land and farmed near the Town of Oakland in Jefferson County where Charles received a “good common school education” and became “well informed on all matters of general interest.” His interest and love of learning motivated him to become a teacher at 18 in 1849 in a school near Oakland while he attended night school taking classes in mathematics and surveying. In 1854, Charles “tried his hand at merchandizing” and “ran a store in Oakland Center,” but always continued to help out on the family farm.
On November 30, 1855 Charles Perry married Frances (“Frankie”) Del Garcia Bowen of Cambridge, Wisconsin. Their union would last until Frankie’s death of a stroke at age 67 in 1900 while visiting their son Charles at the Oakland, Wisconsin farm. Mr. Perry never remarried.
In October 1861, Perry joined the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry and “served well and faithfully for three years and six months.” He was promoted to Sergeant Major on April 19, 1864 and again to Adjutant on January 25, 1865. He was mustered out in March 1865 and returned home. Charles’ brother David who also joined the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry had the distinction of being with the expedition that captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
After the war, Charles returned to farming, and in 1868 he represented the second district for one term in the Wisconsin assembly as a Republican. He was a lifelong member of the G. A. R. at Fort Atkinson (Post 159). He also served as Clerk of the Town Board and as Chairman of the same Oakland Town Board, apparently for many terms. In 1893 Perry joined the Hoard Company and moved to Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. Their farm in Oakland, Wisconsin was left to their son Charles and his new wife Ada. For the Hoard Company, Mr. Perry lectured and traveled to promote the dairy farming industry.
Source notes: Civil War Museum, Resource Center, Kenosha, Wisconsin
Many of C. P. Goodrich’s Civil War Letters were at least partially transcribed by Dane Uttera and posted on-line by Dave Gink.
[Note: This first letter is from the collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent.]
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Addressed to Mrs. Francis D. Goodrich, Christiana, Dane county, Wisconsin
Postmarked Pilot Knob, Missouri
10 miles southwest of Van Buren, Mo.
January 17, 1863
I have had no letter from you lately but I must continue to write you often for I know that you and the rest of my folks are anxious to hear from me and know that I am alive and well. On the 8th, we left Barnsville and moved by short marches to this place. On the 10th at night we started on a scouting expedition without being encumbered with either tents or wagons. Nearly the whole of this cavalry brigade were out riding in parties of from 50 to 100 rapidly through the country to the south and west of here to the distance in some instances of 100 miles. They have all returned now — the last came in yesterday.
While we were out, it rained two days and then ended off with a snowstorm. The snow is now 4 or 5 inches deep and the weather very cold. We had to lie out on the ground when the rain and snow were falling but it was not so uncomfortable as one would suppose though our blankets were wet and covered with ice and stiff like sheets of iron. If you could have looked down upon us on the morning of the 15th as we arose from our beds covered with snow and ice, you would have shed tears of pity. You would have felt a great deal worse about it than we did for the boys got up with a shout and a laugh and although some swearing was done, the boys were in pretty good spirits. The fact is, a person is bound to have a certain amount of enjoyment and it makes but little difference in what situation we are placed.
In our scouting we found no enemy in force but the country is full of straggling guerrillas who kill or pick up our soldiers when they find one or two in a place. The guerrillas keep hid among the bluffs in the ravines and we only occasionally find them. We took a few prisoners on the last expedition.
I have been riding in the capacity which I mentioned in my last letter. On the last expedition, I rode 120 miles a good part of the time alone through a country infested with guerrillas without stopping to rest but twice and then but an hour or two at a time. I rode two nights & one day to accomplish it, changing horses once. I think I shall not ride in this manner more if I can well avoid it but will keep on my regular uniform for the danger is too great. ¹
Oh Frankie, if I were with you, I could talk and tell you some strange stories which I cannot write, but you may thank God for giving your husband a simple honest countenance, and a voice and manner which makes most people believe that what he utters is truth. I tell you, I have had my nerve’s & self control put to the most severe test, but I came out all right or I should not have been here — probably not alive at this stage of the game.
A few days ago one Fredericks ² of Co. D (Capt. [Nelson] Bruett’s) went a short distance from their camp 8 miles out of Van Buren. It was in the evening and he only went a few rods to see to some clothes which he had been washing & were hanging out. He was without arms & before he was aware of it, a man rode up to him & presented a rifle to his head. There was no chance to resist and he was obliged to surrender himself a prisoner. Fredericks was marched by his single captor off among the mountains some six miles. Here they halted. Fredericks laid down, soon snored lustily & pretended to be asleep. His captor sat up watching for a long time, finally began to nod, then let his gun fall to the ground, then lopped down by the side of it and was soon sound asleep. Fredericks — who had been wide awake all the time — got up cautiously, took the gun, and blew out the villain’s brains. Then went [back] to his camp. This is no fiction but is a positive fact and the captor proved to be a notorious guerrilla chief known as Captain Crow. I have spent some time in my peculiar capacity in visiting and tracing out the haunts of this same Captain Crow but he met a fate which he long ago deserved before I was able to “hole” him.
The talk is now that we are on the go South soon — probably to Little Rock. Bowers, McGowan, & the Alling boys are here well. Frank, do write often & direct to 1st Wisconsin Cavalry, Army S. E. Mo. via St. Louis
Your husband, — C. P. Goodrich
¹ The “peculiar capacity” in which Goodrich performed his duties out of uniform suggests that he was operating as a spy in civilian clothes — a dangerous task indeed as capture would mean certain death.
² James S. Frederick (1842-1887) from Janesville served as the Vet. Sergeant. of Co. D, 1st Wisconsin Cavalry.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Addressed to Mrs. Frances D. Goodrich, Christiana, Dane county, Wisconsin
October 28th 1863
You no doubt by this time begin to realize that a soldier is a wandering individual for I rarely date more than one letter at the same place. We are in all sorts of places and have all sorts of camps. This “camp” is an immense building six stories high in the centre of this city. It was built for a hotel but never completed, not being finished off inside. It is now used as barracks in which are kept convalescents from the hospitals, deserters, paroled prisoners, and stragglers. 170 of our regiment were sent here to get horses for our division which is at Decherd. We arrived yesterday and they shut us up in this prison and treat us as they do the prisoners with the exception that we can all have passes to go out around the city and I think everyone had availed himself of this privilege today. It is uncertain how long we shall have to stay here. I find some who have been here a week on the same business that we are on and have not yet got horses yet.
We left Decherd on the night of the 23rd taking our worldly goods and horse equipments and very uncomfortably stowed into freight cars started by railroad for this place, a part of each company being left to take care of the horses. We went that night as far as Murfreesboro where we ere obliged to lie over till yesterday. When we arrived at the depot here each man took his saddle packed with all he possessed on his back and in this way we marched a mile or more through the city much to the amusement of spectators to the “Zollikoffer Hotel” and then up to the fifth story. Between two and three thousand soldiers are now in this building and yet it is not one quarter filled.
The arrangements for feeding so many it seems to me are very bad. They all eat in one room, about 200 being able to stand around the tables at a time. they are eating all times of the day and generally 300 or 400 are crowded around the dining room door all eager to get in as if they expected something good. If a man is well and strong, he can stand the pressure of the crowd. If he is small and weak, he had better go without his supper than venture in. Two days ago one poor fellow was actually pressed to death in this rush for something to eat. I was told last night if I wanted supper, I must pitch in with the rest. After looking at the crowding mass awhile, I fell in the rear of the “column” and as those in front went in to the door of the dining room (which is strongly guarded to prevent too many going in at a time) and others fell in behind, I found myself irresistibly & almost imperceptibly moved toward the desired point till in due course of time (about an hour) I found myself standing by a table in which for each man was placed a cup of half cold coffee and a piece of light bread on which lay a “gaub” of fat boiled pork. This eaten, we passed out on the side opposite that at which we went in. This morning our breakfast was the same with tea instead of coffee. I avoided the crowding somewhat by being up early and eating at the first table about 5 o’clock before a great many were up.
I have been strolling about town today having nothing else to do. I have been all through the State House. It is the grandest work of art I ever saw and is said to be equal to any state house in the United States. It is built entirely of marble and must have cost an immense sum.
Your kind, loving, and excellent letter of the 18th & mailed the 19th reached me at Decherd on the 23rd making the quick passage of 4 days. The stamps came just in time to suit me.
Leander Alling is in the hospital here sick with diarrhea. I have 19 of Co. I here with me. Alex is here well. Bill Bowers is not very well — left behind at Decherd. Lieut. [Henry Smith] Schuyler had command of our company but 4 or 5 days when he was taken sick & is still sick. We have a captain (Charles Pettibone) lately commissioned but he at present is acting quartermaster and has nothing to do with his company, so we are in the same fix in regard to officers that we have been for the last three months.
With regard to great military movements, you are doubtless as well informed as I am. Therefore, it would be needless for me to write concerning them. I will only say that I believe a great crisis is rapidly approaching and something very decisive is about to take place. I tremble for the result. We have got an immense army in the heart of the enemy’s country with but a single line of 300 or 400 miles in length on which to transport supplies. This railroad has to be crowded to its utmost and still our army at the front is on short rations. The rebels will make as they have been making desperate attempts to break this line of communication with, it seems to me, some possibility at least of success. The line once broken and our great army is destroyed. But I’ll not prophesy. What is to be, will be & “whatever is is right.” We will therefore wait & see and hope for the best.
Our regiment got well supplied with good clothing before we left Decherd.
I suppose Zeek & Lucinda think they have done wonders. I think so too & hope they will be satisfied with doing well.
Yours as ever, — C. P. Goodrich