This letter was written by 19 year-old Joseph T. Blair (1843-1863) of Co. F, 12th Ohio Regiment. Joseph was the son of Samuel Blair (1820-1844) and Eliza Ann McClure (1819-1890) of Adams county, Ohio.
Joseph died on 10 November 1863 as a result of a gunshot wound received at the hands of guerillas while scouting near Boyers Ferry on 31 October 1863.
Joseph wrote this letter to his cousins, John Alexander Steen (1841-1918) and William Chester Steen (1845-1927). They were two of the sons of Alexander Boyd Steen (1813-1896) and Nancy Jane McClure (1821-1893) of Winchester, Adams county, Ohio.
Blair wrote the letter to his cousins, J. A. Steen (left) and W. C. Steen (right)
Camp Warren near Charleston, Virginia
March the 21st 1862
Mr. John & Chester Steen
My dear cousins,
I with pleasure resume my pen to inform you that your letter of the 10th inst. came to hand today and read it with much pleasure, and as it was raining today and all nature looks sad and melancholy, I seat myself to spend a pleasant hour in replying to you. I was glad to hear of you being in good health. My health is quite good at present.
Well, I believe that the best news that I have to write to you at this time is that the weather has been very good for about two weeks until today and it is again raining, but not such disagreeably rain as we formerly had. Spring seems to be open already. We have indications of its approach in the warm and balmy air and the warbling notes of the birds are heard in the forest. Old winter’s icy reign is yielding to the gentler sway of spring which we welcome with grateful hearts. I trust the spring will open with auspicious promises and its labors be largely remunerative to you, my agricultural friends, so that you may rejoice in its abundant and golden fruits, and ‘ere spring ends, I hope to see this wicked Rebellion crushed and peace and prosperity again reign over our once prosperous and happy country.
You spoke of having quit your school and again went to work. Well I guess the time is near at hand when I will have to work. Probably I shall not be occupied in the same kind of work which you are, but I assure you that it will not be much easier. You will be engaged on a farm and I will be engaged on the Mountains hunting for seceshers. There is evidently a movement on hand up the valley. Yesterday the 34th Ohio Regiment passed by here bound for Gauley Bridge and I understand that the 60th Regiment is on its way up here. Our Artillery company left us some time ago and I think that we shall follow them before long. I suppose that our destination will be to cross the mountains and take possession of Lewisburg and the Tennessee Railroad and in so doing, we will cooperate with our troops at Manassas. Such is my idea of these movements but I cannot ascertain anything certain for you know that military leaders always keep a provoking silence on all such things. I had hoped to get out of Virginia when we again marched, but I guess that I am bound to disappointment for at present there is strong indications of having to take a March across the mountains.
The principle topics which are discussed in camp is in regard to Fremont being appointed Major General of the Department of the Mountains, and you are well aware that our regiment belongs to that department. I don’t know but what he is a very good man, but I know that he is not very popular in the Old 12th. Our boys all think that he is an abolitionist and our regiment has a great dislike to that party. However, I should like to see the old gent who has caused so much trouble in the War Department. I would advise him to keep his abolition sentiment to himself when he is with the 12th Regiment, else it might prove to be unwholesome for him. We look for him here shortly to review us. His headquarters is at Wheeling, Va.
You spoke in your letter of the death of Spencer Wilson. ¹ It was a very sad occurrence. I think that it must have grieved his father a great deal. I have seen many such cases — only worse. Many a poor fellow have I seen buried out in the mountains without a coffin or a friend nigh him. There has been three deaths in our regiment within the last week. Their deaths was caused by exposure. One of the boys which belongs to my company has just returned this evening from Ohio where he has been home sick. He brought us all the news from the vicinity of Lebanon. He says that the folks about there thinks that the war is about over. How is it in your neighborhood? Do you think that it will be over anyways soon? We all think that it will terminate this spring. We get a telegraph dispatch every morning and it always contains good news. The Rebels seem to get repulsed on all occasions. The dispatch this morning announced the capture of Newbern, North Carolina, by Gen. Burnside. It also stated that the fight was still going on at Island No. 10. They have been fighting there for three or four days. I suppose that is something similar to the fight we had last November at Gauley Bridge. We cannonaded there for over a week and there was apparently but little damage done on either side. But I think that the rebels is about whipped out. We have driven them out of all their strongholds — namely Columbus, Bowling Green, and Manassas. If they are not well enough fortified at those places to stand and fight us, I don’t think that they will find a place on the whole continent where they can.
I see that their press has quit blowing that one Southern man can whip five Northern men. I think it about time for their brave sons of the South has had their fighting qualities pretty well tested of late, and I guess that they find a Northern man — or Yankee as they call them — is just as good as any of their Southern chivalry, and proves to stand fire a little longer if any difference. I am not certain but my impression is that the Old 12th will have to try her nerve again before the war is over.
Well, I am no ways anxious for a fight but if fight we must, I believe that the 12th Regiment will stand fire about as long as any of them. We never was shipped but once and I don’t think it likely that we will get whipped again, but I won’t say that we can whip five Rebel Regiments. That would sound too much like the Southern gas.
We have got an Old Secesh in jail here now who killed one of our spies last summer. His own son is here to testify against him. He has not had his trial yet. I don’t [know] what they will do with him but I think that very likely he will look through a halter. There is a Negro to be hung in Charleston next week for killing his master. I did not learn the particulars of the case.
I am on picket guard tomorrow. We have to go on about every three days. We have fun when we are out on picket telling the Secesh ladies as they pass by about the Union victories. It makes them hang their heads and look like they could not help it and I don’t believe that they can help it either although if talking and sour looks would do any good, they might. You said that a woman bit you once, John, but it did not hurt. I will bet if you would see one of these sour looking Secesh women, you would say that you would rather be bit by a rattle snake than to have her to bite you. You spoke of going to see your woman again. You must certainly be going to get married before long. You had better wait until the war is over so that I can attend your wedding and besides that you will have plenty of company for I know of lots of folks that are a going to get married after the war is over. I expect that I will stay in Virginia and marry a Secesher. I have almost fell in love with some of the sweet creatures.
Oh, I like to forgot to tell you that I got a letter from a woman yesterday. It was a nice one and a good long one too. It took me until midnight last night to write an answer. You know of course I took great pains in writing and composing it. Boys, that is the war. I have to spark these times __ to spend a portion of the night in writing to some pretty girl. What do you think of that mode of sparking? It is a first rate way when you can’t do any other way.
I got a letter from Ira the other day. He was hale and hearty and I should not wonder if he was in love up to the eyes. Well, cousins, I hardly ever commence a letter but what I fill the sheet of paper but you must excuse me this time for my fingers is crimping and I have been writing all day and now it is near bedtime. Tell Jim that I shall look to hear from him in your next. Give my best respects to Uncle and Aunt and all the family.
Nothing, but remain your cousin, — J. T. Blair
to J. A. Steen and W. C. Steen
¹ 1st Sgt. Spencer Wilson was the 19 year-old son of Congressman John Thomas Wilson of Adams county, Ohio. He served with the 33rd Ohio Infantry until his death at Louisville on 4 March 1862.