1862: Levi Crawford to his niece Amy

How Levi might have looked

This letter was written by 30 year-old Levi Crawford (1831-1865) — a cooper by profession — of Gouverneur, Saint Lawrence county, New York, who was mustered into Co. K, 60th New York Infantry, on 30 October 1861 as a private. He was promoted to a corporal on 1 May 1862, but was discharged for disability at Baltimore, Maryland, on 20 August 1862. In July 1863, he re-enlisted as a sergeant in Capt. Spencer’s Co. H, 20th New York Cavalry. He died on 22 March 1865 after his release from a Rebel prison, his doctor testifying that Levi had been held a prisoner for a long time & that his sickness & death was caused from exposure, ill treatment & want of food. Levi was taken prisoner on 24 June 1864 between Old Point and Yorktown, Virginia. He spent time in Libby and Andersonville prisons before being exchanged.

Levi was the son of David Crawford (1794-1872) and Elizabeth Gardner (1799-1832). He married to Lepha [Leaphy] J. Martin (1836-1919) in 1856. After Crawford’s death, Leaphy married Nathan Brown.


Camp Preston King near Baltimore
February 6th 1862

My Dear Niece,

It is with the greatest of pleasure that I take my pen in hand to answer your letter which I received this morning and was extremely glad to hear from you. Your letter found me enjoying the best of health and I hope this will find you the same. I don’t know as I have any news to write this time for we don’t get any ourselves so you must put up with a short letter and a good deal of nonsense.

Well you spoke of Darwin Reed. ¹ He is writing you a letter now and Charles is over to the Debating School for, Amy, we have such things as debating schools here in the army. We have a regular society. One night we have a debate and the next we have reading for the boys throwed in and myself with the rest and bought some books and we have quite a library and I should like to be there very well tonight but I have three letters to answer and I can’t get time in the daytime to write and so I must write at night.

Well, Amy, you spoke of my daring you to write. Well I did, I own it, and I thought if I got you mad you would write sooner and I find my plan worked well too for behold, this morning I got a letter from you — a short one and a great long one from your Father on a great big sheet of paper nearly as big as a man’s hand but not quite. Well, he said he was gone the most of the time and I suppose that is the case and so I must excuse him — and by the by, Darwin Reed has just got your letter read and he sends his best respects to you and the rest of your folks but he wanted some explanation on some things concerning that shaking that you spoke of and I had to explain it which you know I could do very readily. You said that you always say just what you please. You mean when I tell you you may, but you had better be careful about what you say without my permission. You say that you went to Herman’s [on] Christmas [day]. Well I was on guard that day and that was the way many a soldier spent his Christmas. It is hard but it is once, and upon the whole, Amy, the soldier’s life is a hard life but no harder than I expected — nor we have not had so hard a time as I expected so far. But if we should be called upon to march, I expect I shall tire out. But I should hang on a good while before I should be left on the road.

Oh, you said you went to school and studied arithmetic and grammar and philosophy and so forth. What kind of a study is that — “and so forth?” I never saw any of those books as I know of. Please tell me what kind of a book that is in your next letter which I expect soon, of course. Oh, you say you got my letter first because your Pa wasn’t at home, Well, I see that there is no use of trying to keep a secret from you. You thought that you should give me a hint every time that I got negligent about writing. Well, tit for tat. If you kill my dog, I’ll kill your cat. So if you give me a hint, I will give you a hint every time that you get negligent and I think that I shall have as many hints to give you as you will to give me.

You said that you could remember me without that shaking. Well now, my little niece, could you not remember me a little better with it. You say the reason you did not write before was because you was not at home. well that will do for you. I knew you would get out of it some way. You said that your Pa says that you will have to do the most of the writing. He need not say that after that great big sheet that you sent me today. And you said that your Mother said that she would like to come and see me and Charley. Well I should like to have her come and I presume Charley would too but I presume he would rather have you come. Now don’t blush if there is anybody there for it won’t do any good for I have written it now and blue ink won’t rub out, you know. But in speaking of your Pa, what he won’t say when he heard that you had got a letter from me, I did not mean that he did not care anything about it but I meant that that would be natural to want (the boys jiggle jogle so it makes me blot my paper and grease it and everything else as you will see on all sides) to know what a brother so far from home writes. I suppose you all think of me but be assured that you don’t think of me oftener than I do of you for my thoughts are constantly, I may say, on my home and my friends.

But Amy, there is no use of a man humping up and being homesick and all these things as some of our men are. That doesn’t become a soldier. We came here to be men and fight for the rights of men and to protect our homes and our firesides and we must be men and not babies. But we may think of our friends and our homes — that we cannot help. No neither do I want to help it. But as dearly as I love my father and my brothers and sisters, if I could only be sure that Lepha was well all the time, I should be perfectly happy with my situation although it is rather hard.

You said that your mother dreamed about me the other night. That is something that I haven’t done since I have been in the army — to dream of anybody. I don’t know the reason for I was always dreaming when I was at home. You say that you heard that Erwin Barnes ² was dead. If it is so, it must be very sudden for I had a letter from him a short time ago and we was in fine spirits then.

Well, you wanted to know how I like a solder’s life. Well I like it very well although as I said before, it is rather a hard life. And you say, “Do you earn your salt? Charley says he don’t.” There is is again, you think because Charley don’t, of course I don’t. I want to tell you Charley is not as smart as I am. Oh, you say, that is self praise. Well perhaps it is but I work every day and earn 75 cents and get 50 cents of it. So you see that I earn more than I get. But I think I can almost hear you say, that is only my word for it. Nevertheless, it is true, for I have worked on these barracks ever since New Year’s Day every day but one, Sundays excepted, and that day I had the sick headache. You say that if we all get to snoring it will make a pretty noise, I guess. If you could hear them snore now, you wouldn’t [think] it so very pretty. But soldiers get used to it.

You say it don’t take you so long to write a letter as it does Lucinda. Well now, how long did it take you to write that letter? Just tell me and I will tell you how long it took me to write these few short lines that I am writing to you. But you will say that it is nothing but scribbling. Well that is a fact but you see I have so many letters to write that I can’t spend much time on each one. You said that they say that John Leavett is stepping around Lucinda. Well, let him step. You did not want me to tell her anything about it. You had better look out for it would be just like me to tell her the first time that I see her. You say she will scold you. Let her scold. It will do her good. Make her grow and you know she is rather small. But you say there is some pretty good-looking girls goes to school to him. I should like to know who they are. You say in the last of your letter, now say if you dare. Well I dare you to write us soon as you get this and answer my letter as nearly as I have yours and dare you to do it fifty times.

Well now Amy, I have answered your letter as well as I can and now I will tell you something about the weather here in Maryland. Commencing at Sunday of this week it was very pleasant and warm and not any snow on the ground at all nor no frost in the ground. On Monday it snowed all day at at night there was about two inches of snow on the ground. Tuesday it was very war, and pleasant and the snow more than half melted off that day. It froze a little that night and Wednesday it rained nearly all day. So you see the snow is scarce — like hen’s teeth now. And today it has been pleasant and quite warm. The small ponds have not been frozen over yet. I have not seen a sleigh this winter and it looks curious to look off onto the Bay and see vessels sailing around there in February, I can tell you.

But I must close for it is 11 o’clock and I must get a little sleep. You know how sleepy you feel when he comes to see you and stays most all night — I mean the next day. Well, you may give my love to all enquiring friends and save as much of it for yourself as you need to write your next letter with. Tell Lepha to write often. I have written six letters to her and received but one and that was in answer to three that she got from me at once. Tell your Pa that the reason that I didn’t answer his letter was because I had no paper large enough. Well I must bid you goodnight for this time and please accept this from your ever affectionate Uncle far from home, — Levi Crawford

Now just remember you wont be dared. I will see if you have got as much grit as you thought you had. You say your pen is very bad or your ink is poor. Mine is not. I am writing with paper that cost $12.00 but it is a borrowed one. I dare you.

¹ Darwin Reed was 32 years old when he enlisted in October 1861 in Co. K, 60th New York Infantry. He had risen to the rank of sergeant by the time he died of typhoid fever on 12 April 1863 in Aquia Creek, Virginia.

² Erwin Horace Barnes was 18 when he enlisted at Gouvernuer, New York, to serve as a private in Co. D, 16th New York Infantry. He was wounded in the groin at the battle of Gaines Mill on 27 June 1862 and taken prisoner at Savage Station on 29 June. He was taken to Richmond and near the end of July he was sent to Philadelphia where he died on 12 August 1862. HIs body was taken home by his parents.



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