These two letters were written by Wallace McGrath (1844-1909) of Co. K, 15th Ohio Infantry. McGrath enlisted as a private in September 1861 but later rose to the rank of 1st Lieutenant in Co. C. and served as aide-de-camp on the staff of Brigadier General August Willich, 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 20th A.C., Army of the Cumberland.
William was the son of Rev. Thomas S. McGrath (1817-1844) and Rebecca Culbertson Wallace (1826-1885). After the war, Wallace relocated to Topeka, Kansas, where he took charge of the construction on the eastern end of the Kansas Pacific Railway, now a part of the Union Pacific System between Kansas City, and Denver Colo. Later, after having been engaged in commercial pursuits in Topeka Kans., for several years, he returned to Ohio and became Chief Engineer of the Scioto Valley Railway, extending from Columbus, Ohio, to the Ohio River and now a part of the Norfolk and Western Railway System. In 1880, he built the extension of that line from Portsmouth to Ironton, Ohio.
Wallace wrote the letter to his friend, George Doan Freeman (1842-1911), the son of John and Mary Freeman. In 1860, George was enumerated in the Columbus household of his mother, 48 year-old Mary A. Freeman — a native of New Jersey. In the 1870 US Census, George was enumerated as a 27 year-old dry goods dealer in Columbus. He was married to Julia Ann Diemer.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Addressed to George D. Freeman, Care of Eberly, Richards, & Co., Columbus, Ohio
Postmarked Nashville, Tennessee
Headquarters 6th Brigade
Camp near Corinth [Mississippi]
May 24th 1862
I suppose, George, you think it is about time I was writing to you, don’t you? And for the last week I have been trying to think that you owe me a letter but I have come to the conclusion that you don’t, but that it is vice versa. So here goes & I am writing you a letter & don’t know what to tell you hardly because if you read the papers, you know more about Corinth than I do & I haven’t heard from Columbus for so long that I don’t know what to ask you about. But hoping that you will tell me all the news you know of when you write, I will now go on with my tail (tale).
Our division is the Grand Reserve Division of Gen. Buell’s Army. Therefore, we are not in front very much. Nearly every day we hear heavy firing in the front, but yesterday & today it has been rather more quiet than usual. But the pickets of the enemy & ours are in some places only about 3 or 400 yards apart and are continually firing at each other. The Confeds have a large force there & also large fortifications, but we also have a heavy force here & if not as many fortifications, we have more men & better artillery than they have. They are nearly flanked on all sides & if they don’t look sharp, we will capture them all, & then it is to be hoped the war will end. I really do hope that in a few more days, the ball will be opened & settle it because there is no pleasure waiting day after day & still no fight, and at the same time expecting it all the time to commence.
The newspapers are always about four days old that we receive here & they don’t have much news in them so that we don’t get to hear much of what is going on in the other parts of the United States. And most of the time we depend upon the newspapers for news of what we are doing at Corinth.
There — now goes another big gun. I wonder what that means? I suppose they have seen some rebels standing in a lot & scattered them with a shell or so. Deserters are coming in all the time. Some tell one story & some tell another so that it is impossible to arrive at any conclusion in regard to the enemy at Corinth.
I have never come across that Gentleman who was going to shoot me that you told me about while I was in Camp Wood.
Give my compliments to Miss Diemer & write soon George because I would like to hear from you very much & will answer yours at my earliest opportunity after I receive it.
Your true friend, — Wall McGrath
Address me care of Gen’l R. W. Johnson, 6th Brigade, Gen’l. McCook’s Division, Hamburg Landing, Tennessee
Addressed to George D. Freeman, Care of Headley, Eberly & Richards, Columbus, Ohio
Headquarters 1st Brigade
March 15th 1863
I received your long looked-for letter only three days ago and although it was a long time coming, I was very glad indeed to get it because I have not heard from you for so long. Now George, I think you might write a little more punctual, & I think you would if you only knew how much good it does me or any other soldier to receive a letter from home. Of course you had a good excuse this last time—trade bring so brisk.
I am very well now and indeed, I don’t believe I am ever going to get sick so I can get a leave of absence for a short time.
On the 6th of this month, our brigade was ordered to go to a place called Middleton which is within the lines of the enemy. We started early in the morning after after marching about five miles, we fell in with the pickets of the enemy and drove them before us for about five miles until we came up to Middleton where we had quite a fight with them, resulting in them being driven away in disorder. Our loss was only three slightly wounded while we know of killing 8 rebels and wounding some 15 of them.
Yesterday our brigade was on picket duty and, being out on the lines, I went out to the rebel lines with a flag-of-truce which was going out from our lines at that time, taking out some women & children and some rebel surgeons. I had quite a talk with them. I met a private in the 1st Alabama Cavalry who used to work in the City Fact office ¹ in 1851. His name is “White.” He said that when he met me in a fight, he would take good aim at me and be sure & kill me dead without wounding me. I told him he was damned accommodating.
Don’t forget to send that picture in your next letter. Julia has not written to me yet. What is the matter?
My birthday was on the 11th of this month and now I am 19 years old & in my 20th year but I don’t feel as old as my years tell me I am.
Now George, write soon to your friend, — Wallace McGrath
Lieut. W. McGrath, A.D.C.
Head. Qtrs. 1st Brigade
20th Army Corps
Dept. of the Cumberland
¹ From the History of the City of Columbus, Ohio, by Osman Castle Hooper, we learn that, “In 1851, a number of journeyman printers began the publication of the Daily Capital City Fact. After a few months, the paper came into the control of Colonel John Geary who continued the publication until 1863” when it was sold and continued as the Evening Press.