This letter was written by Mathew Macklem (1792-1867) of Mill Creek Hundred, New Castle county, Delaware. Mathew wrote the letter to John Barton Macklem (1817-After 1865)—the oldest son by his first marriage to Catherine Jacobs (1794-1841). In the letter, Mathew describes the death of his son George Jackson Macklem (1836-1864) and the wounding of another son, Mathew William Macklem (1833-Aft1865). He also mentions several other children including, Sarah Jane (b. 1819), Christiana (b. 1824), Mary Elizabeth (b. 1826), Hannah (b. 1828), Margaret or “Maggie” (b. 1830), and Lydia Emma (b. 1843), the latter being the child of Mathew’s second wife.
Mathew and George Macklem both served in Co.. K, 1st Delaware Infantry.
Addressed to John B. Macklem & John C. Ford, Esqr., Reinorsville, Ohio
Postmarked Newark, Delaware
Jany. 25th 1865
I am almost ashamed to write to you after so long a time. I neglected you. My mind was uneasy about Mathew & your brother George, & often writing to them and neglected writing to you. But I suppose Mathew has let you know that George was killed in the Battle of the Wilderness on the 10th of May 1864. He died in 24 hours after he was shot in the bowels, and told his tent mate to tell his wife that he died happy.
Mathew was wounded on the back of his hand with a piece of shell but he got home to his wife in Wilmington. He was able to go back to his regiment in about a month and it was all the hurt that he has had.
When the war broke out, I went in for Peace and Compromise, but Mathew & George would enlist and go into fighting. George’s three years only wanted a few days of being out—his wife had made him some clothes—but [he] was cut down and buried in the Wilderness, Va., [with] nothing around him but his blanket. When Mathew went out at first was 2nd Sergeant, but has been Captain going on 2 years and reenlisted again. His turn will be Major. He expects [it] in a short time. I don’t know what the Major’s wages will be but he gets now as Captain $138 per month. But Mathew has been a good son to me.
I got the Squire’s Office about two years ago. The first year it nearly supported your mother & Emma & me. But squire Wheeler went into the army and James N. Ray got Wheeler’s place, and the office is divided now. Ray is rich—worth twenty thousand dollars—but does all he can against me. Things has got so high that the office won’t keep me in coal. This is the first winter that I had a pound of pork to salt up. Have had but 4 or 5 pounds of Pork. Mathew has paid off my store bill about every three months from 40 to 45. He has to keep his wife & hisself now in clothes & provisions. All officers has to find everything they want.
Mathew wrote a letter to his sister Sarah in Iowa that he had to keep his old father. Sarah has got well off. She sent me a draft on the Bank of Newark for $30 which got me as much wood that will do me to till the middle of February & flour that will do for a week yet.
While I had the Post Office twelve years, it nearly kept us but as soon as Lincoln was elected, I had to go. This is part of the reason that I did not was my situation known to you, but now I must let it be known, which I am sorry to ask anything of you that has a wife & children to support, but it won’t be long that I can be here. I was 72 years old on the 10th day of last August. The Lord has been good to me and enabled me to work and raise a large family of children. I will not be long till I am with your mother in heaven where we will want no more of these earthly goods.
I have had good news from you that you had joined the Methodist Church & your wife also. Your stepmother has joined the Methodist Church in Newark which I was glad to see.
I think about $35 will keep me in wood, flour and meat till next harvest. I will write to John C. Ford. It may be that he will give me some help. I was offered two thousand dollars cash for my little property but I thought I would like to stay here the remainder of my days and perhaps my little property would be some help to my children after I am gone. I am glad to hear that my children has done well and been able to make a living for their families.
If McClellan had been elected, my friends would have [put me] in the Post Office again without [my] asking for it.
I have heard from your sisters Mary Elizabeth & Hannah lives in Chester and runs a Schooner and follow freighting. Maggy lives in Philadelphia. Her husband has been a clerk in the Post Office but has not been able to stand it and is now carrying letters around the city, which [gives] them a slim support. Your half-sister Emma is now with Maggy learning to sew on the sewing machine. Your Christianna is at Riddle’s Factory on the Brandywine. Her 3 children can make a living when the mill is running.
This cruel war has made poor widows and poor wives in this place. John, I am glad that you are out of the draft and had no desire to be in such a war as this. I suppose that John C. Ford is over age. Everything is very high. Pork $17.50 per hundred [lists various prices on commodities], Joseph Rankin is still living. Wm. Smith is dead. Old Joseph Rankin, Son Robert, and about 10 or twelve other Democrats was arrested at a picnic party in the woods at Naves Corner near Newcastle. They were all taken down to Fort McHenry & shut up in the fort about 10 days just to gratify their spite on them. Then letting them out without any charge against them & never examined one of them. But they thought that they would hold a large Democrat Meeting in the same woods. There were several thousand present. They were all prepared for anything that might happen. The speakers was very severe on the same officers on the ground that had arrested and sent them to the fort before the speakers told these cowardly officers now to come and arrest us peaceable citizens without any cause. But they all sneaked away without saying a word.
John, will you write as soon as you can? I shall not neglect you again. No more but remain your father, & mother Rebecca, — Mathew Macklem
John C. Ford, Esqr. — I will at last venture to send you a few lines at last. Mathew & George had taken up my time writing that I neglected you, But that was not all. I was ashamed to let you know my needy circumstances, which you will see more more freely in John’s letter. My son, Mathew, was home more than a year ago and seen me wearing summer pants in the dead of winter. He had been down at Reynold’s store & came up & told me that he had spoke to the storekeeper to let me have something for clothes & whatever I wanted and that he would pay for it which he did. I thought I would be compelled to sell my little property but Mathew told me not to do it—that he would help me all that he could while he was single, but if he got married, could not do as much as he had done for me.
Poor George—he lost his life in the Battle of the Wilderness [on] May 10th. I got the Squires Office over two years ago for a year. After I had the office, I made a little but we had a squire at the same time that went in the army & then James N. RAy got his place but RAy is worth 20 thousand dollars and can do without the office & now the office won’t make as much or will keep my office warm. But Mathew has got a wife now & can’t do as much as he would. No more… — Mathew & Rebecca Macklem