19th Century Humanities

Civil War Letters

Franklin County:
Samuel M. Potter to Cynthia Potter, July 20, 1863

Harpers Ferry Va. July 20th 1863 
Dear Cynthia 

   Will you ever excuse me for not writing you for so long a time. I know you will & I must assure I feel very sorry for you & will hurry & tell you the reason for not writing sooner. Soon after the battle at Gettysburg I got sick. My stomach & liver were out of order. I hung on day after day hoping to get better but instead got worse. We were moving over the mountains until we came to Boneboro Md. when I got so sick as not to be able to go any farther. The Doctor sent me to a barn with John Milligan to wait on me. I lay there a week & got some better. Then we come down here yesterday Sabbath. I was still better but did not feel strong enough to ride every day with the retiment, when I got the Doctor to write an order for me to go to Baltimore to go to the hospital. Well the Dr. wrote the order & I came here. Saw the Quartermaster who had charge of the R.R. & he told me I would have to get a transportation order from Gen. Lockwood. I called on him & he sent me to his Medical Director who told me I would have to go into the hospital here. He could not send me to Baltimore so I stopped here. There are about 200 sick here. I have to act as Hospital Steward for them. They have not been in operation long & are not fully arrayed yet. The Drs. are very glad that I did come, as they had no one who knew anything about a Hospital Stewards duties & some of the Drs. dont know much about Hospital practice. They treat me very kindly. I hope to be able to get a furlough & get home before I got back to the Regt. I have felt very bad about you since I was sick knowing that you would be uneasy. You would go over to the postoffice & wait patiently for letter then to be dissapointed time after time. I know it would be very unpleasant for you. It has been the greatest trouble & sorrow I have known to be dissapointed in getting your letters & the children too would wonder where Pa is. I do wish I knew where he is. I think I can hear Josey saying. & so you are all at home again, you wrote to me in your last. I forgot myself when I was reading it & I thought I was at home on the back porch reading your letter & you were getting dinner for me. I felt bad about it & wished I could have got up & run there on the double quick. Well we have driven the rebs back into Old Va. again & hurt them some as they were going. Our regiment had a brush with them while I was sick & several were killed & some wounded. Abe Lezarden was killed & James Milligan was wounded. I hear our hospital was a factory & stands high on the Virginia side of the Potomac which washes the walls of the building. The Stewards room has a window looking out on the river & I am writing this on the window seat with the roar of the river in my ears as I write. This is called the Factory Hospital & if you write soon address Factory Hospital, Harpers Ferry.

    Teusday . The mail has not gone yet but will in an hour or two & I will write a little more since this is the most enjoyment I have since your letters can not reach me from the Regiment. I feel quite well this morn & should go back to the Regiment but as they want me to stay here I will remain & see if I can not get a furlough. to get home. I would like so well to see you all once more. I would like to hear from you soon to find out how you all are. How Josey has got over scared at drowning. I hope he will be more careful of the millrace & keep a respectful distance from it. How do Lucy & Bell get along. Tell about them when you write & Jimmy I suppose Jumping Jimmy from what you say of his activity is he walking yet. How is the cow getting along. Do you have her in a pasture or is she living as usual in the road. I suppose you have a good garden. I hope to be able to help you eat some of it this summer, if my furlough comes all right. I will still leave you in the hands of our Great Preserver who has kept us all so long in the midst of dangers & preserve us from harm. Oh how I would like to be sitting beside you in the old church on the hill listening to Mr. McKee. Those were among the most pleasant hours of my life there to have them with the children & me there & oh how I would like to enjoy them again. I hope God will preserve & protect us & permit us to meet again to enjoy the service of his sanctuary again on earth. Pray for me dear Cynthia that I may grow in grace maybe more sanctified & that I may be more acceptable to my Creator & I will still pray for my dear wife that she may be kept in the hollow of Gods hand, that no harm may befal her that she may be made holy & righteous that we all parents & children may be accepted by the Almighty through his son the Lord Jesus Christ. That will bless you all in the prayer of your most affectionate husband.


S. M. Potter

Franklin County: 

David Demus to Mary Jane Demus, November 8, 1863

nobember the 8th 1863

Mi Dear Wife

I tak this optuity to in form you that i am Well at present and hopein that thes fu lynes ma finde you in the same state of healt i recev yor letter on the 5th of this month and i Was verry glad to hear frum you all and i hapey to hear that you have got such good healt since i left hom but i am a frad that you ar going to heirt yor selfe Warking i doant thig that you ot to go out in the feald to husk Corn or dow eney such Wark i doan thig nothing of you Working at Mr paterson som times but i doant Want to hear of you going in the feald to eney more and you nead mind Whot you her all the tock that his son Can tock Wont Hirt you i he think that i Wont get home son but i Wod a Cum home this time but i thot We Will get ar money in a fu days and as son as We get it i Will be at home to stay a Will and i have oney got a doller now but if you lok in the nex letter i Will send you som hom We have got a bout nity Dollre Cuming to us now and tell me how hold the thing fer you you [unclear: sed] [unclear: robsen] boys Whot [unclear: robson] Was it fer i Want to now give mi love to yor father and lysbeth and solomon harson and ant merrey harson and tell them to right to me Wants give mi love to all the frends

nothing mor at Present but still reman

yor Dear husben
David Demus to marrey Demes

Civil War Letters Analysis Worksheet

• What can we infer about the letter writer at the time the Civil War started, his or her home, family members, work, level of education? How do you know?

• Can we tell which side the author of this letter supported, the Union or Confederacy? If so, how do we know? Give specifics.

• What is happening during the Civil War at the time the letters were written? (Students can check their texts and/or internet sources)

• If the author is a man, why do you think he has enlisted? Does he say anything about the views or attitudes he holds that have led him to make the commitment to fight, or can we infer them in any way?

• If the author is a woman, does she say anything that enables us to know which side of the conflict she supports and why?

• If either the author or recipient is a woman, what can we learn about the lives of women during the Civil War from the letters? How did women make sacrifices for or contributions to the war effort, even though they themselves could not fight or hold political power?

• What personal concerns does the author express? Is the Civil War the only threat to his or her well being and happiness?

• How important does it appear to be for the author to receive letters and/or to write letters at this time? Why?

• By searching the Internet site where the letters appear, or any other sources, what can you discover about the letter writer?



       As you can see from the first letter, the writer is much more educated than the second letter’s writer. Apparently, Samuel M. Potter has

 been working as a doctor for a living to raise his family. He took a job in a hospital and served patients to take care of their injury conditions.

 According to the letter, Samuel M. Potter is from the Union army, because in the letter, he stated that his army drove the rebels back to 

Virginia. During the times when his letter was written, the Battle of Gettysburg was taking event during the Civil War. Samuel Potter was 

enlisted because he wanted to gain experience as a doctor and at the same time, raise money for his family. Cynthia, his wife, had stayed home

 while waiting for his letter to come back, tending the garden as she prayed for Samuel to come back soon. In this letter, Samuel expressed his 

deeps concerns about the family conditions. This letter was significant because Samuel hasn't contact Cynthia for a while, and wanted her to 

know that he is still alive. Samuel Potter is a very emotional and cautious name, and he believed that God will protect him through war so he 

can finally meet his wife when he gets to.

        Other the other hand, David Demus was employed as a worker who has low wages. He was obviously not well-educated due to the many 

spelling and grammar mistakes that appeared in the letter. His use of words lacked emotions and clearly wasn’t capable of expressing himself. 

His wife, Mary Memus, husked corn in field to raise her own family, working her head off while his husband was off at a far away distance. The 

difference between these two letters varied from extremely educated to almost illiterate. As a letter writer, David Demus does not have the 

high-ranking status like Samuel M. Potter, who took a job as a doctor. David’s family conditions were not as well off too, considering that he 

does not have the money to afford a pasture for cows like Samuel, whose wife was still considering whether to buy it or not. In the end, Samuel

 Potter expressively ended his letter with “your most affectionate husband,” whereas David Demus ended his letter with a simple “yor Dear 



1)    A) Which main topic does the artifact relate to? In what ways?

                      This artifact is related to Communication and Transportation Revolution, because writing letters represents communication and how letters are going from location A to location B is transportation. In the civil war, men fight and women stay home. The only way they can communicate is through writing letters. However, only those who are educated gets to be heard. Those who do not know how to write or read does not have either chance of communicating through such a long distance. Before transporting these letters, it has to be checked and read before it's sent out, so that they can assure themselves that there aren't any traitors. 

B) Which other main topics does it also relate to?

                This artifact can also relate to Gender Roles. Why do men fight and women only get to stay home? Is it because women did not have the power to fight in wars, just because they didn't have the right to? Why is it that only men writes letters to home and not wife writing to husbands? Is it because they are not as educated as men? Or are they only expected to stay home and take care of themselves? I think, civil war letters can include lots of other main topics aside from gender roles, but after all, the answers to these questions can generate the question of what women's roles were during the civil war.

2) Why did you choose this artifact, and how much time did you spend creating and/ or processing it?

                       I chose to analyze civil war letters because analyzing can help me understand better about the times during civil war. At this point, I did not choose to do the OPVL worksheet because it does not help me more when analyzing. Using my own techniques of analyzing gives me a larger envision of what my ideas are. I spent about forty-five minutes creating this artifact.

3) What insights and understanding have you gained from the creation and/or processing of this artifact?

                       This artifact helped me understand the roles of women and also allowed me to compare the letters written, which greatly explains how literate some people are and how illiterate others are. 

4) Does this artifact reflect your best work and/or ideas? Why, or why not?

                       This artifact does reflect my best work, however it could have been better if there was a better organization/ criteria for the analysis. This artifact allowed me to reflect part of my ideas, because I wasn't limited in a certain criteria, I can just analyze however I want to analyze. 

5) Rate this artifact on a scale of -5 to 5 for the following 4 criterion:

   A) impact on the quality of your portfolio                     0

   B) Impact on your level of happiness/enjoyment           1

   C) impact on your learning                                           1

   D) Level of creativity and originality                             0

6) Any additional comments.