by William Samuel Craig
March the 27, 1865
Goldsboro, North Carolina
Editor’s Note: Across the top of this letter, this is written:
Dear I have been in another hard battle the 4 of this month. It lasted four days and nights. It was at Kingston but we drove them.
My dear beloved wife, I have the honor once more of writing to you again. I received some six letters from you last night but they was old ones but it done me good to read them. One was dated December the 21, one dated December the 28, one October the 26, one October the 3, one January the 13, one the 18 of September, and that is the one that had 2 stamps in but they have stuck so fast that they will not do me no good.
Dear, I shall not write much this time but I will merely let you know where I am and how I am getting along. I got to my regiment the 25 of this month and your letters that I got went to the regiment all the while. As for my health it is good and dear I hope and trust these few lines may find you and the little babies well and all of the connection. Dear I would like to answer all of those letters separate but I can’t this time. Dear it seemed as though you was troubled because I did not come and see you. Dear you know that I had rather seen you then any one on earth but dear before I had read all of the letters through that you thought of my condition but a person should never kick before they are spurred. I never would have taken a furlough if I hadn’t thought of coming to see you dear the latest word I have from you is January the 13 and this is the 27 of March. I also got a letter from Mother today. It was wrote the 10 of February. They stated that they had received a letter from me but did not say what time they also stated that you was well that was good news to me dear I want to see you worse then anyone or anything on earth. Dear if I could get your old shoes that you have thrown away I would pick them up and put them in my knapsack in remembrance of you.
Dear when you write again direct to the regiment direct in this form:
William Craig 116 Ill Volunteer
First Brigade 2 division
Fifteenth Army Corps
by the way of Washington
Dear direct your letters this form till further orders so I guess I will have to bring it to a close. I did not calculate to make a long letter this time dear I have not drawn any money this time but will soon and then I will send you all that I have. Dear you said something about going to Illinois. If you think it ain’t safe though live there you had better go but if there is no danger I had rather live there so suit yourself and I am sure I will be suited. So farewell my dear beloved companion and little babies. Write soon.
I am dirty and lousy, too. Dear I had just folded my letter to send to you and I just have received another one from you dated February the 8, 1865. I will answer it in a few days. I think the boys will have to sit up with me tonight I am so proud. I was very sorry to hear of Harriet Lavill’s death. I will have to give you a little raking in the next letter from the way this one read but I will not mean any harm. It is about them women. I write that letter at Clerling, Tennessee and this one.
April the 3, 1865
Goldsboro, North Carolina
My dear, I just received a letter this evening while I was out on ground review. It was dated January the 13. The latest news I have from you is February the 23. Dear, I guess I get all of the letters now that you write. I believe I have got 20 from you the last week and I hope I will get 20 more this week . You sent me 2 postage stamps but you need not send me any more. I have a dollar and I will spend it for stamps. I have not drawn any money yet and I do not know when I will. Dear, be sure to answer this and let me know whether you want any money or not. But I know you do. We will draw our money I think the 15 of this month. I have over 300 dollars coming to me and if you want me to send it I will but sometimes I think I will not draw any more till my time is out and then if I got killed or taken prisoner your chance would be slim in getting any and not at all if I had it in my pocket it would be taken from me but dear I know that you need my money and it is for you and my little babies. The boys was paid off in about 3 weeks after I left them they was paid nearly 200 hundred dollars and the most of them has gambled it all away. Dear, I try to save all of my money for my dear little family. Now in the last 16 months I have spent 10 dollars and that was when I went to Ill.
Dear, I do not know what to write that would interest you the most. I have written so many here lately I guess I have written till my letters has become to be an old song but if it is any pleasure to you to get my letters I will continue to write for every letter I get from you. It [–unreadable–] me up so I feel like a new man so God [–unreadable–] help and preserve I will continue to write till the first of August then I will quit writing army letters. If James and Dock is at home tell them to hold that country till I come I want to be a soldier in that country about one month. I would like to pull trigger on them sons-of-bitches. I would drop them quicker than I would a [–unreadable–] but I want all of them sympathizers driven out of the country but I had rather see them drawed up in line and the last devil shot down and I could do it as cheerful as I ever sit down to a meal’s vittles and dear you know that I love something to eat. When you told me in one of your letters that Papa had to turn his pockets wrong side out it has put the devil in me and if there is ever sympathizer there they had better hunt their holes.
Bud Craig told me that Uncle Dock was a rebel but that did not surprise me much. I thought maybe he was one [-unreadable–] if he is a rebel or a sympathizer I had rather shoot him then one of my friends in the south but I hope that law that has been passed will leave Mo. out and it will become a [–unreadable–] country. The country that we have traveled over in the last 8 months is destroyed totally. Sherman told us to burn everything and you may depend there was nothing left. Neither stock of any kind that we could eat we shot down and left them laying. Houses we burned and fencing and large cotton factories we burned off the [–unreadable–] [–unreadable–] I ever [–unreadable–]. We burned the houses and the women and children standing outside crying. Neither clothes nor nothing to eat. We traveled about 4 hundred miles through the center of South Carolina and we cleaned everything in the distance of 80 miles wide and we are doing the same in this country.
Dear I am writing more than I expect I would when I commenced so I will close hoping this will find you enjoying good health as it leaves me. John Green and John Lais is expected to die. They belong in my company. Tell Jimmy and Hattie to kiss Ma for me so no more. God bless my dear wife and babies. Give my respect to Papa and Mother and all inquiring friends if there be any.
April 9, 1865
Goldsboro, North Carolina
April the [–unreadable–] 1865 the year of our Lord. My dear beloved wife and dear little children and to a home all this may can serve in the sight of Almighty God. I have the honor and privilege of addressing you once more in this life of [–unreadable–]. Dear this is Saturday night and all have reclined. Marching orders for to leave Monday morning and I must send you a letter between this and Monday. This is a very large sheet and I will fill it up between this and Monday. This letter may very your patience in reading it but when you get tired, Mother or Papa can finish.
You complain of your large sheets that you sent to me wishing that they was all gone but it is a very seldom the sheets is large enough for me. Dear, my health is better this spring then ever before and, dear, I hope and trust these few lines may find you and little babies well and father and his family enjoying good health. The health of the army is good. [–unreadable–] never saw such troops in as fine spirits in my life. It is reported that Richmond is ours at all [–unreadable–]. It was the reports a few days ago but it was not believed at all but now it is official in taking Richmond. General Grant fight them 5 days whilst they was getting out and captured twenty-three thousand prisoners and 5.00 iran clades and was still faling them up. Agreeable to the reports Lee army is almost ruined. If this all be true which I think it is, the war is nearly over. This report is directly from the War Department and when that is done such reports must be true. And today there was 2 brigades came in to our lines and gave themselves up. They was cavalry. They brought their guns and horses and they said that there was more coming in a few days if our field officers would pardon the high officers in the southern states we would have peace before tomorrow night, but Lincoln won’t do it. Neither would I, but that makes them fight longer and I would do the same.
And they know it is death anyhow and I think any general would flight as long as he had a hundred men. I sometimes believe and always have believed that if we whip the south that the field officers and Jeff Davis would finally disappear that this army will finally disappear and it look so now if there was anyone in the South to make peace we would have it and that soon it is reported that Jeff Davis has left the war – him and his staff. So if that should be the case who can surrender with us. So, dear, I will have to go to my shuck bed for a little rest as the night is growing late. It is 12 o’clock so farewell till morning.
Well, dear, this is Sunday morning and is a nice morning and, dear, I would love to go to meeting with you this morning but cannot so I will have to amuse myself in writing and it is great amusement to me at anytime to write to you. Dear, I did not go to sleep till nearly daybreak this morning. I stayed and wrote last night about you all. I did not get any sleep till nearly daylight and when I did get to sleep I dreamt of you. I dreamt of seeing you as plain as could be and talking with you but it seemed to me you was not like you used to be. I also dreamt of little Jimmy and he was laying in bed asleep. I dreamt I wanted you to wake him up so that I might see how large he was now. You said let him sleep and my little Hatty I did not dream of her at all. And it is a wonder I did not dream of her for I think more about her than Jimmy for all I have never seen her. So dear, that was my dream but I hardly ever dream of you but what I get a letter in a short time.
Dear, the paper brings us great news this morning of General Grant’s Army. The rebels is whipped and almost entirely they’re leaving their army and going home. I think all of those is from the War Department and when a dispatch is signed from the War Department it must be so.
I presume that you get all of the news more than I do, so dear, I do believe that our fighting is done but we may have some hard marching to do but that ain’t like fighting. Dear, I want to hear from you very bad again. I have not got any letter this week. The latest letter I have from you was written the 23 of February and this is the 10 of April but I must be contented. Dear, I don’t wish to very your patience but I had better close or I will if I continue in writing. So, dear, remember me in your prayers that I may live to join with you in this life once more and enjoy the sweet comforts of life the remainder of our days on earth. I ask and entrust in the prayers of the riches that our days may be like unto theirs. I know that I had a praying father and mother and praying companion a dear friend that has desire and entrust in the welfare of my poor unconverted soul. I feel as though I will become a Christian before I die but maybe not. There is so much sickness carried on in the Army that it is almost useless for a person to try to be religious. All kinds of sickness [–unreadable–] carried on in the army but there is some that is just as good Christians in the army as there is at home. So, dear, I will leave the subject to yourself.
from William Craig to my dear beloved wife
A few words to sister Jane and family – Dear Sister, I feel myself under great obligation to answer your kind words that you sent in Levica’s letter. I am glad that you have not forgotten me. Never shall I forget your kindness in days that is past and gone and, Sister, I hope the time will come and speediately come, when we can mingle our [–unreadable–] together once more in this life. Sister, I have been informed that you have lost two of your dear children since I left that country. I know that has grieved you very much but, Sister, those children is now at rest whilst we are fighting and toiling in this unfriendly world. We should not grieve of the loss of our friends when they have left a testimony behind that they are gone to rest. But I know it is natural for us to grieve of the loss of our dear friends. So, Sister, let us try to meet them in that bright world above.
Dear, I have been first writing and when I get tired I would read and I have enjoyed the Sabbath by myself awhile the rest of the boys has been playing cards all day. Dear, I don’t know one card from another. You may doubt that but is so. I never try to play a game in my life. Neither do I expect to for I naturally hate the man that invented them. Give my compliments to Papa and Mother. Also to Dock and James. I am glad Dock and James is at home. Tell them to stay there and for them to write to me if they please. Dear, it seems like you write to me and about your brother, Nate and your other brother I don’t recollect his name. Those two was in California with your Papa. It seems as you wrote something about them. Well, if they are there give them my respects as I am a stranger to them for if you’ve written anything to about them it sees as a dream. Give my respects to all inquiring friends if there should be any.
My dear before I very your patience I guess I had better close but I will name [–unreadable–] then close. This is the North Carolina Times. Dear, night has come again and I must finish my letter to start to you in the morning and my pen is nearly worn out so I hardly can write at all. Dear I do not know where we are going but I think we are going back in Tennessee but I don’t much care where we go till the first of August. Dear, I want you to take care of yourself as well as you can this summer. I do not know when I will have the privilege of writing to you again, but I will write the first chance. Dear, I have not received any money yet neither do I want any only I would love to send some to you. But, dear, you must do the best that you can. You must let me know whether there will be any danger there when I come home. If you think there will be, you must meet me in Ill. So farewell my dear wife and dear friends and little babies.
[Editor’s Note: I am the great-granddaughter of William Samuel Craig. These letters from the Civil War were in the possession of his grandson, Jerry Craig, and they were loaned to me during a visit to his home in Norborne, Missouri. All of these letters were difficult to “translate” from the decorative script-writing; some have areas of blanks which were impossible to decipher. Each letter retains some of its original spelling and grammar; some punctuation has been added for clarity; paragraphs have been created for easier reading. Where a word or phrase could not be read, “[–unreadable–]” is inserted; some words, such as places and names, may have “[Sherman]” immediately following. If you’d like to read more about my experience discovering William Samuel Craig, be sure to read the Go Inside Magazine article, Civil War Ancestors, in our History section. — Joyce Kohl]