Adventures in Genealogy: Letters

11 Jun

On June 8, 1864, Abraham Lincoln was nominated by the Republican party to seek a second term as president.  News spread across the country at a moderate pace, and by June 11, 1864, it reached the ears of the men of the 115th Ohio Infantry Regiment stationed at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Among them was my three-times great-grandfather, Edward Ellis.

Edward was born in Pennsylvania on April 5, 1835, to Thomas and Mary Ellis who emigrated to America from Wales. He married Elizabeth Ellen Evans, also from Wales, on April 12, 1855. I haven’t really been able to figure out how they ended up in Ohio, but Edward and Elizabeth lived in Summit County with their two children, Charles and Nettie, who is my two-times great-grandmother.

Edward was 30 when he enlisted in the Union Army (the 115th Ohio Infantry) on August 14, 1862; he was taken as a prisoner of war in December of 1864 and held at Andersonville prison camp. Miraculously, he survived Andersonville, but died in the explosion of the Sultana in 1865 on his way back home.  He wrote prolifically to his wife throughout his service during the Civil War, and I count myself very blessed to have copies of his correspondence that came to my family through our Ellis cousins. I’ve been working my way through his letters and transcribing them for the public record. It’s really heartbreaking to read some of his letters, particularly the ones he wrote just after being liberated from Andersonville. He was very eager to see his family again, but never got the chance.

Edward’s letters are all rather clincial; he gives reports rather than his opinions (other than his nearly-constant and understandable desire to see his wife and kids) most of the time, so the post-script of his June 11, 1864 letter caught my attention:

“Old Abe has been nominated to be our president for the next term, he is my choice and the choice of most of the soldiers, next to him would be Butler, the vice president is to be Andy Johnson of this state another good man, Hurrah for Lincoln and Johnson.”


Not sure he ever got that furlough — but I’m not done going through the over 400 pages of letters yet. So, to be continued…


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