Throwback Thursday: A Letter from Wilbur Hodge

Willennar Genealogy Center’s collection is full of Throwback Thursday potential, so let’s get our #TBT on!


Today, I want to share with you some excerpts from one of the Civil War letters we have in the John Martin Smith Collection. The letter, dated November 15, 1863, was written by Union soldier Wilbur F. Hodge, and appears to be addressed to his sister-in-law Julia Mott Hodge, the daughter of the Hon. Egbert B. Mott.

He first addresses the illness of his father—Julia’s father-in-law:

Dear Sister,

Last evening I received your letter of the 3rd inst. bringing the sad news of the helpless physical condition of our father. It grieves me very much to get such news as this, while I am so situated as not to be able to go to him. It has been my wish that I would be able to get home once more while he lived, but have been expecting, at any time, to hear of his death. For I know that he is getting too old to be spared to us much longer.

Wilbur, who lived in Henry, Illinois, at the time, had spent many years away from his family in Pennsylvania. He writes that financial troubles, and now the war, have made visiting difficult.

I would have been at home long ago, but before I got into the army, money was so scarce with me that I could not get home then, and since I came into the army, we have been so situated that I could not get a leave of absence. . . . No one is better aware of the fact, than I am, that I have not spent as much of my time at home for the past ten years as I ought, but I love my home, my parents, and brothers and sisters, just as much as though I had never been away from them. . . .

Julia’s brother Sheridan was also in poor health, having been wounded at Chickamauga on September 20th that year. It’s likely this is who Wilbur refers to next.

I shall use every exertion, Julia, to get to see your brother. We are camped six miles from the town (Chattanooga) and it is not an easy matter for a person to travel about this country very much just now while the army is [sic] such an unsettled condition. But if it is a possible thing, I will get a pass and go and see him. The majority of the wounded who were here have been taken up to Nashville and, perhaps, he may be one among the number sent there.

We don’t know if Wilbur ever managed the visit, but Sheridan was taken to a hospital in Nashville, where he later died from his injuries.

Wilbur goes on to say that he is in good health, though the weather is cold and his regiment is living on half-rations for the moment. He finishes his writing in a hurry, as he’s about to go on picket duty with his company.

The letter is signed, “Afftly your bro, W.F.H.”

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About Chelsea

I've been working at Willennar Genealogy Center for over two years now, and I've loved every minute of getting to learn more about the stories of DeKalb County and the surrounding area. I'm interested in all kinds of history, but I'm especially fond of the early film industry, old letters and journals, the DeKalb County Fair, and the Interurban line.
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