Anderson's Civil War Letter

It is the year 1861 and the village of Manitowoc with a population of 3,061 people was still struggling to take its place as a center of lumbering, fishing and farming on the shores of Lake Michigan. Its citizens were increasingly concerned about the news regarding the problems of the Southern states and their withdrawal from the United States to create their own confederacy. On April 19, word reached Manitowoc that Southern forces had fired on Fort Sumter and President Lincoln had declared that military force had to be used to put down that rebellion and he called for volunteers to join the armed forces to fight for the Union.

It was June, 1861 when the first group of volunteers left Manitowoc for the Civil War. Among them was 19 year old James Anderson. Anderson had come to this country from Scotland with his parents, a brother and two sisters. They had settled on a small tract of land in the town of Kossuth and soon moved to Manitowoc. Upon the call for volunteers to join the military, he joined Company A .The following is a letter written by James S. Anderson, while he was camped near Richmond, Virginia on June 12, 1862:

Dear Parents and Sisters,

I received a letter from you tonight and was truly glad to hear that things were alright in the little home circle. I also got a letter from Uncle Walter yesterday which I will answer as soon as possible. We get our mail very irregularly here and that accounts for some of your letters being received and answered sooner than others.

Since I wrote you last we have crossed Chickahominy and we are now laying siege to Richmond. On our line, our Division has thrown up a formidable redoubt flanked on both sides by lines of rifle pits and also a small curtain. On the extreme left of our line opposite to us is a rebel redoubt masked by woods and rebel fire pits and curtains for field artillery.

Every night the rebels throw shot and shell into our camps and even now as I write I hear the shells scream and burst in the woods on our left. Last night as I was sitting in the Cox Boy’s tent reading the papers you had sent me, a shell past just over the tent and struck the ground a couple rods beyond, from where it glanced into the woods beyond and burst. As is customary we threw ourselves on our faces flat on the ground until it passed over.

As to that money matter, I have explained it once to you and will try to do so once more. On the first day of July the government will owe us four months’ pay or $52.00, in addition to this I have money owing me in the company amounting to $15.00 more, making a total of $67.00 which will be due to me on the first of July and which I have secured to you in the case of my death. I do not know what more you ask and as you hint about accounts with the sutler, I will tell you the largest amount I have ever owed him at any pay day was $3.00 and that was for necessary articles not furnished by the government. …

With much love I remain.

Your son and brother,

J.S. Anderson

Anderson returned to Manitowoc with Company A on July 28, 1864 with less than 20 men. You can learn more about Anderson and our local Civil War Volunteers during May 20 and 21 with the event Union Soldier Remembers at the Manitowoc County Historical Society.