Three Civil War Soldier Letters of David Welty, Army of the Potomac

by Marjorie Slavens

Army of the Potomac, “Our Outlying Picket in the Woods,” Sketch by Winslow Homer, Harper’s Weekly, 7 Jun 1862, a scene several weeks before David Welty’s preserved letters.

David Welty’s father, John Welty (1800-1875), was the son of John Welty, Jr. (1765-1827, son of Johannes (John Welty, Sr. (?-1794), son of Peter Welty (?-1755), the immigrant, who came from Germany to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, now York County, in 1727. John moved to Rush Creek Township Fairfield County, Ohio with his family around 1810. He married Mary Magdalene (Polly) Miller (1801-1844) in Fairfield County in 1823. She was the daughter of Abraham Miller, son of Samuel Miller, son of Michael Miller, the immigrant, who also came to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania from Germany in 1727. The Millers left Pennsylvania, settled first in Virginia, and later Abraham Miller also settled in Fairfield County, Ohio.

The John Weltys had 9 children. Elizabeth (1824-1905), married David Rodehafer; Anna (1827-1874), married Abraham Graffis, Sarah (1831-1853), married John Rowles; and Mary Magdalene (1839-1893), married James A. Thompson. They always lived in Fairfield County.

Solomon (1826-1891) moved to Cerro Gordo, Piatt County, Illinois before the war. Abraham (1829- 1873), first moved to Lasalle County, Illinois, returned to Fairfield County when his first wife, Charlotte Schmidt, died. He purchased land in Nodaway County in northwest Missouri but died in Fairfield County. His second wife, Ellen Kern, and their son, Abraham Kern, as well as Abraham’s older son, John Henry, moved to Missouri and farmed there. John (1835-1910), moved to Cerro Gordo near Solomon and served in the Union Army from Illinois.

David Welty’s land in Tama County, Iowa was sold by his father, John Welty, and wife, Elizabeth, on January 30, 1869 to John Hendricks and wife, Nancy Hufford Hendricks, a daughter of 3. John’s sister, Nancy Welty Hufford. John Hendricks, widower, sold it on October 7, 1879 to J. H. Giger. The family of Mary Magdalene Welty Thompson conserved the following letters from David to my grandfather, Henry Welty, while David was in military service. My grandfather was handling David’s financial affairs while he was away. On July 17, 1862, David wrote the following letter to his brother, Henry.

Army of the Potomac
Harrison’s Landing, James River
Thursday, July 17, 1862

Dear Brother,

Yours of the 10th came to hand today. I was much pleased to hear from you again. I am glad to hear that the wheat crop is so good in Ohio, and that you are so near harvesting yours. In regard to the money, I will say that the $30.00, which I gave to him about a year ago, I paid about the 1st of April, 1861. This, however, will only make a small difference in the interest as I expected it was not credited on the note. You state that the principal on the note is $85.00. I had forgotten what it was. You need not send the note to me when you have settled it, but tear off my name and keep the note. I don’t suppose Father said anything about the corn he got from me last fall, but undoubtedly he has kept account of the amount which he did. We expect to be paid off again in a short time if we remain here long. Henry, it is not worth while for me to tell you what we are doing here., for you can learn much more through the papers than I can tell you.

I am sorry to say that there is a good deal of sickness in the army here, or at least there is if the Second is is a criterion to go by. I suppose there are between 200 and 300 unfit for duty here, besides those who are away in hospitals. I had to report the sick list this morning. The principal diseases are diarrhea, the intermittent congestion of liver, and some fever. We have been encamped on this ground eleven days, which is longer than we have been any time since. I have written two letters to Bet, which are yet unanswered. The first one I wrote when we were at Fredericksburg. I think, however, that she never got that letter, from what Sis told me in a letter which I received from her last week. The other letter I hope she has got ere this. I wonder how old Fairfield will succeed in raising her 300 new volunteers. Henry, I don’t want you to volunteer by any means. I think that two from our family should be sufficient, and you are needed at home. I am sorry to hear of John Young’s death. When you write to me, direct to O. P. I. Ferry’s Brigade, Peck’s Division, Army of the Potomac, Washington City, D. C. Hope you are all well. My love to all.
Your brother, David

My grandfather did not enlist immediately, but he served in the army in the summer of 1864 after David’s death. David wrote a second letter while he was in the hospital and about ready to return to his unit.

Fort Hamilton, New York Harbor
Wednesday, November 5, 1862

Dear Brother,

As I have not written home for nearly three weeks, I shall now write a few lines. I was brought from the Island Hospital to this place on last Thursday. I do not know how long I shall be kept here, but I hope it will not be a great while, as I don’t like the place at all. I think I will get away before very long, perhaps this week yet. I expect to go from here to my regiment. I have got pretty well again. I have not heard anything from the regiment for more than a month, but I suppose they are still at Suffolk, Virginia.

I would like to hear from home, but it would not be worth while for you to write now, as I would not be likely to get your letter if you were to write. Fort Hamilton is about eight miles below New York, City on the east bank of the East River. Fort Lafayette is out on the river some 20 rods from the shore, and Fort Richmond is on the opposite side of the river. There are also other fortifications inside.

There are only about 200 troops here now. Excuse me for not writing more, as I do not feel much like writing. If you see Sis, tell her that she shall have the next letter than I write. Love to all.

Your brother, David

Following is the last letter David wrote. He was in South Carolina, where he would soon be wounded at Fort Wagner. There is no indication of the approaching conflict.

Folly Island, South Carolina
Monday, May 11, 1863

Dear Brother,
Yours of the 26th of March came to hand yesterday. You informed me that you had not written to Iowa yet in regard to my tax and that you cannot find the deed for my land. I can’t think where the deed might be. I certainly left it in my trunk. Perhaps you overlooked it.

You say Father advises you to write to John Ross concerning our taxes. Well, you can do as you see proper, but I have written to him two or three times but never got an answer, so I think it little worth while to write to him. If you can’t find my deed, I think the better plan might be to write either to the treasurer or recorder of Tama County, and either of them can give you the number of my land, as well as the amount of taxes due on it. The deed is recorded in my name. If you write to either of them, enclose a few stamps to prepay the postage by return mail.

If you send any money to Iowa, you had better buy a draft and send it as it will not be so liable to get lost. Perhaps you remember, I lost $15.00 a few years ago. Well, I believe I have nothing more to write on the subject now. Do as you think best in the matter. I wrote you a letter about ten days ago informing you that I have sent you some money again. I sent $45.00 by express to E. Kolb for you. I have no news to write you now. All is quiet here and no news yesterday and today from different parts of the army. You hear that the Army of the Potomac is moving and driving the rebels toward Richmond. It is also reported that Vicksburg was taken by our forces and that a large number of prisoners has been taken, but I have little faith in the Vicksburg story. I saw a letter yesterday written by a soldier in the 17th Ohio Regiment. He was exalting over the news of the downfall of Charleston, but Charleston yet stands unharmed. I fear it is so with Vicksburg. Well, as I have nothing more of importance to write, I shall close. My health is good, as well as that of most of the troops that are here. I hope this may find you all well.

Affectionately, your brother, David

David was wounded shortly thereafter and was taken by hospital ship to New York, where he died. His brother, Henry, went to Missouri by way of Illinois after the end of the war.

Mildred Welty Slavens, Welty Family Letters, Raymore, Missouri, August, 1999, published privately.

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