1863: Ann E. (Davidson) West to Cyrus D. Kendall

This letter was written by Ann E. (Davidson) West (1830-18xx) from Vandalia, Fayette county, Illinois. Ann was married in February 1847 to Agustin B. West (1826-1896), a miller in Vandalia. She wrote the letter to Cyrus D. Kendall (1837-1919), the son of Cyrus Kendall (1794-1844) and Lucy Aubrey (1796-1860) of Waterford, Erie county, Pennsylvania. Though she calls him “brother,” I cannot confirm that they were blood relatives. Perhaps they were simply close due to the fact that Cyrus and his two brothers resided with the West family in Vandalia for a time just prior to the war.

At the time of the letter, Lt. Cyrus D. Kendall (1837-1919) was serving in Co. K, 11th MO. Volunteers. A biography for Cyrus indicates he was educated in Erie, Pennsylvania, until age 17 when he came to Kane and then Fayette county, Illinois. He taught school during the years 1851, 1859, and 1860. He then moved to Clay county and read law under W. W. Bishop. He was admitted to practice but before receiving his diploma, he enlisted as a sergeant in Co. D, 11th Missouri Infantry, and rapidly rose to be 2d Lieutenant when he was transferred to Co. K. In 1864, he was commissioned captain and afterward detached as Quartermaster on the staff of Gen. L. F. Hubbard. He was wounded at Corinth the night of 3 October 1862 and at Nashville on 16 December 1864. Cyrus was married on 23 January 1862 to Catherine Rovilla Miller (1844-1876) in Clay county, Illinois.

Ann mentions Cyrus’ brother, Sgt. Frederick (“Fred”) P. Kendall (1835-1863), who was serving in Co. H, 35th Illinois Infantry at the time. Fred mustered in August 1861 and indicated that he worked as a dageuerrian in Vandalia, Illinois, before enlisting. He was killed on 19 September 1863 at Chickamauga, Georgia. Another brother, John Kendall (b. 1839) also served in the 35th Illinois Regiment, but as a musician in Co. B. He survived the war.

Most striking in this letter is Ann’s statement, “Traitors are plenty here [in Vandalia] but I don’t fear them though they make their boasts. They may, it is true, burn us out or kill us all, but the lovers of the old flag know they are on the right side & we know too that if the Copperheads should rise & overpower us, we have friends in the Army who will nobly revenge our wrongs. There are more Copperheads than Union men in this county…”

Addressed to Lieut. C. D. Kendall, Cairo, Illinois
Postmarked Vandalia, Illinois

Vandalia [Illinois]
July 29th 1863
Tuesday Morning

C. D. Kendall
My dear brother,

At last I seat myself to answer your very kind & welcome letters which I received some few days since & which I read with pleasure. It is always such a pleasure to me to receive a letter from you. I was sick at the time I received your last 2 weeks ago but last Saturday Agustin brought a jar of very nice looking pickles & Sunday morning I opened the jar & we eat of them through the day & Monday we — that is, Agustin, the children and myself — were taken very sick as there was poison in the pickles. We vomited all day the next day. Agustin & the children were better but I was confined to bed for 5 days. When I got up, I was so week & dizzy that I could scarcely go round & then I took a bad cold & was taken down again with bilious fever. I was confined to bed for a week. I am now just able to sit up all day. The Dr. says it was the effects of the poison in my system that caused me to feel so weak & dizzy & that I will have to be very careful all season & not overheat my blood. My head aches almost all the time. You must excuse my poor crooked writing for I can’t but just write as the least exertion makes me tremble. But I thought you would rather have a poorly written letter than none.

I received a letter from [brother] Frederick while I was in bed sick. He complained bitterly of not hearing from home oftener. Said he wanted to know if I had forgotten him. Said he had not had a letter from me for almost 2 months. I sat up in bed & answered his letter telling I had written him a great many letters this spring & summer. They don’t get half I write. I am sorry Fred gets so low spirited. I think cheerfulness is very beneficial to soldier life. I know a soldier’s life is one of toil & hardship but if they can keep up their spirits, it is much better for them & then the lasting honor that awaits our brave & noble soldiers & Oh! what everlasting infamy & disgrace is in store for those who now oppose the prosecution of this war. Would any soldier in our great army be at all willing to exchange places with one of these mean, cowardly, sneaking traitors — wretches who instead of saying a word to encourage our soldiers in their trials & hardships are on the other hand doing all they can to discourage them — even persuading them to desert & thereby bringing upon themselves disgrace & ruin. Shame on the Northern traitors! They are just as far beneath the rebels in the Southern army as Demons are beneath Angels. And let me tell you, I have no respect for Rebels in the South but I honestly think a great many of them are to be pitied. But traitors in the North deserve the contempt & hatred of every honest person. The day is not far distant when they will receive their reward & I long to see Fayette county purged. Traitors are plenty here but I don’t fear them though they make their boasts. They may, it is true, burn us out or kill us all, but the lovers of the old flag know they are on the right side & we know too that if the Copperheads should rise & overpower us, we have friends in the Army who will nobly revenge our wrongs. There are more Copperheads than Union men in this county & before the Union victories on the ever glorious old 4th [of July], they talked & acted rather saucy. But since Grants, Meades, Rosecrans, Banks, & Prentiss’ great victories, they are (as the boys say) crawling into their holes & some of them are pretending to rejoice at Sherman’s success & the reported capture of Morgan. Some of the leaders of the Democrat[ic] Party are trying to keep their dupes (or whatever you wish to call the ignorant & foolish set that is led round by the so-called Democracy of this county) from making any disturbance, telling them that it will not do to resist the government. The mean dishonest, traitorous villains — they had better thought of that sooner. I do hope the rod of justice may fall heavy upon the heads of some of the county officers here for their treason.

I presume you can imagine my feelings on hearing that our men were really in possession of Vicksburg & that the Stars & Stripes waved in triumph over the Gibraltar of the Southern Confederacy. When the news came in on the train, flags were hung out, church bells were rung for some length of time, the cannon was fired 100 times, Union men & boys cheered for Grant, our soldiers, &c., while Copperheads looked just as grim & sour as possible. I was quite sick the day the news came but rest assured, I rejoiced as much as anyone. Dr. [Francis B.] Haller said he guessed the good news would cure or kill me. He is a true Union an. We employ him now. He is the only loyal physician in the place (or the only practicing one).

I was truly sorry to hear of the death of Col. [Andrew J.] Weber — a gallant & patriotic young man. He has left a name that will live for all time to come. How the lovers of their country will cherish his memory as well as other patriots that have fallen in defense of their country & flag. The winds of Heaven will blow softly over his resting place & the birds will sing while Angels will guard the ashes of the young patriot hero who freely gave his life for the country he loved so well. Peace to his memory. Perhaps it was weakness, but when I read the account of his death, I could not refrain from shedding tears though I never saw your lamented Colonel. He seemed just like one of my own relatives. You had often spoken of him so highly that I felt as if I knew him & then a brave man I love. But he is gone. He is one of the many whose life has been sacrificed on the altar of our beloved country. How many more will be required? God only knows. Our country will be dearer than ever — so many valuable lives have been laid down in its defense. May God in mercy grant that this war may soon be ended & ended honorably is my prayer.

Capt. James Cheney, 49th Illinois

James Cheney ¹ is not dead or was not a short time ago. His friends heard from him recently. I hope he may be spared. Mr. Cheney’s family are living in Shelbyville in this state. I have not seen Mrs. Cheney for 5 months. Mrs. Haller was here last week. She said she wanted to see your likeness & said Dick thought more of Cyrus than he did of anyone else among the young folks. I gave your message to her. She said for me to send her best wishes for your success & happiness. Mrs. Gordon sends her regards & says she always thought well of you. When Mrs. Remann heard I had got a letter from Cyrus, she came down to hear it read. She always enquires for you boys just the same as if you were her own relatives. She says the soldiers are all her brothers & friends. She sends her love. Says if she is an old married woman, she don’t believe there is any harm in sending not only her kind regards but her love to the soldier boys. Charlie Waggoner says he must write to you soon. Says it is the hardest work in the world for him to write a letter but you are one of his particular friends. Sends his love.

Dr. [John F.] Morey received a few lines from Curtis yesterday stating that he was sick & requested the Dr. to send him some medicine without delay. He sent it off last night. I hope Curtis may soon recover. I would like to hear from William Bishop but guess I won’t. They have not written to us yet. I hope William will do well. Aunt Annie Aulney is down on a visit. She was sick all winter & spring & looks very feeble yet.

The Ladies of Vandalia gave a Festival to raise money for the wounded Illinois soldiers at Vicksburg & I think we done very well. We made 200 dollars after all expenses were paid. I feel very proud to think we done so well. Mrs. Duncan Johnson, Mrs. Ross, & myself were the ladies that were appointed to get up the supper. Mr. [James M.] Whiteman & B. W. Henny were the gentlemen that were chosen to assist us. Everything passed off well. Dr. [D. C.] McCord says he thinks the ladies deserve great credit for the pains they took in getting up the supper. We had an excellent supper & besides the supper, had ice cream & raspberries & cream & cake to sell & then we sold what was left from supper every way to make money.

Mrs. [Sarah (Gregory)] Lazarus heard yesterday that her brother that is in the army was dead. He was home the time of our festival, the 2d of July. He was wounded at Murfreesboro & taken prisoner, kept for some time & suffered almost everything, but was at last exchanged & got a furlough for a few days. He was a fine-looking young man. Mrs. Lazarus told me yesterday evening that she was almost crazy about him. She is not well.

The Ladies of Vandalia have formed a Union Aid Society for the purpose of doing something for our sick & wounded soldiers. I sincerely [hope] there may be good done by the Society. Do you remember Mr. [William R.] Beebee? ² He was in the 7th Illinois Cavalry & saw you at Gape Girardeau. He is working for Agustin this summer. He is carding wool. He often speaks of Cy. Kendall. I told him today I was writing to you. Said he, “Remember me to Kendall & be sure to give him all the news for soldiers love news of any kind from friends at home.” Emeline is staying at John Russell’s helping to take care of William & Hannah’s children. I received a letter from Tinie last week. She is well & very well pleased with ____.

The summer so far has been very dry & cool though we had a fine rain last Friday evening. Agustin is still very busy carding & grinding. He gets more carding to do this summer than he ever did before. I wish [your wife] Rovilla would come & make me a visit. I am very lonely this summer without my little Caddie but I must not murmur. But I am tired & will have to close. Write as soon as you can. Forgive my delay in answering your kind letters for I was not able to write sooner. This is a poor scrawl but it is the best I can do. Now accept my kindest regards, my best wishes, & my heartfelt prayers for yourself & fellow soldiers & ever be faithful in your duties as a soldier. Ever remember you have friends at home who not only watch with anxious solicitude but who pray to the God of our Fathers for your safety in every danger & for your safe return to your home & friends again. Dear brother, I bid you goodbye. May God bless you. write soon. From your affectionate sister, — Ann

The children send love & kisses to Uncle Cyrus. Agustin is at the mill so I will send his regards for him. Sammy Peak is sick & has been for a week. — Ann

¹ James Wilson Cheney (1841-1905) came to Shelbyville, Illinois, from Masssachusetts with his parents in 1855. He served in an Ohio company early in the war but illness caused him to be discharged for disability. Regaining his health, he raised a company of men near Vandalia, Illinois, and was rewarded with a commission at Lt. of Co. D, 49th Illinois Infantry. He was promoted to captain in February 1862 for his meritorious service at the battle of Fort Donelson. At Shiloh, he lost just half his men. He continued to serve his regiment throughout the war and was mustered out in March 1865.

² Sgt. William R. Beebe enlisted in Co. F, 7th Illinois Cavalry in September 1861 and was discharged on 15 October 1862. The company roster gives his residence as Vandalia, Illinois.



Griff View All →

My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries.

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