1863: William Hamilton Lower to Andrew Van Bergen

This letter was written by William Hamilton Lower of the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry (Union). William initially enlisted a sergeant in Co. K. He was later promoted to 2nd Lieutenant of Co. I, to Capt. of Co. C (May 1865), and finally (July, 1865) to Major of the F&S.

Early in the war, William served as a private in Co. I, 6th Indiana Infantry from June through August 1861. The 2nd Kentucky Cavalry organized in September 1861 as a three-year regiment. This letter was written a few weeks before the Chickamauga campaign was launched during which time it was recorded that a company from the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry served as an escort to Maj. Gen. Alexander M. McCook, 20th Army Corps.

In the 1860 US Census, William Lower — age 22, born in Kentucky — was enumerated in his parents residence in Wayne, Kosciusko county, Indiana. His parents were John Strange Lower (1813-1867), a physician, and Mary Hamilton. They were married in 1833 in Rush county, Indiana. In 1848, John remarried to Sabina Jane Dunlap (1829-1870).  Residing in the same household in 1860 was Charles M. Rowly [Rowley] — a 22 year-old attorney from New York State. Charles is mentioned in this letter.

William wrote the letter to his friend Andrew VanBergen (1832-1887), the son of Henry Charles VanBergen (1799-1856) and Charlotte Amelia McCarty (1800-1883) of Tully, Onondaga county, New York. Andrew married Ardell Virginia Rowley (1843-1920) in 1866. In the 1870 U.S. Census, Andrew was enumerated in Cortland and his occupation was given as “butter buyer.” The letter does not reveal the connection between these correspondents but Andrew’s marriage to a “Rowley” and the reference to Charlie Rowley in the letter may be a clue. The 1850 U.S. Census taken at Cortlandville, New York reveals that Charles Milton Rowley (1838-Aft1880) was the son of Philamon Chamberlain Rowley (1800-Aft1850) and his wife Mary Sweet Curtis, who first settled in the village in 1826. In 1880, Charlie was working as a layer in Roxbury, Suffolk county, Massachusetts.

Addressed to Andrew Van Bergen, Esq., Cortland Village, New York

Headquarters 20th Army Corps
Murfreesboro, [Tennessee]
May 28th 1863

Dear Friend Van,

It is with pleasure that I am again called on to answer one of your kind letters. Yours of May 17th was received on last Friday the 22d, but that same day I was sent up to Nashville on business connected with the Army, and did not return until yesterday. Consequently, I have not had an opportunity of writing sooner. I was very glad to hear from you — as I always am. I was sorry, however, to hear that your wife had been unwell and earnestly hope when this is received, it will find her entirely recovered.

The Captain Clark you spoke of I was not acquainted with as the regiment has never been in our department of the Army. In fact, we have no eastern troops in this whole department excepting these Pennsylvania regiments — the 77th, 78th, & 79th. The regiment you have reference to was probably in Gen. Burnside’s command which is the “Department of the Ohio.”

You ask me if I have ever heard from Charley Rowley. I have never heard a word from him but through you since he left Chicago.

You seem rejoiced that I have got a commission. I am glad you take pleasure in hearing of my prosperity and thank you kindly for such expressions. You say you wish I would get more of them. I will say this much, if honest, upright, and faithful attendance to my duties as an officer will procure them, I have every reason to think your wish as well as mine will be gratified.

You ask me when I am coming to Cortland. I will say this much; just as soon as this unholy war is ended, I will pay you a visit — providing I am so fortunate as to survive it, which I earnestly hope I will be. I would dearly love to call in you during these beautiful spring months. I already have an idea how Cortland looks and I would like the best in the world to visit you and Cortland to see if my idea is correct.

I am glad to hear that you are so pleasantly situated in Cortland and I assure you I would love now to spend a month or two in the quiet village away from the tumult of war for I am getting heartily tired of the banging and crashing of Army wagons, the rattling of musketry, and the loud booming of artillery. I would like to while away a few weeks in the quiet village of Cortland, trying that new carriage and those good segars of yours.

You want to know if there can anything be sent to me from your place by Express. There is a regular express line connecting with other lines through the North and East, and if you have any notions of sending anything that way, please notify me by mail. You tell me to take care of myself. You may rest assured that I will, “Van.” I had the best health in the Army that I ever had in my life and am in most glorious good health now weighing 156 pounds.

Now that I have commented on most every paragraph in your letter, I will now proceed to give you a few items of news. We are having some very warm and dry weather. The thermometer yesterday stood at 85 degrees. For the past week or two, it has been very disagreeably dirty. But this afternoon we were favored with a most delightful shower which has laid the dust nicely. It has also washed the dirt from the trees and shrubbery and this evening everything looks bright and green. It has not only refreshed vegetable life, but animal life as well.

Well, “Van,” we are still in camp here but last night was the third time the following order has been issued within two weeks. The order reads thus — “General, you will have your command to have 5 days rations of provisions and forage on hand, and be prepared  to move immediately.” But still we remain. It may be, however, before this reaches you the bugle will have sounded, “strike tents” and we will be on the march and I assure you, we won’t move for before we encounter the enemy. As on our front in force. I am getting heartily tired of laying in camp and am anxious to mount my horse and away farther into “Dixie.”

I have two splendid horses by the way — named respectively, “Thunder” and “Lightning.” “Lightning” is my favorite and I assure his name is very appropriate. He is a horse of almost unequaled speed. Give me five moments to start and I defy any Rebel in the ranks of the Confederate Army to catch me. “Thunder,” however, is a horse that has more stamina, more endurance, than “Lightning.” In fact, both their names are very appropriate. You may laugh when you hear the names but I assure you they are expressive names. But I must  now close.

My kindest regards to your wife, hoping that when this reaches you it will find her in the best of health.

I am, “Van,” as ever your old friend, — Will. H. Lower, Lieut.

Major Gen. [Alexander McDowell] McCook’s Escort
Murfreesboro, Tennessee



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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