1861: James Merrington, Jr. to his Sister

This letter was written by James Merrington, Jr. (1839-19xx) who enlisted as a private on 17 April 1861 in Co. C, 37th Pennsylvania Infantry (8th Penn. Reserves) for three years. He was wounded at some point during his service.

The 37th Pennsylvania rendezvoused at Camp Wright, near Pittsburg, until ordered to Washington on July 20, and there encamped until Aug. 2, when it reported to Gen. McCall at Tennallytown and was assigned to the 1st brigade, Pa. reserve corps, under Brig.-Gen. John F. Reynolds. Winter quarters were established at Langley, Va., and the brigade encamped there from Oct. 9, 1861, to the spring of 1862, when it was attached to the 1st corps and held at Washington until the other troops had embarked for the Peninsula. Late in May the regiment joined the army and took part in the battle of Mechanicsville, with great loss, and also in the battle of Gaines’ mill, but was in reserve at Malvern hill. In August it joined Gen. Pope’s army and shared in the battle of the second Bull Run. Then, under McClellan, it fought at South mountain and Antietam, and was at Fredericksburg under Gen. Burnside. In all these fierce engagements the 37th fought nobly and became tried and reliable veterans. In the advance at Fredericksburg the conduct of the command was heroic, but after the day was over only half of the regiment was able to report for duty. On Feb. 8, 1863, the 37th was ordered with the rest of the reserves to the defenses of Washington for a needed rest, and here it was stationed until April 19, 1864, when it left for the front. After a week in camp at Bristoe Station it shared in the battle of the Wilderness, and in the subsequent actions of that campaign until May 17, when it was relieved, the veterans and recruits were transferred to the 191st Pa. infantry, and the remainder ordered home. The regiment was mustered out at Pittsburg, May 24, 1864.

James Merrington, Jr. was the son of James Merrington, Sr. (b. 1803) and Mary Ann West (1807-1889) of McKeesport, Allegheny county, Pennsylvania.

Pvt. Merrington wrote this letter on CSA Company Roster forms found in a Confederate camp near the Bull Run battlefield. He mistakenly wrote the year of his letter 1861 instead of 1862.


Camp near Alexandria, Virginia
April 6th 1861 [1862]

Dear Sister,

I take my pen in hand again to inform you that I am well at present hoping these few lines will find you all the same. I received your very welcome letter sometime ago but for want of something to write, was a little negligent.

We are about a mile and a half from the City of Alexandria and six miles from Washington but are expecting to move again every day. We did think that we was to leave here on water but the general opinion is now that we are going out past Manassa [Manassas] Junction. The railroad is repaired to Manassa and the cars running again. There was two of our company — Henry Struble ¹ and George Fritz ² — out at the battlefield of Bull Run yesterday and brought in trophies of secession. This sheet is one of their blank reports which they got at the headquarters of some of the rebel generals.

The 9th Regiment is camped about two miles from us. I saw Tom Kirkwood ³ yesterday. He said the boys was all well. The Greys left here on a boat two weeks ago. I did not get to see any of them. I saw Constable Jim Cook † in 101st Regiment. They were shipped from here last Monday. He said he was going to be in Richmond in less than ten days but I think he will find himself mistaken.

This last week we have been drawing more clothes from Uncle Sam but we had clothes plenty. If he would come up a little more promptly with our pay, it would be very acceptable. At present there is nothing more of importance to write so I will close by telling you to write soon and I remain your brother, — James Merrington

¹ Pvt. Henry Struble was killed during the fighting at South Mountain on 14 September 1862.

² Pvt. George S. Fritz was transferred to the 191st Pennsylvania in May 1864.

³ Pvt. Thomas W. Kirkwood served in Co. I, 38th Pennsylvania Infantry (9th Penn. Reserve). Born circa 1841, Thomas was the son of Samuel and Lucinda Kirkwood of McKeesport, Pennsylvania. Although throughout his life he worked in a variety of occupations, he was a cigar maker at the time of his enlistment in the McKeesport Union Guards in 1861. At Beaver Dam Creek on June 26, 1862, Kirkwood was captured by the Confederate Army. During his incarceration at Belle Island Prison in Richmond, he contracted typhoid fever which significantly weakened his constitution. He was paroled on August 8, 1862 with other sick and wounded Union soldiers and was sent for treatment on a hospital ship anchored at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. He returned to Company I in October 1862 and participated in all of the subsequent campaigns of the regiment without incident.

† Pvt. James L. Cook served in Co. G, 101st Pennsylvania Infantry. He enlisted at the age of 44, a ship carpenter from McKeesport. He died on 7 August 1862 at Point Lookout, Maryland and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


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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