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W. S. G. Allen, Co. "F," 12th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry.



The following letters were written by Winthrop Sargeant Gilman Allen of Greenfield, Illinois, to his sisters Hattie Allen and Jane Allen Tunnell, and his brother-in-law W. A. Tunnell. W. S. G. Allen was born in Greenfield, July 20, 1837, the son of George Washington Allen and Caroline Henderson Allen. His father founded the town of Greenfield, was its postmaster, miller, merchant and landowner. Winthrop graduated from the local seminary, then helped his father run the flour mill till he enlisted in Co. F, 12th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Cavalry on October 7, 1861.

The 12th Ill. Vol. Cavalry was organized at Camp Butler in February, 1862, and remained there guarding Confederate prisoners until June 25th when it was mounted and sent to Martinsburg, Virginia. The regiment had a notable escape from Harper's Ferry on September 14, 1862, and was later attached to General Slocum's Corps. In the winter of 1862-63 he was in the vicinity of Washington scouting. The rigors of camp life forced him into the Columbian hospital in Washington during most of the year 1863. The latter part of his service was in the quartermaster's department as clerk at Springfield, Illinois, where he was honorably discharged on January 25, 1865.

Returning to Greenfield he conducted the flour mill until it was sold in 1876, then turned to grain dealing until his death in 1901. He never married. He was a man of culture and musical talent, particularly known as a fine violinist.

His letters are now in the possession of his niece Miss Elsie Allen, Greenfield, and his only surviving sister, Mrs. Caroline Allen Noftsker of Rock Island.

Harry E. Pratt.


Letter to Sister Hattie, November 13, 1861

Camp Butler, November 13, 1861.

Sister Hattie —
I have commenced twice to answer your letter but before I finished it something has broken in. I will try again however as I have a chance to send it down by John Linder. We are still here but do not know when we may leave. There are many reports from different persons some say we will stay here, others say we are to go to Cairo, but none knows anything about it. "We have been assigned to Logan's Regt. at last but I would have preferred to have teen with Cavannaugh's Cavalry Regiment and if the matter had been left to the Company we would have stayed with him (Cavannaugh) but the Captain considered himself bound first to Logan.

We have had no election yet but expect to have soon, it is very uncertain how it will terminate. We are getting along very well with our drill. Jack Drennon drills us most. The Captain drills less than any other man in the company. We drew our uniform about ten days ago. I need not describe it as I suppose you have seen some of the boys at home since that time. I received a letter from Sake last Monday morning but have not answered it yet, but I shall in a few days. I suppose father is about well by this time I was very much concerned about him. To speak of myself particularly, I am fat and hearty, feel better look better and am better in every respect than I ever was. My weight is 160 pounds, 13 more than I ever weighed before. So you may tell all the folks that they need not to think of me when it rains, freezes, thaws or snows for I am bound to live well since we get our living without price. I have no more time to write, in the next I hope to be able to give full particulars. My love to all. Yours truly —
W. S. G. Allen.


"No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted." Gen. Grant.

Letter to Sister Jane, March 21st, 1862.

Camp Butler,
March 21st 1862

Sister Jane: —
According to promise I seat myself to write you a few lines. I arrived here safely Tuesday evening, having stayed over night at Judge [Lewis] Solomons, 8 miles this side of Scottville. The next day after we arrived we were reported to the Colonel who sent for us. "We found Old Ephriam (Capt.) there with the most triumphant grin on his countenance you ever beheld, and looked as much like Satan as anything of life could. The Lieut Col (Davis) asked us a few questions and told us to consider ourselves under arrest and to report ourselves at 9 o 'clock the next morning.

Col. Voss having arrived in the night we reported ourselves to him before Capt. saw him and he said our excuse was sufficient, he having knowledge of the roads knew them to be in such a condition that it would have been injurious to our horses to have come back within the time. I write the above particulars because I suppose you will hear of our arrest and may be misinformed about it and also that you may see the difference between our Capt. and Col. The one seems to do everything in his power to make his men miserable and at the same time appear to be compelled to do so by the orders of the Col., while the other wishes to enforce strict discipline, while using his good sense in their favor, without prejudice to the service. He (Gilmore) was so wrathy because we were not here Sunday morning that in a frenzy he said that if we were not punished, he would give no more furloughs, or he would resign and as he has already given the first, he will make himself a liar or he will resign, go home and plow or hoe corn which is the only office he can fill with honor or profit.


I understand that the Col. says that he considers the prospect of the Regt. being disbanded very good, and if we are not disbanded he says we will stay here all next summer. Tell Ben I forgot the money he had for me and as I borrowed money to come home with I must have it. Get $2.00 from him and send it up in your next . Write soon. My love to all.

Yours affectly,
W. G. Allen
Co. F 12th Regt
Ill Cavalry.


Letter to Sister Jane, April 8th, 1862.

Camp Butler Springfield, Ill.
Tuesday Morning, Apr. 8th 1862

Sister Jane: —
Your letter of the 30th ult. I have just received and read, and although more than a week old was read with pleasure. I am glad to hear of your good health and that you all seem so satisfied and contented with yourselves and the world — I wish I could say as much for myself, that I was satisfied with my lot. I wish that I could see some encouraging signs in the future for me to build my hopes upon. I have aspirations like every other man has and ought to have, and when this is the case you know that unless there are some hopes for him, the prospect or rather the future must look dreary indeed, now this is how I feel today and I fear, I ought not to attempt writing while I have such a fit of the blues, and it is just such a drizzly, rainy, damp day as most surely brings the blues with it, and makes one most despise camp life. But as you see I have filled one page, and have written nothing yet.

The prisoners still escape one or two at a time. There are some farmers near the camp who are suspected of harboring them. One of them was visited by a detail from our company,


under Sergt Matlock last night, and his house and premises searched, but they found nothing suspicious, and after watching his house during the remainder of the night they came home. There is some talk about camp being broken up and the prisoners being sent to Camp Douglas. Col. Morrison, I understand, has gone to St. Louis to confer with Gen. Halleck on the subject. I think the camp will be broken up soon, as it was continued as a recruiting post, and as the recruiting officers have all been called in and Col. Morrison ordered to his Regt. the 8th Regular Infantry. I do not see what use we could be here after the prisoners are gone, for they must send them to some safer place where they can be kept with greater security, I am very well at present and I hope to continue so.

My love to all.
Yours truly,
W. S. G. Allen.

Letter to Sister Hattie, July 26th-July 28th, 1862.

Camp Near Martinsburg, Va.
July 26th 1862

Dear Sister Hattie —

I suppose you with all the folks think yourself neglected by my not writing to you oftener, but I only promised to write to some of you once a week and I think I have kept my promise tolerably well considering the disadvantages a soldier naturally labors under — and now at this date and length of time since I received your last — it is a great task to undertake the answering of it — but I have just received a letter from Sake and Howard of the 20" inst. the first I have received from any of you for some 6 or 8 weeks. I was very glad to hear from you all and to know that you were all well and in such fine spirits.


I do not know why I cannot hear from some of you oftener. I have had nothing from Ben for 3 months or more. I made some inquiries of him in a letter with regard to our affairs with him but received no answer to them. I wish he would write to me and tell me all the business prospects, as I suppose he is better acquainted with them. I wrote a letter to father last week which I think you may have received ere this. I am still in the best of health as the boys generally are. I think our company stands camp life rather better than any other in the Regt.

I gave you in my letter to father some account of our being ordered to pack up and be ready at any moment for an attack from the enemy. We are still ready, but the cause of alarm proved to be guerrillas and now we are living and feeling as safe as at Camp Butler. The boys were greatly pleased lately by receiving their carbines; they are a very convenient and pretty as well as destructive and terrible weapon — they are about 2 1/2 long barrel 2 ft. breech loading, and rifled. They are the celebrated Burnside patent, one can load and fire them 10 times per minute with care and take a very deliberate aim, in some target practice the other day a ball was shot 400 yards through a sheet iron car which is about 1/16 inch thick and almost through the other side.

This morning the Colonel and Major Sherman at the head of four companies started for Harpers Ferry about 17 miles distant, ours was among the number, but as I belong to the band I could not go — they took two days rations with them so I suppose by that they will be back by tomorrow night —

Monday Eve July 28" [1862]

I was compelled to stop writing the above on account of the flies being so very troublesome. They are almost as bad here in camp as mosquitos are in Illinois along the swamps and I suppose it is as well as I have just received a letter of the 23d inst from you, and it certainly was unexpected for such an instance of promptness is very rare with both of us.


The flies have all returned, they only went to Winchester and back again meeting with nothing by the way. I have lately been to the mountains west of this place. We had some very fine views from its summit. It is now cherry time here. I have never been at any place where there were so many dewberries, cherries, whortleberries, &c as here, we all literally feast ourselves. Cherry particularly are fine and abundant. On one tree alone, which is about 8 feet in circumferance and about 50 ft high with wide spreading branches there are more than 40 bushels of cherries.

These trees have been planted many years and need but little attention, they are generally found in the corners of the fences along side of the roads, I wish I could send home some of the sprouts; they are called the "Heart Cherry."

I believe it is decided that we shall stay here and keep possession of this portion of the State, protect the Railroad and keep down guerrilla parties &c. The people are most "secesh" and the ladies turn their backs upon a union soldier.

I should like very much to go home and see you all but this is impossible until the war is ended, until the rebellion is put down and then what a happy time we soldiers will have once more ourselves looking to no one, asking no one, obeying no one but ourselves. Are any more of the people about town volunteering, how is recruiting going on, do the citizens offer bounties? I hear that the Eastern States are doing nobly, and that our own noble State is not far behind. I hope Illinois will sustain the reputation she now has of being the first in the War for the Union. Does Ben have any idea of volunteering? I hope not until it is still more necessary. Capt. Gilmore's resignation has been accepted and he will start for the west in a few days. He is more like what he was before he joined the army than ever. We have no hard feeling now. I have nothing more to write. My respects to your visitors and love to the family.

Your affectionate brother

W. G. Allen


Letter to Sister Jane, August 22nd, 1862.

Paw Paw Station, Virginia.
August 22nd 1862

Dear Jane —
I received a letter from Hattie and Ben day before yesterday dated the 10th inst. and forwarded from Martinsburg and indeed I was very glad to hear from you. All of 3 weeks have passed since I had heard from G. [Greenfield]. In my last to Ben I mentioned that we were under marching orders to some place west of Martinsburg, and it transpired that the day after (the 13th) we went aboard the cars in the evening and the next morning found us at this place 23 miles east of Cumberland, Md. This place has been threatened by Gurilla parties for sometime past and on the night of the 10th a party of some 35 or 40 in number attempted to fill up the mouth of the tunnel a short distance from here, and since that time have committed depridations in various places, such as forcing loyal men into their army, and plundering others, stealing horses &c, &c, and in order to capture or disperse them we were sent here to reinforce this place already occupied by a company of the 54th Penn Regiment. From the time we arrived until this date nothing has been done except a company has been sent out now and then scouting round the mountains but they have been unable to see anything of Bushwhackers or Gurillas or to hear of any farther depridations and it is supposed that they have gone farther into the Mountains or to Jackson's army at Gordonsville. Yesterday four companies started on their return to Martinsburg leaving two at this place, F. and G. We do not know how long we shall remain here, but we think it will be but a short time. We do not object to their allowing us to stay here as there is scarcely any thing to do and we have no difficulty in getting out. We have been living in fact off the enemy ever since we arrive here. Every other day we mount our horses and start out for some secesh from whom we draw all the hay, Green corn, potatoes, vegetables &c we need, giving them a receipt for


their value, which we tell them will be paid if they take the oath within the time given them. We are all living very healthy and as far as I am concerned I never enjoyed as good health this time in the year in my life, we have cooked, ate and slept out of doors until last night when we moved to a vacant house and barn in the neighborhood.

Well, Jane, I do not know how long it has been since I have written to you before, but I know it has been a long time since I have seen anything from you. I understood some time ago that you had been very sick but I suppose you are well as usual by this time. I should like to see you all very much little Effie with the rest. I wonder if she knows where I am now. Well I really have hopes that this war will soon be over and that the most of the troops will be at home by Christmas — surely the energies and determinations our government is showing will not be without a great effect on the leaders of the rebellion — it is already showing its effects in Europe and I believe that one great victory in this state will close the war and that afterwards nothing more will be required of us than to enforce the confiscation laws and hunt down small parties &c, &c. I should like to hear from you immediately after the receipt of this. What are they doing with regard to enlistment? Who are enlisting? What is Ben going to do, tell him to look out for the best place before he enlists and if Uncle Edd gets up a company I believe I should join it if I were him if I thought I could do as well. I shall write to him again if I can find time. I could find a great deal more to write. It is train time and I must close. Write immediately. Give my love to all.

Your affectionate brother.
W. G. Allen.


Letter to Brother-in-law W. A. Tunnell, Esq., September 17th, 1862.

Greencastle, Penn.
September 17th, 1862.

W. A. Tunnell Esq.,
Dear Sir:
I wrote a few lines to father this morning but supposing I should not have time to write full particulars of our Skeddaddle from Martinsburg through Harpers Ferry to this place I closed before I finished and without stopping to tell you how we had to move all our tents and baggage, our Quartermasters and commissaries stores and leave M. with nothing but ourselves, our horses and wagons (empty) and of our arrival safely at Harpers Ferry, for all of which we consider our selves particularly fortunate. I will try to write what took place after our arrival at H — on the eve of the 12th. Being without tents we camped on the open fields within the batteries and after such a hard ride during the day, as might be expected we slept soundly. The next morning we arose with the sun, hungry but having nothing to satisfy it I prepared to take a look at the place and its fortifications. But having but little time to look about I only passed through and what I write may not be true in every particular.

The principal part of the City is situated along the banks of the river beneath a high bluff. It has but one street which runs the full length of the place, and the principal business of the place in times of peace was mostly kept up by the government at the arsenals which are now in ruins, the Baltimore & Ohio R. R. is also on the Virginia side and is built on trussle work on the river. The Chesapeke & Ohio Canal follows the mountain on the Maryland side. As you are aware the Shenandoah river enters the Potomak here which then passes through the Blue Ridge and as Jefferson says, It is worth a trip across the Atlantic to see it as seen from the Bolivar Heights it is truly a grand sight. By the junction of these two rivers there is three heights, the highest is the Maryland which is some 900 feet above the level of the river, the next is the Virginia, across the Shenandoah. On the Maryland


heights run many intrenchments and batteries, built on purpose for their defense. It is said that we had a volley of 4 fifty pounder Parrott seige guns and 1 one hundred and twenty four seige gun, then besides several field batteries on the side facing the terry was a battery of four 50 pounder Parrotts which commanded the approach by the river up and down, but the principal defences were on the Bolivar heights in rear of the Ferry — here were three batteries, consisting of about 40 guns, connected by intrenchments and rifle pits, these were on the Virginia side and considered impregnable. The morning after we arrived we found we had quit one beseiged place only to fall into another, for it was found late at night that the enemy had followed us from M. (Martinsburg) and now the place was blockaded on all sides and were preparing to attack our batteries on the Maryland heights.

At about 6 o 'clock A. M. on the 13th the attack commenced and was continued until about noon when our men gave way and fled, having spiked the guns and crossed over the Ferry. We still had possession of the 50 pounders facing the Ferry and the enemy was shelled during the afternoon at intervals until dark, when the firing ceased and things wore a gloomy aspect, for it was known now that if the enemy had any heavy guns they would place them on the Maryland heights, the key to the whole position, and we could not dislodge them, also that they could place their batteries on the Virginia heights without being disturbed, and our fears proved true for the next morning found the rebels busily engaged erecting a battery on the Virginia heights. Our batteries began playing on them at an early hour the next morning but could not effect much being constructed almost altogether for defense in the other direction. The enemy kept displaying signals during the forenoon, and at about 12 they opened upon us, the first shell came right into our camp and produced quite a panic among both horses and men the latter having unsaddled, and now preparing to eat dinner, but fortunately did not burst, the next bomb bursted, and covered several of the boys with dirt


and dust and killing a horse of one of the other companies but you may depend there was no waiting for orders them some saddled and some left without horses, arms or anything all ran for the trenches for dear life the shells following thick and fast, whiz, bounce, burst and blubber.

It was laughable after it was over but pretty serious while on hand. The boys all declare they had rather face "double geared thunder and lightening" than those shells. From this time they kept a severe fire upon our lower batteries until five o'clock when their fire slackened and at last ceased, when it was found they were advancing on both flanks, towards the Batteries on Bolivar Heights, after some pretty severe skirmish fighting the enemy appeared in battle order advancing in great force upon our left but were repulsed almost as soon as they appeared in sight by the fire of our infantry and artilery, it is supposed with considerable loss. In the meantime their whole line advanced within a mile and a half from our works and then they stopped and the firing ceased for the night.

The cavalry forces being of no use in defending the place it was determined about sundown that they should leave and accordingly at about 8 o 'clock they were all assembled at the Ferry with no baggage, ambulances, sick, &c to encumber them, prepared to cut their way out if necessary to a safer place, especially as it had been determined that, if the enemy planted batteries on the Heights, to surrender the place next morning. The party consisted of the 12th Ills, 8th N. Y. 1st R. I. and 2 companies of the 1st Maryland. We anticipated bloody work, and many of us expected to fall in the passage, but we all promised faithfully to stand by each other and to go through, but providentially we found no enemy, having an excellent guide, until we arrived near Williamsport where we stumbled upon Longstreets baggage train from which we captured 104 wagons consisting mostly of ammunition, most of which were obliged to blow up to keep it from falling into the hands of the enemy.


In our passage we passed two miles through a body of 20,000 men at Williamsport & Hagerstown, between which places we cut our baggage. It is said that this was the cause of the rebels falling back from Harpers Ferry, as they supposed that McClellan's whole army was upon them. It has been ascertained that the panic was so great that the remainder of Longstreet's baggage was burned at Williamsport for fear of its falling into our hands. We arrived here with 32 wagons safely where we are welcomed by all and our reception is so different from what it has been in Va. that we all feel as though we were in our own homes. The citizens have furnished us with food and forage. There being no commissary here they take us to their own home and give us "grub." I have since ascertained from a reliable source that the rebels have all crossed the river and are now fortifying, in order to dispute the passage of our troops, but persons who know say that they can be successfully driven from their batteries; they have occupied the western and southern banks of the Potomac and are going to make it their line of defense. Persons who were in the last battles say that the rebels have lost more than 50,000 killed, wounded, prisoners and missing since they came into Maryland. Their description of the late battlefield is horrid and disgusting, they say one will not want a second sight of it and 3,000 of our men were detailed this morning to bury them and that many of them will have to be burned as they are so much decayed that they cannot be carried away. Gen. Longstreet is a prisoner. None of our company have been hurt in any way although we have been under fire several times. We are all well except Matlock who has been left at a small town below here. It is feared he will have an attack of fever. It is not known what our next movement will be but I suppose we will stay here until the river is passed at any rate.

I have nothing more of interest to say, I don't know where to tell you to direct your letters. You had better wait until


you hear from me again. We are not assigned to any command yet. Give my love to all. Tell Emma and Morse that I was glad to have them write to me and also tell Carrie the same. But when I find time I will try and write something to them. Tell father I should like to hear from him.

Yours truly,
W. G. Allen.

Letter to Brother-in-law W. A. Tunnell, September 21st, 1862.

Camp near Williamsport, Md.
Sept. 21, 1862.

[W. A. Tunnell]

I was not able to finish the within before we were ordered to leave and the next morning I could not mail it, so I will continue. We heard firing all day long in this direction from Greencastle, and since found that a very fierce battle has been fought near this place resulting in the defeat of the rebels with the loss of 40,000 so reported many of them still lie unburied. We passed only along the edge of the field, and the stench could hardly be bourn. It seems that the rebels had not time to bury their dead before they left being so hard pressed. McClellan's army are still watching them, they have possession of Williamsport and it is expected a battle will be fought tomorrow for its possession, though we can not rely on any of the reports here.

So you are better posted in regard to our movements than we are ourselves. We have not read a paper for almost three weeks and know nothing of the position of our forces. We are stationed on the turnpike leading from Hagerstown to Sharpsburg about six miles from Williamsport. The baggage trains passed up towards Williamsport this morning, are now reported to be returning. What this indicates it is hard to tell. There were many of the boys left at Harpers Ferry


who were taken prisoners, all the sick and wounded. I would like to name some of them, Edwards, Simpson, P. Coonrod, A. Grizzel, Brannon, Farmer, Wall, Belknap, Kemper, Lieut. Beans, were all you were acquainted with. Most of these were sick and could not be taken so we could have come along but when the bombardment commenced the whole Regt. became scattered and some of them did not join us again and did not know of our going to leave. Edwards, Brannon and Belknap and Beans were sick, Farmer in the hospital as nurse. The rebels threw some of their shells into the hospital and it had to be removed under fire to a place of safety. They were paroled and sent towards Baltimore. And I have since heard that they, all the prisoners, are to be sent to the frontiers to do duty. I hope this is the case as some of them hoped they would be sent home on parole and for this reason staid in order to be taken prisoner.

(Remainder of letter lost)

Letter to Brother-in-law W. A. Tunnell, October 9th, 1862.

Williamsport, Md. Oct. 9, 1862.

Mr. W. A. Tunnell,
Dear Sir: We have arrived again here, we have been, since I wrote to Howard from Hancock over in Va. on a scout through Hampshire Morgan and Berkeley Counties. That is our company and another both under the command of Capt. [Andrew H.] Langholtz Co. B and we should surely have been cut off and probably taken prisoners before this had we had a less cautious commander. We were surrounded twice and had we not continuously been on the move we should have suffered severly. The country through which we passed is very mountainous, the roads for the most part leading along streams and valleys and up mountain sides so that a few infantry well posted could almost destroy any amount of cavalry — but fortunately they supposed we were but the advance of a larger party of infantry so that we passed along undisturbed. While we were at Bath I saw James Hunter, he has been married since his return to Va. and is now living at that


place. He sends his respects to all of you. His neighbors say he is a union man, and has been pressed into the secesh army twice but his acquaintances at Hancock say he is secesh he has four brothers in their army. On our return here we lay at Clear Springs in this State for a few days where we were paid on the 7th. I send you by express from Hagerstown enclosing ($80) eighty dollars. You will please pay the remainder due Edward and settle your account against me, also Howard's account and as soon as I can hear from father I will let you know how to dispose of the remainder. I have heard nothing from you since the 1st of September. Your letters I suppose are somewhere on the road. I understood there was a very large mail at Hancock for our Regt. but that post master could not deliver it, it being directed to Martinsburg. I should like to say a few more things but have not the time at present. Tell them all to write directly to this place. My love to Father, Mother &c.

Yours truly,

W. G. Allen.

P. S. I will send another letter by mail to some of the friends.

Yours &c,

W. G. Allen.

Letter to Brother-in-law W. A. Tunnell, October 16th, 1862.

Camp near Williamsport, Md.
Oct. 16th 1862.

Mr. W. A. Tunnell:
Dear Sir: —
I received your letter of the 7th yesterday — and it being the first I have had from home since the 2nd of Sept. it gave me great satisfaction. I was glad to hear of the continued health of the family. There has been so much sickness and death among the friends at home that I almost feared that some of ours might go next, but all is well yet. I sent you by


express last week $80 and I do not know whether the rebels in their last raid into Pa. captured the train carrying it or not — it is said they captured a train near Greencastle. The excitement or rather the activity caused by their raid has died away and all is quiet again.

The greater part of what is left of our company, have been on picket since yesterday morning. I being a little unwell was excused.

We are quartered in a large barn about a mile from town. We have been here for some days past, but we were not sent here until we passed one night in the rain, which I think was the cause of my feeling as I do now. The remainder of the Co. I believe are in good health and spirits. Our Quarter Master has just returned from Baltimore with a full supply of clothing and camp equipage, and in a few days we will all be well supplied with all the clothes we need. I have been confined to camp for some days and have nothing of interest particularly to state — the army still lies along the river from Hancock to Harpers Ferry and between the river and Hagerstown the great body of it is at H. [Harpers Ferry] on the Va. side of the river. It is not for us to know or even surmise, when or where or at what point the next attack will be made, but from the present position of the forces — I do not believe an attack will be made or attempt will be made to cross the river at this place. I understood the other day that two corps of our men went out in the direction of Cumberland and from that I would suppose that either that place was threatened or a movement against Winchester from that direction was intended. The reconnaisance made by our company and Co. B which I mentioned in my last, into Hampton, Morgan & Berkely Counties, showed that they did not expect us from that direction and citizens in that neighborhood told us that the rebels had no picket guard out west of Winchester.

The "Proclamation" meets with the approbation of every soldier I have spoken to on the subject. All say it will kill the rebellion sooner than anything else. We have encouraging


news from the west, Kentucky and Tennessee. We hope our successes may be as complete as anticipated. I think this army cannot lie idle long, there must be something done soon. I would like to write more but cannot at present. I am glad to hear that cousin Carrie has a situation in the school. I hope she will be pleased with it. Please remind all the friends that letters are due from them. I wrote from Hancock and Jones Cross Roads. Give my love to Jane and the children and all the friends. I hope I shall be more able to write and have more to communicate in my next.

Yours truly,
W. G. Allen
Co. "F" 12th Ill. Cavalry
Williamsport, Md.

Letter to Sister Jane, December 19th, 1862.

Army of the Potomac
Camp near Fairfax Station
Decem. 19th, 1862

Dear Sister Jane —
After another very fatiguing march I seat myself to write you a few lines. I wrote from the Ferry to Ben which I suppose you have seen ere this. We left Harpers Ferry on the 12th being the rearguard of Gen. Slocum's corps and by easy marches of about 15 miles per day passed through Leasburg and Fairfax C. H. and camping at this place on Sunday. Monday morning we resumed our march south towards Fredericksburg accomplishing but six miles on account of the condition of the roads, Sigel's army having passed over them but two days before leaving them in a very bad condition. This fact together with the rain on Monday night caused the march of the whole corps to be checked so that they were unable to make more than 6 miles a day and on Tuesday morning


at 2 o 'clock the rear brigade commenced the counter march and accordingly arrived at this place the same evening. Here we first heard of the fighting at Fredericksburg, and of our evacuation of the place. This news casts a gloom over the army, the failure, the loss of life and the hardships of the winter campaign &c makes us feel very badly. There is a large force stationed here and in the immediate neighborhood, mostly composed of new troops and 9 months men, besides Slocum's. This last corps is the one formerly under Gen. Banks command. The country from Leasburg to this place and beyond as far as we have been is indeed desolate, being first occupied by one army and then another. The houses are burned, the fences destroyed, the people gone, and nothing is left but bare farms, and lonely chimneys, there is nothing here to remind one of the comforts of home, but such things are unnecessary as the imagination furnishes plenty. We all feel so badly about our reverses, the misadministration of affairs that we almost wish the Southerners had been let alone. The whole army feel it and I doubt whether they would do anything more after another defeat unless Gen McClellan had been recalled to the field, the army have confidence it seems in no other General.

We have orders to march again at 2 o'clock P. M. our destination is said to be Dumfries about 20 miles south on the river, but I think this is uncertain. We left our Quartermaster at Williamsport and 12 men from our company at Hagerstown, they have orders to join us here but they have not yet arrived. I have nothing more to write, except that the health of all of us is good, I may say very good considering the exposure we have, Give my love to all. Send your letters to Washington, and they will follow us.

Yours affectionately,
W. G. Allen

P. S. Send a few stamps in each letter as it is impossible to obtain any here.



Letter to Brother-in-law W. A. Tunnell, March 11th, 1863.

Belle Plaine, Virginia,
March 11, 1863

Mr. Wm. A. Tunnell,
Dear Sir: — Your letter of the .... was duly received and read, and I take this the first convenient opportunity of answering it. I was sorry to hear of Jane's sickness, and hope that before this she is well again. We received marching orders at Dumfries some three weeks ago, but owing to the continued bad state of the roads we could not get off until the morning of the 2nd. Those that were able to ride came around by the way of Stafford C. H. the remainder of whom was myself, came down by the way of the river, a barge being provided for us and also to transport all the tents and other Regimental property, we were delayed three days at Dumfries Landing for various reasons and did not rejoin the Regt. until Sunday morning, having made as comfortable a journey as could be expected under the circumstances. My health continues about the same it has for the past month, just unable to do duty, but still able to remain in camp and take things as they come. We have been somewhat exposed here to the rains and cold, but no more than others around us. I have been nowhere but have remained at camp since my arrival here, and consequently can not give you any descriptions of things, all I am able to say at present is that we are encamped in the midst of the "Grand Army of the Potomac" on a hillside facing to the South, and that we are about two miles from a landing on the Potomac, at the mouth of a creek of the same name. We are protected on all sides by ranges of hills, covered with good dry wood. I am told that Fredericksburg is in a northwesterly direction 10 miles distant. We are surrounded on all sides by camps. Since our arrival our Col. (Voss) being the senior officer has taken command of the Division numbering some 7000 horsemen. Our Regt. is part of the 2nd Brigade 3rd. Division Stonemans Cavalry Corps. Our letters will be addressed as above and directed as usual to Washington City. The boys are all well I believe except


Harry Barrow who is very ill though he still goes about camp. I shall write again as soon as I can find something of interest to say. Give my love to all the friends and please hand the enclosed letter into Ben's hands and believe me

Yours truly,
W. G. Allen

Letter to Brother-in-law W. A. Tunnell, April 9th, 1863.

Camp Bayard, Belle Plains, Va.
April 9th 1863.

W. A. Tunnell:
Dear Brother.
Your letter of the 22nd ult. came safely to hand day before yesterday, and I am glad to hear of the improved health of all the family and friends. Lieut. J. Drennan left here a few days ago for home but started so suddenly that I had no time even to send a word by him. You will probably see him he has but little time to stay with you having but 15 days leave of absence. I had intended to send letters by him but did not and am somewhat disappointed.

There is nothing transpiring here but such as generally happen to every soldier daily. President Lincoln is here, he has been reviewing troops ever since his arrival. The Cavalry Corps was reviewed on the 6th. There was some 25,000 cavalry passed in review. There seems to be something in view in connection with the large cavalry force collected here. All that could possibly be spared from above have been collected here, and we are now organized into brigades and divisions, which is now a separate corps commanded by Gen Stoneman; the most rigid inspections are held almost daily and if a soldier lacks in anything, clothing, equipment &c he is supplied immediately. All our wagons and teams have been turned over and pack-mules have been substituted, 1 for the field officers, 1 for the co. commander and 1 for every 10 men; they are now used altogether for carrying supplies from the different landings.


There are different objects spoken of in connection with the increase of Cavalry here. I think it looks somewhat suspicious, and that all the talk of raids may be true. I confess I cannot see why out of the present force of cavalry here (some 25000) there could not be a sufficient number spared to overwhelm any force the enemy could bring against them, and lay waste the country to the west and south of Richmond, renting the railroad and telegraph communications all around. Could such a thing be done it would do more towards our cause I think than the addition of 20,000 men to our Army in front of Fredericksburg. There are some saying there is some prospect of our Regt. with two others being sent to Kentucky with General Burnside.

My health is still poor, and I am still unable to do duty, but improve very slowly. Please inform Ben that I have had nothing from him since the last of February and am anxiously looking for a letter from him. The remainder of the Company are in usual health. Barrows [Harvey] will soon be home he has been discharged. My love to all.

Yours truly,
W. G. Allen

Letter to Brother-in-law W. A. Tunnell, June 30th, 1863.

Columbian Hospital, Washington, D.C.
June 30th 1863

W. A. Tunnell, Esq.,
Dear Brother: — I received your letter of the 14th some days since and now seat myself to reply. I am sorry to hear of Jane's continued illness, but glad to hear there is a good prospect of her getting well. You must be very busy, and have all you can attend to in collecting the revenue and enrolling the Militia. I should think there was work enough for three or more persons. I hope you may meet with no opposition in your work though I fear there may be, and no doubt would be from what I have heard especially in the neighborhood of hickory grove had they not such wholesome examples


of the prompt support given the enrolling officers in other places.

We have been very much excited in this neighborhood the past five days on account of the movements of the rebels in the immediate vicinity and on account of the troops mostly leaving the city for the seat of war, and various other rumors having no foundation in truth. You will have read before this reaches you of Hooker's removal and the appointment of Meade. It is said that 'twas on account of Hooker's drunkenness — but whatever was the reason I for one am satisfied it was for the best. I am glad McClellan was not appointed, some say he was offered it but refused to take it until he knew its condition, but these are his supporters that say this. The selection that has been made I think will please the army as a whole better than any other; for it will allay the partisan feeling in the army and promote its success and by selecting a person who has heretofore made no pretentions, and therefore had made no enemies, and has no jealousies among his brother officers in consequence I think will unite the army more closely together. I hear that those papers who opposed Hooker are favoring Meade, the N. Y. Herald among them, and all seem to feel very hopeful of the result.

I saw Matlock last night, he is with a detachment of our Regt, which he has not been with (the Regt) since leaving Potomac Creek. He told me that Ben Maxfield was killed in the fight at Middleburg last Sunday week, he received his information from two men of Co. "A" who helped bury him; there were several wounded of our Co., but he did not know their names. Ben was shot through the neck in a charge on a stone wall behind which were the rebel infantry concealed. He was among the first to scale the wall.

Our Regiment is now a part of the 1st. Brigade 1st Division Gen. Buford commanding Division, including the 8th Ills. and several Regts of regulars.


I think of nothing else of importance to write you or of interest. Give my love to all the family &c &c.

Yours affectionately,
W. G. Allen.

(P. S.) Please hand the enclosed letters to Ben they were written two weeks ago and I thought I had mailed them but was mistaken.


Letter to Brother-in-law W. A. Tunnell, November 8th, 1863.

Columbian Hospital, Washington, D.C.
November 8th, 1863

W. A. Tunnell, Esq.,
Dear Brother: — I received your letter of the ..... in due time and I am sorry to say have neglected to answer it as soon as I should but then I am in some measure excusable on account of the want of anything or rather something interesting to write about. I received a letter from mother about a week since and was very glad indeed to hear that Jane has improved so much as to be able to walk about the house. I hope she may continue so, and that you may soon conquer the ague and restore your self to health again. I have been expecting a letter from Ben for more than two weeks and have been rather disappointed in not receiving one, but shall continue to believe he has written, I wrote last Sunday to Howard and Sake, I mention these things in order that they may know that I have written. I continue in good health and in tolerable spirits, I do not think I shall remain here much longer. I am doing well, and will let you know how I progress as fast as I find out for myself, I have not been examined yet.

We received some encouraging news from the front and also from Charleston this morning. Twelve hundred prisoners and one battery taken on the Rappahannock yesterday and it is reported also that our whole army is on the move. I saw a man yesterday whom I take to be perfectly reliable just from the front with prisoners, who says that the impression


among officers is that the army will winter on the James River this winter. They have constantly ten days rations, 3 days cooked on hand and have orders to be prepared at any moment to march. It is also believed that when the army again breaks camp they will hardly stop until they have compelled the rebels to give battle or go beyond the James. This man is on duty at headquarters and has superior facilities for obtaining information. He says that before the army retreated the last time, he knew positively that it drew 114,000 rations, but that it has been largely reinforced since (to the amount of 20,000 he thinks). Being closely connected with headquarters, I place great reliance on what he tells me. We feel greatly encouraged over our bright prospects and the darker ones of the rebels. I can hardly see how they are to maintain themselves this winter. I believe the bogus confederacy will collapse about the beginning of spring, at least we hope so.

NOV 9th — I saw an account in this mornings paper stating that our Regiment had gone home to recruit I do not know how true it may be, but they were expecting some such orders the last I heard from them. They must be very small in numbers now. The morning paper confirms yesterdays news increasing the number of prisoners and cannon taken. The mail leaves in a few minutes and I must close to be in time. My love to all the family and friends and believe me

Yours truly, W. G. Allen.



1. Sarah Ann (1830-1908), his second sister.

2. Gilmore, Capt. Ephriam M., rank Dec. 81, '61, resigned June 28, '62.

3. Allen, George Benson (1840-1887) brother of W. S. G. Allen. Ben bought numbers of horses and mules for the government during the war.

4. Matlock Sergeant James M., enlisted Oct. 7, 1861; promoted to Second Lieutenant. Jan. 28 1862.

5. The 12th Ill Vol. Cavalry was organized at Camp Butler in February, 1862, and remained there guarding Confederate prisoners until June 25th, when it was mounted and sent to Martinsburg, Virginia.

6. Allen, Harriet "Hattie" (1834-1889) sister of W. S. G. Allen.

7. They were attacked on September 7th by 800 Confederate cavalry.

8. "Little Effie," born in 1859, was the fourth child of W. G. Allen's sister Jane.

9. Gen. Longstreet was not a prisoner. On the day this letter was written he was commanding the First Corps of the Confederate Army at Antietam.

10. Emma and Morse were children of his sister Jane, to whom the letter was written. Carrie, was his youngest sister, Caroline Melissa Allen.

11. The Union loss at Antietam was 12,410. The Union Army buried 2,700 Confederates and their losses probably equalled the Union.

12. Gray, T. Howard, and Edward Sweeney, brothers-in-law of W. G. Allen.

13. Withdrawal of the Confederate force under Gen. Bragg to Chattanooga after the battle of Perryville, Ky., on October 8, 1862.

14. Four miles west of Greenfield, Illinois.

15. Buford, Gen. John (1825-1863), was chief of the cavalry In the Maryland campaign and succeeded General Stoneman on General McClellan's staff.

16. At the close of the campaign of 1863 the 12th Regt. Ill. Vol. Cavalry was sent to Chicago to recruit and reorganize. It immediately filled to the maximum, and on the 9th of February, 1864, left for St. Louis one thousand two hundred and fifty strong.