This letter was written by Samuel G. Murphy of Co. G, 71st Pennsylvania Infantry. Not much is known of Samuel except that his wife, Julia, filed a “widow’s Pension” after his death in 1891 from someplace in New York State. Samuel addressed the letter to his “brother and sister”—the envelope directed to “Mrs. William Murphy” in New York City—but I have not been able to find any genealogical records to connect the correspondents.
The 71st Pennsylvania was raised in the Philadelphia area by Oregon Senator Edward Baker, a good friend of Abraham Lincoln’s. It was originally called the 1st California Brigade in deference to Baker’s wishes—he being the regiment’s first Colonel—and consisted of 15 companies instead of the standard 10. After Colonel Baker was killed in the Battle of Ball’s Bluff [see header image] on 21 October 1861, the regiment was renamed the 71st Pennsylvania and it was brigaded with three other regiments to become the Philadelphia Brigade.
According to the Daily National Republican of 28 October 1861, Samuel was among the wounded at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. We only know his wound was to his “leg.” Clearly the wound not disabling, however, as he was with his regiment on the Peninsular Campaign the following summer when he wrote this letter in June from Fair Oak Station, Virginia. The company roster reveals that Samuel was also wounded at ‘The Angle” at Gettysburg on 3 July 1863. This wound must have been more serious and caused him to leave the regiment for he was not present when they mustered out of the service.
[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Jim Doncaster and is published by express consent.]
Camp at Fair Oak Station near Richmond, Va.
Sunday, June 15th 1862
Dear Brother & Sister,
I again sit down to write you these few lines hoping they will find you all in the enjoyment of good health as this leaves us both in good health at present. Thank God for all His kind mercies to us.
Dear sister, I received the 2nd
Northern Whig newsletter this morning. I have sent you two letters before with 5 dollars in each one which I hope you have received before this. I also send you 5 more in this making 15 dollars in all. And of course you know what to do with it. Put it to the other for me.
There was a Flag of Truce came in here on Friday for the trunk & some money for the Lieutenant-Colonel [William Lovering Curry] of the 106th Pennsylvania Regiment in our Brigade. He was Field Officer of the Day on Tuesday last [9 June 1862] and at night, he was going round to see how the pickets were posted after the disturbance and got outside of our lines for they run like a horse shoe or a half moon, and it is very easy to get [a]stray at night and [he] was taken prisoner and a request that they would stop picket firing if we would do the same. That has always been our principle.
Company A & us—Co. G—went on yesterday, Saturday. [Co.] A went on the daytime and we went on at night. The one is on post; the other the reserve. After we had been out about 2 hours, a few of the Rebels commenced firing a few shots in front of us to find out our position. We shot one of them with a ball & buckshot. You ought to hear him holler. Seven of them made for to get his body but a few shots soon scattered them. I guess he died soon afterwards. We were relieved this morning at 8 o’clock. We were in about 2 hours when they made a break on our pickets and the 81st Pennsylvania on the left of ours. There was 2 men wounded in Company I of our regiment. One had 4 balls go through him and the other had 2. I guess they will both recover. The 81st had 1 captain killed & 4 privates wounded but everything is quiet again.
Monday morning. Everything is quiet today for so far. I have little more to say at present. Give my regards to all enquiring friends—Lady friends in particular.
I now conclude with my love to you all. No more at present but remain your loving brother. Address as usual. Write soon, S. G. M.