Henry & John Orendorff Civil War Letters

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Henry Orendorff, 1862

In 1986, William M. Anderson published a book through Western Illinois University entitled, “We are Sherman’s Men; the Civil War Letters of Henry Orendorff.” The book was made possible when Mrs. Margaret Jasperson, the granddaughter of Henry H. Orendorff, consented to allow the letters in her possession to be published. During his thirty-four month service in Co. F, 103rd Illinois Infantry, Henry wrote many letters to his friends and loved ones at home. Most were collected by the family for preservation and passed down to Mrs. Jasperson. But apparently a couple dozen pre-war, war, and post-war letters were held by other family members that did not get published in Anderson’s book. What follows are the previously unpublished letters of Henry Orendorff and his brother John W. Orendorff (1830-1883), who served in the same company. It appears that these letters were those addressed principally to their older brother, William J. Orendorff of Canton, Illinois.

As William Anderson compiled a comprehensive biography of Henry Orendorff, I will not attempt to rewrite one but simply quote selected passages from his Introduction and refer the reader to his book (see below) for a more complete study.

“Like most Civil War soldiers, Henry H. Orendorff was an agrarian born February 21, 1840, on a farm in Orion Township, Fulton County, Illinois. He and his brother John enlisted together on August 20, 1862, in the 103rd Illinois Infantry, their unit later being designated Company F. At the time and according to his own description, he was “Age 22, eyes grey, hair light, pretty good nose, thick lips, weight 122 lbs., gross ears, lopping beard not so light as hair, legs 31½ in. long, & straight arms, small boots pegged.

“Not unlike many Illinois soldiers, Henry Orendorff was a racist. Yet he was pro-administration, read the Republican biased Canton Weekly Register and strongly opposed the Copperhead movement. Support for the war was a key issue in the 103rd Illinois as Copperheadism flourished in Fulton County and Henry’s convictions were even challenged by peace advocates among his relatives who resided in Bloomington, Illinois.

“The youngest child of John and Margaret Orendorff, Henry’s family included three brothers and two sisters: Washington, Caroline, William J., John W., and Sarah Margaret. Although he wrote to ‘everyone,’ his mainstays were brother William and his modest sibling, Maggie. Henry and Maggie shared a special relationship.

“The 103rd Illinois, popularly known as the Fulton Regiment, recruited nearly all of its members from Fulton County. Also, unlike many Civil War regiments, the 103rd was led by a cadre of experienced officers who had served previously in other Illinois units. Orendorff’s regiment performed a secondary role in the Vicksburg Campaign, were involved in following up that great victory, saw its heaviest action at Missionary Ridge and the Atlanta Campaign and participated in the march through the Carolinas.”

Screen Shot 2020-04-07 at 7.15.14 AMIn his book, William Anderson did not provide a biography for Henry’s brother, John W. Orendorff. John was ten years older than Henry. He was married to a woman named Mary Brown Daniels (1829-1894) and had four children ranging in age from one to 8 by the time of his enlistment. I gather that John and his wife had a strained marriage as he rarely spoke of her in his letters and it appears they later divorced. During the war, his children seem to have been living with his parents. John remarried in 1874 to Amanda Roy (1854-1943) and had another child with her before his death in 1883. It was Amanda who collected his service pension. John was wounded in the foot at some point in the Atlanta Campaign prior to June 11, 1864, when Henry wrote home, “When you find out where John is, let me know…I fear he has a pretty severe wound but hope for the best.” A subsequent letter written on 23 June 1864 stated, “I would give more particulars of the engagement which brother J. W. was wounded if I thought I could make it interesting. Bro. J. W. was on the skirmish line when the Rebs charged, driving our skirmishers in behind our works.” The wound effectively ended John’s service but he returned home to Fulton county and worked a piece of ground just outside of Monterey in Banner Township so he must have recovered full use of his foot.

To read all of Henry’s Civil War Letters, please check out, “We are Sherman’s Men.” It is meticulously footnoted by editor William M. Anderson.

Index of Letters in this Collection

1—Henry to W. J. Orendorff, Sept. 18, 1862, Camp Peoria, IL
2—Henry to W. J. Orendorff, Nov. 10, 1862, Lagrange, TN
3—Henry to W. J. Orendorff, Dec. 4, 1862, Waterford, MS
4—John to W. J. Orendorff, Apr. 16, 1863, Lagrange, TN
5—John to W. Orendorff, Apr. 16, 1863, Lagrange, TN
6—John to C. Parlin, April 17, 1863, Lagrange, TN
7—John to W. J. Orendorff, Aug. 9, 1863, Memphis, TN
8—Henry to W. J. Orendorff, Aug. 19, 1863, Camp Sherman, MS
9—John to W. J. Orendorff, Sept. 12, 1863, Memphis, TN
10—John to M. Orendorff, Oct. 25, 1863, Memphis, TN
11—Mary Orendorff to John Orendorff, Nov. 1, 1863 Canton, IL
12—John to W. J. Orendorff, Nov. 14, 1863, Memphis, TN
13—Henry to W. Parlin, Mar. 11, 1864, Scottsboro, AL
14—John to R. G. Rogers, Mar. 11, 1864, Scottsboro, AL
15—Henry to W. J. Orendorff, Jun. 7, 1864, Acworth, GA
16—Henry to W. J. Orendorff, Jun. 28, 1864, Kennesaw Mtn. GA
17—Sarah M. Orendorff to John, Jul. 3, 1864, Canton, IL
18—Telegraph, Jul. 9, 1864, Canton, IL
19—Henry to W. J. Orendorff, Dec. 30, 1864, Savannah, GA.
20—John to W. J. Orendorff, Jan. 13, 1865, Jefferson Barracks

Letter 1

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Henry & John wrote most of their letters to their older brother, William J. Orendorff of Canton, Illinois

Camp Peoria
September 18th 1862

Dear Brother [William],

I will now comply with your request & do the best I can. Well, for the present we are having a nice damp time. We didn’t drill any yesterday nor this forenoon. We have some new Orders this morn. John & John Wise are put on parole duty. They go on at 6 P.M. & stay on until 12 o’clock tonight. Their duty is to go down town & every soldier they catch without a written pass they halt & take him before Col. Briner in the 108th Reg. He is to pass sentence.

William, you can’t imagine how lonesome I was for a short time after you left. William, we haven’t ate all of our good things you brought yet. We drew our overcoats last Saturday. They are pretty good truck.

I was put on guard last Sunday night. I only had to stand 4 hours. I came on the extra guard. Our Boys got rather bold & we had to have out a double guard to keep them in for a few nights.

William, some of us got in rather a bad scrape last night. We got passed out & got the counter sign but didn’t get back until after roll call & consequently were reported to the Captain. He passed sentence that we should dig a slop hole. There was four of us so it didn’t take us but a short time. I guess we will try & get back at roll call after this.

We have things rather nicer here now than we had when you was up. We have it all cleaned up around the Barracks & the front of them white washed. I tell you, it alters the appearance of camp considerable.

It is impossible to tell when we will be mustered in. I guess not until next week.

If you see Christ, tell him we will look for him up one of these days. Web Sloss & John Augustin was up one day the first of the week. Web bunked with me.

Six of us were detailed one day to take 3 prisoners. They had run guard & came back so we took them right beside our barracks. The sergeant that was with us ordered them to fall in & go to take some prisoners. He marched them in & stationed us at the entrance & rear to guard them. They were soon taken up to headquarters & put to digging up stumps. One of them was a sergeant by the name of Josh Ellis.

I have already written more than will prove interesting so I will quit.

Yours &c., — H. H. Orendorff

[to] Wm. J. Orendorff. Please write soon.

Letter 2

Lagrange, Tennessee
November 10th 1862

Mr. William J. Orendorff, Canton, Ills.
Dear Brother,

I will try to interest you for a few minutes. We are in camp at Lagrange today. Lagrange is 22 miles southwest from Bolivar & is a place of about 800 or 1,000 inhabitants before the rebellion broke out but don’t number half so many at the present time.

William, we have been put through since we left Camp Peoria. I guess active exercise is conducive to the health of soldiers. John and I are well & getting fat. I have been out on two expeditions since we came down here. We were out [on] reconnaissance last Thursday. We went out southwest about 8 miles & discovered some secesh & throwed a few shells into them killing two and wounding one or two. We were out a few miles farther Saturday on the same road. Our cavalry captured something over a hundred prisoners & killed a few men; we didn’t lose any, I believe. We had a pretty hard time Saturday night. We laid in a cotton field or staid for we didn’t sleep much for it was so cold we couldn’t & we went out confiscating yams (not stealing).

We still have a lot of men guarding secesh houses & women. We are guarding one house where the owner is gone. It is said that he is down at Holly Springs with 40 or 50 negroes at work on the rebels’ breastworks & here we are guarding his house and family. I don’t think it is right, do you? I think this thing of guarding secesh property ought to be played out.

I wrote to Sarah this morning & after I had mailed it I heard that William Babcock, Esq., was in camp & was going to start home in the morning so I thought I would write you a few lines. Probably you will get this before Sarah gets the one I had wrote her. I don’t know when we will leave here but I think we will stay here but a few days. I think when we leave here again we will march on Holly Springs. The rebels have a considerable force at Holly Springs. The secesh prisoners represent their force to be 60 thousand strong.

The secesh prisoners look pretty rough. They are not dressed in uniform at all. They swear that they will fight beyond hell & a few days after. A few of them say that they are sick of it. I guess the most of them are. They are dressed so that you can’t tell their officers from the privates.

I thought I would like it down here in Tennessee but I don’t. It is awful hard country. It is fit for nothing but to raise cotton. I have seen a few good pieces of corn but I tell [you], good corn is scarce.

Give my love to Mary. The Boys are generally well. I think this a pretty healthy place in here. I can’t think of anything more to write this time. I am as ever your brother, — H. H. Orendorff

[to] William J. Orendorff, Esq.

P. S. Remember me to Father Rohrer’s family & tell further I often think of him. Please excuse this writing as it is done in a hurry. — H. H. O.

Letter 3

Camp near Waterford, Mississippi
December 4th 1862

Wm. J. Orendorff & Family
Canton, Illinois

Dear Brother,

Your kind letter of 20th ult. was duly received & read with much eagerness as it was the first letter I had got since we have been in dixie (I mean from home). I received once since from [brother] Washington dated November 16th. Washington seems to be in pretty good order from the way he writes. Tell him to go ahead and get married if he feels lonesome.

John & I are in good order. I was pretty sick night before last but am all right again. It is the first time that I have been sick since I have been in service.

We left Lagrange, Tennessee, last Friday November 28th & marched 12 or 15 miles in the direction of Holly Springs. Saturday got to Holly Springs, Mississippi. By the way, Holly Springs is [a] most beautiful place. Sabbath morning we left Holly Springs & got to this old rebel camp about 4 o’clock p.m. I tell you, marching is a beautiful way to spend the Sabbath. We are in camp at this time within 4 miles of the Tallahatchie River. The rebels had entrenchments & fortifications to some extent on the Tallahatchie but had to skedaddle when Gen. Grant brought his bulldogs up to play on them (we call artillery bulldogs). We heard them bark some Sunday and Monday. Our boys take some prisoners once & awhile. Seven secesh came in today. They say that they are tired of fighting Uncle Sam’s Boys & are going home. They are from Missouri.

I guess John does feel [homesick] somewhat by spells but don’t last very long. Tell Mother I don’t want anything from home. I am as well satisfied as if I had lots of fresh butter & eggs, potatoes, &c. We are scarce of bread sometimes but always have lots of fresh meat when we can forage. You had better believe we understand the Confiscation Act.

William, I like the climate down here very well but don’t like the country atall. The country is not so level here as it is in Tennessee. Our camp is on a side hill near a big cypress swamp. We have had considerable rain for the last few days. It is raining today a little.

I have been washing today, I washed this morning & got it (my washing) dry again. Noon. I had a pretty big washing—a pair of shirts and drawers, handkerchiefs, towels, &c.

It is reported that [Gen. Sterling] Price is at Oxford with his men. Deserters say his force is only 40 thousand. If it is, we can tear him all to pieces if he don’t run.

The Boys are generally well. Some of them have bad colds. Lynn Gusnell had a pretty hard time during our last march but it getting better. I had to stop writing to eat a dish of dried peaches stewed. We can get peaches for 20 cents per lb., cheese 40 cents, butter 50 cents, ginger snaps 40 cents, & other things in proportion. I will enclose a letter in this for one of my friends. I suppose you know who to give it to by the direction W. J. E. I consider him one of my particular friends—a grand fellow he is.

William, I will be glad to hear from you often. I would also like to have your wife Mary put in a line when you write again. Give my respects & best wishes to all enquiring friends. My respects to Christian, Benjamin, your father’s folks &c. Please write soon.

— H. H. Orendorff

Tell Sarah or Maggie, Caroline, Artema, William H. & Wm. Parlin to write to me. I am as ever your brother, — H. H. O.

December 5th

To Maggie, dear sister,

Your little note was duly received enclosed in W. S. O’s I haven’t much time to write so I will answer yours in Brother William’s letter. We have flour sometimes & hardtack & corn meal, fat pork, beef, beans, sugar and coffee, tea, &c. to eat. I do my own washing. We all cook.

I don’t like the Blacks very well although they are very kind to us. We have nothing much to read. I wish you would send us papers. Our mess sent for a New York paper but haven’t received it yet. I have seen some secesh prisoners. They look pretty rough & are generally dressed in homemade sheeps-grey clothing. Seven came in our lines yesterday & took the oath & went on their way home rejoicing. They stopped in our regiment & got dinner. They say their enemies are their best friends for we gave them more to eat than they got in their own army. I read a letter from cousin George H. Orendorff last night. He says he is bully. Did you get the one I sent you from cousin Etta? Maggie, you must all write to me. I can’t always answer yours so write often.

When you write, direct to Co. F, 103rd Reg. Ills. Vols. via Cairo. I have about 12 correspondents & consequently get behind when we are on the march. We have it pretty tough sometimes when in the march. I had to do a day & a half on one canteen of water. It done me very well. I like the army bully. Get married before I get home so you can give me a big dinner.

Yours &c. — H. H. Orendorff

Letter 4

[Lagrange, Tennessee]
April 16, 1863

Dear Brother [William]

This warm afternoon still finds us in the land of Dixie and in the enjoyment of pretty good health at present though I fear that I shall never and the service though. I was on duty yesterday and last night guarding prisoners. Well this is, I think, rather rough that we have men in our ranks that have to be kept in the guard house on account of their meanness and make good men guard them.

Well brother, you may read & hear and think of the desolation & destruction that is caused by this rebellion though any person that has not saw it for themselves can have but little idea of the horrors of this war that has been forced upon us. When we look round at their large mansions—that is, what is left of them—standing without a sign of a fence round them & then look at the large male and female seminaries that have one day been used to educate the youth of the land in [that] are now used for hospitals and military prisons, is not this horrible? [And] to say nothing of the churches or farms though we congratulate ourselves by saying they invited us down to pay them this visit in their country. It looks to me as if they ought to be getting satisfied by this time.

I will send this with Jim Shryock as he is going to start day after tomorrow morning for Old Fulton. He has got his discharge at last and he is well pleased. Old Joe Anderson has got his. Also one of our company by the name of John Fordyce from Vermont.

Brother, you can easily see I have nothing of interest to say so if you will please excuse this scribble, I will try and better it the next time. So I will close hoping that this may find you all in the enjoyment of good health. Your brother, — John W. Orendorff

P. S. Please don’t forget to write to us often as you can for it does us good to hear from those we left at home. Goodbye.

Letter 5

[Lagrange, Tennessee]
April 16, 1863

Dear Brother [Washington]

You may think that letters are coming thick but when we have a good chance we think we must send you something. This is all we have at the present to send to you. I am glad that I can say that my health is improving as fast as could be expected. I don’t think the water or climate will agree with me very well here. It is all soft water that we get to use here. The land is very rolling and dry and looks like a healthy location.

I went on duty yesterday—the first for some time. Our regiment is doing part of the picket duty ay the present. Brother Henry is out on picket duty today. There is a current report in camp today that there [is] a force of 17 thousand Rebs near Corinth. There has two long trains of cars gone towards Memphis. We think they have gone for troops to reinforce that point. We look for great victories now soon. They have [been] making great preparations for to do something this spring from what we can learn. I think now is the time for us to strike the death blow to this infernal rebellion. It looks to me as if we ever can do anything, it is at the present. I will have to stop for this evening.

This evening. I will continue. James Shrock has concluded to start home in the morning and I will send this with him as he and I have had some deal and he is owing me one hundred and twenty-five dollars. I will send his note to you for to collect for me when due and you will hold the money for me till further orders and by so doing, you will oblige me, your brother. Truly, — John W. Orendorff

P. S. Please ask no questions of soldiers where they get anything. Just say is there anymore where that come from. When the Rebs give us a good chance, we can’t resist. Keep cool, lay low, for ducks say nothing to nobody. But please write to me soon and give all the news you can & oblige your brother, — J. W. O.

Letter 6

Lagrange, Tennesse
April 17, 1863

Mrs. [Caroline] Parlin
Dear sister,

This morning still finds is way down in the land of Dixie though very comfortably situated for soldiers. We have plenty to eat and plenty to drink and wear—such as it is—and it is better than we have had since last fall when we was on half rations. U. S. Gosnel can tell you how we fared at that time.

Well sister, you may ask how I like soldiering. Well, when a man has his health, it is not to say very unpleasant the bitter goes with the sweet in any business that a man goes into. The labor is nothing but the exposure is considerable—that is, in bad weather. If my health will admit of it, and my life should be spared, I would stay as long as the rebellion should last, but if my health does not get better soon, you may look for me home sometime in June to stay.

You would scarce know brother Henry for he has grown and got so fat. He is getting to be quite a man. He appears to enjoy himself first rate in the army. He has been blessed with the best of health ever since we have been in the land of Dixie.

I think I will get him a pretty good position soon—that is hospital druggist. And from that to hospital steward. The pay is thirty [dollars] per month. The Doc told me that he thought Mifflin’s health was so badly impaired that he could not stand it long and then Henry should have his place. The Doc and I are particular friends. That is why I speak so confident of doing home when I choose to do so. You may think strange of this for two doctors are not apt to agree. I have not lost nary a case yet while he has lost several though my practice has not been quite as extensive as his has been but is increasing fast.

Well, I guess this will do to send with Old Joe, so no more but remain your friend and brother. Please write to [us] soon and often. That helps to keep us in good spirits.

— John W. Orendorff

Letter 7

Memphis, Tennessee
August 9, 1863

William J. Orendorff, Esqr.
Canton, Illinois
Dear Brother,

Yours of the 2nd came to hand yesterday. I was truly glad to hear from all at home and that all was well and I am glad that I can say that my health never was better than it is at the present. I begin to feel young again and active.

I was much pleased yesterday to meet with Sam N. Rockhold and others and to hear brother H. H. [Henry]. I should like to have him here with me. Sam says he talks of coming here if his health does not get better soon. From the account that Sam gives of our company, I never want to see it again. It will go to the pots before long…

…uce for me to go home. All things considered I have no inclination.

Enough of this. I sent 5 dollars in a letter the other day. I sent twenty dollars to father by Samuel Rockhold.

William, I like this place and think I shall locate here. I wish you to visit my children and let me hear from them often. Write often. Yours with respect. — J. W. Orendorff

Letter 8

Camp Sherman, Mississippi
August 19, 1863

Wm. J. Orendorff, Esq.
Dear brother,

This is a fine morning and having a little leisure time though I would write to you. We had a fine shower last evening. In fact, we have a shower almost every evening which makes it very pleasant. Our company are still doing duty at Division Commissary. I tell you, we are having good times generally.

The health of the regiment is rather poor. A good many have the fever and ague. I have just got a letter from brother John [at Memphis]. He is getting some better and seems in good spirits.

My health is improving some. I am of the opinion that I am going to get well.

Some of the folks at home are writing to me to get a furlough and come home. I would like very well to come home but the chance for a furlough is rather slim. I think maybe I will get one some time next winter. I hope about Christmas.

I must close as it is time to put his in the mail. Please write soon.

Yours as ever, — H. H. Orendorff

N. B. Excuse half sheet and haste. My love to all. — H. H. O.

Letter 9

Memphis, Tennessee
September 12, 1863

William J. Orendorff & Family,

Tis Saturday eve and I am still in the City of Memphis and in better health than when I last wrote to you though I have but little use of my left arm. This has been a very busy day with me. I have been writing all day and as I got a letter from one old frau today stating that you was looking for me at home, I though I would take this opportunity of telling you that you need not look for me for I am not coming this fall. This is my mind at the present, not but I should like very much to spend some time in visiting with you but as my health is improving and I am very comfortably situated, I think it best for me to remain where I am for some time yet. As you are all well and doing well and I am getting well, I am perfectly satisfied for to remain where I can take care of my health. The most of the patients in my ward are doing very well at the present. I don’t do anything—only give the pills and do the weighing in the ward.

Well, as to the little stock on the farm, will you please tell Father that I don’t wish him to burden himself with it except the horses. I should like to keep all of them. Tell him to let Nelly run without breaking if she is not too much trouble to him. If she is not properly health with, she will buck and if I am not mistaken in her, I shall want to keep her if I should live to get home. Tell [him] to do as he thinks best with the rest of the stock.

I got tired and sleepy last night. Sunday, 2 o’clock P.M. I have had my eggnog and a big old dinner and feel better. Dinner consisted of boiled potato, boiled beef, beaf soup. Oh yes, we live fat. This is Sunday dinner. Monday we have fat salt beef, Tuesdays salt beef and boiled cabbages, Wednesday salt beef and onions boiled. Thursday boiled beef and beans and soup, Friday cod fish in its purity. This is the kind of feed we get here. But I call on old Johnson occasionally. Then you know I take a good feed.

Tell brother H. H. [Henry] to try and stop and see a body on his return. The last I heard of him he was going up on the railroad above Cairo.

Mary, occasionally I think of your table and the good meals that I have enjoyed at it.

[—John W. Orendorff]

Letter 10

Memphis [Tennessee]
October 25, 1863

Dear Sister Mary,

This another Sabbath morn and still I am in the hospital among the sick and wounded. I have just got up. It is 4 o’clock a.m. and my health is very good with the exception of a very bad cold. Mary, I think very doubtful whether you would know me since I have been sick so much, My hair has most all come out, It is getting grey as an old rat and I have not shaved since you last saw me. After I get my work done up and my wounds dressed, I intend to go to the Catholic Church today as there is a very fine one here.

Well Mary, the weather is very cool here. We have white frosts and a little cold hurts worse here than it done in the North though some very comfortably situated—that is, for soldiers. I have two coal grates and [   ] mountain wood stove in my room and my neat little cot is situated close to one of the grates and they keep fire in it all night and Uncle Samuel gives us plenty of his kind of feed so I can’t complain but still sometimes I think that I should like to see my kind and good relatives that re at home. But as the darkies sing, “there is a better day coming when this cruel war is ober. Den we’ll hab dat am so ant it Sambo, haha, haha.

Well Arthur, good morning, sir, you rogue. How I should like to see you and little Willie and have a play with you this fine Sabbath morn. Mary, I should be very much pleased to receive a letter from your hand as it has been so long since you have written to me. You will please excuse this ill-composed miss-spelled thing knowing that it is from the hand of an awkward, old soldier way down there in Memphis.

With these few remarks, I will close for the present hoping to hear from you soon and often. Your brother, as usual. That is all. Kiss the boys for me.

— John W. Orendorff

Please don’t forget it. My respects to all.

Letter 11

Canton, Illinois
November 1, 1863

John W. Orendorff, Memphis, Tenn.
Dear brother,

Your kind letter came duly to hand & found us all well. I was truly glad to receive a letter from you & to hear that you were well & that you enjoy yourself so finely in the Land of Dixie. I believe your family are well though I don’t see them often for they don’t come to see us except the children sometimes call when they are up. They will none of them lack for the comforts of life so long as your good Father is guardian for them. I often think I will go to see them but William is too busy through the week & Sundays we spend at home mostly reading the news, going to church, &c.

You think I should scarcely know you. I guess if you should have the pleasure of visiting us once again and Arthur were to see you coming from the cars, he would say there comes Uncle John for he often speaks of you, &c. We thank you for writing so often. It is a  treat to get your letters. It does William so much good to hear from you and Henry. He becomes lonesome when you delay too long.

There is a young lady visiting at your Father’s now in company with Uncle Tom’s Mag. We think she is trying to cut round [your brother] Washington. Well, she is a fine girl & would be kind to him in his old days. I hope she will capture him, then pull his wool for not getting married sooner. But enough of this.

We hope the rebellion will soon end & yourself & others who have so nobly defended our soil and sacred rights be permitted to rejoin your friends to live in peace the balance of your long & happy lives. Our folks often enquire after you and Mother wonders if you don’t want to see those little fellows you left at home.

Well, come up some Sunday & take dinner with us. I will not write all this time for I hope to write sometime again though I am almost out of practice writing. Write to us often.

Yours very truly, — Mary Orendorff

Letter 12

Memphis [Tennessee]
November 14, 1863

William J. Orendorff and Family,

You will allow me to address you a few lines this beautiful morning at it is a leisure time with me and I feel like spending part of my leisure time in writing to you as we are deprived of the privilege of conversing with each other face to face as we used to did. I am glad to have it to say that my health never was better than it is at the present. I never was as fleshy as I am at this time and I feel 10 years younger than when I enlisted and I think some of going in to the regular service as there is some inducements held out to me at the present. The four hundred & two—what do you think of it? As you know how things are with me at home, or as they useter was, and there is doubt but they will be the same again though it is hard for me to think of being separated from my little children so long.

If I join the regulars, I will sell what little property and stuff I have and content myself to a soldier’s life while I live. Old Jack Weaver is down here at Fort Pickering. His George has got the promise of a furlough and the old man is waiting for to take him home with him. John Rodgers is at the fort. He is in very poor health. Those boys get sick and then they get the blues. Then it don’t take them long to go up the spout.

Well brother, I don’t think that I shall ever pack a knapsack very much any more. There is more ways than one to get out of that job. I want you to write to me as soon as you hear from brother H. H. [Henry] as I am very anxious to hear from him. Sometimes I am tempted to go to the regiment on his account but I couldn’t better his condition any. Only I would like to be with him. I gave him good advice and told him how to work his card there. No use of a man’s being run to death in the service if he will only watch the corners.

Sabbath morn, 15th. I will try and finish this thing now and ship it. I made a little mistake. I wanted to get up as old Johnny Fouts used to say yearly and I did. It is only one o’clock and if I got to bed again, the boys will laugh at me as does them so much good to get a joke on me. I won’t let them have it this time. I will get ready and go to Catholic Church this morning again. I like to see them go through the show or as some of the boys callout, the theatrical performance. It is most as good as a theatre. O yes, Mary, I must not forget to thank you for the very kind letter I received from you yesterday. It was all right but one thing I take as an insult for anyone to ask me to take dinner with them. But if I should go North, I will get over that, I guess. So don’t you write often but don’t say Dinner. That is all.

My respects to you, your folks, and all the rest. Kiss your little boys and charge it to me or Uncle Sam.

— J. W. O.

Letter 13

Scottsboro, Alabama
March 11, 1864

Wm. Parlin, Esq.
Canton, Illinois

Dear Brother [in-law],

This fine March morning finds me seated in our rude but comfortable little sanctuary. This is my day to work and while I am watching the beef boil, I will drop you a few lines hoping they will find you all well, &c. &c. I have been thinking I would like to have a letter from you and consequently have concluded to bother you with a few lines hoping you will answer. I see in the register a notice of the death of Mrs. Anna Augustine. Sad news this for the boys. I also see a notice of the death of Jeffry Maynard. A good many changes have taken place since I have been in the “Army,” and a good many are likely to take place before I get out. What they may be is hard to tell but I must hope for the best.

As regards the “war” news, you are better posted than we are. I see the Army of the Potomac are on the move again. I am in hopes Gen. Butler will give the Rebs a good thrashing. I am fearful Sherman’s Expedition won’t amount to as much as we had hoped for. The boys of the regiment are well as far as I know. I have not been to the regiment since they came back from Dalton.

John got a letter from Memphis, Tennessee, this morning stating that John Rogers ¹ was dead. R[awley] G. [Rogers] will take it hard of course, and we feel sad to learn that so good a boy has fallen. He was in a good place and was doing [well] from all accounts. He was only sick two days. I have nothing more to write that will interstate’s you so will close.

John is well. My health is good. My love and best wishes to all. Yours, — H. H. Orendorff

[to] William Parlin, Canton, Illinois

¹ John W. Rogers (1843-1864) died at Washington Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. He was a member of Co. E, 103rd Illinois Infantry. His parents were Rawley G. and Mary Rogers of Fulton county, Illinois.

Letter 14

Scottsboro, Alabama
March 11, 1864

Mr. R[awley] G. Rogers
Dear Sir,

As I have just received a letter from Memphis this morning stating that your son John Rogers ¹ was dead. I felt it my duty to inform you of his death knowing how careless they are at the hospitals. If they have not written to you, I will tell you who to address for to get all the particulars of his death. His name is Harrison Daigh. He is. the wound dresser in Ward A, Washington Hospital. Mr. Daigh said that he was only sick two days. He did not say what was the matter though I think it must have been some kind of a spasmodic affection.

This leaves me in very good health. Also all the rest of the boys. We are having fine times here at the present. There is no news of any import so with this, I will close for the present hoping this may find you all well.

Yours truly in haste, — J. W. Orendorff

¹ John W. Rogers (1843-1864) died at Washington Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. He was a member of Co. E, 103rd Illinois Infantry. His parents were Rawley G. and Mary Rogers of Fulton county, Illinois.


Letter 15

Camp near Acworth, Ga.
Tuesday, June 7th 1864

Wm. J. Orendorff, Esq.
Dear brother,

This very pleasant evening finds me with the regiment—fine—fat—and in fine spirits. I wrote to sister Maggie last evening. I should have written sooner after brother John’s getting wounded if I had had an opportunity. You must know that we have been in pretty close quarters for some time past. I suppose the casualties in our regiment at Dallas will amount to 40 in killed, wounded and missing. I presume the body of our much esteemed Colonel has reached home before this. He fell, a noble victim of liberty. He was much esteemed by the regiment and we deeply feel his loss.

I haven’t heard from brother John since he left Kingston on his way to Chattanooga. He set me word from there that he was getting along fine & feeling well considering the circumstances. I fear his wound will be a long time getting well. His wound was from a buckshot. A great many of the Reb cartridges contain a ball & three buckshot.

Your letter of May 15th is the latest I have had from home. I hope you are all well & in good spirits. Don’t give yourselves any uneasiness about me for I will do the best I can for myself & if it it my lot to fall, I have a hope of meeting you & the rest of the family “where troubles & sorrow are not known.”

If I should get wounded, I will inform you at the earliest opportunity.

It is getting dark & I must stop writing for this time.

June 8th. 9 o’clock a. m. I have just a little time to write. I received Father’s letter of 22 May last night. I was sorry to hear that he was so unwell. I hope you are all well & I good spirits. Please write often. I will still write when an opportunity offers. You must not look for letters from me often.

Please write often & give me full particulars. We think we will resume our pursuit of Johnston’s retreating army in the morning.

My love & best wishes to all. I am as ever, H. H. Orendorff

The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. In the following letter, Henry Orendorff describes the assault on Pigeon Hill, led by the 103rd Illinois Infantry in the morning of 27 June 1864. They were joined by the 55th Illinois Infantry which also had a number of boys from Fulton County, Illinois. The main assault took place on Cheatham Hill which also ended in a repulse.

Letter 16

In front of the enemy near the foot of Kennesaw Mountain
June 28, 1864

Wm. J. Orendorff, Esq.
Dear brother,

Through the merciful providence of our Heavenly Father, I am still among the living & am once more permitted to write to you. Yesterday (June 27th) was another bloody day with us. Our Brigade was again called on to lead in an assault on the enemy’s works, which we did (supported by a Brigade of Morgan L. Smith’s Division), but were repulsed with heavy loss. Casualties in our regiment were 57—17 of that number were killed. I will give part of the names. Lt. J[ames] M. Bailey Co. F; G[eorge] W. Moss, Sergt. Co. F; 1st Lieuts. of Co. I, viz–[Nathaniel P.] Montgomery & [Zebulon] Branson; [Pvt.] Jacob [E.] Maxell [of Co.] G; [Pvt. Isaac] Nute Myers [of Co.] G; [Corp.] Cal [Keller] Whittaker [of Co.] G; [Pvt.] Artemus Myers [of Co.] G; [Pvt.] Samuel McEntyre [of Co.] G; [Pvt.] Wm. Warfield and [Pvt.] Abraham Smith [of Co.] A; [Pvt. Zachariah] Taylor Kelly [of Co.] “I.”

Among the wounded are [Pvt.] George Levis [of Co.] F, Frank Breed [of Co.] G—in leg, flesh wound I think. John Wise [of Co. F] got a very slight wound by piece of shell on the leg. [Pvts.] Nute Ellis & James Cook [of Co.] C—flesh wounds, I think. I might give the names of more of the wounded & killed but perhaps you would not know them. Col. [George W.] Wright was wounded in foot. Capt. [Franklin C.] Post [of Co. E] is in command of the regiment, I believe.

I understand the 55th Illinois Veterans suffered pretty severely. Capt. Jacob [M.] Augustine was killed. ¹ I understand he was in command of the regiment. I have not ascertained the names of the sufferers in 55th more than the above, except Daniel Maxwell. He had a flesh wound in the leg. He is Absalom’s son. I saw Dan Negley & J[ohn] B. Ridenour after the charge. They were all right. I have not seem Wm. [H.] Lowe yet or Henry Augustine and don’t know that I will be able to.

Wm. J. Everly, Gardner Armstrong, Isaac Ellis, and others got through all right. The most of them I suppose will write home soon. I never want to see another such a charge as the one of yesterday. The enemy had a very formidable works & our men crawled right up to them but they were too much for us. A little stream about 50 yards in front of their works that we had to cross is said to have actually run with blood. I crossed and recrossed the stream but did not notice it running with blood but do not doubt it as there were a great many men shot right in the hollow. I feel very thankful that I came off without getting hurt. I hope and pray that I may always be so lucky. I don’t know why it is but our Brigade generally has to lead in a charge. I hope it will not be so in the future.

I would write more but am out of interesting matter. I don’t know when or where we will be called into action next. My health is very good. [Samuel W.] Rockhold, I understand, is back somewhere about Altoona in [the] hospital. He is getting along well, I guess. I truly hope the present campaign will end the “war” so that those of us that live can return to our friends.

Brother, you will please write to me often as well as the rest of my dear friends. I am as ever, — H. H. Orendorff

¹ Before the battle of Kennesaw Mountain, Capt. Augustine had a premonition about his death and spoke of his death as sure. He excused Sergt. T. K. Rouse of Co. K from making the charge for the same premonition, but made no such excuse for himself. He made the charge on 27 June 1864, leading the assault, and fell mortally wounded with a mini ball in the chest.

Letter 17

Screen Shot 2020-04-05 at 9.18.30 PM
A post-war photograph of Sarah “Maggie” Orendorff

Canton, Illinois
July 3rd 1864

Mr. J. W. Orendorff
Dear brother,

This is a beautiful Sabbath day so Father, Mother, George & I have come to Canton to spend the day & as sister is getting dinner, I thought I would try to interest you a few minutes. Your letter of June 26th was received in due time. We were so glad to hear from you but sorry to hear that your foot was so painful. E. Suydam arrived at home last Friday. Father & brother W. T. saw him yesterday. He said you had succeeded in having the ball removed. I hope you will improve rapidly now & soon be able to come home. I tell you we think the time long to see you.

We received a letter yesterday from Bro. Henry written the 23rd June near Marietta, Georgia. He was well & in fine spirits but was getting poor as is usual for him in the summer time. He hadn’t heard from you since you left Kingston, consequently was very anxious to hear from you.

Bro. John, we should like to know just what your situation is—that is, how is your health now & how is your wound getting along? Our folks say if there is anything that any of us can do for you, we are ready to do it. If you want any of them to visit you, they are ready to go at any time. Indeed, we are all very anxious to do something for you. O! how glad we would be to have you at home. Your children are all well & doing as well as could be expected. They are quite anxious to see you & often speak of you, Florence was at our house last evening. I tell you, she looks well. Accept love from your true sister, — Sarah

Write soon. Very soon.

6 o’clock P.M.

Bro., it is time for us to go to church so you will excuse so uninteresting a letter. Indeed, I’ve felt nothing like writing today but we are all so anxious to hear from you I thought I must say something. I hope you will soon be with us. Accept love from all, — S. . Orendorff

Write often. I am a going to stay here until tomorrow. — Sarah

Write soon.

Letter 18

U. S. Military Telegraph
July 9, 1864

By Telegraph from Canton
To: John W. Orendorff, Ward C

I will be there Monday night. — W. J. Orendorff

[docketed at a later date, the following:]

This telegram was sent by me to hospital Jefferson Barracks when John was lying there after having ball extracted from his foot. I got there ahead of telegram & was sitting by his cot when the messenger brought it in. — W. J. O.

Screen Shot 2020-04-05 at 9.31.48 PM

Letter 19

Greene Square
Savannah, Georgia
December 30, 1864

Wm. J. Orendorff, Esq.
Dear Bro.,

Your kind letter of 11th inst. came to hand this morning (by Col. Wright). I was as ever much pleased to hear from you. Hope you are still in the enjoyment of good health &c. My watch came to hand all right except minus the key. Col. lost it some way. I have not had a chance to talk to him any yet, but will seek an opportunity soon. I had already had some offers for my watch. The first offer was $65.00 & the next $70.00. I think I could sell it for $80.00 if I were disposed. I like the watch very much. I can get a key up at 97th Indiana Regiment. They are in our brigade.

My health is good. We are still doing Provost duty in Savannah. It is hard telling how long we will remain here. I was on duty last night and consequently am not very bright today.

Tell Arthur and Willie I would like to see them much. Tell them that I will come home next fall if I live, and then we will have good times. Tell Arthur to write again.

Nothing more at present. Accept love and best wishes.

I am as ever, — H. H. Orendorff

We are comfortably quartered, have plenty of fresh oysters, cornbread, &c. &c. Love to all. Excuse brevity and write to me often. — H. H. O.

Letter 20

Jefferson Barracks, MO
January 13, [1865]

Wm. J. Orendorff
Dear brother,

This leaves me well. I have been examined for a discharge. The probability is that I will be with you in a few days. It may be a week or so before I get home. You need not write to me here as I shall leave here in a few days. I am having a fine time. Lots of old friends here so no more at this time.

Your brother as ever, — J. W. Orendorff

[Docteted by a different hand at a later date]

From Bro. John, Jefferson Barracks, Mo., Dated Jany. 13th 1865


Letter 21

Near Louisville, Kentucky
June 9th 1865

Wm. J. Orendorff, Esq.
Canton, Illinois

Dear brother,

Your kind letter bearing date June 2nd was received yesterday. I was extremely glad to hear from home so recently. Hope you are still well and enjoying yourself as usual. My health is good notwithstanding I had a little brush last evening. It was nothing serious. I have recently written several letters to you. I have my doubts about being mustered out anyways soon. I think we will have to stay 2 or 3 month yet.

You must not look for us home for some time yet. If you do, you will in all probability be disappointed. The weather is very dry. It keeps threatening rain. I think perhaps we will get some rain this afternoon. The boys are generally well but they want to go home now that the war is over. I am busy today and haven’t time to write much. Tell sister Maggie I received a letter from her dated May 30th and will try and answer it soon.

I expect to go to the city this evening if it don’t rain.

I am with regard your true brother.

My love to all. — H. H. Orendorff, 1st Lt. Co. F, 103rd Ill. Vol.



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