1863: William Houtz to William J. Orendorff

These two letters were written by William Houtz (1805-1864), the son of John Houtz (1762-1829) and Catharine Elizabeth Winter (1768-1808), who was a physician in Dauphin county, Pennsylvania. Both letters refer extensively to William’s son, John Wesley Houtz (1839-1920), a private in Co. D, 47th Illinois Infantry who enlisted on 16 August 1861 and was discharged for his wounds on 17 July 1863. At the time that Pvt. Houtz enlisted, he was working as a clerk in Henry City, Marshall County, Illinois.

Pvt. Houtz survived the war, married Nancy Annabell Nellis (1843-1931) in September 1864, and by 1870 had settled in Odell, Livingston county, Illinois, where he worked as a dentist surgeon. By 1880 he had relocated to Bloomington, McLean county, Illinois, where he worked as a dry goods merchant.

[Note: The header image shows four 47th Illinois officers at Oxford, Mississippi, in December 1862.]


Troy Grove [La Salle county, Illinois]
June 29, 1863

My highly esteemed friend,

Your kind favor came to hand and can assure you that on a moment’s reflection, think that two entire strangers who perhaps never heard of others, until meeting at Mendota, and the first glimpse, or sight, there seemed to be a Magie in the appearance—which presented some peculiar feature, more than common; There appeared nothing in the way not in the least, we travelled together, eat and slept together; and that social friendship seemed more binding. I have traveled thousands of miles by railroads as well as by steamboats, but I must confess this trip more magical than any former. I have really longed to see you before now, and hope such may be before long. Should your business call you to Mendota or La Salle, I will certainly meet you should I know the time.

My son, John Wesley, is at St. Louis. He was detailed for Quincy but the boat (City of Alton) run aground about halfway up and was obliged to return; consequently her wounded were left. He is at the Lawson Hospital. I wrote for him to come to Quincy and I would meet him there and bring him home. How soon that may be, I am not able to say.

There is nothing of any importance in this portion of the State that could interest you. The Copperheads are all very quiet and say but little. My son the doctor [William George Houtz (1830-1900)] has as yet made no appearance. I received a letter from him dated June 25th. He was well and things looked well in the Old Keystone State.

We have a scorching hot time, No rain for about 5 or 6 weeks. We will soon dry out unless a rain water is getting low.

I received a letter from our Bloomer Lady since my return. She regrets—as well as reflects greatly on herself for not remaining a few days longer, let me tell you she is a splendid compositor. Her letter is one among many a masterpiece. I have been told that she edits a paper in Hartford.

My best wishes and high regard for yourself and good lady although a stranger to me but cannot help sending my best wishes to her feeling satisfied being she is a Pennsylvania. She must be a good woman. May the Lord bless you all.

Truly yours &c, — William Houtz


Troy Grove [La Salle county, Illinois]
July 13, 1863

My Dear Friend Mr. William Orendorff,

Thinking that you would feel anxious to hear how my son John was doing, the time you seen him in Memphis, he was doing well. Two days after we left them, the Steamer City of Alton came up and he with some fifty more were put on board of her to be conveyed to Quincy. Unfortunately she was grounded about half way between St. Louis and Quincy; consequently she was obliged to take her wounded back to St. Louis and make the best she could where my son John was crowded in the Lawson Hospital of which removal he informed me immediately, but at the same time saying he was doing well. Consequently I remained easy, and owing to some business on hand, I did not vent my way to St. Louis. Some ten days or two weeks after I received a letter from a soldier by name John Beaird, that my son John was going down hill fast. On Tuesday evening about 3 o’clock I received the letter, and on Wednesday I was at St. Louis. On finding John, I was frightened. He was reduced to a mere skeleton and ten days more would have laid his bones beneath the sod of the Missouri soil.

I then made an effort to have him furloughed which was impossible. I then demanded a discharge which was granted and on Friday morning at 6 o’clock I left St. Louis and on the same night at ½ past Evelyn P. M. we arrived at La Salle where I had him taken to the Harrison House, found a good bed, and all the comfort he could enjoy. Notwithstanding his suffering, on the way was considerably. I came by Pana where I rested him 4 hours and the change in the same depot. On Saturday afternoon I procured a two-horse carriage and brought him as far as his youngest sister where he remained until Monday, when we brought him home in a very critical situation and until Thursday night had despaired with all hopes of his recovery, but thence making a change and is now doing well. His leg is very crooked and all hollow at the knee, but is now healing right smart so soon he will be able to travel. I shall take him to the Sarasota Springs where I calculate with and by an efficient and persevering course to restore him to his former condition and have his leg straight and useful. Rest assured I shall spare no means in doing my duty, so heroic and loyal a boy as he proved himself should live. He declares vengeance against the Copperheads.

My son the doctor has returned from his eastern visit. He gives a full amount of the Gettysburg fight and also the treatment the Copperheads received from the rebel officers & soldiers—a glorious thing that that raid was made into Pennsylvania. His return gave me elbow room and I feel considerably relieved. We are all well and doing well. Was down a few days with a severe attack of billions colic but feel relieved and partly cured.

Truly your affectionate friend, — William Houtz

My best wishes to yourself and good lady. With a wish to hear from you soon.



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