1862: Levi Hall Rankin to Brother

Though unsigned, I believe this letter was written by Levi Hall Rankin (1835-1881), the son of John Rankin (1800-1872) and Anna Hall (1803-1885) of Wrightsville, York county, Pennsylvania. Levi enlisted as a corporal in Co. B, 130th Pennsylvania Infantry in August 1862—a nine months unit that received a bonus for enlistment. He was unmarried and working as a “moulder” prior to his enlistment at age 26. He survived the war and married Rebecca Kauffelt (1843-1925) who bore him one child before his death in 1881. I believe Levi wrote his letter to his older brother, Hannaniah (“Anna”) Rankin (b. 1828), a railroad engineer working in Lancaster.

On the day following its organization, the 130th proceeded to Washington, and was immediately thrown across the river. At Camp Wells, two miles in the rear of Arlington Heights, it remained for a week, and then moved to Fort Marcy, an earthwork near Chain Bridge, where it was in garrison during the Second Battle of Manassas.

On the 7th of September, the regiment recrossed the Potomac, and marched to Rockville, where it was assigned a place in French’s Division, of Sumner’s Corps, forming part of a brigade organized from raw recruits, comprising in addition to it, the Fourteenth Connecticut, and One Hundred and Eighth New York, commanded by Colonel Dwight Morris, of the Fourteenth Connecticut.

On the 13th, the corps reached Frederick, and on the following morning French’s Division moved forward, crossing the Catoctin mountains by a road which had been obstructed, and which the pioneers had to clear, and marched rapidly to the support of the troops already warmly engaged in front of Turner’s Gap. As night closed in, the sound of battle died away, and the men rested upon the field. At two in the morning the division was aroused, and led to the ground where the struggle of the previous evening had been most severe, and where the men rested upon their arms until morning. Daylight revealed a scene of horror and destruction; ruined houses, scarred trees, the dead stretched as they fell, and the wounded with their ghastly features, which parties with ambulances were busy in removing.

The regiment then participated in the Battle of Antietam on 17 September 1862 in which it lost heavily in deadly fighting at the Bloody Lane. For more on the regiment at Antietam, see the 130th Pennsylvania Infantry at Antietam and also Pennsylvania’s Emergency Men.

TRANSCRIPTION

Camp in the woods, Maryland
September 9th [1862]

Anna,

I received your letter of the 6th and was glad to hear from home and to hear that you was all well. I would of written sooner but I hadn’t time for on Sunday morning I was Corporal of the Guard and in the afternoon we started off on a big tramp. We crossed the Chain Bridge and pulled out through Maryland and marched till 12 o’clock that night till we got to a town called Rockville. Then we laid there till 9 o’clock, then pulled out again and went about five miles further, and here we are waiting for old rock, Stone[wall] Jackson to come and give us a hare [?] but I believe that he has got on another road for the news is in camp that he is in Hanover.

Well, I got a glimpse of the Old Twenty-third. It came up by our old camp on last Thursday and camped about two hundred yards from us and stayed till Friday afternoon. I saw Sam Beck, Gody and Briggs but bully Myers was back with the wagons and I could not see him for he had not got up when they left.

Well since I commenced this letter, we have marched about ten miles further, Here we lay in a big field. There is about seventy-five thousand men within two miles of us. I just got done eating my supper. I had a tin cup of coffee and a big piece of salt pork and as many crackers as I could eat. Some of them is making coffee, some roasting meat, and some roasting corn for there is a splendid field right across here.

There is nothing I want from home but some postage stamps ad I would like to have a pair of boots. Them I sent from Harrisburg is too small to wear stockings in. Go to Sam Hammer ¹ and see if he knows what size I take and how soon he can make a pair. I want light kip with long legs.

We did not get our bounty yet but I expect it soon for the Colonel ordered every company to make out their muster roll for their pay. I wish we would get it for I have the shorts. Why didn’t Jim call that old shit Read alydr [?] in Washington. Well, I heard this morning that you had another big fire in town. Them boys must want to burn down the while town. They better make them skedaddle from there.

Them captains Shenbergers must be gay old roots. Never mind Old Stuck. He knows his business. Look wild if he ain’t a general before he comes home.

I drawed another big shirt and a gum blanket. I have four shorts now but three of them is in knapsack and we left all of them in our old camp and I think that we won’t get them for awhile. All of the boys is well. I must stop writing for it is getting dark. Goodnight for this time. I don’t know how long we will stay here.

They just shot two steers. I guess that we will get fresh beef tomorrow.

P. S. Direct to Company B, 130th Regt., Washington City, in care of Capt. Glessner


¹ Samuel Hammer (b. 1814) was a shoemaker in Wrightsville, York county, Pennsylvania.

 

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