These letters were written by Oramel Gates Daniels (1832-1915), the son of Horace Daniels (1799-1857) and Sally Bacon (1803-1878) of Westfield, Medina county, Ohio. He was married in 1854 to Clarissa (“Clara”) B. Farnum (1836-1896). He enlisted as a sergeant in Co. K, 8th OVI and served for three months in the original regiment. When the regiment was reorganized as a three-year unit, he enlisted again as a sergeant, was promoted rapidly to quartermaster sergeant. and by October 1862, he was a Second Lieutenant in Co. K. By March 1864, he was a First Lieutenant in Co. I and later transferred to Co. D. He was discharged form the 8th OVI in July 1864.
The 8th OVI was one of the war’s hard fighting regiments. At Gettysburg, they had an advanced position for twenty-four hours in and beyond the Emmitsburg Road starting on July 2nd. They took part in the fighting around the Bliss Barn that day and the next day found themselves in the middle of the artillery duel that led up to Pickett’s charge. When the Confederate infantry advanced, they drove off the troops directly opposed to them and then changed front to fire in Brockenbrough’s Virginia Brigade, materially aiding the repulse of the assault, taking numerous prisoners and three battle flags. Daniels’ third letter records the praise received by their brigade commander, Gen. Alexander Hayes, as they returned to the Union lines.
[Note: The last three letters are from the private collection of Jim Doncaster and are published by express consent. The header image is a drawing of Gen. Hayes and his staff dragging the captured Rebel flags on the ground after the failed Confederate assault on the Union line 3 July 1863 at Gettysburg.]
Quartermaster Tent 12 miles west from Martinsburg, Va. on B&O Railroad
March 11th 1862
(I am here with some of my regiment with my stores. The regiment is in Martinsburg.)
Ever remembered friend Mattie,
Your truly welcome letter dated the 2nd came safe to hand last eve & I assure you, gave me real pleasure to read it. I read it thinking how truly grateful you must feel to think that Charles was spared at the Battle of Fort Donelson. I too had a dear brother there. He was in the Illinois 11th. It was nearly annihilated. He, however, escaped unharmed. They fought hard & well & have gained a glorious victory but at what a sacrifice of life. It fairly makes me shudder to think of it. I received a letter from him dated February 22nd at the fort. You spoke of there being nothing new in the extract from Charles’ letter. Tis not so. I am glad you wrote it & I wish you would always do so when you get a letter from him. I wish he would write to me. Tell him our regiment will not be in Kentucky I don’t think so he need not wait any longer. I accept your thanks & please remember that I am truly thankful for your very kind long letter in return. I will here add that you made only 8 good, kind & truly welcome letters I received last eve. I would give 5 dollars if you could have see me where I was when I got them. I was camped down close to the railroad track with my Quartermaster stores surrounded by men, horses, boxes, barrels, and everything confusion but I lit a candle and read them all. No more tonight so goodnight. — O. G. D.
Tuesday, 11th of March. A very pleasant day. Seems like Spring. The 7th & 29th Ohio Regiments left here his morning. Also the 110th Pennsylvania Regiment. I am in hopes to go tomorrow to Martinsburg. The Rebels say it is no use to burn a bridge for the damned Yankees will build another in a day. They were only 4 or 5 days in building the bridge here. They run a train across last night. They are strengthening it with beams today.
You say you are in hopes that this war will soon end. I too am in hopes were it not for hopes what would become of us. But I think we shall have to fight here at Winchester & also at Manassas but that will soon be decided. Yes, I say God speed the right.
The papers made the loss of baggage, tents, &c. much larger at Romney than it really was. We only lost one tent that was of any account, but I will tell you when I come home all about it.
Our Gen. Lander is dead. It was quite a loss to us at this time. We all had confidence in him.
I am glad you had so pleasant a visit with Mr. M. & Hem. I think I could enjoy almost any kind of music now when I get home. I expect you are all very anxious for the Daily’s now in a time like this. I know I should be if I was at home. We get the news from Cincinnati and Columbus & Cleveland within a day or two of their publication. I have not seen the Gazette for some weeks now. I will send you one if we get anymore. I am glad to hear of your visit to Vaus Valley & I will own I was a little surprised at it though you had not been there since you & I were there, had you? You must have had a pleasant visit. I don’t know as I should object to such a visit myself. I hope Mr. Armstrong will write to me but I shall be disappointed if he does. I saw George Armstrong day before yesterday as they went down the road.
I am really glad you still think of visiting Westfield this summer. I do hope you will. Clara sent me a slip of her dress she has bought since I left home. I will send it to you. Perhaps you have had some of it. I think it very nice of course. You will too.
I saw Jud as he went down to Martinsburg. He was well. I am glad I found a large sheet of paper. Never mind if it in in 4 pieces. I don’t care, only write often & direct as before till you hear from me to the contrary.
The country is very handsome round here or just below here and around Martinsburg. In my next, I will give you a description of what I see and hear when I arrive at Martinsburg.
And now as I have but little time & poorer facilities for writing, you must excuse me & I will write you a longer letter next time. You would not think I could write what i have if you were here & knew how I was situated. I have a hard cold & don’t feel very well myself. My prospects were never brighter than now but they are liable to be darkened at any time. I live in hopes as you say. If all works well, I shall reach the height of my ambition ere the war closes—viz: a commission—but there is many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.
With best wishes to all of your folks, I am still as ever your friend & well wisher, — O. G. Daniels
P. S. Write soon & don’t fail.
P. S. At 8 o’clock this eve, I saw and heard a dispatch from Gen. Shields at Martinsburg that the Rebels had evacuated Manassas & that Gen. McClellan with our army had taken possession of the works so we shall not have any fight at Winchester. — O. G. Daniels
Headquarters Quartermaster Department
8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI)
Harrisons Landing, James River, Va.
July 20th 1862
Kind friend Mattie,
I have a few moments this fine Sabbath morning to devote to scolding you so prepare for the worst. I am clear out of patience with most of my correspondents. I don’t get any letters now-a-days from hardly anyone. What the reason is, I don’t know unless they don’t write to me. I don’t know as my letters are of enough interest to pay. If they are not, then I am to blame—not them. The reason why I write at this time I have at last joined the Army of McClellan and I find many of the Pennsylvania troops here & among them some Lancers, so I thought I would write & find out what company David Cary had joined—if you knew. I may find him in my rambles round the camps. I found a cousin in one of the Michigan Regiments that I have not seen in 17 years before. He had a brother in the 2nd Michigan that was wounded at Fair Oaks. Now if you give me any information in regard to D. C. Please do so & oblige.
Have you heard from Charles lately & where & how is he & what was the trouble with Henry Sherman? I hear some reports about him that is not very pleasant to hear. Please tell me all about them & oblige my curiosity. Also tell me all about all the folks around there. Have you seen Mr. Ladd’s people lately & if so, how are they? Can’t you & they call round on Mrs. Daniels some afternoon & bring her down to camp? I will show you all round camp & give you an introduction to our little Gen. George B. McClellan. What do you say, Matt? Will you come? Bring along your knitting work & stay all the afternoon & bring your music box. I am tired of this martial music & I think a change would be pleasant. I have been living in hopes that I should get home this summer but the chance looks slim now, I assure you, at this time. But still I do not despair of seeing my family & friends once more things look dark at this present time but I look for brighter days for us all soon. I may be mistaken but I hope for the best. Hope on hope ever is my motto.
My health is very good as yet but I do not feel as well as I did while in the Shenandoah Valley. It was much healthier there than here—better water & better everything. But we are now coming down to the stern realities of war. The romance is all played out for me but I am willing and ready to do my duty.
Well Matt, I will describe our home and our living and then close. 1stly, our home consists of a large piece of tent cloth called a tent fly stretched over a center pole & pinned to the ground on 2 sides, then an arbor on one side 10-12 feet square. I have a bunk in one corner, then 2 of the boys have another bunk in another corner, and Bob—our Commissary Sergeant—is going to put up him one at the end of mine. Then our beds will all be fixed. There is 5 of us in the Department. One of the boys cooks for all of us. He is from Bucyrus, Crawford county, Ohio. We have a grand old time here sometimes, I assure you. We buy a great many of our rations. We have potatoes, onions, dried apples, rice, coffee, tea, sugar, bread, corn meal, beef, and pork. Also fresh beef quite often. We live quite well in our mess. All feel well when we are well.
Well I had nothing to write when I commenced & you will say I have wrote nothing. I should be pleased to hear from you at any & all times. Direct to O. G. Daniels, Q. M. Sergt., 8th OVI, Washington D. C., [Nathan] Kimball’s Brigade, and it will come all right. Continue to direct in this way until you hear differently from me and now with best wishes to you and yours, I remain as ever your true friend, — O. G. Daniels
8th Ohio Vol. Infantry
Camp near Falmouth, Va.
February 8, 1863
Kind Friend Mattie,
I am astonished or rather was this eve about ½ 9 o’clock by receiving a letter from you.
I had supposed you had forgotten me altogether & had erased my name from your list of friends & correspondents but I find I am disappointed & to me it is the most agreeable one I have had in some time with only one exception and here I may as well tell you what it is. Now listen.
A paper which gives me the privilege of going to Westfield, Medina county, Ohio for 15 days & while you are reading this I hope to be with my wife & boy. Six days ago I had not the least expectations of going home and when the Colonel handed me my papers. I think there was one man disappointed I am the first one to leave which I propose doing as early as five (5) o’clock tomorrow morning. Wish I could call at Galena but as that will be out of the question. Cannot you come up to Medina and make that visit while I am there will meet you at Wooster any day you will be there.
I will not try to answer this letter this eve but will write you while at home unless you will come up & see us at Westfield. It will do you good to come. I must close this for this time. You will excuse this short note for I have no time to answer. It came so late & my cotton house is getting cold. With the best wishes to all of your folks. I remain as I ever hope to your true friend, — O. G. Daniels, QM Sergt. 8th OVI
February 9th 1863
I am stalled at this place on account of there being no transportation to Washington. Hope to leave here either this eve or early in the morning. I wish you could see the sights I have seen this morning. You would wish this war was over more than ever. You ask about patriotism. My own is all gone & I don’t wonder at yours playing out. You say rightly in regard to our leaders. Our Army of the West and Southwest is the only one that is doing anything. This army never has done anything yet—at least it seems so to me.
Ha. Ha. There goes a barrel of apples someone was rolling along & the head bust out and the crowd pitched in & got the whole of them in 2 minutes.
Such is war and I will close. Will write you from home else on my return & I shall hold you to your promise. If you fail me again, I don’t know as I shall forgive you as easily as I did this time.
As ever I am your friend, — O. G.
Camp of the 8th OVI
Warrenton Junction, Va.
July 27, 1863
Kind friend Mattie,
Again I am seated to bother you with one of my poor letters in return for your kind favor of July 12th which came safe to hand this eve & found me ready to receive it as usual. We arrived here last eve tired out & hungry as bears & have been resting here all day & here we received the first mail for 10 days. I only received 8 letters and this is the 3rd one to be answered. Clara comes first always you know & you generally 2nd but a sister came to take your place tonight in the list of my correspondents. I am really glad to be remembered by you and your folks as I am. Tell your Mother I would like very much to have a chat with her and all of you & I hope yet to have that privilege for I do think this war must end soon from all appearances. It cannot last over 10 months as I can see.
You say that you read of the 2nd Corps being hotly engaged. They were indeed. I never saw anything nor ever read of anything like it in my life. The 8th Ohio received the praise of the corps commander on the field as we were retiring from the line where we stood our ground for over 24 hours. We had run out of ammunition & went off to get more when Gen. [Alexander] Hayes & staff met us. Our [Lt.] Colonel [Franklin Sawyer] had one of our colors in his hand & 2 of the Rebel colors in the other dragging the Rebel colors in the dust. He [Hayes] took off his hat and thanked us, at the same time saying you done all & more than could be expected of you. You can go back and rest. You have done enough, my brave boys. I must confess, Matt, that even then I felt proud to know that I belonged to the 8th Ohio Regt. Was I wrong?
You speak of my preferring to have some other member of the family answer some of the letters. I have asked all or any of them to write me at any and all times for I suppose you must be bored to death with my letters & I am selfish enough to ask you to answer or wrote me often and I shall still continue to ask you to keep me informed of things in your part of the country & how you are & you folks. I hope to hear from Charles soon and I shall write to him then. I wish Corwin would write to me when you write. He can write as well as I can, I am sure, & you can make out what I mean, can’t you? [Even] if you can’t read the whole of it. I never make any apologies about my writing for I never think of it until it is too late. So here goes.
I hope you won’t sell out, I do, for I should not dare to make a call on you in the city hardly, should I? Oh yes, I would for I would be a soldier & a soldier is a privileged person—especially an old veteran like me, you know.
I received a letter from my brother Frederick dated July 6th at Vicksburg in which he states he was there safe and sound. I hope Charles and him will meet each other before long. They both are on the look out for each other. I have several friends down there in that Army and I wish sometimes that I was there. I have not heard from D. E. W. [David E. Welch] for some time. His brother [James Cornelius Welch] who was in this regiment [Co. H], was wounded mortally in the Battle of Gettysburg & has since died [at the 3rd Division, 2nd Corps Hospital]. I wrote to him a few days ago. He thought a great deal of his brother James. It will be sad news for him. He was a noble boy—a braver one never lived. I thought as much of him as a brother. I suppose D. E. has had a hard time of it. I have not heard any of the particulars of it. Please tell me of it and oblige.
I hope you had a pleasant visit at Mr. Starks. I hope that those reptiles turned Copperheads will go blind next month. It will be a God send to them in the end, I think, don’t you?
Well my sheet is full and I am tired & sleepy so I will close hoping to hear from you again soon. Oh, I must tell you that I am now in the Quartermaster Department at this time as acting quartermaster of the 8th so I have a good horse to ride on the march. Best wishes to all. Goodbye. Remember me kindly to all of the friends. Ever yours with respect, — O. G. Daniels
To M. [ ] C.