As explored in an earlier post by Douglas Ullman, Jr., pension files can offer immense insight into the lives of soldiers. Sometimes, researchers are lucky enough to find wartime letters written by the soldiers in the file. In this case, my relative Peter Goodling Reever wrote this letter while in camp with the 87th Pennsylvania Infantry around Winchester, Virginia in the spring of 1863. A few months later he was captured at Carter’s Woods/The Second Battle of Winchester, taken to Richmond as a prisoner and eventually paroled. He returned to the regiment, was slightly wounded at Petersburg and captured for a second time at Monocacy. He was taken to the prison in Danville, Virginia, where he died. (See my earlier blog post for this story.) While some elements of his service were noted in other sources, the pension file (as well as his service record, also stored at the National Archives) filled in several gaps that I couldn’t find answers to elsewhere. Postwar, his mother filed this pension paperwork, though she was ultimately denied due to local affidavits that she and Peter’s father did not rely on financial support from their son at the time he was in the army. As far as I know, this is Peter’s only wartime letter that survived, and it only exists today because his mother sent included it in her pension paperwork. It was chosen not necessarily for any poignant text or important discussion of military actions, but because it notes that he sent money home to his parents.
Below is the text of the letter, with original spelling as well as question marks where I wasn’t sure of the word.
Winchester April the 21
Dear and most affectionate parans
I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well at presant hopeing that theas few lines may find you Enjoying the same Blesing I will now let you know that I sent forty Dollars with (Miss?) Bodin and you Can Go thare and Get it I will Give you All the news I can Get I Received your letter and Was Glad to hear from you Pleas and let me know Where William Goodling is I have
wrote before this time in order to find out whare he is I have herd nothing of him Since I am in the (lines?) tell Him to write to me I think I will com Home this summer Some time But at present I Cannot Come thare is to many Going unless you have Some thing particlar that I shall Come home than write it to me and I can come soon or I think that we will Stay here this summer unless we will be cleaned out it is reported here that General (hooker?) is (fiting?) at Fredericksburg
A few lines to my Brother Ulrich Dear Brother I will here drop A few lines to you Dear Brother if you Get Drafted put your trust in God and can comfort you he can help you Every thing of (???) thinks there as G is a God of battels and the Best thing is to prepare for the future times ho what a dreadful thing it is to be Caste away from the presans of God think of the Rich man he had his plesher in this world and he must have his punishment in the world to Come
When you write again let me know all the news as I do not hear much from Pensylvania I like to Hear what the news is I must Bring my Letter to a Close for This time no more
But Remain your true and affectionate
friend Peter G Reever
write soon again