When I was young, I spent many times going through the family treasures belonging to my Grandmother, Mabel (Davidson) Boyd. This letter, written by her Grandfather, Benton Hart Medary, (b. 24 MAR 1844, d. 11 MAR 1912, Williamsburg, OH), was the one item that sparked my interest in family history. It was written while he was a Corporal in the 4th Cavalry of the Union Army and camped at Lake Providence, Louisiana.
He wrote the following letter to the young woman whom he would marry (15 August 1867 in Clermont County), my 2nd Great Grandmother, Mehetabel Reed Chatterton.
Lake Providence, LOU
March 12, 65
I received your letter yesterday I was truly glad to hear from you it was the first scratch of a pen I have had for three weeks. It appears I can get no word from home anymore. We had never heard till the day before I received your letter of the death of your sister. I was very much surprised do hear it. I thought she had got almost well.
Jack Thompson got a letter stating that she was dead. I could hardly believe it but alas I found it was true death appears to be all over our land at the present time you can see it at anytime here in the army. I suppose you have heard that Charles Flemming has been very sick he has been very sick indeed so that he was confined to his bed all the time but is getting some better now the rest of the boys of your acquaintance are all well I believe. I have been sick myself but have got about well now. Reete is as harty as a hog the service appears to agree with Reete pretty well. I suppose you know he was cook for our mess he has been cooking for us for sometime he makes one of the best cooks in the company.
I wish you could see what a nice romantic spot we have to camp on it is situated just on the edge of the Lake and in the nicest yard you ever saw the house the general has his headquarters in is surrounded with all kinds of the most beautiful shrubbery and laid of with walks in every direction a King might admire. The most we have to do here is to forage feed for our horses we have very good times sometimes when we are out foraging we get to see all the country wherever we go that you know is something to attract our attention. The worst thing with me is I have lost my horse and I will try and forage me another he has taken sick and got so far gone that he will never be of anymore use to me. We took a trip a few days ago up the river on a foraging boat and went up the river about 15 miles where we landed and stayed five days and during that time confiscated 150 bales of cotton 80 mules and 8 or 10 horses two barrel of molasses and four or five barel of ham. Well I gess I told you all the news so I will close excuse this awful scribbling no more
Direct to General McPherson Headquarters Lake Providence Louisiana care of Capt Foster. Tell John to write me a letter
After doing some quick researching of General McPherson, Ohio History Central, it appears he had already been killed in battle on 22 AUG 1864, when Benton wrote the letter. I found the following reference from Lake Providence, Louisiana, Wikipedia.
“The town of Lake Providence developed after the arrival of the Union Army in the spring of 1862. Under the direction of General Ulysses S. Grant, the area by Lake Providence was established as a supply depot and base of operations for the Vicksburg Campaign. The soldiers dug a canal between the Mississippi River and Lake Providence. The area was called "Soldiers' Rest". Grant subsequently moved his troops south for temporary residence. As slaves crowded into the camp at Lake Providence to gain freedom from surrounding plantations, the population quickly soared from a few hundred to several thousand. What began as a simple military supply camp quickly transformed into a city with a large population of African-American refugees.”
My Grandmother told me that her Grandfather Medary was a horseman that bred and raised horses to sell. In the war, he was assigned to the care of the horses and, as it states in the letter, was one of the “foragers” for the troops. It’s most likely how he survived such a brutal war.
Join us on May 1, when the CCGS Civil War lineage program will be explained (see side bar). I am looking forward to submitting my application for my 2nd Great Grandfather to honor his service as a Union soldier in the Civil War. Submitted by Brenda Boyd