Sunday, 1864 April 24, Otisville, Genesee County, Michigan: “Now about buying a horse . . . Never buy & furnish anything that the U. S. furnishes”

[Letter of a Michigan civilian who advises his cavalryman brother against purchasing his own horse for military service]

Otisville, April 24, 1864
Genesee County, Michigan

Bro. Alf:
I now will try
to [unintelligible word] this Sunday morning in writing to
you in answer to yours of the 14th which I
rec’d Thursday. We are all usually well
but Eliza, she has the sore throat, in about one
hour from the time it commenced it was cankered.
I am in hopes that by having [unintelligible word] attend to it all
the while it will not be anything very serious
but there is no telling which may end I trust
I trust that the next letter I write to you I can say She
is entirely recovered. We have at last finished
Sugaring we finished yesterday & gathered the buckets [of]
molasses & about 4 barrels of vinegar. I wish you
could have a chunk of cake sugar to rub on
your hardtack &[two faded words] your sowbelly pork
[teats?] & all. I have heard from the 7th Cavalry [7th Michigan Cavalry]
week ago Thursday I got a letter from Ben Bidwell

[page 2]
& Thursday one from William Van Voorheis. I find
Co. C lost 3 men All of them good boys they think
that they were taken prisoners. They will have
a hard time of it I am afraid. Now about
buying a horse, I shall give you my advice & you
can follow it or not. Never buy & furnish anything that
the U. S. furnishes. Don’t buy a horse. You will, tis’ true,
draw $12 per month for him & pay for him if
killed but if he plays out on a march or dies
of disease you will lose him. Someone has
been stiffing you because you are green &
they had a horse to sell. Another thing I
don’t believe that a private horse will stand
any more than a Government horse (unless he’s a
better one.) And no private horse gets any better
fare or usage than any man will give a Gov’t
horse, for they can’t draw any more rations
for one than the other & if he is half a man
he will tend a Gov’t horse as well as if it was

[page 3]
his own for his horse & saber are the
main things he depends upon & if he don’t
take care of his horse, when he gets into a
tight place his horse won’t take care of him.
Again, draw you a good horse & take good
care of him before long you may go into battle
& get the chance to pick up a good horse without
the U. S. brand on him if he is as good or better
than your horse swap & get him mustered in
as your horse the next muster day & you will
draw your pay & he will cost you nothing. If you
buy a horse & are taken sick & sent to the
hospital & may be to Washington some one
will take your horse & perhaps use him
up in a few days [and] not take half care of him
& so you will lose him.
A circular in this [Editor: Item missing.] from my [New York] woman she
gives an extra album & [unintelligible word] for every club
of five if you conclude to act as agent send
five dollars & get you an album & [unintelligible word]

[page 4]
to show & if you get a club of five get
the sixth man & keep his five dollars &
send the sixth one to him. I expected to get a $15.00
watch by paying one dollar extra I draw a $14.00
chain. Save your money & send it
to me & have it taken care of so if you
have the bad luck to come home with a leg or
arm off you will have something to help
yourself with. Eliza  & I got a letter from
Sarah Thursday she was well—
Esther L  ?  is Sick I don’t know
what ails her I have written about
enough for [unintelligible word] time so
I [guess] I will [here] [unintelligible word]
[2 unintelligible words] but do not
[2 unintelligible words] to [believe any?]
[2 badly faded and unintelligible lines]
[3 unintelligible words] your
brother John

[Editor: This letter is badly faded in many areas, especially on page 4. Confederate soldiers furnished their own horses but the Union government provided them for its soldiers. The 7th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, which served 1862-1865, was among the cavalry regiments of the Michigan Brigade commanded by Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876). According to the online Michigan Civil War Soldiers Index, William Van Voorheis and Benjamin Bidwell were members of Company C, 7th Michigan Cavalry.]

MSS 10905

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *