The Civil War Letters of John E. Richardson

December 1863 - February 1864

Matagorda Bay, Texas



"DECEMBER 7th, we received orders to proceed to New Orleans. We left that day and arrived at Berwick the 10th, crossed the Bay at 2 A. M. the next day, and reached Algiers by rail at noon. Here we learned that our Division was on its way to Texas by way of the Gulf."

"In August, 1863, Gen. Banks received instructions from Washington to plant the flag at some point in Texas without delay, in order to prevent foreign complications. A naval expedition was sent to Sabine Pass, in September, with part of the 19th Corps, under Gen. Franklin, but the navy failed to reduce the fort, and lost several vessels in the attempt. Gen. Banks then attempted to reach Texas by land, by way of New Iberia and Opelousas. (Our Division took part in the campaign, but did not get farther than New Iberia.) But he found the bayous lower than they had been for fifty years, and the country nearly destitute of supplies. The expedition was abandoned, and a descent was made under Gen. Banks, in person, on the coast of Texas, at Matagorda Bay, and at the mouth of the Rio Grande. Our Division was then sent to DeCrow's Point, Texas. This will explain the complicated movements of the army during the fall and winter of 1864, in the Department of the Gulf."

John A. Bering & Thomas Montgomery, 1880

"we are encampt on a penensley. it is 50 miles long and about one mile wide and not a tre on it and but one house. nothing but sand and watter... o it was cold som days and new years in particular. i laid a bead al day to ceep warm. your last letter was maled December 19 th. you roat that you hoped that i would enjoy miself new years. i tel you i thot i was doing well if i ceap from fresing."

John E. Richardson

Read more about the events mentioned in this section's letters in the Regimental History



Matagorda Bay, texas Dec 20/63

Mi Dear wife
it is with pleasure i seat miself on the ground to inform you of mi good helth and spirets. i roat you a few hured lines from new orleans and i wil try and tel you what has hapend sence if i can. i got a letter from you a few minets befor we started stating that you was al well for which i was very thankful. wal we started sunday morning i think and got acrost the bar in to the gulf befor dark. it was not very ruf but stil it was ruf anuf to make us al sick. thar was about six hundred of us and when we al got to wamesing[?] thar was no fun about it but stil i could not help lafing at the rest. i did not get very sick. not half as sick as i wanted to for i new that it would do me good. tuesday we cast ancor for our ship drew to much watter to go in and the wind blod to hard for the smal steamers to cum out to us until friday night when we got on a smal steam boat and landed her yester morning al safe and sound and as hungrey as a lot of hogs in the spring but by eating night and day i guess that we wil ketch up agane. i was waid yesterday and waid 148 lbs. that is mor than i ever waid before. i think that i am getting very fat dont you? i wish i had som of that fresh pork that you roat about but we get fresh beaf and dead sheaps every few days. we get better rasions her than we up in the teache country. fred wil tel you al about that. i sent mi revolver home with fred and told him to sel it if he could and give you the monney. if you can sel it for enney thing that you can eat drink or ware whi let it go. it aut to be worth fiftean dollars but if you cant get that take what you can get for it wil be of no acount to me as i know of. we are encampt on a penensley. it is 50 miles long and about one mile wide and not a tre on it and but one house. nothing but sand and watter. al the wood we get is drift wood. i went about a mile and a half yester day and got mi hankerchief ful of wood to make coffey with. you see our teams have not cum yet and i dont know when thay wil cum. i exspect that we wil stay her this winter but i cant tel. i cant see whi we was brot her atal for from al acounts the union men of this state ar enlisting verrey fast. i heard that thay had over ten thousand before we left new orleans. i would like to her how thay ar getting along in tenissee and verginnia. i sopoes thar has ben som hard fighting up thar but i guess that Grant is anuf for them. wal rosa dear i am verry much provoaked at mi self for losing your likness agane but i left it in mi knapsack becos i thot it would be safer thar than in mi pocket and i left mi knapsack becos i did not dream of thar leving befor i got back. o i find so menney pretty see shels her. i wish i could send you a bag ful of them. i am agoing pick up som and put in the capt trunk so if that ever gets home we wil have somthing to remember this lonsom plase. i dont exspect that you wil get mi letters very regular as long as we stay her but i hope so. you must do the best you can and take car of the baby. i sent her a smal shel by fred. how does she like. good by. rite often to John E. Richardson
PS i have no objections to going to indianna if you think we can do better by going J E R




Mulegans bend Jenery 4th 1864

Mi Dear wife i received your letter of the 18th of December last night about 10[?] oclock and i was very glad to her from you. i roat one yester day to you and sent it before i herd that our male had cum so i wil have to rite another and if i am pretty spry i can send it by the same boat. about that lumber henry sead that i could traid logs for lumber to do so and i could have the team to hol them but glaspy[?] sead that if henry would promis to hol them i mite have the lumber and he did promes. he sead that he would be holing lumber from the mill for teals moons barn and could hol the loggs as well as not. mi account aganst cal is in that little boock of mine. if you can turn one account aganest the other do so. by almeans yes sel the fish net for what you can get for it. i think 4 dollars is pretty high for sheep and i dont beleave that one sheps would do very well alone after being ust to compney but do as you think best about it. about them oxen if sam wil take 20 dollars next pay day and wate until i am paid for Janarwary and febawary for the ballence i think that we could pay for them for i have 4 months pay due me now. it amounts to 63 dollars. i am onley getting 17 dollars amonth now.
i whish i was at home about 2 days to straten things up a little and get a tast of that lump of shoogrey fried mishshiv also a tast of the intearesting part of that dream. wal i have not much time left to rite. i beleave i roat al the news yesterday. about cerrintha i was triing to make her beleave that fred speaker was a very nise young man and she said one could not agru[argue] on that point. about plaing cards and drinking whiskey. i do play cards once in awhile to ceep from being home sick and if you was down her or any other man and nothing to do half of the time i beleave you would play to. i drink whiskey when i think that i need it providing i can get at the rite time but i have not ben any the worse for what i have dranc. you can trust me in every perticular. i stil think that i wil be at home in the spring. the war is about over. wal good by for the present. rite son. kiss the baby. sombody stolemi knapsack al of your letters and your likness. good by. keep up your courrage and you will oblige your
affectionate husband
John E Richardson
Rosetta Richardson




Deals Point texas Jan 10th 1864

Mi Dear wife
it is with pleasure i seat miself to write you a few lines to inform you that i am alive and well. i received 3 letters from you sence we have ben at this Plase but did not answer them on acount of its being so tormented cold and i can hardly hold mi pen now but the wether has moderated a good deal to day. i tel you i have sufferd mor with the cold the last three weaks than i ever did in ohio but i guess that it is over with for this winter for the sitezens[citizens] tel me that it onley last about eightteen days and consist of a stedey cold wind from the north. o it was cold som days and new years in particular. i laid a bead al day to ceep warm. your last letter was maled December 19th. you roat that you hoped that i would enjoy miself new years. i tel you i thot i was doing well if i ceap from fresing. you see wood is very scars and if it was plenty thar is nothing to bild fierplases with so when it is cold we have to war our blankets and get along the best we can. i got anew overcoat afew days ago and it came very handy you had better beleve. i dont know how long we wil stay her but it is generley sopoesed that we wil stay her until spring and by that time this state wil cum in to the union without aney fighting and i dont beleve thar wil anney mor fighting unless it is in tenessee or on the potomack.
wal rosa i sopoes that you wil be very ancious about me until you get this but i could not help it. i wil endever to write once a weak after this. i sent you one with fred and one a few days after and one the next day after we got her. wal i dont know what to write about. thar is nothing going on her. i have ben on gard twise sence i have ben her. o yes. i came very neer forgetting to tel you that thay came very neer starving us down her. i would not say anney thing about it onley i thot you mite see it in the papers and i did not know how bad thay mite get it. i did not suffer anney from hunger but i sopoes thar was sum that did but i have herd of no deths by it. i tel you things began to look rather blue but last saturday thar was a boat cum in with som hard tack and coffee. we was out of coffee hard tack shoger and meat about one weak. that is the armey generley. our mess had a few crackers and we was pretty saveing of them i tel you. we eat the last of them for super and got some mor in the morning. lieutenent smith broak his ancle the other day and is going home and if you could manage to se him or se sombodey that had sean him for he could tel you mor about this plase than i can tel it on paper. i have got a smal box of shels that i am agoing to try and send with him if he can take them with him.
this paper is rather dirty but it cost three cents and i could not aford to throw it away. i have thot a good deal about home and drempt sence we have ben her but it amounts to nothing after al. but the onley consalation is i can count mi time by months insted of years. wal i must cloes. i hope this wil find you al well and happy. be carful of your self and dont take cold if you can help it and ophelia i want to see her when i get home which i beleve wil be in side of six months at the outside. i sent her and you a ring in a letter. did you did you get it? wal good by. write often to your affectionate husband
John E Richardson




Decros Point Jan 16th 1864

Mi Dear wife
it is with pleasure i seat mi self to answer your kind letter of crismas morning and when i get home i wil make you a present but i wont tel you what it wil be until after you get it. i was very glad to her that you ar al well and able to be about. the capt got a few lines from fred. he roat that thay had got the smal pox thar and i am afraid that som of you wil ketch it but i wil hope that it wil turn out diferent. i guess you had not herd of freds arrivel when you roat but he had got home 2 or 3 days before. i dont know as i have anything new to write exsept that some of the trops are moving to a smal town cald powder horn. it is about 10 miles from her over on the mane land. thay had a smal fight thar day befor yister. al that i herd about it was this. the rebs thot that thay would surprise our men but thay was redey for them and kild a good menney of and got som prisners. i dont know wether we wil have to march or not but think not for our teams have al ben turnd over at new orleans and we could not march without teams and thar has to be one division left her and i think it wil be ours. it has got so warm that i shal send mi overcoat home with lieutenent smith for if we should hapen to march i should have to throw it away and if i should hapen to want it i can get one now for seven dollars. that one cost me nine. if you can sel it for what it is worth whi sel it and let me know it and i wil get another one when i cum home. bil is a going to take mi box of sea shels home with him. he wil leve them at the post offis or at John Tuttles if he has a chance. if not he wil take them home with him and you wil have to send thar for them. if his ancle is very soar when he gets thar he wont feal much like botherin with anney thing of that kind until after he gets rested. wal about going to illanois. i never did have a very good opinion of that state as a plase of residence but i never traveld over that part of it and if thay ar al agoing thar it is no plase for me. al that i wil ask wil be mi share of the land in monney. tel anna that i think her fameley is about larg anuf now and she had better stop rite off and tel her that if she dont stop and see us when thay move west that i wil never cum and see them as long as i can help it. in mi last letter i roat you i roat that we was haveing som pretty hard times but it is al over with now for we get plenty to eat now and it is warm and plesent. i dont know when we wil get paid but hope not until we get to som plase whar we cand send it hom. if we was paid now i could send you fifty dollars with bil smith but i dont beleve thar is a paymaster her. at least i have not herd of anney. that is the way it is. when i have a chance to send it i havent got it to send. if i had ben with the regt when fred started i could of got the monney but now i cant for the boys have spent thar monney and thay owe me twenty six dollars now for tobacco and other things that i cant get until pay day. i think that fred wil let you have som. he promest me he would. wal rosa dear i must close this letter and help bil down to the boat. continue to write as often as you can and tak car of your self and ophelia and have pachence and i wil cum home next summer. mi helth is first rate. so good by from your afectionate husband John E Richardson




Decros Point Febuary 8th 1864
                         “        10

Mi Dear wife
it is with pleasure i seat mi self to write you a few lines to let you know that i am alive and well and hope this wil find you the same. you wil see that i commenst to write two days ago but concluded to wate until the next male cum and perhaps i would get a letter from you which i did this morning and i was very glad to her from you for it had ben a good while sence i had herd from you. the last one was writen the first of January and i was getting very unesey about you. i sopoes thar must be 2 or 3 letters behind yet for the one i got this morning was riten the 22. we ar stil her in the same sandy desert and ar likeley to stay her the ballence of our time let it be long or short. thar is som reenlisting going on but i dont know wether i shal enlist agane or not. i am tempted to to get out of this plase. it wil be horable her when the warm wether cums. it is as warm her now as it gets at home in the summer and if the regement enlist agane i shal go with it for i could not sta her alone and i beleve the ware wil be over before next fall anneyhow and if we reenlist we wil get to cum home next April and stay 60 days. so we would mis next springs campane and if peas is not declard before it commenses it wil be the hardest campagn that we have had for it is the very last chance the rebels have. thay ar straning every nerve and compeling every man and boy from the agus of 15 to 65 to Join the army but after al i dont beleve that thay wil fight for thar is so menny that ar opposed to it. thay are finding out that thay would not gane anney thing if the south should gane her independence exsept a few of the head leders. i wish i had a rope around thar necks. thay would never rase another rebelion. we dont get anney mor fresh meat to eat. when we first came we got al we wanted but now we onley get salt beaf and a little pork and onley half rasions at that. we ketch a few fish when we can get the cutt[?] but that is not often. the fish that we get her ar al diferent from thoes we get at home. wal rosa dear i must bring this letter to a close for the bugle has gust sounded the cal for drill. we have to drill about 3 hours every day. you must excuse bad writing for i am setting flat on the ground and writing on the bottom of a tin plate. we cant get bords anuf to mak us a table.
now rosa dear forgive me if i am rong. when i was reding your letter it struc me that thar was som things rong somwhar but what it is or whar i cant tel. i have red it 4 or 5 times with the same fealing but can make nothing mor of. perhaps it wil amount to nothing. hope so aney how. wal good by. write as often as you can to your luving and true husband.
John E. Richardson
[A handprint is traced at the bottom of the letter with the caption: “Saturday March 5th 1864. O. A. Richardson’s Hand mark”]


John E. Richardson's letters are published here with the generous permission
of Ralph Baughn, Rochester Hills, MI. Ralph owns the original letters and retains
the exclusive copyright to them. They may not be reproduced in any form
without his explicit permission.

Many thanks to Sue Boggs for providing the background
information on the Richardson family.


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