Grouping of 9 Letters from William H. Gray, Sutler Assistant & then a Member of the 131st Ohio Infantry
When his brother John H. Gray went off to war in the 101st Indiana regiment, his brother William was too young. So what did William do? He went with the regiment as an assistant to the sutler! The first 3 letters concern his job as that assistant. They are written from Tennessee in 1863: June 26th, July 6th, and July 7th.

The next 5 letters are almost a year later in 1864 when William joined the 131st Ohio National Guard. They date May 12th, May 23rd, June 8th, July 16th, July 28th and August 2nd. All the letters are written home to his folks.

Here is a summary of these letters:

LETTER #1 – Written in pencil with cover in ink.

• Murfreesboro, Tenn. June 26, 1863. Friends at Home, I am now in the town but the Bat. has gone out in the front for fight. I have not seen John for 2 days as he had to go out with the Bat. and the sutlers did not go. I seen about 9 now. SEE ABOUT 40 OR 50 AMBULANCES GOING A PAST THE STABLE WHERE I AM SITTING FILLED WITH WOUNDED MEN. The mud is knee deep in some places inside the fortifications. We will stay here until the army is paid off, so I am probably safe while we stay here. Father said something about getting the sutlers place in the Reg. about the time he had 4 or 5 of his mules stole, he would begin to think of quitting the business. Mr. Cahill, that is my boss, had 3 stolen the night before the army moved so he could not go long with them, but he has 2 teams ready for use now. I like him very well. When up to the Reg. we eat at the officers. I went down town this morning, and I saw 52 prisoners come in that we had captured in the fight. If I had some way to save trophies, I could get many nice things, but I will send you a piece of awning that come off of the courthouse which has been a splendid affair. I got Rebel prisoners to cut it off for me, as I thought it would be better. I got here safe on the 18th. I guess this is all at present. Yours as ever, W. H. G. W. H. Gray

• Our goods are stored in town. They tell me that Reynold's Division has not been in the fight but held in reserve. I am writing on a feed box hat, was laying by my side. Mother, did you put any envelopes in the carpet sack. If you did, I cannot find them. Has Jennie come? W. H. Gray This is some of our money that I will send you.

• Sunday June 29. I wrote you a few lines as soon as I got here stating my arrival safe. I am now seated by the side of Colonel John Mitchel who is in the general hospital No. 1 where there are about 300 wounded men. SOME WITH THEIR EYES SHOT OUT. OTHERS WITH THEIR LEGS & SO ON IT GOES. This is all at present. Your son, W. H. Gray

• John Gray is safe yet for there is but 1 wounded yet and he is very slightly. On reverse: Started from home June 15th, 1863 for Murfreesboro, passed through Dayton, Cincinnati, by R. R., from thence to Louisville by the steamer Major Anderson, from thence to Nashville.

LETTER #2 – Written in pencil with cover.

• Wartrace July 6 1863. Dear Friends at home, We have been very busy for the last 7 days for we have been taking in $200 to $300 pr day so you see how much profits we have for we double and sometimes triple it. I have not seen John since the Army moved, but I have heard from him, and he is well and hearty as a buck. I have not heard from home since I left. I must quit as we are very busy. I am well. Your Son as ever W. H. Gray

LETTER #3 – Written in ink with cover.

• Wartrace Tenn. July 7 1863. Dear Friends at home, As I had some spare time I thought that I would write you a few lines to let you know how I am. I have been sick for 3 or 4 days with the diarrhea which has cut me down very much, but I am over it now, but I am weak yet.

• The Battery has gone down to Stevenson, Alabama and we will go as soon as we get another load of goods. WE SELL FROM $200 TO $300 PER DAY IN MONEY WHEN WE HAVE THE GOODS TO SELL. I will just name over a few things. Prices: butter 50 cts., thread pr spane 15 cts., pepper pr paper 10, Ink 10 cts., lead pencils 10 cts., suspenders $1.25, and paper 10 cts. Crackers 1 ct. a piece.

• I have seen Don Goggin since I have been here and several others that I did not expect to see. I am going to have some mush and milk for supper. There is a good Union Woman that is going to make it for me. We have good living for when we are in camp, we eat with the Officers. But now when we are away from the Bat., we have to cook our own grub.”

• Send me a recipe for cooking several things, so I can learn the cook how to cook them. I will send you ten $home in this letter. $10 ten dollars. I have been all over the Battlefields of Murfreesboro and the late fight.

• The health of the army is very good, and they are in good spirits and ready for fight. I believe this is all at present. Your Son as ever W. H. Gray Louisville Ky. 19th Ind. Bat.

• Jo Cahill started to Nashville for goods this morning and will be back in 3 or 4 days.

LETTER #4 – At Camp Chase following enlistment in the 131st Ohio National Guard – Written in pencil with cover.

• Camp Chase (May) 12 1864. Friends, All our Regiment left Dayton on the 11th at 7 1/2 p.m. I got a pass before we started for Columbus of 4 hours, and I went down to Aunt Sarah's and found the folks all well, and Jennie was there with her children, but I will leave for the cars again.

• We arrived at Columbus at 4 o'clock a.m. where we stayed until 8 o'clock a.m. when we started for camp, arrived at 9 1/2 a.m., the distance being 4 1/2 miles, but WHILE IN TOWN I TOOK A WALK AROUND THE 0. P. (OHIO PENITENTIARY) AND STATE HOUSE. THERE ARE ABOUT 1,400 PRISONERS AT THIS PLACE NOW. I feel well and hearty. W. H. Gray Co. E 2nd O.N.G. Cap Hall.

• Clay Worley is in our Regiment. I telegraphed to Piqua for him to come down. I made $5 on him. Jennie gave me $1.00 on the shoes. On Reverse: Send me some postage stamps.

LETTER #5 – Letter started in ink, then in pencil with cover.

• FORT MARSHALL May 23 1864. Dear Friends at home, As I have a few spare moments at present, I will write you the rest of my travels up to this place where I think we will stay the rest of our hundred days, and what makes me think so is that the Colonel has a stepson on General Lieut. Wallace's staff, and he told us that we were to put in the rest of our time here. I hope it is so for nicer quarters I never saw than we have at present.

• We are situated on Chesapeake Bay and joining the east part of Baltimore, in a stone frame house on the inside of the fort which of course is on a high hill. From the place where I sit now in my bunk, I can see 10 miles square of nothing but houses and manufactories of every kind, and I suppose that I could count 300 schooners and steamers.

• We have the best quarters in the whole Regiment, but it was a wonder that we got them as Co. A gets the best of everything that is a going, and they are as mad as rip. We call them calico yard sticks for they are all store keepers in Dayton. They have little shanties like those were at the camp Johnson while we have regular built two story frame. All in one room the bunks are on the sides and there is about 20 feet space left between them where we call the roll and drill when it rains, so you see we have pretty nice times here. We get pork beans, bread, coffee, potatoes and rice. It is dinner time now and I will finish this P.M.

• P.M. The streets of Baltimore are nicer and cleaner than the streets of Dayton. The houses are 5 and 6 story high, made out of white marble. They look grand. The streets are said to be 10 miles long. That is those that run east and west, but leave off describing the city of Baltimore for I could write 1,000 pages of fools cap about it, and proceed on my journey for the place where we were left standing.

• Standing on the R.R. track 25 miles on the west side of Harpers Ferry, we started from there on the 21st of May p.m. for Baltimore. We traveled until very near dark when we struck the Potomac River about 1 mile from Harpers Ferry, turning past Rock 50 and 100 feet above the cars and along the edge of the river which was 20 feet to the water.

• Now we strike the ship canal which runs around the rapids and from there INTO THE CITY WHICH JOHN BROWN TOOK with a few men but had to give up and where our troops evacuated and took and evacuated again and took again and THE RUINS OF THE ARSENAL WHICH WAS A GRAND SIGHT AND THE TRUSSEL WORK.

• Pontoon bridges which extended across the Potomac River. Pontoons are made out of small boats with a wagon track over them. There are 75 boats in the bridge that I saw, they are fastened such a distance apart with the bow up stream and then fastened with large cables to the shore of Maryland and Virginia.

• It is a nice thing to see all the various things what are to be seen in nature and by the work of man and fire.

• Now I will tell you about the R. R. bridge that crosses at Harpers Ferry. There was about 1/4 of a mile washed away in the last fresh and that was the reason why we had to live in the cars/week, waiting for it to get finished. The bridge is 1 mile long made out of nothing but rot iron bars, stayed and braced so it cannot fall, but I tell you 47 cars made it rattle.

• About the train that we had, was that long, nearly two Regiments strong on the bridge and THE LOCOMOTIVES STALLED ON IT AND HAD TO WAIT UNTIL THEY COULD GET UP MORE STEAM. EVERYBODY WAS AFRAID IT WOULD FALL. But I was lucky. If it had fell I was right over the stone abutment and could jump off.

• Across the River in Maryland I laid down on top of the cars and slept all night as sound as you please, and when I waked up I found that we were within 6 miles of Baltimore. That was at Ellicott Mills. We arrived at Baltimore at 7 o'clock. That was Sunday morning. Got out of the cars, marched up to the market house, stacked our arms, piled our knapsacks, and then went up to the soldier's home and got our breakfast and marched back to our guns and knapsacks, run over the city until noon. And then got out dinners at the same place. We had our breakfast, waited until we got orders and started for Fort Marshall which was about 4 1/2 miles from the market house, reached there in due time to get our bunks, cleaned up and our beds made down, slept well until morning, sound as you did, I know.

• There is 37 siege pieces of artillery, 4 mortars and several small pieces on wheels, 12 pounders and 6 magazines full of ammunition. THERE IS PILES OF CANNON BALLS AS LARGE AS A GOOD-SIZED HOUSE, just like they look in pictures. Send me some postage stamps. Direct your letters to Wm. H. Gray Co. H 131st O.V.I. Care of Capt. H. C. Hall Fort Marshall, Md.

LETTER #6 – Written is in ink on legal size stationery.

• Headquarters Langeretto June 8th 1864.

• Home sweet home to Father, Mother & Sisters all, I received Sallie's letter dated on the 31st of May and was very sorry to hear that Mother was sick, but I hope that she is better by now. I was detailed to come down to this place Sunday last, 1 week ago, and I am very glad of it for we have good grub and everything nicer than we have at Camp Marshall.

• I am cooking for the mess now and I have my night's sleep, whereas if I was a guard, I would come on guard every other night which is harder than cooking for 9 men, and they split their own wood and wash their dishes. Write in the next letter how to cook rice & pudding & beans, potatoes, hominy & beef soup, dried apples in the various ways. We have plenty of milk to cook with for there are plenty of cows on the commons which we visit twice every day for our own benefit.

• We have plenty of fresh fish here now to eat and to sell as we are situated right on the Chesapeake Bay, two miles south of Ft. Marshall and opposite Ft. McHenry, guarding a magazine in the city of Baltimore where I see steamers and sail boats passing every minute in the day and night.

• Last Thursday morning there was a deserter that had enlisted for 5 years in the U. S. S.S., served 6 months, deserted 4 times, and now held for court marshal and CAME ACROSS THE BAY ON A LOG WITH A STICK OF WOOD FOR AN OAR AND GOT AWAY AT LAST.

• Tell me how you are getting along with the bridge and what Regiment the Piqua boys are in and where they are. Tell S. 0. B. S. 0. Barnett & J. J. Jarvis to write to me and I will answer. Has Judson Harvey fetched my rifle and molds home yet and gun lock? If not get it home and trade or sell it for something or other.

• Since I have been here I have been in the main part of the town once and can go where I please any time, so you see this is not soldiering like it is in some parts of the world. I believe this is all at present. As Ever Your Son & Brother W. H. Gray.

• I am well and hearty and am gaining this time instead of losing like I did the last time I was out. Tell me where John is now and how he is getting along. Directions: Wm. H. Gray Co. H. 131 0. V. I. Ft. Marshall Md. Wm H. Gray Co. H. 131 0. V. I. Ft. Marshall Baltimore Md. Care Capt. Hall. Write and tell me how mother is soon. I will send you our eel skin home. Tell father to tie it around his ankle and it will help his lameness.

LETTER #7 – Written in pencil on patriotic stationery

• Elk River July 16, 1864. Friends at home, John and I are together once more. I have been sick but I am well again and in the store doing business. My month will soon be out and end. Then I will send you $20 more. I sent you $10 home of what I had left and some of those things that I sold.

• What would you think if some man would come and let down the fence and go to cutting corn down for fodder for horses and knock down hogs & cows and brake their necks for chickens, when you get 850 wagons in one string, then that looks like war and 30 or 40 thousand soldiers in one bunch.

• John struck the cartridges in the cannon when he was in the fight. I believe this is all at present. I believe your Son to ever. W. H. Gray. My love to all inquiring friends.

LETTER #8 – Written in ink with cover.

• Ft. Marshall Balt. July 28 '64. Home and Friends All, It has been some time since I last wrote to you. I received mother's letter written on the 17th and was sorry to hear that John was sick for it is not very pleasant to be in the hospital, but it may be all for the best. If he had not been there he would have been in another battle which might have proved fatal to him. As it is he is safe yet and I hope will be until his time is out.

• The boys are all talking about going home and what nice times they will have when they get there. I will not say when I will be home for I know not, but when I get there, then I will tell you that I am there, but our time will be out on the 22nd of Aug.

• As to the bundle I sent home, if it is lost will not break me up for it is only worth $16.45 sixteen dollars and forty-five cents, that is count the things at government prices although it cost me but $6.00 and some cents, but I will make them pay full price for it as I have a receipt for it.

• I hope that father will be done with his bridge when I get home and ready to go to III. on the farm for I do not like Piqua for a home, and it is the opinion of the most of us. It is the best thing that we can do to move on the farm and be with the land and see that it is tended to properly for it will make us a nice living just by having it tended to properly. It is as father says, it is nicer to be a king among beggars than a beggar among kings, but father and mother knows best as they are the oldest and the wisest of us all on that subject.

• I was over to Ft. Federal Hill on last Sunday. It is not near as strong nor as nice as Ft. Marshall is. It is the camp of distribution. The troops that are there have more to do than we do as they have to take prisoners to their camps and Regiment besides patrolling and doing guard duty every other day which is hard work.

• General Lockwood was here yesterday inspecting the fort and taking notes on the surrounding hills and valleys, preparing for a fight in case we should be attacked as the Rebels seem to like Md. for to rove is better than in their own country but they make nothing by the operation.

• Some talk about the one hundred days men not fighting, but it is all humbug for they will fight and keep off their number. If not more of the enemy as they know not when they are whipped and they keep on fighting as did the 149 Reg. 0. N. G. at Harpers Ferry.

• What Regiment is the Piqua company in and letter does it represent. Also find out what Reg. Clay Worley is in and what company and where both of the Regiments are. The general health of the regiment is good as we have lost but one man, young King of Company G died while calling the roll one morning. I just came off guard this morning and will be off three days. All at present as my paper is full. Will. H. Gray Co. H 121 Reg. 0. N. G.

• On front page at top written crosswise: There is a great deal of stealing done in the fort every night. Last night there was a $25 revolver stole and most every day somebody is robbed of his money. If John has but a very small office, it is the nicest thing in the business. He has better times as far as guard duty is concerned. He has a better thing than a Capt. or Lieut. The militia are all ordered out. That is in Balt.

LETTER #9 – Written in ink with cover.

• Aug. 2nd 1864 Ft. Federal Hill. Dear Parents and Friends All, I received Mother's letter dated 25th of July and was glad to hear from home but it is sad news to hear that Frank has been hurt. The way he is and to hear of Cassy Carmany's death and on the other hand, IT IS GOOD NEWS TO HEAR OF JO CAHILL BEING BROKE UP, FOR HE MADE HIS MONEY BY CHEATING THE POOR SOLDIER OUT OF IT, AND THEN HE WOULD SQUANDER IT AWAY PLAYING CARDS AND DRINKING WHISKEY. IT IS JUST GOOD ENOUGH FOR HIM. [He was the regimental sutler!]

• On last Saturday night about 9 o'clock, as I was on guard there came an order for the 13th Reg. to report at Ft. Federal Hill on Monday where we are now. I was detailed to go and clean out the quarters together with Lieut. Becker and Sergeant Widner and 8 men which was a nice job for we have freedom, power here and all that we had to do was to throw the boards out of the bunks and sweep out the house, put in the lines and throw water in the room for about five houses.


• I do not like this place as well as I did at Ft. Marshall. But we can stand it for one or two weeks yet, as some of the companies have been here ever since we came to Baltimore. I think that we will start home about the 15th of this month and will be in Dayton sometime between the 22nd and the 25th. Mother, you come down to Dayton between that time and I will be there. Fetch my citizen's clothes down with you and my best shoes. If it is handy, come in a buggy for I have to go out in the country for some things I sent home and to get the rest of my money that they owe me.

• I have been feeling a little unwell for the last two days, but I took a big dose of salts this morning, and I feel very well now but have not missed a roll call. "Dress parade, Company drill, Police duty" nor a time standing guard and that is more than any other man in the company can say, so you see that I have been well all the time. The guard duty is lighter here now than it was here before for there is more men by three companies here now than there was.

• This is the camp of distributers and there is 200 hundred stragglers here now, three out of our company have been sent to Harpers, and there will be a lot go to Washington tomorrow with more. It is getting late at night and I must close believing me to be as ever Your Son and Brother W. H. G. Co. H. 131st Reg. 0. N. G. Ft. Federal Hill Balt. Md. Send me no more postage stamps. To follow Reg. Care Capt. Holl

Obviously William Gray says some very interesting things especially in the May 23rd, 1864 letter from Fort Marshall. While that is a solid $200+ letter, we will sell all 9 letters for just…

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