These letters were written by Alanson Robert Piper (1843-1913) who enlisted in Co. B of the 4th Michigan Infantry in June 1861. He was promoted to Corporal on 1 July 1863. He reenlisted on 29 December 1863 and was wounded in action on 10 May 1864. He was on detached service with Co. B, 1st Infantry, by order 2 July 1864, Petersburg, Virginia. He was transferred to Co. D, 4th Infantry on 1 July 1865. Sergeant July 1 , 1865. He mustered out at San Antonio, Texas, on 13 March 1866.
Alanson was the son of Asa Piper (1809-1897) and Abigail Cornell (1812-1891) of Lenawee county, Michigan. Alanson’s older brother, Abel Piper (1837-1862) also served in Co. B and was one of the regiment’s first men to fall on 24 May 1862 at the skirmish at New Bridge. Alanson survived the war, married three times, and remained a Michigan resident the remainder of his life.
This letter was addressed to Alfred Tingley of Adrian, Michigan.
Washington [D. C.]
July 10, 1861
Dear friend Alfred,
I thought I would write a few lines to let you know that I am well and have so ever since I was sick in Adrian. I hope these few lines will find you in good health and the rest of the family.
We have such good and easy times that I am getting so lazy that I can hardly stir. But perhaps when I get out of this hot climate, it will be a little different.
There was a flag of truce came into the City last night from the Southerners but it was not paid much attention to by the President and General Scott for they took the man and put him under guard till morning and then sent him back with his flag.
There was a new instrument came into the City a few days ago for shooting the rebels. It was a iron battery fixed with eight rifle guns — four of them in a place at the top and at the bottom — and it [is] also fixed with an iron front fixed so that if a ball strikes against, it will glance off one side. They all load together by one man and just like the Sharp rifle and ball of the same size. It was brought here and tried and will very likely with a little mending be accepted. I did not see this myself but one of the men from our company saw it told me of it and he also see it shot.
We don’t know how soon we will have to fight and we don’t care how soon. But according to what we find out, I will be back there to husk corn next fall. I wish I had two or three thousand shingles to make so that [I could] keep from going to sleep in the daytime. I am half asleep now and I will have to stop here.
— Alanson R. Piper
I would write more but it is so noisy and such poor place that I can’t more than half write. Write as soon as you get this and I will write again. Direct your letters to A. R. Piper, Washington D. C., Camp Mansfield, 4th Michigan Regiment, in care of Capt. J. H. Cole
Fort Woodbury, Va. Sept. 8, 1861
I now sit down to endeavor to answer yours of the fourth. I was glad to hear from you and to hear [that] you are all well but I am rather under the weather. But never mind [for] I think I shall be all right in a few days if nothing happens. You must not fret about me for I can take care of number one yet a while. We got our state pay yesterday. It was $12.45 and we expect to get 24 dollars more this week. So if you want some , just let us know and we will send it to you. So do not go without anything you need for we can send it to you. Abe commenced this but could not finish it so I will do it. I am well and tough as ever and have not been sick a day since we left Adrian. When you write tell us know us how much that cheese cost to send it here. It did not cost us anything here. We have got our fort almost done and will finish it in a few days. We are also building breastworks about a 1/2 mile long from our fort to another. I suppose you have heard of General Butlers expedition down south but i will write the truth. He took 2 forts, 30 pieces of cannon, and 730 prisoners, [with] some of them their most distinguished officers. There was killed and wounded but not a man on his side was injured. I don’t think there will be an attack made very soon down this way but the longer they wait to attack us the worse it will be for them. If they ever do attack us here, the Michigan 4th is considered the best regiment in the service. For they don’t scare worth anything and Colonel Woodbury says [that] if he was to pick a company out of his regiment to fight, he would pick Company B, for they don’t care for nothing. Tell Mulford Wilder that Abe thanks him for that dollar very much [that] he gave you to send. Abe says [that] if that cheese didn’t cost so much to get it here he will send some more money to you to buy him some so he can sell them here at 20 cts. a pound. What does it cost per pound in Adrian? It is 20 cts. here. Please write soon. I was on guard last night and am sleepy today so i can’t write.
From your sons, A.R and A.M.D P
Fort Woodbury, Va.
September 22, 
I received your letter last night just as I came off picket guard. I was very glad to hear from you and to hear that you all was well. I am well as ever at the present and hope these lines will find you as well. Abe is pretty well now and is getting along as fast as he can. We have just got our U. States pay. It was $23.75. I will send $10.00 home for you to pay C. D. G. what you owe him or pay it all to him. I owed him $17.00 and some cts. in yours and mine together and I will send the rest when we get our pay again. Don’t you pay anymore than $18.00 anyhow. Abe has sent $10.00 in a letter to Mother.
I got a letter from Alzina too and W. H. got one last night from her and one from Ann. We will get our likenesses taken tomorrow and send it to you. We are a going over to the city tomorrow if we can get a pass. I think we can.
I will tell you of our picket guard. A whole regiment goes out at a time now. We went out Friday and came in yesterday. On Friday I was on post line at noon. I was lying down behind a tree eating my dinner and our lieutenant and another one stood picking hinklepins and there was two guns fired at them about 20 rods off, the balls striking close to them. I jumped up, grabbed my gun and looked to see where it came from and I saw a man just raising his gun over a log to shoot again. I stepped behind a large chestnut tree and shot at him before he did at me. I guess it went rather close for he didn’t shoot more did I see him anymore either. There was then a scouting party went out after them. They had been gone 1 hour and came across them. They commenced firing and killed and wounded some more. They then came back and yesterday morning at daylight 23 of us went out with our 2 lieutenants and we went about 1 mile when our lieutenants saw two sitting down. We wanted to take them prisoners but there was some on a hill that saw us and shot at some of us. We all dropped down flat on the ground so they could not see us. Our lieutenants stood behind a stack of wagon spokes within 4 rods of some. We commenced firing then at them and they shot back at us. One of our lieutenants stepped out and told one of them to surrender but he shot at him and he shot back and hit him in the shoulder and knocked him down. They thought at first they would make a stand but we whipped them and they run and left everything they had. We got a gun, 2 blankets worth $4.00 apiece [and] other things but they did not hit any of us.
I must stop. From your brother, — A. R. Piper
This letter was written to his mother Abigail (Cornell) Piper.
Camp of 4th Michigan Infantry
Green Lake, Texas
August 10th 1865
My dear Mother,
Your letter of the 19th of July came to hand but a few moments ago and you can imagine whether I was glad to hear from you or not for it is the first one since the one I received at New Orleans. I have looked for one in every mail but was disappointed in every one but this morning and I thank you very much for the comfort that you gave me in reading your letter. Mail comes in about once a week and sometimes twice.
You may borrow no trouble about me for I am in the best of health and hope to be at home in the course of a few months. Undoubtedly we will remain here for two or three months longer and there is more rumors about our coming home than you can shake a stick at but we can place no dependence on any of them but rest ourselves with the assurance that the War Department will send us home whenever they see fit and not before. And I wish they would see fit soon for I must say, of all my soldiering, I never have been in such a miserable and lonesome place as this is. And the worst of all is that we can’t rest nights on account of the mosquitoes which abound in great abundance and nearly as large as an ox. I thought I was a goner last night for they come down on me in a solid column and I had to fight desperately to repulse them and at last came off victorious but slept no more for the night for they kept up a heavy picket firing till morning, then retreated leaving me in possession of the field.
The fellow that you speak of belonged to Co. C of this regiment formally called Co. A of the old “4” and was left on the road while coming down here. His name is Peter Fournia.
The country is so barren that I have run across nothing new but soon as I do, I will send you the seeds of any article that I can. I am glad that father’s crops look so well. I saw some corn growing down here but it was the same as his. But if I find any, I will send you some.
I am glad that some of the Palmyra boys are home even if I am not permitted to come right away. Has Americus Randall done anything to C. S. R. yet? I guess it will all play out. I wrote a letter to Andrew yesterday and directed it to Palmyra and if he has not come home yet, I wish you would send it to him.
I expect we will move in a few days to a place called Victoria about 25 or 30 miles from here and it is also reported that the government is going to build a railroad from Indianola to that place but I don’t know whether it is so or not.
I must write to Alzina today. Hoping to hear from you soon, I will close. I am most respectfully your affectionate son, — A. R. Piper, Co. D, “4” Michigan
P. S. Please send me all my photographs that you have not in use soon as you can and oblige your son.