Eli Lake Starr

Eli Starr was the son of Calvin and Harriet Adelia Lake Starr of Centreville, Michigan. He was 21 years old when he enlisted as a Sergeant in Company C of the Fourth Michigan Infantry on June 20, 1861, at Adrian, Michigan. On July 1, 1862, Eli was killed in action  (struck in the head) during the battle of Malvern Hill, Virginia. His body was never identified after his death and he was buried as an “unknown”.

The following letters are shared through the courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

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Centreville May 16th, 1861

Bro. Hank1,

With feelings of most unmitigated and unqualified disgust I take my pen in hand to inform you that I have sold out my military outfit and have retired to the shades of a private life. The day you left a messenger from the Peninsular [Guard] came over with orders for all the members of the Company at Centreville to be at Sturgis on Wednesday. You know that I gave up my proposed expedition to Detroit only on the promise of Father and Mother that I might move in the first Company that left from this county. Well, here was a chance. We were told that the Co. had rec’d orders to march into camp at Adrian on Friday & we must be there at Sturgis on Wednesday to prepare. I told them I didn’t want to go on Wednesday for I had an engagement for that night but would be there on Thursday morning, which as I had my outfit, would be ample time. But he was anxious for me to come Wednesday. So, over we Centreville boys went, got over there & found that they had rec’d no orders to move & didn’t [know] when they would, but had sent out for us on the supposition that they were to. Well of course they didn’t want us as they had expected and after very generously permitting us to pay our own bills, informed us that they could give no definite information as to when they would want us. We, in return, informed them that it would be entirely unnecessary for them to send for us on any future occasion, and after offering my military cap to them for half price, the red, white, and blue necktie thrown in, we shook the dust of Sturgis from our sandals and winded our way homeward. Thus endeth the first chapter. I had bought a big horse blanket off Jonathan for $6.00 which I shall now try and return to him also & [a] new carpet sack off Jon. Talbot (as you had none) but this, I am afraid, I can not return, owing to the fact that I procured services of P. G. Eaton Esq. to embellish on the side of it with

Eli L. Starr

Company A 4th Regiment

Direct all communications to C. H. Starr

1  Hank is Eli Starr’s brother, Henry H. Starr


This letter is without date and unsigned but falls in place about this period in Eli’s writings….


Bro. Hank,

I seat myself for perhaps the last time in Centreville to write you a letter. I was over to see Stoughton1 yesterday in regards to enrolling myself in the Peninsular Guards.

William Lewis Stoughton

William Lewis Stoughton

They have telegraphed to the Adjutant General for definite instructions which they will be answered today. Haynes goes over for orders & comes back tonight. Several of the boys talk of going. Add. Carpenter2 Judd, Akers, Tip, Platt, Danl. Knipple3, etc. Lin. Talbot has gone to N. Y. to buy goods. Libbie Hill & Co. have again opened their establishment & are in full blast. Norton has come on to take charge of the new Hotel Elder. Nichols preached a Union sermon last night & at the close the choir sang America”. Hank Grosset & family have returned & are stopping with Mrs. Demott. I am very busy & will close. In this letter I send you $7.00 (seven dollars) for Wit Hewings [and] it is western funds & he wants you to sell it for what you can: do the best you can by it & return him the proceeds at once.

1This was most likely referring to William L. Stoughton of Sturgis, Michigan. He would enlist as a Lieutenant Colonel in the 11th Michigan Infantry on August 24, 1861.

2Addison Carpenter enlisted in Company C of the Fourth Michigan Infantry on June 20, 1861.

3Daniel H. Knipple enlisted in Co. G. of the First Michigan Infantry on May 10, 1861

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Camp Williams, Adrian
June 4th, 1861

Bro. Hank,
I read your letter last night & it did me good. I have not finished a long letter home & thought I would devote a few lines to you. You ask if I go as a Private or a Sergeant. I am a Sergeant & of course am relieved from much of the discomfort of camp life. You said you would send Aileen Aroon to No. 1. I wish you would not now, but write to her if you wish & as much as you wish. We are now located in the Wesleyan College buildings about ½ mile s west of the city. We are on an eminence commanding a fine view of the country to the east & southeast. We are in camp about 800 strong & are going through a thorough & systematic drill.

July 7, 1861 Hardee's Tactics maunual advertisement~

July 7, 1861 dated advertisement for the two volume “Hardee’s Infantry and Rifle Tactics!” manuals.

I have bought Hardee’s [Tactic Manual] & have been studying him ever since I came into camp & shall probably begin to drill a squad tomorrow. Today is a wet dismal day & we have no drill, only Dress Parade at 5 pm. Our hours are Reveille at 5 am, breakfast at 6:30 am, Squad Drill from 9 to 11:30 am, Dinner 12:30 pm, Company Drill from 2 to 5 pm, Dress Parade at 5, Supper at 6:30 pm. At 9 pm, unless we have the countersign, all must be inside of the lines or go to the guard house. At 9:30 all lights must be extinguished. I will give you my experience “for one day & one day is as a thousand years”. At 5 precisely the Reveille is sounded & I rise, dress myself, wake such of the boys as are still asleep & call the roll. We go down, wash, form company, call the general muster roll & march into breakfast. This is to be found in a long shed that has been put up at the rear of the college buildings, then plain board tables [were] run through the entire length of the building. Each man is furnished with a pewter plate, knife & fork & tin cup. Our provisions are abundant fresh beef every day, beans, ham, pork, bread, butter, sugar, milk, potatoes & various other things not drawn in the regular army rations. We got in here Monday in the afternoon. I was assigned room 57 & twenty men were placed under my charge. By a little figuring I got Bill Walters, Add. Carpenter & George Akers, who came in on Wednesday, all in my room. It makes it much more pleasant for us. The great drawback here is the scarcity of water, which to us is essential. I hear it rumored that we will be ordered to Monroe, Grosse Isle, or some other point soon. I hope this may be so. After our uniforms are ready, & the contract for making them runs out tomorrow, we are to have leave of absence for a few days to return The rest of the boys from Centreville will probably go home next week. I can not for sometime. If I do at all. If I do however, I shall try to make perhaps a flying trip to Chicago in at night & out the next morning. Bill Massey is in the city & was to have been up tonight to give me a turn around the city. But, owing to the inclemency of the weather will probably not be here [I] am certain. Mr. R. is on the drill grounds daily & I have a secret satisfaction in knowing that I know him & he don’t know me. In fact, it is rather amusing at times. The peanut and apple pie men are driving a staring business here. As to liquor, you told me to let it alone. I shall. I thought at first [that] I could drink an occasional glass of beer but found if I drank with one, I must drink with all, so I stopped entirely. I shan’t touch a drop. When the Ann Arbor boys came in I expected to find many of my old acquaintances but was disappointed. I found but two. I ran across a Delta Kappa Epsilon the other day & of course I was pleased. The first night we came in I was furnished with 4 ticks. This of course for 20 men was wholly insufficient. So I rolled myself in my blanket, laid down on the floor & told such of the boys as could get on the ticks & the rest to follow my example & not grumble till I did. The result was that they were all ashamed to grumble & no fault was found. Today we rec’d our first installment of guns & the boys are perfectly crazy with delight. I understand that Sturgis will send us a supply of Havelock caps and towels. Your offer of a rubber blanket was very kind, but as we are soon to be furnished with them I must refuse. We have some pretty hard cases here, as must be expected. There have been 8 fights since I commenced writing this. The belligerents are at once marched to the guard house. Last Sunday night at the evening parade, we had to stand in a heavy rain for about a half an hour. My blanket was thoroughly wet. I expected to take cold but at night I rolled myself in it & laid down to sleep. I awoke the next morning all right. We have a few cases in the hospital but as [of] yet, my change of life has affected me not at all. We have a post office here & all communications must be addressed to:

E. L. Starr
Company C
4th Regiment
Adrian, Mich.

P.S. In regard to that cigar girl you had better preserve your incog. Common prudence will suggest it.

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Harrisburg, Pa.

June 27th, 1861

Dear father,

We are in camp at the Capitol of the “Keystone State”, 1170 strong. The regiment is the largest that ever left Michigan, which can be accounted for from the fact that a portion of the 3rd [Michigan] Regiment joined us at Toledo, being afraid to march through Baltimore alone. Our way was one continual ovation, bouquets were showered down on us at almost every station. At some, they were up all night to meet us. I haven’t slept two hours since starting, being on guard all the time, day & night. This was for the purpose of seeing that not a man was left at any station. At various points coffee was served us, at others a lunch, at Elmira, N. Y. we took supper with the 23rd [New York] Regiment, of which Oscar Water’s brother1 is Lieutenant. I tried to find him but could not.

On our route we left one man in the hospital at Elmira. His name was Schaffer2, from Co. C (our Company). Another, Rouse3, from the Dexter Co. fell overboard & was severely injured. It is supposed [that] he cannot live. These were our only accidents. I would write more but can not, being too tired. I cannot say how long we stay here. We are in tents, far more comfortable than at Adrian. Look for *–* in the Reporter & send to me when you know where I am, unless you rush.

1  Second Lieutenant Alvah B. Waters of the 23rd New York Infantry

2  This was probably Private Lewis Schaffer who died of disease at Brigade Hospital on November 20, 1861

3  Private John Rouse of Company K cut a six inch gash in his skull when he fell from the moving train.

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Meridian Heights

Washington D. C.

July 4th, 1861

Bro. Hank,

I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well & hope these few lines will find you enjoying the same blessing. I suppose with all your curiosity to hear something of the war, like you will consider the above rather a cool beginning. Yet I am in no very enviable state of mind today. I had expected to have had [a] leave of absence today & [to] go down to the city or over to the camp of the 2nd [Michigan Infantry] but instead thereof I was detailed as Sergeant of the Guard. My duties are to make the rounds every two hours & relieve those on guard. I shall be awake all night.

July 5th

When I commenced my letter yesterday I expected to have had time to finish it but I left my ink at the camp tent & so tried a lead pencil at the guard tent but my duties were too many to permit any further writing home a letter home. So I concluded to close till today. I am off duty now for 24 hours so I will have time to write to you, sleep some, & go down to the city.

Washington D. C. during the war

Washington D. C. as it appeared during the Civil War (Library of Congress)

I have been so busy since our arrival that I have been to the Capitol but once & then for but a short time. We got in here 1170 strong on the night of July first & were quartered in a 4 story building devoted to this purpose on Pennsylvania Avenue. If you recollect, when you were here I had a large blue blanket, well it was too heavy to carry so I made an arrangement with one of the lieutenants to take it in his trunk. So when we got into Washington the result was I found my blanket locked in his trunk & his trunk locked in the luggage car for two nights. I slept on the bare floor, and I can assure you that I slept as quietly & soundly as you did in your bed. In fact, this kind of life does me good. I haven’t seen a moment of sickness since I left. George Akers has been down for a day or so but is now better. Mr. Greely is still to be found at all convenient hours caring the stiff armed poker on some innocent mare. [We] are about 3 miles from the 2nd & expect to remain in our present position for some months. We seem to be in the midst of regiments. There are 10 within eight minutes march of us. 3 are within less than 6 rods. They are some Maine & N. Y. boys. I wrote this morn to let you know that I was healthier than anything. I will write soon again, am awful sleepy, haven’t closed my eyes for 24 hours & have been walking about two miles an hour during the time. [I] have seen here Simonds, Chadwick, Mann, Chas. L. Miller.


Direct E. L. Starr

Co. C 4th Mich. Regiment

Camp Mansfield, Meridian Hill

Washington D. C.

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4th Regiment

Mich. Infantry

Camp Mansfield, Meridian Hill

Washington D. C.

July 5, 1861

Dear Mother,

I was much disappointed yesterday in not going down to the city. There was a Grand Review of the N. Y. Regiments, but as it was my turn to act as Sergeant of the Guard, I was compelled to remain at camp. And in regard to my guard duties, as you seem to express considerable interest on the subject when I was home last, I will say that I am not compelled to stand guard either as sentinel or picket. But as Sergeant of the Guard I have to make the rounds of the Company [every] two hours for 24 hours. This of course gives me no time for sleep. So last night, from our camp I had the full benefit of all the fireworks down in the city. I only become Sergeant of the Guard once in a great while. But when I do, it is with no sleep for a day in addition to the round to relieve sentinels every two hours. I very likely have once or twice to make the grand round & see if all are awake & at their posts, if not, arrest them & send them to the guard house. There, [they are] on bread and water to reflect on their shortcomings. I last night placed 3 in confinement. One was fast asleep, the other had laid his gun on the ground. The other let me pass him after I gave him the wrong countersign. I took a guard of twenty men during the afternoon & went down to protect a lager beer shop that the boys threatened. But after we returned, some of the boys set it on fire & it was burned. They are now trying to find [out] who did it. I just rec’d your letter directed to me at Harrisburg. It followed me here & and in regard to that, I will say that you [should] direct your letters properly to the point where the Regiment was last in camp. It will come on alright. You ask in the letters whose picture that is. It is the French boy, Chester Toupence1, & he wants you to give it to Charlie Beersteicker with instructions to Charlie to give it to his brother Adolph, who is at Kalamazoo, and Adolph is to give it to Chester’s folks. The blanket belongs to Add. Carpenter2. You will please give it to his folks. All the rest belongs to me. As to clothes, I wish now [that] I had sent home one more woolen shirt. I find it as very necessary to have light luggage. I am relieved from carrying my blanket which is one item & was smart enough not to draw some other things coming to me. So they go with the baggage, subject to my call. I tried to sell a woolen shirt [and] was offered $0.25. I concluded to keep it & give to some man who need it before I would part with it at that price. Tonight, July 5th, we had a big row3 in camp.


Quartermaster Henry A. Grannis

Our Quartermaster4 is disposed to make what he can & has kept back part of our rations. The result has been that we have some days actually been on short allowances. This is all since we left Adrian. I have myself made more than one meal off from hard biscuit or pilot or ship bread. Well, individually I did not care. I enjoyed myself first rate notwithstanding. But the boys began to growl, & at last tonight to cap the climax, coffee alone was furnished. The men refused to turn out to Dress Parade but at last did. I was not compelled to go but just about 5 minutes ago the entire company returned under arrest. I don’t know what the result will be but if they go to the guard house, I shall go with them. We got out of it tip top, the whole company formed [and] went to the Colonel’s tent& asked his forgiveness after a few words of admonition he let us return to our quarters. We came near losing our colors but it is all right now. In regards to our trip through Baltimore, we were not molested in the least. Union flags were flying. We were presented with ice water bouquets. But one very remarkable feature was that most of these demonstrations came from the ladies. The men, although they crowded the streets, were very nonsocial. I said we were not molested [but] a revolver was drawn on the color-bearer. But the man was promptly arrested before he had time to fire. The city was completely in the power of the Federalists. Two or 3 regiments were quartered at different points. Artillery was pointed to sweep the principal streets & old [Fort] McHenry was ready. A Union man told me that late developments had been made showing that July 1st was to have been a general massacre of the Union men of the city & this accounted for the military occupation of the place. The Union men, some of them, looked white when they spoke of it. As soon as we had passed the Pennsylvania & Maryland line, we began to meet squads of soldiers stationed at the bridges & as we passed over many of them, we saw where they had been burned. I will write more [later] giving a description of my journey.

Eli. L. Starr

Send that “Reporter” [newspaper] having my letter in it to me at once. Direct all communication to E. L. Starr Co. C  4th Mich. Reg.  Camp Mansfield, Meridian Hill Washington D. C.. Instead of answering Charlie I will enclose a picture of the Capitol.

1  Private Chester Toupance also of Company C

2  Private Addison Carpenter also of Company C

3  A “row” in this sense is a noisy dispute, quarrel, or commotion

4  The regiment’s Quartermaster at this time was First Lieutenant Henry A. Grannis

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Fairfax Station, Va.

July 20th, 1861

Dear Mother,

It was almost a Godsend that I found this paper. I discovered it in a book brought into camp by one of the boys. Yesterday I rec’d a letter from you dated July 11 & one from Henry dated July 14th. You can form no conception of the pleasure with which I read them. I would like to have witnessed the arrest of the secessionist from 3 Rivers & I hope the Constantine Artillery will prepare themselves for every emergency that may arise. I was glad to hear that Hattie enjoyed herself so well at the dance & still more to hear that Charlie Gladding was able to find enough of interest to make his first visit with you pleasant and agreeable. Tell Charlie Starr that if he was here, I would doctor his scalded foot with some medicine I took from a Secessionist Hospital. My last letter to you was from Cloud’s Mill, about 5 miles from Alexandria (the one taken possession of by the Mich. 1st). It was written hurriedly, for we were preparing for battle. But when we came upon them, they fled & we are now in possession of their entrenchments. We captured some flour, some sugar, rice, coffee, etc., but few prisoners however, although we capture two or three every day. But I will go back to our start from Washington. One week ago today, on Sunday, we were ordered to break camp at Meridian Hill & march. Everything was soon in readiness & as we passed down through the city we were cheered at every corner by groups of soldiers. I was met by Mr. Allen Goodrich who offered me any assistance I needed & told me to write him when I was sick at anytime & if possible, he would see that I take pains to keep him well posted as to my different positions. At the Potomac we took boats across to Alexandria.

Colonel Elmer Ellsworth of the First Fire Zouaves

Colonel Elmer Ellsworth of the First Fire Zouaves

Our line of march took us by the house hallowed & glorified by the blood of the martyred Ellsworth. I would have given much to enter the house, but the word was forward & we passed by with uncovered heads. The rest of the day until about 6 o’clock, was one steady tramp. When we came in sight of the Mich. 1st & the Zouaves. Here we went into camp & as it was my turn, I was compelled to act as Sergeant of the Guard. It was a weary night for me & when my last relief was posted at 9 am the next morning, I was glad to roll myself in my blanket. I was asleep in about two minutes. We stayed here till Tuesday night. Monday night we were ordered to prepare for a start on the next morning. We were to move with the other two regiments, as we were now in the enemy’s country, it became necessary to select the pioneers. The Colonel gave orders that ten picked men from each company be ordered out “men who would, if told, tear the gates of hell from their hinges & bridge it over for the others to follow”. Very much to my satisfaction, the Captain handed me a paper & told me to fill it out with such men as I chose. I at once did so & on arriving on the ground found that I had been made First Sergeant of the Pioneers with 50 men under me. One hundred formed the full compliment, the other 50 being placed under a Lieutenant of Co. A. We now have made preparations for a forced march. We are allowed to carry a blanket & nothing else (guns of course). 50 axes & 20 rounds of cartridge were now furnished us & away we went through forests & over streams. We were in the rear of the Mich. 1st & Zouaves so our labors were light. We marched till about ten o’clock & then after a supper of hard bread, of which we took 3 days rations, we laid down around our campfires to sleep. It was a picturesque scene. We were in a valley between two mountain heights & far above us on every side were blazing the signal fires that had guided us. We could see at times the dark forms of the soldiers flitting around them. I thought of the wizards of the mountains nearer & close by us were the Fire Zouaves piling rails upon the fire, laughing, joking & playing all sorts of antics. The Mich. 1st was a short distance from them, guarding a pass was a battery of artillery, while long rows of horses told where the Regular Cavalry was stationed. Our guns were stacked & we slept near them four men to a stack. The next morning we resumed our march. Our march was a difficult one. We had to wind through mountain passes & every few moments had to pause and open ranks for the cavalry & cannon to pass us. One piece excited great enthusiasm. It was a 32 pounder, drawn by 12 horses. During the afternoon word was passed back that they were fighting at Fairfax C. H.. We could hear the cheers as the word was passed back & each regiment was wild with excitement. Then commenced a struggle as to who should be in the first. We were going at almost double quick when very much to our disgust, the word halt was given & then we had to wait for over an hour. First came the Regular Cavalry sweeping along, they cheering us & we cheering them. It was a splendid sight. Then came the artillery at a slower pace thundering & rumbling. These of course, were our strong arms. They, the artillery, passed on about a quarter of a mile & halted for a time. Then came the Scott Life Guard1 & the Garibaldi Guard2. Then our men were mad. They were willing to let the cavalry & cannon pass but not the infantry. We now commenced a race again. The firing could be heard ahead as the Rebels retreated. We of course were in the rear & the men swore and foamed at it. The houses were deserted & the men began to pillage. The roads were filled with fallen trees & the pioneers had to make new ones. When we got here, we found them in full retreat & took what stores were left. We followed them for about two miles & then returned to our present position. The first night we slept on our arms. Once or twice we have been routed out on false alarms but I apprehend no attack. We are repairing the railroad. Most of the vicinity is deserted & the men take what they want, honey, flour, potatoes, beets, pillows, crockery, looking glasses, chairs, clothing, etc., in fact, it is a general pillage. The men go into a field [and] shoot down a sheep, hog, or cow, dress it & bring it into camp. We are living rich. Today I had soup, roast beef, potatoes, coffee, griddle cakes, popcorn, honey & blackberry pie. 6 companies of our regiment have moved on with the Brigade but we are left behind. I can’t say for how long.

As I told you, we were left behind to repair the railroad tracks. But tonight we are ordered to move on to Fairfax I suppose. Sunday July 21st.

1 The First Scott Life Guard was also known as the 4th New York Infantry

2  The Garibaldi Guard was also known as the 39th New York Infantry

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Sunday July 21st, 1861

Brother Charles,

If you and Albert Dicky want to know how I live now, I will tell you. First, each of you get a gun, then get a bed quilt & go out under that oak tree in the front yard. Then, when night comes, roll up in the quilt & go to sleep. In the morning get an old frying pan & ask Mother for some salt pork. Cook it the best way you can over your fire, which you must make when you first get up. Then get some dry hard bread, the hardest that you can find. Now get an old cup & make some coffee. Then sit down [and] eat your salt pork & dry bread & drink your coffee & by that time you will have a pretty good idea of the way I live most of the time. I wish I could now send you some of the pretty things I see in the houses we have sacked but I can’t bother.


Eli Starr letter dated 7-21-1861

Eli Starr letter dated 7-21-1861

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Fort Woodbury

Sept. 25th, 1861

Dear Father,

Enclosed you will find $55.00 (fifty five) dollars which is as follows..

Eli L. Starr $20.00

Addison Carpenter $20.00

George Cook $10.00

Don Rickett 5.00


The money will be sent as follows…about $1000 will be sent by various members of the Company to Sturgis. This package will be sent to Wm. R. Haynes who will hand it to you & you will please distribute it as above. Carpenters $20.00 you may hand to Mr. or Mrs. Collins [at] the first opportunity [that] presents [itself]. George Cooks and Don Ricketts $15.00, in all, you may enclose in another envelope and direct to–

William Cook


St Joseph Co. Mich.

Stating this amt. Sent by each & requesting him to hand George Cook’s $10.00 to Mrs. Sarah cook & Don Rickett’s $5.00 to Henry Rickett.


The entire Company sends home about $2000. I wrote to the Reporter today. All well. George Akers discovered a plan of the enemy’s fortifications & positions together with an estimate of all their forces in Va. He gave it to Gen. McClellan who pronounced it of the most incalculable value.

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Porter’s Division, 2nd Brigade     Henry sent a request for a State button1. I sent it. Did he                                                             ever receive it?

Falls Church, Virginia

January 9th, 1862

Dear Father,

Last night I was the happy recipient of a home letter bearing [the] date of the 5th. It would have done your soul good to have seen the happy faces in our Regiment when our rifles were distributed. They are of the Springfield pattern with elevated sights. Our shots, Geo. Akers etc. will strike a man’s hand with ease at 100 yards. With such guns and such a cause, we would be less than men were we to give the Old Peninsula cause to blush that the 4th was of her children. We are satisfied now, and shall go down into the storm of battle with brave, strong hearts.

The Fourth Mich. Inf. out on a scout

Men of the Fourth Michigan Infantry out on picket.

We are now longing for a chance to go out on Picket by the by. However, our scouts tell us that in the immediate front of our Division, the rebels have drawn in their Pickets, being unable to endure the exposure. It has, to be sure, been [the] most bitterly cold, when at times the wind has come sweeping down on us from the northwest through the mountain gorges. I can hardly think it possible that such is the case, for in Napoleon’s disastrous Russian campaign, no troops withstood with more fortitude, the miseries of his retreat, than the Italians. That the powers of endurance of the Rebels are not equal to that of the northern troops, I have no doubt, but that they can not withstand such weather as we have experienced thus far, is to say the least, a little remarkable. And speaking of Scouts, I am told that Capt. Tyler, one of them, is now under arrest at Washington, having been detected in giving intelligence to the enemy. He has always been an object of distrust to his men but we had supposed that he enjoyed the confidence of the leaders. The report of his arrest caused no surprise. I once myself detected him in a lie, which though small in itself, gave me something of an insight into his character. We were on picket at Barrett’s Hill. I was on the reserve with orders to visit the advance post on the Leesburg Turnpike and in case any one made their appearance thereabouts to place them under arrest & convey them to the Officer of the Day. One man among others presented himself at the post & wished to pass inside & obtain some articles that had been brought on to him from Washington by a man riding within the lines. I took him to headquarters & was told to allow him to get the articles he wished, examine them, and if all right, pass him outside of the lines. I did so. But while in conversation with the man of the horse, he said that Capt. Tyler was going to buy a horse off him the next day for $120. Well sure enough, the next day along came Tyler with the horse but told us he had stolen it from a secesh stable. I knew better, and from that day placed but little confidence in any of his statements. I suppose you must have heard on this of the release of the 240 Union prisoners. One of them, James Livingston2, was a member of our Company. We expect him tomorrow. I sent you a letter a short time ago with Zack Chandler’s3 frank on it by way of experiment. Did you receive it, and if you did, did you have to pay the postage? Gordon and I have taken George W. Akers into our tent. We have things very comfortable now but are in daily expectation of an order to advance. You speak of the inactivity everywhere apparent, it is a mystery to us [as to] why we are kept here doing nothing at a cost of a million [dollars] a day. I don’t wonder that those at home are growing impatient at the delay. The men are ready. I can hardly believe that McClellan’s promise of no more Bull Run affairs meant that we were never to have a chance to redeem ourselves. Dinner, bill of fare: Bean soup & breads.

Write soon,


1  This reference is to the brass military buttons that were on some of the Michigan soldiers uniform’s which bore the state seal.

2  Private James Livingston of Company C had been taken prisoner at Camp Union, Virginia on August 30, 1861.

3  Zacharia Chandler was a Michigan State Senator at the time.


This letter is without date and unsigned but falls in place about this period of Eli’s writing….


Yesterday [I] saw a man who had been recommended for a certificate of disability on account of the same troublesome complaint that at times afflicts Henry, a “floating cartilage”, and you remember when his leg used to “lock”? Otherwise, the man was perfectly robust & hearty. On the first day of January I bought a diary & began making entries therein. I wish [that] I had kept one for the six months preceding. The details of our trip to Fairfax C. H. & back, would have been interesting, particularly our stay at Fairfax Station working on the R.R. , picket [duty], forages, etc. I wish next time you see Morgan Reed, [that] you would ask him if he rec’d any money from George Akers and report [the] answer. When I think of the circumstances under which George left Centreville, I can not help [but] feel that the exercise of a little humanity and discreet forbearance will in many cases work a more sure & thorough reformation in [a man] than will a rigorous & unforgiving policy, had he been detained in jail and brought up to answer for the offense, punishment I suppose must have been inevitable. The offense was too plainly proven against him to admit [any sort of] argument. But here, he is honored & respected as a good and faithful man. Then even had he been acquitted, of which there was little probability had the thing been pushed, he would have felt himself dishonored and distrusted and might, under such feelings, have been influenced from bad to worse. It is here known to but two or three and no allusion is ever made to it. Society would have lost a man. Now she has gained one. It is best to “deal gently with the erring one as God hath dealt with thee”. George says honestly that it was his first offense, that he had been in Centreville for some months with plenty of money, the proceeds of his prior work. His board with Morg cost him nothing and like most boys, he had spent it foolishly & wastefully, so that when he came to enlist he was penniless. He knew that Morg knew [that] he had had money & was ashamed to ask him for any help. As to asking it of others, it was too much like begging. The opportunity provided itself, he took fifty cents & was detected. It will probably be his last offense of that description. You had not [to] speak to Reed in regards to the money. George has [already] heard from him.

____________________________________________________________________________________________  TRANSCRIPTION

March 28th [1862]

I had this letter ready to send yesterday but as we were going to make a move of some sort tonight [ I thought that] I would wait till our return. We made a reconnaissance in force to Great Bethel. The enemy made no resistance but retreated. Our advance killing but two of their rear guard. The N. Y. 14th found a man concealed in a bed & took possession of him. He claims to be a negro but to a northern man he is to all appearances white. The negro with us however says he is a negro. Everything is prospering. We are living on oysters & sweet potatoes. Don’t forget the International.



Should anyone inquire you may say that every man of this Co. is well with the following exceptions.

Capt. A. R. Wood 1 left at Georgetown

Gordon Bates2 left at Alexandria

Fay Howk3 left at Fortress Monroe

George Cook4 left at Fortress Monroe

Wesley Thompson5 left at Alexandria

John Thomas6 left at Fort Corcoran

Send me a lot of International7 etc. It passes current here & answers every paper being preferred to Secesh.

1  Captain Abram R. Woods of Company C. Less than a month after this letter, Woods would be accidentally shot and killed by Private Luke Barns while the two men were out on picket duty on April 18, 1862.

2  Sergeant Gordon Bates of Company C was discharged for disability at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 4, 1862.

3  Private Fayette Howk of Company C

4  Private George Cook of Company C

5  Private Wesley Thompson also of Company C

6  Private John J. Thomas of Company C was discharged for disability on April 20, 1862 at Washington D. C.

7  This is probably a reference to either a particular newspaper or even more likely private banknotes


June 6, 1862

Chickahominy River

Enclosed find $20.00. All well up to present date. Tough living, hard fighting, and plenty of it. I shall either be in my grave or else home by the 4th of next July if things prosper as they have. I am now Orderly of Co. C. Write soon, E. L. Starr

Eli Starr letter dated 6-6-1862

Eli Starr letter dated 6-6-1862


The following memorial note was kept among the letters by his family…..


4th Sergeant Eli L. Starr, Co C 4th Mich. Reg. Was killed by the Rebels at Malvern Hill, July 1st, 1862 after 5 days of battles before Richmond. He was shot through the head and died instantly……..The testimony of his Capt. & Headquarters all show him to have been brave, dying with his gun raised to fire, and as one of them, exposed himself. “He fell with his face to the enemy” The fortunes of War are hard, but there is a just God that rules and governs the right, and will guide our brave men on to victory. Oh that all our brave soldiers who have fallen in battle could have fitting monuments in memory of their courage and bravery.