Pvt. Newell White of Co. B of the Fourth Michigan Infantry wrote these letters to his cousin James Close of Deerfield, Michigan. There are five letters written by Newell that were part of a three soldier (4th Mich.) grouping. Newell was the brother-in-law of Johnson White (one of the other letter writers in the grouping). Newell and Johnson married sisters. Newell married Sarah M. Halstead and Johnson was married to Mary Halstead. Johnson’s father, John White, was the Fife Major of the Fourth Michigan Infantry’s band, and the third author in the letter grouping.
Newell had one of the most unusual post-war deaths of all of the veterans of the Fourth Michigan Infantry. His obituary in a local paper stated that “On June 19, 1885 in Middlefork Twp., Macon Co., MO, Newell White was killed after being struck by lightning while sitting by a window. Eight to ten years earlier, he had also been struck by lightning and rendered unconcious while sitting in the very same place.”
Washington [D. C.]
August 5, 1861
Dear friend and cousin,
I sit down to write a few lines to you to let you know that I am well at present and hope these few lines will find you the same. Johnson has got able to drill again. Uncle John is as tough as a pine knot. We all three eat dinner together. Today we had pork, beef, and beans with a little soup in it, some bread, sugar and tea — better than we generally get.
There is some heavy firing southeast of us today. We have not yet heard the cause of it but it is supposed General Patterson is a giving the rebels hell. There is some talk of our going home the 16 but not a certain fact. They say that they cannot hold the 3 years men that was sworn in before the 4th of July. They have got to swear us in again before they can hold us. If it is so, we will be very apt to come home for there is not a dozen of the boys that will swear in again. I can get my discharge any time on the account of my legs. They are a great deal worse than when I left home but I shall not leave as long as I can stand it. I am tough enough to cross hell on a wooden bridge to whip a traitor. I do not have to go home till I get a chance to rub out some of the traitors and there will be before long a chance probably. But we may not get a chance at all.
I wrote to you when we was in Virginia. It was written with a lead pencil and poorly done as well as this. We have not got a letter for some time. We have almost give up getting any more. I guess paper is scarce in Michigan. I have written more than 25 letters since I left there and have not received one fifth that many. I have written to most every[one] that I knew. Tell Major to write. I want [him to] tell me whether the 1st Regiment has got home or not. I sent a letter by Joe Kig [?] to him and a powder con [?]. I must quit to give Johnson a chance. Give my best respects to all and excuse poor writing and mistakes.
From Newell White to James Close and Margaret Close
Army of the Potomac
Headquarters Michigan 4th Regiment
November 4, 1861
Dear cousin and family,
Once more I sit down to drop a few lines to you to let you know how we are all getting along. I have had the ague some and have a bad cold now but that don’t amount to much. Johnson and Uncle John is quite well at this time and we all feel in pretty good spirits. I have got a blister on my side and it hurts like sam hill. It is about as big as a piece of paper so you will know how it hurts by the size of it.
The news has just come in to camp that our fleet has burnt Charleston and taken Fort Sumter and the Stars and Stripes again float over its old walls. The boys all feel fine over the news.
There is no news here except no fighting but most likely there will be before long if we fight at all for we have been waiting all summer for cool weather and now we have it. And if there is going to be a fighting, it will be soon. But the sooner it comes, the better for us for if we live through it, we will get home the sooner and we won’t be killed without our time has come to go. And if it has come, we must pack up and go right straight without grumbling.
There was a little accident happened in camp this morning. There was some of our company went out to shoot at a mark — myself and Wright from Deerfield was among them. Wright went and set up a mark for us to shoot at and then started to get out of the way and was a climbing over some brush and logs when the hammer of his gun caught in the brush and went off and shot the end of his off. He dropped and hollered as if he was a dying. I am Mike Daley run up to him supposing that he was a dying. When I got there and saw how bad he was hurt, I could hardly help from laughing in his face. I and Mike stayed and shot till we got tired and when we came up, we found there had been another fellow shot himself. He was fooling with his revolver and it went off and shot him in the foot. I saw them dress it and take the ball out. He was shot in the instep of his foot and they cut the ball out of the bottom and he didn’t make half the fuss Wright did.
Jim, we have got one of the biggest sweet potatoes you ever saw. We are a going to have it for supper. I just weighed it for the fun of the thing and it weighed 3 lbs. I don’t think Michigan can raise such sweet potatoes as that. It looks more like a melon than a potato.
Jim, I was glad to hear that your crops was good. Stick to your own far, and clear all you can and tend to it good and you will come out right and you won’t be other folks’ nigger and be bossed around by no one. And you will have a nice little home in a little while. Only stick to it and you will be all right. You may think that I am meddling myself with what is none of my business but Jim, you know that I want to see you get along as well as anybody can and then it seems just like home to your house to me and so you will excuse the boldness I take.
Tell Barney I should like to see him if I could. We would have some gay old times. Tell him to write and I will answer it. It is getting late and I must quit. I fooled Johnson out of writing on this sheet but he can take another and says you will get a long letter. I will send you some postage stamps and I want you and Margaret to write as often as you can to your old chum and cousin and never mind the Patter girl to all from the same old six pence.
Margaret, I am in such a hurry that I will let Newel write one day and I will write the others. I have got to wait till he turns over a new leaf. Then I will commence in the middle. [– Johnson]
This 2-page letter was addressed to Newell’s “cousin and family” — Margaret (sister of Johnson White) and her husband James Close. It was written on the same paper that Johnson White had used to write to “sister and brother” dated 12-2-1861 so it’s safe to assume that Newell wrote this letter on the same date.
[2 December 1861]
Dear Cousin and Family,
Once more I sit down to drop a few lines to you. We got your letter day before yesterday and was glad to hear from you but was sorry to hear you was sick. Keep up good courage and take care of yourself and I am in homes you will soon be well again. We are all well and hope by the time you get this, you will be the same.
There is not much news here that amounts to anything. I am sitting in the tent all alone a writing on Johnson’s drum head. We don’t have a table or stand to write upon but get a drum or piece of a board and scratch it off the best we can.
There was a secession nigger came into our camp tonight. He belonged to a Mississippi regiment and run away and came to our camp. He says the rebels is afraid of us. He says we killed 20 thousand of the rebels at Bull Run and 600 at Leesburg. He was at both of the fights and pretends to know all about it but I believe he lies about half.
I wish that Johnson and me was there to eat pancakes this winter, but we hain’t and there is no use of talking for I suppose we can’t get there but are in hopes we will get to eat pancakes together yet. Now Jim, I want you to write and tell me how you are getting along and all about the news and everything else.
It is getting late and I must draw this to a close. Excuse poor writing and all mistakes. Give my best respects to all the boys and tell Barney I carry that Johnson and I often talk about him and old times. Tell him to write and I will answer it. No more. So goodnight. Write soon and don’t forget.
From your cousin Newell
to his cousin James and Margaret
Miner Hill, Va.
March 1, 1862
With pleasure I sit down to drop a few lines to you to let you know that we are all well and hope this will find you all the same. I received you letter last night and was glad to hear from you. Those papers you sent me for which I am much obliged to you but have not had a letter before from you for 2 months — only once in Uncle John’s and then I answered it the next day. I wanted to write in Johnson’s but he had writ[ten] some stuff about me and so he would not let me write in it.
As for news, there is none here. I was sorry to hear about Sarah and Barney. I don’t know what Sarah was thinking about to notice him. I always liked Barney well enough but I don’t like him well enough to see him have Sarah after showing the part of a coward he did by deserting when we was half way to Washington. And I believe all he went back for was to sneak around the girls that wouldn’t look at him when the rest of the boys was at home and a little too coward to face the cannon balls. This is my opinion. Don’t think what I said about the rest of the boys that I counted myself in, for you know that I never had anything to do with the girls. You must not feel hard towards me for expressing my opinion so freely. I guess you will think the same as I do about it for you know as well as I do that they would not live in peace 2 months for Barney is too quick tempered to do any such a thing.
Now Margaret, you must not feel hard towards Aunt Sally for I don’t think she writes word about it and if she had, you had not ought to be angry for you must know that she feels bad about it. Now Margaret, be a good girl. Write and tell us how it is going to end &c. &c. &c. &c. Write often. Give my respects to all the friends. So good night.
From Newel White
to Margaret Close
Now Jim, I am going to write a few lines to you for all you said did a word at all to myself thats what you didn’t and if I had you by the ears, you would be glad to the next time. Sure, Jim, I was 21 years old the 4th of last month and I want to be back there next spring to give ’em a good democratic vote. That’s what I do now. Jim, write and tell us how you are getting along & what you are to work at this winter. How many cattle you have [and] whether that bee tree that we found has been eat[en] yet. If it has, who eat it? How much land you have cleared — when you are going to build and everything else that you can think of that would be interesting to us. And you can think of enough if you try. I will write more next time. It is all the same thing here and it is rather wet overhead just now for it is raining . Snowed to day and rain tonight. That’s the kind of weather we have. Warm & sun shining tomorrow.
Mike Dailey and I sleep together. He has been to bed for 2 hours and I must go too so goodnight. Write soon.
— Newell White
to James Close
September 11, 1862
Once more pen in hand I sit down to drop a few lines to you to let you know that we are all well & hope this will find you all the same. Margaret, you must not feel hard towards me for not writing sooner. At Harrison’s Landing, I was too careless and since then I have not had any chance to write.
Again I take my seat to finish this if they will give me time. This is the 22nd. I commenced it the 11th as you will see but the first thing I knew we was ordered to pack up & get ready to march & this is the first time since that I could get time to finish it or send it if it had been finished. Margaret, I expect that you blame me for not writing but if you knew how it was, I don’t think you could. But you can’t know the inconveniences we have to write or get paper & stuff to write with.
Since I have left home, I have seen some hard times & places. The 19th I about made up my mind that friends & home I would see no more. Our regiment charged across the Potomac river on a rebel battery. The water was waist deep & about 40 rods wide with 8 pieces of cannon pouring grapeshot into us. But we crossed and took them & some prisoners and did not lose but few men.
Johnson is sick with the measles at Washington. He was taken the day we left & I am glad that he is not because I wanted to see him but it has saved him a hard march & probably his life. I got a letter from him yesterday & he was most well. You must not worry about him a being very sick for he is not. I got a letter for him yesterday from home at Deerfield. I did not open it but sent it to him. Uncle John is there too but he is well. The Colonel gave him permission to stay back with the teams.
The mail is soon a going & I will have to close. I almost begin to think you all have forgotten me for I have not had a letter from home since I left. No more. Write soon, all of you. The mail is a going so goodbye for this time.
— Newell White
to Margaret Close