Eri House

These letters were written by Eri House (1829 – after 1880) who enlisted in Co. K, 4th Michigan Infantry on 20 June 1861, at Adrian, for 3 years. He was 31 years of age, and married with no children. Eri mustered into federal service on 20 June 1861. He was discharged at Sharpsburg, Maryland, on 18 August 1862, on account of gun shot wounds received in action at the Battle of Malvern Hill, Virginia, on 1 July 1862.

In 1860, Eri and his wife Augusta were enumerated in Scio, Washtenaw County, Michigan. Eri’s age was given as 28; his wife’s at 25. Eri’s occupation was recorded as “painter.”

In 1880, Eri and his wife Annie resided in Kirwood, St. Louis, Missouri. Their children included Ida (b. 1869), Frank (b. 1871), William (b. 1873), Annie (b. 1876), John (b. 1878), and Kate (1879).

All four letters of the letters dated June 5, 1861, August 4, 1861, September 1, 1861, and September 22, 1861 are the property of the Dexter Area Historical Museum & used with their permission. The letters were addressed to Charles Bates of Dexter, Michigan. The other letters shared on this page are from the Bentley Historical library.


Adrian [Michigan]
June 5, 1861

Dear friend,

I received your letter this morning. It was a pleasure to to read your letter [and] think of home. I think we will stay in this state all summer. We was examined [inspected] yesterday, Our muskets have arrived this morning. We leave here for Grosse Ile twenty miles below Detroit. I will make you my farewell visit next week.

We are a stopping in the Adrian College. There is 16 in our room. It is the dirtiest place I ever saw. We lay on the floor with one thin blanket. Our dining room is forty-one rods long — three tables the whole length — and three companies have to wait.

It rains very hard. It is clay land — it is horrible. Two companies of our regiment will get minie rifles. The rest will…

Give my respects to all. — [no signature]


Washington [D. C.]
August 4, 1861

Dear friend,

I take the time to write to you. It is with pleasure I write to you. I am well and I hope these few lines will find you the same.

Charley, I have so much to think of, I know hardly what to write, but I will write a little. It is very hot here — about one hundred degrees heat here. We will march to Virginia in a few days. I can not tell you as much about the war as you for the War Department keeps us in the dark as much as possible. The report is now that Washington will be attacked soon by the rebels but if so, they will have a warm fight.

Charley, the report is here that England is going to use her force against us and that they are building batteries in winter opposite Detroit. If that be [the] case, you will turn out at home in defense of your own state. When out government comes to that, you will arouse everyone who is able to raise arms in our defense.

Our war will at least last three years. It isn’t necessary for me to write to you. You must read the papers. You have more chance than I. We are not permitted to go out of camp. Our Dexter boys are all well at present.

Charles, you must not wait for me to write. I will write as often as possible. We have only…

There is so much confusion in camp today that I cannot write. Direct your letter to Eri House, Michigan Fourth Infantry, Co. K.

Yours from a friend, — Eri House


A sketch of Fort Woodbury and of “Camp Union” — courtesy of the Lenawee County Historical Museum


Camp Union, Virginia                                                                                                                August the 25, 1861

Dear Friend,

A few lines to you this morning. I am well. I hope this will find you the same. We have just received word from our pickets that the enemy is within five miles of our camp. They are coming to make an attack on our troops. This is a good day to have [an] artillery fight. One of our captains that was taken prisoner in the battle of Bull Run has just [come into] our camp. They took him to Richmond. He says they are very strong. He says they are advancing their troops. He says they feel confident that they are going to wipe us out. He says they are very hard up [and] they use our prisoners very hard. He was nine days in the woods. There was two of them. They were nine hours crossing the Potomac River. They swam it. They seen some hard times. The captain’s name is DeGolyer, from Michigan’s Fourth [Infantry]. [He] walked on the battlefield and was taken prisoner. They took him to Richmond. They took  his arms, shoes, everything from him. He watched for a chance to escape and did succeed in getting away. He says they owe him about three hundred dollars and will get it if he has to take niggers. I received a letter  from you. I was very happy to hear from you. It was the only letter [that] i have had from Dexter in four weeks. I don’t get any from home nor anywhere else. When you write to me again, tell me whether my wife is sick or not. She does not write and I think she is sick or something is the matter, or she would write to me. You must not wait for me to write for you have more chance than I have. Write as often as you can and I will do the same. We are building a fort. We will not be able to use it in this battle if they keep advancing. We are in Sherman’s Brigade. Charley, I would like to see you. Then i could tell you better what is going on. Tell me what Crane has to say with his sore toe and how fort garrison gets along, and how he likes to live a soldier’s life. He was homesick. I do not think that will ever drive me out of Virginia. If it was my case I should have been home long ago. For I could get my discharge in ten minutes, but I never shall leave this army until the war is over or sooner discharged. It is very lazy business for me to be a soldier. I have got the birth of wagoner. It’s a very good birth. I am excused from all duty. The boys have all got  to dig in the fort. The sergeants and the corporals, it makes them growl. The lawyer , Mr. [Richard] De Puy, from Ann Arbor, is our captain. {Harrison] Jeffords [is our] first lieutenant. We have no second lieutenant yet. I think Charley Bostwick will be promoted. There is some here who look for it which will not get it. Our sergeants are all sick except [Ransom] Bush and [William] Ihrig. There is only 75 men left in our [company] and some more who are love sick. They are pining away as fast as possible. But if they look at that as I do, they would say after the war there will be more women than men. And them who live through this will stand and a chance to yet, for they [the women] will be glad to take what is left. The boys are generally well. They say if they felt as good as I do [that] they would give everything. I think I am the best feeling one in the camp. It grinds some of the boys to think that i have nothing to do in camp. The corn is suffering here. We go out on scouts for corn, potatoes, peaches, [and] melons. [A] great many of the people have left there homes [and] gone to the free states. No more this time.

Yours From Your friend, Eri

Direct to Washington 4th Infantry Co K




Camp Union, Virginia
September 1, 1861

Friend Charley,

I take my pen to answer your letter. I received it with pleasure. I was glad to hear from you.

We are in a fort. We have built a fort here. The name of it is Fort Woodbury named after our Colonel. She has eight large guns — twenty-four pounders. Co. K and Co. F will man the guns. ¹ Solomon Wilsey will be the captain of K’s guns. We have a very good fort. The Potomac river is lined with soldiers. I think Washington is well guarded. The secession troops are advancing on us all the time.


Members of Co. K, 4th Michigan, manning one of the 24-pounders at Fort Woodbury (1861); photo attributed to Brady, Library of Congress

They are building forts in four miles of ours. We can see them shoveling dirt. We expect an attack every day — perhaps before tomorrow morning. We are getting well prepared for a fight. All we want is men enough to slay all they can produce. We want to take everything clean when we commence again. It will be a very tough battle.

Yours, from your friend Eri

Direct to Washington

Charley, you wanted me to write how I like soldiering. I like it well and I would not be anything but a soldier if I could. If I were a citizen, I would enlist in one moment. The only thing I have against soldiering [is] that it makes me so lazy I never will be good for anything else. There is no-one in our company sick except Bailey. He is complaining. The boys all feel well.

If I were back to Dexter today, I would not stay there two days until the war is ended. Eugene Brower ² has just come in from a scout. The secesh shot at him and four New York boys were with him. They wounded one of the New York boys in the hip but he got to our pickets and was saved. We lose men every day and so do they.

This is a very good climate. I like this country the best of any I ever was in. It is a very healthy country. I should never wish for better. I can buy nice big farms for six and seven dollars per acre, but the society we would not like. The society is so much different from ours.

It is four o’clock. We are now called out for inspection of arms by the colonel of our regiment. Our guns must all be clean.

The weather is very warm. We wear woolen clothing. If we were in Dexter, we would think we could not stand it but it is best. We do not feel the heat as we would ___ had on their clothing.

Charley, you wanted me to say how much I could lay up in a year. I can lay up one hundred and fifty dollars each year. We have never received only four dollars. We are very hard up for money but we expect some this week. The State of Michigan promised to pay us again. If she lies again, I will curse her and leave her if ever I return to her again. She has abused her poor soldiers enough. We have suffered from her promises to us but if she fails to pay, government will pay this week. Government will pay every two months about ___. I would not promise to take any interest in that at present.

Good news from Cape Hatteras on the North Carolina coast. Our colonel just received a dispatch [stating that] Butler took nine thousand stand of arms, thirty pieces of artillery, [and] seven hundred and thirty prisoners. Our regiment was on dress parade. You can guess there was some cheers for Butler. Thirty of their best officers. Good news from the Southeast. Good news for our side.

Charley, I would not miss of being a soldier in this company for anything. To be sure, we are not at home. If I were discharged today, I would enlist tomorrow again. This gives our Michigan Fourth new courage. We have plenty to eat. It is very musical in our camp — the boys are all singing this evening. Eugene Brower was out on a scout today with one of his chums. They went a little too far and the secesh they fired six rounds and then some of the New York boys fell in. The secesh shot one of the New York boys but did not get him. Wounded him in the leg.

¹ The only identified member in the adjoining photograph is Private James Hyatt of Co. K, — the bearded soldier standing under the barrel. Since Eri House’s letter states that Co. K and Co. F were mounting the guns and one of the members in this group served with Co. K, it is logical to assume that the remaining members in the image were also from Co. K.

² Eugene Brower enlisted in Company K, Fourth Infantry, June 20, 1861, at Adrian, for 3 years, age 18. Mustered June 20, 1861. Wounded in action at Malvern Hills, Virginia, July 1, 1862. Transferred to Battery D, Fifth United States Artillery, October 9, 1862. Discharged at Sharpsburg, Maryland, October 25, 1862.


September 22, 1861

Mr. C. F. Bates,

I received your letter yesterday. I was very glad to hear from you. The news is dull in camp. It is quite peaceable in camp but the pickets is having skirmishes with the sesesh everyday. The pickets from our regiment shot four of them yesterday.

We are still building breastworks and forts. Our fort is done. We are in good health throughout our camp. Charles Barlow is sick in Georgetown Hospital. Haint heard from him in two weeks. I cannot tell you how he is getting along.

We received our pay from government yesterday. The boys feel better. They are playing poker today. We was paid off in government stores notes or in gold — whichever they chose. We have a General Review this afternoon by General McClellan. We have two reviews every week, inspections of knapsacks and guns.

The Michigan 5th is here within five miles of our camp. I haven’t been over and seen them. I would like to see the cavalry from Dexter when they get here — James Gurst especially. He is a villain.

Next Tuesday I think I shall go over to the Michigan Fifth to see the boys. Also to the Michigan Third and Second. I have been in camp very steady for two or three weeks. Our colonel won’t let me go out since I went over the lines of our pickets when [Pvt. Levi J.] Cortright was shot. I would like to go out on a scout but I can not. We can go to visit our friends in camp, but we are not allowed to go over the lines of our pickets.

No more this time. I must go to inspection of arms.

I commenced writing Saturday. I wrote a little yesterday [and] a few lines today. There is nothing new in camp. Our boys all send home their money. Heman Smith sent twenty dollars to Tul Hawks to buy him a village lot. William and myself send thirty dollars this time.

We can see the rebel camps from our forts. I see the buttons on their coats. Our troops are building a very large fort with sixty-four guns — ten sixty-four guns [and] one eighty-two pounder. We will shell them out as soon as we get it done. They are building forts in our sight on Munson’s Hill four miles distant of us.

Yours from Eri House

The following letter is taken from transcripts shared with us by the Bates family. The originals are believed to be in the collection of the Bentley Hist. Library and efforts will be made to obtain copies of the original for posting here when possible.



Virginia  December 2nd, 1861

Friend Charley,

It is with great pleasure [that] I now write to you again. I received your letter this evening. I was happy to hear from you again and that you were in the north slaying the deer. It puts me in the memory of our sociable evening visits at home when often we spoke of going to the north to spend a few months in the forest. But there is a great change in the times from thence to this. I am in the fair South and you are in the North. This letter reminds me of our visits of time past and gone. Perhaps it will be a long time before we may talk of our old story again. We look for orders to move to South Carolina every day. Then we will [be] in a very warm climate. It is not very cold here yet. No snow yet but [a] little frost [but] not enough to make any ice. Now there is nothing new here. Everything is quiet yet. Congress is in session here in Washington. There will be something done soon. The boys are mostly in good health. One of our boys died this morning from our company. He is from Fowlerville, [and his] name [is] Theodore Hodges. He has been sick ever since we left Adrian. It is generally healthy in our regiment. Broadhead’s Cavalry is in the settlement. William Bailey went over to see them. They were very happy to see him. They will stay in the city this winter. There is now rebels within ten miles of us. Except [for] the scouts, they dare not come near us. [ Corporal Al Vin [zi] Potter is reduced to the ranks and William Cunningham is in his place. There is nothing new to write about this.Now [you] must excuse my short letter this time. I received one letter from you since you have been in the woods but I lost it and did not [record] on it the direction on it, as I could not write. This is a lonesome letter for me to write. I cannot think of anything to write so you must excuse me this time. I will do better the next time.

Yours from your friend, Eri House


The following letters are provided through the courtesy of the Bentley Historical library.


My Friend Charles,                        East [actually West] Point, Virginia  York River Shore  May the 11th, 1862

It is with pleasure [that] I write to you once again. I am still among the living. It is a long time since I have wrote to you and it is all my fault. I have received two letters from you since I have wrote. I have a great deal to do the most of the time [that I have] neglected to write to you and others. Since we have left Fortress Monroe we have had one fight [and] that is a long range fight. We were within seven eighths of a mile of the enemy. We lay in front of their forts five days. Our fighting was with artillery. Then we fell back to the distance of one mile and commenced fortifying and mounting siege guns. We lay there four weeks. We had over one hundred guns mounted when we intended to open fire on them on Monday. They left on Saturday night and Sunday. They had it fortified very strong. It would have took us one week to rout them and several thousands [of] lives had they been determined to make a stand. They fell back to East Point there and Williamsburg. There they fought desperately. Our loss was at the least fifteen hundred [men]. There is a great many rebel soldiers there wounded. The rebels left all of their wounded and dead. They lay in their barracks suffering for care. They have been there four days without anyone to even give them a drink. That is horrible, Our troops can’t take care of them. We have more than we can take care of our own. The day before we got here to this point, our troops had a very hard fight here. One by one, brigades engaged. Our loss [was] three hundred. Our troops were in the open field [while] they was in the woods. They fired a volley in our troops before we knew they were there. Our troops fought desperately. They were driven back twice. The third time the enemy fell back they took some of our troops prisoner and cut the throats of some of our wounded. They have got niggers in their army. One of the niggers wounded one of our men, then run up and dug out his eyes and left him on the ground alive. He’ alive yet in the hospital. He is an awful sight to see. The Texan Rangers are the ones who cut the throats of our troops. There will be less mercy on them if they ever get in the hands of our army. We have had some very cruel fights here.  The enemy are about ten miles ion front of us. Our orders are advance again in the morning in [the] presence of the enemy. I cannot tell you where we will find them. They lay in the swamps and ambush to take us by surprise. Wherever they leave they place torpedoes in the ground to blow us up if we step on them. They have blown some of our troops but we [have] the prisoners dig them up. No more this time. Yours from your friend. I will write to you again soon.

Direct to Fortress Monroe

Charley, if you can get any broken bank bills, worthless of any kind, send them to me in a letter. Anything is good. Even to the _____ ______ it is good here. Send me some if you can. Charley, you need not answer this until I write again. We expect to move our hospital on an island. I am unable to say where . I will write to you again when we get moved.

No more this time from your friend, Eri House

I am on 8 Street Hospital in a secesh church. It is a Methodist church. Charles you may be assured, time seems long to me. [I] should be a very happy man if I could see my wife once more and also all the rest of the Union citizens of Dexter.





Friend Charles,                                                                             Washington   August the 13/ ’62

It is a long time since I have heard from you. And since I have heard from you I have pen in hard fighting the Seven Days Fight and was unfortunate enough to get wounded, but in  my left hand. It was hit with a piece of shell. I have lost my two middle fingers and the ends of stiffening the little and forefinger somewhat. I have lost the entire use of my left hand.