William F. D. McCarty

Twenty four year-old William F. D. McCarty enlisted as a Corporal in Company E of the Fourth Michigan Infantry on June 20, 1861, for three years service. He was discharged by order #154, War Department, Washington D. C. on November 3, 1862.

Private McCarty wrote this letter to his friend Eli Smith of Bridgewater, Ohio.


Headquarters, Fourth Regt., Co. E

Camp Miners Hill near Halls Church, Va.

Oct. 7, 1861

Dear Friend,

I now take the opportunity of informing you that I am well at present, hoping these few lines will find you enjoying good health. A week ago last Saturday, we left our fort1 and made an advance on the enemy. And we are now within a short distance from Hall’s Church, where the rebels had a large force two weeks ago. Perhaps you have heard of the fort which the rebels had on Munson’s Hill?2 Well, when they heard that we were advancing on them, they left it in on double quick.3 Our boys found the fort to consist of a ditch four feet wide and two feet deep, and the bottom was covered in straw, in which the rebels used to lay at night, as they had no tents. We also thought they had some large guns. But the only cannon they found was two pieces of stove pipe on wagon wheels and two pieces of wood painted black.4 “Rebel Gun at Munsons Hill-a Regular Quaker” by Civil War artist Alfred Rudolph Waud (Courtesy LOC)

The rebels have left for Bull Run again and I think they will not have as good [of a] time there now as they had before.5 We have now about two hundred pieces of artillery and McClellan6 says he will make this a war of artillery.

I have had a good revolver which I will keep for you. It rained like blazes for about an hour and my tent is all mud now. So I do not feel in a very good humor right now. I send you my picture and you must judge for yourself if it looks natural or not. Rob Van Slyke and John Harmon is in the Seventh Regiment. Also, Tom Malcolm and Volney Powers.7 They are all well now. But I must close my letter for I want to write two more tonight.

Your sincere friend,

William F. D. McCarty

Company E

4th Regiment Michigan Infantry

Washington D. C.

To Eli Smith

Bridgewater, Ohio

1 Fort Woodbury, erected by the men of the Fourth Michigan Infantry, and named after it’s commander, Colonel Dwight Woodbury.

2 Fort Munson was erected by the Confederate forces in July of 1861, in what is now Fairfax County, Virginia. The fort looked over Bailey’s Crossroads and had a direct view of Washington D. C.

3 The fort was abandoned on September 28, 1861.

4 These fake cannon that William was writing about were commonly known as “Quaker Guns” or “Quaker Cannon”, as “they wouldn’t harm a soul”, a religious position held by those of the Quaker pacifist belief.

5 This is a reference to the Confederate victory at Manassas Junction, Virginia, which took place three months earlier on July 21, 1861.

6 Major George Brinton McClellan, Major General in command of the Army of the Potomac.

7 Private Robert Van Slyke and Private John C. Harmon, Private Thomas Malcolm, and Private Volney Powers were all members of Company C, Seventh Michigan Infantry.