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Family Letters - William Simpson Ferree

William Simpson Ferree (Will)) was the youngest of three sons of William Ferree and his wife, Margaret Watson Ferree. The family lived in Union Township, Washington County, PA, in the tiny town of Coal Bluff on the Monongahela River. In July 1861, eighteen year old Will and several friends from Coal Bluff and nearby Limetown went up to Pittsburgh to enlist. He was killed at the Battle of the Wilderness on May 7, 1864. His letters describe life and conditions in a Civil War army camp.

These letters are in the National Archives collection of pension claims from Civil War veterans. William Ferree, Will's father, submitted the letters with his requests for a pension in 1886, 1893, and 1902. His petitions claimed that he had been dependent on his son, had suffered financially from his death and was therefore entitled to a pension from the U.S. government. In one petition, the father wrote of his bitter disappointment at being denied a pension: ". . .everyone that ever knew me and my son said the same. If ever a man had a good son, I had in my boy William S. He went into the war to fight for his country . . . I am 84 years old and growing weaker and weaker . . . May God forgive them for their injustice. Will was all I had left. He was one of the best of soldiers. He went like a man and did not have to go for he was only eighteen years and was never sick."The old man's claims were rejected on the grounds that in 1864 he had been running a distillery, had annual income of about $800 and had not been dependent on Will.




Note: Punctuation has been inserted in each letter for easier reading.

Camp Tenley November the 18th (1861)

My dear Father after I had closed my leter I received a nother leter from you. it came to hand on the 18th. i was glad to hear from home so often and you said in your leter bout Mother being so much beter and I hope that she may continue getig beter. You said in your leter that you had snow on the ground and it was verry cold and you said it maid you think a bout me. it is verry raw in the air out here but there is now snow here. it is a little cold in the mornings but we a pear to stand it firstrate. we have got our tents maid very close and they keep verry warm but we think that we wil get our winter quarters in few days and they wil be right-on the same. i don't think it much use in me righting a big leter this time for James Lowers can tel you all the particlars a bout the camp. he got a Furlow to go home to see his child. They rote to him that they didend expect it to live. I must bring my leter to a close. i got three papers from you and was verry glad to get them. we can get a morning paper here every morning we get all the particlars of the war. All the Boys is wel. our captain is mending slowly. he is able to sit up a little. i don't think he will be able to take command this winter. All the boys sends there love to you and Give my love to all the folks hopping more this time But stil remains your afecunate son

William Ferree. right soon.


The following note from William and a letter from William Peterson were added to the above.

To close William Peterson is going to right a few lines to you in my leter. nothing more but give my love to all and tel litte Anny to send me a nother paper the next time you send me one. Goodby this time but still remains affecunate son William Ferree to his Dear father. you excuse me for this bad composed leter for i hadand much time. Right soon.

Friend Mr. Free i hant sent you a leter yet. I had one wrote to send the other day. some of them spilt the ink on it sow i did knot Send it. You will have to excus me i have had a good Bit of wrighting to doo. we are all giting a long hear first trate you kneed knot bee on easy a Bout Little Bille for his is giting a long first trate. he look beter than i ever saw him. we all look tenn persent Beter since uncle sam is Boarding us. he gives us Plenty to eat and Plenty to ware. Biley (Billy) told you to send them Clothes on. it wood bee beter to wate a while till we wood see wharae we wood go to.it might be that we will have to winter hear but if you want to send them you can. We will try to take them a long with us. we cant tell mutch more what we will doo than youns doo. There is lots off reports going a round threw the camps. some of them we rais our selves. we sleep very warm in our tents. Know if it shoud git to cold for us thare is lots of Barns hear that we can git to sleep in. Milou Givson carries the flag but he only gits 13 dollars a month. it is harder work than we have if we git in to a battle. he is the man to fetch it out. tell me in the next leter how all the girls is gitting a long in lime Town and how (who?) is Married sow that I can keep the runn of that place. i might sell mi interest to you Thare if hyou ment it. i cant hardly wright girls. we have bee Paid for part of our trip. I wood like to make a trip threw verginey bee fore we are paid off a gain. Sow good By uncle Bill.

William D. Peterson





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Camp Tenley November 30 (1861)

My dear Father i take my pen in hand to let you now i am wel and i hope that these few lins wil find you the same. i received your kind leter on the 28th. i was glad to hear that all the folks ar well and that mother is getting beter. i hope she will continue giting beter for i hate to hear of her bad health in evry leter i get from home. You said in your leter a bout the boys being all most ready to start. we are looking for it evry day now. you said that Mother had maid me a good warm overshirt and that was a fixing a heap of other nice things for me.

i can never forget the kindness of parence. i can never pay them back for what they have don for me. you spoke a bout collecting some of your bils out here. I will try but don't think it will be much use to try for they sent all there money home that they didand nead. i wil fo the best i can for you. i wil send you $10 dolars this time and if i can sparae you anny more i will send it and what i keep i wil take good care of for a solger earns his money verry slow.

There is a heap of excitement in camp. they think that they ar going moove the hole army toward Richmond and Manasa and whip them out before spring. Mac Clelon says that there is nouse in building winder quarters for he says part of us can winter at home. i hardly believe it we ar all ready to make a moove anny time they cal on us. i now we can slay them evry way with the number of men that we have got and most all them ar wel drilled. our ridgement is the best drilled ridgement in the bregaid. this bregaid is reserve force. they might be a battle over the river and we might not get a chance to fire a gun. The meanin of a reserve force is a force ready to help the main army if they was and stronganuf. there is a offle big army over the river at the preasant time and a big army on this side. i now we have a army a nuf to march through verginia and take everything . . . .



Note: Original of the following letter not provided. Punctuation has been inserted for easier reading.

January 2, 1862, in Camp

Dear Father, it is great pleasure that i sit down to write you a few lines to let you know i am wel and i hope these few lines wil find you and all the rest of my friends injoying the same blessing. Father, it has been a good while since i received a letter from you but i know that the river has been sow high that the ????? could not survae road. road a leter to each of my Brothers But has not received a answer from them. Tell them to right soon.

My dear Brothers we have got our pay at last. it was a good while after the late ?????. I have sent you $15 dolars by ????? express to Pine Run to you and ????? ????? ????? was the safes way to send it to you. most all the Boys send there money this way. i recon you will have the money before this reaches you. Wel, Father i am sorry that i cand send you more. i will have to keep some fore myself. i need some for to Buy little things i need.

wel Father the weather has been a little Bad for the past week but it look like it was going to clear up and be nise weather again. we have not drilled anny for long while but as soon as the weather gets good we wil be drilling. i wil have to Bring my leter to a close for it is getting late. i am getting sleepy. i must close. Bye. sending my love to all my Brothers and there familys.

Give my love to Maggie. nothing more but remains you affecunate Son, Wm. S. Ferree to his Dear Father. Right soon.



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August 7 (1863) Camp near Warington (Warrenton, VA)

Dear Father and Mother

It is with pleasure that i take in droping you a few lines to let you now i am well and i hope these few lines may find you all the same.

Wel Father we ar stil laying near Warington and expect to lay hear all summer. we have fixed up summer quarters for ower selvs. the weather is verry hot hear it maks us hunt the shaids. Wel Father, we expect to get our pay to day for 2 months. we have to settle ower cloathen bill for the year. i had $1.70 sents to pay.

Wel Father the news isand verry stering in ower army. we ar laying quiet and we expect to do some if the Rebbels lets us and i think thay wil. they got a nuff of us in late days to satisfy them but if thay should try us we wil do the best we can for them. we wil be waiting on them to com. ower minds is easy on that subject. the Rebels verry seldom coms in ower heads. all we think a bout is getting as many Black Berries as we can eat-Black Berries is plenty hear. we can gather Bushels of them if we should nead them. we yous to live on chickens and fresh muttan. got all the chickens and Sheap a round with in 10 mils of hear sow we wil quit. thair is nothing left a live that has 4 legs. we have cleaned evry thing up since we came in Verginia this time. the yankeys is a good as the Rebbels on the steal. the Rebbels done well while they was in Pencilvany and Meriland but I think we have done better than thay did. We wil live on the best as long as it is to be found in verginia.

Wel Father we are Anciously waiting on the drafted men to come but it appears that thay ar coming verry slow. we want 600 men to fill ower Regiment. we have got verry small. we have 15 men for duty in ower company now and ower company is ????? as the rest. you can have a idy of the strength of the army Potomic. she is a bout wore out. ower ranks neads filing up a gain.

Wel Father i recon you have "steam" talking to Will Peterson since he came home. he could give you the particulars when he starts to come out. you can send any thing you wish to me. he is verry acomidading to me. I would like verry much if you would send me them shirts right as may be fore the warm weather gets over.

All the limetown Boys is well. i wil send you $5 dolars in this leter and som in the next. i want to see how it gows. i will send you all the money I can spare.

Northing more at preasant But Remains your affecunate Son.

William S. Ferree to his Dear Father and Mother. Right soon.

Wel Father it is over 2 weaks asince I received a leter from you. I hope you wil right!