William Henry Drake - update 8/21/2016

William Henry Drake was born February 15, 1836 in Halifax, England.

William immigrated to the United States, possibly with his family sometime before 1857. In the three years or so before the war he reportedly split his time between Cook County, Illinois and Ottawa County, Michigan.

William was residing in Jefferson, probably Cook County, Illinois, in March of 1860 when he wrote to one Agnes Middlemist, daughter of Henry Middlemist, who owned and operated a boarding house in Spring Lake, Ottawa County, Michigan.

Dear Sister Agnes, Don’t think me a “bore” for writing when I’ve nothing of importance to communicate. I write merely for the sake of a little chit chat. I came up here (home) yesterday after waiting in Chicago for that vessel of Mason’s to sail as Mr. Bell wished me to wait & bear him company . . . but on waking yesterday morning & seeing an inch of snow on the streets & an inch of ice on the river with a keen wind whistling from the North . . . I came to the sage conclusions that a trip over the lake (if I could get passage) would be decidedly uncomfortable . . . consequently I came up here to stay over Sunday.

This is a real spring day, peaceful and beautiful in the extreme more like Indian summer than anything else . . . had a three years residence in Michigan weaned me from the glorious prairies, such a day as this would be apt to bring me back to my first love of them . . . Father has spent the morning breaking a colt & as we are going up to Brickton this afternoon I embrace this opportunity etc. Between you and I, I don’t know what to think of Wm B . . . whether he has the “gumption” to do much . . . he may be over before I am . . . but anyhow I expect to turn up in Mill Point by the middle of next week . . . Father wishes me to stay home & take hold with him, but owing to many little “busts & ifs” the thing aint feasible at present. There is considerable interest felt in Chicago with regard to the National difficulties altho the business of the city is not much influenced thereby. Altho’ the winter has been pretty severe there has not been much suffering . . . in fact . . . from what I hear . . . there has been no necessity for it, farmers came into the city in the depths of winter & tried to hire men, offering one half of their outstanding corn to anyone who would house it and husk it. Amongst the trades there has been & is yet but little doing but there’s a good time coming and people seemed determined to keep a stiff upper lip.

If Mr. Ranney should call & inquire . . . will you please let him be informed that I will be over soon & oblige & etc. I had a number of notes of his which . . . if he didn’t think I was a pretty clever sort of fellow . . . he might be uneasy about. . . . I understand there is a steamboat building at Manitowoc to run to the Grand River. The Lady Franklin built for the St. Joseph’s trade is a splendid model . . . some say she has the best model of any boat that comes to Chicago . . . there is a Tug building on the North Branch the owner of which has put up $500.00 to run her against any on the lake. You must excuse the style of this letter & remember I’m in the country at present. Remember me to all the folks.

By the summer of 1860 William was working as an architect in Spring Lake (known also as Mill Point), Ottawa County, Michigan, and living at the boarding house of Henry Middlemist. (In fact after the war William would marry Sarah Middlemist, one of Henry’s daughters and sister to Agnes.)

William returned to the western side of Lake Michigan and by March 16, 1861 was back in Chicago, possibly staying with his family, when he wrote to Agnes Middlemist.

Sister Agnes, By this time I had expected to be home [but] a quandary is met here & it begins to be a matter of doubt where my home is. . . By home I meant Mill Point . . . ‘Sic transit etc,’ ‘all the word brings changes.’ You must bear with my passion for quoting but a change has taken place in regard to the Barber Estate & your humble servant is no longer in the employ of Lind & Slater, onions have risen in consequence boo-hoo, don’t you sympathize with me?

As you will doubtless have heard the news by this time I will not give you the particulars . . . but C. Bell has taken the mill . . . rented it & he & I will be over next week. I saw him yesterday & he wishes to secure my valuable (!) services. I have an appointment with him on Monday morning when we shall talk the matter over more fully. I am glad (as regards myself) that he has got as far as he has in the matter. . . I know but little of him, but if we agree I shall be glad to work – work – work. . . But no more droning . . . the USA first . . . NB. The above is “sub rosa”.

Of course you have received my letter by this time. . . The one that I wrote on my arrival here. I have since then been up to Father’s. He looks as bright & rugged as ever, sisters are well, & Mother’s attacks are not so violent as formerly. . . since I was up in Jefferson before there has been quite an epidemic. . . The girls are getting married off . . . never saw the like in all my life . . . both here and among my Chicago friends there have been many changes. I have been astonished to meet again with friends of (apparently) but yesterday . . . who are turning grey fast, time flies & my three years sojourn in Michigan seems but as a sleep.

I have been to McVickers & seen Sothern in “Our American Cousin at home” it was a rich treat & Sothern is an actor of great talent. At the close of the play the band struck up & Sothern etc. sung the great song of the day “Dixie Land”. . . a tune that has never been sung without being encored at least once. Etty is getting finely at school. She expects to be teaching in a year & a half in a school in the city. I think I have said about all that I can think of, but as you might not have heard the news I thought best to keep you posted. Mr. Ranney wants me to work for him this season but as I have not committed myself fully to either party I shall feel round a little before I do . . .

The Architectural business is flat as a pancake and there is no telling when it will be better. Remember me kindly to all, to your Father, Mother, & Willie & John. The Lumber trade does not look very flattering at present: Illinois & Wisconsin is daily in receipt of an additional population from the South Western states in consequence of the troubles there. You will have noticed the recent Gov. appointments that have been made. Dr. Evans (Evanston is named after him) who is now Gov. of Nebraska is a Chicago man & a member of the Clark St. M.E. Church; Norman Judd, US Minister to the Court of Berlin is also a Chicago man . . . in fact the Glorious State of Illinois has her share (at least) of the glory & the gain. I was somewhat astonished at the amt of traffic on some of the RRs centering in this city . . . it is on the increase, on the North Western road for instance their freight trains average from twenty-five to thirty-five cars in a train; & I should judge they average ten or twelve trains per diem. . .

The business has hardly set in yet but business men expect a steady passable sort of a season. I can just imagine how the news of the evacuation of Fort Sumter will be received by the fire eaters of Mill Point, the republicans of Chicago chafe at the idea of the thing, but say ‘Old Abe’s got a long beard & knows what he’s about’ & then they let the matter rest in the hands of the Father of the Faithful. . . Having spun out my epistle just one page more than I had intended etc. so good bye Agnes.

Soon after he wrote this letter to Agnes William returned to Ottawa County, Michigan.

William stood 5’4” with blue eyes, light hair and light complexion, and was 25 years old and possibly living in Kent County or in Spring Lake, Ottawa County when he enlisted as Eighth Corporal in Company A on May 13, 1861. (Company A was made up largely of men from Grand Rapids, and many of whom had served in various local militia units before the war, specifically the Valley City Guards, or VCG, under the command of Captain Samuel Judd, who would also command Company A.)

Throughout late April and all of May the creation and organization of the Third Michigan took place at the old agricultural fairgrounds, about two miles south of the city, now called “Cantonment Anderson.” On May 17, William wrote to Agnes Middlemist to bring her up to date on all the latest news.

You must excuse my not answering your letter more promptly. I am in receipt of your last of May (no date) about the 14th I guess. As to what my kith & kin think of the course that I have taken . . . hear what Etty says (the letter you forwarded) “Knowing your patriotic feelings in regard to the country of your adoption we expected hourly to hear that you had enlisted in the cause of God & Liberty etc” again she says “I feel proud that I have a brother in the cause. I only wish that I could go with you to take care of you.” Etty says with regard to the Desplaines St. M. E. S. School . . . “five of our best teachers have left and are now in Cairo” [Illinois]. “The little township of Jefferson (Cook Co.) has raised 80 men. I recd a letter from Father this morning he says ‘your letter has produced mingled feelings on the one hand of pride at your patriotism & sense of duty, and on the other some little fear for your health & safety’.” Rhoda says “it shall be my prayer that you may never turn your back on a traitor.” She says Van talks of joining & Alex will join the Home Guards . . . he feels awful sore because he can’t leave his wife. One week today was a glorious day for us, the whole of the companies were paraded on the parade ground & formed a hollow square. Major Champlin stood up in the centre of the cannon carriage . . . he explained the new call of the President for 3 years volunteering, he made a frank statement of facts and a most eloquent appeal to all that is manly in man. . . .

After this he stated that the Captains of Cos. should each call upon the 3 years volunteers to fall back beginning at Co. A. Our Captn (Samuel Judd] called upon us to decide . . . when there was a perfect rush back, backed up by a lusty shout from 77 throats (some of our Co. were on Guard duty) only three backed water! What do you think now of Co. A? We had been put to a severe test . . . nothing was known as to what pay we should have . . . but after the stifling process had been gone through with (for the other Cos followed our example) we were informed of many little items to our advantage & comfort. Our uniforms will be cadet grey . . . pants with black stripe . . . a jacket, and hat somewhat larger than a fatigue cap also an overcoat . . . our army minie musket & bayonet (we have them now) also we expect the people of G. Rapids will furnish Co. A with revolvers. . . It’s talked of in a whisper families will be provided for, and then comes the . . . last but not least we expect to leave for Washington as soon as we get fairly in trim.

We had a fuss last night on a/c of that grub that Charley Roberts [gave] us. Co. A marched down at Supper time for as we were ordered by our Officers to do but the old maxim was illustrated. “You may drive a horse to the fountain but you can’t make him drink.” We rose up from the table & left his dirty hog meat untouched. . . . Last night the gentleman left camp with what duds he could not dispose of . . . together with his nigger & Irish cooks & with indignation enough on his shoulders to reach to the top of Bunker Hill monument.

Aaron Courtwright cooks for us now and we have things neat, wholesome & clean. . . At first I lost weight but now I weigh two pounds more than I ever did. We had a hard frost this morning & were on drill at 5:30 AM without overcoats. We went round the Camp grounds on double quick time . . . got warmed up & felt like . . . soldiers. Mr. Perkins was here yesterday & day before. . . night before last he stayed with us in our shanty! For 6 of us have put up a shanty rather than be put up in the barracks which barracks is 16 feet wide by 120 feet long and at night it contains over 600 men. It is two stories high and four bunks high on each story. At night the smell is awful. Our shanty cost us about six dollars! Remember me kindly to all inquiring friends. Please tell Mr. Smith that I recd his letter but have been so much engaged as to find but little time to myself. I will write soon. I am orderly of the day today, and have not to drill, but am detailed for writing the rolls of the different Companies.

The Regiment left Grand Rapids on June 13 for Washington, DC, where it arrived on June 16. The week following the Bull Run debacle on July 21, Drake wrote from Arlington Heights, Virginia, to Mordecai L. Hopkins, living in Mill Point (Spring Lake), Michigan, discussing the war and why it was being fought.

I have just had the pleasure [William wrote on July 26, 1861] of reading your 4th of July oration in which I find a bold expression of my own deep convictions -- Fanaticism and a morbid sympathy on the one hand and a wicked devotion and tenacity . . . on the other -- has wrought all this havoc in the land; alienating friends and sundering the holy ties of union between states. With you would I mourn the darkness and desolation that is spread as a pall over our poor bleeding country, mourn for the sins of the nation -- for the heinous wickedness of those amis des noires whose stock in trade of crocodile tears have produced a rich and gory harvest of the best blood of the land. I am more convinced than ever that all this results from a gross misunderstanding - Can the mercy of Infinity - even - reach the case of our Demagogues - our Lying Prophets! The press - South and North has much to answer for; when Justice shall make requisition for blood.

On Monday night after our defeat of Sunday I stayed in Fort Corcoran - and while in conversation with an officer, a sergeant, of the 69th he said that on the battle field he was attracted by the groans of a wounded Louisiana Zouave, who cried “For the love of heaven give me water!” at first he cursed him - then his conscience smote him, and he returned & gave him the last drop, & eased him to a comfortable position, doing all that could be done under the circumstances the Louisiana Zouave turned up his haggard - bloody face (what a scene for an artist) & exclaimed in the greater agony of soul “Oh! it is hard! - hard!! - hard!!! - to fight against the Stars & stripes”- on whose head will rest that man’s blood & the thousands that fell with him on Sunday? Not the men that fight the battles - God knows; - with us it is the Union - with the men we meet upon the battle field the idea of self protection that is the incentive to action - But the hungry spawn of the father of lies - whose only subterfuge is a lie - yes & they too who endorse them - the Press.

Strike at the root! let this one fact be practically sent home to the Southern heart & hearth stone, that we -- the North - are loyal to the Constitution & make no war upon their peculiar institutions,- in a word let us forgo pride for love, - Sympathy (?) for Justice - hatred for brotherly kindness reproaches for pity - and the power of Secession will be broken - the ambitious leaders of this mad scheme will be crushed beneath the heel of a misguided people. During the heat of the battle, Northern & Southern lay in heeps [sic] together -- One Alabama Regiment was badly cut up - almost annihilated one of our men asked an Alabamian as they lay together on the field ‘What makes you Southern fight us?’ he replied “My father has a large plantation & many slaves in Alabama & my duty to my state as well as my own interest demand that they be not emancipated” - “Emancipated! we are not fighting for that. We fight only for country & a flag” -- The Alabamian turned to his comrades & said “Boys, we are fighting our best friends.”

I could give you many such incidents of the two last battles at Bull's Run - however the enemy (whose ranks swarm with Union loving men who have been impressed) elevates the muzzles of their guns & fired over our heads! Very few of their canister & grape exploded - but then there was much treachery on their part; for instance two secession Regiments marching under the Stars & Stripes & poured a deadly volley into Union troops -- who thought they were friends instead of foes -- I shall not attempt a description of the battle -- for we were through the whole conflict the first in on Thursday & the last out on Monday after Sunday’s fight.

The coolness of our skirmishers was highly commended -- you are not aware perhaps that they are composed of twenty men two Corporals -- one sergeant & one lieutenant from each flank company of each Regiment of our Brigade -- then composed of the Mich. 2nd & 3rd - Mass: 1st & N.Y. 12th - the whole of these skirmishers are commanded by Birschneider & are termed in the papers . . . [as] “Birschneider's sharpshooters”. . . . It was regular bush fighting & against a masked battery -- [Chancey] lost his hat in the engagement & he'll have wonderful stories to tell when he gets back to old Ottawa -- during the hottest of the fight when musket-balls & cannon balls were flying thick around them, -- his comrade, affected a serio-comic [look] and asked him “[Chancey] are you happy?” “Quite so, but I'm afraid I'll cut in a __ & no whiskey on hand” said [Chancey] -- there's nothing in the words or the mere expression [‘the mere expression’ is crossed out] -- but those who were on hand say that his expression phisionomically was droll in the extreme -- I saw him after the fight -- met him in the woods -- nary cap on his head -- & his hair like a Dutch mop -- his eyes & nose too very prominent -- I declare I hardly knew him. -- You have undoubtedly heard that one of our boys [Ed. Morse] had his knee cap partly shot off -- [Hank Morse] eased him up while he fired again & [Ed.] was then carried out of the Hell Hole by Yankee of our Co. [Hank Morse] retreated sideways or backwards loading & firing as he went -- one of the boys asked why he did so -- “oh” said [Hank] “my mother told me never to be shot in the back.” The loss of the enemy must have vastly exceed ours -- they outnumbered us in force almost three to our one -- Could we have held our position a little longer the enemy would have been in full retreat I can't see to this day why we could not have held Centreville or at least Fairfax but treason did its work somewhere & the artillery were out of ammunition!

The retreat was most inglorious & speaks poorly for our officers, the Mich 3rd brought up the rear & covered the retreat[.] Col. Miles was drunk during the fight -- I find that there is quite an effort being made to exonerate him from the responsibility & disgrace & the confusion, etc., etc. -- but drunk he was -- so that he could not give an intelligible order -- Zack Chandler was in our camp day before yesterday. He was in liquor (so our boys aver) -- somehow or other politicians are not much welcome in a camp. I wish I could describe the enrapturing beauty of Saturday night just before the battle -- the stars seemed to shine doubly bright as we lay upon our backs looking up at the sublime beauties of the heavens nature seemed breathlessly awaiting the havoc & confusion of the morrow -- not even a whisper stirred among the trees . . . how different the din, the havoc & confusion of Sunday -- and (mention it or not) -- the retreat at night.

On August 18, 1861, William, on duty with the Third Michigan, wrote to the editor of the Chicago Tribune, from Hunter’s Farm, Virginia. He enclosed a poem he wrote the day before the First Battle of Bull Run.

Please accept the enclosed lines from a Chicago boy, and do what you like with them. They were suggested by the beautiful night preceding the late disastrous battle at Bull Run. It’s no credit to have been there, I know; but we were there, and are going again, to try it over and wipe out the disgrace. Very respectfully, W. H. Drake, Company A, Mich. 3d. Silently the shadows fall, Soft it brooding over all, Peacefully the sun goes down, Decking with a golden crown Yonder mountain’s regal crest, Purpling in the glowing West; Flinging shadows broad and deep Over woodland, brake and glen; Where the lurking foemen sleep, Hidden in their leafy den. Now the light has dreamed away, Leaving shadows long and grey, Where the golden rays have spread Hues of Heaven, rosy-red; Now the winds are sweetly sighing For another daylight -- dying, ‘Till the last faint zephyrs play On the skirts of parting day. Soon the moon her light unveiling, O’er the starry sea is sailing; Through the leafy branches peeping, On the ground, in silence creeping, Gleams her silver light. With silvery woof she deftly weaves, On warp of glimmering forest leaves, The gauzy canopy that veils the sky; As surging on, in heaving waves -- Wave on wave, of marshaled braves, Wave on wave, of frosted sheen, Noiseless as a summer dream -- IS swelling to the van, to do or die. Up to Heaven in fondness gazing, All its clustering glories tracing; Up to Heaven our souls are turning, Where the starry lamps are burning Round the throne of God; -- Thinking of the coming morrow, Of its unreaped yield of sorrow; Who will see these bright lights burning At another night’s returning -- Who will strew the sod? Some shall, bravely fighting, fall In the fiery strife; Their knell shall be yon bugle call -- You starry flag shall be their pall; Their last bequest, yon battle brand Shall write with swift and gory hand, In heavy strokes, to save the land And give the nation life. Patriots! rest ye for the fray, Nerve you for the coming day; Fret not for the loved ones dear, Look to Heaven -- then cease to fear. Some must for the country die; -- See your bright home in the sky, Mark its glories on our flag -- Let not then your courage lag; But heart -- be strong! and hand -- be steady! Life or death will find you ready! Centreville, Va., July 20, 1861.

In early 1862 William was on duty with the regiment near Washington, DC, when he wrote to a friend in Ottawa County, Michigan, discussing various aspects of the war. In January he wrote

Of course you are fully posted as to our operations here -- or rather lack of operations. When any skirmish of any account takes place it gets into the papers; but there are daily encounters, on a small scale, which receive no notice; and, although we are not moving “forward to Richmond”, there is no cessation of work for the soldier. We are under another Chief and a new military regime. Although the army is longing for a grand rush, and ready to pour out their blood like water to redeem the Union and terminate the war, yet we have faith in McClellan’s policy, as humane and thorough. Since the Bull Run affair [of July 21, 1861], the war department have performed prodigies, especially in ordinance. Some critics, sitting by their firesides, may ask the question, “How is it, that with a vast army around Washington the Government does not break up that blockade, and take the rebel batteries along the Potomac, at Occuquan, Shipping Point, Acuai [Acquia] Creek, Matthias Point, etc.?” Let me ask, what does the blockade of the Potomac by the rebel shore batteries amount to? It reminds one of the story of a large man whose little better half made a practice of spanking him. “Why do you allow it?” said a friend. “Oh, it pleases her, and don’t hurt me.”

And so it is; we hear the roar of their cannon every day, and the only prize I remember of their taking was one old cord-wood scow, that drifted loose right under their guns. (N. B. Prisoners, none!) Besides, as to our inactivity, look at the forts that environ the capital, on every hill, that stand, and will stand for ages, like giant watchers, lasting monuments raised by the strong and willing hands of patriots to free labor. I just wish you could see the clearing that has been done by Michigan along Arlington heights to Fort Ellsworth, etc. Take a look at Fort Scott, and Fort Richardson, back of the Long Bridge, and Fort Lyon, near Alexandria, and you’ll be proud of the Michigan boys. On Thursday a company of our Cavalry had a little scrub with the rebels, just this side of Pohick Church. Our cavalry, 2nd N. J., had with them a Lieutenant and a few men of the Michigan Fifth Infantry -- while passing through a deep cut road, with thick pines on both sides, the rebels, who were a party of skirmishers, fired into our men, who returned the fire and fell back to a clearing, as the Cavalry wasn’t worth a fig in such a fix. The Lieut. of the Michigan fifth was shot twice -- not mortally -- once in the mouth, and in the neck, slightly; however, the rebels were driven back with a loss of five killed.

It rained sleet last night and is now snowing. The weather is quite cold, especially when out on picket -- for we can’t have any fires there unless we hide them. We build a hut of pine and cedar boughs, and have a fire inside, and manage to keep as comfortable as we can. There’s one offset, though, in picketing. We can buy pies, milk, butter and chickens, from the farmers. I have been several times over the lines, some four miles once, and everywhere is desolation -- people driven from their homes, the Union folks taken to Manassas, stock and produce stolen by the rebels, and, in fact, the country is alive with desperate bands of ragamuffins, who plunder all they can. A free colored man told me the other day, at Accotink, that four of these nondescripts came to his house, near Pohick Church, a few days ago, and took dinner at his house, for which they paid him one dollar in Secesh script, then carried off his horse and hogs, and two cows, not even condescending to give a note for the same. I think Mill Point has done nobly, and don’t wonder that it is dull there.

There’s one good lively time ahead, when the war shall be terminated, and the soldiers get home -- just one grand break down. What are your ideas on the war? Don’t you think that the Confederate States of America are pretty near played out? It seems to me that the thinking, feeling, paying portion of their people must see the fallacy, as well as the injustice of secession -- unjust to the North and to themselves, and a libel on democratic institutions. I like the firm, manly course the President has taken, through more than one crisis -- even in the removal of Fremont, after his (Fremont’s) proclamation. Has he not most unmistakably said, by word and deed, that he wars not against an institution, but for the very vitality of the Government? Then, there is another thing for which we should feel grateful, the policy of McClellan -- so averse to a shedding of blood. He don’t seem to think that to kill out the rebellion he need to kill out the rebels, but simply cause them, like Jonah’s gourd, to “dry up”.

Of course, we expect hard fighting; but not a blow until every man shall know his work, with a degree of certainty of performing it thoroughly. Then the blows will fall hot and heavy, thick and fast, no more Bull Runs, but victory or death. That Bull run affair has sunk deep into the hearts of the Third Michigan boys -- although we did all our work, and even covered the retreat of McDowell’s army, yet the stigma sticks! and must be wiped out some day or other. I suppose the troops who have left for Kentucky will see service soon. We hear a rumor of an engagement in Kentucky, near Paducah. I am very anxious to hear all the particulars, as there is an old office-mate of mine there, in the Chicago Light Artillery.

I hold to the belief that nearly all wars are the result of ignorance. Is it not by the most damnable lies that the ranks of the rebel army is filled up? They think that the Government is bent on freeing their slaves -- that we are abolitionists of the darkest hue. Hence they wish us in hell, and do their best to send us there -- which is all very correct if what they think be true. We may thank abolition sermons, resolutions, gas, and personal (insults), liberty laws for all the South than abolition is that of the North, and a misunderstanding in this respect has aided Jeff Davis & Co. in their nefarious Aaron Burr scheme of disunion and secession. When I returned from the Battle of Bull Run, I stopped over night at Fort Corcoran, with the New York sixty-ninth Regiment. The poor fellows spun yarns about the battle until midnight -- enough to fill a book; but one narrative struck me in particular.

One fellow, a Sergeant, told of how they took a rebel battery, and were charging after the rebels. On their return to reform their line, the ground around was strewn with the dead and wounded. He heard one poor fellow crying piteously for water -- “having a little left in my canteen, I stooped to give him a drop, and what the devil should I find but a d___d Louisiana zouave. Ah! sure, now, by the holy Moses, I’ve a strong notion to spade yer flight!” The dying man replied imploringly, “For the love of Jesus, give me just one drop!””And what could I do but give the poor fellow the very last. He was badly wounded, and all cut up with splinters of shell. Troth, says I, and what could induce ye to take up arms against the Government?” “And sure,” he said, “ye were a set of black abolitionists, coming to free the nagers and to give them arms to fight them with!” “Now, said I, sure and the d___d spalpeen that told ye that same lies like h___l, and the holy truth’s not in him!. He seemed as though he didn’t understand me, and while I raise his head, so he might rest easy-like, he said never a word for some time. Then, poor lad, he heaved a sigh, and said he, ‘I tell ye what, it’s hard, hard, to fight against the stars and stripes!’” Now, it seems tome that about the best prayers that preachers could offer up to Heaven (they most generally pray to their congregations) is for the good Lord to open the eyes of the people of the North and South to what is just between man and man, State and State. * * * *

And on January 29, he wrote again to the same friend in Mill Point.

Dear Friend: your letter was duly received, and duly read to Mill Point delegation, at “Dixie” (when I say Mill Point, I mean the vicinity, Spring Lake, and Crockery) and the sentiment thereof heartily responded to. In fact, it is the sentiment of the army: Union first and foremost, the constitution inviolate, and the supremacy of the law, North and South. The army of the Union is not an army of abolitionists, nor is the administration, with Honest Old Abe at the head, the instrument o that fanatical crew, who would sooner hail the speedy destruction of the peculiar institution and the Union than see the latter survive the shock, and the former linger slowly to a certain death.

I have faith, with you, that as long as Uncle Abraham is sailing-master of the good ship Constitution, “he will be enabled to shake off the rats”, and that the good work of purgation shall go on until the last one shall have followed [Secretary of War Simon] Cameron -- overboard. The course he has taken is the only safe one, the only honest one, and it is constitutional. Maryland had faith in it, and secession became treason in her borders. Kentucky had faith in it and poured out her legions, and the dark and bloody ground echoes with the tread of our victorious army, and by that faith only are we saved. To doubt now of ultimate success is criminal, to bicker and fault-find is idle; and, above all, to dictate to a commander, who only ought to know the line of action he should adopt, is unworthy of the Governor of any State. (vide Gov. Blair’s last message.)

The “onward to Richmond” policy is “played out”. Rome was not built in one day -- neither can military enterprises of such magnitude, and on such a vast scale as those McClellan has in project, be carried out by a simple turn of the hand. That we are gaining ground daily, and that the rebels are losing by the delay, they themselves admit. Their great hope has rested upon the aid of England and France; but is it not frustrated by the very thing that was likely to lead us into a foreign war? And thanks be to the shrewdness of [Secretary of State William] Seward, the cup of bitterness that was to be pressed to the nation’s lips, has proved the very nectar of the Gods, and out of an apparent blunder we have gained a grand diplomatic triumph -- not only the recognition of an American principle, but in seeing it universalized and Russia now calls upon the cabinet of St. James to give to the world solemn guarantees that she, eschewing her own precedents, will be bound by the principle she so stiffly enforced in the Trent affair.

The term of enlistment of Virginia troops, in the rebel army, has nearly expired, and it is a known fact that they relish it poorly -- nor will they, to a great extent, reenter the service. The Richmond papers are in dilemma on the subject -- said dilemma (they admit) has but two horns -- the soldiers will be satisfied to be plain citizens, of they must be compelled to reenlist, and, of course, they seize the latter horn, apparently fearful that they may find it sharp to their own sorrow. We have no news of importance. Our time is occupied in the various duties attendant on camp life, picket, drill, etc., but of late it has been almost impossible to drill -- now rain, then sleet or snow, and all the time mud.

A rebel spy was brought to our encampment a couple of days ago. He was taken by a scouting party of cavalry -- in fact, trapped. Mr. Secesh asked the cavalry, whom he suddenly met, “What regiment they belonged to?” And they, Yankee like, answered him by asking him a question, “Where the d__d Yankee pickets were?” “Oh,” he said, “over there; I was inside their lines last night, and visited one of their camps, and have just come from near their pickets.” “Very good; then you are our prisoner!” and took him. This morning, about 1 o’clock, musketry was heard, apparently by our picket lines. Soon the news came in to our camp, as we were the furthest out, that a scouting party of the 37th N. Y. of our brigade [Richardson’s] who are on picket, had surprised a party of the Texan Rangers (so they called themselves) in a house, three miles beyond our picket line, and in the fuss killed nine, and took one prisoner, not leaving one Secesh to tell the tale. The prisoner is in our guard house. The 37th lost one man killed, and two wounded. The 37th is an Irish regiment. You must know that our brigade have all got new Austrian rifles, beauties, and during the fuss one Irishman sung out, “Arrah, bedad! it isn’t the muskets ‘ats arter yez, this time!” The battalion down below, are keeping up a continual cannonade, but I guess it don’t amount to much. The rebels are strengthening their position in the vicinity of Occoquan. They’re great for “cat holes”. If we ever attack them down there, we’ll have a warm time; but we’ll beat them -- that is, if they don’t crawl in and pull the hole in after them.

In mid-February of 1862 William was with the regiment in its winter quarters at Camp Michigan, Virginia, when he wrote home to a friend, presumably in Ottawa County, decrying the “perfidy” of Abolitionism and discussing the recent developments in the war.

My Dear Friend: While you are enjoying such fine sleighing, sociables, etc., we are having quite a succession of rainy days; but we are in glorious spirits at the late series of successes that have attended our arms under Burnside, in North Carolina, and under Grant, etc., in Tennessee, and under Lander, in Western Virginia, and now we hear of the fall of Savannah. Is not General McClellan verifying his prediction that “the struggle should be short, but desperate?” Fort Donelson, the key of the South-West, is in the hands of General Halleck. It was a daring victory, but a desperate and bloody struggle. With what sterling heroism did the brave Illinoisans, especially the Eighth and Eighteenth Regiments, stand their ground against fearful odds, until the last bullet had sped on its mission, and then, when those two batteries had been taken by the enemy, how well was the ground re-gained, and the batteries re-taken with clubbed muskets! Hurrah for Illinois. I was gratified to hear of the gallant part that Company A, of the Chicago Light Artillery, took in the action.

I have an old friend in that company. Have we not much to be glad for – not only for the success of our arms, but for the certainty of being understood by the people of the South. The time for the North and South to reason together is not far distant. And the question arises, should there be any distinction made between the traitor North, and the traitor South? That the plan of secession was a deep laid plot, long in maturing, I have no doubt, and that slavery was but a miserable pretext. Does it then follow that the pretext should be removed to prevent the return of the malady? For my part, I cannot see how those nullificationists, the Abolitionists, have the brazen-faced assurance to dictate to the Union Administration. It is recorded that Lucifer once appeared in the court of Heaven, but even his satanic majesty understood his position well enough not to dictate the decrees of heaven. These disturbers of the nation’s peace – these covenant breakers are not to be tolerated. Let them know their “posish”. Put them alongside their friends, the “secesh”. Let them simmer in the same pot. Let them not curse the blood-sought liberties of the American Union, in open daylight. Fort Warren is too good for them. I can see no difference in an Abolitionist, who stigmatizes the Union as a “League with Hell”, and who declares a wish to see the Union shattered and broken, and the Rebel in arms, who does the same thing – only the one is a coward, while the other had the manliness to back up his dogma.

Capt. L[owing] is an exception to the general rule. It is refreshing to find one of them that will fight. He is a brave officer, and wide-awake to his business. But I doubt if he finds many in this Regiment who are such a loss to give a reason for the hope that inspires us in this contest, or who feel so dreadfully anxious for the intelligence of generations yet unborn. Although the Personal Liberty Laws of Michigan amount to nothing, only as a standing insult to the South, is it not the duty of the people of Michigan to wipe it off the statute books of the State? Vermont is said to have done so; and is Michigan so wretchedly poor, and mean-souled as to keep it there in defiance of the constitution of the State and the constitution of the United States, while she has her thousands on southern soil striving to put down secession? I thank you for the [Detroit?] Free Press.

That speech of Cox’s is pointed and in good season. How refreshing to see these Greeleys, Gurleys, and all of that stamp, just put in their proper light. Congressmen, and reporters, artists, etc., were in the way everywhere at Bull Run – but out of danger, I mean. You would have laughed to see them parading, with all the dignity and bravery of veterans, and then when a round shot or two came crashing over from the rebel batteries, a sudden change came o’er them. It would be wrong to say they lost their dignity – but the wind wasn’t blowing, yet you might play marbles on their coat tails. The boys had lots of fun with them, and were inventing scares for these amateur warriors all the time. They’ll always be remembered as a nuisance. Yet, forsooth, they “who never placed a squadron in the field” know more than General McClellan himself. All we owe to such wiseacres is the scene of Bull Run.

Have you seen Beauregard’s report of the battle of Manassas? If so, you’ll see how very near we came to being “bagged”. Now I think the catechism of the Union is very simple. What do we live for? The union of hearts and the union of hands, and the flag of our union forever. What do you believe in? I believe in the constitution, States’ rights and national Union. Whom do you swear by? Gen. McClellan, Fighting Dick [Richardson] and our little Colonel [Champlin] – by thunder!

On March 25, 1862, William wrote to the editor of the Grand Haven News in Ottawa County from Hampton, Virginia.

Dear Sir: since I received your last letter we have been continually on the move. On the 14th Richardson’s Brigade took their last farewell of Camp Michigan, its tents and log huts, and took up their line of march for some point then to us unknown. We halted at Eagle Hill, near Fort Lyon – a bald, bleak hill – and bivouacked in the mud; and on Monday we marched to Alexandria and took the boats. On Tuesday, at 2 o’clock P.M., the expedition started down the {Potomac] River, and we had the gratification of seeing the evacuated blockading batteries of the rebels. The rebels are yet up Acquia Creek, which place as we passed was on fire – not the creek, exactly, but the buildings, etc. At 3 o’clock P.m., of Wednesday, we arrived safe and sound at Fortress Monroe, where we had the pleasure of seeing the little Monitor – the most comical looking contrivance that ever pertained to old Neptune’s dominions. The rebels just hit the nail on the head when they dubbed her “A Black Yankee Cheese Box, on a Raft.”

On Thursday morning we left the boat and marched to Camp Hamilton, where we remained until yesterday, when we again pulled up stakes and crossed the River and [passed] through Hamilton to this place, about a mile from the ruined village. It would make your heart ache to see the desolate picture that this once beautiful village now presents. Piles of rubbish and ashes are all that indicate what once was the homes of some three thousand souls. Beautiful shade trees, now sapless and dead, remain mute monuments to the madness of man. The soldier who bivouacs near searches among the rubbish for a few charred fragments with which to cook his cup of coffee. It is one of he most ancient villages in the country. The church was very old – but that, together with the Odd Fellows’ Hall, are now but a mass of ruins. The residence of ex-President Tyler is over the river, and in good condition, considering that it is domiciled by niggers. And here I must mention an incident that approaches the serio-comic: When we arrived at Camp Hamilton it rained and blew fiercely, to the discomfiture of the troops who had no other bed but the wet ground, and no covering but a shelter tent, about the size of a dog-kennel, which we carry in our knapsacks (they are just the thing for a march, nevertheless) but the Line Officers are not provided with any shelter, whatever, and they, thinking that a white man is a leetle better than a contraband, took possession of three or four large brick houses, among which was Ex-President Tyler’s house, and turned all contraband occupants out of doors; but General Wool, hearing of it, soon sent the Provost Guard, who in turn caused said officers to evacuate, and threw their traps, etc., out of doors in a hurry, much to the disgust and chagrin of the officers, and much to the gratification of the wooly race. One ebony lady, having thus been reinstated, by the Provost Guard, with the front door wide open, and the knob in her hand, was viewing the scatteration of oil-skins, blankets, and overcoats, thus addressed an officer who was standing by, an interested spectatory of the scene, “Yah, yah! He, he! I tole you so! Gen’l Wool make dese white folks know dare place!” and then slammed the door, fully satisfied that “de white folks are jest as good as de color’d pop’lation, when dey know dare place!” Wasn’t that a pretty good dose for an extremist! If Horace Greeley, or any other man, wants to command a regiment of blacks, he must calculate on “knowing his place”.

We have lost our Brigadier General J. [I.] B. Richardson, he having been promoted to the command of Sumner’s Division. We feel bad about it, and so does he. He tried hard to get his old Brigade transferred to his new command, and went to Washington, but it could not be done. He was promoted while we were on Eagle Hill, awaiting shipment. Col. Terry, of the 5th Michigan, is now, by seniority of rank, our Brigadier General, and the Division is commanded by General Hamilton. But for this “grand schemell” we should have been in the advance. Instead of that we are the Third Brigade of the Second Division of this army, and Heintzelman is in command of the three divisions.

We have heard from eye-witnesses full accounts of the late naval fight, the most singular and one of the most terrific on record; but it takes a darkey to put on the flourishes. When the magazine of the Congress blew up the buildings near Hampton were jarred as by the shock of an earthquake. I believe that God Almighty cares for the nation now as He did in the great struggle for independence, and it seems as though the invention of the Monitor is a mark of His providence. We hear that another boat, sister to the Monitor, the Mystic, has arrived. She is said to be swifter and stronger. This morning Porter’s division passed us, and are marching on in advance. We expect every moment to hear the boom of cannon. Tomorrow we march. Rest assured that we will not retrograde, and none will do and dare more cheerfully than the Michigan Third. Our colonel is at present under the care of surgeons, but we trust he will be well in a day or two.

Three deserters from an Alabama Regiment came in on Sunday. They say they were compelled to enlist, and that over two hundred of the Regiment would desert of they could. The officers are so strict and suspicious of their men that they will not give a “pass” even to Yorktown, not two miles from their camp. These men found a skiff, and, taking advantage of the night, which was dark and stormy, and having no oars, paddled their craft down the river to our lines with their hands. A dozen contrabands came into our camp this morning, Nearly twice that number started from Secessia, but these twelve were all that succeeded in running the gauntlet, and one of them died since arriving. They were very hungry when they came in, and the boys will have it that “deceased came to his death by eating too many hard crackers.”

Michigan is well represented in Heintzelman’s army. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and Stockton’s Independent Regiments are here – although there is but the 2nd, 3rd and 5th in this Division. Michigan will compare well with the Regiments from any [of the] other States. Berdan’s Sharpshooters were bivouacked near us last night, but have marched on today in advance with Fitz Porter’s division. They have been furnished with Colt’s Revolving Rifles, but the men don’t seem to like them. They prefer Sharp’s rifles, or their own rifles. But it seems to me that they are but half armed without the bayonet, which Colt’s rifles have. Some of them have rifles weighing over thirty pounds. Uncle Abe tried his hand with one and made a first class shot, hitting the mark.

On Saturday Don [Lovell?] and I went down to the Fortress, and through it. We saw the Big Union Gun, and the Lincoln Gun, which carries a ball weighing over four hundred and thirty pounds! The Union Gun is rifled and weighs forty-nine thousand and odd pounds. The Union gun is mounted, and the Lincoln Gun is being mounted, on the beach, and bearing on Sewall’s Point. Within the Fortress are houses with gardens to them, used as officers’ quarters, and lonf rows of buildings, for commissary stores and soldiers’ quarters. There are rows of beautiful live oak shading the carriage ways, which are graveled nice and smooth, the sidewalks are paved with brick, and the unoccupied space between the drives is covered with greensward. Everything is kept neat and clean, and looks more like a snug little village, but for the piles of “Union pills” and artillery laying around, and the big guns frowning outward that rest upon the summit of the green slopes. The boys are now luxuriating in the good things of this life – oysters and other shell fish, such as muscles [sic] and clams. The oysters are the largest and finest that I ever saw – and we know they are fresh. When we get them ourselves, it is presumed they’re private property, but the owners being over the line, and the oysters being plenty, the boys see fit to confiscate them. The contrabands monopolize the trade, and you can get a superb dish, enough to make a hearty meal, for twelve and a half cents. I believe with you, that abolitionism is dying out.

It is high time that political mountebanks should give place to honest men. We have no politics in the army. It is the Union, right or wrong. The people of the North and of the South have no great issue at stake between them. The misrepresentation of the sentiment of the people of the North, backed by bad whiskey, has fired the southern heart so that the weaker brother hung his Union harp upon the willow of maudlin, mock philanthropy, and went to rattling “Dixie” with al his might on the drum. Now, that abolition willow – that weeping willow – did not represent the North. Her symbol is the pine, and truly the emblem of freedom – as the free winds of Heaven strikes her she seems to echo the South, the soil . . . is free soil, and you’d be better off if yours was. But every one to his notion – only don’t circulate any of your basswood arrangements off this way. “The troubles of the country”, says Benton, “come from uneasy politicians – her safety from the tranquil masses.” The boys are all well except Charley Van Dusen, who is in the hospital. Peach trees are in full blossom here.

William was taken prisoner during the Seven Days Campaign in May of 1862, probably at Fair Oaks, Virginia on May 31, 1862, and was paroled sometime late in 1862.

He described a portion of ordeal, particularly after being paroled, in a letter to a friend back in Ottawa County, written from Alexandria, Virginia, in mid-December of 1862.

My Dear Friend: Yours of the 7th was very gladly received. It is so unusual for me to receive a letter that I mark a letter day with a white mark. Perhaps all this comes from my writing so little – for, since I have been here, my health has been very poor. If I was to tell you all you would not be astonished: How we were ordered from here (unofficially) on the 3d of November, to go to our regiment, on the supposition that we were exchanged – how we took the cars for Harper’s Ferry, and slept on the cold, hard rocks of Loudon heights, on the night of the 4th (my sister’s birthday), marched to near Smith’s Gap, on the 5th, passed there after the rear guard of the army, on the 6th – and how some four hundred of our number were recaptued by the enemy (and some hung), as we chased the army of the Potomac, which, you will remember, was then moving southward, toward the Rappahannock, and then snow storm in the mountains on the 7th – yes! How we went six days, continually on the move, and had only one day’s rations dealt out to us (we filled up the vacuum within by eating raw corn), and then after all this useless and I trust unauthorized suffering we found that we were not yet exchanged! Just think of it. Rushing thousands of men through an enemy’s country who are not yet released from their parole! This kind of usage to us veterans may be all right, but I can’t see it. It certainly has the tendency to break many a man down – myself for one. To fetch a pail of water from the well is the most that I accomplish in a day’s time. All that were fit for duty were sent to their regiments, but the M.D. classed me unfit, so I remain here and make the best of it.

If I was able to be with my Regiment you can bet I’d be there. I furnished a list of the Michigan, forty-one in number, in this camp, to Judge Edmunds, President of the Michigan Soldiers’ Relief Association, of which Z. Moses, formerly of Grand Haven, is Treasurer, and urging some action on their part with our representatives toward relieving the Michigan men in this camp. And for these reasons: Because many wounded and sick are here who are forever disabled from military service and would be discharged by a Medical Board if favored with an examination – some who have been sent out of Hospitals with their wounds unhealed and running.

Again, because most have not received a cent from Uncle Sam for six, eight, and some ten months and more, and whose families are suffering in consequence. Now, all who remain here are pronounced by the M.D.s “Excused on account of disability.” To remain here is but an aggravation, and making a bad thing worse. This is not the place that I should select to recruit my health in, by no means. To go to my Regiment I’m not able. To get out here honorably as a soldier I don’t see the way at present. To ask for a furlough is presumption. So the blasted thing goes. The honorable gentlemen now assembled in Washington have something else to do than attend to the wants of those who have on Jeff Davis’ bounty. They’ve got a nigger in hand, and the wool so thoroughly drawn over their optics that they can’t see a soldier – a white soldier! He may suffer and be --- but the “Nigger”, he’s political capital and can’t be “drapped”. Let them hug him. I’m for the Union first, last and forever., and by all or any means to show to the world that a democratic form of government is a government of broad and deep foundation, and lasting as the hills – that factions can not rend it, or parties shake it from the throne in the hearts of the people.

I have an idea about this war. I kept my eyes and ears open when in Rebeldom, and am satisfied that this war will never be ended by fighting alone – never! I would like to chat with you an hour or two, about a conversation I had with the Captain of Company I, Georgia Regiment, and the Captain of the 4th North Carolina, after I was made prisoner.

Are the interests of the North and South so conflicting that we should be disunited? Why is it that the extremes in each section should rule in each section to the destruction of both? A deification of the “Nigger”, by one section, and a degeneration of State rights into secession by the other. It is the every-day curse of nine-tenths of the soldiers in the army, “The devil take the nigger!” Not that they curse him, as an individual, but as a “causus belli”, and as a ruse for political humbugs, to wool it into office. Where do you think I first heard of the results of the fall elections? In a lonely Irish cabin, in Thoroughfare Gap, Bull Run Mountains, on the night of the 7th of November, where (four of us) sought shelter from the snow-storm. We remained over night, as we could find no other shelter. The house had been used as a picket post by the rebels, a little while previous, and the walls were charcoaled with “Death to the Yankees”, and the names of diveres members of a Louisiana Regiment. The old lady gave us shelter and a hoecake, and I paid her my share, to wit: a shirt and a fine tooth comb – both came handy to her. We chatted a couple of hours, and she said that she’d heard that “Five Northern States had gone agin the North!” I told her I thought that they were just as strong for the Union as they “had gone for the North”, instead of “agin” it; but it might have a tendency to shorten the war, or bring both sections to an understanding. She “hoped to the Lord it would.” We were the first [Union] soldiers who had stayed there – for the cabin was “over the lines and beyond our vidette posts. Besides she couldn’t read. How did she get the news?

If only I had a furlough of thirty days I might recruit up and be good for something again. I’ve not heard from Don [Lovell?] since October. [Don Lovell was promoted to Second Lieutenant and transferred to the Sixth Michigan cavalry in October of 1862.] If I was in Michigan I might possibly do something toward getting into the cavalry. You say I could get an appointment as Lieutenant. How? Please write me, and if you can speak a word for a poor old paroled prisoner I would feel under everlasting obligations. Remember me to all inquiring friends.

From Camp Parole, at Alexandria, Virginia, he wrote to George Miller’s mother. Miller, also of Company A, had been a comrade of Drake’s, and he too had gone missing at Fair Oaks.

You will not think me forward in adding a word to that already written by friend [Jessie] Coon. I belong to company A of the Third and have stood picket a great many times with George and I say it not for display, there was not one in the Company for whom I felt a higher regard. After the terrible battle of Fair Oaks 3 of Company A were found to be missing, J. V. Smith, George and myself. We had to fight Indian fashion such was the nature of the ground, thickets, fallen timber and swampy. I think with others that he might have been carried off by the enemy (wounded) and since died or that his body was not found after we moved from Salisbury prison], North Carolina to Belle Isle [prison] near Richmond, Virginia some of our Regiment held prisoners there inquired of us if we knew anything about George and we made all inquiries if he was yet in the hospitals at Richmond. We should have known it by this time, hence we are driven to conclude that he has met a soldier's death.

Our wounded received the best treatment the enemy could give and to my knowledge were not abused as some represent. You will pardon me for expressing my opinion as to his fate, all who knew him mourn for him and with you -- he was truthful, honorable and upright and a true-hearted soldier for such a one's sorrow is not unmixed for the dark cloud has a bright border guided by a sanctifying hope.”

On Christmas Day William wrote his friend Agnes from the convalescent camp near Alexandria, Virginia. He referred to “Camp Parole”, also known as “Camp Banks”, as “Camp Purgatory.”

Here’s a Merry Xmas & a Happy New Year. I lately recd a letter from Sarah [his future wife?] & learned that you had just arrived from Canada. Of course you had a pleasant time. How does her Majesty’s dominions look when compared to Uncle Sam’s big farm? And how many Americans (to the manor born) did you see over there – I understand a few step over the line ‘to get out of the draft’ – My chum here (of Cap Ed Pierce’s Co [E]) tells me that he has a relative in Michn who had just plead exemption on the ground of being a foreigner! The poor boy feels wrathy about it, the more so as he has a bro (his only) a Lt in the Rebel service. So the Govt has resolved to draft if the quota is not filled by the 30th. I do hope that Michn will never be disgraced by any forced means as Pa had been & other states – Drafted men do not fight – unless under the strictest discipline & Big Bounty men are worse than the Hessians of the Revolution. Agnes! A man who will not fight for his country without bribe or compulsion – either does not love country or has no pluck – Mercenaries will never vindicate the Union on the battle field. Day before yesterday I vamped up a ‘pass’ & crossed the Long Bridge & after much inquiry found Don [Lovell] and was mighty glad to see the boy – he makes a fine officer.

I met my old friend Pete Weber (Capt of Co B of the 6th Mich Cavy) & had a very pleasant time with him. He introduced me to Capt. Drew (late of the Express Co.) & other officers. My reception was quite flattering – Pete said he envied me my red badge on the cap (Kearney’s badge) & when I told him that my last order was recd from that Old War Dog – he allowed that it was an honor – especially as I obeyed that order. I remained with Don over night & then returned via Washington where I met some of the Old Third – wounded etc. – it does my heart good to see them – but then it seems painful too – I called on Lt. Bergman at a private house on ‘C’ St. – he has lost his right leg above the knee (carried away by a shell at Bull Run/62) he can’t go out & is waiting for Govt to furnish him with a Patent limb – poor fellow – he complains of being lonely – While I was there he looked out of the window – at some school children at play and turned sharply, ‘Drake, I tell you that sight makes me almost cry sometimes.’

Our Col now Genl [Stephen] Champlin called to see him the other day – Don called on him also – By the bye Cap. [Peter] Weber was telling me that when the officers of the 6th congratulated Col Champlin on his promotion – he put on his good serious-pleasant look & rejoined ‘Ah! Peter I think more of my old weather beaten Eagle than of the Star.’ The Col cried when he had to leave the Regt. Since he came to Washington he recd a letter from Genl [Hiram] Berry who says that in the future he will spare the Old Third as much as is possible. Hah!

Christmas Day – how are you spending it? Any sleighing? This morning I went in to Alexandria & (we three) had a dish of oysters apiece, glass Lager (oh no three) & a pint of cider apiece and then left the dirty town – full of drunken soldiers & quarrelsome civilians! That Alexandria is a plague spot – the cullion [?] population are troubled with the Small Pox a good deal. Our Christmas dinner was Port – head & sour krout – to day the President’s lady favors the Hospitals of the District with some 3 tons of Chickens and Chicken fixings – We too have a divinity – A Knickerbocker lady from Albany, who donates sour krout to the ‘Nation’s Pets’ as she terms us – rather hard pets, Aye? Rather a strange streak of generosity (I think) that leads her to condole us the neglected, forgotten played outs – with sour krout – but I think she is a philosopher & on the principle that ‘two negatives are equivalent to an affirmative,’ takes this means to correct the journey of the ‘Nation’s Pets’ -- by the bye – this ‘Pets’ is intended – I suppose – as Artemus Ward says – ‘ironically,’ in consideration of the high debt of obligation that we are under to that synonym of ingratitude the Republic – Thank God I owe nothing to my country, but to love her – I begged for a privilege to test my devotion in the field – I am satisfied that I have done my duty – so far – as far as in me lay – I have suffered too (a little) not excepting ‘The instance of office,’ & the pangs etc. etc. – and above all that I have not begged for a discharge; but have dropped off the tree of Military Ability – ripened into disability – by hardships, suffering & neglect – All this has made me love my country the more & hate the disturbers of her peace (North & South) the more intensely Pshaw!

I’m making a real confession & writing too much I think, without even saying ‘by your favor’ Agnes, if I was to make a full confession of my poor opinion of this war, & it’s results – you would condemn me – but has it not occurred to you that the whole management of the war has been a regular avalanche of blunders? And that tens of thousands who have fallen have fallen ‘almost in vain?’ That the war has been turned to other purposes than that for which it was inaugurated on our part. – There is within sight of the Capitol in Washington, more than 60,000 sick, wounded & convalescent soldiers! Can you realize it? It seems impossible but – it is only too true, and you cannot form any idea of the manner in which they live – It has got to be – that a soldier is no better than a dog – but that dog is Diogenes, & his nature be it coarse or fine – is warped into a sort of surly independence, that is apt to be repulsive, in proportion to the degree of coarseness or fineness of temperament – Well I’m going right into the ‘morale’ of soldiering – but I cannot notice the effects without inquiring the cause. It does seem a strange thing that we do not whip down the Rebellion – if we cannot it’s a pity – We must, or find some other means to save the union, for that’s the point. Doubtless you are anxious to hear how the Proclamation will be recd by the Rebels – look anxiously to the 1st Jany 1863 – I’ll risk an opinion that they will not accept & that no State within their lines will respond to the President’s call while the Rebel capital is out of our hands – Well now I’ll stop this talk – but I don’t & can’t think of anything else. I’m coming home, & that before long – I expect my discharge papers her everyday – Oh if! I could go North by New Years. There is nothing stirring down the river – I cam near seeing John yesterday – but he had just gone down to the Army with some sutler [?] stores – they keep bringing up the wounded everyday – quite a lot arrived yesterday.— Well Agnes, good bye for the present & remember me to all enquiring friends – Chaplain [Joseph] Anderson tells me that Cap Akeley informed Havens has poor success recruiting – how can that be if he has the assistance of the puissant Rod? I have not heard from Chicago for quite a while – I don’t know what’s up – Remember me to Sarah Louise, Nellie Kate etc – Happy New Year to all.

William never rejoined the Third Michigan. He was discharged for organic heart disease on December 28, 1862, probably at Camp Banks, Alexandria, Virginia.

William returned to Michigan, and on January 6, was back in his former home in Grand Haven, Ottawa County.

He married Michigan native Sarah Middlemist (1842-1898) on November 8, 1865, and they had at least four children: George (b. 1868), Charley (b. 1873), Cornelius (b. 1876) and Florence (b. 1880).

William settled his family in Chicago, Illinois, possibly as early as 1866 but certainly by 1868. By 1880 he was working in Chicago as an architect and living with his wife and children as well as two servants. He was still living and working as an architect in Chicago in 1892, when he became a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association.

In 1902 (?) he was living in Illinois when he applied for and received a pension (no. 1,049,447).

William died on January 19, 1905,  in Chicago and was buried in Graceland Cemetery: G-822.