Excerpts from a Private Letter of Ransford B. Webb, July 19, 1862, from Harrison’s Landing

July 19, 1862 [Excerpts of a private letter, in Wellsboro Agitator: 7-30-1862].

Harrison’s Landing – “All quiet along the lines to-day,” has been an every day saying ever since the fight and evacuation of White House Landing on the Pamunkey River. A few rebel desperadoes some times come out along the banks of the James and amuse themselves by firing upon transports and hospital boats, just enough to frighten the cowardly and keep our gun boats in business, but a few well directed shells from the Monitor, Galena or Naugatuck soon learns them that “discretion is the better part of valor.” You can’t guess what a howling, screeching and yelling those hundred pound Parrott shells make as they go rushing through the air. I have known trees two and a half feet in diameter, to be cut entirely asunder, when they chanced to stand in their course. No wonder the rebels did not attack us near the river bank when such ready aid was at hand. One Monitor is better than a dozen field batteries anywhere within three miles of the river. There is where we have the advantage of them, and will have as long as the James is our base.

I want to give you a regular schooling for not writing. I have not received the first letter that was written in four weeks. Do you think me dead or a prisoner? Have you not received the letter I have sent or don’t care whether I hear from home or not? If only you knew how much good a letter does me you would be sure to write once a week instead of once a month. I sometimes think my friends have all forgotten me, and do not care whether I live or die. Then you know I have the blues some, and a little short letter from home would dispel all those gloomy thoughts and make a new man of me at once. If a soldier gets a little homesick nothing but a long letter will cure him.

Prospects of a speedy close of the war are at an end, and nothing but encouragement must come in more ways than on paper alone. We must see you turning out to respond to the call for more troops. Let three hundred thousand men be raised at once. Let all shoulder their gun that have a strong arm and use it in defence of his country. If you do not offer your service as a surgeon I shall think you a little behind the times. You can not say you are not needed for good surgeons are in great demand, and poor ones have but little trouble to gain a position. I am in hopes to hear from you soon and to hear that you are in the service. I fear, or have feared that I was the only Webb that would lend a hand to help crush this wicked rebellion. I once heard an uncle and two cousins say they would go and help the South fight the North. If those are still their sentiments, would to God I could meet them in the field. I despise a traitor but when he is a near relation I hate him. I sometimes feel almost desperate, and wish that we could decide this struggle in one mighty battle. I would be willing to take the front and run my chances. I sometimes think foreign power will intercede and then all the blood that has been shed will be in vain, or else hundreds of thousands of others must fill the lists of martyrs.

What do you think of the state of the Union any way, and what do you think the result will be? Slavery is the first cause of this Rebellion, and let slavery be killed with it are my sentiments; also let those that are the cause of the rebellion pay for it as far as their property will extend. I wish to see the instigators of all this trouble suffer the greater; in fact, I do not wish to see a traitor or rebel live after peace is declared. If England and France wish to intercede I say fight them all, and teach them what Yankee perseverance, energy and courage can do. I never wish to return [this] object can be accomplished. I hardly think they (Foreign powers) will intercede as much as they talk and blow; they are very jealous of American Liberty and would like to see it crushed forever.


  1. Ransford B. Webb, Tioga Invincibles, Company H, 6th Pennsylvania Reserves