Historic Letters

Here are some of my paper treasures, temporarily out of the safe deposit box.

Chuck Berry Mimeographed Letter, 1979

 The new Zeus of Rock & Roll Heaven was about to be released from Lompoc Federal Correctional Institute in California when he wrote this mass reply to those of us who wrote to him after his conviction for income tax evasion in 1979. He thanked us for "comforting words, both in tolerance and memory," then promised the upcoming autobiography he had written in prison, as well as a new song book. (Those were not released until 1987 and 1986.) After signing off, he adds a P.S. about his "henceforth" mailing address and "Keep Rockin'." 

Revolutionary War Pay Roster
Capt. Moses Adams, Massachusetts Regiment
February, 1778

     "1 Abstract for Pay due to Capt. Moses Adams' Company in Col. Brooks' Regiment of Guards, Now in Cambridge for the Month of Jan'y, up to the third of Feb'y--"
     Captain Adams requested 12 pounds payment for himself, 16 pounds 4 shillings for his two lieutenants, and smaller per-month amounts for sergeants, corporals, drummers and fifers, and 36 privates. A total of 122 pounds 6 shillings and 8 pence for his entire company, roughly $8100 in today's money.
     The company's main task at this time was guarding British soldiers captured at the Battle of Saratoga.
     Adams was a year older than George Washington and lived to the age of 84, through the first four Presidents of the young United States.

Civil War Letter Home, 
from Pvt. Richard P. McGee,
78th Ohio Infantry, Co. D
Berry's Landing, Louisiana, 
April 17-19, 1863
to Martha Forsythe, Ohio
Page 1 and signature

Private McGee expresses the lament still with today's soldiers: Hurry up and wait. But what he's waiting for is the beginning of General U.S. Grant's first steps to capture the key city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. McGee also complains about Southern "seceches" (secessionists, the enemy) and Northern copperheads. He says he's enclosed $4 that he'd like Martha to deliver to his family and promises to send more every letter. He witnesses a newly-freed slave fall off a raft and drown in the river ("poor thing") and the arrival of five ironclad boats. As McGee closed his three-day four-page letter on April 19, parts of Grant's army has moved to Milliken's Bend, Louisiana, where, later, the Union's first African-American troops fought off a Confederate attack. I've so far not learned what became of Private McGee and Martha Forsythe. If you have easy access to the Ohio Historical Society and can find out, please let me know. I'll give you credit here if you like.

Civil War Transfer Notice
Pvt. William H. Tuttle and others
31st Wisconsin Regiment,
by the order of Lt. Col. Francis H. West
Major J.F. Sudduth, Adjutant,
Murfreesboro, Tennessee,
November 16, 1863

     The "others" are Privates August McCallister of Montpelier, John McGoon of Monroe, and Charles L. Neff of Kenosha, all of whom survived the war. Pvt. Tuttle, however, died of disease on March 9, 1864 at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, more than a year after the bloody Battle of Stones River. He's of interest to me because of nearby Tuttle Lake outside his hometown of Princeton. I haven't yet been able to find out if the lake is named after him, his family, or neither.
     Their commander, Lt. Col. (later Brig. Gen.) West came
 from Monroe. His adjutant, Maj. Sudduth, was from Mineral Point. All except Tuttle participated in Sherman's famous March to the Sea and in the Grand Review of the Armies through Washington, D.C.

World War II German POW Letter Home
from Luftwaffe Airman First Class Karl Heckel,
Camp Reynolds, Pennsylvania,
to his parents in Munich

Here's my high school German interpretation, with a little help from Google Translate:

America, Dec. 6, 1944
                         My Dear, Dear Parents!
     Today I want to write you that I am in a camp in the United States of America. There is a huge amount of snow and extremely cold weather is with us. But we were generously supplied with winter clothes. There's also beer, chocolate, and other such things. We also have a beautiful camp library.
     It would be even easier to bear if you would write to me and please send me pictures of yourselves and my dear sister Roseanne. Please give my best to Omar, Hans, Erika, and Günther.
     From the newspapers I see that it has been a long time without an air raid. Hopefully you will come through everything well. Don't worry about me.
     A good and happy Christmas with all my heart, from your son,


Fan Letter Reply
from Mrs. Louise Harrison,
Mother of George Harrison (Beatles)
March 4, 1969

Mrs. Harrison died of lung cancer in 1970, when George was only 27 years old. In 2001, the same disease killed him, at the age of 58. Yes, I did send her "a coin"--I think it was actually a dollar bill--to help her with the postage.