Fascinating January 1865 Letter - 117th Illinois Hieronymous Brothers to their Brother at Home - "Stick to Old Illinois" SALE PENDING

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Fascinating January 1865 Letter - 117th Illinois Hieronymous Brothers to their Brother at Home - "Stick to Old Illinois" SALE PENDING


Item No. 3935278

A very interesting January 1865 letter from two brothers serving in the 117th Illinois Infantry, then in camp at Eastport, Mississippi, awaiting orders to advance south into Alabama. Both Benjamin R. Hieronymous and Thomas H. Hieronymous are listed in HDS as having enlisted as privates when the regiment was formed in September 1862, though Benjamin is listed as having been promoted to first lieutenant on January 30, 1865—just twelve days after writing this letter. Writing to their brother John back home, the brothers discuss the forces gathering at Eastport and how Alabama had better “look-out.” Most interesting, however, is the advice they give upon learning brother John is thinking of trying his luck out west in Oregon. “Stock to Old Illinois,” they advise, “It is the choice spot of the globe so far as my knowledge extends.” It is a family of farmers who clearly valued education, as the brothers advise young John to continue in school. It’s a letter from a time when America offered new opportunities just a little farther west. It reads:

Camp 117th Ills Co “A” Near Eastport Miss
Wed. P.M. Jan. 18 1865

Dear Bro. John:
Yours of Dec 26th we rec’d 15th ins’t. & it is the earliest from you. I have one from Susan Marg a week earlier. I believe I wrote you last while on the “Levi Leoti.” We disembarked the 7th and since then have constructed “Winter Quarters.” although rather late in the season. We understand we are to remain here six months, or such is the news, and it came un-officially from Gen Smith. Tom & I made our shanty of chestnut slabs 4 1/2 by 6 1/2, covered with dour “dog” tent & a little chimney at one corner. In fact, fixed just as comfortable as we ever were. The 3 Divisions of Gen. Smiths command are here & in camp. Gen Thomas has also established his Hd Qrs. here. The 4th Corps is at Huntsville or Decatur & the 23rd above here somewhere. The 3rd Div of our command started this morning on a six-day reconnaissance in the direction of Corinth, and it is said a monster expedition is being organized for early spring, for parts unknown. It will include our corps and will exceed Gen Sherman’s Expedition in strength. Then look-out Selma or Montgomery and Mobile.

The country here is hilly - timber principally. Pines on the ridges & chestnut & oak in the gullies. The pines are beautiful but they do not work so well as chestnut. There are places here the young pines are so thick a person can hardly get through them & so strait as a gun barrel. Tom & I made our “bunk” of them & then used the boughs for bedding.

We have a letter from Alvira & Marion. They are strong in the notion for Oregon. You ask if it is not too great a trip for such large families & for happiness. Of course it is. They did not say, but I guess the turn political affairs have taken has caused this general stampede. If McClellan had been elected, & our armies with-drawn & slavery restored, would it have been so? Do they not fear the draft? But if they had rather risk their chances in a distant land I am perfectly willing that they should go, and hope that success and happiness pray attend them. But if they would only think so this government is not ruined yet. Does history furnish a precedent where hard-ships & suffering did not follow War? Have not farmers generally done a week the past two or 3 grows as they have for an average like period within 30 years? So my advice would be: “Stick to Old Illinois.” It is the choice spot of the globe so far as my knowledge extends.

And my advice to you whether you should Go to Oregon: Farm for yourself? Or with N. Smith? Or Marg? would be First: Go to School! Second: Go to School? Third: Go to School? by all means: I don’t care if it does cost. It will repay you up after life. Uncle Ned has often told me that it was our Father’s wish that the most he left us should go to furnish each a good education. Uncle Ned paid my board & tuition ($50.) the winter I went to Atlanta. I have often wished I had went to some good school at least a year longer. Before I went to Atlanta Uncle Enoch tried to make me believe I knew enough to be a farmer!! Why not farmers have good educations?

But if you want to go to school then farm (for yourself, I would say) but I shouldn’t make much difference. But if you won’t do that, then “Marry some good, kind, loving, & christian girl” But for heavens sake do not think of Oregon! You are right: Never separate from as good a home as you now have in a passion. Act according to the “sober second thought.” Write frequently & we will try & answer each letter while we remain in camp. We think some of sending for a small box of “good-things” from home. As Ever
We remain Your Bro’s B. R. & T. H. Hieronymous
117th Ills

The letter was written on both sides of a stationery sheet measuring about 8” x 9 3/4”. It is in excellent condition, with a rough left margin where one of the brothers removed this sheet from its twin. Minor toning and foxing. Creased where originally folded.

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