Josiah Reed:

Union Letters


Copyright 1998-2009 Mike Northway

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Josiah Reed was 30 years old when he enlisted as a Private on August 24, 1862. He was mustered into Company I, 94th Ohio Infantry and subsequently wounded during the Battle of Stones River in Tennessee on December 31, 1862. After recovering, he spent a great deal of time working in hospitals in Nashville and writing his future wife, Elizabeth Woodard. He was mustered out of the service in Nashville on May 15, 1865. Upon his return home he married Lizzie and became a Doctor.

His letters are transcribed as they were written, so many years ago.


April 15, 1863 (Nashville, TN

May 14, 1863 (Nashville, TN)

May 27, 1863 (Nashville, TN)

July 21, 1863 (Nashville, TN)

December 31, 1864 (Nashville, TN)

February 26, 1865 (Nashville, TN)

May 20, 1865 (Greenville, OH)



General Hospt. No 2 Nash.

April 15th, 1863

Mrs. Lizzie Woodard

Dear Friend,

            Your last welcome letter was recd in due time and would have been answered ere this, but for the prepping duties that have occupied my time for the last two or three weeks. Our principal druggist having been taken away by his Colonel, the principal duties of this department has devolved upon me, and to one not regularly brought up a druggist, it involves no trifling responsibilities.

            I am very sorry to hear of George’s dangerous illness, for although I had not the pleasure and benefit of an intimate acquaintance, yet I appreciated his worth as a man. And I can sympathize with you, for I have spent many anxious hours by the bedside of near and dear friend, but I hope you will not be called to pray through the same ordeal that I have undergone in the end. I hope he may recover his health on the return of settled weather. In previous letters I said nothing about you two, from the fact that I was not at that time aware of your being at home. This will be a sufficient apology for not remembering you in my letters. Give George my kindest regards and tell him I should be highly to receive a letter from him when he is able to write. I recd Minerva’s letter and will answer in due time.

            We have no news here of any importance, we are looking for news from the east, but as usual the news comes slowly from that quarter, and I fear when it does come, it will be of the same character of nearly all former results in that quarter. It is supposed here by some the army of the Cumberland is waiting of the result of the Charleston expedition, and the Mississippi expedition, before making a forward move. There is skirmishing out in front occasionally and sometimes pretty heavy skirmishing, but I expect you get the particular of it sooner than we do, for they are very cautious here about publishing any news about the army. We have a good paper here, the Nashville Union, a copy of which I sent your father some time ago. It is improving fast in quality and circulation. There has been changes made lately in this hospital; we have a new Surgeon in Charge, and a couple of new stewards, but I do not think this change will affect me any. My prospect is good for staying, but I am still subject to orders. My arm has been entirely well for some time, but I am troubled some with rheumatism in my shoulders, otherwise I am perfectly well. Drs. Green & Jennings are both here yet and are practicing successfully. I am getting used to hospital life and begin to like it very well. My duties here are more constant than they would be in the field, but they are not attended with so many hardships and so much exposure. I have good opportunities for learning also, which is an item of no small importance. It is one of the best situations anywhere fore one who has read medicine a year or two and wants to complete his course. Of course I lack this necessary preparation, but I shall make as much as I can out of my opportunities.

            I recd a letter yesterday from my old friend Josh Babb who is now with the 71st Ohio at Ft Donaldsons. Robert Dinsmore was well and sent his regards. Since writing the above we caught a couple of mice. They got into a box of Farina and we covered it up tight & then wet a sponge with chloroform and threw it in. They soon keeled over and gave up the ghost. Give my regards to all the family and to ____ Wolf, together with all the rest of the girls. So I am anxious to hear from George please write soon and inform me how he is.

Your true friend

Josiah Reed


Mrs. Lizzie Woodard

Gen. Hospt. No 2 Nashville

Saturday 9 oclock P.M. May 14

My Dear Friend Lizzie,

‘Tis late, but still I feel like chatting awhile with some old familiar friend, and remembering that your last very interesting favor of the 1st is still unanswered, I thought it a fit time, when all was still around, to begin at least my answer. Yours and Minnies both are rather on the melancholy order, but I cannot say I dislike melancholy letters. A little retrospection and serious thought does us good once in a while, provided we do not indulge in such thoughts too freely, and thereby become melancholy. I love to think of dear ones, who once shed beams of joy along my pathway, but who are now far beyond the ken of human vision. But I do not much wonder at your serious mood. There seems to have been a combination of circumstances calculated to inspire such thoughts. The deaths spoken of, the ordering out of the National Guards in which you have several brothers, and the condition of our country which makes such extreme measures necessary, are all calculated to make one feel sad. I am glad to hear you express such patriotic sentiments and to know that you are resigned to the sacrifices we are called to make in these momentous times. I believe this nation will be preserved as a unit, but every family within its borders will have to make some sacrifice for its preservation.

Oh how many families will be made desolate by the present bloody contest now in progress. News up to the present time shows very decided gains in favor of truth and liberty, but the slaughter has been dreadful. Last accounts put Lee retreating slowly, but his men very much worn out and demoralized.

We get very meager intelligence from the front. From what I can learn we have

driven the rebs to Buzzard’s Roost, a very strong position, where they are making a stand. Rumor last night said that Sherman was flanking the right and left and that the rebs would have to fight their way through. We have received some half dozen wounded who were wounded a week ago today in front of the above named gap. The report it a very strong position.

I am glad to hear of your honorable promotion. Your society has made a wise selection for your patriotism and industry peculiarly fits you for a “presidentes”. Long may your society live to alleviate suffering. Would like to lend a helping hand, but demands for charity here are too imperative to justify such a round about way. Have not room to tell of the suffering I have seen. Have given a very slight hint of it in my letter to Ettie. Now a word respecting my business. You must not infer I am going to be an M.D. because I am attending a few lectures. There is too much to be learned for me to think of such a thing while in the service. I only expect to improve my opportunities to the best advantage. Sometimes I have considerable leisure to read, but others have no leisure at all. Last week I could attend lectures three hours in a day and have some time to read beside, now I have no leisure at all and cant get away from the hospital. The reason is they have taken all my help from me and sent them to the front. I expected to go myself but they saw proper to keep me. I am yet subject to be ordered and when such order comes I will obey cheerfully. So while I have some opportunities of learning something that will be of service hereafter, you can easily see my chances to become an M.D. are very slim, unless those letters should stand for Mule Driver or Mud Dauber.

Enclosed you will find my photo which I procured a few days ago. I am sorry it is no better looking, but this is no fault of the artist. My regards to all the family and please write soon.

Your friend

J Reed

Hospt. No 2 Nashville Tenn

Tues. eve. May 27th 1863

Dear Friend,

With a sympathy for your sad misfortune worthy of the confidence you have shown, I now sit down to answer your sad but kind favor of the 18th. With deep regret I read of the death of your dearest friend in a letter from Minerva, but I had been partially prepared for this intelligence by former letters. I felt that you had not only lost your dearest friend but that society had lost in him, a useful member, a bright ornament & a moddle of virtue and principle. How unfortunate it would seem that such members of society should be called away so young, but the ways of An Allwise Providence is mysterious to us short sighted mortals, and it would be folly if not sacreligious for us to murmur at his ways. Our loss has been his gain, and this thought should console us in the trying hour. From the bottom of my heart I sympathize with you in your bereavement. I too have lost dear friends, bound to me by ties as dear as life, a loveing and tender mother, and an affectionate sister, but I can imagine the difference between conjugal and filial affection. But we should ever bear in mind that,

“All that’s bright must fade,

The brightest still the fleetest,

 All that’s sweet was made,

To be lost when sweetest.”

and as you say what stearn fate has decreed, we should learn to endure with patience. It should be a source of consolation to you that you wer present to administer to his comforts in his last moments. How many hundreds, even since his departure, have been called home, away from friends and home, and in a strange land, with no tender companion or even a friend to wipe the death dew from their noble brows. This has been the fate of hundreds, and every one loved by some dear one at home. I have witnessed some very affecting scenes in the hospital as well as on the battlefield, some of which I will relate to you if we are permitted to meet again. But perhaps I have said enough upon this melancholy subject, yet it is a subject I do not dislike or avoid. I believe it is profitable to look at things in their true light occasionally, but perhaps it is not best to look too long on the dark side of the picture.

We have cheering news from Grant, though it does not appear certain that we have Vicksburg. I sincerely hope we will prove victorious, for I believe this would greatly hasten the close of the rebellion. I should like once more to be at home to enjoy the pleasures and comforts of civil life but at the same time I do not feel discontented in the service while my services are needed, and I do not expect to return until the Stars and Stripes are reinstated, and the cause of truth and humanity fully vindicated. As you see from the heading of this letter I am still in the hospital. I shall probably remain here as long as my services are needed. Our hospital is about full now, but the inmates are nearly all convalescent. I should judge that the health of the army is very good now from the condition of hospitals. There is flying rumors of a forward movement in front. This may be true, and if it is, you will hear from this department again soon. Please accept my thanks for not forgetting your humble friend amid your sorrows, and answer soon. The confidence you have shown in me shall never ne misplaced. As ever your true friend.

J Reed


Mrs Lizzie Woodard

Gen. Hospt. No. 2 Nashville

Tuesday even. July 21st/63

Dear Friend,

            Your very welcome favor on the 9th was received in due time and read with much pleasure. Although conscious of my unworthiness of the regard therein expressed for me in common with other friends. Yet I feel pleased that I am accounted worthy to be one of that small circle. _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ falls far short of a “firm middle” yet I can assure you that your confidence is not misplaced, nor is it unreciprocated. Past experience will warrant this conclusion. I am truly sorry that so many of your former friends have apparently forsaken you in the hour of affliction when consolation was most needed, but as you say, this is the way with the world at large. A true friend should be highly prized because they are not readily found. It is the one who can mourn with me in my afflictions and rejoice with me in my good fortune – who is always ready by sympathy or deed to assist and will not abandon me in adversity. How few there are of such! The ones you mension as your most dear friends and with who _____ _____ _____ any acquaintance, I should think are abundantly worthy of such confidence. I had a slight acquaintance with Mr. Rockwell but not sufficient to appreciate his true worth. From reputation I knew him to be a very worthy young man and I am sorry to hear of his death.

            I am compelled to acknowledge that there are a great many false men entirely too many who are unworthy of the confidence of a confiding heart. But there are some exceptions. It is for you to decide whether your correspondent is among this latter class or not. I know he aims to be honest and truthful. If you have ever entrusted him with a secret, he has never divulged it. You have your _____ _____ _____ he has much confidence in you for he has confided to you a secret that no other ear has ever, with the exception of you, heard and he does not doubt but that you will continue faithful in this trust.

I have often thought of this last interview, would have told you more had our ride have been longer. Perhaps in some future letter I will tell you more. If the words herein expressed or in any future letter that might lead to a betrayel of this secret, would be likely to fall into other hands, I hope you will burn them immediately. But I know you will be discreet, in spite pf the short cummings of many of your sex which you spoke of in your letter.

You say you expected your letter would _____ _____ _____ _____. On the contrary it was very interesting. You offer as an excuse melancholy but I like melancholy letters, although my nature might warrant a contrary conclusion, I do not agree with you in your opinion with reference to yourself.

If the union cause should go on as gloriously as it has done for the last two months I hope to be able to help you eat some of that canned fruit, but should the copperheads succeed in so crippling the hands of the administration that it cannot follow up their glorious victories, it is not likely we will get home in time. ‘Tis a painful thought to know that while so many brave soldiers in the field are pouring out their blood so freely for the existence of the government, so many at home are giving their whole influence to our enemies and the enemies of free institutions. I should like to be able to excuse them on the plea of ignorance but this is impossible. Valandingham is too notorious a character for the people generally to be ignorant of his position on the war question. Not one patriotic act has he ever done since the war began, either in his official career or in private life. But on the contrary his whole energies have been directed against the administration. It would be a burning shame upon Ohio if the copperheads should elect him this fall, but I hope these glorious union victories, together with John Morgan’s raid, and that disgraceful mob in New York will so act upon public opinion that he will stand no chance whatever. If the people want to have the scenes that were enacted in New York reenacted in Ohio, let them elect Valandingham. He will not be long in bringing about a collision between the state authorities and the government. But pardon me for dwelling so long upon this subject. I know you are not a copperhead – far from it – but, this is a subject that is of vital importance to the soldier in the field and hence it is very natural to write about what most concerns us at the time.

About the 10th of this month the 71st Ohio went up the river to Carthage and stopped awhile with us. I saw nearly all the boys of my acquaintance. I saw Serg. Robert Dinsmore – he looks well and seems to enjoy the service. My friend Babb looks well and enjoys the service, but he would like to see his woman. Is this strange? They were married only a week or two before they left camp. I have seen Preston Fisher two or three times. He is here in one of the hospitals on detached service. He seems to enjoy pretty good health at present.

But as I must write a few lines to Minerva in answer to her kind letter I must stop or I will not have anything to write about.

This letter will not be mailed til a day or two after its date, but if anything transpires worthy of note you will hear of it. Give my love to all the family – to your parents in particular. Please write at your earliest convenience and post me about the draft. Your letters will always be welcome. As ever your friend


To Lizzie

[Written up the side of the page] I am obliged to you for that paper – shall return the favor sometime

Officer’s Hospital, College Hill

Nashville, Tenn Dec. 31st, 1864

Friend Lizzie,

Your last welcome favor explaining your long silence has just been received. I am very sorry that the letter you spoke of failed to come to hand and more particularly on account of the photo it contained. It seems that if any letter ever is miscarried it always happens to be the most valuable one. But it is all past now – perhaps it will turn up sometime. I felt confident that you had written for I did not think you would abandon your old friend and correspondent so abruptly. I knew it was possible that you had fallen in love and perhaps married some dashing fellow whom you may have met with in your travels, but even then I would expect to hear from you and hear all the particulars. Wont you make me your confidential in such an event? You did once and I believe you have never since then had occasion to loose your former confidence in me or have it shaken. But please pardon me for such personal allusions.

I’m happy to learn that you enjoy such good health and that you enjoyed your trip so well. Have no doubt you had a splendid time at that wedding – should like to have seen your description of it. You are now having good times sleighing have no doubt. Snow is about 3 in deep here and it really makes me think of home and times of your. Do you remember the time the coupling pole broke and the boys had to go and borrow an ax and auger to fix it up? ‘Spose you have’nt forgot how you danced around to keep from freezing in the mene time. Perhaps you also remember of about four weary travelers calling to stay all night one cold winter night, the pantry door &c, &c. Wonder if Wife Mattie remembers the particular door that she came very nearly knocking off the hinges with her head? How I wish I could be with you tomorrow to spend my new years. I spent my Christmas in the dispensary hard at work. An extra dinner was talked of a few days before, but we failed to see it when the time came around. Did not get any present on Christmas but saw a couple of very nice ones presented to the Surg. In Charge and to Dr. Green. We expect to surprise Dr. Jennings tomorrow with a $95 watch chain. (Nashville prices) He is a good fellow and has discharged his duties very faithfully and deserves it. Since the driving away of Hood nothing of a very exciting nature has transpired about our city. Hoods presence before the city caused but very little alarm in the city. Every one seemed confident and the theaters and other places of amusement were crowded as usual by the seekers of pleasure. From the top of our hospital we could see a part of the rebel lines. Steadman on the left was only a short distance from here – perhaps mile the nearest point of his outer lines. When we advanced we could see our men charge the rebel works from the top of the buildings, but we had but little hard fighting on the left. The hardest was from 3 to 4 miles from the city. The canonading was very heavy, and the musketry was not trifling. The smoke of the battle was equal to the canonading and marked the exact locality of the fiercest conflict. It is wonderful how few men were killed on our side considering that we were the attacking party and the enemy fortified and entrenched. It is now growing late and I must close. As this was written in a great hurry I must ask your indulgence for the many imperfections, and hoping to hear from you soon again I will close by subscribing myself as ever

Your Friend J.R

Officer’s Hospt. Nashville, Tenn.

Sunday, Feb. 26th, 1865

Mrs. Lizzie Woodard,

Highly Valued Friend,

            Your favor of the 19th came to hands yesterday and was read with more than usual interest and to prove to you my appreciation of it, I will attempt an immediate answer. I know you will not look for such promptnefs but I have as much time now as I will have in a week hence, and I can always answer a letter better immediately than to let it lay awhile unanswered. Besides it is always a pleasure for me to write to such friends as well as to receive their letters, and by writing now I will get an answer a week sooner than if I would put it off one week. I am not so busy now as I was when I last wrote you. The lectures ended on the 15th, and since then I have not studied so hard. However I am still occupying all my leisure time in this way as I now have unusually good opportunities for dissecting.

            Delay not your answers hereafter on account of any fear of encroaching upon my time. My time has never yet been so fully occupied that the perusal and answering of your letters was not only a great pleasure but beneficial. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, as the old adage has it. All work and study with no recreation and no social enjoyment makes the wheels of time run very sluggishly. There should be a harmonious development of all the fachulties of the mind, but we have not the chance to carry this out. All our associates are soldiers – one uniform mass of humanity – and hence our social enjoyment if it be worthy of the name, is of a very limited and monotonous character. We seldom get a glimpse of the opposite sex except those connected with the hospital. Some of the boys get acquainted around through the city, and go out with society, but such society. Now under these circumstances you can easily imagine how highly a letter is valued particularly when it comes from such friends as I know you to be.

This is Sunday night and I feel ever so lonesome, I wish I could be with you this evening if it were only for a few hours. How swiftly time would wing his flight. I would then tell you much which I have now neither time nor disposition to write.

            I am much obliged for the compliment you have been pleased to pay me, but I would be more highly pleased if I could only be persuaded that it was strictly true. It seems you are having some serious sicknefs in your family – hope it may not extend to any other members of the family, and that your adopted brother may soon recover. Your school I presume closed of last Friday. You seem to have formed quite an attachment for Wife Brown – it appears she was universally loved by the school. This is what I love to hear for it is one of the best assurances that she has been doing a good work as a teacher. I wonder what has become of Wife Church? Have not heard of her for more than a year. Should like to have visited your festival in the evening and heard those duetts and songs. Oh I visited the theater about one week ago, the first time for six months. We had the pleasure of hearing Maggie Mitchell on her favorite play, Fanchon or the Cricket. This is a very good play and she plays it to perfection. It was repeated hear every night for a week with crowded houses every night. This is a great place for such amusements, there are two theaters, one Opera,  and two or three smaller affairs – all crowded every night. We have been having considerable rain this last week. The Cumberland is quite high, mud plenty though not as much as there would be after a similar rain in most places in the North. This day was very beautiful but I did not get time to walk out and enjoy some of the benefit of such a day at this season. Dr Jennings talks of locating in Tippecanoe soon. If he does, I hope he will get extensive patronage fore he is not only a good physician but a tiptop man. Three years of experience here in the hospital where he has treated 20 men to where he would one in civil practice, will be worth more to him than 10 years of ordinary practice… Your advice with reference to bestowing confidence upon the companion of one’s heart is highly appreciate---What could be the value of a union not founded upon mutual love and confidence, I could never consent to wed with one in whom I had not confidence… Within one year I expect to be with you again enjoying the comforts and luxuries of civil life. You say you wonder what changes will occur in my life within that time. Don’t know but do not expect anything of importance. The great epoch of my life I do not think will occur within that time. Had I more time and space I would give some very good reasons why.

[Written up the side of page 2] Received three valentines but none with anything

[Written up the side of page 4] On glancing at this letter I see so many omissions and mistakes that I am afraid to read it over for fear I would become so disgusted with it as to tare it up and then I would have to write another. I shall expect an answer to this in two weeks – shall I be disappointed? Of course your convenience will not be overlooked. I only me that I hope it will be convenient for you to answer immediately that I may receive a good, long, sweet letter in two weeks.

[Written up the side of page 3] Remain as ever your true friend J. Reed

Home Greenville, Ohio

Saturday, May 20th, 1865

Friend Lizzie,

            You see from the above that I am once more at home and what is better a citizen of the United States. I was mustered out on the 15th, started on the 18th and arrived here on the evening of the 19th. My friends Huckstep and Aby are still “soldiers of the Cross”. The latter could not be mustered out under existing orders. The former could not very well be spared until the first of April. Mr H has not given up his visit however. As soon as he is mustered out – which will be about the 28th he will come to this place, and we will both then pay you a visit. I think we will be there between the 1st and 5th of next month.

            I have not time now to address you more than a mere note. Further particulars when we next meet. In the mene time I shall be glad to hear from you. As ever

Your True Friend

Josiah Reed





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