Private Dirk Keppel:

Union Letters



The original letters from Dirk were written in Dutch. They were translated by William and Ruth Tuinstra for a 1990 printing by the Zeeland Historical Society of Zeeland, MI entitled "Letters of Teunis and Dirk Kepple, Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1863". That publication is the source of these letters. In the preface, it is noted that punctuation and paragraphs were added for clarity.

Dirk Keppel mustered into Company D of the 8th Michigan Infantry on September 11, 1861 at Holland, MI at the age of 18. His name also shows up in the muster records with the last name spelled Kipple. He was Killed in Action on April 16, 1862 at Wilmington Island, GA.


December 1861 (Port Royal, Hilton Head, South Carolina)

December 12, 1861 - to his father (Port Royal, Beaufort, South Carolina)

December 12, 1861 - to his brother (Port Royal, Hilton Head, South Carolina)

December 28, 1861 (Beaufort, South Carolina)

More letters written by Dirk Keppel (page 3)



Port Royal

Hilton Head, South Carolina

December 1861

Very Esteemed Brother,

    I cannot refrain from writing you a few lines and I hope that you may receive this letter in health. I am, through the Lord's blessing, still in good health. I cannot tell you much news because there is not much news here, except that I can write that I have not yet received any letters, but I think that when I come into the camp there will be mail because we have not had any mail for eight days. I hope that there would be one for me also. It would at least be time because I have not yet received a letter here. If that is your fault or the mail, That I do not know but I wished I knew. Right now I am also busy writing a letter to Father, and last week I also sent one to Frans Van Bree and J. Van Edennaam and I also sent one to the Rabbers, to Herbert. So therefore I was prevented from writing you because I was busy writing Father. After that I was prevented for reason that I had to leave. But as soon as I return I will mail these immediately because we have to stay at a plantation for six days and won't come into camp. So I hope you won't blame me that I don't write you every week. It is easier from where you are to write then for me to do so. Last week I worked for three days on the Fort so then there was not much opportunity to write.

    Because I am now very happy that I received your November 13 letter I therefore pick up the pen to let you know that it was on December 4 that I received it. I was very glad to hear that all of you are still in good health and I was also very glad that there was a letter enclosed from Teunis, and from this I learned that he is anything but a Secessionist but that he will demonstrate once what he is like. I shall with this letter also send him a few lines, because I think that he has not left yet, therefore I won't write about that anymore. You must never wait for another address because they will turn up all right. We are now in South Carolina and they send the letters to Washington and they all got here all right. You should know that those in Washington certainly know where all the regiments are located and then they are being sent through and thus they get here all right. With the other letter I have sent the other, but you don't need to put it on if you want because they will arrive all right also.

    Well, Brother, enough said about that. I hope you understand about that which I write you. I am not in my camp as yet but will send them on as soon as I can. We have already been gone for six days but it looks as if we must stay here longer. I now have enough time to write, but now I cannot send them. We heard last night when our letters arrived that a boy from Company B who stood guard shot at a captain two times for reason that he had called out three times but he did not stand still. But he did not hit him. One has the right at night after having called out to them three times, and they don't stand still where they are, to give the bullet.

    Brother, I have to stop writing because the page is only getting smaller and I remain,

Your Esteemed Brother,

Dirk Keppel

Do give greetings to the whole family

Port Royal

Beaufort, South Carolina

December 12, 1861

Very Esteemed Father,

    I cannot refrain to write you a few lines because perhaps you might think that I had forgotten you, but Father that is not the case. I hope that the day might arrive that we may see each other face to face and the whole family, and if the matter stands as they are saying, then anyway it won't last more than one year. Because they say that things are going very well here in South Carolina. They are retrenching fast already and it seems as if they are as afraid as weasels. They are all fleeing to Charleston. If it goes like that all over then they can hold out a long time, but what a fight it will be for all of America. And if it has to last a long time then it will be quite bad for the country, because in other respects it has been such a good country. Such a confrontation would then be created if it had to last a long time, but I hope that this rebellion will soon be over and we all may return to a country of peace, because they destroy their own and that of others. I hope that we will have them suppresed in short order. According to what they say, then the war will be all finished this winter. Well, Father, I think I'll stop writing about that as my heart is burning if I really deeply think about how they are laying the country in ruins and how does that help them and I hope that it will return upon their own heads.

    Well enough of that, I am letting you know that I am in good health and that is the most important of all. They are all saying that I am getting fat, which is also no wonder because II can also eat a lot of pork and meat, etc. There are otherwise in our regiment quite a few sick people and there are also some who have died, but not yet from our Company where there are two or three in the hospital at the most. Our Company is holding up the best of all of them, but what the reason for that is I don't know. As far as the boys are concerned they are all reasonably healthy with the exception of a few who are a little bit sick, but they are all getting better.

    And I hope that you may receive this letter in good health and I hope that you will also write me sometime, when you receive this letter, how you are doing. You should write every week or someone else in our home. It doesn't matter to me who writes, but from time to time you should also write which I would like very much.

    Father, I could tell you lots of news, but the time will perhaps prevent me to do so as I have heard and seen much in a rather short time. I also have seen many slaves on Hilton Head, because we went up the Island on Sunday about nine miles and we stayed there for seven days. There I have seen quite a bit of the slaves concerning the way they were being treated, which favorably surprised me, and they are much smarter then generally thought. Yes, I have to say that they put us whites to shame on Sunday, because they don't work then, which to me is the most surprising of all, because the English hardly know better than working whether it is on Sunday or during the week. At least that's usually the case here, if there is work to do they do it.

    Enough of that, I also have to let you know that we have moved to Beaufort. It is a nice place, or a little city as we ourselves would call it. There are very beautiful houses but there are no people. They have all fled which is a great loss for them. Sherman Battery took 30 prisoners and they were in a boat which they sank. Yesterday some also got wounded from the battle, and we are here now with six regiments. But how long we will stay here that we don't know, but my thoughts are that we will soon go to the mainland, or to the mainland to drive them back further. I think that South Carolina within a short time won't have much to say because things are really coming apart.

    Well, Father, I have to stop writing and I hope you will write me back soon when you receive this letter. Well, Father, I call myself,

Your Loving Son,

Dirk Keppel

Do greet the whole family and acquaintances through the request of

Dirk Keppel

Port Royal

Hilton Head, South Carolina

December 12, 1861

Very Esteemed Brother,

    I cannot refrain to write you a few lines. When one begins writing a letter then one usually begins with one's health, so I'll do that also. I am still in good health. Yes, I can write that with a cheerful heart and I hope that you may receive this letter in health and that you may read this with gladness. I was also happy with the letter you sent me. I write this letter for the reason that I think that you have not yet departed because I heard that you signed up at John Roest, but my thoughts are that it won't come to anything, because I think that he won't be able to fill one company and then it will break off. But if it goes through and you do want to become a soldier, then I would like to give you some advice.

    According to what I have heard they are going to recruit another 400 men for our regiment and then there would be a nice opportunity to get together once again and I give that advice to every boy. But don't be so foolish to go as a Hollander among the English because then it is "Dutchman" before and after and that is anything but pleasant. The soldier's life is a nice life but when you can take it as well as I can then it's sure to to out right. You have to feel in good shape otherwise I advise against it, because you experience the sour and the sweet. You will understand that it is not always nice weather. Well, Brother, I wished that you were here then I could tell you more than by writing you. But that is my advice to you. If it is true that they still are going to recruit 400 men in our regiment, then I hope that you sign up there and I advise every boy who is a Union man at heart that he join me, be that in South Carolina or elsewhere, because I think that those who still want part of the action ought to come soon or it'll be too late. The situation in South Carolina has changed quite a bit. Already quite a few forts and plantations have been captured. They are retreating farther and farther already. One can hear cannons being fired every day, but one does not know if it is really fighting or not, but one does know this, that it is not so far away. Well, Brother, if the fact is that you go with John Roest and you are still at home when you receive this letter, then I hope that you write me back one as to where you are going and if you want to keep exchanging letters with me. Well, Brother, I have to finish writing. They are, at the moment as I am writing, bombarding heavily. There are heavy rounds being fired, but where it is I don't know. I finish writing and I remain,

Your Loving Brother,

Dirk Keppel

Co. D, 8th Michigan

South Carolina

Hilton Head

Teunis Keppel, I have not had a chance to send it to you sooner. Therefore I hope you won't blame me.

***Dirk's brother, Teunis, was sworn in by the State of Michigan and assigned to the 13th Regiment Michigan Infantry. However, he was never sworn into National service. While in camp, during January of 1862, he died of disease. 

Beaufort, South Carolina

December 28, 1861

Very Esteemed Brother,

    I take up the pen to send you a few lines and I hope that you may receive these in health and I have to let you know that I am still reasonably healthy and I also have to let you know that I have your letter of December 9, from which I heard that you are still in good health, which pleases me very much. I can write you a little news of importance. I have learned from your letter that you also received my letter, and that you were very very glad I can well believe, and so it is with me. Therefore, I hope that when you receive this letter that you will soon write me back if you can, which I also will do in return. It has been a few days since I received your letter, but I received yet another two, and they all make me promise to write them back soon. You can well understand that I don't have much time to answer all of them at the same time. I do have two ready to send home, one for Frans Vanbree and Govert1, both in one envelope because we cannot make ends meet with our money to buy envelopes and paper. I now have paper but where to get envelopes I don't know yet. That perhaps might take a few days as yet, before I have an opportunity to do so, but I hope that I may get them soon for my sake as well as yours.

    I am going to tell you what we are doing at this time. Yesterday at least I had a hard day. I can tell it exactly as it did happen, but I shall as closely as possible describe what we have already done yesterday. First of all the regiment is called together at 12 noon, then we had to stand at ease, and then we went out to engage in skirmishes through the forest, close to the river, all the while going one at a time. It is such a miserable forest to march through. It is full of thirns and thistles about as thick as your pink. When you came up to them then you would say I cannot get through them, but you have to. But whether or not you can, you have to go through anyway. It is otherwise a good thing to learn, but it is otherwise not pleasant, and that way many got tired from traversing the forest. And still another time we almost got lost, but then a small group of the company arrived, etc. and we got back at eight o'clock. And yesterday morning we had a Brigade drill under command of Captain Stevens. Our General himself was not present, but his son was. It went real well and I liked it. I have heard that there was a man who took a picture to be printed in Harper's Magazine or in one of those newspapers.

    Brother, I will write you my address very precisely. The address is as follows:

Dirk Keppel       via New York

Company D, 8th Regiment Michigan Infantry

Shermans Division

2nd Brigade

Port Royal, South Carolina

    Well, Brother, I have to stop and I call myself,

Your Beloved Brother

Dirk Keppel

Do greet Doornik and his family

1 Brother of Dirk and Yeunis Keppel


More letters written by Dirk Keppel (page 3)


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