Local History Collections

Collection ID: 285
Location: LH-71

(Description ID: 595607)

Robert H. Caldwell
21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Civil War Letters

The Robert Caldwell Papers consist of a series of Civil War era letters, primarily from Robert Caldwell of Elmore, Harris Township, Ottawa County, Ohio. The original letters are part of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center’s much larger William Caldwell Family Collection (LH-72).  Photocopies of the Robert Caldwell correspondence were donated to the Center for Archival Collections, Bowling Green State University, where transcriptions were prepared.

Robert H. Caldwell was born on June 14, 1841, the son of William and Jane (Davis) Caldwell. Robert was one of four children, with two brothers and a sister. William C., the oldest brother, served with the 72nd Regiment, O.V.I. as hospital steward and assistant surgeon. Charles, the middle brother, died in 1852 at the age of 13. Juliet, the sister, studied at Oberlin. Robert worked for his father, a lumberman, at the family's mill. At the age of twenty, Robert joined the 21st Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and was appointed 3rd corporal of Company I. He was promoted to sergeant on June 7, 1862. In August, he was sent home on a recruiting mission. He rejoined the 21st in mid November. At the Battle of Stones River, he was wounded. He died in the hospital on February 8, 1863.

The Civil War correspondence of Robert H. Caldwell consists of 114 letters written by Caldwell to various family members from September 1861 to February 1863. Three of the letters are from his brother William, serving with the 72nd O.V.I., with one letter each from Robert's mother Jane, his uncle John Davis, and Amos Wood, also of Company I, 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The letters after Robert's death are between various family members expressing their sympathy to each other.



Sept 15, 1861-Jan 14, 1863
Arranged chronologically
A series of 114 letters to members of his immediate family, while he served with the 21st Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Company I, during the Civil War


Jan 18-Feb 23, 1863
Arranged chronologically
A series of six letters from members of the Caldwell Family, expressing sympathy for the death of Robert

Camp Vance Sep 15th 61

Dear folks at home

Thinking that a letter from Camp Vance might not be unacceptable I thought I would improve the present opportunity by letting you know how camp life agrees with me. Well as you are aware we left Elmore about 8 oclock and run down to Fremont arrived there just in time to see the train on the F. & P. R.R. leaving for Finlay and so we were as we thought left behind but after waiting a short time we saw the train backing down again to receive us aboard the Conductor having noticed us and wads so accomodating as to return for us We arrived in Finlay about 11 oclock formed in the street and marched through town halted in front of the Reed House ands pretty soon the boys might have been seen coming ou of the different groceries with something under their arms that had very much the appearance of Gingercake and in a very short time I made a chance of becoming perfectly satisfied that it was the above named article without any of the modern improvements attached to it Well after satisfying our appetites we re formed ands marched to Camp. Arrived received our equippage, pitched our tents, cooked our supper and then commenced, our camp life in earnest. You had just ought to have seen us cooking our supper, we are divided of for the present into messes of about 10 men in each[.] We drew six tents ands the same number of kettles each tent having one kettle. Ands a plate, knife, fork and spoon also a tin cup to each man. At present our mess is composed of G. Claghorn, Ezekiel Rice, Norman Easterly, Wm Easterly M Runnels Russel Rice, myself ands several others.

I enjoy cam life very much but our things are not cooked quite as nicely as I have been in the habit of having things but what of that we must get accustomed to eating some dirt. Last night the boys had a dance on our parade ground in front of our tents one of the boys played the Jews harp while the rest tripped the light fantastic toe most of them barefoot. They kept it up until about ten oclock when the musician becoming tired of playing the dance broke up and all turned in for the night with the exception of Barnes, ands a few more who were detailed for guards. To day G. Claghorn, E. Rice, R. Rice and Ingraham are detailed ads guard my name not having been called as yet ad it comes near the lower end of the list. I have just finished eating my dinner we had boiled beans, fried and boiled beef, boiled ham, potatoes good bakers bread, and what is more we have as much as we want, we sleep warm as our tent floor is covered with good new straw to the depth of about four inches and with the addition of our blankets it makes just as goods a bed as one could wish for The boys drew each one single blanket and as soon as we are mustered in we will each draw a double one. This forenoon George Smith and I went down to Finlay and took a look about town it ids a place of about 2500 inhabitants. The buildings are very much scattered and consequently the town covers a large extent of territory. There is to be divine service in camp this afternoon at 2 oclock I expect to attend. Yesterday noon we elected our commissioned officers they consist of Captain Gibbs, first Lieut Vantyne 2nds Woods we are to elect our noncommissioned officers as soon as we are mustered in which we expect will take place tomorrow. There are at present about 600 men in camp parts of companies a large number having returned home on furlough. I must close as I have no more room. R.H. Caldwell

Camp Vance Sep 15th 61

Dear Sister

Thinking that a letter from the above named place might not be unacceptable I thought that I would improve the present opportunity by giving you some particulars in regard to my camp experience. Last Friday myself in company with about sixty others started for this place arrived at Fremont, exchanged cars by getting aboard of the train on the F.& G. R.R. destined for findlay arrived at our destination at about 11 oclock formed the company in the street marched through town, halted in front of the Reed House, the principal hotel in the town when most of the boys started for the groceries for ginger bread and after each one had stowed away a sufficient amount of that article we took up our march for the camp which is situated about 1 ½ miles from town upon a fine rise of ground. We received our tents and the rest of our equippage which for a whole company consists of 12 tents the same number of camp kettles, one plate, knife, fork, spoon & cup to each man besides we draw one blanket apiece for the present until we are mustered in when we are to receive a double blanket to the man. Perhaps you would like to know how I like Camp life well I can say I am satisfied, to be sure we have to eat a little dirt but that makes no difference with those who don't care and as for me I never was very particular and for that reason I can get along very well. There are about ten men in my mess the most of whom are good boys such as George Claghorn, Ezekiel Rice, Russel Rice, M. Runells, &c &c. We have just returned from dress parade (a parade of the whole regiment) the first in which I ever participated it was a very fine and imposing. The brass band is still playing while I am writing. In dress parad the different companies form in line of battle, that is the whole regiment forms across the grounds in two ranks or two lines when the Colonel puts them through some moves then the band plays marching up and down the lines. The Colonel then gives the command present arms when the whole reg raises their right hand to the shoulder then the Col then gives the order shoulder arms when the arm is dropped to the side. The first sergeant of each comp is then ordered to the front and centre of the reg and report their companies giving the name of the company and number of men in each company they then return to their places when the captains of the different comp march to the front and centre and salute the Colonel when he returns the salute. The comp are then marched to their quarters where they partake of their suppers, taking it altogether it is quite a sight. I suppose by this time you will think that the sabbath is pretty effectually broken but if you had been in the camp today you would have thought that Sunday had forgotten to make its appearance. At this moment while I am writing within six or eight feet of me in another tent there is a party of boys playing euchre and others are washing dishes while some are singing and nearly all swearing but perhaps you may think that is the case with all the boys, not so for there is quite a number of good civil boys in our company. But as it is getting dark I must close. Give my respects to Edith Willson.

Direct to Findlay, Ohio.
Care Captain Gibbs
21st reg O.V.

Camp Vance Sep. 17th 61

Dear Brother

When I wrote last Sunday, I forgot to state several things which I had thought to say, and among others I wished to say that Alfred Price asked me to send his guitar to him by somebody going to Fremont or if not, to send it by express. It is at Mrs. Ryders and you will oblige me very much by attending to it for me.

We have fine times in Camp, last night it rained very hard and the guards were called in on that account and as a matter of course the boys took advantage of it and went visiting. About 200 of the boys went promenading and among the rest several from our mess and this morning about two oclock a goose came into our tent which had been disturbed in its slumbers and as a matter of course we took compassion on and kept it from the rest of the mess but the poor fellow died some time in the night just because one of the boys out of mere sport placed the head of the winged biped in one place and his body in another and as we don't like to see anything go to waste we caused it to take the place of the beef with which we are supplied. This is a mere sample of what is taking place all the time in camp. Yesterday we had our Dress Parade of the whole regiment and we were put through the regimental drill for the first time. That is we were marched A round the grounds by plattons some of the plattoons being composed of whole companies it was a very fine sight there being about 600 out on parade the rest of the reg being home or on furlough. The colonel is endeavoring to make arrangements so that he can take fourteen compys into the 21st regt. I don't know how soon the regt will leave here but as near as I can find out I expect it will take place in about two weeks[.] I expect to make a visit home before we move. Just about five minutes ago a guard was put in the guard house for allowing a man to pass his beat without a pass from a commissioned officer[.] At this minute while I am writing there are a lot of boys singing campmeting hymns in the tent next to ours. We have dances, foot racing, wrestling, jumping &c going on nearly all the time. Sunday eve Martin Bowland threw the Capt of Compy D. the officers mix with the privates at all times and taking everything altogether we have very fine times. Last Sunday morning a company came in from Defiance and they brought their Notebooks with them and when they have leisure time they all join in singing. I intend to make the acquaintance of some of them. In my last I forgot to tell you how to direct your letters.

You can direct
R.H. Caldwell Findlay Ohio
Care Capt. Gibbs 21st Regt O.V.I.

(P.S.) I wrote to Juliet last Sunday. Please tell me how you get along with the mile. Give my love to Father, Mother, Willie, and all enquiring friends. R.H.C.

Camp Vance Sep 25th [1861]

Dear Father

It is now ascertained beyond a doubt that we are to leave this place early tomorrow morning via Carey We have received orders to pack up and be ready to start by 2 o'clock.

We are all glad to think that we are going to move. I heard with pain that our respected Captain was worse again and that it would impossible for him to meet us at this place, but that it was possible he might overtake us at Camp Dennison. It is now ascertained that we are going to Louisville, Ky we are all well pleased to think that is to be our destination. Today Charley brought Wm Buffington and Gillson to Finlay with the understanding that they were to be mustered in but when the officer was ready they began making complaints saying they were not able to go, and upon the testimony of James Easterly the officer was willing to accept them anyway but the cowards refused to be mustered and they will have the pleasure of walking home as Liut Vantyne would not pass them home. It is the wish of the boys that you will give them a reception that will be a warning to all other milk and water men. To day we were visited by several of the Elmore and Fremont ladies among whom were Mrs. Ryder Strong Woodworth, Mrs. J.S. Tyler, and Mrs. Claghorn. Also Toot Tyler, Charleys wife and Mrs. Woodworth and Mrs. Geo Claghorn are going to stay to see the Dress Parade which is to come off at four o'clock. As it is almost time to turn out for that purpose I must close by saying that as we are not going to receive our uniforms until arriving at Columbus I shall be obliged to take my sachel along with me and when we do receive them I will send my clothes home. I will write as soon as possible again perhaps from Columbus, if not, from Camp Dennison at any rate as soon as possible. I will write to Juliet as soon as we get settled.

You must excuse me for using a lead pencil as it is very difficult getting a pen

Camp Dennison Sep 27th [1861]

Dear folks at home

We left Camp Vance yesterday morning about ½ past 6 oclck took the train for Carey and arrived there in time to connect with the train on the S.D. & C. R.R. Arrived at Kenton about four oclock and were regaled with a supper by the citizens for which we were all truly thankful. The next town of any importance at which we arrived was Bellfontaine a town of about 3000 inhabitants. We also passed through Urbanna the town near which cousin Martha lives. I got off the train at that place and enquired for the whereabouts of James Caldwell and was informed that he lived about four miles out of town. Just about dark we passed through Springfield atown of about 7000 inhabitants. The next place was Xenia a town of considerable importance. We arrived at camp about 2 oclock this morning and slept in the cars until daylight when we were transferred to our barracks which consist of houses made of pine lumber capable of accomodating about 20 men they need some repairing but when that is done they will be quite comfortable. We have just finished drawing rations. I don't see how government can afford to supply her men so liberally We this morning received sugar cured hams in the shape of meat the nicest meat I ever saw, and we received everything else in proportion. This morning the noncommissioned officers were appointed the boys had the privilege of electing the orderly and when it was given out that those who were going to run for that office should step out in line, about 6 or 7 boys stepped out and I soon saw how the thing had been worked and I refused to run. George Claghorn and James Bumpus had been electioneering privately for some time and when the rest of us understood how the thing had been worked all those who had contemplated withdrew with the exception of James Bumpus, G. Claghorn, and Ezekiel Rice. Among those who withdrew were Michael Rice Russel Rice and myself. When the votes were counted the result stood James Bumpus 29, G. Claghorn 17, E. Rice 5 and so Bumpus was declared elected. And then commenced the appointing of the rest of the officers which I think was done very unfairly for some of those concerned and myself among that number. The officers were appointed by Lieut Bantyne and resulted in the appointment of Claghorn as 2nd sergeant Mike Rice 3rd Russel Rice 4th George Smith 5th and myself 3rd corporal. I believe if Cap Gibbs had been present the result would have been different but I must abide by the decision of the superior officers. As it stands it is better than being a private as the wages are $15.00 per month and I am exempt from guard duty and have a better chance for promotion in case I am deserving, and I intend to do my duty in every respect and if at the close of the war I am still 3rd corporal I intend to have it said that it was not on account of incompetency. Camp Dennison is situated in a vally which is entirely surrounded by high hills the Miami river runs along the south side of camp. The R.R. runs through the centre of camp which is very handy for transportation. This morning I visited a battery of rifled 6 pound brass guns the battery consists of 6 pieces and is commanded by a Cleveland man I don't remember his name. I believe they are going to practice this afternoon. We are going to receive our uniforms and arms tomorrow. It is said we are to leave this place next Monday morning for Louisville, Ky. If we do I will write and let you know. When you write direct Camp Dennison, care Lieut Vantyne Co K. 21st O regiment. Charley sends his respects to you all.

Robert Caldwell

Camp Dennison Sep 29th 61

Dear Sister

You must excuse me for neglecting for so long a time to answer your letter but the fact is I have been so busy moving for the last few days that I have hardly had time to think about writing to any person. Last thursday morning we left Camp Vance for this place had a very fine ride through the finest country I ever saw arrived at Camp Dennison about 2 oclock friday morning and remained in the cars until daylight when we were marched to our quarters which consist of shanties capable of accomodating about 20 men each, ours has a butry, two large bunks and three tables, besides a writing desk and several benches. I think they can be made more comfortable than the tents[.] There is at present about six or eight thousand men in camp and I doubt if there is a sick man among them. The camp is situated among a lot of high hills and is in as picturesque a place as the most romantic individual could wish for. On the outskirts of the camp the is a hill from the top of which a very fine view of Kentucky may be had. Last friday I visited a battery of rifled brass cannon six in number they throw a round ball of six pound weight and a slug of twelve and one half pound a distance of three miles one of the guns was at the fights of Philippi and rich mountain in western Va[.] We received our arms yesterday they are rifled muskets. We have not yet received our uniforms but expect to in a short time. We expect to be ordered to Louisville Ky in a few days and if we do I will write from there in the mean time you can direct to Camp Dennison care of Lieutenant Vantine Company K. 21st O. regiment. Since receiving your letter I have been home I went home sat and stayed until tuesday I had a very pleasant time. You may send the Oberlin papers if you please. I have got that likeness of yours on

[remainder missing]

Camp Dennison Sep 29th [1861]

Dear Father

Thinking this a suitable opportunity to let you know what is doing and what has been done in camp I seize the present time for so doing. I wrote last friday upon arriving at camp but as all was confusion and disorder upon our arrival that it was almost impossible to collect one's ideas but at present the condition of things is greatly improved. Our camp (that of the 21st) is situated upon the eastern side of the C.C. & C. R.R. it is very finely situated entirely surrounded by high hills there is one hill close by the camp from the top of which a very fine view of Kentucky may be had, distant about five miles from this place. There are at present about six or eight regiments in camp at this place. I wrote in my last that close to our regiment an artillery company was encamped. I could not think of the Captain's name who was in command but have since learned that his name is Sanford the company came from Cleveland. I wrote on our arrival at this place that it was expected we were to start for Louisville on Monday next but I doubt it very much as we have not yet received our uniforms but are expecting them every day. We received our arms and accoutrements yesterday afternoon, our guns are rifled muskets with the exception of those received by the two flanking companies (A and B) who received enfield rifles[.] It is quite comical to see some of the boys since they received their arms, this morning I had leave of absence from camp and nearly every one that I met with was rigged out with everything that Government allows them and the great heavy musket atop of all and as the strutted about (as they thought) among the greenies no doubt they thought they would pass for veterans, but the fact is it takes something else in addition to being able to carry a musket to become a good and efficient soldier. I needs time to discipline a regiment so that they may be of service upon coming into action as when such a time arrives we expect to dance to a different music from that which we have in camp, but I doubt if there is a man in our company if offered the privilege or returning home would accept it we are bout to see the thing out if we are allowed to live through it. There is not a sick man in our camp at present and I doubt if there is one in Camp Dennison it is so very healthy at this place. There is a Railroad bridge about seven miles west of this place which is guarded by Government and last Friday night there was two men shot while making the attempt to burn it. I don't think much of this part of the state as farming land it is so hilly, but on the way to camp we passed through some of the most beautiful farms I ever saw but I did not see such nice corn anywhere on the route as can be raised in the Black Swamp. When you write I wish you would state how Cap Gibbs is getting[.] I am anxious to know as we would all like very much to have him with us as soon as possible. As I am using George Claghorns pen and he is anxious to take my place at the writing desk I shall have to bring this latter to a close. I wish you would tell me if William has gone yet and whether Jerry has taken the mill. But I must close give my love to Mother, William, and Willie and tell Willie to be a good boy and when I come home I will bring him something to remember the war by.

From your son, Robert Caldwell

(P.S.) I will write to mother next time when you write direct it to Camp Dennison care Lieutenant Vantine Comp K. 21st Ohio reg and if we have left it will be forwarded to me


Nicholasville K.Y near
Camp Dick Robinson
Oct. 4th [1861]

Dear folks at home

We left Camp Dennison wednesday morning and started for Cincinnati at which place we arrived about two oclock, got aboard of the ferryboat and was ferried across the river to Covington, K.Y. We there formed and were marched through the city to an open lot back of the place, where we were allowed to break ranks and make ourselves as comfortable as possible. While we were lying there half asleep I was waked up and asked if I did not want some warm coffee and warm bread and upon looking up I saw a lady and gentlemen going round with the aboved named articles which they were distributing among the soldiers free of charge and as a matter of course I did not refuse. But as I am called as corporal of the guard I must close at present as I must get the guard together.

Since named camp Norton

Saturday Morning Oct. 5th

Dear folks at home

I have just been relieved from duty and hasten to finish writing. I have been acting as corporal of the guard for the last 24 hours. We left Covington about 10 oclock at night and rode all night, the next morning we passed through Lexington and I there saw the monument of Henry clay. It is the nicest thing of the kind that I ever saw it is build of gray stone and is about 45ft. high and on the top is placed the statue of the honored statesman. The next town at which we arrived was Nicholasville the town near which our present Camp is situated. We are encamped on the side of a dry hill in a large field. On the opposite side of the town the 38th Ohio is encamped it is expected that we will remain over sunday at our present Camp and monday morning take up our march for Camp Robinson, but to day I have heard it hinted by some that we are to go to Missouri but no one places any dependence on the rumor. It is said that there is at present about 15000 troops in Camp Robinson there are also twelve full batteries at the above camp numbering in all 72 guns, It is expected that the enemy will make a stand a Cumberland Gap they have quite a number of troops at that place. I suppose you have heard of the death of Breckenridge he was shot by some union home guards not very far from this place he had the top of his head shot completely off by a musket ball. In the town near which we are encamped the citizens appear to be all sound on the union and in fact it has been the case on the whole route. There are a great number of slaves owned in this town one lady living opposite Camp owns about 40 they appear to be very well treated in these parts. We yesterday received the remainder of our uniforms and we decided to send all our old clothes home together. I have drawn one hat, two shirts two pair drawers, a pair pant, one blouse, one great coat just like the ones the American soldiers used to wear it comes below the knees and has a large cape on it, but I must as the boys are going to close the box in which our things are placed. I also drew one pair shoes two pair socks &c

I am well

You had better not write until you receive another letter from me. When you write direct to me in care Lieut Vantine 21st Ohio regiment we don't know as we will get the position of Co K as yet.

When we get settled once more I will write and let you know . From Robt Cald

Love to all we are in the best of spirits

Camp near Nicholasville K.Y.
Oct 9th [1861]

Dear Father

Hearing that one of the officers was to return for the purpose of recruiting I thought that I would embrace the present opportunity to say something in regard to the clothing that I have sent home, When we received our knapsacks we no longer had any need of our satchels and concluded to box them up and send them home in connection with our superfluous clothing and accordingly we did so and directed the box to James Easterly, according to his request and he promised to see that the different things reached their destination. I sent one of my old shirts home as I have no need of it as I have three others which will be sufficient under any circumstances. I find that the less weight a person has to carry, the better a he is off. If I were to choose my own clothing I could not be better suited I have my oiled cloth blanket besides a blanket that I have drawn and no matter how cold the night I can sleep as warm as I could choose to sleep. You can tell Mother that when we left camp Vance I lent that comforter to Higgins, a relation of Unkaters, who had no blanket and he has used it ever since and used it so roughly that it is not worth sending home and as he has not yet drawn a blanket I let him keep it. I will gie it to some person who needs it better than I.

Direct to Co. I. Nicholasville K.Y.
R.H. Caldwell

I received that money, for which I am very thankful

Camp near Nicholasville K.Y.
Oct 11th [1861]

Dear Sister

Thinking that you might be anxious to know what I have been doing all the time since I last wrote to you I concluded to improve the present time by giving you an account of our travels since leaving Camp Vance. We left that place thursday Sep 26th travelled all day and arrived at Camp Dennison next morning at about two oclock remained in the cars until daylight and were then marched to our quarters which were wooden barracks built in rows with streets between, they were quite comfortable we remained at the above place until Wednesday of october third when we were ordered to K.Y. Packed up and were marched to the cars and started for Cincinnati at which palce we arrived at about three oclock were ferried across the river into Newport K.Y. formed and were marched through the city to a vacant lot, situated in the rear of the town, where we were allowed to lie down or otherwise make ourselves as comfortable as possible, we remained at this place until 10 oclock at night when we took passage on the Kentucky Central R.R. for the interior of the state. When we were about three miles from Covington we passed through a tunnel about a half mile in length and indeed nearly all the road in below the surface of the ground from three to fifteen feet as the country is so hilly that it is necessary to dig through the hills in order that the track might be level. Between Canp Dennison and Cincinnati on the route of the C.C.&C. R.R. we passed hills that must have been at the least calculation 200 feet high and that of the condition of the country throughout nearly the whole of southern Ohio and northern Kentucky. We travelled all night and in the morning arrived at Lexington. At this place the state lunatic's asylum is located[.] I saw several of the inmates within the enclosure those that I saw were perfectly harmless, one of them appeared to have been a minister at some time or other as he continually kept up a harangue to the soldiers about the day of judgement &c At this place I also saw the monument of Henry Clay it is a very fine thing. It is about 40 feet square at the base and runs up about 20 feet upon which is placed the statue of the honored statesman. It is said that the statue is about 175 feet from the ground.

We left Lexington after staying at that place about 2 hours and arrived at Nicholasville the termination of the Railroad were marched through the town and encamped in a large field where we have remained ever since. Our camp is situated on the side hill and is a very fine place. This is the finest country I ever saw. It is no wonder that Daniel Boone was delighted with this secgtion of country. I expected when we arrived in this state to see a large number of secessionists but I find that the Ohio regiments have a very salutary effect on that class of persons. We are about 130 miles from Cincinnati at the termination of the Kentucky Central R.R. It is thought that we will be ordered to Camp Dick Robinson situated about 15 miles from this place there are at present about 15000 troops encamped at that place, yesterday a battery of rifled cannons passed this camp en route for the above named camp. I have not yet received an answer to the last letter I wrote you but I expect to receive it with the rest of the letters from home as I believe they have been forwarded to this place. You must excuse all mistakes in this letter as I am writing in my tent with all the boys talking and laughing around me and it is almost impossible to collect ones ideas. When you write direct to me in care Lieutenant Vantine, Co I. 21st Ohio regiment. Oh yes, you may direct your to Nicholasville K.Y. also, in connection with the above direction, our comp has been changed from Co K to Co I, a much better position in the regt[.]

From Robt Caldwell (P.S) I will write from our next (camping?) place

Camp Tom (Letcher?) K.Y.
Oct 13th [1861]

Dear Mother

As it is Sunday and all is quiet in camp I concluded to embrace this opportunity to let you know how i make the time pass while in the service of Uncle Samuel. In the morning at precisely five oclock reveilee is sounded on the bugle which is a very unwelcome sound to a large number of the boys as it is the signal for the opening of eyes and the turning out of the boys for roll call and you had just ought to see the commotion when that time arrives, boys falling out of the tents and boys falling over each other and everything but falling into line in order, and when at last order is restored, the roll is called by the Orderly and if any unlucky fellow has failed to awaken at the sound of the bugle and fall into line in order that he may answer to his name he is marked for extra duty or elected for the guard house[.] At six oclock the breakfast is sounded upon which occasion you may be sure that none allow themselves to be marked as delinquents. at half past eight the call for guardmounting is sounded when the guards that have been detailed from each company are marched to an open space in front of the tents, formed in line, arms inspected &c, when they are marched down to the guardhouse where they are to start from. (the guards are divided three reliefs 1st 2nd & 3rd and each relief takes its turn in standing guard, there are in all about 60 guards detailed each day each relief consisting of about 20 men, they are posted around the camp and also placed over the camp stores. After guardmounting comes the drill call, when the different companies are called out for drill they are obliged to drill two hours in the forenoon after which call for dinner is sounded. At half past one the call for drill is again sounded, when we have Comp drill and also noncommissioned & commissioned officers drill for the space of two more hours, when a short time for target practice is allowed, each company is allowed one round and as a general thing most of the boys are satisfied with that as the kick of a two year old colt is as nothing compared with the recoil of the musket. The first time that I fired mine I had quite an astronomical view consisting mostly of stars we fired at targets distant about 30 rods and I believe my ball struck the ground at the distance of about 25 rods from me and consequently my ball came within just about 5 rods of the mark which I consider pretty good shooting for the first trial. I wrote to father that I had received the position of Color guard in the regiment which is considered a much more desirable poition than corporal in the company as I retain the rank of corp and have much less duty to perform. Yesterday we had quite a stir in camp on the announcement being made that General Anderson was to make a visit to the 21st whereupon the regt was called out and formed receive the General and Col Neibling had us give the hero of fort Sumter three cheers and then the General responded very briefly saying that nothing but the poor state of his health prevented him from going with us. We then gave him nine counts and (as Col Neibling says) a great big tiger, and he then left the ground. But I am digressing, where was I? Oh! yes firing my musket. Well after target practice we return to quarters and at precisely four oclock dress parade is sounded and the rest is formed in line of battle and the preliminaries having been gone through with Battallion drill commences, that is a drill for the whole regt which generally occupies us until evening when at six oclock the supper call is sounded and we all pitch into Uncle Sam's (provender?) with a relish. At nine oclock the call is sounded for roll call and we are obliged to turn out for that purpose. And immediately after we have what is termed taps, that is the measured strokes upon the base drums, which is the order for all lights to be extinguished in the regiment, and thus you see everything is done in order. We have a certain kind of call on the bugle to represent each order, and the bugle can be heard at any part of the camp and as a matter of course no excuse can be take on account of not hearing the call. But perhaps you would like to know how I spend the sabbath, well today in the forenoon I attended terian church in the town of Nicholasville. And this afternoon on dress parade we had divine service by the Rev Mr Skinner the chaplain of our regiment. Last Sunday I attended Baptist Church in town. Nicholasville is a town of perhaps 600 or 700 inhabitants. It wears the look of most southern towns. The houses are mainly old and weatherbeaten and with one or two exceptions there are no improvements going on. It is the county seat of Jessamine County and contains a courthous, three or four churches, two hotels, and a couple of schoolhouses. The remainder of the town is composed of black smoky looking dwellinghouses and one bay look in vain for the enterprise and thrift of our northern villages. We have constantly a large number of visitors in camp. You can see the wealthy planter and family riding in his nice Coach driven by a black (slave) coaching and at nearly all times of the day negroes male and female are in camp selling cakes, pies, and fruit. It is said that tomorrow morning we are to start east for a place called Olympian springs situated within a few miles of western Virginia distant about 65 or 70 miles, but we have sent for our horses and wagons and expect them tomorrow but in case they do not come Col Neibling says that we will not go, but we expect to go tomorrow or next day and I will write as soon as I arrive.

Give my love to Father, I wrote to Julie yesterd

Camp near Hazelgreen
Morgan County Kentucky
Oct 24th

Dear folks at home

We arrived at this place this afternoon and have not had a fight either, as I told you in my last letter might be the case. But the 2nd Ohio of this Brigade that was in advance of us, a few miles had an engagement which resulted in the defeat of the enemy, and a loss on their side of 7 men, and 35 prisoners. The 2nd Ohio lost only one slightly wounded, but the enemy was nowhere to be seen upon our arrival. The 33rd arrived yesterday afternoon and arrested 40 men, and also quartered their troops in the houses of the inhabitants. I never saw such a country in my life, it is in the midst of the mountains, and the hills are so steep that the farmers have to stand upon a ladder in order to plant their corn. The houses look as though they had been built for Noahs occupation after leaving the ark. The road a part of the way is in the bed of a creek and the water is also running in the creek. We are encamped upon a hill overlooking the town, which is composed of about 20 houses, if they are worthy of that name. I don't know how long we are to stay here but it is possible that we may remain here a week or two, and we may also be ordered away tomorrow. This brigade is under command of General Nelson[.] I send this letter by one of the teamsters who are to start for Mount Sterling in the morning for provisions, as we have not yet made arrangements to have our mail carried[.] I don't know of anything of importance to write as there is hardly anything going on in this out of the way place. There is an artillery battery of four cannon at this place which came with our regiment. Perhaps you would like to know how we live. Well yesterday we had chicken for supper and this morning we had the nicest kind of potatoes and everything else that we could wish for. We have had some pretty severe marching lately, but I stand if very well, we are all in the best of spirits and longing for a brush with the enemy. I wrote to William the other day but have not yet had an answer as the mail travels very slowly over the mountains. I have not received a letter since Cap Gibbs arrived but expect letters before long. I cant think of anything more that will interest you and will close. I am writing this with the paper lying on a plate

From your son Robt Caldwell
Direct 21st regiment camp near
Hazel Green &c &c

[Dear Mother?]

If you could have been up to the Capt tent just about 10 minutes ago, you would have thought I had gone crazy by the manner in which I acted but perhaps you may ask what could have occassioned this grand gymnastical display upon my part, well the fact is I had just read a letter from home. You can hardly tell in what good humor it places a person situated as we are, to receive a letter from the ones at home. Why as for myself I believe if any person but a secesh had struck me in the face I could have forgiven him. You wish to know how camp life agrees with me, well I can say that if I were unwell and were asked what I thought would be beneficial to my health I would answer, a dose of camp life by all means. You appear to be apprehensive that some of us have not a sufficient... [torn page] ... overcoat furnished by the same fatherly gentleman. I also have a good supply of shirts and socks and in fact I have all that I could wish for at present. In future if our company should be in need of anything in that line our Captain will make application to the good people of our town who no doubt will promptly respond to the call. We were all very sorry to hear that that box of varieties which you sent us was detained on the route as it would have been very acceptable. But as it now is, it would cost it weight in silver to send it and consequently we shall be obliged to do without it. But we are willing to take the will for the deed and are just as thankful as though we had received it. I was very glad to hear that Aunt Mary was with you and that she was going to stay with you all winter. I was glad to receive a letter from her. She expressed the desire to be the wife of a General tell her if she was in the army she would at once find the romance taken off if she had to travel through the Cumberland Mountains as we have had to do. Although we have a lady in the 21st who has been with us through the whole campaign so far and as far a(s) I can find out she appears to like the life very well. Her husband is a private and she cooks for some of the officers But tell Mary to live in hope and when this little fuss is cleared up there will be lots of soldiers wanting wives, and who knows but she may be the wife of a General yet. (but enough of foolishness) I was also much pleased that Mr. Vetter was boarding with you. You wrote that Alfred Rice had enlisted in the good cause, I was very much surprised to hear that, but he will make a good soldier if he is able to stand the fatigue, but he is pretty strong and I guess he will stand it.

Father wrote that he had had an offer for his mill and wishes to know what I think of it. Well I do not know the condition of the land that he was offered whether it was improved or not but father knows all about that doubtless[.] He says that he is not able to run the mill and as he is offered what I think a middling fair price considering the times, and that he might be able to get into something that would be easier for him until I get back to take hold once more I think that he had better accept it, that is if my opinion is worth anything. The frame will need considerable repair if he keeps it, and sawmilling at the present time is not a very paying business to say the least, and if there is any kind of business that ought to pay, considering the amount of work to be done, it is sawmilling. I was much pained to hear that our good old Grandfather had departed this life, but it was what I had been expecting to hear, as he was so infirm at the time that I was at home. But let us hope that he is better off now than when he was with us. But I must close as our cook is called to stand guard and I must take his place and cook the supper just think of that will you. imagine me cooking supper is it not laughable. Give my love to all, tell Aunt Mary and John Vetter that I will write to them shortly.

(P.S.) Indian Summer is in full blast among these mountains, the finest of weather

R H Caldwell

Prestonburg Nov 13th 61

Dear Mother

As I have written two letters to Father since arriving at this place I thought it no more than fair that I should now write to you and let you know how the 21st in general and Co. I in particular were fareing at the present time. Well as I wrote to Father there had been a skirmish between our forces and those of the enemy at a place a considerable distance up the river in which the rascals were routed. Mr George Jones of Co I was present during the brush and received a ball in the calf of one of his legs, he was the only man of the 21st that was wounded He says that the 21st was ordered round the hill to take the enemy in the rear and he says that about the time they arrived at their position the firing ceased and probably that accounts for the small number of our boys being wounded We cannot get the correct report yet as our boys have not yet returned to this place but we are looking for them daily.

In the letter that I wrote to father I explained the reason why I was not with our regt. At the time of marching I was sick with the chill fever contracted by exposure and over exertion, the last day that I marched we were put on a forced march of over 23 miles and I was sick the day before but my mottoe is to never complain as long as I can lift a musket to my shoulder, I got wet that night as it rained after our arrival at the river and we were about two hours crossing as we had but one flatboat upon which the whole regt had to cross. But I am now about well once more, I have an appetite like a bear, but I am very particular about what I eat. I received a letter from father last night dated nov 2nd and was very glad to hear from home. I also received one from the same source while we were lying in a camp some distance this side of Hazel Green it was dated Oct 27th and I received it upon the evening of the first of November He spoke of N. Willsons Co in that letter. I immediately answered it. I also received a letter from you while we were lying in H. Green in which I reed the news of Grandfathers death I also answered that within 15 minutes after receiving it. I wrote several letters home while we were at the above named town, and when we were at the Licking river I sent two letters to Father and (as I said before) I have already sent two, since arriving at this place and this will make the third. And taking it altogether I think I have done pretty well in the writing line, and if you fail to receive my letters the fault is in the mail[.] I am quite certain that I don't get all your letters as I am confident that you write oftener than I receive, however I shall not complain as I have been over the roads and know what they are and it is no wonder if the mail fails to make a connection now and then. When you receive this letter and find yourself obliged to pay the postage don't be surprised and think that I am out of money for such is not the case. But the case is this, hitherto the rules have been that we could pay the postage with money, but of late the orders are, that if a person has no postage stamps to place upon their letter they will have to get it marked soldiers letter and it will go free until its arrival at its destination when the postage can be paid by the one receiving the letter. But as I shall need my money to purchase writing material it will still be very useful[.] When you write I wish you would send me four or five stamps to be used on special occassions. It is not known positively where we shall go after leaving this place, but is rumored that we are to go either to Cincinnati or Louisville but that would be too good news and I cant believe it. Tell Father I will answer his letter shortly. I should like above all things to get a leader now and then, as we receive no news whatever

R H Caldwell
love to all

Prestonburg Floyd Co
Ky nov 15th __61

Dear Father

This is to let you know that I have lately received two letters from you one dated the 2nd and the other the 5th and I was very glad to hear from home.

I was sorry to hear that Nat Willson was obliged to give up his Co as I should have liked very much to have had Nat turn out a full company I was glad to hear that Bucklands regt was prospering so finely. I am in hopes that Al Rice will succeed with his Co. I am very glad to think that Aunt Mary is to stay with you this winter. I suppose before this time that Juliet has arrived at home and taking things altogether I guess that you will have a plenty of company as John Vetter is a lively fellow indeed

I was sorry to hear that the man who was going to buy the mill failed to come but there may be better chances yet for selling

I was glad to hear that business was in such a prospering condition in Elmore. You say that the ladies of Elmore have formed themselves into a soldiers aid society, may they meet with good success. James Bumpus is not 2nd Lieutenant of Co I. As has been reported Wood is still Lieut and as far as I can judge will remain as such. There was some talk of putting Bumpus in his place while we were lying at Lexington, but it was never done and I am glad of it as Wood has made a good Officer since leaveing that place

When I last wrote I wrote that I had been sick, but I am now almost a(s) well as ever. Our regiment is still at a place called Piketon a place situated about 25 miles up the river, they are to remain at that place for a few days I believe, and in the meantime we (that is those who were left at this place) are to remain here until they come down, we have once more taken up our quarters in houses. Co I. is quartered in a large brick house with three fireplaces in it

I hardly know what to write a(s) news is very scarce with us at present. I should like to know something in regard to the movements of the army on the Potomac we have heard but little news since leaving Lexington You wish to know if I would like to have you send me the Leader occasionally, do so by all means as we receive no news of any account in these mountains and a paper from home would be a treat indeed. As the Postmaster will take nothing but postage stamps in payment for letters and it is impossible to get stamps I send my letters in future as Soldiers letters and you will find it necessary to pay for the postage upon the receipts of them

You may still direct to
Prestonburg Floyd County K.y
&c &c &c
R H Caldwell

Prestonburg Floyd County
Nov 17th [1861]

Dear Father

We have received orders to leave this place for some point upon the Ohio river, probably Cincinnati. We are to leave tomorrow morning and it is likely that we will be taken upon steamboats. The regiment (the 21st) arrived from up the river last night and we are now altogether once more. The boys marched a distance of about 30 miles and when they arrived they were pretty well fagged out.

The rumor is now prevalent that we are going to Lexington by the way of Cin, and we are to stay at Lex until we are recruited sufficiently in point of health, when we are to go to Camp Dick Robinson and join another Brigade when we are to commence active operations against the rebels.

Another rumor, which I think the most probable, is that we are to go into winter quarters not far distant from Cincinnati. Day before yesterday Col Norton told Cap Gibbs that he was just ready to start for Ohio for the purpose for finding suitable quarters for the 21st and he has since left for that purpose. And for that reason I consider this last rumor (if rumor it can be called) worthy of the most credit I wrote in one of my letters that in the late engagement Mr Jones received a slight flesh wound in one of his legs he is doing well and in fact you would hardly know that he was wounded by the way he carries on He is perfectly happy, as it is said he will be allowed to return home until he is well again.

This is the poorest place in the world for news and consequently I shall be obliged to cut this letter short. I guess you had better still direct to Prestonburg Floyd County K.y &c &c &c and the letters will be forwarded to the 21st wherever it may be.

This is the fourth letter that I have written home from this place and as I said in my last, I received two letters a few days ago dated the 2nd and 5th of this month, but I must close

From Robert H. Caldwell

We are all happy as larks on account of receiving orders to leave these mountains, which I can truly say we have never yet fallen in love with

Catlettsburg) Kentucky
Nov 20th __61

Dear Father

Hurah! We are once more within sight of old Ohio but I suppose I had better go back a day or two and commence there and let you know what has taken place since that time. While at Prestonburg I wrote that we had received marching orders, and that it was expected we would start in a day or two for Cincinnati. Well at the appointed time we broke up camp and started for the ferry for the purpose of being ferried across, there were four regiments of us and it occupied the whole day in putting the wagons and men across, I had been excused from duty in the morning by the Surgeon on account of not yet having recovered from the effects of the chill fever of which I wrote to you, and as we were sitting by our campfires talking over the prospects for wintering in Ohio, when an express came from the Doctor desiring all those who had been excused in the morning by him to report aboard of the steamer Sandy Valley then lying at the peer and as I happened to come under that category you may believe that it did not take me very long to get my things together and myself aboard the boat. There was about 50 of the 21st aboard besides a like number from each of the other regts. The steamer started sometime in the night destined for the mouth of the Big Sandy a distance of 60 or 70 miles, but I had forgotten to say that the remainder of the 21st was to go by land down the river a distance of about 40 miles when they were to take boats and join us at this place. When daylight made its appearance we were going down the river with Virginia on one side and Kentucky on the other, that being the firt time that I had been allowed the privelege of looking upon the Old Dominion so famed in song and story. But I looked long in vain to see something about those everlasting mountains and log cabins with the neverfailing accompaniment of a dozen or two of dirty ragged children running about that was calculated to awaken the romance of any writer. It was nothing but rocks and mountains, log cabins, dirty children, lean pigs, starved chickens, dirt, and poverty upon every hand There that is my opinion of what I saw of the far famed Old Dominion Well we kept on down the river and passed the town of Louisa, a town of considerable importance. We arrived at the Ohio river at about 3, oclock and went up into to find quarters, which we accomplished after a short search. We are quartered in a good warm house situated upon the bank of the Ohio river, and we are favored every now and then with the sight of a magnificent steam plowing her way either up or down river, and for one to see such a sight, who has seen nothing for the last month except a wilderness, it is quite refreshing. The town of Catlet[t]sburg is situated at the mouth of the Big Sandy upon the banks of that stream and also that of the Ohio, it contains a population of perhaps 700 inhabitants the houses are well built and the place has a very thriving appearance. There is considerable shipping done here. I visited two large steamboats this morning and it is surprising what an amount of freight one of these boats is capable of carrying. They are literally stowed from bottom to top with boxes, barrels, and bales of cotton.

When we arrived here we were without rations, and no means for drawing when a citizen of the place brought the boys of the 21st a good warm supper consisting of warm bread and butter, chicken, jelly and applebutter warm coffee and tea and now perhaps, things in general and the chicken in particular did not take to themselves wings and fly away, just ask the boys of the 21st. And this morning the same good man brought down a plentiful supply of warm Steak mashed potatoes good warm rusk with the best of coffee with milk and sugar in it. We all felt as though we could not do enough for that man. Shortly after this we drew our regular rations with a few additions and we are going to live like kings, you never saw a happier set of boys in your life than we are, We expect to lie at this place for a few days when we will be joined by our regt and proceed in boats down the river to Cincinnati, and there my information stops but I think in all probablility we shall go from that city to Lexington, as all indications of late seem to point to that conclusion, However I am as happy as a lark no matter where I am just so long that I keep my health. I have not yet seen the time that I could truly say I was homesick, I cannot account for it. It must be caused by the never failing excitement of cam life, the looking ahead and expecting one hardly knows what, the ever varying scenes which present themselves to ones view, these and a thousand other things taken together tend as the French would say to keep one on the gui vive and serve to keep off the blues, I think if any person should get homesick that person ought to be myself, as I left the best home that God in all his seeing wisdom ever provided any person with, and was blessed with parents that I believe were never willing to place a (burden?) upon my shoulders that they were not willing to carry for me should they think it best for my welfare. I often think of these things and they make a deep impression upon my mind, and i now see that I never full appreciated the endeavors of my parents to promote my welfare, and I believe that if there is any one thing that is calculated more than another to keep one steps from the paths of vice and immorality, it is the memory of that home that I cheerfully left, to take up arms in defence of the best government the World ever knew. Tell Aunt Mary to not get tired waiting for that letter (there goes a steamboat right past our door, and here comes another) as I intend to write her a long letter when I get into a place where we have accomodations for writing. I am writing this letter sitting flat upon the floor with my knapsack lying across my knees and my paper lying upon it, I have written a large share of my letters with my paper lying upon the bottom of an inverted tin plate, such as we use in eating, but who would not be a soldier, From this point we can see three states Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky, they all three center on this point. Virginia is just across the Big Sandy and Ohio across that river. When you write direct to Cincinnati and in case we go elsewhere it will be forwarded on to us.

Give my love to all from Robert H Caldwell

Camp near Louisville
Dec 3rd [1861]

Dear Mother

Since writing my last letter I have received three letters from home, on from Juliet with Wm letter enclosed and one from Aunt Mary, also one from you. We have had a fine snow storm, or rather two of them since arriving at Louisville it snowed about two inches deep a few nights ago and last Sunday night and Monday morning it snowed again and while it was snowing, we received orders to strike tents and prepare to move to a better camping ground situated about two miles from the city as the one in which we have been camping for the last week had become almost untenable on account of the wind and consequently while it was snowing violently we struck tents and took up the march for our new quarters where in due time we arrived and found it necessary to take shovels and clear the ground of the snow where our tents were to be pitched, which was finally accomplished, when the boys [s]tarted for the straw piles and rail fences, the once to furnish bedding and the other fuel, as Nelsons Brigade always makes it a point to not allow a fence or straw stack to stand within its reach. Our present camp ground is very finely situated upon a dry piece of sod ground, with water handy by to be used for cooking purposes. You wrote that there was a considerable amount of improvements going on in town, I was glad to hear of it, I was also glad to hear that John Ryder was going to build and that he had given Father a bill of lumber to save. The health of the 21st is fast improving. But I have some news to tell you, the paymaster is around and we are to receive our pay in a few days. This morning George Claghorn and myself were detailed to report at Headquarters for the purpose of making out the payrolls, there is two men detailed from each company for that purpose. There is at present near this camp about 20 regiments of infantry artillery, and cavalry. It is not positively known how long we are to remain at ar present quarters, but it is thought we will remain at this place something like 10 days. Our destination is not positively known but rumor says we are to go to Bowling Green however we may yet be ordered to Columbus Ky. We receive the daily papers in camp regularly. We get the Louisville Journal and Democrat and of course we are posted in regar to the news Perhaps you may have some fears in regard to our comfort, these cold nights, well I can say for one that I never slept more comfotably than I do in my tent[.] I have two blankets one of which I place upon the straw (which is about a foot deep) and the other I place over me and I have a bedfellow who also has a blanket and so we have one under and two over us, which keeps us very warm. We are to have a stove in each tent this winter. Each mess is to furnish its own stove, our mess consists of 10 men and as the stove costs $3 it will cost each man but 30 cents. Tell Aunt Mary that I will answer her letter shortly I have not yet received Vetters letter and am looking anxiously for it, Tell Father when I receive my pay that I intend to make him a present of a Government Order as I am not in debt one cent ot any man this side of home.

Love to all
R H Caldwell

Camp near Louisville
Dec 4th [1861]

Dear Father

I write this letter to let you know that I received a letter from Mother last evening and enclosed I found one dollar which proved very acceptable as I was just out of postage stamps having placed the last one upon the letter that I sent to Mother by this mail. The one great topic of conversation in camp at pressent is the arrival of the paymaster, I worked nearly all yesterday afternoon on the payrolls of Co I. and it will take the greater part of to day to finish them, and when that is accomplished we are to receive our pay. But I suppose that some great lover of his country who makes it a point to stay at home and continually urge others to fight the battles of the Union, would say fri? upon you for making such great calculations upon receiving the paltry sum to which you are entitled by law, you should never stoop so low as to take into consideration the pay that you are to receive but if needs be you should be willing to wade throug[h] mud, snow, water and blood and to ecndure all sorts of hardships for the good of your country. Unto all such Union men I merely wish to say that I properly appreciate all such sentiment but the Paymaster is a great institution. As I have but little time to write I shall have to close by saying that Johny is well and hearty and looks as though he were able to endure almost any amount of hardship, so healthy is he.

I have not yet received Mr Vetters letter but am looking for it by every mail, I answered Aunt Marys letter the other day, but I must close give my love to all

From Robert Caldwell

Camp near Louisville Dec 8th__61

Dear Father

Since I finished my letter I have heard the order that we are to start upon a? march for, goodness knows where. We are to? Start at eight in the morning, we have drawn? Three days rations, I suppose our (destination) is to be Camp Nevin near Bowling green

I suppose you have heard that Gen (Nelson) has? Been promoted to a Major Generalship and ???Col of the 33rd Col Sill has been made a Brigadier General he commands our brigade

[New Page]

When I arrive where I can get a chance I will write. But it is bed time and as the boys want to go to bed I must c