I Seat Myself to Write You a Few Lines:
Civil War and Homestead Letters
from Thomas Lucas and Family

Collected and Edited by Dona Bayard Sauerburger, great-great granddaughter, 2002 and Thomas Lucas Bayard, grandson, 1960
With chapter introductions by Andrew German

Heritage Books, Bowie, Maryland, 2002

Section I --
Thomas Lucas, Civil War Soldier


This collection includes 350 letters written during the Civil War by Thomas Lucas to his "dearly beloved, fondly cherished, idolized, and excruciatingly beautiful" wife, Letty Jane Kerr Lucas. He wrote two to three letters a week throughout the three years that he volunteered to serve in the Union army, from August 1861 to August 1864.

When Thomas volunteered, he was 24 years old and Letty was 22, and they lived with their one-year-old daughter Millie (Permelia) in Rice's Landing, Pennsylvania, a small river port a few miles from Carmichaels, where they had grown up. Letty thought she might be pregnant. When Thomas left, Letty and Millie moved in with Letty's parents, who at that time lived in Carmichaels and still had 3 children under the age of 18 (Letty was sixth of 11 children who were born between 1825 and 1850). Letty's father, William Kerr, was a 58-year-old saddle maker [Kemp, 1964], and he and his wife Elizabeth Curl (age 56) and their family lived next to his "Saddle Tree Shop" (see map on page xvii).

Thomas served in Company F of the First Pennsylvania Cavalry (the "Ringgold" Cavalry) in the Army of the Potomac. During this time, men commonly enlisted and served with others from their own community. Thomas's company had been recruited by his neighbor J. M. Harper, a middle-aged militia officer who was commissioned a captain by the state in order to recruit other men from Carmichaels to form a company. Serving with them in Company F were many of Thomas's neighbors and relatives including:

Jonas Lucas (also called Jonah), Thomas's older brother, was 26 years old when he enlisted. He was a farmer but according to Kemp [1964] he was working as a clerk in the District Courts at Carmichael when he enlisted.

James Gregg, Letty's cousin, whom Thomas describes as the "life of the company." He was a 24-year-old farmer when he volunteered. James' mother, Mary Kerr Gregg, was the sister of Letty's father, according to Gail Gregg Ferris [personal correspondence, 1999];
Simeon Lucas, John Neff, and Abe Neff. Simeon (19-year-old farmer) and John were Thomas's cousins on his father's side, according to Kemp [1964]. John was 27 when he enlisted and apparently was married (see heading in letter of November 10, 1861). Abe is not mentioned in Kemp's genealogy but he and John Neff were probably related because Thomas often says to tell John's mother "Aunt Betsy" that both John and Abe are well -- perhaps Kemp was in error.

It was also customary for soldiers to elect their own officers, and Company F elected Thomas First Corporal, and a year later First Lieutenant.

Two of Thomas's younger brothers, Charles (who had just turned 23) and James (21), served together in the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, 8th Infantry (the "Rangers" or, as Thomas sometimes called them, the "bloody eighth"). James' military records list him as a "boatman" when he volunteered.

Thomas corresponded during the war with John Litzenburg, who served in the 46th Illinois Infantry. John was Thomas's cousin (their mothers were sisters), but when John was 9 and Thomas was almost 11, John's widowed mother married Thomas's father, and John and Thomas became stepbrothers. In his letter of October 11, 1862 Thomas tells Letty that John "came through the Iuka battle all right," but years later he wrote in a brief family history that John was killed in the battle of Iuka, Mississippi. Information provided by Steven W. Hornaday confirmed that John died several weeks after the battle of Iuka.

Thomas also corresponded regularly with other friends and relatives, and some of his letters to and from these people are included in this collection in chronological order. Two of his correspondents were his sisters "Sude" (Sue -- 22 years old when Thomas volunteered,) and"Sade" (Sarah). Sade, who was 16 when Thomas left, unburdens her family problems to Thomas, and reveals her sensitive soul when she poignantly describes how she felt when her brothers left for the war.

Thomas also corresponded with John C. Kerr, who was Letty's 29-year-old brother. John Kerr and his wife Elizabeth Sharpnack had been married for almost two years by this time, and probably lived next to his father (see map on page xvii). Another person Thomas corresponded with and mentioned often was James Flenniken, the 37-year-old husband of Letty's sister Rachel.

Elias Flenniken, who married Letty's sister Mary Ann, is also mentioned often in the letters. At that time he was 37 years old and had 7 children (ages infant to 14), but he nevertheless apparently volunteered with Thomas Lucas, or at least was involved with his company. Bates [1869/1993] does not list Elias with Company F, but Thomas talks about him and the wonderful horse he procured as well as the trouble he caused before he resigned less than two months after they had started. Another figure is Lewis K. Evans, who was the editor of the local paper when he volunteered and was elected Second Lieutenant. He apparently returned as editor after resigning July 1, 1862. Thomas admired him as a soldier but deplored his editorial actions after his resignation.

Thomas's letters home often reported on the health of his fellow soldiers for Letty to pass on to their families. Because most of the soldiers came from the same town, gossip at home was inevitable. Stories spread about the soldiers' supposed starvation, mass poisoning, punishment, cowardice, and betrayal. The opinion of people in the community was very important to the men, and many of Thomas's letters sought to dispel or find the source of rumors which Letty reported she'd heard about his fellow soldiers and even about Thomas himself.

Thomas often says "I am seated at my faithful desk," which meant he was sitting down and writing on his knees, as he explained in his letter of January 13, 1863.

These Civil War letters are divided into chapters, each with an introduction by Andrew German. Before we begin the first chapter, it would be appropriate to start with a letter which was found separate from the rest of the letters, the only original Thomas Lucas letter found among the boxes of his grandson Thomas Lucas Bayard [see love letter].


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