1863: George ? to Emily Almira Gates

Emily Almira Gates in later years

Emily Almira Gates in later years

This letter was written by an infantryman name George who was served in the 47th Illinois Regiment, and was likely from Peoria, Illinois.

This letter was written to Emily Almira Gates (1839-1927), the daughter of Benjamin Franklin Gates (1811-1852) and Mary Cooms Pratt (1804-1892). Emily married Lawrence Sheahan (1828-1906) in February 1865. Benjamin Jirah Gates (1836-1905), Emily’s older brother, is mentioned in the letter. Jirah’s enlistment papers state that he was 5’10” tall with brown hair, grey eyes, and a dark complexion. Note: Gates family records indicate that Jirah was called “Jerry” so the references to Jerry in the letter are probably Jirah.

It seems likely that George (the author of this letter) also served in Company C but I cannot find any enlisted me in that company that seem to fit. Perhaps George was a middle name or maybe he served in a different company.

1863 Letter

1863 Letter


Addressed to Miss Emily A. Gates, Peoria, Illinois

Bear Creek, Mississippi ¹
July 31st 1863

Dear friend Emily,

I now take the pleasure of writing a few lines to you to let you know that I am well and hope that these few lines will find you the same. There is no news of importance here now. The troops have all gone into summer quarters to rest during the heat of the summer. The Rebel lines is so broken and scattered that our men don’t know where they are, and so they ordered  a rest till they could find out where they are.

Jirah ("Jerry") Gates in later years

Jirah (“Jerry”) Gates in later years

Jerry & I have had a good time. Jirah is well and feels fine. I never was better than I am now. I think we will be home against Christmas. When we can’t find the enemy, it is a good sign that the war is nearly over.

The pay master is here. He came today. We will get payed off about day after tomorrow. I will send a dollar in this letter. I wish you would buy some letter stamps with it when you go to town and send them to me and I will be much obliged to you.

I sent you a small book full of war incidents. Did you get it? I have got a book entitled, “Cole’s Concordance” ² which I mean to send home at the earliest opportunity. It is valuable as it is a key to the bible. I will write a letter to Jimmie and send him a song. That note paper has not yet come. Where it is, I can’t guess. Jerry has sent home a case of field instruments which was captured at Jackson and which belongs to some Secesh surgeon.

We have got a nice camp and mean to stay here this summer so you can direct all letters to Bear Creek. I think that I have written as much as will interest you so I will close for the present. Write soon and oblige.

— George

Good Night.


¹ The 47th Illinois Infantry was in “Camp Sherman” at Bear Creek, Mississippi from the 27th of July until 26 September 1863, following the fall of Vicksburg.

² Rev. George Coles published “Concordance to the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments” in 1851.


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