Wednesday, May 25, 2016

1883 Letter Mentions Perryville

In hindsight, perhaps I should have completed this before my trip to the battlefield last Saturday, but it still is worth sharing now.

This is a neat post-war letter. It is from 1883 and mentions something that happened shortly before the battle at Perryville. Even though it does not add anything about the actual fighting, I think it is rather interesting. The fact that it mentions the U.S. Army impressing a wagon from an African-American is also fascinating. Seeing the lawyer refer to him as a hard working "negro" instead of a hard working "man" is noteworthy and rather symbolic of the times. 

Following are a picture of the letter, my attempt to transcribe it, and a few brief notes I made about it. There was one word I could not definitely read, so I marked it with a question mark and parenthesis. 

I do wonder if there was any resolution to this issue and if Mr. Drew received any compensation.



Louisville August 19th 1883 

Col. Bingham
Dear Sir:

When Buell’s army was leaving Louisville just prior to the Battle of Perryville, I understand that you, then a quartermaster in Gen. Sill’s division, or at (rate?) being with them on the Louisville & Shelbyville Pike, impressed a wagon belonging to a negro named Geo. Drew. Said wagon has never been returned to him, nor has he even recd any pay for same. You gave him a receipt for it at the time which was forwarded by Capt. Semple of Genl. Boyle’s staff to the Headquarters of Genl. Rosecrans, in order that you might return the proper vouchers. It was never heard from. You will obige (sic) me very much if you forward proper vouchers so that Drew, who is a hard working negro, may draw his pay for the wagon. If you have forgotten the circumstances, I will get the testimony of Capt. Semple, who saw & read the receipts. An early answer will oblige.

Yours respectfully,
Jack Fay,
Atty at Law
Louisville, Ky

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George B. Bingham was Lieutenant Colonel of the 1st Wisconsin, which fought on Starkweather's Hill at Perryville.

The African-American, George Drew, is a bit more mysterious. I found two possibilities for him on the 1880 census. One shows him as a 70 year-old farmer in Shelby County, Kentucky, near the location mentioned in the letter. I suspect that is the man, but the same census shows a man by the same name in Louisville. This man was just 35 years-old, probably too young to be the man who loaned the    wagon 18 years before that census. Perhaps further research will turn up more information on George
Drew.

The letter also refers to General Joshua SillGeneral Jeremiah Boyle, and General William Rosecrans. I suspect the mention of Rosecrans instead of General Don Carlos Buell was a mistake by the writer twenty-one years after the fact, since Rosecrans did not replace Buell until two weeks after the battle.

Captain Semple may have been John L. Semple of the 103rd Ohio Infantry Regiment, which apparently was around central Kentucky at this time.

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