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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thomas Covert's Letters Home

Right, so as part of the new plan to revivify the blog, I am going to be posting the letters that Thomas Meredith Covert wrote home to his wife Phoebe. One by one. Each -- with the regrettable exception of the first two, which I have screwed up already -- exactly 150 years after it was mailed (after the manner of Samuel Pepys's blog).

Thomas Covert is my great-great-great-grandfather. His daughter Katie's son Harry Freeman's daughter Jeanne was my grandmother. Covert ended his days in the town of Kinsman, Ohio, where my grandmother knew him. (In an odd bit of trivia for my little corner of the speculative fiction universe, Kinsman is the home town of Chris Barzak, whose wonderful first novel One for Sorrow is set in its fictional analog.)

I'm not sure what town Thomas and Katie called home in 1861, when he left to join the 6th Ohio Cavalry and fight for the Union. Covert was some kind of artisan -- maybe a cobbler; he talks about working as a Saddler, and in the Military Register (which I'll have to scan -- its iconography is fascinating) he's listed as Company A's Artificer. (I believe I've played that class...)

The letters tell a pretty fascinating story, which is one reason I'm posting them. They raise a lot of issues of history and politics and character. It's probably also some small public service to digitize them (what I have access to are Xeroxes of typescripts made from the originals sometime in the 1980s; the originals are at the Western Reserve Historical Society, according to this footnote). And perhaps I'll end up doing something fictionally with them? As Jed observed, "Thomas Covert, who lived in Kinsman. It sounds like the sort of story where everyone has a name that means something."

Anyway, here are the first two letters (I'll offer variant readings of possible typos in square brackets):

Warren, Nov. 8th, 1861

My Dear Wife:

It is with pleasure that I now take this opportunity to inform you that I am well & hope these few lines will find you all in the same state of health. We get along first rate in camp. Our Company is the best Company in camp. This is part of 4 Companys in now. Tell James to send me from 5 to 9 of them old lasts and my tow large insteps & you send those Bristtes & Peg flote[flats?] with them. Tell him to put them in a small bag & send them by the Hack Driver.
Nothing more, but write & let me know how you get along.

T. M. Covert

I would write more but I have to go to be in Camp at 8 O'Clock and it is most that now.

You can see why I think he's a cobbler, right? I find his immediate boosterism for A Company, upon arrival, to be rather sweet, typical of his boyish optimism (I don't know how old he is when the war begins; he's been married for 4 years, though).

Warren, Nov. 13th, 1861

My Dear Wife:

It is with pleasure that I now take this opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you know how we get along. Our Company are all so as to be a round now. James Joiner got hurt a few days ago but is getting along now. I was swinging him and some one came up and twitched the rope and then run so we do not know who it was. Those night caps go first rait. We have a first rate place to sleep. I sleep with Orange Ball & Hoarche Drew. We have Pork Bread and Potatoes and Coffee to eat. I have not time to write now but I think I will be home next Saturday.

Yours As Ever,

Thos. M. Covert

How do you think they were swinging? And doesn't it sound like fun, aside from the jerk who wandered by and "twitched the rope"?

Posted by benrosen at November 24, 2011 08:22 AM | Up to blog

Mmm, pork bread.

Posted by: David Moles at November 24, 2011 03:31 PM

It's first rait!

Posted by: Benjamin Rosenbaum at November 24, 2011 04:08 PM
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