Seneca Searchers
March-April, 2000

Civil War Letters of Peter Theis

Following are two, of the dozen or more, letters written to Peter and Catharine (Buquet) Theis by their son, Peter Theis, Jr., after he was drafted into the Union Army on September 28, 1864 until his honorable discharge on June 1, 1865. The letters and a diary were written entirely in German and later translated and transcribed.

Peter Theis, Jr. was assigned to Co. D, 47th Regiment, OVI, and left his home in New Riegel on October 23, 1864, for Sandusky, Ohio.  He traveled to Columbus, Ohio, on the 28th of October, 1864, in his journey to the south and the Civil War.

These letters and the diary published in our last issue were given to us for publication by Dick Steinmetz.  The italicized comments which appear in Brackets are Dick's.

   Nashville, Tennessee
   Nov. 4, 1864

Dear Parents,

I am now in the south. Was well on the trip. I felt sick several times tho, had headache one whole night.  Had been in Columbus over All Saints Day.  Next night we were in Cincinnati till noon, then on to Louisville, on steamboat. On November 3 went to Nashville, Tennessee.

Dear Brother,

I think I am now 200 miles from home, went from Nashville to Chattanooga from there to Alabama then to Atlanta, Georgia.  It was a long trip, dear Parents, we are now in danger territory, enjoy some of it, first house we got to was a mansion.  Had almost as many rooms as days in a year.  The hardest work we do now is eat, sleep, or lay down.  Didn't work since left home.  We are all together and well so far.  I have no time to write more now, but will when on next place and send you my address.  I heard you can get in Cincinnati you can buy a substitute for from three to five hundred dollars.  Next time I write I'll tell what to do about that.  Amen.
   Peter Theis

{Note: Unknown to Theis is that his Regiment will join up with other Regiments under the command of Gen. Wm. Tecumseh Sherman in the March to The Sea.  The following letter written in May, 1865, sums up the events which occurred just prior to the taking of Savannah and the recapture of Ft. McAllister in December, 1864}

    North Carolina
    May 22, 1865

Dear Parents,

May these few lines reach you and I can tell my parents and brothers we had luck and good and bad times.  It's a wonder we could march so far in {the} South with out the rebels attack.  In Georgia to Savannah a small attack at Ft. McAllister wasn't bad.  Went to South Carolina from there to capitol Columbia, Camden, Fayettville through all South Carolina and now through North Carolina without rebel attack.  At all towns and rivers they told us there were from 4 to 5,000 stationed. When we got there, there were none.  Whatever got in our way we destroyed, but now it is over. We are about twenty miles from Goldsboro, North Carolina.  Had three days battle on May 17 the 14th to 20 corp had heavy fighting.  The 21st May the 15th corp had hard battle.  May 21st our reg. {Regiment} was fighting were lucky, only a few wounded, all afternoon and night we were shooting.  I can tell you its no fun to hear the roar of cannon and whistling bullets pass by.  My comrades and I were in danger every second. We survived, are well.  Was hard for some had to march thru water, mud and brush and on to Goldsboro, North Carolina.  There are a lot of rebels near us and may get into a big battle.  Am looking for mail for us at Goldsboro.  Been seven weeks since we received mail.  I sent 10 letters received 2.  In my next letter hope to write the battle may end, but I can't see no end yet.  {While Gen. Lee surrendered on Apr. 9, 1865, fighting by several Confederate units continued on well into May, 1865, and later, in the Carolinas and Texas particularly.}  My comrades say if ever we are lucky to get home, none will ever go South again.  The year is long enough.  Received very little news from home.  I don't like that but hope for the best of you all. True content and happy you all have it better at home than I have it here.  Paul Williams greets his folks, he is well, also my pardner, but so far hasn't received a letter from home.  Always remembering you all.
          Peter Theis
{According to the diary, there were seven other letters written to his parents between the two letters above, however, at this time, their whereabouts are unknown, and they are most likely lost to us.  That is unfortunate indeed, as we could have learned much more of what it was like to be a Private in the Union Army and a part of this very successful, yet devastating trail of destruction through Georgia with  Sherman.}

(A photo was printed here)
Peter Theis, Jr. and his wife Mary Victoria. She was the daughter of Frederick and Mary Jane (Dietrick) Schlachter.  They were married June 1, 1868, at New Riegel, and were the parents of six sons and six daughters.

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