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Civil War Letters concerning relatives of John Van Scoy, 1863

Two letters were found in the Rippey Library written to John H. Van Scoy. The first was from his brother, Jacob, detailing the wounds of his nephew, Aaron Van Scoy. The second letter was from his son, James detailing the death of John's nephew, Jacob Van Scoy, in the Civil War.

These letters were found in the Rippey Public Library in 1999 by Jean Borgeson, former librarian. They were in a drawer, probably for many, many years. Someone must have thought them interesting enough to save.


In a note at the top of the letter, it is written that Jacob was an uncle to John H. Van Scoy, early Rippey resident. John’s history is in the Families of Rippey, pg 109


(Spelling and grammar not changed in these letters and they were

transcribed at some point, from the original letters.)


Letter from Jacob Van Scoy,

Grand Junction, Tenn.

Feb. 25, 1863


Dear Father and Mother,

It is with the greatest pleasure that I seat to let you know that we are well, for which we are glad. I was to see Aaron this morning; he is better, he was sitting up. I think he will be able for duty in a few days. You need not be uneasy about him. The health of our regiment is not very good at this time. There is about thirty in the hospital. There are some in the camp that are sick. Hampton Johnson is in the hospital, he has been for a long time. He is getting better. There have 26 of our regiment died since we left Indianapolis, four of our company. One of them was taken up by one of his friends that came after him and took him home. There were two taken up some time ago and the man got as far as Memphis and stopped to stay overnight. He went to bed with $77.00. He was found dead with his money taken and the two corpses are there. What will the world come to? The wickedness of our nation is great at this time and there must be a change before this war will close, but I think the people begin to see the one thing needful. Well, father I see that need of living in readiness for death at all times. I see men falling nearly every day, but I think that I will get home safe. But I can’t tell but one thing certain, if I fall I expect to fall in sight of heaven. I am far from home and in the enemies land. I feel that I have a friend that is with us in trouble and if we will put our trust in him he will bring us off more than conqueror. I thank Him who has died for our sins and I thank him for parents, and my prayer for you as you near the ???? you may feel that you are earning a rich reward in heaven, where troubles never come but where we shall enjoy each others society forever.

Well I think if I get home I will know how to appreciate the privileges I once enjoyed, but I don’t feel discouraged. I feel willing to stay in defense of our country. The first duty is for a soldier to discharge his duty to his God and then to his country. Well, as for war news, expect you know more about that than I do, but I don’t think it can last long. The weather is warm here, it is raining very hard at this time and we go on picket to-day. We have not got our pay yet.

There is four months due us the last of this month. Well I must close for this time. Pray for your children that we may make a family in heaven where parting will never come. Won’t you write to me as soon as you get this? No more this time. I remain, your child Jacob, to his respected father and mother, Will Van Scoy and Mary Van Scoy.


Jacob Van Scoy






December 11, 1863


Dear Parents,

It is with a sad heart that I take my pencil in hand to let you know that Jacob is dead. You will doubtless think it strange of me not to write sooner, as I suppose that you will hear of the battle and probably of Jacob’s death before this letter will reach you. But circumstances have been so it was impossible for me to send a letter.

On the 24th of last month we (the 15th army corps) crossed the river above the Chattanoga and advanced on the enemy, driving them without much fighting until we drove them to Missionary Ridge. There we stopped for that day and early on the morning of the 25th we formed in line and advanced on them. Our brigade on the extreme right of our corps. We marched in line of battle about a mile when we came to a fence which was at the edge of the woods and a range of the rebels batteries on the ridge. There we were ordered to lie down and we lay there a short time when the enemy made a charge on the right, down the hill. Then we were ordered forward, right out in an open field where there were 16 pieces of artillery firing on us and was also exposed to their riflemen. Jacob and I climbed the fence together and marched up side by side. After we had advanced about ?00 yards there was a musket ball struck him in the left breast, passing square through him. He fell by my side. I dropped my gun and by the aid of another man, managed to get him back to a ditch which was close to where he fell. There he pitched into the ditch and the man that was helping me left me there and the the ditch was so deep and narrow that I could not get him out, and all I could do was to hold his head out of the water. There I remained fifteen minutes, the shot and shell tearing the ground up all around me, and I could see the rebels charging one line after another down the hill on our boys, who were about 200 yards ahead of me; and there - Oh my God - what were my feelings. There lay my dear brother that I knew could not live long, and I did not know how soon our men would be repulsed and I would be forced to leave him to die on the battle-field. I saw some men close by. I hollowered at them and they came and assisted me in getting him off of the field to where I got him in an ambulance and took him to a hospital. I felt to thank God when I arrived at the hospital; it was then nigh sundown. I got some straw and laid him on it and after a long time I got a surgeon to examine him and he told me he must die. It was about fifteen minutes afterwards that the Lord released him from his sufferings. He died at ten O’clock and was wounded at noon. From the time he was wounded he suffered intense pain, but thank God, he died a happy man. Shortly after he was wounded he told me while we were on the field that he had to die. I spoke to him about his soul and he didn’t seem at first to be satisfied to die, but shortly the Lord powerfully blessed him and he was enabled to shout, although he suffered intensely. He took from his pocket a testament and gave it to me and told me to read it and meet him in glory. He also told me to tell his wife to train up his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and to meet him in heaven.

He then said "Tell father and mother and all the boys to meet me in heaven. Oh my dear parents, you have a son buried beneath the sod of Tennessee but he rests in Jesus and will rise at the last day and will meet us in glory if we but prove faithful. The next morning Aaron and I buried him, nicely to what all soldiers that fell there were, although we had no coffin. We dug a vault and lines it with boards, and then inscribed his name on the tree that we buried him under. By this time the regiment had passed and gone and I had to start in a hurry to overtake them which I did that night. We drove the rebels to Ring-Gold Ga., where after a pretty hard fight they were completely routed. Then we were ordered to reinforce Burnside at Knoxville and we marche as far as Maryville which is fifteen miles from Knoxville where we heard that Burnside had routed Longstreet, and we started back to Chattanooga and no rations yet. We are doing tolerably well. We are laying by to-day on account of the rebels burning a bridge across the Hiwasse river.

Well, my dear parents, I feel almost lost and without friends since the death of Jacob, but I hope I shall be more faithful now to my God and country. Our company lost two, killed and seven wounded. The regiment lost about a hundred killed and wounded. It was an awful hard battle as doubtless you have heard. Our orderly seargent was in the battle of Shiloh and several other hard battles and he said he never was in as hot a battle as this was. I hope I shall never be called to witness another such a battle, I have not had an opportunity of sending mail since the fight, and have not now but I will write this letter and as soon as I get to Chattanooga I will send it as I know you will be uneasy about me. I don’t know what to do with Jacob’e things. He lost nearly all of them on the battle-field and I have what few things are left. I will sell and send the money to his wife as soon as I can, and will write her a letter. As soon as pay ay comes, I will send all money coming to him and will collect all that is coming to him and send it by mail or express. You can inform her of the affair and I will write her a letter the first opportunity I have.

We had our captain badly wounded but I have not heard from him since the fight. Also another man of the company was seriously wounded in the left eye.

Well, father, I will not write any more now. As soon as I can I will write a few more words and send this, so no more at present.


Bridgpot, Ala., December 20, 1863


Dear Parents, - I am now where I can send mail again, so I take my seat and write a few more lines. I know you think it strange in me not writing sooner but it has been impossible for me to do so. Aaron said he wrote Jacob’s wife a letter several days ago and probably you have got it. We laid over at Athens two and one half days, then marched to Chattanooga and camped over-night on the battle-field. Early the next morning we started to this place, so had no time to write there. We arrived here last night all hungry and nearly naked. We have went over a month without any rations and without any clean clothes, so you may know how we looked. There were lots of soldiers marched when the ground was frozen in their bare feet, and nearly naked for clothing. We draw clothing to-day.

I will not write much in this for I am in such a hurry to send it out. I am keeping an account of all our march since we lay in Lookout Valley, and I will send it to the boys, and I will give full details of our fight. I learn that we march soon from this place. I will write no more now. My love to all.

Goodby to father and mother.