Late yesterday I finished loading the Futch Letters into the North Carolina Digital Collections. It is the last and largest collection of letters in our initial Civil War letter digitization project, which we began working on in December 2010.
The size of the collection (65 items in all) meant that the loading process would take some time. So unlike previous collections, I began giving blog previews of the Futch Letters, focusing on interesting or compelling quotes from the letters (if you missed them, those posts are: So Say the Futch Brothers…; “Since my letter of the 12th war has begun…;” and “Only God knows the bitter anguish…“).
So what can I tell you about these people and their letters that you don’t already know? Let’s start with a description of the collection from our online catalog, MARS:
Letters from John and Charles Futch of New Hanover Co., privates in Co. K, 3rd Regt. NCT, and letters from Mrs. John Futch to her husband, who was later court-martialed and shot for desertion (Sept., 1863). Charles was killed at Gettysburg. Letters give some details of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg but are primarily concerned with family life and loneliness.
Which is a very succinct, accurate description, but there’s a lot that it doesn’t touch on. For example, it doesn’t convey the quick decline (Aug. 2, 1863) that John Futch goes through after the death of his brother (Aug. 6, 1863); how Charley’s death dominates his letters again (July 19, 1863) and again (July 12, 1863); or how quickly after he first begins talking about desertion (July 31, 1863) he actually does it, which of course leads to his death.
There are also very loving letters written to John by his father-in-law Martin Ramsey and mother-in-law Catherine Ramsey (March 29, 1863) telling him about local news (April 18, 1863) and wishing that he were home with them. There are letters from his wife Martha where she worries about his health (Feb. 19, 1863); John Futch was evidently very sick through much of 1862 and early 1863 (March, 29, 1863) – we even have a letter from Andrew J. Williams to Dr. A. Wright (July 30, 1862) requesting that the doctor examine John to see if he is fit for duty. Martha repeatedly tells John (April 14, 1863) that she plans to visit him (March 15, 1863), despite his urging her not to (March 19, 1863). Also notable is the letter that John writes his wife on captured Union paper (June 16, 1863).
Although the majority of the letters are between John and Martha, there are several letters from Charley Futch to various members of his family. In several of them he asks about “the girls” back at home (Sept. 1, 1861), including the letter where he asks his father to “…give my love to all pretty girls” and his brother to deliver a message to a specific lady (ca. July 24, 1861). Although both Futch brothers give some details of the battles they were in, their letters have far more information (March 1, 1862) about the daily grind (July 24, 1861) of camp life (March 4, 1863), constant marching (May 21, 1863), and the lack of food (April 3, 1863).
We have a few non-Civil War digitization projects that are coming up in the next few months, but our next additions to the Civil War 150 Collection in the North Carolina Digital Collections will likely be reminiscences from our Military Collection.