June 7, 1863 letter to Sarah Keith from Hiram Crawford Jr.

June 7, 1863

To: Sarah Keith 

From: Hiram Crawford Jr., Belle Plaines, VA

Was surprised to hear Mother had gone to Canada for a visit. Jennie wrote that Ed had given up farming and that Pros was running the farm. “Mary always thought more of him [Pros] than the rest of the family.” The fight on May 3 was the hardest. He believes no battle on record shows a musketry fight of so lengthy a duration.

1863-06-07 1863-06-07B 1863-06-07C 1863-06-07D

Camp 20th Ind Vol near Belle Plains

June 7th, 1863

Dear Sister

Your welcome letter was received last night. I had almost despaired of hearing from you or Mother[1]. I wrote Mother twice, one just before the fight and one since and thought it very singular, for Mother is much more prompt than I be (and that you know is saying a good deal for her). Thought that the twenty dollars had stopped somewhere on the road and am glad to hear that it is all right. The first knowledge that I had of Mother being in Canada was by a letter from Jennie[2] received the 4th. I was much astonished. Mother had written something about such a journy in some of her letters but I hadnt any idea that she seriously entertaind any such an idea, much less going. Well I hope she will have a good time generally, and come back satisfied with everything and everybody.

Jennie wrote me that Ed[3] was running on the Burlington and Quincy R R and that Pros[4] was running the farm. I guess that Ed has made up his mind that the old Gentleman[5] will out live him[6], and that it aint going to pay to punish himself any longer by hoeing corn and potatoes. Well I dont think the farm will suffer any by the change for I guess that Pros is the best farmer and Mary[7] always thought more of him than she did of all of the rest of the family. I should have written to Pros if I had known where he was. He will hear from me soon.

That was a tough old week that we spent across the River[8]. I was as near used up when arrived back to camp as I ever was. The fight on Sunday (May the 3d) was the hardest on record. A continual roar of musketry was kept up from sunrise to 12 Oclock am. I believe no battle on record shows a musketry fight of so lengthy a duration. The Artilly was not idle although not quite as heavy as at Malvern Hill[9], it was enough so to make it very interesting. I might with propiety say decidedly interesting. Our supported Batteries for five days, in fact all the time most, which account for our small loss. One shell struck in my Company, knocking the arm off from one and severely wounding two others. We was very much surprised when we received the order to retreat. We supposed that we was whipping the Rebs all the time.

Everything has went on quietly since we returned up to the lst of this month when we received orders to be ready to march at short notice, sent off all our superfluous baggage, got ready and are quietly awaiting the final order. Which way where or when remains to be seen.

My love to Luke[10] and the children. Answer and oblig.

Your Brother

Hiram C

P.S. Please accept the enclosed note and oblige.


[1] Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

[2] Virginia (Worley) Crawford, his brother Henry Crawford’s wife

[3] His brother, Edwin Crawford

[4] His brother, Prosper Crawford

[5] Edwin’s father-in-law, Patrick Hamilton

[6] Ironically, Edwin died in 1866 and Patrick Hamilton outlived him by almost four years

[7] Edwin Crawford’s second wife, Mary (Hamilton) Crawford

[8] Probably the Rappahannock River, returning from Chancellorsville

[9] A defensive battle fought in June 1862 as the Army of Potomac retreated following its failed attempt to march on Richmond, VA

[10] Sarah’s husband, Charles Luke Keith Jr

May 27, 1863 letter to Sarah Keith from Edwin Crawford

May 27, 1863

To: Sarah Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: Edwin Crawford, Burlington, IA

Edwin is telling his sister, Sarah, that he has written their Mother and sent a five dollar note, which he hopes will arrive before she departs for Canada. He is now living in East Burlington, Illinois, where he has accepted a position as foreman of the locomotive shops for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad. There were some strange faces and whispering among the men in the shop when he first arrived, but he seems to be gaining their good will.

Burlington Iowa May 27th – 1863

Dr Sister[1]

I received your letter with Mothers[2] Likeness and was glad to hear from you and Luke[3]. I mailed a letter to Mother the Day befour I received yours with a Five Dollar note[4] in it. I hope Mother will get it before she leaves for Canada.[5] I will send my Likeness as soon as I have an oppertunity. I cant send it to Mother for I dont know what part of Canada she will stop in so if I have no further Notice I will send it to you.  I received a Dispatch in march to come hear and Drive an engine. As soon as I arrived hear the Master Machinist wanted me to take the Foremanship of the Locomotive Shops at East Burlington, Illinois, the termination of the CB.&.Q RR.[6] I hesiteated for a while but finely concluded I would take it. So he gave me my passes and I started for Est. Burlington, my new home. When I arrived their I see nothing but strange faces. I heard some whipsering thats our new Boss and evry boddy was gaping at me – but still I carried a stiff upper lip, and read my letter of introduction and instructions to those I have in charge witch seemed to be satisfactory, and since that time I have started to please and gain the good will of all the men witch I believe I have accomplished and they have an idea that I know more than they Do. It is verry Dry hear, and quite sickly. I was very sick for a Week with the Billious Fever. I have gained strength since my illness. So I feel quite well at present. If you get any track of Hiram[7] give me his address. 

Sister I send my Love to you and Mr Keith. No more at present. Direct your letters to Burlington, Iowa.

From your Brother E. W. Crawford
Foreman – at
East Burlington – Illinois
Locomotive Shops


[1] Sarah (Crawford) Keith, Edwin’s older sister

[2] Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

[3] Charles Luke Keith Jr., Sarah’s husband

[4] $98 in 2017 dollars

[5] Nancy was most likely going to Canada, where she grew up, to visit relatives

[6] Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad

[7] Their brother, Hiram Crawford Jr.

May 23, 1863 letter to Nancy Betts from Edwin Crawford

May 23, 1863

To: Nancy Betts

From: Edwin Crawford, East Burlington, IL

This is his birthday; he is either 37 or 38. His father, on his deathbed, told him if he had money to spare he should give it to his mother so he’s sending her $5.00. He has charge of the locomotive shops. He boards in Burlington, Iowa, across the Mississippi so letters should be directed there.





East Burlington Illinois           May 23” 1863

Dr Mother

This is my birth Day and I suppose my age is 38 or 37 years. How fast time passes away. I am enjoying good health at present and hope you, in your Declineing years, are enjoying the same blessing. I wonderd how I should celibrate my birth Day and as I was thinking of the past I rememberd what my Father[1] said to us when on his Dying bed if you have a Dollar to spair remember your Mother. So I this Day will compy with his Dying request and send you five $5 Dollars of my wages.

I have charge of the Locomotive Shops at East Burlington Illinois, the termination of the Chicago Burlington & Quincy R Road[2]. On the oppisite side of the Mississippi River is Burlington Iowa a sitty of twelve thousand inhabitents. Their where I board. I pass over night & morning on the Ferry Boat. So Direct your letters to Burlington Iowa. I send my best respects to Sister Sarah[3] & Brother Keith[4].

My Love and good wishes to you Mother.

Henry W. Crawford


[1] Hiram Crawford Sr.

[2] Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company was founded in 1859 by John Murray Forbes, who combined several smaller Midwestern railroads. It grew until it extended from the Great Lakes to the Rocky Mountains

[3] Sarah (Crawford) Keith

[4] Sarah’s husband, Charles Luke Keith Jr.