Saving history, one letter at a time…
This letter was written by Capt. Maecenas C. Lawrence (1832-1881), the son of William Cochran Lawrence (1804-1846) and Rosannah Piper (1810-1887). Maecenas was a lawyer like his father.
“At the breaking out of the rebellion, he was among the first to respond to the call for troops. He joined the ranks of the 13th Ohio Infantry in April, 1861, and was commissioned First Lieutenant Company F, in which rank he was discharged at the expiration of service, August 25,1861. Resuming practice until August 8, 1862, he enlisted as Second Lieutenant for the purpose of recruiting, and was commissioned Captain of Company A, 121st Ohio Infantry, in which rank he joined the forces of Gen. Buell in his pursuit of Bragg. He participated in the battles of Perryville, Ky., October 6 to 8, 1862; Chickamauga, Ga., September 19 to 28, 1863; Lookout Mountain, Tenn., November 24, 1863; Mission Ridge, Mo., February 8, 1864; Resaca, Ga., Kenesaw Mountain, Ga., June to July, 1864; the Atlanta campaign, Buzzards Boost, Ga., February 25, 1864, and most of the hard-fought battles in which that regiment was engaged; as an officer, he was the most efficient, and as a soldier one of the bravest and coolest that ever met the rattle of musketry or the glittering bayonets of the foe; he was in command of his regiment, as a Captain, on the field of Chickamaugs, where he displayed valor, intrepidity and fearless bravery, attaining laurels which live imperishable to his name. For meritorious service, he was commissioned Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment November 10, 1863, in which rank he was compelled to resign, by reason of failing health, October 2. 1864, and returned to his home. In 1865, he was chosen and elected a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, and was reelected to the same position in 1867, serving both terms with great satisfaction to his constituents. In 1873, he represented this district in the Ohio State Senate. He died December 15, 1881. He was a Royal Arch Mason, and a member of the Grand Army of the Republic. His wife — Celinda F. [Turner] Lawrence (1835-1915) — was a daughter of James and Angela (Steere) Turner, who were pioneers of Union County.” [Source: Beers, 1883 Union County, Ohio]
As a curiosity, it should be noted that Celinda F. Turner’s brother was Lt. Aquilla Toland Turner (1832-1873) of Company E, 15th Louisiana (Confederate) Infantry. Following this 1862 letter from Maecenas Lawrence to his parents, I have added eight letters that were written by Lt. Turner to his sister, Celinda F. Turner, in Marysville, Ohio. The letters were written from Fort Delaware where Lt. Turner served 13 months as a prisoner of war.
Addressed to Mrs. Rosannah Lawrence, Marysville, Union County, Ohio
Camp at Campbellsville [Kentucky]
December 24th 1862
I concluded to write a few lines this evening just to let you know that I am still to the war business in the State of Kentucky. We had just got our tents raised up and wooden foundations under them — and we marched to this place on Monday — on yesterday set our tents in order as though we were going to stay a while — and on today — cleaned up the camp.
This evening we have orders to cook two days rations and put them into haversacks ready for the march at any moment. Suppose we leave here in the morning, but don’t know where we go to but think wither Lebanon or Mumfordsville — probably the latter. The boys say they will fix no more quarters but stand the winter through in tents.
There was a great deal of sickness at Columbia but the 121st [Ohio] stood up better than any other brigade and Co. A among the best in the regiment. The 80th Indiana is still there and has not more than enough to make one good company after taking out guards and the sick. I presume they will move as soon as their sick are able to be moved.
The articles which you sent by the quartermaster came to hand on two weeks ago last Sunday and came in very good play.
I see it stated in the Marysville papers that Col. [William P.] Reed had sent Quartermaster [Ebenezer] Peters home to get supplies. In my opinion, all there was of it is that Peters is a lazy old dog and wanted to go home — and Col. Reid made out an order sending him at government expense and making it government business when Peters could not get a furlough.
I will write soon again. Your son, — M. C. Lawrence
As a curiosity, it should be noted that Celinda F. Turner’s brother was Lt. Aquilla Toland Turner (1832-1873) of Company E, 15th Louisiana (Confederate) Infantry. I have added nine letters that were written by Lt. Turner to his sister, Celinda F. Turner, in Marysville, Ohio. Eight of the letters were written from Fort Delaware where Lt. Turner served 13 months as a prisoner of war.
Aquilla and Celinda were the eldest children of James Turner (1811-1859) and Angela Steere (1814-1840) of Marysville, Union County, Ohio. Both parents were dead by the time of the Civil War.
In the History of Union County [Beers, 1883], there is a paragraph on page 400 that gives notice of Aquilla Toland Turner’s first attempt in a journalism career:
The Union Journal was a literary paper started in Marysville early in the year 1853. It was edited in the early part of its existence by A. Toland Turner, and printed by J. G. Cassil and Andrew M. Pollock. It was a good literary journal, but was clearly in advance of the times. It survived not quite a year.
There is notice of Aquilla in Marysville, Ohio as late as 1855. He served as the Secretary of the Marysville Lyceum that year. By September 1855, however, we know that Aquilla was employed at the Telegraphic Reporter for the New York Associated Press in Louisville. The Marysville Tribune carried an article entitled, “Quill in a Muss” on 5 September that describes his abuse by the anti-American newspapers for the reports he submitted on the Anti-American Riots that took place in Louisville. Mostly likely, Aquilla went to the Crescent City not long afterwards.
It appears that Aquilla and Ellen H. Kerrison, a native of England, were married in New Orleans in November 1856. There is evidence that Aquilla was employed as a reporter for the New Orleans Picayune or Bee in 1858. In fact, he was arrested with another reporter named C. B. Muzzy as a “dangerous character” by the police during the Know Nothing Riot in New Orleans in June 1858.
Oddly, the 1860 Census Record enumerates the couple in Union County, Ohio, with a two year old (b. November 1857) boy named H. Aquilla Turner, born in Florida [according to the census], in their household with 68 year-old, Jane Kerrison (a native of England) — presumably Ellen’s mother. It may be that Aquilla returned to Ohio after his father’s death in 1859 with the idea of settling there but perhaps he felt that he no longer fit into northern society.
Following Aquilla’s release from Fort Delaware Prison, he returned to New Orleans where his wife and child were residing during the war. It seems all in his family, except Celinda, considered him a traitor to the Union and perhaps declared him dead. I couldn’t find any information relative to his existence after the war in on-line family genealogical records. A couple of family records indicated that he had died “on the Mississippi River” sometime in either 1863 or 1865.
By searching the newspapers in New Orleans, however, I found that Aquilla went by the name “A. T. Turner” and pursued a journalistic career. In 1866, he partnered with J. M. G. Wood to publish a monthly magazine called the Southwestern.
In the 1867 City Directory, he is listed under the name A. T. Turner” — a “reporter” — and residing at 151 Delord Street in New Orleans. He is also listed as the partner of J. M. G. Wood in the Southwestern publishing house, 54 Barrone Street.
I then found an obituary for him under the name “A. T. Turner” on 11 April 1873 submitted by a friend that reveals Aquilla made an effort to conceal his Northern roots:
Mr. A. T. Turner died yesterday of consumption on board of the steamboat R. T. Bryarly whilst on his way from Baton Rouge to this city [New Orleans]. He was a native of England and about 35 years of age. Carefully educated for a journalistic career, and having been engaged in that profession for several years, his talents, sound judgment, and sterling integrity soon made his quite popular. He was a humorous writer and a jovial companion. A Democrat in principle, he was at different times connected with the New Orleans Picayune, Bulletin and Bee.
He was one of the first to rally under the Confederate standard, and served in Gen. Hays’s brigade during the whole war.
Nearly three months ago premonitory symptoms of the disorder that eventually terminated his life manifested themselves, and caused him to seek health and recreation out of the city. His death will be regretted by those who knew him well. His clear perception of justice protected him from the allurements of self-interest, and enabled him, though quite poor, to lead a life of integrity. Generous to a fault, quiet and unobtrusive, of firm attachments, his faults were few and such as affected only his own interests, until “Unmerciful disaster, Followed fast and followed faster.”
Many of his journalistic friends will today accompany him to his grave where they will scatter a few flowers on his generous English heart.
A more correct, though cryptic, death notice appeared in another issue:
Turner, – On Thursday morning, April 10, 1873, at 4 o’clock, A. T. Turner, aged 41 years, a native of Ohio.
Letters by Lt. Aquilla Toland Turner to his sister, Celinda F. Turner
May 17, 1864
Have just arrived here as a prisoner of war having been captured near Spottsylvania Court House on the 12th. With the exception of being ragged, dirty and wearied out, I am in excellent condition. I write to Ellen by this mail but as anything will reach me quicker from you, I wish you would send me a few articles of clothing — say a couple of shirts, drawers, one or two pair of socks, a pocket kerchief or two &c. &c.
Please see if some of my friends will not furnish me a few dollars in Federal currency. I have plenty of “Confed” but it is no good here. Send me also some stamps & I will write more fully. At present I have to borrow the means of sending this. If you send a box, you may enclose a small collection of imperishable eatables to help out the prison fare — such as pickles, ham, or such. Direct to “Lieut. A. T. Turner, 15th La. Regt., Prisoner of War, care of Capt. Ahl, A.A.G., Fort Delaware, Delaware. Write soon. Love to all.
June 15, 1864
Both your letters have reached me but the package has not made it appearance yet. It probably will soon. Thank you for enclosure. Have not heard from New Orleans yet. Heartily glad you are doing so well. Can not write you a long letter or give you my views on war as we are only allowed one page on strictly private matters. Suffice to say that our opinions are as black to white & if I have lost my senses, there is no hope of recovery. Have been very fortunate myself. Never had serious hrt but when captured only had 5 men left for duty & was only officer so I will be Capt. when I get back. You being an officer under the administration, it des me good to see you stick to it so well. You have read newspaper ideas of rebeldom in perfection. Forgive me if my ___ experience teaches me that to use the mildest term they are very ____. Never mind though sister mine, I am willing to take your letter for the sake of your letters and give you full privilege to galvanize (against) me if you can. I hope the boys, J, E, & T [See comments below] will all come out ___ as well as others in whose welfare yo may be particularly interested, but can’t think they deserve it. Tell Lib she should be a better Christian under the circumstances as her wishes might recoil upon herself. Tell Uncle Tom to write to me. Write often yourself & send me the Marysville papers. I suppose they are entirely orthodox & all be admitted. Give my love to dear Aunt Ellen & Amelia & others. What does grandfather think of the war? Am sorry for Uncle’s Quill & John. Your second letter was very interesting. Continue your notes of changes. You may write as much as you please & seal it. It will be opened here.
Yours, — Quill
August 18, 1864
Yours enclosing postage stamps came due and I am much obliged to you for the stamps as it is sometimes hard to procure them here. My health continues fair & we begin to feel hopeful of an exchange this fall. In fact, I almost believe that the last campaign of the war is rapidly drawing to a close & that too with an entirely satisfactory result. I am glad “your boys” are so well satisfied with “our favorite.” But permit me to rather doubt the sincerity of that satisfaction.
I have noticed that you are in regular correspondence with my old friend, Lt. Col. Lawrence, U.S.A. Does that mean anything serious, eh? Or am I too inquisitive? Be it as it may, however, he is a worthy man and the very stuff of which good soldiers are made.
You forgot to tell me if you knew anything about Aunt Celinda or Uncle Simon. Please do so in your next. Is George Lincoln still in Marysville? If so, remember me to him.
Write soon and give me all the gossip. Remember me to Aunt Ellen, Molly, and all who think enough of me to deserve it. Au revoir, Yours, — A. T. Turner
November 2, 1864
Yours of October 21st has reached me and it gives me much pleasure to hear that you are recovering from your indisposition. Things move on here about as usual. There is to be an exchange of ten thousand prisoners soon but it will hardly take in anyone captured this year. I see a great deal in the Northern papers about their men starving in Southern prisons. I don’t see how this can be helped when they say that the soldiers of the Confederacy are suffering for food. That story is all bosh or the Yankee government is a very ungrateful one for letting them starve when they might exchange.
It is growing quite cold here and I have not got any winter clothing. I expect some, however, in a few days. I wish you would send me a pair of long woolen gloves. You can judge the size. You could send them by mail. Should you not get my letters it will be the fault of the mails as I think there is no chance of exchange & if I was I would write you before leaving. Write often & give me all the local. Love to Aunt Ellen, Amelia, and all the rest.
Yours, — A. T. Turner
November 22, 1864
Your welcome letter with the accompanying gloves came safely to hand. The gloves suit exactly and I thank you for them. I am glad to hear that your health continues good & hope you may get through the winter without experiencing any further trouble from cold. So soldiering has used fat Capt. John up, has it. And he will rest on his laurels. He is lucky for the chance surely. I shouldn’t mind a few months rest myself — a different rest though from the present.
As you are an office holder, I suppose I may congratulate you upon the result of the election. Abraham 1st certainly routed the great little Yankee Napoleon [McClellan] horse, foot & dragoons. It was worse on little Mac than Early’s thrashing in the [Shenandoah] Valley was to the great Jubal himself & the Lord knows that was bad enough. Jubal [Early] could afford it in some degree but Mac couldn’t.
Let me hear from you often. At present my fingers are too benumbed with cold to write more. Remember me to all who may remember me and in the same spirit in which they do.
Yours, — A. T. T.
December 16, 1864
I hardly know how, in the short space allotted to me, to give you the description you ask for. We are not in the fort but immediately under its guns. Our habitations consist of barracks built as follows. In the center is a quire of ground containing about an acre or probably a little more. Around three sides of this extends a frame, with boards nailed on perpendicularly, wood shed fashion & with very little more attention to crevices. This building is divided into “Divisions” by board partitions — each division being from 40 to 60 feet in length. Each of these contains one stove. On the inside are two shelves on each side about six feet wide and four or five feet apart. These are where we sleep. We can take as much exercise as we please in the pen above mentioned, but at this season of the year, when it is not frozen, it is knee deep in mud. The weather has been very cold for several days past, and everybody hugs the stove that can get near it. There being about forty between myself & it at present, I am not writing under the most pleasant circumstances. I received a copy of the Tribune some time ago– the only one which ever reached me by mail. Please send me a few stamps when you write. We have great trouble in procuring them sometimes. Remember me to all who enquire after me & write often.
January 3d 1865
I have waited patiently for two weeks for a letter from you but evidently either you or the mail has failed. The holidays are over and as far as you may readily believe passed dull enough to us poor devils caged up here. However, better luck next time. It is not too late however to wish for a Happy New Year which I heartily do.
I hardly know how to account for your silence unless as you hinted in your last you have been busied in preparations to bid farewell to the public and retire surrounded by a halo of political glory to private life. If so, I suppose I will be informed in due season. I have no doubt you think things look gloomy for us gentry down South just now. But you will find us like a singed cat — exceedingly hard to kill, though terribly forlorn and miserable to look at. There’s plenty of life left yet.
There is a new effort at Washington to have the cartel resumed and I sincerely hope it may be successful, though I shan’t count on it until I am landed in Dixie, having been disappointed too many times already. Let me hear from you soon. Remember me to Aunt Ellen, Amelia, &c. &c. and believe me yours, — Quill
March 14, 1865
My dear sister,
I received your letter this morning. I had received the letter you speak of and answered it. I suppose it was mine that was lost. There is no probability of my being able to get away from this delightful place for at least three weeks or a month. To make this fact more sure some two hundred or more officers whose date of capture is older than mine arrived here from other departments yesterday. I should certainly be delighted to see you before I do go.
The family is certainly well represented in the war. How old are Cyrus & Allen? If they are bound to go, I only hope they will make good soldiers. But I fear they are enticed by the idea that the Confederacy is nearly wound up. If so, they have committed a great error. I hope that Amelia has her husband home by this time where she can nurse him into health again.
You must let me know all about your matrimonial affairs in detail. I heartily approve of your choice and sincerely hope, as I have no doubt, that you will be happy. I had a letter from Ellen a few days ago. Both she and Master Quilly were well. The weather has been very mild for a few days and I feel much better though still have some cold. Remember me to Aunt Ellen, Amelia, Uncle Tom’s ____ and all the rest and write often until I inform you that I am gone.
Yours, A. T. Turner
April 6, 1865
Your very welcome letter reached me a few days since but we have been in such a state of upset looking for news from the front that I have not taken time to write. And now that the news is upon us, I can’t say that we are the less upset than we were before. In facts, things look rather blue and though we do not believe more than half of what is furnished by the journals we are allowed to receive (and we consider half a very liberal allowance), still we can see enough to satisfy us that our stay in this delectable place is prolonged for an indefinite period — that all idea of a prisoner exchange is exploded. I am glad to say, however, that the majority grin and bear it heroically, looking forwards to better times.
From your last letter I expect you may be “gone off” before this reaches you. Should that be the case or should you get this before, remember you have my sincerest wishes for a long life of wedded happiness. Write soon. Remember me to all my friends. Tell them I am still alive — well, kicking and hoping, though at present I can hardly tell what to ground my hopes upon.
Yours, — A. T. Turner
Office Commercial Reading Room
New Orleans, October 30, 1865
I certainly owe you an apology for not writing but I have been both sick and busy since I returned, & have really never seen a single moment when I felt like writing a letter. You know how much my impulses guide me in such matters, that is, when they are not purely business.
I am now feeling quite well having just recovered from a pretty severe attack of dengue or brakebone fever — a disease which you benighted hyperboreans know nothing about, but one which my absence for four years — and particularly my last thirteen months in Fort Delaware — had peculiarly prepared my system. However, it is over and the time for yellow fever is past, so that barring as an irishman would say, the natural ills of life, I have nothing to fear. I have but little time tonight just now for in addition to my usual duties, I am Secretary to the State Central Allen Committee ¹ and am kept busy from 8 A.M. until an indefinite time next morning & will be until Monday next when our election takes place.
Now for business. Ellen has the $50 note. We will either send it to you to be put in as a claim for the benefit of the younger children or destroy it as you think best. Of course we don’t want it. If it would do them more immediate good by being put in the ____r’s hands, we will send it to you to use as you think proper. If not, consider it as nothing.
As for the lot and Robinson’s claim, I will attend to it as soon as I can find time. If you find a purchaser, make out the deed and send it here. We will sign, acknowledge, & send back. It will cost less than a “power of attorney” before a notary here.
¹ Henry Watkins Allen was a Confederate General who was elected as the Governor of Louisiana in 1864. He served as governor until the Confederacy collapsed and then he fled to Mexico with other Rebel leaders. While in exile in Mexico, his friends placed his name on the ballot for governor of Louisiana in November 1865 and he carried five parishes. He died in Mexico in April 1866.
R. High Simmons, editor of Fort Delaware Notes and a member of the Fort Delaware Society Board of Directors has kindly provided me with the following information regarding Aquilla Toland Turner:
Aquilla Toland TURNER
· ATT was enrolled 1 AUG 1861 in New Orleans by Captain J. S. West to serve as a Private in West’s Orleans Parish company, aka the Grivot Rifles. This company appears to have been a state militia company prior to this date. Sent to Richmond, VA with other independent companies, they were combined into a battalion and mustered into Confederate service as Company E, 3rd Battalion, Louisiana Infantry on 7 SEP 1861. A year later, two other companies were transferred into the battalion expanding it to regimental size. The new unit was designated the 15th Regiment, Louisiana Infantry on 25 JUL 1862.
· TURNER was immediately detailed to the regimental commissary in August 1861 and served as a clerk through April 1862. He then moved to the regimental quartermaster department serving as a clerk until 15 OCT 1862 when he was appointed regimental Ordnance Sergeant.
· He was elected 3rd Lieutenant, Company E, 15th Louisiana Infantry on 18 FEB 1864 and promoted to 1st Lieutenant on 26 MAR 1864.
· Confederate muster roll and headquarters reports confirm that he was captured on 12 MAY 1864 at Spotsylvania Court House.
· Federal POW records report his capture on 10 MAY 1864 in the Wilderness. But his first letter to his sister from Fort Delaware confirms his capture on 12 MAY 1864 at Spotsylvania Court House. He was taken to the rear with other POW officers to the Army of the Potomac supply base on the Potomac River at Belle Plain and sent from there to Fort Delaware where he was confined on 17 MAY 1864.
· NARA Roll 45, a microfilmed collection of records pertaining to Fort Delaware, tells us that Lieutenant TURNER was housed with Division 25 in the officers section of the wooden POW barracks outside the fort on Pea Patch Island. Confederate POWs were housed in company sized administrative groups called “divisions” which consisted of about 100 men usually from the same states and/or units in the field. The officers were allowed to elect a Division Chief, Adjutant and Post Master from among themselves to represent their division when dealing with prison authorities on routine matters. The first issue of the handwritten POW newspaper Prison Times published on Saturday, April 8, 1865 in the officers pen showed that TURNER was then serving as Chief of Division 25. These officers bunked together and went to the mess hall together. Officers and enlisted men were kept in separate sections within the wooden barracks complex and restrained from communicating with each other for security reasons. Otherwise, no records have survived to tell us where any particular division was located within the large wooden barracks complex.
· NARA Roll 47, another microfilmed collection of records pertaining to Fort Delaware, normally provides us with information about admissions to the Fort Delaware Post Hospital. TURNER’s name was not found.
· The surrenders of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House (9 APR 1865), General Joseph E. Johnston at Greensboro, North Carolina (26 APR 1865), and Lieutenant General Richard Taylor at Citronelle, Alabama (4 MAY 1865) formally placed all Confederate army units and territory east of the Mississippi River in Federal hands. The Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department was surrendered on 26 MAY 1865 at New Orleans, although Lieutenant General E. Kirby Smith did not sign the document until 2 JUN 1865 aboard a Federal warship in Galveston Bay. This last surrender ended the Civil War. There were no longer any legally sanctioned Confederate military units in the field.
President Andrew Johnson’s Amnesty Proclamation was published on 29 MAY 1865. General Orders No. 109 dated 6 JUN 1865 were issued by the War Department requiring the immediate release of all prisoners of war from captains down to privates against whom no charges were pending upon their taking the Oath of Allegiance. Transportation to a point nearest their homes that could be reached by water and/or rail was to be provided. Those who desired to do so could also take the Johnson Presidential Amnesty Oath after first taking the standard Oath of Allegiance. This general release order was received at Fort Delaware on 9 JUN 1865 and the oath taking and releases begun on 10 JUN 1865.
· 1st Lieutenant A. T. TURNER, 15th Regiment, Louisiana Infantry took the Oath of Allegiance at Fort Delaware on 16 JUN 1865 under the terms and conditions of General Orders No. 109 and was released. His place of residence for transportation purposes was given as Orleans Parish. He was described as having a light complexion, light hair, blue eyes, and standing 5 feet 8 inches tall.
Let me offer some further commentary on the following letters that you provided excerpts from on your blog site:
Letter 14) Ft Delaware – No Date
(The events in the letter date it to his last letter in Ft Delaware)
“We are all looking for orders for our release daily, having signified our willingness to comply with the conditions & again become peaceable citizens. If released I shall go to New Orleans”.
Those POWs who had asked to take the Oath of Allegiance prior to the fall of Richmond on 2 APR 1865, were allowed to do so under General Orders No. 85 which was issued on 8 MAY 1865. Those prisoners at Fort Delaware effected by this directive were released on 10 MAY 1865. Thereafter and up to 9 JUN 1865, those who asked to take the Oath after 2 APR 1865 were released individually and in small groups on special War Department orders. My guess is that ATT’s letter was written sometime after 10 MAY 1865 and prior to his release on 16 JUN 1865.
Letter 15) New Orleans – Oct 30th, 1865
In this letter, the cover shows that Union Lieutenant Colonel Maecenas C. Lawrence returned from the war and married Aquilla’s sister as the last name has changed. This letter details his release from Ft Delaware and covers his departure from home for a period of 4 years.
I was hoping that this letter contained some information telling us about TURNER’s transit from Fort Delaware back to New Orleans, but it does not. He would have been given government transportation by ocean going vessel down the east coast around Florida and through the Gulf to New Orleans.
by Charles A. Frey
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