Saving history, one letter at a time…
These four letters were written by Captain Joseph H. Little (1836-1867) of Company E, 1st Missouri State Militia Cavalry (Union). Joseph was a native of Shelby County, Kentucky. Census records for his sister tell us his father was born in Pennsylvania; his mother in Maryland. He stood 5 feet, 10 inches tall; had a dark complexion and had dark hair and eyes. When he first enrolled in the army in March 1862 at Albany, Missouri, he gave his occupation as a civil engineer. We know from the letters below that he also went to California in the 1850’s, returning in 1858.
Capt. Little was married on 20 September 1865 at Wyandotte, Kansas, to Fannie Pierson [or Pearson]. Pension records indicate he was absent from his unit at Warrrensburg, Missouri from February 1865 until he was mustered out of the service on 21 March 1865 suffering from “Phthisis Pulmonalis” [“Consumption” or “Tuberculosis”] which ultimately resulted in his death on 10 October 1867. Capt. Little’s home, at the time of his death, was Jefferson City, Cole County, Missouri.
Capt. Little wrote this letter to his sister, Carolyn (Little) Branstetter (1831-Aft1880), the wife of Adam Oscar Branstetter (1834-1865) — a hatter in Wellsville, Missouri. Carolyn (or “Carrie”) and Adam were married in April 1862. Their only child, Stella A. Branstetter, was born on 16 May 1863. In August 1864, Adam enlisted as a private in Company B, 49th Missouri Infantry. Unfortunately, Adam did not return home from the war. He died on 30 May 1865 in Montgomery, Alabama. A letter written by Pvt. Adam O. Branstetter is posted on-line.
Note: The first letter is addressed to Capt. Little’s cousin, Marcella Hartsell (b. @ 1832 in Maryland), the wife of William D. Hartsell (1828-18xx) of Prairie, Montgomery County, Missouri. She passed the letter on to Capt. Little’s sister who lived in nearby Wellsville.
We also learn that by 1864, Capt. Little’s brother, James Little, had already died; one of the four letters below describes his estate and the plans for distributing the settlement among five heirs. We can conjecture from this letter that James resided in Lucas County, Iowa, at the time of his death and that he was possibly residing with or a partner to someone named Woodruff.
Posted on-line is a report submitted by Capt. Joseph H. Little on 27 October 1862 in which he describes the expedition he led from Independence, Missouri, to several Missouri towns in pursuit of Quantrill and 25 other bushwhackers who were ransacking the towns and robbing the mail. Captain Little’s bravery and valor were cited by superior officers, particularly in 1863, in pursuit of Confederate Cavalry led by General Joseph O. Shelby.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 1
Head Quarters, State of Missouri
Office of Quarter Master General
Jefferson City, Missouri
January 10, 1864
Mrs. Marcella Hartsell
Wellsville, Montgomery County, Missouri
My Dear Cousin,
It has been so long since I have heard from you that I have almost despaired of ever hearing from you again but supposing [you] are still living in the vicinity of Wellsville, I have written this letter in hope of receiving a line in answer.
During the four years I spent in the Army I almost lost trace of relatives and friends though I wrote often. But being almost constantly on the move I suppose the answers to my letters never reached me.
To recount to you the changes and ups and downs through which I have passed since I last saw you would be a tedious undertaking. Suffice to say; in 1861, I entered the Federal Army, commanded a company of Calvary nearly three years, was in several hard contested battles — in one of which there were sixty thousand combatants engaged in close conflict for nearly two days and nights almost without intermission — but thank fortune I came out unhurt but with a war broken constitution, some cash, and a deal of rough experience, but not enough of the latter to prevent me from being swindled out of nearly my last dollar by my co-partner in the first business speculation I embarked in after leaving the Army.
In September 1865, I married and having become broken up in business, I went to work as bookkeeper in the QMG of Missouri at a salary of $125 per month where I have since continued.
I shall never forget the happy days I spent with you after my return from California in 1858. I wish I could see Billy again and have some of those pleasant hunts we used to take but fear I shall never enjoy the pleasure again.
Dear cousin if this ever reaches you, you must write. I know that you would be pleased with my wife — Fannie — and hope you may yet see each other. Please write at length.
Your Affectionate Cousin, — J. H. Little
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 2
Addressed to Mrs. Carrie M. Branstetter, Wellsville, Montgomery Co., MO
My Dear Sister,
Your welcome letter of 11th inst. was received yesterday and gave us great pleasure for we had almost despaired of hearing from you. This was my reason for addressing a letter to Marcella by which means I hoped to hear from all the family. You did perfectly right by opening my letter to Marcella and I am happy that it has been the means of reopening a correspondence between us.
After sending you and sister Eliza, Henry, Nelson and all the children the warmest regards of Fannie and myself, in accordance with your request I will give you all the information in my power in regard to the status of brother James’ estate and the probabilities of forcing Woodruff to a final settlement with the heirs. My opinion is that it can only effected by recourse to legal process. If he and Martha have become unable to pay, we prosecute their securities, and if they are unable to pay, I think we have legal grounds to prosecute the County Court of Lucas County, Iowa, for accepting insufficient securities for the Administrator. The suit should in my opinion be prosecuted by the heir’s jointly, but before commencing the suit, a competent attorney should be consulted and employed to conduct the case which would cost but little more for all the heirs than for one.
In regard to the amount of the Estate, as near as I can remember it amounted to $6,700.00 which divided between five heirs would [make] each one’s share $1340.00 from which the Administrator’s fees and Woodruff’s charges for taking care of brother James during his sickness will have to be deducted. The amount will probably be $700.00 which would leave each heir’s net share $1200.00. Let each heir deduct what they have received from the estate from $1200.00 and the remainder will be the balance now due each. The foregoing is only an approximate calculation but you will find that it is not far wrong, and I do not see why the Administrator cannot be forced to a settlement. I would have forced it long since but in sister Martha’s account, Woodruff had mad such foolish investments of hers and the other heir’s money that to compel payment of the heirs would take every dollar’s worth of property that they had and leave them penniless. But they have had the use of the heir’s money long enough and justice demands that payment should be made.
Please tell Henry to communicate with me on the matter and if we can all come to a mutual understanding, we will commence suit jointly for the recovery of what is due us.
You must write often. Tell Eliza to do the same. I’ll always answer. We are keeping house now which brings our monthly expenses of living from $85.00 to $45.00 which will enable me to make a little money at my present salary but boarding out kept me poor. Fannie is a good housekeeper and does all her housework. She is well but my health is feeble. I have bronchial consumption. tell Mollie we’ll send the photographs soon.
Your affectionate brother, — J. H. Little
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 3
November 6th 1864
Your kind letter dated Oct. _______was received today and with pleasure I ______ so kind a communication from a ________from whom I have been separated ________ estranged freak of fortune. Yet _____none the less removed by lapse of time.
Often amid the loud thunders of battle, on the long march, and in the dreary camp has my memory traced back through bygone years the scenes of home, our strange separation as a family, and wondered where each living member was and if we should ever meet again in life.
I have been an officer in the Army for over three years — commenced a Lieutenant, and rose to rank of Captain. I have been through several hard fought battles in one of which [I received] a severe gunshot wound which [incapacitated me] for some time, but on recovery [I returned to the] field in command of a Squad___ … where I remained until assigned to the Quarter Master Headquarters of the District of Central Missouri [as book keeper, which position] I still hold.
I saw Nelson Aubrey _____ Jefferson City, Missouri, during the _____ place. They were in Capt. Kemp_____ 43rd Regt. Mo. Infantry. I did not have time for a conversation as the enemy was in our front.
On the 17th of October, 64, I was ordered from Jefferson City to Brownsville to join the 1st Brigade Cavalry Division in which I served as Asst. Adj. Gen’l. during the campaign.
Our Brigade pursued the enemy to near the Arkansas line. ¹ We were then ordered to the Central District with our Head Quarters at this place. The Brigade arrived here on the 2d inst. and was dissolved by order of the Commanding Officer….
— [J. H. Little]
¹ This is a reference to the pursuit of Gen. Price’s army following the Battle of Westport in Missouri.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 4
Addressed to Mrs. Caroline Branstetter, Wellsville, Montgomery Co., Missouri
December 30, 1864
My Dear Sister,
Your kind note dated December 20, 1864 was first handed to me by Lieut.-Col. Loan, First Missouri Calvary, who has just returned from leave of absence in North Mo.
I regret very much to inform you that it will be impossible for me to join your family circle on New Year, but be assured that nothing would give me more pleasure. My term of service will soon expire. I will visit you when I am mustered out of service. I shall not re-enter the Army for some time at least. I will write you at length soon. I am in very fair health except a cough which I have every winter. I am now on Court Martial Duty and will probably remain here some time. I wrote you not long since but have not received any answer.
Give my love to all the children, relations, and friends.
Your Brother, — Joseph H. Little
Capt. 1st Missouri Cavalry
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