Spared & Shared 6

Saving history, one letter at a time…

1864: Capt. Joseph H. Little to Caroline Branstetter

How Capt. Joseph H. Little might have looked

How Capt. Joseph H. Little might have looked

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.

This may be a picture of Adam B. A descendant labeled it as his father (same name) but his father would have appeared much older at the time this picture was taken.

Possibly a picture of Adam Branstetter. A descendant labeled it as his father (same name) but his father would have appeared much older when this picture was taken.

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.


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

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


Warrensburg, Missouri
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.

Addressed to Mrs. Caroline Branstetter, Wellsville, Montgomery Co., Missouri

Warrensburg, 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



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on March 17, 2014 by .

Blog Stats

  • 28,473 hits


My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries.

View Full Profile →

Blogs I Follow

Recent Posts

Recollections of Army Life

by Charles A. Frey

The Civil War Letters of William Kennedy

Co. B, 91st New York Infantry

The Glorious Dead

Letters from the 23rd Illinois Infantry, the 111th Pennsylvania Infantry, the 64th New York Infantry, and the 14th Pennsylvania Cavalry

Cornelius Van Houten

1st New Jersey Light Artillery

Letters of Charley Howe

36th Massachusetts Volunteers

Sgt. Major Fayette Lacey

Co. B, 37th Illinois Volunteers

"These few lines"

the pocket memorandum of Alexander C. Taggart

The Civil War Letters of Will Dunn

Co. F, 62nd Pennsylvania Volunteers

Henry McGrath Cannon

Co. A, 124th New York Infantry & Co. B, 16th New York Cavalry

Civil War Letters of Frederick Warren Holmes

Co. H, 77th Illinois Volunteers

"Though distant lands between us be"

Civil War Letters of Monroe McCollister, Co. B, 6th OVC

"Tell her to keep good heart"

Civil War Letters of Nelson Statler, 211th PA

"May Heaven Protect You"

14th Connecticut drummer boy's war-time correspondence with his mother

Moreau Forrest

Lt. Commander in the US Navy during the Civil War

Diary of the 29th Massachusetts Infantry

Fighting with the Irish Brigade during the Peninsula Campaign

"Till this unholy rebellion is crushed"

Letters of Dory & Morty Longwood, 7th Indiana

"I Go With Good Courage"

The Civil War Letters of Henry Clay Long, 11th Maine Infantry

"This is a dreadful war"

The Civil War Letters of Jacob Bauer, 16th Connecticut, & his wife Emily

Spared & Shared 16

Saving History One Letter at a Time

Lloyd Willis Manning Letters

3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, Co. I

The Yankee Volunteer

A Virtual Archive of Civil War Likenesses collected by Dave Morin

William Henry Jordan

Co. K, 7th Rhode Island Infantry

No Cause to Blush

The Bancroft Collection of Civil War Letters

William A. Bartlett Civil War Letters

Company D, 37th Massachusetts Infantry

The John Hughes Collection

A Virtual Archive of his Letters, 1858-1869

The Civil War Letters of Rufus P. Staniels

Co. H, 13th New Hampshire Volunteers

This is Indeed A Singular War

The Civil War Letters of Henry Scott Murray, 8th New York Light Artillery

The Letters of James A. Durrett

Co. E, 18th Alabama Infantry

Spared & Shared 15

Saving History One Letter at a Time

The Civil War Letters of George Messer

Company F, 107th Illinois Volunteer Infantry

Jeff's Prayers are as Effective as Abe's

The Civil War Letters of George S. Youngs, 126th New York Vols

Soldiering is a Very Uncertain Game

The Civil War Letters of Lemuel Glidden, Co. K, 145th Indiana Infantry

Tough as a Pitch Pine Knot

Letters of John Whitcomb Piper, 4th Massachusetts Heavy Artillery

%d bloggers like this: