Darrah (Wallace W.) Papers, 1861-1863, 90 Items

Administrative Information


Access: Unrestricted

Copyright: The copyright of these letters is held by Navarro College Archives, Navarro College, 3200 W. 7th Ave., Corsicana, Texas. Internet: archives@navarrocollege.edu.

Cite As:Wallace W. Darrah Papers, 1861-1863, Pearce Civil War Collection, Navarro College, Corsicana,, Texas

Forms Part of: Pearce Civil War Collection

Location: 1-E8-c, 1-E15-e

Transcription(s): Yes

Scanned Copies on File: No

Accession Number: 2001.271

Processed by: Mary Hayes, February 2006

Reproductions of original materials and transcriptions may be available. Please contact the archivist for further information.

Abstract: This correspondence collection includes Wallace Darrah’s letters to his parents and various family members and siblings during his period of enlistment with the Union army, 1861-1864. In these letters, Darrah primarily talks about his living conditions, diet and health, cultural attitudes, and his frustrations at being away from his home and family. He seemed to enjoy writing poetry, as he would occasionally enclose samples of his verse. Wallace’s letters indicate that he served in Kentucky and Tennessee, seeing action in minor skirmishes and being taken prisoner after being wounded at Chickamauga. These letters predate that battle.

Biographical/Historical Sketch

Corporal Wallace W. Darrah was born in Kekoskee, Wisconsin. On September 14, 1861, he mustered into the 9th Brigade, Company B, 10th Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry as a corporal. He was wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga on September 14, 1861 and taken prisoner. He died of disease on January 19, 1864 and was buried in Danville, Virginia. (www.civilwardata.com accessed 2/13/2006.)

Scope and Content Note

This correspondence collection includes Wallace Darrah’s letters to his parents and various family members and siblings during his period of enlistment with the Union army, 1861-1864. Darrah enlisted in the Union army on September 14, 1861 and served with the 10th Wisconsin, Company “B.” Along with his unbridled enthusiasm, he left for military service with a supply of varied stationery, examples which are represented in this collection. By the war’s end however, he was using plain lined paper for his correspondence and his despair and anxiety were more apparent. In these letters, Darrah primarily talks about his living conditions, diet and health, cultural attitudes, and his frustrations at being away from his home and family. Wallace seemed to enjoy writing poetry, as he would occasionally enclose samples of his verse. Wallace’s letters indicate that he served in Kentucky and Tennessee, seeing action in minor skirmishes and being taken prisoner after being wounded at Chickamauga. These letters predate that battle. In his letters, Wallace repeatedly describes his camp life. In the October 22, 1861 letter to his grandparents and aunt and uncle, Wallace describes Camp Holton in Milwaukee. “A idea of camp life Each company has its one row of tents and half of the street to to Clean which is about one rod wide. . .” He often tells of the satisfying meals that he has recently enjoyed. On January 4, 1862 he writes, “we have been A little short of rations but that is nothing for we have pretty good Suttlers which keeps all sorts of eatbles newyears night we had an oyster supper and all the good things we could east but it was not like home after all Unckles sams pies hant quite so good as mas thats so.” Later, his frustrations apparent, Wallace writes on December 12, 1861, “a very pleasant morning and so they put me on guard for not answaring the roll call the old Generl comes arround and stops in front of the guard tents and the guard calls out turn out the guard for the officer in command and them wa all had to come out and present arms to the old whelp.” Wallace’s letters continually reflect the ambivalence he feels about army life. He writes, “Charley (Wallace’s younger brother) you may tell the boys that if they know any thing they wont enlist. . .” Then follows a hand-drawn patriotic sketch of an American flag with a saber and the words: “Defend it.” Throughout his letters Wallace attempts to dissuade young Charley from enlisting. On March 14, 1862 a portion of his letter to his parents talks again about camp life and concludes with some sage advice. “Charley . . .thare is long hard tegious Marching to be done and and awfull situp work to do that you don’t think of nor don’t know any thing thing hard ships of laying down on the cold ground for you nights rest with out any thing to eat but hard buiscit and raw bacon and almost tired to death with the fatigue of marching alday and carrying your knapsack gun and Catdritge box with 40 rounds. . .so don’t talk about enlisting and comeing Sough for it is warm down here and them confounded littlee creppers breeds fast that lives in you shurts called army lice. . .A living coward is better than A dead hero” One particularly disturbing passage concerns the army’s inability to properly bury their dead. From Kentucky on March 11, 1862 he writes, “some of the rebels that died and was buried on the commons that some of them was not buried over 2 feet deep and A great many of them did not have coffins and step on the grave it would sink and stink Bowling Green if it is fortified it cant defend decease and thare is no doubt but it will be awfull sickly place this summer.” By May of 1862 Darrah’s regiment has engaged the Confederates in and around Corinth, Mississippi following the Battle of Shiloh. On the 7th he states, “one week ago we attacked four thousand of them and killed 6 and took about 40 or 50 prisoners and they run cross the Tennessee river. . .” Wallace reports the satisfying meal the unit enjoyed on Christmas Day, 1862. “We had A good Christmass dinner to day we had a Turkey and warm biscuit & butter that was a great rariety for us. While expressing sympathy for the plight of slaves, Darrah nevertheless has strong feelings concerning the potential enlistment of black soldiers in the Union army. On February 3, 1863, he writes, “I have about made up my mind if old Abe and his fool of a congress does raise nigger and arm them as soldiers of the USA that I will lay my musket down & say Unckle Sam if you are agoing to fight this war with darkeys I shant help you you must not doubt my loyaltiy for it is as good as it ever was them darned black scamps cant come in and if uncke Abe want to keep what army in the field he has got he wont bring no niggers along side of us with arms if he does he will repent the day unless he wants to take that way of getting rid of the darned hounds.”


The copyright of these materials is managed by the Navarro College Archives on behalf of the Navarro College Foundation, 3100 W. Collin St., Corsicana, Texas 75110. Phone: 903-875-7438. Internet: archives@navarrocollege.edu.