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Letters written by Robert Bryant Williams to Sara Jane McKay
while he was a soldier in the Union Army.

Robert was about 13  years old when he enlisted, the youngest member of Co. E, 111th PA.Vol. Infantry.  In his later life he wrote a statement about this.
He enlisted at Erie, PA  with his father Ezra on November 25th, 1861 and mustered out on July 19, 1865.  His father died of illness in Baltimore on October 14, 1862.

He wrote these letters to Sara Jane McKay, who later became his wife.

Transcriptions courtesy of David Strong,
who is a descendant of R.B.Williams


Robert Bryant Williams
Photo taken in Pittsburgh about February 1864.
The veteran's stripe on Robert's sleeve,
indicates he had already reenlisted.
Photo from Crawford Co. Historical Society
Courtesey of Pat Knierman and David Strong


(original spelling and punctuation)

Camp near Kellysford Va.
Aug 15th 186_
Dear Sara Jane

I now take this opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know how I am getting along I am well at present and I hope these few lines will find you the same. I received your kind and welcome letter of Aug 18th [sic] as I always do with the greatest of pleasure. The new Captain that we got belonged to our Regiment his name is Captain Alexander of Company D I dont like him so well as I did Captain Fletcher. I suppose you have heard about me being a prisoner I am ashame to tell you or anybody else but sleep overcame me and I fell asleep on post which you know is considered a big crime for a soldier to do and it forfeits it his life but it being my first in the guardhouse they wont be so hard on me as they otherwise would I dont think that they will courtmarshall me at all. When you write your next letter please direct it to the same as the others except Captain Alexander in the plase of Captain Fletcher. I am very sory to hear that doctor Hichcock is not well. I have just got payed off yesterday afternoon. I got 4 months pay please tell Mother that I will send her $40 dolars the first opportunity I can get to express it. Sarah Jane I will send you my photagraph the first chance I can get to get it taken.

I would be very thankfull to you if you would send me some county papers once and a while if you please this was a very warm day today but not so warm as it has been for the last 12 or 13 days. There is some talk of our moveing before long but I dont know whether to believe it or not. Please tell mother to send me a few postage stamps for I am about  out of stamps and cant get any about here

I think that when I get out of this guardhouse that I will try and get to my Company and stay I like my Company they are a more steady lot of men than the guard here it is more (...unintelligible...) swearing and gambling and other bad practices that you can think of. At the present time there is a couple of men gambling out there. I cant think of anything else to say at present. So good bye write soon.

From you friend

R B Williams

Sarah Jane McKay




Head Quarters Provost Guard
2nd division 20th Army Corps
July 16, 1864
Dear friend

Once more I find myself seated with pen in hand to let you know that I am well an in good spirits. Your kind and welcome letter of the 6th came duly to hand I got it this afternoon and haveing nothing to do I read it and let right down and will try and write an interesting letter but am afraid that I will fail. Well a little about my death you need not believe them reports. When I am killed the Chaplain of the Regiment will write home and let you know all about it .... I was very sory to learn of your uncles death also for the death of your friend. I will warrent that he died easer.. The fight at the wilderness was truly a hard fight or harder fight than we have seen down here.. Well I have always said that there was harder fighting in Virginia than in this army.. I did hear of old Vallandingham arriveing in ohio and read his speech he would like to raise a riot there but I guess that we will not succeed I agree with you that he had ought to be hung to the first tree.. I also heard of the sinking of the Alabama and our Government ought to make them give Captain Semmes and the other pirates up that that other vessil stole away and hang old Semmes and make an example of him... Old engling might as well declare war as to arm and man vesils to prey on our commerce Johnny..Bull will get in a fuss yet if he dont take care how he fools with the United States.. There is some talk of us going to the army of the Potomac about to Knight (tonight).. but the Boys laugh at it but it might be such a thing as going up to Western Virginia to stop that Raid.. I would like to have a hand in driveing them of again I have had a hand in all their raids and this one begins to look as though the Rebs mean to do mischeif about Washington and Baltimore... We are haveing some very warm weather away down in Georgia.. I wrote on the 14th of June I beleave so I will give you and account of my travils since then  I went out after I had wrote to you and seen the Rebels Brestworks and see Knap.. fo[?] Battery shelling the Rebs and made them hunt thier holes they hole themselves up about like ground hogs.. On the morning of the 15th we advanced about 1/2 mile and came to the Rebels force and fighting commenced in earnest and we were fighting hard all day and lost quite heavy and on the 16th there was a good deal of skirmishing and the rebels used a good many shells and they cut the limbs off of the trees all around us and on the 17th we found that the Rebels had left in the Knight and followed them 1 mile and found them on a high range of hills and they saluted use with some shells as soon as we go in range but our Our Batterys soon stoped their noise.. They held their ground till the Knight of the 18th they left us again and on the 19th we followed them up 1 mile and found them in line of Brestworks again near Marietta we fought an skirmished with them there till the 3rd of July we found that they had left in the Knight of the 2nd and we followed them up 6 miles and passed a great many Brestworks and we passed the 4th by shelling the Rebel's Brestworks and skirmishing with them.. On the 5th we marched about 6 miles after them.. On the 6th marched 3 miles.. On the 7th marched 2 miles and came to this place which is near the Chattahoochie River and since we have been here we can hear cannonading of to the right every once and a while.. They have been drawing clotheing and so on there is to be an inspection in the morning by General Hooker to see that the arms are ready for an engagement.. We move at present Write soon I send my best respects from your Friend untill death
Write soon


Robert B. Willims
Provost, Guard..2nd div 20th AC
via Nashvill Tenn
excuse poor writing and spelling


Atlanta Georgia
October 29, 1864
Dear friend
 Yours of the 2nd was receive last knight and was read with pleasure I assure you it found me well as I hope these few lines will find you. By the way you are quite flattering when you say how could there be any thing more interesting than my letters. Oh how I Should like to attend the Great Union Meeting at Meadville and as I cant be there I should like to get the papers that had their speeches in for it does me so much good to read good speeches I read the speech that B.J. Nade made there and thought that it was first rate. There is some distinguished men to speak there on the 20th. I had seen in a Meadville Republican that I chanced to get a hold of who the Copperheads had Nominated for senator and it looks as though they could get no sensible man for it but must have some one so they take a circus clown they must be hard up. I had not heard of Doctor Ghyers death it must have been a suden death was it not. Now about those photographs ones Name is Wm. A. Upham a Corporal of my Company the other is Charles Yoest a Sergeant of Company H 28th PNN he is now orderly Sergeant of the Guard.

You asked me if I did not wish that I was one of the sickly ones no indeed I do not if I can not get home without being sick I would prefer to wait until the war is over.

Nothing of importance has transpired Since my last and news is scarce So you need not expect much of a letter this time.  We have been engaged for the last 2 or 3 weeks at building Brestworks and fortifications the Guard had a fort to work on as its job the fort is to mount 4 guns we have got it finished at last and I guess that they have another job for us in the shape of another fort. General Slocum has sent out 2 Reconnoitering partys and they came back both times loaded with one thing and another and yesterday he sent out another foraging party there was 16 men out of the P M Guard went my 2 tent mates went with them and I am left alone by myself to keep house till they come back. We have a very good house bilt up now and we have a fireplace and the fireplace is usefull today for it is quite cold and every knight we need of a fire it is the best house that I have had Since I have been a Soldier of Uncle Sams.  We have changed Camp 2 times since we came to the City of Atlanta I am on Guard today and have just came off I have to stand 2 hours and am off 4 hours we are on guard 24 hours and then we are off 24 hours and then on guard again So you see that the duty is quite hard we lose so much Sleep by it it is easy enough in the day time but it is not very pleasant when a man is sleeping nice and sound to be awoke and have to get up and go out in the cold and walk the beat for 2 hours.. Our Rail Road has been cut in our rear for Some time and this is the first mail that we have had for about a week and you don't know how much good it does me to hear from distant friends. What a great Blessing it is that I can write and have friends tht will write to me. News is run out so I will close by sending my respects and requesting you to write soon hopeing to hear from you soon I will close from your true friend

excuse all mistakes

Robert B. Willims
                                              Provost Guard..2nd div 20th AC


Exerpt from Personal History written by Glenroie McQueen,
son of Cynthia Dennis and Thomas McQueen.

"I have a vivid recollection of the comet of 1861, and of standing by the well curb where we drew the water for family use, and of hearing the grown ups talking of how the comet portended the breaking out of the war between the North and the South.

One of my Uncles, Ezra Williams, husband of my mother's oldest sister, and father of nine dependent children, was among the first to volunteer for service in the Northern army. Ezra was soon killed in battle, or died from sickness, or was among the missing. At any rate he never came back, nor was he ever heard from. Ezra's oldest son, Robert, likewise volunteered. Rob was under eighteen, too young for the service, but as heard explained, he wrote "18" on a piece of paper which he placed in the bottom of his shoe, and so swore he was over "18"."

Thanks to Karl Dennis. Also available at Meadville Public Library