Esarey/Esrey/Esry Genealogy and Reunion

Perry County, Indiana

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John Clark Esarey Civil War Letters

John Clark Esarey, his father Jesse Clark Esarey, and uncle Jacob Esarey served in the local militia early in the Civil War. De La Hunt (1916:215, 237-242) details the highlights of the local militia's role in Hines Raid - a Confederate mission across the Ohio River in summer 1863. In late summer 1864, John Clark Esarey was drafted. In late September he was attached to Company G, 53rd Indiana Volunteers. By early November he had arrived just north of Atlanta - two months after the city fell into Union hands.

A pocket diary and a number of letters by or to John Clark Esarey of Perry County, Indiana are preserved from this portion of his Civil War service. He was enrolled September 27, 1864. wrote home from Marietta, GA, on November 8, just three days before he joined in on Sherman's March to the Sea, was present for the surrender of Savannah. Then he entered into Sherman's Carolina Campaign, participating in the Battle of Bentonville and was marching from Raleigh, NC when General Joseph Johnson surrendered near Durham, NC. He marched from there to Washington, D.C. where he mustered out May 31, 1865. He arrived back home in Branchville, IN June 14, 1865.

These letters have been previously published in Myra Esarey Evans' Esarey family history (1968) and are presented here with the kind permission of Patsy Van Kesteren.

[excerpt from January 20, 1865 letter to Barbara] "I have become weaned from home so that if I were a single man and had no family I would see this thing ended if I was permitted to live that long, but as it is I cannot stay, my memory will wander homeward and when I think of things that happened at home and the companion and the sweet little babe that I left I cannot reconcile my mind to stay away longer than my term..."

Below various preserved letters are combined with the narrative of events from John's pocket diary to form a single record.






Sept. 27, 1864

Enrolled as a Private (drafted) Company G, 53rd Indiana Volunteers at Jeffersonville ( Ind.)



Oct. 28 - Nov. 7, 1864

Left Camp Carrington 28th; Louisville 30th, Nashville 31st; Chattanooga Nov. 3-5th (on Mission Ridge w/o tents or shelter), arrive vis train Atlanta 7th.



Nov. 8, 1864


In camp 1 mile south of Marietta, Ga.


Nov. 8 letter to Barbara

Nov. 8 letter to parents


Nov. 11– Dec. 9, 1864



His account says left Marietta on Nov. 11 and marched 29 days.



Dec. 20, 1864


Camp near Kings Bridge on the Canouches (Canoochee R.) near Savannah, Ga.

Dec. 16 letter sent to parents (lost)

Dec. 19 - letter received from Barabara (lost)

Dec. 20 letter to Barbara


Dec. 21, 1864


Surrender of Savannah, Ga.



Dec. 31, 1864


Camp near Savannah, Ga.

Dec. 28-30 - letters sent to father and brother and received from Barbara (all lost)

Dec. 31 letter to Barbara


Jan. 1-5, 1865


Camp near Savannah, Ga

James W. Jenkins died Jan. 5


Jan. 3 letter to Ap and Sallie Miller

See ORIGINALJan. 3 letter


Jan. 6, 1865


Sailed on the Brig Pontiac for Beaufort, S.C.



Jan. 7-10, 1865

In camp on Beaufort Island



Jan. 11-14, 1865


Moved camp “back” five miles and in camp.


Jan. 11 letter to Barbara

Jan. 12 letter to Jonth. D. Esarey


Jan, 15-24, 1865



Marched and arrived Jan. 16 at Pocotaligo Station. In camp till 24th.

~Jan. 17 letter to Mary Ann (lost)

~ letter sent from brother Jonth (lost)

Jan. 20 letter to Barbara


Jan. 22 letter from Barbara sent


Jan. 25, 1865


Destroyed railroad



Jan. 26-28, 1865


In camp



Jan. 29-30, 1865


Marched from Pocotaligo Station, crossed Charleston & Savannah RR, Slight skirmish at Saltketcher Bridge. Marched all Jan. 30.

Jan. 29 sent letter to Barbara that was returned to John Clark later (lost)


Jan. 31 – Feb. 1, 1865


Layed in camp.



Feb. 2 – 3, 1865





Feb. 4, 1865


“Come on the rebels in the evening. Skirmished all knight.”



Feb. 5, 1865


“The 53 rd skirmished here 48 hours the rest of the brigade passed by and had a hard fight at river’s bridge routed the enemy and drove them off.”



Feb. 6 – 7, 1865


Marched and arrived at Midway Station on the Charleston and Augusta RR.



Feb. 8 – 12, 1865


Marched. Crossed the S. Edisto River at Finnegin’s Bridge on the 10th. Crossed the N. Edisto River at Orangeburg on the 12 th.



Feb. 13, 1865


Destroyed railroad



Feb. 14, 1865


Marched 26 miles on the RR, burned the bridge at Kingville. [SC]



Feb. 15, 1865


Marched 27 miles.



Feb. 16, 1865


Arrived in front of Columbia, S.C.



Feb. 17, 1865


Columbia surrendered. The 4th Division, 17th Corps first to plant the flag over the capitol of S.C.



Feb. 18


Crossed the Congaree and Wateree Rivers.



Feb. 19


Marched through Columbia. The town burned.



Feb. 20-22


Destroyed railroad each day.



Feb. 23


Marched through Winsboro [Winnsboro, SC]



Feb. 24


Crossed the Catawba River and camped on Liberty Hill.



Feb. 25 – Mar. 3, 1865


“Marched through the mountains and waded swamps” [meaning the rough Piedmont hill country and swampy bottoms just behind the Fall Line.]



Mar. 4


Lay in camp in front of Cheraw [SC]



Mar. 5


Marched through town and crossed the Peedee River.



Mar. 6


Marched through Bennettsville [SC]



Mar. 7 – 9


Marched. Crossed the line entered North Carolina (8 th).



Mar. 10


Marched. Waded Rockfish River.



Mar. 11


Entered Fayetteville on the Cape Fear River. Slight skirmish.



Mar. 12


Lay in camp



Mar. 13


Crossed the Cape Fear River



Mar. 14 – 19




Mar. 19 letter from Barbara sent


Mar. 20


Marched on a forced march to reinforce the 14 & 15 A.C. at ( Battle of) Bentonville.



Mar. 21


Arrived on the field of action, on the lines skirmishing all day. At night the rebels fell back across the Neuse River.



Mar. 22


Camped on the field.



Mar. 23


Marched and crossed the Neuse River and passed through Goldsboro and went in camp.



Mar. 24 – Apr. 1


In camp. Foraging (24 th)

Mar. 26 letter to Barbara

Mar. 30-31 two letter from Barbara and one from Amira. Letter to John and Jonth (all lost)

Mar. 31 letter to Barbara

Apr. 1 letter to Ap and Sallie Miller

See ORIGINAL Apr. 1 letter


Apr. 2 - 3


Out foraging near Kinston. [NC]


Apr. 2 letter from Barbara sent

At least six letters from Barbara lost by this date


Apr. 4 – 9


In camp

Apr. 9 letter to Jonth. (lost)


Apr. 10


Marched out of Goldsboro in direction of Weldon, crossing the Weldon RR and campt.



Apr. 11


Marched on the roads very swampy camped on the Raleigh RR


Apr. 11 letter to Barbara


Apr. 12 - 13


Marched, the roads all swamps



Apr. 14


Marched and crossed the Neuse River and then marched through Raleigh and camped. Went on picket.



Apr. 15


Received marching orders marched 2 miles the order countermanded so returned to camp.



Apr. 16 - 22


In camp near Raleigh [NC]


Apr. 18 letter from Jonathon (?) sent


Apr. 22 letter to parents


Apr. 23 - 24


In camp. Reviewed by Gen. Grant.



Apr. 25


Marching on Johnson



Apr. 26


Marching, Johnson surrendered. Benjamin Sprinkle returned to duty.



Apr. 27





Apr. 28


In camp



Apr. 29


Marched from Raleigh crossed the Neuse River and camped



Apr. 30


In camp


Apr. 30 letter from Amira Colby sent


May 1


Marched through Forrestville and Big Fork [NC]



May 2


Marched through Ridgeway and crossed the Tar River.



May 3 – 5


Marched and crossed the Roanoke River at Robinson’s Ferry, crossed the line into Virginia (on May 5).

May 5: The Apr. 22 letter from J. Ewing sent


May 6


Marched and crossed the Ottawa River


May 6 letter from Jonathan sent

May 7 letter letter from J.D. Carr sent


May 7


Marched and camped in front of Petersburg. [VA]



May 8


Marched through Petersburg, on review.




May 9


Marched and camped in front of Richmond.



May 10-11


In camp. In Richmond on a pass (11 th). See the Rebel capitol. Libby Prison. Castle Thunder.


May 10 letter to Barbara


May 12


Crossed the James River, marched through Richmond, camped on the Chickahominy River.



May 13


Crossed the Chickahominy and camped near Hanover Court House.



May 14 - 15


Marched and crossed the Paumunkey River (on the 14 th)



May 16 - 18


Marched through Fredricksburg and crossed the Rappahannoc River. Capt. John Donnelley lost (16 th) and Ocoquan River (18 th).



May 19


Marched and arrived in front of Alexandria. James Artman returns to duty.

Letter from Lieut. Geo. T. Jenkins sent.


May 20 – 22


In camp, go to Alexandria on a pass (20 th), received 400 new recruits (on 22 nd)



May 23


Marched across Bull Run and marched through Alexandria and camped on the Potomac in front of Washington.



May 24


Crossed the Potomac and marched through Washington City on grand review and saw the President and capitol and marched 5 miles north of the city and camped.



May 25 – 30


In camp near Fort Kearney and Reno. In Washington on a pass (27 th), see Capitol, War Dept, Navy Dept, White House, etc. Take the chills (28 th).


May 26 letter to Barbara


May 31


Mustered out of service.


Discharge papers for John Clark Esarey of Perry County, Ind.


Jun 1 - 4


In camp


Jun. 2 letter to Barbara


June 5


Leave Washington City at dusk.



June 6 – 8


On the cars. Pass Harpers Ferry, Cumberland, Md (6 th), Piedmont, Clarksburg (7 th), Reach Parkersburg, Va (8 th).



June 9


Pass through Parkersburg. Take transportation on Steamboat for Lawrenceburg, Ind.



June 10


Reach Lawrenceburg morning. Take the cars. Reach Indianapolis. Noon go to Camp Carrington.



June 11



In camp



June 12



Discharged. Paid off. Leave home by 5 o’clock train. The cars overset near Seymour, Ind.



June 13



Pass Jeffersonville. Louisville, New Albany in evening.



June 14


Reach home.











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