On this Veterans Day: Letters from the Civil War

2017-11-11 | The Woodward News

Nov. 11--It was July 9th, 1864 and Woodward resident Carol Gohn Lane's great grandfather Chauncey Fremont Gohn was serving with Co. G of the 48th Indiana Regiment under William T. Sherman.

It was 14 days before the Battle of Atlanta, otherwise known as "The burning of Atlanta" and up to that moment, Chauncey Gohn had been serving and fighting in the Union Army for well over two years.

The Civil War began April 12, 1861 and ended May 9, 1865.

On this day Gohn was camped with his unit about eight miles north of Atlanta and he was taking the first free moment he had to write a letter to his family he had left in Indiana when he joined up to fight for the Union Army January 20th, 1862.

"Dear Parents, I take the pleasure to write you a few lines let you know that I am well at present, and hope these few lines will find you the same. I have had no letter from you for a long time I would have wrote one but I kep wating for an answer until I got out of patience I thought perhaps my letter got lost you was uneasy because you could not hear from me. So I thought I would write this evening. Since I last wrote to you, we have had some purty hard times. We have bin under the enemy fire for one month. We have drove the Rebels across the Chattahoochee River within 8 miles of Atlanta...This is the 9th. We left yesterday before I could finish my letter. We put a bridge across the river yesterday, and part of our Corps cross the river yesterday and took one battery from the Rebels. The Rebels are retreating all the time. They have very strong works and a great many of them. This is the hardest campane that ever has bin since the war comenced. But I think it will end the war. I think we will come home this year. If not, I can't tell when we will come home.

The men in the Army generly think that when Richmond Atlanta are taken, the war will be over they think those two towns will soon be in our posesion. We have not been payed yet nor won't be until this campane is over. You must get along the best that you can until I get my pay then I will send you 50 dollars. Daniel Lint is with us yet is well and harty. Well, I have not much to write not but it is verry warm here. I heard that it was very hot dry in Indiana this sumer that the crops looked poor this season. I want you to write as soon as you can. I would write oftener if I could but we don't have much time to write. I send my respects to all my friends hoping to see you soon.

I will close my letter. I will let you know that Samuel and David Frymire were well the last time I seen them. They are in the 128th Regt, Ind Vols (Volunteers).

No more at present, so goodby.

From your well wishing son."


Recently, Carol Gohn Lane contacted the Woodward News and offered to share a few of the letters written by her great-grandfather while he was serving during the American Civil War.

Carol Gohn Lane is the daughter of William Rollie Gohn and his father was Harry Savannah Gohn, whose father was Chauncey Fremont Gohn.

The Gohns immigrated from Rimschweiler-Zweibrucken, Palatinate Germany to Pennsylvania on a ship called "The Thistle" in 1738.

Lane's grandparents and father wound up moving from Indiana to Ashland, Kan., where she was born and raised before ultimately moving to several other states and then finally to Woodward.

Now, Lane said, it's time to make a record of her great-grandfather's life and service in the Civil War.

"The family has had this history for quite a while but I haven't had this part, the letters, until recently," she said. "He fought for the North and he was with Sherman."

Chauncey Fremont Gohn was born in Sumerset County, Pennsylvania July 17, 1841. He moved with his family to Indiana in May of 1844. He died at the age of 90 Michigan on the 16th of May 1932.

Lane's great-grandfather was a prolific writer during his time serving in the Civil War and family was important to him. According to Lane, finding and keeping track of the Gohns in the family has been an important part of her own history and she felt it was important to share the family's pride at how honorably her great-grandfather had served.

"I have always been interested in family history and I have never had the time or the money to get into it like I would like to and time was running out for me," Lane said. "This is a part of who I am. Like I have said before, family is important to me."

According to Lane, her fondness for her great-grandfather wasn't just based in his service to the country. He was a dedicated family man who treated his wife Ann and family with great regard.

So the correspondence Gohn kept up between he and his family is a bit of history that has been carefully guarded by the descendants of Chauncey Fremont Gohn, including the protection of the documents, photos and letters her great-grandfather sent home while he fought in a war that claimed more than 600,000 lives.

July 21st, 1864 -- just one day before the Battle of Atlanta Chauncey Fremont Gohn wrote;

"Dear Parents,

I take this opertunity to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well hoping those letters will find you the same. Know that I will let you know that we have bin in Battle since I wrote to you last...

We attacked the rebs at Decatur, 6 miles from Atlanta and took the town and the rail road with run from Atlanta to Charleston, S.C.

Our regiment was the first one in town. Our loss was light. Daniel Lint is well at present. Yesterday we drove the rebels within one mile of Atlanta and last night I worked on breastworks (a temporary fortification) oil after midnight. This morning, there is heavy cononading along the line and I can hear the rebs cars (train cars) very plane as if they was moving things out of town as fast as they can.

I think that the nest news you hear, Atlanta will be ours if the Lord spares my life, I hope to be home until (by) fall. You must excuse my poor writing, for I wrote it in doublequick.

I will write again as soon as I can. We left our camp where we was when I wrote my other letter on the 17th of this month, which was my birthday.

Please write soon. I send my respects to all my friends. Tell Ann that I have not forgotten her because I don't write to her, for I have but very little time to write.

So goodby


Please ask Levi Donner whether he every got a letter from me. I sent 50 cents in it, which I told him he should send me stamps to that amount and never got an answer.

The letters Lane has do not have any more record of where her great-grandfather was on the 22nd of July, when the infamous Battle of Atlanta took place.

What is known about his entire time during the Civil War is gathered from a letter he wrote to his great-grandson Glendon Gindlesperger just four years before he died in 1932.

In the letter he tells his great-grandson what he could remember of marching on foot beginning in Goshen, Indiana on February 7th of 1962, through Cairo, Illinois, up the Ohio River and into Paducah, Kentucky where he remained for two months. His regiment then made their way up the Tennessee River to Pittsburgh Landing, Tennessee and then on to Corinth, Mississippi, where they joined a siege and "much fighting at and near there in May of 1862," his letter stated.

In September of that year, Gohn and his unit marched from Rienza, Mississippi for three days to Iuka, Mississippi where, "We had an awful battle the 19th of September. Our General (William) Rosecrans had 20,000 men. The enemy had 60,000 men...," he wrote.

According to recorded history about that battle campaign, the Battle of Iuka, in which Gohn served, the plan was to use two armies to confront Gen. Sterling Price's Confederate troops in a double envelopment with Gohn's unit working together with the support of General Ulysses S. Grant's troops and Maj. Gen. Edward Ord.

Gohn's unit, led by Rosecrans was to approach Price in Iuka from the southwest and Ord and Grant were to approach from the northwest. But because of the inability of Grant and Ord to hear the battle where they were, they did not know the battle had started and failed to block a northern road.

After an afternoon of fighting, entirely by Rosecrans's men (with Gohn among them), the Confederates withdrew from Iuka on a road that had not been blocked by the Union army, marching to rendezvous with Confederate Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn, with whom they would soon fight the Second Battle of Corinth against Rosecrans -- a battle in which Gohn also served.

Gohn went on to serve in battles at Port Gibson and again at Raymond and Jackson Mississippi.

"The next battle was May 16th at Champion Hill, which was a very stubborn battle," he said in his letter to his great-grandson. "I will not and cannot give you near all the engagements that I was in, but all told, battled and skirmishes were about sixty," he wrote. "We were in a fight every other day clear down to Atlanta..."

From your great-Grand Pa

Chauncey F Gohn, 509 Oak St. West Fremont, Michigan.

When you talk to Lane about her great-grandfather, there is a glimmer in her eye. She loves his history but she also loves the legacy of commitment and a dedication to hard work and family. When she considered her own children and her own father and grandfather and uncles, she also sees evidence of Chauncey Fremont Gohn shining through, even today.

"But what most struck me was that throughout the letters, he thought of his family," she said.