Silas H. H. Mathes—A Civil War Soldier—Letters Home
Letters Home is a collection of letters written from 1861 to 1864 during the American Civil War by Union soldier, Silas H. H. Mathes to his girlfriend, Hester Ann Rogers, who lived in Bedford, Ind.
BOOK: A book (cost $30) which includes a transcription of all the handwritten letters is available in the gift shop or by mail. Click for order form: Silas H.H. Mathes—A Civil War Soldier—Letters Home
These letters form an almost complete diary of his army life covering practically every day of his service in the Indiana Fifteenth Volunteer Infantry and later, in the United States Signal Corps.
The letters were written beginning April 1861 to a sweet, dark-eyed Hoosier girl in Bedford, who Henry knew and admired. He called her Annie. During the years of their correspondence, she became more than a friend. They became engaged when Henry was on furlough in Bedford in April 1863. They tried to keep their engagement promise a secret, and when his duty to the Union was completed, he returned to Bedford, and Henry and Annie were married Aug. 28, 1864. The last letter in the collection was written after his return home and after they were married. That letter addressed to “My dear wife” is dated April 1865, and Henry is in Spencer, Ind., on business.
In addition to expressing his love to Annie, the letters speak of Civil War news at locations on the Western Front of the Union Army of the Cumberland, early information about the Signal Corps, inquiries about friends and relatives, and concern for those at home as well as for those serving in the war.
In 1914, only a short time before her death, Annie read all the letters again—they were her most treasured possession. The letters have now been cherished and preserved for over 150 years.
In addition to the letters, artifacts from the museum's collection donated by families of the men who used them, will help us remember the brave Lawrence County men who served the Union during the American Civil War. A few items from the Confederacy are also included. Also included in the exhibit are numerous artifacts from major battles and important events such as shrapnel embedded in a tree limb from the Battle of Shiloh, a small piece from an apple tree at Appomattox Court House, a leg iron from Andersonville prison, much, much more.
ACTIVITIES: In addition to taking your picture at the camp scene, try your hand at using the stereoptic viewer—see 3-D pictures from the past. At the reading table, read and see images from "Harper's Weekly" coverage of Civil War news. Answer questions at the Civiil War question machine–you get a green light if you are correct. Watch a 4-minute video and see how the states changed from Confederate to Union control, and see the casualties mount up before your eyes.
INDIANA HISTORY PROJECT ONLINE: Civil War: Rowena Cross-Najafi interviews gallery coordinator, Becky Buher, about the “Letters Home” exhibit. Click to watch the program.