AUGUST 1861 CIVIL WAR LETTER FROM LEBANON, PA RESIDENT JACOB FORNEY KREPS TO HIS WIFE

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FROM J.F. KREPS TO “DEAR WIFE.” Dated “Harrisburg/ August 7, 1861.” 3 pp. in ink, on lined paper, 8 x 9.75.” Exhibits fold-marks and a few light patches of foxing. Else VG and entirely legible. In protective sleeve. Accompanied by documentation.

This letter was written from Harrisburg on the occasion of the 77th PA Infy. Excerpts as follow:

“When I left Monday I found I had on the cars with me 8 men for the war when we got to “Shaners”…instead of 6 men expected    10 men got on board, and at Coutersville2 more increasing my numbers to 20 men. I almost wished the number to be 100, and myself a captain…[Evidently Kreps had helped raise recruits for his son’s regiment,  77th PA Infy.]

We arrived here yesterday evening and found the Captain and John [a Lieutenant]…I was at the camp this morning and seen them all sworn in & mustered and receive their equipment…the company now numbers 92 men, and from what I have seen so far I think the company will compare well with any…Everything seems war-like. Thousands of soldiers are here and they coming all the time, all along the railroad from Altoona to this place. The whole country seems to be in a blaze of excitement…

John is well and all hands were much pleased with my recruits, although I was gratified to bring so many men with me, I could scarcely suppress my feelings when I thought that some of the men were parting from wives and children never to see them again…I have not seen much, but enough to convince e of the dreadful realities, that war is upon us with dreadful consequences…

The Captain is talking of sending john back if a few more men can be raised. I thin 8 or 10 more would fil up the company…”

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Born in 1806 in Lebanon, PA, J.F. Kreps established himself in Greencastle as an enterprising farmer and businessman, moving to West Newton/ Rostraver Township. An ardent Union patriot, Kreps raised troops and money, and served as a civilian Pennsylvania regimental commissioner, spending two months in that capacity visiting PA regiments serving with Gen. Rosecrans’ army at Stones River, TN, in late spring/early summer 1863; also visiting PA Army of the Potomac units in 1864.

He also contributed five sons to the Union army—John, Francis, Adam, William and David Dempsey (with John, Francis and Adam serving as officers), in five different regiments, all of whom would survive, though son John would be severely wounded at Liberty Gap, TN, and son Frank, captured at Chickamauga, would spend 14 months in various Confederate prisons before making an heroic and hair-raising escape from Columbia, S.C., in 1864.

The bulk of the letters in this first family grouping (27 letters dating from August 7, 1861 to July 1864) are from J.F. Kreps to son Adam (15th PA Cavalry, 67th Regt. U.S.C.T., 92nd Regt. U.S.C.T. Also letters to son Frank (77th PA Infy) and son George, and six to wife Eliza, most of which were written during J.F. Kreps tour of General Rosecrans’ army. Subsequent groups contain letters home from sons Adam, William, John and David Dempsey. Taken as a whole, the Kreps letters present a valuable and fascinating picture of the coming and goings of an American family at war.   [JP]

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