Six Letters from Private James McCaskey, Co. C, 100th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, "The Roundheads" also includes Letter to his Father written by Lt. Philo S. Morton, reporting James' death June 16, 1862 at Secessionville and a letter from comrade John P. Wilson who witnessed his death and wrote about the battle in a letter to his sister that later was given to McCaskey's family

Collection from


Thanks to Tammy McConahy for discovering this set of letters to contribute to the 100th PA website.


    James McCaskey, second child and oldest son of John and Jane McCaskey, was born on April 12, 1839, in North Sewickley, Pennsylvania. He enlisted as a sergeant in Company C of the Roundhead Regiment, which later received the designation of 100th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, on August 31, 1861. His relatively brief military career took him from Fort Wilkins, in Pittsburgh, to Camp Kalorama outside Washington D. C., to Annapolis, to Hilton Head, SC, to Beaufort, SC, and finally to James Island, SC, where he was killed in action on June 16, 1862, at the Battle of Secessionville.

    The story of his Civil War experience has recently appeared in  A Scratch With the Rebels: A Pennsylvania Roundhead and a South Carolina Cavalier by Dr. Carolyn Poling Schriber.   Information about the book is available at:



Dear friends,

I take my pencil in hand to inform you that I am well at presant, and I hope that these few lines may still finde you engoying the same. I have not much to write to you, but here I send you a little paper that will give you some information. Tell the children that I think of them one and ol. And I would like to hear from them ol, and dear father in petickular I would like to hear from you.




Most dear and affectionate father,

I take my pencil in hand to inform you that I am well and harty, and that I received your vary affectionate letter of the 20th on the 2d, and it gave me a gradeal of pleasure to learn that you ware ol well. I received a vary pleasant anseer to the first letter that I rote that was riten by Eunice, Sarahjane, and Simon, which gave me a gradeal of pleasure And I rote one rite away and poot ol three of thare names on it, and I received no anseer. And then I rote a gain and sent a smal paper in it coled the Camp Ketel. And in a day or to after I sent a newspaper coled the National Republic and still received no anseer til now, and I was beginning to think thare was up some whare or other.

You wanted to know how things was with me. Thay ar ol rite, and it is vary pleasant weather here and has been so ever since we came here. We hafto sleep on the ground, but we have plenty of blankets to sleep on. We ar vary turnover comfortable. We have plenty of evrything to eat and plenty of clothes, to. I have got since I came here 1 pare of shoes and 2 pares of firstrate stockings and 2 shirts and a cap and a splendid pare of pants. We will get our coats soon. Thare is part of them here now but not a nuff for ol, and the cornel sade that he would not distribute them til he got a nuff for ol. And as for a blanket you need not send one, for I donte nead it. And if I did, it would bee of no youse for you to send one for I would never get it.

You need not fret about us, for we have a cornel that will not see us want for any thing that is in his power to get for us. And we have one of the best captains in the regiment that will not see us want for any thing that is in his power to get for us. He has gon home to recrute, and I expect he will bee round that way. And if he dos, I want you to give him my watch for me. I gave him a few lines to give you if he was down that way.

This is ol at presant, but I reman your affectionate sone,




Dear friends,

It is with the gratest of pleasure that I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well at presant, and I hope that these few lines may finde you ol engoying the same blessing. It is just noon, and I have just came in off dril, and my ies is full of sand as it is vary windy here to day and the sand is flying in every drection. This is ol that I donte like here. As for anything else, we get along vary well.

We ware payed off on Monday or Tuesday, and I donte recollect which, but it donte make any difference which. We got our money any how, and I sold my revolver, too. And I"ll tell you the reason why I dun so, and that is this. I could neither get powder nor caps for love nor money and it was a goodeal of bother to take care of it and keep it in order, olthough I would not have cared for that if I could have got ammunition. And I gist though that it would not pay to carry it, and I got a good chance to sel it, and so I let her rip. I got eighteen dollars for it, and I drawed thirty-six dollars and seventy-nine cents from Uncle Sam. And I sent forty-five dollars of it to Mister George Henderson of Newcastle by Adamses Express, and I want you, Father, to lift it for me. Thare will bee some litle frate or postage to pay on it, and I supose that Mister Henderson will haf to have something for his troubel, too. However, you can ficks that, and then gist take anuff out of the pile to pay ol expenses and you for your trouble, to. And then take care of the balence for me til I come home, or if you need it, gist make use of it, and if I should never get back again, it will ol bee rite. And if I ever get home again, I will exspet to get it again. It is ol in United States tresury notes, and that is sade to fetch the golde any whare in the union states. And if you donte need to lay it out, you can go to some bank and draw the golde for it and lay it away or dispose of it as you think best.

We are caveing in to the work prety strong at presant, makeing intrenchments. We ar going to make regular fortress here—one that ol the rebles in the United States or in any other state and part of Butler County can [not] drive us out of. And then when we get this dun, we exspect to have easy times and plenty of fun.

We ol get along together just like brothers and would fite to our neas in blud for one another. Our regiment is noted for its behaveure and good conduct whare ever it goes. And thare is yet room for any who wish to show them selvs to bee men to goin our regiment. And our company is not yet qwite full, and it would please me vary much if some of the boys around home thare would once in thare lives show selves to bee a man or a mouse or a longtaled rat and come and goin our company. But I am a fraid that they will ol turn out longtaled rats and stay at home as usual. Preacher Brown is gowing to start home this evening to recrute for our regiment. And if thare is any one that feeles inclined to come, [he] will bee fetched thrue with out it costing them a sent and without beeing in danger of foled off into any other regiment. And any young fellow that can come and is to big a cowerd surely showes his as without takeing down his trouser. This is ol the consolation that the cowerds can get from me.

This is ol at presant on this subject, and I am geting tired writing, and my time is about to come to a close, so good by for the presant, but remain your afectionate friend til death. Give my best respects to ol inqwiring neighbors and friends, and tel Con Fisher that I would like to hear from him and give him the adres.




Dear parent and brothers and sisters one and ol,

I take my pen in hand once more to let you know that I am yet on the land liveing and in good health, and I do hope that these few scribled lines may finde you ol engoying the same blesing. I have began to think the time long to hear from you ol. I have not heard from any of you for the last month, but the reason of it is, I supose, is because the ship that saled from New York some time agow with a male went down at sea. At any rate she has not been heard of.

It is geting prety warm down here. The darkeys is makeing garden here, and the flowers, gardens, and peach trees is in full bloom. I have nothing of importance to rite to you at presant--only that we hear acounts evry day or to of rebles being whiped out and taken prisners by thousand, and this is joyful news for us. Beaufort has become prety well setled up with darkeys and merchants. Thare must be five or six stores in it now, and we can get any thing we want, but the prise is vary hie. Stinken buter is only fifty cents a pound, and toby cigars five cents a peace, and other things in proportion. That is the way a solder's money goes--pop goes the weasel. You nead not send me any more stamps or paper, for I can get plenty of them here now.

Or men is ol fat and harty, and ol sends thare best respects to you ol. This is ol at presant but remain your dutiful son until death, James McCaskey

P.S. Please done forget to write soone and let me know how you ar ol getting along.



Dear Brother,

I seat my self down for the presant to inform you that I received your vary welcome leter of the 18 of March yesterday evening. I am not vary well at presant. I have a vary bad cold, but I am excused from duty at presant and am on the mend. I am a litle nervous and cant write vary well, so you will have to excuse a few scribled lines for the presant.

I was vary sorry to hear that grand mother met with such an accident, though I hope that she will get well again. And another thing makes me feel vary bad is that you have such friendly neighbours so close. I dident think it would ever come to that--that my nearest and dearest friends would ever give them selvs up to such work as that. I use to think that I would like to go home to sea you ol, but sense it has come to this, I donte think it would bee a vary plesant trip or site to sea one's friends in such a plight in times of war. However, this is anuff of this for the presant.

We ar ol geting along vary well at presant and evry day or to hearing of victories gained buy our armies evry whare. And we ar exspection evry day to have a scratch with the rebles our selvs. The rebles ar firing on our pickets evry day or to, and we ante going to stand that kinde of work vary long til we will gow over and setle up with them.

It is geting vary warm down here, and the darkeys have been planting corn and potatoes here for the last month. And thare is such reports that the war will soon be over. And I donte think that it can last vary much longer my self, for I rather think that the rebles is geting in rather close quarters to thrive vary well at presant. Tel father that I would like to hear from him once more, and please write soon your self again.




Dear father and mother,

I seat myself to inform you that I am well at presant, and I hope that these few scribled lines and miz spelt words may finde you engoying the same blesing. I have not heard from either of you for some time, so I thought that I would gist set down and write to you, and then mabe you would write to me.

I have nothing of any grate importance to write to you at presant. Only we heard that the Mississippi River was clear and clean red out from one end to the other, and New Orleans is ours. And I hope before vary long that the hole thing will be ours, and that the war will soon bee over. And we will return home out of this cursed soil of South Carolina, and once more bee free from Uncle Sam, or rather from some of his offisers hoo rather thinks that thay ar Uncle Sam them selvs. This is one grate fault that corupts our army to a grate extent, and that ante ol of it. It olways will bee the case while the world stans.

It is geting prety warm down here at the presant time. I supose that it is as warm here now as it generally gets in the north whare you live. And dear knows how much warmer it will get here yet before the solders will leave here.

I would like to hear from you both vary much at the presant time, and know how you are geting along and what kinde of times thare is in that part of the land under the presant surcemstances of affares. This is ol at presant. Father, please write soon and let me know how you ar geting along.

From James McCaskey
Good by for the presant.
This eight Mishigan regiment is one of our brigade.







Dear Sir:

Gen. Benham appointed the morning of the 16th as the time for our forces to move on "Tower Fort" near "Sesesha" Ville, which is in sight of Sumpter, and about 2 miles from the City of Charlestown.

We left Camp at 1 A.M. and at daylight marched up to the Fort under a galling fire of Grape, Cannister, Shot, and Shell. I was in Command of our Company. Men were falling on every side. Whilst near the Ft. a Shower of Grape came in our ranks, one of which struck your Son, James, and we think tore off one of his legs, near the body. He fell! This is the last we saw of him. The "Liter-bearers" of Gen. Wright's Div. must, I think, have carried him off the Field.

I have searched and searched for him but in vain. We all feel confident that he is dead. Jacob Leary fell at the same time and is also missing. James was a noble young man and a brave soldier—was beloved by all his associates. He was like a brother to me, and I lament his loss. You have my sympathy and prayers in your deep affliction.

The loss in our Co. was 4 killed and 71 wounded. We fought with great disadvantages and in consequence lost heavily.

If it can possibly be done I will send his Knap-Sack and traps home to you, as I have no doubt you would like to possess them. His Watch and what Money he had, were on his person.
If any further intelligence of his fate can be had, I will inform you in due time.

Yours truly,
Lieut. Philo S. Morton




John P. Wilson mustered into Company C, 100th PA, on Aug. 31, 1861 as a private. He was promoted to Corporal, May 12, 1862. He wrote the letter included here to his sister, who passed it on to the family of James McCaskey. John was promoted to Sergeant and discharged March 20, 1865.

Dear Sister,

I embrace this opportunity to let you know that we are al well at present except Jim McCaskey and Hugh Wilson that you knowed. We had a big fight on the 16th of June. We attacked a fort close to Fort Sumpter. We had about 5000 men, and we had about 1000 killed, wounded and missing. Among the wounded was Hugh Wilson, but they think he will get well. He had one of his eyes shot out by a musket ball. Jim McCaskey and Jacob Leary fell dangerously wounded close to the fort, and we did not get the fort, and we could not find them, and we dont know whether they are dead or if the rebels have them. They have some of our men and we have some of thers.

We run up close to the fort, and the rebels were raining showers of grape, cannister, chains, and musketballs, but I did not care for them a bit more than if it had been a shower of rain. Henry Guy has 3 holes through his blouse, but he is not hurt. There was one ball struck my bayonet. I was the only one standing for several rods around for a while. The rest laid down to avoid the grape, but I wanted to see where it was coming from. Several that laid down never got up again, but there was not one of the balls touched me. We could not get in the fort when we got to it. We stayed for over an houer and then we got the order to retreat. And I know you never saw a lot of men walk so slow, and every little bit they would stop and look back. I did not hear the order to retreat, and I did not go back until the Colonel told me to fall back to the regiment. And when I looked around I could not see only about 20 of our regiment. And I walked 3 times along in front of the fort, but the rebels did not hit me, but balls was flying as thick as hail.

But I exspect you will have read all about the fight in the papers before you get this. And I think we will have the fort and maybe Charleston soon. We have the batteries pretty near finished that will knocke the fort clean off the ground.

General Benham is under Arest for taking the men in the way he did. General Wright is in command now. But I must close for this time, so good bye, Elli. I will write soon.

To E. A. W.
—J. P. W.
You must not be uneasy about us, for we want to try it again soon.
J. P. W.


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