Court Martial

Ten days after Charles H. Swartout wrote to Cock, another member of Company F of the 8th Michigan wrote to him. Lieutenant John D. Sumner provides Cock with news about the Company. He raises the same issue about the disagreement between Swartout and Walbridge that Swartout had mentioned. He, too, neglects to give any details but reports that Walbridge was also exonerated of the complaints by a court martial and restored to command of Company F.

The letter mostly describes the difficult circumstances under which the 8th Michigan has had to operate. Inadequate shelter and clothing have made their lives miserable until recently. In late October, Sumner reports that the days are still warm but the nights quite chilly.

Sumner also provides information on various soldiers that he and Cock know as well as the units to which they are assigned. He extends his best wishes for Cock’s continued recovery but recognizes that he will likely never be able to return to active duty. Interestingly, he does not mention that he, too, had been wounded at the Battle of Secessionville although obviously not as severely as Cock.

Sumner returned to Kalamazoo after the war. For a time he was an Assistant secretary to the Michigan State Senate and later an Assistant Postmaster in Kalamazoo.

[It should be noted that most of this letter is missing. Fortunately, years before the family donated it to the Museum, they typed it out so we at least have a record of the contents of the letter.]


Camp “Israel”  Pleasant Valley, Md.
Oct. 24th 1862             


Friend Charles

            Your much letter of the 14th was received tonight and I now hasten to answer as I now have time.   I am very glad to hear that you are getting along so well; but I think that you will never enter the army again, and if you should remember “the Old Eighth”  When People think of being scared about being drafted, without knowing in reality what they will have to endure, that it would be good for them to try a little of the reality; and let me say that although we thought we were having pretty hard times in S. C. that we never knew what it was too soldier in the full extent of the circumstances of war:  we did have pretty serious times upon James Island for a few days   but when soldiers have seen no tents since leaving “Fredericksburg” Aug 13th and have slept, rain or no rain, with only a simple Oil- blanket besides your clothes that you have on, to sleep upon and to put over you, then a man can begin to think it is pretty hard work. such was our experience through Va.  upon coming into Md. we received the shelter tent, which is of no great protection in a hard rain storm; that was all the men had untill within a few days, we have by going through all the forms of “RedTape been enabled to get the men supplied with clothing, overcoats & blankets. 

Soldiers made due with whatever they had to keep covered at night.

            General Burnside commands the 2nd, 9th, & 12th, Army Corps Genl. Wilcox of Mich. commands the 9th Army Corps:  Col. Fentore commands the 1st Division 9th Army Corps.  Col. Withington (of the 17th Mich) commands the 1st brigade 1st Division 9th Army Corps which is composed of the 79th & 46th N. Y. & the 17th & 8th Mich. and in the above order in line.  About the changes in the Officers of our Regt.  Col. Graves has resigned Capt. Pratt promoted to be Lt. Col 23d __cn., Capt. Ely is our Major (vice Watson resigned), Lieuts. Buchanan, Cotrell, Belcher, Newall, & Fuller have been promoted to Captaincies. 2nd Lieuts Chandler, Bates, Moore, Bermer, Chapman & Maram have been promoted to 1st Lieutenancies, Leut. C.H. McCrery (Late from Mich) has been appointed Adjt. (vice [Br]inscoe assigned to be 1st Lieut Co E, (vice Brown deceased) 1st Sergts. Breeman, Sumner, Campbell & Greene to be Second Lieutenants.  Baker assigned to Co. D. Hovey (a new Lt. from Mich.) assigned to Co. B. Lieut Donahue has joined the regiment, but not being yet able to bear the hard sharps is detailed upon recruiting service.  

I have been in command of Co. F. for the past month untill lest this morning.  Capt. Walbridge having being under an arrest, but is-honerable acquitted from the charges that have been put in against him, by Sergt. Swartout  Corpls. Snyder & Greenfield, on account of their having been reduced to ranks together with Wolf & Price, they have been restored to their positions but wheter they will retain their positions I do not know.  I have said thus much about the above differences and I think that sufficient I might say a good many things, and even write page after page in regard to the affair but I think I had better keep mum

            Lieut. Bates has been in command of Co. K for ___ a long time, but is at pretty unwill and there is some talk about his resigning, but I do not believe anything about it yet.  Sergt. Mead has been back to the Regt. but was unfit for duty and has been in hospital since.  Egar A. Nye is Orderly Sergeant also A. J. Newton; [P]erry, [B]urdick, McKenzie, [R]unyan & J Smith have been made corporals to fill vacancies.  we are having very strict about marching now, and perhaps we shall moove soon.  We are encamped upon the farm of Dr. Butler, a seceshi,  he had a son killed at South Mountain and you can judge how some of his things suffer if the boy’s get a chance; only a few nights ago he had considerable ble___hey taken, by whom, is to find out.  It is quite warm here during the day but cold nights,  we have had several hard frosts.  Charlie we are not upon the Advance Posts upon Port Royal Island  doing Picket duty at the Brick Yard, nor perhaps will we ever be again:  I am not in Mich yet but I think that I shall be sometime.  I am to hear that the girls are all right as you say (for I know nothing about them only as you boys tell me.)  Of the 17th Mich you are informed,  I have seen many old friends some from Augusta  [Mccoy] of Augusta was killed  Morton wounded and I think gone home with Elder Jones, & I do not know but what Pool went home, he was in hosp (sick, if you see them give them my best respects especially Pool & Morton:  Morton was a tiger to fight and would like to hear from or about him:  Give my respects to his wife, and [M]ammiee has reason to be proud of such a husband.  Capt. Burrows is universally liked by his company.

            The 17th do not number any more men for duty now than we do.  The other two brigades of our Division are composed of three Regts. each among wich is the 20th Mich.  I hear that E. H. Nye is again to be disappointed by some other fair damsel taking to the wings of matrimony and flying away with some one that of course ought not to cause a soldier to be disappointed.  But you and I are not liable to be disappointed in that way because we are Civil Old Men

            Many men or our regiment have enlisted in the Regulars today, 6 from Co. F. have put down their names.

            Give my best Respect to Henry & Hattie Woodward and to all friends


                                                            From Your Friend as ever
J. D. Sumner

                                                                                    Lt. Co. F
8th Mich

Write Soon

P.S.   Bessmer, Barret & Cole have arrived at Annapolis and Cole has been discharged he was wounded four times:  Barret was wounded in the thigh & Bessmer in the arm J.D.S.

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