Friday, December 11, 2009

Joseph Cooper Babb Civil War Letters, 1862-1863


Boone County Historical Society collection. Donated by Lawrence Hamilton Sapp Jr. and Sylvia Bland Guffin Noel. The letters have been transcribed as faithfully as possible, leaving original punctuation and spelling intact.



Gratiot Street Prison
Saturday 13 December 1862
Dear Father and Mother,
I intended to write to you before now, but did not get a good chance I was so unwell. I am now in the hospital with the measles. We are well cared for having clean bunks to lie on [and] plenty of covers. I have broken out for 8 days and am doing as well as could be expected. The measles are very dangerous here. I try to pray for myself often. . . I hope I may get to rest, I am to unwell to write further.

Your affectionate son,
Joseph
____________________


Gratiot Street Prison
Friday, Dec. 19, 186[2]

Dear Parents,
I received the letter you wrote to me from Centralia yesterday. Since I wrote to you last I have improved greatly. The measles have almost dried up and I have a good appetite and with the exception of a cough am doing pretty well. I think my cough is also improving and I hope to be well before a great while. We are as well fixed as we possibly could be and have kind nurses and a good doctor. You wished to know of me if I wanted anything. The money you sent will be more than I will use for some time to come. I was so unwell when I wrote before that I could not say much but I will try to write you something more today. I have passed through a great many dangers since I saw you but it has pleased the allmighty to deliver me out of them all and I try to thank him for it. He that can protect on the battlefield can protect also in the hospital. I trust entirely to him and hope before long to become a better boy. Don’t suffer any uneasiness about me dear parents remember who is my protector. Write to me as soon as you get this and let me know how you all are at home.
I still remain your affectionate son,
Jos. C. Babb
____________________


Gratiot Street Hospital, Dec. 31

Dear Parents,
I received your letter a day or so ago. I was very glad to hear that you received my letter. I feared that it had miscarried and you were suffering on my account. I was very unwell when I received it having taken a fever and afterward a pain in my side so that I feared I was taking the pneumonia. But the fever has subsided though the pain troubles me considerably yet. I cough very little now to what I did. I expect to try to get some No. 6 as I think it would help me. The Dr. has given me very little strong medicine. I have had very little appetite for some time but I think as my health returns my appetite will also. What I mostly fear is the smallpox although every precaution is taken to keep it from spreading. As soon as a man takes it he is immediately carried out of the city to the smallpox hospital. A number of men were brought down from Alton the other day 2 of which have taken the smallpox in this hospital. I trust alone in him who can protect and I do not forget him who has conferred so many mercies upon me. I hope this finds you all well. Write soon.

Your affectionate Son,
J. C. Babb
____________________


Gratiot Street Hospital
Jan. 10th, 1863

Dear Parents,
I received yours of the 26th of December and answered it in a day or so afterwards but failing to receive and answer I fear it has miscarried and you are uneasy about me so I have concluded to write again. I was very glad to hear you were all doing so well and were not going to move. I told you in my other letter that I had taken a slight relapse, and was for some time tolerably sick and had no appetite at all which made me very weak but now I have a very good appetite and am gaining strength fast. The doctor takes a great deal of care and is very kind to us. I should very much like to see you all very much but have little prospect for it now. I would like to have some clothing, as I lost all the clothing except what I had on. A pair of cotton shirts and a pair or so of drawers will do me. You can probably send them by Mr. Dever or some other trader or you could send them by express and if I am removed to Alton Mr. Dever could send them there by express. I do not know how [long] it will be before we are exchanged but this morning’s papers spoke about a general exchange. It is very likely you will see the papers. I have read a great deal in my testament since I have been sick and I hope it has done me good. I want you all to write to me as it does me a great deal of good to get a letter from home.
I still remain your affectionate son,
J. C. Babb
____________________


Gratiot Street Hospital
Jan the 19th ‘63.

Dear Parents,
I received your letter of the 15th yesterday. I was very glad to hear you were all well. As for me my health is still improving, but I was so weak that it will be some time before I am entirely well. I am now able to sit up a considerable portion of the time, and walk around the hospital considerably. Although we are so well treated it takes a person longer to get well where there are so many sick together. I would like very much to come home on any of the terms you spoke of that is to be paroled for a time, or to pledge myself not to take up arms any more during the war. It may be that I can get out on some such terms. I would be very glad to get to see you all once more. The clothing you mentioned I have not yet received but I suppose it will not be long before I get them. I did not lose my overcoat or any of my outside clothes, as I only lost my bundle. Ma desired me to read my testament, which I do a great deal, as I have read it through and commenced again, since I have become well enough. I have passed through a great many dangers of different kinds since I saw you, likely more than I passed through in my whole life before, but it has pleased the great protector to bring me safe thus far, and I will trust to him in days to come. I never liked to read the Bible so well before it all seems to be new and full of instruction. I believe I have said about all I have to say. I hope this will find you all well. I will try to write to you every week. Some of you to do the same whether our letters cross hand or not.

From your affectionate son,
J. C. Babb
____________________


Gratiot Street Hospital
January the 30th 1863

Dear Mother
I received your letter and the clothing you sent me yesterday, and also the cake which I liked very much. You regretted that they had not been sent sooner but it did not make any difference as I am not needing them at present. I should also have liked to have seen William if he could have gained admittance. You wished to know if I needed any money but do not at present as I still have the greater part of what your sent me. I am not quite so well as I have been, having taken cold, and also had a chill or two, but I now have the chill stopped, and am a great deal better. It will however be some time yet before I am thoroughly well. I have requested a sick parole but do not know whether I will obtain it or not. Some of the sick are paroled to the city were they can get board reasonable at private houses. If I were as sick as I have been I would rather be paroled to the city than to stay in the hospital. I have read my testament through again [and] have begun the Bible. It interests me a great deal and I hope has already benefitted me. The prisoners are preached to every Sunday and the Society’s tracts , and Messengers are often distributed among us, and they are eagerly read. I hope you are all not distressed about me, for if I can recover my health I will do very well as we have plenty of healthy food and good water. I am very thankful to you for all the trouble, and you take to [make] me comfortable, and hope I will be able to repay you some day.
Write soon,
Your affectionate Son,
J. C. Babb
____________________


Small Pox Hospitale St. Louis Mo, Feb. 26, 63

Dear Father and Mother,
I have just received your letter of the 24th [intr] and hasten to answer the same. I have had the Small Pox very bad but am getting better now and I hope it will not be long until I can return to St. Louis again which I will do as soon as I am able and tho I will let you know forthwith that you may get my release as quick as posible for I would like to get home once more if I can do so by taking the oath and giving bond. I have not forgot to put my trust in the Lord for he is the great physician of mankind and regard him in that light in every Sence and believe in his healing Powers and am Satisfied that he will do his work right. I will add no more present but remain your affectionate Son until death
J. C. Babb

(written in a different hand) Died Feb 28-1863
____________________


April 4th 63

Mr. R. F. Babb
Dear sir. By request of J. L. Newnam I take the liberty this morning of writing you a few lines in regard to the death of your son Joseph. I was at the hospital myself when Joe died although I did not see him. I received a letter from Newnam just a few minutes before I left the Island requesting me to get Joes Bible for you. I went to Jesse Kenetzer who was Jos nurse and who belonged to the same Co. that me and Joe did, he told me that he did not know what had become of the Bible. It had got lost by some means. he also told me that he saw Joe give the Stewart of the hospital it just a few days before he died. as to Joes being prepared for his death I haven’t the least dout myself as Joe was always a very good boy. Kenetzer says the night preceding his death he was awakened from his sleep by the prayers of Joseph. he went to him & asked him if he wanted anything he said not but he wanted him to tell his father and mother that he was willing to die. As Mr. Newnam has gone on the exchange he requested me to write you this letter which I know would be a great satisfaction to you to know about the death of one I loved almost like a brother. nothing more but remain yours.
Martin C. Flynt
____________________

Online images of these moving letters can be seen at:
http://cdm.sos.mo.gov/cdm4/browse.php?CISOROOT=%2Fbchscivwar

Commentary by John Barnhill, 2000

According to Sylvia Noel’s history of the Babb family, in 1856 Joseph Cooper Babb (1844-1863) moved from Laurens County, S.C., with his family. His father, the Rev. Robert Franklin Babb (1816-1898) and his mother, Virginia Attaline Cooper (1822-1910), brought Joseph, his four brothers, his sister, and six slaves to Boone County. Robert Franklin was a Baptist minister. He and the family also lived on 6th Street in Columbia in the house (now the site of the Missouri State Teachers Association) which was the first home of Columbia College/the University of Missouri.

Joseph Cooper was a student at the University of Missouri when he joined Captain Young Purcell’s company. Babb may have participated in Purcell’s raid that freed three prisoners in the Boone County jail in the summer of 1862. He is thought to have been at the Battle of Moore’s Mill in Callaway County on July 28. This battle produced six dead and twenty-one wounded Confederates and thirteen dead and fifty-five wounded Union soldiers. One of Babb’s sketches is believed to be of this battle, but there’s no proof.

When the Missouri Confederates withdrew toward Arkansas, Purcell went along. Babb was captured in Miller County, MO, in November. After a stay in Jefferson City, he was moved to Gratiot Street Prison in St. Louis, then to the smallpox hospital on Johnston’s Island. He died of smallpox in 1863 on Johnston Island, where he was buried in a mass grave.

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