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Corporal Oscar Overman
Company B, 103rd Illinois Infantry

"The proclamation has caused a great deal of dissatisfaction among the troops of which myself I do not altogether believe in—but here we are and cannot leave when we please, unless we desert (I will say) that I will not!..." Oscar Overman May 6, 1863 LaGrange, Tennesseee


May 6, 1863

LaGrange, Tennesseee

Dear Friend—

I received your short epistle in due season and was truly glad to hear from you again. I am glad that you did not delay writing as I thought by my negligence you would feel indisposed to write an answer thereof, but am glad you did not feel so inclined. Your washing seems to cut your letter short (so to speak) for by your writing before you stated you could write, or in other words, you were in the mood for writing but seems you have changed your mind. But I will look over it this time.

Em, I like the way you speak (in some respects) on this war or rather those that have left without leave as for Kingsworth, [John Kingsworth, also in Overman’s Co. “B”, was discharged March 9, 1863, 60 days before this letter], I hardly know what to say, only that I could not see the cause of his leaving. You said you had been conversing with him about it and he felt he had not done what he considered wrong in leaving the way he did. I will say while he was here, he seemed the same, not much to say about the war either way—always still doing his duty seemingly cheerful and then disappearing as he did was enough to make a person think he did leave with a cause. You know he will always be considered as a deserter in the mind of the people. For my part, I think he or any other person that leaves could stand it to stay with the rest who have to bear the toils of a soldier’s life and the cause for which we are fighting. One is no better than another as far as that goes. As he said, it was true since we came into the Service, the policy of the war has been changed in some respects.

The proclamation has caused a great deal of dissatisfaction among the troops of which myself I do not altogether believe in—but here we are and cannot leave when we please, unless we desert (I will say) that I will not! Do you know until all the rest goes then I will follow behind. So you know a little of my opinion on this subject. As for Rist [Overman refers here to Jacob Rist who deserted on March 9, 1863], I have little to say. My opinion is with yours about him—of little service will he ever be anywhere (I will say). We will let this drop at present for it will benefit neither of us to any extent.

You spoke about being so lonely as you said there was but two girls in Hickory. Neither of those you spoke about lives in Hickory and besides, I think there are a few besides them living in that neighborhood. I am truly sorry to hear that you are without beaux. It is true they are but few it seems. They must have their minds settled upon some especial one. As to your alluding to Louise—I thank you. At the same time would be glad if you would give me a few details of how she is spending the time in truth. It is not very often I can hear from them. Yet once in a while I get a short note. Henry is well [Overman is referring to Henry Wadsworth, I believe, Emma’s brother] and looks the same as when he left home. I suppose you can see by his likeness which is in your possession. He is well and has been most of the time since he came down to Dixie.

You spoke about wanting our likenesses in both your letters. I would be glad to satisfy you—but at present we cannot. We are, to tell you the truth, at present we are without the means. But I think in a short time we will have them—then I promise you, I will be willing you should have them. The boys from around Hickory are well. C. P. Fisher [Overman is referring to C. B. Fisher] is doing very well, mending slowly of which I am glad to say. S. Hummel and John Henry and the rest are all well and doing very well. For myself, I am well only a cough which I have caused by being on a march—which the division we are in (five Regiments) was on the move for nine days down through Mississippi as far as the Talahachie River, then down two days march and across to the railroad striking it at a small town called Collierville, 20 miles from Memphis. All through this trip, we did not get to see the enemy. The length of the tramp is considered to be near two hundred miles, not much less.

I will hear say you knew that J. Prosser has been sick since the 1st, January. He came to camp April 21st, was examined by the Surgeon and told he could have his choice, a discharge or a furlough home. Still the doctor said he would never be fit for the service. [Overman is referring to Joseph Prosser who was discharged on May 2, 1863]. He said he would accept a discharge—had his papers made out, sent on, had them signed and received them the 2nd and started home this morning. Dick Foster’s son, [Overman refers here to Humphrey Foster who was discharged on May 4, 1863] of Company “D” got a discharge and they both started home this morning. I suppose by the time you get his they will be at home.

I received a letter from home a few days ago stating they were all well. Mary had been on an visit to Hickory a short time before. Said she had seen all the neighbors (mostly) among the rest. She spoke of seeing T. Pratt and the joke of it was they did not speak to each other while she was there. I was a little amused at her writing so, but was expecting to hear about their falling out. I will say when you write, let me know what he is doing if he is expecting to come down here or not. I am afraid he has all ready stayed back too long. Would he came when I did, he would be all right—but as I said, I am afraid he will be looked at as one that means more than he does or did.

The weather at present is very good. The days very warm and the nights cool enough to sleep with two blankets over us. One thing, if we stay here until fall, we will feast on peaches as the trees are all very full. At present, they are as large as Hazel nuts. There will also be apples in abundance, cherries and ever variety you could think of.

Now, Em, as I have written about all the news forthwith and have covered quite some paper, I will look for an answer in return. Give me all the particulars. How things are progressing around there. In fact, everything you can think of for anything is news to us. Every time the rail comes in, we are all anxious to know if there is not a letter for us.

For the present, I will close by saying that I still remain your friend as ever….O.C.

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Submitter: Sherri Cawley Notes:

In this letter, Corporal Overman writes to his good friend, Emma Wadsworth, about how much more he appreciates their friendship since he left home for the Army. Corporal Oscar Overman served until the end of the war. He enlisted on August 14, 1862, and mustered into Company B 103rd Illinois Infantry. He mustered out on June 21, 1865. This letter was written less than two months after he mustered out. As if the war wasn't enough, when he returned home to Illinois there was a serious outbreak of Typhoid. His family members were sick and dying.

Oscar Overman and his Regiment sailed on the steamer Rocket from Cairo for Columbus Kentucky, where the Regiment was again placed on cars and at night arrived at Bolivar, Tenn., having made the trip from Peoria, Illinois in 52 hours. The first year's service of the regiment was devoted to marching, guard duty, etc., in northern Mississippi and Tennessee but in November 1863, it participated in the battle of Missionary ridge. Eight companies of the regiment were in the engagement, mustering 237 men, and of this number 1 commissioned officer and 19 enlisted men were killed on the field, and 68 were wounded, 5 or 6 of whom died of their wounds. The regiment began its part of the Atlanta campaign at Resaca, where it lost 1 man killed and several wounded. Brian Brown, author of In the Footsteps of the Blue and Gray: A Civil War Research Handbook which can be purchased from ABE Books kindly sends the following information:

Oscar F. Overman, B, 103 Ill Inf.
enlisted 8/17/62 at Young Hickory Illinois
mustered in 10/2/62 at Peoria
Age 21, height 5-9; lt hair; blue eyes; fair complexion; single; farmer born Young Hickory, Illinois.
Resided at enlistment in Young Hickory Illinois (Fulton Co.) discharged 6/31/65 at Louisville Ky. with the final rank of corporal

In 1875(?) he applied for and received an invalid's pension, certificate #136651 In 1909, his widow Charity R. received pension certificate 676557. She was living in Kansas at the time.

On the 1860 Illinois census, Fulton County, Young Hickory, page 737:

Thomas Shreeves(?) 77 farmer born Maryland
Margaret Shreeves 47 born NC
Oscar Overman 18 born ILL
Mary Overman 15 born ILL
John Overman 12 born ILL
Tessa Overman 11 born ILL (This looks like Oscar's mother has been widowed and remarried)

In the 1870 census of Miami Co., Kansas, St. Marysville, page 531 I find:

Overman, Oscar 28 farmer ILL
Charity R. 26 OH
Charles 2 KS
Frederick 1/12 KS

Read the Overman Letters:

6 Jan 1863 on Steamer Rocket | 6 May 1863 | Dec 1863

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