Civil War Letters - from Lt. Silvester Colborn
Somerset County, PAGenWeb



I have always been fascinated by my discovery that I had two distant relatives who taught school together, and then later enlisted in the Civil War. The obituary of Frederick Grof states that Silvester Colborn and Frederick Grof were teachers together in Berlin, Pa. when they enlisted in the 54th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers. Silvester was a half-brother of my maternal Great Grandfather, James B. “Pap” Colborn. Frederick Groff was a brother of my paternal great grandfather, George G. Groff . Silvester was a grandchild of Robert Colborn, one of the original "Jersey" Settlers in Lower Turkeyfoot Township

Silvester was a 2nd Lieutenant and was killed in the battle of New Market, Virginia. Frederick was a Private and was in Company B when they were captured at Paw Paw, Va. and then taken to Libby Prison in Richmond, Va. The group was imprisoned only 3 months before being paroled and exchanged back to the Union Army. The two men were both in Company B, but I found no record that Sylvester was captured as well. Frederick is not listed on the mustering out rolls of the regiment, but his obituary states he mustered out as a Sergeant.

The first major placement of the 54th Regiment was in Virginia, now West Virginia, guarding the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Company B was stationed at Paw Paw, Virginia where they were captured.

The 54th Regiment subsequently joined Gen. Sigel in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign. One major battle took place at New Market, Va. where the 54th suffered major losses. In a report by the Regimental Commander, Jacob Cambell, he stated, quote:

"Lieutenant Colborn, of Company B, fell just as the command commenced to fall back. He was brought to a house in the rear of our line, but finally fell into the hands of the enemy in a dying condition. He succumbed to his injuries the second night after being wounded."

Silvester wrote two letters to his father while in the army. These two original letters, including a mailing envelope, were saved by my aunt, Bess Stahl, who lived in Stoystown. Unfortunately they could never be found after her passing. I have copies made earlier by a very poor copier. Portions of the copies are impossible to read and left to interpretation. The two letters are rewritten as best possible below, and digitals of the original bad copies are included at the end of each transcribed letter.


Paw Paw, Va.
Monday June 23rd 1862

Dear Father,

Every Saturday I expect a letter from home but am usually disappointed. I have received but one letter from home that was written to me since we came on the rail road, so you are ---------- for I presume but one has been written. Eight or ten days ago it was expected that we would leave the road very soon. But we are here yet we no better prospect of leaving soon. Than there was two months ago. There is but little here to relieve the monotony of camp life. Guard, drill, eat, and sleep constitute our daily duty and all days are so much alike, that one is often at a loss to tell the day of the week or month. A great many deserters come in from Jackson’s army. There are four here now, to be sent to Head Quarters. They take the oath of allegiance and are released. I was at Sir John’s Run Saturday. I rode up on the cars with Mr John Walker of Addison who was returning from Tredwell’s Company on a release from the Service. He informed me of the death Aaron Hyatt and Harrison Mountain, which was news to me. G W Colborn was not in the fight at Fair Oakes and of course, was not wounded, as reported. James Nicklow and Ross Sterner were but very slightly wounded. Their wounds didn’t stop them from performing rail duty. Youngkin and McClintock were severely wounded, one in the breast, the other in the hip. Robinson Elder was not in the fight. Walker says he went home, but he knew nothing of his death. Several of the Company are in the hospital at Newport News. Among the number are George W Colborn and Evans Rush.

We haven’t had-------------------------here. The Potomac is low and is warm enough to swim. The cherries are ripe and the berries too. Several Ba—is Coff-----nale male and female were here last week. A. J. Colborn will be down in a week ---------------------------bring Jane with him, I believe. No more now.

Note: The last paragraph is almost impossible to read due to smudging by a limited copying machine

Click on the following images for an enlarged view.

Letter-One (1st page) Letter One (2nd page)
Letter-One (1st page)
Letter-One (2nd page)


In the Field
Near Winchester, Va.
May 8th, 1864

Dear Father,

I have not had a letter from home for a long time. But I hear you are sick. I hope you are not as bad as I heard. We have been here just a week and have spent the time busily drilling and preparing to meet the enemy. Sigel has been busy drilling the different brigades. We march tomorrow morning. I don’t know where but perhaps on up the valley. I will not state the strength of our army because I don’t know, and second because the Rebels have a fashion of capturing our mail and should this fall into their hands I don’t want to give them any information that would be valuable to them. So I will not give my guess as to the number of troops here. We all have confidence in Sigel. He will fight and fight hard if opportunity presents. Our baggage and clothing is restricted to just what is absolutely necessary. But two wagons are allowed to have the baggage of the whole regiment, officers and all. We used to -----------------------------------. My health and spirits are most excellent. The health of our regiment never was so good. The ground we bivouac on has been fought over several times. Not far from here is the famous stone wall that Shields and Jackson fought over which gave the latter the soubriquet of “old stonewall.” The weather is very warm. The apple trees in full bloom. No more now. Please write soon if you are well enough. If not, get someone to write.

Yours affectionately
Silvester Colborn
Co. B, 54th Pa. Vols
2nd Brigade, 9th Division
Army of West Va.

Click on the following images for an enlarged view.

Letter Two - Env. Letter Two (page 1) Letter Two (page 2) Letter Two (page 3)
Letter Two (page 1)
Letter Two (page 2)
Letter Two (page 3)

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