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William Thomas Low July 1, 1863 Civil War letter to James Low III


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July 1st, 1863 letter from

William Thomas9 Low to his father, James8 Low III

of Newburg, Pike County, Illinois,

written from the Civil War battlefield

at Vicksburg, Mississippi.

The letter was found in the trunk of James8 Low III and transcribed Dec 1997 by Bingham James Forrest12 Lowe of Phoenix, Arizona, great-great grandson of James8 Low III, great-grandson of Bingham James9 Low (brother of William Thomas9 Low).

10th generation: Frank, Forrest, Lenna, Arthur, Edward, Paul, Leland, Charles Doss, Pearl, Henry, James, George

Bingham James9 Low(e)   Aug 27, 1853 - Feb 10, 1923           (wife: Mary D. Culver)                    of Pittsfield, IL

James8 Low III                  Apr 27-1816 - Sep 2, 1889               (wife: Margaret Huston Montgomery) of Clinton & Brighton, ME / Pittsfield, IL

James7 Low Jr                   1796 - Mar 20, 1824                        (wife: Mary Wyman)                       of Clinton, ME (fought in War of 1812)

James6 Low Sr                   Jul 17, 1770 - bef 1830                    (wife: Elizabeth "Betsy" Chase)      of Boxford, MA / Clinton, Maine

Nathan5 Low                     Oct 1, 1742 - Jul 24, 1804                (wife: Lucy Lord)                            of Ipswich & Boxford, Massachusetts

Caleb4 Low                        1707 - Jul 17, 1777                          (wife: Abigail Varney)                     of Ipswich, Massachusetts

David3 Low                       Aug 14, 1667 - Jun 2, 1746              (wife: Mary Lamb)                          of Ipswich, Massachusetts

Thomas2 Low                    May 8, 1631 - Apr 12, 1712             (wife: Martha Boreman)    of Groton & Boxford, Suffolk, England / Ipswich, MA

Thomas1 Low                    1605 - Sep 8, 1677                           (wife: Margaret Todd)       of Groton & Boxford, Suffolk, England / Ipswich, MA

Giles0 Low          unknown (Wife: Syseley Wall, marr 3/5/1601/02)     of Brancepeth, Durham, England; Groton & Boxford, Suffolk, England


William Thomas9 Low [James8-6, Nathan5, Caleb4, David3, Thomas2-1], the second child of James8 Low III and Margaret (Huston) was born in Newburg Township, Pike County, IL. His father recorded the date of William9's birth in his journal: April 24, 1846. 

 During the early childhood of William Thomas9, he worked on his father's farm. His father mentions him often in his harvest journals. There are also, probably, photographs of William9 in his father's photo collection. Unfortunately, many of James8Low III's photographs were not labeled, so we cannot say with any certainty which photo is of William9.

Both William9 and his brother, James "Nim"9, must have felt great excitement at the start of the Civil War. The law of Illinois required each of her sons to "provide himself with a good musket, fusee or rifle, with proper accouterments"; the officers to be armed "with a sword and pair of pistols..." It declared, moreover, that any one who, when called for, refused to serve, either personally or through a substitute, should be treated as a deserter. From the conscientious objector, the law demanded one dollar and fifty cents a year, in lieu of service. Thus, in theory, every able-bodied citizen of Illinois was a soldier.


William Thomas9 Low "joined for duty and enrolled" as a soldier for the Union Army at Pittsfield, IL on August 9, 1862 for a period of 3 years. It is very likely, since he enlisted at Florence, Illinois and not Pittsfield, that he had run away from home. He enlisted as a private in Co. G of the 99th Regiment of the Illinois Infantry and was mustered out Aug 23, 1862 by D. H. Rathbone at Florence, Illinois. William had lied about his age in order to enter military service, claiming to be 18 years old, though, in August of 1862, he was only 15½.

William T.9's war record shows his status at various periods of his enlistment:

            August 23rd to 31st, 1862                   Present

            September & October 1862                Present

            November & December 1862            Not Stated (present or absent)

            January & February 1863                   Present

His service record shows that he was "Left sick at Willikens Bend [Missouri]" in March & April of 1863.

            April 10, 1863                                    Present

            May & June, 1863                              Present

            July & Aug, 1863                               Died Vicksburg, Miss Aug 12, 1863 No muster out roll. Original Co. G.

William Thomas9 had a tragically short life. He died at a Civil War front at Vicksburg, Mississippi on August 12, 1863.

Found among the papers of William Thomas9 Low’s cousin, Joseph Francis9 Low (William8, James7-6, Nathan5, Caleb4, David3, Thomas2-1) were several military pay records that pertained to William Thomas9. This undoubtedly means that Joseph Francis9was in contact with his cousin during the Civil War and may even have been the family member who received William Thomas9' personal effects after his death and brought them back to Pike County, Illinois.

Found among the papers of James8 Low III was this letter from his son, written just over a month before his death:


July the 1st A.D. 1863

Camp near Vixsburg Mississippi

Dear Father and Mother and Brothers and sisters I have neglected to write to you for some time. but you must not think hard of me for not writing for I have been sick for two months and I did not like to write till I got well for I knowed it would trouble your minds to hear that I was sick I got your letter that you wrote after uncle Thomas died and it found me laying thinking of home you may know it is lonsome to me when I am sick to not have Mother to wait on me, well father I must tell you at little about what they are doing now [End of first page]

W.T. L. To father mother sister brothers ole1.gif

there was A volly of musketry just fired from the rebs and I just wished you could of seen ours get hurrying to get one guns I went up in the riffle fit and shot once the boys is sharpshooting now. we alow to commence bombarding them the third and keep it up till the fourth is gone I don't think they can starve much longer now the captain got a letter from you last night and he answered it this morning. I went and got my likeness for you I would like to get all of yours. I let the Capt have $40 to escpress for me I will send all I can spare let me know if you think that I send enough home write soon I will write in A few days this from your son W. T. Low


Vicksburg surrendered on July 4, 1863. William T. Low's words of July 1st, 1863 were prophetic. In mid-May of 1863, U. S. Grant tried to assault the heights of Vicksburg, Mississippi, but after suffering severe losses, he changed tactics. As Grant himself wrote: 'I determined upon a regular siege … With the navy holding the river, the investment of Vicksburg was complete … The enemy was limited in supplies of food, men and munitions of war … These could not last.' [Davis, 1996, 288] By late June of 1863, the citizens and defenders of Vicksburg were growing desperate. Soldiers whose daily rations had been cut to one small biscuit and a piece of bacon threatened mutiny. In order to escape the relentless shelling from the Union guns, the starving people of Vicksburg had taken to living in caves dug into the ground. After forty days of siege, negotiations between Grant and the defenders of Vicksburg began. When Grant allowed conditions, one of which was to 'parole' the soldiers of Vicksburg. letting them go with a pledge not to fight anymore, Vicksburg finally surrendered on July 4, 1863. [Davis, 1996, 309-310]

The money that William9 mentions sending home was to be used to purchase land for him so that he would have his own farm when the war was over. James8 recorded his receipt of such money as it arrived footnoteicon.gif :

            1862, Sept 20  Credit-$10.00 Rec'd of William T.9 Low from the hand of Wils

            1862, Oct 7     Credit-$10.00 Rec'd of William T.9 Low by express of Tolcot

            1863, Mar 10  Credit-$30.00 Rec'd of William T.9 Low by express of Ross

            1863, July 23  Credit-$40.00 Rec'd of William T.9 Low by the hand of R.B.H.

            1863, Aug 18  Credit-$10.00 Rec'd of William T.9 Low by the hand of J.G. Hogan

            1863, Aug 24  Credit-$11.75 Rec'd of William T.9 Low by the hand of H.D. Hull

We do not know where William Thomas9 Low was buried. Though highly doubtful, his body may have been sent back to Pike County, Illinois for burial in the Low Family cemetery in Newburg. It is more likely, however, that he occupies one of the hundreds of unmarked military graves at Vicksburg. Regardless, William Thomas9 Low died a tragic and pointless early death and he deserves to be remembered by all of us.

Oddly, William is not listed among the Union Civil War dead although ample documentation exists of his service, including battlefield pay stubs. It would be a worthy project for someone in our family to pursue the correction of this oversight.


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© 1999 by Bingham James Forrest Lowe [g.g.grandson of James Low(e)]

Email: Bingham J F Lowe @ Lowe Family Descendants.com

        (copy address and remove the spaces to send an email)

November 17th, 2005 marks the 369th anniversary of the Low(e) Family in America.