George Washington Williams Papers

George Washington Williams was originally part of Captain Kinsloe’s Co. Black Hawk Cavalry which organized in Oquawka, Illinois, which was a 90 day regiment and re-enlisted on November 28, 1862, and was mustered in the same day into Company D of the 7th Missouri Cavalry at Compton, Missouri. What is interesting to note is that there was another George W. Williams in the 7th Missouri Cavalry in Company K, who deserted and had a very dishonorable military career.

The contents of George Washington Williams letters are representative of letters written by most soldiers. While he mentioned the battles and skirmishes he participated in, his main concern was providing support for his wife and children back in Illinois. Williams worked as a nurse in hospitals throughout Arkansas.1 Soldiers were scheduled to be paid every two months in the field, but they were fortunate if they received their pay at four-month intervals (in the Union Army) and authentic instances are recorded where they went six and eight months without pay.2 Payment in the Confederate Army was even slower and less regular.

I am sorrey that I had no more to send there is talk of our Geting our pay betwene the 10. and 15. and I hope We Will for I want some verey bad and I Want to send you some for I you kneed some buy this time things are a very hy here it takes a good deal of money to buy avery litle
-George Washington Williams Letter – June 10, 1862

As difficult as it was for the men to receive their pay while on duty, it was just as risky an endeavor to try and send any of the money back home to their families.

Why I right a Gain so soon is this last freday I started my money home thirty eight dolars’ and on saturday evening the news Came that the mail was robd and I Was in quite a pickle for fear they had got my money but they did not rob the mail
-George Washington Williams Letter – June 10, 1862

Although Williams primarily wrote to his wife Jane, he also took the time to write to his son, Oscar as well. Williams encouraged him to be good for his mother and to keep working hard at school. Oscar had expressed interest in wanting to become a solider like his father, but Williams explained that while it may appear to be an adventurous lifestyle, being in the military was very challenging and dangerous.

You rote you Would like to be a soldier it may a peer to you to bee fun but I Can tell you there is sompthing more than fun a bout soldiering for if you had seen me some others soldiers runing fore life and a bout twenty rebbles behind urs shooting at urs every Jump you wouldent bee quite so ancious to bee a soldier Still I like to see you patriotic
-George Washington Williams Letter- March 19, 1864

Williams wanted to go home and visit his family, but he knew that it was an unrealistic aspiration since it was a tedious and complicated process for a soldier to get a furlough.

I have been Wanting to Cum home and see you all for a long time but it is a hard matter to Get a furlo to Go home a man buy the name of Duffey Got a telegraph dispatch that his Wife Was not expected to live and for him to Come to see hur before she died and he Couldent get a furlough but the Curnel gave him a leave of absence for 10 days and When they do Give a furlough they Wont give a pass a man has to pay his own Wey and that Costs so much for I Would hav to go from here to Cansas [Kansas] City in the stage and take a boat from there to st jo [St. Joseph, Missouri] and then take the Cars from there home and that would Cost 25. or 30. dolars and in that Case noing our need of money I dont think it Would bee advisable for me to Cum home now unles sumpthing should hapen to sum of you
George Washington Williams Letter – June 4, 1862

The 7th Missouri Calvary, Company D, conducted operations around Sibley, Missouri and Pink Hill, Missouri, from June 28 until July 1, 1862. They continued in the pursuit of Gen. Sterling Price during September 11-14, 1862, and then moved near Little Rock, Arkansas, on September 11, 1863.3 Williams was optimistic that the Union would win the war stating, “Corinth [Mississippi] is in the hands of our men it has been evacuated and the stares and stripes Will soon flote over richman va [Richmond, Virginia] and Clabe [Claiborne F. Jackson] jackson Will soon Caught if he is not Carful.”4 Williams was involved in the Battle of Mark’s Mills, Arkansas, on April 25, 1864, in which he said the Federals “got baddley whipt.”5 Williams survived the battle at Mark’s Mills, but he never had the opportunity to be reunited with his family. George Washington Williams died November 25, 1864, at Pine Bluff, Arkansas due to chronic diarrhea.

To Mrs [Jane] Williams
Respected Madam It is with – Painfull feelings that I take My Pen in hand to Transmit to you the Sad Information that your husband has Departed this Life. He Died on the 25th Day of November 1864 and was Intered on the 25th at Pine Bluf Arkansas His Money and Every thing due him will be sent to you as soon as Conveneant.
-John Wild – December 2, 1864

Contributed by the Pearce Civil War Collection, Navarro College

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  1. Hospital Muster Roll, George W. Williams, Company D of the 7th Missouri Cavalry, May to June 1862, Independence, Missouri.
  2. Mark M. Boatner, “Soldier’s Pay in the Civil War” in The Civil War Dictionary,
  3. Frederick H. Dyer, A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, V.III, c1908, p.1307-1308,
  4. George W. Williams Letter to Jane Williams. Jun. 4, 1862. Williams (George Washington) Papers, 1862-1864. 2006.024, Pearce Civil War Collection, Navarro College, Corsicana, Texas.
  5. George W. Williams Letter to Jane Williams. Apr. 26, 1864. Williams (George Washington) Papers, 1862-1864. 2006.024, Pearce Civil War Collection, Navarro College, Corsicana, Texas.