Felix Voltz was 18 years old (possibly younger) when he ran away from home on January 30, 1865 to enlist (to his family’s dismay). He mustered out with the company on July 1, 1865, at Arlington Heights, Virginia, and served as a drummer in the 187th Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry for five months.
Felix wrote letters to his family in Elmira, New York, which describes the rigors of Union Army life from February through June 1865. The letters are held in the Special Collections Department of the University Libraries at Virginia Tech. http://spec.lib.vt.edu/
The letter below contains correspondence from Felix and his brother John to their parents and siblings.
February 10, 1865
Camp Sheridan Stevensons Station Va.
Febuary 10th /65
Having received your letter last night and I have written a few lines immeadialty last but I promised to write again before I started for Home. As I have said last night it was a Stunner to me but then I have come to the conclusion that there is no use crying after spilt milk let him go ahead he will come to his journeys end after awhile he will regret the day that he went into the army or if as I have done since I am I have cursed the day that I enlisted for what benifit will I ever drive from being a Soldier. the common Soldier will not reap the Harvest of the Victories but it is some other men that will gain all the Praise Honor and Wealth. If the dam fool was so anxious to go why the devil dont he wait untill this coming draft is over one of you might be drafted and of course you or Christ if it should be your lot would be obliged to go. why did he not wait and to as a Substitute in one of your places but such is his disposition. Headstrong Stuborn I do wish that Sister Bar bary had not given him a mouth full of anything to eat. He will before he gets through be dam glad to get such Slop as he speaks of in his letter that He gets out at the Barracks I have seen the times that I would give $1.00 for a Hard Tack I do not wish that he will get Shot or wounded or taken Prisoner But one thing [stained spot] him that he will have as hard a time at So[stained spot] man that has been in the U.S. Service.
On my journey home I shall endeavor to obtain an interview with him. I know that I shall be [stained spot] convince him that he has taken a wrong step, but then at the same time I think it will do him good in future years. I bet if he lives through his term of Service he will be as tame as a lamb. He has burnt his A-e now let him Sit on the Blisters. He does no one any injury but himself and if anything should happen to him he will have no one to blame but himself. But the idea that he enlists where he has all the proofs of my adventures in my letters of what I have endivered it is beyond discription but he will experience it himself His Regt. is before Petersburg in the worst Slaughter Pen He calls the Barracks Pigs Pens but he will find a difference in a Pigs Pen an a Slaughter Pen. If we were in Barracks we would consider ourselves comfortable. We had to build our own Shanties as he will have to do when he goes to the front in front of Petersburgh. he will not have any Peace for that Army is obliged get up every morning under Arms all Brideld & Saddled or every thing Picked up and ready to repulse an attack or move at moments notice. such will be his new situation that he speaks of but he will find it a very disagreeable situation. He has not seen any thing of Soldiering yet nothing compard to what I have seen as for any advice that I can give him will be of no importance But this. how to behave in a Battle and that is stand right up and face the music and not skeedadle for the rear for in 5 out of 10 cases there is more danger in running to the rear or Saulking behind some others of behind a tree than there showing a bold resistance. I have [stained spot] thing and in all cases or very near all the [stained spot] is the first
on to be but we [stained spot] in this company and two or three of them have a [stained spot] all ready while in the act of running to the rear But in all events he must conduct him self according to circumatances in an engagement. I am sorry that he made such a blind rush against his interest. It greives me to think that such things occur to & distrub the Peace & Happiness. I am just now thinking of Brother Christs affair that took place shortly before I left home But enough of this. I am so sorley grieved that it makes me feel bad although it is an occurance of the past and I hope he is by this time amuch wiser young man. That young soldier of the 116 th you saw in church on Sunday belongs to Co E. He is a nice young man and a friend of mine. There is nothing for me to write about of any importance everything is perfectly quiet and as for other news you can peruse the Papers. Wewas ordered to hold ourselves in readiness the other night in case the Guerillas make a dash in upon us. but the did not come But I have since found out the reason the day after this order the Cavelry about here captured 150 Guerillas Among them was Major Harry Gilmore the notorious Rebel that burnt Chambersburgh last Summer I hope the authorieties will turn him over to the citizens of Chambersburgh and let them do with him as they see fit. As this will be my last before I start on my journey home I shall not expect and answer to this. But ! if I should be dissapointed wich I hope will not be I shall write again next Tuesday or Wednesday giving you an account of my disapointment &cd. As I have written you a long history of my thoughts and of course [stained spot] to remedy what is done I must say with the [stained spot] Book! I forgot the name just now.
What is done cant be helped there is no need crying after spilt milk. But better luck next time [stained spot] anything more you will excuse me for I hope I shall have the Happiness to spend a few evenings among you and at our own fireside. I am very thankful for the Papers you have sent me. My regards to all inquiring friends & Relatives remember me to all in the Family Christ Yourself Barbary Lizie Willie & Father and Mother
Yours Respectfully &c &c
Jno S. Voltz
P.S. Enclosed you will find a few lines which you will hand to Mother
Yours Jno S Voltz
February 10th Friday /65
Dear Broth & Parent
I will write you a few lines that I am well & that I hope you all the same I know of no news only that I send you the Picturs of me and my Partner when I got my $20.00 I went to get photographs taken there was two Partners got their Picture taken the same way and one of my Partners said he would pay for it if we get ours taken the same way then we got them and it saved us both so well both that we thought we would get each of us one so we did another shot I would send it home so that you could see my Partners how they look like but you cant tell much because we look such a hard set but we done it already
for develmentire no more at Persent I will send my Photograph as soon as they get done I expect them tomorrow. I will send them right away best Respect to you in the family and all inquiring Friends.
I Remain your
Write as soon possible
Felix Voltz Elmira N.Y.
Barrigs no 1, 8th Ward
Article written by Henry Madison