Thursday, 11 July 2024 06:40

Forging Freedom: Louis Wagner's Letter on William H. Moore's Civil War Journey

Letter from Louis Wagner to C.W. Foster Regarding William H. Moore

The letter dated July 10th, 1864, from Louis Wagner, Lieutenant Colonel of the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteers, provides valuable insights into the challenges and circumstances faced by African American soldiers during the American Civil War, particularly those serving in the United States Colored Troops (USCT).

In the letter, addressed to Major C.W. Foster, A.A.G. Chief of Bureau of Colored Troops in Washington D.C., Louis Wagner reports on William H. Moore, a soldier in Company F of the 43rd Regiment, US Colored Troops. Moore had been left behind due to illness when his company departed, but was now recovering and expected to rejoin his unit soon.

Wagner details Moore's background prior to military service: Moore had spent time in the House of Refuge three years earlier, discharged for good behavior after six months. He subsequently worked on a farm near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania during winters and on a canal boat during summers. Moore's enlistment into the army began as a waiter for a Captain in the 3rd Michigan Volunteers, arranged by Adjutant Clapp in Harrisburg. Notably, Moore, who was between 15 and 16 years old, misrepresented his age to the Mustering Officer as 18. Despite this, records indicated he was mustered by Captain Clement, Provost Marshal of Harrisburg.

Regarding Moore's physical condition, Wagner notes that although Moore appeared to be around 17 years old, the Post Surgeon assessed him as fit for a drummer's role.

Louis Wagner's letter provides a glimpse into the complexities faced by underage and sometimes disadvantaged individuals who sought to serve in the military during the Civil War. Moore's background reflects common themes of youth, poverty, and prior institutionalization, yet also resilience and determination to contribute to the war effort.

Original article:

Letter from Louis Wagner to C. W. Foster Regarding William H. Moore

Record Group 110: Records of the Provost Marshal General's Bureau (Civil War)Series: Letters SentFile Unit: Letters Sent, January 1864 to June 1865



Head Quarters. Camp William Penn

Chelten Hills Pa

July 10th 1864

Respectfully forwarded to Capt. W. von Bechtold

commanding 45th Reg. U.S.C.T

By Order of

Louis Wagner

Lt. Col. 88th Vols.

Comdg Post

Gen. Wagner

Capt 8th USCT

Post Adju.

Head Quarters Camp William Penn

Chelten Hills Pa.

July 10th 1864.

Major C.W. Foster A.A.G.

Chief of Bureau of Colored Troops.

Washington D.C.


In compliance with your endorsement on the accompanying I have the honor to report that William H Moore is in Co Fr 43rd Reg. US Colored Troops, that he was left behind sick on the departure of his company, that he is now convalescent and will soon join his company in the field.

He says that he was placed in the House of Refuge three years ago by his mother; that he remained there for six months, and was then discharged for good behavior, that he then went into the country near Harrisburg Pa. and worked with a farmer in the winter and on a canal boat in the summer that he entered the army as a waiter for a Captain in the 3rd Mich Vols. that he was enlisted at Harrisburg Pa by one Adjutant Clapp. received from the man that enlisted him $100— cash and a receipt $100. which receipt he has given to some one for collection that he does not expect to get the money due on it, that he is between 15 and 16 years of age, but that he told the Mustering Officer he was 18.

Our records show that he was mustered by Capt. Clement Provost Marshal Harrisburg Pa. He looks to be about 17 years of age, and the Post Surg says that he is fit for a drummer

I have the honor to be

Very Respectfuly

Your Obdt Servant

Louis Wagner

Lt. Col. 88th Pa. Vols. Comdg Post.