Civil War Letters from James R. Burke

The following letters are from James R. Burke to his wife Christian/Christianna Wheeler Burke in Bradley County, AR.

These letters appears courtesy of Lynn Groves .

Letters from James R. Burke, captured at Arkansas Post, 11 January 1863 send to Military Prison at Camp Douglas, IL. Died 18 March 1863 of typhoid. Buried at Oakwoods Cemetery, Chicago, IL.

These two letters found in a trunk in 1997 are the only thing my family had to remember James R. Burke. When he was captured in 1863 his family never knew about it. They only knew that his letters stopped, and that he never came home.

My cousin, Tracy Saunders, obtained these letters after my grandfather, "Pete" Saunders, passed away in 1997, and with the help of a friend, was able to find out via an internet search that he became a POW and died while in prison.

My grandfather had related to Tracy that his great-grandfather went to fight in the Civil War and was never heard from again.

It's chilling to think that without Tracy's dedication to find out what happened, we may never have found this information.

My cousin donated these letters to the Arkansas History Commission in 1999.

James R. Burke was married to Christian/Christianna Wheeler in Arkansas. He was in Arkansas prior to 1854, owned land and was listed in the 1860 census in Bradley County, AR. He had a daughter born in 1861 named Emily. Emily married Julius Saunders. He was affectionately known around the Wheeler Springs area as "Uncle Pete". Julius and Emily were the parents of Samuel Saunders whose son Rufus "Pete" Saunders was my grandfather.

These are the two letters transcribed as written by James R. Burke:

Arkansas Post, Ark. County, Ark.
October 15th, 1862

Dear wife, i have the opportunity to write you a few lines to let you no that i am well except the bowel complaint.
hoping these lines may find you all well. we left the springs the second day of the month to go to white river. we
got in six miles of the place we started, but we got orders to come to this place. we got here on Monday last. we
was on the road thirteen days. i am glad we come here in place of going to white river. it is only sixty five miles
from here home. this is about as good a place as we will get. they are building a fort here. they have got three
hundred negroes at work here. i have not heard from Jim and Ki since we started. we left a good many of our
men at the springs. all that is able will be here in a few days. i want you to write me about Jim and Ki if you hear
from them. we have subscribed to old man McKinney to bring letters and other things to us as long as we stay in
reach of him. for we did not no where we would go to. we can send letters by mail at this time. if you wish to send
letters by McKinney or other small things you will have to find out when he is comeing for i dont no when untill
he comes the first time. so there is two chances to send letters. i will send by both. i want you to write to me soom.
give me the news. we have none at this time. i have nothing to write on. i must come to a close.
Yours in love until death, J. R. Burke.

Arkansas Post, Ark. Co. Ark.
Wednesday morning November 5th, 1862

Dear wife, i have the opportunity to send you a few lines by lieutenant Bradley. he will start tomorrow. i am happy to
inform you that i am well. hopeing these lines will find you all well and in good spirits. i have not herd from Jim since
i wrote about him But i will hear from him in a few days. i hope that Ki has got home safe. i sent you a letter by Mr.
Moseley. we have got good log houses to live in. a plenty to eat at this time. we get pumpkins and potatoes and Beef
and bread and sugar. you need not be uneasy about me was long as i keep on my feet. i have learn how to get along
in the army. i have a easy time here with not much to do. i am getting verry lazy lying about here and studying about
home. i think the war will end before spring. we look for the yankeys here as soon as the waters gets up. it is very dry
here now the river is low. the fort is nearly done but i don't think the yankeys will ask it much odds although it is a
good peice of work. i dont here much news now. what i do hear we dont no whether it is so or i want you to write to me
by Bradley if you get this letter in time and send me a few pens in the letter. i lost my pen the other day. i hope i will
get the things that i wrote for my Mr. Moseley if McKiney ever comes back. the drauers you sent me is the warmest
i ever had. you may make me some under shirts as soon as you can for i don't believe i will get any here. it look like
it will keep you always working for me. i dont want you all to go naked if you can make or bye cloths nor work your
self to death. if the hogs gets fat and you have more than will do you sell it if you can. John Havis said he would by
your meat if you have any to sell, before i left. tell Bledsoe that i got his letter and was glad to hear from them and he
must excuse me for not writing to him for i have not got the paper to spare. and that he can hear how i am getting
along by coming to my house if i am lucky enough to get letters home. give them my respects. and tell him to write
to me. tell Bill Jim and Tom to be good boys and help you to work till pa comes home. tell Susan to be a smart girl
and learn to knit pa some socks. tell little emily that pa would give ten dollars to see her five minutes. give my
respects to you father and family. give my respects to Miss Jeffers and her fathers family. nothing more at present,
but remains yours, James R. Burke

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