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Letter from James Cullen to his Mother
November 23, 1862
Signature page
Photo Contributed by Monique S. Derby




JAMES CULLEN died at Hotel Carroll in this place, March 4th, aged about 63 years. During the Civil War, he served with Co. B. 58th Reg., PA Vol. He was an invalid for many years where his pension was just sufficient to keep him. Death was caused by an attack of pneumonia. Funeral and interment at St. Basilís March 6th.--from The Sullivan Review, Dushore, PA, March 9, 1899

Presented below are three letters from James Cullen to his mother, Bridget Burke Cullen, written during the Civil War. They are dated respectively November 17, 1861, Camp Roseborough, Pennsylvania; July 7, 1862, Portsmouth, Virginia; and March 25, 1863, 58th Regiment, Camp Newbern, North Carolina with Colonel Jones, commanding. James Dirisio, who is writing a historical biography of Colonel Jones tells me that the following information is printed in Bates' History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers: Mustered in as a private, Co. B, 58th PA Vols. on 12/10/1861, James P. Cullen reenlisted as a Veteran Volunteer at Little Washington, N.C. on 1/1/64. He was promoted to corporal, Co. B on 12/03/1964 and mustered out with the company as a veteran on 1/24/66. James Cullen was a brother of Jane Cullen, the grandmother of Betty Lee Barker Dowell who has the originals of these letters in Cullen's own handwriting.

We also present a letter from William Cullen, brother of James and a fellow Union soldier, to his brother-in-law. Both James and William, as well as Jane, Johanna, Ellen (Coyle) and Mary (Coyle) were children of Thomas Cullen and Bridget Burke of Sullivan and Bradford Counties. The Cullens had twelve children in all:

David, married MaryAnn Fox
John, married Katie McAllister
Elizabeth, married Edward Murphy
Mary, married Frank Coyle
Ellen, married Thomas Coyle
Johanna, married _____ Carroll
Jane, married Luke Chapman

Note: We are indebted to Sharon Young Cullen for the preceding information about the Cullen family. She is the great-great grand-daughter of David Cullen and Mary Ann Fox.

Note: David Cullen was the father of Lawrence Cullen, who married Agnes Leahy. This marriage brought together the large Leahy family of the Forks and Overton, PA area with the Cullen family of Dushore. One daughter of Lawrence, Rita Cullen, became a nun and, as Sister Mary Laurena, subsequently wrote a history of the Leahy and Cullen families.

The first three letters presented here are provided to the Sullivan County Genealogy Project by Jean Chapman of San Diego, CA. She is the wife of Charles Edward Chapman, grandson of Luke Chapman and Jane Cullen. The materials were obtained from Betty Lee Barker Dowell, a first cousin of Charles Chapman. Jean can be reached at and is interested in learning more about the Cullen ancestry.

Jim Dirisio, the historian of Colonel James Richter Jones, Commandant of the 58th regiment, is Director of Admissions at St. Bonaventure University, Olean, NY at this time (September 2000), and can be reached at

We also present here two additional letters, recently revealed, from each of William and James to their mother. They are dated, respectively, October 23, 1861 and November 23, 1862. These letters were brought to the attention of the Sullivan County Genealogical Web Project in the Fall of 2001 by their contributor, Monique S. Derby of Winchester, VA. She is the great-granddaughter of William. W. Cullen (died March 16, 1891 at age 27) and Mary Wynn. She is trying to determine if this man was a son of the William Cullen killed in the Civil war and the author of two of the letters presented on this page. In November 2001, she was still not clear on this point. Monique does know that her grandmother was Lucy Regina Cullen and that she married James E. Collins. Both are bured at St. Basil's Cemetery in Dushore, PA. Monique and her mother, Janice Collins Derby, are active family genealogists.



Letters from James Cullen to his mother

Dear Mother

I avail myself of the opportunity of writing to you hoping to find you in as good health as this leaves me at present-Thank God for his mercy-I would have wrote sooner but as Norm Watson went up he promised to go see you-Our regiment is not full yet and we donít know when and where we will go to yet-some says we will go to Fort Delaware for the winter-58 miles below Philadelphia. I like soldiering very well-we are camped in a nice healthy place 7 miles from the city-one mile from Manayunk on Washingtonís old camp ground-Let me know how ye are all getting along-Let me know if you hear from MICHAEL or WILLIAM-Let me know if ELLEN is o.k. A man has not everything his one way here-he can go to Manayunk to church every sunday-I have been sent down to the city to guard the military hospital No 1 for two weeks-There were nine of us together-we went to Mass twice to St. Paul Church-Father OíHern is parish priest here-Let me know how is FRANK COYLE and MARY getting along-Give my love and best respects to all inquiring friends.

No more at present from your affectionate son


PS Write as soon as possible


Dear Mother it is with pleasure I sit down this day to rite to you a few lines to let you know that I am wail at present thank God for his kindness hoping that these few lines will find you and all the family in the same state of health as this leves me in at present Dear Mother-I got a letter from William a few days ago and he is well and in good health-he wanted to know when I got a letter from you-he is at a place called Newbern in North Carolina-before I left fortress monroe William was up home on a furlow and he co to see me-he lucks first-Best I am a small baby beside him now-he wants you to rite him a letter-When you rite to William Derect 48 regiment PV North Carolina 1 Leutenant Company E-Well Mother I hear that sister ELLEN has got married to THOMAS COYLE-I wish them good success and plenty of it-well mother it is very warm down here in this country but I stand it first best and the rest of the Cherry Boys-I suppose you have heard of us losing Jeff Colly out of our company one of our comrades and he was a good boy but God called him off-Well mother there has been som hard fighting down at Richmond last week-there is great slauter up their-we have lost about 15 or 18 thousand lives their the rebel loss is 34 thousand-General McClellen he has hard work to get Richmond but he will take it before many days more-there is here at the Big Hospitle about from 400 to 600 wounded soldiers at this place-some of them was telling me that tongue could not tell nor hands could not rite the sad tidings of the fighting at Richmond he say lay dead on the field from 5 to 9 deep-so you must think it was hard fighting-I send my best respects to THOMAS MURPHY and family and ADAM and family-Send me word on how DENNY MURPHY is getting-send me word where THOMAS and ELLEN is living have they got to keeping house for them selfs or not yet-you send me word how THOMAS MURPHY and DENNIS is making out with the law suits and all about maters-Rite sone Derect your letter to JAMES CULLEN 58 regiment PV Portsmouth Virginia CompanyB.


Well Dear Mother it is with much pleasure that I sit down this day which is Sunday for to rite you a few lines for to let you know that I am well hoping that these few lines will find you in the same state of health as this leves me in at present-Thank goodness for his mercies-Well mother I am going to let you know that the rebels had us running this swampy country day and night-the rebels made an attack on Newbern yesterday morning about 3 o'clock which was Saturday-they opened fire with eighteen pieces of artiliary I tell you they made the woods ring-they sent over a flag of truce to our general commanding officer-which his name is Foster for to surrender the city of Newbern to them-but General would not do such a thing with them-they went back and went to firing shell and shot into the city to try to burn it up but our gunboats got range of them and our artillary-they kept up the firing for about an hour or more and our troops made them keep their distance from the city-the rebels had to retreat we do not know how many lives were lost or how much damage was done at Newbern for our regiment is out 10 miles from Newbern so we had a hard time of it watching for the rebels for fear they would surround us-Our Colonel Jones got word to draw his regiment into Newbern but he sent back word to the General that his regiment would hold this place even if they had three times our number so he would not leave this place-the General sent us by railroad one other regiment and one piece of artillary so we held our ground so our company has to take the advance of the regiment every time they go out on march-I have had the pleasure of being at a capture of the darn rebels-I suppose you heard of the capture we made without losing a man of our regiment-My company that I am in stood the whole fire from the rebels we only got to fire one shot until we was ordered to charge bayonets on them we done so with a good will-we took 45 prisoners-86 stands of arms-2 horses-2 mules-and wagons and all things we could not bring we set fire to it and burnt up their tents and houses they had built. give my love to all inquiring friends-Your son- JAMES CULLEN



Letter from William Cullen to Frank Coyle, dated December 21, 1861, Camp Winfield, Hatteras Inlet, NC. William was a brother of James Cullen. Less than a year after this letter was written, William would be killed at Antietam, Maryland, September 16-17, 1862, in the bloodiest battle in all American history. Betty Lee Barker Dowell has the original of this handwritten letter as well.

Mr. FRANK COYLE Sir it is with pleasure I take my pen in hand to let you know how we are getting along in North Carolina we were sent down here from fortres monro verging (Note: Fortress Monroe, Virginia) we expect to stop there this winter but I canít tell wether or not this is a island about forty miles long and some two miles across it-thare was seven hundred taken prisoners when this place was taken and about three hundred killed thare is only two regiments here the new york ninth and the party of pennsylvania in which I belong-I am first lieutenant-my wife was confind and had a young son but they are wee-I donít know whether I can get home this winter or not-right as soon as you get this and let me know how mother is and Jim-Tom-davey-John-Mary-Elen-Cas-Jane-Johanna and I hope to see them sometime-and let me no how Tom Murphy is and Stev and the rest of the boys-and unkel Davey and family and tell them to right-we are about six hundred miles from home-no more at present but remain yours truly WILLIAM CULLEN-drect your letter to Lieutenant WILLIAM CULLEN Company E-48 regiment.


Letter from William Cullen (he spells it "Cullin") to his mother of October 23, 1861. He wrote it to her in Dushore, PA from Fort Monroe, Virginia. Monique S. Derby has the original under glass. The transliteration below was prepared by Monique, as best she could, with spelling errors included.

Fort Monroe Headquarters
Department of V. A.
Camp Hamilton
October 23rd, 1861

Dear Mother
after a relapse of some time its with pleasing anticipation I address those lives you Brothers & Sisters hoping to find you all in good health and blessing. I enjoy myself at present dear Mother. After my return from the 3 months servise I remained at home for a few weeks but the way the Country was situated business of all descriptions. Suspended & seeing that my service to my adopted country was stile kneeded I procured a commission of first Leutenancy under same Captain that I served under in the 3 months & again immerged into it for during the war dear mother our position is not a dangerous one as we are at present camped under the protection of the fort that is described on the map. It is the largest fort belonging (to) the government it mounts 377 guns 2, 4000 men & cost 2 million 4 hundred thousand dollars to build it dear mother, brother & sisters. I hope that my conduct through this campain may be unstained that I may gain all the hounour & esteem & hounour due to my rank & station from them that is under my command & pray that I may survive to see the Glorious Stars & Stripes Float again from the shores of the Pacific to the St. Laurance then Can? Man? Enjoy again the blessings & precalagous ? that glorious Washington established if once overturned by rebble force could never be replaced. When that happy hour shale arive that the Trumpet of peace shale echo through the land while I returned to the fond affections of a loving Wife & Children & the Tender Embrace of an aged Mother, Brother & Sisters. Dear Mother their is none of the enemy to be seen at this point they are reported to be concentrating within 25 miles of here at a place called Yorktown where Washington took Lord Cornwallice & 15 hundred men prisoners at the time of the Revolutionary war. The(y) burned down a Town called Hampton 1 mile from here about 3 months ago and have not been seen here since. I cannot say how long we will be stationed here. We are the first Pennsylvania Troops ever landed at this point. We are the 48 Regt. of P.A. voluntiers commanded by Col. James Nayle (sp?) of Potsville. He is of appinion that we will remain here some time. I wish you to answer this letter as soon as you possible can & let me know all particulars. I wont neglect writing to you & trust I shale receive the same from you in return. Send my best respects to Frances Coyle & Wife & send my love to James, Thomas, John & Davy, Mary, Elen, Catherine & James & Jane & serve?

A Large portion for your selfe from
Your Affectionate Son
Wm. Cullin

Direct to Leiut. Wm. Cullin Co. E. 48th Regt. P.A. Fort Monroe, V.A.
To Mrs. Bridget Cullin Dushore, P.A.
Sullivan Co. P.A. United States

Give my respects to Thom. Murphy & all inquiring friends

Letter from James Cullen to his Mother of Nov. 23, 1862. Monique transliterated this letter as James wrote it, incorrect spellings included. She has the original, which is in fairly good condition and very legible. She has introduced some commas and periods to help make the reading easier. In most of the Cullen letters, few are used.

November The 23, 1862

Suffolk, Virginia

Dear Mother
It is with the greatest of pleasure that I sit down to anseur your kind letter that I recived on the 19 of this month. I was glad to here that you was well and the rest of the family. I am well at precent thank goodness for it hoping that these few lines will find yous in the same state of health as this leves me in ant? (at) present. Well mother it was sorrowful news to me to hear of my brother Williams death may god have mercy on his soul. I did here of his death before I got yours letter in one from James Walsh letters from home. Well mother I got a letter from brother Micheial on the 15 of this month. He stated to me that William wife promised to give him his sword when she would get it from the field of battlefeild where poor William was kelled. I am very glad that Micheial missed the draft also I am glad that Hugh Haggerty (Flaggerty?) missed the draft. Now mother as for myself I am well and in as good health as ever I was in my life. I have not being one day sick since I left to com to Wair. I send my best respects to sister and Thomas Cole (Coyle). Let me know in you next letter where the (they) are living. I send my best respects Thomas Murphy and family. If we get putting up for winter quarters here if their does be any furlows I will try and get one to go up home to see yous all but I dont know what will be done about here yet about staing this winter. Let me know how your crops was and let me know how that new peice of ground turned out if it yealded well for yous. I am told that things is very dear up their as well us here. Tobbaco is a dollar per pound, butter .50 cts per pound, potatoes 1. dollars per busheil, calico is about the same as up their. Tea is any price you ask. The poor has hard times of it in this part of the country. Boots is selling at as big prices as ever I had. The (they) sell boots at firm .8 to 12,15. dollars a pair. Let me know if Martin Morrisy is at home or not. Let me know in you next letter where the (they) are. Let me know what kind of times is up at Bartely Coal Beads. Let me know how Dinia and Adam is getting along. I send my best respects to Francis Coail (Coyle) and sister and famly. Send me word how yous all are getting along so now good by for this time. So no more
At present but
Remains your

James Cullen

Letter from William Cullen to His Mother
October 23, 1861
First page, Fortress Monroe sketch at top
Photo Contributed by Monique S. Derby.
The dark quality of the print is the true stage of the original after 140 years of preservation.

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