August 4, 1863
Near Sandusky Ohio
August 4th 1863
My Dear Wife,
This will make three letters I have written to you and no answer have I received. but I hope to hear from you on the receipt of this I am quite well also all the boys with me from home. I wrote last relative to your sending me money also to see Bowers, (1) and ask him to let me have some but you need not do so now as I have received enough to last me some time do not trouble yourself about it. you will see the Old Man George, and tell him to return my thanks to his son George, (2) & his Brother David, for their kindness in sending me the $100.00 I received a check for the amount through Messers Brown, Brother & Co. Baltimore, (3) and acknowledged the receipt by letter. my respect to them & tell them I feel under many obligations to them I shall share it with the Portsmouth Boys. Col. Hodges, Col Owens, John Jenkins, Tom Owens, William Barnett, Samuel Williams, & John Sundendale are dead how many more I am not able to say, (4) tell Ma, Rob is not hurt but a prisoner, I have written to your Pa, twice but have received no answer, give my love to all at home, also to Aunt May, and all my friends, kiss my dear children. I must now close Good Bye from your Affectionate Husband,
Henry A. Allen (5)
Capt 9th Va Regt Prisoner of War Johnsons Island near Sandusky Ohio (6)
Bowers, who is mentioned throughout the collection, is quite likely Stephen Bowers, listed in the 1860 census as a resident of Jefferson Ward, Portsmouth, Virginia. Year of birth: 1830. Occupation: plasterer. It is quite probable that Bowers and Allen, who was a brick mason, were business associates. Bowers was married to Mary J., age 26 in 1860. The Allen letters refer to several Marys including an Aunt Mary, a Mary G., and someone who he notes only as Mary, who seems to be close with the family. This Mary (the latter) may well have been Stephen Bowers’s wife. They had three young children: Sallie - the oldest…age 4 in 1860, Willie…age 3 in 1860, and Blanch..aged 6 months in 1860.
The George to whom Allen refers is George Bains (See letter dated August 11, 1863…also spelled Bain). The 1850 census lists a George Bains, resident of Baltimore who worked as a cooper and was born in 1822. This may be the Bains in question here, but I have no confirmation. The censuses from both 1850 and 1860 list no Bainses residing in Portsmouth.
Brown Brothers & Co. was an investment bank founded in Philadelphia in 1818 by George and John Brown, sons of linen trader Alexander Brown. A third brother, James Brown, joined the firm in 1825. They had affiliates in Boston, New York, and Baltimore. James’s son, John Crosby Brown made Wall Street the center of operations and grew the firm to be a major lender in the textiles, commodities, and transportation industries. Further information can be found HERE.
At Gettysburg, the 9th took part in the storied Pickett-Pettigrew Assault on July 3, 1863 (see map below) as part of Armistead’s Brigade, Pickett’s Division. The 9th took part in the breach of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge before it was driven back with heavy losses. The regiment lost 24 men killed, 70 wounded and 83 missing or captured. Major Owens (commanding) was mortally wounded, and Captain James J. Phillips of Company F took command of the regiment, and then was also wounded. Officers not mentioned in Allen’s letter who were killed or captured on the 3rd: Lieutenant John Niemeyer was killed, and Lieutenants Walter Butts, Richard Chapman, and James Robinson were mortally wounded. Lieutenants James Crocker, John Hack, and Henry S. Wilkinson were wounded and captured. Captains Jules Crocker, Marcus Gregory, and William Richardson and Lieutenants Henry Britton, Mathew Clay, Henry Gwynn, John Lewis, Edward Varnier, John Vermillion, and Samuel Weaver were captured. See HERE for a brief history of the regiment, which lists the above killed and captured and HERE for the comprehensive history from the Virginia Regimental History Series (including roster).
Henry A. Allen was born in Portsmouth, Virginia in 1830. He was married to Sarah (sometimes referred to as “Sallie”). He and his wife had two children in 1863: Lucy and Ida. They would have a third (Harry) shortly after the war. The 1860 census (see below) lists Henry as a brick mason with property valued at $50 (roughly $1450 in 2019 dollars). His family employed one servant: a young white woman named Emma - age 15.
Johnson’s Island was a Union prisoner of War camp constructed especially for Confederate officers in 1861, located on 40 acres of cleared land on an island in Lake Erie in Sandusky Bay, near Sandusky, Ohio. For a comprehensive look at the prison from its planning stages through the end of the war, see Roger Pickenpaugh’s Johnson’s Island: A Prison for Confederate Officers (Kent State University Press, 2016).