Nicole Garrett, Albion College Archives and Special CollectionsLook, Reveille00
An Envelope from the Civil War Letters of Mack and Nan Ewing Collection
“Oh, I do wish this crewel war was over.”
Mack Ewing penned this sentiment after his brother-in-law, Alvin Hank, was taken prisoner by the Confederate army. Ewing recounts the incident in his October 26, 1864 letter to his wife:
Nan Alvin was either taken prisoner or was killed. no one knows which. as we was so close to the rebs we had to crall back on our bellies and any way to get back in the woods…our Regt lost about 15 men wounded and missing. we fought the Rebs till abot ten oclock on the 28th then the hole army retreated back to the Camp that we Started from. but we came back with out one of my best friend.
This is just one of the many events recounted in the Civil War Letters of Mack and Nan Ewing Collection. Comprised of 291 letters, the Civil War Letters of Mack and Nan Ewing Collection spans 1855-1865, a polarizing time in our nation’s history. Subjects include the 1860 and 1864 Presidential elections (The Ewings were staunch Lincoln supporters), the Copperhead movement and news relating to the 2nd Michigan Infantry.
In March of 1864, Mack Ewing – along with his brother Andy Ewing, cousin Dewitt C. Cherrington, cousin T.C. Radabaugh and brother-in-law Alvin Hank – enlisted in the 2nd Michigan Infantry. All of the soldiers enrolled in Hillsdale, Michigan and marched for Washington, D.C that May. They saw heavy action around Petersburg, Virginia and took part in the siege of that city.
“I Will Never Disown the Cause”
In December of 1864, Mack Ewing fell victim to a stray bullet. While in his tent, a bullet hit him through his right eye. He survived, but had to have his right eye removed. As Ewing wrote to his wife, ” I will neve[r] disown the Cause in which I met the blow. I Shall not be a Shamed of it. yet life wood Seam Sweetter if I cood See out of two eyes.” (To read the full letter, click here: Mack Ewing writes about his wound) Because of this injury, Mack Ewing spent the remainder of his army service in various hospitals along the east coast. He was discharged from Saterlee Hospital June 23, 1865.
As Nan Ewing was pregnant at the time of her husband’s enlistment, she moved back to her native Ohio to be with her family. Thus, the letters include correspondence from various branches of the family residing in Hillsdale, Michigan; Stuebenville, Ohio and Jackson County, Ohio. The Ohio relatives tell of Morgan’s Raids in the summer of 1863, when towns along the Ohio border with Kentucky and West Virginia were burned to the ground. They also give accounts of Copperhead supporters among their neighbors. (For an example, click here: Copperhead supporters)