Fred H. Keller | Retrospect
Corp. William Rankin's letter, 1863
William Rankin was one of 10 children of Lisbon pioneers James and Mary Keyes Rankin, who had a land claim in 1843 on the north side of Plainview Road in the Town of Lisbon. William, of Scotch-Irish decent, was born Oct. 28, 1836 in New York. William came with his parents to Lisbon as a 7-year-old boy.
On Aug. 21, 1863, at the age of 26, he volunteered and went into training with the Wis. 28th Vol. Infantry Regiment. He was placed in Company F of the regiment, one of 17 men from Lisbon in this company. The regiment of over 1,000 men was near 90-percent from Waukesha County, thus it was called the "Waukesha Regiment."
His regiment was sent down the Mississippi River to the Battle of Vicksburg. Then, it was duty in Arkansas and most importantly, Helena, where he penned a letter to an unknown Mrs. Howard who lived near present day Howards Lane.
William had his own way of spelling words and grammar and his letter below is how he wrote it. The following is the letter, "April 16, 1863, Helena, Arkansaw."
Dear Friend Mrs. Howard,
I sit down this afternoon for the first Time to write A few lines to you you must Excuse me for knot writing to you long before i am well two day and I hope that those Few lines will find you enjoying the same pleasure A man has know business down in this sesesh Country withouth he is well I suppose I have been as sick as I could bee when I first came down here But I am happy to say i have got bravely Over it know And A hope I allways will remain foar long as I am in the army Our regiment has returned from their expedition down On the tallahatshee river and it was certainly Was a bogus one for they acomplished nothing Who to lay the blame on I dont hardly know Fort pemberton was knot very strong And could of of been taken just as well As knot but know they must let it alone for A while yet for fear it might end the war to soon
Sinse our regiment has returned our company Been detached as provost guard in the City of helena i think it is about time the That the boys had an easy time the Twenty eighth regiment has had A rather A hard time of it sinse they left the State and I am sorry to say that our Ranks are getting thiner every day I Think that our boy have been luck So far we have knot lost A man from Our part of lisbon yet and I do hope We never shall there has been good news Came to our ears this morning from Vixburg their was nine of our gun boats Run the blockade A few days ago that plase
If it is right manage will bee taken be Fore long for it is entirely surrounded But there will be many A brave souldier Fall there Fort hudson a few miles Be low vixburg is A nother strong fort But it certainly must fall oh I long For the day when we can pease that day will certainly Come sooner or later
This is the sekond time have sit down Today to finish this letter I ha ve been On duty to day our orders ware very Strict to day ordered every store And sallons business of all kinds To bee stoped and they was certainly Well obeyed those sesesh sittisens have knot much to say two us souldiers Here if they do they will bee walked into the lock up right of Well I dont know as I have much more News two tell you at present but when Those few lines come two home please Write and let me know how you are getting along I shall all ways bee Happy to hear from friend give my Best respects to Mr Howard and two All the rest and exsept the same two your self from your friend and well Wisher William Rankin Comp F 28 Regt Wis in the field Although I am far from those friends That I left behind me they are knot Forgotten by me W Rankin I would like to all in and see you today but I guess I cannot so you must excuse me
Yours Right soon.
Little did William Rankin think that he would be in the great battle of Helena, Arkansas on July 4, 1863, that was a momentous victory for the North and sealed the Mississippi River as that day also was the surrender of Vicksburg.
Following this battle it was up and down Arkansas, then downstream to New Orleans, and on to the Battle of Spanish Fort in the taking of Mobile, Alabama, and the war ended.
William now did garrason duty on the Rio Grande River in Texas, being discharged as a Corporal on Aug. 23, 1865 after three years and two days of service.
Coming home, he eventually married Catherine Gourlie and became a farmer, eventually with a spread in Whitewater, where he died June 12, 1908. The couple had two children, a son, George, and a daughter, who died at birth.
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