"I suppose you knew ... "

Emery McColley, born Sept. 3, 1844, at Ashtabula, Ohio, was the 10th of Alexander and Polly McColley's 12 children and the twin brother of Emily McColley (later Humes). He enlisted in Company F, 1st Wisconsin Heavy Artillery on Sept. 1, 1863. On Oct. 3, 1863, the company left for duty in the defenses of Washington, D.C. He describes the end of the war in the following letter, dated April 12, 1865:
Photo of parentsDear Father and Mother. It is with pleasure that I improve these few minutes in writing to you to let you know that I have not forgotten you. My health is good and I hope to hear the same from you. Father, you can do as you think best about buying any timber. You can pay it towards the farm if you think best. You are there and can tell what to do there better than I can here. We are having good news now. I suppose you knew that Lee had surrendered his whole army and Richmond is taken. When Richmond was taken, we fired a salute of one hundred rounds at each fort and in the night the city was all lit up with gas as they threw sky rockets all night. The Capitol was illuminated all night and so was the Seminary. It was a grand sight to see it. Washington is eight miles from here and you could see it as plain as if it was within two miles of us. Father, we get the news every day and if there is any of any importance we get it within four hours, for we have a signal corps at Headquarters so we can get the news within six hours from the front and I guess within four hours. For the surrender of Lee's army, we fired two hundred rounds to a fort. They fired sixteen in a minute. Don't you think that they was firing pretty fast? Well father, I will have to stop fore I want to write some to mother, so good bye dear father.

Dear Mother, I will write you a few lines to you to let you know that I still think of you. I wish that I could come and see you now, but I can't yet a while, but I hope that I can come before my time is out. Our colonel says that he is a going to take us to Milwaukee the Fourth of July and show to the city, the best Regiment that ever left the state. Mother, when George was here, he was in good health and in good spirits. George thought we had a splendid place here. We have all the fresh herring here that we can eat. We borrow a seine and then draw it in the creek and sometimes we get over one hundred to a haul and the creek is full of eel, but the seine won't hold them and I guess there is nothing that will hold them unless it is a jug and get him in it and put the stopper in. Mother, I had a letter from Lydia the other day. They were all well when they wrote to me. Mother, you may look for me out there the middle of July and perhaps before then. I want to get home in time to help harvesting the crops. Well, I will bring my letter to a close. Please write soon and often and I will do the same. So good bye dear parents. Emery McColley to A. & P. McColley. I did not get that paper but I got that letter that you spoke about but I guess it is as safe as it was.

A Tragic Homecoming

Photo and letter are reproduced, with permission, from "Pioneer Heritage, A McColley Family History" by Dallas G. McColley, 9240 330th Avenue, Waseca, MN 56093-5010. More than 3,000 direct descendants of Alexander and Polly McColley, including me, are listed in the book. The photo caption in the book notes that the couple is "believed to be Alexander & Polly McColley."

The Wisconsin Civil War Regimental Histories Index provides histories of 38 units, including the First Wisconsin Heavy Artillery.

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Comments may be addressed to Larry Pearson, lpearson@pobox.alaska.net