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Letters from William Stonell
to family members in England 1865 -1875

More letters below at these locations

January 1875 - 1878 |1877 - 1883 | January 1885 through June 1887

William and Martha (Hesskew) Stonell
picture of both and short bio



May 12th 1865

Dear Parents and Brothers

I write you these few lines hoping you.are quite well as it leaves me quite at present. I never experienced better health in my life, the voyage has been the most favorable one, we are now in a dead calm off the coast of Dover the pilot is now going ashore we should sail (that is directly the wind permits) and I don't know whether we shall stop at."Queenston town?" or not. I expect to be tea sick in a few days but as that is a very healthy sickness it will do me a wonderful deal of good, my appetite is enormous. I eat all before me, last night was the night ever experienced (say's the 3rd mate) we are therefore the most happy crew that can be expected my mate and me are very happy together, he can cook and he does so therefore I have nothing else to do but come and eat it. I am therefore doing as well as I could wish to happy jolly and free the mates and Captain are very sociable, I would write more and better but the man is waiting for this as he is going ashore directly.

Farewell. Give my love to John George, Henry and Charlie with yourselves.

Farewell again.,God bless you all

I hope you will excuse this hurried scrawl.I remain your obedient and loving son.

W. Stonell


LETTER NO. 2. Harts Island

N.Y. Harbor
January lst 1666

Dear Parents,

I write to you these few lines hoping you, are quite well as it leaves me 1 quite so at present. No doubt you wonder why I have not written to you before but when you hear the difficulties in which 1 have been placed you will not at all wonder. I will therefore detail my proceedings since I left you. The voyage did not turn out so comfortable as I anticipated, suffice as to say the weather was very contrary and also very tempestuous, therefore our voyage was much delayed we did not therefore arrive till (I forget) 6 weeks three days after leaving London. Our provisions were very bad and little of it, the salt horse stank as did the also. Such is a hurried account of the voyage.

No sooner had we arrived then on going which being late in the evening when we (that is) the young man which another recommended me to when we were in the dock, were accosted by two ruffians who attacked us with sticks and robbed us of everything we possessed and left us in a strange country without a cent to bless ourselves with. We therefor wandered about the city without food, money, friends or employment, for two days we wandered about in this state without anything to eat. On the third day we engaged with a farmer who took us some 26 miles into the country where we had a good supper, we got up in the morning and he asked if 1 could milk cows I replied no but 1 could try then (says he) can you pitch dung, I said I would try, he said I understood when we engaged with you that you had been at farming work before, so I had I replied, come out and be off about your business and if I thought you had a cent in your possession I would take it away from you, off you go.

So we had to walk back to New York again and where we managed to get something to eat by the sale of my shirt we having sold both our coats and vests for which we got the sum of one-dollar or four shillings in English money which managed to last two more days we then saw a board wanting men for the army in which we enlisted but were separated one in one Company and the other in another, we are doing very well at present, our food is not the best and we do not get quite so much of it as we should like but still it is better than starving in New York,. Such is a frail attempt to describe our career in America.

As for the country things are very bad 10 times worse than in London but still if we could have obtained employment we should of done very well.

We did not get paid till today and therefore I could not write till now. Next time I will write more and give you the particulars of things but I am anxious that you should hear,from me and me from you. Give my love to John and George and tell him to be obedient to his father and mother if he does not wish to go wrong; what I have done, nor forgetting Charles and Henry.

Excuse bad writing Beef steaks and Motton chops Written in a hurry.

I remain your most obedient and loving son

William Stonell

God is my protector and in him I put my trust. Should anything occur to Mother write direct to Harts Island as it will follow me.

I remain your obedient and most

Affectionate Son.

William Stonell

William Stonell
Harts Island
Co G 2nd Batt 17th U.S.A.

Harts Island
New York Harbor
Wed. April 4th 1866

Dear Parents,

1 received your letter of the 6th March and I am very glad to hear from you, bad as the news is concerning Mother. 1 hope and pray that she may soon get better as I wish to see her again pleases God to spare my life. When this reaches you 1 shall be far away on my journey to San Antonio, Texas, we are ordered there and we are to start today at 10 am so you will not be able to write to me again until you hear from me. 1 will write directly we arrive, the distance is about 3 or 4 thousand miles from New York.

I hope you will not fret about my safety as 1 am in the best of health and I have learned by experience how to take care of myself. Should anything occur to Mother I hope you will write to our present destination as it will follow me on to Texas.

My companion has gone to Michigan West Canada some three weeks since and as I have not received any letter from him, I'm' afraid I shall never see him again as we are going South and him North. I don't know his direction and he does not know mine. I am very glad you are all well. Give my love to John, George, Henry and Charlie, tell them they are ever near me in the spirit, many a time I have the thoughts of seeing them again and cheered me when an post in the dark dreary and rainy night with not a soul near me, nothing to be heard but the crashing of the waves as they beat against the rocks on the shore, such is the life of a soldier friendless houseless in the cold wet night, standing post listening for the least sound - is greeted with who comes there - releive, halt - releive, advance Sargent with the 11 sign, then you are relieved for 4 hours but you can get no sleep because of the wet then you have to wander about till time for to go on post again, so passes the night till morning breaks and the glorious sun gladdens the heart and we are relieved and get the next night in bed and the next on guard thus have we passed the Winter, then comes drill fatigue practice and inspection so we do not get a minutes peace day or night wretched and miserable would I be only for the thought of returning to the loved ones at home Parents and brothers. You are my only thought and care for you 1 live. Do not fret as I shall arrive safe as I once had my toes frozen and my ears but I rubbed snow on them which soon thawed them again and they soon got well, our officers are very good to us but the men are very bad, they drink, curse and swear, fight and do everything that is horrible. I have seen sights which would make your blood run cold, we have just buried a man of our Company which another one stabbed with his bayonet both of whom were drunk at the time the murderer is sentenced to be shot next Thursday, they pick 12 men to shoot him out of our Company, thank God I am not one among their number if I were I don't know what I should do. The day I wrote my last letter a Corporal bit a Privates ear off whilst drunk, such is the character of men to which I am living under the same roof. I have seen enough in,the short time I have been enlisted to keep me from drink all the days of my life as I have not tasted a drop of liquor since I have been in the service.

Tell John I am sorry for his "mustache I hope it will grow again tell him to "cultivate" it nicely till my three years is out I long to not only see his mustache but himself and all of you.

I am saving 20 dollars every 2 months which 1 bank and I wish to save 100 English pounds when 1 return home, my companion is enjoying good health. Give my love to Mrs. Bounds I should be very glad to see her again, if God spares my life, but if not I hope to see her in the next through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Give my love to John, George, Henry, Charles not forgetting yourselves.

I remain your affectionate son

W. Stonell

I will never part from you any more God bless you all.


Harts Island
New York Harbor
February 6 1866

Dear Parents,

I received your letter yesterday evening. 1 am very happy to hear you are quite well. As it leaves me quite so at present, no doubt you thought my last letter very short but I.was very anxious you should hear from me and me to hear from you, that I overlooked and thus forgot to tell you how long I enlisted for. The term of service is 3 years out of which I have served 4 months as 1 enlisted on the fourth day of October.

The pay is 16 dollars per month (in English money 3 4 shillings, 100 dollars for the first year is allowed for cloths, 75 for the 2nd, 52 for the 3rd which is plenty of money as we can save a good deal of money by being careful. We have three meals per day, breakfast, dinner and supper we sleep in barracks which are composed of wood, four sleep in one bunk, the same as those which you see on board the ship, two sleep below and two on top. The bottom is very inconvenient as you may be sleeping at night when the top bunk will, if the boards are not fixed right, come through on top of you which is not very pleasant besides the dust from the top comes through the board and covers everything all over with dust, 100 men which is a whole Company sleep in one barracks. We get up in the morning at reveille which is "amtt and we go to bed at taps which is at nine o clock every night, any person found out after taps without the countersign is to be placed in the guard house or confined in prison is what is called the guard house. We get up at sunrise, get washed, our beds made our things cleaned, boots blacked included by 1 - 2 hours after reveille (sunrise) when we go to breakfast we then have till 9.30 to ourselves when it is time for drill Battalion drill till 10.30. Dinner at 12 ol clock, 2.30 Company drill till 3.30. Retreat at 5-o'clock in the Winter, in the Summer there is no Retreat, but in its place Dress Parade it being too cold in the Winter. No drill in Winter except Company Drill at 1 o'clock Guard Duty which is standing sentinel round the Camp at which we get 2 hours on and 4 off which (guard mount) is at 8.30 every morning so we are on all day and night and at this time of the year it is intensely cold for despite a blouse or short jacket, fatigue jacket, dress coat and overcoat, two pairs of trousers, two stockings and leggings, four of our number have been frozen to death. I found it very cold at first but 1 have got used to it so I don't notice it now, if John was here he would be crying "oh my poor feet".

Galveston, about 96 miles and by the steamer to Clarksville and up the Rio Grande river 11 Ringal the last fort on this rout no man or men, unless they are a very large party can travel any further than this fort, the Indians are very thick around there and they keep us constantly on the alert with their cunning devilish tricks. We are now in Brownsville and 1 think we are likely to leave hear. I am of the opinion that I,will be discharged here so it will take me 2 months or so before I arrive home as from as I started so I will have to go to work directly I get home, I should therefore like to know how times are and what is the best thing I can go at, I have no idea what to be doing so if you can recommend me or make so inquiries I'm willing to go at anything. I can make a good living here working for the Government 75$ a month and rashions, but as I promised to come home I will do so though it is a great temptation. We are long side of Matromoras the place where Maximillian was shot by order of "gevex" the present President. They had a sham battle the other day and they imitated the capture of Maximillian and his generals, the river is narrow at this point and we can see all their movements. I was over to Matromoras the other day though we are not allowed to do so but they don's punish you for doing wrong, it is for being caught at it. I am in very good health though I have been very sick with the fever and ague but I am better now. Give my love to John, George, Henry and Charlie with yourselves. 1 have only a little over 4 months to serve. I shall be home in about 6 months if all goes well. Give my respects to Mrs. Bounds and all who have an interest in my welfare. How is Grandmother and Grandfather and Aunts and Uncles, is Aunt Emma married yet, if not it is about time she was unless she wants to die an old maid. In my next letter I will try and do better, it took one week to write this letter so you may guess how busy we are, work from day light to dark.

I remain your obedient and Affectionate

Son. William Stonell


William Stonell
c/0 G 26th U.S.A.

May 1866
Port of Brownsville Rio Grande Texas

Dear Parents,

I received your kind.letter and I am glad to.hear that you are all well. I have no doubt you think it very unkind and forgetful of me for not writing but if you knew the circumstances in which 1 have been placed since I wrote my last letter you would not wonder, we have done nothing else but march, scout and drive and be driven by Indians. No doubt you have heard through the papers of the late Indian troubles and as fortune or misfortune would have it I have been in the midst of it for the last 18 months. You speak of three letters which you have written but I only received this (your last letter) I have therefore been just as anxious to hear from you as you have to hear from me, we have at last come to a resting place I think its hard to say however, I will name the principal towns and cites in which we stayed. We left San Antonio about one week after I wrote my last letter and started for Austin, the capital of the State, a distance of about 100 miles. We left Austin on the 2nd May and arrived at Tyler a distance of 400 miles, about the 10th June we left Tyler in August and arrived in Kaufman a distance of 75 miles in December, just in time for Christmas. We left Kaufman in January and arrived in Greenville a distance of 150 miles. In February from there to Dallas 45 miles, in February from there to Weatherford a distance of 260 miles a frontier post, it was there where we had all the trouble with the Indians, we had some at several places but that was the worst. We left Weatherford for Bryant Station, a distance of 150 miles, we came by train from Bryant to

we were just in times so we with the remainder of their Regiment we have been hunting them up but it is hard work as they travel so quick we could hardly catch them, we did so eventually, we killed many and we lost about 90 men, 30 out of our Company so we only get one night off guard, we captured about 100 of them and we brought them into town yesterday afternoon. The town is situated on a hill and there is a river runs through it, the Antonio River, on the other side of the river is Mexico, we can reach to shake hands across the stream so we are pretty near the Spanish. They have bull fights and every kind of amusement. We may stay sometime here but for the future do not feel anxious if you do not receive an answer to your letters as I am likely to be away for 4 or 6 months at a time on the frontier. Such is the life of a Soldier a hard life it is to, no one could imagine what we have to put up with unless they were in it themselves.

Direct your letters

W. Stonel lc,6 G. @nd' Bat 17th U.S. Infantry I remain

San Antonio Your most Texas obedient and affectionate Son

Excuse mistakes as I am very sleepy William Stonell as I have had no rest for 4 nights.

W. Stonell

San Antonia, Texas
C/o G 2nd Battalion 17th U.S.A.
San Antonio

Wednesday June 5th 1866

Dear Parents,

I arrived here San Antonia Texas last evening safe sound and well though wet sad and weary. The journey was a long one. We left Harts Island on the 6th April and I had no chance to send word though I wrote a letter which is the one now with this telling you of our departure. We took the boat for New York where we went on board the vessel which was to take us to New Orleans, we arrived at New Orleans on the 18th April, we stayed there 9 days, we then embarked for "Galveston" - Galveston we arrived there on the 26th, we sailed again for Lavaca and again to Victoria, we were there three weeks we were then about 200 miles from San Antonio which distance we marched as there was no railway or any other convenience to carry us. I will not dwell upon the hardships of the march suffice it to say the road was bad and not enough of it, the road was very bad all through to the forest and prairie with the hot sun pouring down upon us and which was worse than all, we had no water perhaps for 20 miles we marched at the rate of about 40 or 45 miles in one day after which we would have to stand guard all night every other night. We arrived here on the 27th May. We had not been encamped 6 hours when the order came and the Long Roll was beat for us to march for Austin, 35 miles further - as the Indians had massacred some 300 white soldiers. It appears the Regiment was out chasing them and they.stayed at a fort and the Indians sent in a messenger to sign a treaty of peace as the Indians have been kelling there men, so the Colonel of the Regiment sent 7 companies to there encampment and when they got inside they massacred them all except one or two who stayed outside and as we arrived here we

Smokey C


Colorado River
Colorado County

2nd February 1872

Dear Parents,

I received your letter of the 6th and I am very glad to hear from you. I have left the place where you last heard from me; and am now living 3 miles up the river, where I expect to stay as 1 am going to farm it this season, the gentleman that owns this place has given us (that is me and my partner) a very good offer, which is half the crop and he furnished a wagon and team and all the farming utensils necessary and a house for us to occupy during the season, so if we have reasonable weather we shall be able to make, after we have passed our expenses which is provisions-and clothing, about 250$ each, or about 50 and as it only takes 5 months working till it is laid by we will have a good deal of spare time to work around and make a little money as we have a very good start in the provision line, we are house-keeping my partner is cook and me dish-washer, we imagined when we set in that a little money would start us but my partner has just returned from town and our bill amounts to the trifling sum of $76.42 or about 13. I wish you could just see us at this moment our house is just like a - ~ in comparison to the houses you have there, our chimney is composed of mud and sticks and it is built about half way up the house and as it is in the North end of the house the North wind is blowing a pretty good gale and the smoke instead of going up the chimney all comes into the house, our bedsteads or bunks as we call them not being finished for the lack of timber we have to sleep on the floor and the bottom of the door is about 5 inches from the floor and as it is pretty cold, we have a happy time housekeeping two men has as much business keeping house as the devil for holy water.

Give my best respects to Mrs. I mean the wife of that Sunday school teacher tell her it is very pleasant to think that we are sometimes remembered at home by our lady friends even if they are married, as regards the unberellas scrape with Aunty it has slipped my memory I do not recollect the circumstances at all and if Aunty will be so kind as to enlighten me on the subject 1 shall be much obliged.

Give my best respect to all inquiring friends and my love to John, George Henry and Charles with yourselves.

I remain yours


W. Stonell

Direct your letters W. Stonell care of Mr. Draub "Columt".?

Colorado County Texas

N.B. If You can make it convenient I should like you to send me a

London paper Lloyds Weekly if you please.

Grand Farm
Wilson Co. Texas
Sunday 22.3.1874

Dear Parents,

I will endeavour once again to communicate with you. As I think 1 shall be able to stay long enough in this place to recieve an answer. 1 suppose you think me a very ungreatful and unfeeling son but circumstances over which I have no control prevented me from sending. You can have no idea of this country nor the positions in which I am sometimes placed, sometimes it is as much as I can do to keep my head above water and then on the other hand I am sometimes very well off comparatively speaking. Still at all times I have plenty to do but the money is not always forthcoming and 1 have to wait a considerable time, for instance the gentleman with whom 1 am now staying owes me $62 equivalent to 12.6 - twelve pounds eight shillings. Another $10, another $16 but the late financial crisis has caused money to be I am about "bankrupt".

But I hope to get it and the rest of my savings in a short time. I am doing very well in this country but as 1 also follow so many different kinds of work, that is to get along anywhere but the country is so thinly settled there is not enough work at any one place to cause me to stay any length of time consequently I cannot hear from you as often as I should wish in order to give you an idea of the method I have of getting along. I am a stone mason, carpenter and well digger, I have also been a "sailor" worked on a railroad, steamboat ferry, building cisterns, beef packing, stockman pedler farmer and several other things. Tell me in your next letter how you are all getting along, Father, Mother, Grandfather Grand Mother, Aunts Uncles and all inquiring friends and former acquaintances, let me know if you please what became of Phoba Uncle Georges stepdaughter, give my best respects to Mrs - you never let me know her present name. The late Miss Pratt I suppose she has three or four little ones climbing around her motherly knee, if no she ought to have. I suppose Aunt Emma has quite the appearance of a Matron tell I her the first time You see her she could not make me blush and look like a simpleton by kissing me as she used to do in my schoolboy days. I am speaking as if I were with you all. 1 think it is time brother John was getting him a wife if he has not yet done so. Ask him how the ragged school school is getting along and how all our old associates girls and any, are getting along, how many married how many left and so forth. How is Tom Williams and-his sister Miss Ellen Williams are getting along. (A sentence in Spanish? follows)

Give my best respects to Mrs "Bruns" '? and all my inquiring friends and my love to John George, Henry, Charles with yourselves.

I remain your affectionate and obedient son

W. Stonell

P.S. it is past 10 o clock at night and 1 have a hard days work
tomorrow so 1 must close promising "news" next time 1 would write more but my pen is so bad I have to go over the letters 2 or 3 times before I can get it to mark at all.

Direct your letters to W. Stonell c/o Dr. I.G.Sims Esq

Floresville, Wilson County, Texas.


Mr. William Stonell
Messer Dollind & Co
1 Ludgate Hill
St. Pauls Church Yard
London, England
taken in Epping Forest I wish if it is convenient you would do so yet in your next.

Give my best respects to all enquiring friends and former acquaintances and my love to each and all of you.

And believe me your

Affectionate Brother

W. Stonell


Floresville, Wilson County
15th January 1875

Dear Brother,

In your letter of December 20th you charge me with not answering

your letter, but you certainly have forgotten that 1 sent you letters which were misdirected it appears two of which were for you which alters the case considerably. In regard to my skill as a carpenter, it is very limited so much so in fact that some of the planes you mention, I do not so much know them at least by that name. When I mentioned my carpentering 1 did not that you would that 1 had any idea of my attempting to make a living in England by that means, I merely done so to give you an idea of the many means there is of getting along in this country, although I suppose I could learn as far as that is concerned, but it would be like commencing from the beginning. As regards "Carmen Poster'19 I do not know what kind of business it i's but 1 suppose you will more fully illustrate in your next. You ask what I can do nothing and yet anything as far as the term goes as regards hard work everything in this country is so different from England is the reason why I used the forgoing experience I mearly want some employment I'm not particular what kind if I am to get along in England (as regards work I mean) I can come back to Texas. Tell Tom and Jim of the birdshop (for 1 cannot place therfl by the name) that I shall be glad to hear from them at all times.

The late Miss Platt also, inquire if you please of her (Miss Platt) what became of my old flame Miss Lizzie Rickets. Tom Williams is married 11 11 to quite a fortune it appears, bully for Tom, whilst his sister has married'and is a widow!

Alas poor Ellen, the rest of our boyhood companions are scattered.

In my last letter to you I asked you to send me one of those photographs

but I am in hopes it will soon break away and then we shall have fair weather as in order to get home by the time I wish I shall have to work very steady but I have no doubt but that I shall accomplish my desire this time. I answered Johnls letter in my or rather I placed it inside with yours but you have not mentioned it in this letter, neaither have I recieved any answer from him (John). I should have enveloped it and sent it separate but there'was no stamps or envelopes in the settlement at that time so I sent it with yours. I suppose John has completed his apprentiship by this time I suppose and is now a good tradesman. George is not yet married 1 suppose or you would have stated the same Henry is yet at the telegraph office 1 suppose although I think it is very poor business the wages are good enough for a boy of his age but when he gets to be a man some other boy will step into his place and he will be thrown out of employment as a man cannot live on the wages they pay, that is if the system is carried on in England like it is in this country I should therefore advise him to learn something more profitable ere it is too late and be cast on the world like me without a trade or profession a common labourer in fact. Charles is yet at school I suppose. Give my regards to all my enquiring friends and acquaintances. And my love to my brothers with yourselves. And believe me your affectionate and obedient son.

W. Stonell

Direct as before

More letters below at these locations

January 1875 - 1878 |1877 - 1883 | January 1885 through June 1887

William and Martha (Hesskew) Stonell
picture of both and short bio