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Isaac Shay ~ Letters

Company C 93rd. Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry

Isaac was the son of, Thomas C.Shay and Elizabeth McCallister He was born about 1827 in Cornwall, Lebanon Co., Pennsylvania. He married Mary Ann Rosenberger on July 30, 1846. She was the daughter of Samuel and Anne Marie Rosenberger, all of Lebanon County and born in Pennsylvania.

According to the 1860 census records for Lebanon County, Isaac's profession was that of a shoemaker and he was 32 years old.

His wife Mary 34, and children, Sarah 10, Henry 8, and John Clinton 2 years old. They were living in Lebanon Borough. Isaac's youngest son, Robert Eaton was born the year of 1860. His oldest child, about 11, a son named, Winfield.

To view a copy of a sample letter of Isaac's CLICK HERE

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By October of the same year Isaac had re-enlisted into Co C 93rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Many members of Isaac's family saw service within this regiment, his brothers, William Daniel and Cyrus, among them.

The War between the States was on the verge of breaking out, and on April 20th of 1861, Isaac along with his brother in law, Cyrus Rosenberger enlisted into Co G, of the 5th Pa. Vol. Infantry. They both served out their enlistments and were mustered out of service, July 25, 1861 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

NOTE:Below you will find some of the heartfelt letters home from Isaac to his wife and family.

The Letters

June 02, 1862

Dear Wife and Family,

I am pleased to inform you that I am well at the present and hoping that this letter will find you all in the same blessing and strength of God. As regards to myself, I am thankful to God for preserving my life once more through a hard fight on Saturday and Sunday, and up until today. And I do not think that it is over yet, but I hope that it is soon to be. Our Regiment has gone almost down to nothing. Yesterday morning we were drawing in the line and counted off only 250 men. We had 11 killed, 82 wounded or dying and 52 missing yet. We have only the sergeant as all of our officers are gone but for two Captains and a 1st Lieutenant. Our Lieutenant, John Rogers was killed and Patrick O'Brein killed. There were 11 wounded out of our Company. Colonel James McCarter was wounded and Colonel Johnston is in the hospital. So we have no commanders at the head of our Regiment.
Jacob Shay is wounded in the hand. John Shay and Cyrus Shay are not with us. They are on the sick list. We are receiving orders. Give my love to all friends. I ask all the prayers of the richness of God for my perseverance hence and bring save through. I remain yours.

Truly, Isaac Shay

May 12, 1862

Dear Wife, Children and Susan,

I wish to let you know that I am well at the present and hoping that these few lines will find you all in the same state and blessing. I've received no letter from you since we left Camp Sewell. That is about two weeks ago, and I've written you 2 or 3 times. I hope that you have not forgotten me.
Last Monday we had a severe fight at Fort Magruder near Williamsburg. We left Camp Sewell on Sunday at about 12 o'clock, marching thru rain and mud knee deep and arrived on the battlefield around 2 o'clock, Monday. Our men went in to fight tired and with knapsacks on. We fought about two and a half hours. It was awful to hear the bombshells and bullets shooting, both men and horses. I thank God for my protection and bringing me out safe and alive. Daniel And Cyrus Shay were not in the fight. The next day I went thru the battlefield and it was an awful site to look at. The Rebels were lying in every corner. Some the head nearly shot off, some the legs and some the arms, some the insides, hanging out. The wounded demanding water.
The Rebels retreated and left all their dead and wounded on the field. We had to bury ours, and theirs. There were a great many killed on both sides. Out of our Regiment we had six killed and twenty wounded. One killed and two wounded out of our Company. I do not wish to get in another fight if
possible, but it is not likely at the present time. We are on our way to Richmond and have been laid over here since Saturday on account of a bridge being burnt down on the Chickahominy River. We expect to march at any minute, so I must bring my letter to a close. No more at the present, but still remain yours.

Truly, Isaac E. Shay

March 15,1862
Dear Family,
I have the pleasure to inform you that I am well at the present, and hoping that these few lines will find you all well. I wish to let you know that we took up our march last Monday into Virginia to Prospect Hill and that we are still on a slow march. We lie in the open field and have no tents. We are exposed to the rain and cold. It rained all day and night, and this morning our men are all wet and muddy. We are now waiting on marching orders. We think that we are going to Norfolk to reinforce General Burnside. Yet, still we hear nothing. I bunked down with your brother, Cyrus one night. Today he is on a march to Alexandria. They are going to take boats, but they do not know yet where they are going. I can tell you that I thought we had it hard the first 3 months of Service, but we had it good up until this winter. Still, I hope we get through this as well as we did before. You can tell Isaac Farnwalt's wife, that I saw him and he is well. But that he would like to see his family. As I am writing, the role is called for marching. They all send their best respect to you. Time is short I must come to a close. As regards to money, we do not know when we will be paid. Send Winfield to Peter Bertram's and have him pay you the $2.50. And try and make that do. We expect to be paid the first of April, and I will send it home. Give my love to father and all the rest of them. We do not know where we will be this time next week. Let me know if William Urich enlisted. Write when you get the opportunity. Direct your letters to Washington D.C. 93rd Regiment, Co C PVI in care of Capt. W. Morney. Nothing more at present, but still I remain yours.
Truly, Isaac E. Shay

June 13,1862
Dear Wife and Children,
Camp Seven Pines
I wish to drop you a few lines to let you know that I am well at the present and hoping this letter will find you all the same. Blessing be that Mr. Coleman is here, and the stamps so scarce that we cannot get them. I thought that I would send this letter home with him. If I had known it, I would not have sent my money by express. I would have sent it with him. Write to me as soon as you get the money and let me know if you received the letters I wrote you. I think they will send you a notice when the money arrives. You can get the money at the, Lebanon Valley Bank. You must take that letter with you when you go for it and you must pay the express. That will only be a few cents. I wish you would send me 25 cents worth of stamps. I don't want you to send me any more tobacco. We are expecting another fight shortly and I think that will put us into Richmond. There is a great deal of sickness in our Regiment. I heard today that John Shay is ever poorly and Cyrus is on his way to some hospital. It is likely that he is in Philadelphia. All is okay with William and Daniel. As regards to my accounts, you don't bother yourself about them. And as regards to your brother Cyrus Rosenberger, I don't know anything about him. He is not here with us. I would have sent you more money but we only got two months pay. I had to pay them back $5.00. That left me $21.00 and I sent you $16.00. That leaves me with $5.00. I need a little for some bread and a _____ of crackers. Nothing more at present, I remain yours.
Truly, Isaac E. Shay
I wish I were home again.

May 26, 1862

Dear Wife, Children and rest of Friends,
8 miles from Richmond at White Oak Swamp
I am pleased to let you know that I am well at the present and hoping that this may find you all in the same blessing. Last night, I lied down on the green grass about 9 o'clock to pass some of the night from a hard march. My name was called out. I was pleased to be informed that the orderly had got the mail. And was glad to see a letter from home. So this morning I have a few moments to answer with a few lines. I received the thread, fishhooks and stamps, and am very much obliged to you for them. We have a great deal of sickness in our army since we left Fortress Monroe, on account of the water and hard marching. William Shay is in the hospital; he is bad with rheumatic fever and piles. John Shay is listed as missing out of the Regiment on account of sickness. We expect to have a hard time of yet today or tomorrow. The Rebels are making a stand and we are making an advance on them. I cannot tell you much about these things at present, but still I hope that we may.............................................................

Undated: Missing 1st. Page

Page #2

And also I heard that Jacob Peiffer is going to Illinois. I am sorry that I am not at home, but tell Susan that when I get home we will not be far behind. Tell Jacob that I send my love to him and all his family and that I wish them all a safe trip. Tell him to write me about shoemaking, when he gets out there. He can send it home first then you can send it to me. I have not seen Cyrus since we got down here. He is in McCall's Brigade and they are on another road to Richmond. But I was with him the time we marched across the long bridge. Two or three of those Company's were in a fight, but his was not hit badly. We had to be in the line of battle this morning for three hours. We had expected an attack, but they did not come or try to cross. We are not far from the Rebels there is only a creek between us. Give my love to Jacob Eby's family, and tell him to write me and I will give him the particulars of this army that shot some of our men last week while on picket duty along the York River. I want you to send me a halfpack of stamps again. Also, tell Winfield' to get twelve of the sharpest and straightest fishhooks of mine and enclose them in a letter along with some black thread, if it doesn't make the envelope to full. There is nothing more at present. But I remain yours.

Truly, Isaac E. Shay
Write soon. Everyone else is well.

Civil War Letter from,
Isaac Shay to his Wife, Mary Ann Rosenberger:
Undated; Missing page #1
Pages 2 & 3 of 3

and we worked about an hour when they (Rebels) must have seen that there was something going on and opened fire on us. We hid down in our ditch, and they fired 2 or 3 volleys. We then got back up double-quick and let them know that we had some Yankee lead with us. I don't know if we killed any or not. None of us were hurt. We had to finish it at night. This is how a great many such things happen here. Every night we can hear cannonading. Sometimes it shakes the ground we lie on.

The way we understand it, General McClellan is getting ready for the contest. The reason that it goes so slow is on account of the roads being so bad, and he wants to make sure work of it. Our men think this will be one of the biggest battles ever fought. I think this may be the wind up of the war. As near as I can figure, he has about two hundred thousand men down here and I hope he may be successful in his undertaking. I believe that he is a man that fears the lord and trys to do his duty to God and man. Therefore I believe that God will help him through with this great cause.

At times, on account of the roads being so bad, the supply teams are unable to get provisions to us. We have lived for some time very hard. Sometime back, we lived for 2 days on 4 crackers. Some of the men had nothing at all for days. But still, we have to put up with this. I have seen more bad times than I had ever expected, in this world. Like Ezekiel Thomas said, "If I was home again, I would forever eat dry_____, and be happy with that."

Last night, I could not sleep much. I laid down about 1 o'clock, and fell into a deep dose. I had a most pleasurable dream. I thought I was at home with my family, and was so happy. I dreamed that I was talking with Susan and her husband Thomas. And I thought, I've never had a more plesant time. But when I awoke, I found myself on my hard bed, under my government blanket. Cyrus, William, Daniel Shay and Peter Garrett are all bunked near me. John Shay, William Thomas and Samuel Thomas all know the horrors of being soldiers. Yet, Penrose Thomas seems to like it. I don't want you to trouble yourself so much about me, but try and do your duty to the children as best you can. We have not gotten paid yet, but we expect it, any week. I wish they would pay us, so I could send it home to you. Then you would not have to slave yourself so hard. Ask Susan to help you along till we get paid, then you can repay her. When I get back, I shall reward her for it. If I should never return, than I hope that we will meet in a world where we would never more part, a world without war, one, that is without troubles or sorrow, but a world of joy. I must come to a close for it is drawing on tonight, and there is no light here at night. We dare not even have a wood fire, on account of the enemy.

It is with all my heart that I wish to hear you, and to hear my old father and mother. You try and get Winfield to help you along, and to be a good boy. For it may be the last time he may ever see his father's hand write. And sis can help you the same. And _____ is to be the _____. I would like to see Clinton and Robert Eaton again. This is the first time that I have shed tears since I joined the army. I remain yours.

Always, Isaac E. Shay

These are some images of Isaac Shay's brothers who served in the Civil War also.
To view a larger image just click on the thumbnail photo.

Jacob Shay

William Shay

Cyrus Shay

I would like to extend my appreciation to
Steven W. Dingler and Leslie T. Keller
for sending these letters of
Isaac Shay.
I would also like to thank Tom Shay
for the images of Cyrus, William and Jacob.
Some of Isaac's letters speak of William and Cyrus.