Aaron Nutt Beck

Civil War Letters by Aaron Nutt Beck

By Ferne Reilich, Curator

The Curator, November 2009

 Chatanooga Nov 23rd 1863

 Dear Parents,       

"It is with pleasure that I take my pencil in hand from day to day to continue my journal.  Yesterday after I had mailed my letter to you, I went over to the 23 KY to see Jim Beck.  He has been unwell but is all right again.  When I came back to our camp, I found the boys getting 100 rounds.  The 11th Corps Hookers army had crossed over and was camped near us . . ."

This excerpt is from Aaron Nutt Beck’s letter # 104, written just before the Civil War battle of Chickamauga near Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Aaron Beck was the great-grandson of Aaron Nutt and was born in Centerville in 1835.  He was the oldest child of Joseph and Mary Beck and the grandson of John Beck and Sarah Nutt.  Our records show that Aaron’s father, Joseph, built the limestone house which still stands at 94 North Main Street, and he owned a dry goods business at the corner of Main Street and East Franklin Street.

Aaron joined the Union Army in October 1861 and was part of the First Ohio Regiment.  He served for three years and during that time wrote 145 letters, mainly to his parents and siblings.  These letters were later put together in book form and were treasured by his descendants.  In 1997, Clark and Donna Beck of Wichita, Kansas, “determined . . . [they] .  . . would make a readable copy of Aaron’s Civil War Journal.”  In their transcribing, the Becks tried to present Aaron’s letters the way they were written, to preserve the flavor of the times.  Often that meant overlooking spelling and punctuation errors.  As may be the case with many young men far from home and living off the land, Aaron’s letters frequently tell his parents about the weather and what he had to eat.  On Wednesday the 18th of November, he writes:

"This has been a day of fasting with us, our rations ran out last night.  This morning we had a cup of coffee for breckfast, then settled it down with a half hours duty, then two hours drill to give us an appetite for dinner.  We had a pint of vegetable soup for dinner, then two and a half hours drill to prepare us for supper and also dress parade at sundown."

On Friday, November 20th, Aaron writes about preparing for the battle:

"Had squad drill in the A.M.  Just after dinner we got orders to fix up guns and git 100 rounds of caterages.  This evening we was formed in companies of 30 men each with one capt, one lieut and four sergeants.  Our orders are very strict about standing to our posts.  I am with Capt Patterson and Lieut Boyer, our Centreville boys are all together.  What is in the wind is hard to tell.  We have two days rations in our haversacks, every thing intimates warm work . . ."