[Thanks to Susan Stickles for this letter from the papers of William C Reiff]
GENERAL OFFICES OF
J. T. JONES
1024 PRUDENTIAL BUILDING
July 2nd, 1910.
Mr. William C. Reiff.
Carlsbad, Eddy Co., N.M.
Your letter of June 16th has reached me in Buffalo. I took much pleasure in reading it and was much interested in the dates given in your letter of the different battles and positions which we were in during 1863. I have never seen anyone belonging to the 91st Regiment since I left the army and therefore have not refreshed my mind with any of the incidents you refer to. I have been very busily engaged in business from the time I left the army until a little over a year ago when I was taken very sick in February, 1909 and the doctors say I had a stroke of apoplexy. I lay in a comatose state for three weeks and then two months in an unconscious or delierious state and from that time on I have been gradually recovering. I went to Europe and was gone four months, improved some, returned to my own country again and have been here in Buffalo since the middle of October, 1909. I have not been in Mississippi for about 16 months. My son has taken charge of all my business down there and, with the assistance of the men I had around me, has managed the railroad and all the different businesses in a very prudent and successful manner. I feel that I am gradually regaining my health and hope by fall to recover and be myself again.
The facts are, Mr. Reiff, I worked myself nearly to death. I presume you recall how hard I worked in the army. I kept that up until I broke down 15 or 16 months ago. I do not know that I shall ever be able to take charge of my business again. I am now simply acting as advisor in matters and trying not to think very much over them. I see you have your troubles too and I take it that you have the consumption. The facts are, Mr. Reiff, we are both getting older and struggle as we will will have to surrender to the inevitable. We did our duty in the army as best we knew how. Well do I remember the dates of June, 1863 and many other dates and the incidents I remember very clearly. I wish we could see each other and talk over the old army experiences. I have never attended a reunion of our Regiment or any of our soldiers and have never been to Gettysburg since the war or to Antietam or any other place of the battles. I have devoted my entire time to business and to my family. I have a son and daughter, grown up, and my wife is still living for which I am very thankful.
I have no use for Roosevelt or any other demagogue like him and I believe he is the greatest newspaper agent that ever occupied the Presidential chair. He brought on a panic and has injured thousands of men. He is now back in this country and I am afraid of his influence. The first thing he has recommended in politics was the change of the laws for primaries in this state and he and Governor Hughes, Taft and Root all recommended the change and they all have been defeated and I am glad of it. I am as good a Republican as I ever was but I do not like demagogues and men preaching to the galleries and thoughtless masses and bringing panics on the country. We all want a chance to live and be prosperous and take good care of our families. I am afraid that this fall the Republican party will be defeated. Some of the head officers in the party ought to retire and Roosevelt is one of them. I think Mr. Taft is an honest man but weak and vaccilating with too many schemes which are impracticable and I fear it will cause the defeat of the Republican party.
I hope this letter will find you improving and I wish you to feel that I am thankful for your writing me the dates and what occurred on them. My memory now is not as good as it was twenty years ago. I kept a memorandum for several years but when we left our baggage behind us and started on the march to Richmond you will remember our baggage was all lost and my memorandum was lost with it and therefore I do not remember the exact dates of the different battles and have done nothing to revive my memory. [see 'The 91st's headquarters wagon is captured'] I remember a little incident that occurred in the second Battle of the Wilderness. Your gun got dirty in shooting so much and the ramrod became fast in it and you could not pull it out. I told you to jam it against a tree and try to force the bullet down. In your excitement, when the enemy was shooting at us very actively and the bullets flying all around us, you broke the ramrod off and was helpless and cried like a child you were so excited. I told you to wait a little while and I thought you could get a gun. Some poor fellow was shot in a few minutes and you took his gun and was shooting away like a little hero. That incident is very fresh in my mind. Those were stirring days and we all shared our portion of the danger. You always were a good soldier while I was a member of the 91st and you did your duty as honestly as any young man could do it and I have often thought of you but I have forgotten the names of most of the boys.
With kindest regards, I remain,
Yours very truly,
J. T. Jones.