Here's the fourth article concerning William and Sylvanus Sweet, of Patriot War (1838) fame. The articles, written by Ernest G. Cook, appeared in late April and early May of 1930 in the “Watertown Daily Times,” Jefferson County, N. Y. My deepest gratitude goes to Terry Mandigo and Alice Corbett of the Genealogy Dept. of Flower Memorial Library for their help in locating the two articles which I had so much difficulty in finding. All four of the series can be read by returning to my Index of Patriot War articles.

Old Letters Describe Life
In Army During Civil War


William D. Sweet, Writing From Southern Camp, Confident
Union Army Making Good Gains -- Returns to Plessis
After War and in Later Years Visits Scenes of Early
Adventures in Canada.



Herewith The Times presents one of a series of articles by Ernest G. Cook on the life of William D. Sweet
of Theresa, who fought in the Patriot war and the Civil war.


Extracts from two or three letters, written by William D. Sweet while he was in the Union army during the Civil war, may give a little picture of army life in its every day activities. No effort will be made to picture the usual battle scenes, but the side, little told about in a soldier’s life will be given. The side of their life that doesn’t often get into print, but was often the largest part of their experience. Mr. Sweet had a warm friend in the hose section by the name of Jackson Makepeace. Many a person in northern New York knew Mr. Makepeace. He became a leader in the milling industry and at one time Snell & Makepeace were the pioneers in the making of roller flour and had the largest mill of its kind north of the old Central tracks. Their mill was located in Theresa. But at the time of the war Mr. Makepeace was in Plessis. Extracts from one of the letters follow:

“Fort Meigs, Dec. 5, 1862.

Mr. Jackson Makepeace.

:Dear friend:

“I received your letter of Oct. 30. I was very much pleased to hear from you. I have always taken you to be my sincere friend. To hear from such ones does me good. I am as well as usual. I hope these lines will find you all well.

Solomon is with me. He is well. A. D. Rundlet and William Forbes left us Monday for the hospital. They are not so sick but they can help themselves. They have better cars there than can be had here. It has left Solomon and I in the tent alone. Samuel Miller stays nights with us.

“We have had two deaths in our company in two days. Their names are Ebgert Stears and Byron Van Tassel. The rest of our company are as well as usual. We have been somewhat neglected. In the first place at Sackets Harbor, they put 2500 men in the barracks when it was not made for half of that number. It was not fit for any person to live in. They have brought us here with no doctor. Some have lain in their tents sick for three days or a week before they get to a hospital to be doctored. It is just neglect for they must know that there would be some sickness. I think we will stay here till spring, perhaps longer, if the war lasts that long.

“We had a little fun here Tuesday. We could not think of letting the day pass without voting. I proposed to John Vandeburg to have a vote on the governor at home. We stood as follows: In Fort Meigs, for Wadsworth 53; Seymour 8. In Fort Dupont, Wadsworth 35 and Seymour 14. That makes in our company a majority of 65 for Wadsworth. You can see for yourself how the Democrats sustain our army. That is Buchannan Democrats. I claim there should be a distinction. I think there are Union Democrats and Buchannan Democrats.

“The weather is wild here, much like September at home. There has been but a very little frost here. The roads are good. The war news is favorable. We have all the passes. Our army is advancing. We are in better condition than ever. It will not be the fault of the soldiers if we don’t succeed in subduing the Rebels. There is one thing I would like to know. How a man like Jason Clark can vote for a man like Seymour who has done nothing to put down the war. If our New York army could have been at home and voted there would have been a different majority in New York state. But some day we will be home to fight the rebels.

“You said it was lonesome there. We feel lonesome here. To leave our families and friends is a great undertaking. It would be very agreeable to me to see and to talk with my family. But it is a great privilege to write. I have heard that some of my folks are sick and that they have sent for the doctor.

Jackson, I feel very bad over the loss of my little girl at home. Otherwise, I feel like helping to put down this rebellion. Give my best regards to all of my friends. I have a poor place to write.

“From your sincere friend.
"William D. Sweet.”

These letters are all written upon paper that is as white and crisp today as the time it was written some 70 years ago. The ink has not faded hardly any and the writing shows that the writer took considerable care in his penmanship. On one of the letters written by William D. Sweet is a page given over to Solomon Makepeace to write and we give a little of what Solomon has to say. He too is at Fort Meigs. He says:

“Dear brother:

“I will try and write a few lines as William has left some room for me. First, I must tell you that I have been very sick since William Forbes left, but am better now and I think I will get along if I don’t have a pull back.

“Yesterday, the paymaster was here and paid off the company up to the 30th day of Oct. (This was written Dec. 18.) Those who had enlisted after August 22nd was not paid to that date, so I only received one month’s pay as I enlisted after the 22nd of Aug. He says I will get my full pay next time. The first of Jan. I will receive $42. I am going to send five dollars home to Lucinda and have got to buy a pair of boots which will take another five dollars. I will keep the balance because I don’t know how long I may be sick and I am sure that what I eat I shall have to buy. I bought a chicken the other day for three shillings and they said they sold it to me one shilling less than what it was worth because I was sick.

S. Makepeace

On Christmas day, a year after -- it was in 1863, William writes another letter to Jackson Makepeace. He starts his letter in the old time way of “the pen in hand” style. He says.

“Dear friend:

“I now take my pen in hand to write a few lines to you. I am well at present and hope these few lines will find you all well. I am glad that Solomon has reached home. I think that is the place for him, and have thought so for sometime. I think Dr. Moak a good doctor but I think he never can cure Solomon, as all hopes of his recovery is vain.

“I think the cause of the Union is progressing steadily. I don’t look at victory as a great many do. I look at the steady progress our army is making. If this progress continues we shall have control of the south in another year. In 1861 the rebels had control of 13 states. In ‘62 they controlled eight. Now they only control four.

“So it is with profound gratitude and devout thanksgiving that we close the old year and with much joy and happiness look towards the new.

“Your sincere friend.
William D. Sweet.”

Mr. Sweet made a poor guess as to his tent mate. Solomon Makepeace, for he lived years after the war closed. He was merchant at Plessis for years and also postmaster. *

When William D. Sweet sent his ballot home which he voted in the presidential election of November, 1864, he was with the New York Heavy Artillery at Winchester, Va.

In after years, long after the Civil war was over and William D. Sweet had reached the sunset of his life, he had a longing to revisit the places in Canada where he had seen much adventuresome days. So he and his son, Sidney W. Sweet, of this village, decided to pay a visit to Canada and go over again some of the roads that William once went over and revisit the places he once knew with sorrow. They had splendid treatment and even in old Fort Henry were given every courtesy possible. At first the officials of the fort were not inclined to grant the request to visit in the old prison. They saw no reason why an American should be shown everything the fort contained. But when Mr. Sweet told the commanding officer that he had a brother buried somewhere in the prison yard and that in that distant day, as a boy, he was confined in that same prison and had a pardon to free him from the place, the officer was ready to grant every kindness possible. He sought the records and showed Mr. Sweet right where his brother was buried, and took him down where he was once a prisoner. Mr. Sweet never forgot their kindness.

William D. Sweet lived to the good age of 87 and died in November of 1905. He had seen much in his life time. When he was laid away the comrades of the George W. Flower Post at Theresa, of which Mr. Sweet was a charter member, gathered about his casket, knowing that a brave man had fallen.

(The End.)

Note: According to Bartlett’s Cemetery Inscriptions on the Jefferson County GenWeb site, Solomon was born 17 May 1837 and died in 1922.

William D. Sweet is listed on the same source cited above as born in 1818 and passing away in 1903. Research uncovered an obit written in a Watertown newspaper, dated November 28, 1905, which more closely agrees with the information in the last paragraph of this article.