"THE LETTERS THAT NEVER CAME" dated 1929 (From the Confederate Veteran
Magazine Volume 37 page 206)
"About twenty years ago , from the dim recesses of a dark closet in the
State House at Columbus, Ohio, there was brought to light a dusty bag which
contained a number of letters written by Confederate prisoners held at Camp
Chase during the War between the States. No one will ever know why these
pathetic missives never reached their destinations. There was no word that
could offend the sternest censor, for all tried to make the best of their
lot, to cheer the spirits of those at home, hoping that ""this dreadful
war"" would soon be over, and they could come home again. Let us hope that
many did reach home again, instead of being among those pitiful two thousand
home-sick souls so easily falling prey to camp diseases and buried so far
from those who loved them. In some of the letters is mentioned a Mrs. Smith"
(Really Mrs. Clark) "who had been getting letters through the lines to
Richmond. Something happened, we shall never know what, through some
mischance. We shall never cease to be moved to tears over the ""love and
kisses"" that one yearning father sent his little boy-never to be given.
The letters were turned over to the Ohio State Library and were
carefully indexed. The State Librarian, C.B. Galbraith, called the attention
of the late Col. W.H. Knauss to the letters. It was Colonel Knauss, a
veteran of the Union army, whose influence brought it about that the United
States government took over the perpetual care of the Camp Chase Cemetery.
In his book on Camp Chase, he copied many of the letters, with some
So many years had elapsed even since they had been found, and the
possibility of getting the letters to those who might rightfully lay claim
to them had never occurred to anybody until the President of the Ohio
Division, Mrs. Albert Sidney Porter, said, ""Why not?"" and straightway set
to work upon the problem. We have been nearly two years at work upon it,
valiant, intrepid little Mrs. Porter encouraging and abetting her committee,
and, after many delays, of expediency, etc. We now have the letters in
Words fail to express the gratitude of the Ohio Division toward Captain
John M. Maynard, Clerk of the House of Representatives of Ohio. It was he
who told us the proper procedure, who obtained the enthusiastic endorsement
of the three G.A.R. men serving in the legislature, a gracious and most
helpful touch, and it was through him that ""Joint Resolution No. 10""
was presented through the proper channels and voted on at once, instead of
being side-tracked in a committee! It was all most impressive, and so very
exciting as the long rolls of names were called, first in the House then the
Senate, and the ""ayes,"" one after another, kept coming in, and then,
finally, we knew the letters were ours!
Mrs. Porter has been tabulating a list of the letters to be published in the
VETERAN and all Southern newspapers, so that it may reach as many as
possible who might be interested. There are about one hundred and ninety
letters, and if just one may reach the family of the loved one for whom it
was intended, or, if the ""love and kisses"" may be delivered to the son or
the grandson of that little boy who never received them, how we shall all
fairly glow with happiness and how amply we shall feel rewarded! The letters
of those whose families cannot be reached after a reasonable time, will be
placed in the Confederate Museum at Richmond, Virginia."
In 1948 the son of Mrs. Albert Sidney Porter (Mr. Phillip Porter)
would donate the letters to the Virginia Historical Society where they
remain to his day. In 1985 Mr. Phillip Porter and his wife would be found
murdered at their home in Shaker Heights, Ohio, his home looted and some
Civil War artifacts taken. A man by the last name of Soke was convicted of
There are several legal issues that could come into play.
One might be did the State of Ohio have the legal right to give United
States mail to a private organization? It would appear that the Ohio
lawmakers had the hope of getting the letters into the descendants hands.
The Virginia Historical Society appears to have the position that the
letters were given to them in good faith and have no plans for returning
the letters to the rightful descendants, some of whom would like the
original letters returned to their families.