I have titled this virtual archive of letters “Reluctant Yanks” because it seems clear to me that neither brother had any interest in fighting in the federal army — particularly after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Joseph F. Orr and his younger brother, B. Franklin Orr, were ardent Democrats and held little interest in seeing the liberation of Black Americans, let alone fighting for them — or worse still, fighting with them. They strongly supported the Copperhead movement and praised the speeches of Clement L. Vallandigham. They also placed the blame for the war squarely on the Republican Party and wished to see the Union restored “as it was” through a compromise with the Confederate states.
From the letters we learn that both Orr brothers were drafted in Columbiana County, Ohio, in the fall of 1862 and, as such, were compelled to serve 9 months duty. Though both brothers survived the war and were discharged, both of them died in 1863 from disease contracted in the service.
These letters were purchased by an acquaintance of mine who asked me to transcribe them and authorized me to publish them on this blog for the benefit of historians or family history researchers. There are 15 letters in the archive that were written by privates Joseph Frederick Orr and/or his brother Benjamin Franklin Orr during the 9 months that they served in the 76th Ohio Infantry. Additionally, the archive includes the following letters written by other family members:
Two letters written by Noah Frederick (1790-1877), the grandfather of Joseph and Franklin Orr.
One letter written by Margaret Ann (Frederick) McCaskey (1817-1862) to Nancy (Frederick) Orr.
5 April 1857 from Rockford Township, Caldwell County, Missouri
One letter written by Mary Jane Ramsey of Greene County, Indiana to Orr Cousins.
1 June 1862 from Greene County, Indiana.
One letter written by Belmina (“Belle”) S. Frederick (1836-1887), the aunt of Joseph and Franklin Orr.
Three letters written by Franklin Ramsey (1839-1924) of Co. C, 21st Indiana Infantry (1st Indiana Heavy Artillery) to his cousins, Joseph Frederick Orr and Benjamin Franklin Orr.