They are from a family called Laird writing home from America to their parents in Ireland. They make mention of other families and relatives from the same district . The second letter is written by Sergt. John Laird just as the American Civil War is drawing to a close. A transcript of these as follows:
Philadelphia June 30th 1853
My dear father and mother, sisters and brother. I now take this opportunity of writing to you these few lines to let you know that we have arrived safe. After a passage of five weeks and three days from we left Moville till we landed on the warf in Philadelphia. Dear father I now wish to let you know how we got along on the passage. Aunt Sarah was sea sick for about four weeks. Dear father I want you to know I was only sick for about four hours. We are both in good health at present, thank God for his gracious benefits to us. Dear father we were not changed out of the cabin that we were in. Uncle Sam met us before the ship pulled into the warf,he took us away then.
Dear father Uncle Sam and Uncle James is both well at present,they are both in one place,they are getting along first rate . Uncle Sam is going to the county in July. Dear father we both like this new county very well . We had a very pleasant passage we had no storm that signified. Mr Robson was very kind to us all the way. I now send my love to my mother in the kindest manner and I hope she will not vex herself for me for I am happy and content as ever I was in my life time. I now send my love to Uncle John wife and family and to Aunt Rebecca and family and also to Uncle Sam Horner wife and family. You can let him know that his daughter’s is well and in good places. I send my love to John Wilson and to John Horner and also to William Campbell and James Smyth and please let them know how they all are. I miss them all. Let William Campbell know that Nancy and Sarah Campbell are both well,Sam Bell and Martha Dunlop also.
William Mullan, Robert and Eliza send their love to you all.Dear father Uncle Sam and Uncle James and Nancy sends their love to you .Aunt Sarah and I sends our love to Michael and D. Denham and also to Mister Hanna and how she has her health now again. Aunt Sarah asks to be remembered to Mr and Mrs Kerr and asks how they are. Please let Mrs Denham know that Margaret Hunter has got a situation. She stopped in Uncle Sam’s until she got her place. Dear father your old friend John Barnet is now dead and buried eight days before we landed. Please give my love to Margy Cargill and James Kelly and let me know if they are well. I hope to see Margy out in this county for I think she would do well in it. You can let Mrs Wylie know that Alexander is well but he has no work at present. Dear father, I have got no place as yet but I intend to go to a trade as soon as I can find one. My dearest mother we are all in good spirits ,thank the Lord for it.
Dear mother, sister Sera[Sarah] and brother John arrived safe on June the 20th (1853) and we had a very happy meeting. I was in the ship (Mohongo) before she came into the warf and took them home before they knew it! Sister Sera[Sarah] seems very content so far,dear mother. I have not much time left to say much now as I am about to go into the country for a short time but I intend to rite you a long letter when I get home again. Brother James and me are both very happy but we have a good deal to do but we are ready for it. I have 4 horses now and carriages to look after. Dear mother I also want to tell you that I have got another addition to my family. We have got a young daughter of 3 months old we call her Martha Eliza and she is thriving. Dear mother we have will you please let Aunt Horner know that that her daughters sent the makings of a dress and a hankiechief back with John McConn aboard the Superior . They sent them to the care of W.D. Porter of Londonderry. The dress is for Mother and the hankiechiefs for father and John. Please tell mother that we are very much thankful for her sending the warp with cousin Sam. Please give our love to Mr Porter and his family and to Uncle Horner. Please also remember us to sister Rebecca and brother Walter. Give our love to all our dear friends and neighbours Please write all give us all the news when you can.
No more at present, but yours until death
Samuel,James,Sera and John Laird.
Goodbye and farewell.
Headquarters First Cavalry Division
Army of the Potomac
Virginia May 18th 1865
My dear Mother, Sisters and Brother
After an absence of a long time I feel it my duty to inform you that I am alive and well and in good health. Hoping this reaches you, and it will find you all in the same good health. Dear mother it is with pleasure that I address you with these few lines as it is more than I ever expected to be able to do when I went into the army but thank God the war is over and peace is proclaimed and I am still living. I have been in 27 hard fought engagements but thank God I am still alive as yet,I have never even been wounded but I have had some narrow escapes for my life. I used to often think when I would see my friends and comrades fall all around me that my time would soon come but thank God it never did. In June 1863 I was taken prisoner and remained so for four months when I was exchanged and I rejoined my regiment again. A few days afterwards the battle of Bristoe Station was fought and we were engaged from daylight until dark. Our regiment suffered greatly in this battle,we lost nearly all our line officers which was very disheartening to us but we bore through it all with a good heart and will, knowing that we were fighting for a good cause and for freedom. Thanks to God we have gained the day. Dear mother hard is the life of a soldier. laying out all night in the woods in drifting snow without any cover. I put my blanket on my horse which I lay along side of, but we soon got used to it and it is fun for us now to talk over all that has past and of all the battles we have been in. Dear mother I have got along very well since I have been in the army. I am now Sergeant Major of the Regiment, but I am sure you will want to know what that is so I will tell you about it.
A Sergeant Major is a man that does all the writing for the regiment and keeps all the Regimental Books and papers. He keeps a correct account of all the men and notes all the wounded and killed in his morning report which is sent to the headquarters of the army. Also it is his duty while laying in camp to mount guards every morning and make out all details for picket and fatigue duties. This keeps me pretty busy but I have a man to assist me to do the writing. I have a man to take care of my horse and saddle him up when I need it. Dear mother that is a kind of account of what I do, but I suppose you know very little of warfare over there at home and long may it remain so for it has made desolation enough in this county in these Southern States
But I thank God it is now all over and we expect to be soon discharged. I have not had any word from Philadelphia for some time,that is from any of my aunts and uncles but we have been moving about so much this Spring and the war coming to a close much sooner than a great many expected Perhaps my letters have gone astray but it is likely I will get them soon
My dear mother I have givin’ you all the news that I know at present ,the only thing I want is to go home and then things will be better. Perhaps before this reaches you and when you write send it to Philadelphia to me. Dear brother I want to say a few lines to you. May you excuse me for not writing to you and mother but I was hard pressed and I suppose many things has all passed over now and every thing that has past and gone I have not forget. I suppose you think that I forgot my other land but I did not and I hope now everything is all right. You will give my best respects to my sisters and to our mother and expect the same yourself. If only I could be there with you but I cannot so
I remain your ever affectionate brother
Sergeant John Laird
Sergeant Major of the 6th US Cavalry
PS: I had almost forgot that I may still have any friends in the old country. Will you give my best respects to Uncle Sam wife and family and to Mrs Porter’s family and to all my old friends and comrades,.but I suppose there is not many of them left now William Hamilton and John Kincade are both together in one regiment,I believe they are still alive as yet but I have not seen them since last winter. I expect to go to Washington on some business and I if I had the corps that they belong to, I will enquire. John Wilson is working in the Clothing Department ,I expect to see him.
I suppose you have heard of the murder of our beloved President. His death is greatly lamented in this county and I see from the foreign news from England that they also deplore the loss of Mr Lincoln. I hope it all leads to good for this land in the end.
I will have to come to a close now, and I am still yours truly
Sergeant Major John Laird.
From the passenger lists of J & J Cooke Londonderry
Out of Londonderry to Philadelphia
James Laird Elagh Londonderry
William Mullen Londonderry
“John McConn”, Three Trees, Quigleys Point.
W.D. Porter was a merchant who was engaged in the import trade. Mr Porter’s house Glengalliagh Hall was located in the townland of Elagh. The house still stands today and is occupied by a Hamilton family.
John Laird the author of the letters refers to a number of family members:
He mentions Lairds already in Philadephia
“Uncle Sam [Laird]”
“Uncle James[Laird] and Nancy
Lairds still at home:
Aunt Rebecca [Laird]
Brothers and sister of John Laird (the author)
Other names mentioned:
Uncle Sam Horner (my regards to)
William Mullan (sends regards)
Letter signed by:
From the above we cannot tell for sure just who John Laird was but based on the few small pieces of evidence that can be extracted I have come to believe that John Laird was from Elagh. This is based on the emigration aboard the ship Superior of James Laird of Elagh in 1852 in the company of William McMullan (see William McMullan sends regards) (see later)
W.D. Porter in whose care the cloth and other gifts were sent home resided in Elagh.
The families mentioned ie Horners, Campbells Smyths and Wilsons were all to be found in the area although I should mention that they could all also be found in Shantallow.
The Horner family (refered to as Uncle Sam Horner”) rented a cottage formally the property of Thomas Laird of Bogstown in the early 20th century.