The story that was told to me of how my parents came into possession of these two letters is quite interesting. My father, Harrison Tyler, was sitting on the porch of Lyon’s Den in the summer of 1980.

Lyons Den is the home where my Dad grew up. It was the hunting lodge the President John Tyler, my great-grandfather, built in 1856. It is located on the bluffs of the James River about a mile form Sherwood Forest, and from the front porch you can see down the river to Fort Pocahontas about two miles off in the distance.

A car drives into the yard and a young man and woman in their early twenties hop out of the car. The young man is cradling a small cigar box with box with both hands as if it is very valuable. He looks my Dad in the eyes as asks if he was Harrison Tyler. When my Dad says “Yes,” his face bursts into a smile and he tells my Dad that he is on his way to Virginia Beach for his honeymoon with his new wife. He is a construction worker and he found this cigar box buried inside a wall when he demolished a house near Hanover County. It contained two letters. One from G.M. Arter asking about his father’s artifacts stolen from the “Tyler mansion.” It also contained the original letter written by A.Arter telling of time spent at Fort Pocahontas and his subsequest raid on President John Tyler’s home, Sherwood Forest. The young man said he knew that my Dad lived at Sherwood Forest, so he asked directions at the local General Stores and drove down to give him this box personally. And then he got in his car and drove off to his honeymoon.

The neat thing about this letter, is that there had been oral stories handed down through the Tyler family that when the house had been ransacked by union forces. The story was that, during the Civil War, soldiers had destroyed the piano and broken the glass out of a mirror then used the glass shards as shaving mirrors. In fact, there were a pair of matching mirrors in the ballroom of Sherwood Forest during the war. Today one of the mirrors is still at Sherwood Forest and it still has its glass in it. But the matching mirror is located next door at creek Plantation where George Tyler now lives. He never replaced the glass because the story was that the soldiers broke it out and they recognized the historical significance of it not being replaced. Now, with this letter, we had actual proof.

The soldier in this letter is a white soldier and he came to the fort about a month after the battle with Fitzhugh Lee. The black troops were apparently well behaved to the local inhabitants. But the second batch of white troops that this soldier came with spent a lot of time “appropriating resources” from the local community. One of the odd things about this letter is the way this soldier talks about the local slaves and wanting to know if his Dad wanted him to bring one home.

If anybody can find anything about A. Arter or G. M. Arter, please call Kay Tyler at (804) 829-5377 and tell us what you have found out. Anyway, we want our brass kettle back!

William Tyler

Letter 1 – PDF

From G. M Arter – Hanover Feb. 20 – 19
To Geo. Sullivan – Dear Sir
When I found this letter written home by Father in the war nearly 55 years ago I thought of you and I am sending it to you for I think it will interest you for it tells about that great raid you boys made on Tylers house You asked me for a piece of the looking glass but I cant find it–but it has been in the house all these years The brass kettle that you took from there. Father took it to Cal. with him and I suppose the boys is taking care of it Now George I know you will be glad to see this letter–it shows the very date you boys made the raid on the Tyler mansion. Take care of it and you can return to me some time.

Your freind
G. M. Arter
Hanovertown (?), O

Hanover, Ohio

Letter 2 – PDF

Wilsons Landing Virginia
June 23 1864

Dear Friend,

The boys are all out on duty, and I am the only one in the tent and having nothing particular on hand to day, I thought I might be wrighting a small history of my campaign as well as be loafing in my quarters and at the same time knowing that it will be interesting to you to look over them. Lieut Burson is out on Picket our Picket lines extends about 11/2 miles outside of the fortification, and is very strongly mand. I was put on Picket on last Sunday and remained until monday evening I had control of the Picket Line. The circumstances in which I went out made me feel a little squally on Sunday morning a dispatch came into camp that there was a heavy Force of Rebs making their way towards our works. Consequently every man that could shoulder his gun was at his post and should we of been attacked we would not of gave them a very kind reception as we have one of the best arranged breast works I have seen and had also about two thousand men armed with the sharps Rifles, and one full artilery company composed of some 12 or 15 heavy cannons in addition there is Two Large gun Boats laying at the landing. This point was taken by our men from the Rebs some four weeks ago and there is no dout they would like to have it back again. This point is the most prominent on the James River & is said to be the highest it is about Fifty feet above the river so you will see that the country on the Jas River cant be very high. Mr. Wilson the man that owned this farm had put out this spring some 500 acres of corn there has never been a plow or how put in it. it is growing up in weeds. it is said he owned some 2000 acres and well stocked with Negros when our army came in he started out and had the Rebs to attack our forces. they were entirely defeated Mr. Wilson with many others Rebs were kiled, and can be seen lying around out side the camp yet his negros were all set free. There is a man right across the River Reb who ownes some Seventeen thousand acres of land and any amount of Negroes. & since our troops got posession here they have taking all his negroes & everything else. This whole country is owned by heavy land holders owning from one to Twenty thousand acres A poor man cant own any land. all the men on the approach of our forces leave their homes and our men destroy the boys bring in lots of stuff every day that they take from deserted houses. A lot of the boys went out yesterday and broke into President Tylers hous and took and destroyed lots of stuff. They say he has the nicest kind of a mansion the house furnished in the best of style. they brought in some very nice furniture such as sofas looking glasses stands carpeting &c of the very costliest kind and destroyed the pyana & large looking glasses & such other stuff they could not Bring in. there was also a foringing Party went out from this post yesterday on a steamer and came back last evening with a full load they Brot in 80 head of sheep some 20 or 30 head of cattle lot of mules & Horses & among the rest eighty negroes they were mostly women & children good many of them young women one old nig 105 years old so he says these were all took from one family they also took all the furniture they had. the family they said went on at a great rait at the idea of loosing their all. and well they might. Just think we would feel if we had ever thing took. our men shows the rebs, in this section no mercy take everything we are getting up another party to start out tomorrow to clean out an old Reb which lives out some six miles they say he has lots of Niggers & stock they will bring them in the negroes we send to Fortress Monroe There they have a large lot of land which they make them work. There is about 2500 there some of our captains are selecting young darkeys to take home they want me to take one I can get any kind I want they are more of a drug than anything else. I see young darkies all kind of colors from nearly white to as Black as Black. I thought I had better counsil with you before I risk to bring one. Now if you think you would like to have a little darky and that you would undertake to raise one let me know and also what kind you would like to have for I can get any kind of one. they are a perfect drug here. there is a great many things I might wright you that would be of interest to you but time wont permit when I get home I will be able to give you a good deal of news and many interesting details. That is if you can get me in a good mood for talking for you know I am quite a talker. I wrote my Father yesterday quite a history of what I have seen & will no dout be some interest to him as it comes direct from one that has saw what it contains you can get it of him as I intended it for you all to read you can take it over if you want & let your father see it as it contains no secrets you can also let him see what I send to you, as there is no one that will be more interested in a letter from this section than he will. in Regard to general news you will get it sooner than I could send it to you. You can tell Mary Greg that her Brother Alb came in to camp the other day he was very glad to see the boys. he looked purty hard having to travel a good deal & I gues have been in some hard skirmishes he is very tired he says of soldering and I don’t wonder to see the way some men are used made perfect slaves &c good Bye write often direct to

Capt A. R Arter Co C
143 Reg Oh I
Wilsons Landing
James River Va

A R Arter
all well

The New Arter Letter 3 – PDF

I recently acquired the text for this letter through email from a very nice
person who realized that this letter was the companion letter
to the first Arter letter. It has some tremendous implications. It tells of
how the black troops were given full honors after their victories
and how they were respected by the white troops. It also reports that the
USCT soldiers used Fort Pillow as a battle cry and massacred
the rebel troops in Fort Walker after they taunted them about Fort Pillow.

Headquarters June 19th 18-
Wilson’s Landing on James River-

M Arter Dear Father

I read your letter a-
ago wrote June 6th and would of answ-
but my time being so occupied I could –
a moment for myself. we have to work-
and boath late and early. we are cold o-
morning at 3 o’clock and kept to it until nine-
evening. occassionaly we are cald out on a supp-
ing an attack form the Rebels. So far we have-
came in contact with the Rebs. but should we be
attacked we will have to try our hand. our work
since we left home has been mostly to work on
the fortifications and making roads for the main army
to move on. It is astonishing to see the amount of work that
is done. We have had to make roads where you
would think it impossible. this whole country lays very
low and as a general thing is swampy. you have heard
of what they call wilderness and by the By it is
well named. to give you a history as far as I have seen of
the country. it lays very low with pine trees growing up
in it as thick as they can grow. running up as straight
as an arrow to a hight from 30 to 40 feet. with a kind

-vine growing up so thick that a rabit
-et through with gaggers on. running up to
-the trees making a perfect mat. on
-where we now are. the pines grow larger
-terssenced with other kinds of trees such as maple
-hesnut, white oak and as a general thing the
-ws to no size. The land looks very poor the
-as I have seen where they farm looks very
– thin, composed of white clay as far as I
-country over since we left Washington City
-le country appears to be entirely deserted and
-vast from the ravages of our army. I have not
-a field enclosed with a fence and what
crops was put out there is no care taking of it.
in fact as far as our army reaches, the whole country
is laid waist, and it will take years before it
can be brought back to what it was before the war.
all the fine mansions have been destroyed. the
camp we now lay on is said to be on of the finest
locations on James River. It is entirely deserted, not a
sole on or near it. they do say the owner Mr. Wilson
and his sons are all in the rebel army. it was at
this point that General Wild had the fight with
General Fitz Hugh Lee about the 16th of May, and
whiped him most shamefully. the dead rebs can be
seen laying around over the battleground now

we left Washington City some two wee-(ks ago)
sence that time I have seen a good- (bit of)
country. first we Reported at the whi- (te house which)
is on the Pamunka River. that was a por-(t)
Gen. Grant need his supplies, to carry ou-
we was immediately ordered to city P-(oint on)
the James River at the mouth of the-
Appomattox. at this point. was quite a-
city. but sence our men came in, this-(point had)
been almost destroyed. There is not an o-(riginal)
family here now. On looking it ov-
some of the nicest parks I ever saw, at-
it is headquarters for Gen Butlers Blac-(k troops)
from here we were ordered to Bermuda Hundred. It is
here now where Gen Grant receives his supplies as
he has shifted his army from the Pamunka to
this Point where he commenced his operations
against Petersburgh we was immediately ordered from
this point to the Point of Rocks on the apomattox River
here we laid from Monday to Thursday evening. meanwhile
Gen Grant Gen Mead & Gen Butler massed some one hundre
and fifty thousand troops to commence their campaign
against Gen. Buregard Johnson & other Generals.
they commenced their operations on Wednesday morning
June 15th and I have no doubt that there had been some
of the hardest fighting in the whole campaighn

-ace that is point of Rocks can be seen the
-try when General Grant and Butler is a fighting
-as for three days and nights the time our regiment laid at that
– heard one continual sound from the artillery and rifles
– rising therefrom would raise until the whole
(c)-ould be darkened so as a person could not hardly
(loca)-tion from where it was. I could look the whole thing
-t was one of the grandest sights I ever looked upon, but
(t)-he sacrifice of no doubt of hundreds yes I may say
– our brave men. Oh what a sorrowful sight to
– see as I have seen regiment after regiment march
-ose heavy fortifications for the purpose of scaling them
-assture the enemy which is inside. knowing at the same time
-ances were entirely against them. On the heavy fortifications
around Petersborough which the Rebs held, they put the negroes to work
to take them. Fort Walker being the outside and strongest
fort of the Rebs was taken entirely by the blacks. it is said by the knowing
ones even Grant himself that at this fort was the hardest fight of the whole war.
this fort was took on wednesday evening commencing the attack about 4
o’clock and was took about 8 & silenced. meanwhile the negroes were repulsed
some 4 or 5 times and would rally until they finally succeeded in reaching
the top of the works. there the tug of war commenced. the Rebs yelling to
them to come on and they would make another Fort Pillow case. the
Blacks could not see it that way. on the taking of the fort the Blacks
murderd every Reb that was left supposing to be some 4 or 5 hundred. I saw
and talked with quite a number of blacks that was in that engagement
they say when they took the fort the Rebs begged of them to spare their
lives but their orders was to remember Fort Pillow. and that was the
way they remembered it. this engagement I was in a position that I
could see the whole thing. Fort Stephens the inside fort was taking
the next evening. the gun boats and heavy seize guns plaid on it all
day keeping up one continual volley along in the afternoon.

The fort was silenced at which time the negros
went over and took possession as they did the other which
they now hold. they here also remembered Fort Pillow all in
fact all of the heavy works around Petersborough was taking
by the Blacks, the idea that the whites will not take part
when the blacks are engaged is entirely plaid out. I find
by talking with the white troops that they have no objection to the
Black Troops taking a position with them in the field, and if
necessary they lead the column and take all the Honor
it is in this department Gen Butlers when the main portion
of the colored army is. I have seen regiment after Regiment
passing backwards and forwards. Cavalry Artillery & infantry
they are the finest looking men in the field, as a general
thing they are large, mostly young and of all coulers.
from the white to as black as a crow and nearly all
of them has been slaves. I must bring this to a close
as I have already wrote more than I expected
I must close for to day as I am just detailed to go with
a lot of men on picket. Tuesday June 21st well I have got
in again from my picket duty and thought I would finish my
letter in this section. everything is Rebble from what I can understand.
There is no a union man in the whole country some of the boys
have been out back of this place some five miles Forraging they all
say they have not seen a white man in that distance. the women
all claim they are cesesh (secessionists) and that their cause is right. all
through the country the farms are entirely deserted and not a man
to do any work. the Blacks have all ran off & the whites have been
consrcpted (conscripted) the houses are nearly all vacant. the women come

together & you will find a house full of them. where ever there
are any corn plants & wheat sown it is left, the corn has
not been touched since it was planted when I was out
yesterday I saw 100 acres just growing up in the weeds & not a
rail to be seen that bring the case as far as I have been.
It looks like starvation. What little is left our army scour
the country & take what they can find. There is a party of
a lot of men started out from this camp this morning
and went out with conveyances (wagons). they take every thing they can
find. such as horses, cows hogs sheep grain niggers and
every thing they can get a hold of. it appears hard to go
into a house when there is not a man near and take
every thing that can be found. when there is no one but
women & children and they a crying & begging as our
men are taking away everything they can find. it is right
in this section where rebeldom exists in its worst. O that this
cursed Rebellion may cease and that the people may return
to that government which is the best of all others. this location is
said to be one of the finest from the mouth of the James River
to Richmond. It is a point the rebels prize very much on account
it is the best natural point to cut off the supplies which our men
up to Gen Grants army. there is three regiments of us here…the
143rd, 163rd col miller commanding and a Artillery Co and also
there is also two gunboats laying at the landing in case we
should be attacked that they they may help take care of their
cases. as every body knows the rebs hate the gun boats worse than the devil.

I saw a case the other evening when a gunboat made
the Rebs schedaddle as our Regt was coming down
the River to this point the Rebs planted themselves with a
battery on the shore. I suppose to try what our boat was
made of. Some of the boatmen discovered them and held
up & signaled a gunboat which came up and fired
about a doz shels into their shebang and they lit out in a
little less than no time. the James River is a very nice
river and is naviagable for the largest Crafts. there is Boats
in sight all the time carrying forward Supplies the tide
seems clear up to to this point. and is salty for miles
up, at this landing it is nice and pure and a most
splendid beach. which makes it nice for the boys
to swim in which they do no little at there is
some very nice fish cought mostly catfish and
lots of ells. I see the boys have ells as long as my arm
and Bye and Bye the first ell I ever saw was caught here.

I reed two letters to day from my wife and also a leader (later)
one wrote 5th of June the other 15th which I assure you was
gladly Read. and also Glad to hear you was all
well. & was getting along as well as could be expected
in regard to the General news of the army of the Potomack
you are to get them as soon as I can get them here
the news is here that General Grant holds Petersburgh
if such is the case good By Richmond as it is ac
knowledged on all hands that is the key to it. the wether
here is not so very warm. I have seen it warmer in Ohio
but the nights is very cold can lain 3 or 4 blankets very
comfortable. there has been no rain since we left the city of
washington in the morning at 3 o’clock when we have to all
get up it is so very cold it makes the boys shiver. Veg
itation don’t suffer here with the drouht like it does in Ohio
and there is very heavy dews here.