Civil War Letters in a Family Bible

By Candice Buchanan, Greene Connections Archivist

Two letters tucked into the pages of a family Bible, reveal how a family pulled together to bring home a fallen soldier.

The Bible once belonged to William Mitchell Clemens [1851-1938] and his wife, Elizabeth Jane Grimes [1854-1937]. The couple likely bought or received the Bible at the time of their marriage in 1872, the same year the Bible was published. On it’s decorative pages, William and Elizabeth recorded the date of their wedding, births and deaths of their children, and most helpfully to the extended Clemens cousins, they pasted in a list of births and deaths for William’s parents and siblings, taking the data back the tree another generation. It is this list that corresponds to the two letters also preserved within the Bible’s pages. William’s parents, John Charles Clemens [1804-1873] and Louisa Hupp [1815-1875], are recorded with their seven children. Included on this list is their son John Hupp Clemens [1839-1864] who served in Company A, 100th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. John was killed in action 17 June 1864 at Petersburg, Virginia.

Of the two letters, the later one, written in 1936, explains the earlier one, written in 1864. So we shall read them in that order.

Virginia (Hupp) Harding [1859-1948] of Bridgeville, Pennsylvania, was a first cousin to the Bible’s owner, William Mitchell Clemens [1851-1938]. They shared Hupp grandparents, but had obviously fallen out of touch by the time she wrote her letter in 1936. Unsure if William was still living, Virginia wrote instead to his daughter Veturia Clemens [1885-1956] in Claysville, Pennsylvania. This was her message:

615 Gregg Ave
Bridgeville Pa
Sep 4th ’36

My dear Verturia –

In looking over some old letters sent me from my old home in Wheeling, this note from your father’s mother to my father, was among them – I felt it would be a valued letter that your family would always keep.

In answer to this word to my father, he went to the battle field and brought to John’s home his remains. Which was the first burial in Washington cemetery, and is near the entrance. I did not know whether your father was living, and saw in Reporter that you had gone on a vacation. This notice gave me your address.

Word of receiving this old letter would be appreciated by your cousin.

Virginia Hupp Harding.

Enclosed with this explanation was the original letter written by Veturia’s grieving grandmother Louisa (Hupp) Clemens [1815-1875] to her brother, and Virginia’s father, John Cox Hupp [1819-1908]. Virginia’s letter provides the context that allows us to understand these identities more clearly and to know how John Cox Hupp responded to his sister’s call for help, by bringing her son home. Louisa’s letter:

June 24th 1864

Dear Brother

I received melancholy news this morning. John was killed charging [o]n the rifle pits at Petersburg. It is as much as I am able no more to bear. My frame shook.

L H Clemens

As Virginia’s letter explained, John Hupp Clemens was brought home and laid to rest in Washington Cemetery. A Find a Grave Memorial created for him by a volunteer named Shane, shows his tombstone in the family lot.

The Clemens Family Bible in which this data and these letters are preserved has been archived by the staff at the Greene County Historical Society in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. These pages were scanned and researched by the Greene Connections Archives Project volunteers and have now been transcribed by virtual volunteers through the Greene Connections Archives crowdsourcing project. We extend our gratitude to all who have participated in the process of sharing these records for public access and knowledge.

View the Clemens Family Bible and the enclosed letters with complete details, transcripts, research, high-resolution downloads, and source citations in the Greene Connections Archives Project.


William M. Clemens Family Bible and letters, item no. GCHS-AN030-0002-0001 – GCHS-AN030-0002-0010, Family Bible Series, Greene County Historical Society Collection, Greene Connections Archives Project.

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