John Pooley (image courtesy Alden & Judy Irons)

The John Pooley Civil War Letters were donated to the Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History in September of 2015 by Alden & Judy Irons.  Judy Irons began the transcription project, but it is being completed in 2015 by archivist Cliff McCarthy and volunteers Larry Lowenthal and Stan Prager.

Some punctuation and capitalization have been added to improve readability for modern audiences. The original letters are available for inspection in the Genealogy & Local History Library at the Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, Springfield, Massachusetts.

Alden’s father, Richard K. Irons wrote the following about John Pooley and the letters:



Maria Pooley (image courtesy Alden & Judy Irons)

John Pooley, my great-grandfather, was born in England and came to the United States as a young man. I believe he was a gentleman’s tailor in Chicopee and married Maria around 1845. She was also English. In 1861, with two daughters in their late teens, Annie and Matilda, he volunteered and served through out the war as a soldier in the 10th Mass Regiment, Co.  G. advancing to Regimental Sergeant Major.

He fought in almost every battle from Fair Oaks and Malvern Hill to Fredericksburg, Antietam, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. His mood oscillates as does his opinion of his commanding generals- but he reenlisted after Gettysburg when he could have got out. There was an inducement of a $300.00 bounty and an advance in pay from $20 to $40/month.

Unhappily on a march in 1864 he was allowed to fall out with five men whose feet were all bleeding from worn out shoes. They were captured by a Confederate Cavalry patrol while cooling blistered feet in a brook!  He spent the rest of the war in Libby Prison- almost tunneled out, but was caught.  His weight went from 148 pounds to 95 pounds.

How his wife and daughters survived on what he could send of his pay- one marvels!  Anyway he apparently could not write from prison–and his poor wife, Maria, had fits of depression and worry. No wonder!

He lived for only about 8 years after the war.  He was about 40 when the war began.  We had daguerrotypes (sic) of John and Maria enlarged.  Apparently he was a very good soldier and was unlucky in not becoming an officer.  He privately complains that “knowing politicians or influential citizens at home in Massachusetts counts for more than long service in the field”!


The Pooley Girls (image courtesy Alden & Judy Irons)

His younger daughter Matilda married Edward Kendall during the war.  They had four daughters Annie, Edith, Winifred, and Ruth and two sons, Robert and Richard.  Richard died of scarlet fever at 17.  Robert graduated from MIT and was a brilliant chemist with the Dupont Co. and Superintendent of the Hopewell Plant during World War I.  My mother, Winifred, married Harold Irons in 1905. She was a very loving and lovely person.

R.K.I.  (Richard Kendall Irons (1906-1993))



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