Hamilton Greer was born in Limaville, Stark County, Ohio on February 9, 1834, the fourth of seven children. On August 18, 1860 he married Louisa J. Greene in Trumbull County, Ohio. Their first of five children, Lena, was born in 1861. On August 7, 1862 Greer, then 28, enlisted as a corporal in the 45th OVI and mustered into Company C. He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on February 18, 1864 and transferred to Company B. On October 12 of that year, he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and transferred to Company H, in which capacity he served until the end of the war. He mustered out with the regiment at Camp Harker, Tennessee on June 12, 1865.
Not long after returning home in West Farmington, Trumbull County, Ohio, Greer migrated with his family to Audrian County, Missouri. In 1877 they returned by covered wagon to West Farmington, where Hamilton worked as a county surveyor. In March 1884, together with their five children -- Lena, Ralph, Ross, Ray and John -- they moved to Blunt, Dakota Territory, where Hamilton went into partnership with Harry Graham, the son of Mentor Graham, who had been Abraham Lincoln's teacher in Illinois. (Mentor came to Blunt to live with his son and became well acquainted with Hamilton and his family.)
In 1888 the Greers became homesteaders in Onida, South Dakota, living in a dug-out house made of sod and raising cattle and sheep. Hamilton later moved to Yankton, South Dakota, where he died on December 30, 1908. His second son, Ross Elliot, who had been born in Missouri in 1870, worked as a stage coach driver at the age of seventeen and later became an electrician in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he lived until his death, at the age of 98, in 1968. His third son, Ray Leland, served in the Spanish-American War, fighting in the Philippines.
The following Civil War letters from Hamilton Greer to his wife, affectionately addressed as "Louie," in West Farmington, as well as letters from Ray to his brother Ross from the Philippines and a newpaper obituary and biography of Ross, are preserved in the Hamilton Greer Collection of The Center for Western Studies, Augustana College Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Burnside's Point, Cumberland R.
April 24, 1864
A pleasant Sabbath evening to you. We have rested today but expect to march again in the morning. We have marched 145 miles since we left Mt. Sterling. Have 107 miles more to make to reach Knoxville. Expect to make that in 8 days. I write now for fear that I shall not have another opportunity before we get to Knoxville. I am feeling quite well today. A gathering formed in my "Proboscis" which was very painful but broke this monring and relieved me very much. Last night I took two table spoons full of salts and this morning another. I think I shall feel the better for so doing. Yesterday I received a letter from brother Plimpton. He has received his commission as 1st. Lieut. and is again on the Island. Please direct hereafter to Knoxville.
Love to Mr. & Mrs. Miller, Miss Poe,
Louie and the baby,
Camp, 45th O.V.I. Near Chattahoochee River
July 11, 1864
Yours of the 29th Ult. I received this morning. Glad to hear from home. Mails have been scarce for me for some time past, I suppose they have been captured. Glad to hear you are well and enjoying yourself as well as you are. I wish I could say the same for myself but I must tell you just how the case is with me. And hope to be able to give better account of myself next time. Day before yesterday I was taken very ill with congestion of the bowels. Since when I have not been able for duty. I am much better now and hope to be able for duty in a day or two.
Our Corps moved up the River (8) Eight miles yesterday, I going in the ambulance -- I stopped at a private house last night. I am very weak and unable for duty but do not feel sick. The army is not doing much for a few days past. I have little idea how soon it will be called on to contend face to face with the enemy. I hope not for a week, we need rest. We feel confident that we shall go to Atlanta one of these days, before very long too. The weather is very warm. Many of the boys gave out yesterday marching. It rained in the PM which cooled the atmosphere somewhat. I need not try to tell what the army is doing. I see the Commercial keeps the folks at home posted.
You express fears that I may be suffering for want of clothing or rations. It is not the case. We have plenty of rations and one suit of good clothes -- minus a good hat, my old government hat is about gone -- I hope to get a better one soon. I suffer only from the arduous duties to perform. I am going to take it easier in the future.
We still keep hopeful and believe the time is not far distant when the South will give up the contest. Oh! Haste the day! I have confidence in the ability of our government to suppress the Rebellion and in the justice of our cause. I still think I shall be spared to return home and enjoy a happy life with my family. It may not be. I may fall in the field of battle, but not without faith in our Lord that all will be well. I feel more of the comforting influence of a saving faith in Christ Jesus than I have ever felt in years past. I think I can say Thy will be done. I need not say to you to pray for us. I know you do. I know we are constantly on your mind. Please give me an account of Lena's visit with Miss Howe. I am glad she is such a favorite with the young ladies. Give my respects to our friends. Kiss Lena for me and accept all the love of a Loving heart.
45th Reg. O.V.I. 2ndBrig. 1st. Div. 4th A.C.
P.S. I saw Flt. Steadman day before yesterday. He had been unwell but was better. Sends respects to you. H.G,12
6 Miles from Atlanta, Ga.
July 19, 1864
I have the pleasure of acknowledging the receipt of another letter from you of date 12th inst. I thank you for your remembrance of me so often in the shape of letters. They have been coming more frequently of late. I am glad you are blessed with a good degree of health. I have been very sick but am feeling much better today. I hope to be able in a few days to write that I am well. I am not yet able to march or go into a fight. Yet I keep up with the regiment. I have been taking physic, quinine, opium and a variety of other stuff in great abundance of late. Our forces advanced about six miles yesterday and are about three miles from Atlanta today. There is considerable cannonading today in our front in the direction of Atlanta. I understand the Rebs have strong fortifications one mile this side of Atlanta. Do not know when we shall be able to take Atlanta. I hope it wont be long.
We are still in good cheer and are particularly glad that Gen. Grant is firm and not to be moved by rumors of raids upon Washington. We still hope to hear soon that Petersburg & Richmond have fallen. I suppose They are anxious to hear that Atlanta has fallen.
The weather is very warm and oppressive. It rains occasionally and cools off a little. The roads do not get very dusty -- but we should like a rest of a few days. I fear many will get sick during the coming four or five weeks unless we get rest.
We are in the woods and have been for the last one hundred miles. I once supposed Georgia was well cleared but have not been able to find that part of it.
I do not want you to feel too much anxiety for me. I shall get along by and by I think. We shall be able to get some fruit hereafter and change our diet somewhat which will be beneficial to our health.
The Regt. Expects to go to the front tonight. I do not think I shall go.
I shall try and write you as often as I can. I generally write at every opportunity and frequently carry my letters several days in my pockets, thus making them much older than they ought to be. We cannot always tell when the mail is going out.
Hoping to be able to say next time "I am well" and that you are well and in the enjoyment (of) many blessings. I remain your
Devoted and Loving
In (illegible) North of Atlanta Ga.
July 23d, 1864
I have yours of the 15th inst. I'm glad to hear so often (illegible) recently from home. I am much better this morning than I have been for a week past. I hope to be all right in a few days. I am very thin and weak but have a pretty good appetite.
Sherman has closed in around the City of Atlanta and is strong(ly) (for)tified. There was heavy (fighting <?>) yesterday on our left (illegible) McPherson. The 15" 16" & 17" A(rmy. C(orps) (illegible) McPherson was killed by a dash of Cavalry. We shall miss him some but have more good Generals left. In the forenoon the Rebels seemed to have the advantage but during the nite our forces gained all they had lost except the (illegible).
Gen. McP. fell in the Rebel's hands, but was soon recaptured. Day before yesterday the Rebels massed their forces against the 20th A.C. Gen. Hooker's but was nicely whipped. Our Artillery occasionally throws a Shell into Atlanta to annoy the inhabitants. I believe the intention is to besiege the City. Gen. Johnson is not in com'd of the Rebs at present, Gen. Hood having taken his command. The reason for the change we have not been able to learn but suppose it was because (he) would not whip the Yanks. We were (surprised) to hear of the change, believing (that) Johnson had no equal in the (Reb) army. We do not hear anything from Gen. Grant for a few days past. We hope all is going well there. We have possession of Atlanta and August R.R. at Decatur.
I do not know how far to the South our lines extend. Not sufficiently far as to command the Macon R.R. but presume it will in a few days. The Cavalry destroyed a part of McPherson's train yesterday, do not know how much. The Rebs have made no demonstration on our front for a day or two. We (do not) know how soon they may. We are ready for them. The boys are in good cheer and feel confident they can hold our lines even against the whole of Hood's Army. Our Skirmishers go very near to Atlanta. I think we will get to rest. If the Rebels stand a siege (we will) have to lie behind our (earthworks <?>) and watch them. If they vac(ate the) City we may get to rest there.
We have abundance of rations near at hand at present. And hope to be able to keep the Rebs away from them. They have annoyed the trains on the R.R. very much but the Army is not suffered any yet.
The troops here have been supplied with new clothing. I made a raise of a new shirt and (illegible) drawers. I only lack a hat. Taking everything into account I think i feel pretty well.
(I am of) of the opinion that Hood will fight here and decide the contest soon. Should Grant be successful in Va. this army will easily be subdued and no doubt the same may be said of (Lee's) army should Sherman destroy this army. Hood's Army (illegible) much discouraged.
(I hope that) this Cruel war will soon (be over) and that we may soon enjoy the (blessings) of home and peace and prosperity. I remain as ever.
Your devoted husband,
A Kiss for Lena! Oh how I should like to see you my dear family.