Civil War Letter returns to Keyser

Charles Julian holds the Civil War letter

Associate University Librarian Charles Julian, Ph.D., holds the Civil War letter he recently acquired for Potomac State College of WVU. The letter was written by Henry Seitz, a patient at New Creek Hospital who served in Company E of the 60th Ohio Infantry.  

A local highway marker stating, “Fort Fuller, where Potomac State College stands” sparked the interest of a newly-employed PSC librarian and resulted in acquisition of an original Civil War letter.

Soon after Associate University Librarian Charles Julian, Ph.D., arrived in Keyser, he heard stories about Fort Fuller, a major Federal fortification built during the Civil War.  There were some artifacts on display in the Mary F. Shipper Library, but Julian wanted to further pursue documentation and historical records detailing the past activities and significance of Fort Fuller and its connection to Potomac State. 

Fort Fuller, he discovered, was constructed in 1861 by the 22nd Pennsylvania “Ringgold” Calvary, in order to defend the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.  It was commanded by Colonel James A. Mulligan, and Keyser (or New Creek as it was known then) is said to have changed hands 14 times (between Union and Confederate troops) during the course of the Civil War. 

Dr. Julian was interested in documenting the battles and skirmishes, the troop movements, and more specific details related to happenings at the Fort (known also as Fort Kelly).   When perusing an internet site one day looking for Civil War documentation and memorabilia, he noticed that someone was selling a letter written by a Union soldier from Ohio who was stationed at Fort Fuller. 

“I was excited to be able to acquire an original Civil War document that could be added to the Library’s special collection of local history.  The idea that a 155-year-old letter that was written from Keyser and mailed to a friend in Ohio still existed and could be returned to its place of origin was both fascinating and intriguing to me,” stated Dr. Julian.

Dr. Julian’s excitement at finding and purchasing the letter was evident as he talked about the letter and the research he and his staff have been doing to document the grounds on which Potomac State sits. 

The letter Dr. Julian obtained was written by Henry Seitz who, at the age of 27, enlisted in Company E of the 60th Ohio Infantry.  Seitz penned the letter from his hospital bed at New Creek Hospital, Va. (now West Virginia) to his friend John Hesselgers.  After becoming ill, Seitz, along with others, were left in a field to fend for themselves.  Seitz describes in detail the difficulty of the long treks from town to town, the sick and wounded who were left behind, his longing for the simpler pre-war life, and his doubts about the nation surviving this war.  But, as we all know, our nation did survive the war as did Henry Seitz.  Apart from the letter, little else is known about Seitz, though records have been found that indicate he died in 1911, at the age of 77, and is buried in Clark County, Ohio.

Julian noted, “We continue to gather research and information related to Fort Fuller and welcome any and all documentation that might be in the hands of Keyser citizens.”   Those who wish to see the physical letter may make arrangements by calling the Mary F. Shipper Library at 304-788-6901.