Alexander Biddle was a member of the prominent Philadelphia Biddle family and was married to Julia Williams Rush, the granddaughter of Dr. Benjamin Rush. Biddle served with the 121st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, beginning in September 1862. Starting out as a major, he would participate in Fredericksburg and Gettysburg, among other engagements, and would leave the service as a lieutenant colonel. (He was commissioned, but never mustered, as colonel)
Camp near W O Church Virg.
Head Qrs 121st Regt P.V.
Monday January 26. 1863
Your box was brought over from Belle plains last night and we had your boned partridges for tea. Your box has so immeasurably surpassed all expectations and so entirely filled up all room I can give it that I must now beg you not to send anything but a watch until I ask you again – I fear every day that we shall have some orders to march and then I don’t wish to have to leave anything on the ground as I would at this moment be obliged to do – Aleck’s figures were very sweet and so was dear Harry’s box but I have hardly at this moment had time to inspect all the delicious things you have sent. We yesterday had with us the Rev Mr Clapp of Venango a clergyman the father of one of our Captains now sick in hospital at Acquia he gave us a very good sermon in the afternoon with a strong exhortation to the soldiers – he is a strange man certainly eloquent but a strange mixture of reading and ignorance – his fancy seems to be physic. I have been much struck with the general tendency among our country soldiers to believe in nostrums and quack medicines We have two men who call themselves Doctors in Venango who don’t pretend to know anything more of medicine than what they have picked up by observation in practice – who will however engage to cure fevers even of a severe type. Mr Clapp thinks burning coals put into water the water to be drunk a cure for pains of the stomach and there may be some virtue in the solution of charcoal and the potash taken up by the water – he has other specifics for fever of a more extraordinary character – One of the men above alluded to observing the effect of our new Surgeons prescriptions of a few Dover’s powders went into an apothecary store in Washington to buy a pound of Dover’s powder for his own practice – the druggist was as might be expected astonished…
Citation: Alexander Biddle (1819-1899), autograph letter signed to Julia Williams Rush Biddle. 26 January 1863. Rush IV:30:27