Valley of the Shadow
The War Years
Spring 1861–Spring 1865

Letters & Diaries


Demus and Christy Families (1863-1865)

David Andrew Demus married Mary Jane Christy sometime before the war. David had known the Christy family from their childhood together in Mercersburg, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Before his marriage, David worked as a hand on the farm of James and Mary Witherspoon, where he may have gone by the name Edward Dennis. After his marriage, David lived with his wife’s family. During the war, David, along with his brother George and his brothers-in-law, Jacob, Samuel, and William, enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts. Mary Jane, with her brother John, remained at home in Mercersburg. David survived his service as a soldier and reunited with his wife in 1865. He resumed his work at the Witherspoon farm until his death sometime after 1870. Mary Jane remarried another veteran of the 54th Massachusetts, Wesley Krunkleton.

The following links provide access to the most likely matches in the Valley of the Shadow databases:

David Demus

Mary Jane Demus

The federal government officially began organizing black soldiers into segregated units in 1863. The letters of the Demus and Christy families begin once the Demus and Christy men left home for Readville, Massachusetts, to enlist in the 54th Massachusetts. The letters by David Demus to his wife, Mary Jane, comprise the bulk the collection, covering the period from his enlistment in 1863 to his discharge for medical reasons in June 1865. Several letters in this extensive collection were written by Mary Jane Demus and John Christy, who remained in Mercersburg, and their brothers, Jacob, Joseph, Samuel, and William, who served alongside Demus in the 54th Massachusetts. David describes the charge of the 54th Massachusetts on Fort Wagner, South Carolina, where he was wounded in the head in the summer of 1863. The letters of Jacob and, to a lesser extent, those of David, discuss the unequal pay of black soldiers and their rights as citizens. Other letters from the Demus and Christy men discuss the deaths and injuries of soldiers and the daily life of a soldier serving in South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia. In her letters to her husband, Mary Jane mentions life and labor on the home front, especially her difficulties in writing and her work for a neighbor. Together these letters document the experiences of an African American family during the war.