Baptists and the American Civil War: April 28, 1864

cheney_thomas2Today Thomas C. Cheney, soldier in the First New Hampshire Voluntary Light Battery and a member of the First Free Baptist Church Manchester, New Hampshire, writes a letter to his sister, Melissa.

As is often the case with soldier letters to home, the subject matter ranges all over. Interspersed with personal queries and notes regarding home and family are Cheney’s comments, musings and observations about his own well-being, troop movements, the course of the war, politics, and the area in which he is currently stationed (Culpeper, Virginia).

Of a more somber note is a few sentences devoted to the recent hanging of a Union soldier, an execution Cheney figures is commensurate with the soldiers’ crime (rape), but nonetheless leaves a bitter taste in Cheney’s mouth.

Camp 1st NH. Battery
Near Stevensburg Va. Apr 28th/64

Dear Sister

Your kind letter of the 24th was rec. yestarday and with much pleasure. I did not know for a cirtainty before that you were in NY. you did not say that you were Boarding at Mrs Edmonds but I take it for granted that you are. Rachel wrote me that you were homesick and would like to go to M. but she did not tell me that you were in NY. but I had
a letter from David Gilchrist stating that you were there. but I hardly knew whether it could be so or not, for I had heard from you but a short time; then you were in Cincinnati. I am very glad that you had such a good opertunity to See and be with  Charlie, at Annapolis. It must of been very agreable to both of you especily as Charlie had such an excelent opertunity to spend most of his time with you. You say they were ordered off you did not tell me where. I would of liked to known, for if they come to this Army (as is separated) I should of tried to of gone and seen Charlie. I see in the NY Herald of Tuesday that the 9th Army Corps (to Which Charlies Reg. belongs) passed through Washington Monday PM. If that is so, I think they are comeing to this Army. When they get here and the 3d & 4th NH
Regs. which are now on Arlington Hights and are expected here any day, we shall have a lot of NH Troops in this Army. We (our Battery) is now the only complete organisation in this Army from NH. if Charlie comes here I shall try and find him sure, as I said once before, if we do not meet here I hope we shall in and before the Middle of June too, and things look now as though the union Army might be in there by that time. Gen. Grant is takeing the right course to do it I think. The Head of the Rebelion is in Va., but the Head off and it will be an easy matter to lop off the Monsters limbes, and Grant is concentrateing a large force here to strike of the Monsters Head ths Summer
if possible. I was truly rejoiced to hear that Grand gets that Sword that was voted for at the bored, is McClellaan. I am happy to hear that Davie Paiges wife is better. I hope she will get entirly well, as to my geting any thing or rec. any benefit from the Sanitary bored I never did and neve expect to unless i am Sick or wounded and I cirtainly do not desire these benefits enough to be in such a condition as the above. These Associations are organised
princaply for the benefit of Sick and wounded Soldiers. I rec. the Paper Kittie sent me the same day I rec. your letter. I am very much obliged to her for it. Give her my love and tell her to write to me soon. my health is first rate and Spirets good. in a little over Month more and the if the Lord will I shall get through Soldiering for uncle Sam for the
Presant. Time flyes dont it will fly faster when we get to Campaigning it. We are expecting orders at most any hower now to pack up and March. We are ready at any time now and do not care how soon it comes, as long as come it must. I would like to enter Richmond with the Victorious Army of the Potomac before my time expires. I had a letter from Rachel Sunday stating that her Brother belonging to the 9th NH Reg which was at Annapolis (belonging to the 9th Army Corps) was Dead. he died at Annapolis. His wife got word first that he was very Sick and she started for that place, soon after She started a Telegraph Dispatch was rec. that he was Dead, so she will find him passed away when She arrives there. Poor Woman She is to be pittyed, but She is not alone in her Widdohood caused by this wicked uncalled for Rebelion. As you see by the heading of my letter we have moved Camp. When the 3d Corps was broken up which you probably already know of) we were attached to the 2nd Army Corps, and as soon as the weather would permit we had to move to this Place (near Stevensburg) where the 2nd Corps Art. was
and some 3 or 4 Miles from our Old Camp. We did not like to move from our good Quarters just now but we had to come to it. The weather has not been very bad thus far since we moved, and it is to late to have much bad weather now so I guess we shall get along pretty well. We are Camped in a very plesant place. We are on a hill, and can see for Miles around us. in the distance with their peaks reaching up to the very heavens (as it were) are the Blue Ridge Mts. between there and us some 5 Miles distant is the little Village of Culpepper, once apparently a pretty little Village but now fast going to decay. At the left of the Vilage and nearer us is Paney Mt. on which we have a Signal Station and from the top of which we can See across the Rapidan in to Rebeland. around us in all directions for Miles can be seen the enuberal Camps of the Army of the Potomac which gives the hills and Valleys around us the appearance of a vast City. it is a Sight that would well pay you to go many a mile to witness if you could but witness it. I witnessed a Solemn Sight near our Camp last week. a Soldier was hung. it was the first time I ever see a person hung, and I have no particular desire to see a nother hung. His Crime was Deserting his Post and commiting Rape on an old Lady from 60 to 70 years old. The Punishment was non to severe, but whisky was the Cause of his doing the deed and the Man that sold him the whisky Should of been hung with him. When you write
to Charlie again tell him to write to me so that I can know where he is. Uncle Samuel has not been heard from since the Battle fought in Florida, a Month or two a go. They fear he was killed but it is possible he was taken Prisoner. I think of no other news to write at this My respects to Mr & Mrs Edmunds. Give my love to Charlie accept
love for yourself from your Affectionate Brother

T C Cheney

Sources: Thomas Carleton Cheney, 1831-1900 Papers, University of New Hampshire (link); Thomas C. Cheney letter to Melissa, April 28, 1864 (link)