Baptists and the American Civil War: March 1, 1864

cheney_thomas2Baptist layman Thomas C. Cheney is a soldier in the First New Hampshire Voluntary Light Battery and a member of the First Free Baptist Church of Manchester, New Hampshire.

In 1861 a 28-year old Cheney enlisted as a private in the Battery. He fights in most of the major battles during the war years, including Fredericksburg and Gettysburg.

In addition, Cheney, like many soldiers North and South, writes home as often as he can. The relative idleness of the winter months in army camps especially provides opportunities for composing letters, and today the soldier writes his sister, Melissa. His letter reflects a longing for home and family, offers commentary on the war, and speaks from his faith as a Baptist Christian.

Brandy Station Va. March 1st 1864

Dear Sister Melissa

Your kind and good letter of the 18th was rec. the 26th and with much pleasure too, for it always gives me much pleasur to rec. letters from my Brother and Sisters and Father; yes, and all my Friends, but more especily from my Dear Wife and Relitives, my Brother & Sisters. I am very sorry to hear of the sad illness of Davids wife. I cirtainly hope and Pray that she may soon again be restored to her Husband and little Children in her usual health and Strength. I felt truly sad to hear of this calamity (I know not what else to call so appropriately) which had befell David, it must be hard for him, and espicily do I pity those little Children, so young and the same as lost their Mother for a season at least. I have no doubt Melissa, but you will take of them (the Poor little things) but there is no one than take care of a Child like the Mother. do the best you can for the little things. how Providential it was that you went there. Only it does seem as though the hand of God was in it, you arriveing there so opportune, and truly as you say you now have a chance to do good. therefor take courage; trust in God do your whole duty and God will bless you, and you will rec. the heartfelt thanks of David and a from the greatful Heart of the “Mother”. you must not give over to feelings of dispondancy, nor allow the blues to take hold of you. Think of the work you are doing, and learn a lesson which may be beneficial to you some day. Study those little minds, learn their necessary wants and desires; moraly and intilectualy Physicaly and Spiretualy, but I have no feares but you will do well for I know you love Children. So do I therefore I have said or writen this few words from the heart. Oh!! how I love to Study the minds of my little Boys. I feel that they are Treasures lent to me by my Heavenly Father, and as such it is my Earnest Prayer and disire to make good use of them, and lead them in the way they should go, that they may grow up and useful Men, but enough of this for now. I am glad to hear that Charlie is well and enjoying himself. Tell me the exact way you Back a letter to him. I hope he will write to me soon. I wrote to him last. give him my love and tell him if I do not meet him in Richmond next Summer I trust I may in NH when his turm of Enlistment expires. There has been some talk of those of our Battery Boys that have not reinlisted, going home to vote for Gov. at this State Election but I do not credit it. They have got the same story in Manchester and Rachel realy thinks I am coming, but I think She will be disappointed. I had a letter from her last Night. She was well and so were the Children. She sais she is making her a nice Rug. Laura & Alf were there week before last and made her a visit also Kittie. Kittie talks of going to NY again. Uncle Henery and wife were also there that week. The called on their way to Goffstown. Alfred has moved to Lake Village. I heard from Father a short time since, he and Family were all well there is no special news to write that I know of. There has been a very great Revival of Religion in Manchester some 400 or 500 have been converted how I would love to be there. 27 went forward for Prayers in our little Church one Evening, it has truly been a great work. There has been nothing doing in this Army except Several Revicns of Corps and Divisions. We have made one Campaign since I wrote you last it was of only two days duration. We were gone only one Night, but we Marched in the Night going out and comeing Back and it Rained qwite hard the day we Marched so it was qwite muddy and very bad Marching, but we got back all safe and sound. We went on a Reconnoitence with the 3d Corps with which we are connected. We went almost to the Rapidan River, but we, our Battery did not go near enough to see any Johneys. my health is excelent and Spriets good. Write to me again soon as you can give my respects to David and God bless and assist you is the Prayer of your Affectionate Brother

T C Cheney.

Sources: Thomas Carleton Cheney, 1831-1900 Papers, University of New Hampshire (link); Thomas C. Cheney letter to Melissa March 1, 1864 (link)