Baptists and the American Civil War: February 1, 1864

cheney_thomas2The military inactivity of winter months provides soldiers with ample opportunities to play cards, read, forage and, for many, write letters to family and friends on the home front.

Thomas C. Cheney, a Union soldier in the First New Hampshire Voluntary Light Battery and a member of the First Free Baptist Church Manchester, New Hampshire, for the second day in a row composes a letter. Yesterday he penned a letter to his brother, today he writes his sister, Melissa.

The letter is quite lengthy and comprised primarily of a detailed account of Cheney’s recent furlough home, during which time he spent twelve days with his wife, Rachel, and children.

Brandy Station Va. Feb. 1st 1864

My Dear Sister

I will now try and write you a few lines to let you know that I am safe back to Camp again and what kind of a time I had at home. in the first place I will say that I found your kind letter here when I got back; all safe and sound, done me nearly as much good to read it as though I had not seen you. Now for my journey home. We had rather a rough voige of it all the way to New London. I felt a little dizey before I went to bed after that I knew nothing that took place till it was time for me to get up. That was about 2 OClock the next Morning, (Friday) just as we were going in to New London Harbor. The first thing I realised when I woke up was; that the Raine was droping in to my face. I began to move myself, and soon found that the Bed as well as myself, was prett wet. The Rain had beat through the Boat overhead and run down on to me, and from my bunk down on to the one under me where Colby Sleped. We had a State room, so you see we came near the top of the Boat. I looked for Colby, and he had left, he could not Stand a little water even with a good nice Bed under him. It was nothing to. I had been in many a worse plight than that, so I minded nothing about it. Well we reached Worcester (in the Carrs) about 4 or 5 OClock AM-slept there a while bought me some Doe Nuts and a couple a Cups of Coffee, which was nice. Then took the Carrs for Manchester, where I arrived in the 10 OClock AM Train. Saw no one at the Depot that I was much acqwainted with, arrive at the House and found Rachel expecting me. She was in the Sink Room at work, but I had not much more than got the kitchen Door open than then. God alone knowes the Joy that filled my then, in a moment the Scenes of the past two years passed through my mind the Dangers and trials through which I had, but I had safely passed through them all and was again permited to meet my (?) home. My heart was lifted to God in Thanksgiving and Praise for his (?) and loveing kindness towards me and mine in thus permiting us again to meat on the Shores of time, and to Day I Praise his (?) and (?) name for it, little Clinton stood in the Middle of the Floor looking thunderstruck. I went and took him up in my Armes and talked to him and Rachel told him that was his Father and asked him to Speak to me, but there was not a word escaped his lips, and he did not Speak for as much as 10 or 15 Minutes. after that he got his mouth open and talked a little but was not very talkative the rest of that Day. Rachel said she never knew him to be so still so long at a time before. all the rest of the time I was at home (after the first day) he was Chipper enough and full of his catol. I had great times with him. Freddie was at School, he new me in a moment when he see me. The little Fellow could hardly help crying he was so pleased to see me, it being near Dinner time when I got home Rachel went to work to get me some Dinner. We concluded to have some potatoes and ham. She wanted to know how many potatoes I could Eat–I told her about ten. She laughed and wanted to know if I was in earnest. I told her to try it. So She went and got them and then went over to the Store and got 1 1/2 lbs of Ham and cooked that. We Sat down and we (or I) eat about my ten Potatoes, a pound of ham, Bread and Butter pie &c. &c.!! and as you said in your letter to me, about her not having any apetite to eat if She could only see me eat, and so it was, for when She see me take hold of the victuals, (as a Hongry Soldier only Can) She layed her knife and fork down declaring She could not Eat; that it done (?) to see me eat. I had an excelent apetite all the time I was at home. We went a visiting a good deal while I was at home, but it made no differance about my eating, for I was determined to have all I wanted to eat while at home if it was on the Table. I tell you! I made their Old Tables Suffer. I told them that Rachel wanted I should go a visiting most of the time while at home so I should not Eat her out of House and Home. We went up to Franklin the next week a Thursday. Stoped at Emilys that Night and next day. Then went over to Lauras and stoped that Night (Friday) and till PM the Next day Saturday. Then went over to Emilys and stoped that Night and Sunday. David took us and Emily in to his Store Sleigh and carried us to Fishersville. We should of stoped longer at Laures, but Willie was Sick with the Typhoid Fever; and qwite Sick, and as Iola had but just got well I thot She must be pretty much tired out and by our stoping there it would make her so much the more work, but we made them a pretty good visit. We had a Splended time whilemin Franklin. We went up on to a Mill Pond near the N R R and a Splended Skate. Freddie can Skate like a buster. I could not help laughing to see the little Midgett Skip over the ice, he can almost beat me. Rachel had a gay time slideing down hill while over to Lauras. I also had a good time at Fathers. We Stoped with them Sunday Night and the next day went down to Mr Charles Blacks to see and make a Short visit there with Rachels sister. We stoped there till evening and then we to the Depot to take the 7 OClock PM. Train for Manchester, but its not geting along by 9 OClock we concluded to go back to Mrs Blacks and stop till the next morning and then go to M. which we done. The day set for me to Start back for the Army was Thursday the 31st of Dec. Mrs Glines got back from up Country just the Night before so She was just in season to see me and send a bundle to Edwin by me. She is looking very well for her. I was very glad to see her, for Edwin (her Husband) would feel so much better by seeing some one that had seen her. Well I started for the Army Thursday in the 4 OClock Train. When I got to Nashua Luther was at the Lower Depot to see me. he wrode up to the Woster Depot with me, and there was Hellen, and Carleton Towns, and by the way, Luther and his wife, Hellen and Christiana came up to M. to see me Wednesday the 23rd and stoped till the next day, so I did not stop to see them when I came back, but as I have told you I see Luther and Hellen at the Depot as I came through N. Well I had good Success all the way back to Camp and reached here all right Saturday the 2nd day of Jan. 1864, and now I say that I spent 12 happier Days in all my life than I did the 10 or 12 days that I was at home. I met with as a reception at as I could ask for. it was all a loveing Husband or a Fond Father could wish for and there was nothing transpired during all my Stay at home to Mar our pleasures or happiness and blessed Blessed seasons did I have with my good Christian Brothran and Sisters. I loved my home and Family well enough before, but I love them a (?); since I have returned to the Army. (?), be it ever so humble there is no place like. I must acknowledge that I felt a little home sick for a few days after I got back, but I have got most over it now. Time flyes fast, and if the Lord will, I shall be with those loved ones again in a little more than Seven Months. Freddie felt very Proud with his new Jacket, and Rachel very thankful. She wrote me that you had writen to her. She rec. the letter but did not tell me much what you wrote. I suppose you have heard from Charlie or you would of told her you had not and She would of told me. You must write and let me know as soon as you get this, and all other news. my health continues excelent and Spirets good. I had a letter from home last Night they were all well it has been Splended weather here for the past two weeks, but looks like a Storm some now. we have got excelent Quarters, (for Soldiers) they are said to be the best in the Army of the Potomac. 41 of our Old members have reinlisted for Three years more. They get between 700, and $800. bounty a piece in all and all days Furlough. They have not catched me with their Greenback Bait yet. They may, but (?). I know of no news to write but you get as soon or sooner than I do. The prospects of soon crushing the Rebelion look encouraging now. Write as soon as I get this. God bless you, from your

Affectionate Brother T C Cheney

please excuse mistakes for I have not time to look this over T. C. C.

Despite Cheney’s optimism regarding the “crushing” of the Rebellion, the war is not quite over. Cheney, however, does survive the war, returning home to spend the remainder of his life with family and friends.

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