Baptists and the American Civil War: January 31, 1864

cheney_thomas2Thomas Carleton Cheney (1831-1900) is a native of New Hampshire and a member of the First Free Baptist Church of Manchester, New Hampshire. At the age of 28, Cheney enlisted in 1861 as a private in the First New Hampshire Voluntary Light Battery. During the war, the Baptist layman has fought in almost every major battle in which the Army of the Potomac has been engaged, including the battles of Fredericksburg and Gettysburg.

Cheney writes many letters during the war. Often lengthy and offering keen insights, his letters are typically addressed to family members on the home front.

Today Cheney writes to brother Luther of home, the currents of war, and Northern politics.

Brandy Station Va Jan 31st 1864

Dear Brother

Yours of the 24th was rec. the 28th and I was very happy to hear from you and know that you were all well or nearly so. I hope Ella and Frank will both soon be entirely well. I am happy to hear that they are starting up the Mills again it will be so much better for poor People. They are also starting up the Mills in Manchester, and they are doing all they can for the want of help, in the Old Shop. I could get good pay now if I was at home. I rec. the Papers you sent me with the letter and they were very acceptable and afforded a good deal of pleasure in reading them, and helped me to pass away the time, which hangs heavy on my hands since I went home. I had a letter from David Gilchrist last week. The Folks were all well in Franklin. Willie had got nearly well. Alfred talks of moveing to Lake Village soon. I am glad to hear that Old Joe Gilmore has been Nominated again [as Governor of New Hampshire; he does win reelection], he is the Man for these time, he has got the Snap and goeahead to him. You must Elect him by the People this time, and next November we will reelect again. Then we shall do justice to worthy Men and Shame the Rebes that we are determined to to prosicute this War till the last Rebel lays down his Armes or is exterminated. The Army is a unit (or nearly so) for Abraham Lincoln for our next President and they could vote, he would get nearly the entire vote of the Army. There is a different feeling in the Army now towards Lincoln to what there was one year ago. There is no one like, as you say, there has not been any War news of interest of late, but by yesterdays Papers there seemes to be something a going on of great interest near Knoxville just now. Old Longstreet is determined to take Knoxville if he can I suppose, but he c-a-n-t, I dont believe. I think he will find Old Foster enough for him. Old will be, probably, if the Rebes faile there this time, they might as well knock under, for they never will have as good a chance again. I can not help thinking but most of the hard fighting will be over by a nother fall, but I believe there will be a necessity of keeping a large force in the Field for some two or three years yet. So those that reinlist will have a chance to stay their time out. There is nothing of interest here worthy of writing about. We have had Splended weather for the past two weeks, but it looks like a Storm now my health is excelent and Spirets good. Rachel and the Children were well the last I heard. Give my love to Hellen and your Family. Write often, from your


Affectionate Brother T C Cheney

After fighting in the Virginia Campaign in May and June, Cheney musters out of the army on September 25. Following the war, in 1879 Cheney and his wife move to Dorchester, Massachusetts, where the veteran labors as a machinist.

Yet church is his first love. When not working in his shop, Cheney can be found at the First Baptist Church of Boston.

The faithful Baptist remains an active layman until his death on May 30, 1900.

Sources: Thomas Carleton Cheney, 1831-1900 Papers, University of New Hampshire (link); Thomas C. Cheney letter to Luther, January 31, 1864 (link)