You are here

Letter from Alfred Penny to his father; May 22, 1861

Letter from Alfred Penny to his father; May 22, 1861

Letter from Alfred Penny to his father; May 22, 1861

New York State Library, NYSL_SC11836_Alfred_Penny_letter_18610522
Document Description
Letter from Civil War soldier Alfred Penny to his father, 1861.
10 OC
Washington May 22d 1861
We have got to Washington at last, Hungry tired & sleepy. We arrived here yestereday at 2 OC and took up our abode at Pennsylvania Ave, we came through Baltimore without a load in our muskets, I was talking with one of the members of the 14th regt. from Brooklyn and he said that they did not dare to go through Baltimore & so they took a Boat & went around it, I have just returned from a visit to the 12th Regt. of NY they say they are all right and well, we expect to leave the city today for some point out of the city to encamp. I am as well as ever. I was in the Capitol & Treasure House & White House & all the Noted Places We have had no cases of sickness of any kind since we left the city, the only thing that troubles me is my Boots & shoes My Boots are worn out & I have got a new pair of shoes & they are awful Heavy & they kill my feet our Pay is due, but we can't get it yet, I have not slept any since we left NY. The report just comes that we are going to Georgetown to relieve the 7th Regt. of NY if it is true we will have to march about 7 or 8 miles knappsacks & muskets, I have not got any place to write & the next time I write to you I will give you a long one with all the news. I suppose Archey will be out here before long. Remember me to all tell mother to write & do not fail to do so yourself it does not matter where we are I will recieve all letters that are sent & directed to Alfred C. Penny Co E 2nd Regt. NYSM Col. Tompkins
Where is Alfred located as he writes this letter?
What important details does he give his father in this letter?
What is the overall tone of this letter?

About this Activity


Lesson Topic:


Historical Context
When the American Civil War began in 1861, citizens of both the North and South had no idea how long the conflict would last. Many Northerners, including the Union army leaders, envisioned a three-month war that would quickly bring the South back into the Union. The assumption that it would be a short war, coupled with a surge in patriotism, led thousands of New Yorkers to voluntarily join the army. The men of the Penny family were no exception.

In 1860, the Penny family consisted of seven members: Elijah, Jane, Archibald, Alfred, Eugene, Charles, and Louise. They lived in the town of Southeast in Putnam County, New York. Elijah, the father, and the two older boys, Archibald and Alfred all volunteered to fight for the Union in 1861. The letters, census records, and military documents all provide a glimpse into one New York family's experience during this time of national unrest.

Essential Question
What impact did the Civil War have on individual citizens, families, and local communities?
Check for Understanding
What clues does Alfred give in this letter about his military experience?