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Letter from Alfred Penny to his mother; May 19, 1862

Letter from Alfred Penny to his mother; May 19, 1862

Letter from Alfred Penny to his mother; May 19, 1862

New York State Library, NYSL_SC11836_Alfred_Penny_letter_18620519
Document Description
Letter from Civil War soldier Alfred Penny to his mother, 1861.
Head Quarters 2nd Reg. NYSM
                        3 miles in Advance
                        of New Kent Court House
                        Va May 19th 1862
Dear Mother
                        Again I take the trouble to
inform you that I am well and
on my way to Richmond we left our camp
at Brick House Point on the Pomunkey
river on the 15th and marched about
12 miles through mud ankle and sometimes
knee deep and it rained hard all the
time so when we went into camp
we were drenched with water & mud and
so tired that we could not hardly stand
up we stayed there until yesterday
when we left and marched about 6 miles
which is nearly 3 miles in the
advance of a town called New
Kent-Court House about one mile
this side of the town we passed a
house with a peace flag hoisted on
a pole at the gate. on the stoop
sat the old farmer & his wife and his
dawters by clumsey overgrown  awkward
looking things. They are the first
inhabitants that we have seen since
being on the Peninsula and if they
are specimens of Southern Beauty then
I have seen all I want to see of them it
would do you good to see some of these
country clumsy Awkward gawkey
unsophisticated flaxey haired “gals”
I have wriiten to Archey twice and
have received no answer but I
suppose he is marching like myself and
has no time. Sedgwicks division is the
Reserve division of the corps and we
always keep from 2 to 10 miles in the rear
and we do not participate in a
fight unless the Advance gets beaten
back then we have to get in front and
fight I suppose we will be in
Richmond before the month is ended
some of the boys are betting that we will
be in New York by the fourth of July
but I don’t honestly think so
I suppose we will leave here tomorrow
I will write again in a few days
Jim Crane is in good health I have
been trying to get him to lit his mustache
grow out but he won’t. he is one of the
best fellows you ever saw he is free easy
and careless & he troubles nobody and nobody
seems to trouble him. if I have time
I shall write to father today. Good Bye
                        Yours Truly
                        A C Penny Co E
                        Gormans Brigade
or Elswhear     Washington D.C.
Where is Alfred located as he writes this letter?
How does he describe his current situation?
Who is Jim Crane and why does Alfred mention him in the letter?
What is the overall tone of the letter?
Historical Challenges
Research the time period for this letter and identify the campaign of which Alfred's regiment is a part.

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
Describe Alfred's attitude toward the war, his service, and the people of the South.