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Letter from Elijah Penny to his wife; July 18, 1862

Letter from Elijah Penny to his wife; July 18, 1862

Letter from Elijah Penny to his wife; July 18, 1862

New York State Library, NYSL_SC11836_Elijah_Penny_letter_18620718
Document Description
Letter from Civil War soldier Elijah Penny to his wife, 1862.
Fort Woodbury July 18/62
My Dear Wife
                        I have been trying
for several days past to assign some
reason for your not writing and have
come to the conclusion that you are
sick and unable to write, if such be
the case, do get someone to write for
you. I heard through a letter written
by Allen Cowl that you had buried
our Son. It will be necessary
for the Dr who attended him to send
a certificate to the Surgeon of the
Hospital to which he was consigned
who will transmit it to the Regt.
I have written to the Capt. of the Co.
giving him directions.
I am not well. I do not sleep well
eat well or digest well and am all
together as miserable as any one can
be but Jane we must try and
have stout hearts to bear this great
affliction for the sake of the living our
selves and our children. Jane I cannot
write on this subject. I want to see you
very much. I feel that it would be a
great consolation to me if I could see
you and mingle my tears with yours
but how soon we will meet if ever is
at present very uncertain. I wrote to
Br. H about getting in to Ryders Regt.
but I have not much hope of succeeding.
I think Gov. Morgan would give me a
discharge if a statement of my case was
presented to him signed by a few of the
leading political men of our county.
I do not intend to do anything dishonorable
but I think I shall leave this Regt. if
by so doing I can get a better position.
Jane suppose you and Louise should come
out here and spend a few weeks. There
is a very nice family living about ¼
of a mile from camp where you could
board at a reasonable rate. Perhaps
it would in a measure relieve your
mind and do you good.
That I should not hear from any of
you during the past week is perfectly
incomprehensible if you are sick
I have a right to know it if not I can
not imagine a reason for your silence.
Give my love to our dear children
at home and believe that my heart
is as wholly and truly yours as when
my arms first held you as a wife.
            Yours Truly E. Penny
What major event in his life does Elijah discuss in this letter?
How does he feel about this event?
Why do you think that Jane has not written?
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
How did the Civil War impact individuals, families, and local communities?
Check for Understanding
How does the death of his son impact Elijah?