You are here

Letter from Elijah Penny to his wife; June 29, 1862

Letter from Elijah Penny to his wife; June 29, 1862

Letter from Elijah Penny to his wife; June 29, 1862

New York State Library, NYSL_SC11836_Elijah_Penny_letter_18620629
Document Description
Letter from Elijah Penny to his wife, Jane, detailing his activities and inquiring about the health of Alfred Penny.
Fort Woodbury June 29/62
My Dear Wife
                        It has been a warm
cloudy day with some rain and
I have been fishing on the Potomac
I had very good success I caught ten cat
fish the size of which would surprise
you. I had them cleaned fried and
cut up in time to attend the ever
lasting inevitable dress parade from
which I have just returned. I received
your last on Friday and was very
agreeably  surprised by its contents. I
am sorry to hear that Alfred is sick
yet I must confess that my heart leaps
with joy to think that he is safe from
the Slaughter House which the climate
and the Enemy is making of Richmond.
I know you will take good care of
him and that warm loving hearts
will cheer strengthen and sustain
the worn and exhausted Soldier boy.
I think you must have been somewhat
absent minded when you wrote your
last. for a more ambiguous letter I
never received. You spoke of some shirts
which you had sent me but you did
not say when or by what express you
sent them. So I do not know when or
where to look for them. The box that
I wrote to you about sending. I have
not shipped yet. but will send it along
someday when I have a convenient oppo
rtunity to send it to Washington.
I expect to have a regular sweat to
morrow, as all the troops garrison
in at the Military Defences South
West of the Potomac Va and to meet
at Hope Chapel to Muster for pay
and I suppose we will have to mar
ch in review and perfom in various
ways a la Infantry. I had rather fire
cannon a week than go through such
a performance.
there is a letter and a document signed
by Col. James B. Swain in my over
coat jacket among some papers
which I sent home last winter if
you can find them I wish you
to enclose and send them to me.
I was in Washington last week and
went to Camp Relief and saw Col.
Swain. I think I can easily get a
discharge from this Regt can
possible from Service. Now Jane
to tell the honest truth. I live easy and
well but I want to see you and our
children. I must. I have been away so
long that the hours seems long and
the days interminable. Tell Alfred
to write me as soon as he is able to
do so. Tell Lu she owes me a letter
and so does Charlie.
            Good night Yours Truly E Penny
What activities keep Elijah busy while he is in the army camp?
Who is Elijah concerned about in this letter?
Why do you think Jane's last letter was so ambiguous?
What is the overall tone of this letter? Use evidence from the letter to support your answer.

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
Using evidence from the document, answer the essential question.