These two letters were written by Pvt. Edwin Merchant Whitney (1828-1875), a 35 year-old married machinist from Hume, Allegany county, New York who enlisted in Co. D, 4th New York Heavy Artillery on 13 August 1862. He was married to Laura Pride (1825-1880) prior to 1850. In the 1850 US Census, Edwin and Laura were enumerated in the household of his father, William Graves Whitney (1800-1859) — a canal jobber — in Hume. Edwin’s occupation was given as “Canal Business” at that time. Their son, Morris P. Whitney, was born in 1852. In the 1860 US Census, Edwin and Laura are enumerated with their eight year-old son in Wiscoy (a hamlet in the town of Hume), Allegany county, New York, where Edwin’s occupation was given as “Moulder.”
Laura (Pride) Whitney was the youngest of at least eleven children born to Eliphas Hibbard Pride (1776-1825) and Ruth Bowe (1782-1849) of Otsego county, New York.
The first letter was written in March 1863. The second letter (a partial one) was written sometime in the spring of 1864.
[Note—see also—1864: Edwin Merchant Whitney to Laura (Pride) Whitney]
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Chain Bridge, Maryland
March 26th 1863
Dear Wife and Boy,
It is with great pleasure that I received another welcome letter from you written last Sabbath today (Thursday) saying that you are some better. I hope by this time you and Morrace are quite well. Truly I was very thankful to hear that you are better. The week past has been one of great anxiety to us for the dear ones at [home] hoping that God in His goodness would spare you from sickness and death. O how thankful I am to hear that my dear and best friend is on the gain and that my dear boy has not been stricken down. O, I pray the Lord that His goodness may still be granted unto us and that we may be kept and be again permitted again to enjoy each other’s society again on earth. O what a happy time it will be when this land of ours shall be again blessed with peace. God grant it may soon be. O I wish we could be at home to help you all in your afflictions. It lightens the task on your hands. But as it is, it seems pretty tough to have our dear friends sick and we separated from them. But we must do the best we can and trust in Him who is able to bring us safe through all trouble and danger safe.
Well, it is Friday afternoon again and it finds us quite well. Graves and I have had quite hard colds for some time but we are some better now. It seems very much like spring here now. We are having quite warm weather and the little peeping frogs are singing very plenty. They are the same kind we have at home and they remind me of home and the dear ones there. It seems very lonely to hear them at evening when I think how I use to hear them when I was at home surrounded by those I so much love and they call to mind many happy times that you, Morrace and I have sat on the stop and listed to their music after the day was gone. O God, grant that we may soon again be permitted to hear them and enjoy each others society. But we will still trust in Him who is able to protect us from all harm and bring us safe through all danger.
We remain at the same place yet but there is some talk of our going back to the Fort again but we hope they will let us remain where we are. We get along very well here and we had rather stay. As for the potatoes, I think you had not better send them. The freight would cost more than they are worth and you had not better send them.
Well, I done my washing today and if I could have boiled my white drawers, I think they would have looked very well considering who done it and the tools to do it with. Well, Morrace, I am very glad to hear that you are still well and I hope you may keep well until I can come home. Ma says you are a very good boy and try to learn all you can and I am glad you study your books at home for I hope I shall be able to come back and see you all someday. I have nothing to write that I think or that will interest you—only I was down to the Navy Yard at Washington the other day and I saw them making cannons and all kinds of war implements to kill folks with. There is a great many men and boys at work there. There is lots of shops there—larger than the shop in Wiscoy. Some of the shops are large enough to build large warships in.
But I must close this for this time hoping this will find you again all well. You must excuse this short letter this time for my head aches some tonight. Write often my dear ones, — E. M. Whitney
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
….few cavalry here with us and I hope Meade will be enough for Lee and take the rest of his army. I suppose they are through with the draft around home before this time and when it is all over you must let me know who goes to the war, I think there is a brave lot of men left after the volunteers came away. The worst wish I wish New York State is that the present Governor [Seymour] was in company with Vallandigham for I think he is one of the biggest traitors in the North. But I guess Old Abe will bring him to terms. But I think if he was near a Union army, it would be Union balls instead of Rebel that would kill him.
But I guess you will excuse this short letter this time and I will try and do better next time. Give my love to all friends. I will close by kissing this many times to you. Yours ever, — E. M. Whitney
P. S. Since finishing my letter I saw Jack Oakley and he says his wife wrote that Carlista told her that Graves is sick in New York but I know nothing that is later than I have written before. Tell Allen I should like to hear from him and give them my last regard.
While I sit writing this I hear a little cradler singing which calls to mind many happy hours spent in your society. O when will some of bygone times return? I hope soon. I see Mrs. Clark most everyday. She is well.
But I must stop and go to bed, dear and ever loved ones. — E. M. W.