This letter was written by a Union soldier named Haskell. I can’t confirm his initials [(JF), (DF), or (IF)?] against any Union soldiers known to be in East Tennessee in February 1864. The letter was written at Erin Station which is five miles from Knoxville. There was a brigade encampment there at that time on the banks of the Holston River composed of the 79th New York, 20th Michigan, 36th Massachusetts, and 45th Pennsylvania, but I can’t identify a Haskell from that Brigade. The author claims to have attended a religious service by the chaplain of the 79th New York so it was my hunch the author was from this brigade but there were other Union troops in the area too.
Camp near Erin’s Station
February 7, 1864
My Dear Aunt,
Your noble and affectionate letter, laden with sympathy and good cheer, reached me a few days ago for which I offer you my sincere thanks. A letter breathing such a spirit of patriotism and dependence upon as well as thanks to God for His blessing, I have seldom if ever received. It was most truly cheering.
We have of late, when in camp, had the privilege of listening to one discourse each sabbath delivered by the Chaplain [Rev. Crammond Kennedy] of the 79th New York Regiment. His sermons are very interesting. The one today was especially so. It was from Mathew 12:20—“A bruised reed shall he not break and smoking flax shall he not quench.”
I never knew how to prize the means of grace until I came out here. My prayer is with you, “O for grace so to improve my opportunities and blessings, that they may not rise up in judgement to condemn me.” Truly “where much is given, much will be required.”
You enquire what the state of religion is here. In answer I regret to say that ’tis very low. There is now and then one that considers that this life is to end, and another to follow which will be spent in misery or happiness according as they live here but the most think of God only to blaspheme his holy name. This is a terrible place to live in. O that God would ever remember me and grant me strength to do His will, leading me not into temptation, but delivering me from evil.
We have suffered a great deal for the want of food and clothing, not having had full rations of the former or the needful amount of the latter since we came into this state. I do not say it to complain or find fault for I know there is no one to blame for it. Everything has been and is still being done that could be done to supply us. The wonder is that we have been supplied at all for all our supplies have been hauled over a mountainous, rough, and impassable a road of two hundred miles as ever was or could be and be a road and at the same time more than sixty miles of the route has been exposed to rebel raids of which they (the rebels) have taken every advantage.
I admire the noble self-sacrificing efforts which have been made at the North to relieve our wants. May God bless you all for it. But still it has not been in the power of man to help us. Who would or could complain when we see what we are accomplishing by enduring a little hardship or suffering. The taking and holding of this country is a terrible blow to rebeldom—one which strikes to its very center. Already we see it tottering on the brink of destruction. Soon it will fall and its downfall will not only carry its wicked leaders to destruction, but slavery—this Nation’s curse, the cause of the rebellion, and all our troubles—will go down never to rise. O what a glorious reward awaits this nation for all these has or will be done. Truly the Lord chasteneth us in mercy. O that we might be more mindful of Him and His love as well as thankful for the numberless blessings which He is showering upon us.
But I will close this scribble hoping to meet you all e’re my three years expire. I thank you much for those stamps. Lots of love to Cousin Abbie and Uncle H. Please to remember me to Lottie and all the rest. I wrote to L. about ten days ago. Please write if you find time. Please excuse poor writing.
Your affectionate nephew, — J. F. Haskell
My health and spirits were never better.