This patriotic letter was written by Rev. George Strevel (1812-Aft1880), a minister in the Christian church at South Berlin, New York. He was married to Hester Brown (1812-18xx) in 1849 and had four children, the eldest being Harvey James Strevel (1841-1929). George was born in Albany, the son of Matheus Frederick Striebel (1764-1844) and Susannah Wright (1782-1863). In 1840 he lived in Berne, New York. By 1860, he was in South Berlin, Rensselaer County, New York.
George wrote the letter to his good friend, Rev. Edwin R. Wade (1822-1864), a Congregational minister in Cayuga County, New York. At the time this letter was written in 1861, Rev. Wade was married to his second wife, Abigail M. Mosher.
George’s son, Harvey, enlisted on 15 August 1862 at the age of 21 in Company E, 44th New York. He was transferred in October 1864 to Company K, 140th New York. Company records indicate that Harvey stood 5 feet, 8 inches tall, had blue eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion characteristic of his German heritage.
Addressed to Rev. E. R. Ware, Moravia, Cayuga County, New York
South Berlin, [New York]
May 7th 1861
My dear Brother Edwin,
I sit down once more to drop you a line. Time is passing & on its bosom we are being carried to the great ocean of eternity. Days, months & years are flying swiftly and O! to what important crises are we brought. In the history of our Nation, nothing has appeared like it — one part of our hitherto united country rising up in armed rebellion against the other. Abomination appears to be rife in the land. Br. Edwin, I never loved my country as well as in this its day of peril.
I look to the South. I see the Palmetto flag reared by traitorous hands floating where but a few days since the glorious flag of our Union, baptized by the blood of our Fathers, [and] had waved victoriously for three quarters of a century. O! the peril and suffering of the patriots of the revolution from ’75 onward. They bequeathed a rich legacy upon us — Liberty, shall I say. O! never did the term have such significance to me. But that boon is now in peril.
The guns around Fort Sumter appear still to thunder in my ears. I abhor most intensely the principle of the law-dishonoring South. It appears to me that a dreadful doom awaits Jeff. Davis & his abominable conspirators. If capital punishment is right, it would seem as if the halter should not set very loosely around their necks. The Prince of Life said, they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword. Our liberty was purchased with blood and it may require the same sacrifice to maintain it. I have one son of four liable to bear arms and if the country demands his service, I will say, “Go Hervey, in the name of God and Liberty.” I wish the administration to be energetic & persevering at this perilous crises.
Sometimes I hardly know how to shape my petitions before the throne. When I think of the peace mission of the Son of God, that he came not to destroy men’s lives but save them, and his prayer on the cross — Father, forgive them, they not what they do. My pity yearns over our Southern brethren. Yet when I hear them saying the last spark of affection which lingered prior to the bombardment of Fort Sumpter must be quenched in blood & forever turn their backs upon us, and say as the Jews said of Christ, let his blood be upon us and our children, they opened hostilities upon our weak and famishing garrison at Sumter, and now if retributive justice is poured upon them, God’s will be done. The scene appears to me as if it might be protracted and bloody. We have endured insult upon insult, hoping but in vain for better things. But now the sound is War, to arms men. God have mercy and save our distracted country is my prayer.
Bro. Edwin, we are all usually well at present. Hope you are and family & friends. Can you attend our Conference this season? I should be very happy to have you come if you can — Abigail & your daughter with you. Give my love to your Father and Mother, Uncle David and family and all enquiring friends. Write us as you receive this.
Yours in undying friendship & Christian love, — Geo. Strevel