1863: Eben F. Lawrence to Cousin

How Eben Lawrence might have looked
How Eben Lawrence might have looked

This letter was written by Corporal Eben F. Lawrence (1842-1863) of Company C, 16th Massachusetts Infantry. Eben was the son of Edmund Lawrence (1805-1880) and Emma Ann Bailey (1817-18xx) of Pepperell, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Prior to enlistment, Eben earned a living as a shoe maker.

In the letter to his cousin, Eben anticipates that the Army of the Potomac’s newly appointed commander, “Fighting Joe” Hooker will soon lead them into “one of the bloodiest battles that has yet been fought.” Indeed, only two weeks later Hooker’s army would tangle with Lee’s near the crossroads hamlet known as Chancellorsville in the Wilderness of Virginia. Sadly, Corporal Lawrence would be one of many casualties in the 16th Massachusetts on 3 May 1863. He died in a hospital at Aquia Creek on 10 June 1863.


Camp Near Falmouth, Virginia
April 16, 1863

Dear Cousin,

I received your kind letter dated March 22nd. It found me well and enjoying good health. Today the weather is very warm and pleasant. I should like to be in “Old Pep” today and attend church but I am not and I think it will be a long day before I see my native town.

I tell you, cousin, that this war is not going to be crushed out this year. Folks at the North does not know how the war is working. If they did, we soldiers would see a great difference. You cannot tell anything by papers. I see the Boston, Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington papers every day and I see by them that the press smoothes everything over to blind folks at home.

To turn the subject. look at our fleet of iron-clad gun boats of Charleston. What did we accomplish there? The loss of six million dollars — that is all. Some very strange and even startling juxtapositions are occasionally found in the record of the Rebellion, but in order to crush this rebellion we have got to have different men to lead us on to battle. I think, cousin, in a few days you will hear of one of the bloodiest battles that has yet been fought. The Army of the Potomac is about to make a move with its noble and brave commander at the head who fears no danger. If he gets the Rebs started, they will have to suffer.

Cousin, will you tell me what Davis says about the war? You ask him how many battles he has been in, then write me. Do not say anything so it will get to him for he has not done me any injury. I suppose he will tell you folks that he has been in half a dozen battles. To tell the truth, he has not fired a gun since he has been in the service.

As there is not much news, I will close by bidding you good day. My regards to your wife. Please excuse and accept this from your cousin, — E. F. Lawrence

Write soon.

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