Saving history, one letter at a time…
This letter was written by Henry Chandler Smith (1838-1882), the son of Chandler Smith (1811-1861) and Electa Marie Wilcox (1816-1896) of Canaan, Columbia County, New York. In the next to last paragraph, Henry mentions several of his siblings: Edwin Sebastion Smith (1844-1926), Isadore Smith (1845-1907), and Mary Branch (“Branchie”) Smith (1846-1918).
When 23 years old, Henry enlisted at Canaan in Company I, First New York Mounted Rifles on 18 August 1862 for three years. He was mustered out on 12 June 1865.
Henry wrote the letter to Catharine (“Kate”) G. Cook (1832-18xx), daughter of Nathaniel Cook (1792-Aft1850) and Prudence H. ____ (1798-Aft1850) of Richmond, Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Henry married Kate on 13 September 1865 and farmed on a property two miles northwest of East Chatham, New York.
The Special Collections Research Center at Swem Library, College of William and Mary, has another letter in their collection from Henry to his sweetheart, Catherine G. Cooke of Richmond, Massachusetts dated 11 January 1864. Unfortunately they have it mis-identied and I have informed them of their error.
Addressed to Miss Catharine G. Cooke, West Stockbridge, Massachusetts
Headquarters General Butler
September 16, 1864
My dear Catharine,
Your letter of the eleventh (inst.) having just been received with great pleasure, I hasten to send you an answer to remind you that you are still, as ever, remembered by me. I hardly expected to receive another letter so soon from you and am very glad that you are having such a pleasant visit.
I am now doing orderly duty at these headquarters — this being the seventh day since I have been here. I am sorry to say that I am just at present “sorely afflicted” with a “grievous bile” [boil] on one of my limbs which causes me to exercise a considerable amount of patience whenever I attempt to move. The boys have a considerable fun with me for making such awkward work in trying to walk about camp. I suppose it would be just like you to laugh at me too.
I think if I had been one of the party on the “grape excursion,” I would have made the ladies walk at least half of the way. They cannot be trusted out of sight with a team. Kate, whenever you go out on a scout (excursion), you must report to me, your “superior officer,” or I shall be awful jealous.
I must tell you about an excursion I have been on this week though it will not be half as interesting to you as yours are to me. On Tuesday afternoon, one of the General’s staff officers called me to go with him to Bermuda where we immediately went on board a transport and after an hour’s pleasant sail landed at Harrison’s Landing where we fed our horses, took tea in ex-President Harrison’s kitchen, and at precisely 9 o’clock P.M. started out with one squadron of the 4th Massachusetts Cavalry to arrest a Confederate soldier & some citizens who were carting off wheat into the Rebel lines.
At two o’clock the next day we had them all on board the transport and at five o’clock arrived here in camp having had a very pleasant time. I wish that soldiering was never any worse than this was. I have a relic from the President’s flower garden that I will send you to keep for me.
I have received three letters from home since I wrote to you last — one from Sebastion, one from Laidore, and one last night from Mother. Mother has had quite a house full of company since you left Richmond, but all have gone now leaving her nearly alone again. Branchie (a homely name, isn’t it Kate) has been in New York City on a visit but is expected home now in a few days when Esi expects to go to Southport to stay all winter (if she does not get homesick).
Catharine, I always beg to remember you in my devotions for I know that there is no wordily enjoyment that can make us happy if we do not live near our dear Savior who is always ready to hear us when we ask him. I am sometimes really afraid that I do not pray enough but I know that you will not forget me. Good bye.
Affectionately yours, — H. C. S.
by Charles A. Frey
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