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Hartford ~ December 8th 1861: Consent to Enlist

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Categories: Jamie & Katie, Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This is where things start to get dark. Jamie still hasn’t found much work, but believes he has found a solution. You’ll notice if you look at the original letter that there’s a sense of urgency in Jamie’s writing, as he begins to scrawl notes in the margins and he even shoved in a little extra piece of paper with more writing that I almost didn’t find because it was still hidden inside the envelope.

Hartford - Dec 8th, 1861 Envelope

Hartford - Dec 8th, 1861 Page One Hartford - Dec 8th, 1861 Page Two Hartford - Dec 8th, 1861 Extra Page Part One Hartford - Dec 8th, 1861 Extra Page Part Two

Hartford Dec 8th 1861

Sunday Eve

My dear wife,

I received your kind letter Friday evening and was glad to hear you was well and all of my friends was well too. You must try to take good care of yourself fore I shall want to find you alive and in good health at the end of three long years fore I am going to enlist to go in the 12th Reg to go for three years or for the war with Uncle Horrace. He and I are going to enlist next week that is our determination now and I want your consent. I [promised] you that I would not enlist without your gave your consent but I have not got much work now. I got though work at Phelp’s last night but Friday morning I went in [search] of work I found a job down to Colts on the new factory for a few days but when that is done I [shall] not have any work and I think that it is the best thing that I can do is to go in the army to fight for my country. I shall be just as well off at the end as I should of if I [stayed] at home. You will draw six dollars from the State per month. I shall get ten dollars when I enlist extry and ten [dollars] from the State a month 13 [dollars] from the government a month and 30 (80?) [dollars] bounty a year from State. 100 from the government at the end of three years. Do you not think it best for me to do it. Say yes my dear wife and I will go.

Do not be [frightened] when you read this fore thousands have gone it is duty to go in war.

My dear wife

I hope this will not make you feel bad. It must not my [?] make you feel bad because I shall see you before I go if you are willing I should. You can come up here as soon as you want to and stay with me until I leave Hartford fore the [l__t?] of war. I will do the best with you that I can. I can lend my money home to you. You can use all of it that you want and put the rest of it in the Bank as do what you are a [mind] to with it. Katie I want to hear from you before enlisting. Uncle Horrace and I went out to the camps the 11th & 12th Reg. I saw Augerine Comstock and John Baley from Lyme. Bill and Charles Slate had gone home. I did not see them. John Handal Parker from Deep river and Joseph Rozzi from East Haddam they all like first rate and think that I shall like it [too]. What do you think about it Katie. You must not feel hard of me but I do want to go with the soldiers. I cannot see all of them in the war me a looking on I feel lazy to think they have all gone me to home. But I shall not enlist without you are willing fore me to do so. I want to do things as near right as possible if there is no work it is no use to stay at home.

Good by my Katie

Fore this

Write soon

 

Jamie’s reasons for joining the Union are strikingly similar to the reasons that many soldiers in our day and age decide to join the military. The Union was offering steady pay which he wasn’t able to find on his own, and he felt a sense of guilt when watching so many of those around him enlist while he remained a civilian. He knew Katie wouldn’t be crazy about the idea, that’s why he’s so apologetic, but his mind had clearly already been made up. I don’t know what Katie’s reaction to this letter was. What I can tell you is that Katie and Jamie were very genuinely in love, so I can’t imagine she felt lightly about his desire to enlist. When my grandmother was little, Katie used to talk to her about Jamie all the time, calling him “my Jamie” when she did, and that was in the 1920s, decades after the Civil War.

I’ve been debating how much to reveal about Katie and Jamie’s fate as I go along, and I think I’ve decided to leave out as many spoilers as possible as so to leave it up to the letters to tell the story. I’m just going to warn you now though – it gets rough.

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Hartford ~ December 1st, 1861: The End of the World and Other Trivial Matters

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Categories: Jamie & Katie, Tags: , , , , , , ,

NOTE: These letters have A LOT of misspellings and grammatical errors, sometimes to the point where it almost reads as if English were not Jamie’s first language. This makes the editor in me want to tear my hair out and practically rewrite everything, but I’ve decided to make a compromise – I will write it out so that it at least mostly makes sense, and I will correct the spelling mistakes that I absolutely can’t stand to leave in, but I’ll leave most of it as is. That means that some of this might sound really weird. You can refer to the original letters if you want to see what I mean (that is, if you can even read his handwriting). He also rarely uses punctuation, so I’ve taken the liberty of throwing in a few periods and commas where they are sorely needed.

 

Hartford - Dec 1st, 1861 Envelope Hartford - Dec 1st, 1861 Page One Hartford - Dec 1st, 1861 Page Two

Hartford December 1st, 1861

Sunday Eve

My dear wife,

I feel lonesome to night without you. I think it will enliven my ideas a little to write you a few words to let you know that I am well. Hope this will find you well and enjoying yourself.

I arrived in Hartford at five O’clock Friday morning and got up to aunt Chas half past five in time to call them up. There was a bed and sleep had no thought of my coming so early. I went to work at leven O’lock. It rained all day Fri & Saturday and this after noon. I went to meeting this morning to the Methodist Church. This after noon Jane & Win came up here. Stayed two or three hours. She said you told her a lie, you told her you did not know when you would be married. I told her you did not know yourself this evening. Uncle Horrace & I went down to central hall to [hear] Elder Himes preach the Millerrite. He said the world was coming to an end in 1867 & 1868 without fail. So you must prepare yourself for that event without fail. I do not know how much longer I shall have work. He has not spoke of turning me up yet. I hope he won’t. This winter – I must draw this to a close for it is late and I am writing to Robert to night too. So good night.

 

My dear wife

From your loving Jamie

Monday Eve

Dear Katie

I am going to put this letter and one for Robert into the post office this evening. I thought I would tell you what I have been doing to day. I have been putting down base and laying floor & sealing up stairs & jointing in windows. Sash [?] when I was going back from dinner I saw Albert Smith on Walnut St. Shook hands with him. He was going up to Frank’s had been up here two or three days good by I must close and go to the post office.

Excuse all mistakes bad writing I am in [hurry] for the union. Good by with love and kiss.

James

 

So what we have here is a fairly ordinary letter from James Wallace Peckham, or Jamie, to Katie Greenfield whom he had only just married less than a month before on November 7th. Jamie was 20 at the time (if the birth date I have for him is correct) and Katie was 19. I’m guessing that the whole thing about Jane and Win claiming that Katie lied about knowing when she would be married is about her failing to inform them about it before it actually happened, but I can look into that. Another thing I need to ask about again is how Katie came to be called Katie, since her real name was Ezrena Aurelia Greenfield, a name that was passed down to my great grandmother. I know one of the adults in her life disapproved of her having such a stuffy name and then dubbed her Katie, which stuck for the rest of her life, but I can’t remember who that was.

I personally can’t tell whether Jamie was being sarcastic when talking about the end of the world, but I certainly hope so, and it seems that he must be including that bit in his letter as a joke since he just goes on to talk about more practical matters like if he’s going to be able to get work over the winter. According to my grandmother though, he was supposedly pretty gullible, so who knows.

This letter is a good introduction to Jamie and Katie’s story, as it illustrates his financial situation which you’ll soon see was an important factor when he decided to enlist, and it shows us a little of what their relationship was like. Uncle Horrace will come to play an important role in the events to follow as well.