1862: Almyra (Williams) Van Vleck to George Montgomery Williams

Kepi of 14th New York Infantry officer
Kepi of 14th New York Infantry officer

This letter was written by Almyra Borodell (Williams) Van Vleck (1832-1871), the daughter of Coddington Billings Williams (1796-1881), and Sarah Smith (1800-1854). Almyra (or “Myra”) became the wife of Henry Van Vleck (1819-1887) in July 1854.

Myra wrote the letter to her brother, Sgt. George Montgomery Williams (1840-1912), who enlisted in Co. H, 14th New York Infantry, in May 1861 and served two years. George filed an affidavit attesting to the death of a fellow soldier named Albert W. Lathrop, Jr., who was “shot by the enemy while on picket in the Chickahominy Swamp on 6 June 1862 — two months before this letter. George claimed that Albert lived but a short time after he was wounded and that he was buried there.

Myra and George’s father, Coddington B. Williams, was an early resident of Salina and Syracuse and was a merchant in the salt industry. After George returned from the service, he married Helen Risley Congdon of Syracuse. George labored in the lumber business for a time and later was treasurer of the Onondaga Pottery.


Addressed to George M. Williams, 14th Regt. N. Y. I. V., Co. H
Col. James McQuade, Porter’s Division, Fortress Monroe

Syracuse [New York]
August 10th 1862

My dear Brother,

Would I could know at this moment how it fares with you, my dear boy! It would lighten all our hearts I imagine if we could take a look at your dear old weather-beaten face, for I suppose you are as black as if you had served in the Crimea, & sport a mustache as fierce as a French Hussar. Yours of the 30th to Pa has been received & a few days after we saw by the papers that 15,000 men mostly from Porter’s Division had crossed the James River & we suppose you are among the number. About two weeks ago we sent you a box of things & hope they reached you safely.

George Gillespie & his bride are here & tomorrow we are going to South Bay to spend the day in fishing — an excursion planned for their pleasure & which I wish was well over, for I had rather stay at home. We have been having excessively hot weather & feel inclined to complain at its uncomfortableness sometimes, but when we think of “the poor soldiers” & their sufferings, all complainings cease.

A few days ago Henry and I rode out to see Nellie. Found her well. Were treated to raspberry shrub & cake & wine, passed a pleasant hour & said good night. I don’t see but what Nellie is just as stout as ever.

Lucius Dillingham & Des Hills have both opened recruiting offices in the first ward & I believe enlistments are increasing rapidly all over the country, but I suppose drafting will commence the 18th — numbers of young ladies have pledged themselves to take the place of clerks in stores who will volunteer & merchants are to pay the same salary & half goes to the young lady & half goes to the clerk during his absence. A believe about 250 have signed their names already. I understand Mr. Tallman put down the names of his three daughters and one young lady came from Skaneateles to sign her name — a Miss Kellogg — whose father is very wealthy.

If you should come across John B. Frothingham, Major in one of the Ohio Regiments & I believe in Henitzelman’s Corps, make yourself known to him & you will get such a grip & shake of the hand as you won’t forget very soon. He is a very cordial friend of ours & I know would welcome you like a brother. I really wish you might meet but I suppose there is as little probability of it as if you were thousands of miles apart.

Mrs. Childs is so afraid that John will be drafted that she can hardly eat or sleep. Great stout fellow — he ought to go! but I do feel sorry for his mother. She feels of course as if she could not have it so. It is a natural feeling, but how many mothers, loving just as strongly & as tenderly as she, have given sons, fairer & better than he — their best heart’s blood, as it were — & are even now mourning because they shall never see their faces more. But then any mother will say that this does not make it any easier to bear. Oh, Heaven grant this terrible war be soon brought to an end.

We heard through a soldier from McClellan’s army, returned to his home near Baldwinsville that you were sick between Fridays & Tuesday & battles, but was all right again when he left. I don’t know who it was but he said he knew you. Well Lit Van Vlick heard it in some way. Why did you not speak of it & what was the matter with you, tho’ I suppose it was overexertion. For mercy’s sake, if you get sick, don’t fail to let us know in some way.

We are all as well as usual. God grant you be spared to come back to us.

We had a letter from Aunt Matilda yesterday & they have all been sick. Uncle John very sick, but are nearly well now. She enquires very particularly after you & wished when we write we would send a great deal of love & a “God bless you” which I repeat again & again. And that He may have you always in HIs keeping that no harm come to you is the prayer of — Sister Myra.

P. S. Pa has received the money.

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