1861: W. A. S. to Martha C. Harris

Regrettably I have not been able to determine the identity of the author of this letter whose initials appear to be “W. A. S.” I searched the 1860 US Census for Lynchburg, Virginia, page by page but could not find any person fitting the profile of this person.

In any event, it’s a great letter written from Lynchburg, Virginia, just days after the firing on Fort Sumter and Lincoln’s call for troops. The letter captures the excitement and pathos associated with the scenes just experienced by the author as the first wave of soldiers head to war amidst the cheers of 5,000 residents.


Addressed to Miss Martha C. Harris, Lisbon, Bedford County, Virginia

Lynchburg [Virginia]
April 22, 1861

Cousin Mat,

I write to say it will not be safe for cousin to go now. It is supposed a hard battle will soon be fought in Washington. There are many troops concentrating there & in reach & Harper’s Ferry, &c. The railroads are pressed into government service. Bridges will be blown up & tracks destroyed rendering it dangerous to travel & for other considerations I would advise she does not leave.

Our Boys left just now—poor fellows. They were paraded to the depot and put on fright trains crowded & to get air, I saw them bursting off the sides of the cars as they moved off. Old men & young cried as the soldiers would step out of ranks to give their wives & little ones a last embrace in the streets. 5,000 people cheered & praised them as the train moved.

Altogether this was a heartrending day for our city. I wish you had been here.

Pa is better rather. No other news. In haste. Yours truly, — W. A. S.

Is there a school near you. I want to send Ema. She must have music, French, &c.

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