This letter was written by H. C. Hicks, most likely a Confederate prisoner held at the Elmira Prison Camp in Elmira, New York. He wrote the letter to Chauncey Thomas, Sr. (1813-1882), one of eleven children born to mill owner and entrepreneur Moses Thomas and his wife, Rebecca Monington of Damascus, Wayne county, Pennsylvania. He is probably best known as the owner of the four Barryville–Shohola Bridges over the Delaware River, and as the father of Rear Admiral and Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, Chauncey Thomas Jr., USN.
Given the apparent casual nature of their relationship and since Chauncey lived in Shohola, Pennsylvania, I can only assume that he and Hicks became acquainted at the time of the Shohola train wreck that took place on 15 July 1864 when a train carrying 833 Confederate POWs and 128 Union guards bound for Elmira collided with a coal train coming from the opposite direction. 49 POWs and 17 guards were killed with many more seriously wounded. Most of the prisoners were from North Carolina so my hunch is the letter was written by H. C. Hicks of Co. D, 26th North Carolina Infantry but I have not been able to confirm that.
Elmira, New York
November 17, 1864
Mr. Thomas, dear friend,
Yours of 14th is at hand [and] finds me well though overwhelmed in trouble on account of my dear father’s death. It seems that trouble after trouble has never ceased to fall upon my brow for the last four years but surely there is a better time not far distant when people will awake to a sense of duty and endeavor to stop this cruel war which has blood drenched our once bright and happy country.
I hope to return soon on parole or change and settle the estate of my father as there is no one but Ma and sister left to see to the farm, hands, stock, store and consequently I fear much will be destroyed ere I can return as I have no hope of going unless exchange or parole takes place which I hope will soon. Shall be under lasting obligations to you for the tobacco you spoke of sending besides duly rewarding you for all expenses [and[ troubles during my unfortunate situation. Let me know when you send it. The book has been read. I prize its contents highly. Shall keep it long as I live as a sacred memento. May God bless you.
— H. C. Hicks