1861: Edward H. Spooner to Trueman Gardner Avery

March of the 7th New York Regiment down Broadway (New York Digital Collections)

This letter was written by Edward H. Spooner (1838-1888), a native of Wampsville, near Syracuse, New York. His parents were Dr. [Stillman W.] Spooner (1802-1880)—was one of the original abolitionists, and Lucretia Lydia Thorpe (1813-1888). Edward taught school for a year or two before coming to New York prior to the Civil War where he practiced law in partnership with his cousin, Trueman Gardner Avery. He soon married Frances (“Fanny”) Bush, the heiress of Dr. Ralph Isaacs Bush (1779-1860), making him independently rich.

Edward was counsel for the American News Company when it was formed which was later purchased by the firm Beadle & Co. (publisher of Beadle’s Monthly). In the New York City Directory for 1860-61 he was listed as a lawyer with an office at 4 New Street. His name appears continuously in the directories until 1882, with the exception of 1864-65 to 1866-67, inclusive, when he lived in Madison county, New York, and 1868-69, although his address was not always the same. From 1863 to 1881 he lived in Brooklyn, after which he moved to New Jersey, and in 1887-88 he lived in Plainfield. From the Registry of Voters in Brooklyn, we learn that his birth year was 1838. He left a wife and a son named Robert (b. 1865) when he died in 1888. Obituary notices in The New York Tribune, March 30, 1888 and the Plainfield Daily Press, March 29, 1888.

Edward wrote the letter to his cousin, Trueman Gardner Avery (1837-1914), the son of Jared Newell Avery (1803-1880) and Cornelia Benham (1808-1877) of Wampsville, Madison county, New York. Avery was prepared for college at the Oneida Conference Seminary; was graduated from Hamilton College in 1856; studied law with Judge Israel Selden Spencer at Syracuse; afterward at the Albany Law School where he was graduated LL. B.; was admitted to practice in 1859; practiced in New York City; removed to Buffalo in 1860; soon gave up the law for mercantile pursuits. He is a member and a trustee of the First Presbyterian Church; a Republican in politics; a director of the Merchants’ Bank; a trustee of the Fidelity and Guaranty Company; a trustee of the Buffalo Orphan Asylum; president of the board of trustees of the Buffalo General Hospital; a life member of the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, of the Young Men’s Association, and of the German Young Men’s Association; president of the Niagara Frontier Landmarks Association; and a Son of the American Revolution.

As far as I can learn, neither of the correspondents served in the military during the Civil War.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Addressed to Truman G. Avery, Esq., Counsellor at Law, Buffalo, New York

4 New Street, New York
May 1, 1861

Dear Cousin TGA,

Your letter reached me in due time & was read with great pleasure though its patriotic sentiments did not in the least surprise me. It was to be expected from one who loves his country as I know you do & I am glad to hear that you have enlisted though I hardly hope that you will be called upon to suffer the hardships that I know are attendant upon a soldier’s life.

I had a strange dream the other night. What do you suppose it was—that I had gone to the war & at the first battle met Frank 1 fighting on the other side—that we concluded we would not hew each other to pieces & so with locked arms stepped one side & enjoyed a pleasant chat while our comrades continued to fight. Don’t you think we did sensibly? A matter of fact, however, I do not believe that Frank will enlist for the Southern treason. But my dream illustrates the horrors of civil war in which cousins & brothers are likely to meet each other in deadly conflict. But this I think is much exaggerated. Peoples sympathies seem to lean very much to the land of their birth & so very few born North will fight for the South & vice versa. Therefore, I would not put arms in the hands of any of the [border?] State men. They cannot be trusted until there is no chance for successful rebellion.

I met J. O. Benett a few days since. He was warlike enough & said he had offered to take charge of Uncle David’s business if he wanted to go to the war as Major. I thought it a very good joke for I should as soon expect Uncle David would turn pastor as soldier. A gentleman who is afraid to walk through Buffalo 5 Points in the evening—Uncle David will admit it—would not hurry to face the music of bullets and shells. I do not know after all but you will have to go for the credit of the family. Do you hear anything of Henry?

As to business, I am doing something. But I think law is not going to be very good with anybody here for the next year & I expect to do a small, but I hope increasing business.

This is May 1 & there is due from you $15.62 rent & I suppose you will be very glad to have your liabilities here cease. I made a small fortune today on the furniture I bought of you which I sold in order to “raise the wind.” I sold your desk for $9, stone for $5 and the biggest thing was your chair & my two small chairs for $1. The things ought to bring more but the 2nd hand dealers won’t pay any more; and besides, this war has upset things that such goods are a drag and many law offices will be without tenants the coming year. Mr. Wheeler has the office where we were. I could have had it for $100 but did not feel that I can afford to pay any more than I am paying here $60. Law offices are renting very cheap, Soldiering may be the best business going next year.

My love to Uncle & Aunt & hope I shall see them next time I am at [ ].

Very truly yours, cousin Edward H. Spooner


I have just come from the City Hall where I got my certificate as Notary Public—not worth very much however, in this building as there are now 4 notaries it it. When I found two of the County Clerks defending secession and maintaining the novel doctrine that Jeff Davis is not a traitor & cannot be punished according to law for anything he had done, I told them that if that were so, he would be punished contrary to law. In such cases, if there is no law, we will have to extemporize a little. But there is law enough & if Jeff Davis ever gets into our hands, he will find it out. Amen say you to that.

As for my enlisting like everyone else, I felt that all should respond to the country’s call if necessary, & those who were adapted should volunteer. Even unadapted to the rough work of a soldier as I know myself to be. I went so far as to present myself to the 7th [New York] Regiment on the invitation of one of the captains with whom I am acquainted. Butthose who joined were required to remain for two years & not wishing to play soldier in time of peace, I declined to enter into the arrangement & have concluded to fight the opposing counsel only for the present.

“This going to war is no child’s play & is something much more wearing & burdensome than either of us ever endured. I have no desire to go and regret it afterward. However, I would have gone in the [New York] 7th for the war only as that is the crack regiment of the Nation & each man in it is a hero—at least with the ladies.”

— Edward H. Spooner, lawyer, New York City

This going to war is no child’s play & is something much more wearing & burdensome than either of us ever endured. I have no desire to go and regret it afterward. However, I would have gone in the [New York] 7th for the war only as that is the crack regiment of the Nation & each man in it is a hero—at least with the ladies. And besides, I am acquainted with a number of young men in it & would have had plenty of company though probably soldiers are never lonesome for the lack of it.

Father, it seems, has been urged to go as surgeon. If I was a doctor, I would go in that capacity in a moment for [just think] how a surgeon could improve himself with so many subjects to experiment upon. If I went to war, I should want to take my own surgeon with me. I expect army surgeons cut and slash at a great rate.

1 Franklin (“Frank”) Newell Avery (1840-1864) was Trueman’s younger brother. He died on 19 November 1864 in the military hospital at Keatchie, Louisiana. After the Battle of Mansfield (Sabine Crossroads) on April 08 1864, Keatchie College was converted into a hospital. Many Confederate Soldiers were treated there and the ones that died were buried in this cemetery. There are a number of unmarked graves, some graves marked with a “CSA” headstone, some with only bricks or stones. A number of Union soldiers were also treated in this same hospital.

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