This letter was written by Edward J. Kenney (1809-1874), a Philadelphia clothier, and the father of Lieut. George W. Kenney (1841-1862) of Co. H, 1st California Regiment (71st Pennsylvania Infantry) to whom the letter was addressed, in care of Gen. Winder at Richmond, Virginia, where he was being held as a prisoner of war. A notice of Lt. Kenney’s capture at Ball’s Bluff in October 1861 (he was initially reported as drowned) and recent release from Richmond was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer of 22 February 1862.
Lt. Kenney was taken prisoner by the Rebel army while being treated at the White Oak Swamp Hospital on the 30th June 1862. The Philadelphia Inquirer on 12 August 1862 states that Lt. Kenney died on 2 July 1862 at Nelson’s Farm, Virginia.
A subsequent article appearing in the Philadelphia Inquirer on 15 July 1862 suggests that George died in a Richmond prison after his capture at the White Oak Swamp Hospital. A correspondent for the paper wrote, “He was beloved by all who knew him. Having been associated with him on the battlefield and at home, I had learned to love him for his many good qualities. When in Richmond prison he was the most cheerful of any, strengthened as he was by a firm reliance on the word of God. I saw Major Revere of the 20th Massachusetts who was with Lieut. Kenney at 9 o’clock on Monday evening. His wound having been pronounced mortal all that could be done for him was to lull him to sleep. Dr. Revere of the 20th administered morphine to him. When the Major saw him, the morphine was about taking effect. He only said, ‘tell them that I was ready to die,’ meaning his family.”
January 20, 1862
My dear son George,
We have no word from you since your letter of December 28th. Two men called at the house on January 15th. One slept with you. My reason for sending you this letter is for fear you may not get the letter and the money I sent you. I will repeat what was in the letter. Send word to Maury & Co.and] ask him to get you a parole for thirty days so you can get a Lieut. to be exchanged for you or name one of our prisoners and I think I can get it done at Washington. I sent you 25 dollars in gold in the last letter. If you want the rest I will send it as I can get a draft from the President of our Bank, Mr. Rogers, if Maury will accept it. I sent two large boxes of goods and 20 dollars for your men. Send the word if you received them. I think you will soon be exchanged so you must be content putting your trust in God who hath said all things work together for good to them that love God. I know he hears the prayer of Father and your dear Mother who loves you so well. Try and save some poor soul from the death that never dies. May God bless you.
Goodbye, — E. J. Kenney, 313 S 2nd St., Philadelphia