1861: Samuel P. McKenney to Eliza Beazley

The following letter was written by Corp. Samuel P. McKenney (1820-1871) of Co. D, 30th Virginia Infantry who enlisted on 26 April 1861 at Spotsylvania Court House for one year’s service. He was “discharged for majority” (meaning over age) from the regiment on 23 July 1862.

A member of the 30th Virginia Infantry reenacting unit

I believe Samuel died of consumption in Spotsylvania County in 1871. Further, I believe his parents were John Milton McKenney (1798-1834)—a native of Ireland, and Elizabeth Carpenter. He wrote the letter to Eliza Beasly (Beazley)—possibly his cousin—who was his “consort” though they never married.

The 30th Infantry Regiment completed its organization at Fredericksburg, Virginia, in June, 1861. Men of this unit were from Fredericksburg and the counties of Spotsylvania, Caroline, Stafford, and King George. It was assigned to General J. G. Walker’s and Corse’s Brigade, and fought with the Army of Northern Virginia from the Seven Days’ Battles to Fredericksburg. After serving with Longstreet at Suffolk, it was on detached duty in Tennessee and North Carolina. During the spring of 1864 the 30th returned to Virginia and saw action at Drewry’s Bluff and Cold Harbor. Later it endured the hardships of the Petersburg trenches north and south of the James River and ended the war at Appomattox. 

[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Greg Herr and was transcribed and published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Camp Cary 1
Potomac Creek
8 o’clock at night

Miss Eliza Beasly,

Having been unexpectedly called to this place, I could not comply with my promise sooner. I do assure you that my thoughts have been hovering about that lovely spot. You know where and for what; ever since my departure. Eliza, but for thee, I would not care to live. Little did I think the ties of a lover was so binding until separated. I now assure you that fear I know not. But alas, the probability of our never meeting on this earth again is indescribable. Oh my heart is filled to overflowing. But should I be killed, I shall die a soldier’s death. I have no uneasiness in regard to the great battle to be fought as we are in the right. He that controls all things will be with us. Liberty, Liberty is what every American if true will have or die.

Eliza, I stood the trip perhaps better than anyone in the company. Robert Duerson 2 has been sick but not serious—caused from excitement. The rest of the boys are well. I should not be surprised if I am made Captain before long though I care nothing for office. [ ] is mighty and will prevail. I will try and see you soon. My love to Mary. Say to Charles I am in hopes he may get off. I do not want him in this company for I know he can’t stand the trip. Of all the sorry, low life people, I have never seen their equals. I am truly sorry that I joined the company. Say to Aly I forgive him for his treatment to me as I believe it is possible we may never meet again.

Eliza, it is you and only you that I care to live for. I will see you soon. Yours most affectionately, — Sam’l P. McKenney

1 The encampment was probably named after Col. Richard Milton Cary (1834-1886), a Richmond attorney who organized a volunteer militia company of light infantry which became Co. F of the 12th Virginia soon after the bombardment of Fort Sumter. One June 15th he was promoted to the rank of Colonel and given command of the 30th Virginia, a regiment posted near Fredericksburg.

2 Robert Duerson (1833-1906) was a resident of Thornburg, Spotsylvania county, Virginia, when he enlisted in Co. D, 30th Virginia Infantry. He served from 26 April 1861 to 16 May 1864 when he was wounded in the thigh at Drury’s Bluff, Virginia.

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