20 July 2015

Amanuensis Monday: Civil War Letter of Mother Nancy (Smith) Dutton to Son Harvey Dutton (Dutton Letters, Part 1)

The following is a transcription of a letter written by a mother Nancy Dutton (nee. Smith, 1808-1868) to her son Harvey James Dutton (1836-1928).  I have chronicled a great deal of Harvey's life herehere, and here to name just a few of my posts on the man.  He was a scholar, a hero, a gentleman.  He cried over the lifeless body of my 2xg-grandfather when he died in service.  I am proud of my Dutton ancestors and Harvey is one major reason why.

This is an actual transcription including all errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation.  Brackets are used where text is illegible.
                                                                     Metamora   Jan  18  1863 
Dear son Harvy we received your kind letter in answer to A[  ] but as we had answered your other, we concluded to wait a few days, but I cannot wait any longer, and if our letters do pass on the road, it is not much  matter for we do want to hear from you so often.  There are so many changes lately and for some reason there is but little to be heard that can be relied upon.  That if we get any news it is not certain but that it will be contradicted in a few days, you have heard no doubt of Rosencrance big fight at Murfersboro the papers give him a decided victory and some of the folks about here have had letters from the 51 and Milton Kingston has lost a leg by a shell, Jim Stivers and Henry and Will Taylor are in the regiment, but we have not heard anything from the 17th for three weeks and the report was here that the 108th had been all killed but 17.  But that is not credited but they have not been heard from since they left them--this which was in about a week after your father was there.  Norman Richards is in the 77th company H capt Keedy and Isaac Groves is in the same Will Kerrick and Phil Gallop also, the 104th were taken prisoners and paroled and sent to Columbus Ohio, for Emma Trembels husband was in the regmt and he wrote to Em that if he had money he would come and see her, and she wrote to Jim Brady and he got the money and he sent it on, and I have not heard whether he had come yet, his name is Bangs.  Em is teaching school out east almost to Indiana, one of Mr. Stivers sons was brought home a corpse, his father went about the same time that your Pa went for Horace but could not get to the regmt for some cause and came home, but in a few days, his corpse came on the cars he was in the 51th, three brothers went together, others are experiencing the same heartrending trials that we have, four weeks from the day that Horace was buried San Kingston was brought here and buried he lived near Panola was at El Paso and was taken sick died in two hours, he was so bad that he could not get home only three miles, so sudden a death has not been known for a long time  I do not know as they know what was the cause for he has been a healthy man. 
We think of you every day and hope you may be kept from all harm put your trust in the Lord and do your duty in the fear of the Lord and you will have peace of mind and an inheritance hereafter  farewell 
                                                                         Jan 25 
Another week has passed since I have laid aside my pen and there are several incidents transpired in one week, news from the army and the return of Lieutenant Briggs he has resigned and come home sick, but he is getting along now, and Geo. Everett has been home on a visit he had got a wound in the leg that disabled him and he was sent to Keokuk and he came on home.  I guess never stopped, he stayed two weeks, and went back.  I have not heard from him since.  Newton Mcpeely is in the fourth cavirly and stationed at Columbus Ky  I want you to write you your genl is now and your col too, for we look for something in the paper to hear of your whereabouts, the papers state that genl Steel and Gorman and Hovey have engaged largely in cotton speculation and the war will not end as long as officers can make money as they do now.  How much [       ] to expect this war to last and [           ] And there must be an end of the war [           ] when our men are called home and quit fighting the The generals are awful mad about the proclamation they had an information meeting in town but I believe there was not much done, and we have not heard much about it since for the next day it was accertained that John Clark had the smallpox and several had been to see him and they were badly scared and Stevenson was one, I do not wonder I should think that they would fear the judgements of heaven would be sent against such treasonable sentiments as are uttered daily  Ed Nelson was here a few days agoe he had just received a letter from Will and a read part of his letter to us  He says that they call the 108th "a secesh regiment" For most of them are opposed to the proclamation and said that he would not have enlisted if he thought it was going to free the negros [      ] aint he and Ed read a part of your letter, quite a contrast I think.  Julia received a letter from cousin Arthur a few days agoe he has sent his picture to Almira and he is a fine looking young man he belongs to the 19th Ohio battery and likely at Vicksburg by this time we have heard from the 17th lately all well but a great many of the new boys are sick John Kindig is dead he died at youngs point of Eyrasipelas buried on the bank of the river.  This letter looks so bad that it was a great mind not to send it but I could not write it over again.  Almira will write you soon and Julia will next time so you can burn this soon as you read it if you can 
                                                                        N Dutton
Notes and Comments --
  • I am struck by all the names mentioned of their friends, neighbors and acquaintances.  Imagine being a descendent of one of these ladies or gentlemen and discovering the transcription of this letter?  Imagine all the potential letters out there where mine and/or your ancestors are mentioned in passing?
  • By the time of this letter, at the extol of his comrades, Harvey Dutton had been promoted from Sergeant to 2nd Lieutenant. He would be promoted two more times finally exiting the war as a Captain.
  • Horace Dutton was the first of the Dutton boys to enlist in the Civil War.  Sadly he died from illness less than three months after muster.  His father Norman drove a wagon all the way from Metamora, IL to Memphis, TN to retrieve the body so it could be buried in the family plot.
  • The Duttons were devout Christians, active in the Temperance movement, Sunday School Associations, and of course the Abolitionist movement. As was documented here and other places, Nancy's husband, and Harvey's father, Norman Dutton was a conductor on the Underground Railroad.  This worldview clearly colors what Nancy thinks and says of those who oppose the freedom of African-Americans and the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • These were central Illinois folk.  Evidence is southern Illinois leaned toward sympathy with the south, and central and northern Illinois sympathized with the north. We do see some evidence that some people were in the war for what they thought were reasons other than slavery.  Northerners would say "Preserving the Union."  Southerners would say "State's Rights."  But the specific issue both these turned on was slavery.  I would think it was naive for folks to think otherwise.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

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