Education

Letter from Alfred and Archibald Penny to their parents; June 25, 1861


Historical Context
When the American Civil War began in 1861, citizens of both the North and South had no idea how long the conflict would last. Many Northerners, including the Union army leaders, envisioned a three-month war that would quickly bring the South back into the Union. The assumption that it would be a short war, coupled with a surge in patriotism, led thousands of New Yorkers to voluntarily join the army. The men of the Penny family were no exception.

In 1860, the Penny family consisted of seven members: Elijah, Jane, Archibald, Alfred, Eugene, Charles, and Louise. They lived in the town of Southeast in Putnam County, New York. Elijah, the father, and the two older boys, Archibald and Alfred all volunteered to fight for the Union in 1861. The letters, census records, and military documents all provide a glimpse into one New York family's experience during this time of national unrest.
Essential Question
What impact did the Civil War have on individual citizens, families, and local communities?
Check for Understanding
How do the two Penny boys feel about their service?
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Letter from Alfred and Archibald Penny to their father; June 25, 1861 , New York State Library, NYSL_SC11836_Alfred_Archibald_Penny_letter_18610625
Document Description
Letter from Civil War soldiers Alfred and Archibald Penny to their father, 1861.
Questions
  1. Why does Alfred mention Jim Crane in this letter?
Transcription
Camp Draper June 21 Washington DC Dear Father Yours I received  yesterday and am happy to hear that you are all well, I am at present setting under a shade tree by the side of Brother Archey in "Camp [Cannon]", I had to walk about 5 1/2 miles to get from our camp to his and I feel very tired, I wrote to CWP the other day. I suppose he will let you read it. I spoke to Jim Crane about writing to his mother and he said he would do it today. He sleeps in the same tent I do at Present, he is as good looking and as healthy as ever. He says he would like to see his Parents. The N York Papers are full of reports about the second regiment which is untrue and unfounded. We were sworn in to the US service for the war and about (450) four hundred and fifty refused to take the oath for that time. We have plenty to eat and of good quality and you must not credit any Report only what Archey and myself writes to you. I will let Archey finish the letter and I will go to my camp. Yours Mr AC Penny Esq 2nd Comp E 2nd Regt NYSM Washington DC
Father I wish that you would answer would answer my last letter I wrote you. I am on sentry duty today. We have 4 Hours of it on. We have very nice time. We have not been sworn in yet. I have a very nice time. There are fine young men in my camp. We have Beef Pork rice coffee tea Beans and all kinds of [    ] We live high WE have the Big Camp. Your [    ] A Penny Comp F 9 Regiment NYSM Washington DC