1864: William Appleton Lawrence to Mary A. Reeves



This letter was written by Rev. William A. Lawrence (1834-1921), the son of Ephraim Appleton Lawrence (1808-1894) and Clara Pamela Buttrick (1815-1909) of Pepperell, Massachusetts. He wrote the letter to his fiancée, Mary A. Reeves (1836-1914) who was then living with her father in Gallipolis, Ohio. They were married on 19 July 1864 in Gallia county, Ohio.

William (or “Will”) graduated from Amherst College in 1861. He then attended the Princeton Theological School in 1861-62 after which he became an agent for the U. S. Christian Commission. He took charge of setting up the Christian Commission in Chattanooga after the battle of Missionary Ridge and then followed Sherman’s army through Georgia supplying the needs of the soldiers who were often cut off from their supply lines. In late 1864, after his marriage, he attended the Union Theological School and was ordained an evangelist in July 1866. He then accepted a calling to be superintendent of the Brooklyn children’s Aid Society until 1873, after which he entered private business.


Addressed to Miss Mary A. Reeves, Gallipolis, Ohio
Postmarked Nashville, Tennessee

Huntsville [Alabama]
February 2, 1864

Dearest Mary,

Oh how I miss those letters waiting to great me in Chattanooga when I go back. That is what I expected to do some days sooner that I shall now for I am doing what I can to establish a Soldier’s Home ¹ here and it makes me a “heap” of trouble. The reason is that I didn’t start out to do it and trusting that the two ladies would attend to that while I started the Christian Commission, I found that after I had finished my business, I was called upon to attend to theirs which I was very glad to do as I like the object and do not like to see it fail—but I am afraid it will, for the ladies change their minds too often for my taste. But it is all in the hands of Providence. So here I am waiting the arrival of someone to come from Nashville with stores to set up our rooms here and whom I can leave while I go to Chattanooga and either stay there or return just as the powers that be shall determine.

At any rate, I shall go back there and read those letters. If someone else would come—as I expected there would today—I could go to Larkinsville and see Henry ² before he goes home for he was so much better the day after I saw him that I have strong hopes he will be able to get home directly. How different he looked from the Henry we left at Ceredo [Va.]! How strange the Hand that led me to him again in Alabama, far out in a lonely nook away from road and camp & placed in my hands everything human art could furnish for his recovery.

This has been a mysterious journey every way—a new experience even in this life of strange events. Would you believe that I have been smoking a segar while writing this letter? I have really been enjoying the smoke though it was merely in the way of a friendly pledge with the surgeon-in-charge of the hospital where I still am. The segar shortened this letter too for a long talk of medical affairs was the result and it is now past bed time and the surgeon is writing to his wife and I am writing to mine. Mine—so strange to say this of anything earthly, but you are not all of the earth earthy and you are mine only because I am yours. Shall the two welded pieces dispute which is the new one? Oh that we could be with each other! All these events which come between us—this war—your dear mother’s state of need—are even these insuperable? Certainly not. But let us hold firm to each other still and see what the Lord has in store for us. How completely I am alone down here! Yet the blessed Savior is with even me and this is His world after all. So goodnight, dear, & may He be with you. — Will

¹ Soldier’s Homes established by the Christian Commission provided soldiers with “stores of reading, thread, needles, buttons, pens, ink, paper &c.” and a place where soldiers could sit down and write letters home.

² A letter by Lt. W. H. H. Sisson of Co. B, 4th Virginia (Union) written from Larkinsville to the editor of The Gallipolis Journal on 11 February 1864 states that Sgt. [William] Henry Reeves of Gallipolis “died here a few days ago [5 February 1864] after a long illness. He was a good soldier, and a young man of rare abilities. His death is deeply regretted by the entire Regiment…His remains have been sent home.” Sgt. William Henry Reeves (1841-1864) was buried in the Pine Street Cemetery in Gallipolis.


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