" Dear Sir, I Humbly Pray You ", Mothers' Letters, Soldier Sons And Lincoln

JPK Huson 1863

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From a French print entitled " La Maison Blanc ", the Lincoln era Executive Mansion stares unblinkingly from Time. Easily dated by the pre-conservatory, 1857 tiny greenhouse Harriet Lane urged on Buchanon, vanished in an 1867 fire. To this address came letters innumerable written by mothers. Addressed to President Abraham Lincoln they were the deepest cries for help a mother could shriek without opening her mouth.

The Smithsonian maintains a wonderful collection, as alive today as if the women stood in front of us, of letters written to their President. In browsing the topic " Letters To Lincoln ", found one of our members, and an author we haven't seen for awhile created a delightful site.

Lincoln could intercede in any number of matters to the benefit of those unfortunates caught in a massive, unwieldy hence frequently unjust military. Well, humans were in charge. We're frequently massively unwieldy without a war, not to mention unjust.

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" To: The Hon. Pres. A Lincoln




I humbly pray you to pardon my son Benjamin F Stevens who is under arrest & probably sentenced for going to sleep on guard in the 49th regt Indiana Vols.… He is but sixteen years of age. I humbly ever pray





Mrs. Eliza J Stevens



Seymour, Indiana

April 1862 "



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" To his Excellency Abraham Lincoln:




Sir,


A sick and almost heartbroken mother again sentenced to make another appeal to you for the release of her dear son, Samuel Hardinge Jr., who, through gross misrepresentation and exaggeration on the part of enemies, was first confined in Carroll Prison; and afterward, without being allowed to vindicate his own innocence, transferred to Fort Delaware. [Hardinge was the husband of Belle Boyd, a Confederate spy.] In the only letters which I have received from him since he has been there, he thus writes: “Oh My God! How long am I to remain in this horrible place, full of rebels and secessionists. Oh my parents! Do all you possibly can to get me out of here. My God! My poor wife in England! She tells me in a letter—“For God’s sake to send her some money!” And I in prison! Why should they put me in here! I who have taken the oath of allegiance to the U.S. Government and who have never done anything against it. Oh it is hard! And I pray God faily and nightly that President Lincoln may grant my release!”




I transcribe his own words that you may see what his real feelings are. I told you, sir, in my recent interview with you, that he might, so far as I know, have been guilty of some small utterances, smarting as he was under the unfair and cruel suspicions cast upon him in the affair of the “Greyhound”; but, guilty of a single act against the good of his country—never! You, sir, can judge for yourself whether or not this is the language of a foe to the Government. Oh President Lincoln! I implore and entreat of you to grant my son’s release! My health is rapidly failing under this dreadful blow! I appeal to your kindly nature!... When you think of the magnificent glorious Christmas gift which General Sherman presented to you, will you not confer upon a poor heartbroken mother, the—to you, small—News Years gift of the liberty of her dear son.




Sarah A. M. Hardinge


Brooklyn, New York "



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President U States


Hon. A Lincoln


Dear Sir




Will you excuse my daring to address you, and enclosing this petition for my eldest son, for, your kind consideration. It will tell you all I need, and allow me to say a few words. I know you will listen to them for you have a kind heart, and my story is a sad one. I am a widow left with only these two sons, who have both left me, to fight for the good cause and I am proud to send them forth allthough they leave me desolate, and, heart broken, as they were all I had, for my support, and were my only hope in this world, but I have given them up, but trust in God's mercy, to return them to me, some day. My eldest son is First Lieut in the 15th Regiment, and educated for the army wishes a permanent place in it my youngest son, is a Private soldier in Gen Duryea' 5th Regiment Advance Guards, now at Fort Monroe. he is a druggist by Proffesion and almost a Phycian. he was my only stay, because the youngest and to have him perhaps forever taken away from me almost kills me. My health is extremely delicate and if he could only have a higher place than a private in the Regiment, would make me feel better if he could assist in the Medical Staff in the Hospital, perhaps I am wild to ask such things but I know you can do all things.… Dont dear Mr Lincoln refuse to listen to a Widow'ed Mother prayer. Will you look favorable on this petition. Let me ask your forgiveness for trespassing but you will excuse a broken hearted woman.




Cornelia Ludlow Beekman


July 1861



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Excellent Sir




My good friend says I must write to you and she will send it. My son went in the 54th [Massachusetts] regiment. I am a colored woman and my son was strong and able as any to fight for his country and the colored people have as much to fight for as any. My father was a Slave and escaped from Louisiana before I was born morn forty years agone I have but poor edication but I never went to schol, but I know just as well as any what is right between man and man. Now I know it is right that a colored man should go and fight for his country, and so ought to a white man. I know that a colored man ought to run no greater risques than a white, his pay is no greater his obligation to fight is the same. So why should not our enemies be compelled to treat him the same, Made to do it.




My son fought at Fort Wagoner but thank God he was not taken prisoner, as many were I thought of this thing before I let my boy go but then they said Mr. Lincoln will never let them sell our colored soldiers for slaves, if they do he will get them back quck he will rettallyate and stop it. Now Mr Lincoln dont you think you oght to stop this thing and make them do the same by the colored men they have lived in idleness all their lives on stolen labor and made savages of the colored people, but they now are so furious because they are proving themselves to be men, such as have come away and got some edication. It must not be so. You must put the rebels to work in State prisons to making shoes and things, if they sell our colored soldiers, till they let them all go. And give their wounded the same treatment. it would seem cruel, but their no other way, and a just man must do hard things sometimes, that shew him to be a great man. They tell me some do you will take back the [Emancipation] Proclamation, don't do it. When you are dead and in Heaven, in a thousand years that action of yours will make the Angels sing your praises I know it….




Will you see that the colored men fighting now, are fairly treated. You ought to do this, and do it at once, Not let the thing run along meet it quickly and manfully, and stop this, mean cowardly cruelty. We poor oppressed ones, appeal to you, and ask fair play. Yours for Christs sake




Hannah Johnson




Buffalo, New York


July 1863



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Only four, since more may detract from individual poignancy. More may be read at

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/letters-mothers-president-lincoln-180951395/

Image, sharable, from The White House Historical Association











 

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JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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" Oh My God! How long am I to remain in this horrible place, full of rebels and secessionists. Oh my parents! Do all you possibly can to get me out of here. My God! My poor wife in England! She tells me in a letter—“For God’s sake to send her some money!” And I in prison! Why should they put me in here! I who have taken the oath of allegiance to the U.S. Government and who have never done anything against it. Oh it is hard! And I pray God faily and nightly that President Lincoln may grant my release! ”

This fragment, quoted by Samuel Hardinge, Jr.'s mother Sarah, from her son's letter must have raised a war-time President's eyebrows. He was the Union officer put in charge of the " Greyhound ". a ship carrying Belle Boyd ( and an awful lot of Confederate documents in her vicinity ) to England. seized by the Union Navy. It's all very odd but he asked her to marry him- obviously did so and left her in England. Now an escaped prisoner, Boyd stayed there, her husband brought the Greyhound back to our shore and a LOT of trouble. Jailed- he sincerely did not seem to believe he was guilty of a thing. You cannot stress how famous a spy was Boyd. For a Union officer to have married her much less put her out of reach of the government was smokey at best.

Lots of commentary on him later. Supposedly joined her in England later and died in 1870. May have not- turning up in California ( which was a terrific place to get lost ), living out his life.

You'll see him referred to as ' Hardy ' and ' Harding '? Since his mother spells it otherwise it seems safe, assuming hers is correct?
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Joined
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18,656
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Central Pennsylvania
Thank you for sharing the letters revealing the depths of despair and helplessness, of humans caught in the war machine.

It must have felt so futile, sending that little letter with some vague, desperate hope Lincoln himself would hear you. or could. You know better than anyone how easily lost people could be, vanishing without remark or trace or compassion. And- we still have unmarked graves dotting our country, men falling as they marched, ships putting into shore to bury the dead, skirmishes not noted for where the war dead lay. It was crazy. The thought a single son could matter within such chaos must have seemed crazy all by itself, and they sent these anyway.
 
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