This letter was written by Sgt. George Smith Farley (1846-1924) of Co. D, 13th West Virginia Infantry, from Camp Hastings, Cumberland, Maryland. A cooper by trade, George enlisted at the age of 16 in August 1862 at Hartford City, Virginia [now West Virginia], as a private. He was promoted to sergeant on 12 June 1864. His enlistment papers record his height as five feet, seven inches, and that he had dark hair and dark eyes.
The Methodist Protestant Church in Cumberland, Maryland, was built in 1849 — a “substantial brick structure” that stood at the intersection of Front and Bedford streets. It was known as the “Bedford Street” church. Rev. William Dunn was the pastor of the church in 1865.
Camp Hastings, Maryland
February 12th 1865
Pastor, M. P. [Methodist Protestant] Church
You may think strange of receiving a letter from this quarter. I write because you are a man whom I honor as a minister. I have been under the sound of your voice time after time. I have been advised by you to turn from my my wicked ways many times. You came to me on last Thursday evening during service and asked me if I was ready to go. Says you, “Come, Oh come, will you. Now is the accepted time says our Heavenly Father. Will you come?” I answered, “I don’t know.” Then Oh, what sweet language you put forth. “Now make up your mind. I will not rest until you come and seek Christ. I will not rest until you come. Choose ye this day whom you will serve. Now come. May the Lord help you to come.”
Then you left me. Oh, what weight I felt on my heart. I shall remember you until death. If there is a man on this side of the bar of God who is trying to do his duty, it is you. May God abundantly bless you.
Well, I am now deprived of being under the sound of your voice. Why is it, you will inquire. It is this. Some of our command have lately went to town and committed some depredations contrary to both military and civil law. They have stoned houses, misbehaved in church, insulted peaceable people on the sidewalks, &c. By so doing, we one and all are not allowed to visit town [or] even go to church. Give some men a little privilege and they will take a great deal. One bad man will cause many good men to not enjoy privileges that they would otherwise. Some men who come into the army think, well, I can now do just as I please. Nobody knows me here away from home so far. Poor fellows.
A few evenings ago while public worship was going on in your church, I heard a young man say, “Ain’t these mourners playing H_ll, kicking around there at such a D___’d rate.” Oh how sorry I felt for him. He thought it looked great in him to get up on the seats and swear in the church of Christ. This kind of conduct and many others have been reported to Headquarters and an order has been issued declaring that owing to bad conduct in town, two men only will be permitted to go to town per day from one company.
By this saying, will close asking you to remember the Sergeant you have advised so much hoping I may soon be saved in Christ. Pray for me. I am yours, — Sergeant Geo. S. Farley