This letter was written by William E. Soden (1831-1909), the son of Benjamin H. Soden (1809-1873) and Amy Weeks (1810-18xx) of Fishkill, Dutchess County, New York. William moved to Narrowsburg prior to enlisting on 22 August 1862 at Tusten, New York, in the 143rd New York Infantry, Company K. He was discharged on disability at Madison, Indiana, on 26 May 1865.
William wrote the letter to his wife, Nancy Ella (Curtis) Soden (1831-1908). In 1880 he lived in Herrick Center, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. He later moved to Starrucca, Wayne County, Pennsylvania.
The letter contains a delightful description of the celebration in Madison, Indiana, of the Ratification of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. When the 13th Amendment was submitted to the states on 1 February 1865, it was quickly taken up by several legislatures — including Indiana. The Hoosier state joined 17 other states that ratified the Amendment during the first month, doing so on 13 February 1865.
U. S. Gen. Hospital, Madison, Indiana
Tuesday Eve, April 4th, 1865
With pleasure I seat myself to chat awhile to you and those two dear little ones — most dear to me.
I am getting a great deal better than I was when I wrote my last letter. I am so much improved that I can get about the camp. I was out at the Ratification on Tuesday evening. Our whole camp turned out with their torchlights and I assure you that it was a magnificent sight to behold. The blair of torchlights and houses lit up to their highest pitch and not [but] not least, the roar and blaze of cannon. Also the merry sounds of bells in all regular jubilee.
For the soldiers that were not able to walk, teams were prepared for their conveniences. The procession marched up Main Street, filed right, went down Second, crossed to Third, marched up Third, crossed back to Main, down Main, struck the Pike and returned to camp. The procession was something like two miles long. I never seen just such a sight for so small a place. The whole population — old and young, large and small, rich and poor — were crowded on the streets to behold the wonders and curiosities of a few hours work with the assistance of a different variety and colors of taper and candle — also a few torches with and occasionally a sky rocket shooting far up in the air before exploding.
I don’t think that I ever seen so many women and children for the likes of the place and I warrant you that Wednesday morning found a many hoarse voice. Oh how I should have liked to have had you and the children here to enjoyed the scene, but such was not to be.
The news are such from our Armies that every person should rejoice over the great victories which I think is the downfall of Rebellion, but return to a more thoughtful scene of the dead, wounded, and missing, and the vacant places of the home circle that will be left unoccupied, never more to be replaced in this world of sorrow and trouble, & mourning of the lost ones, slain by the deadly missile of death. But such are the fortunes of war. War, oh horrible, horrible war. May peace reign again once more in our once peaceful and happy land, that every absent one may return home to the dear ones left to toil the wearisome hours alone. Oh how I long to join the friends and home circle.
Dear Nan, you will see by the heading of this that I have waited some time to finish it. I thought that I would wait to get your letter but as I have not received one this week, I have concluded to finish my letter. I received a letter from sister. She is very well pleased with her new home. I am very glad that she has made a choice that she is well pleased with. I hope she has done well. I would like very much to see them.
Dear one, I fear you are sick or I would have got a letter before this time but I hope not. I do sincerely hope that you and the children will keep your health this summer. I long to be at home once more with my dear little ones. So goodbye. Yours until death. Give my love to all.
— Wm. Soden