These two letters were written by Lucy Ann (Skinner) Rivenburg (1812-1872), the second wife of Alonzo Rivenburg (1820-1898) of Albany, New York. His first wife was Louise Hunter (1820-1858). Lucy Ann was the daughter of Gideon and Mary (“Polly”) Skinner of Vernon, Oneida County, New York. Her first husband was named Crocker; he died before 1850.
In the 1860 Census, Lucy Ann and Alonzo were enumerated in Vernon, Oneida County, New York. Also appearing in the household were Lorenzo (age 12), Edward (age 7), and Edwin Crocker (age 13). Alonzo’s occupation was recorded as farmer. In the 1870 Census, Lucy Ann and Alonzo were enumerated in Manlius, Onondaga County, New York. Alonzo’s occupation was recorded as farmer.
Lucy Ann wrote the letters to her cousin, Minerva Cornelia (Arthur) Adgate (1804-1887), the second wife of Deacon Daniel Hawley Adgate of Chesterfield, Essex County, New York.
In both letters, Lucy her cousin of the difficulties they have encountered with Union soldiers living nearby in barracks that were constructed on their farm “not more than a hundred rods” (@ 550 yards) from their house.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Albany [New York]
November 2nd 1864
My dear friends,
Your letter of May 1st was received and I thought I should answer it immediately but procrastination is the thief of time and so it has been with me in writing to you this morning. In looking over my drawer, I found your last letter. In looking at the date, I was surprised at the length of time — May 1st and 13th. I said I shall write to Minerva today so for once I am as good as my word.
I am all alone this afternoon. Mr. Rivenburg has gone to Syracuse. He has been gone 3 days. Expect him home this evening. Our little son Eddy goes to school. He goes in the morning [and] does not come home till evening. I miss him and his company. Maria and her husband [Lorenzo Rivenburg] made us a visit last summer. We would like to have had you here at that time. We about made up our minds to make you a short visit but she was taken with sore eyes. It was in that smoky weather so she returned home sooner than she calculated.
Minerva, I have made a mistake. Your last letter was August 8th. I took up the letter, only looked at the date, but I just looked again [and] found my mistake. In regard to Betsey’s Post Office address, I do not understand what it means. If I read your letter correct Mrs. Elvia P. — I thought her husband’s name was William H. Phailor. Is her husband dead and she married again? Will you explain this to me in your next. I let Maria see your letter. She could not think what it meant without her husband was dead and she married again.
Tis very near election. We are having some very exciting times in Albany. The majority are democrats yet we think Uncle Abe will be elected. Time will determine. I hope God will save our country from ruin and put an end to this cruel war. We had a letter from our son in Nashville. ¹ He was well but says he is tired of the war. We expect him home this winter on a furlough. We shall be glad to see him.
The barracks are on our farm not more than a hundred rods from our house. There has been over soldiers there for the last month. They steal everything they can lay their hands on. They dug about 2 acres of potatoes and burned about 1 hundred rod of fence. The first day they were like so many hungry wolves. Last week one regiment left for Elmira. We do not have so much trouble with them now.
Our friends in Vernon are all well. We are in usual health.
That affair of our neighbor in Vernon that I mentioned to you when I lived there is not settled yet. It is in law. Mrs. Foot and her daughter (for that is their names) is not expected to live. It is thought they have the consumption. I suppose it has caused them a great deal of anxiety. It is believed there is a wrong existing with them they do not seem to prosper. They were one of the first families in Vernon. How it will be settled. I do not now. I hope justly. I intended to have visited you in September but I could not leave home. I think it will be doubtful.
I have not received your photograph yet. You must not be so particular. If I can see Minerva, I shall not mind about the teeth. My love to your husband and daughters and a share for yourself. Now write soon. Don’t wait as long as I have. You will not, will you?
From your cousin, — L.A. Rivenburg
¹ Lorenzo Rivenburg (1846-1890) was Alonzo’s oldest son by his first marriage. Lorenzo enlisted as a private in Detroit at age 18 in Battery E, 1st Michigan Light Artillery. That Battery was in garrison duty at Nashville when this letter was written. Later he transferred to Battery M and with them in garrison duty at Cumberland Gap, Tennessee until 10 May 1865. He married Elizabeth Hatheway (1850-1937). He is buried in Oriskany Falls, Oneida County, NY.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Albany [New York]
February 12, 1865
My dear friends,
I did not think I should be so tardy in replying to your truly welcome letter. My only excuse is that oft repeated one — procrastination. I can assure you, it gives me great pleasure. It contributes much to my happiness to receive letters from you. I think of you a great deal. How much I should like to see you and your family. I hope if God spares our lives another year, we shall see each other. What could give me more pleasure? Nothing prevented this last fall but the multiplicity of cares after the soldiers came to the barracks. We took 9 of the officers’ wives to board — not because we wanted to do it. We could not very well get by it. They stayed 3 weeks. I can assure you I was glad when it was got along with, yet they were very pleasant ladies. They were mostly from Boston and vicinity and from Vermont, one from New Hampshire. Their husbands spent most of their evenings here. One captain from Rhode Island — a single man — we had lively times until they left the barracks. Some of them were wanting something almost every hour of the day. We were willing to let them have all we could spare if they would not take it without asking for it.
There is only the Invalid Corps left there now, excepting some new recruits who have lately come in for safekeeping. Two were shot last Friday for desertion. I heard the report of their guns. Mr. Rivenburg came in and told me what was the matter. One was shot a few rods from the house. He fell dead in a moment.
I saw in the paper the other day of an anticipated raid of the Rebels through your region of country. I hope it has been prevented by having it known in town.
Next day is the day for drafting in Albany. It makes many sad hearts. We have but one son at home — Edward, my husband’s youngest son 12 years [old]. My son Edwin is in Westfield to school. He is 18 years. He is at the age that he can be drafted but I pray God it it can be consistent with His will to spare him, but his life is no better than thousands of others who have gone to defend our country and liberty. I pray God to prepare me for all He shall see fit to call me to pass through. It is a cruel war. It makes many sad hearts.
I have just returned from Vernon. I was absent 3 weeks. Maria is well and all the other friends. Had a pleasant visit. We talked about you. Maria says if nothing prevents next summer, she shall come to Albany and we shall make you a visit. My brother [in-law] Lorenzo [Rivenburg] is growing very deaf. It is very hard to converse with him. He has got a very pleasant situation. His wife’s health is very good.
Perhaps you would like to hear from that affair of our neighbor, Mr. Foot. It is in law yet, to be decided in March but sad to tell. Mrs. Foot and her daughter are numbered with the dead. There was but a few hours difference in their deaths. The affair moved them out of the world. They went down like an avalanche. They have gone to a just God who will do no injustice. They were both members of the church in Vernon. Her daughter was 22 years, expecting soon to be married. God has taken the affair into His hands or it appears some striking providences has taken place. Where will be the end, I cannot tell.
Give my best regards to your husband and daughter. Hoping soon to hear from you. Do not wait so long. We are having very cold weather — very cold. I don’t think of anything that will be interesting to you more than I have written. Mr. Rivenburg sends much love. Thinks he would like to see you and Mr. Adgate. Oh Minerva, I do want your picture — teeth or not teach. I am waiting patiently for them. I suppose it will be useless for me to say anything about you and Mr. Adgate coming to Albany. I think you would if you could consistently.
So my dear friends, I must bid you goodnight and may kind angels protect you from every ill is the wish of your friend and cousin, — Lucy Ann Rivenburg
P.S. Maria is getting a set of teeth. She had her old ones extracted while I was there. Had a letter from our son [Lorenzo] in the army. He is at Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. He is well. He has never been in active service. Never been in battle. Write soon, — L. A. R.