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LT: September 8, 1864 James H. Kelley (50th NY Engineers)

Editor’s Note: This item is part of a collection of letters from New York engineers written while their units were at the Siege of Petersburg.  Researcher and Engineer enthusiast Dan O’Connell generously donated all of the items in this collection for use at The Siege of Petersburg Online.  These transcriptions are copyrighted by Brett Schulte and may not be used without my express written consent.  I do not have images of these letters so some errors could be from transcription or in the original.

Letter from a Soldier

September 8th, 1864.

MR. EDITOR:—The following transcript I copy from the CHRONICLE of the 1st of September:—

“We mean the identical old flag we used to march under when you trained with us as a Wide Awake.

And the following reply we transcribe from the “Penn Yan Democrat” of the 2nd inst.:—

“The worst libel of all. Of all the sins we have ever been guilty, our skirts are clear of ever training with or voting a Republican or any other than a Democratic ticket in our life.

Sir, I denounce this as “the worst” falsehood “of all,” a libel a foul slander on all who wear the name of Democrat.

I venture to presume Mr. McConnell is the writer of this article; but I dare his junior to hurl such false assertions in the face of humanity; for before he became identified with that loathsome slimy sheet, (the “Democrat,”) he was a man and I believe a true friend to his country in the hour of her peril. Here, let me ask him a few questions: Bid not Mr. Stanton (Junior editor of the Democrat) do all in his power to place Mr. Lincoln in the “Chair of State.” He now says,—or the party he now hangs out with,—says, the principles of that party he ignores. He further says, Mr. Lincoln was elected upon an unconstitutional basis. Did he always know those facts, or has he just discovered the truth?

Who first put on the “nigger-skins,” and who first induced me to join the fraternity? I answer, the junior editor of the so-called Democrat! Is he a second Catiline? Will he now usurp principles, first formed for self-aggrandizement! First, we find him in the Office of the “Chronicle” advocating Abolition principles, then behold the youthful demagogue purchasing a Democrat Press to wield with basest influence, the sword of dis-union and discontent among the masses of “Little Yates.”

Are not such apostles and apologists of dis-union (which is another name for treason) akin to King Jeff., the Prince of traitors? That they are is beyond cavil or dispate. I would call the attention of both the “Penn Yan Democrat” and “Chronicle” to a certain soldiers’ letters bespeaking the Army’s opinion of the Chicago Platform which appears in the Angelica Reporter.

Again in Honolulu, I met Hon. D. A. Ogden (as U. S. Counsel to Sandwich Islands) in 1854 or ‘ 55; and both wore blue of “Uncle Sam.” We met on the steam-frigate “Mississippi” off that port; I next met the gentleman in “Burn’s Bookstore” in Penn Yan. Since then in the Campaign of 1861, I have heard him eulogize our heroes and speak for Lincoln and Hamlin,”—a strong Union Man. You will hear from me again before the
Campaign is concluded.

Yours truly,

Corp. Co. A. 50th N. Y. V.1


  1. Kelley, James H. “Letter from a Soldier.” Letter to “Mr. Editor.” 8 Sep. 1864. MS. Washington, D. C. This letter, which looks like it was copied out of a newspaper, appears here courtesy of Dan O’Connell, who has a large collection of letters from Union Engineers during the Civil War.
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