December 03, 2014

Pray for me – A soldier’s letters

Keeping in contact with loved ones during the war was very important to soldiers serving in the army. Letters enhanced a soldier’s moral but the lack of letters could also dampen moral, as was evident from Private John Patterson of the 22 U.S. Infantry in the autumn of 1812.

John’s unit was stationed at Lewiston when he wrote to his wife Levina in northern Pennsylvania. In August 1812, John wrote, with erratic spelling, that he was well and that “in about 6 weakes i shall have 16 dollers comeing to me – then i shall be able to cend some home.” When not on duty, Patterson told his wife that he preached the gospel to his comrades and hoped that “you will pray for me – and i hope that the friends will not dispise you or me because i am a souldier.” Reference to “the friends” may indicate that he was a Quaker.

Early war U.S. soldier
Patterson did not receive a letter after a month but did receive a message from his wife via another soldier who was granted leave and visited John’s wife. Levina was not happy that John did not visit, but in a further letter, John explained that he had little money and only some men were allowed furlough.

In October 1812, John wrote another letter saying that he would attempt to get a furlough, but to no avail. By February 1813, John was concerned with his wife’s silence by writing “I have heard nothing from you, this is the forth letter sence i have been at niagary and i want to hear from home and how you are.” Two months later, John still heard no word from Levina. He wrote complaining that he had not received a letter and that his comrades receive letters once a week from a much greater distance away.

Unfortunately, a few weeks later Private John Patterson died from illness. It is not know if his family received his last letter, but in it, he included a description of himself “standing guard five miles out of the fort in sight of the british farmes and their buildings.” If Levina Patterson received the letter, she would be left with an image of her husband on duty within view of the enemy, alone.

This weekend you can head to McFarland House in Niagara-on-the-Lake for their annual Christmas event. The house will have period decorations in partnership with the Garden Club of Niagara and the Rotary Club of Niagara-on-the-Lake. In addition, you can head out to Fort Erie for the showing of “A Canadian Christmas Carole.” Click here for more details.

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