War of the Rebellion: Serial 115 Page 0638 PRISONERS OF WAR, ETC.

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FORT LAFAYETTE, September 3, 1861.

Honorable WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State, Washington.

SIR: As a prisoner at this fort my case is in your hands and I feel constrained to address you. As I have not committed an overt act nor verbally said anything offensive to the Government or contrary to the Constitution or laws of my country I am led to suppose that the charges against me are founded upon certain letters written to Virginia. One I addressed to Honorable William Smith* and the other to my brother#. In those two letters I inclosed slips from various papers. The letters I sent by express, but forgetting to put the stamps on them I afterward sent them by mail to Mr. McGoodwin. I had no authority to send letters to Mr. McGoodwin but supposed he would attend to the matter as the law allowed. Since the date of those two letters I have not put a pen to paper except on matters of business. I determined immediately after the date of the two letters in question not to write any more to any one on political matters. It has been some time since the letters I have not put a pen to paper except on matters. It has been some time since the letters in question were written and I cannot remember their contents. They grew out of the excitement of the times and criminations and recriminations of the public press, and when in consequence of the ruin of trade and commerce and consequent want and distress in my own family my frenzied brain was almost distracted with anxiety and care. I can say in truth that much of the harshness in them did great injustice to my head and heart. Much of what I said was caught up from the columns of the newspapers circulating in New York. I did not solicit information from any one, and the harsh expressions and condemnations improperly used were betrayed into my feverish and excited brain by reading newspaper articles.

For my errors of omission or commission I know I must atone to the offended laws. To err is human and nave is divine. What I have to ask for is mercy and not justice. I ask therefore for a merciful consideration of my case for myself, my precious wife and four helpless children now crushed with most poignant anguish. The pressure of the time and my situation here reduces us all to utter helplessness and want. If then it is consistent with justice and mercy to spare my family and restore me to the precious ones do favor us with this unspeakable blessing. Whatever reparation I can make I will faithfully do and in after life I will endeavor to evince that your favor and mercy were not unmerited, and I will for the future earnestly do my duty to the Government, the Constitution and the laws. Owing to the depressed state of business affairs and through excited feelings and mistaken views I did at one time since the war troubles began contemplate a return South, but reflection satisfied me that I now owed my allegiance to this section and ought to remain here. Indeed for the last few months I have been so much troubled in regard to various matters that I have hardly comprehended what to say or do, and no doubt have done a great deal that I ought not to have done and utterly neglected important matters that really claimed my attention. My painful and terrible situation and the deep anguish that rends the hearts of my precious household render it take solemn, bounden duty of my existence to appeal to you for mercy.

Hoping for a favorable response, and promising faithfully to observe all that you require at my hands for my further fidelity, I remain, yours, truly,



*Letter to Smith not found.

#See B. F. Grove to James A. Grove, August 15, ante.