This letter was written by Charles P. Day (1837-1922), the son of Marvin Day (1802-1888) and Eliza Dunham (1805-1899) of Lebanon, Madison county, New York. He married Myra Appelona Clark (1837-1910) in 1864.
Charles applied for an appointment as a teacher to the American Missionary Society in April 1862, proclaiming an anti-slavery sentiment, and four seasons of teaching experiences as his qualifications. He was promptly accepted as a teacher and sent to Hampton, Virginia, in April 1862, where he was put to work teaching at Wood Mill and later at the Court House. He worked steadily for three years as a teacher of freedmen—or contraband as they were called by the military.
When Rev. Lewis C. Lockwood of the American Missionary Society was absent or otherwise unavailable, Day would fill in as the minister. While at Hampson, Day took up quarters in the “Tyler Home” which was the former summer residence of ex-President John Tyler (Tyler called it “Villa Margaret”). [Source: Charles P. Day, The Successor to Mary S. Peake, by Sing-Nan Fen (1960)]
Tyler House, ¹ Camp Hamilton
September 6, 1862
Dear Friend Frank,
Your very kind & welcome missive came to hand some time since but we have been in such a turmoil ever since McClellan came down here with his hordes of plunderers & commenced ribbing the people.
Your friend I have not seen as I have not been to [?] since I received your letter. Is he there yet, think? Yes, I “hear from my folks” almost every week. I received a great-good-long-foolscap-one from [my sister] Betty today. Nothing but war, war, war. All the young men have gone from our town [Lebanon, New York] nearly. The girls are fretting for fear they will have to stay at home. If you conclude to visit me in my southern home, just please to let me know that I may be on hand to welcome you. I “think of staying here,” Frank, just as long as the Lord wills something for me to do.
In regard to my being a minister, yes, many of my friends gave tried to induce me to become a minister but I have never thought the Lord called me to preach from the fact that I have no ability for speaking in public & no ability for anything of any account. My parents never have said anything in regard to the matter. It seems probable that the state of New York will not have to draft. I suppose you will all rejoice if that is the case.
Tomorrow is Sunday & I suppose I shall have to work like a tiger all day in Sunday School & church. My children sing like larks & their pennies are ready every Sunday. There has been an addition of about two hundred children from those McClellan brought down from the James river. Oh the suffering of those people—no pen can describe. I rode around the camp soon after they landed here & found the dead & dying lying in heaps together. I told the men to pull out the dead & lay them by themselves. I have turned doctor & deal our salts, castor oil, pain killer, &c. & hope I have done something to alleviate their sufferings. But I must close for it is time to bathe & go to bed.
Give my respects to your parents & excuse [me] for not writing more news. There is nothing but soldiers, artillery, cavalry, & all the time with martial music in abundance. We have one little drummer boy with us, nursing him. He is only about twelve years of age.
Good bye. Write soon. Your friend, — C. P. Day
¹ John Tyler called his summer residence, “Villa Margaret.” It was constructed in the Italian Renaissance style, painted green, and featuring a high veranda. It was located on a point of land opposite the town of Hampton on the east side of Hampton Creek.