1862: Edwin Wainwright Finger to Letitia (Wainwright) Finger

This letter was written by Edward Wainwright Finger (1844-1934), the son of David Finger (1778-1854) and Letitia Wainwright (1808-1905). Letitia was first married to Benjamin Morgan Jenkins (1777-1842) with whom she had at least two children—Sarah Elizabeth Jenkins (1828-1918)—the wife of Joshua Kames, and Mary Jenkins (b. 1830).

It appears that in 1862 when this letter was written, Edwin was working and living in New York City. He may have been living with his mother’s brother, Edwin Walter Wainwright. Besides his Uncle Edwin and Aunt Mary, several other relatives are mentioned in the letter:

  • Edwin Walter Wainwright (1812-1895) married Mary Ewin (1811-1873) in 1832.
  • William Ewin (1808-1886) married (1) Frances Littlefield, (2) Martha Dennis.
  • John Ewin (1813-1866) married Margaret Moorhead (1813-1879) in 1835.
  • Jane Ewin (1815-1861) married Charles Chasmar (1812-1884) in 1834.


New York [City]
July 31, 1862

Dear Mother,

I suppose you think strange of my not writing to you for so long but the reason of my not doing so was because I expected to have been home some two or three weeks ago. I have been disappointed several times in getting away but feel pretty sure that I will be home in a week or ten days—that is, if nothing unusual occurs.

The weather has been very warm here for the last few weeks and people have left the city very fast. I think I told you that Deborah was in the country. She has been there several weeks. Her husband was up for her last Sunday and said she was very well. Uncle Edwin’s family seldom go to country in summer. They think anything like that “costs too much.” Uncle Edwin [Walter Wainwright] is very well and so is Aunt Mary [(Ewin) Wainwright]. She has tried her best to persuade me not to go home this summer but she might as well try to stop the sun from shining as nothing short of sickness or pressing business can make me alter my ideas or change my mind. She thinks that for me to go home once in three or four years is often enough but I think once a year is not any too much often. That seems a very long time to be separated from you.

I was around at Uncle William’s last evening. I found them all well and getting along well. Uncle William has got steady employment and much more temperate that he was last winter. Uncle John was up a couple of weeks ago and was very well. Aunt Maria was around last week and she was very well. I presume you remember her. She is or rather was Uncle Joseph’s wife. She always enquires after you. Frederick & Mary Wood were down last Sunday. Mary told me if I went home this summer to give her love to you &c. I like her very much.

Ann Chasmar—(I do not know whether you remember her or not. She is a sister of Aunt Jane’s husband [Charles Chasmar])—she was over this week and was very well. Poor Aunt Jane’s children—they have a hard time of it. They hope all get to [?] for their living. Louisa [b. 1840]—one of her daughters—-has been down in Jersey all summer for the benefit of her health at Aunt Mary’s expense. They thought she was going into consumption. In fact, they all look as if they were. Jimmy [James Henry Chasmar ¹]—I guess you remember him—he had to go into the Navy for his health. The Doctor said that the fresh sea air might save him but nothing else as consumption had commenced on him. He is now on a gunboat down near Charleston, S. C.

Aunt Mary’s brother William [Ewan] and one of his sons [William Dickson Ewin ²] are in the Rebel army and one of his sons in the Federal army. The one that is in the last named was here a short time ago. They treated him very coldly as they thought he was not doing right in fighting against his father & brother but I think he was.

I saw General Burnside last Tuesday in Hana Street. He is a very fine-looking man. Since I have been in New York, I have seen a great many “Big” men. I saw the Prince of “Whales,” General Scott, General Fremont Brunner & others.

Great exertions are being made here by the military men to obtain men for to fill up the last call of the President for 300,000 men. Recruiting officers & tents are to be seen all over the city and great inducements are offered to men to enlist. If they do not succeed in getting enough in that manner, the only alternative is to resort to drafting men they must & will have. Somebody has put my name in the directory. It reads in large letters—Edwin Finger, Cheesemonger, h. 72 Charlton Street. A person to read that would think that E. F. was quite a merchant, but it is there and will have to stay there and I will stand as good a chance as the next man of being drafted.

Our store was entered by burglars one night last week and after stealing about 150 dollars worth of property in clothing, pens, &c., they attempted to set the building on fire but it did not kindle good and the store was saved although the fire was smoking when our  partner got there in the morning. We have a detective on their track and I think they will be caught.

There has been a great scarcity of silver & gold here for the last two weeks. Gold was selling on a premium of 20 percent & silver at 14. That is, if you had a five dollar bill and wanted to get silver or gold for it, you would have to pay 14 or 20 cents on the dollar for it. It has caused great inconvenience to people. And postage stamps have been adopted as a substitute for change. Everyone now, when he wants to pay over a few cents, hauls out a handful of postage stamps—rather a sticky kind of currency, I think.

I have not heard from [the] Kames’, Mary or you for a long time but I suppose you thought I was coming in was the reason you did not write. This time last year my summer pleasure was over while this summer it has yet to come. There is some consolation in that. Give my love to Pattie & Sis and hoping to see you all before a great while, I remain as ever your dutiful son, — Edwin.

¹ James Henry Chasmar entered the US Navy as a Third Assistant Engineer in April 1862. He remained in the Navy until 1898 when he retired a Chief Engineer.

² William Dickson Ewin (1829-1887) served in the 7th Virginia Cavalry (Ashby’s).

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