The letters and diaries of Lieutenant Philip R. Woodcock
121st Regiment, New York State Infantry
"Upton's Regulars"
September 4, 1862-November 9, 1865

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Tender Sacrifice

Philip's letter to Roby on this date was short (by his standards), messy, hard to read and contained a surprise ending:

"Feb 15 1863

I now will try and finish this Letter I wish it  ought to have done it before but I was very busy doing Company writing & yesterday Sergt Armstrong and I went over to the 152nd Regt[.]  

I could not do it then ~ It is snowing now pretty hard I dont believe it will amount to much though.  I have just been getting up some wood[.]  I am studying Fredicks  Caseys Infantry Tactics [,] now our Lessons are pretty long & I have all I want to do to get them & do my other work ~ I had a good time over to the 152nd yesterday but I believe Hank Harris is the only good Soldier there [.]  Sergt Ayres is very homesick & praying hard for a discharge ~ I guess he will get it ~ Parsons is on Picket ~ There came a letter for him last night & I opened it [,] it was from Sarah Burnham ~ She wrote that at the Leackers Association of  Springfield Centre ~ Sarah Woodcock passed the best Examination ~ If I go to Washington next week I shall pass a good Examination & be a Captain in the Regular Service and shall Rank higher than our Col Commanding the Regt[.] Sarah Burnham wants my Photograph also Parsons ~ she wrote Parsons that she was agoing to write to me ~ I feel highly honored by that[.]"  

Then his ink looks to have smeared on a word, or several actually.  But as best as I can make it out it read:

"(Illegible) I sense (or seem?) dont say anything about this I only saw it the Letter ~"

Anyway....let's move on!

"Now you must write me soon[.]  There is not a word said about furloughs yet perhaps if I should get a Commission I should be home 35 days[.] I know I could get near at the End of the war[.] say yes[.] give my Love to all tell Rosetta I should like to see her ~ Kiss for you & Baby[.]  Love me as ever.

Yours with much Love
Phil R Woodcock

Excuse hasty writing"

As I've mentioned before, sometimes the age of the paper, the condition of the ink and his handwriting make for difficult reading.  But onto the additional surprise I found when deciphering this letter.  There was a postscript that was written up-side-down on both pages.  When I first read part of it "maybe George would like a black brother..." I immediately got affronted in my 2014 mindset.  I thought, wow, how racist--but then I read the entire paragraph that started one page back, also up-side-down and then my heart cried...

"There is a splendid little black baby out on the Picket Line that its mother wants to give away[.]  If there is any one who wants one now is a good chance ~ Maybe George would like a black brother ~ if so I will bring it home ~ it has shiny face & white eyes short hair thick lips &c &c &c"

Mom, at the picket line, giving away her baby...with the hope of a family up North to adopt him...I assume praying for freedom and safety for her child. What an ultimate sacrifice!

Next post is the last letter from February 1863!

Hope to see you then!

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