Date of Birth
Date of Death
Letters Authored in Collection
|July 23, 1861||Wife (Henry)||Letter describing the Battle of Bull Run|
|July 25, 1861||Wife (Henry)||Letter to wife about life in Washington D. C. in week after Battle of Bull Run|
The “Henry letters” are the only letters in the Archive in which the author is not known. As a rule, I do not collect letters that are unidentified, but the Henry letters provide an extraordinary account of the state of affairs in Washington D. C. during the Battle of Bull Run and in the first few days afterwards. I have made an exhaustive search to find the mysterious Henry, including a visual examination of every family enumerated in the 1860, 1870, and 1880 Federal Censuses living in Maine who had a male member born prior to 1840 and a child named Lena, since he states in his second letter, “Kiss Lena for Papa”. There are clues, but not many. He clearly refers to himself as a “Maine” man, but I do not believe that he was a soldier, although he identifies himself as traveling with “the Regiment.” It’s fairly certain that this regiment was the 6th Maine. This is known because Henry states that the Regiment lost one man to an accidental shooting in Havre de Grace on the way to Washington, and according to the Civil War Data base, John Weeks was that soldier. The story is corroborated by James M. Mundy’s book, “No Rich Men’s Sons,” in which he writes, “The 6th Maine was approaching Baltimore by train and there had been a brief stop at Havre de Grace. Someone outside one of the cars discharged a musket and the ball passed through the wall of the car in which Weeks was riding, penetrating his chest.” (p.16) Additionally, Henry’s first letter was written on 23 July 1861, a Tuesday, and he states that they arrived in Washington on Friday, which would have been the 19th of July, that they arrived late at night, that they were quartered in the city, and that on Saturday, the Regiment was greeted at the White House by the President. According to the Regimental History of the 6th Maine, they indeed arrived late the night of 19 July 1861, and once again this is corroborated by Mundy’s book, “They had arrived in Washington on the night of July 19th and, on their way through the city, marched through the half circle at the north front of the White House. There to review them was the man who had summoned them to this place, Abraham Lincoln.” (p.16) I do not believe Henry was a soldier in the Regiment, because he states that “they” were reviewed by the President and he speaks of staying with three other Maine men at an address in Washington while the Regiment was encamped at the Chain Bridge; he was obviously moving freely about the town, eating where he wished, and visiting different units, etc. In the second letter he writes of staying in the Hotel National. He also speaks of visiting the 6th Maine.
There is evidence to suggest that Henry was someone of influence, since he spoke rather knowledgeably about several of the officers within the Maine regiments, with a particular familiarity regarding several high ranking officers, and warned his wife not to let any of his writings get into print. Additionally, in the first letter he speaks of visiting the House of Representatives that morning, which in and of itself is not that extraordinary, given there were soldiers there writing letters; however, Henry states that he received his pipe that same morning from Mr. Fessenden, and he thanked his wife for her thoughtfulness–one assumes she must have arranged the delivery. It is only supposition, but I have to wonder if this Fessenden could be Samuel C. Fessenden, a representative from Maine in 1861, or perhaps even William P. Fessenden, the senator from Maine in 1861. Each of these men would likely have traveled frequently between Washington and Maine.
In the end, it is unlikely we’ll ever know who Henry was, but I suspect I’ll keep looking.