1862: John Banks Wood to Alfred McClay

This letter was written by John Banks Wood (1840-1904), the son of blacksmith Joseph Davis Wood (1811-1899) and Margaret Clay (1818-Aft1880) of Philadelphia. John Wood married Emma E. Jones (1841-Aft1900) on 13 November 1862 in Philadelphia. He was a clerk in Philadelphia who later entered the dry goods business.

John wrote the letter to his cousin, Alfred McClay (1846-1863), a private in Co. E, 114th Pennsylvania (Collis’ Zouaves). Alfred received a gunshot wound to the right thorax during the Battle of Fredericksburg. The wound was initially characterized as “slight” and it was presumed by all that he would recover. He was sent to Harewood Hospital in Washington D. C. where he seemed to improve but periodic episodes of bleeding prompted the attending physician to attempt the removal of one of Alfred’s ribs. He died not long afterwards on 24 January 1863.

By 1850, Alfred and his only sister, Mary McClay (1847-1865) were orphans. Alfred lived with his Aunt & Uncle Emily & John Ryner and Mary lived with her Aunt & Uncle Margaret and Joseph Wood.


Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]
December 1st 1862

Dear Cousin,

I am well and I hope you are the same. I am sorry that I have not been able to write to you sooner. I generally hear from you every few weeks from some of our folks but that is no excuse for me not writing to you. I often think of you and often remember you at a throne of Grace. And pray that the Lord may keep you steadfast in His cause and protect you from all danger. I suppose you are very anxious for the next battle to come off and that success might crown our arms and the rebellion be broken up and peace and harmony restored unto all our borders. But not until God’s purposes are accomplished and His name and cause glorified. I suppose you are all anxious to have a fight with the enemy and give him a good thrashing. I hope you may be able to do it so that he may never be able to rise anymore.

Tell me how you like a soldier’s life as a general thing. I am glad you do not complain as many do for it does not become a Christian to complain when he goes to defend his country. Dear Alfred, live near to Christ. Pray much and often. And never disgrace His cause. We always remember you and all the members of our church who are in the army and that you may be spared to see the war come to a close and you all to return to your homes once more—but not until the rebellion is put down.

I suppose you have news that I was married on the 13th of last month. Now that I have become settled down, I shall try and write to you often. All our folks send their love to you and my wife in particular. Answer this letter soon as you can and I shall try and do so in return. This is all I have to say at present. direct your letters to John B. wood, Care of Price D. Wood, 113 NW 9th Street

Yours in love, — John B. Wood



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