1863: Margaret Wood to Alfred McClay

This letter was written by Margaret Wood (1818-Aft1880), the wife of Joseph Davis Wood (1811-1899), a blacksmith turned produce-dealer, in Ward 29, Philadelphia. In the 1880 Census, the Wood family was residing on North 8th Street in Philadelphia. A History of Montgomery County states that Joseph married “Margaret Clay.”

Margaret wrote this letter to her nephew 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]
January 1st 1863

Dear Alfred,

I take the opportunity this afternoon to write to you that we are all well and I wish it would find you better. I am very sorry that you are not able to be brought on here yet. I hope the time will not be long. We are making every effort we can to get you amongst us. It is our duty to do so. Be of good cheer and try to keep up your spirits. You are all amongst strangers but I hope you have many friends there. I know that you have one and that is Jesus. He will never forsake one of His children. Our old pastor [William S. Hall] never forgets his children. Last night he had a prayer meeting to praise God to commence the New Year of freedom of the poor slaves that they be converted to God.

Alfred, you have many friends in Philadelphia. I hope the time will not be long till you will be amongst us. Be very careful of yourself. Mrs. Eastwood is a going to send a good pious friend to see you in Washington. You have ours and the whole church prayers. Don’t be discouraged because you are far away.

I remain your affectionate Aunt in Christ, — Margaret Wood

Emeline Batt sends her love to you and says she will come to see you when you get here.


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