Daniel Friel, Civil War Letter
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Context: Daniel Friel was born to Irish immigrants and lived in Brooklyn, New York. In 1861, he enlisted in the 47th Regiment, New York Infantry. Daniel’s resentment at having to serve became particularly evident after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect and made the end of slavery the focus of the Civil War.
This letter contains racist language.
February 15, 1863
Dear Father and Mother, I write you those few lines hoping they will find you enjoying good health as this leaves me at present thanks be to God for it. Dear Father, I received your kind and welcome letter on the fourteenth which gave me great pleasure to hear from you. I sent a letter before this one. It contains thirty dollars and I hope it will do you some. I am very sorry that I can’t send you more, but never mind I will, with the help of God. I will be able to send you some more by and by.
Dear Father, I see by your letter that you think the war will be over pretty soon, I hope so. By God I often think so myself. If I had thought that I was coming out to fight for the niggars, I would be the last one to come out and plenty more besides me. This was not be the reasons and the people see that it is not and I would be surprised if you do not see a man to come home among you. If they appoint three men from each state, they will settle it pretty quick. The people cannot see it any more, getting their sons and brothers killed for nothing but the niggers. Dear Father, we are going to leave here, we are going to build a fort on a small island near Savannah. There will be no danger there for we are under care of the Gun Boats.
Dear Father, you say that you are the unfortunate man born, never mind old man. I will be with you once more with the help of God, and working alongside of you I hope before long. Keep up a good heart and so will I. Never write any discouraging letters to me for it makes me feel bad, but you have not wrote any to me yet. You told me that Mickey Friel had gone. Johnny, Bully for him I hope he will like it. Dear Mother, I hope you will keep up a good heart and not fret for me, for I will be all right with the help of God. You see, we have been removed out of where we was but that is nothing. I would just a fief be where I am for I think it would be very unhealthy in the summer. Anna sent me a very funny letter and I am proud of her. I can _______ you. I gave Brother Hugh a little cut in it just for the fun of the thing. I guess he will be able to beat me when I get home for it. Never mind Hughy, be a good boy and nothing will happen to you. (You know there is always one lost Mick in the flock and that’s me.) We are getting ready to go away and I must wind up so no more at present, but remain your affectionate son until death
Daniel Friel Esquire
Edited by: Dr. Prithi Kanakamedala
Source: Letter from Daniel Friel to his father and mother, February 15, 1863; Daniel and Hugh Friel letters, 1977.425; Brooklyn Historical Society.