10 September 1862: “If the sacrifice of Ray’s life had been productive of any good to his country we could more easily give him up.”

Item description: Letter, dated 10 September 1862, from Mary Wells[?] to her parents, concerning the fate of her brother William Ray Wells, private in the 12th New York Infantry Regiment (“Onondaga Regiment”). Mary includes in the letter two newspaper clippings that list Ray among those killed at the Second Battle of Bull Run. Although she has received conflicting reports about his status, Mary comments that she trusts the newspaper source and, therefore, concludes that her brother is dead.

Over the last few months, this project has featured a number of letters to and from Ray Wells, from our William Ray Wells Papers collection. To see the entire thread of related posts, please click here. Also, tomorrow’s post (for 11 September 1862) will feature another related letter in this series. Please check back to see what other details are revealed.

Item transcription:

Tully Sept 10, 1862.

My Dear Parents

You have doubtless, before this seen Ray’s name among the killed in one of the recent battles.

We heard a rumor of it the first of the week, that it was in Saturdays Times but we none of us credited it. but I think this little slip which I enclose to you, taken from the Standard is reliable and Jed. Williams rec’d a letter from one of the Arnold boys saying he was reported killed. If you have rec’d any thing from headquarters write to me at once.

‘Tis awful, it seems to me I cannot give him up. I have written to Lieut. Auer who commanded the Co. in the absence of Capt. Combs for full particulars and shall write to Charles Green soon.

I wish we might remove his body to Tully for burial. I have written to Uncle Gordon in reference to it. I don’t know what our country is coming to. This pretty dark times. The people cannot stand this inactivity long.

If the sacrifice of Ray’s life had been productive of any good to his country we could more easily give him up.

I have been heart-sick for the past few days. Yesterday I was about sick abed.

Mrs. Merrill & two children and Ellen came here Friday. Saturday Mary [?] left. Saturday night the others left. Sunday Uncle Henry and family came. Monday Kate and the children went to McGranville. Tuesday Uncle Henry had a letter from Uncle Lee saying George was home on a furlough which would expire that night. He ought to have had the letter Monday night. George is married. I tell you our folks here all feel pretty bad about Ray.

I wish I could do something but I can think of nothing except what i have done. I shall have to wait until I get an answer to my last. I hope if Ray is killed he was killed outright. Twould be a mercy. I cannot think of him left on the field exposed to such sufferings as some were. I direct this to Berlin for I suppose you are there. How I wish you could be here, for a time. I would very much like it if Alicia could only spend a part of her vacation with us.


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