9 April 1863: “I feel that I am useful, that the country needs every man of God at work”

Item Description: Letter from Henry C. Lay to his wife.  He writes about live in Arkansas as he travels around preaching.  Henry Champlin Lay (1823-1885) was an Episcopal clergyman and bishop. Lay was an Episcopal priest in Virginia, 1846-1847; in Huntsville, Ala., 1847-1859; a missionary bishop of Arkansas during the Civil War; and missionary bishop of the Diocese of Easton, Md., 1869-1885. Lay preached to the Army of Tennessee at times during the Civil War.


Item Citation: Folder 51, in the Henry C. Lay Papers, #418, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Item Transcription:

Camden April 9th 1863

My dearest wife

I was very unwell the latter part of Passion week, suffering with neuralgia, but able to get through the services. The church was very nicely cleaned and repaired and looks better than it has done for years. Our service on Good Friday and on Easter Eve were very largely attended. On the former day I baptized three adults. I got Mrs: Pike to superintend the church dressing and at Easter there was a beauteous share of fair flowers. The services were crowded, a large number being unable to enter the building. The collection was $275. Besides this I found on the desk a $5 hold piece “an Easter offering for my Dear Bishop”- between the leaves of my Bible an anonymous note with $15 for the poor- (from ? kings)- and at the baptism of Mr: Clements’ little boy came another $5 gold piece. You have no idea how fond the people seem to be getting of me, and how much they regretted the necessity that called me away.

Easter Monday I set out on my visitation and found no better mode of conveyance than horseback. Dick Johnson lent me an animal, a good traveller, but prone to kiss the earth, and I have my own saddle and bridle. Captn Adams had my saddle bags, so I had to borrow a very mean and small pair of Captn Pritchard- imagine robes, shirts and sermons crammed into them. The first night I went out to Mr. Creale’s, where I found the nicest sort of country house, but somehow they are not at ease with me. The next day I rode very hard and lodged in the filthiest sort of a cabin with very little for my horse. The women had been rolling and burning logs all day, indeed they are doing man’s work everywhere. The old woman charged me $4. The next day my horse and I were very much lagged and I only came 18 miles to Princeton. There I stopped and preached at night to a large congregation. After service a young Lieutenant came up, kn route for the Rock and handed me your letter of the 4th of March. The last I had had and the only one in six weeks was that of the 13th of Febr, and I cannot tell what a pleasure it was to me. And yet we have Huntsville and Petersburg papers here by mail of the 20th of March.

It is very gratifying to hear such good accounts of our boy, and I do trust that God is preparing him for usefulness to the world and the church. I think myself that he is a remarkable child and continually ponder how we should order him. I am glad to hear so good a report of the little boys and look forward anxiously to the pleasure of seeing their bright faces. I hope George is smart, we have become spoiled with our clever blood: they seem to combine so remarkably the several gifts and talents of their ancestry.

I was very kindly entertained by Mrs: Holmes. She has lost her husband in this war and was in need of consolation.

Yesterday I stopped to dine at Mrs: Earl’s, a S. Ca: family. She is widow of Col Earl, 1st Ark. Regt, who fell in the late fight at Thompson’s Station. Used to attend the Church at Edgefield, but is Baptist, with four little children, comfort, loss and anxious. I promised to send her some books. The same evening I reached Camden and found a warm greeting from Mrs: Seay. It is just two years since I was here before. Soon after Mr: Murphy and his little wife came up. Miss Carrington and Petit from El Dorado come to meet me tomorrow. Mr: and Mrs: Maltock have just moved away into the mountains, but left me a note with $100 for my support. Just think of that now, Arkansas will develop yet.

My horseback suffering is great, and all-day agony and weariness. For miles yesterday I felt as if I could hardly keep on my horse. But I have to stand it and must try to arrange short rides. When I reached Dr Seay’s I was so fatigued that I could scarcely talk. Mr: Curtis refreshed me, he is so dutiful and affectionate: and has such entire confidence in my good will towards me.  Murphy and his wife seem to be very nice people, but are liable to grave charges of youth and inexperience. I expect to go hence to Louisville where we have a few church people: thence to Spring Hill and Washington and thence to Mr. Maltock’s Factory 25 miles north of Washington and Arkadelphia.

I find here Mr. Leavenworth. He is now Captain of Ordnance and is in charge of the government works here. He carried me through his foundry where I saw some beautiful work, ? much ingenuity: shot shell (including read’s projectile) a machine for making shoe pegs, moulding bullets etc. He is preparing to cast guns. Dr. Seay has not yet gotten his oil works ready. I fear will make a bad job of it. Mrs: Seay and children are all well, not one word from Dr Wheat yet and no information whether he intends to return.

I do not now know when I may be with you. Possibly I may have to go to Louisiana, but unless there is some urgent reason I will try to reach you by the middle of June. I feel that I am useful, that the country needs every man of God at work, and Much as I suffer from our long separation, I am afraid to neglect duty. I do trust the way may be made plain for your return to Arkansas next fall.

My clothes have held out pretty well, but it is not easy to keep neat with so little attention. I allow candles seem to keep me greased up all the time.

I trust that Hallie will be very happy in her new relations. You know I always said Logeman would make a good husband. Give my love to them. I am sorry to hear that Miss M. Anne has been so much of an invalid.

I fear Mrs: Rice has trouble in managing her affairs: as for the housekeeping you are far better off than me. Flour is not to be had, has sold for $1 a pound. But the wheat crop is large and several boxes of honey  soup sold at auction in L. Rock last week at $4.50 a cake. Mr: ? have me one which I save for you. Mrs: Curtis had a baby and lost it when 12 days old. They occupy a very pleasant house of a gentleman gone into the army, without expense. The parish has almost statued them.

April 11th an opportunity offers to send this off and I must close. We know not what may happen if I do not get to Huntsville as I expect and you do not hear from me, you must dispose of Henry in your discretion. Should our army seen likely to fall back I hope you will manage to get away. I don’t want you to be in Yankee hands again.

Tell Mrs: Rice I think a great deal about her and hope Providence will watch over her.  Love to all friends, believe me always.

Your most affect


This entry was posted in Southern Historical Collection and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.