Reba Jane's mention of rumors of furloughs proved to be at least partly correct. The election was to be held November 8, 1864, and the soldiers' votes were important. Thomas mentions that, "There is quite a talk of furloughs home to vote. I would like it first rate. ... The hospital inmates got their furloughs to go home to vote." Evidently, Thomas was given a brief furlough as his diary entry for November 7 says, "Hurrah for Amboy. Here we are right side up with care. Folks well. Hurrah for Old Abe anyhow." There was no question about his political leanings. On election day, Thomas wrote, "Voted for Old Abe today and feel as if I had discharged a Sacred duty to my country and myself."

Thomas' furlough lasted a week. During this time, he went to prayer meetings and church services, helped his father husk one load of corn, spent an evening in town, and called on neighbors. On Sunday November 13, he wrote, "Went to church twice. It seemed real good to hear a sermon once more. I wish I could attend church regularly once more." The next day, he left Amboy for Camp Butler.

Training at Camp Butler

The following weeks in camp were relatively uneventful according the Thomas' diary. He fretted about the cold weather, attended church meetings several times, and mentioned doing "fatigue duty." Thanksgiving dinner was celebrated in one of the barracks buildings with things sent from home which the soldiers shared. On Sunday, November 27, Thomas attended church meetings four times, "Preaching twice in the chapel, prayer meeting once, and preaching once on the parade ground by the Conscript preacher." He must have felt the need for religious strength as the next night, his diary states that there was no supper for the soldiers, and he got angry. He later "felt ashamed after it...[and] I wish to conquer myself."

In late November, Thomas received a letter from a close family friend, Mr. H. Barrell. The Barrells were members of the same Amboy church and were dedicated Baptists. His letter to Thomas opens with the following,

Dear Friend Thomas, I received your very welcome letter yesterday. I perused it with emotions of grate anxiety in your Eternal welfare. I gladly would if was in my power take you to thee Blessed Saviour but alas there is of you one onley. ... We think of you when we come together to study God's holy word. We had a good school today, 23 present and very good attention but when we look around we see some vacant seats in the Sabbath School that will be filled again by those that have left us for a season. I wish I could step in and take you a dish of apples and chat a little while with you all. I hope you are all enjoying this holy Sabbath Day.

To your brother dear Wilson, ...While writing to Thomas I remember your kind Epistle to me. I read all letters from our Soldiers with grate interest. I think of you this windy night who of you are out on duty to night while we are so comfortable seated around a good fire with fond remembrances we think of the past and hope for the future to enjoy many pleasant seasons together. We had a good Sermon today by Elder Weebe. Please except this as an acknowledgment of yours and I will try to answer it in time. From your friend, H. Barrell.

Thomas evidently continued his struggle to "get right with God." Perhaps this urgency was part of the realization that he would be facing battle and might be injured or killed. He must have written a soul-searching letter to his mother in mid-November, because toward the end of the month, Jane Fisher wrote a long letter to her son encouraging him to be patient and persistent. She wrote,

Thomas, my dear Son,
I received your very kind and welcome letter last Saturday and read it with deep interest, and felt as though I should answer it immediately but as I knew of no chance of sending to the P.O. I have delayed till now.

Though I said but little to you on the subject of religion, when you were at home, I felt a great deal. As you appeared so light, and gay, I was afraid what I might say would not be pleasing to you and might do more harm than good. But Thomas, your case has long been a weight upon my heart, and I had come to the determination to discharge my duty in entreating you to earnestly attend to your spiritual interests. ... Your letter caused me both joy and sorrow. I am glad to know that you have made up your mind to seek Christ as your Saviour, and yet my heart aches for you and sympathises with you, for I too, have had my sorrowing days...[A lengthy passage expressing encouragement to her son has been omitted here.]

I am very sorry you have no friend to talk to you and encourage you. Remember you have many friends at home who pray for you daily.

I intended to write to [Wilson] Jewell, when I commenced this. But I have not time now for father is ready now to go to town. Alma will write soon and then I will write to him. She is sending you some good papers.

Pardon all mistakes and bad scribbling for I have written in a hurry and have not time to correct. Let us hear from you soon. Don't be afraid to write what you think to your Mother. The weather is very Cold, the coldest we have had this season. We wonder if you can keep comfortable in those open barracks."

December opened with Thomas and Wilson still in Camp Butler. Correspondence and packages were being delivered with regularity to the boys. Life in camp was fairly boring as Thomas describes it, "Cooler today and nothing going on out of the usual course." On December 4, Thomas went to church and "Heard two good Sermons today, but the prayer meeting was interrupted by a crazy tic spouting politics."

On the same day in Amboy, Reba sat down twice to write letters to her brothers. She took care to describe what was happening in Amboy with people the boys knew.

School progresses finely, only three weeks remain in this term. We are very busy preparing for examination day. I don't suppose you know much about such days.

Lizzie has gone to Sublette. Ella and Warren come along and look quite lonely. But I suppose you are aware of the state of her feelings in regard to the loss of her companion. I am glad Ella writes to you. She is an excellent girl and is capable of giving you good advice. And Nell is another good correspondent. I wish I was half as good as they are, and able to write you such good advice as they do. My dear brother, I trust you will at least conduct yourself in such a manner as not to make your friends ashamed of you. But I have no such fears for you.

In writing her second letter of the day, Reba quips that "just happened that I have had more of a chance to write on Sunday than on any other day." She continued with a description of what she had been doing:

We are preparing for our school examinations and to prepare my lessons properly, and attend to my house work at Mr. W.'s occupied my time very closely. {Note: Reba was boarding in town to attend school and did house work for her room and board.] ...I hope to have more time to myself. Then look out for letters. I came home today, for the first time in three weeks. I want to go back in the morning. I do not know whether I can accomplish it or not, for the roads are in a very poor condition, either very muddy or very rough.

I staid all night with Nellie last night. Had a very good visit. On my arrival at the church this morning I found a stranger in our seat, and as he stepped aside to let me pass in i recognized him, by his fotograph, to be cousin Thomas Schuyler! {Note: This is one of the sons of Mary Fisher Schuyler from Pennsylvania.] You may be sure I was somewhat surprised. He left home on last Tuesday intending to go to New York City, but landed in Amboy. Started for one great city, but came to another! He is in search of employment I judge by his conversation. I wish he would get a situation in Hawkes store. He is here tonight talking with Father and Mother, and I am listening with one ear, so that may account for my numerous mistakes.

Mrs. Coates has returned from Philadelphia. I have not seen her since her return.

The Rev. G. S. Bailey Supt. of Home Missions preached for Mr. Webb this morning. And Dr. Eddy of Bloomington occupied Mr. White's pulpit. Dr. E. addresses a Union meeting tonight in the Baptist Church. His subject is the education of Soldiers Orphans. Are you interested?

I am very sorry indeed that Jimmie is to be separated from you. I can not tell you how badly it made me feel. I know how badly you will miss him. And I do not believe that his mother or Nellie are satisfied with his course. I do not wish you any such situation. I know there are not so many dangers or privations to be suffered as to go to the front. But you enlisted to fight rebels and it looks cowardly to try to creep out of your bargain. I think if Jimmie know of the opinions held of those clerks he would prefer to go with you. I know the Deacon wishes him to remain, but I don't think his boy is any better than mine. John Wilson is in town yet. I hope you did not imaging that I considered him as an associate. I have heard too much about him. But still I think him very social and agreeable. I take your advice in good part, and always shall do so, when ever you please to favor me with any. Write soon to your sister. Reba

[A note was added to the bottom of this letter in another handwriting.] Mother has no time at present to write to her boys. I was busy at my butchering work last week, and now I must dip candles, besides we have company which must be attended to. I will write as soon as I can. I suppose the girls have told you who. I feel very badly about Jimmies leaving you. I think you would not have treated him so. Good bye my dear boys for the present.

This letter is significant for its content and emotion. Thomas evidently had expressed concern for his courage and was being given words of assurance by his family. An Amboy friend, Jimmy, who entered service with Thomas was either leaving the service or accepting a job which would place him out of danger's way. This was not viewed by the family as the proper thing to do.

Thomas' sister Alma also wrote a letter on this Sunday. Her letter was quite lively, as one might expect from a younger sister. She wrote,

My Dear Brothers, It is after 10 o'clock tonight. I wonder if you are in bed snoring away "enuff to raise the roof." I got your letter Thursday evening. I shall to make an effort to answer all those questions, though I hardly know where to begin. Father has found the colts long ago. he thought Rock was lost or stolen but found him at last. I should think the corn was half done now. Mr. Shepard from over the creek is husking for the sixth. He has husked four days. We had some splendid weather the first part of this week it would have been nice to have been at the corn then but we were butchering (we stuck our fingers in our ears when they squealed). Now the weather has cleared up cold again. Father has not sold the blacks yet, but wants to. Do you wish to purchase? Mr. Jay Andrews died last Tuesday, was buried Thursday. He chose his own bearers, E. M. Blair, S. Stone, Curtis Bridgeman, and John Luce. Mr. John Lewis was also buried the same day. I went to Mr. Andress's funeral. Father was so slow he couldn't get around to go. We heard that the smallpox was in Camp Butler. I hope that you will keep clear of it.

Tommy, don't you know how to make interrogation points? Now it would be just like you to fill your next letter full of them whether they were needed or not. Wilson, I guess you write one letter and copy all the rest off of it. Handy isn't it? Becca has not been home since you left therefore I know nothing about "Bran" or "Posts" or "Barrells" either. I saw Becca and Nellie both Thursday but did not talk much. I am very much obliged to Jimmie for his regards. I think I shall lay them away in my trunk along with that lead pencil to remember him by. I sent my "spects" to him last week so I suppose he will not care about any more.

Did you get the Christian Times I sent you? I think Mother and I will go to church to-day. I hope you can attend meeting. Be good boys and try to do right whatever others may say. I am going to send you a Tribune.

I received Wilson's letter this morning. I am very sorry to hear that Jimmie will have to leave you. We always considered Jimmie as one of our boys and I think he is no better than you are. He will be called "a brave stay at home" I am afraid. He can have my love if it will do him any good and make him feel any better over his backing out. I am real spunky over it. Your loving sister Allie.

The boy's father, Alexander, was a busy farmer and did not have much time to write letters. One letter written on December 8, 1864, was preserved by Thomas after the war. Alexander wrote about his concern for the future of the farm and his concern for the safety of his sons.

My Dear Boys, In compliance with your request I have undertaken to write you a few lines. We have had two days of keen cold weather, but this evening is more moderate. Snow fell on Tuesday night to the depth of two inches or perhaps more and cleared yesterday forenoon with a west wind giving us a cold afternoon and night and cold this morning.

This morning I finished my small haystack and commenced on the large one. If it lasts as long in proportion I shall do very well.

Corn husking is at a stand this weather but I hope to be able soon to resume it. On Monday I went to town with your cousin T. F. Schuyler and did what I could toward procuring him employment and am glad to say that he has a situation where you left and also is boarding with Mrs. Fox.

I have not yet sold the blacks. McCristle's boys were here last Monday to look at them. I wish to impress you with the necessity of economy in all your transactions. Use what is necessary to make yourselves comfortable but do not spend your money foolishly. Save all you can to add to your "Bonds" and if you live to come home again (which may Our Heavenly Father grant) you will have something to commence business with and not have to go to work to earn it. I feel the necessity of this as the cares of the farm seem to press more heavily on me each year, and if we all live I look forward to the time not many years distant when I can throw all care of business on you and live comparatively easy. I do not wish to live in idleness. I always did like to work but I do not like to have so much care.

I am glad to learn that you read your testaments. I hope you will daily when it will not interfere with your duty, and I hope also that you pray daily for yourselves and also for us at home. Rest assured that no one not even your mother thinks more about you than I do. My dear Boys are in my thoughts frequently every day and I try to remember you at a Throne of Grace daily. Oh seek to know what is right and when you know, do it, and my prayer is that Our Heavenly Father will throw around you his arms of protection and love and if it be his will permit you to return to us at the expiration of your time. Your affectionate father, Alexander Fisher.

Alma wrote Thomas the next day and described the success Alexander had in helping cousin Thomas Schuyler obtain employment in Amboy. She commented on the cold weather and how it might be affecting the soldier boys.

We are all well and I hope you are too. Are you most frozen? I am afraid you can't keep warm it is so cold. My toes get cold at night and I should think you would suffer unless you can hug the stove all the time. Cousin Tom has got Wilson's place at the store and the same boarding place and I guess the same room. He don't look near as green as his photo and is a great deal better looking. I like him real well. He is a pretty nice chap. I wish he had come a month earlier then you could have seen him.

I think it is bad that Jimmie is going to leave you. He is not a bit better than you or Wilson. I think a thousand dollars is a little too much of a bounty just to go to Springfield to write. Give my love to Wilson and tell him to be a good boy. Give my regard to the "coward" and tell him I don't think near as much of him as I did. From your affectionate sister, Alma.

Clearly, friend Jimmy was receiving pressure about his decision to leave the unit, probably to a non-combat position back in Springfield. This is further explained in a letter from Jane Fisher to the boys. The letter was undated but apparently was written about Dec. 8.

Go to Page 7

Copyright 1993 Thomas H. Fisher, Tallahassee, Florida 32312

Many thanks to Thomas Fisher, gr-grandson of Thomas B. Fisher, for contributing this information.

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