Abraham Irvine (see photo)

Company E, 76th Illinois Volunteer Infantry


This is a transcript of a letter written by Abraham Irvine in 1864, hoping it may be of interest.

It was sent, after many years of no correspondence, to his brother in Ireland, my maternal great grandfather Joseph James Irvine. The original letter is held by one of my relatives, a descendant of Joseph and living at the same home where Abraham lived. Also, there is a photograph of Abraham in uniform, which has the inscription J. T. Higgins, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

He was never heard from again and is presumed killed in action.

An 1854 naturalization order in White County, Indiana, appears to be his but spells his name as Irvin. The letter itself contains both spellings.

The only possible military reference I have found is in "The Roster of Union Soldiers 1861-1865" published by Broadbent Publishing of Wilmington NC. The Illinois volume lists a Captain Abram Irvin in the 76th Infantry, Co. E. Unfortunately, his letter does not name his regiment.

Head Qtrs. in the Field

June 4th, 1864

Mr. J. J. Irvin

Dear Brother

After an absence & a silence of long and weary years. I am settled upon my "campstool" pen in hand, on purpose of informing you, that I still through the mercy of a kind Providence enjoy a place amongst the inhabitants of earth. Through all these years of silence past, I have not forgotten for a single moment the land, the friends, the companions & associates, of my childhood and early Youth, nor has aught of my affection for, or interest in, those absent friends been lost, the while.

A detail of my sorrows, my disasters my perils & defeats or my subsequent Successes, Victories & Triumphs form no part of my present purpose in this writing, revelations & explanations must remain reserved for a long hoped for, & still much desired occasion in the future of my history.

The many sad changes that time may have affected since I stood for the last time upon the hill overlooking the old house at home, I cannot realize. As in fancy or in dream I join myself to the group by the fireside, no one is missing. And, yet, reason teaches me as does experience also, that these fancies, these fondly cherished hopes, these intense desires of my hearts fond fancy, may all be unwarranted and false, the loved, the cherished, may have fallen.

Father may have fallen. [His father, Hugh Irvine, had died in 1856 but his mother still lived] Mother's heart may have ceased to beat, no anxious sigh heave again her bosom, or prayer the dictate of a mother's fond affection any more ascend for the protection, safety or return, of her long lone wandering boy. Mother's memory, Oh! how precious, when the heart all abused and mangled when expectations crossed and hope lies bleeding prostrate, dead, how precious is the memory of a good a faithful Mother, as it comes with all it's hallowed influences of power over the tried and tempted soul, it encourages every good purpose, every virtuous resolve is strengthened & promoted until in the strength that Jesus lends, faith claims a heritage in God. While the heart exclaims "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him"

The enclosed photograph will reveal to you that I am in some way connected with the Army. Though a stranger in a strange land I have ever since the inauguration of our present civil war held a commission of respectable Rank amongst the defenders of freedom, the champions of Liberty, I have mingled in the strife of twenty two hard contested battlefields. My sword has drank the blood of those enemies of humanity, of Liberty, & God who would take to attone, [?] the free, the glorious institutions of this great land, in turn my blood has stained the Sabre of the foe, no desire have I now had I the ability to give you a conception of my toils my cares or the numerous dangers to which I have been exposed since I have had a command in the Army. My men with few exceptions are Americans. In retrospect of the mysterious providences through which I have been led, my heart exclaims hither so hath the Lord helped me, his right hand has sustained me, And in all future time, though professed friends prove false, though earthly hopes fail, though the desires of my heart remain unrealized, to God, through the merits of his Son, shall I ever look, so the strength of my heart, & my portion forever.

I would love to give you an outline of my history since I last wrote you, but this must be reserved for another occasion, this much I will say, as it is due you from me that however I may blush over the pride which drove me into adventure and prompted a cessation of correspondence between us for so long a time, when you understand all, you, nor any other surviving kinsman will have cause to blush for my conduct in view of the relationship subsisting between us. As before indicated, I cannot realize the many changes which time may have worked in the relationship, as well as the personal appearances of my old friends and acquaintances of Keadymore and Kilcon, Cragens & of my relations Uncle Aunts, Nephew, Cousin, Grandmother etc. of Tullyallen, many of whom it may be, have gone to their reward beyond the river, or become so changed by the work of time, as to be no longer recognizable by me did I enjoy the privilege of meeting with them; clearly my heart crowds innumerable questions upon my brain, questions which it longs to have answered, but I remember, that while this brief epistle carries the knowledge of my present safety, to the home of early fond recollections & to the friends who are still precious to memory, no cheering response, however anxious I may be to hear from you , can reach me, now, though the time may not be far distant, when I will be permitted to look out upon the beauteous landscape where first the light of heaven beamed upon my eye and my voice once more vibrates amongst the hills of my native island. But while I write this, I have not wholly forgotten, the circumstances preclude a mistake, that sanguinary work is before me, tomorrow we meet the enemy again, Skirmishing is now going on, an effort on our part to feel the enemies position that our assault tomorrow may be the more successfully conducted.

Your interests, so far as you have any, in the present struggle and crisis in American affairs; are all with us I am persuaded. And I am astonished that any european should from any mean sinister motive become an abettor of the highest crime against the best Proven men that the world ever knew. I am sorry that the Government under which I was born should set so base a part, in her effort to destroy the principle of self government, those principles will live on despite the efforts of slave oligarchy and the envy of european despots, yes live on when rotten despotisms are falling, and crumbling to atoms [stones?] let this proud flag waving by my tent door be restored to those domes & spires from which treason has ruthlessly & wickedly dragged it. Then let that nation tremble whose heart has devised mischief against the land of the free and the home of the brave, with her millions, brave dauntless and disciplined army & her strong {iron?] Navy let despotism everywhere tremble and they who would be free rejoice.

But I cannot dwell on this subject as my sheet is nearly filled and I wish to say in conclusion that should I live to the end of this rebellion you will hear from me again.

Should I fail in this hope I wish to be thought of as a friend to humanity & liberty & an uncompromising enemy of despotism & [half a line illegible] with an earnest desire for your [here a line is illegible where page is folded] & affectionate feelings for all.

Most sincerely

Your Affectionate Brother

Abraham Irvine

Mr. Jos. Jas. Irvine, Esq.

Many thanks to Arthur Irvine Collins who submitted this information.

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