Ira Penfield was a resident of Stepney, CT (a section of Monroe, CT). The following letters were all written shortly before the 17th marched off to their first battle at Chancellorsville (where Penfield would be captured).
Many of the letters written by Penfield still exist, and transcriptions of many of them are held by the Monroe Historical Society. The originals of the following letters are from the collection of Dale Call.
Camp near Brooks Station, Va.
Friday, April 17th, 1863
My dear one
I received one of the best letters from you last night that I ever did and it done me a world of good I assure you. Just such a letter as I like full of news of every little thing that is transpiring in the house. What you wrote about the children, I think a great deal about, and Oh: how I should like to see them maneuver together; Arthur is getting to be just the right age to get hold of ones affections and Ellie also. How I should like to squeeze them. I laughed right out when I read the letter and it is fresh as when I first read it. You can not imagine what good it has done me and I know in future you will always begin on a large sheet and I know you can fill it. I am a guard today Corporal of the guard and I find it a good time to commence a letter if I do not finish it. I am perfectly well and enjoying myself as well as I can and am glad to hear you are getting along as finely as you are. What a blessing to have health and such kind friends as you are favored with it is a source of great consolation to me to hear such good tidings from home and to know you are so kindly looked after by kind friends. You will see by the date of the letter that we have not moved yet and it is uncertain when we shall still we are to hold ourselves in readiness to march at any time. In all probability before you get this letter you will have received a package of money by the Adams express company from me having been paid off yesterday 4 months up to the first of march which makes $52. I enclosed in an envelope $50 and paid the express on it 50 cts. The Chaplain took it down to Acqui creek on the Potomac and from there it will be forwarded to you. I should have sent the whole amount $52 had one of the boys been in to pay me that owed me but he was out on picket and when he comes in he will get it and then shall send you the two or four dollars more in a letter which will leave me with about two dollars and I think I shall get along with that until paid off again. A great many of the men and those that have families have only sent from 20 too $30 and the rest goes for nick nacks and a good share of it with some for liquor but I want to have mine invested in better things. Don’t you think I have done nobly to send you all of my earnings. I am glad to do it and it affords me a great deal of pleasure to send it to you more than it would to use it myself. I am almost impatient for the day to come that will bring the faces of my loved ones before me and tomorrow I shall look for them being Saturday and it will be a treat once more to look upon the faces of my loved ones although distance separates us. I think you took some pain to go on purpose after them and I hope the thought is that you done it for me will amply repay you. If you had not got mine I should get it taken but it costs one dollar for a single picture and not very good ones at that. I must now post my guard as it is twelve oclock and finish this after I come in I should like to pop in and take dinner with you. I have just been and weighed myself and I was stumped to think I weigh as much as I do. I weigh 157 lbs better than I supposed and you may judge I am not very (illegible). You wished to know how often I wash my clothes I wash generally once a week and we have a line in the top our tent inside and we hang our clothes on that and they are well aired before putting them on. You can not tell me much about house keeping for I would have you know I am an old house keeper myself and own a share in a house down in old Virginia. Also about the small pox I do not hear anything about it and it is generally very healthy about our camps. I am surprised to hear that Wm. Stebbins has joined conference. I am looking every mail for a letter from him as he owes me one. I suppose that Br. Johnson stays in Stepney another year does he not and have they rented the seats in the church and have you taken one or part of one if not then I think you had better pay 5 dollars towards one for I want to do my part in sustaining the church of God and I no doubt that you feel the same in reference to the matter. I have been to the sutlers and bought a few cakes being the first of anything I have bought in some time and they was quite a treat. Since we have beenpaid off there has been a great many drunken soldiers in camp and it looks awful to see young men and some that seem but boys making use of that stimulus which will make them miserable here and to all eternity. Oh how thankful I am that such habits have never riveted themselves upon me and that in the morning of my days I gave my heart to him who upholds all things by the word of his power and who bestows upon us innumerable mercies and blessings. What a dark and cheerless world this would be were it not for the religion of our blessed master and as the poet expresses it a thousand promised divine declare his constancy of love. Blessed thought! A few more rising and setting suns, and we shall be free from a world of sin and sorrow, and it faithful we shall go to dwell with him who when on earth said I go to prepare a place for you that that where I am there you may be also. I want you now that I have sent home my money if you need anything for yourself and the children in the shape of clothes to get them and it will please me and I know you want to please me if it is in your power so to do. I want you to be economizing but at the same time do not deprive yourself of every thing that would add to your comfort and happiness. I give you credit for what you have done I think you have done nobly and I think you can meet the interest this spring without much trouble as your bounty of $30 is due the first of May and probably next month I shall get the balance of my state bounty $10 and that with what I send home now and what you will get will amount to $92 and then your calf will bring you 5 or 6 more so you are coming out OK. Now my dear Sarah I am very much pleased with such a good and interesting letter and I intend saving it for future reference and as you expressed it thought I would get tired of reading it. It tired me to think that there was not anymore when I got through to read and in every line I could plainly see love enstamped thereon. Tell Ettie Pa found some little girls hair done up in paper in his letter and I thought that the mice had begun to make a nest in it but come to read the letter I found it was my little Etties hair I have put it up and mean to keep it for I think a great deal of it. I have kissed it and tell her it is sweet as sugar.
Write immediately if you receive the money
Camp near Brooks Station, Va.
Friday, April 22nd, 1863
Receive a letter today from you but no photographs and it makes me feel rather bad as I have been looking for them now ever since Saturday and you know how it makes a person feel when they are looking so long and especially for such a treasure as what you are sending me. Yet the longer I live the more and more I am convinced that this is a world of disappointment and of vexation yet I am waiting patiently for them as much so I can but as I said before I am much disappointed as I certainly expected them today. You will see that we have not moved as yet but are in readiness to march at a moments notice. The reason for our delay is not known to us. I heard today that our corps was going to stay here this summer and guard the railroad and do picket duty but there are so many stories about it I do now know what to think of it but probably we shall know in a few days and then I will let you know. I have seen in the New York Herald that the Adams Express Co. has been robbed of $130,000 that the soldiers that have been paid off sent home by the Co. and it causes a great deal of uneasiness among the men in this regt as we sent about the same time $15,000 out of this regt and the co. was robbed of it between Acquie Creek and Washington and if our money was in that lot it probably has gone with the rest and I am very anxious to hear whether you have received it or not. It left here the 17th of April. Chaplain took it down to the creek and done the business for us and brought back the receipt and as I wrote Bill yesterday I enclosed the receipt in his letter and he will hand it to you and should the money not come at Stepney Depot you must go to the Express office in Bport present your receipt and if the money is there you can draw it. I think Bill will assist you in getting it as I wrote to have him. I am very anxious to hear from you about it as it is more than I can afford to lose. I want you to save your receipt until the money is in your hands. I received pay up to the first of March 4 months pay $52 and sent you $50 of it now be sure and let me know about it at once. I am well and doing my duties cheerfully and willingly. I think you are getting along nobly you are quite industrious making your 25 cts a day on coats you must not get rich too fast for you know the love of money is the root of all evil and it has been the ruination of thousands. Father has never answered any of my letters and I do not expect he will does he say anything about me ever ask how I am or does he keep still about me. I want you to write in your letters more particular about him and if he takes anything that you know of and also write if (Hen Gamond) is about anywhere. I can think of nothing more of interest to write. I had last night some fresh fish for supper that come out of the Potomac white perch and they was very nice but I suppose it was allowing to the cooking that made them so good. Now my dear write long letters and often write especially about that money.
Yours as ever, Ira Penfield
Camp near Brooks Station, Va.
Friday, April 26th, 1863
Sunday and a beautiful day it is. I have just come from meeting and orders have just come to move in the morning bright ad early and I thought I must let you know of it. My dear, do not let it worry you as to make you sick but pray for me and Oh how consoling it must be to you to know that I am living a Christian life and should I be called suddenly away I feel that I have a home beyond this vale of tears. Blessed thought a home in heaven where we shall be free from all cares and sorrows of this life and be forever at rest. I received your last letter April 21st on Friday and was very much disappointed in not receiving the pictures as I want to see them very much and cannot rest easy until I get them and now as we are about to move it seems as though I cannot go without seeing them. I am looking for them by the mail tonight and it the last chance or hope that I have left. It seems to me that they are very slack in not sending them to you still I want you to send them along when they come. I am in good health most excellent and ready to march and it is my earnest prayer that we may be successful and come off conquerors. It is a general move and I think that we shall soon be in Richmond at least I hope such will be the case. My heart is full and I hardly know what to write it is all bustle and excitement around now as the men are getting ready to march. I want you to write more often than you have done and I shall write just as often as I can so you may expect a lot of letters and I want you to send me more postage stamps at once. If you see the daily New York papers you can learn of our movements as they will probably have it all in and also you may look for a glorious victory and if we get the Rebs once a going we mean to puch them into the Gulf. Keep up the good spirits send me good inspiring letters and if God grants me my health I shall be content for I dread sickness more than bullets. We have got to leave one of our tent mates Chas S Wells he is sick and not able to march and he feels very bad has been crying most of the time since he learnt we had orders to march. The mail has just come in and brought me a letter and paper (the advocate but no pictures). I am much disappointed but live in hopes that I shall soon get them. I am glad you got the money and hope it will do you much good. I cannot stay to write anymore as I must pack my knapsack. Now my dear Sarah remember me at the throne of grace and I will pray that God may keep and preserve us that we soon may meet again.
Write often – Pray for me
I am sorry that I cannot send you a lock of hair it is so short I cannot get one. I have just cut it short. Now my dear goodby & God keep you and the children