Reassuring the Folks at Home
One might think that a Quaker mother would be spared having a son serve in the war. But Rachel Byrd Stevens, a Quaker in Montpelier, Vermont, worried about her son Tim. He had a wild streak, and she feared he’d enlist. Imagine her shock, then, when it turned out that her gentle, golden-haired Willie joined up instead.
William Byrd Stevens was disowned by the Montpelier Meeting for his actions. Later, he spent a stretch in prison, and eventually died of complications from a wound that should not have been fatal. But in December 1861, he was still cheerful and determined to reassure his worried family with light and humorous fare.
Paving the Walk with Crackers
On December 8, 1861, from Camp Griffin, Virginia, Willie wrote his sister Mary Stevens Putnam in Montpelier:
I shall not feel right to close this beautiful Sabbath without visiting the “good folks at home” a short letter and thee is the one singled out for the occasion. . . . How many times have I thought of you today, and sometimes wished I could be with you, but at the second thought, tho the wish of seeing you was now the less, my determination never to be homesick came in, and I saw that such wishes could only tend to make me so, and concluded to be content here, and not go home to-day. . . . I also live very well and as is my custom have [hole in paper] appetite for any thing eatable. I wish you had one box of our crackers — just for the curiosity! O! They are hard! I have thought of sending some to Mother to pave her walk to the Dairy house with, for they are so clean and white they would look neatly and there would be no end to the wear of ’em. For all this I like them first rate and we should not know hardly how to “keep house without ’em.”
– Submitted by Jane Williamson, director, Rokeby Museum
A War of the People: Vermont Civil War Letters, Jeffrey D. Marshall, Editor