1863: Peter F. Theroux to Family

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Pvt. Peter Theroux, Co. H, 118th New York Infantry

These two letters were written by Pvt. Peter F. Theroux (1824-1864) of Plattsburgh, Clinton county, New York, who was a 38 year-old shoemaker when he enlisted in August 1862 in Co. H, 118th New York Infantry. Peter was Canadian by birth; his wife Sophia and five children were all born in New York. At the time of the 1860 US Census, Peter’s children included: Margelt (age 10), Simon (age 7), Mary (age 6), Hortence (age 2), and Julia (age 7 months).

When Peter wrote these letters in August 1863, he was at the U.S Hospital at Gloucester Point, Virginia—just across the York River from Yorktown. He died the following month on 14 September from typhoid pneumonia. His body was interred in the Yorktown National Cemetery, grave 288.


Fort Keyes
Gloucester Point, Va.
August 5, 1863

Dear Daughter,

As I was writing to Grandma Polk, I thought I would also write this short letter to you as I  had not written to you of late, and wishing to hear from you after your great visit on the island, for I suppose that you had a good visit and I should like to know what good times you have had over there. So I hope you will write and let me know all about it so it will be a treat for me to know that you have made a good visit and hope you have, as you have on all other occasions, behaved like a lady and that you have proved that one year’s more of good schooling and good teachings have improved you in your manners and your general conduct. I am confident you did all that. So let me know all the fun you had. Also how Uncle Michael is doing. And how Eli is getting along there—if he is a good boy.

As regards your next year’s schooling, I do not know what is your Mother’s calculations, as I have not heard anything about it and I thought that by what you said about Mr. Philips’ school, [  ] in some things better than the content, that perhaps you or your Mother had a notion not to send you to the convent another year so I did not say anything about it up to the present time. And now, I will leave it to your Mother to decide as she knows her means & her needs better than I do hers. But if it is possible that you should keep a going till you get a thorough education, I should like it very much. But whatever your Mother says, I shall be pleased with as I know she’ll do all for the best.

As to schools, it may be that in some things Mr. Phillips may excel in teaching, but in the main, he is not as good as the sisters say as they [are] likely to teach things that he knows nothing of. So the convent is my choice and if you give up this convent, you will not be going ahead in your music. And now that you have such a good beginning, it would be too bad to give it up, or not to go through so you need more schooling in that branch to make you perfect in it and if you go to convent another year. I want you to get those points and learn the [   ]. I hope to send money before that time so you can get these.

My love & respects to all of you. This from your devoted father, — Peter F. Theroux

Fort Keyes
Gloucester Point, Va.
August 5th 1863

To Hortence Theroux from Papa,

Dear Little Pet,

As your Mother promised that I should write to you this week, I now do so. Dear pet, on your birthday I was busy or I should have written to you as I did to Mary Louis, but I hope that this will all make up for the past and that you will be satisfied with this. Dear daughter, in all my writings to all of you, I entreat you all to be good children, as it is my greatest desire, is that you should all be good children unless you mind & love & obey your mother, for it would be vain to try to be good children and not mind & obey your father & mother. Only be sure that if you mind and obey your father & mother, you will all be good children for they will not let you do any wrong. So be good and love & obey Mother, not omitting your prayers & God will bless you and will grant the return of your Papa who will be pleased to find a family of good children, for that is what I desire and ask of God in my prayers.

Tell your brother Simon that he too must be a good boy and also mind his Mother, as also Mary, Louisa F, Margelt for I want them all to be good. So be a little preacher in the family for Papa. Give my respects to Mother, Margaret, Simon, Mary Louis & save a good share for yourself & divide a thousand kisses among you all.

Your father, — Peter H. Theroux


Gloucester Hospital
August 22d 1863

Dear Children,

I though that I would write to you to give you a timely warning as it might be that God would see fit to call me from this bed of sickness. It will not [   ] to give you, dear children, a father’s last requests and recommendations for, dear children, should God see fit to take me from you now, it will be throwing you on the world young, though you have a kind and tender Mother left you. But unless you are very careful and mind all her teachings, you will soon go astray. You will, therefore, have to mind her in all things. You will have to be prudent, industrious, & honest, so that you may get a respectable livelihood. But dear children, it is my hope that God will yet see fit to spare me and that I may live to return to you and enjoy many happy years with you all. But should God see fit to call me, let this be a warning to you and I hope your conduct hereafter so that you may be a source of joy and consolation to your Mother, who in that case would have the whole charge of bringing you up.

Dear daughters, be sure always to mind your Mother who will have to guard all your conduct, so do nothing for which your Mother & you would be sorry, but always mind her in all things for such is your duties. Also help her all you can according as you will be able, for her task will be hard. But strive to lighten it all you can.

To you, my dear son, I suppose that you will perform your part well—that is, you will mind your Mother in all things and as soon as you will be able, you will help her to get along in bringing up your little sisters. But Helos, let me hope that God will see fit to spare me and dear children, let your prayers be offered up to God daily, that he may see fit to spare me and your kind prayers may be heard & I may be spared. In the meantime, accept of my love & respects, and my blessings all. This is from a disconsolate & much devoted father, — Peter F. Theroux


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