This letter was written by Presbyterian minister Thomas Cole Smith (1823-1895) who filled the pulpit in Farmington, Missouri in the late 1850s and early 1860s. Thomas was the son of Robert A. Smith and Sally Watkins Spencer (1797-1875) of Prince Edward county, Virginia. In 1860 he was enumerated as a 34 year-old Virginian employed as an “O. S.” [Old School] Presbyterian Clergyman in Central township, St. Louis county, Missouri. He was married to Tennessee native Frances (“Fanny”) Josephine Dupuy (b. 1830). I believe Thomas was a minister in Somerville, Tennessee in 1855.
Thomas wrote the letter to his brother-in-law, Milton Pleasant Cayce (1804-1888) who married 1st Susan A. Ellis (in June 1830) and after death, Virginia C. Dupuy (in November 1850). Milton first came with his young bride to St. Louis in 1830, settling in St. Charles where he remained until 1832 before moving to Farmington in St. Francois county, some 70 miles south of St. Louis, where he made a living as a merchant, eventually bringing his sons Ellis and Nettleton in with him as M. P. Cayce & Sons.
The Dupuy sisters—wives of these correspondents—were two of at least eleven children born to James Henry Dupuy (1801-1855) and Elizabeth Guerrant (1804-1852). One son, Asa Purnell Dupuy (1834-1862) was mortally wounded in the Battle of Shiloh on 6 April 1862. Another son, William Hall Dupuy (1836-1864) of Co. A, Crawford’s Battalion, Arkansas Infantry, was killed at New Hope Church in Paulding, Georgia, on 29 May 1864. A third son, John (Jonny”) James Dupuy (1837-1898) served in the same Arkansas Battalion as his brother but survived the war and died in Memphis in 1898. It appears that the bearer of the news had mistaken which of the two brothers had died.
[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Richard Weiner and is published here by express consent.]
Montauban, St. Louis, County, Missouri
June 21, 1864
M. P. Cayce, Esq.
My Dear Brother,
Much to my surprise yesterday evening, out on the plank road, I met with an old friend from Memphis—Mr. Plummer, who, together with Dr. Mansfield was banished from that city to this county about a year or more ago, and of whom you have heard me speak.
I learned from him that our friends in Memphis are well and are getting on as well as could be expected for these times. But he brought us sad intelligence—that our dear brother Jonnie was killed in the late battle with Sherman near Dalton (or Dallas), Georgia. This he learned from Dr. Williams. He could give us no particulars save that he was killed in the field, supposed to be instantly. Thus, two of our brothers, out of one family have been suddenly and violently torn from us under circumstances appalling and heart-rending! And when we come to call the roll of friends, relatives, and acquaintances, after the great struggle has ceased, how many, oh! how many will be found to have passed away under like circumstances! We have hope that Jonnie was prepared for the sudden change, and that now he is at rest—at rest far away from these dark and bloody scenes from this sin polluted world—at rest, the “rest which remains the people of God!” Hence, it is far better for himself, and ought to be a comfort to us. Though he was a promising young man and bid fair to have made himself of great usefulness to his fellow men, yet we ought not count so much upon this loss on account of his great, incalculable gain. For three years of terror past, we have missed him from our family circle, and just when he was becoming the better prepared for rendering that circle more bright and happy; but now, we shall miss him, save in memory, till we go down to the grave, and that glorious reunion takes places, which shall never be broken, in our heavenly home.
Therefore, dear brother, and ye stricken, heart-broken brothers and sisters, let us resign ourselves in humble submission to God’s will and his dealings with us in these events of his providence! Have the years past been enshrouded in much darkness? Yet there many pleasant memories—many green and refreshing spots upon which we delight to dwell. Is the future still dark & forbidding, and do we shrink back from entering upon the gloomy years to come? Oh! in the humble faith of our fathers, let us trust in the God of our fathers! We may not then fear to go forward.
This finds us in the enjoyment of good health. Our little boy with the long name has entirely recovered and is himself again. We are generally in need of rain—some of the crops are suffering—gardens dry—nothing new in the neighborhood. I had a pleasant visit in St. Charles, preached twice, and conducted the communion service for Bro. Farris. No special interest in the congregation. I would like to write to Mrs. Curtis but have so much hard work upon my hands that I do not see how I can at present. My kind regards to herm with assurances of sympathy, &c.
Love to the sisters. Kiss the little ones. As ever, yours truly, — Thomas C. Smith
Mr. P said that Willie was alive and well.