The Letters of Stanley E. Lathrop
[Letter as printed from a copy sent to the Round Table by Mr. Lathrop. Round Table, April 20, 1906, pp.263-264.]
Beloit College, April 21, 1861.
Dear Father: I write to obtain your consent to enlist, as I am not yet eighteen years of age. Since I wrote you, some stirring events have transpired in this country. A few days ago, Fort Sumpter [sic] was in possession of the Federal government, and the glorious old stars and strips were proudly floating over its battlements. Now it stands a blackened ruin, made so by the traitorous guns of the Southern Confederacy. This is the finishing stroke to a long catalogue of injuries and insults. It is now reported that these rebels are marching upon our national capital, with the professed purpose to wrest the government from our hands, and in its place set up one whose root and foundation is that abomination of abominations, Slavery! It is not enough to make every free man and lover of liberty spring to arms, and to make every drop of blood in our throbbing hearts swell with indignation? When we see the glorious flag of our Union, and the same old banner under which our ancestors fought and bled, torn ignominiously from its place, trampled in the dust, and supplanted by the detestable rattlesnake flag of South Carolina, it is enough to make every patriot gird on the "sword of the Lord and of Gideon," and go willingly to fight the battles of his country and his God. This is why I wish to go and give my services to my country; for, as President Chapin said the other night, to the volunteers in Beloit, "We know that our country is right." I believe that the "irrepressible conflict" between right and wrong, truth and error, freedom and slavery, has come, and I want to help on the side of truth.
I never in my life saw anything like the excitement and enthusiasm which appeared here at the reception of President Lincoln's proclamation calling for 75,000 men. The days of '76 are again revived. There are no democrats or republicans here now - nothing but patriots. Men who but a few days ago were engaged in the bitterest political disputes, are now as a band of brothers, doing all that in them lies for the cause of their country. There was a union meeting held in Hackett Hall on Wednesday night which was attended by hundreds. Democrats and republicans, students and merchants, ministers and laymen, made patriotic speeches. Among the best speakers were Dr. Brinsmade, pastor of the First Congregational church, Mr. Graves, pastor of the Second Congregational church, and others. The enthusiasm was thrilling. A paper being opened for the names of volunteers, seventeen of the best young men of the town came forward and signed, among whom were some of our most earnest christian students. The meeting was adjourned till Friday evening. Speeches were made at that time by President Chapin, Senator Bennett, and others of our most distinguished men. Several students spoke, offering themselves as volunteers, amid the wildest excitement. State Senator Bennett said the legislature had just adjourned, after having given the governor $200,000 for the war and five times as much if needed. The legislature also had suspended specie payment of the solvent banks in the state until December, passed a bill to exempt from civil process the property of volunteers, another to protect their families, etc. Quite a number of students enlisted that night, besides others. The full number for a company (78 men) is more than secured already. The city will furnish them with arms, ammunition, uniforms, etc. Governor Randall telegraphed that two regiments are already filled, and two or three more will be needed.
The students bought and raised a large flag over Middle college yesterday. Speeches were made by President Chapin, Professors Porter, Kelsey and several students. It is useless trying to study amid such exciting scenes. Nobody can do it. Quite a number of new students lately arrived, and several enlisted as soon as they could. Two ex-army officers here have offered their services in drilling us. We have formed a company of students and shall begin drilling at once. If President Lincoln issues another call for troops, we shall offer our services to Governor Randall, and if accepted, go immediately into service. President Chapin said in his Sunday afternoon lecture, "It may be that the great battle of Armageddon is at hand; and we must be ready, as Christians and as men, to take our places in the struggle." Professor Blaisdell also has made some stirring speeches.
That our dear country may be delivered from slavery and from all its evils, is the prayer of
Your Affectionate Son,
Stanley E. Lathrop.
Head Qrs. Mil. Div. of the Tenn.
Medical Director's Office,
Nashville, Tenn. July 1, 1865
It is a long time since I have written to you, and I concluded I would improve the present opportunity to write a few lines. I have been with my company until within three months, raiding through Kentucky and Tennessee, and more recently on the great Wilson raid through Alabama and Georgia. While on this raid I was detailed as Clerk at Gen. McCook's headquarters, and went with him to Florida to parole the rebels there, having almost the exclusive management of that part of the business. I have but lately arrived here from Macon, Ga., and through the kind offices of Mr. Hill was detailed as Clerk in the same office with him, the Medical Director's. I like this place much better than my former one, there being more advantages in every sense of the word, besides being associated with my old friend and classmate Mr. Hill. My duty is not exactly that of a clerk, but rather as printer. Dr. Cooper, the Medical Director, has a small hand-press, with which I strike off small blank envelope and paper headings &c. It is not hard work at all, and I rather like it.
I wish I could tell you some favorable news about our getting mustered out, but there are no signs whatever of such a thing at present. God knows no one desires more ardently than I do to get out of the service, which has become almost hateful to me. I am very anxious to get back to Beloit to begin the fall term. The hope of one day returning to my Alma Mater has been for a long time the one "bright, particular star" on which my hopes and anxieties were centred. I have felt an impatience amounting almost to homesickness, when I thought of the galling restraint of military service preventing me from returning to dear friends and studies -- and my most heartfelt prayer is that I may soon return. However, I leave it in the Father's hands, knowing that it is "all for the best." I do not wish to lose another year in college by being detained in service: I feel most deeply that my proper place is now at college, to finish the studies so abruptly broken off by the war. I enlisted through feelings of duty to my country: and now that the necessity for rendering that peculiar kind of duty is past, the army is no place for me. I have felt very deeply on this subject, and may God grant to restore me soon to those studies and associations.
Mr. Shepard is still at Macon, at Gen. Wilson's headquarters. He too is very anxious to get back to Beloit and begin the new term. I have a sort of presentiment, if I may so speak, that we shall all be back next term -- but of course there is no foundation for the notion.
I shall be much pleased to hear from you occasionally. Please remember me to your wife, Profs. Blaisdell, Porter and Mr. & Mrs. Clary. My health is somewhat better than it was in Florida, which is quite sickly, at least in the part where we were (Tallahassee). I desire to thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you did for me while at Beloit, and hope again soon to meet you there. I am as ever
Stanley E. Lathrop.