The American Civil War and Fenian Raids: Examples of Wolverton Family Letters from Darroch Donation - Page Banner

Included here are a number of Wolverton family letters written between December 4, 1864 and February 2, 1866.

The first letter from Alonzo Wolverton to his sister Roseltha (Rose) Wolverton Goble, was written on December 4, 1864, while he was in camp, two miles from Nashville Tennessee. In this excerpt he recounts his experience in a battle that took place on November 30, at Franklin,Tennessee.

“Our Battery was in the centre the very hottest of the fight – we lost nearly half of our men and came out of the battle commanded by a sargeant [sic]. I never dreamed that men would fight with such desperation. I never expected to come out alive but was fortunate….I never realized before what a battle was, the roar of musketry and thunder of artillery was deafening, it was full as dark ten minutes after the battle commenced as when it ceased. The only way we could tell when night came was by the stars.”

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Letter, Alonzo Wolverton to his sister
Roseltha Wolverton Goble, December 4, 1864
Lois Darroch fonds (F 4354)
Reference Code: F 4354-6
Archives of Ontario

In this letter, written on December 28, 1864, Roseltha responds to Alonzo's letter above. She shares her own good news and also refers to the Canadian reaction to the St. Alban’s raid.

“I had read of the fighting about Nashville and supposed you would be in it all….It was a great relief to get a letter in your own hand writing….

Now I must tell you of something else. We have a little girl baby, a precious tiny thing that we of course think a great deal of. We have named her Clara Emma….

There has been a good deal of excitement and anxiety the last few weeks lest the peace of Canada should be seriously disturbed; and warlike preparations have been going on which we sincerely hope may be the means of preventing instead of causing trouble. 30 Companies of Volunteers have been called into service. Newton Goble and our Newton have both gone.”

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Letter, Roseltha Wolverton Goble to brother Alonzo Wolverton,
December 28, 1865.
Lois Darroch fonds (F 4354)
Reference Code: F 4354-6
Archives of Ontario

On January 26, 1865, Alonzo's brother Newton writes to Alonzo at Nashville, Tennessee. Newton is stationed in La Prairie, Quebec, in order to prevent further Confederate raids along the American border.

He writes:

“Our duty is not hard and although some grumble a great deal I think we have good times. The only trouble is the inhabitants cannot speak English and we cannot speak French so when we want anything we are obliged to make signs or if this won’t do get an interpreter or do without the article.”

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Letter, Newton Wolverton to brother Alonzo Wolverton, January 26,1865
Lois Darroch fonds (F 4354)
Reference Code: F 4354-6
Archives of Ontario

On April 28, 1865 Roseltha writes to Alonzo again. In this letter she makes reference to President Lincoln’s assassination:

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Letter, Roseltha Wolverton Goble to brother
Alonzo Wolverton, April 28, 1865
Lois Darroch fonds (F 4354)
Reference Code F 4354-6
Archives of Ontario

“The funereal day in Washington was observed throughout Canada. Business was suspended from 12 till 2 and funeral services in all the towns and cities….I hope the strong sympathy expressed by Canada in this their time of grief may be a means of binding the two nations together in a common brotherhood.”

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Letter, Roseltha Wolverton Goble to brother Alonzo Wolverton, April 28, 1865
Lois Darroch fonds (F 4354)
Reference Code F 4354-6
Archives of Ontario

In 1866 the American Civil War is over and Alonzo is back home in Wolverton. Newton, now in Sarnia, is still watching the border, but now he's on guard for Fenians, not Confederates. He describes the feeling of insecurity and the rumours running through town.

“Have you heard any thing about the “Finegans” lately? The people here are all or at least some of them ready to leave town….Rumours of every kind were rife in the town and a great many changed their silver at the brokers for bills in order to facilitate a precipitate retreat – before the advance of our imaginary foe….All this I believe to be humbug. However time will tell.”

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Letter, Newton Wolverton at Sarnia, Ont. to brother Alonzo Wolverton
at Wolverton, Ont., February 2, 1866
Lois Darroch fonds (F 4354)
Reference Code F 4354-6
Archives of Ontario