Butler, Benjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin) (1818-1893) to Elizabeth Winthrop
Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC03915.01
Author/Creator: Butler, Benjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin) (1818-1893)
Place Written: Virginia
Type: Letter signed
Date: 13 June 1861
Pagination: 3 p. ; 31.7 x 20.4 cm.
Summary of Content: Following the 10 June 1861 Battle of Big Bethel, General Butler writes a letter of sympathy to Winthrop, informing her of the death of Major Theodore Winthrop, her son. States ”After Major Winthrop had delivered the order with which he was charged to the Commander of the Regiment, he took his rifle and while his guide held his horse in the woods in the rear with too daring bravery went to the front; while there stepping upon a log to get a fell view of the foe, he received the fatal shot ...” Informs Mrs. Winthrop that because Theodore was so close to enemy lines, Union troops could not recover his body, and he was given a proper burial by Confederates. States ”Although a stranger, my tears will flow with yours in grief, for the loss of your brave and too gallant son, my late friend and brother - I had not known him long but his soldierly qualities; his daring courage; his true hearted friendship; his genial sympathies; his cultivated mind; his high moral tone all combined so to win me to him - that he had twined himself about my heart with the cords of a brother’s love.”
People: Butler, Benjamin Franklin, 1818-1893., Woolsey, Elizabeth, 1794-1863., Winthrop, Theodore Woolsey, 1828-1861.
Historical Era: Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877
Full Transcript: Head Quarters Department, of Virginia, June 13 1861., My Dear Madam, , The Newspapers have anticipated me in the sorrowful intelligence which I have to communicate. , Your son Teodore is no more - He fell mortally wounded from a rifle shot at County Bridge - I have conversed with John M. Jones of the Northfield Company in the Vermont Regiment, who stood beside Major Winthrop when he fell, and supported him in his arms - Your sons death was in a few moments without apparent anguish -, After Major Winthrop had delivered the order with which he was charged to the Commander of the Regiment, he took his rifle and while his guide held his horse in the woods in the rear with too daring bravery went to the front; while there stepping upon a log to get a full view of the foe, he received the fatal shot - His friend Col. Wardrop of Massachusetts had loaned him a sword for the occasion upon which his name was engraved in full so that he was taken by the enemy for the Col himself - Maj Winthrop had advanced so close to the parapet that it was not thought expedient by those in command to send forward any party to bring off the  body and thus endanger the lives of others - in the attempt to rescue his remains, as the rebels remorselessly fired upon all the small parties that went forward for the purpose of bringing off their wounded comrades -, Had your gallant son been alive I doubt not he would have advised this course in regard to another - I have assurances from the Officer in Command of the rebel forces at County Bridge, that Maj Winthrop received at their hands a respectful and decent burial - His personal effects found upon him were given up to my flag of truce with the exception of his watch which had been sent to York-town, and which I am assured will be returned through me to yourself -, I have given thus particularly these sad details, because I know and have experienced the fond inquiries of a mother’s heart of her son’s acts -, My dear Madam, Although a stranger, my tears will flow with yours in grief, for the , loss of your brave and too gallant son, my late friend and brother -, I had not known him long but his soldierly qualities; his daring courage; his true hearted friendship; his genial sympathies; his cultivated mind; his high moral tone all combined so to win me to him - that he had twined himself about my heart with the cords of a brother’s love - The very expidition which resulted so unfortunately for him, made him all the more dear to me - Partly suggested by himself he entered into the necessary preparations for it with such alacrity and cool  judgment and careful foresight in all the details that might render it successful, as gave great promise of future usefulness in his chosen profession - When in answer to his request to be permitted to go with it, I suggested to him that my correspondence was very heavy and he would be needed at home, he playfully replied, ”O General we will all work extra hours and make that up when we get back,” the affair can’t go on without me you know” -, The last words I heard him say before his good-night when we parted were, ”if anything happens, I have given my mother’s address to Mr. Green” - His last thoughts were with his mother, his last acts were for his country and her cause - I have used the words ”unfortunate expedition” for him - Nay not so! Too fortunate thus to die doing his duty, his whole duty to his country as a hero and a patriot - , Unfortunate to us only, who are left to mourn the loss to ourselves and to our country -, Permit me Madam, in the poor degree I may, to take such a place in your heart that we may weigh our griefs as we already do our love and find admiration for him who has only gone before us to that better world where through the ”merits of him who suffered for us”, we shall all rest together -, Most sincerely and, affectionately, Yours, Mrs. Winthrop Benj F Butler
Keywords/Subjects: Civil War;, Military History;, Union Forces;, Union General;, Battle;, Death;, Women’s History;, Battle of Big Bethel (Bethel Church, Great Bethel);, Bravery;, Children and Family;, Confederate States of America;, Friendship;
Sub Era: The American Civil WarOrder Image