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Letter from Joseph Travis Fincher
to his family in Pike County, Georgia, 11 April 1864

     Joseph Travis Fincher (age 40) wrote this letter to his wife Martha (age 32) in April 1864 while serving in Company D, 2nd Regiment, Georgia State Line.  One of the interesting and touching things about the letter is the fact that Joseph wrote much of it in the form of a poem.  He seems to have been particularly affected by a sermon that he had heard a few days before.  
     At the time of this letter, Joseph had ten children:  five by his first wife, Eliza Barrett Fincher, who had died on 10 October 1851, shortly after the birth of Martha Ann (the 5th child), and five by his second wife Martha Jane Brooks Fincher, whom he married on January 15, 1852.  In this letter he sends a message to each of the children left at home:

  1. William Thomas ("Toma") - age 19, born 15 March 1845 - serving with his father in Co. D, 2nd Regiment, Georgia State Line.
  2. Mary Holland - age 17, born 31 October 1846
  3. Joseph Alva - age 15, born 14 June 1848, the son left at home - responsible for keeping the farm running and the family fed
  4. Louisa Frances ("Francis") - age 14, born 10 October 1849.  [It sounds to me as though Frances is acting out a bit, perhaps she was a "typical" teenager.]
  5. Martha Ann - age 12, born 12 August 1851 - (lived with her grandmother, Mary Horn Fincher)
  6. Prudence Emma ("Emer") - age 10, born 17 January 1854
  7. Amanda Caroline ("Cala") - age 8, born 6 Dec 1855
  8. George Jefferson ("Gorge") - age 6, born 16 March 1858  [From the tone of Joseph's letters, George seems to have been a sickly child.]
  9. Laura Jane ("Lora") - age 2, born 26 June 1861
  10. Eliza Elizabeth ("Lizer") - age 8 months, born 8 September 1863

Others mentioned in this letter:


Camp Ruff April 11th 1864
Dear wife
I agane seat my self to write you a fiew lines which will inform you that I and Toma are well at this time  hoping this will find you all well  I thought I would not write untell I received a leter from you  as I have the chance I will write to day  I writen to you a fiew days ago  I am geting anshious to here from home agane  ther is no nuse in Camps as I know of  I went to preaching last friday  I herd a good serment  I went out 3 miles yestarday  I herd a hard shell preacher preach  I then went one mile and half and I herd a good serment preached  it is now ten minnets after one oclock and a most butiful day it is  I Can not tell you how I feeal

O if I was at home to day how glad I wold be
O why should I wander an astran [stray?] from thee
Or Cry in the desert for bread
My foes would rejoice when my sorows they see
And smile at the tears I have shed
Though in distant lands we sign [sigh?]
perched beneath a hostile sky
Though the deep between us rolls
Frendship shall unite our souls
And in fancys wide domain
I hop wee all shall meeat agane
And when I must cross the cold stream
of Jordan I hope I shall find a rest
of exemption from warfare and labor
Dear if indeed I am thine
if thou art my sun and my song
Say why do I languish and pine
And why are my winters so long
O drive these dark clouds from my sky
Thy soul chering [cheering] presence restore
Or take me unto the [thee] on high
Where winter and clouds are no more
The grave is near the Cradle seen
how swift the moments pass between
And whispers as they fly
unthinking man remember this
Though found [fond] of sublinary(?) bliss
That you must groan and die
though fiew my days have been
Mutch sorrow I have seen
And deep afflictions I have waded through
Thus swiftly flies away
every succeeding day
And long lifes seting sun
will soon in death go down
And lay my weary dust in calm repose
yet while I live I think of hom [home]
While here in the valey of conflict I stay
O give me submission and strength as my day
in all my affliction to the [thee] I would come
Rejoicing in scope of my glorious home
I long dearest in thy buties [beauties] to shine
No more as an exile in sorow to pine
and in thy dear image arise from the tomb
to return with Joy and be with my love at home

to my bosem Companion
J Fincher

Evening, Mary  I now [know] not how to adress you  I want to see you  tho I may not see you eny more I hope I will  iff I never do live write [right]  be prepared for death and Judgement  Alva remember the advise I have give you for this is an evil day that has come upon us  you know not the tears I have shed on the acount of you Children  And when this you see remember me tho I may be in Eternity  Francis remember what I say to one I say to all  do wright [right]  also To Martha Ann I think of you evry day  Emer I think of you and Cala often  Gorge whi [when?] I now write and think of you the tears run down my fase  and there is litle Lora and Lizer  I have no language to express my feeling for you Children  also Mother and Mary Crawford  perhaps this year may tell the sad story of this ware [war]  this is a dark day as to our Condition yet I fear the day of trouble is just a head  here is a tex I herd preached from yestarday  you will find it  second Chronicles 7th Chapter 13th and 14 verses  look for it and read it  as it is geting late I will Close for this evning  as I am looking for a leter I will not mail this leter yet

April 13th  as I got no leter yestarday I will write a litle more  I and Toma are well this morning  we have a heeap of rain and cold  big frost and ice here this morning  I herd that Cousin Thomas Fincher has bin pirty bad of [off] tho not dangerous  I will not send this leter untell I here from home

April 14th  I receive those leters yestary evening ____ has(?) write to I and Toma ____ _____ ____ [line is on a fold and is largely unreadable]  10 and 11th  I was glad to here from home and to here all was well  Francis ought to be Carful of her self  as my leter is writen I can not say no more  I feeal low in sperits  my gratest trouble is for at home  Francis Toma ses he is going to write to you soon  Mary of corse I want you to come up here  I think wee will stay here for some time yet so get reday as soon as you can  I will write a gane
[No signature]


II Chronicles 7, verses 13 &14:  "If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

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Copyright 2003, Linda Fincher Wood, all rights reserved;
updated:  21-Feb-2003