Alvah Cotton and Rev. Dr. J. J. Marks
Chaplain Rev. Dr. Marks 63d Reg't Pa. Vols. writes the following in regards to Alvah Cotton in his book:
Peninsular Campaign in Virginia or Incidents and Scenes on the Battlefields and in Richmond
Alongside of Thomas Virtue was lying a New England soldier, very badly wounded ; he was in great pain; he called me to him. "Sir," said he, "I perceive that you are a clergyman; I am very glad you have found us ; I have no words to tell you what I have suffered, but my anxiety of mind has greatly increased my misery; I was afraid that I should die, and no one would be able to tell my wife and family where." He then told me that he was from Bedford, Massachusetts ; that he had, at the commencement of the war, been settled as a farmer in his native town, and was doing well, and Providence smiled on him in everything ; that his wife was one of the best of women ; and God had given him three children, and they were dearer to him than life ; his home was all that he could have desired, and more than he ever expected to find on earth. The strength of the ties that bound him to his family caused him to hesitate many days before he could seriously consider his duty ; but at length he began to feel that the interests at stake were more valuable than his life, and he resolved that, with the consent of his wife, he would enlist. After much hesitation, and many tears, she at length yielded to the conviction that it was their duty to their country and children to make the sacrifice. The sorrow and anguisL. he felt in leaving never could be told, but he had borne it because he knew he was doing right. During all the weary months of absence, the hope of return sustained him, and he counted the days until he should be again at home. But when he was wounded in the battle of Glendale, and gave up for many days the hope of living, the sorrow he felt at the thought of leaving forever those whom he loved, was a greater suffering than his wounds. But during those long, painful, and wretched days, God had mercifully upheld him ; and it added much to his distress, that he could find no one whom he knew, and would listen with sympathy to his story. It had been his great anxiety to find some one who would promise him that his wife should be made acquainted with the facts in the history of his last days. I assured him that I would consider it a sacred duty to write to his wife, and whatever his fate, I would do so. But I had hope that he might live ; his arm was, indeed, very badly wounded and broken, but his constitution was good, and I thought he might live, and believed he would. With many tears he thanked me for the words of comfort, and said that, since I had promised to write to his family, he felt relieved, and if he never should meet me on earth, that in heaven he would thank me. I soon found Dr. Churchill, and interested him in the case. He examined the arm, washed it, removed the thousand larvse, and applied wet bandages ; and in the course of a few moments we had the satisfaction of seeing a faint smile of hope gleam on the face of the soldier, and when I bade him farewell in the evening he was tranquil, resigned, and even hopeful. I never saw Mr. Cotton again ; that evening be, with all lying at the depot, were taken back to Savage Station.
At the battle of Bull Run I lost all the papers and memoranda I had brought from Richmond, and was not able to recall the name of the town and regiment of my friend, but subsequently, when I recovered my lost portfolio, I immediately wrote to Mrs. Cotton, fearing that she was a widow, and that I would be the first to make known to her the certainty of her great misfortune ; but rarely have I met with anything in my life that gave me greater satisfaction than the receipt of the following letter :
Boston, February , 1863.
Dear Sir: — It is with pleasure that I attempt to answer your kind letter, which reached us a few days ago. I have thought of you many times, and wondered if you were in the land of the living. I was happy to learn you was released as a prisoner, and
are again with your regiment. God has seen fit, in His great goodness, to spare my life, and I am now enjoying a good degree of health. Could I see you, I would like to tell you all I passed through after I saw you ; but time will not permit. After I saw you at Richmond I was taken to our boats on the James River. The next Saturday, I think, when I got to Fortress Monroe, I was taken to a hospital there ; I then telegraphed to my wife, and she came to me there ; we were then sent to ISTew York, where my
left arm was amputated ; I then remained there until I received my discharge from the service, which was received the 14th of November, I was very weak, and the doctors thought, for a longtime, my case was a very doubtful one ; but the great Physician of the soul and body healed me. Thanks be to His name. What could I have done, had I not had that Anchor to cling to.
After I saw and talked with you I felt a great relief, for I thought my dear friends would then know something about me, if I should die. Had I died there, your letter would have been the first intelligence received concerning me. I thank you for your kindness, and hope and pray that you may be shielded from every danger, and see a rich reward for your labors. I am now a messenger in the State House, in this city. I live in Charlestown, Cottage street, No. 14. Should you ever visit the city, I
would be very happy to have you call. My wife wishes to express her thanks to you for the great kindness done her. Hoping you may long live to be useful, and that I may meet you on the right hand of our blessed Lord,
I remain your affectionate friend,
Formerly of the 22d Regiment Mass. Volunteers,
Company F, Captain Thompson.