1864: Valmor Lambert to Parents

This moving letter was penned by 34 year-old Valmor [Valmer] Lambert (1829-1865), the son of Aaron Lambert (1805-1872) and Phebe H. Wood (1806-1894) of Warren county, Ohio. Valmore was married to Rebecca Angelina Fouch in June 1850 and by the time of the Civil War, the Lambert’s had four children—Malinda, Jesse Newton, Amos Franklin, and Walter.

“Valmor was a farmer near Ayersville, Defiance county, Ohio when the Civil War broke out and although when the “unreasonable rebellion against our excellent government arose, it aroused my feelings so that when the President’s call came for men I would have enlisted, but I thought there was single men enough to put down the rebellion, and it was more my duty to stay at home and take care of my family.” But when the last call came, on 31 July, 1862, Valmor enlisted and was mustered into Co D, 100th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). Since it was only two years since Valmore had the measles, he had been in a weakened condition and in about three weeks typhoid fever set in and he was in the hospital in Covington, Ky. After recuperation at his father’s home in Warren Co, OH, then home with his family in Ayersville, he rejoined the Army and was on detached service guarding a railroad, when he was taken prisoner near Atlanta, GA in Aug 1864. He was an Andersonville Prisoner until the end on the War.” [Source: Zelma Oleta Ashton Anderson]

Returning home, Valmor Lambert was killed on 27 April 1865 by the explosion of the steamer Sultana on the Mississippi River 50 miles outside Memphis. His body was not found. According to others of his company returning home with him on the Sultana, Valmor was asleep on the cabin deck directly over the steamboat’s boilers when they exploded.

A deeply pious man, Valmor’s letter betrays the deep internal conflict that plagued him as the war waged on. Clearly he struggled between his sense of patriotic duty and the teachings of Christ. “I am not happy, but far the opposite,” he confided to his parents. “I can’t repent of what I am doing and then go ahead every day doing what I pray God to forgive me for.”

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TRANSCRIPTION

Knoxville, Tennessee
February 28th 1864

Dear Parents,

I will pen a few lines to you in answer to yours of February 16th [and] also in answer to Frances of 17th. I was very glad to hear from you all and learn of home matters as all we have here is military. I am well except the pain in my breast which is much better than at my last writing.

The weather here is most charming, beautiful, clear, and balmy as April and May, with the finest roads all winter, hard and smooth as a floor—only when it rains which a day or two dries off. I am much taken with the climate—so pleasant, so clear, and balmy. Such fine roads and splendid loose soil. But then wars terrible desolating hand has told fearfully on fences and timber. The people are a hospitable and neighborly kind of people with but few slaves which has about played out as the slave men have nearly all enlisted. Several of our company are enlisting them [the Negroes] and are going in Colored Regiments as officers.

straw
Military Bridge at Strawberry Plains, March 1864

Longstreet has been forced to leave in a hurry, leaving all that he could not carry with the men. Even his pontoon bridge at the [Strawberry] Plains was left in his precipitate leave. We have got the Knoxville Bridge done except some little notions. The teams commenced to cross yesterday. Tomorrow we go to the [Strawberry] Plains again to rebuild the bridge there that our Generals so imprudently ruined.

There has been great efforts made to get our company back to the regiment but all as yet to no purpose. Our Colonel has just got back from home and he came over yesterday and spoke to Mr. Carter, our boss, and told him that we were his choice company and wanted us back but Mr. Carter told him that he could not get along without us.

The troops have nearly all gone to the front to act in concert with and on the great program of Grant’s which will shake the Confederacy to its very center. But—and I am sorry to say it—the end of the war is not yet. The people at home may think the war is nearly over but I tell you, the end will not come till we as a people and Nation humble ourselves before Almighty God as did the people of old and look and behold the signs of the times.  All is confusion and malice, discontent, and increased jarring both in the political world and in the professed Church of God. Instead of being what is professed, the meek and lowly followers of that blessed lamb of God who died the ignominious death of the cross that we through his atoning and precious blood might be forever happy in that glorious eternity which God tells us of in His great and glorious word. (what do we see?) Alas, Oh the weakness of human nature. Why are thou so weak? I am led to say, Almighty God, in what age do we live that we see and behold the great mocking of the divine lamb and see the followers of Satan going round in the garb of God and professing to be followers of that meek and lowly lamb of God, and at the same time cannot even love our friends much less our enemies as the book teaches us. And why is it that all is bitter instead of sweet? It is because we have not the love of God in our hearts. And why have we not that precious love? The book teaches us that we will not have the great God to reign over us. Consequently we have driven away the spirit of God and as we cannot serve both Man___ and God, Satan comes in as a natural consequence; not however as the sole proprietor but rather on a lease. For after awhile when we are properly punished, the almost smothered spark catching the passing breeze of God’s love begins to sparkle and blaze up till finally being fed as it were by the precious love of God and being willing to cast off all filthy air and take in what we have cast off on our blind zeal, the flame brightens and brightens till soon we are again happy in God’s love.

But as I have said, what do we see? With a sad heart I confess instead of being what we profess, we see wickedness reigning almost supreme, broadcast over our once happy land. Some may say that the war does not end because Jeff Davis will not give up. I say not so, or else the word of God is false, for it says that if we repent we shall be saved. Therefore, if we humble ourselves and pray to God in faith and love and chants, fully believing God will in His own good time and way bring the rebs (which is the means in God’s hands) to a sense of their folly, and they will get to thinking of how much more happy they were under the old flag than under the new, that they will not fight if it can be avoided and according to promise, God will so arrange all things in such a way that glorious peace will again be ours. Then will us soldiers (who have been the instrument in the hands of God of preventing the opposite and opposing instruments from going farther than was designed that they should go to bring us as a people to repentance), what is left of us may return home to our loved ones from whom we have so long been parted. But alas! I think I see that much desired time far in the distant future—perhaps months and even years may yet pass in deadly strife. But God will not utterly forsake his people. So thy will be done, Oh God, and have mercy on us all and bless those loved ones far away and help them to repent and then to pray for us in the Army.

Tell [my brothers] Frank and Olie that at some convenient time—if I am spared—I will answer their very kind letter. But I shall set Frank to thinking. I will just say in regard to the publishing of one of my letters that as it was not written in order for publication, I was ashamed to hear of my name being [attached] to a letter that was published. I want you to tell William Dodd, your preacher, to write me a letter particularly on the subject. Can a Christian be a good soldier in the Armies of our country? I never seen him but I feel to love him from what little you wrote of him.

Farewell, dear parents, but knowing the example and teachings of Christ, and then to be engaged in the business of war. I must say that I am not happy, but far the opposite. I have studied over and over and the more I study and ponder the same, the more unhappy I feel, but then what can I do? I can’t repent of what I am doing and then go ahead every day doing what I pray God to forgive me for. Sometimes I think I will quit writing to everybody and let fates take its course.

— V. Lambert

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