Mr. West to Mr. Seward.
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Sir: I have now respectfully to draw your attention to a subject in which I take a deep interest, and in which I would fervently desire to enlist the sympathy of our government, namely: with reference to the relatives (parents, wives, &c.) of those who have fallen, are wounded, or missing, in our service.
It certainly appears almost unreasonable to expect attention to the numerous dead of our army and navy, when the demands of the living are so urgent and overwhelming; but I would earnestly plead for your influence with our President and cabinet on behalf of the bereaved Irish people, who, thousands in my [Page 1344] district, and over the length and breadth of the land, are bewailing the loss of brothers, sons, and husbands in our disastrous war; and, what is almost worse, suffering the agony of suspense for those of whom no tidings or information whatever can be heard, and their letters coldly returned to them in the unfeeling strictness of official routine from the post office at Washington, &c., with the indifferent remark thereon, “not called for,” or “unclaimed.” How could they, when the brave sons and husbands of the writers were either fighting our battles on the field, waiting for the deadly onslaught, or sleeping in a soldier’s grave?
The daily applications to me, as to the fate of our Irish soldiers and sailors not heard of, (nineteen out of twenty of whom are, I am satisfied, not among the living,) tax all my energies and sympathy for them, in replying to fifty or sixty letters per week.
The plan I have adopted, as to the missing, is to get the applicants to write in my official envelope to their sons, &c., in our army or navy, and to enclose same to the Adjutant General in a note, stating shortly any peculiar feature in each case, and asking for an inquiry and report thereon.
I send you two letters as specimens, which I do not, therefore, enclose to the War Department. They speak of lost ones, not unimportant to us, and I know contain the germ of sadness. I had to excuse General Meagher, who declined to answer inquiries for his aid-de-camp, now, I believe, no more. I would, then, earnestly solicit your influence in obtaining attention and an early reply not only to them, but to all others I forward from our deserving Irish friends.
Nothing can exceed the gratitude expressed by those whom I assist in removing their suspense, and the patriotism and bravery evinced in the letters of our dead soldiers, over which many a tear is shed; and it is unnecessary to tell you that every such letter, with those forwarded to me, carry with them tales of woe and suffering, radiating from and around the extended circle of each bereaved homestead.
Might I therefore venture to suggest that a head post office, exclusively for the letters to those in our armies and navy, be established at Washington, from which they would be forwarded to the adjutant or other officer of each regiment, wherever situated.
It would be. also advisable, and would relieve much sorrow, and save trouble to our officials, if a regulation could be made that soldiers and sailors should be supplied with stationery, and ordered to write home once, at least, every month. Oh! what joy would be thereby diffused among thousands of now agonized hearts.
I have the honor, &c., &c.,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.