Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Congressman Roscoe Conkling to Colonel Charles Wheelock of the 97th New York Infantry, December 25, 1861

Washington, Christmas Day, 1861.

My Dear Colonel: The regiment you command has, I am informed, done me the honor to assume my name. A compliment so unexpected, bestowed upon me in my absence, and by so large a body of my fellow-citizens from different sections of the State, awakens, I need hardly say, lively and enduring emotions.

Grateful as I am for unnumbered and undeserved marks of confidence and kindness showered upon me by the generous people of Oneida County, among them all there is scarcely one that I shall cherish longer than this token of approbation at once so spontaneous and expressive.

A thousand men, who as winter approaches leave their homes for the camp, to defend on distant battlefields the life and honor of their country, are inspired and consecrated by heroic purposes and unfaltering faith. Earnestness and sincerity abide with them, and they mean in seriousness all they say. When they inscribe a name upon their colors, they mean not a mere token of courtesy or friendship, nor simply to make the name less humble than it was before; but they adopt it because they consider it associated with some idea. In this case that idea is a vigorous and unconditional prosecution of the war till the Union is restored and the Government acknowledged on the Gulf of Mexico as much as on the river St. Lawrence. It is the idea that whoever and whatever stands in the way of national success must go down before the advancing columns of the Union.

The colors you carry will never be disgraced; they will be borne forward by men many of whom I have long known and respected as neighbors and friends, and though the regiment, however called, would have been an object of interest and pride with me, I shall now watch its career with double solicitude, its advancement with double pleasure.

Do me the favor to present my warm acknowledgments to the regiment and reserve them to yourself.

I remain your friend,
Col. Chas. Wheelock, Boonville, N. Y.

SOURCE: Alfred Ronald Conkling, The Life and Letters of Roscoe Conkling: Orator, Statesman, Advocate, 137-8

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