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Joseph Hart Chenoweth Letters

1855-1859

The following letters were found at the Virginia Military Institute website.

Description
"Letters, 1855-1861, [no letters later than 1859] written by Joseph H. Chenoweth to his parents; cover period of his VMI cadetship, as well as his brief teaching career at VMI and Maryland. The letters provide a good portrait of pre-war cadet life."

The Feburary 1856 letter indicates the "moral fiber" of the VMI. His "crime" was playing cards.

Joseph H. Cenoweth died while serving as Major of 31st Virginia Infantry Regiment, CSA; killed in battle at * Port Republic on June 9, 1862. * Rockingham County, VA " a pretty village near the foot of the Blue Ridge and about twelve miles from Harrisonburg, at the junction of the North and South Rivers, which form the Shenandoah"

Click on photo for larger image

Joseph Hart Chenoweth, who wrote the Chenoweth Letters. He was born 1837 in Randolph County, WV, graduated from VMI in 1859, and was a Major in the 31rst Va. Infantry, killed in battle at Port Republic on June 9th, 1862

Virginia Military Institute
Sep 28th. 55. (1855)

Dear Father:

I received your letter of the 11th and was extremely glad to hear that you were all well. I am getting along first rate with my studies. The 4th class study algebra, Geography and English; we will not commence studying French until January. We recite Algebra at 8 o clock in the morning, Geography at 11, and English at 3, and we have Battalion Drill at 5 o clock in the evening.

I stand guard about once a week. I have been Drilled so much that I have become to be a tolerable good soldier. As to the letter which James Campbell has in his possession, I do not know whether it is genuine or not I did write a letter to him but I certainly did not say any thing about being tied and ducked. I was dragged a short distance one night, but it did not hurt me any. The cadets attempted to duck me and another new Cadet, but I jumped from under the water and did not get but very little on me. They also tied the Military cravat on me. They did this by tying my cravat in about a dozen knots, this was all done while we [were] in camp. Since we came in barracks they do not molest us New Cadets. And in fact they all treat me very well. It is perfectly impossible for a man to come here without having to undergo some bad treatment, at first. You can rest assured that I am well pleased with the place. They beat the drum so near my room that it always wakes me up. Except that the first morning we came in barracks, I did not hear the drum beat, but they did not miss me.

Tell Mother that she need not be uneasy about my sleeping too late. I always am among the first ones up. I wish you would send me a copy of the Dispatch occasionally if it is not too much trouble. Give my love to all the family.

Yours Affectionately
J. H. Chenoweth, V.M.I.

To L. Chenoweth
Beverly, Va.
P.S. I was very much surprised to hear of the marriage of Mary E. Chenoweth with E. Rowan.
J.H.C.



Lexington Feb. 18th. 1856
Dear Father

I received yours of the 10th and enclosed I found Col Smith's letter. I was in hopes that you would not hear of my having played cards, but since you have heard it I will give you all the particulars. You can thus judge for yourself, the extent of my "crime" On the evening of the 25th of Jan. two of my room mates, a cadet by the name of Lewis from Mason County and myself -- were sitting in my room, playing a social game at cards. A professor came to the door, knocked and came in. We concealed our cards, as quick as possible but not soon enough to escape the eye of the Prof. He reported us for playing cards but he could not swear that we were playing at cards. From the tenor of Col Smith's letter, you must certainly think that I am a desperate character of late. But dear Father believe me on my honor when I say that, Playing cards has been my greatest offence, I did wrong, I must acknowledge, I should not have allowed myself to play at all. I hope that you will forgive my first offence, I will promise you that I will not again while at the institute, be guilty of the same offence! Col Smith seems to think that playing cards is a habit, which I indulge in frequently, but father, he is mistaken, I do not make a practice of playing at cards. I have conducted myself, I think, with the utmost propriety (with the exception of this one offence) since my arrival at this place. The number of my demerit "is rather my misfortune than my fault." I feel it my duty as your son to follow your directions, I thank you for the kind advice, which you have given me from time to time. I will take pleasure in observing your directions, and I hope that the next circular will surprise you equally as much as the other, but in another manner. I am fully aware of the importance of my maintaining my situation here as a cadet. I will never be able to repay you for your kindness, in allowing me to take advantage of this opportunity of obtaining a good education. I think that if I get along as well hereafter as I have since Jan, I will stand better on Mathematics than I did last Jan. I will be through Davies Geometry in a few weeks. I am reading French, at present. As to your fears about my "keeping bad company," I will have to say that I do not, keep bad company. If you would call those persons bad company, who had played an occasional game at cards, I will say that each of my roommates may be called bad company, but they have all stopped off short, since we came so near being dismissed for that grievous offence. That having been our greatest crime, we are now strictly moral. To calm your fears on all heads, I will say that I pledged my honor the first day that I entered the institute not to drink while at the institute, and as I value my honor I have kept it. This was unnecessary, because I never did drink. Yet I did it because it was customary. From this day henceforward I will see how few demerits I can get, I must acknowledge that I have been somewhat careless sometimes in regard to my demerits. But hereafter I will cultivate that virtue called "punctuality" which of all others I think it is among the best especially for a person who expects to stay at the institute

Many thanks to you for your kind promise, I will try to make myself worthy of it, To be comprehensive in reply to your questions about the Institute, I will answer. The institute is an excellent school, I can obtain as good a mathematical education here as at any place in the United States, a good French Latin & English education, Chemistry Mechanics Natural Philosophy Rhetoric Moral Philosophy, &c, also a splendid Military Education. Write soon I am, in good health, I am determined that the next letter that you receive in relation to my conduct shall please you, better than the last, I am glad to hear that you have got a contract to build the bridge across Buchannon. From your affectionate but unfortunate son

J.H. Chenoweth

To L. Chenoweth

P.S. Cadet Lewis broke his arrest and was dismissed I have taken the liberty of retaining Col Smith's letter which I suppose is immaterial to you. J.H.C.
Samuel Roland Lewis, Class of 1859
Circular- a report issued to parents of cadets, providing class marks and comments about a cadet's behavior


V.M. Institute, April 15th 56
Dear Father,
I have at present a few leisure moments which I will employ in writing to you. I am enjoying good health at present, and in fact I have had excellent health ever since I arrived here. I am progressing in my studies admirably, I get along a great deal better than I at first thought I would. If I meet with no misfortune hereafter, I flatter myself that I will have a better standing at July, than I had last Jan. I do not at present get near as many demerits per month as I have heretofore.

There was a very sad accident happened in the vicinity of the Institute a few weeks since. Two students of Washington College started upon a hunting expedition, they had not gone very far when they stopped, one of them was loading his pistol when it accidentally discharged itself, the contents lodging in the breast of a Mr. Booker. He was carried to the Hospital of the Institute and died in a few days, he was a citizen of Richmond.

There has been a new method of drill introduced at the Institute. It consists of a double quick step, it makes me sweat every evening. I have increased considerably in weight since I became a Cadet, I weigh at present 155 lbs., I am now studying "Analytical Plane Trigonometry," French and English. I have at present I think nothing to fear. My total number of demerit is about 130, this is the last quarter of the present year and I have 70 demerit to go upon, I think I am perfectly safe. I wish you would send some postage stamps when you answer this letter, if you should ever have an opportunity I wish you would send that book which I received from New York, entitled "New elements of Geometry" by Seba Smith, I think it will be of some benefit to me. You have a book which would be of infinite benefit to me when I become a third classman, I think it is called "Minifies Mechanical Drawing Book," but perhaps you cannot spare it. If you cannot you need not send it, I can get along without it. Give my love to all the family, and write soon. I heard that you were going to build two Academies in Beverly. I hope you may succeed, in the enterprise,

From Your Affectionate son
J H Chenoweth

To L. Chenoweth
Beverly Va


Virginia Military Institute
Feb 21st 1857
Dear Father
It is needless for me to say that I have not received anything from you in the [illegible] of a letter during the extraordinary period (three month nearly) which has intervened since you wrote last. You have -- I have no doubt -- good reasons for this failure upon your part to write, I take it for granted at least -- and will not enquire into their nature. But really, I do not see why you can not appropriate a few moments, occasionally, to letter-writing. To me at least, it is by no means a disagreeable occupation, especially when I have no bad news to communicate.

"I am well, and am getting along very well with my studies." You will perhaps be puzzled to find out why I enclosed the above sentence with quotation marks. You need not be, if you examine the letters which you have received from me, from time to time, you will find that this same sentence occurs in nearly all, besides -- it is perhaps the best line, with respect to its "subject matter" that will be contained by this letter. Therefore, I distinguish it from the commonplace remarks by which it is surrounded. Since I entered, a student, at this Institution, I have been doubly blessed, I have enjoyed excellent health, and my laudable ambition has been gratified in some manner. Yes it is a laudable ambition, that ambition which makes me yearn to excel here in intellectual improvement, in all that makes man, -- a man in the highest, truest, noblest, sense of the term! Ambition, of a different kind is a dangerous thing; that ambition which rears [illegible] of despotism upon the ruins of Liberty, Justice and the rights of man; or climbs to the highest pinnacle of Fame, over the bones of murdered millions; that species of ambition, the gratification of which, "damned Napoleon Bonaparte into everlasting fame" is hellborn, and its tendency is and ever has been hellwards! On the other hand that ambition which when gratified, made a Washington, a Webster and a Clay, established and supported Liberty, upon the broadest foundations, and terrified all Tyrants, is heavenborn, its possessors stand unique and alone, the only mortals truly great, overleap Fame's polluted mount, and soar in the pure ether beyond, ever pointing heavenwards. These are but few names purely immortal, which will be remembered with [illegible] feelings of reverence and love by the truly good until the latest generations. Alas, there are too many merely notorious names, names which will be remembered only to curse until the last trump shall awaken the dead [ ]!!. With Cicero I am led to exclaim "Oh times, oh customs!"; the very Senate chamber, in which, the immortal Clay was wont to move the multitude to tears, or animate the thousands with his own passion, is now polluted by the whispers of corruption or bribery. Sumner stands upon the same floor upon which he stood, and contaminates the atmosphere with his huge libels upon the venerable Butler. Oh! departed shades of our ancestors, was Clay and Webster the last of their race? Has patriotism become extinguished? Is there nothing left of "the age of bronze"? Will the black chains of tyranny be our portion at last? Oh! no, Say not, the pleasant memories of yourselves forbid it, the hopes of your posterity forbid it, and all the good ones of the earth forbid it, the animated eloquence of Keit forbid it and the still fresh though sad memory of Brooks, forbids it. But hold, my pen is running away with me, I did not intend to become so enthusiastic upon this subject. How did my standing at Jan. please you? Answer in your next if you was pleased with it, I am happy.

When you write again I wish you would let me know whether I ought to get a furlough suit or not, it will cost in all about $40, if you can spare this much, I will be much pleased, if not I can do very well without it. I shall be so much pleased to visit you that I will care nothing for clothes, the Cadets generally buy one,

Write soon
Your Affectionate Son
Jas H. Chenoweth

To L Chenoweth



V.M. Institute
Lexington Va Sep 15th 57
Dear Father
You have, I have no doubt, been expecting a letter from me for some time. I put off writing until now -- so that I would be able to inform you how I am doing, or rather how I am getting along with my studies. I am doing well on "Calculus" (the highest branch of Math), I made the highest -- "mark" in my class on this study the first week (we have only recited a week and two days on Cal). I recited 1 day on Chemistry, I did very well. We have not commenced reciting on Latin yet.

I started from home Wednesday, as you directed me to do, and arrived at the V.M.I. on Friday 11 1/2 P.M. I had quite a pleasant time from Staunton over to Lexington -- I can not say the same for the other portions of the journey -- as it rained on me from Yeagers to Staunton. With regard to that "Assistant Professorship," about which I was speaking to you, I must say that as yet -- I have not heard anything about it, -- I am afraid that the appointment will not be made. I will hope for it however still -- I may be appointed next Jan.

I am well. I heard that you were raising your bridge, I hope all success for you. If the weather in your part of the state be anything like that here, it is certainly favorable to such an undertaking. When you can find time, write to me -- This may not be soon as you are so busy. I am quite busy myself now. I was elected speaker for the 11th Nov next --(the anniversary of the Institute). By the way to be elected to this post -- is considered quite an honor here. I will, of course, have my hands full for the next two months. I am afraid that I will not do honor to myself on that occasion -- but I will do my best. Give my love to John, my compliments to all of your hands (or those with whom I am acquainted)

Your Affectionate Son
J Hart Chenoweth
To
L Chenoweth
Buckhannon
Upshur Ct, VA

(P.S) If you have any money on hand to spare, I wish you would send me a little, as I have never had any pocket money. I have one or two little debts to pay. If it is inconvenient you need not do it. J.H.C.



V.M. Institute
Lexington Va
Nov 22nd 1857
Dear Father

You have, I have no doubt, been expecting a letter from me for some time, although if you recollect I wrote last. You requested me to write frequently -- whether I received anything from you or not -- as you would not have the time to spare from your business to write often, or even to answer my few letters. Could I have found time, I would willingly have acted in accordance with your desire, but you will readily excuse me from the most dreaded of punishments, your displeasure, for this seeming negligence when you read, what I am about to write.

My class has now arrived at the most critical period, in the existence of all V.M.I. "Second Classes," that is, we are about to graduate upon the most important, branch of the course; at "Jan. Examination" our standing upon Mathematics is irrevocably fixed, and you can well imagine, as I am "running" for first, that the most of my time is dedicated to this and that I have but few opportunities [of] writing, even to the dear ones at home. I have still the "first mark" upon "math," notwithstanding the many competitors with whom I have to contend for this high position in my class, and it is my opinion at present, that by hard study I will be enabled to keep it until the end of the hotly contested battle. I will stand first upon this branch of the courses, or come home, this is my chief ambition. You will I hope call it a laudable one, and I could not remain here and see my enemies smile at the keen disappointment that would be occasioned by my failing to realize it, neither could I bear the keener taunts of mock sympathy, that would be imposed on me by deceitful nominal friends.

My immediate studies, however, are not all that I have to offer as an excuse for not writing to you oftener. Just after I came off furlough I was elected "debater" for the 11th Nov, and of course I was compelled to write a "speech," which occupation required a considerable portion of my time -- the dreaded 11th has come and gone, and I will have a little more spare time now than heretofore. I suppose I had better tell you how this my first effort at speechmaking was received. Well I hope you will not call me egotistical, when I inform you that it was highly complimented chiefly by the ladies (of whom there was [missing word] a number present), and sufficiently [applauded by] the male auditors, in fact several [people] said that "it was the best speech made that evening" and four were delivered. The well educated community around and in Lexington was well represented, and you can judge how I trembled when I arose for the first time in my life, to declaim an original speech. I stood it better however than I had thought I could. I wrote twelve pages of foolscap and spoke it off without once referring to the manuscript. I spoke about twenty minutes.

I have the second "mark" on chemistry, with another man, that is I have the same mark that he has, and our mark is second. I have not been appointed assistant professor yet, I still hope however that I will get this office after Jan. I was appointed "sergeant" yesterday (21st Nov) and will not have to stand post any more in the cold -- I will have to wear a sword now, and sit in the quot;guard-room" instead of carrying a musket out in the sometimes chilly atmosphere. We are going to Richmond on 22nd Feb -- we have been ordered there, by government, Crawford's statue of Washington will be inaugurated then and the President will be there, beside many other distinguished personages. I am well at present -- I wish you would send me a few dollars of pocket money -- if you can spare it. I want it to pay one or two little debts, that [I have] contracted from time to time. I [have not] had any pocket money of any consequence. I will if I [live] pay you ten fold for all the mere money that you can send -- but oh! your kindness -- that I can never repay. Write soon -- give my love to (Mother, Mary, Harriet, Chris, Taylor, Ella May, & Blanche) and all my friends. Great God how my heart sickens when I leave John's name out of the above list - - - The stern tyrant -- Death-- has dealt harshly with us -- he has visited our house until now four of your sons, my brothers, sleep in the silent grave, it seems as if the number of your children can never remain long greater than seven. But I must hush these murmurings, against the [decrees?] of God -- Natures God I mean -- I hardly know whether to believe in the God of revelation or not, -- or rather I do not know whether I believe or not. Belief is not a voluntary act, we must understand partially at least everything that we would believe, or we can not reasonably believe. The faith of the great body of Christians is blind and scarcely deserves the name. Ask the most enthusiastic fanatic of our own day to explain an obscure passage of the Bible and two to one he will admit that he does not understand it -- while he holds out to the last, that he believes it. Write soon

Your affectionate Son
J. H. Chenoweth



V.M.I.
Dec 30th 1857
Dear Father

Your very kind letter is at hand, I would have answered it sooner, but I thought I would wait until I could inform you with tolerable certainty where I will stand in my class (on Mathematics). The contest for the highest "honor" that will be awarded to my class at the Jan. Examination, has been quite animated and grows more & more exciting as we approach the end of the race. At present the chances are greatly in my favour. To-morrow is the last day that we will recite on Mathematics and I have the "first mark" independently of several "extras" that I have "handed in" and which have not as yet been examined. All that is now necessary to render my success complete is for me to pass a good examination. This I am preparing to do, and from present appearances, I think that you may rest assured that I will stand at the head of my class (on math).

I hope that Mother is not dangerously ill, and am pleased to learn that my surviving brothers and sisters are enjoying those blessings, which health always confers upon those who are so fortunate as to escape the "ills that flesh is heir to." I received Mothers letter written just after John's death and answered it. I can not divine how it is that she did not receive my answer to that letter. I also received Mary's letter, (the one in which she speaked of your illness)and as well as I recollect, I am pretty certain that I answered it, and expressed my solicitude for your recovery.

Accept my thanks for the $10 note enclosed in your letter. It is a nice Christmas gift and I will not forget your kindness should fortune smile upon me in future. Give my love to Mother, Mary, Harriet, Chris, Taylor, Ella, Blanche, & the baby. Tell Mother to write to me soon. I need not tell you that I was relieved of a great deal of anxiety when I received your letter and learned that you had recovered. I had not received a letter from home for so long, that I really thought that something dreadful had happened. Tell Mary to write soon. I have the manuscript of my speech (11th) and will bring it home with me next July. Our question was, "Which form of government is best -- adapted to the present state of society -- the Monarchical or Republican?" I was on the [illegible] is the Republican side, write soon

Your Affectionate Son
J.H. Chenoweth
V.M.I.


V.M.I.
Jan 9th 1858
Dear Father
Your letter was received this morning, and as you appear somewhat anxious to learn where I stand in my class on mathematics, I conclude that I can not spend a few leisure moments more profitably than in giving you the desired information. So draw your chair up before your warm blazing coal fire and read what I am about to write. I will give you the full and true account of the issue of this, to me, very exciting contest. But know first that I am the successful competitor for the high honor which has called forth so much study and intense application.

After my conversation with you while I was on furlough, you will understand the technical terms that I am about to use. At the end of the race when the marks were added up, the maximum was found to be 219. My mark was 249.8; Mr. Clarke (who was the next best on the lists) had 243.7; Mr Lyell (from Richmond County) the third on the lists, had about 223. You will perceive from the above that I had the "first mark" by 6.1, (as 249.8 - 243.7 = 6.1). You will notice also that I had 30.9 above the maximum (249.8 - 219 = 30.8). I will say again that the contest for first was exceedingly animated, every nerve was brought into active (if I am allowed the term nerve when speaking of mental endeavors and intellectual actions) by all the higher members of the class (Mr Clarke especially).

But I have said nothing of the examination. The maximum, in the Examination Hall, was simply 3. (on math) Mr. Clarke made 2.90, Mr Lyell made 3, and I made 3.15, so, that I am first is shown not only by my recitation marks (249.8) but also by my examination mark (3.15). I made the highest mark that was made in the Examination Hall, as no one else made more than 3. The "standing" has not been announced officially, and will not be for two weeks, but I am certain that I am "first". I have not been examined in Chemistry or Latin yet. I have the third mark on Chemistry, and a very low mark on Latin, but these are of minor importance, as we do not graduate on them until July. We will now study Natural Philosophy, and will recite to Major Jackson (Miss Arnold's brother) on this branch of the courses.

I am well and was happy to learn that all are well at home. A little child was burned to death in Lexington to day. Give my love to all at home and my kind uncles and aunts. Remember me to my Grand father and Grandmother &c. We are going to Richmond on the 22nd February.

Your Affectionate Son
J. H. Chenoweth

(P.S.) I would have written more, but I "must cut my coat according to my cloth," I have no more room on this sheet, write soon. Joseph


V.M.I.
March 8th 1858
Dear Father
I received your very welcome letter last Friday. It affords me much pleasure to learn that you are all well. I am not as well at present as I would wish to be. I caught cold while I was in Richmond and I have not entirely recovered from it yet. I am not too unwell to attend to my studies, and I hope I will get no worse.

You ask me to tell you something about my recent visit to Richmond. Well, to begin I will say that "our corps" covered itself with as much glory as "mud" on this ever-to-be-remembered-occasion, and by the way, if any disinterested looker on had said this in my presence, I would without hesitation have called him a flatterer. In short, the pavement was covered with loose earth mixed with water, shoe-mouth-deep, nearly every day that we paraded, and we had to march through it with a measured step, regardless of its presence, and with our "eyes to the front."

We started from the V.M.I, Feb 15th at 7 o.c A.M, walked 8 miles to a point on the North River Canal, where two boats were waiting to receive us. We traveled down this canal until we came to the mouth of North River (it empties into the James), here we struck the great James River and Kanawha Canal, we proceeded via this canal until we arrived at Richmond, its eastern terminus. We were frozen up part of one night in the North River Canal, a Cadet fell over-board and broke through the ice, and was saved without receiving any serious injury -- beyond these little incidents nothing interesting happened to us while on the boats.

We numbered 138 strong in ranks, and had two "plebes" along who could not drill well enough to appear on parade. We were cordially received by the citizens, perhaps more so than any other corps present, of which there was a great many. We were placed at the head of the columns, this was quite a compliment, or at least we considered it as such. It snowed considerably in the morning of the 22nd, notwithstanding this, the procession was perhaps two miles and a half long. On Saturday the 20th we escorted Genl Scott from the Exchange Hotel to the Capitol, where he was appropriately received by the Senate and House of Delegates. On the same day we escorted John B. Floyd, Secretary of War, from the Depot to his lodgings. Genl. Scott said that we Cadets drilled better than the Cadets at West Point. Mr. Conrad said that you saw the Statue when you were in Richmond. I think it magnificent. It is so natural, the Rider is so Washington-like, and the horse is so life-like. Crawford the Artist sleeps the sleep that knows no waking, but his name will live when the bronze which now almost breaths in praise of his Genius, shall have moldered into dust. I wish I could have seen you in Richmond. Did you succeed in accomplishing what you intended by your visit to the City? I hope you did.

I have not been appointed Assistant Teacher yet, no one has. I have my office yet, and I wore my sword when I was in Richmond. Col Smith is not at home, he is in Washington, when he comes home I will make it all right with him about the deposit. We were in Richmond about a week. We arrived at the Institute on our return last Tuesday at 4 P.M. Give my live to all the family. My respects to Andrew Godin.
Your Affectionate Son

J.H. Chenoweth
V.M.I.


{The original letter is damaged. The bottom edge is missing}.

March 30th 1858
Dear Mother

I was prevented from forwarding my letter as soon as I intended, and I thought I would add a little to it before mailing it. One of my classmates, Mr. Hutter of Lynchburg, who has been traveling in the south for his health, has just returned. His lungs were affected. He lost one of them, but is restored to health again I believe.

Another of my classmates, Mr. Cooke of Portsmouth, was taken suddenly ill yesterday. I thought at first that his disease was congestion of the brain -- he raved like a maniac when first taken and we feared he would not live long. The physician was sent for, he was bled copiously -- went to sleep and slept soundly for two or three hours, awoke raving worse than ever, although his head had been covered all this time with ice: at length however, some medicine was [ ed] to him, which [ ]....reminded of the dreadful illness that carried poor lost Bernard from the stage of life.

I have been elected to the office of orator for the Society of Cadets, and will have to make a speech in there, or rather our Hall next July. I wish some of my friends would come over, that is if I have a good speech, and if I have a poor one, they will do me a kindness by staying away. I am doing well so far as my studies are concerned.

Is the basement of our house walled up with brick yet? Is the Academy finished? What kind of furniture is father making for our house? What young gentlemen is peculiarly attentive to Mary -- has she given the mitten to anybody else? You need not be uneasy about me in a moral point -- I am very moral I do not drink a drop of liquor. Glen McLean & Dick Brown were quite complimentary, so was Jacob Conrad, I hope I deserve the esteem. It is only three months until I can See you all -- write soon.


V.M.I.
June 20th 58
Dear Father

I have been appointed "Private Secretary" to Col Smith, upon the condition that I remain at the V.M.I. until the first of August, therefore you need not send my furlough money until then. I should say will be appointed, as the appointments are not yet made -- and will not be before the 5th of July -- but this scarcely affects the matter, since the office has been promised me by the proper authority. Of course, whether I accept this office or not, will be entirely owing to what you think about it. The position offered me, is I believe the best one that will be given out -- and it is my hope that you will not object to my accepting -- and complying with the above mentioned condition. I am well. Give my love to all the family.

I have passed my examination on Latin & Philosophy. I am first, beyond a doubt, on Natural Philosophy -- and pretty low down on Latin. I will be examined tomorrow on Chemistry -- I have the first mark on this study with several others -- and will I hope stand abut third on it. I have a great deal of work on my hands just now -- I speak before a crowded house next Friday -- and am busy preparing for that occasion. Hope you are all well -- Tell Mother to write soon. Oh! how I long to see you all.

Your Affectionate Son
J.H. Chenoweth

To L Chenoweth

(P.S) You may if you have it to spare send me a few dollars. I need it-- Joseph

(P.S. No 2)   My classmate (Mr. Govan) who was very ill when I last wrote is slowly recovering -- he narrowly escaped the grave. His Mother has been with him for some time, and if he gets well, it will be on account of good nursing -- as the physicians concluded at one time that he must die. Mr. Hutter (another class-mate) whose lungs were affected is about well, he is now at the V.M.I. attending to his studies. Mr. Cooke who had the intermittent fever is well. Mr. Govan's disease is brain-fever, & I fear notwithstanding the present favorable symptoms, that he is not safe yet. Chenoweth

(P.S No 3) I saw Col Smith about my deposit when he was here -- before he started for Europe. He said that there was no danger of my not being allowed to go on with my studies in consequence of my indebtedness to the Institute, and gave me, for you, the enclosed note. The amount due the Institute, from me, is about $250 or more -- and $50 added to this as a deposit will make three hundred dollars -- This seems at first sight to be a larger sum -- but when we remember that no deposit has been sent for some time, the amount looks reasonable. The Col suggests that you give a negotiable note for $300 -- so that he may use it as money when he settles the affairs of the Institute with the state authorities -- Whether this is the best course to pursue is left wholly with you -- I would say though that if you have the money on hand -- send it -- by all means. I believe now that next year just before I graduate I will make an application for an Assistant Professorship in Mathematics -- in this way I will be enabled to pay the last installments of our debt -- myself -- But I will speak to you on this subject when I come home -- Excuse this long (P.S)
Joseph

  William Waller Govan, from Richmond, died on June 9, 1858. This fact was announced to the Corps of Cadets on June 10, ten days before this letter was supposedly written. The postscript mentioning Govan's illness is on a separate (undated) sheet and, therefore, may actually belong with an earlier letter; or Chenoweth may have misdated his own letter.


V.M. Institute
Nov 21st 1858
Dear Father

Your long-looked-for letter came to hand yesterday (Saturday). I read it with great pleasure because I learned from it that you are getting along well with your work and that my friends at home are all well. Accept my thanks for the favor which you have conferred upon me, by paying D. Frown the $5, for me.

Your opinions with reference to the action of the authorities of the Virginia Military Institute, since my matriculation here as a State Cadet, are certainly just. The Board of Visitors have, during the last few years, -- acted -- perhaps unintentionally in direct violation of the sacred obligations of contracts. I can conceive of no circumstances which they could reasonably point us to in justification of their course, when they made State Cadets pay for certain articles which had been guaranteed to these Cadets, by the regulations of the Institute, -- at the time of their appointment. If they tell us that the prices of beef -- butter -- and corn has-have increased since these Cadets entered the Institute -- We ask -- Is that any reason why they should make these Cadets pay for their washing -- their fuel -- their lights? By no means!, All good men will answer. This is no reason. And moreover no sufficient reason can be found for the post facto law -- by which these Cadets are made to pay for these articles, after the Virginia Military Institute had contracted with them -- to furnish them -- these things free of cost. -- It is a melancholy thought that the State of Virginia is by the action of her officers, prevented from accomplishing the noble object she had in view from exercising that high kind of charity she contemplated when she established her Military Institute. How much good will accrue to young Virginians who are in moderate circumstances even, from an Institution, in which the State proposes to educate them for a mere trifle while the men charged with the government of this Institution make these Young Men pay almost as much as their education would cost them at other Institutions where they would have to pay for every item in the list of College expenses. These young men, evidently, will not reap half the advantages which the State intended them to have when she built the Institution. When I came here, I expected to find good-men placed by the State, in the highest offices of the Virginia Military Institute. In some respects in some cases, I have not been disappointed. In other cases I have been totally disappointed. For I see presiding over a fountain of learning the waters of which I have been told, were almost as free as the air we breathe, men who like auctioneers cry -- Education!! Education!! Come buy!! Come buy!! The Price is Gold! Gold! Gold! Those who have the most, are most welcome to the soothing waters we sell!!! to the Instruction we impart!!! This is a sad state of things truly -- still, however sad, I feel that I should not complain. For have I not received a blessing, an education which never would have been mine had the State refused to establish the Virginia Military Institute, or in other words, if this Institution did not exist at present. My only complaint, if I have any, is against those who are at the head of the Virginia Military Institute. Not against all of these, but some of them. I have been treated well enough by all of them yet I feel that they have not treated you as you should have been treated, that they have wronged you most seriously. It is with great satisfaction that I inform you that my little speech delivered on the 11th gave general satisfaction. I was highly complimented after I got through. I am progressing firmly in my studies -- and hope to take a pretty high diploma. I do not think -- now -- that I can stand first in my Class -- I am trying very hard though -- for that position. I will not stand below Third, I think, at the lowest. But time will tell. Our Society meets every Saturday night in our Hall (in the North Eastern Corner of Barracks) and I have come to the conclusion to speak at every meeting. We had quite an animated discussion last evening. I find that I improve much by engaging in the debates. The time will soon come when it will be my duty to select a profession or occupation. I wish when you write you would give me some advice on this subject. You know my nature, and can judge what would suit me best. Give my love to all the home-folks, and to all my other relatives. And to my other friends-- Remember me to Lilly, Dr Bosworth, Hughes &c. &c. Write soon.

Yours with great affection
J.H. Chenoweth

To L Chenoweth
Beverly, Randolph Co. Va



Va Military Institute
Feb 7th 59
Dear Mother
Your very kind favor is at hand, and I proceed to reply immediately. I thought something more than ordinary was the matter at home. Had it been otherwise I would certainly have heard from you more frequently. I suppose you did not like to let me know that Taylor was so sick, and hence concluded to allow me to remain in blissful ignorance on this subject until you could inform me that he was nearly well. I am so glad that he is recovering. So glad that he is well enough to write to me, and that he will soon be well enough to go to school. I am also equally glad to hear that every body else at home is quite well. I received a letter from Mary some time ago. She was well. I can see from her letter that she is much pleased with the idea that she may learn music. It is my belief that she will be an apt scholar, since she has such an ardent desire to learn. I am expecting a letter from her now. I have not heard from Father recently. He will write soon I suppose. I am well, and doing well.

I was elected the other day one of the Speakers for the next Fourth of July. I wish some of my dear home-friends could be here on that day. -- I am very busy just now, but amid all my trials and labors, the thought that in four-and-a-half months I may return home -- never fails to solace me. You say, very truly too, that you have never fully answered my first letter yet, and what pleases me much you add that, in your next you will say something about the matters touched upon in that letter. I hope father is doing well, and making money by his contracts at Weston. What a load will be taken off his shoulders and off of my mind too, when I graduate and commence life for myself. I feel that he has already done more for me than I deserve, and am determined to do all I can to repay him (in part, for I despair of repaying him in full) for all that he has, and you for what you have, done for my sake. Col. Smith, who returned from Europe some time ago is now attending to the duties of his office. He lectures every Saturday evening on Europe, and is quite entertaining. By the way, I think I was highly complimented the other day. I will tell you how it came about. If you recollect aright, you are aware that I delivered a speech on the 11th of last November (the Anniversary of the Institute). Well Col. Smith was in Europe at that time and did not hear what I had to say. When he returned he prevailed upon one of my friends to borrow the speech from me for him, and without my knowing it he took it (the speech) down to Richmond last month, and read it before the Board of Visitors, and strange to tell, the Col says that Body were much pleased with it. -- In my dreams -- I had not thought that this little speech would procure for me the admiration of the Board, and in my waking hours I can not persuade myself that I desire this admiration on account of my having made this speech.

Write soon. Give my love to all the children., and to Father when you see him. -- Also -- My love to all my Aunts Cousins Uncles -- Grandmother, and Grandfathers. Have you heard from Aunt Mary H lately? How is she and uncle H getting along in Kansas. On the other side of this leaf you will find a little letter for Taylor, in answer to his, which accompanied yours.--
Your Affectionate Son
Joseph H. Chenoweth

To his Mother
Mrs. L. A. Chenoweth
Beverly, Randolph Co Va



Va Military Institute
Feb 7th 59
Dear Taylor
I was very sorry on account of your being sick when I heard about it. Somebody ought to have informed me that you were unwell before you commenced getting well. You say that you had not been out of doors, for a long time until the day on which you wrote to me, and that you took a good ride that day on Grandfather's old Gray Mare. I suppose this was very beneficial. You should ride out whenever you can get a gentle horse and the weather is fine. It is excellent exercise, this riding on horse-back.

It pained me much when I heard that Joseph Keesey was so sick, with the Lung Fever. I hope he will get well. Who cut the wood for the girls to cook with -- when you were so sick, and Father was away from home? I suppose Ella & Blanche are much larger now than they were when I was at home last. Can Blanche say "Big pig, little pig -- root hog or die," now. She could not say it when I was at home. I wish I could have been in Beverly when Big Sam Currence made the attempt to squeeze hell out of the people, and danced in church with Morgan Kittle, it must have been rich in the extreme. I am glad to hear that Mart Buckly has confessed his sins, and professed religion. It pleased me to know that Harriet and Criss are going to school, and that you will be well enough to go in a few days. Give my love to Harriet Criss - Ella - Blanche - and the Baby. Has the Baby been named yet? You ought to get Mr. Birkett to back your letters for you. You write very well for one so young but the letter would look better if you would get him to back it. You will soon learn to write well enough yourself. Give my respects to Burns and Emmet and Lee, and Worthington and Caleb and all of your young friends.
Your Affectionate Brother

Joseph


Va Mil Institute
June 20th 1859
Dear Father
Your letter together with my last circular and Col Smith's receipt for your $100 check, came to hand this morning. There is, as you very justly remark, great discrepancy between the estimated and the real amount expended by me during the last quarter, but you should remember that the estimated amount was only conjectural while the real amount is now accurately known. I have examined my "book," in accordance with your request, and I find that there is but one mistake made in the circular as compared with the "book." Total expenses in the circular, should be (up to April 1st) $551.45c instead of $549.59c as it now stands. I am surprised at the fact that such a gross error was made by the Col when he estimated my expenses for 3 months at $20.41. By a simple arithmetical process he would have found that this estimate was unreasonably small, or he would have been convinced that my expenses up to the beginning of the present quarter were unjustly large. To show you how this is, I will perform the operation. Up to the beginning of the present quarter there were 40 months, which I spent at the V.M.I. In the present quarter there are 3 months. During the 40 months I expended $551.45c. How much would I expend during the present quarter? This question is answered below.

40.: $551.45 :: 3 : $ x

From this proportion, which is nothing more nor less than the expression of a simple example under the "Single Rule of Three," we find x = $41.35 for a probable estimate of what I should expend during 1 quarter. To this sum the Col should have added $10.00, the price of my Diploma, making in all $51.35. This should have been the Col's estimate. But it was a summer estimate and of course no provision was made for a pair of Winter Pants which I had made this spring. Adding $7.50 for the Pants and we have $51.35c + $7.50c = $58.85c. To this sum should also be added $9.00 = $67.85c for an estimate founded on positive knowledge and probably conjecture. Now let us see what my expenses really were. the "book" shows that I have expended during the last three months $63.78c. Subtracting this from the estimate and we have $67.85c -$63.78c = $4.07c which shows that I have expended $4.07c less than an average for the whole time, during the present quarter. The three extraordinary items, Diploma, W Pants, and Interest, have cause my expenses for these 3 months to exceed the average $22.43c. The Pants, I was compelled to buy as I had none scarcely at the time, I have them yet and they are as good as new. $10.00 is the usual price for a Diploma, And as to the Interest it seems perfectly just that it should be paid. You will readily perceive from this "mode of reasoning" that either the charges made against me for the whole time are unjust, or those made against me for the present quarter are just. You have tacitly acknowledged the justice of the charges up to the beginning of the present quarter, by paying money on an estimate made in connection with these charges, so that, it seems we have to admit now the justice of the charges for the present quarter. My own opinion is, that you are very unjustly compelled to pay for some things which you did not agree to purchase when you sent me to the V.M.I., but which nevertheless have been furnished me. I allude to "washing" "fuel" & c. But while I believe this I do not hesitate to make known to you my firm conviction that you had better pay the whole debt. If you do not pay it you will be sued. This would be annoying to you, besides, you will have to maintain a suit against a wealthy & powerful corporation which would not be satisfied if the case should be decided against it -- in the lower courts but would carry it to the highest tribunals in the Land, rather than have a precedent established which would cause the Institute to lose largely. You now have my conclusion and my opinions on the subject. Of course, however, you will act as you choose. One thing I would request of you -- viz -- not to do anything before the Fourth of July that might prejudice the Faculty and Board against me. Since you ask it I will not bind myself to pay the balance due the Institute, and I think I have a good reason for not doing this should they ask me to do it for I consider myself already bound to pay you what you have advanced on my behalf and it is not right that I should be bound to pay two parties for the same article. You are expected, I suppose, to answer Col Smith's "horse-leech" cry for more - more either in the affirmative or negative. On this point I will merely remark that you had better inform him in a very polite note that your resources are not infinite and that therefore you can not pay him just now. In other words, inform him that the means with which to liquidate the debt due the Institute are not in your possession. Then, when the blood ceases to flow, the "Horse-Leech" will cease to annoy you. You can readily perceive the delicacy of my position.

Col Smith has, without my asking it, placed me under obligations to him by recommending me to the authorities of a College in Florida, as a suitable person for a situation there. Yet I feel that, this should not make me mum concerning his grasping propensities or at any rate those of the parties of whom he is but the agent. The State, God bless the old commonwealth, intended that the Institute should be a blessing to the poor, but the authorities of the Institute, God have mercy on their souls, have converted it into a Financial Inquisition and Col Smith is their "Instrument of Torture" with which they wring from honest poor men -- the money that they have earned as Jehovah directed, by the "sweat of their brows." Let not then, Father, your maledictions be poured upon the passive "Instrument" but upon those who use it. Think not harshly of Col Smith but direct your anathemas against the Board of Visitors, or at least those of them who have been the cause of the present State of things, and who have done so much to "violate the obligation of contracts." I would not be ungrateful -- and since Col Smith has granted you considerable indulgence I would advise you or rather I would request you not be hasty in forming your opinion of him. I may do him injustice in what I have said of him in these pages. I would speak my sentiments thus freely to no one but you and then only because I know that what I write now will be a "sealed book" after you have read it. I have not time now to send you a copy of my accounts, but what is better I send you my "book." Some of the items you will not understand. I will explain them when I come home. Until then let the matter stand where it is, except in so far as simply informing Col Smith that you have not money with which to pay him now. When I shall have talked the matter over with you you can determine on your course of action. There is one mistake in Col Smiths letter The balance should be $121.35c instead of $123.00 as given by him. Say nothing in your letter to him that will injure me. The appointment at the Florida College has not been made yet. I will know when I come home what my fate will be. I will not be able to deliver my oration as I have something the matter with my throat not serious though only enough to prevent me from speaking. My love to the family .
Your affectionate Son
J. H. Chenoweth



Va Mil:Institute Aug't 12th.1859 to Mr. Jos H. Chenowith/Beverly, Randolph Co Va/ DS Your letter was duly rec'd and I have delayed a reply until I might hear from you in reference to mine of the 7th July. My letter conveyed to you a app't as an Assistant Professor here & as I have rec'd no reply to it, I am apprehensive there may be some miscarriage. If the situation here be agreeable to you, please notify me by return mail.

Va Military Inst. Aug 24th 1859 L. D. Haymond/ Braxton Co H. Va/ MDS I am in rec'd of your favor of the 18th Inst, and lose no time in replying to it -- I am sorry I did not hear from you at an earlier date, for I might have met the wishes of your committee without delay -- I would now mention to you the name of Mr. E. C. Shepherd of Shepherds-Town Jefferson Co Va. I think if you can secure him you will have a reliable young man, he has had several years experience as a teacher. I have written to him today. Chenowith has been appointed asst proff here, & I would presume would rather come here than go to Braxton's.

 


Va Mil Institute
Oct 30th 1859
Dear Father
Your letter is at hand. It is now Sunday, and I may as well appropriate the few leisure moments at my disposal to the pleasant duty of writing to you. I am sorry that I was such a goose as to forget -- or misunderstand -- (for I had not the letter before me when I wrote) -- the contents of the letter to which my last was an answer. I will now, I hope, satisfy you on the point which, it seems, most interests you. I shall not alter the number of my diploma -- nor shall I allow it to be altered, since it is your desire that the number shall remain as it is. I will here remark, however, that I care not a straw for the number of the diploma. This is the most insignificant part of the whole affair. The right to have the number "one" on the diploma is what alone deserves our attention. This right, as you know, has been transferred from me to another and I can not easily be convinced that it is entirely proper for me to retain that to which I have no right. In my own opinion, and in the eyes of some of my friends I may be entitled to the "first honor" in my class. This is not doubted. But it should be remembered that neither I nor my friends are authorized to judge, and that the Faculty of the Institute have the power to do what they have done, be it just or unjust. Nor should it be forgotten that the opinion of the Faculty as published in the Register will have more weight with the world than anything that could be said in my behalf by any other party. I will here drop a subject upon which too much has already been said with a repetition of my determination to allow the No "1" to remain on my diploma.

I am glad to hear that you are progressing so finely with your work, and hope that you may soon bring it to a successful completion. I see that you have been studying the Geology that I left with you. I agree with you in the opinion you express -- with reference to the plan of the work. It was not, however, designed for those who study without a teacher or previous preparation, but for those who have passed over a certain part of the regular Scientific course. I am very fond of theories -- still -- I would always have them nailed together and supported by a few facts well established and well explained. Are you not mistaken in regard to the drift agency? There is no cause, within my knowledge, now operating of sufficient power to transfer large boulders from one side of a mountain to the other. There are, doubtless, causes now acting but of a different nature from that which was the great agent during the "drift period." I think you would progress more rapidly now with your geological studies if you had studied Chemistry first. Both are very interesting. Have you read the Intellectual Philosophy which I left with you. You would find it extremely interesting, I have no doubt.

You wish to know how I am getting along in my capacity as Professor. In answer to this query, I will say charmingly. I am much pleased with the occupation and, without egotism I say it, I regard myself competent to perform all the duties appropriate to the office. I study a good deal, too much indeed to allow of my doing much at anything else, and therefore I have not yet visited the Society Hall. I am not willing to speak on any subject, now, without thorough preparation of my speech. The consequence of this is that since I have not time to prepare, I do not speak at all. I think you will agree with me that it is best not to attempt anything when we doubt that we will do it well.

I can not say that I am entirely well. My throat bothers me some yet. I have to talk a great deal in the "section room" during recitations, and I find that it irritates my vocal organs to such an extent that I am sometimes forced to stop and rest awhile. Only for short periods however. Five or ten minutes. I explain everything that is difficult. In other respects I am entirely well. Write soon. My respects to Uncle Eli -- Harrison Kelly and Andrew Godden
Your Affectionate
Son Jas H. Chenoweth

To L Chenoweth
Weston, Va.



Va Mil Institute
Nov 19th 1859
Dear Mother
Your very welcome letter reached me this evening. I would have replied by your other letter sooner if I had not started on a visit to New York about the time I received it. Of course you can, under the circumstances, pardon me for my remissness. Especially when I tell you that I will endeavor to do better in the future.

Several companies of soldiers have been ordered to be present at Brown's execution. The Cadets have been ordered to hold themselves in readiness to be called on at any moment, and I believe that we will set out next Tuesday, at least we are expecting hourly an order from the governor, to that effect. For a short account of my visit to New York, I refer you to a letter which I wrote a few days ago to Taylor. I can not begin to tell half I saw, until I see you.

I hear that Mary has two beaux, Elam Bosworth and Dr. Carson. I have learned too, that a third individual, Judson Suiter Esq. would be very attentive to her if she would allow it. She is very fortunate in having the two former gentlemen as suitors for her hand, but God grant, I say, that she may never give her hand or her heart to the latter individual. There was a time when I would have unwillingly owned him as my brother-in-law. That time has passed, however, and I can now say with real sincerity that I would rather see Mary in her grave, than in the family of a man who can so far forget himself as to tell a lady to "go to Hell." What caused the coolness between Mary Catherine & Andrew Smiley? I thought that they were firm friends. I hope John Bosworth will do well in Beverly. He has always been my friend.

Ella May writes very well for a girl of her age. She is certainly a good girl and must study well or she could not learn so fast. It will not be long until she will be able to write me a letter. That would be so nice! But, by the way, I can't see why those who can write do not let me hear from them. I am much pleased to know that Father has finished the Bridge, and that he will soon be with you all again to stay. I am well. Write soon. Give my love to Harriet, Chris, Taylor, Mary -- Ella May, Blanche and Charley -- the mischievous little dog. Kiss the little imp for me. Good night.
Your Affectionate Son
J Hart Chenoweth



 

***http://new.vmi.edu/archives/Records/ob859jb.html execution of John Brown- Orders to VMI

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