Letter – James Oakes, 19 December 1862

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Condolence letter from James Oakes to William Dehon upon the death of his son Arthur Dehon, who was killed at Fredericksburg.


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49 Long Wharf

Boston, December 19, 1862

My dear Mr. Dehon:

I beg that you will not think that I could rudely invade the sanctity of your overwhelming private and domestic sorrow, by addressing you in this, the stormy hour of your life. No, a different motive prompts me to offer you my deepest and most sincere sympathy – the sympathy of my whole heart! in the great bereavement that must so heavily weigh your very soul to the dust!

There is no philosophy for the heart: therefor words of consolation to the ear of one whose bereavement is so intensely crushing as yours, would be but mockery, and tend to divest the mind from the mournful enjoyment of its

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own sad bu absolving reflection, which I believe to be the natural and, therefore, the best solace to a wounded heart: consolation, the, I will not attempt to offer, but again assure you of my inmost sympathy with your soul in its desolation! Having had little else to for for some months than to brood over private calamities, I am keenly [aware?] to the sorrow that is now making furrows in your heart.

There is, my dear Mr. Dehon, a melancholy satisfaction in the knowledge, that your son fell nobly in the discharge of a must sacred duty, which consecrates his name forever among the defenders of the Union of his Country. He died a hero in the truest and broadest sense. His name will illumine a

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prominent page in the history of this unnatural and bloody way, which has widowed and unchilded so many, and carried desolation to so many households, and wrecked thousands of hearts!

Let us not however sorrow like men without hope – but implicitly cherish the consolatory and reasonable trust that we shall meet again hereafter, – that this life is but a wretched segment of the Eternal circle of our Being. Yes, my friend, it is in God’s Justice that those who love one another truly and sincerely here, shall see and know Each other in a brighter, happier sphere; yes, our very longings after immortality, are the imperishable seeds planted in us by the hand of God himself, and

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their fruition will be Everlasting Life!

I am confined to my bed, when the remains of Col. Webster were “laid away” in the dark cold chamber of the pulseless dead, or i should then, have called upon you, and offered to you my heart’s sympathies. He, too, was a brave man, and a gallant soldier. Poor Fletcher! Peace to his ashes, and Eternal renown to his name!

How applicable are the words of the immortal bard to nearly every household, at the present hour, “One woe doth tread upon another’s heel, so fast they follow!”

May God bless and strengthen you, my friend, and all those who are dear to you on Earth, in this hour of your soul’s desolation, is the Earnest desire of the heart of your friend and obt. sevt.

James Oakes


Arthur Dehon was William Dehon’s son and a 2nd Lieutenant in Webster’s 12 MA Infantry. He was killed in action at Fredericksburg.