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Letter from Nike to Father, September 3, 1861

 File — Box: 1, Folder: 7

Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

This collection consists of twenty-six letters written by Fonda to his immediate family and are signed either, Ten Eyck or Nike, a nickname used by family and friends. The letters, several of which are written on official Military Telegraph stationery, range from July 12, 1861 to June 14, 1863. There are no letters between mid-September 1861 and April 1862, with the exception of a letter dated December 3. Letters from 1863 are less frequent. There are no accompanying envelopes.

The last letter in the collection, dated July 4, 1863, describes Fonda’s ride to inform General Meade that the Confederate army was concentrating troops at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This letter is a photocopy and was added to the collection on April 20, 2005. The original is part of the Pearce Civil War Collection and is located in the Pearce Museum at Navarro College, Corsicana, Texas. Pearce Museum at Navarro College

Fonda’s letters provide an invaluable insight into a telegraph operator’s responsibilities of maintaining the Union Army’s telegraphic lines during the Civil War. Fonda, assigned to the Army of the Potomac, writes of dispatching messages, establishing or repairing telegraphic lines, sometimes in the midst of battle, and the dangers and fear of capture by the Confederate army.

As he travels with the Army of the Potomac, Fonda’s letters provide a record of destinations and first-hand accounts of the devastation and defeats of the Union Army in the early years of the war. Fonda questions whether the army has the strength to win the war and occasionally comments about commanding officers’ leadership capabilities, or lack thereof.

A recurring theme in letters to a brother focuses on his frustration with the slow progress of his application for a military commission in the U.S. Army. Military telegraph operators were not soldiers, but rather civilians and therefore, not eligible for military honors or pensions, unless they were supervisory personnel who received military commissions, making them eligible for pensions. Fonda, upon obtaining the rank of a Captain, was granted his commission on June 30, 1866 in the New York Fortieth Regiment, Thirteenth Brigade, Fifth Division.

Fonda’s letters also mention how he fills his free time, being thankful for receiving newspapers, and visits with regiments from the Town of Fonda where he obtains information about specific members. He also regularly reprimands his family for not receiving more letters from them.

This collection has been digitized and is accessible from the New York Heritage Digital Collections.


  • Creation: September 3, 1861



From the Collection: 2 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Repository Details

Part of the Binghamton University Libraries Special Collections Repository

Binghamton NY 13902 USA