Found inspiration from Civil War letters for a woman in the Capital Region


(NEWS10) – Some of us can’t help but jump on the Internet to delve into our family history. But, for Diana McCarthy, the answers could be found at her family’s old farm in Craryville, New York with an incredible story contained in an old box.

Inside the box was a collection of 80 letters written by his great-great-great-great-grandfather Peter Dumont, to his wife Clarinda, the great-great-great-great-grandmother of Diana in Utica. They were written while he braved the front lines during the Civil War.

The enlisted Union soldier wrote about the unburied bodies after the Battle of Bull Run, saying it was the most sickening sight he had ever seen.

While fighting in Fredericksburg, he narrowly escaped the rebel troops. Peter sketched this outline of the city, with some of the buildings on fire.

The 26-year-old soldier was not so lucky in the spring of 1863 when he was captured at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

“Along the fence there was a rebel with a pistol pointed at my head. It would have been impossible to bring my gun back to the fence and shoot him, ”he wrote to his wife.

While at Libby Prison Camp in Richmond, he continued to write and draw. A sketch depicted his desire for his former regimental camp and tent. He was released 3 months later.

He used every inch of paper, capturing everything he witnessed. Scenes of Union soldiers setting up camps in Virginia as well as French-inspired Zouave soldiers protecting enslaved children considered to be contraband during the war.

“He was at the center of some of the major turning points in American history and the Civil War,” NEWS10’s Anya Tucker said.

“He really was,” replied Diana McCarthy, Dumont’s great-great-great-granddaughter.

Diana McCarthy is a retired teacher from Slingerlands who talks about her exceptional ancestor. Even dress like her great-grandmother 3 times during her presentations.

Much of what she shares, she learned from the contents of that old box. She and her family could have sold the letters for a good profit, but they felt they had a more important purpose. So they decided to give them to the New York State Library.

Anya asked, “What do you think of this?”

“Oh, I think that’s cool. I love looking at these letters. It’s actually a snapshot of that place at that time, for that person. It’s like you’re back with them, ”replied Vicki Weiss of the New York State Library.

He didn’t know it at the time, but Peter Dumont was sort of a 19th-century documentary maker. His letters also very intimate, always ending with his devotion to his dear wife Clarinda.

“… And it is signed to death, your husband Pete.” Do we know if he survived, ”Vickie read.

Peter Dumont is believed to have perished in battle by the time his last letter was delivered.
But his experiences, his words and his images will live on here in the library.

“These letters have a secure home. It’s a wonderful environment and it’s something people can use to research and learn more about what that time was like, ”says Diana.

Learn more about Diana’s presentations.


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