Jewish Mother's Last Letter
Phila'd. June 22/64
My sad heart hungered for a letter from you to comfort me in my affliction and dear Uncle Leon has just brought me one. Oh, my dear one, how can I write to you feeling so sad and desolate as I do, and knowing that you are feeling the same. We should comfort each other, and yet our full hearts will overflow instead. He died, G-d rest him without a struggle, without a moan, not a muscle moved, all was calm as an infant sinking to sleep on its mother's breast. And oh how willingly he resigned the world, no man of eighty could have separated himself more peacefully from all its bonds, than did my lost darling. I could not believe he was going from me, I willfully shut my eyes to every symptom of it, and when he calmly told me he was dying and wished some one to read the prayers for him, I felt as if I could not endure it, and all his grief was that I should give way to my emotion, he spoke so resignedly to his dear Aunt Sarah, who G-d bless her had done a mother's part by him during all his sickness told her to tell me not to grieve, for it would not be long before we should all be together again, and that he was willing to go, and had no wish to remain. He left a kiss for you with his dying lips, and a request that you would be good to Mother. He spoke of you often, and loved you to the last. May his pure spirit hover over you, my treasure, and turn aside every weapon that is aimed against you. May it preserve you from all danger and sustain you in the hour of trial and temptation, ever guiding and guarding you through the pitfalls and snares of this world, and lead you to a blessed immortality when your earthly career is ended. I am writing this in the room in which he breathed his last, it seems as if I am not satisfied anywhere else, for here I can see that dear wasted face, and hear his low faint whispers. I do not grieve for him as one without hope, no, thank G-d I am filled with hope, a hope that I may purify myself to meet him and a perfect conviction that he is happy. Your dear Uncle and Aunt in fact every one of the family spared no trouble and no expense with him and they mourn for him as for a son. Uncle Leon wanted to telegraph for you to come in, but was told it might not reach you for several days. Oh my darling, how I missed you, how my heart yearned for my absent boy to comfort it, but I knew it was useless, that you could not come, nor do I expect you now. I am pretty sure they will not give you a furlough, nor would I have my boy dishonoured by leaving without one, much as I want to have you with me. No my dear one, let us await events calmly and patiently, trust in G-d's goodness, and do our duty well and faithfully to the end. Your dear Aunt Sarah is quite unwell, we now feel all her anxiety and loss of sleep. I want her to go from home awhile, but she persists in remaining. I hope it may be nothing serious but she has had a hard turn while I was away. My dearest, I hope I may be able to write a more cheerful letter when I next write, but I felt as if I wanted to pour out my heart to you, who know so well how to sympathize with me in my trouble. It seems almost sinful to fret and sorrow that a blessed soul has gained immortality, especially one that had become weaned so completely from all earthliness. You say truly you have lost a brother but heaven has gained an angel. He told his Aunt that he knew all our dear ones were around him, he had felt it for several days, and he was happy that he was going to them. Why should we grieve for such a one, may we all meet death as he met it. The flowers I send, were taken from his dear hand just before the coffin was closed, cherish them, and keep them always near your heart, as a last gift from the dead to the living.
May G-d forever bless and preserve you my darling and restore you to your
Elias Hyneman received his uncle's telegram informing him of his brother's
death, and applied for a furlough to attend the funeral and the mourning week. This
request, applied for by Hyneman's immediate commanding officer, Capt. Abisha Stetson, Co.
C, 5th Pennsylvania Cav., was not endorsed by the officer commanding the regiment, and the
furlough was denied. One week after this letter was written (June 29, 1864), Hyneman's
regiment participated in a cavalry raid at Reams Station, Virginia (Kautz's Raid).
Surrounded and outnumbered, the raiders attempted to escape, and many were captured.
Hyneman and a comrade pushed their horses to the limit of their speed and were almost out
of the danger zone when the comrade's horse fell, breaking a leg and injuring the rider.
Hyneman helped the wounded man onto his own horse, saying that he was unhurt and would
attempt to escape on foot. Going further, he came upon another wounded comrade, barefoot
and bleeding. To this man he gave his boots, but he himself was captured and sent on a
transport to the prison camp at Andersonville, where he died six months later of
starvation and exposure. After the death camp was liberated by U.S. troops, Hyneman's
family had his remains disinterred and brought to Philadelphia. He was reburied, on April
22, 1866, in the cemetery of Mikveh Israel on Federal Street, between 11th and 12th.
From The Occident, July 1865:
DIED on January 7th last, at Andersonville, Geo., ELIAS LEON, son of Rebekah and the
late Benjamin Hyneman, of Co. C, 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry, in the 29th year of his age. It
was only recently that notice was received by the mother of the deceased that the last one
of her household had passed away from mortal life to the brighter and purer skies in the
spirit-land. He had finished his work on earth, and well and nobly he performed his part.
Kind, amiable, and unselfishly benevolent, he was endeared and loved by all his associates
with more than a brother's love. The last and crowning act of his life will ever render
his name dear as a true friend in the hour of danger. Whilst on the battle-field,
overpowered and almost surrounded by the enemy, every one tried to effect his safety the
best he could. As he and a comrade had passed nearly out of danger by pushing their horses
to the utmost of their speed, his comrade's horse fell, broke a leg, and cripplied the
rider. Hyneman immediately dismounted, assisted the crippled man on his own horse, saying
that he was unhurt and would try and escape the best he could. His comrade escaped in
safety, whilst he was taken prisoner, and died whilst in the enemy's hands. There are few
instances recorded in history of a deed so self-sacrificing a nature, and we are proud to
claim the noble, generous deceased an Israelite,--a true scion of affectionate, loving,
and self-sacrificing parents.