Dear Rowena…

Greetings! This is Ashley Trainor, senior at SUNY New Paltz majoring
in history with a minor in anthropology, and Zachary Rousseas, junior
at SUNY New Paltz majoring in history and women’s, gender, and
sexuality studies with a minor in political science, and we have both
been interning at Historic Huguenot Street for multiple semesters.
During this time, we have had the pleasure of working with a
phenomenal collection of primary documents donated to the site this
past fall by Elaine Ryan. These are the letters of Jacob DuBois
HasBrouck, a direct descendant of the families of Historic Huguenot
Street. Working with these original letters has given us insight to a
piece of the Civil War that can only be seen through such documents.
Allow us to share this unique narrative with you. A portion of these
unique letters can be found on the Hudson River Valley Heritage (HRVH)
site.


Jacob DuBois HasBrouck
Jacob DuBois HasBrouck, born in New Paltz Landing (currently Highland,
NY) on August 25, 1838, married his loving wife Rowena Caroline Deyo
the day after Christmas in 1860, just before the Civil War began.
Their love for each other survived through the war. They kept in
contact often through letters that they wrote to each other while
Jacob was in the south fighting in the 156th regiment of the New York
Volunteer Army. The letters between this husband and wife bring
forward a piece of history that can only be seen through such primary
documents. They tell a tale of the hardships of war, mainstream
thoughts of the time, attitudes towards race and gender, and the love
the two had for one another. His sentiments can be seen in this
excerpt from a letter he wrote to Rowena on February 2, 1863: “I often
think of the pleasant times we [used] to have I think the time is not
far distant when we will live as we once did in peace and harmony.”

The Civil War began to engulf the country in the early 1860s. It was
around this time, specifically 1862, that Jacob at the young age of 24
was commissioned as 2nd lieutenant of the 156th regiment[1]. He was
stationed around Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana, but traveled
throughout the south, to even as far as Key West, Florida.

During his time with the Union Army, he would frequently check in with
Rowena using the steamer that would come down to Louisiana to write to
her. Often, Jacob wrote in the few free moments he would have
throughout the day. His letters were honest and spoke about the
hardships of the war, yet he remained cheerful about returning home to
New Paltz to his loving wife and young son, Herman.

Jacob’s career with the Union came to an abrupt halt when he was
wounded in battle and then discharged in March of 1865[2]. It was then
that Jacob moved back to the Hudson Valley and reunited with his wife
and son.

Unfortunately, the letters from Rowena to Jacob are not in the
Historic Huguenot Street collections and we only have one side of the
story between the two, but we can infer what she was writing about
through references in his letters. Yet, it remains up to our
imagination to know exactly what she was telling him. While Jacob
DuBois HasBrouck may be listed in historic publications as a noble
fighter who served with the Union Army, his letters illustrate a
picture of a young American man who had an everlasting love for his
wife.

On January 23, 1863 Jacob DuBois HasBrouck gives us a really
insightful glance into how race, enslavement, and emancipation were
viewed. HasBrouck writes: “[…] I will bet before a year the negroes
will wish themselves back on the old plantation.” This quote is
important because often the Civil War from a northern perspective is
painted as a fight for emancipation for enslaved people. This quote
allows us to infer that abolition was not the primary reason for
fighting. HasBrouck also states that it is his priority of sorts to
keep the union together and that more than anything else is his reason
for fighting.

On March 30, 1863, HasBrouck shares how deep his love for Rowena is:
“I think about you every hour in the day & sometimes I get homesick
all for you […].” This shows how immense their love for each other
was. The readers gain an interesting perspective on gender and a
softer side of masculinity during this hyper-masculine wartime.

[1]Hasbrouck Family Association Newsletter June 2013.” Hasbrouck
Family Association Journal (June 2013): n. pag.
http://www.hasbrouckfamily.org. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.

[2]”Hasbrouck Family Association Newsletter September 2013.” Hasbrouck
Family Association Journal (September 2013): n. pag.
http://www.hasbrouckfamily.org. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.

This entry was posted in Historical Photographs, History, Research, Slavery, Women and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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