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[Samuel William Southmayd Dutton (1814-1866) was the minister of North Church in New Haven from 1838 to 1866. He was an abolitionist and a conductor on the Underground Railroad in the years leading up to the Civil War.]

Bolton, Mass. 
Aug. 22d 1862

Dear Cousin,

My heart bleeds in the bereavement which I personally feel in Melzar’s death & still more in sympathy with you & Mrs. Dutton & your daughters in your greater bereavement, not forgetting Mr. Watrous who felt as a brother indeed to him. The same day on which I saw a paper announcing that he was “killed & buried on the field,” I saw another paper which reported him among the wounded. So I cherished some hope. But now I learn the dreadful certainty & also the aggravation that you have been unable to find & identify his body. 

This is truly a mighty sorrow – the loss of your only son. I commend you earnestly to Him whose sufficient grace can make your strength as your day. 

It is a source of consolation & pride to me, & must be still more to you, that Melzar died heroically, in a just war for the defense of his country’s welfare & life. All accounts represent him as acting a brave & noble part in that desperate encounter. The sacrifice was glorious, & will ever cover his name & memory with honor. And most honorable too is the sacrifice on the part of his parents. Indeed what more costly & precious offering could be given for our country than an only son, of choicest culture & in the prime of manhood! 

Your memories of Melzar must always be most pleasant, as you look back over his history. Few, I am sure, give in their childhood & boyhood so little occasion for anxiety or reproof or so much reason for satisfaction & pleasure. 

Your knowledge of the perils to which an officer must be exposed, has doubtless prepared you in some measure for such an event, since you must have looked upon it as possible, perhaps probable. Yet it must be overwhelming. May God sustain & comfort you, as I trust He sustained & comforted him in the hour of battle, & in peril of death.

My wife has written more fully to Mrs. Dutton to whom please express my warmest sympathy & affection.

Truly & affy. Yours,
S. W. S. Dutton

P.S. It is to me a cause of deep regret to be absent from New Haven when you are in such sorrow.

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