Thirza Finch diary and letter transcriptions  1858-1870
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Finch, Edwin, 1846-1870

Rank : Pvt.

Regiment : 15th New York Cavalry Regiment (1863-1865)

Service : 1863 September-1865

Finch, Foster M., 1839-1885

Rank : Pvt.

Regiment : 7th New York Artillery Regiment (Heavy) (1862-1865)

Service : 1863 July-1865

Finch, Madison, 1835-1917

Rank : Pvt.

Regiment : C.S.A. Virginia Cavalry Regiment, 4th. Co. A (1861-1865)

Service : 1861-1863 November

Finch, Richmond, b. 1837

Rank : Sgt., Q.M.Sgt, Lt. (Jan. 1864); Capt. (Oct. 1864)

Regiment : 3rd New York Cavalry Regiment (1861-1865); 15th New York Cavalry (1863-1865) (transferred Jan. 1864)

Service : 1861 August 1-1865 March 22

In the early 1850's, Thirza Finch, her father and eight siblings moved from Knox, N.Y., to a farm in Maple Valley, Prince William County, Va. Though the Finches were staunch Unionists in a predominantly pro-secession region, father John Finch (d. 1862) could not bear, or afford, to abandon his possessions and escape to the north when the war broke out, even after several great battles, including the 1st Battle of Bull Run, took place within a few miles of their house. Yet as early as the summer of 1861, the family began to disperse under pressure of the war, when one son, Richmond, enlisted in a New York cavalry regiment, and another, Madison, despite his Unionist sympathies, was drafted into the 4th Virginia Cavalry (Confederate). Madison served very unwillingly under several Lees until his capture in Maryland in November, 1863. After five weeks spent at Old Capitol Prison in Washington, he was paroled and allowed to join his family in Knox, where he remained for the balance of the war.

Richmond Finch had apparently been estranged from his family for several years prior to the war, having been completely separated from them since April, 1858. In August, 1861, he mustered in with the rank of Sergeant in the 3rd New York Cavalry, and later, in November, 1863, accepted a commission in the 15th New York Cavalry. During his service, Richmond was posted in Washington, N.C., during the Confederate siege of that city, and saw action under Sigel and Hunter in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864, and under Sheridan during the campaigns of 1864 and 1865. Richmond was an avid, apparently fearless soldier and was as aggressive as he was successful in pursuing a military career, eventually rising to the rank of Captain. After the war, Richmond operated a business in New Berne, N.C., for two years. Richmond's younger brother, Edwin (Eddie) also served in the 15th Cavalry. For several months in 1864, Eddie was posted as a guard for new recruits and prisoners of war at Hart Island, N.Y., before being transferred to the Shenandoah to take part in Sheridan's campaigns.

Having failed in his attempt to "find a situation" in Albany, a fourth Finch boy, Foster M. (his namesake, an elder brother, had died in infancy), stayed out of the war until July, 1863, when he enlisted in the 7th N.Y. Heavy Artillery. Early in 1864, Foster was apparently captured by Mosby's Rangers and imprisoned in Virginia. Weakened by his imprisonment, Foster spent some time in hospital after his release before rejoining his regiment in March, 1865. During most of his service, he was stationed defending forts in the vicinity of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

The eldest of the Finch children, Thirza, had been a sickly child and remained in fragile health throughout her short life. For more than a year after the outbreak of the war, Thirza and her father remained in Maple Valley, even after her brothers all had left for the military. In the month leading up to the 2nd Battle of Bull Run, Thirza's diary begins to show the depth of mistrust between Black and white, and between pro-Union and pro-Secession neighbors in Maple Valley. Several times, men in civilian clothes appeared at her door asking for food or shelter and claiming to be Confederate deserters or draft resisters. Her farm was visited and ransacked by soldiers from both armies, and she was called on to nurse several wounded or sick Union soldiers in her house. The aid she dispensed was always given with an overtone of reluctance, suspicion and mistrust, as she worried about who these men might really be and about reprisals from pro-Southern neighbors. Thirza was alone at the farm, in August, 1862, when long columns of Union soldiers and cattle passed by to the engagement at Bull Run. When her father returned on August 27th, the Finches decided that they, as known Unionists, would be in peril if the Union army again failed, and that her father, like her brother Madison, might be forced into the Confederate service. As a result, the Finches abandoned their farm and fled to their old home in Knox. Thirza spent the remainder of her life in Knox, as did her father, who died at the end of October, 1862.