In the summer of 2010, retired Walsh Middle school English teacher began to transcribe letters from Framingham's Civil War soldiers.
She wrote in her now published book My Dear Esty: Letters from Framingham’s Civil War Soldiers, she thought it would be an "easy" project.
It wasn't as easy as she thought. She was hindered by spelling and the handwriting of the 1860s, specifically mentioning the "fanciful script of the time period was filled with loops, curls and swirls."
But a year, later she published the book which includes transcriptions of 16 letters written by Framingham soldiers to Constantine Esty, a lawyer who was chair of the town’s military committee.
Lavin wrote of the letters "These men of letters had captured my heart!They were willing to fight for the Union cause, to risk their lives. How could I not make every possible effort to transcribe each and everyprecious word that gave profound meaning to each man's life?"
- "Knowing that your heart is with the Framingham boys; that Framingham's heart beats in sympathy for her absent sons and I believe the town has just reason to be proud of the good men and true that she place in the ranks ..." wrote Theo C. Hurd, 45th Massachusetts Regiment Company F.
- "The town did better for their company than any other town I ever heard of. And you Mr. Esty looked after them very well," wrote Benjamin Wadsworth, 1st Massachusetts Regiment Company K.
- "When I returned from camp, I found a letter from you containing five dollars. Please accept my thanks for your handsome present It was very acceptable indeed as we have not been paid off for five months ....often times we need some money and the amount you have so kindly sent will be the means of furnishing many little comforts and necessary wants," wrote HC Bowers, Company H 32 regiment.
During the Civil War troops were supposed to be paid every two months, but it was not uncommon for them to go several months without pay, explained Lavin in her book. "Henry Bowers would have been paid $13 as a private and $17 as a sergeant," wrote Lavin. Bowers was a shoemaker in Framingham, before entering the war.He was wounded in May and September of 1864
Of the 530 Framingham men who volunteered to serve in the Civil War, 52 died and 172 were wounded or disabled. The 530 soldiers represented one out of every four adult males in town at the time, according to the Framingham History center.
In May of 1861, Framingham appropriated $8,000 to aid the soldiers and their families. In October of 1861, the Town of Framingham and the Ladies Auxiliary sent 107 woolen flannel shirts, 121 pairs of cotton flannel drawers, 117 towels, 85 pairs of stockings, 106 hankerchiefs, 2 boxes of bandages and more.
Esty wrote: "The ladies should receive the principal credit."
The letters were donated to the Framingham History Center by Framingham Selectman Ginger Esty. The Esty family has a long history with Framingham. They came to town from Sherborn in the 1760s.
Constantine Esty, at age 17 entered Yale University. He opened his law practice in Framingham in 1847 and during the Civil War, he was chair of the Framingham Citizens Military Committee.
In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Esty assessor of internal revenue for the 7th Congressional District. He was to collect or the first time in America, an income tax. At its time, it was considered a temporary tax to pay for the war, and discontinue the tax in 1866. It was never discontinued.
Esty, was also a Selectman, and practiced law until his death in 1912, at the age of 88.