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In Canada During the Civil War

Letter to Francis Pratt from family, 1865
Letter to Francis Pratt from family, 1865

Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society

Text by Candace Kanes

Image from Maine Historical Society

In March 1865, less than a month before General Robert E. Lee's surrender to the Union Army at Appomattox, Virginia, Francis Pratt's mother, sister and brother wrote to him from Wilton about his well-being and the progress of the war.

Pratt (1842-1911) was living in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, Canada, slightly less than 300 miles from Wilton. No direct evidence suggests that Francis Pratt went to Canada to avoid military service, but that is a possibility, suggested by his brother's comments.

Albert Pratt wrote to his brother, "I may Come there if I am Drafted there is no draft here this time but they have drafted in some of the other towns."

Albert Pratt also wrote, "About my money I want you to get it and keep it for me be shure and get all the intrest."

Clearly, Albert Pratt thought his money would be safer in Canada -- as would his life. His mother and sister did not comment on Albert's portion of the letter. Theirs followed.

Francis' mother, Almira Pratt, wrote, "I hope you will come home this sumer have you ben gon so long that you have forgeten your home."

His sister, Sarah A. Pratt Handley, added an optimistic note, "i hopes that we shall meat again for I think it looks more like peace that it has for a long time."

Francis Cash Pratt, 28, is listed in the 1870 census as living in Wilton with his parents, Elmira and Ezekiel Pratt, and working as a farm laborer, probably on his father's farm.

On October 28, 1869, Pratt married Abigail Isabel Averill. They lived on their own farm in Wilton. The couple had seven children, Seth, born in 1871; Edwin F., born in 1874; Etta Belle, born in 1880; George, born in 1886; Leo Walter, born in 1890; and Fendie, born in 1892 and died later the same year.

The letter is only one of two Francis saved or that survived, although it is clear his family wrote other letters to him.

Regardless of why Francis Pratt was in Canada during the Civil War, his brother's comment are an indication that escaping military service by going to Canada was not unheard of in the troubled 1860s.