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April 22nd 1861
Dear Pa –
I suppose you are waiting to hear from me, yet I could scarcely believe it necessary for me to take the trouble to write on account of the uncertainty of it reaching you. I do not know whether the excitement at home can be in any way compared with that here, if it is as great you can perhaps imagine my condition.
The town is thronged with military companies, and the cars are passing with them almost every hour. The depot is crowded with women bidding adieu to their husbands and sons, and all appear to be mad with excitement. During services in the church yesterday (Sun) they came in after men to guard the bridges at Harrisburg. In a short time the town will be almost deserted, they ran the negroes off, on account of from fear that they would plunder the property. I believe they killed several. They compelled us to hoist the stars and stripes over the college, and are not yet satisfied. A committee waited on Dr. Johnson this morning giving him notice that all the Southern students must leave, or take the oath of allegiance. Many leave today. I had until today thought I could still remain.
I will regret it more than any circumstance of my life, should I be compelled to go, but I see no other alternative. Yet if you will permit me I will remain as long as they continue the exercises in college. Perhaps something may occur to abate the excitement sufficiently for the college to continue exercises. Dr. Johnson is of this opinion. But I suppose the most difficult circumstance to overcome in the case, will be your inability to keep me here. It stings me to the heart to think that my advantages for an education are to close here, but I will have to submit if this be the case.
It is probable that they will not suffer any of us from the South to remain more than a day or two longer. If this should occur, all I can do, is to try and get home. I have no means to get there with no [money]. If you can send it in any way I wish you would do so immediately. If not I will have to walk or do the best I can. I hope you will not be uneasy about me. I fear nothing as yet. The only ones that are in danger are the students from S.C. McCants’ life is threatened if he does not leave within two days, and yet he is in the same condition with the rest of us. [out of money]
I am completely lost to know what course to take, since I commenced this letter, I have changed my mind half a doz times.
I will wait until the 1st of May to hear from home, if I do not hear by that time, or do not get driven off before that time, I will do the best I can to get home if things continue in their present state. Don’t give yourself the least trouble on my account. I will get through by some means.
Your affectionate son, W.P. Willey
P.S. Pitcher tells me he will leave this evening. I will send by him to be mailed at (Trainmant?). Enquire of him concerning affairs.