Fortress Monroe Va 15 Sept. 65
My dear Wife
I wrote to you on the 21st Ulto [Latin: short for ultimo (in the month before)]. and have anxiously expected an answer until so much time has elapsed that I have come to the conclusion that you did not receive my letter. It was sent as required via Washington D.C. to be inspected by the Atty. Genl.[James Speed] who was requested to ascertain your address and forward it. Genl. Miles [commander at Fortress Monroe] had previously at my request inquired, by telegraph, whether you were still in Savanna, but received no reply. You can readily imagine the painful solicitude I have felt and feel concerning you and our children. From Newspapers it appears that the three older children have been with your Ma. in Montreal and that they have left there, whither, not stated. In my former letter you were reminded of the importance of your presence with the children and urged not to allow your care for me to prevent you from going with them to some suitable place for them and for you.
I am so ignorant of all which has happened since we were separated, as to be unable to
say more than you can anticipate, and apply according to your circumstances. When it shall be in
my power to rejoin you we can make more permanent arrangements as the course of events and
my condition may then indicate. Should my physical ability be not less than heretofore I feel that
we shall be able to make our way in that mode of life to which we have both looked forward with
hope; desiring quiet more, and shrinking from poverty less, than those good friends supposed to
be possible, who so often sought to turn away the consequences of the loss of our property. I will
not distress you by present reflections on a future of which too little can be foreseen to make its
consideration useful. It is enough now to suggest that as your means may permit, you seek some
healthy location where the children may have the advantage of proper schools and be surrounded
by desirable social and moral influences; and where both you and they may be free from
annoyance by those scavengers to a depraved appetite for abuse not of myself only, but of my
family also. As only an occasional news paper is given to me I cannot know whether any replies
are made to the fictions published in regard to myself; as their effect is not merely to prejudice
public opinion against myself but extends likewise to those who were politically associated with
me, it would not seem probable that even the timidity of this day would keep silent all, whose
justification is the truth.
However this may be, you would be happier away from such influences and the children
will be safer under your supervision. If I can receive frequent letters from you, can have the fears
for your health and safety, which so often oppress me, removed by direct information from you,
it will be to me the consolation next to that of your presence. This last cannot be had, and if it
were permitted we should not accept the indulgence at the cost in which it would be involved.
Remember, when you write, that I am ignorant of all which has occurred to you since we were so
suddenly separated, and give me such facts as will put me au courant [French: up-to-date] with
events, and then I can better understand purposes and write more satisfactorily of family affairs.
In dreams you have lately come to me often in my prayers [sic] you and the children form
a little group, spiritually, assembled in Our Heavenly Father’s name, from whom I ask what in His wisdom it may be expedient [a key word in the “Prayer of St. Chrystostom” (BCP)] for us to have. It is a painful pleasure thus to summon you one by one and place you on memory’s canvass [sic] grouped before me. The terms “painful” and “pleasure” are in contradiction, yet they are voluntarily made to coexist in many of the sorrowful trials of our life. Is Margaret with you, my imagination always connects her with little Winnie. Lest you should not have received my previous letter I renew the request that you will write to my Brother for me, and say to him what you will readily understand I would, if permitted to
write to him. From my boyhood he stood to me in loco parentis [Latin: in the place of a parent], in after years he was to me the nearest friend and best advisor. Please also to write to my Sisters [three our of five are still living: Anna, Lucinda,, and Amanda] as you will know how, and explain the silence on my part there also.[He may write only to VD] Do you know what has become of Sam, and his squad.
If he comes to you for advice tell him to take his party back and join “old Uncle Bob” and stay
with him. If he has not been interfered with the “old man” no doubt has kept at least his church
members together. Brother Joe. can direct in regard to matters of a business nature. The heirs of Smith will probably come to him. The land remains, every thing else I understand was destroyed or
removed. No deed was made, the money remaining to be paid I have now no power to raise, the best, indeed the only thing I see to be done is to take back the land, and so it would be well to inform the heirs. All incomplete transactions had better be cancelled, as the only means which I possessed when they were entered into have been destroyed, and it only is possible to meet the moral obligation.
[First two words crossed out] played a sharp trick here for transportation I suppose, but of
which I gave you an account in my former letter, if you don’t get that I can repeat it in a future
I am sorry that you should have been alarmed by reports in regard to my health. Those
who utter them can have no accurate information and are never to be relied on. They have
usually reported the reverse of the fact and never the fact exactly. I had fallen into a low
condition the natural consequence of my situation; and had carbuncle on the thigh and erysipelas
in the nose, the former was slow and painful, the latter was arrested before ascending to the eye,
it reappeared and was arrested as before. There was great physical prostration as usual in such
cases, and some fears that the disease would extend to the brain; that apprehension however soon
passed away, but while it existed may have transpired [become known (Webster: transpire, v.i., 2)] and
given rise to the report which has caused your alarm. The inflame[m]ation in the nose at last
assumed the type of the affection you may recollect I had in New Orleans and has now entirely
disappeared. The Surgeon who attends me is both kind and skillful. I am deeply indebted to him
and can assure you that while I am under his charge you need have no apprehension that any
thing which is needful will be wanting.
During my confinement here I have marked a steady growth of that kindness on the part
of the officers which my position rendered it proper for them to show: and so much depends
upon the manner with which an unpleasant thing is done, that I find both in the absolute
improvements which have been made in my treatment, and in the manner of doing the same thing, material relief.
Tell me when you write whether your personal property seized by the command which
captured us has been restored. I expected Genls. [J .E.] Johnston and [W. T.] Sherman would regard
the expedition as contrary to their agreement [to an armistice] and take corresponding action, which would at least bear on the question of property claimed as capture of War. If they or either of them have done so the fact has not become known to me. Genl. Sherman however I observe indignantly repels
the idea of my having had specie enough to buy him, at the same time declining to state his price.
All I can say on the point is that if he was to bring more than Beadle Bumble did I could not have
made the purchase [Bumble, in Dickens’s Oliver Twist, sets his own worth at “six tea-spoons, a pair of sugar-tongs, and a milk-pot; with (some) second-hand furniture, and twenty pound in money” (See Chaps. 23 and 32]. Who is meant by the “Brother in law of Jeff Davis” said to have been knocked down &c. &c. at Savannah? Is it all fiction? [Papers of JD 12:28 says it was Jefferson Davis Howell, VD’s little brother.]
Have you heard from J. R. Davis [ Joseph Robert, JD’s nephew]? I know nothing of him since the surrender [of Gen. R. E. Lee] at Appomatox C[ourt] H[ouse], but suppose he was paroled to go home.
I hope soon to hear from you and to know of all which concerns you and which has been
by day and by night the subject of my thoughts. How is P.C.? [Pie Cake] Her bright little face is
ever before me and I thank God that she is unconscious of all which distresses those nearest to
her. Endeavor to be cheerful and hopeful. Have confidence in my ability to resist both physical
and mental burthens [burdens], under the supporting grace of our Heavenly Father, who sends His comfort to alleviate every affliction. Let us accept His dispensation as that which is best, though our
blindness should not to be able to perceive the good designed, and thus we can with patience and
resignation meet whatever fate is decreed to us. I cannot write to you as often as I would, a
special permission is each time required and the requisite materials are furnished for that occasion only. There may be further relaxation, let us hope so, while the best use is made of present privileges.
Farewell, my loved Wife, remember that you cannot diminish my griefs by sharing them
and strive to preserve the tone both of your mind and body by cultivating cheerful views of all
things and charitable feelings towards all men. Kiss my Baby. God bless and guide you, and (if
He will) restore us to each other in this world, ever prays your Husband