Thursday, July 12, 2012
1862 July 12 Boston, Massachusetts
Brookmould near Boston 12 July 1862
Your letter of 15 June, dearest Maria, reached Boston two days ago and was sent to me here when your aunt Cornelia and myself are on a visit to Ellen. It made me very happy to get some tidings from my family whom I love the more tenderly just in proportion to the sorrow I feel at my separation from them. Yours is the first letter and the first direct intelligence I have received since a letter of Carrie’s dated 22 January. In March I had a visit from Major Revere, who while a prisoner in Richmond had been kindly treated by George and Mary, and who brought me a verbal message from George to say that all my friends were well. Afterward I saw in a newspaper an account of a ball in Richmond at which Hetty Cary was present and I knew so near a relation of your mother’s and yours could not be at a ball if harm had happened to any of your brothers. After the occupation of Fredericksburg by the Federals I got a letter from Maria Woodward. She said nothing about my relations and this was negative evidence that she had heard no bad news. I saw too your father’s name in the newspaper when he was spoken of as present at Col. Gihby’s [sp?] funeral. I could have missed the paper which contained that name. I never see a Southern paper- have not seen one since I was in Canada last August. You see, dear Marie, how scattered and dispersed and meager are the details on which I have lived, like a starving beggar, since your welcome packet after the Battle of Manassas. I think the last winter was perhaps the most unhappy of my life. I was ill and suffering in body and still more in mind. Confined a great part of the time to my chamber, weak and languishing and often in panic and hearing of nothing but battle and murder and death- never certain that I might not see the name of one of my nephews or of my brother George, before he was Secretary of War, among the killed or wounded. I saw Lewis Carter Randolph’s name in the list of prisoners after the battle of Roanoke, and at one time thought he might be sent to Fort Harrer [sp?] where I could have communicated with him freely by letter although I should not have been permitted to see him. I afterward hear that Randolph Talcott and himself had been discharged on parole. I thought more I think of your brother Tom than of anyone else. His letter after Bull Run was such a fine thing, so full of noble spirit and with such an entire absence of unfairness, that it kept his image always before my eyes. Wilson too with his young wife and one child when I saw him (Carrie wrote me he had a second) and Lewis whom I had parted with so full of life and youthful promise! Thank heaven, at the date of your letter you had heard no ill news but there has been terrible fighting since then. God grant that none of the blood spilt has come from the hearts of my kindred whom I love as my own heart’s blood!
I think that this was is the most unparallel of any that stands on record, taking place as it has done in the nineteenth century the most civilized in the annals of man, and among a people blessed beyond all the people of earth with every good gift, liberty, peace, plenty, unexampled growth and prosperity, respected and feared abroad, overflowing with all that the heart of man could wish at home! No foreign nation however mighty, would have dared to attack or invade [sp?] them, the time seemed approaching when America should give law to the world- and what return has this chosen people made to the Giver of all this good! To set his laws at defiance and rush into a bloody, murderous, patricidal struggle which unless His mercy prevails over the wrath of man, can end only in the rain and subjugation of the South, and the overthrow of literal institutions in a consolidated government and standing army of the North! And both parties in the conflict having the firm conviction that they are in the right! Each considering their cause as a sacred cause for the triumph of which they may pray with uplift hearts and hands to the God of justice, righteousness and love! When Pilate asked What is Truth? The question was one that shall never be answered till the last day- for what is truth, holy and sacred to one, is falsehood and abomination to another. I sit and think of my own people at the South who are fighting for home, fireside, wives and children, freedom, and to repel invasion and devastation of their land, and I see and hear around me all the glow and enthusiasm of a people who are fighting for their honor, their flag, their country, their institutions, their national greatness! Even the abolitionists, one of the wickedest parties that ever profaned the name of right, and whose leaders for their base ambition and fiendish hypocrisy deserve the execration of mankind, even they contract in their ranks many honest and genuine enthusiasts. What is to become of us all, how order is ever to be brought out of this frightful disorder, and good from this fearful evil only God can say. With man it is impossible, with God all things are possible. We must trust in Him!
You describe a very bad state of things where you are and near Fredericksburg- servants abandoning their masters- crops likely to rot on the ground- deplorable for the whites- still more deplorable for the colored people who have been leading easy lives, taken care of and provided for, and who are as incapable as children for providing for themselves. They will die like flys when the hardships of a Northern life and the necessity of taking care of themselves falls upon them. I wish it were possible, by Express, or any other way, to send you some necessary articles the prices of which have not as yet risen in this part of the country. Writing paper, calicos, ginghams, any good in general are very cheap. Groceries are high as so to make economy in the use of them very desirable. I passed five weeks in Philadelphia in April and May with my sister Virginia whose health I thought very tolerable for her. Mary was in Alexandria with Patty and her children and Cornelia returned home with me for a visit. The Meiklehens [sp?] are well; so, thank heaven, are my children. Randolph has a fine little boy, two months old called after his father. Ellen has not become stout, looks young and has no family. She sends her love to you whom she has not seen since she was your bridesmaid. Alfernor [sp?] is in the service of the Sanitary Commission with the army now on James River and in the service of his profession is devoted to the relief of suffering. He has had several of the Confederates under his care. His letters are full of interest. He has two very fine boys at home with their mother. Sidney, a Major of the 16th Regiment of U.S. Repellers [sp?], has never been called into active service, but kept recruiting in Ohio and Chicago. Jefferson, Hetty and their three little girls are living quietly at home. Farewell, dearest niece- I hope you may receive my letter and I do hope to hear from you again. I shall be very anxious to know about Ellen Wagner and am glad that Bart [sp?] is at her home again. Kiss your children for me and give my kindest regards to Mr. Mason. Cornelia is writing to you. Mr. Coolidge wishes particularly to be remembered to you. Ever your most affectionate aunt, E.W.C.
[Written around the edge of the first page] I was very glad to hear something of Isaette. I did not know that she had become a mother. I am with Ellen at some dillance [sp?] from Boston and see little of my other children who are all dispersed for the summer. Mr. C. comes when he can to see me.
Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge, granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson to Maria, possibly Mrs. Charles Mason.
[transcript by Rowan Sprague]