Thursday, June 4, 2009


They got letters! They got lots and lots of letters... Do you write letters any more? No, I don't mean memos or e-mails or tweets. Real down to earth letters? Do you receive letters--yes, the ones that come in the post box in among the bills and advertising circulars and the still continuing invitations to take out a credit card?
My ancestors were real letter writers and apparently letter savers--(at least some of them--LOL--That is a story for another day.) and I am the repository of many of these bits of family history.
The above is a letter received by my great-grandmother from one of her brothers, Alonzo--known as Lon--a Union Army soldier when he was in camp in Lousiana during the Civil War. It must have been a lull in the fighting, as Lon goes on and on about the beauty of the area and about the people he had written but had not heard back from and those he had heard from. He does not talk about the battles. Lon was not the only brother writing to her from the war, as she had, I believe, five brothers and at least four of them were fighting.
That letter likely came in an envelope similar to this one, from another soldier brother. Did all the soldier letters go through Memphis? Did Jennie have to pay 3 cents postage due on this or were soldier's letters sent free?
Look at the signature on this one--written to one of the brothers. Do youget Jennie Burt out of that? What an elegant--what can I call it? I am tempted to say elegant scrawl, but does that describe it? She speaks of surprise at receiving his letter. Must be that not all of her brothers were the best of correspondents.
I think that this next is the oldest letter in my possession. The spelling here makes it somewhat difficult to read, where sometimes it is the handwriting. (Elegant as it is, some of the letter forms are archaic.)
Charley, i got virj a pair of Calfskin shwes maid and they ???? refwesed to pay for them because i got her them gaiters they are not fit for her to ware this wether and her ????? Showes you see is gone so she gits her feet wet and she has not bin very well lately is wish you wood pay for them of give her money to pay for them. i told him i wood send her to you. he said he did not care he thot it was inyour place to git her close. Charley i wish you wood git her stof for a cloak that looks ???? on her i will make it...
Well, not too much into punctuation, either. I don't know who E. B was. I must look into the family charts. Charley was possibly my grandmother's uncle--the one who bought a piano in Chicago in 1860--the piano that is still waiting to go to my piano playing grandkids as soon as we can arrange transport. Well, that is another story as well.
Do you save letters? Think about someone who would love to get a letter today--write a note--handwrite a note. It's taking time. It's so personal. Who can I write to? Who can I surprise like brother Bennie surprised my great grandmother Jennie 145 years ago?


Sandi McBride said...

I have all my love letters from Mac from when we first met till his last Med cruise...I told him the other day he needs to write me a love letter...he told me I hadn't written him one. I told him "you haven't read my blog have you?"
Loved this

Cindy said...

I only get a real live letter from a new found friend in NY. She has email (so I...being the lazy her back) but she prefers to send letters. I am always thrilled to see one in the mail box. Reminds me of my youth when I would write 14 page letters to my friends!

PERBS said...

I had 40 pen pals when I was a kid. I wrote long letters. I used to write to relatives too. Then, nobody wrote back so I finally quit. Only occasionally do I write a letter now, like this week to my 2nd gradn daughter who is graduating Friday. The occasion needed a hand written letter.

Mary said...

I always liked letters and I like to write, but I guess as I've gotten older, it is just easier to email people. My handwriting was never pretty or easy to read and I got in the habit of printing everything in capital letters. I still have some of the letters that my parents and my sisters wrote me before we began emailing.