Mt. Alden, ¹ [Washington County,] Ohio
May 14th 1863
My noble Capt. Lot,
I am away four miles from the P. O. & don’t know that I shall have an opportunity of mailing letters for several days but I will write a bit this morning to show my good will toward answering immediately. Yours of May 4th with one from [my sister] Philena & [her husband] John Kerr came last night. Was hardly expecting yours but thank you for it.
So you are at last on the move. Well I suppose it is what you want. If it does bring you into more hardships, you will feel as if you were accomplishing something & that will give you heart to work & suffer, in the hope of the happy, glorious end. I fear you will miss home letters some. They will hardly follow you as regularly as they have gone to Helena [Arkansas]. And it will be a source of fresh grief to your dear Mother that her beloved boy is daily exposed to danger & death in the advance of the army [paper torn] before many months she may have the blessed privilege of clasping that dear son to her bosom again. God grant it may be so! Oh Lot, the day of the soldier’s return is almost too good to think of & yet hope is strong in all hearts now that the day is not very far distant & I guess you think so too for you said, “I hope to be able soon to tell you of the beautiful country we pass through.” I hope you may & of many other things that it will be delightful to hear from your own lips.
I am sorry, Oh! so sorry to hear you say you can’t sing anymore. Why is it the soldier’s all say so. I guess it is only because they don’t practice. We’ll have you at it when you get home. Get you into the old circle with the old books before you & you’ll sing without stopping to think whether you can or not. And as you go across the field to Dick’s, the whistle [paper torn] out spontaneously. ‘Twould not be natural if it didn’t.
War news is quite encouraging lately. Fight & the Eastern Rebels whipped. Richmond ours. Vicksburg surrounded. Oh! that it may prove true. My faith in the speedy success of Union arms is strong & while it remains so, I shall be comparatively happy. Shall not be in much danger of getting homesick. I used to be pretty blue this time last year. Do you know the reason, Lot? I hope I shall not have the cause for sadness this summer. With society of very kind friends here and letters from dear absent ones, & prospect of a happy reunion soon, I ought to be at least contented, ought not I? They are talking some of giving me work to do too. There are two schools open before me — one of which will allow me to board at Grandpa’s, ² the other is in town & I can board at Uncle Gilbert’s. ³ [Paper torn] to my terms, I shall perhaps teach one. Shall find out before I have an opportunity of mailing this. It seems as if it were my fate never to live three months out of the schoolroom. Well, if ’tis my lot, I must not murmer.
I am not letter writing this morning. I’m only talking alternately with you and little cousin Frank whose father is in the army at Carthage, Tennessee. I thought when I first read your letter that you were going to the same place but have concluded there must be two towns by that name. Frank is a bright little three year old, spoiled & petted by mother & grandparents. [He] came upstairs to borrow my knife & having whittled a bit, must look at the pictures of mother, Lydia [Alden], John & Philena [Kerr], which lie on the stand & ask a hundred questions about them. I have likenesses of all my folks, the Rhodes boys, the Liberty group, Jane Beery † and another one or two that I take great pleasure in looking at sometimes.¹ Mt. Alden is probably the location of the Alden family homestead in Washington County, Ohio. There is a location known as “Alden” on today’s maps approximately 4 miles above Marietta on the Muskingum River. The elevation is given as 610 feet. ² Neal is referring to her paternal grandfather, Jonathan Alden (1785-1867). His home was probably at Mt. Alden. ³ Neal’s “Uncle Gilbert” is Barnabas Gilbert Alden (1821-1904) of Salem, Washington County, Ohio. He was married to Betsey True (b. 1824) and they had at least two children: Alice (b. 1845) and Warren (b. 1847). At the time of Neal’s visit to Washington County in 1863, Gilbert was on an extended furlough from the service convalescing at home. He was a 2d Lieut. in Co. H, 92nd Ohio Infantry. He returned to his regiment in mid-August 1863 but was mustered out in October 1863 at Chattanooga, Tennessee, on account of failing health. † Jane Beery (1840-1922) was Neal’s friend from Henry County, Iowa. Jane was the daughter of Levi L. Beery (1814-1893) and Margaret Short (1818-1890).