On board the ‘Saint Cloud‘
Lying at St Louis, Thursday noon April 16th ’63
Dear Friend Lot,
I told all my friends here “Good bye” last night and came on board this boat expecting to start in a short time, but night passed and half of today is gone and we are here yet. While everyone else seems inclined to murmur and complain at the delay, I must say I am heartily glad of it. That’s queer isn’t it? Not very either, and I’ll tell you the reason. This morning when I found we were not ready to start, I concluded that fretting would not move the boat, so I got Harper’s Magazine which Newt gave me for company on the road and read until I was tired, wrote in my Journal, then a letter to Maggie and we were still the St. Louis wharf. So I got my bonnet and shawl and asked the clerk if I could have time to run up and put it in the office. He said I could and the reason I am glad is that when I got there, I got that precious little letter of yours that you feared would not meet me, and sure enough it wouldn’t if I had not found the attractions in the city stronger than I expected.
Two weeks ago today, I stood on the guard of the Die Vernon¹ and watched Iowa as we swiftly passed out of sight. My trip down here was quite pleasant — had beautiful weather and moonlight nights [and] did not stop in any town but Quincy where Mr. and Mrs. Morehouse got off. I went up in town with them. ‘Tis quite a pretty place but I’d rather not climb the bluffs.
Arrived here the morning of the 3d. Found Milt [Rhodes] and his wife well and apparently glad to see me. The next day we went out to the [Benton] Barracks [and] saw Newt [Rhodes], Wesley [Rhodes], ² and many other friends in the 14th Regt.; also A. J. Newby ³ of the 4th Cavalry who very kindly escorted me to the theater in the evening. Sunday we went to Lafayette Park — a beautiful place, visited some of the Forts and I got to see a real cannon.
The 14th left here for Cairo and Newt & Milt are kept so busy at their offices that they scarcely had any time to go round but [my step sister,] Eliza [Jane Rhodes] & I put in the time faithfully, going wherever it was proper for us to go alone. I have seen many things new and strange, but not withstanding all the advantages of a city, the visit has only made me prize the peace & quiet of a country home more. I formed no acquaintances of any account here. Eliza had been romantic enough, depending on her penetration and knowledge of character, to select a certain young Lieut. with whom I was to be particularly pleased & she was resolved throughout his influence to make the attractions in St. Louis so strong that I would not be able to leave & thus she would secure my company through the summer. But either her genuine for matchmaking was at fault or something else was the matter for she did not appear to succeed at all even in getting us acquainted.
Newt’s wife [Percilla Rhodes] came down yesterday morning [and] reports all quiet at Mt. Pleasant. I haven’t had any letters yet. Of course when Percilla came we all had to go with her to the barracks to see her husband, so we spent the day there and the evening at the Theater. Every evening has been occupied in some such way, at concerts and suppers, (by the way I have learned to eat oysters). Eliza said it had to be done and of course I must obey.
The engine begins to groan, the bell rings, and now we are in motion & now I am away from everyone whom I have ever known. ‘Tis rather a sad thought, that I may not see a familiar face again for months. How fast we move. St. Louis is fading from sight. Yonder is a large building with a flag. ‘Tis the Marine Hospital. †
The grass begins to show, now we are passing the island all covered with green willows. You know I can’t write much for I must look. The Missouri side looks beautiful, but ‘twould be pleasant to have someone beside me who would answer all my questions. Those fine houses on the bluff surrounded by peach trees are grand. The trees are in full bloom. The motion of the boat causes me to make rather crooked writing.
I am glad my letter suited you. I don’t flatter myself that I shall always be able to do as much. I believe the wish I didn’t thank you for was that I might get back to Iowa before you do. I hope the soldiers will all get home before I get tired of Ohio. ‘Twas quite a fall for Mr. [George J.] Sharp to drop from Capt. to 2nd Lieut. I heard of it through a letter of his to Newby. I shall try & mail this at Cairo. Direct your next to Lower Salem, Washington Co., Ohio, & you need not fear but it will meet me. There has been considerable excitement about the fight at Charleston, but we have no very encouraging news yet. Oh, I do hope we will succeed there. The war seems to progress very slowly, but I suppose it must end sometime.
Friday morn. Clear & cool & pleasant. We are gliding swiftly down the Mississippi. Expect to reach Cairo this afternoon. Yours as ever, — Neal¹ The Die Vernon steamboat apparently plied the waters of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. She is mentioned in the 15 September 1863 issue of the Illinois State Register (Springfield, IL) as lying at the wharf in St. Louis when the four steamboats — the Imperial, Hiawatha, Jesse K. Belle, & Post Boy — went up in flames and drifted down river. Though the flames spread “with amazing celerity”, the Die Vernon “marvelously escaped.” ² Neal’s step-brothers — Isaac Newton (“Newt”) Rhodes (b. 1836), Milton Rhodes (b. 1838), and [John] Wesley Rhodes (B. 1843) — all served in the 14th Iowa Infantry. Wesley was wounded, Newton and Milton were taken prisoners at Shiloh but escaped from Macon, Georgia. ³ Aaron J. Newby was 26, and living in Glasgow, Jefferson Co., Iowa, when he enlisted in Co. M of the 4th Iowa Cavalry on 30 October 1861, when the regiment was first organized. On 27 November 1861, while in Camp Harlan, he was elected as the 2nd Lieutenant of Co. M. He was assigned on detached duty as the Post Adjutant at Benton Barracks in St. Louis from March 1862 to December 1863. On 15 December 1863, Newby was discharged from the 4th Iowa Cavalry, and commissioned as the 1st Lieutenant and Adjutant on the Field & Staff of the 11th Missouri Cavalry. His orders read: “…mustered out as 2nd Lieutenant of the 4th Cavalry, and commissioned 1st Lieutenant & Adjutant of 11th Regiment Cavalry Missouri Volunteers by His Excellency, H. R. Gamble, Governor of Missouri, to fill a vacancy vice Parsons, promoted and mustered in upon the service to take effect Dec 15, 1863.” Newby tendered his resignation on 23 January 1865 and left the Army. † The Marine Hospital was in the southern portion of St. Louis, below the Arsenal grounds, occupying an elevated and healthy position overlooking the river. It was a beautiful brick structure, built by the United States in 1854, and devoted to the care and attendance of sea-faring men.