September 2nd 1863
Capt. L. Abraham
Dear Friend Lot,
Your little pencilings from Memphis came today. Thank you for spending the few minutes you had to spare writing for my edification. With yours came a dear little one from mother. Folks are well as far as she knows, but I guess I am better posted than she. Got one also from [cousin] Wesley [Rhodes]. They tell of Milt’s promotion ¹ to a captaincy in the 4th Contraband Regiment organizing at Helena. As you appear to be rummaging all over the country, perhaps you may fall in with him. I shall not be surprised if I should get a letter from you some of these days dated at Chattanooga, Mobile, or Charleston. I almost envy you your scouts & skirmishes & activity. I suppose you have some hard times when you are tired & hungry too.
That reminds me of a situation when I came from school tonight but I laid on the letter & read the Ledger until Aunt Betsy [Alden] called me to supper. I’ve almost forgot what we had, only I know there were tomatoes — that’s my favorite dish.
For three days I have been the Salem Schoolma’am. Guess school teaching in Ohio is about the same as it is in Iowa. Just imagine you see Neal in her pink calico & black apron standing on the platform in just about such a schoolhouse as Old Liberty with a spelling book in one hand and a switch in the other pronouncing ‘Baker’ to a class of a dozen tow-headed urchins & looking over their heads at the innumerable mischievous tricks of thirty others who are supposed to be intent on their studies. I expect the first thing you will think of their doing will be a young man looking through a paper mask. I believe you saw that in my school at Salem once. I haven’t caught anyone at that yet but should not be surprised to see it any time.
Well Lot, why don’t you say something about the war again once in awhile. I’m looking to hear you say you think it can’t last much longer or you are tired of it & think it’s no use to try further. The South can’t be whipped, or that you have a notion to resign & go back out to the old farm, or at least will get a furlough & go & see your friends awhile. That appears to be the fashion here lately. There is a captain & lieutenant from this vicinity. Said captain’s sweetheart lives in Marietta & as a natural consequence he makes that his headquarters & advertises for recruits & the lieutenant ditto in Salem. How would that sort of business suit you? It appears to me I should be a little ashamed of my captain if there was any active service for him to perform & he were spreading round home showing his shoulder-straps. Enough of this.
Aunt Betsy is going to write to Uncle B. Gilbert [Alden] & I must write some for him too & also scribble a bit to put in her letter to her foster son, Tom. So I’ll bid you a very good evening & remain until the close of the war your true & faithful friend, — Neal
P. S. I have a cousin John W. Alden ¹ in the 89th Indiana, Co. B stationed at Memphis. If you make another visit there, you may hunt him up & tell me what kind of a fellow he is.¹ Neal’s cousin, Milton Rhodes (1838-1922) — formerly of the 14th Iowa Infantry — was offered a commission as a Captain of Co. A in the 57th Regiment, US Colored Infantry. This unit was organized 11 March 1864 from the 4th Arkansas Infantry (African Descent). The unit served garrison duty in Helena and Little Rock, Arkansas, and was engaged in minor skirmishes in Arkansas until mustered out in 1866. ² John William Alden (1840-1915) was the son of Paschal Alden (1810-1873) and Asenath Newland (1809-1864). Paschal was the older brother of Neal’s father, Zephania. Regimental records confirm that John W. Alden served as a private in Co. B, 89th Indiana Infantry.