23 November 1863

Salem, Ohio
November 23d 1863

Capt. L. Abraham
Dear friend,

I will write a little for your satisfaction though I have nothing of importance to communicate — only that I received by today’s mail a letter from you (Nov 5th) and one from Jane Beery containing all the items of interest in that vicinity including the visit of Capt. Abraham to his home and the attendant festivities, the death of Al Cornwell ¹ and Bob’ Curtly, ² the return of Walker Andrews, ³ the complaint that Liberty can’t find a school woman to suit them since I left &c, &c.

She is going to teach on the Prairie close to Lydia. My old friend Maggie Todd is married and living there. I was much surprised to hear that she had married that stay-at-home bachelor, John Bennet, when I thought she was going to wait for that handsome little Jackson of Co K. 4th Iowa Cavalry. † What has become of him?

I hope for your own comfort you won’t have to lie in camp all winter. I think you will feel better and enjoy better health to be moving and accomplishing something, though I most heartily wish you might be spared further hardships and dangers. I should think you would enjoy the quiet of a tent to yourself and allow me to prescribe as a remedy for lonesomeness that you employ all your leisure moments talking to your absent friends. How I should love to look in and spend an evening with you and see how you are fixed to enjoy soldiering, but that would be very improper as well as impossible and I expect ‘twould give me the horrors worse than it did to inspect your quarters at Camp Harlan.

Do you have rainy weather too? It does nothing scarcely but rain here and I was running about considerably last week through the mud (on horseback) and have just finished a big washing which is the natural consequence of such a trip as we took up the creek about sixteen miles. You complain of having to go down one hill and up two. You may be thankful your camp is not on Duck Creek for here you would at least have to go down three hills and up four in order to reach any place. This is indeed a horrible country and I thought I was going to get into some quiet rest where I would not have to look at and walk over it but I see no possible chance, but I’ll have to continue the old business of training the young buckeyes and so ’twill be a constant trudge back and forth to the schoolhouse through sun and shower. Well! I can stand it I guess as well as you poor fellows can stand soldiering and I ain’t going to complain either for it is of my own choosing.

It appears to me I’m making a very poor attempt at writing today but I’m tired and have the headache and there are plenty of folk round talking to me all the time and ’tis too cold to run away by myself. This writing is poor business any way. I’d a great deal rather talk but that can’t be so I’ll do the best I can if ’twill contribute to your happiness any. Oh! Lot, ’tis a very little thing to write a letter once a week but a good one from you on Monday makes the — Do you see the awkward mistake? — time pass much more swiftly and if mine will have the same effect, you shall have them in welcome. You will get my answer to yours of Oct 29th a week or so before you do this. How you will be pleased with it, I dare not guess.

I told you what you knew before — the secret of my heart which I felt you had read more than three years ago. Perhaps I ought not to have put it on paper, but it is safe in your keeping. Oh! Lot, it makes me feel very humble to know that you have chosen poor me out of all the world, to gladden, to enrich with your love. ‘Tis a happiness which I have not deserved. What right has the poor, homeless, wandering school teacher to find a resting place in your brave noble heart? I have nothing to give in return but an affection which has lived and grown in spite of all opposition for the last four years.

But here comes Jane Lingo for me to go down town, so I’ll have to stop for this time. May God bless and keep you Lot! is the fervent prayer of — Neal

¹ This was probably Alpheus Cornwell who served in Co. D of the 4th Iowa Cavalry. Neal’s information was inaccurate, however. Alpheus served out the remainder of the war with his unit and lived until 1909.
Could this be the same Maggie Todd & John Bennett who's marriage is mentioned in Neal's 1863 letter? This picture is attached to the couple from Webster, NE
Could this be the same Maggie Todd & John Bennett whose marriage is mentioned in Neal’s 1863 letter? This picture is attached to the couple from Webster, NE
² This must have been Robert Kirtley of Henry County who enlisted in Co. H, 25 Iowa Infantry. He died at Corinth, Mississippi.
³ This was probably John Walker Andrews (1838-1925) of New London, Henry County, Iowa. He was the son of Isaac Andrews (1806-1878) and Harriet Farr (1811-1882). Walker served in Co. D, 4th Iowa Cavalry.
† Unfortunately I have not been able to definitively confirm the identity of these individuals. For example, a search of the Co. K roster, 4th Iowa Cavalry, did not reveal any cavalrymen named Jackson — first or last name. Perhaps Neal was referring to DeWilder C. Jackson of Mt. Pleasant who served in Co. H. Also, the Maggie Todd–John Bennet marriage in 1863 remains a mystery. I could find no marriage records to confirm this; only a single, scant, and unsourced genealogical entry on Ancestry.com that lists a Margaret Jane Todd (1844-1931), a native of Pennsylvania, who married a John Bennett, a native of Springfield, Illinois, in 1867 (though their first child’s birth is given as 1865). Perhaps this is the couple that Neal referred to. They resided in later years in Webster County, Nebraska.

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