September 27th 1863
Well Lot, you shall have the benefit of a few minutes of my time this pleasant Sunday afternoon. Oh! it is such a beautiful quiet autumn day. The sun shines so rich & warm on the already fading leaves — just about such a day as that was near a year ago when I wrote to you sitting in the shade of the Old Elm away off in Iowa. If you were here to go with me, I should so much enjoy a walk something like the one we took from John Kerr’s ¹ two years ago. Only how very different it would be in all its surroundings. Then we talked of the late battle of Bull Run, neither of us having the most faint ideas of the terrible reality of war, & I at least hardly imagining that it could affect us.
Now you might tell me of the hardships and providential escapes & preservations of camp & march & skirmish & siege & combat, & I should listen & thank God that he has preserved you. But alas! we are not walking & talking. I can only sit here and scribble and you are — I cannot imagine where nor how situated. Oh Lot, your last letter of September 13th almost made me wish I was in Iowa, just for a little while, but the sober second thought told me that ’tis best as it is, though ‘twould be a great pleasure to see you. Yet I would not be the means of distracting your mind for a moment from you duty to your country in this the hour of her calamity. I am willing to make almost any sacrifice for the sake of seeing this rebellion crushed, and would to God that it were in my power to do more than to stay quietly at home. I wish I could do more than tell the soldiers that my heart is with them in their great & noble work. I would like to act out my interest but I see no opportunity and must perforce content myself.
Don’t think I am getting gloomy or blue. On the contrary, I am enjoying myself hugely, working away at my school & between whiles keeping my mind & hands actively employed with reference to the political contest that is so terribly raging here now. Of course I am deeply interested in the welfare of my native state & have too great a regard for her good character to calmly stand by and see a tried & convicted Traitor placed at her helm without using all my feeble efforts to prevent it. Myself & nearly all the Salem girls are busy meeting to practice good patriotic songs to sing on special occasions, attending rally’s, writing, reading, &c., &c.
We went to Marietta Thursday as expected. Had a good time. Heard rousing reasoning speeches from Senators [Benjamin] Wade and [John] Sherman. Yesterday P. M., we watched the Militia drill — Copperheads and all — and last night to prove that we are neither prejudiced nor ignorant, we listened about two hours to a man denouncing the prosecutors of the “cursed abolition war” & the usurpers & tyrants who have violated every principle of truth & justice & set aside the Constitution of the U.S., trampled upon the rights of the people, forced our brave brothers into the field to shoot their brothers, oppressed the people with an unjust and unnecessary debt they will never be able to pay, exhorting them for the sake of their Liberties to vote for C. L. Vallandigham & cloaking all his infamy under the sacred name of Democracy. Thanks to the good sense of the people of Salem, the meeting ended with three deafening cheers for [John] Brough & three groans for Traitors. Enough of this.
We are all very anxious for particulars from the terrible battle in Georgia as the 36th and 92nd Regiments containing all our friends from here were in the thickest of the fight. Hoping this may find you well as I am. I remain yours truly, — Sarah C. Alden¹ Andrew John Kerr (1835-1867) was Neal’s brother-in-law. He was the son of Andrew Kerr (1805-1839) and Sarah Porter (1804-1893). John was married to Philena Alden (1840-1888) in 1860. I have not yet learned the circumstances surrounding John Kerr’s death; family records indicate he drowned in the Des Moines River near Murray, Minnesota in April 1867. After John’s father died in 1839, his mother remarried to Mathew McDowell in Venango County, Pennsylvania and came west to Center Township, Henry County, Iowa in 1856 where Mathew purchased 130 acres of partially improved land. John and his two older brothers, Joseph (b. 1829), and David (b. 1832) made the journey with their mother and step-father. I do not have a picture of John Kerr but I found this one of his older brother, Joseph Kerr (1829-1890) with his oldest son, Andrew (b. 1864) which must have been taken around 1866.