Lower Salem, [Washington County,] Ohio
June 3d 1863
Well Capt’ your letter from before Vicksburg May 22nd reached me today. Thank you for it. Didn’t hardly expect you’d find time to write amid the din of battle but knew you would relieve the anxiety of your friends as soon as you possibly could. I supposed you were in the heat of the fight & was beginning to feel quite anxious about the fate of the 4th Cavalry & must depend upon private letters for my information as I see no western papers, & papers here seldom name western regiments. I subscribed for the Home Journal before I left expecting to read letters from soldiers at least once a week but the four last numbers haven’t come. Am very glad to learn that your regiment has passed through the fire so well.
I am as usual in good health and spirits. Not homesick yet. I begin to think that time is not coming. It certainly will not while I am favored as I have been this week. Have only received eight letters since Sunday morning — from friends in Zanesville inviting me to visit them, from cousin in Gallipolis, from [my step-brother] Wes’ [Wesley Rhodes] at Cairo, from Jane Beery and from [your sister] Mag’ (she wrote you same day), from Sam Rhodes ¹ — Bugler in Co. E California Battalion, 2nd Mass. Cavalry, & last from Lot. So you see I’ve something to do beside get lonesome. I don’t think I ever knew how much I valued my friends till lately.
I wrote you some from Marietta May 22nd. That eve’ went to Pixley’s ² where I had a jolly time till Sunday eve when we went out to Uncle Rufus’. ³ He lives on a fine bottom farm on the east bank of the Muskingum. I spent a very pleasant week there — sometimes working or talking with Aunt Sophia, hoeing potatoes or going fishing with Coz Russel, or playing a game of chequers or Eucher with Uncle who is convalescent, or reading ‘ Jack Easy’ and the papers. Saturday Russel and I went to town & I was examined. Got a certificate allowing me to teach in this county for sixteen months. I do not like it very well, their best is for two years, but I hope sixteen months is as long as I shall wish one, as I only intend to remain here till the war ends and I get to see my cousins. You speak very hopefully of the termination of the war. Don’t flatter yourself with vain hopes for fear you are disappointed. I don’t know though but we might as well enjoy the good prospect.
We visited also the graveyard in Marietta. It contains quite a curiosity, but I’ll not tell you about it now. † You can come & see it sometime. We have beautiful weather and flowers are in bloom.
You must not blame Dick too severely. I suppose he knew what the picture was before he opened it, & it did not seem to be anything new to the rest. They all know we were corresponding. John often brought me letters & knew your handwriting & when Uncle Colin brought them they generally went to your mothers’ first. None but Elijah ever did as he ought to about them — that is, delivered them to one without remark. I don’t blame you. Sam Willeford ought to have given them to me instead of sending them to Liberty after I had left. I don’t know as I care anything about it. I don’t think any of them object to our friendship & if we are more than common friends, I certainly would not wish to be the one to tell them so. You could do as you thought fit.
[Your sister] Mag’ writes that your mother was quite unwell but that they had just received a letter from you which helped her very much. I know she must be very uneasy about you. I hope you write home every opportunity.
I shall look for that letter from the city next week. I am as ever, — Neal
¹ Samuel (“Sam”) Rhodes (1829-18xx) was Neal’s cousin and step-brother — the son of John Wesley Rhodes (1800-1811) and Neal’s Aunt Sarah Thompson (1809-1847). After Sarah died (1847) and Neal’s father died (1850), Neal’s mother, Demaris, and Sam’s father, (John) married each other in 1851. Sam’s older brother, Clarkson Rhodes (1827-1881) went south before the war and became a captain in the Confederate Army during the Civil War according to one source. According to Military Records, Sam enlisted as a private in Company E, 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry, on 5 February 1863. He was later promoted to Corporal before mustering out of the service on 20 July 1865 at Fairfax Court House, VA. Regimental records indicate that Co. E, F, L, and M were formed at San Francisco, California in February 1863, left San Francisco for Readville, Massachusetts, in late March, and joined the regiment at Readville in mid-April 1863. They were known as the “California Battalion.”² The Pixley Family that Neal visited in or near Marietta must have been Neal’s second cousin, Argulus Pixley, Jr. (1812-1894) — the son of Argulus Pixley (1773-1850) and Abigail Alden (1776-1857). Argulus, Jr. married Sarah Watkins (1814-1857) and had 6 children, the five youngest being young women about Neal’s age. ³ Neal’s “Uncle Rufus” was Rufus Gustavus Alden (1834-1897). Rufus was a half-brother to Neal’s father, Zephania. He was a son of Jonathan Alden (1785-1867) and Jonathan’s second wife, Orpha Rice (1796-1865). Rufus married Sophia Eliza Stacy (1834-1916) in May 1857. The children living at the time of Neal’s visit were: Clark Stacy Alden (1858-1866; drowned in Muskingum River), Charlie Rice Alden (1859-1879), and Russell True Alden (1861-1938). † Neal is probably referring to the large mound, 30 feet high and 375 feet in diameter, that was in the center of the cemetery at Marietta. The mound was built by the Adena culture between 800 B.C. and 100 A.D.