7 October 1863

Salem, Ohio
October 7th [1863]

Mr. Lot Abraham,

Yours of the 24th ult. arrived today. ‘Tis very welcome. I should not have been surprised if it had come from Chattanooga as I had heard that you were sent there. I suppose you are in Iowa now, but I hope you heard the good news that I have long before this for I know the terrible suspense you were in until you heard that your dear mother was better. I had a letter from [your sister] Mag’ on Monday & she wrote that she was much better — able to sit up all day & walk round some. You will enjoy the short visit very much.

Mag’ says it made her mad to see Neal Spearman there again & think you couldn’t come, but she was looking for you. Neal had told her you would come. When I read your letter today (it was at the schoolhouse at noon), I almost wished I might be there to see my good friend once more but it can’t be this time. ‘Twould be only for a short a time anyway. You won’t more than have time to talk to your mother, Mag’ & [your brother] John, without more than saying how d’ye do to any others & a letter once in a while is more than I deserve anyway.

You speak of the weddings in the [Home] Journal. Worse that all come today Ed’ Howe & Frank Fowler, ¹ that’s a surprise to me sure. Well let them marry. I have no reason to object.

Had a letter from [my sister] Lydia today. She writes startling news from home. Our long lost brother Franklin Rhodes ² from whom we had not heard but once in nearly ten years is at home. How or why he has come now, I’m sure I don’t know. Folks were well generally & I think if they all get round as fast as Lydia does, they ought to be healthy. Since her school closed, she has been to Chicago & a hundred or so miles west, at home, to Salem, to John Kerr’s, & at Mt. Pleasant, & was on the eve of a trip to Beery’s, Swan’s, &c. &c. Well maybe I’ll call round and see them all again sometime — maybe next fall. I think I should give Liberty a call as I passed too. Mag’ is the best correspondent I have in Iowa, though [my sister] Lydia & [my brother] John do very well. Jane Beery isn’t so punctual as she used to be & I haven’t had a letter from Jane Boyles ³ since I came here though she had written very regularly for six months before I left.

When this Cruel War GLC 04706Yes, John’s visits to her would be rather a joke on the “business transaction.” I did not think of that. I had to study awhile before I could think what you meant. Dan is with them & Mag’ & he have some great times. She has a favorite song which I sent her, entitled “My Lover in the Army.” She’ll sing it for you. The one you sent her is a great favorite here. The girls can sing with a will, “When this Cruel War is Over” praying that we meet again. The Salem Choir sung “Hail Columbia,” “We’re Coming Father Abraham,” &c &c last Wednesday at the grand [John] Brough rally here. We had quite a respectable little company, a good Union Speech, some martial music, & some rain. All the girls but me (I thought it was not best to give up my school entirely for the sake of politics) were going up Duck Creek to a mass meeting today but a steady drizzling rain drowned their calculations.

I will be glad when next Tuesday is passed for I am getting tired of the continual strife. I am disgusted with being constantly reminded of the fact that our suffering, bleeding northern states, which have so freely sent forth the noblest & best of their sons for the rescue & salvation of our federal government, yet nourish & protect — or at least tolerate — traitors of so mean a class that the common soldiers in Bragg’s army would be disgraced by the comparison. But I will get excited & not know where to stop if I get started on this subject so I’ll quit before I commence.

We have letters at last from Chattanooga. All of our boys came out safe except my favorite cousin Melvin [True] † who has a slight wound. I only wish it was enough to send him limping home for a few days at least. I am very anxious to see him. My cousin in Memphis ‡ sent me a likeness of himself the other day. He makes a right good looking picture. I got a dozen little shadows of myself taken last week for distribution. They are all gone but one. Only one went to Iowa & that was to Mag’. I fear I am making this tedious & uninteresting but if you do not complain, I suppose I need not. I only write for the sake of provoking answers you know.

Whew!! [Cousin] Alice has just started the fire & put on a fresh supply of coal. Ain’t I glad I don’t have to live always in a country where they burn the nasty black stuff. I expect I’ll wish myself by Dick’s big fire or some other place many an evening this winter, but it’s only for this winter. I suppose you won’t get this till you return to your regiment & then you’ll tell me all about your visit.

For the present, “Good Bye.”

From your friend, — Neal

¹ Edward Payson Howe (1838-1915), the son of Samual Luke Howe (1808-1877) and Charlotte Perrin (1811-1896), was married to Francis (“Frank”) C. Fowler on 30 September 1863 in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. Francis must have died prior to 1870, however, as Edward remarried in that year to Ella Powers Sunderland (1840-1904).
² Franklin Rhodes (1835-1890) was Neal’s cousin (and step-brother). Franklin is enumerated in 1863 Draft Registration Records as a 29 year-old single man residing in Jefferson, Shelby County, Missouri.  Once source says that he relocated to Kansas Territory before the war and fought with a Kansas Regiment but I cannot corroborate that from military records.
³ Jane Boyles (1839-18xx) was the wife of James L. Boyles (1829-18xx). The Boyles had at least three children by the time Neal wrote this letter in 1863: Elizabeth Boyles (b. 1858), Priscilla S. Boyles (b. 1860)  and James William Boyles (b. 1861). Census records suggest the Boyles were originally from Pennsylvania, then in Iowa in 1856, in Virginia in 1860, but back in Iowa by 1861. Jane’s maiden name is not known.
† Cousin Melvin Clark True (1839-1920) served in Co. G. 36th Ohio Infantry. Though Neal does not reveal the engagement in which Melvin was wounded, it was probably at the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia (19-21 September 1863) in which his unit participated.
‡ Neal’s cousin in Memphis, we learn from a previous letter, was John William Alden (1840-1915) serving with Co. B, 89th Indiana Infantry. See: 2 September 1863 Letter.

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