17 July 1864

Liberty [Iowa]
July 17th 1864

My own soldier,

Thanks for your favor of the 4th. I got it last night with numerous others from Salem, the Potomac, &c. &c. — the first from any place for two weeks for we’ve been scouting you know. I wrote you from here last week. Sunday Dick & Becca took us over to Mr. Jackman’s. Got acquainted with John Jackman’s [family]. Like him very well. If he was only a soldier. They lean too much toward Copperheads to suit me.

Monday we went to the Grove. [My sister] Lydia had to go into school. ‘Twas rather hard after her weeks play. Alice & I helped her some though. I had a great time visiting round with my old quaker friends. Oh! I’ve got a joke to tell you. You know Old Jonathan ¹ is divorced from Mrs. Boyle and now he wants a young wife. And don’t you think he’s been trying to coax Lydia to have him, telling her what a nice house and orchard and farm she might have and she might do anything she pleased, even teach school if she wanted to if she would only be Mrs. Jones ha-ha-ha. It makes her so mad to speak of it. I told her I was going to cut her out & did it too. Went with him and his daughter to West Point to a Circus but believe I got worst end of the bargain. ‘Twas about the worst time I ever saw. The Old —–  he ought to be killed.

We went up to Joel’s Thursday, stopped at Fraziers’ a little bit. Friday I rode a fancy pony.  Joel keeps all over the prairie almost making calls among old acquaintances & enjoyed it first rate. But was pretty tired when night came. There was no rest then though for the whole Garrettson tribe came out to see us — especially Cyrus, ² and between moonlight promenades and buggy rides, &c. &c., part of the night was put in.

Yesterday morn we spent in the cherry trees. I never saw such a supply of cherries before. Left Alice deep in the business. Guess she’ll stay there a little while anyhow & I’m on hand to go to work. Mag has already started her wheel & mine will start in the morning.

‘Tis too hot today for comfort any place only out under the old Locust trees & there Mag & I are writing. She’s writing to Red. We have just swapped pens. Guess I haven’t made much by the trade. We talk of going to the Chapel to singing this P.M. Am afraid ’twill be poor pay though. Guess I don’t feel much in the humor for anything today. Maybe your letter will account for that though. I hardly know how much I had hoped to see you this fall. Oh Lot, how can I tell you to stick to your post of duty in the army & that to keep you away from me. We are all apt to be selfish & my poor waiting heart cries come home! You have served your country long enough. You are sacrificing health & the prime of your life while others are staying at home & laughing at your efforts while they have as much interest in your success as you have and others still are making a speculation of our misery. Give it up and come home and we at least will be happy. But I must still those heart yearnings and think reasonably. Could either you or me be happy knowing that we had shrunk from duty and taken a position with traitors and cowards at home. But I know your mind is made up and know your brave, true, noble nature well enough to honor your decision without a murmur. You know the greatest happiness of my life is to have you near me. But if my country and your honor calls us apart I must say amen though it comes choked with tears. I still hope you are mistaken and will get to make us at least a short visit this fall. But if I may not see you I cannot love you less. Your welfare is ever my greatest concern.

We have the report that Grant has captured Petersburg. If true ’tis only one more little step in the terrible march that is yet to be made. May God speed our armies onward. I have already had several calls to teach this winter but taken up with none certainly yet. Pilot Grove is first on the list but I’m afraid there’s too much work and poor pay there. Fraziers’ is next. I like that first rate if they’ll come up to terms. I’m afraid they won’t though. I ask good wages. For the present I’ll say Good bye and hope and work on.

Sunday evening. We have been up to the chapel to singing. Had a very warm walk. Barnes was principal singer as usual. Jim Chandler, Ben Jenkins, and John were main ones on the bass; Mag, Mary Jenkins, Marth Heater & the Miss Blakemore & a few stragglers on the other side. Made rather a small affair of it, don’t you think. We are all in a pretty good humor tonight for we have just heard that you have all got back to Memphis and ’tis reported that Old Forrest is dead. ³ That’s very good if true. There is also cheering news from the Idaho gold seekers. † That would not be of much importance only on Sarah’s account. ‘Twill cheer her and she is lonesome and anxious as any of us.

This is a beautiful night. Moon bright and full. I am scribbling this by moonlight making the marks heavy so I can see them. I would love to talk to you so much tonight. Many evenings we have spent together here but we did not enjoy them as we would now. Could you be here, and the time when you may come looks so far distant. This is weary waiting. You do not feel it as I do, for you are at work trying to hasten on the happy time while I can only wait. My faith and hope almost fail me sometimes and then I fear that God has appointed us to walk in separate paths through life, that our work may always be apart. That this cup of happiness has been placed to my lips only to be dashed away when I have only begun to taste its sweetness. May God give us faith and patience! I’ll look for another letter now you have got back and for the present I’ll say Good Night.

I am ever truly, Neal

¹ “Old Jonathan” was undoubtedly the same Jonathan Jones who was born a Quaker near Freeport, Harrison County, Ohio, on 12 Feb 1815, making him almost 50 years old when this letter was written. A descendant wrote of him that he was “disowned by the Quakers as a teenager, [yet] he nevertheless moved with his Quaker parents, Isaac and Mary Millison Jones, and his six siblings, to Salem, Henry County, Iowa, probably in the spring of 1840. They were joined shortly by members of the Buffington, Jackman, and Millison kindred who shared the same origins in Pike Run Twp., Washington Co., PA. Jonathan soon bought land and moved to the site of Pilot Grove in Lee County. About 1843, he married (1) Eleanor Steele (b. abt 1820), of currently unproved Ohio parentage. They had six children, three surviving infancy. The three who did not were Abigail 1845 (10 mo 28 days), Henrietta 1851 (1 yr 8 mo 2 days), and William 1853 (6 mo 10 days). They are buried in the Old Pilot Grove Cemetery with their mother, the first four interments there. After Eleanor died in 1858, the year Pilot Grove was platted, Jonathan married (2) Sarah Buffington from Cincinnati about 1866. Sarah was his first cousin once removed (his maternal grandparents and her paternal great grandparents held in common). They had three sons, William Harry, Walter Clyde, and (Dr.) George Washington Jones. The family moved to Keokuk, Iowa, in 1874. Jonathan died there in 1883.”
From Neal’s letter we learn that Jonathan took a wife named “Mrs. Boyle” before he married his cousin Sarah. That marriage apparently ended in divorce. The daughter of Jonathan’s who accompanied them to the circus in West Point, Iowa, was probably Hariet Jones (1845-19xx) who later married a Goodell. Hariet recalled that her father’s house served as the post office and the stage stop between for a service that ran from Salem to West Point, Iowa. [Source: 1893 letter edited by Gair Tourtellot (2008)]
² Cyrus Lewis Garretson (1839-1889) was born in Darby Creek, Franklin County, Ohio (west of Columbus).
³ Once again, the rumors of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s death proved false; he lived until 1877. After the war, Gen. Sherman investigated the allegations against Forrest for the ordering the murder of black Union soldiers who had surrendered at Fort Pillow in April 1864. He concluded there was insufficient evidence to charge him with war crimes. Forrest went on to organize the Ku Klux Klan following the war.
† Gold was discovered on Orofino Creek (Idaho) in the fall of 1860.

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