31 July 1864

Mt. Pleasant, [Iowa]
Sunday, July 31st, 1864

Dear Lot,

I must talk to you a while this morning, while [my sister] Philena gets breakfast, and the rest take their morning nap. I want to tell you I was so very glad to get a letter from you again when I came to town yesterday. Three weeks had seemed a long time, and we were in terrible suspense all the time too, lest you should meet with some disaster on your dangerous expedition. We had ‘Hawkeye‘ reports of your safe return and were relieved but the assurance from the pens of the dear absent ones themselves was hailed with joy. [Your sister] Mag and I came in yesterday, both wanting letters from Lot, but she was disappointed. That was too bad, for your mother was so anxious. I told her all the good news I received & she would carry it to her mother. It does seem providential how the 4th Cavalry passes through so many hard places with so little loss, & I feel that I can never sufficiently live out my gratitude to that God who has so mercifully preserved you from wars perils, & I fervently pray that his kind care may still be over you if it is necessary that you serve your country three years longer in the camp and field.

War has at length made a sad breach in our family. I learned yesterday that our California brother Sam Rhodes is supposed to have fallen in one of those bloody disastrous frays near Washington. ¹ His comrade wrote the sixth day after the battle and could give me no word, only that when last seen he was firing in the front rank. There is a possibility that he is a prisoner but it’s most probable he was shot. I hardly knew Sam, for I had not seen him for twelve years, but l loved him for the kind letters he always wrote to me. I shall miss them sadly now.

Myself and all my friends in the vicinity are well. I have not felt perfectly stout & well in four years as I have for the past month. Nothing worries me. Mag told you some of our exploits. I did not feel very much flattered by your comment upon my ‘Fall employment,’ — “will do” is rather cool & indefinite. Perhaps I was rather fast in taking the position offered me in your mother’s family for a short time. Other ladies with a more refined & delicate sense of propriety would have avoided so close contact with the family of her betrothed, but my dull comprehension cannot exactly see the reason. Unless there were faults on either side which it were necessary to hide, because they were too great to be overlooked or forgiven. Mag’ needed help. I was able & had time to help her. Your mother proposed that I should do so and offered terms that appeared reasonable & I accepted them thinking the arrangement would be an advantage to myself and profitable for them without in the least taking into consideration what might be said on the subject by those that could have no possible interest in the affair. I believe I have always had a kind of foolhardy disregard of the opinions of outsiders, but I could not brook your displeasure, Lot. Your good opinion, your love, & esteem are more precious to me than all things else in the world. But pray do not think for an instant your little remark has called forth all this mess of talk. ‘Twas principally in answer to some silly remarks I heard yesterday & I presume will not be very edifying to you. I shall go back to my work tomorrow, cheerful and happy as far as I can be while my best friend is so far away and talks of remaining three years longer.

I enjoy myself very well indeed at Liberty. There is a kind of outside pressure at work to get Mag’ and I into the Ladies Union League. ² Mag’ does not seem inclined to join them & I have not made up my mind yet. What do you think about it? There’s a thousand more things I’d like to talk to you about but ’tis too tedious writing. Besides, ’tis Sunday School time and I want to go. Alice is here with Philena and says tell you to come home soon. She wants to see you and I second the motion. I shall expect four or five letters to my one while you are in camp. Hope you will find time to write me some good long ones.

Good morning now. — Neal

¹ Company records don’t indicate what happened to Sam Rhodes (b. 1829) in the aftermath of this July engagement but he was not killed as Neal apprehended. He mustered out of the service with his unit in July 1865. [See footnotes on Neal’s letter of 3 June 1863.] The engagement is not identified by Neal but it was undoubtedly the raid on Washington D. C. in which confederate forces under Jubal Early nearly marched into the Nation’s capital.  Fierce fighting in the streets at the margin of the city finally turned back the confederates.
² Union Leagues were started all over the North during the Civil War to promote loyalty to the Union and the policies of the Lincoln administration.

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