July 4th 1864
This bright and lovely morning of the anniversary of our national independence shines over our earth with as bright a light of hope and promise as it had ever done. We have only to wait & see the developments of its noonday and evening hours. No doubt many a gallant blow will be struck at the life of that hydra-headed monster ¹ that twines its scaly folds in our midst. But if the vitals of the fell Rebel serpent are reached with the whizzing ball and the glistening bayonet of our brave Bluejackets today, we will have to wait with our rejoicings till the news shall have traveled thousand miles, although it comes on lightning wings. If this day only brings good success to our struggling armies, I will not be selfish enough to murmur at any position in which I am placed.
‘Twould have been very pleasant could I meet with young friends in the gay assembly that I’ve not seen for so long, but the situation of suspense in which we linger now has forbidden general rejoicings. And could we meet the sad vacancies which might not be filled would temper all our pleasure with a touch of sorrow. There are a few small celebrations that I hear of today but none in which I take a particular interest that I know of.
We came out to mother’s a week ago today, have been in the vicinity ever since. Went to church yesterday and ’twas amusing, very, to see those that were children a few short years ago, but in their new characters of Ladies & Gents. It almost made me feel old and especially to see the bride always formerly known as Sis. I went home with her to dinner to Baley Willeford’s. Jane & John still there & still unchanged.
Mt. Pleasant [Iowa]
July 4th 64
I commenced writing this at coz Adda’s this morning but was stopped by the call to breakfast, & directly after we footed it to Oakland. Stopped a few minutes to rest when I hailed a wagon load of the greenest Prairie youngsters out on the hunt of the 4th, asked the privilege, and rode into town with them. Find the folks well & taking their 4th quietly at home principally. They are shooting a cannon at it but I don’t know if they have hit it or not.
Who do you think I saw in town this morning? ‘Twas Pauline Hitt & her husband, just returned from California after fourteen years absence. ² I’m so glad for her but did not tell her so. I’ve not spoken to her for near three years. I hear Mrs. Jackman is in town and wants me to go home with her. All she has to do is ask me and I’ll be sure to go, for I want to go very much.
[My sister] Philena & [cousin] Alice keep up such a clack that I can’t write more, so you’ll excuse me. I wish you’d come up so I could talk to you. ‘Tis much trouble to write. I got four letters from Port Royal, South Carolina Saturday evening all from Soldiers. My little boys, you know. One of them contained a handsome picture. Oh, by the way, are you very anxious for a photograph of me, or won’t the old picture do? I can’t get good looking photographs. Hope you’ve got back from that horrible expedition safe.
Oh! when will these awful battles cease. I’m getting almost out of patience. Good bye, Lot. — Neal¹ The secessionist government was often referred to as a “hydra-headed monster” by the northern press. ² Pauline Willeford (1832-18xx) married David Smith Hitt (1822-1893) in June 1849 in Henry County, Iowa. On-line genealogical records for this couple are scanty and say nothing about their having lived in California in the 1850s.