9 May 1864

True Hill
May 9th 1864

Lot, my dearest & best friend,

Two letters from you came today & they with the news of fighting, death & destruction which rumor brings from every course have almost upset my customary cool philosophy & made a woman of me. I am nervous & excited.

Massacre of black union soldiers at Fort Pillow after they had surrendered.

Massacre of black union soldiers at Fort Pillow after they had surrendered.

Oh this terrible war! How it rages! And worst of all, the better part of my life, my heart’s idol, my Lot, is in the front, perhaps to fight on equal terms with the inhuman butchers of Fort Pillow. ¹ Oh Lot, how can I bear it. And yet I would not have you shrink from the danger. No, could I speak to you as you hurry on I would say hunt them to the death. Follow them till the last wretch bites the dust & bid him as he falls, “remember Fort Pillow.” I would glory in the pursuit & extermination of that band of robbers & murders were I to share the danger & the death that may come. But when you are exposed I am weak & fearful. Oh Lot, to lose you now would be worse than death when I have just learned how precious your love is to me, when my soul feasts continually on your affection, then I can think of no earthy bliss unconnected with you. Oh God, be thou in the battle & save my lover. This is my constant prayer & I can think of nothing else tonight. But I ought not to write so for you will not read this until the chase is over.

There are many other things I ought to write. ‘Tis late in the night. I am sitting by the bedside of Aunt Mehitable True ² who is prostrated with typhoid fever. I have been with her a week & have been very busy. In fact, have been pitching into the work like I had been raised to it. Uncle B. Gilbert [Alden] was up this evening & I wanted to go to Salem with him but she thinks no one can wait on her but me & didn’t want me to go.

I guess I have given up the idea of teaching school this summer & am getting very strongly in the notion of going to Iowa. Had a letter from [my sister] Lydia last week in which she tells me that she is going to Iowa City to school [and] will start the first of September. If I remain here to see cousin Melvin [True], I will not see her [Lydia] when I get there & if I do not wait for him I might as well go now, or in the course of a few weeks.

I think I must spend the 4th of July near Mt. Pleasant. Oh! if you could only be there where we have met before in scenes of pleasure. ‘Twill be five years on that day since we first met. For nearly five years I have loved Lot — loved him always though I thought he cared not for me & if I was wretched when I feared he loved another, when I had nothing but the assurance of my own heart to tell me that he was mine, when he had not told me that I was chosen out from all the world to be blessed with his love; if I was miserable at the thought of his choosing another, ’twas only because I loved him so & could not help it.

What another five years may bring, none can tell, but among its many changes for good & ill, I hope it may reunite us. Then we will be happy. Oh! how anxious I shall be until I learn of the success of your expedition. From latest reports, our armies appear to be prosperous. May God grant them success and hasten the termination of this heart-crushing war is the fervent prayer of your faithful, — Neal

¹ The Battle of Fort Pillow (also known as the Fort Pillow Massacre) was fought on 12 April 1864 at Fort Pillow on the Mississippi River in Henning, Tennessee. The battle ended with a massacre of surrendered Federal black troops by soldiers under the command of Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
² Neal was caring for her Aunt Mehitable (Alden) Moses (1816-1897), the wife of Moses True (1810-1885) of Lower Salem, Washington County, Ohio. Their eldest son, Melvin Clark True, is the soldier that Neal often called “her favorite cousin.”

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