23 April 1865

Pidgeon’s [near Salem, Henry County, Iowa]
Sunday, April 23d 1865

Dear Lot,

‘Tis nearly two weeks since I wrote anything to you. Every day of that time I have looked for some word from you & still I look in vain. The last I heard was your note on the eve of leaving Eastport. The “last opportunity” as you called it. ‘Twas almost cruel in you to say that for it has put terrible fancies into my head while I have so anxiously waited. I try to banish gloomy thoughts tho’ & be cheerful and hopeful and have succeeded very well most of the time.


News of Lincoln’s assassination caused Neal to confess to Lot that “the clouds of sorrow and despair were thicker and blacker than ever before.”

Last Saturday evening’s news took away all my fortitude for the time at least and the clouds of sorrow and despair were thicker and blacker than ever before. I felt that in the murder of our honored President the powers of evil had triumphed — that a just and holy God had withdrawn his protecting arm and given us up to destruction. ‘Twas wicked to feel as I did and I hope I shall never feel so again. The blow to our country was a terrible one and you have felt it too as every man who loves his country has. And felt humiliated that in our country, which we are proud to call the land of Freedom, even before our very faces, virture and truth are no shield against the assassin’s knife. The man whom in the four years of terrible trial we had learned to venerate as an affectionate & faithful parent is struck down by a traitorous villain who through him would strike the very vitals of our nation at our nation’s capital. But perhaps it is best. We’ll talk it all over soon won’t we?

It seems as if the long looked for end is very near now and oh it makes me so happy to think of that. That I shall live to see my country at peace and really the land of liberty. But best of all, dear Lot (and am I not selfish to say so?), I shall see you once more and more I cannot say.

Friend Cyrus [Garretson] called this morning to bring me last week’s Hawkeye’s. From them, I get a hint of Wilson’s march through Alabama & arrival at Mobile. ¹ Now questions arise. Did they reach there in time to participate in the fight? Who is hurt and is Lot safe? But I’ll have to wait for answers. How patiently I shan’t say. But I’ll hope for the best.

I’ve been teaching three weeks and school goes on very well. Nothing else has taken my attention. Haven’t even been to Lodge though Cyrus has been down for me two or three times. He’s very kind — rather too much for his own good.

I haven’t been very well. Nothing serious — only protracted spells of sick headache. That’s an excuse for not going out. I must try to go to Lodge Tuesday evening for Templars ought to work now surely, for drunkenness is getting to be too common and oh how we ought to labor to snatch the victim from the horrible fate or remove the block from the path of the stumbler.

My recesses I’ve spent in reading Pollock’s Course of Time. ² Beautiful yet sad. Should have enjoyed it so much with an appreciative companion. But this week I’ve listened to the Call of “Repent Ye” from John on the river Jordan and followed the multitude to hear Christ, followed Him through his short sorrowful yet glorious sojourn on Earth until the clouds recieved Him from sight. By reading the “Prince of the House of David” Oh what beautiful, sublime, holy, pure thoughts it awakens. Would you have enjoyed that with me Lot? We’ve hardly begun to get acquainted yet. ‘Twill take a life time for that. May our kind Father grant that we be soon reunited and may we spend many years of happiness together here and finally walk the streets of the new Jerusalem in company is the humble fervent prayer of your own loving & true — Neal.

Selma Arsenal and Naval Gun Works (1865)

Selma Arsenal and Naval Gun Works (1865)

¹ The great cavalry expedition — later coined “Wilson’s Raid” — was orchestrated by Brig. Gen. James H. Wilson (who commanded the Cavalry Corps of the Military Division of the Mississippi, but was attached to Thomas’s army). Gen. Thomas ordered Wilson to lead a raid through Alabama and strike the Arsenal and Naval Gun Works at Selma where Confederates still maintained a military base in March 1865. After capturing the Selma Arsenal, Wilson’s horsemen went on to victory in the Battle of Columbus, which is often referred to as the last battle of the Civil War as it was fought on 16 April 1865 after Lee’s surrender and President LIncoln’s assassination.

² The Course of Time was a ten-book poem in blank verse written by Scottish poet Robert Pollock. It was first published in 1827. An illustrated edition was published in 1857 which renewed its popularity.

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