[near Salem, Iowa]
Sunday, May 28th 1865
My own dear friend,
There is no one to whom I would love to talk as well as to you this mild and quiet summer Sabbath evening, but for the present I must be satisfied with the poor substitute of pen ink & paper, although compared with the sweet communion when heart may speak to heart through the eyes or the soul thrilling touch, it seems a very poor substitute. Yet ’tis a dear privilege to be allowed to send kind words to the loved and absent even in this way. I have given myself the satisfaction of writing often and of hoping they might reach you sometime and be a source of pleasure or of comfort. I fear some of them would be sorry comfort though, for ’twas a long dreary season of waiting when no tidings — not even newspaper reports — could be got from your division, and the great alternations of national joy and then the deepest national sorrow kept my mind in a continual state of excitement for weeks. Then I had almost a continual nervous headache for a month. Whether the state of my mind caused ill health or the sickness gave me the blues, I cannot say. However it is all passed now and I believe I am as well and cheerful and hopeful as ever since you have been a soldier. I only write this as a kind of apology for some melancholy scribbling I have done if it should happen to reach you. I know it would trouble you if you thought I was unhappy, but dear Lot, I have no cause of sorrow — only your absence — and you know I have resolved to bear that bravely till your work is done.
[Your sister] Mag’ wrote me immediately after they received yours of April 29th & sent me the note you directed to her. She was half wild with the joy of your speedy return. Your promise to help [your brother] John take care of the crop if he would plant it was enough to set your dear mother to shouting. Oh Lot, when you do actually get home that will be the happiest family this side of heaven and if I had no interest in you other than as their friend, oh how I should rejoice for they are all very dear to me for their own sakes as well as yours. But oh Lot, you are to come as the loved son, the idolized brother, the honored patriot soldier, but best of all as my own Lot. My cup of joy will indeed be full.
But I am trying to write in the dark. I have a candle now and though ’tis past bed time I’ll write a little more. But there are so many things to say I hardly know what to say first. I was in Salem today and listened to a short lecture from my dear old Grandfather. ¹ He is very feeble but better than he has been. I had thought he never would speak in public again, and presume this is about his last. Have four weeks more of school and intend to put in most of the time visiting my numerous friends in the vicinity as I am in walking distance of two neighborhoods where I have taught before. ‘Twill make the time pass of more rapidly and that’s one great object to the waiters. My letters help that on a great deal and if one of yours might only come occasionally, oh how much better ‘twould be. I believe I got mine last week from different sources, and no bad news in any all hopeful and joyful in prospect of the good time ahead. The prospect is so delightful what will the reality be I hardly dare imagine. But I must quit. Remaining ever faithfully and truly your affectionate and hopeful, — Neal.
May the Good Father bless thee with the choicest of His good gifts and bring thee safely home to friends and love and peace and happiness, fervently prays — S. C. A.¹ Neal’s grandfather was Rev. Samuel Thompson (1782-1867).