Civil War Love Letters: May 17, 1862
In this letter, James addresses personal matters, primarily responding to information Molly provided in her letters. He thanks Molly for the “Morgan St. news.” In the early 1860s, James’s aunt and uncle, James and Mary Jane Adams, and their four children, John, Mary E., Ellen, and Eliza Ann, lived in a house on Morgan Street. Eliza Ann was married to Molly’s brother, William C. Wilson, who lived in the same house along with their baby, James, and three servants. Molly lived a few blocks away with her mother, Eliza, her brothers, John and Alexander, her sister, Sallie, and her aunt. In many of his letters, James repeatedly mentions Molly’s siblings, especially William, Alexander, and Sallie. James mentions Mrs. William Barr, who also lived nearby, and Mr. Kinear. Oliver Kinear was married to a woman named Lucinda Allison. Molly’s brother Alexander would eventually marry Lucinda’s sister, Lucretia Allison. Molly had recently seen the flowers at “Old Shaws” or Shaw’s Garden, known today as the Missouri Botanical Garden. Finally, James refers to the upcoming marriage of the Prince of Wales. Prince Albert Edward, the eldest son of Queen Victoria, was born in 1841. He met Princess Alexandra of Denmark in September 1861. They became engaged in September 1862 and were married on March 10, 1863.
May 17th 1862
My Dear Molly
It seems late in the day to answer yours of the 30th ult. but so it is. I received it on the same day as I wrote last, & I have been real busy since so now I greet you, last night I rec'd yours of the 6th along with a pile of others including two from Alex, two from Ireland inclosed by Wm. &c. Alex mentioned another he had for me, so I wrote him at once, and now if I can find time I intend to write all my other friends.
I am in good health, tanned as red as a beet, & so I suppose open air, & occasional exercise agrees with me, it is only occasional though, in my capacity as Q.M. I have a dozen of horses (U.S.) at my disposal all the time. I rode day before yesterday over 50 miles & had a good time, visiting our Missouri friends to gain information of guerilla or Jayhawking parties supposed to be lurking around. Don’t suppose I was alone. I was one of a party of Ten mounted scouts (mostly officers) while we had 70 or 80 infantry along, in reserve.
It is glorious galloping over the prairies just now, so fresh & green they are, & we regard not the road, but go straight as we can from house to house, or whatever our destination. The whole expanse is carpeted with flowers, all hues & sizes. Violets have gone, and now sweet Williams are in the ascendant. They are of all colors red, pink, purple & striped or nearly white, & look as tame as possible. Then in places there miles & miles of Strawberry patches all now in flower & within two weeks in fruit, much of it is found now. So with the apple trees in the orchards we pass, just one mass of snowy blossoms. The Peaches came & went two weeks ago & so the whole land is full of beauty, yet the treachery of man to man has made it nigh a desert.
I have a fresh boquet all the time & it makes the old table look like home when I gaze. I hope the glorious victories that we gain daily will soon cause many to experience the realities instead of the mere look.
What do you think? folks in Belfast & elsewhere in the Old World will have it I'm a dead man! Do you believe it likely?
Some of my best friends there say that they've written me two or three times within the last two years, & several of the letters have went back from the dead letter office - while mine to them, they've not recd. I can’t understand it, unless it all happened since I went to Lexington. While gone that time, & since recruiting, I had requested some of my dear friends to enquire for me each time at the office. I suppose they didn't!! My letters at that time were all addressed to James A. these last were addressed to W.C.W.
And now to your letter. Glad to hear that Sallie had her laugh at that poetry. It was enough to make any one smile that was not a lovesick swain. He would have had a dewy eye I'm afraid. As to your Beau the "Prince of Wales" – I’ve seen late papers but observed nothing concerning his marriage. Won’t you kindly let your fancy run in a less elevated channel for the future. I’ve no ambition, & if you can’t, Why! "I want to know!” & then as to the very good friend of yours who done me the pleasure to write & mention your recovery why it was Mr. Kinnear. I’ve got to answer his letter yet.
Thanks for all the Morgan St. news. John seems to have lost all energy. He never was, nor ever will be as good a man, as the Old Man - bad as he is. I can truly sympathize with Mrs. Wm. Barr, & fervently hope that her other brothers may return to her unscathed. I hope you enjoyed your flowers at Old Shaws. I do now in imagination, such is the power of a letter from one you love next to their face & voice, a talisman of pleasure hope & happiness.
So Mrs. Rogers is still opposed to the "neer do weel". I'm very sorry. I like Mrs. Rogers very much, respect her very much, but I was always a very poor hand to make friends & I fear I have failed with her. I know for some time that I have but I'll try again, yet as I can’t change my thriftless way, as I do know that I lack energy somewhat, and as I fear she measures worth somewhat by success - I fear I'll fail again - & then! what then?
If I can only please my Molly who I know measures by another standard though I don’t say that (success) is a bad one. I am impervious to the frowns of for time & the contempt for such cause of the world & so to scenes & pastures new. You wind up by saying my rose bush will soon be in bloom. That at least does well. Thanks to your care however! Might I not do well under the same auspices? So much in answer to the 30th ult. & now apropo of May 6th, so long & interesting & so the hopeful boy thrives, & my favorite keeps in perpetual motion up in Morgan St. Long may they wave! but my favorite once my favorite still. I hold a long time with old friends & pets, just as long as they will let me! & often longer than is to my advantage. Didn't Fowler say I had "Adhesiveness" large - very large in fact. Love of a home too, & that notwithstanding that I am such a rolling stone? When Ellen plagues you! I know she will! Just tell her I ask for her often! I really do like to hear of her, for somehow, with all her faults she interested me from the first, & even when I supposed she might be acting deceitfully by me, (false & fair I know she is, when she chooses) I could not help liking her & treating her well as I knew how!? That aint much?
Tell Sallie I wish to send my love again. There is a virtue you know in perseverance, & as I can’t stop writing, I fear I must come down & take all her abuse. Can I not propitiate her. Give her a kiss for me or ask her shall I fetch one. I'm her most devoted slave you know? but I wouldn't dare tell her.
And now you dear dear girl how can I answer the rest of your letter. I can not now. I can only answer a small part at a time, but I can enshrine it in my heart & let my life be an answer to it as far as poor human nature will allow. I mean especially this imperfect specimen.
I have said before about long engagements I don’t think they are for good, but in our case it is possibly for the best. I don’t see what I could do to give you anything like the comfort & happiness that I hope & suppose you enjoy now - & that is just what is fretting me. So until the Grand Army melts away, I suppose that idea must remain in Dreamland! I feared as much & would not dare to make a movement, for which you or yours would afterward blame me - (under present circumstances) - so I wish'd to know what you thought. I know my comfort would be enhanced incalculably if you were here but I also know that yours would not, & so ere I asked you seriously to come I would tell you & such is the contradiction existing in Human nature, that if you had said yes, I would at once began to paint the dangers & perplexities of camp life in dismal colors - but why speak of it. I knew you were aware of it all & feared much more.
As to the consents to be obtained, & other troublesome matters you mention I usually cut all those things very short. They are generally disagreeable to me & so left to the last - to be hurried over & not thought of, but acted on - but I give them all credit for being sensible people, & though they may do all they can to control such matters yet when they find it is no use & our minds are made up for good some time since, I believe they will all turn round & make things as comfortable & agreeable as possible, & try to prove to you that all such fears were in your own mind. I do hope so & believe it! I think such treatment & far better than the best of them, ever can or will give you - you deserve from them. If I do not. This I say without disrespect to any one, & in the kindest spirit, pray understand it so.
I think of course you are the flower of the flock - old & young - and I am not alone in such opinion, for I’ve heard it from a hundred sources, before I was supposed to be interested - that is before the searcher of all hearts my deliberate opinion, & no flattery intended or implied. I need not begin to make any Protestations. I don’t believe in them - & they are generally of little account as fate or Providence puts events above our control & so all promises for the far future are vain but do I not talk & write enough for to answer many of your other questions. I have generally tried to be as open & as candid in statement as poor human can or can afford to be. I will continue so & try allay all your doubts, or I should say perhaps those so sedulously instilled into you by others.
I am very impulsive, & easily tempted but with a good angel by my side I think - nay I am certain you are not mistaken in me - unless you have built a fanciful ideal - where knowledge you had not in regard to my honor & virtue. As to both I believe I can show cleaner hands than ninety-nine in a hundred. As to the second, I have strict Ideas & live up to them in action. As to the first most every man & woman carries their own standards in their conscience. I try to live up to mine. I find that in many cases it holds me to stricter account than many pillars of the Church, allow theirs to do, while in others they would call me culpable because I cannot admit their standard of action.
If I was a member of the Church I would just act the same. I could not nor would not be a hypocrite and subscribe to any of their narrow views, (say in regard to dancing). I could not, of that character I have more honor than of sinning openly.
Do not hesitate to express your feelings in your letters in any way, I shall not misunderstand you
Never has or shall any other eye see them, unless you request their return - After that come Death!
If I die & it comes not too suddenly, I shall return or destroy them anyhow, as it seems best; That w'd be a point of honor with me.
Anything you have said only heightens my love & regard, & my determination to deserve you - in future.
In the past my conscience accuses me of nothing in which I was willfully unworthy of you, or of which I would be ashamed to have truth told - save only in being a poor hand at a bargain. I can not in conscience "sometimes" act smart.
Do you recollect me arguing with "John" at the supper table concerning shipping corn by rail from what he said. He considers it right to take more latitude than I should in order to come out even. So he is good at a trade. I am not and now I suppose as usual I’ve talked too long & said too much, so with kindest love & wishes to yourself & all friends
James E. Love
Please address to "Olathe P.O." & leave Aubrey out
I expect to have a letter & paper from you tomorrow, & also to write you very soon again on other matters. Since writing the first half of this long epistle, I have been to Olathe to another dance, remaining until next afternoon, & enjoying myself much, as did several other of the officers. The Major (Schneider) who was in command of this post was there also, & proceeded from there to Leavenworth, on what is supposed to be important business.
James E. Love
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