May 21st, a.m., 1861
My lovely Freda, by the time You read this Note I will have departed Our fair Home to return, if such is God’s Will, I know not when. Yesterday, North Carolina seceded from the old Union; Destiny demands that I follow Her.
Please, dear Wife, do not begrudge Me My Decision to leave; We have discussed this Subject often and You know My Heart. More precisely, please do not judge harshly of Me, as I feel Myself presented with no viable Alternative: for all that I hold Sacred—Liberty, Honor, Justice, Duty—demands that I proffer My Services to My Country at this Time of desperate Strife and Peril. War is a harsh Taskmaster, My little Dove, and I must obey Its stern, clarion Call. For Freda, in the Tomorrow’s to come, how would I ever face My fellow Citizens—looking Them squarely in the Eye: My Soul serenely Self-confident, with no Sense of Shame or Remorse, My Conscience clear—if I did not fulfill My historic Duty, Now, precisely when My Services are required most? Our Forefather’s did not flinch when the Tyrant King George III attempted to impose his odious Iniquities upon Them, Freda; verily, Our Ancestors embraced Their Fate manfully, took up arms, risked Their very Lives and fought for Their Rights!! I would be aught but a Coward and a disgrace to My proud Lineage if I did not react in the same Noble Fashion against that abominable Lincoln and his Abolitionist Hordes.
Dear, precious Wife, I know that You have profound Reservations about My Resolution to volunteer. I Pray without cease that eventually You, too, will come to Peace with My unshakeable Conclusion to act thusly (for, Truth be told, My Course has been determined by a Power greater than Myself). I trust that when this Understanding permeates Your Mind, You, in Your turn, will faithfully discharge Your Holy Duties by raising Our Children properly—in the true Teachings of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—and vigilantly maintain a positive, loving Atmosphere in Our Beloved Home, whilst I serve My Country in the Field.
Give My Love to Luke and Dinah. Though They be too Young to understand why Their Father has gone from Them so precipitously—offering but little Explanation which They may comprehend to justify My abrupt Absence—I trust implicitly that You will lead Them to this Truth: that I love Them, and that I have undertaken this grim Sacrifice so that They may live freely; and, I Pray to God, to ensure that They need never make a similar wrenching Sacrifice in Their own Lifetimes.
Be strong, Freda, for these Times of Struggle and bitter Quarrel will require much from Us all.
P.S. Do not worry, dear loved One—I did not neglect to bring Your Tintype, securely nestled in Its exquisite, velveteen Case. In the same Case You thoughtfully placed the Auburn Lock of Hair that You so recently cut from Your fair Head with Your own delicate Hands. You performed this Ablution so Chastely, so Tenderly—yet so Seriously, with a quiet Solemnity that frightened Me as I surreptitiously espied You, the last Light of the Day’s Fire faded to simmering Coals in Our Bed Chamber Hearth: the faint Glow flaring in Copper and Amber Tones along the Strands of loose Hair that straggled from Your elegant Coiffure; a crepuscular Flicker that placed a wavering Halo upon Your knitted Brow and lit Your luminous Mahogany Eyes, shimmering moist with welling Tears—all the while murmuring quiet Admonitions and mild Entreaties to Me not to forget Your singular Gift in My juvenile rush to be off to War.
You fretted needlessly that Night, dear Wife. How could I ever neglect or heedlessly abandon such a priceless Treasure? I may be unorganized as I stumble through My daily Affairs, but I most certainly could never leave Your physical Presence for such an indeterminate Time, and under such uncertain Circumstances, without first securing for Myself some concrete, corporeal Reminders of You. I will cherish These as much, if not more, than My own Life; for You are My Life, and I cannot exist without You.
Your ever faithful Husband, James
Camp McIntosh Near Goldsboro, NC June 3rd, p.m., 1861
My lovely Wife,
Please kiss Dinah and Luke several Times for Me!
How I miss You and the Children, yet We have been less than two Weeks apart! Since My Departure from You, Time seems to have become, paradoxically, both immobile and fast-flowing, depending on the Circumstances. Some Days, it seems My only Existence on this Earth has been that of a neophyte Volunteer—as if I live in some eternal Now, with no Antecedents. Then again, at other Moments, Time has slipped past in such a Blur that I cannot distinguish one Day from the next—Events dash by in complete Jumble and Confusion, never quite registering as Real to Me: thus Time appears as aught but a mere Dream, from which I will awaken Betimes to find Myself once more abed with You.
Enough idle Musings! But before I begin this Letter in earnest: Freda, My dear Wife, I most sincerely hope and trust that You have both discovered and read the Note that I wrote for You on May 21st , inst. I feel most certain—given Your Angelic Disposition and wise, compassionate Heart—that You have already forgiven Me for My fit of irrational Impetuosity (as You see My Actions!) which led to My Decision to enlist in Our nascent Army. Remember, I am ever reliant upon Your Forbearance and Clemency!
Now that I have cleared My Conscience (and, I fervently hope, earned Your Absolution), let Me proceed with My Correspondence. I left Our Beloved Home (Oh Freda, if I close My Eyes but for a fleeting Moment, how I still experience viscerally every deeply cherished Feature of that Landscape I Love so dearly: the trembling, whispering Stands of looming….
Book Size: 368 pages
Category/Subject: FICTION / General