Vermont Port Royal
8th 10th 1863
My Dear Sisters
We have just read Ellies and Jeannies letters, but we had on Tuesday evening learned, thru╣ a kind and friendly source of poor John╣s sad fate. We, or rather I, read of it in the New York Post of the 2d and the next morning told Rebecca.
A good soldier; a modest hero; an upright man; a faithful brother; and as we learn at last, a pure lover of a saint like woman. How can one write of his death, without tears for him, and for us all.
I had hoped fortune would befriend him to the end and that he would survive this awful war unharmed; but as he was to die upon the field, it is a comfort, so far as any consolation can attend his fate, that he fell upon the soil of his natal state defending it from the wretched rebels, who have brought all this horror upon the Country.
Take all the good qualities that Sam, Jim & I may possess, and they would make ½ the good that was in John. I believe he never harmed any one. All his Army friends whom I have met with spoke of him as a man to be loved, and as one who was loved by all who knew him.
I think his character must have been an exceptional one in the goodness of his nature, which seems to have so impressed his associates, as to make them always speak of it, on occasions, while he lived.
One whom I met today, so spoke of him; now that he is dead.
Poor fellow! Had Sam & Jim been killed and had I been fatally wounded & survived just long enough to know their fate & my own, I should not have been so shaken with grief, as I am & have been for this one brother whom we have lost. I do believe that so far as human infirmities ever allow, he was a man without guile, and without reproach.
I am ashamed of myself, in comparison with him. You dear souls who have been more with him will miss him greatly, and lament him ever.
I dare not venture to say a word as to her who was to have been his dear wife and our sister.
That he was quickly taken from the field – that his body was soon in the possession of his family – that so many of you could see him laid beside his father and his mother, and that no parade was made over his remains, are all matters to be thankful for.
I wish we could have been with you.
[Unsigned, with a note from Rebecca appended]
My Dear Sisters – Thus far poor dear William had written last night, as a relief to his [ ] over burdened mind after getting your sad letters which opened afresh the wound that was still bleeding from hearing the unexpectedly distressing news of the death of so dearly a loved and valued brother but I have not had time to read your letters on account of our grief. I may say our for I assure you I have and do feel the loss as I was mine; it is a terrible blow. Yet there are reflections for which we thank you.
The Army steamer came in on Monday in [ ] from NJ without a mail, but papers, an officer of [ ] on one of the ships near us came on board to tell him, finding us together on the deck he went below and gave the paper to the senior officer who came to the cabin after tea, talking about a battle having been fought at Gettysburg, but [ ] did not fear for John, when he left us he asked Wm. to come with him he wished to speak to him. I thought it was business I went to the gallery to walk. Wm. did not tell me as it was near bed time and he knew there would be no rest for me, so the poor fellow smothered his grief out of kindness to me at daylight he was called up by Capt. Taylor (Fleet Capt.) to tell him they were shoving off directly (in the Dinsmore) to Charleston the Monitors to follow, that he was senior officer and must remain here. I called to him to come to me to tell me what was the matter & little thinking there was much I asked how he had slept, he trembled all over and crossed his hands saying he had been thinking of John all night that he was killed (he was sitting on the edge of my bed I jumped up & put my arms around him asked if he had dreamed it │No No No! it is true I read in the paper") I almost--
[Remainder of letter not found]