Image: “Front of a Picture Postcard Depicting a Couple in Old-Fashioned Dress,” photo by Alice B. Clagett, CC BY-SA 4.0 … DESCRIPTION: The picture is on the front of a postcard. On the back of the postcard was the caption “Hilton & Mitchel Studios, So Carolina Ave, Broadway, Atlantic City, N.J.”
- VIDEO BY ALICE
- SUMMARY OF THE VIDEO
- Alice’s Story of Discovering the Letter
- Letter to Violet from Her Betrothed
Here is a video about my discovery many long years ago of a love letter written just after the Civil War. At the end of the video, after describing the scene where I made the discovery I read the letter. There is a Summary after the video.
Times then were like times now … full of chaos and change, through which we may win our way through faith in the future….
VIDEO BY ALICE
SUMMARY OF THE VIDEO
Alice’s Story of Discovering the Letter
Once upon a time there was a great house in the country. The house was separated from the public road by a narrow stretch of woods sheltering a stream. The dirt road that led from the public road to the house skimmed along the near side of the woods for some distance, as if it were reluctant to offer the public a view; plunged into the woods, and ascended a gentle slope. Te slope, at the top of which the house stood, bore several minor structures: at the bottom, a corn crib; farther up, a tool shed; a barn all of worn wood with broken doors/ at the top and to the side of the house a building recently used as servants’ quarters, formerly a doctor’s office.
The house itself was surrounded by aged maples, elms and oaks. The dirt road ended at the rear of the house, and the lawn in front was overgrown with weeds that left burrs and beggars’ lice on trespassers. The bushes along the sides of the lawn were scarcely recognizable, without their leaves, as cultivated plants gone to wild.
The front door of the house, a massive wood-panelled structure cast to shade by the porch roof, was locked. To the left of the main door was a two-story wing of the house, with a smaller porch and door, unlocked.
Inside this door was a room that [had] served as a kitchen. There was a large fireplace with a tiled heart. Empty shelves lined the walls. A very old refrigerator held a half gallon preserve [jar] half full of large, tough string beans. They were pickled. They smelled foul.
A narrow stairway to the rear of the kitchen led to the servants’ sleeping quarters … two small, low-ceilinged rooms. Rubbish of all sorts covered the floor: Broken chairs and bedsprings, magazines, liquor and soda bottles, old clothing, a child’s doll. The planking and rafters of the roof formed the ceilings of the rooms.
In the left room the brick stack of the kitchen chimney protruded from the wall. The view from the windows gave on the maples in front and the wall of the main house to rear.
A door in the kitchen gave on a large, high-ceilinged room in the main house. Heavy, carved wood molding framed the doorways and the large, shuttered window.
Some of the floor planking had been removed, so that one picked one’s way carefully between black holes of undetermined depth into the room directly opposite. This was an enlarged hallway giving on the main door and sheltering a wide, banistered staircase. Under the staircase was a small closet with a wooden nail across, [and] an old grey coat on a rusty coat hanger.
Planks had been removed from the staircase at random, making it necessary to climb on the skeletal form of the stairs. The second-story landing was dimly lit by another large, shuttered window to the right. Between the window glass and the shutter nestled a family of large, grey bats. There were about twenty, the largest about eight inches long, the smallest babies, three inches long, nestled close to their upside-down mothers. Most were sleeping quietly. A few punctuated their search for lice in their fur with the characteristic, high-pitched squeak. Their wings were translucent grey in the light that filtered through the shutters. At close range, the delicate webbing of veins in the wings was visible.
The two rooms on the second floor, opposite and to the left of the stairway, had no planking on the floor. The floor rafters stood bare over the wood lathe supporting the plaster ceiling of the parlor and hall below.
The third floor, with identical but slightly lower-ceilinged rooms, had almost intact floors. In the room opposite the stairwell, old clothes cluttered the floor. The remains of a bureau stood in one corner. The shutters from one of the two windows had come undone, and the room was well lit.
The clothes in the room were of the last century; there were many faded dresses with floor-length skirts … voluminous folds of material. There was one pair of men’s trousers with black-and-white, striped suspenders. There were rolls of yellowing fancy lace two inches wide, in tended for embroidery of home-sewn dresses.
In the room to the left of the stairs, piles of rubbish were scattered about. The only light came from a small window giving onto the roof of the servants’ quarters. A trap door in the ceiling gave on a completely dark crawl space smelling of cedar. Groping revealed a few rough planks of lumber.
The trash on the floor of the bedroom was different from that in the servants’ quarters. The bottles here were hand-blown glass … Clear glass medicine bottles labeled ‘KELLUM’S sure cure for Indigestion & Dyspepsia’ … Faint blue bottles: ‘JOHN C. BAKER & Co. CITRATE OF MAGNESIA’; ‘HOOD’S SARSAPARILLA’ … Small, clear-glass bottles with grown glass stoppers … Dark green bottles without labels had tiny bubbles fused in the glass that sparkled before the light.\
No clothing in this room. Wooden and cardboard boxes filled with books published in the 18th [19th?] Century. A curious stack of almanacs printed on yellow paper like newspaper. Fashion magazines of the same kind of paper with [sketches] of women in dresses that humped and flared; high hairdos; large, ornate hats.
Scattered about the floor were pages of stationery covered with carefully graceful handwriting. Among the letters was an envelope containing a stiff yellow postcard with a photograph of a man and woman on the front.
The woman dressed like the women in the magazines, was seated. The man stood beside here with one elbow on the chair shoulder, foot propped on a stool, so that his bent knee, on which the other hand rested, was raised to a level midway between the woman’s hands, folded in her lap, and her bodice. The man’s hair was clipped short and slicked down. The man’s mouth wavered between a smile and indifference. The woman was smiling, with her head tilted slightly to one side. The angle was accentuated by her broad-brimmed hat, whose white feathers curved into the margin of the picture.
On the back of the postcard was the caption “Hilton & Mitchel Studios, So Carolina Ave, Broadway, Atlantic City, N.J.” …
Image: “Back of a Picture Postcard Depicting a Couple in Old-Fashioned Dress,” photo by Alice B. Clagett, CC BY-SA 4.0 …
DESCRIPTION: This image shows the back of the postcard, with the caption “Hilton & Mitchel Studios, So Carolina Ave, Broadway, Atlantic City, N.J.” The picture on the front of the postcard is of a couple in old-fashioned dress.
Here is the letter I found on the bedroom floor. I have left the spelling and punctuation as in the original. First are the images of the letter; then after that, my transcription of the script, which I found a little difficult to read because of its antiquity …
Letter to Violet from Her Betrothed
Image: “Letter of Army Physician C.A. Harding to His Betrothed Violetta Lee, page 1,” 29 April 1865, photo by Alice B. Clagett, CC BY-SA 4.0
Image: “Letter of Army Physician C.A. Harding to His Betrothed Violetta Lee, page 2,” 29 April 1865, photo by Alice B. Clagett, CC BY-SA 4.0
Image: “Letter of Army Physician C.A. Harding to His Betrothed Violetta Lee, page 3,” 29 April 1865, photo by Alice B. Clagett, CC BY-SA 4.0
Transcription of the Letter
April 29th 1865
My dear Violet
The long agony is over and the Confederacy is a failure. I am here with Johnston’s Army to be paroled, and expect to leave for Md on the 1st day of May – will travel on horse-back in company with a large number of ex-officers. Our route will be through Richmond thence to Gordon’sville & on to the Potomac, will cross it opposite Poolesville in Montgomery County. If I meet with no unforeseen interruption, expect to reach home about the 20th. I will not now attempt a narrative of the painful & eventful scene of the closing days of our struggle. This will serve for many a long talk in “brighter & happier days”
Brad Johnston is here & may accompany me homeward, he has just informed me of a public meeting which was held in Cecil Co. Md to protest against & prevent the return of Marylanders who have taken part in the Rebellion. I hope the sentiments expressed by that meeting have but few advocates in the old State – Now my dear Violet, do write me a long letter giving me all the news & informing me what I may expect from the people of the State or rather those, who I must meet. I am prepared to meet any difficulty in an effort to be with you again, only let me know that the effort meets your approbation. I will return to you with a heart unchanged & a love as ardent & sincere as when we met. Thank God the privation & exposure incident to the life I have led for the last four years, has made but little impression upon my health, time has dealt jently & kindly with me & indeed I am happy in the hope of soon being able to redeem the promise long ago made you. Confiding so entirely in your constancy & affection I am really sure that you will “gladly welcome my return” Th future is full of hope for me, happy indeed will I be, when I can devote my time in contributing to your pleasure and enjoyment, to make you happy will indeed b happiness for me. Now that the Union is restored you can have no hesitation or difficulty in writing to me, as soon as I see home, I will seek you – let me know where you will be. Can I be welcome at your home
Be sure to write me & enclose in envelope sent. I will expect you to do so, please dont’ disappoint me. Remember me to your mother, cousin & all friends.
C. A. Hastings
Perhaps I may not be able to leave here so soon as the 1st in that event I will not reach home as early as the 20th I will write you again from Richmond – Be sure to write me & put it in an envelope directed to me, then enclose it in the envelope I send you – by so doing no one will know that you have written me –
In love, light and joy,
Alice B. Clagett,
I Am of the Stars
Filmed on 29 July 2021; published on 30 July 2021
Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
history, chaos, fear, faith, courage, Civil War,