Sunday, October 5, 2008

Jeb Stuart Writes About the Death of His Daughter

Those who have read the blog from the beginning know that I bought a book of Jeb Stuart's letter. I printed a rather funny one written to his father about a fight he had at West Point. This letter, about the death of Little Flora, or LaPet as Stuart called her, is another letter that grabbed my heart. He is writing to his cousin, Nannie Price and the things he says to her reveals much about Stuart and his relationship with his wife, Flora.

Camp Boteler
September 11th, 1863

My Dearest Nannie,

Your charming letter, though long expected gave me much happiness, and I tender you my grateful acknowledgements with the entreaty to do so again. I have been upon the point of answering it several times but I did not feel inclined to submit to the interruptions in such pleasant converse to which I am every day subject, I have waited consequently for this midnight hour to talk when none is near. Ah, if I could with soft music steal to that window and pour the strains, which like the Irishman's fiddle I have in men if I could only get utterance, "I would a tale unfold, etc." If you knew how much and how often my thoughts wander back to "Dundee" and go tripping with you through the garden, here clipping a tea rose bud, there a giant of bottles, there a sprig of arbor-vitae, while you add with that bewitching look a leaf of geranium. Ah, Nannie, don't you recognize the picture? I wish it were once more reality, but the time seems far in the dim future when I have business in Fredericksburg.

Wade Hampton and Fitz Lee are Major Generals Commanding Divisions in my Calvary Corps, but I am not yet Lieutenant General. I command the Corps as a Major General. General Ewell had a review of his entire Corps. I never saw the like of ladies on horseback. How I wished you had been there, and yet I am too selfish to desire so many eyes to behold you. You don't know how proud it makes me feel to hear you say you thought of me often during my long and eventful absence. I am much gratified that the trifles I sent you pleased you. The mantle I brought at a Miller's in Hagerstown Maryland (a Secesh Milliner at that, and I think it was the work of her own hands. I immediately thought how sweet and becoming it would look on Cousin Nannie. You must wear it these cool evenings, and not wait till I come, it might be too long. Did Cousin Lizzie ever get the package Dr. Fontaine sent by Major Ball?

Have no apprehensions, Nannie, of my losing the affection I feel for "Dundee" and its precious inmates. I can never feel otherwise, than I do toward you, and your welfare and happiness, Nannie, are matters of chief concern to me. I will leave nothing undone to promote them. Bless your precious little "self," I wish I could have an old fashion talk with you. You would soon be convinced that there is no change, and how undisputed is the sway you hold over my heart.

Flora is still in Lynchburg and rather indisposed. She was hoping that in passing through she would get to see you. I think Major Langhorne said he could not take the doctor's family.

I have been thinking much of late of my parting with you and my all at "Dundee" a little over a year ago.

When farewells were said and tears had been shed--do you remember how Little Flora ran out after me, climbed up by my stirrup, clung around my neck with her dear little arms, with tearful kisses till forced away. Ah, Nannie, can I ever forget that picture! that parting! that embrace! Can you wonder at the tears that filled my eyes as I write. The thought flashed through my mind at that moment, "we may not meet again." It is now vividly remembered and the gloomy apprehension rose and kindled tears in my eyes. I was just starting on the campaign against Pope and I knew that my life hung by a thread ready to be severed by any one of the thousands of death's missiles which sweep the battle plain. All this flashed through my mind for there are moments which are like a century. I though of the widow (there she stood before me) and the fatherless little sylph in my arms, and breathed a prayer that He who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, would deal tenderly with mine. Ah! little did I think that I was to be spared and she taken!

I feel it is all gain to her but my grief admonishes me that earth has lost its chief attraction, and while it does not make me reckless, I go forth at the summons of duy of danger with that cheerful resignation which the cold world calls rashness.

Excuse me, Nannie dear, for obtruding my grief upon you. You feel so near to me. I talk to you as if communing with myself. I dare not write to Flora as I have written you. I have to restrain my grief, my feelings, my language on the subject and she little dreams what agony in the lone bivouac and even on the march those choking memories have caused me.

Enough of this. Give my best love to all at "Dundee." Write as often as possible and remember how precious your letters are to me. Give my love to Cousin Corneal and other friends. I saw young Starke a few days ago looking very happy. Who made him so? Tell me Nannie, who are your beaux now? I am interested in everything that concerns you.

Give my love to Mrs. General Wickham. I send you something to remind you of an absent friends.

Yours, xxxx

P.S. Did you get the copy of Moore I send by Chiswell Dabney.