These letters were written by Cyrene H. Blakely (1837-1898) who rose in rank from 2nd Lieutenant to Captain of Co. K, while serving in the 3rd Minnesota Infantry from November 1861 to June 1864. At that time, he was discharged from the 3rd Minnesota to accept a position as a commissioned officer of the U. S. Volunteers Commissary Department. He remained with the Commissary Department until October 1865, when he was mustered out as a Brevet Major.
Cyrene was the son of David B. Blakely (1804-1863) and Selena ____ (1805-1890) of Chicago, Illinois. Cyrene was married to Celia Rachel Leland (1843-1902) in March 1864. Celia was the daughter of Marshall W. Leland (1810-1877) and Julia Harriet Anson (1818-1873).
The commissary appointment turned out to be quite lucrative. He started sending home thousands of dollars periodically. In one letter he tells her how they are doing it: he has another guy who buys cattle at 3 cents per pound, then the government buys it for 5 cents. They split the profits.
Following the war, Cyrene returned to Chicago and joined his brother David in starting the Daily Evening Post in 1865. He remained with that paper for four years and then started a publishing business in Chicago. He died in Chicago on 4 July 4 1898. Celia died in 1902, presumably in Rochester where she is interred.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Headquarters, Post of Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO
Monday P. M., August 29, 1864
My own loving wife,
Everything is now finally arranged. Willie arrived this morning and I leave at five—in three hours from this—for Memphis, on board the War Eagle. We have an agreeable stateroom, alone, and everything comfortable. Shall arrive at Memphis Wednesday night if nothing prevents. Will send a letter to you from Cairo.
I am in much better spirits today. Willie’s arrival makes it less lonely. We are both well.
Can give you no particulars of my course beyond Memphis. I have ascertained that there are 2,000 troops at St. Charles, so there will be no danger from small bands of guerrillas.
I enclose an extract from this morning’s paper that will give you some light about St. Charles.
Now, darling, I must close for today. Your husband worships you and will bring you again to his bosom the first moment possible. Love to all. Ever your loving & devoted, — Cyrene
P. S. Say to your mother that the trimming upon her bonnet is the very height of fashion. Direct to me hereafter, St. Charles, Arkansas, and on the lower corner say “on White River.”
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Addressed to Mrs. Celia S. Blakely, Rochester, Olmstead county, Minnesota
Postmarked Cairo, Illinois
On board steamer “War Eagle”
On a sandbar 130 miles below St. Louis and 60 miles above Cairo
Tuesday Evening, August 30, 1864
My own loving wife:
When I indited my brief note of yesterday, I expected to have a letter written and posted at Cairo before this time; but your experience as well as my own has taught us that steamboat navigation is mighty uncertain business and you must therefore not be surprised to learn that we are fast on a “bar,” with prospects good for a rest at least until morning. We shall be perhaps a day late at Cairo & if not other “bars” invite our special attention, we shall probably arrive at Memphis on Thursday evening or following morning. Beyond there, as I stated yesterday, I can give you nothing definite concerning my movements, but imagine that I shall remain there a couple of days.
I hear the most encouraging news from St. Charles. Last evening I found a soldier upon the boat who has been there. He says the ground is very high—indeed, it is a tremendous bluff, splendidly defended by earthworks. A rebel battery once held the river there.
Since this letter was commenced, I have conversed with a gentleman who went up to St. Charles with the troop that are now there. The post has been occupied only about a month and he thinks there are four regiments and a battery there. This confirms the correspondence in the paper, which I sent yesterday. All the travel to Little Rock has to go up White River as the Arkansas is too low for navigation. Every boat lands at St. Charles and of course we shall get mails enough. There are two families there in one of which he says he saw some pretty young ladies. Oh, if it shall be that I can have my wife with me, what a happy man will I be!
Steamers freighted for Little Rock discharge at Duvall’s Bluff 80 miles above St. Charles. Thence the course is by rail. The 3rd Minnesota is stationed at Duvall’s Bluff; the 6th at Helena on the Mississippi 40 miles across the country from St. Charles, and Col. Baker at St. Louis told me he expected they would be ordered to St. Charles. Wouldn’t it be nice, darling, to have that regiment with so many of my old acquaintance close by me? There is a Rochester company in it—Hyatt, Chase, etc. If all these things turn out as there is a possibility that they may, I shall be finely fixed, and would ask for nothing better, unless it be that I could be ordered home. But that I shall not ask until at least the expiration of my three years enlistment.
I have not yet had time to give you much of an account of my journey to and through Chicago and indeed, I do not know that there was anything of interest connected with it. I passed through Milwaukee but did not stop. Oh dearest, how my heart did ache as I made through the streets to get a sight at the object of its love! I looked at every woman—and one particular one with your walk and some similarity in dress, I almost thought was you!
I remained in Chicago until Friday night. [Sister] Zoe ¹ pressed me so closely I could not refuse to stay even after I had started for the depot. He is a good brother, Celia, and I know you will like him. His family are well, as also Zoe’s folks. The pictures are all promised immediately. hey had none whatever.
I learned of Zoe some curious facts concerning Sara. ² You know she is in a family way and expects to die. She has made her will and is in every way prepared for the event. My dear, I fear I shall lose my sister for is she has not life and ambition enough to attempt to live through her coming trouble, she cannot expect to. I wish she might go to Rochester to have her baby.
Zoe and Cornelia both asked me for pictures of you with the riding habit on. I had but three—one which was imperfect. That one, of course, I kept. Please dear one, can you spare another?
I have cried over the last picture you had taken at Whitney’s. My little wife looks poor and worn out, and what hurts me most—as much as I love her, she does not look me in the eye. Oh darling, on Sunday as I kissed and kissed your picture and fondled it, how cruel it did seem that it could not look up to me in answer to my many entreaties. It looks as though you were suffering because of my absence! I would not part with this picture for anything in the world; but dear, how much better it would have been if I had not taken it with me!
I sent you a work basket from Chicago. It was the best and latest style I could find. Does my little wife like it? I enclose the express receipt. I hope to see Hale at Columbus. I missed it in not going to Cairo by rail from St. Louis, thence to Columbus, and there await the arrival of the boat.
Darling Celia, you have a husband who knows no happiness save when within your arms. Money—ah, money. Nothing, nothing could keep me away from my wife save the stern necessities of war! Is it not cruel, dearest, that two hearts, living, loving, abiding in each other only and solely as we do, should not be permitted to beat side by side every moment? I always thought I was not easily moved to tears, but the last week has convinced me that I am but a woman. I have no control over my feelings. I trust that when I get to St. Charles and have my hands full of business, I shall be more contented that I was at St. Louis or am on board this vessel. I shall love you, blessed one, just as much; but my time will be occupied most of the day and I shall not be missing you so constantly.
Willie is as contented as can be. He sits near me reading a book! Ah, poor boy, he little knows what his brother suffers every moment—little knows what it is to part with a wife so loving, devoted and good as mine is! I trust he never will experience the bitter pangs that I do at this moment and have for the last fortnight. Yes dear, before I left you, for many days I smothered my grief lest the parting would be too much for you, and oh, would that I knew tonight that everything was right with my idolized wife! Was my darling sick, as we both so fondly hoped and prayed she would be? Was the parting with her husband too severe for her to endure? Has she recovered from her severe diarrhea? These and many, many other questions occur to my mind every moment. I try to think that my loved one will survive all the perils that threatened her a week ago. Again I say, would that I could be assured that you are well this evening.
I trust, dear one, that our separation is not to be for a great length of time. No effort of mine shall be left untried to bring about a meeting very soon. My little one, please do not tarry if I am able to send for you, but come at once for your own Cyrene’s heart is nearly breaking to have you with him!
And now, dear one, I will close for tonight. Write to me at once to St. Charles as before directed. I trust that a letter will reach me from you before many days.
Goodnight and may God bless you ever! Your own devoted, — Cyrene
P. S. The mosquitoes troubled me so last night I could not sleep. Tonight I shall use the little bag and dream. I hope, of the loved one who made it. — Cyrene
50 Miles above Cairo
You will observe that our progress today has been very trifling. We laid on the [sand] bar all night and until two o’clock this afternoon. We are now under headway with prospects for reaching Cairo in the night. The clerk of the boat does not know whether we shall remain there until morning or not. I hope so, for unless we do, we shall probably pass Columbus before morning.
This has been another lonely day. We have passed only one town—Cape Girardeau—on the Missouri side. After we reach Cairo, we stop only at military posts. The baggage of all travelers has to be inspected though I presume mine will not, being a government officer. The object is to prevent smuggling into rebeldom.
The American Express runs direct from Rochester to St. Charles; thus we shall have convenient facilities for transmitting little packages.
I shall endeavor to obtain my pay for August at Memphis. If I do, will send $100 to pay the note at Thompson’s Bank and some to you. I shall not want much money with me, you know.
The water is the White River is said to be clear as a crystal; but there is a large corral of government horses at Duvall’s Bluff and the nearby horses dying are thrown into the river, rendering it unfit for drinking purposes there. But my informant does not know whether the stench extends to St. Charles or not. If it does, there is a large bay in the rear of St. Charles which has the very clearest and best water. It abounds in magnificent fish. If my little wifey can come and enjoy the post with me, I may be tempted to try my hand at fishing, but hardly without.
My health continues excellent. Appetite has improved today and at dinner I ate a real old-fashioned meal. I have a bottle of Tinc. of Copsicum with me and I put a few drops in nearly all the water I drink. It takes away the effect of the impure water.
My dear, you can scarcely realize the great difference between the river water above and below St. Louis. We now drink Tincture of Mud, compounded with a very small proportion of ice.
Oh, how very, very anxious, I am to know whether you were sick last week, as well as to hear of the state of your health generally. It will be a long, long time before I shall hear from you, I fear.
We have landed at a town called Commerce, Mo., 40 miles above Cairo. It is now eight o’clock. There are some very bad bars yet to cross before we reach Cairo. I am in hopes we may not get there before light as I desire to see the place and post this letter with my own hands.
Dear one, I shall now bid you good night. Oh that I could plant the nightly “good night kiss” upon your cheek of the past five months! Oh, how I love you. How I worship you, my own darling beloved wife! Thank God that I have a good wife to love me, even though she is far, far away. We shall meet again at no distant day, let us pray.
And now good night once more. Remember me to all with much love. Ever your own loving husband. — Cyrene
¹ Zoe Blakely (1830-1910) was married to Charles Seymour (b. 1832), a grocery clerk in Chicago in the 1860s. The couple were married in the late 1850’s.
² Sarah A. Blakely (b. 1833 in Vermont) was married to James M. Hubbard (b. 1822) in 1854. Sarah bore one child, Genevieve Hubbard (b. 1864), and survived childbirth. She was enumerated with her husband in the 1880 US Census in Chicago.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Little Rock, Arkansas
Thursday P. M.
September 8, 1864
My own beloved Celia and devoted wife,
My fortunes are changeable; or my orders, rather, I should say. I cannot at present tell whether the post of Pine Bluff is preferable to St. Charles, but there are more troops at the former place than there were at the latter, and to it I am ordered for duty.
I saw the new moon on Friday or Saturday evening last over my right shoulder; and how quick did the thought flash across my mind that, with you, it is indicative of good luck. I prayed that your sign might prove true. And from present appearances, I think it will, so far as my stationed in concerned.
I dropped you a sheet note from St. Charles from which you learned that that post had been evacuated and of my intention to proceed to Duvall’s Bluff. I arrived there on Tuesday eve at 5, and, after a brief interview with Gen. Andrews, concluded to come on and report to Col. [S. C.] Benham, Chief Commissary [of Subsistence], in person.
I arrived here at nine in the evening, tired and homesick. Oh, darling, how I did suffer that night from loneliness! Again I repeat what I said in my St. Louis letter, I cannot live without you, oh blessed, dearest, loving one! My heart aches every moment of my life! Every thought, dearest wife, is of you! If you can come to me, perhaps I will remain in the army for awhile, but without you, I cannot live at all. Oh, that the war would end. I would give up country—everything—for my loving wife! You are everything to me; without you, my country would be worthless—my life a wretched one!
I learn that Pine Bluff is 90 miles below here on the Arkansas river. It is a strong post, well fortified by about 4,000 troops; among the number my old Regiment, the 3rd [Minnesota]. It is something of a town: many officers have their wives there. But the question is how they live. At Little Rock, I could get board for us—the very cheapest at $25 a week in a private family. At the hotel, $35 is the very smallest sum they will look at, and miserable board and convenience. Have had no potatoes since I have been there. There is no ice in town. Everything is so dear that many will hardly purchase.
But notwithstanding all this, I hope to be able to arrange matters at Pine Bluff so that I can have you with me; and if I cannot, I shall leave the service and return to you. Do not blame me for this declaration, dearest wife. I love you more than life itself. I care not for wealth or anything if I have got to be separated from you, dearest one, to obtain it. I cannot suffer long as I have since we parted. I would live in poverty all my days before I would be separated from my heart’s idol.
Oh dear one, as I lie upon my bed, how my heart aches to draw you to my bosom! Tell me that I may leave the army and return to my loving wife and be happy once more! Oh, dear one, this is the most trying period of my life! How cruel, cruel, to be obliged to live hundreds of miles from the one I so love, and to be denied for weeks at a time the privilege of hearing from her by mail! My precious wife, let us both pray that we may not be long separated. I cannot bear from you & fear for some days yet I suffer irrepressibly to know how your health is. If once assured that you are well, and that your monthly sickness occurred at the proper time, then I shall be more contented than I am at present. But until that time, there will not be a moment’s rest for your husband.
I have since I left Minnesota a great many friends. Among the worst important, Capt. Leonard, Col. Markham, and Capt. Daniels of Rochester, and Capt. Pratt of St. Paul. I lent Capt. Pratty $10 which he will send to you, as we could not tell where I should be when he might want to pay it. He is the husband of Mrs. Pratt, your acquaintance.
Capt. Daniels was sick in hospital at Memphis. No man was ever so glad to see another as he was to take hold of my hand. I pitied the poor man—sick hundreds of miles away from friends. But he had the best of care and was improving rapidly. I wrote to his father thinking he would be glad to learn from Milton.
The town of Little Rock is a hard place. I am glad I am not to stay here. On the night of my arrival, four stores were robbed and several citizens knocked down on the public streets. Lawlessness, crime, debauchery are everywhere to be seen. An officer asked me yesterday to drink. “No,” said I, “I do not drink.”
“Well,” was his reply. “You’ll get over that mighty soon. A man cannot live in this country without his regular toddy!” Thinks I, I will live without it until I have the most conducive evidence that it is necessary to preserve my health. And as I have lived without it many years, I do not think the time will ever come when I shall need it.
There is a theatre here—just the place for me. I shall never attend it.
Dear one, I cannot write anything really definite until I get to Pine Bluff. If I cannot take you there, please say that I may come home to you. Am I weak and chicken hearted? But I cannot help it, dearest wife. I love you beyond anything in the world; and cannot live without you are near me.
The cost of travel between Rochester and this place, and the great expense of living here, would no doubt eat up my salary. But I think I can see my way into money making. If so, perhaps we can afford to live here. But, if it is going to take all we earn to live, why not resign from the army and go home where we can enjoy some of the comforts of life even though we do not earn one half what we do now?
The fare from Rochester to Little Rock is $70, to which must be added about $15 for hotel bills, porterage, etc, But all this is nothing if I can make the money to pay it. I will have you with me if it costs $100 per day, or I will leave the army and go where you are!
Thursday evening, 8½ o’clock.
My own loved one, I love you this evening, dearest wife, more than I ever did in my life. You have a husband, beloved one, whose whole soul is wrapped up in his wife. I can never be happy unless you are by my side! Oh dearest, dearest one! What joy—what happiness, if I could only hold you in my lap for three hours, and then undress you and lay your cheek upon my arm for the night! O, dearest, how many, many hours of bliss have we spent locked in each others embrace, loving each other, and caressing each other to sleep! Hours and hours have my little one slept upon my arm. I pray that within a very short period, you may again repose in that place which God created for you; and when you do return, dear one, you will find that no person has ever intruded while you were absent. Darling, I am true to you. Never will your husband think of any woman for a moment but his own devoted wife. She is the best of wives. You have never refused to satisfy my desires even though your strength was insufficient to admit of it. Dear one, your own Cyrene appreciates all these sacrifices on the part of his wife. O, O am loved so much, and my wife is so good. I cannot live away from her!
Dear one, only twice since I left you have I had any desire to have intercourse. What a difference it makes being absent from you. I have no passions whatever now, though of course, just the moment I am with you again, so that you are close to me, just so soon will my strong passions return. Ain’t you glad, my little wife, that I am not hard now? I say this to you for I know you will want to know just how it is; and also feeling that such things written to my own Celia will never be known to others.
I have great anxiety concerning your monthly sickness. I was very careful, dear one, the last month, and almost certain that you were sick at the proper time; yet I desire to be assured before I can rest satisfied. Do not, dear one, fail to tell me in your answer to this letter, when you were sick. Please, dear, tell me whether, when you lie in your bed every morning, and think of your own Cyrene, and the pleasures of married life, you do not feel as though you would like to enjoy them with him again. If you do want pleasure with me, you must try and wait until we meet again; then we will satisfy ourselves again to our hearts content.
Dearest one, I am very sleepy and tired and must retire. I will finish my letter in the morning after I ascertain for a certainty the hour of departure from Little Rock.
Good night, my loving wife! It is my prayer that you are well tonight and that our Heavenly Father will protect you from danger until your own Cyrene can return to you. Again, good night darling. Ever your devoted, — Cyrene
Friday morning, 6½ o’clock. My precious one, I have got up from my bed to kiss you a good morning. Did my darling sleep well? Did she think of her beloved and absent husband until late in the night? O, dear one, we can never, never live apart! I…
Friday noon. My beloved wife. The boat does not leave today after all. Why it is delayed, I cannot tell. Will probably leave tomorrow.
As I lie about here, idle, my thoughts are continually with you. Oh dearest precious one, why, why is it that I cannot now go to my little wife and recline in her embrace and listen to her comforting words of love! Dearest, you will never know how much your Cyrene loves you. How thankful am I to my Maker for giving me such a true and devoted woman for a companion through life! Dear one, let us never, never separate again so long as our lives are spared. I love you dear one with my whole heart. More, oh much more than when I married you. I thought it was hard when I was kept away from you before our marriage, but my sufferings were no comparison to the present.
Dearest Celia, no man in the world is so blessed as I am. My darling wife is the best woman in the world. So kind and loving—perfectly devoted at all times to her husband. Truly dear, I do appreciate my own dear one. No person in the world knows her but me. Little do our friends know of the suffering we now bear, less can they appreciate our happiness when we are locked in each others embrace. Is there anything to be compared to your happiness when you sit upon your husband’s knee and receive his caresses? For me, there is nothing in the world like it. And darling, what indescribable pleasure to lay my bare skin next to yours. To put my hand ot my cheek to your soft, white bosom, and be assured that no man, woman, or child ever enjoyed such liberties! Darling, you have indeed opened your heart and soul and taken your husband into them. What ecstacy is it, dearest one, to lie by your side with your arm about my neck—our very bosoms bared to each other, and your tiny limbs entwined with mine. Oh, when I think of this, every night, am I not lonely? Does not my heart ache to return to the true and loving one who weeps daily for me? O, how happy we have been, dearest, most devoted one! How true do we love each other. Is not my little one satisfied that her choice of a husband was the right one? I know you have been happy, dearest. and you shall be again. If I ever return to you, I will endeavor ten times harder than ever to make you happy. I shall return to you with increased love: nothing in the world could increase my affection for you so much as this separation. I can see how happy I have been. How dear you are to me and what a treasure you are.
I could talk to you all day, dear one. I cannot drop my pen, dearest Celia—precious, devoted wife. It is like taking my life’s blood from me to have you away. The tears flow from my eyes like rain drops from the clouds every day of my life. O dear one, I do love you. I do idolize you. Please, dear one, think often of your absent husband. Remember that his heart is bleeding for you. You must not be kept from me for one moment beyond the time necessary to arrange either for your coming here or my resignation from the army.
We do not have mails here with any regularity. Generally they come as often as once a week. I hope, dear one, you will find time to write me three or four times a week and tell me all that occurs with you. You remember what I stated in reference to our correspondence before we parted. Tell me every little thing that occurs with you: and do not, dearest Celia, forget to tell me how dear I am to you. O, I do want you to love me, darling, with your whole heart. And you do, dear one, don”t you? Yes, I am the chosen one. No person in the world can receive a look or a word from you, best and most devoted one, but me! You are so good, Celia, to love me thus. Ever, ever, will I be a kind and loving husband. I cannot do too much or be too devoted to my noble wife. She loves me and appreciates all that I do for her. You are all that I could ask, dear Celia, and more than I have dared to hope for. How truly thankful am I to God for preserving you for me. How glad that I was not married years ago to one whom I can now see that I could not have been happy with. I verily believe, Celia, that no woman in this world could make me as happy as you do. I ask for nothing in this world but you; and you I must have.
How I do long to learn the condition of your health. If I could only know that you recovered from your painful diarrhea—that you were sick at the proper time, it would take a great burden from my hearty. But I fear it will be many days before I can hear from you. Dear one, I shall bear these sufferings the best I can. You know that I am not strong at heart. I want to be with those I love and be loved. Without my loved one, I am wretched.
The boat does not leave for Pine Bluff today. I am sorry for I greatly desire to go on duty. Time is worth everything to me now. I am more and more convinced every day that three is money to be made and it is too bad that I cannot improve the time while I am away from you.
The troops that came up to St. Charles with me are at Duvall’s Bluff. Part of them, I learn, will be here today. Rumor hath it that a portion will go to Pine Bluff. By the way, I have just learned that the commissary department there is a large brick building located in the pleasantest portion of the town/ The building is large and plenty of room in it. Thus you see your sign in regard to the moon has proved a true one—at least so far.
Col. Benham this morning advised me not to bring you here. Still, I shall not abide by his advice. If you can live where I am, I shall send Willie to Cairo to meet you and bring you down. Thus you will have no trouble in getting through.
And now, dearest wife, good day. Your husband loves you sincerely. He is truly devoted, lives only to love his wife. My only ambition is to return to you. And my dear, I assure you that we shall meet before the expiration of many weeks.
Write to me often. Oh, if I could get just one letter to read everyday four or five times, how much consolation it would be. Direct as before, care of Lt. Col. S. C. Bonham, Chief Commissary Department of Arkansas, Little Rock.
For today, goodbye. I love you with my whole heart every moment of my life. From your own husband and devoted Cyrene
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
Pine Bluff, [Arkansas]
Sunday morning, September 18, 1864
My beloved Celia,
The boat does not go until noon, thus affording me an opportunity of writing you a letter; and blessed one, what joy it gives me. Darling, I am very, very lonely this morning. The tears will roll down my cheeks in spite of all my efforts to prevent them. Dearest, most loving one, why am I compelled to suffer thus? Why should I be obliged to live hundreds of miles away from my loved one in whose presence alone there is happiness? O, blessed one, my life is now a wretched one. Your own Cyrene suffers now more than he ever did before in his life. And dear one there will be no end to it as long as you are away from my side, there can be no no enjoyment. The tears roll down faster than ever as I reflect upon what is to be in the future: for you and I there is nothing but suffering to endure for many weeks—I fear months.
Can my loved one come to me? This is a terrible place: your only company would be your own Cyrene. You could have him a great portion of the time. We can obtain board, I have no doubt, but dear one, there are no delicacies to be obtained here—scarcely enough to keep one alive. There are no vegetables in the country. I have not tasted of a potato since I left Memphis. There will, however, after awhile, be sweet potatoes, and this is the only vegetable that can be obtained here. Everything else comes from the Commissary. From him we can obtain flour, salt meat, fresh meat, rice, hominy, coffee, tea, sugar, salt, pepper, pickles, soap, candles, and sometimes a little fish. This is all that we have to live on. Butter can be obtained most of the time from the country, and milk I think there is plenty of. Eggs, I think, cannot be obtained. The above are what can be found in a private family where we would have to pay for our board—probably $20 per week. Washing ten cents per piece—about $2 per eek more. This will be about $90 per month. My salary is $125. As for clothing, it cannot be obtained here. A calico dress costs $30 at least.
The dare from Rochester [Minnesota] is $85 and say it will cost you $100 to get here. Thus you can see how the figures stand. As for getting here, you would have the greatest difficulty. There is no danger but the accommodations for travelers are very meagre. You get along well enough until you reach Duvall’s Bluff. From there the railroad takes you to Little Rock. Perhaps you can come in a passenger car but probably you will have to take a freight car. The hotel accommodations at Little Rock are miserable. Still, you could get along.
I shall be happy, most happy to have you come (this based on the probability of my remaining here). It would eat up all my salary, but that is nothing. All I want in this world is my wife. I must have you every moment, Celia, and if you think the hardship too great to come here, I must got to you.
There is money to be made out of my business. There is lots of it and it would be a pity to lose the place. Still, if I cannot have you, what good is money? I would be willing to give David a round sum if he would have me stationed somewhere north of here where I could have you with me. If you see him, say so to him.
Darling, in your letter you speak of the loneliness you experience during my absence. Dear one, I know full well what your feelings were, I knew that my little wife would mourn for her absent husband, and how it has made my heart ache. From seven to light every night, blessed one, I think of you—love and pray for you. As you say, then it is that I suffer the most. Oh, how my heart does ache to grasp you to my bosom and breath those words of love in your ear which you have so often heard. And darling, since we parted, my affection has greatly strengthened. I have no friends—no associates. My leisure time is spent by myself thinking of you.
Dearest one, last night after I retired with your picture in my hand and your letter under my pillow, my thoughts turned to the days of our courtship. It seemed to me that those days were as a dream. It was not like the courtship of others. We met and naturally came to each other, as the magnet draws the needle. And every time we met we were dearer and came closer to each other. How natural it all was. How unbeknown to my own loving wife that she was forming such an attachment for me—that I was stealing her heart. Therefore, darling, do I prize your affection the more highly. It is natural. My little one came to me because her happiness required it. Oh, I am so happy when I think of the dear one, as I cry when I am lonely, so now do I cry for joy as I reflect upon the subject. Dear one, you are God’s brightest star. Believe your Cyrene, he thinks you are the noblest woman in the world. I believe that no other one could be mine. I never should have married only that you stole my heart. Thank you oh darling. I bless you for it.
And with such a loving, true, noble, devoted wife, can I be too attentive? Oh dear one, when you clasp your arms about your Cyrene again, he will tell you how much more he loves you than he ever did before and that he will endeavor harder than ever to make you a happy wife. And how glad that I have got a loving little wife—the very thought of whom will keep me from every temptation, even if I otherwise could forget myself.
Dearest, the morals of our army is wonderfully decreasing. Officers, men, everybody save now & then a man who stands out like an oasis in the desert gambles. Capt. Rockwood—the gentleman whose position I am temporarily occupying—is a confirmed gambler. And yet, the regulations of the arm,y say that “no officer of the army entrusted with public money shall play at games of chance, under penalty of immediate dismissal from the service.” He has now $4100 which I expect to take from him: suppose in an excited moment he should stake and lose that amount? A man said to me yesterday, “everybody plays cards here.” “Well, said I, “there is one officer in town who does not play cards, and that is the present Commissary of Subsistence.” How can men be so wicked, dearest? Oh, I should be afraid to sleep lest God should close my eyes forever. Your own Cyrene keeps his own company. I shall never ask a man to come to my room or my office to talk with me unless I know that he is a moral man, and very few of these will ever be invited to my quarters.
I am frequently disgusted with Willie. He is a boy and more trouble than assistance. He has never been in any position giving him authority and he does not know how to act. I have to watch him continually. It should not be thus. I want a reliable man to help me, but instead thereof, I have towatch him. On yesterday I told him he must call me “Captain: in the presence of people. He thought it was very hard to be obliged to call his brother anything but “Cie.” I did not explain that I had to assume and maintain a dignified position and that if he called me by that familiar title, of course others would. My little wife, never yet forget herself so for as to call me Cie! At home, with my brothers and sisters, I do not care. But with strangers and in the presence of those whose respect I am bound to command, do you blame me if I expect my brother to pay this trifling respect to me? If wrong, dear little wife, please tell me. Please also state the case to mother Blakely, and ask her if I am overbearing in this matter.
I neglected to say in the proper place that the Quartermaster of this post, Capt. Barnes, told me yesterday that he had sent for his wife and is expecting her soon. He took me to a building which he occupies, one-half of which he has furnished, and the other half generously offered to me, with the proposal that we should have a mess together (that is, himself and wife, and you and I). Of course, I could not accept the offer—first, as I may not stay here, and second, he is a stranger to me. He appears like a good man and yet may be a gambler. I will have nothing to do with any man whose standing I cannot be satisfied is correct and much less would I take my family to live with that of a gambler.
Darling, unless you can send a package to me by someone coming directly down, you need not for the present send. Certain treasury regulations require the obtaining of permission to receive a package by express, which I do not at present feel inclined to obtain/
Since I left you, I have read, “Very Hard Cash,” which I liked, and “The Wife’s Secret” by Ann S. Stephens—perfect trash. Shall send it to you the first opportunity. Am now going to read “Mysteries of Paris,” which Willie says is intensely interesting. Will send it to you.
Dear one, I have never seriously contemplated building near your father’s. The proposition was made only to obtain the opinion of yourself and friends. I shall pay for the farm first, and either improve the house and grounds as for our own occupancy, or invest any means I may have in business. It seems unfortunate that I should be compelled to remain in the army as a means of support for myself and wife. I know I can attend successfully to any business. But dear, your own Cyrene cannot expect to engage in any business requiring capital. Your mother has been kind to us always and shown an open heart. I have never been able to express fully my appreciation for all that she has done and is now doing for my little wife and myself. She is a good mother, darling. How fortunate that we have such noble women for mothers. The last present from your mother was truly a valuable one.
Then you are having our bedroom painted. That is good. Now put on paper and that which is good, even if you have to pay for it. Then, with our carpet, and glass, and toilette stand, etc., it seems to me you can be truly comfortable. If you desire, you can purchase a bedstead out of money that I shall send you. I prefer dark-colored, perhaps one like yours would be pretty. Have you had a little bookstand made? Could one not be arranged so as to protect the books from dust in sweeping?
Oh, how thankful I am that my own Celia, my loving devoted wife, is satisfied that she will not have to take the medicine provided at St. Paul. ¹ Dear one, sometimes as I have thought since we parted of the possibility of you not being sick, it has nearly driven me crazy. “If I could be with her,” my thoughts said, “it would not be so bad. But she is ignorant upon such matters and of course ask no one’s advice but her own loving Cyrene’s.” Such thoughts, Celia, were terrible. Darling, I could not consent to your having a child. The suffering, the care, the anguish of years would kill my loving wife. I married you to love all my life, and if you had a child, you could not love me half the time. Am I jealous? But dear one, you do not yet know my nature. I am all affection. My existence depends solely upon the love given me by my idolized wife.
It is right—it was God’s will—that we should be married. Does my little one still believe what she has so often said—that we were created for each other, and that we shall love each other truly and alone all our lives? Every day convinces me more and more that you are the only one in all the world that could make me happy.
And does my little wife miss her Cyrene from her embrace as she lies down at night to sleep and awakes in the morning? Oh, dear one, how I do long to clasp you in my arms every night/ It is lonesome to lie without you. Tell me, loving wife, all about it. Confide in your Cyrene. Is he not to be trusted? Can you trust him more that you have already. All that was dear to you was surrendered to your husband and he tries to live worthy of every sacrifice his loving Celia can make. Tell me all that occurs. Every word shall be sacred in my bosom.
The messenger says no letters came for me in the boat today. I am not disappointed. I expected none. But by the next boat, there must be another loving epistle from my loved one. Let me beseech you to write often. Tell me all that transpires. Tell me your dreams, your thoughts, your feelings, your cares, your love, your everything. I have a sympathizing heart. This always open to the loving words of my wife.
In future letters, I shall give you an idea of my business. This morning I have written from 9½ to 12—long, long past church time. But can I pass my time more profitably? Give my love to all. Direct your letters to Little Rock as before. Write often and believe me your devoted and loving Cyrene.
¹ My interpretation of this statement is that Celia was regularly taking a birth control drug while she and Cyrene were together. These were marketed under a variety of discrete names.