A Letter from Laurel
August 22, 1864
My dearest husband and my best friend,
I think of you so often in those awful conditions, but try not to think of the peril you find yourself in. I pray that God will keep you and that you will take care for yourself as much as you can.
I am well, as is Clinton and little Caleb. In truth, he is not so little any more. You should see him, toddling around the garden and helping us pick up sticks. He cannot carry very many, but he is a persistent little fellow, and I must tell him to rest, or he will work himself into some sort of illness. He obeys me cheerfully, and I should want no better son.
Clinton continues to be a Godsend, working with me to put in the garden. He also is a cheerful, industrious worker, and I count myself blessed to have him here. He never speaks of his family, although they wronged him so sorely. He has a sweet spirit, and I thank God for him.
Any news we receive of the war comes a week after it occurred, which makes the situation even worse. I try not to imagine what has already happened, but do not often succeed. You must pray for me and my worries. Our Saviour told us to take no thought for the morrow, and I must endeavor to do better.
The weather has been fair here, with just enough rain overnight to profit the garden. If that continues, we shall have a fine harvest. I will put up as much as I can, and I find myself wishing that you could eat here, with us, fresh from the garden. I am told, however, that the war will continue at least several months into the future. No one except God knows how long it will last, so I continue to occupy myself and not think about it.
Well, I have complained enough. Please write me a long letter when you can. I can imagine hearing your voice when I read your words. I continue to pray earnestly for you and all those in perilous circumstances, and I pray that this war will cease, sooner rather than later.
I am your loving, adoring wife.
I read Laurel’s letter through twice, and could not help brushing a tear from my eye. She was such a pure, righteous woman, and I counted it a gift from God that she was my wife. Adolphus came into our shelter and saw me holding the letter.
“News from Laurel?”
“Yes. I have no one else who writes me.”
“Is she well?”
“Count yourself fortunate that you have her to write you. You know that I have no one.”
“Oh, I am sorry to have brought that up. Of course I knew that. Please forgive me.”
He waved his hand. “I do so, right readily.”
“Thank you. What news from the ramparts?”
He sighed. “Nothing, which is good, of course, although the only way to end this thing is by fighting, so I find it hard to know what to pray for.”
“I understand what you mean.”
“I know you do. I have the same difficulty. For now, I plan to take a nap. Remember that you have the watch now.”
“Yes, I am preparing what I need for that. I hope you have a good rest.”
“Thank you. I am in need of it.”
I took my rifle and backpack and made my way to the rampart where I stood with poor Johnston the night before. Who knows what would happen to me? I didn’t certainly. That is a knowledge that only God knows, so I said a prayer for myself and all the others I knew. I found my words turning to asking God to end the war soon. That was my greatest dream, for it would allow me to be with Laurel and little Caleb and live in peace. Peace, I thought. What a beautiful word.
I reached my duty station and climbed up on the rampart. A soldier I had not seen was standing watch. “Hello,” I said. “My name’s Caleb, and I’m here to relieve you.”
A look of relief came over his face. “I am right happy to see you. My name is Simpson.”
We shook hands, and I said, “Last name or first?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. My first name is Mordecai. Nice to meet you.”
“Same here. Has it been quiet?”
“Yes. Too quiet, if you know what I mean.”
“There’s a sniper over there, so keep your head down. And you know what to do if something starts.”
I nodded. “I have been fully briefed.”
“Good-bye, then,” Mordecai said. “May you have a peaceful watch.”
“Thank you. Good rest to you.”
He climbed down, and I was left alone at my station. I wasn’t truly alone, because another soldier stood watch about 500 yards away, and of course, there were our troops behind my back. There were also Union forces about 1000 yards away, and as I stood there, I saw that Mordecai was right. There was no sound from across the way, and I saw no activity. Maybe they have all left and we can all go home, I thought. Then I laughed at the absurdity of my thought. And so I stood through the long morning.