Item description: Letter to Ellen Richardson in Ololona, Miss., from her cousin Laura Norwood in Lenoir, N.C.
[Transcription available below images.]
Item citation: In the Chiliab Smith Howe Papers #3092, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Lenoir. Feb 28th. 1862.
My dear Ellen,
This is fast day but Nature seems have put on a festival dress. All out of doors is so bright, sunshiny and gay. I am a little afraid that hungriness is very much conducive to despondency when there is no prospect of satisfying the appetite, but although I am feeling the want of food very sensibly just at present, and have been listening for two hours, I mean one hour, was at church two, to Mr. Rankin, the Presbyterian Minister who is dry as a last years cornstalk. Still, I hope nothing like a desponding tone will pervade this letter. If it does, my darling, ascribe it to physical and not mental causes, to the want of dinner but not the absence of devotion to the Cause of our Country, — dearer, far dearer in the hour of its peril than in the day of its many victories. I would here state, before I get any hungrier, that I am in no sense defeated because Buckner, Pillow, Floyd, or whoever it is, is defeated. No Indeed! The Yankees did not capture my spirit of Resistance when they took Donelson. Nashville seems to have suddenly become a fabulous place, a place today in Lincolndom and tomorrow in the Confederacy, and Pillow, Buckner, & Floyd & Johnson flit about in the telegrams from one place to another and from one state of being to another. We cannot get any certain information about them here, but be it as bad as it may be, I am not conquered or bewildered. Who ever expected that we would gain our independence without a desperate struggle? I certainly did not. And I think if it were gained by a succession of brilliant victories, it would not long abide. A people untried by adversity are unfit to be the founders of a great nation. But Ellen dear it is of no use for me to write on these subjects to you, for no idea on these questions exists in my mind, that has not probably occured to yours, and I could not find expressions more clear or forcible than those which will naturally present themselves to you. One thing which pleases me very much and I think shows a spirit of earnestness in the people, is the way in which the fast days appointed by our good president are observed. Today, the church was crowded, and the militia officers, who were drilling in town, all filed in and took their places, and the whole congregation seemed attentive and solemn. The sermon was very good, forcible and sensible, though somewhat less effective than it might have been if some one else had preached it.
Tomorrow there will be a dinner in honor of the volunteers who belong to our first company: they have re-enlisted and are at home on furlough. Pa, and some other gentlemen will address them. Several new companies are in process of being formed in this county, and those in the field will probably re-enlist at least a large majority. Brother Tom will join the army in a few weeks. Cousin Ed Jones came home last week from the convention at Raleigh. He is very blue over the state of affairs. In fact I am afraid the men who are at the head of the State Government are for the most part very inefficient and stupid. Roanoke Island is a name that is not at all suggestive of pleasant things. I suppose our men did right to surrender, but from what I hear, they did not win much renown in the little fighting they did do. Capt. Wise’s company certainly acted with great gallantry; but I have not heard yet of any other company that did.
Our Gov. Clarke is a very ordinary man; our Adjutant Genl. is certainly a very “sorry” man; and I am afraid our convention dont know what ought to be done. In fact, the people of the Old North bid fair to be badly represented by her rulers. But as to the Mountain region, there is no portion of the Confederacy more firmly and enthusiastically devoted to our cause. The counties that border on East Tennessee are sound and loyal. There was a little boy from Watauga here the night we heard of the Donelson defeat, and he sprang up and said “If the Yankees do come into this country, I am one that they will have to drop in their path.” His neighborhood has been threatened with invasion from East Tenn., and he said this in prospect of real danger. The Wautagians are the finest looking soldiers I have seen. They make our house their stopping place on the way to the Station. Nine staid here a few nights ago. Some times six or seven walk in, just as we are sitting down to dinner, which causes a little cloud to arise on the face of our fair housekeeper, my sister Mary. We have laughed at Mama a good deal about the Volunteers. Most of them belong to the 37th N.C. Regiment which contains many of my friends and acquaintances, and I very often ask after the officers and others that I think they will be sure to know. Mama said one day “Laura is such a coquette, dont you see how she carries on with the soldiers”? The idea was so absurd that it seemed a very witty remark. Poor Me! So hopelessly sensible, and positive, I never knew the delights of a fliration. Never will now, for I am indisputably “not girlish any more”. Well “act well our part, there all the honor lies”. If my part is that of an old maid, I accept it without fear for I never feared any thing, and it is a poor time to begin the business now. I am often glad I am not married, but methinks there is some thing very fine in having a brave husband to fight in the glorious battles, and come home and tell about them by the fireside. I declare it would be fine to own such a brave officer as — , Well I wont say who. He is a splendid looking man, as bold and brave as any Knight of the olden time, and therefore worthy of a more beautiful ladye love than myself who care nothing for him any way, nor he for me. Only it would be quite fine, and patriotic to say “My Husband Maj.” — There! There are some volunteers now at the door! I must leave here. They must come to the fire. I will go in Ma’s room, that refuge for the exile. My dear, did you ever live in a crowded house? If you never did, you will never know how to sympathise with Noah’s weary dove that soared the earth around &c.
Sometimes at night, I go from one fireside to another, from the parlor to the sitting-room & thence to Ma’s room, and thence upstairs before I find a resting place. There are various comfortable little colonies in different parts of the house this evening.
Ma joins me in love to all, especially Cousin Julia. We have not heard any thing from our Tennessee kin for a month or two. They are Southerners. Some of the younger ones in the army. What is the No. of your husbands Regt. and who commands it? I always look anxiously when I see any thing said about Mississippi troops. Dearest excuse this, the boys and girls are talking around me in the most inexcusable manner. Poor Cousin Sarah is rapidly declining. All the others well. I am so sorry for poor Laura. I love her very much. Write soon to