Item description: Letter, dated 12 August 1863, from Lafayette McLaws to his wife. In this letter he discusses the various talents of their children and the family on whose farm his division is camped.
Head Quarters Division
My Dearly Beloved Wife
I rode a long distance to day and have returned quite tired and very much heated as the sun must have been hotter or as hot at least as it ever is in Georgia. I must try and send you a map of our theater of operations so that when I mention points, you can locate me – but the conveniences for a drawing are very few, and I am a poor draughtsman as you know – to draw well is a very great accomplishment and I would be delighted to hear that our children had any talent for acquiring the art. Not one has any musical talent. So far as I know. Unless it is your prodigy Ulrick. Willie can make a noise as if he was whistling, Johnny cannot whistle as well as W. And Laura cannot sing; one of them may have a talent for drawing; or they may all have the faculty of acquiring knowledge. It is said that this is a distinct faculty, some person cannot acquire because they are continuously doubting, their own ideas of the subject are constantly obstruding themselves, very often in opposition to those of the instructor and consequently they never say good lessons, but they really know more of the subject than those who are exact in their recitations. The head men of colleges are very seldom heard of afterwards because they have the faculty of acquiring information from others, of absorbing the ideas of others, without having any of their own, whereas the doubter the independent thinker, who was slow with his books becomes the man of mark who leads the community. The question is are our boys independent thinkers, who are destined to lead their fellows or are they quick in acquiring the ideas of others only – and yet they may be good daughtsman, if they study how to be, when they get old enough.
My head quarters camp is in the yard and on the premises of a Mr Mason, who married a widow with three grown daughters and one grown son & one son about fifteen he himself having several grown children, and some not of age, he has very little property and she with her daughters have a farm which brings subsistence. The three grown daughters are unmarried and call their father in law “Mr. Mason.” They are all very stout laborers and apparently are very industrious and contented; a few straggling beaus now and then make their appearance. But no one seems to think of marriage, the times being too hard. The mother appears to be a very kind hearted woman, very quiet and retiring. My Brigades are camped all around the farm, and my pickets cover the whole country for mile. – The family does not appear to have suffered from the depredations of the enemy although Stoneman in his raid, passed within a half mile of the house, and others in the neighborhood lost considerably in negroes, produce, and animals. This excites some suspicions that this family are not sound to the Confederacy; but I expect they are so harmless and without influence they are unnoticed. Hugh is getting very anxious to go home, as indeed we all are, but he stands so well as a Q’master I doubt if he will be permitted to resign – but will be assigned to some post duty. I hope it may be so. Gen Lee will not give any leaves of absence to any one under any pretence, not even for three days.
Good day & much love many blessings to all. Your devoted husband L McLaws