19 January 1862: “Except that I know what a comfort it is to Mama to have me at home…”

Item description: Letter, 19 January 1862, from Mary Pendleton to her father, William Nelson Pendleton. In the letter, Mary writes to ask her father’s advice on a difficult decision. It is believed that she has been asked to go to Hickory Hill, a plantation in nearby Hanover County, and homeplace of the related Wickham family. From her father’s 23 January 1862 response, it appears that she has been asked to care for two small children at Hickory Hill. Mary expresses her reservations about leaving home to take on this responsibility.

William Nelson Pendleton (1809-1883) was a graduate of the United States Military Academy, an Episcopal clergyman and schoolmaster in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, a Confederate brigadier general, serving under Joseph E. Johnston and Robert E. Lee, and rector of Grace Episcopal Church, Lexington, Va., 1853-1883.

Mary Pendleton was the daughter of William Nelson Pendleton and Anzolette Page Pendleton. Born circa 1838, she lived in Lexington, Va. until her death in 1918. She is buried at Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery in Lexington.

[Item transcription available below images.]

Item citation: From folder 19 of the William Nelson Pendleton Papers, #1466, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:


Jan. 19th 1862, Tuesday evening.

My dear Papa,

I send you a letter from Hickory Hill, received this morning, pressing me again and more urgently to go there. Now I know not what to say. Of course my own feelings would prompt me to remain at home, while at the same time there may be reasons which might make it desireable for me to accept their kind and liberal offer. I greatly fear a large share of my disinclination to go may arise from a selfish unwillingness to [tra…?] my freedom of action and pursuit by other bonds and obligations than those conferred by natural relations. I therefore desire to leave the decision to you and Mama, praying our Heavenly Father to guide you and me aright, and to make me willing to do his holy will. Mama will know best whether she can spare me. Nancy’s health seems so much better that I do not think I can urge that as a sufficient motive to make me decline. I shall leave it entirely to you, and will make no answer till I hear from you, which I hope at least will be by this day week. Aunt Anne [Rose?] is now writing to cousin Anne, and will explain the reason of the delay of my answer. I have charged her to say nothing which shall lead them to think my decision is to be more likely one way than another. Except that I know what a comfort it is to Mama to have me at home, I do not know that I have any really well grounded objection to going, and perhaps if you were safe at home, I might rather like it for a change. But I cannot tell. I fear all other considerations apart, Henry Wickham, brought up as he has been, will be almost too much of a responsibility for me, who have never had any one but myself to control. Please write me fully what you and Mama think best about it, and I will try and abide by your decision.

I send you [?] long and pleasant accounts of himself, and journeyings received this morning. There is great rejoicing there to know that they are safe in Romney, and that without firing a shot. That dreadful march has occasion a great deal of sickness. Gen. Jackson sent back 700 sick into Winchester yesterday week, from [?] Store, or Cross Roads, and there were over 2,000 there before. There is great uneasiness here among all whose friends were exposed to the hardships and toils of the continued march to Romney. I got Mama’s letter also today and am much obliged to her for it. I am so glad something could [back Mr. Lee] in Winchester, where he ought to have been all the time. We are thankful [Sister Sue?] has so far recovered, though she seems to recruit very slowly. Having Mr. Lee with her will I expect do her more good than anything else, as the anxiety consequent upon his exposure to that dreadful weather, would almost of itself have made her sick.

I suppose you have before this received Col. Garnett’s letter on behalf of the Vestry. They asked Cousin Bob if he could come, but finally I believe came to the determination that they could only afford now to invite a single [may?]. It is fully understood on all hands I believe that it is to be only a temporary arrangement. All we know of it came from Cousin Bob who was not present at the meeting. Dr. Madison was elected a member of the Vestry. He communed with his wife last Sunday. Owing to the melting of snow and sleet, and to the rain which has fallen several times this week, the whole earth is covered with water. None of us but the boys went to Church to day. Rose and [Lella?] had almost to wade through the mud in going to Sunday School. We read the service, and one of Bradley’s sermons. I had hardly begun the sermon when the mail, which had been delayed by the heavy thaw, was brought in, but we had self denial enough not to look at it till we were done. Sandie sent me three Yankee letters, not a week old yet. One seems to have been from an Aide, as he speaks of serving orders and “dispaches”.??? The writer of another says, “he likes soldiering very much, and he will not return till he has achieved the glorious cause, for which he enlisted.”

Mama seems to think she may have Randolph Page for an escort home. If so, don’t you want Rose and me to go back with him to see you? Mr. [Higgat?] asked us a day or two ago, if we could not go down and take Mr. [Higgat?] for our escort, as she wished him to go down and see the fortifications at least. Do you see there is nothing else for you to do but to repeat the partial invitation you have already given us. I hope to send your boots down this week. Mr. Wm Ruff sent me word yesterday he was going down in a few days and would take them for me.

Little Martha has been laid by all this week, with a severe attack of rheummatism in her right arm, she is dressed to day, but says it feel numbed, though she can now move it. At first she could not help herself at all. I gave her what Aunt Anne Rose recommended to rub it with, whiskey and red pepper. John acts as both cook and waiter, and we get along very well. Tell Mama Rose and I have made Nancy a nice pretty dress of Rose’s red cashmere. She was so sadly in need of a dress we would put it off no longer. It is so warm we have had little or no fire all day. Tell Mama Col. Gilham got home a week ago. “Com F.” made him a present of a very fine horse. I should like to be present at your first service in your little chapel. Rose had a letter from Cousin Fannie Page today. She had been sick in her room for two weeks, but was better. Fannie had gone with [Lou Caruthers?] to Mrs. [?]. I will take the check to Mr. [Higgat?] tomorrow. I have only drawn 5.00 since Mama left. We have not seen Frank Preston. John [Moore?] will not reenlist and David must not unless he can get an Office.”

All join me in fondest love. Catesby [?] dined here yesterday. Your friend Hempstead has prayers regularly. C says he attends. Gillespie is an assistant. Dr. Madison teaches Latin Lore to Aunt Betsey, Uncle John, Mama, and our other friends.

Your devoted daughter,

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