Letter from Cordelia L. Bailey to Jennie Reed, April 13, 1863

In this letter from April 13, 1863, Cordelia L. Bailey writes to Jennie Reed, wife of Samuel Reed, discussing her anxieties about her enlisted son Walter. She states that he was in such poor condition upon returning from the South that she encouraged him to remain at home, even at the risk of being charged with desertion. Worry over his arrest prompted her to attempt to obtain his discharge. She also writes that because the government is employing all the domestics in sewing, soon "housekeepers will all be compelled to employ the Contrabands."

Ever dear Friend

Had I replied to your sweetly affectionate letter yesterday I should have written under the influence of such despondency, that I should probably have conveyed the idea that any next change of residence would proove to the lunatic asylum. I have been so wretched about Walter that it seemed to me that the confirmation of my fears must surely deprive me of my reason. But to day [sic] I have had a letter from him prooving that my late alarms were groundless, so my heart is once more open to hope & my mind attuned to pleasant anticipations. Amongst the brightest of which is the promised visit to Joliet.

But before I answer distinctly on this subject, let me tell you why I have been so wretched on my poor boy's account. You know I wrote you that he had returned from the South in a sad condition - sick, suffering & attenuated. The Dr. declared that a return to the service wd prove fatal to him. Of course I cd not think of allowing him to go back again, so I encouraged his remaining here, or elsewhere. Altho [sic] his doing so rendered him liable to be arrested as a deserter. At the same time the idea of his being constantly exposed to this danger became each day more insupportable to me so I resolved to exert myself to obtain his discharge. I therefore went to the Genl Curtis, & represented W-'s case, & he assures me, that if the Medical Director pronounces the evil to be as I have stated, that W- will have no difficulty in obtaining his discharge. So I have written to him to come here at once that the affair may be happily settled. It is probably he will be obliged to go to his Regt to get the discharge. & this will cause some delay & I cannot leave this place until his safety is insured. After that I shall once more breathe freely & I hope regain my health & spirits.

Not that I am really ailing now but when I am distressed in mind, my body always sympathises [sic] .

Now in reply to your kind invitation so sweetly urged, I will say, that my present purpose is to leave this city about the 10th of next month. But of course I cannot decide positively until Walter's difficulties are surmounted. & as I know you will be anxious to hear for his sake as well as mine, as soon as anything transpires I will inform you & then I trust, shall have the happiness of appointing the day of my departure.

Unite your prayers with mine for the sucess of my efforts in behalf of my poor boy. How I pity those who have no faith in the efficacy of prayer. You speak of the deficiencies of your servant. Sure evidence that Martha is no longer with you. How is that? Domestics have become a great nuisance here. No good ones to be had. They are all employed sewing for Governmt. They earn so much more. Housekeepers will all be compelled to employ the Contrabands.

Tell your warm hearted cousin (for I know she is so) that she must not reserve her kisses for "smooth cheeks" alone. Or mine I fear would go unkissed, for tears have made their furrows & anxious thought [&] blighting care have seared & wrinkled them, & that wd be a sore disappointment, for I doat [sic] upon being petted.

Remember me affectionately to "Aunt Anne." & kiss the little darlings for me many times, until I can do it for myself. And you, cheri [sic] Amie, believe in the unalterable affection of your friend.


P.S. What about the mice? Chérie, shall I bring a pound of arsenic to regale them with, in my room? Do entice up a dozen of the neighboring cats to make you a visit, preparatory to my coming. Don't be afraid of arsenic. I kill them with it every time I change my boarding house, & no evil effect has ever resulted from the poisoning.

About this Document

  • Source: Letter from Cordelia L. Bailey to Jennie Reed
  • Extent: 5 pages
  • Citation: Yale University Library, Manuscripts and Archives, Samuel Reed Family Papers, Box 2, Folder 29
  • Date: April 13, 1863