Sunday, June 19, 2011

Miss Copeland Writes from her Convalescence

Hillsborough, VA
23 March, 1861

My most beloved Adah,

I am distressed that my father should have so alarmed you with his last letter - sent without my knowledge or consent, though I admit he wrote in fear and with the best intention.  Indeed, it seems I have been very low, and can scarce remember the past ten days.  Only today has the docter given me leave to sit up, and it was only after hours of remonstrance that Father allowed George to help me here to my writing desk.  They have piled me so high with blankets I can scarce put pen to paper, but it does me immense good to return to the simple routine of life.  The sun warms my face, too long hidden from its friendship, and from my window I can see signs that our hard winter is breaking - the creeks run over with melted snow and little points of green - Mr. Wordsworth's daffodils, methinks - thrust through the rich, damp earth.

I hope you may now rest assured that the doctor says I will recover fully, praise the Merciful God, if only I will rest for some days more.  You know how great a trial this will be for me - already my fingers prickle for the feel of my spinning wool in my hands or the soft touch of my garden's earth.  George assures me that he takes up my chores with no complaint from anyone - my Father says my garden still lives, though G. does cut a comick figure at my spinning wheel.  My Aunt Mariah Copeland has come to care for me with the woman's touch my father lacks, for I found when I awoke that my dear old Cleo, who was ever my tender companion and caretaker from childhood, succumbed to the same malady which laid me low and now sings with your mother in the choirs of heaven, where, I think, all thoughts of class, birth, and color are put away forever, and all hearts burn equal with the love of Our Father.  I endeavor to remain joyful in the face of her loss - knowing that God forgets not the sparrow and has granted Cleo eternal joy as boon fro her faithful and pious days with us.  My prayers are with her son, Ben, who is of indispensable service to my Father now that Fairchild is at school.  I know him to be a loyal and hardworking young man, but without family here we hope he will not be turned aside by one of the many vicious abolitionists in the neighborhood to seek out freedom only to find hardship and disaster in the unforgiving lands of the Yankee cut-purse.  I know my father is of a wise and gentle hand, and a most enlightened mind when it comes to our peculiar institution.  He would free Ben if he thought it would do the boy any good - but I feel, and I think my Father agrees, that to continue here alongside us is 10x better than being swept up by some money-grubber who will surely chain him to some Northern mill and never let him look again upon this heavenly country of his birth.

Thank you very much for your accounting of Mr. Lincoln's inaugural, second-hand thought it was.  How good of Mr. McCarty to brave the tumultuous crowd!  It seems I have risen from my sickbed to a world little changed - for good or ill.  I can hear men downstairs grumbling back and forth about Sumter and the failures of Congress and the politic divisions of the Virginia convention - but I gaze out of my window to our little Valley Between the Hills and think to myself that all looks much the same as it did last year, and last year as the year before it.  I somehow find it hard to countenance that all this talk can amount to much at all compared with the beauties all around us.  I think Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Davis, Mr. Stephens, Gen. Scott and the rest ought to be forced to sit before such a view as this for an hour each day before they take up such weighty matters as we now heap upon them.

Please do write and tell me everything there is to tell about your birthday!  My birthday slipped by while I was still sick in bed, and I awoke from my fever to find I was a year older, and a diminutive offering of ill-wrapped gifts left at my bedside.  On top was a lovely bracelet of onyx stones left by Mr. Fleming for me - it seems he and Fairchild were both here and took their fair share of watching over me in my indisposition.  George hints that Mr. Fleming took more night-watches than can be thought just, but it seems both my brother and his friend returned by necessity to Lexington when it was known that I would live, and thus I have no way of verifying the facts of G.'s tale.  The bracelet will match the scarlet silk which was Aunt Nadia's gift to me, and i hope to have a brand new gown sewn when next we meet!

I hope the tumultuous times have left your family in relative peace.  I know that Timothy can think of nothing but soldiering, but has Mr. McCarty indicated whether he will join the ranks if called upon?  What of your father?  Might they take up chaplaincies?

I try not to imagine this place empty of George's pranks and Mason's thoughtful ponderings and Fairchild's strong, helpful spirit.  I trust only and ever in God, "who maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariot in the fire."  I will keep a brave face, whatever befalls, and if war comes my brothers will find that I may match their martial efforts in my duties here at home strength for strength - the honor of our family & State resting on my shoulders even as it does on theirs.  I pray the Lord will give us all courage to do our duty, and keep you always in my heart, dearest and oldest of friends.

I remain forever yours,

M.E.H. Copeland