I'm poking around my mother's side of the family tree via Ancestry.com. I found an interesting letter to my third great grandmother. This is my grandmother Irene Covington Davidson's g-g grandmother who was Mary Ann Harris whose husband was John Richard Duval. This letter was written to Mary from her sister in-law Lucy Joanna Duval Cantley (John's sister) during the War of Northern Aggression. It's always interesting to read letters from this era in our nation's history. It's a snapshot of what life was like for our ancestors.
September 3, 1861
My dear sister:
I, with heavy heart, sit down this evening to try and write a few lines to you. I hardly know how to commence. I might as well come to the point, where is John? Has he gone to the battlefield? I haven’t heard a word, only what some of the boys wrote back here, that he had passed through Richmond some time before they got there. I have been so uneasy about him. Mat (James Mat Harris, Mary Ann’s brother) wrote in his last letter to me that he had not heard anything reliable and he had written to you to know something about him.
Mary, do write to me as soon as you get this because I’m anxious to hear. I am in hopes that he is at home with his family. It is alright for men to fight for their country, but sometimes we are selfish creatures. Mary, if John is at home, ask him if he has forgotten his sister. If he has gone, ask him to write to me to let me know where he is so I can write to him. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to receive letters from all of you. I haven’t had a line from any of you in such a long time. My son, John Cantley, has written to Joanna twice but has not heard from her.
Mary, I realize that you might not know who has gone to the war from here. They are: (James) Mat Harris, Buck Duval (Richard Park Woody Duval), Rick D., Joe Duval (Joseph Dabney Duval) and a great many more of our acquaintances. It is distressing to see married men have to leave their families and to the battlefield with little hope for their return.
Elizabeth (Elizabeth Harris Duval, married to William Anthony Duval) and Ann (Lucy’s sister named Adrianna married to Mat Harris) never knew what trouble was before their husbands went to war. I feel sorry for them. Ann was taken sick the week after Mat Left and lay sick at home for three or four weeks. Brother Billy (William James Duval) got a hack and brought her to my house. I sent for a doctor for her. She stayed here three weeks and went home last Sunday. She was able to ride home in the buggy. Her baby was quite sick while she was here and not well yet. I’ve heard from her once since she left.
Elizabeth and her children are living with Uncle Capts (William Jennings Duval). She and her children haven’t been well for sometime. The children had chills when I was out there last week. I went that far with Ann.
Mat wrote to Elizabeth and me, begging us to stay with Ann as much as we could. I have never been down there. She sent twice before she came up here but all my family, both white and black, has been sick this summer except myself and Charlie (Lucy’s son, Charles Lockhart Cantley). There has been more sickness this year than we have had since the year 52. Mary, Billy’s wife, is sick at this time. Uncle Capts is also sick. He has been for four weeks. I feel uneasy about him.
Sister Virginia (Half-sister Susan Virginia Duval) had a fine boy. He was born the 16th of August 1861. I haven’t heard a line from her in five months. I don’t know the cause. I have just heard from Ann. Her baby is still sick. Elizabeth went down there yesterday to stay awhile. Elizabeth’s second child is still sick. She thought maybe taking the children would help them. Elizabeth and Ann said they would write but it takes all their time to write to their husbands. They say for you and all the other relatives to write to them. Thought would write when Ann was up here so one would do for both.
Mary, when you write tell all that have gone to war. Joanna, why don’t you write your Aunt Lucy? Do write for it does me so much good to read a letter from you. You always give me all the news. Have you got your piano and sewing machine yet? Ben T. (Lucy’s older brother, Benjamin Turner Duval) has bought Lou (his wife Louisa) a sewing machine. I expect to go there to make the boys some pants this week.
I will close. Give my love to all inquiring friends and relations. Mary, as soon as you get this, do answer. I don’t sleep for I am so anxious for John. If he had gone, tell him to write to me. You know that I love him with all a sister’s affection. If I am never permitted to see him, I hope to meet him in Heaven where there will be no more separation, and I ever expect to love his wife and children. Does Martha Webb live down there? How is her health?
I tell you, the war has made everything so high. I went up in town with Sis Duval today. It is out of all reason. It was bad enough for me before they raised all the goods. It is so dark, I can’t see to write any more. John, my son, must take this to the office. I haven’t forgotten that you promised to send me all the families pictures. If John is gone, I beg to you to send me a picture of him if you have one to spare.
I still remain your sister, Lucy J. Duval Cantley