1861: Belle W–ff to Mr. L

I have not been able to identify the author of this letter written by a school teacher in one of the Confederate States. Here first name was Belle (probably Isabel) and her last name began with W and ended in “ff” (most likely). She datelined the letter from “Apple Grove” which could have been the name of a plantation or one of the small villages by that name in North Carolina, Virginia, or Alabama. She wrote the letter to a friend of hers whom I assume was in the confederate service — probably in Charleston, South Carolina. She mentions having mailed him a previous letter from Orangeburg (assume South Carolina).

There are references to several individuals in her letter but no complete names are given which would aid in the identification of the author.

aacivdist91 - Version 2
Dateline and Belle’s signature (at left) with Patriotic CSA Cachet


Apple Grove
September 5th 1861

Mr. L —

Your pleasant and agreeable letter of the 1st letter date and 8th, post date ult. I received some time ago and would have replied immediately but I did not feel well. It was just about as much as I could do to get through the duties of the day and in the evening sit down and rest, hoping that the next would find me better. But it was not to be. I had at last to lay on one of the benches in the school room and shake until one of the children could go and bring me a conveyance. How tenderly I have been nursed. God has been very good to me. I am grateful.

Letters have been accumulating all this time. This — my first convalescent evening — has been spent in looking over them. I did not know whom to answer first but concluded that as you were a new “friend” and correspondent, I could but like the same privilege as with an old one without causing you some unpleasant feelings, which I own I’m not willing to do. One friend writes telling me of the death of another beloved friend; they mourn deeply — and I can give them heartfelt sympathy. Olevia writes telling me of her marriage which took place — Providence permitting — this morning, and inviting me to her wedding and I spend it it bed. Such is life — joy follows closely on pain for I am truly glad that she is happy. I suppose you know the man — Mason is his name. He’s horrid ugly but good noticed and I believe well intentioned.

Then one from Mrs. McK — the best and longest one she has written me for some time. Then some old scholars write telling me of their improvement and promotion. And one from Miss Lou H__’s father with whom I have had quite an entertaining correspondence for some years. I suppose you know whom I mean? Ah! that was a shameful flirtation you carried on with her! I do not really believe that it did her any harm, but you were not to know that. Then letters from Mother and brother and some from others that you do not know. There are twelve in all to be answered. Do you feel flattered any that you are the first? You ought to be.

As far as newspapers are concerned, I’m almost as bad off as you are — seldom see one — so you will not “bore” me with war news, for it is the all absorbing topic here. There are several Societies formed here as well as elsewhere for the relief of those who have gone to fight our battles. Two evenings in the week, I sit with my scholars sewing and knitting socks for the soldiers. They are quite delighted and speak of “our Society” in the proudest tones. I pray that the war will soon end, but God knows best. Happy will they be who can see that, all the time.

I suppose you have heard of Miss Eugenie’s wedding? O__ tells me that her parents are now living with Mrs. McK. I though and understood that Mrs. McK would break up housekeeping when O__ married, but it seems as if she has changed her mind. I do long to get quite well so as to take a horseback ride — quite as well as to resume my duties. A gallop on a good horse is so delightful and invigorating, although I am cautious for once I came pretty near breaking my neck, and it, proving rather tough then.  I do not care to give it another chance for fear that I might not come off so well. I took one some time ago with Mr. E__ and his daughter — about five miles we went, and returning near dark (it was like when we started) we came to an old bridge — though not a very dangerous one. They wouldn’t rely [on it so] checked the horses to go over it slowly, while I — not noticing them or even seeing them in fact (so absorbed was I in looking out for the stumps) — shot or bolted right over it, and not finding them with me, waited on the other side for them. Mr. E__, looking very angry, said I had “better get my neck insured,” but I looked up and laughed at him for creeping, although I could not blame him for his daughter was not accustomed to riding and I ought to have remembered that. However, all’s well that ends well. Twas more than a year ago that a fiery horse made me throw an involuntary summerset — or a half of one — for I landed on the side of my head.

Now look here, perhaps the reason you did not get that package was because it was directed to Mr. J. L.  Suppose you enquire for that soldier. I am sorry you lost your money for money is hard to get and I’m sorry too that you lost my first letter, for whether worth reading or not, it was a long one and I’s rather you read it than any other. Are you sure it was received in Charleston? I mailed it from Orangeburg.

There was one remark in your letter about the Church which would worried me greatly. Did I think you really meant which you implied.

You quote a paragraph from my last letter which said, “I am glad to go where I know they love me, and sorry to leave where I think they love me,” and ask what must you deduct from this. Simply that I’ve no brain fever. That some people in both places are so kind and good to me — that like a good many of the human race, and following the bent of the human mind to look afar for things close by, that when with the one — I think tis the others that love me most. Oh God has been most good to me in leading so many to care for me as he has. Some pretty hard specimens of human nature I’ve met with in my brief journey through life. They are to show me that appearances are not to be trusted. I’ve made them my “way marks” which may not do me the least good in the world — when a harder one comes before me.

I can only say that I am very much fatigued now and must end rather abruptly. Your letters are welcome, pray believe that I shall ever be very glad to hear of your happiness, health, and prosperity. I may leave here this winter but am not positive.

Good evening, Mon Amie, — Belle W__ff

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