1862: Maria Louise Farwell to Henry Digby


Lt. Henry Digby (1864)

This letter was written by Maria “Louise” Farwell (1837-1911), the daughter of Henry Farwell (1795-1873) and Nancy Jackson (1798-1887) of Chicago, Illinois. “Louise” was married to Epaphas Wasdsworth Edson (b. 1833) on 8 March 1863 in Chicago. Louise’s older brother, John Villiers Farwell (1825-1908) was an early-day Chicago merchant. He was a partner with and mentor to Marshall Field. Another brother, Charles Benjamin Farwell, was a US Senator from Illinois.

Louise wrote the letter to her friend, Henry Digby (1838-1912) who enlisted on 21 February 1862 at the age of 24 as a sergeant in Co. I, 22nd Ohio Infantry.  Henry was promoted to Full Sergeant Major on 1 January 1863 and to full 2nd Lieutenant on 7 January 1864. The 22nd Ohio Infantry was organized at Benton Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri, originally mustered in as the 13th Missouri Volunteer Infantry (two companies were recruited in St. Louis and one was recruited in Illinois; the remainder were recruited in Ohio). It mustered in for three years service on November 5, 1861. The regiment’s designation was officially changed to the 22nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry on July 7, 1862.

Digby was wounded in the Battle of Shiloh. In 1870, Digby is enumerated in St. Louis; his occupation was recorded as “paper bag manufacturer.” He was married by that time to Margaret Patterson and had two small children — Alice and Arthur. Henry died on 3 July 1912 at Joplin, Missouri, according to his pension record. He served as the commander of the G.A.R. post at Joplin from 1907-1909.

Addressed to Mr. Henry Digby, 13th Regiment Missouri Vol. Co. I, Cornish, Mississippi
Postmarked Chicago, Illinois 30 November [1862]
[Received Dec. 2, 1862; responded 12 Dec. 1862]

Mr. Henry Digby
My Dear Sir,

Am I to consider myself chopped? Are you especially engaged in military necessities? or are you waiting for me to acknowledge the receipt of your little note enclosing your photograph. I should have written sooner but I’ve been expecting a letter in answer to my last long one and then in the bustle and confusion of getting home and getting ready for winter, I have not had many moments unemployed.

Thank you for the picture. I see that your eyes haven’t recovered. I think you should still consult Dr. Marsh. You are not so homely as you attempted to make me believe. I do not think the picture can look nearly as well as the original. My friends so all say — “Well, if one could see his eyes plainly, he could be very fine looking.” Now don’t you think I am flattering you, for I do not think you handsome — yet you have a pleasant face. And it looks strangely familiar. Where can I have seen a similar one! is a riddle I vainly attempt to solve. Perhaps when I have studied the face somewhat, I may and may attempt to ____ you so little more thoroughly than I ever yet have done.

It is my intention to send you a copy of my homely face tho’ I have such a cold and several cold sires on it that I cannot sit at present. My pictures all look so badly that I prefer to have one taken at my best. I think even then it will shock you sufficiently so I will trust that you may spend the intervening time in preparing for it.

To finish the history of my visit, I must begin with a very sad goodbye to several warm friends and the dear familiar old place where I have spent so many happy hours. It will be no longer pleasant to me after they leave. Your note just missed me there, one more visit and I have done. I found myself in rather amusing quarters quite like primitive times I imagine. Thus my recollections of even those extends no farther back than to a nice, comfortable log cabin, rad-carpeted & plastered within, and looking not meanly without, our family an old settlers you see. But to return, this home was only what they call boarded & ____ed, tho I’m sure I don’t know what that means. I know it was neither lathed or looking to me half begun. The cellar was half above and half below ground, conveniently furnished with light and air, in having one open window all the way around it. The first floor was divided into one room. I couldn’t vouch for it though as I wasn’t allowed to penetrate farther than into the mysteries of the first floor. One thing I know. I was wakened one night by noises over my head sounding like earns of corn rolling about and it seemed to me that the rats were having a jubilee. I rather think this style of home would make a very agreeable summer residence as I noticed that the wind blew under it, over it, through it, and into every nook and corner of it, but I didn’t think there was much prospect of a pleasant winter there. If I should tell you half the things there and in the kitchen you would wonder where there was room left for three grown persons and a child. One thing I noticed or rather one corner behind the front door where I thought there was great economy of room exhibited, it was occupied by a buffalo robe — a clothes [?] horse, and the harness for the other horses. My room was economized in like manner. Do you understand when I have been only to visit some cousins of mine who were disappointed by their carpenters marms & other workmen until they were almost disheartened tho’ they do not intend to remain there this winter.

I came home two weeks ago yesterday — Friday — after an absence of two months & two weeks. It had not seemed long to me until everybody was telling me how long I had been gone and scolding me for staying but it was very pleasant to get home. All were so glad to see me and I am fast settling down into the propriches  of life and forgetting my harum-scarum romping, glorious times out of town tho’ every now and then, in spite of myself, thoughts of them will come bringing a hearty laugh, a snatch of a song, or a thrill of joy in their train. I don’t believe it was ever intended that I should be pent up amid brick walls, rattling pavements, & the conventionalities of a city and to convince you that I enjoyed my visit and that it did me good, let me tell you that when I went away, I weighed 135 pounds. Now I weigh 150½.

Chicago seems as busy and full of life as ever. The season of amusements commenced very early this year. Already there has been two magnificent parties. The Philharmonic Society have inaugurated their concerts and in [fact] have had a variety of Lectures. [James E.] Murdoch gave a reading last evening but as I was minus a brain “for the wonce,” I didn’t hear him. I presume my mother was delighted that I had no opportunity to go as she insists that I am not well enough to be out. I think I must go away again if coming home makes me ill.

What do you think of the change in the “Grand Army” [of the Potomac]? I don’t see much improvement on the old regime yet. There is the same old complain of bad roads, good ____ for it doubtless. Still it keeps the army just where it has been whereas everybody had predicted that we should have stirring news when Burnside took charge of affairs.

Hamilton N. Eldridge

If the 127th Illinois Regiment — Col. [John] Van Arman — should be in your vicinity ever, you would find a friend of mine in Lieut. Col. [Hamilton N.] Eldridge.

Would you like to have been in Gen. McClellan’s bodyguard? and soon be mustered out of service? I know some of them will be half wild with joy on account of it.

I didn’t find out your relations in Byron. I don’t believe you have any there.

D___ (_ice spelled strong) seem as unreal now as it and it is a clear cold day here and I am having quite vivid day dreams of skating. Can I depend on your promise of last winter to be my gay cavalier? I shall be ready for the first ice.

Did you get the lemon I sent you? I will send you a paper containing our Thanksgiving discourses. I didn’t hear any of them but spent the day making out bills, comparing bills, making my cash come out right. That was no trouble tho’.

Well, it is almost tea time and I have a long, gossiping letter concerning the fashions to write to my most intimate lady friend. Will you please excuse me? I think this a longer letter than you deserve tho considering you haven’t answered my last — hah. But perhaps you’ve dropped me! In that case, I wait to be informed of that fact. Shall I wait long?

As ever, your friend, — M. Louise Farwell

Chicago, Ills.
Sat. Eve. Nov. 29th 1862

One thought on “1862: Maria Louise Farwell to Henry Digby

  1. Hey thank you for the research I have a letter envelope address to Mr . Henry Digly 22nd regiment Ohio volunteers call Cornth Mississippi or in the field…date of cancel stamp is Cairo Illinois March 19th 1863….Thks Km


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