Page numbers in issues:1865.1.1-32; January • 1865.1.33-64; February • 1865.1.65-96; March • 1865.1.97-128; April • 1865.1.129-160; May • 1865.1.161-192; June • 1865.2.1-32; July • 1865.2.33-64; August • 1865.2.65-96; September • 1865.2.97-128; October • 1865.2.129-160; November • 1865.2.161-192; December
Providence, Nov. 9, 1864.
Dear Merrys:—I have been absent so long from your circle, that I imagine I am about forgotten, and that I may not be entirely so, I come with this little Chat.
Sharpshooter, I was very sorry I missed seeing you. I can sympathize with your afflictions, being obliged to hobble myself, in consequence of wet days and nights on the James River. I was right glad to hear that you favored “Ancient Abe.” I joined the Galena just about a fortnight after “Little Mac,” of (in)glorious memory, was on board, and used to enjoy the anecdotes old salts had to tell of him, till, in Washington, he ignored the ship, his protector, and us, and before the committee answered, “Don’t remember—might have been. Only this and nothing more.”
Jasper and Tommy, your pardon. Please send your present address, and I will fulfill my obligations at once.
Saucy Nell, did you ever receive a c. de v. from me? I sent you one. If not, will you exchange now?
If any of the cousins will favor Jean with their cartes, he will return at once. Address Box 719, Providence, R. I.
Wilforley, our bright, pleasant friend, is gone. We shall miss his pleasant words much, as the Museum comes monthly round. May he rest in peace.
With love to all, as ever,
Jean Du Casse.
“Little Mac”: General George Brinton McClellan (1826-1885); the nickname refers to his height. McClellan was on board the U. S. S. Galena in late June and early July, 1862, during the concerted effort by Union forces to advance on Richmond, Virginia, by water. His presence on the gunboat—instead of commanding his troops—at key moments made him appear less than competent or courageous. At White Oak Swamp, the generals were left to fight their troops as they saw fit, while McClellan oversaw the Galena’s shelling of Confederate forces upriver. With Union troops resting at Malvern Hill on July 1, McClellan took his most controversial trip, leaving them to their fate while he inspected a fall back position downriver. Confederate forces massed for attack. Their delay allowed McClellan to rejoin his troops for the battle, but the damage to his reputation was done. Questioned about the affair by a joint committee of Congress in 1863, McClellan was vague about whether or not he was on the Galena that day. To the question, “Were you down to the river, or on board the gunboats during any part of that day, between the time you left the field and your return to it?” he replied, “I do not remember; it is possible I may have been, as my camp was directly on the river.” During his unsuccessful run for president in 1864, mocking political cartoons picturing him drinking on the Galena while battle raged or observing the battle from safely on board the gunboat. [Stephen W. Sears. George B. McClellan: The Young Napoleon. New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1988. • United States Government. Report of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1863. Part 1: Army of the Potomac. 37th Congress, 3rd session. Report #108; pp. 436-437.]
Galena: Union ironclad screw steamer launched and commissioned in 1862 and re-commissioned in 1864. She was 210 feet long, with a depth of 12 feet 8 inches; with her two engines, six furnaces, and two boilers, she was capable of a maximum speed of eight knots and an average of six knots. The well-armed Galena steamed up the James River with General George Brinton McClellan on board in late June and early July 1862. [United States Navy Department. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. DC: Government Printing Office, 1894-1922; series 2, vol 1: 90; series 1, vol 7: 709. • United States War Department. The War of the Rebellion. DC: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901; series 1, vol 11: 223-224.]
Uncle Rob and Merry Cousins:—I wish all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
And why should we not have a happy new year? I am sure we have a great many reasons to be happy. While God [p. 26 ] in his providence has seen fit to remove those from our Merry circle whom we loved, and whom we miss, he in his merciful kindness has seen fit to spare our lives to see the dawning of the new year. Who, how many of us, will live to see the close? All, I hope, but I am afraid not. Are we all prepared? Let us each ask ourselves this question. If not, haven’t we a lesson to learn from the last year? See how many of our friends have been suddenly taken away! to that better land, I trust—H. A. Danker drowned by the sudden sinking of his vessel; Wilforley, by a short sickness. Haven’t we reason to be happy? and should we not be happy when we feel prepared to meet our God, when he may call us from our duties on earth?
Leslie still cries Pertine for Queen, and I for one am ready to stand by him for another year, if need be, in order to establish her upon the Merry throne.
Hattie Lee casts a sly glance at me, while Uncle Robert says, “Pontiac, your time is ’most out—be quick!” So, cousins, wishing you all a hearty good-night, I leave you to the tender mercies of the hatchet.
Queens: candidates for the “pretty girl” contest inadvertently sparked when subscriber Daniel H. Burnham asked, “Will the best-looking cousin in the Chat favor me with his or her carte?” (1862.2.28) The candidates included Fleta Forrester and Winifred.
Hattie Lee: Harriet M. Lee (born abt 1841); married 23 January 1865 Eugene H. Fales (born 1840/1843, Thomaston, Maine; died 12 July 1868, St. Paul, Minnesota); one son, apparently died as an infant. In 1872, Hattie lived in New York City, New York; [RG 15. Records of the Veterans Administration, pension certificate #160591 • St. Paul, Minnesota. “Mortuary Register, 1866-1884.” Public Health Center, St. Paul; vol 1: 15, 119.]
Merrys All:—Again we meet, at the passing away of the old, and the birth of the new year. It is a time for sad and solemn thought. Eighteen hundred and sixty-four is gone never to return: think of it my Merry friends, never.
A retrospective view of the past year doubtless brings to your minds much of joy; but oh, how winding the path of life seems when one looks back upon it as from some high mountain top! How many times we have strayed from the straight and narrow way! But the leaf in the book of the recording angel is turned; what has been written there you and I can never know until we are assembled at the judgment before the awful throne of the Most High God. Then all the millions of earth shall know the good and evil deeds of sixty-four; but sixty-five, beaming with smiles, radiant with hope, and full of promises for a bright and prosperous future, stands waiting at the threshold. Welcome, thou new comer? If thou bringest us victory and peace, faith and love for and in Christ Jesus, we can ask of thee nothing more.
But enough! May you all live to see many another Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Whatever of evil the parting year has brought, it has given at least one blessing to the Merrys. A Queen we have at last—one whose right to wear the crown none have dared to dispute. All who have been fearless enough to speak at all, have spoken in her favor. The candidates, which a year ago almost set the (Merry) world on fire, have taken to themselves wings. One has winged her flight to a brightly shining Star(r). The other attempted to fly off into the beauties of Shakspeare, but, alas! there is a “Stone” around her neck forever. Now that contest is over, and from all sides comes the universal shout, “All hail to Queen Pertine!”
Dan H. B., have you left us never to return? Are you disgusted with the demoralization of the Merry band? It is too bad; we regret your demise exceedingly! [ … ]
But enough of messages. With one more cheer for Queen Pertine, and three rousing ones each for U. S. Grant, Sherman, and Phil. Sheridan. I—there! you see that horrid instrument runs very smoothly now—all that is left is
Yours, very truly,
U. S. Grant (1822-1885): soldier and 18th president of the U. S. Baptised Hiram Ulysses Grant, he adopted the name his congressman had mistakenly put in the letter appointing him to West Point. Grant was not especially enthusiastic about a military career—either at West Point, where he ranked in the middle of his class, or after graduating. He resigned from the Army in 1854 and tried several occupations before settling in Galena, Illinois. In 1861, after frustrating attempts to find a niche in the military, Grant was appointed colonel of the 21st Illinois Volunteers and two months later was appointed brigadier-general in charge of a district with its headquarters in Illinois. It was the beginning of a brilliant career, which included the capture of Vicksburg in 1863 and command of the armies of the U. S.. In January 1866 the Museum published an article emphasizing his exemplary nature as a boy.
Philip Henry Sheridan (1831-1888): U. S. soldier. Before the Civil War he served in the West. Sheridan’s career during the War was brilliant, and eventually he was given command of the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac. Soon he was engaged in a number of important battles and actions and in 1864 was given command of the Army of the Shenandoah. Sheridan’s forces laid waste to the Valley, thus cutting off supplies to Confederate forces. By the end of the War, he was major-general of the regular Army and had been instrumental in forcing the surrender of the Confederate Army.
William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891): U. S. soldier. A graduate of West Point, he was superintendent of the military college which would become Louisiana State University, leaving when Louisiana seceded from the Union in 1861. Sherman’s career during the Civil War included command at Bull Run and a prominent part in the battle of Shiloh; in September 1864 his forces took Atlanta, Georgia (he used as his headquarters a house formerly occupied by Museum subscriber Louisa J. Neal). In November his forces started the controversial—but effective—march through Georgia. In early 1865 his forces marched north through the Carolinas. [Franklin M. Garrett. Atlanta and Environs. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., Inc., 1954; vol 1: 127, 572. vol 2: 127, 638-639.]
Dear Merrys:—Here I come from my place in the corner where I have been staying so many months, but listening very attentively to all that has been said. But, alas! I see that our once merry circle is now sad. Two have left us, Wilforley and H. A. Danker. And one was a brave soldier boy, who died while serving his country beneath the “Stars and Stripes.” Oh, “this cruel war!” When will it be over? How many thousands of deaths have been occasioned by it! Grasshopper, I am also for Lincoln.
Ha! ha! Do listen to W. A. R. A fine king he would make, certainly. We are to have a queen, and Pertine shall wear the crown. Only, Pertine, do not, like Winnie, go away and leave us.
Romance and Kitty Clover, I should be happy to X with you.
Please, Uncle, don’t consign this to the basket.
Brooklyn, Dec. 28, 1864.
Dear Mr. Merry:—I have been wishing to write for some time, but for some unknown reason have delayed doing so till now. On one day I had determined to write and keep a promise made for me by another, when the glorious news from General Sherman drove it right out of my mind. By-the-by, as we were reading the paper at breakfast, one of the little ones asked, “What General followed General Sherman to Savannah?” and immediately answered his own question with “General Rejoicing,” of which important fact I thought it would be well to tell you. According to the above-mentioned promise, I inclose my carte.
M. E. A., of No. 25, Brooklyn.
East Windsor Hill, Dec. 19, 1864.
Dear Uncle Merry:—Do you remember the baby sister of Minna and Alick that you sent the kiss to ten years ago? In looking over an old Museum, I saw that Alick told you how I tipped over pitchers of water and got the ashes out of papa’s stove all over his study floor. I have come to tell you that I think it is all a mistake. Minna and Alick have grown up now. Minna is teaching music, and Alick, whom we call Ned, is in Yale. I have read the Museum for a great while, and like it very much; but I wish it came every week.
When I was learning to talk, I used to call Milk Memo, and so mother gave me that name, and therefore I will sign myself,
Tree Top, Sometime 1, 1865.
Dears:—I tried, long ago, to let you know my sentiments in regard to the Queen question, but Uncle Hi cried “Veto,” so I shall keep a dignified silence on the subject now.
Welcome, steel-plated William the Merry.
Spin us another yarn, Jean du Casse. The last will wear very well.
I shall be in New York some time this winter, and I shall certainly visit the Merry sanctum, where I hope to meet some of you Merryites.
I hope you all spent a merry Christmas. I spent part of a merry one in reading “Les Misérables,” and looking at ghosts from “Spectropia.” One of the “ghosts” appeared with a hatchet raised High, and that frightened this
Les Miserables: book by Victor Hugo (Amer: Translated Charles E. Wilbour. NY: Carleton, 1862). This leisurely novel, as big as the events it describes, focuses on Jean Valjean, imprisoned for stealing bread, and his redemption through his aid of an orphan girl. As much about France as it is about the characters, the novel climaxes with the revolt in 1833.
Spectropia: Spectropia, or Surprising Spectral Illusions Showing Ghosts Everywhere, and of Any Color (New York: James B. Gregory, 1864). By staring at the book’s 16 plates and then at a blank wall, the reader can entertain herself with “ghostly” after images.
[Editor: ] This month comes to us bringing sorrow and sadness and weeping. Another of our noble boys in blue sleeps among the martyr dead. The altar of human freedom demanded another sacrifice, and Adelbert Older cheerfully gave his life for his country.
Thus one by one they pass away, each noble spirit adding one to the immortal names of the long line of heroes who die that their country may live, and whose blood is freely given to purchase universal freedom and a righteous peace. Their glorious record and heroic memory will be fondly cherished by dear ones left behind.
In the December number we published a letter from Adelbert’s father, giving an account of his enlistment in the Union army, his battles and wounds, and capture by the rebels; and this month we have another letter, with the sad news of his death.
We assure the afflicted parents that they have our warmest sympathies and prayers, trusting and hoping for a glorious reunion when the sound of war is heard no more through all the land, and all tears are wiped away from every eye.
The following letter will be read with painful interest by all:
Packwaukee, Wis., Jan. 19, 1865.
Aunt Sue:—In obedience to your request to give you, and through you the Merry circle generally, any intelligence received of our lost boys, Adelbert in particular, I write this to tell you that we have received such information as renders it all too certain that both are dead. Adelbert died in Richmond, a prisoner, but at what date, or whether naturally of wounds, or by cruelty and neglect, is uncertain. The younger met his death on the battle-field. Far be it from me to wish to burden others with our sorrows, but I may be allowed to say that in their death we have lost a great deal—two sons of whom any parents might justly be proud. Society has lost bright ornaments, and with Adelbert the Museum has lost an ardent admirer. God needed defenders of his eternal principle of human freedom, and they understandingly responded to the call, were slain upon his altar, and their freed spirits have gone to their reward. Alas that this must be to you, to the Uncles, and all the Merry cousins, in behalf of Adelbert Older, an earthly farewell!
Your sympathies, dear sister, we are sure of, and your prayers you will not deny to your afflicted brother and sister,
Amos and Ann Older.
[Transcriber’s note: ] This letter is a sterling example of the “chattiness” of many of the letters printed in the Chat at the time.
U. S. Steamer Sonoma, Off Charleston, Jan. 17, 1865.
Can you wonder, Uncle Merry, that I have not written, when I tell you that to-night, for the first time since leaving Gotham, have I beheld the September Museum? Am I not, therefore, entitled to a little indulgence, Merrys all, and be permitted to say all I wish? If you said no, Uncle M., I didn’t hear you, for I’m too far away; besides, the guns make too much noise.
Did you not know that I was vain, and desired to have you tell the folks that I had gone off again? Why did you not remind him, Hattie? Here I’ve been, rolling off Charleston, and cruising around the “big pond,” generally, for five months more, and none to say “good luck” to me.
To all new Merrys I send greeting—all, mind you. Yes, James, you may write, but be careful and not talk treason concerning Winnie, or there’ll be a row.
Ino, I should like decidedly to do so, but how am I to do my part of the exchange out here? The rebs will not let [p. 89 ] us have Charleston, and when I was over to Savannah, the “picter” man had not arrived, so there is no gallery where I may be taken. You see they take none but “full length” pictures on board ship, and I don’t fancy that style exactly, for the Doctor is generally the artist (or else the rebs send one), and there’s usually an arm or a leg left out, which spoils the looks of the figure, as they did one of our poor fellows a week or two since.
And so you’ve come to life, Jean Du C.? I was afraid you’d lost the number of your mess. “Sonoma, S. A. B. Squadron,” will find me. Do write. Are your reminiscences of the Purser pleasant? Hope so, for I’m in the “P. D.”
How long your message was coming to me, Coy! I had hoped to meet you there. Did you ever hear a letter read since I left that sounded like Jasper? Shall look again when I return.
Teaser, who are you? I declare the girls teased me enough about your first letters to make me three Teasers instead of the author of the letters merely. Will you not tell me, please? Were you not on the frigate Potomac? No. I know you were not, for you would not say, “How are you, Geraldine?” I wish the lady mentioned would write and inform me whether I am acquaint. Everybody says we are. How is it, Lady Geraldine?
That’ll do, Hattie, you need not laugh! Ella, too; I see you’re smiling. Am I not ungrateful? Warn all Merrys never to write to Jasper, lest he should answer their letters as he did your last. I’m really penitent!
Dan H. B., a friend of yours came on board last night; he recognized your face in my album, instanter—Marcy by name—a school-mate. Said you were “queer.” Winnie told me the same thing once, so’t must be so!
Leslie and Pontiac, it’s a wonder you do not both haunt me nights! Believe me, I have not forgotten, even though silent. When I come back I’ll give you evidences of my sincerity. Remember me at “99,” particularly to Brother Stearns. Has the Treasurer inquired for me?
Dear Ol, I thought of you the day we took Fort Beaulieu. After landing, I found a collection of birds’ eggs in the fort, all broken but two, which I have saved. Do you still retain your interest in “O O”logy? Why did you forsake Tommy? He’s heart-broken!
In connection with Danker, let me say one word, though late, of our Wilforley. None of the Merrys knew him better, none loved him more. I attended his funeral when home, and the words,
No more may fear to die,”
ring in my ears to-night as they did that day. “A finished life,” the minister said, “and yet so young!”
I fear I must stop, for Uncle admires brevity, and besides, I’ve an impediment in my speech.
Lucy, A. N., Nell, Forestina, Fiddlesticks, everybody, my best wishes to all.
Jessie Bell, may I not know you?
If Fort Moultrie or the torpedoes sink the Sonoma this week, don’t forget
[Editor: ] We bury the hatchet while Jasper speaks, and set the manipulator to work upon other letters from the “home guard,” believing our boys of the Army and Navy have the first right to be heard. We hope Charlestown will “hear” from you before you come again. You will know Jessie Bell when you find out who she is, and will wonder you had not “known” before you found out.
U. S. S. Sonoma: Union wooden steamship launched 15 April 1862 and commissioned 28 Sept 1863 for the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. She was 233 feet long, with a depth of 12 feet; with her single engine and two boilers, the Sonoma was capable of a maximum speed of 11 knots and an average of 9 knots. In February 1865, she was sent to South Carolina as part of an expeditionary force “against the rear of Charleston”. After the fall of Richmond, Virginia, on 3 April 1865, the Sonoma was ordered to Ft. Sumter, South Carolina, for the raising of the Union flag over the fort by Major-General Robert Anderson on the fourth anniversary of his surrender of that fort. [United States Navy Department. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. DC: Government Printing Office, 1894-1922; series 2, vol 1: 210; series 1, vol 15: 9, 254; series 1, vol 16: 239, 315.]
“They that have seen thy look in death … ”: Felicia Hemans, “A Dirge”, lines 4-8:
Dust, to its narrow house beneath!
Soul, to its place on high!—
They that have seen thy look in death,
No more may fear to die”
Fort Beaulieu: on the Vernon River; the U. S. S. Winona and Sonoma were part of the fleet that took the fort on 21 December 1864. [United States Navy Department. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. DC: Government Printing Office, 1894-1922; series 1, vol 16: 137.]
ornithology: Oliver Onley’s interest in birds isn’t overly evident in either his letters or his pieces for the Museum (except for a piece titled “Our Canary” ).
S. A. B. Squadron: South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
P. D.: Purser’s Department.
U. S. S. Patapsco: single-turret wood and iron monitor built in 1862. She was sunk by a torpedo off Charleston, South Carolina, on 16 January 1865. [United States Navy Department. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. DC: Government Printing Office, 1894-1922; series 2, vol 1: 171.]
Fort Moultrie: fort in the harbor at Charleston, South Carolina.
A young Western friend writes to know something about this Merry circle—“if it’s a secret society, what the rules and regulations are, etc.” Now, as I am not one of the initiated, I must e’en come to headquarters for information. Won’t some one enlighten us?
I must confess it is with some fear and trembling I venture within this charmed circle, but, after passing safely through, shall, no doubt, grow suddenly strong and valorous, as a little fellow I once knew did.
He was a neighbor’s child, and one day, in company with a little sister, came for a visit. He was very quiet during his stay, and we were troubled to know the wherefore, until just before he left it came out that he was afraid to pass a grove that stood upon the borders of [p. 90 ] our place. They had heard some strange noises in passing, and were quite positive that it was some wild animal. Seeing there was no hope of convincing him to the contrary, I put on my sun-bonnet and sallied out as body-guard.
It was a lovely autumn day, and not a sound disturbed the solemn hush of approaching twilight, save the sad note of the mourning dove or the hooting of some far-off owl.
My little companions crept quietly and cautiously along, starting at the slightest sound, and fairly holding their breath as if they expected a panther or wild cat to spring from every clump of bushes.
At last we emerged from the wood without encountering anything more formidable than a frightened squirrel that eyed us suspiciously from the tree-top, and Eddie’s courage began to revive. When the last bush was left behind he grew wonderfully brave, and flourishing his arms in a warlike manner, exclaimed, “Oh, if I only had a sword, no wild animal dare come near me.”
Before I go, let me introduce our little black-eyed four-year-old, a restless, mischievous little youngster, brimful of fun and frolic. One day an auntie said to him, “Artie, I think you have pretty sharp eyes.”
“No,” returned he, quickly, “if they was, they would cut.”
Last summer his older brother raised a small patch of corn, and watched it with a good deal of interest[.] One day he came in boasting that he had two ears on one stalk. “Pooh!” retorted Artie, “that’s nothin’; everybody’s got two ears, ain’t they?”
“secret society”: Sid also referred to the Chat as a secret society; with the imaginary Parlor as a “lodge-room”: “Visions of a mysterious room—purple velvet hangings—cabalistic signs—goats—sheets, etc.—all the paraphernalia of a well-conducted lodge-room of the Sons of Malta style cross my mind’s eye—ugh, and a big, grim sentinel with a two-edged sword.” (1865.1.91) See also 1865.2.155
Dear Uncles, Aunt, and Cousins:—Please let me be heard, I have kept still so long.
Evening Star, I am longing for a sight of your “dear familiar face.” Where are you?
Juno, Lurline, Sigma, and all the admirers of Abi“gail,” can’t we have a corner by ourselves where we can read and sing without being disturbed?
Jean Du Casse, I will “favor you with my carte,” if you will send me yours first. Will you?
Uncle Merry, will you please accept an invitation to come out in the country to eat maple-sugar this spring, and all the cousins likewise? If you will, we will have grand times. Pleasant days [p. 92 ] we would all go to the “sugar-house,” and have some warm sugar, and by way of variety we would take a ramble in the grand old forest to gather the early spring flowers, and we would have Pertine for May Queen. Wouldn’t we have a splendid time?
Cousins, I will exchange with any of the cousins who want my “pretty picter,” and will send me theirs via Uncle Robert.
Jan. 4, 1865.
Uncle Merry:—Again I come, as quietly as possible. But were it not for the kind inquiries of some of my Merry cousins, I doubt if I should have summoned courage [ … ].
Uncle Robert, I, too, have felt the shade of sadness thrown over the Museum by the death of its members. The return of Eugene, however, has partially dispelled the shadow. Who can read the story of his adventures without experiencing a thrill of delight that he has surmounted all difficulties, and again returned to home and friends? Hattie, I wish you and him joy! I beg that you will step in for a moment and stand beside Uncle Hi, grasp his hand tightly, reserving the application of that “manipulator” of which I have heard so much, while I send love to all cousins, to dear Aunt Sue, and sign myself
Eugene H. Fales (“Eugene Merry”) (born 1840/1843, Thomaston, Maine; died 12 July 1868, St. Paul, Minnesota); married 23 January 1865, Harriet M. Lee; one son, apparently died as an infant. Eugene was the clerk in the Museum’s offices before going to war and enduring adventures that would have done justice to the hero of a romantic novel. On his return to New York he married before returning to his unit for the duration of the War. His adventures were detailed in the Museum as “Adventures of a ‘Merry’ Boy” (February 1865). In 1867 the former office boy bought the magazine. During his escape, however, Eugene was stricken with yellow fever, from which he never recovered; he developed tuberculosis and died on a trip to regain his health. [compiled military record • RG 15. Records of the Veterans Administration, pension certificate #160591 • United States War Department. The War of the Rebellion. DC: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901; series 1, vol 26, pt 1: 64, 57 • St. Paul, Minnesota. “Mortuary Register, 1866-1884.” Public Health Center, St. Paul; vol 1: 15, 119.]
Jacksonvil[l]e, Ill., Jan. 19, 1865.
Dear Uncles:—Most heartily do I second the motion of Cousin I., and here is my mite.
A little cousin of mine (not a Merry), with his mother, was visiting at our house. One day he was amusing himself by looking through the window at the people passing by. Along came a man with a canine companion close upon his heels. “Oh, ma!” says L., “see that pretty little dog running right behind his papa.”
At another time he made a clandestine visit to the pantry, and, having closed the door, he appropriated to his own use some sweetmeats, of which he was very fond. His mother afterward reproved him for the theft, and told him that even if no one else saw the deed, God did.
“Oh, no he didn’t,” said he, “for I shut the door.”
“But God can see everywhere, and he saw you.”
“Well, then he must have peeked through the cracks,” persisted the youngster.
Nameless, I can not support you, for I am pledged to Queen Fleta.
Backwoodsman, my cart(e) will back up to your door soon.
Marcus, your letter is received and answered.
In the Country, Feb. 7.
Uncle Merry and Merry Cousins: Will you admit an “operator” to your Merry circle. I am a poor telegraph operator, and live about one hundred miles inland. I am fifteen years old, and have long read the “Monthly Chat” with delight, and thought I should like to participate in it, but have not had the courage to write until now. I should be glad to be the recipient of letters from any of the Merry cousins. Uncle Robert has my real name and address.
My love to all cousins.
[Editor: ] The mild, genial influences of spring come with the music of the waters and the sighing of the breeze, bringing with them the end of the long “winter of discontent,” in which so many of our young Southern friends have been buried.
This month our old friend Tennessean comes out of his “burrow” to take his accustomed place among the Merry band. What say you, boys and girls, shall he bring with him the cousins who have so long absented themselves from our circle? You see the promise of hands off and good behavior; now let us hear what you have to say—but first hear him.
Murfreesboro, Tenn., March 4, 1865.
Dear Uncle Hiram:—I have not the vanity to suppose that any of my whilom friends and adversaries remember me. Five years have passed since I retired in confusion from the terrific onslaught of Sigma, alias Fleta Forrester; but having been under fire more dangerous many times since then, and hoping that all old scores have been erased by time, I venture to make my appearance again. Moreover, I intend to be so excruciatingly meek and humble, that no girl, however belligerent, will have the heart to attack me; and I am not afraid of the boys.
I received the photographs of all the “family” of Merry Uncles, and regard them a great treasure. Aunt Sue looks, if anything, younger than she did ten or twelve years ago; but I don’t believe your photograph does you justice. You look so solemn, as if “picture-taking” was anything but an agreeable duty. I don’t suppose a “grin” would look dignified on paper, but it would conform much better with our idea of your “smiling” face.
I want Willie Coleman’s photograph; how can I get it? What will he take in exchange for it? A relic from the battle-field of Stone’s River? or a flower from the grave where his foes buried the gallant General Sill with all the honors of war? As a general thing, I regard photos as a great humbug, and I have but one that I admire more and more, and that is of my favorite General. Who he is I will leave to conjecture; and all of the cousins who “guess right” shall receive, per express, a bombshell fired at the Confederates during the great battle, a walking-cane of the beautiful red cedar from the field, and a photograph of said General.
There was quite a large circle of cousins in our county when the war began, and they would gladly subscribe again if they knew how they would be received. They love the Uncles, as every one does who has ever known them. But they are rebels. They asked me to write to you if that would exclude them? “Variety is the spice of life,” and from the letters in the Chat, it would seem that all the cousins thought alike. Can you make room for a band of “rebs,” if they will get into a quiet corner and behave themselves, and “not touch nothing?”
I am woefully behind the times in Merry affairs, and I hope you will be kind enough to enlighten me. I know you, and I have known Uncle Robert since 1849, and Aunt Sue almost as long. I have her portrait in a bound volume of the Cabinet, and with it her true name. But who is Uncle William, and when did he make his advent? He is a handsome man, I see. Was he adopted into the family by a universal shout of welcome as you were? or did he marry Aunt Sue, and so become our Uncle?
What is this I hear about “queens?” Has Uncle Robert removed to Montreal? or has New York been annexed to the British dominions? I’m completely mystified after my Rip Van Winkle nap.
Ask Jean du Casse if there is any truth [p. 122 ] in the report that his gun-boat general, on the memorable occasion he speaks of in his letter, made a speech to his men, the substance of which is as follows:
“Fighting with the rebels
Is anything but fun!
Down to the gun-boats,
Run, boys, RUN!”
I had always supposed it a “rebel” slander, till I saw Jean’s letter.
Please introduce me to all new-comers, and don’t tell them that you hope my manners have improved during my absence, as that would be insinuating that they were not “as good as they might be” formerly.
“winter of discontent”: William Shakespeare, King Richard the Third (1592-1593), act 1, sc i, lines 1-2: “Now is the winter of our discontent/ Made glorious summer by this sun of York.” The words are spoken by a scheming Richard.
General Joshua Woodrow Sill (1831-1862): U. S. soldier. During the Civil War he participated in operations in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama, commanding a brigade after November 1861. He was killed at the battle of Stone’s River, near Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Stone’s River: battle fought at Stone’s River, Murfreesborough, Tennessee (31 December 1862-3 January 1863). Union losses included 1,730 killed. [Frederick H. Dyer. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1959.]
“can you make room for a bunch of ‘rebs’ ”: Aunt Sue was very welcoming, though late in expressing it: “Some of my Southern correspondents come back a little shyly, as though uncertain as to how they would be received. Bless your dear hearts! Only come back and shake hands, and the hearty grip you will receive shall convince the most sensitive that we feel nothing but love and affection for you all.” (1866.1.27)
“Rip Van Winkle nap”: Tennessean was not the only one to use this metaphor: “I long to have our Southern cousins wake out of their unpleasant nightmare and come back to our sheltering arms,” Aunt Sue wrote in the June, 1865 issue. (1865.1.185) See also Clara, 1865.1.187c.
speech: a poem that became popular in the South during the Civil War. It satirizes General George Brinton McClellan’s retreat from Mechanicsville, Virginia, in June 1862 and seems to have several variations. According to John W. Stevens, McClellan’s “battle cry had been ’On to Richmond.’ The whole northern press … took up the refrain and it went raging through the north from center to circumference. ‘On to Richmond; break the back bone of the rebellion, hang Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree!’ [r]ang out from every regimental band in his grand army, which was so confidently believed to be invincible.” [p. 31] However, McClellan’s failure to press an advantage led to his army being forced to retreat to waiting Union gunboats on the James River, and “[s]omebody, I don’t know who, but my recollection now is that he was a member of the First Texas regiment, gave expression to the changed condition of affairs, with the new battle cry in verse as follows, which was soon chanted by the boys throughout the command, up and down the line, and known as
’Twas at Mechanicsville,
As the balls began to fly,
McClellan wheeled about,
And changed his battle cry.
Away from Richmond; down
To your gun-boats, run, boys, run
Never mind your haversack,
Never mind your gun,
This fightin’ ’o the rebels
Is anything but fun. …
[John W. Stevens. Reminiscences of the Civil War. Hillsboro, Texas: Hillsboro Mirror Print, 1902. archive.org; pp. 31-32.]
“introduce me to all”: Most of the Cousins welcomed the Southerners with open arms. “Richmond is taken, and Lee is taken, and the war is nearly over,” Franc wrote in June 1865. “Don’t you think we may safely admit a few quondam rebels to our parlor, and conquer them, much more effectually than by force of arms, by the power of love?” (1865.1.189)
Nashville, Tenn., March 3, 1864. [sic]
To my “Merry” Northern Cousins:—I come from far down South, in “Dixie” (but if I do, you need not think I am a rebel), to ask admission to the Chat. I hope you have a nice snug corner for me, where I can see all, and not be seen for a while, because I am a stranger, having just commenced taking the Museum.
According to Uncle Robert’s promise, I have sent my c. de v., and expect his in return. I should be happy to X with any of the cousins. Uncle Robert has my address.
In all my castle building, I have never yet measured the exact height of my worldly ambition, but think I am pretty near the top of the pole when I am able to write—
Fort Sumter, S. C., Washington’s Birthday, 1865.
Really, dear Merrys, it is with great pleasure that I write to you from this place. One week ago I should never have dreamed of such a thing, unless it were that I had been permitted, through the courtesy of our Southern brethren, to visit the fort—in double irons!
As I walked around the battered walls, and through the caverns called “passages” (constructed on a peculiar plan by one Gillmore!), I wished that Major Anderson might have been present to see how the mighty had fallen. Perhaps, Uncle Merry, I was the first Anderson to visit the fort since he left. Who knows? The Major’s a sensible man, I know. Likes children too, (such as I!), and consequently ought to read Merry’s Museum. If such be the case, he will see that he was remembered by at least one loyal heart, after the fort’s re-capture!
Brother Stearns, I was thinking of establishing a temperance society down here on my own hook, and let those old topers who “can’t do without it” put some of Sumter’s bricks in their hats.
Our Southern cousins will soon have a chance to re-enlist under the Merry banner, for there’s a gentleman down here named Sherman who is re-establishing all the post-office arrangements.
Busy Bee, if you ever are able to write to us, by all means do so. Remember what you told me in your last—June, 1861—“Nothing would ever sever your ties with Uncle Merry and Aunt Sue!”
Ft. Sumter: Built on an artificial island in the harbor at Charleston. In 1860, the unfinished fort was commanded by Major Robert Anderson, who refused to hand it over to the state of South Carolina after it seceded; intense bombardment from outside batteries, however, changed his mind. On 14 April 1865, Anderson raised over the fort the same flag he had lowered there exactly four years before. The celebration was augmented by the Union ships—including the U. S. S. Sonoma: in part, their orders read, “When the flag is hoisted on Sumter, each vessel will man yards—or rigging, if without yards—and then give three cheers; then … each vessel will fire a salute of 100 guns ….” [United States Navy Department. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. DC: Government Printing Office, 1894-1922; series 1, vol 16: 315-316.]
Major Anderson: Robert Anderson (1805-1871): Union commander at Ft. Sumter, South Carolina, who refused to hand over the fort to the state of South Carolina after it seceded on 20 December 1860. However, 34 hours of bombardment by batteries outside Charleston, forced him to surrender on 14 April 1861. Promoted to Brigadier General, Anderson commanded the Department of Kentucky and the Department of the Cumberland, retiring in October 1863. He was present at Ft. Sumter on 14 April 1865, at the celebration of its retaking by the Union.
Quincy Adams Gillmore (1825-1888): U. S. soldier and military engineer. Graduating from West Point in 1849, he was commisioned second lieutenant of Engineers, constructing fortifications in Virginia. He also was assistant instructor of practical military engineering at West Point. Gillmore had a brilliant career during the Civil War, commanding troops and inspecting fortifications.
temperance society: John N. Stearns (“Uncle Robert Merry”) joined the temperance movement as a child and by 1865 was an important force in the movement; in 1866 he sold the Museum to focus on editing several temperance publications.
April 5, 1865.
Uncles and Cousins:—Haven’t we glorious news?—Petersburg and Richmond both occupied by our forces. That event, so long expected, has now been accomplished, and at length the “starry banner” waves over the rebel capital. And soon, very soon, I trust, our brave soldier boys may return “crowned with glory,” to their Northern homes. Tennessean, I hope those whom you speak of will soon be friends of the Union, then I am sure they will find a welcome in the Chat.
Jasper, I pity you—don’t you know whether you are acquainted with Geraldine? I think you do. Do you remember that long letter?
Jolly Jingle, will you let me join your circle once in a while? I know how to sing, or do you think me intrusive? [ … ]
I am, Merryly yours,
L. I., 1865.
Uncles and Cousins:—I do not expect to be heard for my much speaking, but contrariwise.
Truly, a gladsome circle are we, but just now our mirth is hushed, and we pause to “weep with those who weep.” Homeward-bound ones have left us one by one, and it becomes us to prepare to follow them. Fireside circles are one, yea two, less, but there are more above to sing the praises of redeeming love.
Jasper, nay, for I have not been there very often, lately. How could you survive the absence of the Museum so long? It’s more than this child could do. [ … ]
Galesburg, Feb. 28, 1865.
Dear Uncle Merry:—Although I have been a reader of the Museum ever since I can remember, I have never ventured to address you before. Pa commenced taking the Museum in 1843, and has taken it ever since, and I think there is not more than two or three numbers missing. I don’t know how we could get along without it.
Are the letters to the Chat addressed to the publisher? and is there room in the Merry parlor for one more? I am quite small (so every one says, but I don’t think so), and I will keep very quiet, and not say much.
Your loving niece,
Warren, R. I.
Dear Uncle Merry:—Will you please allow me to become a member of the Chat? I believe, from what you have stated, that the Chat is like an omnibus—there is always room for one more in it. I hope all the Merry cousins will give me a kindly greeting, and thus encourage me to enter.
I heartily concur with Cousin I., and therefore I offer my little “mite,” as Sigma calls it.
Some time ago, my youngest sister, three years old, was observed by mother very attentively at work writing, or rather marking on a piece of paper. Pretty soon she got up and walked to the fire-place—we have an old-fashioned wood fire in this room, and comfortable enough it is, I tell you—and threw it into the blaze and watched the smoke ascend into the chimney. As soon as it was reduced to ashes, she went to the window and looked up to the sky. When mother asked her what she had been doing, she said that she had written a letter to God, and had put it into the fire so it would get to heaven quicker.
Inclosed you will find my tin type, which, as you wish to get the likenesses of all the Merry cousins, I send instead of my visite, as I have none of the latter kind.
So good-bye, Merrys all. With much love, I remain yours truly,
Washington, April 8, ’65.
Dear Uncle and Cousins:—Here I come again, bringing with me my contribution.
A cousin of mine, while teaching school in Vermont, was thus addressed by one of her scholars: “I say, teacher, I’ve been reading in the Bible about Noah’s ark; now do you suppose he had any carpenters to help him build his ark?”
“Well,” replied my cousin, “I don’t know—I should think so.”
“Well,” said the boy, “if he did, I think it was plaugy mean that they couldn’t be saved too!”
But, as I see Uncle Robert so strongly recommends brevity in the April number, I suppose I must stop with love to all the cousins and the hope that some one will remember
Chicago, April 8, 1865.
Tennessean! is it possible? I’m delighted to see you, and here’s my warmest welcome. You may lay the flattering unction to your soul that this Merry has not forgotten you—never!
Our Chat has changed wonderfully in five years. Black-Eyes, Alice B. C., Sybil Grey, R. W. R., Nip, Fleta, W. H. C., and Laura are names that have passed away. What an ardent admirer I was of them all, and didn’t we have “good times?” I seem to be the sole survivor, and your letter has given me a thorough waking up.
Bring back all the “rebs”—we can maintain our ground, come weal, come woe. Knowing we’re right, dare we not “maintain?” When will you Southern cousins come back in spirit and in truth—ever? I hope so—heartily.
Now, cousins present, are you forgetting me totally and entirely? To be sure, I’ve not spoken for a year, but I don’t know as that’s a sign I’m drowned in Lethe, as you all seem to think me.
Tennessean, a word in your ear. During your absence I rose and flourished; don’t suggest, “and have fallen;[“] ’twas only a year. Well, since my departure, no one has raised a voice—a voice of lamentation nor of woe—not even a voice of inquiry. Do I feel flattered? I do not. Alas for the test of absence!
Jasper, shake hands, and C. M. E., Jolly J., Flib—every one. There, there, no matter! I see your conscience-stricken faces at such evidence of my forgiving spirit.
A. N., I indorse your protest against Fleta’s retirement; don’t you leave us. Iva, is our quondam queen (don’t be alarmed, Tennessean), of wit and beauty, married? Well, don’t give her my congratulations if she takes such French leave.
Dan H. B., Daisy W., Saucy Nell—gone.
Ah! Wilforley, Henry A. D., and Adelbert—I know you are gone, never to return.
Now, cousins, good-bye, and don’t forget
[Editor: ] You were never forgotten, Annie, by the Merry band of Uncles, Aunts, and Cousins, for if your letters have been few and far between, we have the album always before us, and there our loved and absent appear to us almost as real as life. Fleta has not left us as you will soon see, for she will reign supreme in her own chosen department.
Cherry Grove, April 24.
Dear Uncle Merry:—A short time ago, while we were all happy and, I trust, thankful in the fond expectancy of the long-desired peace and rest which our country so much needs, I wrote a letter to Uncle Merry, asking a place [p. 187 ] among the Cousins. But ere it was sent, there came a sad message bringing tears to our eyes and sorrow to our hearts—our honored, our noble-hearted President, who had so truly won our hearts by his zealous and unwearied efforts for our country’s good—he, our second Washington, was cruelly murdered! How painfully throbbed our hearts, how freely flowed our tears, I need not tell you, dear Uncle Merry. You felt it all. And now the first tearful sadness is over, I have thought to write to you again, and, if you will permit, join the Cousins in the sweet tie of cousinship. Perhaps your parlor is already filled, if so, I will try to be content with listening to the chatter away here in my quiet country home without sharing it.
Ever your loving
Elmira, N. Y., April 17, 1865.
Dear Uncle Merry:—Now that I am admitted into the charmed circle, I shall call—by letter—very often at “111,” though, as Iva says, I think a despairing expression must cross your “Merry” countenance at the receipt of so many cousinly missives.
I love the Museum very much, and I think we ought all to be very grateful to Uncle Merry and the other Uncles, as well as kind Aunt Sue, for the interest they all take in their young readers, ever trying to encourage the good and excellent qualities that will make us true Christian boys and girls.
With others, friends “tried and true,” I also rejoice that our noble soldier Eugene has returned in safety from imprisonment, and though late in the day, I venture to wish him and Hattie much happiness, now and ever.
A pall of sadness is thrown over our land by the terrible news of the assassination of our good President, and it is in vain that I try to throw off the feeling of gloom and discouragement that comes over me when I think of it.
Your loving niece,
Lizzie E. N.
“a despairing expression”: In the March 1865 issue, Iva MacGregor gave a vivid description of walking into the Museum’s office and introducing herself to Uncle Robert, who “looked up quickly, a queer combination of expressions flitting across his face; despair quite as prominent as any, as he foresaw another monthly letter added to the huge pile before him.” (1864.1.57; not included here)
Richmond, Va., May 6, 1865.
Dear Merrys:—Will you allow me to join the Merry circle? If you answer yes, I trust that I will receive a kindly greeting from Grampus, Horace, Vincent, and, in short, from the entire family.
I may be called a rebel, as I live in Dixie, but I have always wished for a restoration of the Union since the day that Virginia seceded, and I hope that before many days elapse, that the Old Dominion will be a State of the Union, with the remainder of the so-called Confederacy.
I wish to X with some of the Merry Cousins. Uncle William has my address.
Home, May 9, 1865.
Dear Merrys—one and all, old and young—a pleasant good-morning to you; hope you won’t think me an intruder among you; thought perhaps my company might be more welcome to you if I did not visit too often or stay too long.
What a sad havoc this cruel war has made in our once happy Union! Three of our brave Merrys have silently left our circle, and the rest will soon return home to make home glad once more.
I almost want to say, as my brother did, when the news of peace came to him at Raleigh, N.C., “Hip, hip, hurrah! War is done, and I am going home to see how rebs look by daylight, for the night is past, and the morn doth appear.”
Allie Frank, you are a genius for ten years.
W. A. R., aren’t you doing some sharp shooting about now? Look out that you don’t shoot yourself.
[Editor: ] Since our meeting last month, another sadness has come over our Merry circle; another link is broken, and another mortal has put on immortality. Our dear Ella sleeps in Jesus. After months of severe sickness, during which she manifested such patient submission and Christian cheerfulness, she was so calm and happy, so peacefully waiting her departure, that there seemed to be a coming down of heaven to receive and welcome her to glory and immortality. Among her last words were, “Tell Uncle Robert about me.” We rejoice to know she was fully prepared and ready to be transferred to the heavenly garden, “where angels walk and seraphs are the wardens.”
She loved the Museum and the Merrys, and her calls at the sanctum, free and cordial and pleasant, were always enjoyed by us. Let us all so live that we shall be equally prepared for the heavenly mansions.
“Where angels walk, and seraphs are wardens”: Sir John Bowring, “Hymn: From the Recesses of a Lowly Spirit” lines 33-36: plant the seeds of holiness, “Then place them in those everlasting gardens,/ Where angels walk, and seraphs are the wardens;/ Where every flower that creeps through death’s dark portal/ Becomes immortal.”
Troy, May 3, 1865.
Dear Uncle:—Thank you, both for your visit and your kindness in publishing my letter.
As telling stories of the little folks is in order, here goes: Shortly after the beginning of the war, two regiments were encamped here. My little sister Lulu was very fond of waving her handkerchief (or anything else that came handy) to the soldiers as they passed the house. Many a poor fellow as he went by would look up to catch a smile from her sunny face. Well, one day, a Vermont regiment halted in front of the house, and she was in high glee. Next day her glee was gone, for she, like all us “small jobs,” was getting her hair combed. Alas! there were rats in it, and the comb pulled. She stood it well for a while—then came tears. Mother says, “Shame! Those soldiers get hurt worse than that, and don’t cry either.” Hastily wiping away the tears, she drew herself up, saying, “There! just pull my hair as hard as you please, and see if I cry a single drop.” Her spirit of patriotism was up. Combing hair was an easy matter after that.
Coy, my “mar” says slightually.
Fernandina, Fla., May 12, 1865.
Was there a Merry of any description at the Sumter celebration? I looked for the badge, but found none. How was it you did not come, Uncle Merry? And Aunt Sue—I stood there watching for you—I declare I wanted to see you. “Surely,” said I, “some one from the Museum will be here!” I had the honor of landing at Sumter (for the first time since he was forced to leave in 1861) Major-General Anderson. What a glorious time it was! Whoever heard the “Star-Spangled Banner” from five thousand voices before? and in such a place as that!
I am surprised, Jessie Bell, that I failed to find you out sooner. And Teaser, too—“O! O!” how blind I was! How is it? have you struck “ile?” let me know, perhaps I’ll write; you may need a bore!
Jolly Jingle, do you miss Winnie? (There! I might know you did not—she’s married!) Were it not that I should tell tales out o’school, I might tell how well I am acquainted with you.
I wish, Tennessean, that you would bring Busy Bee back. How would you like to correspond? I should have one question only to ask on politics.
Lillie Linden, do we know each other? if not, may we? I fancied I recognized Brooklyn about your letters.
The war will soon be over, and then, Uncles and Cousins, you will be tormented again (perhaps you are now) by
[Editor: ] The war is over, and Jasper has returned with others, to mingle once more in the busy scenes of “Merry” life. You will be still more surprised, Jasper, to find that you have made a greater failure than Jessie Bell has. You know you failed once before, and should not be too positive now.
badge: A pin made available in 1864, which featured an open book with “M” on either page. It was available round or oval, in silver or in gold; engravings appeared in the January 1864 issue. The pins cost between $1.50 and $6; they were also premiums for those finding new subscribers for the Museum. The design was later used for stationery sold by the Museum’s publishers.
My charming Uncle Merry,
My much admired friend,
Pray listen to me kindly;
A message I would send
That Merry band of Cousins—
Though strangers, all, to me.
My heart goes out to meet them,
Goes out o’er land and sea,
Where’er your monthly Merry
Unfolds its flowers here,
With social group and cherub
For all the livelong year.
Pass me into your circle—
A little boy of ten—
At Woodworth’s door and Merry’s,
Just tell me how, and when.
My home is in Chicago,
My face is round and fair,
My eyes are blue and earnest,
And I have auburn hair.
Pray shall I bring credentials,
With “references exchanged,”
To prove I have five senses
That’s never been deranged?
Please answer all my questions,
Describe yourselves to me,
While I am, very humbly,
L. T. C.
East Rockport, O., May, ’65.
Dear Uncle Merry:—Although a stranger to you, I claim acquaintance with Aunt Sue, one of your excellent corps of editors. I was for many years one of the nieces of our departed Uncle Frank, and an ardent admirer of the Cabinet. My youngest sister has been taking the Museum for the past eighteen months, and I have been interested in looking over the Chat, though most of the contributors are strangers probably. The names of Henry A. Danker and Adelbert Older were very familiar to me, as they were Cousins in those bygone days when dear Uncle Frank gathered us so cosily for a pleasant “Table-Talk.” And although years have passed since then, the memory of those happy days still lingers with me, a pleasing yet sad reminder of the changefulness of all things earthly. I can but be sorrowful that two of those old-time Cousins have been called upon to die for their “country’s sacred cause.[”] Yet how, or where, could they have died more honorably? All praise to their patriotism, and may their names ever be sacred among us.
My dear and only brother died of a wound last June, a re-enlisted veteran, not yet nineteen years of age. No one but God can know what an affliction his death is to me, but I can say that I would ten thousand times rather be the sister of a fallen brave than of a living traitor or coward.
I read the letters [sic ] from Tennessean in the April number. It seems the rebels want to come back into the Chat again. For one, I would say, “Never! while you are acknowledged rebels.” * * *
Begging leave to introduce to you my sister Mary, I will close.
Yours most respectfully,
Mass., July 4, 1865.
What a glorious, glorious Fourth! How much, how much has a beneficent Providence granted to our country! And now purged from domestic sin and treachery, the foul blot on our national escutcheon washed out by our brothers’ blood and by widows’ tears, again shall she stand among the nations of the earth foremost in liberty, honor, and freedom! May God bless America, and make us his own peculiar people!
Independence Day, 1865.
Dear Cousins:—I have spoken to you once this year, and attempted it the second time, but Uncle Robert, with a frown on his usually pleasant countenance, threw me into the basket because I said that Uncle Will was the better looking.
I am glad you proposed a reading circle, Jolly J., for I have been ill with typhoid fever, and can neither sew, practice my music, or read, so idle I will enjoy our corner hugely. I take it for granted that you will do the reading.
Since I was last with you, the angel called Death has darkened our door and taken from us our youngest darling; he was only thirteen years old, but he died happy, believing that for Christ’s sake he was forgiven. None but those who have been called to part with near and dear friends can know how we miss his happy face and merry laugh, and how the heart will ache when we see the vacant place; but we believe that all is for the best, and through our tears thank God that our darling is safe from the evil to come.
Cousin Jennie, you and I should be the best of friends, for we can sympathize with each other.
Rubie Linden, I will write you as soon as I am allowed to resume my correspondence. In the mean time, do not forget
Philadelphia, July 4.
Dear Merrys:—To-day being our national birthday, I have been mustered out of the Army of the Potomac. I want to be admitted to your circle and become acquainted with all the Cousins. Will you admit a young soldier boy?
Linden Forest, 1865.
Dear Uncle Merry:—My little Cousin Nelly was watching the fire-flies one evening, when her mother told her if she would catch one and put it under a glass, she could see it shine. So she started to catch one, and finally succeeded. She was holding it in her hand when it shone, and she exclaimed in astonishment, “Why, mamma, it don’t feel hot a bit!”
Little Ella, who was just beginning to study geography, was looking for the north and south poles, when suddenly she said to her sister, “Alice, where’s the east and west poles?”
Prairie Rose, I adore long letters.
Jasper, you are correct. I am a Brooklynite. I should like very much to know you. Will you write through Uncle Merry? [ … ]
Now good-bye everybody.
Murfreesboro, July, 1865.
Dear Everybody:—Attribute my silence since April entirely to the irregularity of our mails. The few Museums we receive come a month after publication—entirely too late for us to do anything with puzzles, etc.
Many thanks to the Cousins who have extended the right hand of fellowship to the wayward sisters and erring brothers. May their shadows never be less!
Annie E. D. has never been forgotten, and I am glad she remembers me. As fast as the mails become reliable, Annie, our scattered band will gather again to their places in the various corners of the sanctum. Will you stand in front of us to hide us from Cousin Jennie’s eyes, and excuse us if, when the hurrah goes round for the Stars and Stripes, we hang our heads and think sadly of the gray-haired man who in his lonely dungeon is suffering so terribly for our misfortunes or sins, call them which you will?
Uncle Robert has my address, Jasper; or, if you wish, you can write directly to me, Box 159. I will tell Busy Bee how anxious you are to hear from her, and shall advise her, and all Southern girls and boys, not to hold off at present, but to let the dead past bury its dead, make the most of the present, and trust to God for the future! Aunt Sue’s mantle could not have fallen on worthier shoulders than Aunt (?) Fleta’s.
Cousin Jennie, write out your “Amnesty,” and let us see if we can take it without wry faces. Can’t you receive us with “charity for all and malice toward none?”
[Editor: ] We accept the motto; and “with firmness in the right, so far as God gives us to see the right,” let us walk hereafter together in peace and harmony, forgetting the bitterness of the past in our united efforts to do good to all around us, and help to educate and elevate the poor and the oppressed. Please tell Busy Bee that our hearts are open to receive her once more into our circle of love.
gray-haired man: Jefferson Davis (1808-1889), U. S. senator (1847-1851, 1857-1861), secretary of war (1853-1857), and president of the Confederate States of America (1861-1865). Captured during the last days of the Civil War, Davis spent two years as a state prisoner in Fort Monroe, at first held in chains. Later, his health having failed, he was given comfortable quarters to share with his family. The Museum published a humorous anecdote about him in September 1864.
“charity for all” / “with firmness in the right”: from “Second Inaugural Address,” Abraham Lincoln (1865): “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
New Paltz, Aug. 1, 1865.
Dear Uncle Merry:—I advance into the Chat a second time, feeling quite at home. Here is my contribution.
My little cousin, seeing a lump of sugar on the sideboard, was strongly tempted to take it. At length her better feelings triumphed. She ran to her mother and said, “Mamma, I saw a piece of sugar on your shelf, and Satan said, ‘Eat that sugar, Katie, nobody sees you;’ but I said, ‘No, no, Satan; nary a bit of sugar for Katie to-day,’ and ran off.”
W. A. R., if I had a kingdom for sale, I would not display its deficiencies.
Mouse Merry, this Hero will defend you from Puss.
We truly mourn for Ella, but she is better off. Cousins, let us strive to follow her example.
August 4, 1865.
Miller’s Place, Long Island, N. Y.
Uncle Merry:—When big brother Nat was a little boy, he was very fond of sweet potatoes. He could never get enough to satisfy him. One day he observed a tub of raw ones sitting on the cellar steps. He supposed them to be cooked, so of course he must go and get some[.] He went to the tub, stepped in, and over it went—tub, sweet potatoes, and Nat rolling down cellar in a heap together. He had enough of them that time.
James Conrad, we Merrys unite in saying, “All honor to the boys in blue.”
Sigma, I’ve heard something about you which gave me a great deal of pleasure.
Iago, if, as you say, you have plenty more left (i.e., cartes), you, as well as Em. Moore, Tiny Wild Rose, and any of the other Cousins, will please forward them, with address, to
East Rockport, Sept. 11, 1865.
Dear Uncles and Cousins:—I find myself feeling no longer a stranger to your Merry circle, having been received by you with such cordiality as one expects only from old friends.
Uncle Merry, I have learned your “local habitation and name,” having recently met with a dear friend and classmate who is a near neighbor of yours.
I would offer the hand of friendship to Juno, who has so recently lost a darling brother. We can indeed sympathize with each other in our great affliction.
Tennessean, my charity shall never be withheld toward those who repent of and forsake their ways of wrong-doing. But I should not be true to my country, or to the kind Father above who receives none of His erring children “except they repent and do works meet for repentance,” if I extended the hand of friendship to those who still uphold the principles which have deluged our fair land in blood. If your heart is so filled with sorrow when the glorious old Stars and Stripes are cheered, I would fain remind you, that had that “gray-haired man” been true to the flag under whose protecting folds he had passed his life, he might to-day be an honored citizen among us, instead of an inmate of a dreary “dungeon.” And while I still say “Never! never!” to the proffers of friendship from all who are yet rebels at heart, I would, God helping me, extend a forgiving hand even to that one, were he truly penitent, who sent the fatal ball which has made me brotherless and laid that noble form and bright young head which I loved, to molder beneath the soil of your own sunny Tennessee. A stricken sister can offer no different “amnesty” to those who have deprived her of her heart’s most cherished treasure.
Dear Cousins All:—Though late in the day, I thought I would inform you that I had seen a “lion,” or, rather (to me), two “lions”—General Grant and Uncle Robert; with the former I shook hands, and stared at him with the rest of the crowd; and the latter I not only shook hands once, but many times, and had some pleasant “chats.” Now, don’t you envy me, you that never have seen, or expect to see, the “lions?” Aint I entitled to a reserved seat—a front one—where all can see me? [ … ]
Cousin Jennie, you have my sincerest sympathy.
Cupid, your darts are not hurled in vain, as a fair cousin this way must con- [p. 121 ] fess, for Cousin Marian has left the Chat and home, and gone “West” to brighten another’s existence, and I am left alone. Do, some one, write to me and offer me some sympathy, for I think I need it.
Uncle Robert, please to “don’t.”
Ouaquaga, N. Y., Sept. 5, 1865.
Dear Uncle Merry:—I have been spending the summer with an aunt who lives on a very large farm, far away among the green hills of C—. Oh! such an innumerable lot of pets—lambs, chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, kitty Tabby, old Watch, and last and dearest of all, sweet little Cousin Olive. Oh, Uncle Robert, you’ve no idea what a dear, interesting child she is!
One day kitty fell from a sofa (on which she was lying) to the floor; off runs Ollie for the camphor-bottle and holds it close to kitty’s nose for fear she is faint.
July 31, 1865.
Dear Uncle Merry:—Long ago, when I was a little wee thing, a messenger entered our home, bearing the title of “Parley’s Magazine.” Years have rolled away since then, and under another name it has ever been welcomed at our fire-side, and all through childhood’s days the beloved Museum has been my dearest companion, and as we grew up together, nothing gave me more happiness than to spend hours over its magic pages. All these years I have been with you, till your names and faces are become as familiar as those of my friends. I have been with you unseen, when the circle re-echoed with joy and gladness; and when the shadow of the “dark-winged angel” has fallen heavily upon you, I, too, a sincere mourner, have been with you in your grief.
And now, dear Uncle, I come timidly seeking admittance to the hallowed circle, and if there are found none among my Cousins willing to add me to their number, it will give me pleasure only to linger quietly in the charm of their presence.
Your loving niece,
Parley’s Magazine: periodical (16 March 1833-1844) founded by Samuel Goodrich. A precursor to the Museum, Parley’s emphasized non-fiction, poetry, and moral fiction; articles covered geography, biology, astronomy, manufacturing, anthropology, and biography. Though the magazine ceased publication in 1844, its merger with the Museum was not officially announced until August 1845.
[Editor: ] Again we are called upon to mourn the loss of one of our Merry group. While you were reading the letter from Stranger, in last month’s Museum, she was passing away from earth.
Loved in the Merry circle by all who knew her, she was still more loved in the circle of friends and home, where she was no “stranger.” She lived to see her brother safe home from a Southern prison, and then, as if her joy on earth was full, she gently passed away to brighter scenes and, we trust, to a better home.
Another dark plume has fallen from the pinions of the Destroyer. Again do we miss and mourn the departure of a loved one. Death has again entered our circle and borne away another of our number. As month after month passes by, we will turn the pages of our valued book; and ever and anon, when we hear, as it were, the voices of beloved ones, there will be some whose voices and well-remembered words of welcome and affection will never gladden our hearts more; their mission on earth is completed; their throbbing pulses have ceased to beat; their warm, generous heart-throb is stilled forever.
Who, who shall be the next? May each one of us so live, that when we hear the final summons, “Child, thy Father calls!” we may be as ready to obey as Stranger was; and when we have all crossed over the billows and surging waters of the dark river, may we be gathered safely together in the fold of the Good Shepherd, nevermore to suffer, nevermore to die.
Cousin Sid, would it be strange if some of that “Merry crowd” that you refer to, had vailed their faces and sought a hiding-place?
May Clayton, you shall hear from me soon. If any one else has been neglected, let it be known.
Cupid, I think I am proof against your darts, if you did call me
“Sweet Kitty Clover.”
“Child, thy Father calls”: Chorus from hymn beginning “Brethren, while we sojourn here”: “Soon the joyful news will come,/ ‘Child, your Father calls, Come home.’ ”
Cousin Sid had wondered, “What has become of all that Merry crowd who assembled one evening in May last to make night hideous—and succeeded—at Phene F.’s? Have they sought oblivion, and found it?” (1865.2.122)
Brooklyn, October, 1865.
[ … ] Uncle, why can’t we have a convention this year? We used to talk about it, but something always prevented. The war is over now, and all the boys home (except those, poor fellows! who never will come; yet we should feel their presence in spirit). We Merry boys in town will make all the necessary arrangements, and as we know you are in favor of such a gathering, it can not help succeeding.
Now, Merrys out of town and in town, will you not, during the holidays, on some day and evening which shall be agreed upon, meet together in Brooklyn or Gotham, as we city folks shall arrange.
To the “out of towns”—just tell them, Uncle, what a splendid set of folks we are here, and how we can do the “honors.” And do you say a word for us, Saucy Nell, Grasshopper—and if my voice would only reach there—Winnie, too. Uncle, please tell us what you think. [ … ]
A welcome to Nancy Jane and all new comers, from,
[Editor: ] We say “agreed” as to the convention, and appoint Jasper, Leslie, Tommy, In the Corner, and Loyalty to make all necessary arrangements, “with power to add to their number.” So go to work at once, keep away from the manipulator, and send in your programme in season for the December number.
Three distinct raps, a whispering of the watchword, “M. M.,” and here is another of the Western cozes, one who has not said a word since May. What have I been doing—eh? Why, traveling, to be sure!
To Chicago “on the (not a) rail,” thence by boat ’way up Lake Michigan, through the Straits of Mackinac, the Sault Ste Marie Canal, and Lake Superior to Marquette. Oh, what grand scenery, weather, riding, sailing, boating, berrying, fishing, etc! Into the iron and copper mines, “stamp” mills, and burnt pine forests where the wild deer abound and the clear Escanaba feeds its beautiful speckled trout. Then homeward by the delightful Green Bay route.
Dear Franc, you know how I mourn with you the loss of your truly Christian father.
Cousin Jennie, I want to give your hand a hearty shake for your last message to Tennessean. [ … ]
I am afraid to say any more, though I am not half done.
October 11, 1865.
Dear Everybody:—Allow me to make my bow and pass on to the corner where Cousin Jennie is sitting. All the other Cousins have shaken hands and “made friends,” but she still refuses. You see, in spite of her treatment, I’ve taken a fancy to her, and am anxious to convince her that I am not quite as bad as she thinks me. She wishes me to quit my “way of wrong-doing.” I assure her I have. I’ve quit everything for fear it might be “disloyal.” Why, I don’t even make faces at a dog that bites me, if he has a blue ribbon round his neck. And, moreover, I have resolved henceforth and forever to walk as exactly in the footsteps of Massachusetts as the size of my feet will allow.
Jasper, I saw a friend to-day from that section of the State in which you are interested, and he says they have no mails at all. I have “opened communications,” however, through Hy, and will be happy to aid you.
Cupid, I defy you!
The Committee to whom was referred the matter of the Convention of the Merrys beg leave to submit the following:
At a meeting held at the residence of Cousin Sid, November 7th, 1865, it was decided to have a Convention of the Merrys on Wednesday evening, the 27th of December, 1865, as proposed in Jasper’s letter, published in the November number.
The object of this Convention is to strengthen the bands of love and friendship which have so long held together the Cousins in the Chat columns, and to bring about a personal social intercourse between all those who though not personally acquainted have always felt a lively interest in each other, thereby promoting general good feeling and per- [p. 184 ] fect harmony among the subscribers of the Museum.
Merrys All:—In connection with our report, I would like to add, for the benefit of those incredulous ones who doubt the reality of our Convention-al intentions, that the meeting we propose will certainly take place, and that we purpose having, and will have, a grand, good time. We (the Committee) shall be pleased to give any information to those Cousins out of town who may desire it, and pledge ourselves to look out for them when they come in town.
At the Museum office will be found a book in which we would like to have all Merrys register their names and addresses when they arrive in the city. And I would here add, that we should be pleased to know the address of all those in the vicinity who feel disposed to join us.
The meeting will take place in Brooklyn; but as the exact place can not be decided upon until about the middle of December, we will send a notice at that time, with all necessary particulars, to those who desire to be present with us.
Lucy W. C., A. N., Wanderer, Forestina, and all ye Merrys who favor our project, let us hear from and see you.
Grasshopper, Teaser, Fiddlesticks, Jean du Casse, and all of you Rip Van Winkles, wake up and join us.
Newark, N. J.
Dear Uncle Robert:—Do you remember my writing to you some time since, and asking you to send your magazine to a soldier’s child in New Jersey? I remember it, if you do not, for it has proved an event of great interest to me, though you send “Merry” to so many New Jersey youngsters, that probably the incident passed quite unnoticed.
I can see the order being carried out in the cosy office at 111—Miss Hattie taking down the big subscription-book, and with her head just a little sidewise, and her twinkling eyes sobered to a business expression, jotting down, indifferently, “Amy C—, Newark, N. J.” But, ah! who more than kind-hearted Miss (or, rather, Mrs.) Hattie would have rejoiced to see little Amy reading “Merry” a few weeks after that day—a pale child propped up by pillows, and [p. 185 ] fairly weeping tears of joy over the welcome gift? I had never seen little Amy when I wrote you, and never expected to. I only knew she was a soldier’s child, very poor, and exceedingly fond of reading; and as an indifferent act of charity, easy to do, and costing but a dollar and a half, I sent in a subscription for her.
Months afterward I had occasion to employ a seamstress, and being recommended to 125 G— Street, went there in search of one. The girl was sick, and could not undertake any work, but the glance of sorrowful, almost heart-breaking, disappointment that she gave when refusing to engage with me, convinced me that, neat as the room was, its inmates were much in need of money. Sighing inwardly, because I was not rich, and could not give them a goodly sum to help drive away the specters of want and cold, I glanced about the room. Lying upon a tiny bed, in one corner, was a child, a helpless little cripple, with such a weary, suffering look in her patient eyes, that involuntarily my own filled with tears while looking upon her.
“Poor child!” I exclaimed, turning to the elder girl, “what is the matter with her?”
“The old story,” whispered the girl, drearily—“a fall when she was a baby. The poor thing has not walked for two years, and the time hangs so heavily on her hands, it’s hard knowing what to do for her. She’s just as patient, ma’am, as an angel, but you see there’s no children around to brighten her, and I’m either sick or busy all the time. Mother’s dead, and father’s a soldier, and this little sister is all I have, ma’am. It almost crazes me to see her looking so sorrowful.”
Just then a hasty knock came at the door.
“Oh!” cried the child upon the bed, clasping her hands in sudden delight, “there’s my book! It’s the postman, Ellen!”
Sure enough, it was the postman. He thrust a little roll into Ellen’s eager hands, and slammed the door after him as if he was afraid of the two sick faces.
“Give it here! quick, Ellen, do!” cried the child. “Oh! oh! oh! I am so glad!”
I saw her open the roll with eager fingers—saw the sweet, young face brighten into a something even more beautiful than health, and I could not forbear stepping to the little creature’s bedside.
“What have you so fine, my child?”
She held it out toward me, almost laughingly, and I saw—what?—just a number of Merry’s Museum, with “Amy C—“ written upon it.
I knew then, Uncle Robert, who my “soldier’s child” was; and to tell you the simple truth, I felt so happy that I leaned and kissed the child, burst out crying like an old goose, and went home without giving a word in explanation of my conduct.
It’s a long story, Uncle Robert, and you may not care to tell it to any one else; but I do wish you’d print it, because it might tempt some other careless woman, who feels well disposed toward some poor, unknown child, to send a dollar and a half to you for its sake.
Mary A. M.
Copyright 2000-2016, Pat Pflieger