I found a series of letters in the Digital Image Library on indianahistory.org and decided to transcribe them.
David Beem, an officer of the 14th Indiana, wrote to his fiancee (and later wife), Mahala Joslin, on Christmas eve/day in 1861, 1862, and 1863.
I intend to post the second letter tomorrow and the third on Christmas Day. This is the first of the three, written from Romney, Va in 1861.
Romney, Va. December 24th 1861.
Your very welcome favor of the 15th came to hand just now, and I really don't think I have received one since I left home that I was so glad to get. It had been almost a month since I had heard from you, and although I knew the uncertainty of the mails, especially as we have been changing our position, yet I could not think how it was that I was unable to hear any more from my dearest friend. You say in your letter that you had not written to me for about three weeks, thinking that I would be at home, I am very sorry indeed that you should be so disappointed, and regret it all the more because your disappointment is owing mostly to my own fault. But when I told you that I thought I could go home, we were at Huttonville, expecting to stay there during the winter, and if we had staid there, I could have got a leave of absence; but as we have left, and got to a place where we are more needed, it is very hard to go away, for unless an officer gets sick, he cannot at present get a leave of absence. Yet they still promise me that I can go home sometime this winter, and although I shall not depend on it, yet I shall certainly do the best I can. I desire exceedingly to go home for your sake, and I am certain the disappointment is almost as great for me as for you. I hope, however, that this disappointment will be followed by happier events. Let us hope for the best, and although it may seem hard now, I doubt not it will be much brightter [sic] for us both in the future.
I am sorry that I did not get your letter a little sooner. Supposing that your answer to my letter in which I spoke about your meeting me at Wheeling would not reach me, I wrote a similar letter a short time ago, which you will likely get before this reaches you. But as you think best not to go to Wheeling as I suggested in my first letter concerning it, we will think no more of it. My reason for suggesting it was because I wished to fulfill the promise that I made you if it was at all possible. You need not think for a moment that it will be a disappointment to me, or that I will think you unkind. The matter I left to your own judgement and inclination, and perhaps you are right. I am entirely satisfied for you to exercise your own pleasure, and although nothing would afford me so much delight as to meet you anywhere, even for a short time, and be able to call you mine, yet I suppose we must try to content ourselves to wait for a better time. I shall try in the future, my love, not to disappoint you again. But although separated by a cruel necessity, may we not still anticipate future bliss, and be happy in each other's love? I can assure you there is not a day but what you are uppermost in my mind, and always first in my affections.
To-night, dear Hala, is Christmas eve, and I do wonder what my love is at now. How happily we could spend a few hours together. I trust that you are enjoying yourself with friends at home. I think if I was there I could get your Christmas gift; but certainly it would afford me a great deal of pleasure to be able to give you a gift of some kind, which I would most assuredly do if I was with you to-night. It will be a dry Christmas to me. We will have but a little to amuse us, and nothing to remind us that it is merry Christmas. But I am very comfortably situated, boarding with a pleasant and religious family, and I could not expect anything better while in the war -
I do not know, dearest, that I have anything more to write. I shall in my next letter try to send you my picture, as there is an artist here. Please write often to me. If I could do anything to contribute to your happiness, I would do so most assuredly. I hope some of these times to be able to give you some substantial token of my love to you. Perhaps this will reach you before New Year's day. Enjoy it as well as you can, and think of me kindly. I would tell you what to do on New Year's day, but my letter may not reach you - so do just as you please, and if possible have a jolly time, for yourself and me; and I will be thinking of you -
But I must bid you good-night, and a happy one. Will you allow me a kiss before I quit writing?
My love to you always,
Yours in love,
David E. Beem
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T.S. Eliot
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