|Fincastle, Virginia, circa 1840, from Howe’s Historical Collection of Virginia|
[In the first two paragraphs, John Preston Johnston gives his uncle Radford a description of the snow-covered area around West Point, and mentions his high standing.
The third paragraph delves into the female seminary ("Uncle Edward's school") disaster of 1839. Due to this, there was at least a temporary falling out between Marie Antoinette Estelle Costar (De Cressac Villagrand) Johnston and her husband Edward William Johnston vs. Harvey Mitchell/Michel and his wife, Edward's sister, Jane Wood Mitchell/Michel. This seems to have been patched up only after John Preston Johnston and Estelle's deaths.]
I am on your account sorry for Lizzy's not returning to Uncle Edward's school, but on hers, I must say that I consider it a commendable thing to do; for I should be most loathe for the influence of "Madame Estelle" to be extended upon her, as it would, in great measure, if not entirely, counterbalance the good effect of Uncle Edward's most excellent example, especially since Aunt Jane has now left: our noble "Madame Estelle Marie Antoine de la Costar," Lizzie has informed me, has rendered herself not able and distinguished in all that Country by her unmistakable fondness for the "Water of life." This then is the secret of Uncle Edward's losing all his scholars. I always knew and always said, even while in Liberty, that the cursed old Hag would ruin him yet: T'would be a blessing to the World if she could be secretly poisoned, a thing, by the way which I would not hesitate to do "pro bon publico." It is really distressing to think that so excellent a man as Uncle Edward must always be clogged by such a "Witch of Hell" and all his fortunes ruined on her account.
I wish most sincerely I could be with you all about this time, feasting on the Glorious fare of Greenfield. I would be rather willing to exchange my tough rations of "corned beef," pickled pork, and "cod fish" for your splendid provisions. I think if you and Aunt Susan intend taking a pleasure trip anywhere next summer, you could not possibly pick upon a more agreeable place than this: during the whole of the Spring and Summer months the place is thronged with visitors, and a now novel and beautiful sight, than the Encampment you will never come across: parties are given by the Corps of Cadets every night and two splendid balls one on the Fourth of July and the other on the 28 August when we strike our tents: the number of visitors is never less than 300 at any time during the Summer and I can show you more Lights than you could find at any place in the Union.
Give my love to Aunt Susan, whom I hope you will prevail upon to write to me, and you, I beg you, follow her example. Remember me also to Aunt Sarah and Uncle Bowyer, and ask them if I can ever expect a letter or news from either of them.
J P Johnstone [nod to Sir Walter Scott]
Tell Aunt Sarah I shall write to her very soon if she will promise to answer my letter.
[John Preston Johnston (1824-1847)
William Mosely Radford (1810-1873)
Lizzy = Eliza Mary Johnston (1825-1909)
Marie Antoinette Estelle Costar (De Cressac Villagrand) Johnston (circa 1802-1848)
Edward William Johnston (1799-1867)
Harvey Mitchell/Michel (1799-1866)
Jane Wood Mitchell/Michel (1811-1892)
Aunt Susan = Susanna Smith Preston Radford (circa 1805-1857)
Greenfield plantation = Fincastle vicinity, manor at the time of William and Susanna Preston Radford
Aunt Sarah = Sarah Radford Preston Bowyer (1806-1848)
Uncle Bowyer = Henry M. Bowyer (1802-1893)].