Friday, December 9, 2016

Joseph E. Johnston to Louisa Bowen Johnston, September 15, 1826

Word Cloud created from text of cadet Joseph E. Johnston's 1826 letter
[Joseph Eggleston Johnston at United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, to Louisa Smith Bowen Johnston via Tazewell Courthouse, Virginia, September 15, 1826, folder 44, Trigg-Floyd Collection, Special Collections, John Cook Wyllie Library, The University of Virginia's College at Wise (formerly Clinch Valley College), Wise, Virginia.  This is my rough transcription. Ellipses and brackets denote disruption of text in original by torn gaps. Spelling in the original text contains use of the old-fashioned "long s" -- i.e., when the letter "s" is doubled up in a word, the first "s" looks more like a lower case "f."]

West Point September 15th 1826

My dear Sister,

I have just received your very affectionate letter from which I have derived double pleasure on account of the long silence which has existed between us. This I must candidly acknowledge is to be imputed almost entirely to me; and it shames me to [be] obliged to own that it has been al[most] ten months since I mustered up industry enough to write to you. I may also assert that until the last epistle you have not written to me for almost the same space of time. Observe how punctually have been kept those promises of regular correspondence which we mutually made each other some 16 or 18 months ago. As for me, I am too true a son of my father ever to be a very punctual correspondent; but yet in the present instance my negligence has been so gross that no apology sufficient for the offence can be offered to you. They have given me a great deal of trouble those same apologies; I can not at present recollect having ever written a letter which was not almost entirely filled with attempts at apologies for negligences of this sort.

To you however, I will make no attempt of the sort; for in the first place my negligence has been so flagrant that these attempts would be entirely useless, and in the second place I have determined never again to trouble the perusers of my epistle with any such trash. The silence which I preserved so strictly is to be imputed to that almost invisible indolence which belongs to my disposition, and that aversion to letter writing which I have in common with the rest, as most of the rest of the family. Indeed my mode of life is so methodical, there is so much sameness and regularity in my occupation, that it is almost impossible to collect material enough for the composition of a letter.  

But I think that this subject has been sufficiently discussed, at least on one side. We will therefore drop it for the present and talk of other matters; though I must tell you, with my accustomed frankness, which has so far characterized this epistle, that it will be exceedingly difficult for me to find any thing more to say: a situation to which I hope that I may not be reduced when we next meet. I never had much reason to pride myself on the length of my productions of this [kind] and I think that this one has very little [va]riety, with a great deal of repetition. . . I am inclined to impute that same . . . of life of which we were a page or two back . . . there is so little variety in my employment, every thing is done with me from habit; almost [with]out thought.

I am c[om]pelled to conclude rather . . . by the parade-drum which now interrupts me . . .

Remember me most respectfully to the Col. and Mrs. . . . and to all the family, and believe me,

your af[fectionate]

J.E. J[ohnston]

[Note: This letter is mostly a youthful exercise in dry wit -- revealing little about what cadet Johnston actually thought, and no mention of his fellow classmates.
Joseph Eggleston Johnston (1807-1891)
Louisa Smith Bowen Johnston (1800-1873)
Col. = Colonel Henry Rees (aka Reese) Bowen (1770-1850)
Mrs. = Eleanor Stuart Tate Bowen (1778-1833)]

[Many thanks to William Myers, Mary Davy and Sally Young for their ongoing research collaboration.]

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