Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Louisa Kearny Letter

Louisa Kearny's grave

In their Civil War Collection, the Missouri History Museum has a letter, dated August 28, 1862, written to Edward Bredell, Jr., by Louisa Kearny.  

This is interesting for several reasons.  First, Louisa Kearny was the daughter of Stephen Watts Kearny and the sister of Cyclone Club member Charles Kearny.  Obviously, there was some kind of relationship between Louisa Kearny and Bredell or, at the very least, between the Kearny and Bredell family and this helps explain how Charles Kearny ended up in the Cyclone Club.  Second, Louisa Kearny mentions several of Bredell's old club members in the letter.  While detailing the goings-on of their mutual friends, she mentions Joseph Fullerton and John Riggin in the letter.  She also mentions one of her brothers and, given the way she writes about him, I believe she's talking about Charles.  Lastly, the letter gives an interesting account of what life was like in St. Louis during the Civil War from the point of view of a Southern sympathizer and is worth reading just for that.

Also, I should add that, according to the Missouri Digital Heritage site, the letter "was intercepted by federal forces and published in the newspaper under the title 'Gems from the Rebel Mail Bag.'"  I have to say that the idea of Ed Bredell not getting this letter kind of breaks my heart a bit.  And I can only imagine the horror that Miss Kearny felt upon the publication of her private letter.  I find the whole story of the letter kind of sad.  

I'm posting some of the more interesting parts of the letter below but, if you'd like to read the whole thing, the full letter can be found at the Missouri History Museum's website.

St. Louis, August 28, 1862, 
Capt. Bredell:  You see your letter was appreciated, that I answer it so soon; and I hope this mail will get safely through.  St. Louis is very stupid now.  We have nothing in the way of amusement, and there is not the visiting there used to be, for we have no beaux to visit; indeed, our streets would be deserted if it were not for shoulder-straps.  Your friend, Mr. Fullerton, is fourth sergeant in the Hallack Guard, and went up to Lexington; but succeeded only in burning and sinking some little boats belonging to private individuals, for which the Democrat urges they should have some public demonstration for their personal bravery. 
...Mary and I spent the day last Tuesday with your mother.  She read us your letter, where you thought the young ladies should take care of the "little fellows."  We are very much obliged for the suggestion and think of forming a society immediately.... 
Our neighbor across the street is as savage as ever.  His daughter is Secretary to the "Ladies' Union Aid Society," and her favorite song is "John Brown's bones lie mouldering in the grave," which we have the full benefit of.  How some people fall to their proper level... 
John Riggin is in town again, and I expect there is soon to be a fight, as he always leaves about that time.  He was up here before and brought a negro man that he had stolen from the South. 
Oh! what would we not give to see our old Hero marching through the streets.  We have waited a long time, but I trust that before many months you will all come to release us from the hateful fetters that bind us, for nearly every day they come out with some new order; and this morning a man signing himself "Justice" thinks the women and children should be sent, with all traitors, out of the Federal lines.... 
Remember me to all my friends South, and if that brother of mine is with you, tell him to send me word.  I had a letter from him from Springfield, in which he said he was going back to Mississippi. 
I have set you such a good example that I hope to hear again from you, and with my best wishes and kindest regards for yourself, 
Believe me your friend, 
Miss L.

The photo at the top of the post comes from Louisa Kearny's memorial at Find A Grave.

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