Dear Friend Robert Merry: Letters from nineteenth-century children

How to use this book

1840s: 184118421843184418451846184718481849

1850s: 1850185118521853185418551856185718581859

1860s: 18601861 • 1862 • 1863186418651866186718681869

1870s: 187018711872

About the Merry Cousins


Index & gloss


The Cousins’ Greatest Hits


Transcriber’s note

Because page images of Robert Merry’s Museum for 1862 aren’t readily available, when words are broken between pages, I have indicated where the break occurs.


My dear Uncle:—You can’t guess how glad I am to take up the Museum and not find it full of war news; it is not because I’m not interested in the war, for I am most decidedly, as Zephyr can tell you, and especially in that “Naval Expedition,” as some of our boys are in it, and I should feel dreadfully if one of them was killed. Do put a stop to Willie Coleman’s acting. I thought once he could behave, but, alas! he will excite the spirits of the boys and they’ll form a company, and make the girls join their pranks. It’s all very nice to drill, my fair damsels, fine play to “Forward, march!” “Stand at ease!” but when you come to “Salute your officer!” BEWARE if Gen. Coleman, Lord Oliver, or Sir Forley are at your head. I’m going to say a few words to Wilforley, and they shall be real sweet. This poetry is just the thing now read, my dear (oh! I didn’t mean that), that

“I’ll laugh for you,

I’ll cry for you,

And oh! you may depend on’t;

I’ll sigh for you,

I’ll die for you,

And that will be the end on’t.”

May it reach your heart and stir the fountains of your soul. Don’t be overcome, for I want to tell you that you look like Zephyr, and as you admire yourself daily in the glass, you can just think that it is her sweet face. Thanks, Oliver, thanks. Brown-Eyes, welcome. Zephyr, Mr. W. often speaks of you with a shade of sadness on his brow. H. A. Danker, I’ll think of you, and if you were here would give you both of my hands and say, “God speed you!” Will ask the All-Father to guard and bring you safe back. I love all those who have gone to the war, for they have gone in a noble cause. But I heard my dear Uncle repeating to himself, “Lady-bug, lady-bug, fly away home,” and take the hint, and leave with two big tears in my eyes, and a kiss, like the one I gave my soldier boy when he left me for the last time, for my brave cousin Henry.

Good-night all, and sometimes think of

“Lady-bug, lady-bug … ”:

Ladybird, ladybird,

Fly away home,

Your house is on fire

And your children all gone … 

[Iona and Peter Opie, ed. The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rymes. Np: Oxford University Press, 1951; rhyme #296] The American version substitutes “ladybug” for “ladybird.” After reciting the chant to a ladybug perched on one’s finger, the chanter blows on the insect, which flies away.


City of the Straits, Oct 28, 1861.

It’s only I, Uncles, aunty, cousins, all. On the strength of nine years’ acquaintance with many of your names, if not your faces, I thought I would just step in and say “good afternoon.” Uncle Frank, while in our city some years since, urged me very strongly to make your acquaintance, and even promised to introduce me himself; but before I was ready to avail myself of his kindness, the news of his death reached me.

Please, for his sake, if not my own, mayn’t I come in? I’m but a wee body, and any bit of a corner will satisfy me.

What has become of C. M. Gibbs, Adelbert Older, Nip, and others too numerous to mention?

Willie H. Coleman (North), let’s be friends—here’s my hand. You, with Oliver Only and Black-Eyes have always been my favorites. Why do you write so seldom? Are you so earnest in your care of “that little girl,” that your other friends must be cast aside? Dear Uncles, I was so sorry when I heard of your losses. I have tried hard to help you by adding to your list of subscribers, but so far have not succeeded. But before the New Year I will at least promise one.

Dearest Aunty, I have a word for your private ear—please listen; may I [p. 25 ] write to you? I have always loved you, because your kindness and gentle ways remind me, oh! so much of the darling mother that eight years ago we laid away to rest beneath the orange-trees of our Southern home. Please forgive me for thus intruding myself upon you, perfect stranger that I am. But I am almost alone. I have no one to love. Life has hardly one joy left since my mother’s death.


[Editor: ] Welcome, Winifred, not only to the Chat—but to the warmest corner in the warmest, cosiest room of the homestead. Don’t say you have no one to love, with so many uncles, aunts, and cousins. They can not give you a mother’s love—but such as they have, they give unto you freely, cordially, always.

City of the Straits: Detroit, Michigan



While Uncle Hi is parleying with some of the bashful cousins about coming in, I’ll just see if I can’t slip in under that horrible hatchet. There, cousins mine—didn’t I do that well. I didn’t want to be introduced, for just as I’d get ready to make a most graceful courtesy, I should certainly catch my toe against my heel and down I should go. I’m not troubled with bashfulness, but I should, under such circumstances, feel like retiring as soon as possible forever. But I must be quick—I see Uncle H. begins to think I’m an intruder. It’s a mistake, Uncle, I’m a regular Merry. Don’t let me detain you, Uncle, if you want to grind that hatchet (I’ll be done by the time that is). Jeannie P., I love you, but you look rather older than ten. Annie E. Drummond, I’d love to see you at home. Although I’m a stranger, let me suggest, if you want to help Wilforley about his name, how would he like it transposed to Lofery Wil?

Don’t you think if we could get a photograph of the Uncles, aunts, and cousins, as they really are, it would make a “diverting scene,” as my good grandmother says. I do. Now, here is quite a middle-aged gentleman passing himself off as a gay youth; then there is a little girl and her mother—the Merry cousin they represent is about eighteen. Then we come to a regular bona fide young lady, just as represented. Then a fair young girl in her teens; then, oh! that is one of the brigs that sails under false colors. But there is a fair proportion who sail under the true flag—most of them, I think, are for “Union,” or will be some day.

Uncle, don’t be trying the edge of that hatchet on your thumb, on my account, you might cut yourself.

Au revoir.


Gouverneur, Nov. 5, 1861.

Dear Chat:—Can’t I have a seat by your warm fireside this cold November morning? Since so many of the boys have gone to the war, I suppose the girls will have to make up for their loss by coming in the oftener. Perhaps the best encouragement we can offer them to fight well is, the promise of our hearts, and perhaps our hands, if they come off the battle-field without any scars on their backs. I intend going the Union ticket [p. 27 ] as soon as I am old enough, be it for the whole country or myself in particular.

Willie Coleman, how is your little “girl?” Mrs. Black Eyes, mamma wants to know how you succeed in making “bread.” I send some answers to the puzzles, and had I more wit, should have answered them all. If a body can have Wilforley’s photograph by saying “ramrod,” then I say “ramrod,” and shall expect it. I should like to have Aunt Sue’s, but don’t know as I have come up to the conditions. My mamma is a terrible punster. The other night, at tea, she asked us, “What man in the Bible was commanded to scream violently?” to which my brother Arthur, without a moment’s hesitation, answered, “Daniel” (Dan-yell).

My love to all, Uncles and Aunty in particular.

Jeannie Parker.

bread: “Jeannie, tell mamma I have not tried yet, but I’m going to some day, and then if she’ll call in she shall receive an answer satisfactory, I hope, to her palate.”—Black-Eyes (1862.1.57)

“saying ‘ramrod’ ”: “Wilforley offers a photograph of himself to those cousins who … send, within the usual time, a correct answer to the following charade: ‘My first is a kind of butter; my second a kind of licker; put together, I am a kind of charger.’ ” (1861.2.64)

Union Ticket: in Mathews, a phrase used since 1813 to denote a political ticket including candidates of different political views [Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951]; in 1860, a political ticket purporting to support the Union.


[Editor: ] P. S. Wilson sends a regretful farewell to the Chat, “because we can not agree on the great question of the day, ‘Union and Disunion.’ ” It is so full of kind feeling, and so truly gentlemanly in style, that we share his regrets in parting. Aunt Sue cordially returns his kind remembrances, and would like much to have the opportunity and power of convincing so courteous an opponent that he is under an erroneous impression with regard to the great “question.”


[Editor: ] Tommy and Jasper both send their greetings to the whole family. The former called to-day (Dec. 17th) on his way to join the new gunboat Winona, and this afternoon, by a pleasing coincidence, a letter comes from Jasper, dated “U. S. Frigate Potomac, off Mobile.” They would like to hear from any of the boys in the navy. Uncle Merry will forward any communication sent to this office for them.

God speed our noble ships of state,

And all the boys who man them.

U. S. S. Winona: Union wooden steamship launched 26 November 1861. This gunboat was 158 feet long, with a depth of 12 feet, and had an average speed of seven knots. In 1862, when Tommy was on board, the ship was often engaged on the Mississippi River: it cruised near Passe L’Outre in March 1862 and attacked Forts Jackson and St. Philip on 24 April 1862. The latter engagement was brutal, and the ship was forced to retreat downstream with crew and officers lying flat on the deck. When the forts were taken by Union forces a few days later, the commander of the Winona took possession of Fort St. Philip. The ship went on to New Orleans at the end of April 1862 before steaming upriver to join in the attacks on Natchez and Vicksburg, Mississippi. It went out of commission June 1865. (U. S. Navy; series 2, vol 1: 242; series 1, vol 18: 226-227, 490-491, 817, 820-821)

U. S. S. Potomac: Union wooden sailing frigate launched in 1822 and commissioned in August 1861. Built by the U. S. Government, she was 1,708 tons. (U. S. Navy series 2; v 1: 182-183)


Out West, Nov. 2, 1861.

Glad to see you, cousins all! Do open the door a little wider, Uncle Merry, and let me come clear in. How pleasant it is in the “dear old parlor” these winter evenings! I have so much to say to you all. Oh, Uncle Merry! what overwhelming news you have told us of our cousin Cornelius! How could he have made his escape so silently? Seen going out of the South door? Did he go openly and fairly as Cornelius M., or in some disguise which has, perhaps, proved serviceable before this in the Chat? Did he carry a bundle under his arm, when he went out so “secretly, and in the night-time?” A bundle containing various kisses, loves, and kind messages sent to him by fair Northern cousins? or are they left behind as valueless? Send me after him, Uncle! How can I penetrate into Secessia? Will King Cotton’s pickets allow me to pass their lines? I’ll tell you, I’ll go down just behind General McClellan, and bring him back in triumph. Give somebody a commission now for Hawthorne. Our dear Effie, too, has gone, and Busy Bee, and—well, we must bid them, I hope, a short farewell[.] Brown-Eyes, I like you, too. Where is Batavia? I hope you will some time come Out West. You have been gone a long time, Hattie; glad to see you; Oui je comprends. Clara, why can not you represent Wisconsin? I know of no one who could better illuminate that part of the horizon. I mean to try and follow your suggestion, Black-Eyes; it is certainly a good one. Oh, Sophie! you are too hard on our venerable friend Willie. Willie, we girls don’t believe in that “little girl;” it is our private opinion (publicly expressed) that you brought on that little fiction as a last resort, when Sybil refused you. Tell us the truth, Willie—confess your faults—and we will receive you again into favor. As it is, Wilforley bids fair to eclipse you. Follow my advice, Will, and again you will shine pre-eminent. Think on what Ellian has said. Cousins all, farewell.

“Adoo! Adoo!”

Secessia: in Mathews: “The land of the secessionists or the Souther Confederacy.” The earliest use is dated 1861. [Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951.]

“King Cotton”: Mathews: “a popular personification of cotton in allusion to its economic supremacy in the South”; first example is dated 1860. It may be from the phrase “cotton is King,” first used in 1855. Brewer, however, says it was first used in the U. S. Senate, by James H. Hammond, in 1858. [Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, rev. ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1963. • Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951.]

General George Brinton McClellan (1826-1885): U. S. soldier. In 1861, McClellan was appointed major-general in the regular army, in command of the Department of the Ohio. Success led to his appointment to command the Division of the Potomac, where his hard work raised the morale and efficiency of troops demoralized by defeat at Bull Run. Hopes were high. However, McClellan’s career during the War was marked by a frustrating tendency toward inaction, as he consistently overestimated enemy strength. See also 1865.1.25.

Sophie mocked Willie Coleman for wearing glasses and for demanding an explanation of her letter. (1861.2.92)


Otterville, Mo., Jan. 3, 1862.

Dear Museum:—H. A. Danker’s letter from camp has encouraged me to see if the Uncles would recognize me, another volunteer under the stars and stripes, and, for some time back, a seceder from the Merry circle, as still entitled to a seat in the parlor.

Stand aside, Hiram, and let me go in.

Well, cousins, I hope the New Year finds you all well and happy.

H. A. Danker, here I am. What do you want of me? Shake hands for the honor of the profession, you know, and for old acquaintance’ sake.

Uncle Hi, I’m “agoin’ to” write a long letter, some time, just to show I am not afraid of you; but I guess I won’t do it this time for fear of —

Your nephew,
Adelbert Older.


Dear Uncle Merry:—I have just become, for the first time, the happy recipient of your inestimable Museum, and having read it from beginning to end, feel an inexpressible anxiety to be introduced among the circle of your little reading friends.

There may be some objections, being so young, numbering but five years; yet, if it is desired, I will meet any of them, and try titles as to who is the best reader, age notwithstanding. I can read the Museum after my tea, previous to seven o’clock, my bed hour. I have many large books, and can read them all. I have quite a library, and would like to compare with my newly-acquainted cousins. I request a remem- [p. 89 ] brance to Blue-Eyes, Black-Eyes, Zephyr, Mollie Myrtle, and all, hoping we may have many merry greetings for the coming year.


[Editor: ] Five years old! Please, Nellie, don’t look into one of those big books for many a long day, but put on your skates, gather roses for your cheeks, and take in plenty of the oil of life from the bracing northwest breeze. Your lamp has begun to burn early, and will need careful trimming.


Dear Uncle Merry:—I wish H. A. Danker would write us a good, long letter, and tell us all he has done and expects to do while he is absent. Wouldn’t it be fun if he should take some of our Southern cousins prisoners, and send them on to us?—we would be glad to see them. “Homely Face,” won’t you please send me your carte de visite through Uncle Merry, and I will think a great deal of it, even if it is “Homely” (which I do not credit). But, there is the hatchet! so good-bye until next month. With love to all the cousins that ask for it, I am your affectionate niece,


[Editor: ] It would not answer for H. A. Danker to reveal all his plans for the future. Don’t you see how the other side would take advantage? Then, too, Scc. Stanton might order the Museum to be sent to Fort Lafayette for publishing private military news. No doubt H. A. D. will respond and give a good account of what he has done.

Fort Lafayette: U. S. Naval Magazine built in 1822 on a small island in the Narrows, in New York bay; was also called “Fort Diamond”. The stone fort was used as a prison during the Civil War.

Scc. Stanton: Edwin McMasters Stanton (1814-1869), U. S. attorney-general and secretary of war. Though Stanton distrusted Abraham Lincoln, he became Lincoln’s secretary of war in 1862. His tenure was marked by efficiency and honest management, and by severe censorship of the press (though he never censored the Museum … ). Stanton retained the post until 1868.


Dear Uncle:—Your message from “all of us” to H. A. Danker emboldens me to tell you who and what I am. Owing to wounds received at the battle of Ball’s Bluff, in which I was engaged, I have been home ever since on furlough. My health permitting, I expect to return in the course of a month or two, and rest assured, dear cousins, one and all, I shall carry your memory back to camp with me to cheer my lonely hours, and I would receive gladly any of your photographs who will send them to me. Will you not gratify me by so doing, fair cousins all? Send them to Uncle Merry and he will forward them to me. Write me just a few lines, please; ’twill be sweet to know that I have your sympathies.

I am yours, truly,
Lieut. Fred. Ryder,
Of the —th N. Y. S. V.

Battle of Ball’s Bluff: engagement between Union forces commanded by Col. Edward D. Baker and Confederate forces commanded by Col. Nathan George Evans, at Ball’s Bluff, Virginia, on 21 October 1861. Ambushed after a 45-minute crossing of the Potomac River, Union forces were hindered by the muddy morass of the riverbank and by the fact that quick escape across the river was impossible. They suffered enormous losses: 49 dead, 158 wounded, and 714 captured or missing [John S. C. Abbott. The History of the Civil War in America. Springfield, Massachusetts: Gurdon Bill, 1863; vol i: 217, 218. • Mark M. Boatner The Civil War Dictionary, rev. ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1988.]


From Wilforley.
Brooklyn, March 29, 1862.

My dear Merrys:—I am under a cloud. Last January took from me a beloved father, translating him, with scarcely a moment’s warning, from his home on earth to his home in a heavenly mansion; there a place had been prepared for him, and for that place he, too, was prepared; it is the “silver lining” to the cloud to know that he is there. He took quite an interest in the Museum, and contributed at least once to its pages; the poetical sketch entitled “The Bird Battle,” in the number for August, ’58, was from his pen.

I claim no exemption from you on this account; you may clip away at me just as hard as ever you did, and I shall still try to give you as good as you send.

But my time is increasingly occupied, and you can hardly expect me to answer all the letters which some of you have been—and more may yet be—kind enough to address me independently of the Chat—in the same manner; so that I hope none such will feel neglected if they should receive an acknowledgment only through this medium. This does not by any means imply that “drafts of exchange” for cartes will not be honored. I shall always pay them, but expect you to pay the premium; i.e., to send your picture with your request. Here let me say—and I won’t say it again—that I hope those cousins who have received mine and promised theirs, will please hurry up and perform.

Annie E. D., I am glad to hear you chatting with us once more; that parenthetical “side-wipe” at you in my last was interpolated; I don’t use so large a brush.

[to be continued.]
[Transcriber’s note: Continued in 1862.1.188 (not included)]

father: Robert Strong Oakley (baptized 26 February 1812, New York; died January 1862); husband of Mary Ellen (born c1815, New York) and father of at least eight children, the oldest, William Forrest Oakley. Robert was the president of a bank note company. He died at his home on Washington Ave., Brooklyn, New York, of “fatty degeneration of the heart,” aged 49 years, 11 months. [M653. 1860 United States Census; reel #767, 272. • “Records of the South Reformed Dutch Church in Garden Street, in the City of New York,” transcribed Royden Woodward Vosburgh. New York City: np, 1921; p. 2. • Brooklyn, New York. Certificate of Death; #473.]

“Bird Battle”: a poem by Robert Oakley (Robert Merry’s Museum; August 1858). When a battle between birds is halted by a rain shower, the author suggests that human battles also can be quelled “hydraulically.”

“side-swipe”: appeared in brackets and probably was written by Uncle Hiram, to answer Wilforley’s question: “Why make your visits so like angels, Annie Drummond? Can’t you make them less ‘far between?’ [If you knew Annie as I do, you would know why her visits are like angels’, and can’t be otherwise.]” (1862.1.59)


Feb. 28, 1862.

Heyday! Uncle, do you want another applicant for a star-ship? I know you don’t. But here I am nevertheless! [ … ]

How shall I testify my admiration for all the Merry Volunteers? Shall I twirl my knitting-needles in their behalf? No! As Madge says of “eyes” I say of stockings! Stockings are so common; everybody has stockings! I want to do something uncommon! Please suggest what I can do, somebody.

Clite Clinton.

Madge: Struggling to find a pen-name, Madge (formerly “Blue-Eyed Minnie”) dismissed a name which included eye color: “[E]yes are so common; everybody has eyes.” (1862.1.89)

a star-ship: A reference to the “bright particular stars” who brightened the Chat; the word “star” has been used to describe someone with special talent since the 18th century, when it was used to refer to actors. The Cousins lobbed the phrase at each other in 1859, when it begn to be used to describe William Hoyt Coleman: “I beg to protest against being dubbed the ‘bright particular star’—at least during ‘dog-days.’ It is too hot to ‘rage;’ and if anybody can feel ‘particularly bright’ with the mercury in the nineties, I wish he or she would assume the title, and the glory thereof, ‘to once’t.’ ” (1859.2.90)


Wisconsin, Feb., ’62.

Dear Uncle William:—Greeting I come. We hail with delight your entry to our charmed circle. A trio of uncles we now have to attend to our wants, and with our dear Aunt Sue, who is a host in herself, we feel a certainty of enjoying many a feast of good things.

Grant me a word with some of the cousins.

Annie E. Drummond, let us be friends, if one of us is “old married people”—reminiscence of the past!—ah! Annie, think you because some merry voices are calling me mother, that the well-spring of youthful enjoyments is all dried up? Wait and see if, when the title of Mrs. is prefixed to your name, you cease to remember the days when you were young.

With all due respect to you, Blue-Eyes, I beg leave to enter a protest against your suggestion. I think the older portion of community already have as much printed for their especial benefit as they can well digest, while the children would not be so well provided for if the Museum should be diverted from its usual course.

Cousin Will(forley), I have seen your photograph. Methinks deceit lurks not there—only a little pleasantry.

To digress a little, Uncle William, I look out of my window and see the fields and woods around wrapped in a mantle of snow, and wonder if you are favored with as fine sleighing as we now are enjoying, and wish you could have seen some of the beautiful snow that was so gently falling yesterday. I took up a handful of it, so light, so feathery, the form and outline of each flake as distinctly visible as you have seen them when magnified and drawn on paper. How pretty! thought I, but soon it will melt and vanish away—emblematical of many things we love. But I trespass.

Your affectionate niece,
Bella B.

Blue-Eyes’ suggestion: “Aunt Sue, I have one cause of complaint—our stories are getting very childish; now can’t we have a good, long, and sensible story, with grown-up people for characters, and adapted to those who are no longer children?” (1861.2.152)


[Editor: ] Won’t somebody lend a pocket-handkerchief to the distressed “Correspondent with a bad cold,” who writes as follows?

O luckless be, Ib bost uddud,

By head’s as buddy as a barsh:

Where gedtly flowing thoughts should rud

There sprig strage streabs with busic harsh.

By dose no fragradt sweet cad dow

By bouth cad taste do viad fide

By tug is furred though burdig glow

Parches this fevered throat of bide.

A beatig drub bakes busic sweet

Cobpared with beatig of by braids

Buscles ad bodes frob head to feet

Seeb bazy paths for waderig paids.

It brigs a sbile to kidest freds

Bute listedig to by tale of wo

To hear be burder eb’s ad ed’s

That through by bubbling bouth bust go.

Take wardig dow by berry bates

By the sad sog of by poor buse

I cad dot blabe the cruel fates,

For I would wear by thid-soled shoes.


Grape Lodge, March 23.

Uncle! Uncle!! Uncle!!! oh, how could you reduce my poor missive to merely “pleasant words for the cousins?”

And now, cousins, I’ll try to say some of those “words” again.

Jean du Casse, I guess you are a friend of mine; perhaps I’ll say who some other time.

Winifred, I love you dearly. Let me give you a cousinly kiss.

A dearly-loved relative of mine has [p. 156 ] fallen on the altar of his country. He lies far away near the battle-field of Newbern. Oh! it is so hard for me, who never had a sorrow till now, and to you, dear auntie, uncles, and cousins, I turn for sympathy—most of all, to you, dear, sweet cousin Daisy. Come, sit by me, and let me tell you of him. Perhaps you have friends who have thus nobly died; if not, I know your sweet, pitiful nature will make you weep in sympathy with me, and help to heal the wound in my heart.

The dear Lord preserve our noble Merry cousins from a like fate. I love you all.


[Editor: ] We know how to weep with those who weep, yet, with our tears, there is joy that some are counted worthy to die for their country.

Newbern, North Carolina was captured by Union forces on 14 March 1862 and remained under Union control for the rest of the Civil War, though there were skirmishes here in 1863 and 1864. [Frederick H. Dyer. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1959. • Mark M. Boatner The Civil War Dictionary, rev. ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1988.]


[Editor: ] [Tommy] writes to us from the U.S. gunboat Winona, at Southeast Pass, mouth of the Mississippi. He is expecting soon to have warm work in moving toward New Orleans, there being heavy forts and batteries on the way. May God protect him! We don’t understand why the Museum has not reached him safely. It has been sent, according to directions, twice. Will somebody please give Uncle Sam a caution not to so neglect our Merry boys?

Tommy: See editors’ note to Jasper’s letter, 1862.1.187-188.


Home, April 28, 1862.

Dear Merrys:—I have come to the conclusion that it is about time for me to give an account of myself, especially as Cousin Josie wishes me to.

First I must let you know that I am no longer in the army, having left it on account of a severe attack of typhoid fever (the volunteer’s scourge), which nearly cost me my life. I can not boast of witnessing any battles, although I have seen plenty of skirmishing; I have suffered privations, as all soldiers must, and borne the fatigue of long marches. An advance into Virginia proved no pleasant tour, mud and rain constituting most of the scenery. Since I last wrote there have been many kind words for me from my sympathizing Merry cousins, for which accept my heartfelt thanks; they have cheered me in many an hour of despondency. You, too, Uncles, let me thank you for your sympathies, and last, but not by any means least, Aunt Sue.

Adelbert Older, my old friend, let me give you a regular Union grip, wishing you God-speed!

Lucy W. C., did you include me among the fixed stars in your astronomical list? I think you should place Oliver Only and myself among the “comets,” or rather “shooting stars,” as we are expecting to “shoot off” to New Brunswick this summer and there “shoot off” our guns. In short, we are off on a collecting tour, but of this anon.

Pertine, will you send me your c. d. v., “care of Aunt Sue.”

C. F. W., I intend to judge for myself in that Boston and New York question. I’ll find Ol. and get him to look up those pretty girls!

Henry A. Danker.


Baltimore, 1862.

Oh! won’t we poor civilians be cast in the shade when all those “heroes” return from the “wars?” Why, we won’t be able to obtain even a glance from the fair ones. So I advise you all, who can, to enlist, if it’s only to remain in their favor. All you “Northerners” don’t deserve any credit at all for being “Union;” for weren’t you all born and bred to it, and isn’t every one so with you? But here, where it is “half-and-half,[”] one is always in a “broil” with somebody—this is where the “shoe rubs.” Black-Eyes, thank you for letting me know in such a gentle way of the incomprehensibility of my remarks. Yes, that is just what I meant.

“Wilforley,” do let me know the truth about those “Brooklyn girls.” I am very much interested on the subject. I can trust you now. “Uncle Hiram,” if you would only let us be ourselves in full. I am glad you admire Beecher, Fleta, as I do very much.


Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887): American theologian and writer. A knack for showmanship and oratory made Beecher a magnetic Congregationalist preacher whose sermons were widely published; he contributed pieces to various newspapers, including the New York Ledger, where early chapters of Norwood appeared a year before the complete novel was published.

Black-Eyes explained a joke Jim had phrased badly. Extracted from his letter, the joke read, “[Jim] would like to see the paper that Wilforley and Black-Eyes write only on one side of.” (1862.1.91) Black-Eyes wasn’t quick to see the joke: “O! I just saw the point of Jim’s remark. He don’t think one side of any paper would hold all we have to say. Ha! Ha!” (1862.1.154)


February, 1862.

Dear Merrys:—We are now on our way to Vera Cruz, Mexico. It has lately become a place of much importance, and I may have some interesting incidents to write of on our arrival.

On our way down from Mobile, we passed the Winona, at Passe L’Outre; only imagine my feelings at passing, without a chance of speaking to or seeing one of our cousins, and one of my brothers! Yes, Tommy is my brother, as some of you already know.

I wish to make a very particular request to all the Museumites in general. To the young sailor a letter is more welcome than food, and nothing is hailed with so much joy as is the mail. Therefore I wish every one once in a while to write a few lines to me. I will not promise to answer every one, but will do all I can. All letters directed to Jasper, and inclosed to Uncle Merry, will reach me, and will be acknowledged as soon as I get them. I have to wait so long for the Museum that it is doubly welcome when it does arrive, and how much more so ’twill be if I can only get some letters with it. [p. 188 ]

Hoping, therefore, to hear from some of my dear cousins, I remain

Yours truly,

[Editor: ] In our May number we inadvertently placed Jasper on board the gunboat Winona. It should have been Tommy. It adds interest to the accounts of the brilliant deeds of our navy, to know that some of our Merry boys are bearing their part.

Vera Cruz: When the U. S. S. Potomac arrived here in February 1862 to protect Union interests, it found an impressive British naval force in perfect position to attack the Union blockade of Southern ports, should the order arrive. It didn’t, and the British fleet withdrew by the end of March 1862. The Potomac herself withdrew in May. (U. S. Navy, series 1, vol 17: 39; series 1, vol 1: 307-308, 354, 368, 390)

Passe L’Outre: on the Mississippi River. The U. S. S. Winona cruised near it in March 1862. (U. S. Navy, series 1, vol 18: 817)


My dear Uncle Merry:—I came home from school one dreary, rainy afternoon, prepared to sit down and mope, when pretty soon some one said, “Here is your Museum, Jennie.” I sprang to get it, the blues chased away, and in a moment was in the Chat, listening to the voices of old and new Merrys.

Fanny and Mary, you are short and sweet. Wilforley, I know how to sympathize with you. C. F. Warren, thank you. Sure enough, where are all the Massachusetts girls? Won’t some of them turn up? [Their noses? U. W.] Bella B., glad to see you again. “Correspondent with a bad cold,” I shake hands with you, you express my feelings exactly, for just at present I am in the same condition as yourself. Pet, I am sorry for you, but, as Uncle says, can you feel quite as badly when you think that he died in a noble cause?

My love to all the rest, and to you, dear quartette.

Jennie B. D.

U. W.: William A. Fitch, who apparently styled himself “Uncle William.”

quartette: Uncles Robert, Hiram, and William, and Aunt Sue, of course.


Dear Merrys:—Is there still a place for me in the circle? After a year’s experience of the vicissitudes of a soldier’s life, I am once more at home, an invalid, come to be nursed back to health and strength by loving and sympathizing friends. May the day soon come when we shall all be again united in our happy Merry circle.

I see that amid a host of new faces, some of the old Chatterers are yet to be found. (No offense meant by the use of that adjective.) [ … ]

H. A. D., consider that shake of the hand warmly reciprocated. Now that we are both on the invalid list, let us take a seat together in the corner and watch the “scintillations” of the “stars.” By-the-by, are they not appropriately named as a punishment for their punning, for verily, like the stars, they “sin till late.”

There, I’ll say the rest next time; for the present, adieu.

Adelbert Older.


June 9, 1862.

Glad to hear from you again, H. A. D., though sorry for the cause which brought you home. Certainly I consider you a fixed star, as they always shine by their own light, sometimes “shooting off” some of their brilliancy for the benefit of the duller ones.

[ … ] How the c. de v.’s! do fly around. Won’t somebody send me one, or more? Aunt Sue has my address.

Do not fear, Jim, of being “totally eclipsed,” for while we honor those who have gone to the war so very much, yet we believe there are as many noble patriotic hearts still in reserve; and we have especially a strong sympathy for all loyal Baltimoreans.

L. W. C.


U. S. Gunboat Winona, Natchez, May 15, 1862.

Dear Uncle Hiram:—It is with great pleasure that I am able to inform you that since my last letter we have been very successful, having made Forts St. Philip and Jackson surrender, and then New Orleans, next Baton Rouge, and last of all the above-named place. Tomorrow we start for Vicksburg; after taking possession of that place, we will then start for Memphis, where we are in hopes of having the chance of giving three hearty cheers to Commodore Foote. The rebels feel very bad at losing New Orleans, as they thought the forts would be able to cope with any fleet that could be brought against it; and so it could, had it been held by Northern men; but ere this you have read the “Yankee trick” we played on them by running past the forts; our gallant little vessel suffered the most, but I am glad to say that Fort St. Philip has now the “Winona’s stars and stripes” flying over it. I received some slight wounds, but I am happy to say that they are all well, and I am ready once more to meet the “traitors,” should they make another stand on the Mississippi River. I can not say I love to be fighting, as the sights are too horrible to look at, but I think this rebellion should be put down, and I think it is my duty to help sustain our navy in doing it. I can never forget the sight of our vessel after the engagements; the decks were one mass of blood and brains, while here and there lay the dead and wounded, with any quantity of splinters strewn around the decks; may I never witness such a scene again! Uncle Hi, my time is very much taken up at present, and so I’ll be compelled to come to a close; first allow me to send my best love to all the “Merryites,” and tell them I miss the “Chat” very much. When we arrive at Memphis, I intend, if possible, to go and see “our darling pet,” Busy Bee; I know she will be very glad to hear from the Merry circle, and to receive some magazines. If I can not go, I will send them to her. My best love to Aunt Sue, Ellian, O. O., H. A. D., and C. F. W. No more at present, but hoping my magazines will come promptly, I remain

Yours truly,

[Editor: ] Thanks to Tommy for a piece of the secession flag that once waved over Fort St. Philip, and on behalf of the Merry circle, three times three for our hero of the Winona and his brave comrades.

Forts St. Philip and Jackson: The Winona attacked Forts Jackson and St. Philip on 24 April 1862. It was a brutal engagement, and the ship was forced to retreat downstream with crew and officers lying flat on the deck. When the forts were taken by Union forces a few days later, the commander of the Winona took possession of Fort St. Philip.

Commander Andrew Hull Foote (1806-1863): U. S. naval officer. A fervent temperance reformer, he was influential in abolishing the Navy’s spirit ration. At the beginning of the War, he was put into command of naval operations on the upper Mississippi River, though his flotilla was under the control of the Army. In February 1862, Foote was instrumental in the capture of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson; in ill health and slightly wounded, he was forced to leave his flotilla on May 9. Foote died of Bright’s Disease on his way to command the squadron at Charleston, South Carolina.


Porkopolis, July 9.

Dear Merrys:—I am in love with you all, having lately scraped acquaintance, and after this decidedly frank avowal of my sentiments I know you will kindly listen to the voice from Porkopolis.

[ … ] Jim, don’t be frightened; we poor civilians are welcomed by the girls at any time, especially if our names have been immortalized on the Home Guard roll, and if we can flourish a pair of shoulder-straps. [ … ]

Brown-Eyes, my love to you. Pertine—but there is Hatchet—his handsome face strongly indicating a coming storm, so I’ll escape before I am hurt.

In haste (to get out of the way),
Johnny Jump-up.”

Home Guard: Oxford English Dictionary: “a member of a volunteer force”; the earliest example is dated 1862.


Dear Cousins all:—Heedless of those instruments of torture, I beg leave to speak. Poor “W. H. C.” “Quando ullum inveniemus parem.” “Johnny Jump-up,” I am enrolled in the “Home Guard,” so far as this: I will protect the flag that floats over my home to the last extremity. “Adelbert,” what has gone against your grain? Have you fallen out with anybody? for I believe one has to “fall out” before they can [p. 123 ] pitch in. Yes, keep the temple of Janus open for some time yet, until—oh! lots of things are done. And now, Merrys, I have a proposal to make. Some of you may have noticed the great demand there is for lint for the wounded. Now, if we all set to work to make it, and at a given time forward it to Uncle Merry to dispose of it “en masse,” think how much might be collected, and what a service we all might do to the “good cause.” Think of it. “Loyal je serai durant ma vie.”


[Editor: ] A good suggestion, and one which we think all the Merrys will promptly accept. We will gladly take charge of any articles for the relief of the sick and wounded, and see they are properly distributed, for what time we have to spare from the Museum is devoted to assisting our soldiers in every way possible. Very many from our own Merry circle are in the front ranks of the great Union army, and also many personal friends, some of whom may need early attention. A little investment of this kind will abundantly pay for the time and trouble spent.

We passed all through the apartments of the Soldiers’ Relief Association, 194 Broadway, in this city, a day or two ago, and wish you all could see what a little kindness and well-directed attention did toward mitigating the sufferings of our brave soldiers, and you would all respond heartily to the appeal of Jim.

Quando ullum inveniemus parem: Latin: “When shall we find his like again?”

temple of Janus: “[L]et us throw open the doors of the temple of Janus and pitch in,” Adelbert Older urged, hoping to “bring back the good old times, when everybody pitched into everybody else, regardless of ‘the dignity of the Chat’.” (1862.2.91-92)

Loyal je serai durant ma vie: French: “Loyal I will be during my life”; see 1862.2.28

a flourish

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