1864: Frances Elizabeth (Clapp) Hyer to daughter

How Frances & her daughter Emily might have looked (1861)

How Frances & her daughter Emily might have looked (1861)

This letter was written by 55 year-old Frances Elizabeth (Clapp) Hyer (1809-1888), the wife of Nathaniel Fisher Hyer (1807-1885). Frances and Nathaniel were married in December 1840 in Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin. A biography for Nathaniel F. Hyer states that he was born in Arlington, Vermont, was educated at the academy at Potsdam, St. Lawrence County, New York, and that in 1829 he began the study of law with the Hon. Edwin Dodge of Gouverneur, New York. He was admitted to the bar at Utica and began his practice at Massena, New York. After three years, he moved to Milwaukee (1836) and was nominated judge of probate and justice of the peace. In 1843, after marriage, he moved with his wife to St. Louis, Missouri, and worked as a surveyor. In 1845, he relocated to Dane County, Wisconsin, where he continued to survey roads and canals. In 1849 he surveyed in Missouri, Texas, Florida, and, at the outbreak of the Civil War, was living near New Orleans. His Unionism brought him into conflict with his neighbors but when Union forces took control of the city, he was made assistant engineer. The family later moved back to Wisconsin. [Source: Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin]

Frances wrote the letter to her daughter, Emily Jane (Hyer) Elliott (1845-18xx), the wife of Charles D. Elliott of Massachusetts. Mrs. Hyer mentions the war news from the Gulf including the Red River Expedition conducted by General Nathaniel P. Banks (whom she obviously admires).


New Orleans [Louisiana]
May 10, 1864

My Dear Daughter,

We had been for several days anxiously expecting to hear from our absent children, and were yesterday made happy by the reception of your note dated on board the steam ship. I wonder how you could have written atall while suffering from even a remnant of seasickness. My heart was so full when I parted from you that I could not say half I wished and it is of little use to tell you that your absence has made such a breach in the family circle that only your return can fill. Father returned a few days ago and will remain I think at home until the times are a little more quiet. At least I would consider it wise to do so, and trust he will view it in the same light. He felt your absence when he returned home very much and hopes with me that it will be for your interest and your pleasure to return and make your permanent home with or near us.

The news from our army is deplorable. The wounded from the recent conflict have crowded our hospital and the new national burial place lately consecrated will apparently be soon filled. Banks and his army are confined in Alexandria in consequence of the low water, and completely surrounded by the enemy. In my poor judgement I can not but feel that with only the small force left us in the city that there is some small foundation for the “braggadocio” (which is now long and loud) of the rebels.

CDV of Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks

CDV of Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks

We have not ceased to rejoice (much as we regret your absence) that Charley was released from the army. The Mr. Young who went out with him has been brought back to the city wounded — it is feared mortally so. He was sent out upon an reconnaissance, twice.  It was said that he saved the army by his intrepidity butlers, the third time he sacrificed himself. Gen. Banks, we hear, is wounded but not seriously. On the occasion of Mr. Young’s fortunate reconnaissance, Gen. Banks embraced him twice or thrice and called him savior. I wish his ability as a general and his heart asa man were able to embrace the terrible exigencies to which the Army of the Gulf are exposed and save it and his own honor and reputation. There is a strong feeling is disapprobation manifested toward Gen. Banks at the present time — especially among the military. I believe, however, it is wise to remember that all persons in power are frequently judged harshly — mores than their acts demand and I suppose that we should measure our blame by this fact.

Your friends one and all regretted exceedingly that they could not have seen you before you left. Julia Ann came down to see you the Monday after you left supposing you were yet here. She felt much disappointed. She is hoping with us that you will be induced to come back in happier times. I hope, my dear daughter, that you will write soon and tell me exactly how you are situated. My kind regards, if you please, to Mr. and Mrs. Elliott as also the son and daughter. I hope sometime to become personally acquainted with them all.

My love to your husband. Poll the parrot calls often and loudly for Charley and Emily — and little Lizzie who still remains my particular pet is at my side busily writing a letter to Ellie. Julia is slightly indisposed and I keep her from school for a few days. Mrs. Farrel is the same “old sixpence.”

Father joins with me in love to you both. Write soon. Your affectionate mother, — Frances E. Hyer

Jenny Barnet says you promised her your photograph and she hopes you will send it to her. I received a letter from your Aunt Ann and she wants to the see the picture of Emily’s husband as well as _____. I can not find those you left for me to send. Did you take them through mistake?


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