1861: Harriet Elizabeth Merrill to Clark H. Eldridge

How Hattie might have looked

How Hattie might have looked

This letter was written by 18 year-old Harriet (“Hattie”) Elizabeth Merrill (1843-1919), the daughter of Paine Merrill (1803-1854) and Ruth Bray (1809-1887) of New Gloucester, Cumberland, Maine. In 1860, Hattie resided in Newton Centre, Middlesex County, Massachusetts where she was employed as a “domestic” in the boarding house of Judith B. Harris — a house filled with young men attending the Baptist seminary known as the Newton Theological Institution.

Harriet married George Edwin Strout (1839-1915) in February 1864. At the time of his death in 1915, George E. Strout was vice president of the Tubular Rivet & Stud Co., in Boston.

In the letter Hattie refers to her older brother George Whitney Merrill (1837-1914). George was an 1859 graduate of Bowdoin College. In the Civil War, he served as an officer in the 60th Indiana Volunteers, organized at Evansville in November 1861. He rose to the rank of Major and later served as Captain of the 48th U. S. Colored Volunteers. After the war, he practiced law in California and served as a U.S. Minister to Hawaii.

Hattie wrote the letter to her friend “Clark” — not otherwise identified. If he was an acquaintance of hers from Maine, then he would have had to have been a member of one of the first regiments organized in Maine. There is a Clark H. Eldridge of Co. H, 3rd Maine Infantry whose letters have been offered for sale on the internet. Clark previously resided in Cumberland County so it is possible they were acquainted. Pvt. Eldridge appears to the only Maine soldier named Clark who enlisted early enough to be the recipient of this letter.


Newton Centre [Massachusetts]
June 19th [1861]

Friend Clark,

How glad I was to receive your letter last night, as I always am. I can rejoice with you in your undertakings for I know it is for the love of our country that you go. Yet, as you say, it is hard parting with friends. And when I read that you was going into service so soon, it did make me feel bad. Perhaps we shall never see each other again — at least I do not expect to meet you again on this earth, but may we meet in a happier & better place where parting is unknown.

I should like very much to see you before you leave Boston but I must take things as they come. I expect mother up here next Tuesday and probably shall go home with her last of next week or first of week after. I suppose you knew that she married Deacon David Allen? and now lives at Upper Gloucester, [Cumberland County,] Maine. ¹

I shall stay at home the remainder of the summer and go away to school in the fall. Indeed, I do wish you could have the privilege that I do in that respect. Have you not many books to read? That is hard. I wish I could give you a trunk full — if you had time to read them.

Last week I had a letter from [my brother] George Merrill. He is now in Evansville, Indiana. Has been South most of the spring. Was in New Orleans during the bombardment of Fort Sumter and when the Proclamation of Lincoln [calling for volunteers] was issued. And such wild excitement as was created at that time he never saw. He also says that knowing as he now does the sentiments of both sections, he thinks that this will be a war of extermination. I can not realize it yet, altho’ it has got to such a degree I cannot think of the United States — once so peaceful and prospering so admirably — as being disturbed and a civil war going on which is the most dreadful of wars.

I spent last Sabbath with Mr. Plummer’s folks in Dover, Massachusetts. It is only 8 or 10 miles from here so I went up there Friday night and stopped until Thursday morning. They were all well. Martha expects to be married soon — to a gentleman of that place — and a fine fellow I guess he is. ²

Do you know whether you shall go direct to Washington or not? Do you go by cars or water? I would like to have you write once more before you leave if you can conveniently. Let me know what day you leave. I shall want you to write as often as you can while you are gone. Now if you are alive, do write. I will write as often as I can. You will not be so likely to get my letters as I shall yours, so you must not wait for an answer for perhaps I might write 2 or 3 times and you would not receive them. If you can write next week, direct to Newton Center. After that to Upper Gloucester, Maine.

Wishing you Heaven’s choicest blessings, I bid you goodbye for the last time, perhaps, but I hope not. May we both live to see each other once more. I hope you will meet with good success and be prosperous in all your efforts during your absence and return bringing us tidings that the South is conquered.

Accept this from Hattie E. Merrill

¹ Mrs. Ruth Merrill (18xx-1887) married David Allen (17xx-1873) — a veteran of the War of 1812 — on 7 May 1860 in Charlestown, Massachusetts. The marriage ceremony was performed by Rev. Joseph Ricker. David’s first wife was Mehetable Farwell who died in 1859.

² Martha Allen Plummer (1838-1926), the daughter of Micajah Sawyer Plummer and Elizabeth Haskell, was married on 22 June 1861, to George Draper Everett (b. 1830), the son of Jabez and Eliza Everett of Dover, Massachusetts.


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