These two letters were written by Jenny (Niles) Low (1842-1892) to her husband, Capt. Nathaniel (“Nat”) Low, Jr. (1838-1890) while he served in the 11th New Hampshire Regiment. Jenny (“Jen”) was the daughter of Daniel Niles (1799-1889)—an “Expressman” from Canada—and his wife Phebe Damon of Dover, Strafford county, New Hampshire.
Capt. Nathaniel Low, Jr. was born in Dover; received his education in the schools of that city, and in 1861 was appointed post-master there, which position he resigned to enter the service. Through his efforts largely, Company K was raised, of which he was commissioned captain September 4, 1862. He resigned his commission October 11, 1862, in just one month after the regiment left the state, and returned to Dover; but in a short time was re-commissioned as captain of company K, and returned to the regiment. He participated in the Mississippi campaign, and during the winter of 1863-64 was on duty in Kentucky… While the regiment was at Annapolis, Captain Low was promoted to captain and Assistant Quartermaster, US Volunteers, and received his commission June 16, 1864. He was assigned to the Naval Brigade as chief quartermaster; then to Fortress Monroe in charge of water transportation; and, after Lee’s surrender, to Norfolk where he engaged in breaking up the depot of supplies and selling the government property. [Regimental History, p. 186-187]
[Note: These letters are from the private collection of Matthew Wilmot and are published by express consent.]
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Addressed to Capt. Nathaniel Low, Jr., 2d Brigade, 2d Division, 9th Army Corps, Cincinnati, Ohio, or Elsewhere
May 1, 1863
Friday P.M. 4½ o’clock
My dear Husband,
I wonder if you remember one year ago this evening? Echo answers yes! Altho’ it was not my privilege then to address you by the above endearing, noble title. Yet it was my peculiar privilege to steal & take away captive (tho’ unintentional) that rebellious heart belonging to your dear self (another). At the time I could not account for the happiness I experienced that evening; but now I can very readily. It was because two congenial minds met & we now behold the result—friendship, kindly regard, in due time pure undying love. What a happy result, it is not?
I received your two last letters about noon. They of course went to Dover; Uncle brought them back.
My regards & thanks are due Lieut. [John Kelly] Cilley for his photograph which now adorns my picture gallery. He’s welcome to my own, tho’ I am not aware how he got it. I shall send you two or more when I return to Dover—that is, if you wish. Thanks for the last one you sent me of Dr. [john C. W.] Moore—very pretty man. Is he married? Nat, get all the military photographs you can [and] send to me, won’t you? ja! ha! ha!
Oh dear, well it is strange what a fascinating life a soldier’s is in spite of the hardships. Just what I expected. Want to defer your coming home until fall, don’t you? hi! ho! hum! “Sich is life.” Let’s see, guess I will travel this summer. Nat, you are very, very kind to say you will come “any time I say the word, even if it is next week.” However, you think I won’t say it, don’t you dear? Well I’m sure I don’t wish you were under arrest to be tried & perhaps dishonorably dismissed from the Army. No, I want my husband to come with honor written upon his manly brow—in such a manner that I & everybody else will look up to him with love & respect & I may say pride.
The report this evening is that Gen. Hooker has crossed the [Rappahannock] river, surprised & taken four hundred Rebs. I say hurrah for Hooker or “any other man” who will capture a Reb.
Won’t you, Lieut. Cilley, or Dr. [Jonathan Smith] Ross come in to tea? I have been trying my hand at making griddle cakes, floating islands, cold tongue &c. Mother’s girl is not the best of cooks & I thought I would see what I could do. Mrs. Tuttle thinks I will do to go to keeping house. At least I was successful for once in my life.
Dear Nat, I wish I could see you. Tonight, just one hour later, you & I started out to go from the chapel over to American Falls. If you remember, it rained a little so you went to the Post Office & procured an umbrella. Was it not gay? I little imagined in one year I should be a wife of eight months—anyway, not yours. What did you think about it? However, I am rejoiced that it is as it is. And I believe you, my darling, are satisfied.
We are having delightful weather—warm & pleasant.
Dear Nat, I often–very often—think of all those pleasant drives we used to take together. How very often we used to go. I used to feel rather condemned sometimes for going. I declare it will be too bad for you to stay away from me this summer now that we can go & have a perfect right to enjoy each other’s society, don’t you think so, darling?
Nat, my own darling husband, I shall leave it entirely to your own better judgement to decide whether you come home next June, July, or September. One thing, I shall feel sad enough when Alex, Sarah, & Mrs. Wm. Low come here & all are there but you. And do you think you can stand the warm weather?
If peace could only be declared in one year, I should be willing, I think—perhaps even wish you to see the affair settled. But do you really think it probable? Alas, for me, I do not—or rather I fear not. And then if you were to lose a leg or an arm as you say, who would thank you for it? Why no one. I should much rather have a whole “hus” but then I should love you as now, better than life.
Wouldn’t it be a glorious sight to see Co. K marching through the streets of Dover? I’m quite sure it would be a glad sight to all. I very well remember the day you took the company to Concord in the [ ] every movement of ours was watched. I suppose you remember of having a bouquet presented to you & then the lunch at F[rank] Vittum’s—also the leave-taking. Oh! dear it almost makes me boo! hoo! to think of it.
How I should admire to peep into your camp, see you, what you are up to, &c. Some mischief doubtless. You always were a rogue, I know, but I hear it reported around in the “higher circles” that I have succeeded in taming you down to a steady old gent. ha! ha! Nat, there is one thing which is very certain—I love you, which is a brand new assertion for me to make to you & want to see you most wretchedly. I do now & no mistake.
How is our friend, Dr. Ross? I think you wrote me he was in ill health, did you not? I hope to hear from you tomorrow as it is always pleasant to get a kind word Saturday to feast on Sunday, isn’t it? I think it probable I may return to Dover the last of next week. Mother is much better & wishes to be remembered to you. Etta also sends love. Hagen sends something more substantial which is a paper, now & then. I have nearly arrived at the terminus of my paper & will be under the painful necessity of closing tho’ I could write much longer.
Regards to all. A kiss & all the love of my big heart, I remain yours faithfully, — Jen N. Low
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
May 3, 1863
My dear Nat,
I suppose you have managed to face the day pleasantly yet I hope properly. I should think you would make it convenient to attend church one half of the day at least & I think it would set a better example than racing horses with the gay & getting lamed. It is very strange a person so strong—& a great horseman too—should be unable to manage a horse. I think you informed me you had been to the village & was on your way home.
Aha! Well I suppose you would like to stop out there until September but really, I don’t know about letting you. Southern gals are usually very attractive. I would give a good deal if you were only here tonight for I feel terribly blue & heartsick altho’ it has been a pleasant day without & within. I have been out to church this afternoon & evening.
The fact is it fairly makes me jealous to see others so happy while I know I might & ought to be the same & should if you were only with me. I wonder if the time ever will come when you will be home for good. But why do I wonder? Of course it will.
Mother is much better & I think I may go to Dover the last of this or the first of next week.
Monday evening. It looks very much like rain. I hope it won’t storm for I think it very gloomy here in the city during a storm.
Well, I should think you, Dr. Ross, & dr. Moore together ought to be bright enough to get a furlough on account of your lamed leg. Why do you not go about limping & complaining? You could come home & walk about with a cane tho’ I suppose it wouldn’t do considering how you lamed it. I hope it is entirely well by this time.
I see by the papers that Hooker’s Army is doing great work. I only wish they could accomplish something that would settle this war.
When do you think you will be home? Hey! I must close now & write to your mother & Lydia. With love, I am your faithful little lone wife, — Jen Low
Excuse brevity &c. Remember, “with all thy faults, I love thee still.” — Jen