1864: Harlon J. to his Mother

This letter was most likely written by either a member of Gen. Simon B. Buckner’s staff while he commanded the District of West Louisiana in October 1864. The author may have been supporting Buckner in either a military or a civilian capacity. What is clear is that the author’s daughter—named Ruth—was severely ill and receiving treatment in the form of medical “blistering” and the administration of calomel and tartar emetics.


Headquarters, District of West Louisiana
[Alexandria, Louisiana]
October 3rd 1864

My dear Mother,

As I promised yesterday by cousin I would write you each day while our daring Ruth was so ill. I cannot say much today to encourage or console except that the Dr. says she is no more which you would think encouraging if you had seen her yesterday. She has burned her throat twice quite severely which of course has done her good. He is giving her small doses of calomel & tartar emetic one & two hours apart, he applied a blister plaster from one ear to the other or rather clear around her throat & she has one of the sorest blisters I ever saw. I fancy there is some change for the better but Ma, she is a very sick child. She is in truly a critical condition and ______. I would not write you this Ma but I feel it a duty. Besides I intend to write to you each day and any change that takes place I will write you promptly and you see you will not be kept in suspense more than one day at a time unless the couriers do not deliver letters promptly. I just asked Ruth if I should tell you that she loved you. She bowed her little head and whispered yes. She breathes very hard but still has plenty of strength and gets up to take her medicine. She is very good and notices everything of importance.

Mrs. & Dr. [John Pintard] Davidson, ¹ stayed all night last night. Mother Lacy comes tonight. Every attention is given.

General [Simon B.] Buckner has given orders to the Medical Department to furnish in everything requisite. Of course we cannot tell when we will come home. It may be several days before we can tell what is to be her fate. And we will not leave this Dr. while there is danger.

We know you are lonely & want to get to you. Always wishing your happiness, I am dear Ma your affectionate son, — Harlon J___

Please send my letter to Phelps & Co. & get their receipt for it that I may know from them that it reached its destination, — H

The Dr. says she is a little better.

¹ Dr. John Pintard Davidson (1812-1890) was married to Laurette Jenetta Ker (1814-1865).

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