Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love letters from the Library & Archives...

Today is Valentine's Day, which begins anew a tradition of sending cards, gifts, and tokens of affection to those most dear to us. Here at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, we could not let the day pass without sharing some of the love letters found in our collections.

Among the fascinating disparate historical documents amassed by Mary Daniel Moore during her years as State Librarian and Archivist are the love letters collected by Miss Tranquilla Reed. Tranquilla was the daughter of a minister and apparently had many suitors, including one who called himself "Hopeful" in the following letter:

Dear Miss Tranquilla:

A Valentine's Day card to Tranquilla Reed.
Manuscript Files (M-7), I-B-2, Ac. No. 99-091-33.
Digital image, Tennessee State Library & Archives.
Although my hopes of connubial bliss have almost departed and I begin to feel like one who was by fate doomed to perpetual celibacy, yet as the day of St. Valentine approaches, mysterious emotions are awakened in my heart, and my mind is transported back to the halcyon days of yore; when sunshine and happiness illuminated my pathway, and when first I felt the piercing darts of Cupid's fatal arrow, and something now seems to whisper; do not despair; a better day awaits you. And thus I am encouraged once more to go in search of some congenial mate, to sooth my sorrows, and share my joys. And amidst the many fair faces with whom I have met in pleasures paths, and passed gleeful hours, I know of none whose many charms, so completely win my heart as thine. Thy tranquil modesty, and dovelike innocence; though still and gentle, like the morning zephyrs, speak in accents loud and long, and proclaim thee queen of all.

Then may I come with pure devotion of my heart, and ever worship at thy shrine? Oh! could thy pure heart, but feel and beat in unison with mine; then all clouds and sorrows, would be dispersed, and our future pathway would be one of brightest joys; and my most sanguine hope of happiness complete.

As ever your devoted and anxious friend.


Another suitor writing under the pseudonym "John J. Jumpalong" wrote to Tranquilla on April 1, 1858 to ask her hand in marriage:

Letter from John J. Jumpalong to Miss Tranquilla Reed.
Pulaski, April 1, 1858.
Digital image, Tennessee State Library & Archives.
To Miss Tranquilla Reed

Dear Miss--The fallen sons and daughters of Adam have a high and glorious destiny. Man was formed in the image of the Superior Being an heir of Eternal Life and woman was formed out the same flesh to be a helpmate of man and a joint heir of Eternal Life. Happy is the man who has a good wife. You are now old enough to begin to think of forming a marriage connection and I trust it will not be presumption in me to aspire to your hand.

I was raised by respectable and wealthy parents who tried to bestow good educations upon their children. I am tolerably good looking, have an amiable disposition have enough of this world's pelf [a synonym for money or riches] to live comfortable and am twenty three years old. I am living by myself and lack but one thing to render me happy and contented that is a good wife.

I think you would suit me. I have not come to this conclusion hastily it was after mature reflection I have a whole heart to bestow. I love none but you. I say will you be mine. Certainly reflect upon what I have written and give me an answer at an early day.

Your Devoted Love

John J. Jumpalong

Tranquilla was approximately 16 years of age at the time that she began receiving these letters. She would eventually marry at the age of 26 to a man named Sumner Kirkpatrick, on December 17, 1868 in Giles County, Tennessee. It is unknown from these letters whether or not Sumner Kirkpatrick was the actual author of the love letters. Nonetheless, these notes of affection remained a treasured possession throughout Tranquilla's life.

Another poignant example can be found in the Confederate Widow's Pension application of Nannie J. Kingsley. Within this pension file submitted to the Tennessee Board of Pension Examiners are eight Civil War letters written by Roswell E. Kingsley to his wife Nannie Kingley as proof of her husband's service as Captain of Company G of the 4th Georgia Cavalry. Nannie Kingsley made this application for a Widow’s Pension in 1914 from Greene County.

Nannie's husband enlisted in October 1862, and served ten months in the Confederate army, but by October 1863 he had been "dropped" from the muster rolls of his company. According to his family, he was home on sick leave at the time of the surrender, but no official paperwork substantiates this claim. Nannie Kingsley could find no witness who served with Roswell who could testify to his physical condition or the circumstances under which he left the army.

Nannie, in her desperation to secure a pension, sent in her personal Civil War letters from her husband—including this love letter. She also sent along a marriage certificate, a military returns form, a morning report, a pass, and a drawing of a camp. The letters, however, make the file stand out. Captain Kingsley writes:


You asked what I thought of you in your last letter, Well I will tell you I think you have the purest heart that women ever possessed and that to me you are by ten thousand fold the dearest being on this whole earth, I love you but too fondly I think of but too often oh darling I like to have forgotten inone [in one] of the darkest hours of the late retreat, while in the line of battle waiting for the enemy I got off my horse and set down by a tree and leaned against it, and in a moment I was in sleep when I had the most delightful dream I ever had, I thought I was with you and in the greatest enjoyment of our naturs [natures] are capable of experiencing all was peace, when in an instant I was awakened by the loud shrill crack of our guns and the enemy was upon us. This is literly [literally] true, But you wont [won't] write why is it?

Your husband

R. E. Kingsley
R. E. Kingsley letter to Nannie J. Kingsley, Greene County, n.d. Confederate Widow's Pension #5576.
Digital image, Tennessee State Library & Archives.

This letter did very little to help Nannie Kingsley secure her widow's pension. Though his family said his health and emotional state had been compromised by the war, he overcame these difficulties to live a full life. He fathered seven sons and one daughter. Roswell died in Greeneville, TN in 1876. Nannie's remaining years were spent between her 23-acre farm in Greene County, Tennessee and her daughter's home in Florida. In the end, it was this fact that sunk her application by March of 1915.

There are countless other love letters, cards, and tokens of affection found within the stacks at the Tennessee State Library and Archives just waiting to be discovered. We hope you will make a date to explore our collections, either online or in person, and make a deep and lasting connection with the past.

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting article. I know of at least one other in the 4th, Co B who had a hard time finding someone who could aid in helping secure a pension.