Susan Lee Ward

Lifelines – Read Sample Letters

Lifelines – The Bowen Love Letters

Lifelines is divided into five parts based on where the majority of letters originated. Sample a portion of a letter from each part.

Part One – The Mexican War

February 7, 1847 – Saltillo, Mexico

From Isaac Bowen to Katie Bowen in Houlton, Maine

My dear Wife,
General Taylor, with Colonel Jefferson Davis and the Mississippi Volunteers, two batteries of artillery, and a squadron of dragoons arrived here on Tuesday last and his arrival, which had been anxiously expected, diffused general joy throughout the entire command. Stampedes, which had been the order of the day, became obsolete from the moment “Old Rough and Ready” passed through Rinconada. He has a holy horror of living in a house and has therefore moved on to the little village of Agua Nueva on the San Luis road and distant twenty miles, where he has established his headquarters. All of the troops, except a few companies of Illinois Volunteers and Captain Webster’s company, which remains as a guard in town, will be concentrated at Agua Nueva, as well as any reinforcements and supplies that may arrive. The old general declares his intentions at present to make a movement into the interior, which will commence about the middle of March, taking with him sixty or seventy days’ provisions, cut loose from all his communications, and depending upon the country and God’s mercy and protection for all besides, include, of course, a sage return from (as it appears to me) such a wild goose chase.

Part Two – Philadelphia

May 28, 1849 – Fort Mifflin, Philadelphia

From Katie Bowen to her mother, Catherine Cary, in Houlton, Maine

My dear Mother,
We heard from you yesterday through Delia and Shepard. Isaac had quite a long letter from Shepard, and I should judge from the tone of his epistle that he is enjoying good health and spirits, for he abuses General Taylor in a right smart way by calling him all the hard names his fertile brain can command, and we all know what he means by his hard words and take them accordingly. He ridicules me a little about my kitchen employments and says he would like to see me cooking by a soft wood fire with all the ducks and chickens at my heels. If he had happened in today about dinner time, he might have tasted of as nice a chicken as he will find in Augusta.

I find it very well for me to have a girl who does not know everything, because I am learning more and more every day how to do myself. I find no difficulty and am willing to try anything.

Part Three – The Santa Fe Trail

July 27, 1851, on the banks of the Arkansas (Katie Bowen’s journal entry):
This is the fourth day out from Fort Mackay and we have accomplished sixty miles. Nothing of importance occurred until yesterday morning, after we had been marching several hours. Isaac was riding in the carriage and told the man to drive to the river to water the mules. As we approached the bank, we noticed large herds of cattle grazing on the opposite shore and immediately pronounced them wild. But before we got to the river, Major Rucker rode up calling, “Bowen, don’t you see the Indians?” Immense droves of horses were pointed out to us, which we had supposed cattle, and on looking along the road, a few miles in front, discovered a great many lodges, although no Indians had made their appearance. The major ordered a halt till all the wagons came up and he, with a man who speaks a little of several languages, rode out to see the prospect.

As they climbed the hill, a sub-chief issued from the earth on horseback (for no one could tell how he got where he was, unless the earth vomited him) and explained the party to be part of the tribe of Kiowa, who are out to fight the Pawnees, who had recently killed one of their number. They expressed themselves friendly and the one lone Indian went with us to our wagons. Just then, as fate would have it, an axletree in one of the wagons broke, which of course would compel us to stop for repairs and give the appearance of remaining on account of weakness and fear to pass the encampment, and we were afraid the effect would be bad upon the Indians. But the major took the chief to the wagon and explained what detained us, then selected a camp and we pitched our tents in good order for resistance if necessary. The major smoked with the Indian and gave him luncheon.

Part Four – New Mexico Territory

September 30, 1851 – Fort Union, New Mexico Territory

From Isaac Bowen to William Holman Cary, Katie Bowen’s father, in Houlton, Maine

Dear Father Cary,
On Sunday we received a mail and Kate’s letters from her mother assured us of the health and welfare of all our friends at home, and, among other things, that you were contemplating a journey to St. John. If you undertake it, I trust you will return with renewed health and vigor.
Since we arrived here, we have had no time to feel unhappy or scarcely grumble or find fault. The location of the point selected by Colonel Sumner as headquarters of this department is about a hundred miles from Santa Fe and six from the nearest previously inhabited point, with plenty of wild prairie, mountains close in rear and in the distance front and left, good water, a fine bracing, healthy and salubrious climate, and said to be the coldest place in New Mexico. The troops are all engaged in constructing quarters/log cribs, covered with earth for our winter habitations, but the work progresses so slowly that we expect the first snows will find us inhabitants of tents.

Part Five The Southern Post

April 8, 1856 – New Orleans, Louisiana

From Katie Bowen to Catherine Cary in Houlton, Maine

Murders every night and all sorts of rascals may be expected here, but it is considered a very safe place for ladies to go out anywhere by day. I am a great homebody by necessity. My feet have troubled me so much from soreness that I have not been able to walk any distance the last month. The pavements here are very rough, and I think they were the first cause of my feet being so exceedingly tender. The trees are all leaved out and the grass perfectly green, vegetables plenty, and roses in perfection. Winter fruits still plenty—apples, bananas, and oranges. New fruits will begin to come in soon. The papers report strawberries in Boston, much quite ahead of this place. Isaac got a box of the thinnest kind of clothes from New York this morning and they are very pretty to look at. I had on a muslin but once and then took a good cold for my rashness. The changes of weather are very sudden here.