Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Tale of Two Johnnys...

The following are letters found in a keepsake trunk located on the Winthrop estate near Cartersville, Tennessee and are dated during the Civil War, a time of etiquette and eloquence.

Dearest Thomasina,

            My Beloved One, not a day passes when I don’t hear your voice on the wind, your name whispered among the leaves of gossiping trees. I miss you.
            It seems strange now to write these words. I was so keen to war for glory and fortune that I neglected letters far too long. I have almost forgotten the sensation of a quill in hand and I have little remembered how to avoid messy ink blots. The scratching of the nib across the stolen velum grates at my nerves. It is a blessing that I chose the life of a soldier, for I am ill-equipped to keep books, although I suppose that is of little comfort to my mother or you, who must fear for my life daily.
            I had hoped that we would have leave September next, but it would appear that November will come before we are released for the winter. The commanders’ fears for snow in the mountain passes drive this latest campaign although it is still August and the sweltering heat pushes us on amidst complaints.
            I happened across a meadow near Brighton Forge some weeks back. It was an idyllic place, fed by a fresh stream and cooled with breezes. It felt like heaven to relax there at the end of our two day march. When the war is over, I should like to bring you there. Truly, you will come to love the place as I have done, and we can build our life there. It may be a harder life than you are used to or than you deserve, but you will see. The ground is dark with fertile soil and I am eager to root, to start a family, raising crops and children in abundance.
            I must hasten to close these few lines although it pains me much to do so. Know that my slumber is saturated only with images of you. I will write again when next I can.

Your faithful devotee,

A month later, John received this response.

My own Johnny,

            I was stunned to receive your words so carefully addressed and marked with such poignant love. Truly I feel undeserving of your attention. It saddens me much, but I cannot allow you to maintain your charade for my benefit. I release you from your promises made me.
            You are free to seek another companion to wife.

Miss Winthrop

Johnny set this response a week following.

My dearest love,

            Now we are so formal? Pray tell me the offense that I have committed for I must make amends. There is no peace in my heart without your love. I will walk the ends of the earth to do your bidding. Every command I will follow. Please, love do not forsake me.

Your Devoted,

It was two agonizing months before he received a response.

Dear Mr. John Dempsey,

            I write you on behalf of my sister, who is quite sick of your correspondence. Your words, lovely and sincere though they may be, hold no merit and I must ask that you take this as a final sign that there can be no contract fulfilled between you.
            It is not due to our parents, who objected perhaps to your relationship but would not have forsaken their daughter for pursuit of her happiness, nor is it due another suitor vying for her affection. The fault therein lies with you.
            As you have asked which trespass you committed, I will oblige you. You have confused your mistresses. My sister, Miss Winthrop, is not Thomasina. Her name, should you ever be allowed to become so familiar with her again, is Abigail.
            I wish you good fortune in all your travels and pray that God keep you safe upon the battlefield.

Mr. Eugene Winthrop

John responded.

Dear Mr. Winthrop

            Thank you for your candor. I am most embarrassed that I have visited this grievous event upon your sweet sister, and solely upon my own manufacturing. If you have a mind when place and time permits, please do not hesitate to make it known to Miss Abigail Winthrop and any who will listen that I am an ass.

Mr. John Dempsey.

It should be noted that according to his ill-kept journal, Mr. John Dempsey was most confused by the Winthrop responses, as the woman whom he met upon the Winthrop estate claimed to be Thomasina, the youngest daughter of Percival and Lily Winthrop. He ventured to return to Cartersville during his winter leave to investigate the enigma and discovered that indeed, Percival and Lily had three children, but only one was a daughter, a woman John had not yet met.

In Miss Abigail Winthrop's defense, she was a comely lass with several suitors, half of whom were named John, and one in particular was a soldier named John Damsette. The last name being so similar, she came to the conclusion that Dempsey was that suitor. 

So, it turned out that both Abigail and John Dempsey were victims of misunderstanding. However, upon their introduction, John became enamored of her, and she of him. Her parents approved of their relationship upon their betrothal and they were wed before Mr. Dempsey was to return to his squadron.

Shortly after his leaving, scandal broke out at the Winthrop estate for it became known that a neighbor’s servant, a woman named Thomasina Damsette had become with child outside of wedlock. When questioned, she admitted to having misrepresented herself once to a young soldier by the name of John Dempsey as part of a fancied, misguided decision. Then, just as winter settled in, her brother John paid a visit upon his leave of service. Receiving news of the visit, Eugene Winthrop, eager to confront the man who broke his sister's heart, rode to the Graves estate through one of the worst storms in Cartersville history. The estate was snowed in, leaving all occupants unable to leave for two days. When the snows thawed enough for travel, John Damsette rode for his squadron with a broken arm and a bruised ego and Eugene rode back to his father's estate in embarrassment with a broken nose. The child’s father it would seem was Eugene Winthrop.