In light of the stunning discovery I made this week about your grandfather, Enos Louis Blair, I thought to write a letter… from him to his wife as he prepared to leave New York with his regiment.This is, of course, a work of fiction from an overactive imagination, as Louis could neither read nor write and if he could have, it would be in his mother tongue, French.
Welp. Here we go…
October 22, 1861
Enos strode through the camp looking for the man described by his Sargent as “scrawny.” Just what the hell did that mean? He glanced around. They were all too thin and poorly dressed and most didn’t even wear the Union garb. Some army. Still, it was the cause he was fighting for…
“Excuse moi, parle-vous Francais?”
“No, not one word.”
Enos tried again, in English. “I’m looking for a man – he is too thin? He writes…” He made the gesture of pen to paper.
“Oh, you’re looking for Smarty,” he nodded ahead, “he’s by the main fire.”
“Merci.” Enos said and left quickly.
“What part of no French don’t you understand?” The man called out to his retreating back.
Enos ignored the nasty remark and continued on. He’d been in the states for over 25 years. He understood just enough English to know the man was an ass.
A long line appeared ahead. It seemed Smarty was doing a brisk business crafting letters for those who had no writing or reading. Enos shivered from the late October cold. Soon, very soon, he’d be leaving with his regiment and heading south. November was a piss poor time to be journeying, but at least he’d be mounted. The men shuffled forward as Smarty completed each letter.
His regiment was heading for Washington DC, the capital itself. Not that he could tell Addie this. But he didn’t care, as long as she could get at least one letter before he left…
After a half hour wait, it was his turn.
“Enos Louis Blair.”
“Not you, stupid, the woman you want it addressed to.”
“Adaline – Addie – he corrected.”
The man looked positively bored. “Keep it short.”
Enos cleared his throat. “My dearest Addie, I pray the children, they are okay? And you, my love, are well and safe. I miss you. I think of you with each dawn and day that passes. So? I am to travel and it will be many days, maybe months, before I can write again. Take this letter to the clerk in town, and ask her to read it for you.” He smiled. “Bring her some potatoes, and maybe she will help you to write back.”
“Hurry it up, private.”
“Qui, d’accord…” too easily he slipped into the French. “I hold you in my heart, mon petite, and count the days until I can hold you in my arms.”
Smartie chuckled. “A bloody poet.”
“Write. Not talk.” Enos had enough of the man’s lousy attitude. “Three children,” he held out three fingers, “all too young to help even with the chores, and winter comes with no one to provide food and firewood. You should not disrespect, non?” At 38, Enos had no patience left for this young, snot-nosed creep. He finished without waiting for the man’s reply.
“Seek my father, love, go and stay with him and Lucy. They”ll see you through the cold months.” He closed his eyes briefly to form the final few words. “How much I miss you, Addie. Be well. Stay safe and strong for our children.
“Two coins,” Smartie’s grin revealed crooked teeth, “and extra potatos tonight. I get you portion, you see?”
He’d go hungry, but it was worth it. Addie would have word from him and maybe it would help ease the fear and uncertainty she faced alone and without her husband as provider, protector and companion.
Addie would know he loved her.