Clarke-Bushnell Letter

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I recently received the following email from Mr. Greg Flothe concerning a letter he had transcribed below:

Using the search engine, I discovered a nice biography of a man who lived in Illinois during the 19th century, and who fought in the Civil War, by the name of Lyman S. Bushnell. As I understand it, you were involved with some of these historical documents, and your name was listed with it. A friend of mine gave me a letter he bought for ten cents here in Tacoma, Washington (the stamp was torn off when opened 141 years ago), which was written to Mr. Bushnell by his cousin in 1863. I just finished transcribing it today and thought you might be interested, so I am e-mailing you a copy. It is written by Mrs. Nellie M. Clarke, and it is very charming and thoughtful. I was profoundly touched by it. The original is on a rather large piece of paper which she labels "Fool's Cap" and is very faded and difficult to read. I am glad to have rescued it from gradual oblivion. I would be happy to send you a scan of the original if you wish, but my transcription is much more legible. Thank you for posting Mr. Bushnell's biography so that our letter has some significance."

In the manner of Nellie Clarke, I will close this with

Yours kindly,
Greg Flothe,

[Note:I received an additional email from Andy Bushnell on August 8, 2005. In his email he pointed out the letter below and said "Lyman Bushnell was my grandfather. I have a PDF file which is posted at This is a transcription of his diary. You can find his entries relating to the letter."]

I too found the letter interesting and have posted it here for all to enjoy. I can't help but be amazed that the letter, written so many years ago on our country's east coast turned up 141 years later on the far west coast of our great country. In a later email Mr. Flothe included the following information: "I checked with my friend, and he had no more letters from any of the people involved here. His dealer who sold him this one (for around 25 cents) collects postal history from Vermont, and we assume this was bought in a larger lot from his contact back there, and with the stamp torn off, the value to a stamp buff became small, despite our esteem for it otherwise as a treasure."

Letter to Private Lyman S. Bushnell from his cousin, Nellie M. Clarke, postmarked Hartford, Conn. June 29, 1863: Berlin (CT) June 26th 1863 -- Friday morning:

Dear Cousin Lyman,

Let me beg of you not to be alarmed at this big sheet of Fool's Cap. I suppose fashionable rules would confine ideas to one small sheet of note paper, but I am a terribly unfashionable lady, and therefore excusable at times. I am not often the owner of Foolscap, but I procured a dozen sheets to scribble on at writing school and having half a dozen left, have used them in writing to my soldier boys. This is my last, and to you it shall go, in answer to your kind letter which came to me last night, dated June 17th. I have been in Berlin for the past five week at Father Clarke's but shall return to Plainsville on the morrow. I have no abiding place, but, like the wandering gypsies, stroll from place to place. Next week I purpose going to New Hartford, and spend most of the Summer. I have numerous relations to visit there, and usually spend some weeks with them. I received a paper from you a few weeks since, and will try to remember and send you some occasionally through the Summer. Your letters are very welcome, and read with pleasure by our family as well as myself, let me ask of you as a favor to write to me often, and not wait for my answers to come, for as you are around from place to place it must be an impossibility to get all your letters direct. I can assure you all of your letters to me shall be answered as soon after their reception as is convienant (convenient-Ed.). I wonder if you have cherries where you are. Here in Conn. the crop is very light this year, though we have what we need. I am going out very soon to pick some, and if you was here I should be very apt to ask you to climb the tree, not in the capacity of Santa Anna however who took that method to get away from his pursuers, but for the express purpose of picking and eating all the fruit you would like for your own benefit, and mine too. Strawberries we have also in large quantities, both in the field and garden. My Father has a large bed in his garden, which next year will afford us abundance of fruit; they never do much the first year.

I am going to ask another favor of you, and that is a picture of yourself. I fancy you have somewhat changed in three years time, (it is three years this Summer since you sent your Ambrotype) and they have now all sorts of pictures which are very nice to send in letters, and it would really afford me much pleasure to have you come to me and make a visit in that style. I have had some taken which are not good; if they were I would send one in this letter. I have quite a number of "Carte de Visite's" nearly enough to fill a Photograph Album. I suppose you have seen those Albums, I think they are very nice and pretty, and I think your picture would not be out of place among my collection.

Plainsville (CT) Sunday June 28th 1863:

Since I have laid down my pen I have made a journey of ten miles, and am now writing this in the sitting room of my Father's house in Plainsville. I have attended church all day at the Episcopal, and now just at the close of the day I seat myself to finish my letter. It is very pleasant but exceedingly warm and dry. We have had no rain for three weeks, and at this rate most of the crops will be a failure. Many of our farmers have already commenced cutting their grass on account of the drouth, which is two weeks earlier than their usual time. We are all murmuring and complaining; but perhaps there is a Providence in it but this I know that rain would be gladly welcomed by all.

You remember, I presume, when I told you in my first letters to you about our relatives, of the family of Osborne's in Hartland. Four weeks ago to-day their oldest daughter was buried. She was 27 years old and died of Consumption. They had six children the oldest being 29, and the youngest 20, and this is the first death in their family. It is a bitter stroke to them and only the Mother and the remaining daughter know where to look for strength in this hour of trial. She was a girl who was beloved by all, and I can hardly realize yet that she has gone, even though I saw her laid away down deep from our sight. I don't know that I ever in my life saw so self-sacrificng a girl; one so ready to give up her own comfort for the good of others. From her Father she imbibed the principles of Universalism, and to the last she remained unchanged in her views. O, I can't believe she is unhappy now, for she was more of a Christian than thousands who are professers, but still it would have been such a comfort to all if she had thought differently. I never heard her speak ill of any one, nor say aught that could hurt any one's feelings.

What perplexing thoughts these are, and how they puzzle all minds. At her funeral the preacher said she was in the hands of a just and merciful God, and then we left her. Calmly we laid her away to rest with her hands folded, and the life light all gone out from her eyes, and still we rejoiced that she was free from suffering, even though we felt her place could never be filled. And such is life. Sooner or later our turn must come, and we must go the way of all the earth, but it matters not if our peace is made with God, for we are free from sorrow then. How I wish every one of our brave soldiers would feel thus. It makes me shudder to think of some who are hurried into eternity, without a thought of the future. It made the parting with my loved ones easier, when I knew that their lives were devoted to their service of their God as well as their country, and in their letters I find their trust never wavers, and while they are battling for the right, they seek strength from a higher source.

The 16th C. V. (Cavalry Volunteers-Ed.) of which Mr. Clarke and Huber are members are now at Yorktown, Va. and expecting every day to "Forward for Richmond" at least that is the report at present. I have a letter from Mr. Clarke every day, and he keeps me well informed of the movements as far as he himself knows. He sends me frequently mementoes from Dixie, in the shape of rings, crosses, and books which he cuts from different kinds of wood growing there, and being a true Yankee he employs his Jack knife to while away his leisure moments. He was on guard in the Dismal Swamp, at the time he was engaged in the Siege of Suffolk, and from there I have a number of relics, which I suppose will be looked upon with interest years from now. What do you think about this War, Lyman. Has it got to desolate our land another year?

O, I hope most earnestly its termination is not far distant for none will welcome peace more joyfully than I. I want it lasting and honorable though, and a peace which shall long endure. I see your aversion to the Copperheads is as deep as any true lovers of our Union. You don't find any of them in my Father's family, if we are Democrats. My Husband don't quite make me a Republican yet, though I am perfectly willing he should be, but I'll fight to the end myself, rather than have traitorous hand place in the room of our own glorious stripes and stars their vile stars and bars. I say success to our dear brave boys and God bless them while doing their duty, though my heart aches and yearns to see them every day ---- Forgive me, Lyman for this lengthy scrawl, and lest I weary your patience I'll stop right here, and beg of you to accept my love, and best wishes for your safe return home, and at some future time I hope we may meet.

Yours kindly, Nellie M. Clarke

Added in the top margin:

They say a strong minded woman never adds a P.S. but never the less, I must say that I hope I may see "the best girl I know of" soon, and give her the love which has been in store for her for so long. I accept my share with hearty good will, and give you in return just what will be agreeable to you to accept. I have a big heart and lots of room in it for my friends and I worship only one and love and respect the rest warmly; the family all join in sending love to you. Write me very soon and address me: New Hartford, Conn. Care of Carlos Holcomb.

Added in the fold:

I send you a paper with this letter, the Christian Advocate and Journal, father has taken it 26 years in succession.

Submitted by: Greg Flothe