folder 24: Autobiography of Charles A. Hentz, Part I





rocked so that he could not stand, but took him, and hitched out of the cabin; took him into the berth, & lulled him fast asleep -- We had a most shocking time -- I was sick till the very last moment, and now throughly know all the horrors of Sea Sickness. It was late at night when we reached Norfolk, but it is considered dangerous to stop there, as the Yellow Fever still rages there -- and the regular line of stages which would have carried us on, if the boat had met with no delay had already gone, & we must be detained there three or four days -- The passengers were taken over in small boats to Portsmouth -- this place; except those who chose to remain on board -- We did not like to remain in such close neighborhood of the Yellow Fever, but preferred it to getting into a small boat with the baby in the midst of a dark night.

Yesterday morning we were rowed over to this place, and with joy, left the dismal wharf of Norfolk behind; it looked as if infection might well dwell there; we passed Old Point Comfort in the night, and I did not see it; there was a young lieutenant from West Point, a fellow passenger of ours, who was going to reside there; a very pleasant, companionable youth -- We found very agreeable company on board-, there requires no introduction; the unceremonious manner in which you are cabined together prevents the necessity of it. We shall probably stay here till Tuesday morning, when we shall take the boat for Petersburg. We see here a strong contrast

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to the North; we are at the best hotel in the place, and I suppose the accomodations are considered superfine but I look in vain for Northern neatness and comfort; you see such a swarm of greasy negroes filling the houses & streets, it is enough to put one out of conceit with everything; the houses look in general, old & inelegant, interspersed everywhere with negro huts. The trees however, look beautiful in verdue, and yesterday the air had all the blandness of summer; today it is chill and raining, and a good fire is a comfortable companion. I preferred writing home to attending church, and Mr Hentz asked the landlord for ink and paper, after rummaging the whole house. I suppose, he gave him an old sheet of brown paper, but could find no ink. So Mr. Hentz unpacks his books, draws out a sheet of paper, & rules off some India Ink, with which I have traced these lines. I think they cannot be great letter writers in this place, nor very religious, for I have heard the report of several guns since the bells have rung for church. I have endeavored, my dear mother and sisters, to give you an outline of our journey, that you may follow our steps in imagination, without feel the fatigue which has afflicted us -- I think, however, that we have every reason to be grateful for the protection of Heaven so far -; we have been carried in safety through the whole; the child is well, & improving in fatness & blitheness, though exposed to irregular diet, and damp, stormy weather, I have had the assistance of an excellent girl, and

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more than all, the unremitting care & attention of an affectionate husband -- it is this that cheers the soul through exhausting fatigues of travel, and reconciles me to parting with mother, sisters & brothers, a thousand times dearer since this separation. Oh -- many a time, when passing through unknown & dangerous scenes, every step of which carried me farther from the scenes of my youth, has the rememberance of that beloved home come like a sunbeam on the darkness of my soul -- There is one thing that I have experienced as I have advanced on my journey; the necessity of reconciling myself to a longer separation than I anticipated when I bade you farewell; the fatigue & danger and expense is such, that for nothing else than seeing you all would I willingly encounter it -- We have now only about 250 miles to go, and when you next hear from us I trust we shall be safe at Chapel Hill -- There were a number of gentlemen, and a lady on board, and they all gave a favorable account of that place, the society -- climate &c. I wish my paper were three times as large. Mr Hentz wishes to write, and I could write three times as much, and yet leave much unsaid.

Do tell Mrs Cleveland of Mrs Astley's kind attentions -- it was to her, in the first place that we were indebted for them. We rejoice in hers and Mrs. Sweitzer's convalescence -- There is one trifle I must not forget to tell you. I purchased a very handsome Leghorn gypsey, & bobinet veil in Phila. & it is boxed so nicely I do not think it will be

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be hurt on the journey; it is trimmed with an elegant ribbon -pink and green, shaded into each other - I thought I could not get them so well there -- We shall write as soon as we arrive; but how long it will be before we hear from home. Solon's letter was worth a thousand pounds. If Marcellus could express his thoughts, what love he would send; he misses, dear little soul, his grand-mother's nice dairy and cradel. Present our affectionate remembrance to all our Lancaster friends. I have no time to particularize now except aunt Whiting and Sarah & I think of them all, many times indeed -- To all at home unbounded love -- Farewell -- Carolina."

A postscript of father's to the above letter "My dear mother and sister and brothers --

Thanks to the kindness of Providence, we are now in a comfortable place, and we have passed the most unpleasant part of our journey -- I trust, when once in Petersburg, the rest will be pleasant. I feel very grateful to the directing hand, which has saved us so far from the surrounding dangers on our way. I thank brother Solon for his kind letter. I will write to him from Chapel Hill, as I mentioned, giving him an account of everything that interests you & us. My watch goes well. Do not fail to thank Mrs. Cleveland for her letter to Mrs. Astley; she actually loaded us with kindness and attention. I say nothing of our journey Caroline has said more than I could.

I kiss you all. N.M. Hentz."

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(April -- 1892) Over 65 years have passed since the above letters were written; they possess a deep interest to me; a sad and melancholy one, when it illustrates so vividly how everything in this world passes away; mother was then 26 years of age, & father 29. They were just beginning the journey of life together, full of high hopes and roseate anticipations; the fresh enjoyment of the incidents of travel is vividly expressed in the animated description given of them. More than 25 years elapsed before mother again revisited the home of her childhood, that she was now just leaving; my father never returned there; when mother went back, only two members of the home circle remained -- Aunt Maria & Uncle Solon were yet there; both aged & venerable -- and now both, & all have long since been laid away in their last resting places; and the old homestead has long since passed into other hands. And my dear mother & father have for 36 years been sleeping side by side in the graveyard in Marianna Fla.; forever done with the experiences of this life.

The letter is also interesting in giving an idea of the slow & tedious manner of travel in those days, as compared with the present; it was before the days of railroads, and days of tedious delay & fatigue were consumed in accomplishing what is now done in a few hours.

The little Marcellus -- my parents first born; their pet & darling when the above was written, died in Chapel Hill on July 14th, 1827; when I was not yet two months old; in

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