The Letters of John M. Jackson–May 4th, 1862

On one of his usual treasure hunts in Maine, our CEO, Will Seippel  stumbled upon a massive collection of letters that belonged to a soldier in the Civil War.  These letters will be published in chronological order in The Insider over the coming weeks, months and years, as we follow John Mower Jackson’s personal victories and struggles within the greater national struggle of the Civil War. Click here to read our introduction to this new column that sets the stage with our soldier’s background story.

kent's hill

The original building of Kents Hill is pictured here with the 1836 addition.

This week we bring you a letter from Delinda, John’s sister.  Delinda has been through a somewhat shocking experience as one of her teachers at Kents Hill died suddenly.

Kents Hill

May 4th, 1862

My Dear Brother,

As there are no public religious services this afternoon I thought I would spend a part of the time in writing to you.

There was a meeting this morning but gloom o’erspread the whole congregation and sorrow rested on every countenance for we knew that a much loved teacher lay at the front of death; and when the congregation were dismissed at noon we heard that Mr Scott was no more. It is very sudden and very sad. Only last Sabbath he was in his place at church; today he is welcomed to his place in the Redeemers kingdom

Monday he complained of severe headache and cold not attend to his recitation he was in the recitation room however and assigned lessons. But I guess very few knew that he was considered dangerous until this morning we heard that he was thought to be dying; indeed the physician said yesterday he was no cause for alarm.

There is no minister here today for it is the time of the annual conference but Mr. Robinson (Professor of Mathematics) read a sermon this morning. But his voice was husky with emotion and at sometimes his feelings entirely overcame him.

It hardly seems possible that Mr Scott can be dead. You may think from what I wrote you that I think more highly of him now than when living but I had begun to like him very much as a teacher before he was sick. He understood me better and I him, perhaps, then at first. We have recited to a student during the past week but now we shall have a new teacher. I dread the change very much. I have made this a long recital but I can think of little else today.

A few words about myself may interest you. My health was never better than at present. I am studying pretty hard but that is what I am here for.

In algebra we have just got to Praxis having taken up Logarithms pretty thoroughly. Rhetoric requires considerable study and in Botany we have to commit 6 or 8 pages. I missed in Rhetoric Friday it being my first error except

Two mistakes in a Monday’s review in Philosophy when I was drawn and paraded on the platform to be questioned by the gentlemen to their hearts content I suppose.

We have not been doing very well in Latin since Mr Scott has been sick Mr Robinson has been absent from his classes and every thing has seemed disordered. For Algebra the student who has taken charge is very confident.

The other day in Mr Robinson’s absence a request was sent from the gentlemen’s side of the room for Miss Jackson to explain a certain art. Thinking it would hardly be treating the gentleman well who explained the same art the day before and fearing some might think the explanation was voluntary Miss J declined.

Soon word came that one of the gentlemen would give ten cents to hear Miss J’s explanation. She would not give freely she would not be hired to give.

I think Miss J is thought to be quite as good in Mathematics as she really is. Sometimes one will say “are your examples all done”? before I have time to reply another will say “It would be strange if they were not.” But I do not think I shall distinguish myself in anything else

Monday, May 5

We had a prayer meeting last evening in the college chapel. It was a vary solemn occasion. Two hundred students assembled under the most solemn circumstances under which a whole school can be placed. In the same building lay a loved teacher in the embrace of death. There was the same solemn stillness there always in the house of mourning after the first violent outbursts of grief are over.

The funeral services will be on Wed. next. Already a man has been selected to take his place. From your loving sister Delinda

I thought I would write only one sheet today but although you may be tired of reading I have a few things more that I wish to say. I received a nice long letter from Fannie B. I feel some embarrassment in writing to her for she is certainly a very talented writer.

There was one week that I did not get any letters, indeed there were two or three weeks but that week I thought I must get one. Then Saturday I got two that had lain in the office a week and in four days I got seven letters.

I was getting very low spirited for I thought every body even my own family had forgotten me. But I think the reception of those letters breathing warm…

Friendship and affection really affected my health. It certainly improved very rapidly about that time. Every night when I came from the office if I had given way to my feelings I should have had a “good cry.” But lessons must be learned even if I was among strangers and forgotten by friends.

I suppose your school has closed and you are at home, at work (I do not mean today). I should like to be at home today but I am not home-sick. I am very happy here and have very little time to think of home in the day time but I often dream of home.

I want to see those tulips and dahlias that your write about. I expect after this I should use Botanical terms in conversing about flowers. I shall certainly feel a much deeper interest in flowers and all vegetation than ever before even the quick grass which Botany says is a great pest to farmers.

I hardly know where to put my name but perhaps it is unnecessary and to send my love which is also unnecessary for I presume you all have confidence in my sincere regards for you.

Delinda writes to John with some very depressing news: Mr. Scott, her Latin teacher, has unexpectedly passed away. Earlier in the week, he had complained of having a severe headache; however, his physician assured everyone that there was no reason to be alarmed. Unfortunately, his claim proved to be false since Mr. Scott passed away around noon on the 4th.

Despite the fact that Delinda had previously felt indifferent about Mr. Scott and his class, she admits that she began to grow very fond of him as she progressed with her studies. She can’t believe that her teacher was here one day and gone the next, and she dreads the thought of having to get used to a new instructor.

And yet, Delinda is persistent to keep up with her studies. She’s gone through the term making hardly any mistakes in her classes, and a student asked her to explain a concept to the class in one of her courses. She also says that perhaps she is more skilled in mathematics than she originally gave herself credit for, but admits that she doesn’t really care to be an overachiever in anything else.

The next day, a prayer service was held in the chapel for Mr. Scott. Around 200 students gathered, and Delinda describes the scenario to be “the most solemn circumstances” in which you could possibly have a student meeting.

Understandably, the whole affair must have caused Delinda (as well as the rest of the student body) to feel pretty miserable, and so being with friends and family during such a tragedy would do wonders for her spirits. She admits to John that she was glad to receive several letters from him and Fannie and some other friends from back home, and they all had a positive influence on her mood.

She’s very eager to see some flowers that John had written about in a previous letter and hopes to impress him with some of the knowledge that she picked up from her botany course.

Delinda’s written so much that she doesn’t even know where to write her name and regards to John, but she’s confident that John is able to know that her love for him is always present.

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