Ask A Librarian

Reading Other People’s Mail: Sue Patton

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
May 4th, 2015

Blog post by Jane Metters LaBarbara, Assistant Curator, WVRHC.


Confederate Colonel George S. Patton of Charleston, W. Va.

We have a photo of George S. Patton, but none of his wife Sue


I intended to write a very different sort of blog post, but Susan Thornton Glassell Patton’s letter to her first husband, George (grandfather of the George Patton of WWII fame) was so interesting that I transcribed it.  Sue’s letter reveals a lot about her life and the world she lived in.  She talks about the “irregularity” of mail delivery, visits from relatives, and trying to keep her spirits up in difficult times.   In a turn of phrase that may have been less alarming in 1863 than it may be today, she writes “This strain [?] however does not become one who is endeavoring to cultivate a cheerful or [?] thankful frame of mind, but you must remember my dearest that to all complicated and useful machinery as woman, there must be a safety valve, or else an explosion.”  She also talks about the financial hardships she faces, and the reality that she may not be able to afford living where she currently does if George is sent south. 


The entire transcription is included below—I’ve put question marks after words at which I made my best guess, and words I couldn’t decipher at all are noted as [illegible].  Below the transcription, I have included scans of both sides of the letter.  Sue wrote the last portion of her letter on the first page, perpendicular to the words she had already written.  Based on my experience in the archive, this was a fairly common practice, though it can make reading a challenge.


Richmond, March 15th [18]63

My Dearest Husband,

Tho I have received no letter from

you since I last wrote yet such is the irregularity of the

mails that I never think of waiting for any such thing, as

a letter before writing. [Illegible] left this evening

for Dublin. He has certainly been very fortunate in being

able to pay two visits to Richmond in so short a period.

You are the most unlucky one of the family.  Brother I.

has his family with him all the time, brother John also.

[Illegible] still lingers around the object of his affections.

[Illegible] has had very little hard service and spent nearly

all of the winter here and [illegible] has been able to come down [?]

twice within six weeks.  This strain [?] however does not

become one who is endeavoring to cultivate a cheerful or [?]

thankful frame of mind, but you must remember my

dearest that to all complicated and useful machinery

as woman, there must be a safety valve, or else an

explosion.  This is a rainy Sunday afternoon.  I

intended to have gone around to see your cousin Nella [?]

French, but the rain prevented me.  I went to St Paul’s

this morning and hear a fine sermon form Dr. [illegible].

I have also attended some of the seven o’clock meetings,

which are very interesting.

I am anxiously awaiting the [illegible] of Gen. William’s

Brigade.  I so much fear I shall hear that it has

been sent to Vicksburg Savanah or some other equally

distant and distressing [illegible]. I have pretty well

[p. 2]

determined however if you are sent out of the state

to follow you as far as I can.  In the first place

I could not afford to keep house at the Salt Sulphur [(Springs?)]

without your being near to send me things from the

Comissary Departments and secondly if the board is

any thing corresponding to Coyners[?] (they are going to

charge one hundred dollars per month) we certainly

could not board.  I see from the papers that Macon

Georgia is the cheapest place in the South and I think

if you go south I had better go there.  You must bear

in mind that neither Sally nor brother John have ever

intimated to me to spend the summers with them, nor

could I be longer willing to tay [?] them.  There is no

where else that I can go, and the stern necessity fact is that

we shall be adrift next summer with the increasing

prices presents its self continually to my mind and does

not make my heart beat any lighter.  I bought

a dress for Mary a few days ago, it being cheaper

than I had been able to see before [?] and as she was [illegible]

to have a summer dress it cost $17’12. (cheap)  I bought

for myself a calico the only dress I expect to get for the

summer that was $22’12. (cheap again)  Thus it is with

every thing, and I feel quite disheartend to go into a

store.  I have managed tolerably well about the childrens

clothes, but of course have had to go to some expence about

them, and will also have to pay for work that I have

had done for them.  Mary [illegible] bill was enormous.

Including a bonnet she furnished me it amounted to

upwards of fifty dollars, and then comes in my


washing bill always about fifteen dollars a month. This month

it will be eighteen, as Sally has had so much company and I can

not spare Mary do do much of it.  Tomorrow the Rives [?] are all

to dine here and then scarcely passes a day that some one

is not here to dine. It is getting so dark now that I shall have

to defer finishing this until tomorrow.

March 16th I have just finished reading your most welcome letter

of the 12th inst and am truly glad to find you are well and thus far

no signs of your being sent to Ten [?].  I intended to have written you quite

a lengthy addition to this letter, but had to go to Rigine’s [?] this morning

to order a desert for Sallies dinner party and did not get back on time

to write you but a few lines.  You ask me what Seth French [illegible] me

so much about.  I am ashamed to think that he can annoy me as

he does but he certainly can provoke me almost to desperation.

The subject is always the same [viz your party?].

Good bye now my own darling and believe me.

Your attached

Sue G. Patton

Handwritten letter from Sue Patton to her husband, page 1

Click to enlarge.

Handwritten letter from Sue Patton to her husband, page 2

Click to enlarge.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>