American Presidents

James A. Garfield

James A. Garfield

Letter to his wife | Letter from his wife

In the following letter, Congressman Garfield tells his wife of his return to Washington and his thoughts on the recent death of their daughter Trot.

Washington Dec 6, 1863

My Darling Crete:

I find myself sitting alone calling her by her pet names and asking her if she loves me and almost hoping to hear an answer.
I arrived here at six o'clock last evening, having been detained at Harrisburg six hours by our train failing to connect with the one for Baltimore. Mrs. Parmlee and her friend did not get the morning train at Bedford, but came on in the afternoon and overtook me at Harrisburg next morning.

I cannot tell you what a lonely dreary ride it was to me. On reaching Pittsburg I fell in company with Capt Pearce of Cincinnati, whom I knew in the days of my Senatorship. He was accompanied by his wife and her sister and all were accompanying the remains of a third lovely sister of 19 to their former home in Washington. I joined the party and seemed far more at home with stricken mourners than with any others. I told them the story of our precious little Trot, and they told me of their grief. The way seemed very long and very dark. I reached here just in time to attend the caucus at 7 in the evening. When we elected Mr. Colfax of Indiana as our candidate for Speaker.

Today I have resigned my commission in the army and am now for the first time since Aug 12, 1861, a citizen. I have come away this evening to my rooms at the corner of N.Y. Avenue and 13th Street, and am now here alone. The rooms are very large, and I more alone than ever before in my life. It does seem to me that I cannot stay here alone this whole winter and spring, and Heaven knows how much of the summer besides. How constantly the image of our precious lost one leaps into my memory and heart! I took dinner with Sec Stanton today, and his little ones were there to haunt me with contrasts between them and Trot. Her brightness so far outshone theirs that I almost wondered any one could love them not worship her. I find myself sitting alone calling her by her pet names and asking her if she loves me and almost hoping to hear an answer. Precious little Darling, I wonder if she can know how her papa loves her and longs for her? I find here awaiting me your letter of Nov 6th in which you tell me of her crying that I came away without kissing her. In my leaving for Washington this last time I could say that the little darling had left without kissing me. I grieve more than she did. I find a ponderous pile of letters awaiting me, and I sit down drearily to the task of answering and Sec Stanton assures me that he will hold my place in the army open for me at any time I choose to return, and if this terrible weary work and desolateness of heart continues, it seems as though I must go back into the wild life of the army.

There is some prospect of a difficulty in organizing the House, and the members have been advised to go there assured________tomorrow. I don't think there is any real danger, though some think there is. I was appointed as one of a committee of five to manage the matter, and the other members of the caucus promised to sustain us in any measure we deemed necessary to take. The other members of the committee were Thadeus Stevens of Pa., H. Winter Davis of Md., and Blaine of Me. We have planned a small campaign which has a fight as one of its remote contigencies, but I trust very remote.

Do write to me Dearest, often and long. How much I want you with me. Give my love to Mother and Almeda, and kiss the little boy. (How sadly this sounds to leave out Trot!) for I am as ever your own James.

[The above letter is reproduced exactly as written and was obtained through the archives at the Library of Congress]

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