Alexandria Library

Document of the Month

December 2003

Letter from Townshend Dade Fendall to Aunt Mary Dade, December 28, 1861


On May 24, 1861, Union troops advanced into Alexandria. They would occupy the city for four years.

Townshend Dade Fendall was an officer of the Farmers' Bank when the war broke out. After the war he served as Secretary and Treasurer of the Alexandria Water Company until his death July 23, 1893 in Culpeper County. Born on May 25, 1813, he was the fifth child of Benjamin Trueman Fendall, surveyor of Port Alexandria, and his wife Elizabeth Alexander Dade Fendall. He married Eliza Eaches of Alexandria on January 15, 1850. Townshend and Eliza Fendall had four children -- three of whom lived into adulthood.

The very brief notes that appear in the letter's margins were not transcribed. Line breaks have been inserted for easier reading.

My Dear Aunt,

I wrote you, this day week by Via of B----- and sent you the latest papers, which I hope reached you in safety. I duly rec’d Sister Susan’s letter of the 23rd and was truly pleased to hear your health has improved & I trust this will find you, in your banishment, in the enjoyment of your usual health. We have & do miss you my dear Aunt, very much from our little circle, we often talk of you, & wish you were with us. Your coosey (sic) little room reminds me every day of your absence, the dear little ones, have wished so much for Aunt Mary, they have good cause to grieve your absence & I trust a kind providence will not much longer seperate (sic) us, but we must submit, in humble resignation to his divine will, that orders all things for the best. Yes! I do hope the day is not far distant, when we shall be once more be reunited in our happy home. It is with sorrow that I cannot yet advise your return, the same cares exist & I do not think from the present state of affairs that there will be any change this winter everything is at present quiet, but no one can tell what a day will bring forth, rumors are rife of the intended movements of the Army, but nothing reliable. God grant that something may occur to relieve us from the painful state of bondage, and we may be free to go & come when we please, secure in life and property.

The joyous festival of Christmas has passed, not as formerly, fraught with happiness & glee it was a dull quiet day and but for the firing of powder crackers & pistols, would have scare been noticed. It rested like a mighty incubus, paralyzing, as it were, the elasticity of the spirits, that in gone by days were so buoyant & happy, how sad & painful the change from my boyish days, then the occasion was all excitement & preperation (sic), for days before, followed by social parties, Egg-nogg & the varied innocent amusements, incident to the season. Now, what have we, long faces and anxiety, depiced (depicted?) in every linament, startling rumors on every side, dark & lowering clouds overshadowing the future, with scarce a ray of hope to cheer the sad heart, of the gloomy surroundings; oh, is not this

a sad sad change from olden times – did our forefathers ever dream of this, when they bequeathed to us that glorious, blood bought inheritance, Civil and Religious Liberty. Oh, mysterious fate, has every Sinful man brought this calamity upon us. War, Civil relentless War, has been lighted & the fratricidal arm, hurling death & direction, father against son, brother against brother, how awful to contemplate. Oh my County, once the land of the free & the home of the brave, thy once glorious fabric, reeling tottering to the dust, can it be, that we are no longer to rank among the nations of the earth. Must our nationality be blotted out? No, no, forbid it kind heaven, fanaticism cannot, must not prevail, two republics may grow up, but never can be blotted out from existence, we will be freemen, if we cannot agree as brothers, with our nationality, let us seperate (sic) and stop this suicidal carnage & let the land flowing with milk & honey be at peace. May God in his mercy grant this. On Xmas day, we attend service at our Lecture Room, & had a very fine sermon from Mr. Steward, suitable to the season. The Sacrament was not administered. We had a plain

dinner, Turkeys ever so high, we could not indulge, but we had oysters and Plumb (sic) pudding and a pitcher of Apple Toddy which was fine. The children have been to two parties & enjoyed themselves very much. Willie thinks himself quite a man. Benny is out skating today & seemed to anticipate a happy time. Marbury & Masters (?) children have at last arrived, they had to go by the way of Norfolk. They are all well, except Masters little daughter, she has the Measels (sic). The two families, with that exception, are well, as are friends generally. We are again without a servant, but hope to get one soon again. Margaret manages to cook for us, so far, but you know she is uncertain, indeed she does wonderful considering all things. Liz has a right tough time, which I very much regret as she is not very strong, more willing than strength to accomplish. Give my warmest love to dear Kate, say to her I saw her uncle A_____ this morning, her Grandmama is much better, the rest of the family well, no news for her Brother. I have spun this sheet out, much longer than I expected, when I commenced & although there is little of interest yet, I hope it will at least assure of one thing, that you are remembered. I have no news of any kind to send you, there is a rumor afloat this morning that the Trent affair has been settled, it is generally believed. Please say to Sister L (Eliza?) I have not yet been able to procure any Vaccine Matter. F____ note arrived safe.

Give my love to sister M (Mary) ????; if she has forgotten the use of her pen – I wrote to her some time since.

Give my love to all at Liberty – I am pleased to hear Mr. W_____ is getting on so well with his school.

I was truly sorry to hear of poor Chisly’ loss. How is Gro - & family – remember me kindly to them. I believe I have entirely exausted (sic) my stock of material & must necessarily close. I hope you are all well & have spent a Merry Xmas. Give my warmest love to Sister S_____ F____ & the children. Remember me to Fanny & Martha. I hope you are not in want of any thing as it is difficult to get any thing to you. Should you want any money – for Ben, will advance whatever you may require.

And now my dear Aunt, with best wishes for your health & happiness and a happy New Year, to you and all our friends, with much love, I am

Your Affect nephew
Townsh D F

Eliza & the children are well and send the best love to you all. Should you see Ben request him to send his Aunt Lizzy – cloak once I have written about it – it was lent to Josie last fall.

Transcribed by Barbara Winters, November 2003

Related Sources
  • "...the frown of the citizens...": Notes and Images from the Civil War Occupation of Alexandria, Virginia
  • James G. Barber. Alexandria in the Civil War
  • Jonathan R. Dols. Military Occupation and Cultural Perceptions: Union Soldiers in Alexandria, Virginia, 1861-1865
  • Jonathan R. Dols. Yankees and Secesh: Civil-Military Relations in Alexandria, Virginia, and New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Richard Leonard. "Maritime Alexandria: Union Forces Advance Into Virginia," Alexandria Archaeology Volunteer News, March 1992
  • Richard Leonard. "Maritime Alexandria: Union Forces Occupy Alexandria," Alexandria Archaeology Volunteer News, April 1992
  • Roberta Schildt. "Freedman's Village: Arlington, Virginia, 1863-1900," The Arlington Historical Magazine, October 1984
  • Ruth Ward. "Life in Alexandria County During the Civil War," The Arlington Historical Magazine, October 1984
  • A. J. Wickliffe. "Recollections of the Early War Between the States in Alexandria, Virginia, March 1889," The Alexandria Chronicle, Spring 1997

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