Folded letter by US Navy Surgeon David Shelton Edwards
In 1835 the letter probably would have traveled overland or by steamboat to Mobile, Alabama, where it joined the Great Mail route north using combinations of horse, coach, steamboat and train. The rate for a single letter (one sheet of paper) traveling more than 400 miles was 25 cents. The absence of the word "Paid" indicates that the letter was sent unpaid and 25 cents was collected from the addressee.
David Shelton Edwards spends most of this letter giving his wife Harriet instructions relating to her upcoming visit to see him in Pensacola, Florida, including possible timeframes and routes of travel. He tells her to sell all of her furniture in her New York home and either rent or sell their house in Sing Sing. With much of his advice centering on their finances he explains, "But you know there is a right way and a wrong way of doing business. It is always a poor way to get work done to pay beforehand."
One of the major difficulties facing Edwards while he served in the Navy was running his household from two thousand miles away. When military families were separated in the age before telephones or email, mail was the primary means of communication. And those letters could take weeks to reach their destinations. This made running a household incredibly challenging for husbands stationed afar. Without her husband present, Harriet was in charge of the family finances and the raising of their two children. While Edwards does give her extensive instructions on how to spend their money and bring up their children, it was ultimately Harriet's action and decision.
This letter is part of the correspondence of David Shelton Edwards between the years 1835 and 1848. The 48 letters from this period held by the National Postal Museum are primarily addressed to Edward's wife Harriet; in 1830, Edwards married Harriet Eliza Henry and they had two children, William and Harriet. They kept up a frequent correspondence when his naval service kept them separated. Between 1835 and 1848, Edwards served as a Surgeon at the hospital in the Pensacola Navy Yard, Florida; Fleet Surgeon to the West Indies Squadron; and Surgeon aboard many vessels engaged in the Mexican-American War. His naval career spanned from 1818 to 1861 and his last sea cruise ended in October of 1859 after which he retired to his family home in Connecticut except for a brief time spent at New Bedford, Massachusetts recruiting for the Union Navy during the Civil War. He died in Trumbull, Connecticut on March 18, 1874.
Alt, Betty Sowers and Bonnie Demrose Stone. Campfollowing: A History of the Military Wife. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1991.
Pensacola May 3d 1835
My spirits were again cheered by the receipt of another dear messenger from you of the 12th & 14th of April- It seemed at first from your note of preparation as if I was soon to be blessed with your presence; but the thought that five or six long-long-months-must yet pass ere we meet- poisons the nectared cup so sweetly prepared. But my Love, it is best. If you was here now I should be glad- but to come Sept. is full early- Oct. is better. You may have a pleasant time in Sept. but October is almost certain of it.
I have written to Sister Delia & invited her to come and spend the winter with us-telling her that in any of her excursions this Summer,- when agreeable to you, to take you with her. The only objection there can be to Cousin Delia Hanna's coming out here is the heavy expense of the passage- I should be very glad to see her here with you. I have bought a Crib of Mr. Lindsay for Sister. I think his furniture sold very well for him. I have written you by him. I think you will do well to sell all the furniture you can spare,- but dont sacrifice it. Sell to Mr. Hix or your grocer the 7 doz bottles at Mr. Spencer's & you or Ma can take it in groceries - & you ought to sell the little bedstead at Mr. Spencer's - If you can possibly find a comfortable vessel coming direct to Pensacola, by all means come in her, for it will save you a deal of trouble in getting here from Mobile. for I find the short distance from Mobile is very unpleasant for Ladies either by land or water,- & by all means send your luggage direct to Pensacola & you can send almost anything you please. I dare say one of those schooners which bring our stores here if she has a good Cabin -& the Capt. is disposed to be kind would bring you as comfortably as you could possibly come. A Ship-or SteamBoat if coming here would of course be better.
I think you will be able to get on very well with your accounts & payments. Manage them in you own way It is better perhaps to borrow than to put a note in the Bank
But dont be too quick- in the first place you ought not to borrow money to lay idle, if you can help it. & in the next place you ought not to make any more payments beforehand before the certificates are given- especially the last one which should not be paid any part of it until all is completed - & a certificate given. It would not be polite in you to express any doubts about its completion- For I have much confidence in Mr. Orr.- But you know there is a right way & a wrong way of doing business It is always a poor way to get work done to pay beforehand.-
If necessary you can give your note for one. & we will let the rent pay it as you propose. you had better let out the S.S. house for as much as you can. or you may sell it all if you can get [inserted above: $]4,000 for it.- It ought to bring [inserted above: $] 250. or [inserted above:$] 300. from a good tenant.
I owe Mr. Case [inserted above:$] 900. & intrest 7 percent.- I forget the date. but I have a perfect confidence in the integrity of Mr. Case he well no doubt get all the interest he can, but you may send him a check by letter, payable to his Order-& he well send you a receipt, or acknowledgement, with the Papers. If he can call & see you it would be better. The Satisfaction Price should be enclosed to the clerk of Westchester [inserted above: Co.] with a request that he would acknowledge the receipt of it. Mr. Case will give up the Bond to you. Respecting the allotment give yourself no trouble. it ends on the 1st of Aug- 8 months- I can renew it if necessary when you find out how much money you will require. I have paid about [inserted above:$] 60. for furniture since I have been here. & I enclosed you [inserted above: $] 50 by Mr. Meade, in the Enterprise. I want you to find out as soon as convenient how much the balance for Extras will be.-
I am glad you are pleased with your girl, but I still think you had better bring out only a small girl with you, if you bring any. A girl over 12 or 13 years of age would probably be of little or no use to you- most probably only an incumbrance. everybody here says so. a col.d girl might be of some service.-
Give my love to Ma, & Mary & all the Family - I rec.d the newspaper - with your initials &c. on it - send me another if you are in Brooklyn.-How are they all in Trumbull - I shall write Miranda in a day or two- give my love - I am glad she is so pleasantly situated- [three wavy circles drawn around the letters: K W. and H.]
From your affect.e husband
D. S. E.
I am glad you have got so many children - but you may give away some-
You dont know how many you will find already here!- they grow here in a very short time - The climate is so favorable.-