Bananas and Such

The following was written by Dr. David Fentress, a Texas surgeon serving in the Confederate Army. He had spent the previous two years in the field in Arkansas and Louisiana. He was back in Texas, but it would still be several months before he was back with his family.

Houston, December 21, 1864

My Dear Wife,

I send you by Mr. Bothwell to Sister Cordie’s at Gonzales, a bundle & a cigar box.

The bundle contains 3 1/2 yards of grey cloth, 1 piece of drilling (stout cotton fabric) for lining & another for drawers …

The stuff for drawers I wish you would make up and send to me the first opportunity, taking ease to make them a little larger round the waist and in the legs than the last ones you made for me …

The cigar box contains three bananas, four oranges, 1/2 pound candy in three parcels & various peanuts, costing nearly fifty dollars in new issue (currency), but I thought I might spend it foolishly upon myself at Christmas time & I had better make this disposition of the money – the variety of articles will add to your enjoyment of them in these war times.

I regret exceedingly I had not the money left to buy as much for Cordie’s children, for it looks shabby to send these through her hands & seem to forget her children, but tell her it was because I had but twenty-five dollars left – just enough to satisfy my modest washer woman for twelve pieces…

Well, now that all danger is past I will tell you I was with yellow fever – only one case however & that the only one since I got here. 

If you get me some cotton socks knit & not too large, I would be obliged to you. The yarn socks I have are so large the wrinkles on them blister my heel and I lap them over my toes.

I enclose to you some postage stamps & hope you will use them often. Now that I get all your letters you have no excuse.

Well my love, I wish you a happy Christmas. Oh how I regret that I can not spend it with you & our darlings. God bless them. 

– David

I love this letter for its contrast of great and small concerns. Socks and war. Christmas candy and yellow fever. It reminds me that our small comforts are pretty great by contrast with earlier times. And for the majority of us, our biggest worries aren’t so terrible when contrasted with most of history.

These mercies, mild though they be, are echoes of the great and eternal mercy that Christmas heralds. At home or afield, wherever Christmas finds you, we pray that it’s peace and joy will find you as well. Merry Christmas!

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