Sunday, January 18, 2015

The new bride

Julia Jones was an eloquent and sometimes saucy letter-writer. When she came through Concord, N.H. after her
winter wedding, she was perhaps dressed as she is at left.
Julia Jones was a young educator from East Washington, N.H., who had many suitors during the Civil War. She came from a prominent local family in this west-central New Hampshire town, which can be reached by a winding, up-and-down road from Hillsboro to the southeast and an even hillier road from Newport to the north. Washington was, in other words, isolated.

Jones’s tart, witty letters betray an independent streak and a sense of self that attracted several Civil War officers. These included Edward E. Cross and Frank Butler of the 5th New Hampshire, but the one who won her heart was Samuel Duncan of the 14th New Hampshire.

Col. Samuel A, Duncan
Though their letters, including those written after Duncan became colonel of the 4th U.S. Colored Regiment, Jones and Duncan fell in love. Before the war they had met only once. Shortly after the war they married.

Especially because of Jones’s distinctive voice, writing the story of this romance for Our War was a delightful challenge. You can get a taste of it in this earlier blogpost – from a dialogue my wife did with me at the Washington Historical Society a couple of years ago.

At that presentation, one listener pointed out an error in the epilogue of my book. I had written that after the war Duncan and Jones were married in Washington, D.C., where he worked. In fact they were married in Washington, N.H., my listener said.

This error was deflating to its author. I’d not have made it had I found a letter that recently came my way.

The letter was written by Henry J. Crippen, a Concord, N.H., lawyer, educator and businessman. Like Julia Jones, he was a graduate of the New London Literary and Scientific Institution (later Colby Academy, now Colby-Sawyer College). A native of England, Crippen went on to graduate from Dartmouth in 1861. He taught at Concord High School and, also like Jones, became an elementary school principal. He left education to study law under Henry P. Rolfe, a Concord politician (Douglas Democrat) and attorney.

At the time Crippen wrote the letter in question to Kate Carr in Bradford, N.H., he was working in the auditor’s office of the state of New Hampshire. His letter is dated the last day of 1867. Jones and Duncan, who had been made a brigadier general near the end of the war, had been married that Christmas.

Here is what Crippen wrote to Carr near the end of his chatty New Year’s greeting:

“Julia Jones was married to Gen’l Duncan on Christmas. She passed through here on her wedding tour but said she could not stop as she was ‘under military orders.’ ”

It is pleasant to think that the Victorian gaiety of this brief paragraph suggests that the wedding was the happiest day in the life of Julia Jones.

[For the story of my belated discovery of the photo at top and other images of Julia Jones, see this post.] 

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