Monday, April 28, 2008

21st Birthday Letter to His Son

Mystic River,
January 23, 1863
Friday evening

Dear Son,

I commence a letter tonight as a birthday present to you, it being the day on which you become lawfully a man entitled to the all the rights and privilege of action of an American Citizen, also responsible for all of your actions and doings whether good or bad, morally and legally, and unless you should by some unforeseen Providence become dependent, you are bound to sustain yourself and do your part to sustain the varied responsibilities and charities that belong to an American Citizen.

I am proud that you have been so prompt and willing to sustain the Government and its Principles as you have, and I hope that you will always be as prompt in every good work and cause which calls upon you for aid and support.

With some failings, you have some noble traits of character, and my desire and advice is and has been that you would overcome the former and cultivate the latter. A wise man said that a good name was better than precious ointment, and it is more durable than riches.

One of the most prominent virtues that you want to cultivate is Patience, which is very necessary in your present position as well as all other respect to your seniors and superiors, and kindness and forbearance to all will win for you favor and friends.

But, above all, and first of all, and absolutely to be desired, is the favor of God and his approval which every thing that is great and good and prepared us for all the varied responsibilities, duties and obligation that rest upon us.

An experience of near 40 years has proved to me the importance of beginning young to cultivate the moral and religious attributes of your character which comprise all that is necessary to make us good and useful in our day and generations, and for happiness in the world to come.

I have a good deal of confidence in you and understand the many temptations and provocations of Camp life to lead to bad habits and the cultivation of undesirable traits of character so that you need not take my advice constant advice on this point in my letters as an indication that I have great fears that you will debase yourself, for I think you have too much pride and self respect for that.

But I am anxious that you should improve even Camp life to gain the respect and confidence of all with whom you associate, and if kind Providence should spare you to return in safety, that you will be better prepared for the active duties of life and business which awaits you.

We have news that Burnside is across, or crossing the Rappahanock and we are in expectation of hearing news and hope it may be favorable for Union and Freedom, but we hardly hope for the Army of Bull Run. As it is late I am done for tonight.

Yours affectionately,

W.E. Maxson


OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Another amazing letter, Bud. He certainly was concerned about his sons "character", wasn't he? It seems to be the most important thing to him. If you told us what became of his s0n---I don't remember. (I will have to go back and re-read your first post about this....). It is wonderful to be able to read these letters from this period of history, Bud! Thanks so very much!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I just scrolled down and read about him. I thought I remembered that HE was the one that died at 22....So very very sad.....All of his fathers hopes and dreams dashed by his untimely death. It certainly makes this letter more poignant, doesn't it?

kenju said...

What a wonderful letter. every son should have so wise a father.

Ginnie said...

I can't imagine anyone, in this day and age, having the dignity and wisdom to write such a letter. It is absolutely beautiful and shows us so much of his amazing character. Thanks, Bud.