Marien Villa, Vöslau,
September 8, 1862.
My Dearest Mother: I wish it were possible for me to say anything that would interest you from this place. I should like to write you at least a note once a week to assure you of my affection; but when I have said that, it seems that there was nothing left to say. I do not care to be always talking of the one great subject which occupies all our thoughts, because, in the first place, my own feelings and opinions are so different from those which you are most in the habit of hearing that you must sometimes fail to sympathize with me; and, secondly, there is always such a difference in my position when writing from yours when reading. Our latest news leaves the Union army concentrating on the Rappahannock, with McClellan uniting his forces with Pope and Burnside. And so all the slaughter and fever and digging of ditches and building of corduroy roads on that fatal Peninsula has been for nothing, and McClellan's army, what is left of it, is about where it was six months ago.
Well, we are a patient and long-suffering people, and I admire the energy and courage and hopefulness of my countrymen more than I can express, and I have as stanch a faith as ever in the ultimate result, although it may be delayed for a generation. I wish I had as much faith in our generals-in-chief. I know nothing of parties or men as motives, but certainly the Peninsular campaign will never form a brilliant chapter in our history. I can only hope that the one opening on the Rappahannock may be more successful. But perhaps ere you read this a decisive battle may have been fought. At least I hope, when the next pull comes, we may not be on the retreat. Considering that McClellan took the field in the spring with those memorable words, “We have had our last retreat,” one must allow that he has given the country enough of that bitter dose. Our men have certainly behaved nobly. You may suppose with what tearful interest we read of the Cedar Mountain battle, and saw the well-known and familiar names of the brave youths who have fallen. But it is such a pang to speak their names, and words of consolation to the mourners are such a mockery, that it is as well to leave them unsaid. My heart thrilled when I read of Gordon's brigade, and especially of the devoted and splendid Massachusetts Second, to whom I had the honor of presenting the banner on that sunshiny afternoon about a year ago. Gordon seems to have behaved brilliantly. Poor Mr. Savage! I hope he bears the painful captivity of his son well. The Russells are expected here soon, I believe.
We are stagnant as usual here. I try to write, but it is hard work with one's thoughts so perpetually absorbed with our own war against tyrants more bloody than Philip or Alva, and an institution more accursed than the Spanish Inquisition. The ever-living present is so much more entrancing with its horrors than the past, which, thank God! is dead and buried with its iniquities. We remain here till the middle of October, and shall go to town with heavy hearts, for in the winter we must go into the world and see society, for which we have little inclination. We have had the Hugheses (Tom Brown) staying with us, and enjoyed the visit. He is as stanch an American as I am, and almost as much interested in the great struggle. Miss Stanley, sister of Canon Arthur Stanley, was with them. She was a nurse in the Crimea. They were on a rapid tour to Constantinople.
Good-by, my dear mother. Give my love to my father and my precious Mary and to all the family. Believe me, your ever-affectionate
J. L. M.
SOURCE: George William Curtis, editor, The Correspondence of John Lothrop Motley in Two Volumes, Library Edition, Volume 2, p. 279-81