April 14, 1863.
MY DEAR NICO:
Here is one of the cleverest things I have seen since the war began. It is an impromptu order of Halpine’s on Miss Mary Brooks, a New York lady, who was down here on a visit with Mrs. Raymond. The “Hay” is, of course, Charlie, not the Colonel.
We are living very pleasantly here since the return from Charleston of the K 's. The General has some fine horses and the rides are pleasant.
Headquarters, Dept. of the South,
Hilton Head, S. C., March 25, 1863
A. No. 1
With her charming looks
And all her graces,
Miss Mary Brooks,
Whose lovely face is
The sweetest thing we have seen down here
On these desolate Islands for more than a year,
Is hereby appointed an extra Aide
On the Staff of the General Commanding,
With a Captain of Cavalry's strap and grade,
And with this most definite understanding.
That Captain Mary,
Gay and airy,
At nine each day, until further orders,
To Colonel Halpine shall report
For special duty at these Headquarters:—
And Captain Mary,
(Bless the fairy!)
Shall hold herself, upon all occasions,
Prepared to ride
At the Adjutant's side
And give him of flirting his regular rations;
And she shan't vamoose
With the younglings loose
Of the junior Staff, — such as Hay and Skinner;
But, galloping onward, she shall sing,
Like an everlasting lark on the wing—
And she shan't keep the Adjutant late for dinner.
The Chief Quartermaster of Department
Will give Captain Mary a riding garment:—
A long, rich skirt of a comely hue,
Shot silk, with just a suspicion of blue,—
A gipsey hat, with an ostrich feather,
A veil to protect her against the weather,
And delicate gauntlets of pale buff leather;
Her saddle with silver shall all be studded
And her pony, — a sorrel, — it shall be blooded:
Its shoes shall be silver, its bridle all ringing
With bells that shall harmonize well with her singing.
And thus Captain Mary,
Gay, festive and airy,
Each morning shall ride
At the Adjutant's side
And hold herself ready, on all fit occasions,
To give him of flirting his full army rations.
By Command of Maj. Gen'l D. Hunter,
Ed. W. Smith,
Chas. G. Halpine,
Lieut.-Col. and Assistant Adjutant-General,
10th Army Corps, and Department of the South.
SOURCES: Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 79-81; Michael Burlingame, Editor, At Lincoln’s Side: John Hay’s Civil War Correspondence and Selected Writings, p. 36 where the entire letter appears.