I believe this letter was written by George Washington Miles (1836-1862), the son of Noah Miles (1797-1857) and Sophia Nichols (1800-1891). He wrote the letter to his parents from New Castle, California, upon receiving news of the death of his 15 year-old sister, Weltha A. Miles (1838-1853). Weltha died on 10 October 1853 in Royalston, Massachusetts.
George Washington Miles arrived in San Francisco aboard the Ship Clarita on 1 May 1852. He was among the passengers that made the passage from Acapulco, Mexico.
By the time of the American Civil War, George had returned to Fitzwilliam, Cheshire county, New Hampshire (his birthplace) and on 22 May 1861 he enlisted for three years in Co. A, 2nd New Hampshire. He was killed 13 months later in the Battle of Fair Oaks on 25 June 1862. His younger brother, Danvers Miles (b. 1842) also enlisted in the same company and was discharged in July 1862 for wounds received at the Battle of Williamsburg on 5 May 1862.
Another sister, Seraph E. Miles (1833-1887) — who married Warren Pratt — is also mentioned in the letter.
Addressed to Mr. Noah Miles, Royalston, Massachusetts
Postmarked Auburn, California
New Castle [California]
January the 1st 1854
Dear and most affectionate parents,
I take my pen in hand to inform you that I received the sad and melancholy news of the death of a near and dear sister. I received your letter December 25. I little thought of losing dear Weltha. It seems as though I could not have it so, It is the hardiest shock I ever experienced in all of my life. I would given all if I could’ve been there to bid her farewell but she is gone to her long, long home, never to return. She was cut down down in the bud of life. It seems hard that so young and affectionate sister should be taken from me in this far off land and from her dear parents and sisters and brothers. When I left her at Clinton, I did not think then that was the last time I would see her. She was in good health then and now she is in the silent grave where we all must be sooner or later. We cannot tell today what tomorrow will bring forth. It is a great source of comfort to me to think that she did not forget me. How thankful I be that you sent me a lock of her hair. It is all you could do for me.
You said she was sick a long time before she came home. O what a source of comfort it must be to her to all of you that she lived to get home to breath her last. Would to God I could’ve been with you….she wrote me that Father took the death of his dear daughter very hard. I do not doubt it. I hope you will remember the advice she gave you on her dying bed and that was to live a good and happy life. Father, I must give you a little advice if you will not think hard of me — it is from your son in a far off land. I am as near and dear to you, I doubt not, as any of your children. Although we have had a great many hard words and thoughts between us, my advice may be good. Seraph says you took Weltha’s death very hard. I hope you will not. You must remember, Father, that we all must go where she has gone sooner or later. She has got through with her troubles. She has gone to her rest where there nothing but peace and happiness. If she had lived, she would’ve seen a great many troubles which she will escape. You must think it is all right. Just [remember], He sendeth and taketh away at HIs pleasure.
It is a great source of comfort to me to think that I shall meet you all in the next world — what I do not meet [again] on earth. [That] we all shall meet there is certain, but I hope I shall meet you all on earth once more — but I cannot tell. Weltha gave you good advice. She wished you all to live a good and healthy life and I hope you will remember it. I hope you all will live more happy together for the future. It is awful for a family of parents and children to live and quarrel together. I am sorry to say that has been the case with us all. Father, you are as good and courteous [a] parent as there is in the world but you must remember you are quick and fretful and you fly into a passion when you ought not to. You ought to think twice before you speak once and that is the case with me [too].
Mother is the most personable person in the world, you know, and I think she ought not to be found fault with. I hope you all will be kind to each other in the future. I think that we all have found too much fault with Seraph. I hope you all will be kind to her. She has her faults but she has been misused by us all. Thank God that her life is spared. She is the dearest sister that I have got. She would tell me her troubles when she would not anyone else. She says Mother that you worry about me. I hope you will not. I hope we shall meet again but if you do not, don’t you worry about me. If my grave is here [in California], I never shall see you and shed not a tear for me — not one of you — for the Lord’s will must be done. But I hope I shall live to get home and see you all if I do not life two hours after. But all of you remember to be cheerful and not be cast down, not mourn your life away, for we have not but one life to live. Be pleasant to each other and kind and make your home a place that is the [ ] that is true [paper torn]. I shall write more….
My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries.