Letter from Asbury Coward to his future wife Elise, January 8, 1855


Letter from Asbury Coward to his future wife Elise, January 8, 1855


Letter from Asbury to his future wife Elise while he is away starting the King's Mountain Military School. He scolds her for being foolish regarding a horseback riding incident and tells her about his life and accommodations in Yorkville.


A2009.6, Box 2 Folder 1


The Citadel Archives and Museum



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York (S. C.)


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Yorkville Jan: 8th 1855.

My dearest Elise -

You are a very foolish girl. Why did you not pull the bridle, and cry out Wo? Whom does that crazy horse belong to? But I suppose the poor brute ought not to be blamed, for when a foolish person gets upon the most sensible horse, the animal must misbehave. - Is that the way you are training to maintain my principles, and deserve my name? I almost with your Cousin William had said, and applied, what he hinted to you, in a whisper, concerning the cause of your good papa’s fears. I suppose though, that would have been dangerous, for it might have caused an explosion that would have anihilated [sic] Mr. Shaffer. It was well that I read

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Your description of the catastrophy [sic], before John gave me your Brother’s letter to read. Had it been otherwise, Jenkins would have been notified, by this time, that he would have to teach alone, for a week or two, or until I would return from Charleston.

Really Elise you must not be so venturesome hereafter, no matter who requests it, for remember no one has the claim on you that I have. I do not go so far as your father does, when he says you must never ride horseback again, for besides being conducive to health, equestrianism is often advantageous under very trying circumstances. Numerous instances attest this fact. I simply wish that you would know well, and have confidence in the animal you ride. By-the-by, while on the subject of health let me enjoin the necessity of taking daily exercise. The body must not suffer while the mind is being developed. Keep the shoulders drawn well back, and the chest always expanded. The formation of the female does not allow the degree of erectness

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that a man may assume; but still, grace, and health demand that you should avoid becoming round shouldered. I suppose you think that this is none of my business; and as I am certain that you are tired of my lecture, I here end it. I wish we were together, so that I could put finis to it with a kiss. However, just imagine that I have given you a real Dutch one.

I am truly grateful to your Cousin William. I always did like him; but I shall hereafter do so about ten times as much. I have never had the opportunity of cultivating his friendship, for I have never met him except in your presence, and then I had somebody else to cultivate; though she pretends not to know it.

Tell your mother that her fears were unnecessary; John’s expenses have not yet exhausted the ten-dollars she gave me. He is quite recovered from his fit if home-sickness. “Something-to-do” is an excellent medicine.

We commenced our school exercises this morning; and assumed the immense respon-

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sibility of intellectualizing twenty-one young animals of the genus, Young America; species Carolina. We expect several more in the course of the week. When we get fifty I will inform you. We begin to feel exceedingly large and important. Just think of the responsibility! The fabled load of Atlas is as nothing, compared with the weight that our young shoulders bear, for Philosophy has demonstrated that if he should take his shoulder away, the world would stay where it is, while if we break down, how dire will be the consequences! My beard requires the razor every other day, to keep it at its proper length. Jenkins was obliged to be shaved, for the first time in his life, on Saturday.

I wish you could see how snugly I am fixed. I have a capital little carpeted room, with two large windows - one of which allows me to see all the ladies that are passing, as well as the lovely Miss G. - who lives opposite, - and a glorious little bed, into which I sink half a fathom deep.

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Ihave no rocking chair, - but I have a pair of worked slippers, that I look at very often, only because they bear the initials of a very important personage -; and an elegant book-case, with desk attached, well filled with volumes which hold out their titles as if inviting me to read them. They look so wistfully, that I am forcibly reminded of children, around their mama when candy is to be shared. (It is strange that my comparisons so often turn upon something to eat.) I almost feel as if I could live a Bachelor; but yet,

“A thousand torments hang about thee;
Yet, who could live, to live without thee?”

What do you mean by writing all that nonsense about wearing out the Medallion? Do you intend that I should believe it all. If so, I can only promise to try. It is a very easy matter to pull off the lid, when opening it, and say that you actually broke it, looking at me! Oh! you little fox! I won’t look at you again, to night.

You will have

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to write me two letters, or one of fifteen pages, for I sent you a long one Saturday night. I suppose that it did not leave the Yorkville P.O. before this morning, so you will probably receive this before you write. Why is it you cannot write to me without receiving one of my letters? If you continue so formal, I will have to call you Mrs. Coward (don’t it sound funny), instead of my dear, - my angel, - or something else equally foolish and delightful. Take care! this is a cold country, and if you don’t thaw I shall freeze to death. I have a great mind to cease writing for a month, just to see what you would do. I suppose you would send messages.

You made a mistake when you wrote that I would be somewhat affected by the compliment you intended, by saying you told John to take me for a pattern. If any one else had informed me of that fact, I would have been complimented. But since you told me yourself, I know you

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don’t mean it; and modesty makes me reject it. - I almost yelled outright when I read at your advice about putting flannel on James. I could not restrain myself, until I got to your Johnny Gilpin exploit. I laugh even now. - Flannel may do for sick women, and children; but not for boys. What a dear, warm nurse you would make! James’ cough has nearly succumbed to the cherry doctoral. He took an enormous dose a few days ago, which so sickened him that his plague took flight.

Give my love to every body you see, young or old; and the enclosed receipt to your mother. Kiss every body, in the house, that is kissable, Sister Jane Ann not excepted, if Mr. Massot is out.

In very good humor I am
your own Asbury.

P.S. After reading my letter over, I find it is necessary to assure you that I am not “tight”. I have not “imbibed” since Christmas. The blots are tears of joy, or anything, except the effects of carelessness.



Coward, Asbury, 1835-1925, “Letter from Asbury Coward to his future wife Elise, January 8, 1855,” The Citadel Archives Digital Collections, accessed June 21, 2024, https://citadeldigitalarchives.omeka.net/items/show/1572.