Correspondence of Rhoda Waterbury and G. W. Clinton
Edited by P. M. Eckel
Res Botanica
Missouri Botanical Garden
May 10, 2006
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Correspondence of

Rhoda Waterbury and G. W. Clinton

1865 - 1867


Edited by P. M. P.O. Box 299, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri, 63166‑0299; and Research Associate, Buffalo Museum of Science, Buffalo, New York, 14204. Email:


December 1865


Vol. 2. No. 117 [D 112]


                    Schoharie, Dec. 23rd, 1865


My Dear Mentor,


Now I know you are not crass! if you was a real “Bluebeard” the women would never dare to hang the wash in your garret. How much more amiable you are than I am they never dare to invade my den.


Well Homer came the day before Thanksgiving, just exactly the right time was it not & he has been quite improving in appearance until this week he was again taken with chill & fever and for three days we were very anxious about him, but he is better again. I cannot tell you half how we enjoy his being at home and his war stories, he was in the cavalry and was out with Wilson & Kauz on their great raid in the summer of ‘64 has never been wounded or a prisoner. His colonel, who was also a Schoharie boy and class mate of mine (S. H. Mix) was killed at the first attack on Petersburgh.


The mosses are covered and napping as you say, my last ramble, the 12 of Dec. was a forced one, after all it is useless to try to cheat yourself into the belief that rambling in winter is pleasant, unless you are on skates; we had two days of fine skating before the snow came but I was not well enough to try it. I am cross and unhappy when I am confined to the house, the fresh air does wonders for me and in winter I try to skate, and - (now don’t be shocked) ride down hill, it is glorious fun when my brothers will go to draw up the sleigh and we girls have only to ride and laugh. There now how old do you guess I am? I must have out door exercise and walking does not give it, besides it is so dull and lifeless when you go along saying “here I go for my health, hear [sic] I go for my health” but I always feel that it is rude to break all conventional rules as I do in riding down hill (when any one who has becoming dignity finds it out). But I have just put up the few plants I have for you and the State Cabinet, and can not help feeling they are of not much value, the 500 Polemoniums excepted. I put in a cotton plant not for its value but our folks make fun of it and say it must be a new dwarf variety and Homer who has just come from Virginia is quite inclined to agree with them, and I think myself it will have to pass as a Schoharie variety. I had some plants four feet high

but they did not ripen.


Here the Holidays are just upon us. I have my Christmas presents all done up and ready for every one of the family, what a pity you are not near enough that I might have the fun of surprising you too. Well Merry Christmas to you! at any rate. By the way, Mr. Peck wished me to save a specimen of Polemonium coeruleum for him, will you please let him have one of the 500. I have a presentiment they are going to be somewhat broken on the journey and they are not half so nice as they were three months ago. Please do not forget me during the winter though I can be of no service unless indeed, as you are pleased to say my rambling epistles do you good. I have to confess a strong love of approb... after all, though I sometimes try to think I will try to ... above it, it is useless, I am very week [sic] and think the world of my friends when they make me pleased with myself. I fear [it] is the truth.


But you cannot imagine your responsibility how heavy it would weigh upon you if you could, and I dare not tell you what an elevated position you hold in my thoughts. Oh these old maids! some of them have a grand ideal of what God created in his own image, I know. I must close this hasty scrawl for the fire is out and my fingers stiff. I will try to do better another time.




ever your disciple


  Rhoda Waterbury


Hon. G. W. Clinton


Recd. Dec. 28, ands Jan 2.


The Union Generals James H. Wilson and August V. Kautz were dispatched by Ulysses S. Grant in June, 1864, to the Staunton River south of Petersburg, Virginia to destroy the bridge and the railroad track and associated rolling stock. The raid, occurring between June 21 and July first of 1864, was in conjunction with the June attack and later siege of Petersburgh. Confederate forces used the South Side R.R. and the Richmond and Danville R.R. over this river. The Union raid was to deprive the South of this critical transportation link that would also supply Petersburg and Richmond. Although miles of track were destroyed, the Confederates were able to fend off destruction and capture of the bridge. Both North and South declared victories - as a battle it was a victory for the South, as a raid, the benefit seemed to be to the North.


See Greg Eanes, 1999. Destroy the junction: The Wilson-Kautz Raid and the battle for Staunton River Bridge, June 21, 1864 to July 1, 1864 (Virginia Civil War battles and leaders series) H. E. Howard, Pub.


Rhoda’s youngest brother, Homer, participated in the raid on the Staunton River Bridge. As to Rhoda's age, she would at least have been older than Homer.


In early June of 1864, the city of Petersburg, below Richmond, withstood an attack by Northern forces under Grant. The assault failed, but a siege against the city lasted ten months with the loss of thousands of Confederate and Union lives, probably civilians as well. The victory finally went to Grant, who extended his lines westward, making Richmond then vulnerable to attack. In 1865 Richmond, Virginia, surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant. The first message over the land wire laid from Britain to Bombay, India, announced the fall of the Confederate capital, with the price of cotton falling five pence a pound on the Liverpool Exchange (Dugan 1953).


Rhoda’s classmate was killed on the first attack on Petersburg in June of the year previous to this letter.


The garret is where, in Clinton’s house, he processed his own field collections. The reference to a Bluebeard must refer to an acknowledgement that Clinton had several females in his correspondence, perhaps even another old maid. However, Rhoda had her revenge, perhaps, for she wrote to Clinton’s colleague, Dr. Samuel B. Woolworth, Secretary of the Board of Regents the following note:



Vol. 2. No. 116 [D 113]


" Schoharie Dec. 26th, 1865


S. B. Woolworth,


Dear Sir,

    I send you by todays express a package of plants for the State

Herbarium and Hon. G. W. Clinton, please treat them tenderly for his sake.

    Yours truly,

            Rhoda Waterbury

S. B. Woolworth, L. L. D."


Woolworth sent Ms. Waterbury’s note on to Clinton with the rather wryly humorous note “Tenderly for his sake.” saying “so shall it be, S. B. W.”

Clinton noted “Recd. from Dr. W. Dec. 28.”



Vol. 2. No. 118 [D 111]


[on printed stationary] "University of the State of New York,


    Office of the Secretary,


            Albany, Dec. 26, 1985


My Dear Judge,


Judex carissimus, justissimus    Augustissimus, et cetera ad finem.


I have yours of the 23d. A copy of the Report will go with out delay to your friend at Bordeaux. I have sent to the others you named in a former letter. We cannot hold the Annual meeting without you. You will regard this as a Mandamus, that is it I believe. The Chancellor is doing Europe with his fair bride. He will not be home til the 20th of Jan. I can not give you a pass on the R. R. but I will pay your expenses if you are not too extravagant. [Visi, visi??? vim, vim, visu?]


Most truly &c.


  S. B. Woolworth       


Hon. G. W. Clinton


I have a package of plants from Mr. Lord, and also one recd. today from Schoharie, probably from Miss Waterbury. Give me an additional list of those to whom you will have reports sent. I have enough  ... reports.


  Recd. Dec. 28"


The Latin: "Judge most dear, most just, most august and so on to the end."