Fragments: Mrs. Reuben Chandler writes to her husband during a cholera epidemic

note: Most of this journal, written on shipboard, seems to have been destroyed, probably by fire. What remains suggests that Mrs. Chandler journeyed to New Orleans without her husband's permission, thus becoming indirectly the cause of her baby's death.

August, 1849                      EN ROUTE FROM NEW YORK TO NEW ORLEANS
                                        ABOARD THE 'GENERAL WAYNE'

Two weeks aboard the 'General Wayne'
is little more than a floating hospital
         vomiting spells. I attribute them to
            is truly ill. For two days he has
               in his bunk.
                   Belle seems to recover. At least
                      fretful which indicates improvement.
                   struck by a nervous disorder.
I sleep very little and take no solid food.
                                                          (page torn)

(Second page)
Yesterday evening poor little Cookie died.
She was seized suddenly with spasms, poor thing,
and died in an hour. You will accuse me of
                        but it was truly frightful.
                        I have not slept for weeping.
                                 only a dog!
                                                          (page torn)

(Third page)
       arrived safely in New Orleans but
          embark. We are all in quarantine
             might be better, but Belle is
                all day by her bedside. Doctor
                   plague and gives me no hope
                      pray for survival.
                                                          (page torn)

(Fourth page)
       have not been able to put pen to
                   all over. Our dear little girl
                   among the blessed, my beautiful
                         authorities let no one near.
                         darkies. I am full of
               one who was without fault and so,
                         lies shrouded in my sister's
                              blame God and myself, dear
                     why you have left me without support?
                                                          (page torn)

Anne Stevenson, "Fragments: Mrs. Reuben Chandler writes to her husband during a cholera epidemic from Correspondences: A Family History of Letters" from Poems 1955-2005. Copyright © 2005 by Anne Stevenson. Reprinted with the permission of Bloodaxe Books Ltd.
Source: Poems 1955-2005 (Bloodaxe Books, 2005)
More Poems by Anne Stevenson