Adeline’s Journal: A Fictional Account of a Young Woman’s Life During the War of 1812
© Mollie Pearce McKibbon
Thistledown Farm Sunday, July 4, 1813
Thank goodness for Sabbath. I am so fatigued today, my back hurts and my feet ache.
Father has fully recovered from his wound and is therefore now back at the fort, so the hay cutting has all been left to Henry, Mother, Evvy and me.
Elizabeth and William have been back at their farm since June, when William returned wounded from the attack on Sackett’s Harbour. Henry goes to their farm when he can, which hasn’t been too often, given the extra work we have here now.
William has been unable to work the land, so our crops are even more important as we will be sharing them. Providentially, we will probably have a double crop of hay this year, but it is good that Elizabeth has been able to put in a vegetable garden.
Of course, everybody has been faced with the same difficulties because of the war with the Americans. We are fortunate not to have lost family members, as some others have, not just to wounds but to grave illnesses. Arthur Randall had to return home from duty very ill with fever. He was thankfully, nursed back to health by his mother, but many others were not as blessed. Charles wrote me to say that two of his good friends in the troop died from dysentery and another is sick with mumps. Of course, the air at the barracks is often fetid in the heat. It must be unhealthy.
I am very relieved to know that Father and Charles have been mostly out on patrol along the St. Lawrence in the fresh air. Charles has a good friend in the Algonquian tribe, White Wolf who patrols with him. White Wolf ‘s family and tribe have not had these illnesses, but Charles once told me that measles have been known to be deadly in the past. It is very hard for little children, like our dear late Virginia, to fight off disease. Mother continues to mourn her passing every spring and no doubt every day.
My goodness, I am becoming most melancholy. On a cheerier note, Mr. Randall came by with Robert this morning to deliver a letter to mother from father and one to me from Charles. Charles has informed me that Father and he have spoken and Father now approves of our friendship. I am so happy that this is so. I am very fond of Charles and do enjoy every opportunity that we have together and every letter he sends me.
I was pleased to be able to talk to Robert and thank him for rescuing me from the battle in Ogdensburg. He insisted that it was what any soldier would have done for another, but I think he was being most modest. He said that he wasn’t sure who I was until he saw my strawberry blond braids. That was his description, Janetta. I’ve only ever thought of my hair as too dark to be blond and too pale to be auburn. I still wish my hair was black and curly like your’s. Ah well, I will simply have to put my hair up in rags each night forever to have any kind of ringlets. Evvy says I should use a curling iron, but frankly I don’t trust myself not to burn the hair off my head.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention, Robert’s drawings. He is quite an artist, you know. He was working away on a drawing this morning while he and his father waited for Mother to write a reply to Father’s letter. At first, he didn’t want me to see it, but I wheedled away at him until he showed it to me. It was the most exquisite drawing of a little chipmunk that lives in our woodpile. He said that I might keep it and so now it sits here on our desk. I will have to find some way to display it properly.
Sunday, July 24,1813
I am so happy I could burst! Today we had an unexpected visitor – Charles, himself. He had received special permission to call upon us with a big surprise. He has been given the rank of Sergeant and a pay raise comes with it. So now he is Sergeant Charles Houghton.
Charles arrived while I was in the henhouse and Evvy called me to come to the house. I must have looked quite a sight with my hair covered in hen feathers and straw, a grapevine basket over my arm filled with dirty eggs. I didn’t see Charles at first, as he had taken off his red jacket and was standing in the shadow of the little stone porch Father had made. I almost dropped the basket of eggs when he swooped me up in an embrace. I’m sure that I turned as red as his jacket.
“Charles!” I cried,”Everyone must be watching.”
“Oh, Adeline, I didn’t mean to startle you,” Charles stammered. “I am just so happy to see you, Sweetheart!”
Sweetheart? My head was buzzing with delighted confusion and my heart thudding like the fort drum. Had Charles just called me Sweetheart in front of my family who were surely within earshot?
Charles took the grapevine basket off my arm and set it down carefully and took both my filthy hands in his. His eyes, when I dared to look up, were shining and on his face was a tender, but tentative smile.
“Will you walk with me awhile, Adeline?”
“I really should wash and change, Charles, “ I pleaded. “I ‘m not fit to be seen.”
“ If you do not come with me just as you are, I shall surely die on the spot from anxiety.”
Mutely, I allowed Charles to hand in the basket of eggs to Evvy who was having a very hard time trying not to giggle.
We walked over to the well where there is a bench and I insisted on washing my hands. Before I could adequately dry them on my apron, Charles captured them again. He sat me down on the bench and then began to pace. My heart was thundering so hard in my chest, I was trembling.
“ I have thought over what I should say to you, a thousand times,” Charles said quietly, “but I can’t remember anything but this- I love you desperately, Adeline Price, and with your parent’s permission…”
Charles knelt on both knees before me.
“With your parent’s permission,” he repeated, “ I am putting my heart and future into your hands. Will you honour me by becoming my wife?”
Janetta, I truly thought my heart had stopped. I must have been in shock, because suddenly Charles squeezed my hands and said, in the most boyish voice, “You can take your time to answer, Adeline. I don’t expect…”
I didn’t allow the dear man to finish, Janetta. I leaned in to him and kissed him and answered, “ Certainly, I will marry you, Charles. I can’t imagine a life with any other.”
At this point, Mother, Henry, and Evvy who had been watching from the porch, rushed over to embrace us both and celebrate our betrothal.
I still cannot believe it, Janetta, but at the end of August, I will marry Sergeant Charles Houghton and begin the rest of my life.
Monday, August 9, 1813
This summer is going by so swiftly, that I have had barely time to think. We are pickling beans as soon as we pick them and what we don’t pickle we dry. Charles and I haven’t seen each other since he proposed, but we keep in touch with letters back and forth. We have decided to be married quietly with no celebration, because of the instability of wartime. Father and Mother would prefer us to wait until after the conflict is resolved, but Charles and I don’t want a long betrothal. We have received permission from Lt. Colonel MacDonell to be married. It will be at the blue church with only my family and Charles’ best friend, John, as witnesses. Afterward, we will travel back to Thistledown Farm for a family dinner and then Charles and I will spend a night at William and Elizabeth’s cabin alone.
We can not live at the unfinished fort barracks so Father is giving us a piece of property close to Johnstown as a wedding gift. Our cabin will be built there by Father, Henry, Charles, and the Randalls whenever they have an opportunity. I expect I will have to live at home for a while as the cabin is not likely to be finished by autumn. It would be wonderful to think that there will be no further attacks from our southern neighbours, but it isn’t likely so I expect there will be little time for building.
I have visited the property with Mr. Randall so that I could choose a pretty aspect for our home and show him where I would like the hen house and pig sty to be. We will have five acres, partly treed and three acres of rolling meadow. There is a creek running through it and a small blueberry bog. We won’t have a barn right away, but Mr. Randall has promised me a lean-to stable for our horse and space for a cow. Now I am glad that I spent time making linens and a quilt for our bed. Mother has promised us ticks and mattress. Evvy and I are gathering down for the ticks. The kitchen will take more time, as we need an iron kettle, spoons and bread pans, not to forget crockery and utensils.
I despaired of a wedding dress, until Mother promised that she would makeover her maroon silk gown, and she thinks there is enough material for her to make a short cape as well.
With much excitement,