Mount de Chantal Academy near Wheeling

                                                                        July 10th 1866

 

General Lee

            Dear and honored General,

                                                            Can you spare one short half hour of your valuable time to a cloistered Sister immured in the N. W. corner of the Old Dominion?  One whose heart has uttered many an earnest prayer for you & yours during your long campaign on the consecrated soil of our noble Mother State – who has oft rejoiced with you in successes, & sorrowed, in reverses!  But in those sentiments there is nothing uncommon – They are shared by the thousands of Virginia ladies devoted to your memory, & who would cease to deserve the cherished title of Virginians, did they feel otherwise.  Now, as a true & genuine Virginian, I have a scheme at heart – (it is almost on my brain, so anxious am I to realize it) which I want you, as the beloved patriot & one of the conscript fathers of our dear old State, to advance by your influence where’er it may extend.  Do me the honor to read the accompanying letters & you will fully understand the dear object of our present exertions..  No one, I’m sure, realizes more sensibly than yourself, the extent of poverty & privations now existing in our prostrated South.

            Consecrated as are our lives to the service of God, in serving our neighbor, it seems to me, that never in the annals of our Country has Providence so decidedly pronounced our vocation to be that of educating the daughters of reduced Southern families, as at the present crisis.

            There is no Louis XIV to endow for their benefit, a St. Cyr – or a Napoleon to found an Academy for the daughters of our brave military- but can not we find in these vast United States a sufficient number of men of means & heart, each willing to subscribe moderately towards an endowment fund that may be appropriated to this noble cause for the next few years?  I will not tire you dear Genl. by detailing what I have already alluded to in the accompanying papers – Have the patience to peruse them, & tell me your opinion of our probable success.  I think our cause would be greatly advanced by a little printed card from yourself recommending our proposed undertaking & signed in your own hand – This, enclosed to your host of friends in the North, East and West with a little circular appeal would secure speedy success to the good work – So, thinks the writer.  What is Gen. Lee’s opinion?  We would of course shrink from any thing like newspaper notoriety  but this would not be necessary- Our own little missives multiplied – kind & coaxing words addressed to whole souled individuals would effect much  for our cause – Don’t you think so?  Write me freely & candidly, dear & good Genl just as you would to your own sister were she consulting you in the matter.  Although I am unknown to you, I cannot view you as a stranger – If you have not met me in your social circle in Washington, it is because one fourth of my life was passed at a boarding school, & two fourths in the Convent, but I feel at home with you, even now, because I know that my friends are yours & yours mine.

My four dear uncles were your fellow officers - & one of them viz: Col. J. D. Graham of the Topographical Eng. Corps was more than an uncle – he was my guardian & father by adoption.  His home was mine, till my entrance into the Convent.  I was so connected  with the Army by family ties and early association that I almost fancied I half belonged to it myself.  I hope, dear Genl one of these days you may visit this Northwestern corner of our State, & then, I assure you, I would indulge in a real old fashioned talk with you  about the old folks of the happy past, beginning with my early associations in Westmoreland, Fauquier, Fairfax &  Prince William up to the time I played truant and went with Virginia Scott to become a sister in Georgetown Convent!  But see, this is a digression.

            Let us go back to our proposed good work.  If it succeeds, it will be very pleasant for Genl Lee to be able to write to us at Mount de Chantal & say –“Sisters, I wish to provide for the orphan daughters of a faithful old comrade in arms- I wish to give her such an education as her father would have given, had he not sacrificed his life on the altar of patriotism and how gratifying for us to reply – “Send the dear child to us at once – there is a vacancy awaiting her in our Academy etc etc” – How many dear incidents of this kind it may be our privilege to see realized if this contemplated endowment fund is secured.  The Sisters will try to do for our girls what you are so nobly effecting for the boys of Virginia without anything like rivalry in the good cause, however.

            If you favor me with a reply, will you please tell me if you know of the whereabouts of the Lawsons – four brothers of Richmond who were in the Confederate service.  They were students of your military Institute in Lexington – two were graduates & the two younger left there at the first call of our State to enlist in her service – One of these good boys, Campbell (I think) lost his arm at the battle of Gettysburg, & the other, William, his leg at the taking of Petersburg.  They are my first cousins, being the sons of my aunt an own sister of the Grahams, your companions in arms in gone by days.

            Pray excuse my trespassing so long on your time – If dear  Mrs Lee is with you assure her of my cordial esteem – receiving for yourself the pledge of my unfeigned regard with which I remain your unworthy servant & sincere friend in Christ.

                                                            Sister Mary Baptista Linton

 

My address is –

            Sister Mary Batista Linton

            Academy of the Visitation

                        Mount de Chantal

                                    NearWheeling

                                                W. Va

 

Notation on last page in General Lee’s handwriting:

            10 July 1866-

Sisters of Visitation

Mount de Chantal

 

Propose to educate indigent

            Girls of the

                        South

 

Ansd 10 Aug

 

 

This is the first of two letters that accompanied the letter above:

 

Mount de Chantal Academy, near

Wheeling- WVa

 

                                                The accompanying Circular will sufficiently explain the object of this letter- but unless you were in our midst, having our opportunities of learning the extent of suffering & privations existing in our land, , in families recently enjoying wealth, & every luxury it brings, you could form no idea of  the necessity of this appeal.  Hardly a week elapses, that we do not hear of some highly respectable family, grappling with all the mortifications of penury & altered fortunes, without means to educate their children, or applications reach us to receive them at a reduced price.  Thus far, thank God! we have been enabled, in almost every instance to respond to these calls of tender & delicate charity; now however, justice to creditors warns us there must be a  limit , not only to the number of our gratuitous pupils, but also to those at reduced rates.  It is the realization of this painful fact that prompts our appeal to the liberal public, for the endowment in our Academy of a certain number of scholarships, for a few years only – that is, till the South shall have recovered from its present prostration.  The amount thus raised, would aid the deficient means of these reduced parents, by enabling us to lower our school terms as to place them within the reach of their slender purses, or in other words, they would be allowed to draw upon this subscribed fund, as the necessity of each might require.  If every one to whom we address this petition, contribute even moderately, - success will surely crown our efforts, & a great & permanent good must result.  What means more effectual to heal wounds caused by our late national difficulties, than to come forward in this hour of need to the sorrowing of the South, & place within their reach those educational advantages & female accomplishments it would be the pride & delight of their parents to afford them under happier circumstances!             It will give us pleasure to place your name conspicuously on this subscription list, a perpetual record of which, shall be preserved in the archives of our Institution, that the suffering mothers of America, may learn to whom they are indebted for this boon of timely education to their daughters.

            Be your offering ever so small, it will prove a solace to your friends & fellow-citizens of the South, to know that you have not been unmindful of them in the day of their visitation, & when prosperity once more dawns upon their desolated homes, your act of humanity and brotherly love on this occasion, may become the means of cementing, between the two sections of our country, a union destined to last as long as time, to be consummated in blessed eternity.

            For greater security, as well as for the satisfaction of benefactors to this charity, we would suggest that contributions in the form of Bank Checks, be made payable to the order of Rt. Rev. Bishop Whelan, our ecclesiastical superior who will see these funds appropriated to the purpose designated, without regard to sect or creed.

            With sentiments of esteem

             We are your unworthy servants

                        In Christ

The Sisters of the Vistitation      

 

This is the second of two letters accompanying the letter to General Lee.

 

Copy of  Printed Circular Appeal-

 

We, The Sisters of Mount de Chantal Academy, desire to call your attention to an act on intended benevolence towards our suffering fellow citizens of the South, and earnestly appeal to you to assist us in carrying out the good work, we have in contemplation.  Without valuable aid from friends outside our Institution, we feel our inability to accomplish the dear object, we have in view.  This object is the raising of an endowment fund, for the education of the daughters of the South, whose parents, though once in affluence have lost their all, by the late war, & who, consequently, are unable to do that for them, which the Sisters with the co-operation of the good Samaritans outside the Convent to do – viz: to educate them in a manner becoming their birth & early associations, thereby placing within their reach, the means of future usefulness-

What we earnestly desire you to do, is to contribute from the plenty, with which we hope God has blessed you, or if unable to do that, to lend your influence with others, to advance this charity.

            Our plea for presenting such an appeal, at a time when applications of a benevolent nature are multiplied beyond precedent, lies in the urgency of the Consideration that the delay of a year or two longer, will rob many of the present generation of advantages that a later period can never replace.

            Believing you have room in your heart for all, we implore you in the name of our Father in heaven, - in the name of humanity, to contribute as liberally as your means will allow, & trust to the Sisters to appropriate judiciously.

            We can only promise you as a reward for your generosity that our united prayers, with  those of the pupils of Mount de Chantal, will be daily offered to the throne of Grace, for your spiritual & worldly welfare hoping at the same time, you may live to see the recipients of your kindness, grow up to womanhood, ornaments to society, imbued with sentiments of piety, & refinement – blessing you & yours, & guiding others to the same goal, which by your act, they have reached.

 

 

This is another letter attached to the original sent to General Lee.  Accompanying it was some information and a prospectus about the Wheeling Female Academy in charge of the Sisters of the Visitation, B. V. M.

 

Mount de Chantal Academy near Wheeling WVa April 14th 1866

 

This is a copy of a letter, I addressed to a liberal friend of the South whom, I thought, was in Baltimore at the period of the late Balt. Fair – He proved to be in Russia, whither the original letter has followed him.  I send it to you, that you may see how we feel for our people-

 

Dear Sir,

                        Full twenty minutes has the organ selected to be the interpreter to you of the present appeal, been seated in almost moody silence – wondering how a gentleman, an entire stranger to the Mount de Chantal Sisters will receive our overture, imploring kind Heaven to impart to her pen, such persuasive force as may elicit, not only a kind response, but also generous cooperation in what we all decree a scheme of high toned charity & heaven born benevolence.

            Although, dear Sir, you may be ignorant of the very existence of our community, to us, you are by no means a Stranger – A thousand, ten thousand times, have we invoked God’s choicest blessings upon you, & all most dear to you, for your liberality to our beloved South when, midst the horrors of civil war, she struggled so gloriously – even unto death, for her peculiar birthright Independence, & now that her funeral knell has rung out its final peal, & her consecrated soil still reeks with the blood of her martyred sons there comes forth, from homes recently possessed of wealth & affluence & still the centre of all that is noblest & best in nature, - the wail of the widow & the orphan, telling of the loneliness, devastation, & poverty in which that cherished land is shrouded!  Maryland, our noble sister state catching up the strain, has approached with characteristic generosity, to administer relief & solace to our bereaved sufferers.  With unfeigned gratification have we heard of the late Baltimore Fair & have thanked God for it.  But as deep as is the commiseration of your city for Southern grievances, & Southern sorrows, there is a little spot in the North West Virginia sheltering one loyal family that rivals your noble people in devotedness to the South – the home of our childhood - & land of our fathers! We allude to Mount de Chantal Academy, & its inmates.  Would that our precincts & our means equalled our good will, & there exists not a child in the vast South that would not be welcomed in our midst, as a gratuitous pupil.  We realize that our Academy is peculiarly adapted to the training of our Southern girls.  Before the war, our patronage from that point was extensive.  Years ago, a long experience had convinced us of the inexpediency of educating our daughters of the South in Northern cities – The habits of the two sections of country, differing   as widely as the climates, it seemed to us, our peculiar vocation, to become the educators & mothers by adoption, of as many of our Southern girls, as should be confided to us.  With this in view, our enterprising & gifted superiors spared neither pains, nor expense, to secure to our Academy, every educational advantage that the age and country could afford.  A magnificent site was purchased near Wheeling – Commodious buildings erected, & every effort made, to render our Academy a desirable home for Southern pupils.  Unfortunately, however, just as we are prepared to receive these dear children, - the great national convulsion takes place. – Southern fortunes are wrecked, & our former liberal patrons become almost paupers in our land.  Were we an endorsed Institution, this would truly be the moment of our greatest glory – for wide & cheerily open doors to receive every child that might wish to come to us.  So far from having and independence, we rely solely upon the income of our Academy for a support.  Even so, we have stretched our charity to its utmost tension, & have now with us, as many gratuitous pupils, as justice to our creditors will permit, - some the daughters of former patrons – others, children of entire strangers & yet, with all our desire to benefit our suffering friends at the South, there is scarcely a week we do not hear of some high born family grappling with all the mortifications & penury of altered fortunes, and unable to educate their children, or applications come to us to receive these children at reduced prices.  Thank God thus far, we have been enabled in about every instance to respond to the call of delicate charity, but our indebtedness to creditors, warns us that there must be a limit, not only to the number of gratuitous pupils, but also to deductions in favor of others.  The thought of this almost breaks our hearts.  We know of so many reduced families, whose birth, associations, & intellectual acquirements, entitled to the highest educational advantages for their offspring, but who from native delicacy would shrink from the acceptance of public alms.  Now, dear Sir, cannot you read our thought, and come to our assistance, & enable us to realize our scheme of tender & delicate charity?  From all we have heard of you, we know that Almighty God has not only blessed you with goods of this world, but has bestowed upon you a kind & generous heart – one easily roused to works of mercy, & surely the present is a glorious occasion in which to perform them.  Our desire is to have it in our power to receive pupils at such reduced prices, as Southern parents may be able to pay, & still not do injustice to our creditors.  Our charges merely suffice now, to meet the demands of justice, & our proposal to you is that, in the exercise of that liberality which seems your delight, you will aid the deficient means of Southern parents, by appropriating such a sum as you may think proper, to the cause we have so deeply at heart.

            We shall be most happy to render you a statement of expenditures & at the same time, it will prove our delight, to make known to the recipients of your kindness to whose liberality they are indebted for the boon of timely education for their daughters.  We are merely proposing to you, one form of delicate & generous aid to the noble mothers of the South; one which presents itself to us, as adapted to the high born & chivalrous.  You may take a wider range in the exercise of your Charity, & prefer some other mode of assistance.  In such case, we hope you will excuse the warmth with which we have presumed to advocate the cause of those that are dear to us, & whose misfortunes, we believe render equally dear to you.

                        Address your reply-

                        Sisters of the Vistitation- Mount de Chantal Academy

                                    Near Wheeling WVa

Hoping to hear from you, at your earliest convenience.

And begging your acceptance of our expressions of cordial esteem,

                        We have the honor to be

                        Your unworthy servants & sincere friends in Christ

                        The Sisters of the Visitation – D. S. B.