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The Young Aunt With White Hair
by [?]


The date of this letter–I hold it in one hand as I write, and for the first time noticed that it has never in its hundred years been sealed or folded, but only doubled once, lightly, and rolled in the hand, just as the young Spanish officer might have carried it when he rode so hard to bear it to its destination–its date is the last year but one of our American Revolution. France, Spain, and the thirteen colonies were at war with Great Britain, and the Indians were on both sides.

Galvez, the heroic young governor of Louisiana, had just been decorated by his king and made a count for taking the forts at Manchac, Baton Rouge, Natchez, and Mobile, and besieging and capturing the stronghold of Pensacola, thus winning all west Florida, from the Mississippi to the Appalachicola, for Spain. But this vast wilderness was not made safe; Fort Panmure (Natchez) changed hands twice, and the land was full of Indians, partly hireling friends and partly enemies. The waters about the Bahamas and the Greater and Lesser Antilles were fields for the movements of hostile fleets, corsairs, and privateers. Yet the writer of this letter was tempted to run the gauntlet of these perils, expecting, if all went well, to arrive in Louisiana in midsummer.

“How many times,” says the memorandum of her brother’s now aged great-granddaughter,–“How many times during my childhood has been told me the story of my aunt Louise. It was not until several years after the death of my grandmother that, on examining the contents of the basket which she had given me, I found at the bottom of a little black-silk bag the letter written by my grand-aunt to her brother, my own ancestor. Frankly, I doubt that my grandmother had intended to give it to me, so highly did she prize it, though it was very difficult to read. The orthography is perfect; the difficulty is all owing to the paper and, moreover, to the situation of the poor wounded sufferer.” It is in French:

To my brother mister Pierre Bossier. In the parish[3] of St. James.

Fort Latourette, The 5 August, 1782.

My Good Dear Brother: Ah! how shall I tell you the frightful position in which I am placed! I would that I were dead! I seem to be the prey of a horrible nightmare! O Pierre! my brother! hasten with all speed to me. When you left Germany, your little sister was a blooming girl, very beautiful in your eyes, very happy! and to-day! ah! to-day, my brother, come see for yourself.

After having received your letter, not only my husband and I decided to leave our village and go to join you, but twelve of our friends united with us, and on the 10 May, 1782, we quitted Strasbourg on the little vessel North Star [Etoile du Nord],[4] which set sail for New Orleans, where you had promised to come to meet us. Let me tell you the names of my fellow-travelers. O brother! what courage I need to write this account: first my husband, Leonard Cheval, and my son Pierre, poor little angel who was not yet two years old! Fritz Newman, his wife Nina, and their three children; Irwin Vizey; William Hugo, his wife, and their little daughter; Jacques Lewis, his daughter, and their son Henry. We were full of hope: We hoped to find fortune in this new country of which you spoke with so much enthusiasm. How in that moment did I bless my parents and you my brother, for the education you had procured me. You know how good a musician my Leonard was, and our intention was on arriving to open a boarding-school in New Orleans; in your last letter you encouraged the project–all of us, movables with us, all our savings, everything we owned in this world.