Mysterious Letter From Sailor -1864

3 Sep

Mysterious Sailor Frederick Tietz
Fred's Lettercrop
Among Elsie’s treasured papers was a letter from a US Navy man named Fred, written in 1864 to Elsie’s Aunt Annie. From age eighteen Annie Malvina Gilman worked in Washington D. C. When she was 20 years old she wrote to a sailor, unknown to her personally, fighting in the Civil War. Her widowed mother told her she must write using a fictitious name. So she wrote as Miss Malvin. Aunt Annie’s father had been a Congregational Pastor. He died when Annie was fourteen years old. I wish I knew what she wrote to this sailor. His return letter displayed perfect penmanship, illustrated with a rose and a self-portrait. Here is a transcript of his delightful letter:
“Many a good and strong heart is beating underneath a coarse coat; therefore throw not these lines aside on account of their uncouth appearance, but read before you judge. Eau de Cologne or eau de mille fleurs is not begotten here surrounded by swamps.
It is a perilous enterprise to sail in unknown waters and many a good navigator died in the attempt of exploring new islands, but who does not venture, he can never win. Therefore I send this my fragile craft over to you, in the hope to find a harbor in your heart where I may safely repose myself and put myself into fine sailing trim, to cruise over the wild sea of life, which heaves before me, but which I am not afraid to navigate.
A Sea in which I have been sailing indeed a good while already, and weathering many a tempest, without any damage to my vessel whatever. But here goes for our better acquaintance. First, and foremost, fair lady (Mary I dare not say, and Miss Malvin sounds too business like.) I suppose I have to give you an account of myself; so here is the life of Frederick Tietz, Yeoman at present, on board of the U.S. Schooner Dan Smith, South Atlantic Squadron.
I am, (do not shocked) a Dutchman, a Prussian, born and brought up in Berlin, the capital. Whom always burnt underneath his feet, until at last he went to the grief of his mother and to the joy perhaps of a good many people, who did not like to see their windowpanes broke, or to see a boy walking over their heads in the imminent danger ( as they thought ) of falling to the pavement every minute. He will have climbing enough now said those good people and perhaps they were right, I had enough although not too much of it. That was in 1857 when I was 16 years old. I then first sailed from Prussia, afterwards from Denmark and at last, but not least for it is now three years since I entered the first American ship. But to do myself justice, I did not do so, because I could not get along well in the places I left, but I did it for love of change only.
My plans for the future now are, that I want to pass examination at New York in order to trod – in due time – my own deck, and then to come and obtain you, fair lass, if agreeable, for life, if not to drown all recollections of Miss Malvin and take another.
Now Miss, my account of myself is finished, and may you at least think me worth of an answer, I forgot to tell you that I am only 5 feet and 3 inches high for external appearance I give you my portrait, took before the glass which although it will I daresay, bear not the slightest resemblance to the maker, will do as well as a description, for I never flatter, and woe to him, that comes under my pencil. He can never have a favorable, much less flattering opinion of himself afterwards. In the hope, but I have not been tiresome to you, and in the expectation of an answer I conclude and say farewell, fair lady, and may I address you more cordial next time.
I like gracious manners
But hate etiquette
So if thou shouldest answer
Pray call me,
Your Fred”
I love research. I discovered there was a Frederick Tietz, born in 1841, that joined the U.S. Navy. In Feb., 1864, the Union Navy had its ships near St. Simons Island in a blockade attempt to prevent the Confederates from trading with other countries. The Dan Smith was a wooden schooner that held 33 men and was 87’ long, with two thirty-two pound guns. Two weeks after Fred wrote, his schooner captured the Confederate schooner Sophia. In Dec., 1864, Frederick was appointed Acting Masters Mate and became discharged in May, 1865. So interesting to discover via the internet more about this man than Elsie ever knew. Annie Malvina never married, perhaps she never answered Frederick’s plea.
I love hearing from readers, even if e-mails can’t include lovely penmanship, illustrated with wonderful self-portraits.
Wonderful, mysterious, Fred. I wonder who he finally persuaded to marry him? Research shows there was eventually a Frederick Tietz, Jr.

Fred's Letter to Aunt Annie ( AKA- Miss Malvin)

Fred’s Letter to Aunt Annie ( AKA- Miss Malvin)

4 Responses to “Mysterious Letter From Sailor -1864”

  1. Amy Bergman September 3, 2016 at 6:53 pm #

    I absolutely Love this beautiful letter! I’ve read it several times. I Love the illustrations he drew……nobody writes this way anymore…. What a treasure to have and keep and Thank you for sharing!

  2. Carole Binder September 3, 2016 at 8:00 pm #

    What a delightful letter to have found. It would sure be fun to find relatives of his to surprise with this treasure. And if none can be found, it deserves to be in a museum under glass for the world to see! Thanks so much for sharing it, Barb. Today’s men for the most part have lost the gift of the English language!

    • Barbara Waite September 3, 2016 at 10:03 pm #

      He was honest with expressing desires, humorous, adventurous, and wrote a straight out proposal. Annie was a business woman providing for her widowed mother. Sounds like a sweet movie.

  3. Pallas October 23, 2016 at 5:10 pm #

    A truly beautiful letter. His words are poetic and his penmanship and drawings were quite artful. I’m sure he must have wooed a fair lass with his talents. It’s great you were able to find out a little more about him.

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