Suite Harmonic is based closely on Given family letters, most of them written by John Given Jr. to his sister Kate during the Civil War. The following letter is one John wrote to his parents when he arrived at Pittsburgh Landing the week before the Battle of Shiloh was fought there. A transcription follows the handwritten letter. Curious readers can compare what’s in the letter and what they find in Chapters Seven and Eight of Suite Harmonic and match the above envelope addressed to Kate with events in the book.
Pittsburgh Landing, March 28th, 1862
I arrived here today, in good health, and found the regiment in the same state.
I left Paducah on board the steamer Gladiator on the 26th Inst. and arrived at Savanah last night and then changed boats and came here at 12 oC. today. The weather is extremely warm here now. The peach trees are in full bloom and wheat about six inches high, in short it looks like we’re getting into the “sunny South” or the land of cotton. It is said that the Secesh are collected in great force within seventeen miles of this place but we have a large force here sufficient, I think, to whip any force that can be collected in one place in Seceshdom. I delivered all of the letters which were sent by me.
Lieut. Boren is acting adjutant but he has not got his commission yet nor any confirmation of his retaining the office. The captain wonders why Levi Thrailkill was not along with me but I told him that Levi would not be fit for service for some time. I have not anything of importance to communicate but perhaps I may have something more to say in a few days. I saw Robert Clarke at Paducah. He looks rather thin but his hand is nearly healed up. He had to have two incisions made on his wrist, and he is afraid that his wrist and little finger will be stiff, but I think that he will have the use of his wrist in a short time. Tell Mary to tell Emma West that I found the letters which I wrote to Robert Clarke, and all of the letters which she wrote to him, here in the company and that I burned them all by Robert’s request so that all of her labor was lost.
George Tretheway is well again, and all of the Harmony boys are enjoying good health. It will take me some time to catch up with them they have grown so fat. Tell Mr. Wilsey that I think there will be a chance for some fun here in a few days. I would like to know what time they all got home, or if Michael McShane took that pretty widow who played so beautifully on the Piano, along with him.
Give my best respects to all the girls and I hope that Levi Thrailkill fared well on his love expedition. Direct to Cairo to be forwarded. I remain, your dutiful son.
John Given Jr~
John and Margaret Given