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American History: December '98 Letters

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: August 11, 1998 
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EDITH, NOT ELLEN

In "How the Airmail Got Off the Ground," from your August issue, President Woodrow Wilson's wife is referred to as Ellen. In fact, Ellen Axson Wilson died in 1914, and the following year the president married Edith Bolling Galt. It was Edith who accompanied him to the airmail festivities in 1918.

Esley Hamilton
University City, Missouri

"THIS DISGRACEFUL AFFAIR"

I read "The Washington Tragedy" (October '98) with interest. In 1859, my paternal great-great-great-grandfather, W.H. Joyner, was working in some government capacity in Washington, D.C., where he wrote 43 letters to his wife who was tending the family farm in Franklinton, North Carolina. All of the original letters survive and were donated by his granddaughter in 1953 to the University of North Carolina Library at Chapel Hill. The following excerpt describes his feelings regarding the Sickles fiasco in Washington at that time.

". . . Hon. Dan'l Sickles of New York, a member of Congress, shot P. Barton Key, United States Dist. Attorney, last Sunday about 2 o'clock p.m. for seducing his wife. Key died soon after being shot. Sickles is in jail awaiting his trial which will commence next Monday….Sickles is visited in jail by hosts of persons in high position. The President of the U. States has written him a letter of condolence. Mr. Sickles is said to be very penitent, confesses guilt and will never do so again….It disgusts me to read the reports in the morning papers of the conduct of the parties in this affair. Now Sickles is expressed as being in an agony of mind in prison, and his wife is expressed as being in like condition and extremely penitent. Mrs. Sickles is doubtless exceedingly sorry, not on account of the act but because she was caught….I send you two papers & have marked with red ink the account of this disgraceful affair…."

W.H. Joyner resigned his position in 1860, returned home, enlisted in the Confederate Army, and died of disease in Goldsboro, North Carolina, on February 2, 1862.

Joseph O. Green, III
Louisburg, North Carolina

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