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Stonewall Jackson Papers. 1849 July 2

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Date: 1849 July 02
Item: Letter
To: Laura Jackson Arnold
From: Thomas J. Jackson
Place: Ft. Hamilton, NY
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Fort Hamilton, N.Y. Harbor, Monday, July 2/49
My Dear Sister,

The morning duties ended, and through the blessings of that all Ruling Being, I'm allowed the privilege and pleasure communing with you. I received some days since, a letter from John White informing me of your visit to him and of the news of his vicinity, but which it is not necessary to mention as I presume that all is probably already known to you. I was gratified to learn that Uncle C.E. had been released from the [illegible], and had left Lewis for a more congenial clime. I also received a letter from cousin Elizabeth [Griss], informing me of the marriage of cousin Indas (her sister), of her own recovered health and of the prospects of her promising brothers Ben and William. She also stated that the health of Aunt and Uncle Williams was good. But she had not heard from you, since my visit. If your eyes should become so, as to allow of your writing without pain, then try and drop her a note for truly she is one of your friends. But I hope that you will not strain your eyes for the purpose of writing to anyone. You can at least send her your card and an occasional messages by some of the Lawyers.

I feel much concern about your eyes, for I fear you will strain them. Remember that the best physicians are opposed to straining that important organ and when it fails or begins to fail naturally that they recommend spectacles. But this should be the last resort, and should only be used when necessary : for instance, some persons can walk about, out of doors and in doors without the light hurting their eyes: but must use this auxiliary in reading. The great objection to spectacles is that when their use is once commenced, it must be generally continued through life. A person when selecting a pair should select the lowest number, which will answer the proposed end and then as circumstances require, increase it. But I would advise you not to use them as long as you can do without them (at the same time avoiding pain).

My eyes were so weak some months since that I could not look long at objects through the window and to look out of doors was frequently painful, though but for a moment, and I was reduced to the necessity of masking my looking glass on account of its reflection, and I could not look at a candle, not even for a second, without pain. I consulted my physician and he told me not to use them, and at the same time to avoid spectacles. I did so and at present can read a letter of three or four pages without feeling any inconvenience of consequence. My health is improving and my strength adhered to my wholesome diet, of stale bread and plainly dressed meat (having nothing on it but salt), that I prefer it now to almost anything else. The other evening, I tasted a piece of bread with butter on it and then the bread without it, and rather gave my preference to the unbuttered bread; and hence I may never taste any more of this once much relished seasoning. And I think if you would adopt for your breakfast a cup of moderately strong black tea, stale wheat bread (wheat bread, raised and not less that 24 hours old) fresh meat, broiled or roasted is best, the yolk of one or two eggs (the white is hardly worth eating as it requires digestion and affords but little nutrition). For dinner the same kind of bread & meat, one vegetable only, say peas, beans or this years potatoes, and for drink plain water. For tea, the same kind of bread and drink as for breakfast and nothing else, unless you choose a little butter. The great beauty of the foregoing is that it furnishes all the nutrition which food can give and at the same time does not interfere in the digestive process like other substances such as salt meats, cabbage, lettuce, desert (such as pies, preserves, nuts, and all kinds of sweetmeats). Of what I have recommended, you can eat as much as your appetite craves, provided that you take regular meals, and plenty of exercise, say not less than three hours per day. I presume that your daily duties require you to be moving probably that much. Salt meats may be eaten, but fresh is preferable, and I regard green tea & coffee so injurious to the nerves that you should always prefer water to either. Now if you can make up your mind to adopt the foregoing for one year, I think that you will probably never wish to change it, and that after using such a diet for two or three months that you may experience marked advantage from it, but you must bear in mind that your meals must be at fixed hours. If you arise at seven five or six O'clock and go to bed at nine or ten, then seven would be a good hour for breakfast, one for dinner and seven for tea. And you ought to always retire to bed before eleven. If you should conclude to adopt the forgoing, do not taste other things of which you are fond: unless it be fruits and those should be ripe. I think that a small quantity of fruit eaten when ripe and in the fore part of the day, is advantageous. You should try and forget that you are infirm and pay no attention to your symptoms as most any person can by being too attentive to every little pain.

Remember that good wholesome food taken at proper times is one of the best of medicines. I shall have hopes of your improvement when you have resolved to taste nothing of which you are fond, except such things as I have mentioned. If you commence on this diet, remember that it is like a man joining the temperance society; if he afterwards tastes liquor, he is gone. T.J. Jackson


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