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June 20, 1986

June 20, 1864

JAMA. 1986;255(23):3295. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370230101040

It was on this date—June 20—that he wrote the three-page note to my distant relative (separated from me by 122 years).

His stationery was a pad of white paper, horizontally lined at approximately half-inch intervals in the fashion that has guided the schoolchild's beginning penmanship for generations. But his is no schoolboy's scrawl. The handwriting, still clear on the yellowing paper despite having been done in pencil, is neat, precise—usually five words to a line, 21 lines to the page.

Ironically, only the signature is unclear. It appears to be "J. B. Baker."

He writes from a Union Army encampment somewhere "Before Petersburg, Va," only slightly more than 100 miles south of Washington, DC, on the evening of June 20, 1864, and he tells the woman who is my far-removed relative in the westernmost county of New York state:

"Your note inquiring in relation to your husband reached me tonight.