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Compiler's Note: The following are a handful of letters written to Capt. Samuel Barron of the Gosport Navy Yard after the loss of his wife Imogene (August 8th) and daughter Lizzie (August 17th) to yellow fever in the epidemic of 1855. It is apparent from these letters that the family was a close and loving unit which included Samuel, 55; daughter Imogene, 22; Samuel, 19; Virginia, 10; James, 6, and baby Thompson, 1. During the epidemic the children were sent away to be cared for by relatives. Capt. Barron had been quite ill and the children were anxiously awaiting his joining them. These letters display the affection and sorrow of his children and extended family and friends. The original letters may be found at the University of Virginia Library, Special Collections, PAPERS OF THE BARRON FAMILY. Deciphering the handwriting in the various letters is somewhat difficult, especially names, and we will endeavor to fill in the blanks as time goes by.
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Capt. Samuel Barron, 1809-1888
Courtesy Sargeant Memorial Room, Kirn Library
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Monday Morning, date unknown
My dearest Father,
It was so rough Saturday night that Mr. Olmstead and Cousin Terry thought we had better not attempt to go up the bay, and yesterday about one o'clock James Hope and Mr. Irwin brought our hack and buggy and drove us here. Mrs. Olmstead has a chill and headache and Mr. Olmstead so uneasy about her, that after holding a "council of war," we concluded the best thing he could do was to come here and wait till you were well enough to join us. Since then all our plans are changed. Uncle Thompson got so miserable about us, that he and Aunt Mary came over this morning to tell us they had concluded that he had better go in the Baltimore boat this morning and proceed straight to Warrenton and join Ma Jane. Cousin Terry will go on with us and return for you. We hope dear dear Father that you will be able to join us by the first or middle of next week. Try and keep up, my darling Father. If you could only see these dear good children. How they are looking forward to seeing you. Little Thompson is as good as can be, and is very fond of Aunt Lizzie. She is very kind and attends to us all.
Mrs. Saunders promised to send you tea and toast every morning, and any thing else you may want. She says you must not hesitate to call upon her. She has been so kind and sympathizing, wanted to come and nurse our precious Lizzie but the Dr. said no one must see her but the nurses Aunt Julia has with her are as attentive as possible. Oh, Father, what a bad bad break up in our once happy home.
I can't tell you how kind all your friends here have been. They have all come forward and offered their houses, servants, and anything to us. Mr. [James] Pembroke's father offered a cow for the baby. Mr. [Berryman] is going to take our baggage and all of us on board his little schooner and put us on board the Baltimore boat. Every one is so good and kind to us, I did not know how many friends we had before.
I left some things for Miss Mary Norris to finish and send to Mrs. Saunders, so when you are ready to come on, please send over for them to put in your trunk for me. We are just starting and will write as soon as I get to Warrenton. The children send much love. God bless and keep you, my precious Father,
* * * * * *
Aug't 4th, 1855
My dear Sam,
I heard only yesterday afternoon of Cousin Imogene's sickness and cannot say how deeply I regret it. Can I serve you, my dear fellow, in any way? If so, command me. I will go over and assist you by sitting up or anything I can do. Had you not better send your children over? I will take them or any one of them, with too much pleasure and should anything be the matter with them, my family [has] a retreat at Mrs. Tabbots in the country. Let me hear from you upon the subject. God grant all may be well.
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Carlton House, N. Y.,
August 11th, 1855
I have just seen the sad intelligence and sat down to write to you not knowing how you are, yourself, but hoping and praying that you are better and that you will be spared any further affliction. Oh, my dear Barron, how many friends you have, now they will fold you in their arms, how they will console with you and sympathize with you in your distress. What a blow. What a change in all your fortunes. What a loss to yourself and family! I can truly say that of all the men I have ever known in my life, you were the most thoughtful, the most considerate, the most devoted husband, and __, I apprehend, does she, who, I trust is now in Heaven, know how to appreciate all your excellence, all your kindness, all your devotion. What a mystery is life! Who so blessed, apparently but a few days ago as yourself. A lovely family, health and easy fortune. Rank and position, that did not make you envied, for no one envies the man who bears his fortunes meekly, and prospect that seemed without a ___, and now not only on a bed of sickness, which I trust, will not prove a serious one, but alone to her who was your life and soul and existence and that, too, without being near to close those eyes that lived but to feast on your presence. Oh, my friend, be comforted, be still. God, in his providence, will watch over you. We do but come and go by his will. "It is He that hath made us and not we ourselves." A humble, holy, hoping faith I know you have, and if there be a man in the world who will know how to bear his afflictions with pious resignation, I think it is yourself. How well I recollect you telling me not long since that life had run so smoothly with you, and then quoting the words of your friend Turner that every one must, sooner or later, have his share of trouble. It would seem so. I look around me and see scarcely any one whose wings have not been scorched in the blaze of this world's candle. I tremble for the young, the middle-aged and the old. They may be happy now but one knows not what a day may bring forth. As soon as you feel well enough, write a few line to me or get some one to do it. I shall want to know how you are. I wanted to have seen you for a moment, before I left Norfolk but could not make it out. I heard that you did return, feeling very well from Washington and almost wonder, superstitiously, now whether you had some secret, obscure presentiment of coming danger and trouble. Such presentiments are not uncommon. I am not an entire stranger to them myself. "What sorrows yet may pierce me through too justly I may fear." But I will spare you. You have my prayers for your future happiness.
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To Dr. Minor, Surgeon,
Naval Hospital, Norfolk
Norfolk, Aug't 17th, 3 p.m.
My dear Doctor,
Dear Lizzie is gradually sinking. I do not think she can last many hours. She is entirely free from pain, and is gradually gliding into Heaven. Give my very best love to poor Sam. Tell him I will not quit her until she is well or until I place her where he wishes her to rest. God be merciful to us and enable us all to bear up under our sorrows is my prayer.
Let me know how Walter Jones is and how Sam bears up under this new affliction. He is man enough for anything.
Your most truly,
Geo. T. Sinclair
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Anapolis, August 19th, 1855
My Dear Barron:
I have been waiting to be assured that you were certainly spared to us, and of your partial recovery, in order to offer you my condolences for the grievous and irreparable loss you have recently sustained. Yesterday's mail brought me that assurance, and if I ever uttered a sincere ejaculation to Heaven, it was then in your behalf! Yes, indeed, I do thank God that He, in His mercy, and wisdom, and loving kindness, has thought proper to continue you yet among the living, as a solace and comfort to your bereaved children, and a sincere and lasting gratification to your devoted friends. And I trust that His protecting wing may remain over you and besides causing your complete recovery to be speedily accomplished, prolong your days, in health and happiness, for many years to come.
Time, my dear friend; time, and a becoming and habitual submission to the dispensation with which Providence has thought fit to visit you, are the only things which can effectually assuage the poignancy of your anguish. Therefore, for the sake of your children and friends, and the cheerfulness of yourself, as well as for still holier reasons, cultivate that submission as assiduously as your heart will permit; and in due season, although the memory of the many touching attributes of her never can or should fade away, a proper tone of resignation will ensue.
In my very heart, I sympathize with you and your four children. I knew well the beaming, cheerful, and confiding spirit, in her early youth; and I may say, with truth, that I never listened to her voice, in conversation or in song, or met her in society, or under your own roof, without experiencing pleasurable emotions, and bing forcibly impressed with her charming qualities. Such a spirit, God will take to himself; and this to you and your children should be an inestimable consolation.
I beg you to receive this as an evidence of my sincere and affectionate regard, and of the great esteem I entertain for you as a brother officer and a man. Do not trouble yourself to acknowledge its receipt, for with the sad and solemn trials you have just undergone, I can well imagine your frame of mind, and that your thoughts and feelings incline you in a more hallowed direction than that of letter writing.
Your sincerely attached friend
L. M. Goldsborough
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Warren Green Hotel
Warrenton, Fauquier Co., Va
August 22nd, '55
My dearest Father,
We arrived here yesterday about half past nine. Found Captain and Mrs. Green, Leighs and Whiteheads from Norfolk. The house is filled, and we had some trouble in getting rooms. They are small and not very comfortable, but we have the promise of better when the crowd thins off. Ma Jane and Mrs. Hunter are at the springs 5 or 6 miles off. Ma Jane came over yesterday afternoon and staid all night with Mrs. Green. She is coming day after to-morrow to stay here so that she may be with us. They have not formed any plans for the future, nor will they until they know what ours are. Ma Jane says she is determined to go wherever we go, be with us all the time, do all in her power to supply our dear precious Mother's place. That will be impossible, but dear Father what a friend she is. We can never be grateful enough to her and dear Cousin Mary and Terry for all their kindness to us. If we were Cousin Terry's own children he could not be kinder or more affectionate. Thompson and Jim are devoted to him. Uncle Thompson had made an agreement with Mrs. Moody to remain a month at 25 dollars a piece, which is very cheap. At the springs the board is 40 per month. It is very quiet and healthy here and when we get unpacked and a little fixed, I think we will be very comfortable. I can't tell you my dearest Father how anxious I am to hear from you, and a thousand kisses to dear Father. Immie and Millie are boarding at Mr. Voss', opposite the hotel, they all send much love and hope to see you very very soon.
God bless and keep you my darling Father and soon return us in health to each other.
Your devoted daughter,
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August 22, 1855
My dear Nephew,
I was rejoiced to learn from John Morris today, that you are recovering your health so fast. He told me, you think you will be well enough to go on to Baltimore to your children on Monday next. When you see them, give much love to them from Mama and myself.
I have not word to express how deeply I sympathize with you for the sad bereavement you have sustained, in the loss of your affectionate and most excellent wife and daughter.
I was very much attached to Imogene; the more I saw of her, the stronger that attachment grew; and the remembrance of the many happy hours I have spent in her pleasant society, only makes me feel the more how dear she was to me.
I was also very fond of Lizzie, and shall not soon forget her many little endearing attentions; the memory of them both, will ever be treasured up in my heart, with those that are near and dear to me.
I must now conclude, or I fear it will fatigue you to read any more of my bad writing; and I feel so tremulous from excitement, I can hardly hold the pen.
There was four cases of yellow fever in Cousin William Wilson's family; Cousin Emily Wilson died of it, the others are well.
My brother, wife and child have had a severe attack of yellow fever, but are getting better; there has been several cases very near by, and we have one next door to us at this time.
Mama and myself are quite invalided; and have been so sick to be confined to our __ for two or three weeks past, we both join a kind regard [to] you and yours; and we pray that you may be soon well.
Your affectionate aunt,
Mary A. B. Barron
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August 22nd, 1855
Dear Sir [McKeaver]:
I have returned to my post somewhat improved, but not entirely relieved of my bronchial troubles.
My object in dropping you a hasty line is merely to say that I daily remember you and your brethren while passing through the dreadful ordeal of mourning and death.
God grant that the ravages may soon terminate and health and cheerfulness may take the place of disease and sadness.
Poor Barron! How my heart swells with painful sympathy. Tell him of my heartfelt sympathy and prayers that he may receive comfort from that source from which alone it can come. I will be pleased to hear from you. I see __ __ Jones is dead. Do you need a successor for him?
J. C. Dobbin
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August 24, 1855
My dear Barron,
I cannot write to offer you comfort or consolation. This can come only from your Almighty Creator, but your friends do indeed sympathize with you in your sad bereavement.
You are yourself __ __, I trust, and send this in the papers. May you be long spared to comfort and protect those who are left to you. I really wish I could be of any use to you in any way. You have fortunately kind friends around you, perhaps something from this city could be sent to you. If so do ask. Ask Sinclair or some friend to send word to me - it would indeed be a pleasure to me if I could serve you.
With our best regards to Miss Imogene and all around you.
I am very truly
W. R. Palmer
Capt. Barron __
Navy Yard, Gosport, Va.
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Friday, August 25th, 1855
Immy received your letter this morning, my dearest C0usin Sam. And can't tell you how the sight of your handwriting worried us. We will keep and have a comfortable room prepared for you. And trust to see you and Terry about Wednesday next.
Capt. And Mrs. Hunter are staying here now. And we will take very good care of you. And I hope the cool healthy air around you will brace you up and make you feel strong again. Your part of the letter referring to Terry [or Lenny] of course gives me great satisfaction. The Com. was kind enough to give him leave in writing on Saturday, to stay away until he wanted him. But my dear Cousin Sam, you understand this feeling which prompted Terry to decline his kind offer. He says he cannot leave his post when he is able to do his duty there, and when he see his brother officers compelled to remain. Won't you please try and set the matter before his eyes in a different light - perhaps you may overcome these feelings (which are so honorable in him) and induce him to think his duty will be to remain with you, and with his family.
I confess that the idea of his having to return to that Navy Yard, and perhaps going to Norfolk (for if any of his sister's family or North's become sick, he would surly go to Norfolk) keeps me very unhappy - and will in a great measure counteract the benefit, I might ___ __ from this fine air.
Please dear cousin Sam excuse the selfishness which ___ this note but you can understand my feelings and will make all due allowances.
Your precious children are all well and so good. As for Immi - I cannot express my admiration and affection for her. This is my own dear sister. I shall ever love her as such. The little ones are very good and happy in [morning school?]. I take Jim and George meals and sit between them. Jennie and Mary take excellent care of themselves and our two babies are very hearty. Our only trouble with Thompson being to keep his appetite within bounds.
I would have taken him to my own bosom (for my baby has all her teeth) but upon trying him, I found he was quite weaned and would not accept any of my endearments. He will do quite as well, I trust. Mr. Moody lets him have milk from 1 cow and it is very nice and how he does enjoy it.
I cannot tell whether this will reach you - at any rate it must take its chance. Terry did not expect to get home until Saturday as he no his doubt told you __ this.
Mother is writing by me. Pa and herself desire their only best love to you my own dear Cousin Sam. Marie is always ready for you.
Mary Smithson ?
P. S. My dear nephew, when you get to your children, I beg you will either write yourself or get Jimmy to drop me a line to tell me how you bore the traveling and how you all are.
Mary A. B. Barron
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Norfolk, August 28th, 1855
My dear Sam,
Camp has moved the Exchange Bank to one of the houses in Dalrymple's block. Does not [know] what he will do with his family yet.
Dr. Tunstall told Dr. Fenner [and] myself that Mrs. Whittle was better - her attack was mild thus far.
David told me his mother was sick at Mrs. Thomspon's this morning. I wrote a note to Dr. Henry Selden to see her. Dr. William Selden is down with the fever - he was taken at 11 o'clock Tuesday. Dr. Fenner attends him. He is going pretty well this morning. I sent down a white nurse to his mother's house this morning. She arrived from Charleston, last evening. Two female and one male, reg. [or neg.] nurses also arrived from Charleston. Capt. Ivy and six nurses from New Orleans, are expected tomorrow.
Dr. Higgins is convalescing. Miss Todd (the eldest daughter of Mallory Todd) died with the fever at Merrit Todd's at Point (Smith's). It is all over the city. Dr. Waison and his sick mother are all down with it. Dr. Constable has the fever.
A hospital will be opened tomorrow at Walter's old hotel for the sick. Drs. Fenner [and] Beard take charge of it.
Cornelius is down with the fever. I have attended to him constantly myself, under the direction of Dr. Fenner. He is going well, soon be convalescent. So your Lizzie need not be alarmed.
Mr. Walters has the fever. My foreman, the importer and a pressman have been sick. All convalescent, except a little boy who was attacked today. I have seen them all and have them well attended to
Boutwell died on Sunday. The fever is not so bad in Portsmouth.
Ignatius Higgins is down with the fever.
Poor Mary Eliza Stark died last night. Helen is also sick. Lizzie is very feeble, but has had some sleep.
You see the scourge is awful here. ___ attacked, and will be in skillful hands.
Love to all
W. E. C.
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August 29th, 1855
My dear Sam,
Our hearts were filled with gladness this morning by the receipt of your letter of the 25th and most truly do we rejoice to learn of your improved health and that you were on the eve of your departure for Warrenton to join your dear children. We rec'd also a letter from Lizzie Camp of the 27th in which she informed us that you had left and that they were thinking of going to Hampton the next day, the 28th. I am deeply concerned that they still hold on in Norfolk and more than a fortnight since I wrote counseling them to remove their large family of children from the place, no matter where they moved.
Many many thanks my dearest Brother for your letter. I cannot tell you how grateful I feel that you are again united with your family and away from our unfortunate God-forsaken land.
Dear Sister __ __too feels very sorry that you could not linger first in H. as rather the children left __ __ . she trusted it was for the best that you should go to a better atmosphere.
Mary and I will be in Washington on the 1st and we hope to get there about the 4th or 5th and if all goes well will try to see you at W. a day or two after - if you are able write at once to us here, I think it will reach us before we leave.
Dear Lizzie's letters are too distressing to tell you of and I have wept till my eyes ache but God is merciful and I trust in him and you, my Dear.
Samuel here __ sustained by his gracious care - O! may you and yours never cease to remember that he does not willingly afflict. I am not well, having taken into and __ quite a bad sore throat so excuse this writing. I must write by this mail to your Lizzie and a few lines to our good but afflicted friend Walter Taylor.
Com. Smith has expressed much sympathy for you. (Name) __ __ is in trouble too. __ (Name?), Polmer, Tilton, and many others have written to us - love to the dear children and kind regards to the good friends with you.
God keep you is my prayer,
Am truly yr's
L. V. Pendergrast
Lizzie's accounts are worse and worse. What will be the ultimate fate of those poor people, God only knows. We have good __ still from Hampton and James Rope in his letter this morning says he has forwarded to Imogene a letter which Virginia had sent to Janey's care. I hope the dear child has (received) it. Since hearing of you safe escape from Norfolk both G and I feel a great desire to see you and the children and it is most unlikely that we will return to Washington in a few days and then to keep on to Washington and remain there until we are all called back to finish the work of the Board. I hope this will reach you in two days and if so a reply will find us still here - otherwise write to us at Washington and we will see if you can get accommodations. G will add a line. Give my love to the dear children and believe me as I am your affectionate
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Naval Station, Sacket's Harbor
2nd Sept. 1855
My dear Barron,
If it were not that you might question my friendship, I should shrink from addressing you at this time - under such affliction as you are suffering, man can afford no consolation, it must from a higher source, and may He, my dear friend, who "tempers the wind to the shorn lamb" mitigate your sorrow and give you strength to bear up against the awful bereavement which in His wisdom has fallen on you - the sympathy of myself and family are sincerely with you, and we pray God to save you from further trials, and to continue your convalescence into perfect health - to you it would be painful for me to dwell on this subject - to have said less would be doing injustice to my heart and my friendship for you.
Affectionately, your friend
To Commander Samuel Barron, US Navy
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Wash. Sept 5th
My dearest brother,
We reached home on Saturday ev'g and your welcome letter was handed me the next day I was indeed rejoiced to see your handwriting once more and thank God in the sincerity of my heart for this mercy to us all - I am sure that dear Jimmie and the other dear children fully realize what a treasure is spared to them; whilst their hearts are aching for the love and lost. This morning's news is truly appalling and I am almost unnerved by it - May God be pleased to spare poor dear Lizzie Camp; if Wm. C is removed! Oh! I dread to see the afternoon paper when we shall get further tidings of them; but I am forgetting how painful this must be to you, dear Samuel and will turn from such ___ things! I had a letter from Virginia ____ in which she spoke of returning to Wash. immediately so that I expect her the last of this week, and if nothing be offered to detain them here they mean to see you very soon. I wish I could accompany them, but Frank will soon be returning to Annapolis and I have a great deal to do for him, besides which my wife has a very sick child in the house and I am so miserably our of spirits. That my sad face would be distressing to you. G. L. F. writes with me in love and sympathy for you all - with returning health. May you, my dear brother give your heart to God and that though he has afflicted you most deeply, say with Job - "I will still thank ___!" all your friends here ask continually after you and desire their kindest retards - write again, or get Jimmie to do so very soon.
Your most affect.
M. A. A. B.
Remember me kindly to all our friends who are about you and tell Terry Sinclair that I shall never forget his kindness to your and yours. Also his ___ [sister] is ___!
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Philad., Sep. 6th, 1855
My dear friend,
I have heard of your severe affliction and I have sympathized with you as with a brother's heart. May God almighty sustain, bless and sanctify you, and I make you grateful, deeply, truly, practically grateful for your ransomed life. I hope you have this entirely recovered your health and strength. I rec'd last week, from our friend. Wm. E. Cunningham, a letter dated the 27th Aug. Enclosing me a check for 15 dlls for the payment of a Mary Knight's board, up to the 1st. Inst. amounting to 12 dlls, thus leaving 3 dlls for incidentals. I found her to be very ill - her mind gone- unable to help herself, and in a state leaving little probability of her recovery. I gave her money, however, to Mrs. Myers, with whom the boards and entered his receipt to Mr. Cunningham in a letter giving him an account of her situation. But, alas! It must have found him on his sick bed - for in less than a week he died. How my heart sickens at the hearing of the scenes of distress which are hourly occurring in dear old Norfolk. How severely those noble people are being scourged! What is to be the end of it. God only can tell! The prospect is horrible indeed. On Sunday next, I shall have a collection in our church for their benefit. Indeed there is to be one in all the churches of our community in this city, in that day, although we have already sent them nearly $17,000. But what is that to the need that is there?
Be kind enough to present me most affectionately to the members of your family and to thos of our excellent friend Mr. Thompson, who, I hear are with you. And accept the assurances of my condolence and giving most affectionate regard for yourself.
Your sincere friend
H. W. Ducachet
PS I saw Mrs. Blake and Frank the other day - all well. Mrs. D joins in all I have said.
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Sept. 10th, 1855
My dear Sir,
We are deeply ___ again in this place __ from a ___ Blanke & Frank all well - From our introdu__ to have ___ __ once to Warrenton __ G. has thought it necessary to stop a few days to enable him to arrange his clothing a little, but we hope to see you on Wednesday or Thursday next. I will not attempt to give you any items of (Name?) from Norfolk. All I can say is that things have __ __ perfectly ___ in that __ happy place.
We are all well. We thank God and trust we shall find you and yours pretty much ___
Love of you and my deep __ the dear children _________
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10 October 1855
Commander S. Barron
Warrenton, Fauquier Co. VA
Our Mayor, Mr. Hinks sent me this morning your letter dated September 24th containing the check of Captain Bigelow, U S Navy for $50.
Please return the thanks of the Relief Committee of this city to Captain Bigelow by whom the amount will be extended according to his directions.
Your very obd svt
William H. Brune, Treasurer of Norfolk & Portsmouth Fund
* * * * * *
Oct. 23d, 1855
My dear Barron,
I have delayed writing till now expressing my heartfelt sympathy in your bereavement, solely in account of my ignorance of your residence. I watched with eager solicitude the reports from Norfolk during the desolating pestilence; and while my heart was suffering with sorrow at the decease of your dear wife and daughter, I was thankful to find how well prepared they were for entering upon an endless state of bliss. I was also rejoiced to learn that you had recovered.
Now my dear Barron it is heart rending thus to part with such treasures as you have been called to give up. I still when you reflect upon their eminent preparation for heaven, you would hesitate in calling them back to the sad scenes of their mortal life, a life which almost daily bring care and sorrow and which is only with living for that we may be prepared for that in the future world where endless joys await the Christian. I know, from your Christian principles that while you are forced down and stricken with grief, you still look with filial love to our Heavenly Father, who does till thing for the good of them who put their trust in Him that Heaven's choicest blessing may ever attend you and yours, is the fervent prayer of your truly attached friend
Capt. Sam'l Barron
U S Navy
PS Do write me a few lines.
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Compiler's Note: Most of these letters were written by Col. Winchester Watts to his brother Samuel Watts and Samuel's nine-year old daughter Maggie. Samuel took his family to Richmond during the epidemic. Winchester as President of Portsmouth's Common Council felt it his duty to stay behind to help the community as a member of the Relief Association. When he became ill with yellow fever, he was advised to leave Portsmouth to fully recover. Samuel Watts was a member of the committee which audited the Relief Association's accounts after the epidemic. Also included in this packet of letters is a long letter to Ann Eliza Watts from a friend. Eliza, it is presumed from an 1850 census, is a sister of Samuel and Winchester. There is also a long letter by Samuel to a friend in Washington, two letters to Samuel by Holt Wilson (treasurer of the Portsmouth Relief Association) and a letter by E. A. Hatton to Samuel (it is presumed). A couple of letters refer to Winchester going to the Ice House which was a business which he and Samuel owned on Queen Street in Portsmouth.
Many thanks to the Portsmouth Library Wilson History Room for providing these letters and for their transcription.
The Richmond Dispatch of August 27, 1855, had this to say of Col. Winchester Watts:
Among the gentlemen of Portsmouth who have distinguished themselves by their humanity and heroism during the prevalence of the yellow fever, Col. Winchester Watts, the President of the Portsmouth Council, stands conspicuous and pre-eminent. Although most of the members of that body have left, and he himself was urgently entreated to provide for his safety, he resolutely resisted all importunities, replying, that in his opinion, the duty devolved upon him by his official position, required him to remain at his post. He has accordingly continued regularly to assemble such members of the Council as remained in Portsmouth, and assumed the responsibility of passing such ordinances as the good of the town required, being ready to back up his action, personally and pecuniarily, in any and every way. In addition to these public duties, he has been unceasing in his ministrations to the sick, leaving his own healthy residence, which is in a portion of the town not yet visited by the fever, going about from house to house, and ministering to the sick by his generous sympathy, and by material aid from his private means. All honor to this noble gentleman, this good Samaritan, whose conduct is a model worthy of all praise and of universal imitation.
* * * * * *
Portsmouth, Aug. 4th, 1855
I shall write you from time to time and give you the news in relation to the fever. Virginia and family and Carmi and her family left yesterday evening for Baltimore, and Mary Jane and children this morning. If you should require funds whilst absent, you had better send a note on the savings Fund, as all the money I could conveniently spare I gave to Carmi and Mary Jane and shall probably have to furnish them more. I have never before witnessed such a scene in the way of panic as was exhibited this morning at the Rail Road wharf nearly an hour before the departure of the boat. The whole wharf was strewed with trunks, carpet bags and crowded with a dense mass of human beings of all ages and conditions. Such was the number that it was feared that the boat could not contain them all, and when she made fast there was a general rush to get on board. Numbers of our people are making preparation to leave and I fear that if this state of things should continue our town will be almost depopulated. It already begins to wear a most gloomy and somber aspect. Many of the stores are closed and the market but slimly attended. I do not think that the fever has increased much since you left, but the panic has doubled and from recent developments I fear that the disease will become general. Since you left there have been some deaths among them old Mr. Marshall Grimes (Police Officer) and Alexander Godwin. Mrs. Leonard Cocke is expected to die. Morris (near the market ) and some of his family are quite sick.
Gladly most gladly would I leave here especially as so many of my friends have gone (and others intend to go) but my position in the council forbids it. I have placed myself upon the platform of duty and I must pass the fiery ordeal. Don't return home. Remain where you are. You will receive the transcript daily by mail. I have determined not to board out but take my meals at home. This morning I laid in a supply of ducks and chickens for the reason that I believe that our market will be badly supplied. My respects to Mr. Nimmo and family.
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Portsmouth, Aug. 5th, 1855
I wrote you yesterday. I know that you would like to hear of the state of affairs in our town daily and I shall write you as often as I can find time to do so. Mrs. Maupin, Ann Eliza, Edward and Leigh left last evening for Old Point with the view of spending the season there. I went down with them. When the Georgia stopped opposite the Point, the steamer Starr came along side and informed us that the commanding Officer at Old Point issued orders forbidding all persons to land. I returned home in the Starr. Mrs. Maupin and the others went to Baltimore.
Wm. Maupin and his family are at your residence. I could not refuse him. Nearly all businesses closed their stores yesterday afternoon. Only two groceries were kept open, Maupin's and Billisoly's. Several of the Council are sick, and others have left and we are without a quorum. I have determined to take the responsibility and have everything done that I deem necessary.
There is no decline of the fever. I understand that there has been ten new cases in the last 24 hours, Mrs. Cocke also. Chas. Hiemith, I was informed by a gentleman this morning that he died of fright.
The town looks dull and gloomy, and if I could conscientiously leave, I would be off without delay.
Tell Julia that I shall not send her bonnet box until I hear from you on relation to it, as under the present arrangement of the boats it would probably be lost. Dr. Spratley and Jno. W. Forrest have the fever.
Yours, sincerely, Winchester.
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Portsmouth, Aug. 6th 1855
I shall keep you posted in relation to matters here every day so long as I am able to write. I wrote you on Saturday, also yesterday. Your letter of the 4th inst. is just at hand. Col. Brooks has closed his store and left the town. Nearly all the stores are shut, and a general gloom seems to pervade the whole town. The Macon House has closed and the Crawford I think will follow suit in a few days. No money can be obtained from the Savings Bank. Bain has already paid out about $700 over and above the funds on hand to depositors who have taken their exit. So I shall allow all notes of yours to lay over until you return. I will forward you $50 out of my own funds by Wednesday's mail. This is all I can spare now. Sundry deaths have occurred since yesterday but it is ___ to name them, but near Pritchards Bridge Jas. H. Shannon's son. Jno. Pendleton is in a dying condition. The Common Council are without a Quorum, and I am compelled to take the responsibility of acting for them. I have just rec'd a letter from a gentleman in Staunton enclosing a draft for $100 for the benefit of the sick and destitude of our town. Wm. Maupin and family came to the house on Saturday, but he will remove today to the house formerly occupied by the poor of the county. Dr. Maupin goes there also. Yesterday several of our citizens visited Suffolk. A town meeting was called and they were ordered to depart forthwith. I have written in a very hurried manner. I rec'd a number of letters by mail this morning which I must reply to.
Your sincerely, Winchester.
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Portsmouth Aug. 8th 1855
I do not think that the white population here now will exceed 2,000 and they are still leaving in all directions. I have not yet learned the number of deaths yesterday. Jas E, Wilson or Johnson, Jno. Jack, Dr, Parker and 3 children, D. D. Fiske's son and many others are sick.
In Norfolk the disease is spreading so I was informed yesterday by Fr. Devlin the Catholic priest. I enclosed and sent you by mail yesterday $50. There are several letters in the post office directed to Anne & Elvira from Richmond. Shall I have them forwarded? I have just come down town. No abatement of the epidemic. The times here are awful, many new cases and deaths. I will not name them. Coffins for the dead are made at the Navy Yard and sent over by the wagon load. I feel melancholy and dispirited, not on account of the fever but nearly all the friends and acquaintances with whom I have been daily associating have gone. I shall not desert my post, come what may; I trust that I shall meet it with composure and resignation,
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Portsmouth, Aug. 9th 1855
Your letter of yesterday came to hand last night. I am distressed to hear of the sickness of Little Maggie. I trust that ere you receive this, she will be well. Write me every day. No abatement of the fever. It is on the increase and spreading rapidly in Norfolk.
Dr. Parker is dying and four of his family sick. Dr. Schoolfield is sick and was taken to the hospital this morning. Dr. Young is also sick and many others. I am writing at the ice house. Mr. Bain has just been here to see me. He wishes to leave Portsmouth, and I have called a meeting of the board to grant him leave of absence. Mr. Hunter left here last evening. His family will locate in York, Pennsylvania. Our town is almost deserted. If I leave it will be in my winding sheet.
I have been writing all the morning replying to numerous letters from my friends. The money I gave to Mary Jane was a voluntary gift. Be sure to write me every day and if little Maggie should be in a critical situation I will come up to see her.
I rec'd a notice from Mr. McLean of Norfolk in relation to the insurance of your house there. Shall I remit?
There are a large number of orphan children at the Naval Hospital whose parents have died, and we are trying to obtain a house in Portsmouth for their accommodation. The town will have a heavy bill to pay.
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Portsmouth, Aug. 10th, 1855
Mr. Bain left for Richmond this morning. You will of course see him. For some days he has been anxious to get off. The shadows of death were falling too thick around him, and like Falstaff, I suppose he concluded that the better part of valour was discretion. I don't blame him for going. His family are in Richmond and he was alone, and they were daily pressing him to come up. He has charge of Julia's bonnet box. The ministers with one or two exceptions, have gone and heathens who are without the pale of the church are left to look out for the dead, the sick and the destitute. The mail did not arrive until late last evening. With no little solicitude I waited until it was opened, anticipating a letter from you, but none came and I was disappointed. I was desirous to hear from Maggie. I hope the little innocent has recovered. I wrote the above before I left my office intending to conclude it at the Ice House. At the post office I found your letter of the 8th inst. I was truly glad to hear that Maggie was better. Dr. Schoolfield is not dead but sick at the hospital. Hunter has left to take his family to York Pennsylvania. Mrs. Maupin, Ann Eliza and a number of others from Portsmouth are there. If you leave Richmond, let me know where you will locate. I write disconnectedly. The fact is, I have so many letters to reply to that I am engaged all the morning. Dr. Parker died today. Mrs. Barron, wife of Capt. Barron at the Navy Yard, is dead and he sick at the hospital. Report says that the fever is rapidly increasing in Norfolk. The people there are leaving in all directions. Quite a number of destitute orphan children are at the naval hospital. We have been trying all the morning to obtain a house to put them in for the present. The town will have a heavy bill to pay. Maupin's family did not remain at your residence because they preferred being with the families of Hatton and Dr. Maupin. While with me, I did all I could to make them happy and comfortable. Business is almost entirely suspended. On High St. only two grocery stores open. If you think it necessary to leave Richmond and require money, let me know. I have some left and you shall have it.
The streets look solitary and desolate. Private dwellings generally are closed. Do not make yourself at all uneasy about me. I can not leave here now. Write me every day.
My regards to all,
* * * * * *
Portsmouth Aug. 10th 1855
I received yesterday your letters of the 8th and 9th and was truly gratified to hear that Maggie was out of danger. I have written you every day since you left and shall continue to do so. In one of my letters I enclosed you $50. The times are out of joint and the mail unregular. Yesterday I heard that Jno. Emmerson was sick and I called forthwith to see him. I found the poor fellow stretched on his bed looking very badly. Dr. Maupin was there. He too looked jaded, and careworn. Before I left, a carriage was obtained, and John sent to the hospital. Dr. Schoolfield was quite sick yesterday. His wife goes to the hospital every day to see him. For the present she and her children are staying at Hatton's near the swimming point. I am now going down to devise means for having the destitute orphan children removed from the hospital. There are about 30 of them there. We have procured a house and must furnish them with food, bedding and clothing. Capt. Chambers is here doing all he can for the unfortunate. I have just heard from Dr. Schoolfield and Jno. Emmerson. They are both very sick. Jas. E. Wilson died this mornings Jno. D. Cooper and Pat Williams' son have the fever. I have witnessed and heard of acts of inhumanity here which do no credit to a Christian land: husbands deserting their families, and sons their sick and dying fathers. I rec'd a letter from Mr. Zimmer in relation to Savings Bank Stock. Say to him there is none for sale here. Nearly all those who own it have left. I would have written to him direct but I have many letters to reply to from my friends. There would be much difficulty in sending the horse and carriage to you as the Richmond boat does not come here now. You speak of going to Baltimore. I would advise you to go in the mountains. My impression is that the epidemic will prevail in all the cities and towns on and near the seaboard. I have some money left; it is at your service. We have but one Notary Public (Holt Wilson). If anything should happen to him, our bank would suffer as notes could not be protested. Will you see the governor and get him to appoint Gustavus Holladay a notary without delay. Gustavus does not want it but will serve if appointed. Capt. Jarvis is here but I seldom see him. Peters and family are absent.
My regards to all,
* * * * * *
Portsmouth Aug. 12th, 1855
Sunday 7 o'clock A. M.
I rec'd your letter of the 10th inst. I have given you the names of nearly all of your acquaintances who have died. But few remain here. I believe that the white population is decreased to 1500. In Gosport proper (Crawford st., formerly Water) but three residents remain. Many who could not remove to a distant part of the country have erected shanties without the limits of the town. Of 1700 men employed in the navy yard, only 500 remain and many of those reside in Norfolk and the surrounding country. Jake has just announced that "the carriage is ready." I am going down town and probably from thence to the Navy Hospital to see some of my sick friends. On my return I will finish this.
11-1/2 o'clock A.M.
I have returned. Jno Emmerson is better. Dr. Schoolfield very sick- 9 deaths yesterday. Frank Herbert's wife, his son and brother (Tom) Miss Emily Wilson (at Wm. H. Wilson's) Geo. Hope's daughter and many others dead. I called this morning to see a lady and had learned that she was in a destitute condition. I found her in great distress, her husband dying at the hospital and one of her children sick with the fever. I gave her an order to obtain provisions. A friend of Arthur Emmerson's has just called on me that he had the fever and had been sent to the hospital. I must go down and see him.
Monday Morning 3-1/2 o''clock A. M.
I am up early. I cannot sleep so I have set down to write. Yesterday after dinner I attended the funeral of Miss Emily Wilson - eight gentlemen present . No funeral service except at the grave. I saw her deposited in her last resting place, and then proceeded to the Naval Hospital. Jno. Emmerson and Schoolfield are very sick. I fear they will not recover. Arthur is doing very well. While there, an attendant came up and stated that six patients had just arrived. Lettuce and the other servants are at home in good health. The black population here is much greater than the white, but the negroes are so much alarmed that it is almost impossible to get any aid from them for the sick. We have offered as much as ten dollars per night in one instance (Dr. Parker) but failed to get one.
I rec'd a letter today from Place. All at Buchannon in good health and spirits. Brooks and family have gone there. A letter from Hunter saying that he had drawn on me for money. He and his family have gone to York, Penn. A letter from McLean stating that the policy of insurance on your house in Norfolk would expire on the 21st inst. Shall I renew it? I have just ordered the carriage to go down town. When I get through, I will finish this at the Ice House.
10 o'clock A. M.
I have but little more to communicate. Several new cases this morning just heard from Jno. Emmerson and Schoolfield. I fear they will die. Many letters to write so I must close.
Regards to all,
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Portsmouth Aug. 14th, 1855
Yours of the 11th inst. is [at] hand. I shall be compelled for want of time to be brief. I have many letters to reply to. The carriage is waiting. I am going to the Naval Hospital to superintend the removal of the little destitute children there to the academy. I can get no one to go. Must perform the duty myself. Two Sisters of Charity came here last night to take charge of them. Things are getting worse and worse. Col. Harper, Mike Lynch, Mr. (or Mrs) B. Davis and many others dead. New cases, a large number. Dr. Trugien and wife, 3 of Hart's family, Mrs. Foreman and son and various others are sick. Chambers, Holladay and myself are left to attend to matters. Fiske's family is sick and they require his attention. A letter from Mary Jane - all well - Brooks and family are with them. I had much more to say but must close. Shall write you every day so long as I am able to do. Do the same.
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Portsmouth, Aug 14th 1855
12-1/2 o'clock P. M.
Just returned from the hospital. Jake went with me in the carriage with fear and trembling—took a wagon with me to bring the children up. Sent about a dozen of the little ones up in the carriage with a Sister of Charity—the others in the wagon. Saw many of the sick. Jno. Emmerson and Schoolfield better. Arthur well. Just rec'd a letter from Washington containing funds. Must reply to it. Have been riding all the morning and am worried. Write me every day.
Nat Manning dying.
3 o'clock P. M. I am going to the academy to see how the children are getting on. The Sister of Charity who has charge of them is very pretty, about 18. I think I shall fall in love with her.
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Portsmouth, Aug. 15th 1855
The Mayor has just rec'd a letter from Mr. Jas. D. Denigue of Richmond enclosing a check for $100.00. Fiskes family is sick and the letter has been placed in my hands to reply to. I have just answered it. Jno B. Davis is dying and several of his family sick.
I am going this evening to Magnolia Springs in the 5 0'clock train but shall return again at 5 o'clock this evening. Capt. Jarvis has gone. He could not stand it any longer.
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Portsmouth Aug. 15th 1855
My Dear Little Mag:
I received your letter and was delighted to hear from you. Every day I receive letters from your pa and I was grieved when he informed me that you were sick. Now that you have written it is an indication that you are well. I have written five letters this morning and have many more to reply to, but will not slight yours. I highly appreciate your motive in desiring me to leave here, also the offer from your Aunt Margaret of a room, but I can not leave our people in their distressed and destitute condition. It would be inhuman. Since you left many have died and they are falling every day. The superintendence of the removal of the little destitute orphan children at the Naval Hospital devolved on me. Yesterday morning I took Luke with old Dick and the carriage and went down there. I passed through the sick wards and saw the poor victims dying on their death beds. A melancholy sight. As soon as the children could be got together we put the smaller ones under the charge of a Sister of Charity in the carriage, the others in a wagon which I had carried down for the purpose, and sent them up to the Academy building where we have made ample provisions for them. They shall not suffer. As soon as I get through this I am going around to see them. I delivered your message to Lettuce. She will do all you desired.
Leigh Richmond is in York, Pennsylvania. I shall not write to your Pa today but will give him the news of the day in this. Nash Tatem, inspector at the Navy Yard, and six or eight others dead. Ben Palmer and many others sick. Your Pa will have to read this letter for you. I'm compelled to write rapidly. I hope to see you and all my friends soon but the times are critical and I know not how soon I may be down. If it should be sickly in Richmond, you had all better go to Buchannon. The Banks are doing nothing here but your Pa shall have all the money I can raise. My love to all.
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Portsmouth Aug. 16th 1855
Yesterday was a gloomy day—12 deaths, and from 15 to 30 new cases of fever. Hunter has just arrived here from York, Penn. He reported all well. He returned last evening. He requested me to furnish him money to support his family. I did not do so and I was unwilling to place any in his hands. I shall write to Mrs. Maupin and enclose her the requisite funds for Carmi and her children. A letter from Petersburg enclosing Two Thousand Dollars. A noble and generous people. Over $500 of it was the result of a collection taken last Sunday at the Washington St. Methodist Church. Aid has been sent from various other places. For hours every day I am writing letters. My friends who are scattered in every direction and anxious to hear from home are constantly writing me, and I feel bound to reply. Hollady, Chambers and our town Sergent are doing their duty manfully. I have many letters to write now and must close this. Ghio's eldest daughter dead, also Dr. Sylvester of Norfolk. From all accounts the epidemic is raging in Norfolk to an alarming extent. Yet their papers endeavour to conceal it. Say to little Mag that I went this morning to the Academy to see the little children. They are all doing well, and are amply provided for. About 26 there. Their ages range from a few months to about 5 of 6 years. Poor little creatures - with one or two exceptions their fathers and mothers have been consigned to the grave by the prevailing epidemic, and they are thrown upon the cold charities of a heartless world, but we will not permit them to want.
My regards to all,
* * * * * *
Portsmouth, Aug. 17th 1855
I have so many letters to reply to that I can write you but a few lines this morning. Seven deaths yesterday, and new cases ad infinitum. Old Mr. Ashton and Dr. Cocke sent to the hospital and Capt. Chambers sick. Many deaths and new cases in Norfolk and the pestilence on the increase there. Say what amount of money you want and I will send it by mail. I felt quite sick this morning, and thought I should have to go to the hospital.
My regards to all,
Yours sincerely, Winchester
Dr. Schoolfield and Jno. Emmerson much better.
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Portsmouth Aug. 18th 1855
I did not receive a letter from you yesterday—suppose you have gone to Buchannon. No abatement of the fever. The angel of death still flaps his dark and deadly wings over our doomed people. Considering the small number of us left, the mortality has been greater than it ever was in New Orleans. God only knows how many of us will survive. The rain was pounding down in torrents this morning, but it did not prevent me from seeing my sick friends. I called on Capt. Chambers. He is better but looks very badly. I went as usual this morning to the barber's shop where I shave daily. Found them all sick and sent them to the hospital. I am constantly being called on for relief for sick and destitute. When not otherwise employed, I am writing.
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Portsmouth, Aug. 19th 1855
I have only time to write you a few lines. About 80 new cases yesterday. I cannot give you a list of the deaths. I believe we shall all die. Holt Wilson is now at my office. He desires to be remembered to you. Have not rec'd a letter from you for the last two days. I [have] many to reply to from my friends and those who are forwarding contributions.
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Aug. 20th 1855 11-1/2 o'clock
I have only time to write you a few lines, I have been writing since six o'clock this morning and many letters yet to reply to. Have just written to the Mayor at Baltimore requesting medical aid. Most of our physicians are either sick or broken down. Dr. Maupin sick at the Hospital. Gustavus Holliday there also. Capt. Levy and J. W. Collins and many others sick. Mrs. Dr. Schoolfield very ill. Times are awful. Scarcely anybody here to consult with—take the responsibility. Have had a hard time of it. I still keep my spirits up. My regards to all.
Have not heard from you for the last three days.
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Sunnyside Aug. 21st, 1855
To: Ms. Ann E. Watts
From: York, PA
My Dear Ann Eliza,
No wonder you felt miserable and desolate when you were so unfeelingly turned away from your own shore: I wish you had seen an article published in the Richmond Whig severely commenting upon the "Bold Comando at Old Point" who he says first commenced the crusade; and upon the three brave magistrates of Isle of Wight, Suffolk, &c. &c. It is no time surely to feel in indignation, for God's hand is pressing heavily upon us, but it is so usual to meet with sympathy from Christian land.
I am grieved to know how miserable you are. My dear child trust in the living God, who doeth all things well. I opened undesignedly at the 60th Psalm. Was ever anything more appropriate— we are scattered indeed, but let us hope we may not be destroyed - and our relative situations are as favorable almost as we could have expected or wished. George and Mary Ann, yourselves, indeed all of us, as far as human means can place us, are safe from the Pestilence—you are all in the path of duty—no unworthy motive carried you away, and now as I said before, what can you do but trust and pray. To sister Nancy I would say her own invaluable life requires her to maintain as much as possible calmness and composure of mind. You may rely on it that your all being removed from the infection is an immense relief to Wm. G. and Washington. Think of that. God knows, their duties are arduous enough. Should you all have been here you could but have added to their troubles. I have you all often in mind. I doubt if poor Emmeline is seated 10 minutes a day. Gus, poor Gus, and Georgiana. I know shed many bitter tears. Anna and Mary Ann, I judge have more firmness. Think not that I am always tranquil. You know my coming here was a sudden thing for on account of the servants. I thought I would remain, but by the time I had gathered my things, and made some small arrangements, I felt so sick, that I might perhaps have been worse off at home. I took blue mass, here two nights, Mr. & Mrs. Sayre left and I was quiet some days. I endured much anxiety about you all. When I heard you were driven off from Old Point, I dreaded that Baltimore might do the same. I thought (and yet am ignorant) that Cousin Betsy, Prudence, Mrs. Davis, and the girls were with you and I could well imagine your consternation. I did not learn until yesterday that Mrs. Davis was at York, I knew that sister Nancy and herself had much rather be here but Doct. Williamson whom fortunately is I should say providentially have with you can but advise. Mrs. Sayre took the boat at Hampton and writes that there she saw Mr. & Mrs. Grice, Cousin B. & Prudence, all anxious to leave for the upper country, the next day, but Prudence, I have heard nothing since. Bub and Mattie are here, both very good, Lissie, our good Lissie came to see me last week, and seeing I presume, my loneliness she said she would return in a few days to remain. Mr. & Mrs. Sayre gave up the house they said to us and our friends, and should any of them at the (poor) house be sick, we expect them here. Mr. Sayre's foreman eats but does not sleep here. Every house and hotel between this and town is crowded. Col. Gayle is full, amongst others Mrs. (Folger). The Emmerson's and Miss Collin's at Mrs. Armisteads, who else I don't know. Mrs. G. Moore's house is literally packed. Provisions very scarce. Boats are constantly coming along shore looking for poultry, vegetables etc. We sent for Hannah, for I think [she] is declining, and I could not bear to think of not seeing her, she has chills and night sweats again. She says that goes up perhaps every Sunday, which I was very glad to hear. Mrs. Griffith told Pete that he must remain at home, but the poor servants say that it is so awful to look out, it fills them with dismay. Mrs. Dews, died alone. I think ever of Aunt Lettuce, but I can but think, this the first letter I have written for I have no heart to write. I wish you would all write to me, where is Edward? that he does not. However I know you ought write to Cumberland every day, and do beseech the girls to aim at some composure of mind, let them dwell on our mercies in this most awful and appalling dispensation and as I said, let us trust in the living God and in Him alone, for unless the Lord keeps the city the watchman waketh but in vain. I heard of Aunt Ply, of her being at Venus's, Peter's sister—maybe she is staying there. I wish I could tell you of Portsmouth, but I know but little. God Bless you all, needless for me to mention - respecting your friends and mine but I love them all.
* * * * * *
U. S. Naval Hospital Near Portsmouth, VA
Aug. 31st 1855
My daily correspondence would have been continued if I had been able to write, but for the last nine days I have been, confined to a bed of sickness, and in that short time what anguish have I suffered. For several days before I came here I had lost my appetite and could not sleep. My whole system was in a nervous and morbid condition. For the first three days after my arrival I could get no sleep or eat. My mind was unbalanced. Reason had lost her sway. I became delirious, and if this state of things had continued one day more I should have been consigned to the spirit land. But thanks to the ruler of our destinies, and the kind surgeons of the hospital who were constantly with me day and night. I am again permitted to communicate with those who are dear to me. It has been so long since I have seen our people in Portsmouth. I am anxious to pay them a visit, but the surgeons will not consent. Indeed they say that I must not return there again, as the excitement would kill me. They advise me to take a trip from home as the only sure means of recruiting my health. If I cannot go to Portsmouth, I can be of little service to our people, so I had as well leave. I shall consider the matter, but it will be a struggle with me to desert them and the few of my friends who remain to protect them.
Saturday Sept. 1st
When the pestilence broke out we had ten resident physicians of these three are dead (Parker, Lovett and Trugien), four have had the fever (Schoolfield, Spratley, Cocke and Maupin) and three have thus far escaped (Hatton, Billisoly and Hodges). Medical aid has been sent in both from the north and south as well as nurses, - about 12 non resident physicians here now. Our expenses will not be less than from $400 to $700 per day. Number of yellow fever patients admitted in the U.S.N. Hospital from Portsmouth 265; deaths, 95. 75 patients have been admitted from the Marine barracks and U.S. Shipping, These are not included in the above. I write disconnectedly. The fact is I have so much to say that I must write it down as I think of it. But one vessel of any kind or description in the harbor of Norfolk. A gloomy sight. Dr. Maupin left here day before yesterday and is now with his family. Jake has been in the habit of coming here every day. On Thursday evening he complained of being sick. I placed him in the care of Dr. Schoolfield. Have not heard from him since. I would go up and see him, but am too feeble. When last here he informed me that Mr. Bains' servants were down. Did not see a soul from Portsmouth yesterday, consequently could learn little or nothing of the state of things there. I can't believe they are any better. I was informed by a gentleman that in Norfolk there were 40 deaths on Thursday, and 20 up to 12 o'clock, yesterday. Horrible. In Portsmouth whole families have been cut off. The Williams family has suffered severely, from 10 to 12 of its members dead, and many more sick. I stay in my room (one of the most comfortable in the building) from sun to sun. I seldom see anyone except my servant and the surgeons. Drs. Minor, Harrison and Steele are three of nature's noblemen, day and night they are exerting themselves in the cause of humanity. Our people know not what a debt of gratitude they owe them. Three more assistant surgeons have recently been ordered here to assist them. They have arrived. I now take my meals at the table with the surgeons, Dr. Minor's three only children (the oldest 7 years) are down with the fever. He fears they will not recover. The accounts you see in the papers in relation to the fever are not exaggerated. Pen or pencil cannot portray the state of things existing here at this time. The end has not yet come, hundreds of orphans and widows will be thrown this winter upon the charities of the town, and destitution and suffering will, I fear, predominate over everything else. Your letters for the last 8 or 10 days came regularly, and were left here, but it was not until Thursday last that Dr. Minor would permit them to be placed in my possession. He wished to keep me from all excitement. Of course he was right. Say to Mr. Bain that I received his letter, I would write him but have so many to reply to that I cannot find the time. Besides I know you see him ever day and give him the news. A letter from Georgiana, she is very solicitous about her friends at home. Will try and write her today. Tell Maggie I rec'd her letter - will write her soon if I don't leave home. My situation here is as comfortable as it well could be. A fine airy room furnished with every convenience, a faithful servant always in attendance and every want supplied. From the table on which I am now writings I have a full view of the broad Elizabeth, Hampton Rhodes, Craney Island, Newport News, and the Baltimore steam boat is now passing up the mouth of James River. She connects with the Railroad at Suffolk, by the steamer Star. Yours of the 29th inst. is just at hand. All of Dr. Minor's servants (6 or 8 in number) down with the fever. 80 new cases yesterday in Portsmouth. I am making arrangements to leave in the cars today at 2 o'clock and take the boat at Suffolk for Baltimore. Would have preferred coming to Richmond but no boat until Monday, If I must go, I see no reason to delay. I shall leave with the deepest, deepest sorrow. My regards to all,
I was in readiness to leave this afternoon in the Balt. boat. Gustavus promised to send a carriage but it did not come. Tomorrow is Sunday and I shall be compelled too remain a day or two longer.
Sunday Morning Sept. 2
Jno Woodley and Jno D. Cooper dead. 17 deaths yesterday. Jake came down this morning. He reports Ned sick.
* * * * * *
Saturday Evening 1, Sept.
Rec'd your note this evening and have since then been to the hospital and seen Ches. He is fairly convalescent and I am relieved and thankful to inform you is doing well. The physicians there have very properly and prudently advised him to leave Portsmouth and go away in order to recruit. If he were to contact the fever, his system weakened as it has been by his late attack, [he] would be in no condition to resist its fatal effects. I cordially concurred in this advice for I had been opposed, as I write you and as I told Ches, to his returning to Portsm., until he has gained his usual health and strength. He is this evening in some doubt whether to go to York, PA, where are his sister Mrs. Hunter and other relations and friends, who could render him that attendance which he would so much need in the event of sickness, or to Richmond, and thence to York. I suggested that you would be glad to see him and he could then go on to York. He did not determine and I promised to try and see him tomorrow, if I am in health and can do so, so that, if he does not reach Richmond on Monday, you may fairly conclude he has gone to York, PA.
We have had 17 deaths in town today. I saw poor John Woodley, the nephew of Dr. Collins, and who was an employee, you remember, on the Rail Road, breathe his last this afternoon at 1/4 after six o'clock! Poor fellow! He was a most exemplary young man, of fine feelings, good heart, tender and kind! As I saw him in his last gasps, I could not refrain offering up mentally the prayer which I trust was answered and accorded on high. "Jesus Master. Have mercy on him!" There he lay, helpless, dependent in the power of God. The merciful and just, a frail fellow-being, about taking his departure to that unexplored country, and as I looked upon his thin face and beheld his helplessness, the thought presented itself to my mind -"is he to be punished forever hereafter!" I could not repress, when I left the room and the home, after he did, that gush of feeling which swelled my heart and filled my eyes at the saddening and melancholy scene I had just witnessed! There is much of truth and sound philosophy in that saying in the Bible, "It is better to go to the House of mourning than to the House of Feasting." We feel humanized and drawn towards our fellow men by witnessing their sufferings; and have all their finer sensibilities if our nature brought into exercise, which has been previously dormant and the depth of what we may have been otherwise ignorant of. Wife of Jno B. Davis also died today, that good and exemplary man, that honest and sterling man, as I always regarded him. Jno C. Cooper, the painter, whom you knew very well. Samuel Brewer also died a worthy man, I believe, tho I did not know him well.
The new cases do not much, if any, decrease; perhaps today somewhat, tho the physicians fail to report regularly and as strictly as I should like them. I have made an attempt to obtain accurate reports of the new cases and total number visited but they have failed to report. In a conversation today with an intelligent gentleman, one of our attending physicians and a citizen of Charleston, S. C., he informed me he suffered from what he had learned, there must have been at lease 50 new cases today. I should not be surprised if it were really a larger figure than this. Several have been sent to the hospital today. But there is an aversion or disinclination on the part of the poor and ignorant to be sent there. They look upon it as a sort of pest house to be filled with all manner of disease and to be avoided if possible. I went into a room today with a permit in my hand to remove there a poor and good woman and her little children who were sick __ her in bed and three little children __ with her. She did not at all fancy the idea of being removed, not withstanding I endeavored to impress her with the fact that there she would be well attended and cared for. I at last yielded to her antipathies and she agreed if she was not better tomorrow, she thought she would then go.
Fiske is doing better today and I hope he will be regarded tomorrow as having passed the fatal crisis. Jack Collins is convalescing, tho I have not seen him since the occasion I mentioned in one of my former notes to you. I suppose there is not a residence in town occupied, where there has not been, or is, some one sick. In relation to the appointment of John Emmerson, I only stated that if it was intended to supply any present demand it would not fulfil that intention in as much as he will not be here till frost.
No signature but most likely from Holt Wilson as the handwriting is the same as in another letter from him.
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Richmond, Sept. 1st, 1855
Your's of yesterday is at hand. I suppose the newspapers and those arriving at Washington furnished you with pretty full accounts of the work of death in our devoted town. I yet hope the disease is abating in fury; tho it seems from the reports of yesterday, that the angel of mortality had only laid aside his quiver or a slackened his bow to go in new strength and vigor. His arrows have ceased to discriminate between black and white; they are now flying with fearful fatality among the former. My neighbor Mr. Bain informs me that three of his servants are down and all of them attacked about the same time. Was there ever anything like it before? I think it is the gloomiest record of maligne and mortality in our country's history. And who can tell the end? The eye which sheds the burning tear over the bier of a friend today, is destined to be closed in death tomorrow. You have even remarked that the sad effects will not be terminated with the close of the fever. Poverty will be added to grief. The cold graves on one side, a comfortless life on the other. Some of our people will return to Portsmouth in a state of utter destitution. I am overwhelmed by the present! I shrink back from the future! I am ready sometimes to exclaim "suffer thy cup to pass from my lips". But it must come, there is no averting it, we must nerve ourselves up for the worst.
Among the deaths in Portsmouth I notice those of J. Bilisoly's daughter aged 17, and Sam'l Forbes, Dr. Constable, Mrs. Nash, John G. H. Hatton, Mrs. Mallory Todd, and two daughters in Norfolk, and many added to the sick list.
Sam'l Wilson was here yesterday. He left for his farm near Portsmouth, and will hold a consultation there as to the propriety of removing as many of our people as will go to Old Point. If the plan should be agreed upon, they will write me, and I will proceed to Washington to see if the troops there can be temporarily removed for this purpose. The Public House there will accommodate 400 or more, and the quarters and barracks will accommodate 2,000 more. What do you think of it? We can furnish provisions.
I read a letter from Holt Wilson this morning. Winchester is out again. He and Dr. Maupin dined with Hatton Yesterday. I hope he will be cautious. Eighty-one new cases in Portsmouth and 17 deaths. 550 cases under treatment. There is no exaggeration here. Holt Wilson took the pains to procure a correct list.
The transcript of today (Friday) will contain a notice of Trugien's death with other information. I suppose you will see it in Washington.
Write me as usual. My regards to your numerous family - and ___ in terms of friendship to be ___ ___.
In great haste
I have many letters to write.
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[Sept. 2, 1855] Sunday Evening
I saw Ches this afternoon and he had concluded, in accordance with the advice of the physicians at the hospital, to leave tomorrow afternoon for York, Pa. Dr. Miner's child, a promising little boy, had died of the fever and we were there at the funeral. He has another quite ill and fear he will lose him. Allen, the Rail Road agent, will not be alive in the morning I fear. He has the black-vomit, and bleeding from the mouth. There is no hope entertained by the physician for his recovery. Poor fellow! He was to have been married to Miss Chambers. In my statement last night of the death those you know, I omitted Geo. Hope. Today or rather during the last night up to 7 o'clock the mortality exceeded that of any 24 hours hitherto. 26 deaths in town and 5 at the hospital total 31, Of these whom you may know, I mention Miss Sophia Bingley. I saw her at church among the few there last Sunday in perfect health. Now she is beneath the sod. Mrs. Machlin and her sister, a daughter of Tatem. Among the deaths are included 5 negros and 3 children, one of the latter a child of Maurice Langhorne died. In Norfolk 50 deaths are reported, among them that of Dr. Geo. Halson, and a youth the son of the late Dr. Sylvester. Dr. Gooch is extremely ill at the National. He is from Richmond and editor of a medical journal there. I heard Dr. Smith say that he feared he would not be alive in the morning. Dr. Jas. O. Hodges is knocked under from fatigue and over exertion, and had gone to the family farm on the Western Branch. He has had a large practice, more indeed than he could safely attend I fear. There have not been as many new cases. Lash's wife is expected to die tonight. Such are the melancholy facts here and such the nature and extent of the ravages of the pestilence. Fiske is not so well today and his attendant physician told me he deemed his case a critical one. I trust however he may be spared. Dr. Crowe, if I am not mistaken is from Richmond, was taken to the hospital this morning. He was quite sick. Good night and believe me,
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U. S. Naval Hospital Near Portsmouth, VA
Sept. 3rd, 1855.
My Dear Little Maggie,
I mailed a long letter to your Pa yesterday, giving the principle items of news here, which no doubt he will receive tonight. I am making preparations to leave this afternoon for York, Penn., via Baltimore, where I shall probably remain some time. I have to take the car at Portsmouth for Suffolk, from thence by the steamer Star to the Baltimore boat in Hampton Roads. A circuitous route. Our population is daily decreasing. The reverse may be said of the fever. It is slaying our people right and left, and its poisonous effect may be seen in the face of everyone you meet. One of the non-resident physicians was here yesterday from Norfolk. He informed me that on Saturday there were 50 deaths in Norfolk and he believed that there were not less than 1200 cases in the city. Two of the non-resident and a number of the resident physicians have died. He reported Dr. Gooche of Richmond dying of the fever. In Portsmouth matters are no better. One of the physicians who came here to assist our people is now in the hospital. I believe he is from Richmond. I am afraid that nearly all our people who remain here will die.
Dr. Minor's (hospital) eldest child, a little boy 9 years old, died yesterday morning. We buried him in the afternoon. We took the little coffin and its contents to the enclosure in the rear of the hospital and laid it softly on the green grass beneath a clump of shady trees. Mr. Chisholm officiated as minister. I'll give you the names of all who were present. Dr. Minor, Dr. Maupin and Lady, Wm. Maupin, Dr. Schoolfield, Gustavas Holladay, Holt Wilson, myself and several of the surgeons and attendants from the hospital. After placing the corpse in the hearse we proceeded with slow and solemn step to the hospital cemetery about three hundred yards distant. Arrived there; the remains were deposited in its last resting place. Mr. Chisholm performed the funeral service. The grave was filled up, and we retraced our steps back again to the hospital. Dr. Minor has only two children left, and they are both sick. One will probably die. Dr. Schoolfield will leave in the boat this evening for Georgetown. He goes there to recruit his health. Wm. Maupin has just arrived here with the fever on him. He is in the room next to mine. I have just left him, I must close as I am packing up for a start.
[PS] Dr. Riser from Philadelphia, one of our most active non-resident physicians, has just been sent down with the fever. As I am about to leave, I have given up my room to him. Cunningham, editor of the Beacon is dead.
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Sept. 6th, 1855
I left Portsmouth on Monday evening last, and arrived here the following day at 3 o'clock P.M. York contains a population of about 10,000. The town is well laid off, streets at right angles, well paved brick, population mostly Dutch people [who are] cold phlegmatic. A lofty chain of hills encompass the town. Splendid farms in the vicinity, and abundant crops. Some 50 or 60 of our people from Portsmouth have located here also many from Norfolk. Dr. Williamson, Mr. Cocke, A.V. Niemeyer, Mrs. Dr. Butt, Hunter and their families are here. Board from $3-1/2 to $4.00 per week. I am staying at the best hotel in the place and pay $4.00 per week. The fare is excellent, good milk, butter, beef, lamb, mutton, poultry, vegetables and the fruit in abundance. Water of the purest quality - limestone and slate.
When I left Portsmouth almost every body was sick or dead; the accounts yesterday and this morning are awful. They have ceased digging graves for the dead. They now open trenches for the reception of the bodies. Mr. Trugien, his wife, daughter and her children, and Mr. Thomas, his son-in-law, came up in the boat with me on Monday. This morning I was informed that they were all in Baltimore sick (except Thomas) with the fever. I was weighed yesterday and have lost 18 lbs. All our people here are well. Mrs. Maupin is very much distressed on account of William's sickness. Leigh Richmond comes to see me every day. I frequently take him out to ride. I may remain here for a month or two. Think I shall visit Richmond before my return home. My regards to all. Write me on receipt of this, and give all the news you hear from home.
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Sept. 10th, 1855.
I wrote to your Pa a day or two since from this place. This is a very neat little town. The streets are all paved and lighted with gas. It is also supplied by pipes running through the city with water of the purest quality. People are arriving here almost every day from Norfolk and Portsmouth. On Thursday last Mrs. Cowdery and daughter reached here from Norfolk. On Friday morning the daughter was taken sick. Dr. Williamson was called in and he pronounced it yellow fever. This has produced much excitement among the town people. Miss C. is now quite ill, but may recover. You might like to hear how our people are situated here, I will tell you. Mrs. Maupin, Ann Eliz, Leigh, Bensbury Hunter and Mrs. Cocke, Jr., are at the Washington Hotel. Dr. Williamson Lieut. Cooper and Mrs. Wheeler, and their families at Mrs. Kent's boarding House. Mrs. Dr. Butt and family, Mrs. Davis and Jno. Murdaugh, at Mrs. Conley's boarding house. Mr. Cocke, Mrs. N. Ashton, Hunter, Mr. Dickson and their families, at Willow Grove, about 3/4 miles from town. H. V. Niemeyer and Lady, Mrs. Forrest, Miss Nannie Murdaugh, Fairfield Butt, myself and several families from Baltimore are at the Fremont House. Leigh comes to see me every day. His is very anxious to go to Richmond. I take him out to ride everyday. Our friends here are all well. I have just received a letter from Georgiana. She is well but very anxious to be here with her ma. Tell your Pa to write me often. Ask him to step to the Whig Office and request them to forward my papers here until further notice. My regards to all.
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Sept. 14th, 1855
Anne Eliza rec'd your letter yesterday in relation to Georgiana's coming here and I prevailed on her to consent to it. She told me she would write you and if Mr. Hatton would permit Mary Ann to accompany her she would not object, but she was unwilling that Mary Ann should be left alone. I have nothing of interest to communicate. The record of deaths in our two towns are awful in the extreme but of those, you hear before I do. Mr. Murdaugh's family and Miss Riddick arrived here Tuesday.
On Tuesday night a town meeting was held here to raise funds for the relief of our sufferers. After its organization, a committee waited on Claude Murdaugh and myself requesting our attendance. Of course we could not refuse. Claude made a few remarks. A subscription was forthwith taken up and I understand they will send our people from $1000 to $1500. I have just finished letters to Mary Jane, Georgiana and Col. Brown, and have sundry others to write. Tell Maggie that I rec'd her letter directed to Portsmouth. It came to hand this morning. I understand that the funds of the Virginia Bank in Portsmouth have been removed to Petersburg, and that Samuel Wilson will make arrangements to pay depositors there. Name this to Mr. Bain. Probably something can be done for the depositors in our Savings Bank. My regards to all.
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Sept. 15th, 1855.
Mrs. Maupin requested me to say to you that Georgiana has probably no winter clothing with her. She wishes you to borrow a shawl from Anne for her use on her way here. You can take it back with you when you return. Ann Eliza rec'd a letter this morning from Dr. Maupin in which he says that Mr. Hatten, Wm. Maupin's and their families and Dr. Maupin's family will probably leave for this place in a few days. I expected to receive a letter from you by this morning's mail, but none came. I heard this morning that David Bain had died in Richmond. __ I rec'd a letter this morning from Col. Geo. Wallunford (forwarded from Portsmouth) requesting that the grave of Dr. Thos. P. Howle might be marked so that his friends here after could have the remains removed. I enclosed his letter to Holt Wilson and his request will no doubt be attended to.
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Portsmouth, Sept. 16, 1855
I have not written you lately, but I'm sure you have not thought hardly of my silence. The correspondence of a public nature together with other public and private duties, I assure you, leave me only time for refreshment and sleep. I attended the funeral of our estimable little friend, whose soul was so large this morning, the Rev. James Chisholm by the side of his wife. I have written a letter about him which you will see in the Dispatch. I do not wish to be or ___ or reflective upon any one. I only state facts and my own convictions. I judge no man. We must all stand or fall ultimately not upon human judgement. But we must think and reason and form opinions. I am too vulnerable to bring accusations of a dereliction of duty against any and feel that many stones may be cast against me. Barron told me that a day of two before he was taken sick, he was in a retired corner of the cemetery where his wife is buried, weeping at her grave. He retired there frequently. I am told.
The coffin in which he was buried was plain and un and emblem of the character of the man. He now doubtless rests from his labors. Philadelphia and Baltimore have & are doing nobly and generously for us. the farmer has sent us in cash, $19,000, besides medicines and etc., doctors and apothocaries, some of whom now rest beneath the sod of the Old Dominion having as it were, offered up their lives upon the sacred alter of friendship and human brotherhood.
Can we ever, without a mighty and manly struggle be separated from such a people!
The deaths have been fewer for the last 2 or 3 days I trust, oh! how I trust that it may be so! How I long to be reunited to my relations and friends and to clasp their hands once more! And, oh! how I hope that we are to lose but few more of our poor, our sorely afflicted people!
It is the middle of September and a dreary month is before us! Is there no help in Divine Power to cause that this "tyranny may be overpast"I Farewell and believe me.
Jacob drove me to the grave-your people are well.
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Oct. 11th, 1855.
Your letter of the 8th inst is at hand also one from Capt. Jarvis stating that he would leave Washington for Matthews today. The state election as you have seen by the papers has terminated counter to the expectation of many.
The American candidates have been defeated by an overwhelming majority. Many of our people have left here for Baltimore, and elsewhere. Mr. Murdaugh, and Mrs. Maupin and Judge Eccleson and their families took their departure on Wednesday; also Mrs. Forest, Dr. Williamson and family will probably leave on Tuesday next, Mr. Reed and myself will it is likely go to Baltimore this week. I do not know how long we shall remain there. The papers say that we have had two frosts in Portsmouth also ice. We have had one heavy frost here, but no ice.
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Suffolk, Oct 26th, 1855.
I visited Portsmouth yesterday and dined at home. This morning we had a heavy frost and some ice. I think that you may safely return home by the latter part of next week. I have just packed my trunk to go to Baltimore. I shall probably return home (permanently) in the course of four or five days. If you can buy some good hams in Richmond you had better do so, as you may find some difficulty in finding them in Portsmouth. I had 20 bushels of coal sent to the house yesterday.
Sundry houses have been robbed in Portsmouth.
Home of Col. Samuel Watts
Courtesy of Portsmouth Library Wilson History Room
. . . . . .
I have received your letter day before yesterday and was very glad to hear from you. This is the first mail since I received your letter. I wrote to you last Saturday, which I supposed you have received before this. I am so sorry you left here. I am afraid for you to stay down there with so much Yellow Fever. I dreamed last night that you came back up here, and that you were looking very yellow, had had the yellow fever. I wish you would come back. Ma, and all hands, say you had better come back. I am sorry to hear of poor Mrs. Camp's death. What was the matter with her. Tell Mattie I have not received her letter. I do not know what has become of it. Tell her she must write again, and tell Mr. Forrest I am very much obliged to him for sending me papers.
Kate [their daughter] says, "Poor Pa, one man in Norfolk won't let Pa come." She has heard us talking about Richmond and other places not letting the people of Norfolk come to these cities, and she thinks one man keeps you. She talks a great deal about you every day and calls for you very often when she is asleep. Mease says I do the same. Kate, Fannie and myself are all well. Fannie is as sweet, and as good as she can be. But Kate is the favorite of the neighborhood. She is becoming very saucy.
We spent day before yesterday at Dr. Harris', and yesterday Mr. Pendleton and some others spent the day here. Last Monday we spent the day at Aunt Lucy's. We expect Pa home this Sunday. He says he feels very glad that I am out of Norfolk.
How are the Musketoes in Norfolk?
I have not time to write you a long letter this morning. Mease is hurrying me to fix my work for her to help me to sew. I have only written this morning, because you requested me to write as soon as I received your letter. It give me pleasure to write to you. I wish I had time to be more particular in what I have to say this morning, but you must take the will for the deed this time.
I am going to let Kate write you a letter soon. I know she will have enough to tell her Pa. "Ma, I wants to see Pa", she says often. I cannot talk to her a great deal about you; if I do, it ends in a cry to see you.
Do write often, especially while the Yellow Fever is in Norfolk. I feel so uneasy about you
Good bye. I pray God to be merciful to you and keep you in every trial and difficulty, and to preserve your soul and body in health. Pray for me.
Your affectionate Wife,
Mary D. Constable