Transcriptions

Auburn University Archives and Manuscripts Department


Documents Authored by E.J. Hale in 1865 and James H. Lane in 1885


[E.J. Hale (Fayetteville, N.C.) to James H. Lane (Matthews Court House, Virginia), July 31, 1865]

Fayetteville, July 31st, 1865

My dear General:

I have been anxious to write to you ever since my return from the army, and more anxious to hear from you. We have no mails here atall - the old mail routes being all broken up by Sherman's visit and the new regime. Some time ago I was down here, and a semi-weekly mail was then brought to the garrison stationed here at that time; but Pa did not think it safe to send letters in that mail - certain circumstances inducing the belief that letters both
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to and from members of our family were tampered with and never reached their destination. Since the withdrawal of the garrison, even the apology for a mail referred to, has ceased; and, on my arrival here from Pittsborough, a few days ago, I found that I would have to defer, still longer, writing. A boat, from Wilmington, however, occasionally comes up, and I will write this with the hope that it may eventually reach you. For McKoy was here a day or two ago, and had just received a letter from you, of an old date, giving your address, which I copied. I think it likely that a letter addressed to an officer of your rank would have shared the same fate in the mails of this
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free country as those to Pa's family.

Well, after my lengthy [exordium], my dear friend, I must assure you that I deeply and litterally sympathize with you in your straitened circumstances as indicated in your letter to McKoy. Mac and I had several long talks about you, and how we might assist you - in various school projects, etc. - but all in vain, so far. In fact, we are all here in the same fix as yourself. Mac left this morning for [Clinton], and will probably go theres, at an early day, to Wilmington, where he will take measures to resume his old business, if he can secure the necessary capital. He may be able to find you an opening there. Here, the destruction of

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property by Sherman was so sweeping, and the impoverishment of our citizens (who had invested almost every thing in Confederate securities) by the adverse termination of the War so complete, that few of our old merchants have been able to resume business. A number of mushroom Yankee concerns have sprung up; but the tenure of a situation in one of them would be very precarious. It would be impossible to give you an adequate idea of the destruction of property in this good old town. It may not be an average instance; but it is one the force of whose truth we feel only too fully: My Father's property, before the War, was easily convertible into about 85 to 100,000 dollars in specie -
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he has not now a particle of property which will bring him a dollar of income. His office with everything in it, was burned by Sherman's order - Slocum, who executed the order, with a number of other Generals, sat on the verandah of a hotel opposite watching the progress of the flames, while they hobnobbed over wines stolen from our cellar. A fine brick building adjacent, also belonging to Pa, was burned at the same time. The cotton factory, of which he was a large shareholder, was burned; while his bank, railroad and other stocks are worse than worthless; for the bank-stock, at least, may bring him in debt, as the stock -
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holders are responsible. In fact, he has nothing left - besides the ruins of his town buildings and a few town lots which promise to be of little value, hereafter, in this desolated town, and are of no value, at present - save his residence, which, (with Brother's house,) Sherman made a great parade of saving from a mob (comprised of Corps & Division Comdrs, a nephew of Henry Ward Beecher, and, so on, down,) by sending to each house an officer of his Staff, after Brother's house had been thoroughly pillaged and Pa's to a great extent. By some accidental good fortune, however, Ma secured a guard before the "bummers" had made much progress in her house; and to this
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circumstance we are indebted for our daily food; several months' supply of which Pa had hid, the night before he left, in the upper rooms of the house, and the greater portion of which was saved. You have doubtless heard of Sherman's "bummers." The Yankees would have you believe that they were only the straggling pillagers usually found with all armies. Several letters written by officers of Sherman's army, intercepted near this town, give this the lie. In some of these letters were descriptions of the whole bumming process; and from them it appears that it was a regularly organized system, under the authority, of Genl. Sherman himself; that 1/5 of the proceeds fell to Genl.
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Sherman, another fifth to the other Genl. officers; another fifth to the line officers, and the remaining 2/5 to the enlisted men. There were pure-silver-bummers, plated-ware-bummers, jewelry-bummers, men's-clothing-bummers, women's-clothing-bummers, provision-bummers, and in fine, a bummer or bummers for every kind of steal-able thing - no bummer of one specialty interfering with the steal-ables of that of another. A pretty picture of a conquering army, indeed; but true.

Well, I am scribbling away just as if I were talking to you; for I feel, to-night, in humor for having one of our late-at-night tent talks - which poor Ed. Nicholson used to laugh about,

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while he would mimic you punching the fire and puffing your pipe. Ah! how the pleasures of winter quarters and the bivouac come back to us now, divested of a remembrance of every disagreable incident. I can see the big tent on the Rapidan - I feel as if I were with you in the cosy little one on Jones's Farm: smoke, smoke, smoke - talk, talk, talk - how we rattled away the hours far into the morning! Is our present humiliating freedom from danger a change for the better?
But I must blow away these spectres of tobacco smoke and battle smoke, and tell you still more about myself
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- and I know you will pardon so much talk about self when you remember how necessarily egotistical must be the first letter to a friend - after an interval of months - since a parting such as ours at ill-starred Appomattox. The next morning, after leaving you, I found myself in company with Trescot, Russ, & McLaurin, and in possession of the wagon - the Brigade having scattered during the night and morning to the four winds - Cowan, without any reason, apparently, other than a desire to expedite his individual movements, having turned the command over to Bost, (who happened to be near at the time,) before we had fairly passed the C.H., & Bost, in turn, yielding it to anybody that
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would take it. In this condition I found it upon overtaking. Wooten & I tried to collect & restore to order the fragments; but in vain: all men home-struck. And, probably, it was as well - they all got home somehow, doubtless. To resume: Later in the day, (Thursday,) we came across Vigal with his little nigger & mule, riding, all forlorn, through the mud and rain, wondering which way he should go. Finding that we had some idea of where we were going, he hitched himself to our party: and, so, we jogged along - Trescot, Russ, McLaurin, Vigal & my self; Vigal's nigger, my nigger, Barnes & the wagon - with varying fortunes: dodging the Yankees here, making a raid on a Gov't store-
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house there; sleeping in a gentleman's house one night; (Vigal making conquests of the fair sex on such occasions, after tea, and creating a stew in the colored population, next morning, about a missing pair of drawers or socks or a collar or shirt to be washed over night and intended to adorn his beauteous person for the next conquest) the next night, grumbling over the bad cheer in a tory's dirty house. So, we wearried over hundreds of miles, until the eleventh day, when, early in the morning we dropped Trescot by the way, and, that night, the rest of us into Pittsborough. Here Vigal remained a day or two, and went on his way rejoicing, having made a conquest, (infatuated man,) of my wife's Sister - a married lady!
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My wife is still at Pittsborough; and Joseph "holds his own" there, securely, driving away care from the gloomy household. Happy little fellow! His Mother's love is his world - no calamity disturbs that, no reverse of fortune saddens his unconscious existence. I have spent most of my time at Pittsborough, of course - occasionally running down here. Upon my arrival, I found Pa & Brother anxious, like myself, to leave the country for Brasil or Australia or some other nation not under Yankee rule. But a cooler judgment reminded us that we had not the funds necessary - although we spent many a night looking over
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the maps. So, also, we, for a long time, scouted the idea of re-publishing the Observer under Yankee rule; but we are getting used to being subjugated; and the necessity of making a livelihood forces us to use that wherein is our only capital: the reputation of the Observer. By republishing the Observer, we will, also, be enabled the more readily to pay off the debt due some 5 or 6000 subscribers for unexpired terms of subscription - which we are determined to pay, God willing, although it was contracted in Confederate currency. We hope before the new year to be at work again - kind friends having offered the loan of capital, as soon as their crops produce something. It is more than likely that we
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shall re-establish the paper in Raleigh, as it will probably be a long time before this town recovers its old prosperity.
I have now given you a pretty complete history of myself. Please write me soon all about yourself. I was very sorry to hear of your accident on the way. If I find any opening for you - and I shall be on the look-out - I will write immediately.

Barry intends starting a newspaper in Wilmington, in connection with Mr. Bernard of this town, whom you may remember a private in Co. H on the Peninsula.

I forgot to say that I have not yet taken the oath; but, of course, will do so eventually. If
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I live in this country, as I expect now to do, I shall feel it my duty to demean myself as a good & true citizen.
Upon arrival at Pitts., our wagon was left there with me - my companions all advising me to hold on to it & the team, as every body else was doing who happened to bring off Gov't mules, & e.; especially in view of the fact that the Gov't owed me much more than thrice their value, and the Yankees had destroyed my all; that the team never was turned over to the Yankees; that I saved the wagon myself & carried it through the lines, and engineered it all the way home, & e. & e. My conscience however would not have been altogether quiet, had I done this; and, so, upon my first visit here, I reported them to the Comdg. Off. who, to my surprise, told me that the U.S. did not claim them that they were my "personal property." So far, they have been an expense to me; but I have them hauling now, & hope thereby to be enabled to fatten them & sell them for a good price in the Fall, when I will remit you half the proceeds. There are but three mules - Herndon having stolen one
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just before we left Appomattox, without my knowledge.
God bless you, dear General. Remember me to the Dr., Everett, your sweetheart & all.
Yours affectionately,
E.J. H. Jr.







NOTE: James H. Lane penned the following document in 1884. Lane copied excerpts from Hale's original July 31, 1865, letter (see above). These excerpts were then published in the Southern Historical Society Papers in 1884.


 

[Excerpted document written by James H. Lane in 1884.]


Fayetteville, N.C. July 31st 1865

My dear General:

It would be impossible to give you an adequate idea of the destruction of property in this good old town. It may not be an average instance; but it is one the force of whose truth we feel only too fully:  My Father's property, before the war, was easily convertible into about 85 to 100,000 dollars in specie - he has not now a particle of property which will bring him a dollar of income. His office with everything in it, was burned by Sherman's order - Slocum, who executed the order, with a number of other Generals, sat on the verandah of a hotel opposite watching the progress of the flames, while they hobnobbed over wines stolen from our cellar. A fine brick building adjacent, also belonging to my Father, was burned at the same time. The cotton factory, of which he was a large shareholder, was burned; while his bank, railroad & other stocks are worse than worthless; for the bank stock, at least, may bring him in debt, as the stock-holders are responsible. In fact, he has nothing left--besides the ruins of his town buildings & a few town lots which promise to be of little value, hereafter, in this desolated town, & are of no value, at present--save his residence, which, (with Brother's house,) Sherman made a great parade of saving from a mob (comprised of Corps & Div. Comdrs., a nephew of Henry Ward Beecher, &, so on down) by sending to each house an officer of his Staff, after Brother's house had been pillaged & my Father's to some extent. By some accidental good fortune, however, my Mother secured a guard before the "bummers" had made much progress in the house; & to this circumstance we are indebted for our daily food, several month's supply of which my Father had hid, the night before he left, in the upper rooms of the house, & the greater portion of which was saved.
You have doubtless heard of Sherman's "bummers." The Yankees would have you believe that they were only the straggling pillagers usually found with all armies. Several letters written by officers of Sherman's army, intercepted near this town, give this the lie. In some of these letters were descriptions of the whole bumming process; & from them it appears that it was a regularly organized system, under the authority of Genl. Sherman himself; that 1/5 of the proceeds fell to Gen. Sherman;
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another 1/5 to the other Genl. Officers; another 1/5 to the line officers; & the remaining 2/5 to the enlisted men. There were pure-silver bummers, plated-ware bummers, jewelry-bummers, women's-clothing bummers, provision bummers, &, in fine, a bummer or bummers for every kind of steal-able thing - no bummer of one specialty interfering with the stealables of another. A pretty picture of a conquering army, indeed; but true.

Well, I am scribbling away just as if I was talking to you; for I feel, to-night, in humor for having one of our late-at-night tent talks - which poor Ed. Nicholson used to laugh about, while he would mimic you punching the fire & puffing your pipe. Ah! how the pleasures of winter quarters & the bivouac come back to us now, divested of a remembrance of every disagreeable incident. I can see the big tent on the Rapidan - I feel as if I were with you in the cosy little one on Jones's Farm; smoke, smoke, smoke - talk, talk, talk - how we rattled away the hours far into the morning! Is our present humiliating freedom from danger a change for the better?

But I must blow away these [spectrer] of tobacco smoke & battle smoke, & tell you still more about myself - and I know you will pardon so much talk about self when you remember how necessarily egotistical must be the first letter to a friend - after an interval of months - since a parting such as ours at ill-starred Appomattox.

I forgot to say that I have not yet taken the oath; but, of course, will do so eventually. If I live in this Country, as I expect now to do, I shall feel it my duty to demean myself as a good & true citizen.
Yours affectionately,
E.J. Hale, Jr.

Transcribed by Terri Stout-Stevens of Pfafftown, NC, on October 18, 1999.  Edited by Martin T. Olliff, Assistant Archivist, Auburn University, who takes responsibility for any errors.

Web page updated by Tommy Brown, August 9, 2012.


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