31 December 1861: “The fire which has swept through our dear old city is indeed an appalling calamity.”

Item description: Letter from “Uncle Henry” to Carie (Carey) Pettigrew about the Charleston fire, 31 December 1861





Item citation: from folder 249 in Pettigrew Family Papers #592, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Item transcription:

Charleston Dec. 31. 1861.

Many thanks, dearest Carie, for your kind nice letter. I received it Charles Sinkler’s on my return from the Legislature. I took my family there on the way to Columbia, left the day before yesterday, and arrived here yesterday. The fire which has swept through our dear old city is indeed an appalling calamity. But it was beyond all doubt, the result of a casualty. The wind blew a gale, and the flames were irrisitable, rushing from River to River, obliquely, in a S.W. direction. Shower of flakes were wafted ahead, setting fire to houses far in advance, and as the wind shifted a little from time to time, buildings in various parts of the town were fired _ Dr Edward North’s loss was very dreadful, for he had no insurance. W. Petigru was insured to the amount of $6000, but he lost all his furniture, bedding, etc, and some valuable books. The larger part of his books was saved _ all of Caroline’s burned. He was in Columbia at the time _ It is a great blow, but he bears it manfully and cheerfully. He has received an important compensation for this loss too in his re-election as Codifer of the Statute law, which gives him a salary of 5,000, besides his professional income. A Bill has actually passed the House, to suspend the office. Retrenchment was the avowed reason, but his disaffection doubtless had much to do with it. His friends made a tremendous effort, and reversed the action of the House, and I have never seen him more gratified by any success.

I am thankful to say that my mother, brother, Dr. Frost & myself have all escaped unhurt by the fire. My next topic which is far sadder than fire. You will have heard before this reaches you, of the death of our dear sweet, charming Louise Porcher. I had heard of her illness, but did not know she was dead until yesterday, when it is as told to me on the Rail Road just before I passed her father’s place. What a gloom is thrown over our whole circle _ But her poor mother! Humanly speaking, it is too much added to her other afflictions, for mortal to bear. But she is wonderfully survived by a merciful God when Ian was taken from her, and I earnestly pray that she may receive the same Divine support in their dreadful bereavement. If the right spirit is vouchsafed, we never feel so near to Heaven and so at peace with our fellow beings, as when a beloved child is removed. May the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, take care of her.

Death has been busy of late among my friends. While in the country, I received a beautiful letter written at Judge Robertson’s request (which you will remember as Mr. R. at the Springs) to inform me of his wife’s death. She was a woman of great excellence _ we made them a delightful visit summer before last. And last Saturday news was received of the death of Dr. Parker’s son John, in Virginia, by the accidental discharge of a comrade’s pistol in their tent. His remains are expected here tomorrow.

My mother and sister are very much gratified by your remembrance of them, and ask me to offer you their affectionate regards and best wishes.  Pray make me most kindly remembered by Charles, tell your dear children I love them very much, and believe me, dearest Carie, with true affection

Uncle Henry

Mrs. C. L. Pettigrew

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2 Responses to 31 December 1861: “The fire which has swept through our dear old city is indeed an appalling calamity.”

  1. David Frankstone says:

    I think the questioned word may be “Ian” and that that may be the name of another child who died.

    • dcbh says:

      Thanks, David. I agree with your reading of it – it does look like “Ian” based on other “I”s in the document. I thought, too, that it might be “Jane”. But looking at other words that end in “n”, I’d definitely go with your assessment.