18 January 1862: “thare is some boys knows how to handle a gun yet on that soil…”

Item description: Letter, 18 January 1862, from Malachi J. White to William S. Pettigrew.

Throughout 1861 and 1862, William S. Pettigrew was in Raleigh, serving as Washington County’s representative to the North Carolina Secession Convention. During his absence from his plantation, Scuppernong, Pettigrew apparently enlisted a man named Malachi J. White to oversee the work of the plantation. White wrote to Pettigrew frequently to report on the condition of the plantation, the cultivation of crops, and the activities of Pettigrew’s slaves (often passing along messages dictated by them, such as the note in this letter, “Glasgow wishes to be remembered to you also veary kindly he has 20 acres broken up in the western field.”).

Little is known about Malachi J. White. An “M.J. White” appears in the 1860 census for Washington County, N.C. Due to the position of the listing in the census and its proximity to known Pettigrew neighbors, it is presumed that this “M.J. White” is the writer of the letter, one Malachi J. White. He is listed as white, 37 years of age, having a personal estate worth $145. His wife is listed (Frances, 27 years old) and there are three children living in the household: Nancy (10), Henry (5), Bailey (4 months), as well as a live-in relative, Elizabeth A. White (39), whose relationship to the rest of the family is unclear.

Item citation: From folder 250 of the Pettigrew Family Papers, #592, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

Scuppernong, N.C.
Jan 18th 1862

Mr. William S. Pettigrew

Dear sir

Henry sais that he has broken up 40 acres of ground this week an gitting the corn redy for shipping it has bin rainy all this week with us an that his people is all well and conducting themselves well he is not well him self but up about tooth ache an pain in the ear an wishes to be remembered kindly to you the yankee news is growing quite closely uppon us expecting an atact dayly at roanoak island an washington ourerly but we will whet our teeth for them an put them to sleep when we get the ambush play on them. I must say I donot think that tha have got little sence enough to land on scuppernong for thare is some boys knows how to handle a gun yet on that soil glasgow wishes to be remembered to you also veary kindly he has 20 acres broken up in the western field he has gined some cotton an shucked some corn this week the ground is hard to break so filthy Mr. Sawyer has began the shinglening of the cap to day of the screw[?] it is all done but the shingleing of it upper an under shelter Mr. Sawyer sais he wishes that you would send a few almanacks home if not to much trouble to you we canot get any hear an we would be oblige to you I am well at present respectfully yours

the people are doing quite well at present

Malachi J. White

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