12 January 1863: “…the pony is very nearly starved into death.”

Item Description: Letter, dated 12 January 1863 from Charles Lockhart Pettigrew to his wife, Jane Caroline North Pettigrew.  The letter describes his visit to the area near Winston, NC where his slaves have been hired out to work on the railroad.  He describes their conditions as well as news of the surrounding area regarding the spread of smallpox and the Union occupation near his coastal plantation, Scuppernong.


Item Citation: From folder 261 of the Pettigrew Family Papers #592, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item Transcription:

Greensboro Jany 12/63

My dearest wife

I am very uneasy at not having received a letter from you for so long a time I have only one and that bears date 23 ult.  I trust nothing is the matter, for I cannot ac-count for your prolonged silence. My last letter to you was writ-ten on the 8th, I was just about to down to where the negroes were at work on the rail road, about 18 miles from Greensboro.  There was no such thing as getting a horse, so I had to walk.  It was a long walk, and I was much fatigued but not made sick.  The great trouble was the sticky mud in the road.  I however had a [?] past of the way in returning.  The people were very glad to see me and asked with interest about mistress and the children (a change from the old manner).  I found them doing tolera-bly well, some of the chil-dren are sick with something like measles.  Ellen’s child is quite sick.  I hope they will soon be well again.  I find the support of the women and children a great expense.  It takes one half of the men to support them.  Meal is 3.00 per bushel and bacon is 42 cts for lb.  I found my mules in a dreadful condition, some of them scarcely able to walk.  They have to work very hard, and are fed on half the quantity of corn they are fed with at home.  I think it is a hard case, because I charged nothing for them and made the condition that they should be well fed. I have just had a conversation with Mr. Wilkes on the subject and he promised he would attend particularly to them. 

The negroes tell me that Mr. West is of inestimable value to them.  They say that they would have been starved to death, had it not been for him.  He is a very large strong man says he will stand by the negroes against oppression and makes the white men a-bout him afeard of him.  It is a fortunate thing you did not come in with me.  The whole country is full of all sorts of diseases, and you would have run great risk.  Today as the cars passed there was a woman coverd with the smallpox. I trust I will not take it.  Sixty cases are reported at Goldsboro and every little town has it on the railroad.  I am a good deal troubled by all things around me.  The cars are full to overflowing, and there is but little chance for me to get the negroes on to S.C. My own dearest wife, I know you need me badly where you are but what is to be done! My team are unable to pull the waggons. There is nothing [?] there is no trust in the promises of peo-ple.  We are in the hands of a great and good God.  I saw brother William and Annie at Mocksville, where he is hire-ing his negroes out per the year. We are all in a bad way.  I saw a man from Scuppernong. He says the neighbors send no word to come home and I can save every house and furniture from destruction by taking the oath of allegiance to the Lincoln government.  If I am not at home by the 18th the work of destruction will commence.  It is a hard case, but I cannot return.  I must turn to the future. I hope better things will be reserved to us.  I cannot say when I shall be able to turn my face to S.C.  I so long for peace and quiet. I do not feel well this evening, and it makes me a little low down.  I hope you and all the children are well, and would be so glad to get a letter from you this evening. Love to Mary. Kiss the children for me (the pony is very nearly starved into death). Believe me always your loving husband


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